Posts Tagged ‘dancefloor’

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Kylie Minogue – Aphrodite. (album review)

June 27, 2010

Aphrodite marks Kylie Minogue’s 11th studio album, and the general attitude is that this is the Australian star’s comeback album following her battle with breast cancer, after the scattershot effort of previous project X. Not only did X not allude to her personal life and struggles (to many fans’ dismay), it seemed determined to overlook them; however, the genre-hopping and quality rollercoaster displeased many listeners.  This is not to take away from the album’s strongpoints; for the gigantic misses of glam-rock lead single “2 Hearts” and the tepid, forgettable “No More Rain”, there were hits such as the excellently addictive “In My Arms” and the sensuous “Sensitized”, not to mention the beautiful closing lightweight ballad “Cosmic”.  X was a frustrating listen not because it ignored Kylie’s personal foibles but because it didn’t know where its head was at, and fired off moments of sheer brilliance and then of complete twaddle seemingly at will.  It’s true that in contrast to that album, Aphrodite is cohesive, focused and honed to target the fibrillating emotional dance-pop that so pleases the radio and Kylie’s gay fanbase.

Aphrodite bears much in common with that other Kylie comeback record, Fever.  Both are love letters to the dance floor, where the tempo and beats are relentless, while Kylie purrs over the top at once calculated and lascivious.  Both are pure pop, and neither of them take enough risks to stand with Kylie’s best albums: the daring, creative zenith of Impossible Princess or the seductive Body Language that was comprised of songs that were so off-kilter and curious that it was a pleasant surprise just how well the songs worked both individually and as a whole.  Nevertheless, Aphrodite aims to please, and on lead single “All The Lovers”, Kylie does just that with a lyric that pleads simultaneously for love and for the dancefloor.  Primed for the radio and for the gays with its pop-dance leanings, Kylie seems to have struck a home run.  However, this song epitomises much of one of my criticisms of Aphrodite as a whole: the sentiments of the lyrics (which are well-written) and the beauty in the melodies (which are often evocative and well-structured) get swallowed up by the uniform pop production of the album.  It at once unifies the record and smooths out most of its interesting quirks: if X was too schizophrenic, Kylie has gone too far the other way with Aphrodite to create a record that is too homogenous.  Like Madonna’s Confessions On A Dance Floor, Stuart Price oversees production duties here to melt the songs together into one continuous blur, making the decent songs fight to announce themselves as individuals to the listener’s ear.

With songs such as “All The Lovers”, “Closer” and “Everything Is Beautiful”, this is a problem: for example, “Closer” is structurally and melodically a ballad, fighting against production that wants to make it a bitter dance song.  “Everything Is Beautiful” should be a gentle, sweet ode to the joys of love, but the insistent drum beat transforms the song into an anthemic but ill-fitting upbeat pop song. These identity crises give much of Aphrodite the sense that it is trying too hard to be something it’s not, or that the tracks are not allowed to be themselves.  There are a couple of plain weak tracks: “Better Than Today” sounds entirely like a Scissor Sisters track and Kylie Minogue (who is not credited enough for her vocal and interpretative abilities) sings it in just that way; “Looking For An Angel” is listless filler which once again seems to have earned its spot on the record because it fits in with the overarching feel of the album as a whole.  It’s a shame that unlike on the quirky Body Language where the album’s moments of strangeness worked, a large part of Aphrodite feels like it is a square peg forced into a round hole.

This is especially highlighted when one listens to the songs that do work.  “Get Outta My Way” is a focused, upstanding anthem that takes its 4-to-the-floor beat and runs, creating an exhilarating standout; “Put Your Hands Up (If You Feel Love)” bears the essence of Fever‘s infectious “Love At First Sight” and is similarly lovely; the title track “Aphrodite” is a statement of self-worth and determination to triumph that totally suits its marching-band beat and lyrics that declare “Did you think I wasn’t real?… I’m fierce and I’m feeling mighty / I’m a golden girl, I’m an Aphrodite / Alright?” Its confidence and zest spearhead Aphrodite’s most successful moments.  However, “Cupid Boy” is the antithesis of this and still shines; a moody guitar-driven mid-tempo that proves that (unlike the aforementioned “Closer”) it certainly is possible to successfully deliver an emotionally-charged ballad-esque track while still keeping the overarching dance feel of the album intact.  Closer “Can’t Beat The Feeling” is one of the album’s poppiest moments, but its embrace of its own cheesiness is almost delightful, with Kylie’s vocal delivery transforming throwaway candy-floss lyrics such as “Feel the force of the reaction / Let it take you on a ride /… I can’t beat the feeling that I get when I’m with you” into a delirious proclamation of love.

Overall, Aphrodite caters to its target group, but a little too efficiently.  Some songs feel like they’ve been forced to be what they’re not, a couple seem to be present only by dint of the fact that they musically sound like Kylie Minogue tracks – facsimiles of songs rather than songs in their own right.  But at least half of the album works, and when the individual elements of Aphrodite react successfully and the songs stand up with the help of the production rather than being strapped down by it, the results are impressive.  I enjoyed this album more than I expected to, and it marks one step closer to a return to form for Minogue… even if she’s not quite at her peak.

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don’t take it personal.

December 15, 2009

I apologise for not having blogged in a little bit.  Real life has kinda taken over, and if you follow me on twitter (please do!!! – I have my latest tweets on the right —> ) then you’ll have an idea why.  Basically, although I’ve been open that I’m slightly envious of the fact that Mike likes someone other than me, and that other person seems to like him back (although there are marriages, children and mixed signals thrown into the mix), I’ve been handling it pretty well.  Yep, that’s right, you spotted the past tense.  Well, I’m handling it well again now.  But we had our Christmas meal on Friday night, and I might have got a little bit paranoid and possessive.  Allow me to elaborate.

Mike & me are HBICs on our course.  We do more or less everything together, we are friendly with everyone and everyone knows us as the smokers / naughty guys talking dirty at the back of the class / dedicated and working in the library on the sly / fun and easy to talk to / the ones who organise the social events on the course.  The third person in our equation is someone Mike noticed early on, but has only been included in our circle the last few weeks.  I knew that Mike was developing feelings before he admitted it to me, but it is still hard to accept.  I know he’s a straight married man, but what does a not-stunning 33-yo woman with 2 kids, an overly-possessive husband and an average wardrobe have on me?  Ok, she is a lovely lovely person, and admittedly has sparkling blue eyes and a shapely butt. But I’m 24, I apparently “look immaculate” (Julie), am “very pretty / beautiful” (Mike!!! and others), I can sing, dance, write and produce my own music, I smoke, play piano and guitar, I’m quite intelligent and “articulate” (Leanne) and “really good to talk to and understanding” (Penny, Emma, Mike).  What the fuck more can I do?  How many more hoops do I have to jump through?  I’m missing the point.  Sexuality is sexuality, although I firmly believe that although you can definitely be instantly attracted to physical traits, ultimately the body is the wrapping and the gift is the person inside (I mean that not in a sexual way, but in an emotional / spiritual / personal way).  Somewhere along the line, he’s my best friend but he doesn’t see all of who I am – otherwise if he has feelings for the woman, he certainly would have feelings for me as we share a good heart and a love of innuendo.  I’m going over old territory here, but although he’s my best friend at university and I utterly cherish that, sometimes it’s maddening that I can’t have more.

Anyway, I admit I’ve been a bit envious.  But I’ve also been more than there for him as much as I can, despite my own feelings for him (which he knows about).  The day of our Christmas meal, I was feeling extremely nervous and on edge, despite telling myself that they are adults, they can do whatever they like and it’s not my job nor my place to keep them apart.  I felt that I didn’t want Mike to be regretting anything the next day, that I might be a bad friend if I let him down by not keeping him rational, and that I would have my heart hurt in the process.  I played “Russian Roulette” multiple times, since that song, those lyrics and the whole Rated R album seem to be the story of my life right now, and nervously arrived at Mike’s house.  For a while I felt fine – we got to the restaurant, Mike said that after we went for late-night drinks and conversation the night before he was feeling more balanced about it all, I was confident and happy.  But then she eventually arrived, I felt the focus slipping away from me, I ended up having a lot to drink (note: 5 sambuca shots in one go is never a good idea), and then my hitherto good handle on the whole situation (which admittedly I had been managing pretty well, considering it’s a lot to bear) flew out the window.  I had to corral our whole group (who were splitting off in various directions, somewhat annoyingly – again I blame the alcohol!) into BSB on Corn Street, and then no matter how much I danced, smoke or drank, I couldn’t help but keep looking back at the two of them chatting in the corner.  In short, I was driving myself crazy, and Mike knew that I was really tense.  Apparently I said a couple of not-so-nice things about how little I trusted her (the drink talking, not that that’s an excuse), and I was dashing on and off the dancefloor and in and out of the club like a crazy person trying to keep my emotions and sanity in check, and then failing miserably.  I didn’t offend anyone, I didn’t do anything stupid or say anything revealing – I even managed to cover for the two of them when an observant Jenny remarked “how close they are… I wonder if they like each other?” (my reply – “Nah, we’re all just close friends” before linking my arm through Mike’s).  I am a good friend and my heart was and is in the right place.  But that night, my head was not.  More than my own envy or my own feelings, I wanted to be a good friend to Mike and stop him from doing anything he would regret in the long term.

At the end of the night me and Mike were walking back from dropping Jenny and her at the car park, and we had a little talk.  I was in a very bad mood, and it took me a while to work out why.  I called Mike to apologise for my mood, and he said it was ok, and I offered to explain what it was tomorrow.  First thing next morning, he texted me to ask how I was and why I had been feeling down.  I explained, he said I didn’t have anything to apologise for and not to worry or think so much. (For the record, “don’t think so much” is an astute but lousy piece of advice!!!)  I felt silly all weekend, but I thought that things were going to be ok and I was looking forward to seeing him on Monday.  Since I had his house key, I had arranged to give him that back.  Fast forward to Saturday night – Mike isn’t replying to my texts (this is unusual behaviour!), I was feeling fed up, caged at home, and decided to go out with Nick to a party and get drunk.  I had a fantastic time, and although I still had Mike at the back of my mind (or midway, maybe), it was whatever.  Life goes on.

Sunday I was in Starbucks working on my essay, when I get a call from Mike (after not replying to another text of mine telling him I had a crazy dream where we were both mercenaries undercover at an underground Nazi gathering led by Daniel Craig, except Mike was being hunted by the police for drug trafficking… yeah) to ask me if I was at home, and if I could give him his house key.  I had his key in my bag so I met him and his nephew Jack outside Harvey Nichols, handed it over (along with some tobacco, since I had run out of cigarettes on Friday night and smoked several of his rollies… it was also a little bit of an “apology offering”) and we had brief conversation.  Once again, everything seemed fine.  But then in the evening, we had texts which went unanswered, others which were answered and I just didn’t know where I stood.  Obviously I was overreacting, but nevertheless I couldn’t stop my own guilty feelings from colouring my judgement and thinking that I might have ruined our friendship.

Monday comes, I’m talking with Henna outside university when Mike rolls up.  He’s fine, but melancholy.  I apologised, we talked a lot about Friday, but things just weren’t the same.  He seemed glum, I was sad, and although we were talking and spending time together it just wasn’t the same. No innuendos, no physical contact, and at one point he thought I was in a piss with him (when I wasn’t!) and I explained what I was feeling and he said that “although I promised I’d never hit you, if you keep worrying then I will!”  Despite that, it was like our friendship was a shadow of its former self.  I texted him in the evening, but no reply once again.  I felt like I was being punished when I had apologised, been told there was nothing to apologise for and not to worry about it!  I felt like I really was a product of my mother’s emotional fuckery and my father’s control freakishness, and yet I couldn’t stop my brain from over-analysing every little thing (I apologise to Nick, Adam, Nana and everyone else I stressed out to over the past few days – y’all are so understanding and I really appreciate it.  Thankyou. 🙂 ).  I felt so down, that after everything our close friendship had been somehow ruined, that despite my ability to be truly honest with Mike about my deepest darkest secrets and tell him things I can’t remember telling anyone, he couldn’t come correct to me and tell me what the matter was.

This morning I waited for him at our usual block, on edge and feeling sorta upset.  We met up and went to the library, he apologised for not replying to my text (I pretended it was nothing) and the black cloud persisted for a while.  But I soon realised that it wasn’t to do with me – in fact, I was the only person he could spend time with but still be honest about his moods.  I didn’t press him, but I realised that his home situation was really getting him down.  I offered him reassurance, friendship and a hug where appropriate, and tried to give him space.  As the day went on, we perked up (despite the fact we were writing an essay!) and I felt finally reassured that I still had his friendship, and that I can’t be responsible for him always being in a good mood, or for him being down.  His being sad makes me feel sad for him, but however much I might drink on a night out or however much guilt I feel, I can’t hold myself responsible for his moods, no matter how good friends we end up being.  I learned that I really do take things too personally, that I can’t turn my brain or heart off however much it might be convenient sometimes, and that I can be someone’s best friend but I can’t stop them from making a mistake – all I can do is be there for them, give them space to breathe and a shoulder to lean on when they need it.  This weekend was an emotional rollercoaster for me, but it wasn’t without its lessons and I try to take that away from it.  Drinking and love doesn’t mix, and you can only hide your heart under a façade for so long before it nevertheless starts to chip. Now I’m repairing myself and we’re all taking a deep breath and gradually going back to normal, and that’s a relief.  But I promise not to forget what I’ve learned this weekend, and I appreciate (once again) my friendships so much.

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quiet storm track walkthrough (part iv).

November 20, 2009

(clicky) Quiet Storm (album download) (clicky)

Okay, this is the final part of the stories behind the tracks on my album Quiet Storm.  Parts 1, 2 and 3 can be viewed if you click on those little numbers, and I want to thank everyone once and again for supporting my album and my blog.  I really appreciate it, and I hope that these behind-the-music notes have added a little to your enjoyment of my music.  On with the show!

18. Role Model (Interlude)

This was originally an entire song which was a rap song with a sung chorus. You can hear the original full version on my High Fashion mixtape but although the lyrics were kinda cool, I wasn’t too keen on my flow in places and I thought that I would rather not have the raps as part of my album.  Nevertheless, I appreciated the idea of the chorus and feeling misrepresented in society as a young person, a gay man, a singer, my music tastes, where I come from, my heritage… all those things are categorised and yet how many of us actually fit the stereotypes for those categories?  I felt that it led into the next song well, as it is about exposing who I am as a person, and not letting anyone’s pigeon holes or preconceived notions dictate who I am.  This is me, and this is…

19. The Truth

This song is probably the most heartfelt I’ve been in any of my songs recorded to date.  It discusses my relationship with my family, life and death, my emotional state and insecurities, my childhood, my education, and music.  It is the truth of who I am – sometimes we feel sad or hard done by, and other times we remember how happy we have been and whatever happens, we just have to keep going and get on with it anyway.  This song is a bit scratchy due to the fact that I have recorded myself playing acoustic guitar on the track (yes, that is me!) and it didn’t work perfectly, though I think it did the job.  I liked the guitar and the piano and the beat – it combined together well to be a midtempo R&B joint that was musically quite stable and almost sunny, yet anchored in place by some really heavy lyrics.  I thought it would originally have been the album closer, but then you’ll see I changed my mind about that.

20. Last Chance

I wanted the last song proper on the album to be a dance song – something that really went out with a bang! I decided this because sometimes (in keeping with the nocturnal theme of the album) you’re not ready to go home at the end of a night, until the DJ has played one final song that really gets you to annihilate the dancefloor and you can just let yourself go with the music before calling it a wrap.  This song is that song – I was inspired by “Work” by Ciara (sampled on the track!), “Get Me Bodied” by Beyoncé, “Boom Boom Pow” by the Black Eyed Peas and just any song that really makes me want to move.  Other songs sampled in this are Paulina Rubio’s “Sexi Dance” (at the very end when the track fades out) which gives the song a late-night / early morning sensuous hue, and Beethoven’s “Für Elise” – just because it worked! I was crafting this track for a really long time, and between utilising the beat at the end of “All Night Long” to give the album a sense of circularity and closure, and trying to really fire up the beats and make them incendiary, I just tried to be as crazy as possible.  The rap, the off-kilter song structure with multiple hooks and instrumental at the beginning, the extended coda – it’s really going for broke! And that was what I wanted for the last song.

21. Close

To once again fit with the theme of closure and circularity, this is the “outro” of the album, to pair with the “Open” intro – again, I wanted to use the word “Close” in two different ways, both signifying the end of the album and also bringing in the idea of just wanting someone to hold you close, and desiring that intimacy (not necessarily sexually) at the end of the night, just before the sun rises and you’re feeling contemplative.

22. Lucky To Have You (Bonus Track)

My grandfather passed away during the creation of this album, and I remember being at Oxford and hearing on the telephone from my mother and grandmother that his health was really deteriorating. I wrote this song to comfort him (though he never heard it, and neither has anyone else in my family) as he passed away – I wasn’t allowed to go home and see him because it was in the middle of my finals, and he died and the funeral was held all while I was stuck in Oxford and expressly forbidden to come home.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to forget that – feeling so helpless far away and yet just glad his suffering was over (his illness was long and protracted).  This song is really personal and dedicated to him; it doesn’t fit with the rest of the album, but I nevertheless wanted to include it somewhere so I thought a bonus track was the best opportunity.

That’s it!  Once again, please download my album if you haven’t already, and check out my blog! Thanks for all the support – I really appreciate it and I’ll keep the posts coming! 🙂

(clicky) Quiet Storm (album download) (clicky)