The state of pop circa 2015. The record-breaking new album from British songstress encapsulates all you need to know about pop music in the here and now. It’s about songwriting collaborations – Adele co-wrote the songs with eleven other songwriters/producers – including Max Martin, Greg Kurstin and Tobias Jesso Jr.
Ian Axel and Chad King of piano pop band A Great Big World (AGBW) seem to have hit on that elusive formula that makes their songs both irresistibly catchy AND strikingly authentic.
A mere 12 hours after hearing their sophomore album When The Morning Comes in its entirety, I was already easily singing along to the big melodic hooks and memorable choruses of every song. At the same time, the unique vulnerability in the words being sung was reeling me in, giving these (otherwise pretty simple) lyrics an emotional depth you wouldn’t normally expect from “happy clappy” pop tunes.
Some respite for true pop lovers from the onslaught of the prefabricated anti-music dominating the current Billboard charts in the form of a new Squeeze album! Yes! When frontman Glenn Tilbrook was in Singapore last year, he mentioned that the band was recording a new album and here it is – Cradle to the Grave – the band’s first album of new material since 1998!
It’s always intriguing to have two opposing ideas build up to a contrast in a music video. And this is why the music video for THELIONCITYBOY’s new single “All Night Feat Sezairi, Mr Boo” works despite the inevitable clunky acting.
The song itself is quite lightweight pop with local crooner Sezairi providing the sweetness but there is a edgy underbelly when you appreciate where THELIONCITYBOY’s lyrics are coming from. It’s a refreshing take on hip hop’s usual concerns about partying and hooking up with the opposite sex.
The video is altogether a different proposition. Ostensibly, it may seem corny and cliched to come up with a horror story before Halloween but it seems that the zombie motif is really a deep commentary on relationships and it resonates when the actress involved is THELIONCITYBOY’s own better half, Aarika Lee.
I mean, that scene where she’s asking her zombie partner why he’s so slow (riding his bicycle at the beach – what a twist on the cliche!) is hilarious. So when the ending comes, it makes so much sense and the viewer is nodding in a knowing agreement. Which is why I have always appreciated THELIONCITYBOY’s work – it lures you in with superficial hip hop tropes but then slays you with a meaningful thought-provoking message.
An excellent sign that Singapore music is slowly (but surely) permeating the mainstream consciousness is the clutch of music events to be held in the upcoming Singapore Writers Festival, from October 30th to November 8th 2015, organised by the National Arts Council.
Kicking off is Island of Dreams, an instrumental rock concert at the Victoria Theatre on 30th October, featuring In Each Hand a Cutlass and I Am David Sparkle, two heavyweights in the local indie scene.
From epic rock bombast, the music gets all stripped down and fragile with Story Songs by Tiny Ruins. Kiwi Hollie Fullbrook returns to Singapore on 1st November at the Chamber, the Arts House.
Finally, we have Dimensions and Demons, with artists from literary and musical disciplines collaborating on works to be presented on 5th November at the Esplanade Recital Studios. Writers Dave Chua, Daren Shiau and Stephanie Ye have been rehearsing with musicians weish (.gif), Riot !n Magenta and Ferry (Giants Must Fall) for the past few months for this co-presentation with The Esplanade.
Power of Pop will be in the thick of the action with reviews and interviews but so can you. The Festival organisers have kindly offered a pair of tickets to each of the above events to lucky PoP visitors.
Now, you can only select one of these events to apply to – simply write in to firstname.lastname@example.org with a 5o-word note on why you love Power of Pop so much! (Also include your full name and NRIC No., please) Oh and let us know which event you would like to attend and voilà (!) you could be on your way. (Winning entries will be published here! Be warned!!)
First come, first served and all that jazz. The decision of Power of Pop regarding the identity of the lucky recipients shall be final & conclusive. Closing date is 27th October.
Into their second single for Sony Music, it’s clear that The Sam Willows have honed their pop technique to a tight construct with “For Love” – the chorus comes with soaring banks of vocals even if the familiar melody does not move listeners that much.
The song recalls Imagine Dragons, Of Monsters & Men and even the quartet’s own “Glasshouse”. Not quite as incongruous as its predecessor “Take Heart”, this time the electro-pop elements complement the song rather well.
The message behind the video is strong and to the band’s credit maintains a personal emotional connection. It might be too close to the bone for many people but if pop music can be used to touch hearts, minds and souls in this manner then kudos to The Sam Willows for at least, taking their best shot at making a statement!
Pre-order the album Take Heart:
I am so sick and tired of defending ‘classic’ pop songwriting – why should the age of a genre ever come into the assessment of good music.
Anyways, thankfully I have a musical representation of this argument in the form of Pop4’s brilliant album Summer. Comprising of Scott McPherson, KC Bowman, Kirk Adams and Andrea Perry – a power pop brain trust, for those in the know – Pop4 exploits the diverse strengths of its members to provide one of the finer pop albums of 2015.
Highlights include the droll putdown “You’re No Aimee Mann” (which Mann herself approves of, it seems!), the delightfully ELO-channelling “Einstein and Sunshine” and the warm pastoral “Beautiful”.
There’s no doubt that we need more sophisticated melodic albums like Summer – no irony, no pretension, no pastiche – I am glad to declare that this is the real deal.
Pop band WALK THE MOON claim to be inspired by 80s bands like The Police and Talking Heads but one listen to their latest album, Talking is Hard, will make it clear that apart from taking their name from a Police song, there is no similarity whatsoever.
Actually, they remind me of crassly commercial fare like Modern Talking and Wang Chung, y’know the really shitty 80s bands. Which is fine but why can’t we call a spade a spade? This is certainly not indie rock, by any stretch of the imagination.
But of course, that’s not going to stop the horde of pop fans out there from enjoying this show when the band play in Singapore on 19th Jan 2016.
So… get your tickets kiddos from SISTIC now!
Although it mainly consists of vocals, guitar, strings and a smattering of piano notes, there is a certain dynamism and power that distinguishes Brett Randell’s new single “Rise”. Randell’s voice isn’t too sugary and in fact is rather nasal at times but it conveys the emotion well on this uplifting song of encouragement. I like how Randell resists the temptation of cluttering up the arrangement and keeps things very spare so that his lyrics shine through. In fact, I almost expect it to break out into a pop-punk anthem but thankfully that never happens. Definitely one to savour, if you are into edgy ballads that carry the weight of a meaningful life message.
I will be honest (when am I not?) – I first noticed Gayle Nerva in a tour video of I Hate This Place in Japan sometime ago and was struck by her effervescent personality. Then, it was her lovely voice and then her heartfelt ballads that got my firm attention. I have always believe that given a chance, her music would appeal to a mainstream pop audience home and abroad.
Well, glad to say that her new single “Pretend” is out – it’s a dark electro-pop number produced by Trick’s Marc Lian – and Gayle will be performing at the Esplanade Recital Studio on Saturday, September 5th. Tickets available from SISTIC. Check out the music video below.
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There were three emails from major labels that I received in this past week that indicates that Singapore English pop may just be turning a significant corner. Three releases from Singapore bands that have already made an impact on a pop fan base in Singapore. That is something that has not happened since… the 1960s and the 1990s?
Granted, there is not much rock ‘n’ roll evident from the new batch of popstars-in-waiting but perhaps that is a reflection of the audience’s taste more than anything else. In any case, what we have are three singles viz. “Sixty Five” by Gentle Bones, “Take Heart” from The Sam Willows and Trick’s “Some Girls” with their obligatory accompanying videos. So let’s take a look, shall we?
First off, Gentle Bones’ “Sixty Five” is a musical tie-in to the upcoming 1965 movie and is rather downbeat and dramatic amidst its lush orchestration. The video matches the somewhat sombre mood showcasing obtuse dancing and moody lighting, capturing the tone well. Look out for a cameo from producer Leonard Soosay (with cat).
Next, The Sam Willows’ “Take Heart” emphasises all the manifest strengths of this lively quartet with the video deftly highlighting energetic dancers as the song’s hybrid hipster folk/EDM hedges all bets well enough. With its bright rainbow colours, it’s seems to provide an interesting counterpoint to the Gentle Bones’ video. Coincidence or design? Mm??
Finally, “Some Girls” finds Trick hoping to emulate their American hip-hop cousins with some T&A and risque lyrics. Somewhat daring by staid Singapore standards, at least one cannot accuse Trick of not trying to provide a visual representation of the song itself. Considering how popular hip-hop is worldwide, it’s a commendable effort.
Taken in the context of mainstream pop, these singles can stand up to anything out there and hopefully with a certain amount of marketing muscle from the major labels involved, these pop star hopefuls will become household names in Singapore and beyond!
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KAMCO Music will re-issue The Crowd’s Pop album this coming Friday, 10th April. So I was thinking – what could I do to raise awareness about this event? Well, as you all know, a lyric video of one of the songs might do the trick. And so, I put together my first ever lyric video on iMovie and it only took this old fart of an amateur to get it done! The song I chose was “Pasir Ris Sunrise” which seems to have resonated with some folks despite being 18 years old. Hope you enjoy!
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New music videos!
Alright. This is a lil embarrassing but late last year Spotify made Power of Pop a ‘Tastemaker’ with a new account and despite my best efforts (?), so far we’ve had only 10 (!) followers. Shameful!!
So I am still pushing this the best way I know how – by working hard at putting together more playlists that I imagine would interest the kind folks who visit us every day. Recently, I have focusing on PoP Legends – artists whom we believe deserve that accolade so here’s what we have so far. Enjoy, spread the word and FOLLOW!
Rock music is a genre of popular music that originated as “rock and roll” in the United States in the 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the 1960s and later, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States. (W. E. Studwell and D. F. Lonergan, The Classic Rock and Roll Reader: Rock Music from its Beginnings to the mid-1970s)
So yeah, rock came from 40s/50s rock ‘n’ roll, which in turn is a form of pop music. So even The Carpenters or ABBA is rock, by that definition. So I am always comfortable to use the terms “pop” and “rock” fairly interchangeably, and get rather annoyed by the insane categorizations that is now so common.
In that light, let’s take a look at some of the different kinds of pop music, I am confident to label as ROCK!
There are only 12 notes in the chromatic scale. So, how original can a pop song truly be? Recently, Sam Smith got into legal trouble for his hit song “Stay With Me” (co-written by Smith, James Napier and William Phillips) for its similarities with Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” (co-written by Petty and Jeff Lynne).
Katy Perry has announced today that she will bring THE PRISMATIC WORLD TOUR to Singapore on 11 May 2015 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. This tour is presented by AEG Live. She will be touring in support of her album PRISM.
Tickets for the show go on sale from 10 Feb 2015 through Sports Hub Tix, and are priced at $328, $248, $228, $188 and $128. Tickets will be available through www.sportshubtix.sg, booking hotline +65 3158 7888 and Sports Hub Tix Box Office and Singapore Post outlets.
As part of her 2015 Brutal Romantic World Tour, Brooke Fraser will be making her Asian debut in Singapore on 20 March at the Kallang Theatre.
Ticket sales will commence on 27 January 2015, and are priced from $58 to $148. Limited VIP Meet and Greet Passes are available at $40.
Fans can subscribe to Sprout Entertainment’s online newsletter at www.Facebook.com/SproutEntertainment for instant ticketing discounts.
Last but not least by any means, Joie Tan will close StageFright XVI @ Artistry on 21st January 2015.
I spoke to Joie late last year mainly about her experience building a fan base on YouTube.
How did you get started on YouTube? How old were you?
I started on YouTube after watching Alyssa Bernal’s covers. She was a big inspiration for me and I felt like I could really relate to her and grew to become a huge fan. Thereafter, I felt inspired to start my own channel and finally did it in 2008. I was 13.
Just downloaded the new Thom Yorke album – Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes – via BitTorrent. And it was totally legit. Yorke has, in the recent past, condemned streaming sites for exploiting artists and thus it was interesting to find out that Yorke is using a BitTorrent site to sell his album. The digital album is US$6 and the bundle comes with 8 tracks and one video (of single “A Brain in a Bottle”). The single and video are available for free – as a teaser presumably for the album. Check it out at https://bundles.bittorrent.com/
LET IT ALL HANG OUT!
It does seem that in order to succeed in pop music in 2014, one really needs to ramp up one’s sex appeal. Especially if you are a woman, of course. I’m no prude (far from it!) but it is a lil disappointing to think that a female artiste has to present herself in such a crass manner to win over the contemporary pop music fan. Don’t believe me? Well, take a look…
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If like me you are besotted with classic pop and love the music of The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Byrds, ELO and XTC, then my question to you is – why aren’t you listening to Pugwash? And if this is the first time you have heard of this awesome Irish band, then your timing is impeccable.
A Rose in a Garden of Weeds: A Preamble Through the History of Pugwash (to be released on 23rd September) collects songs from the band’s 1999 origins through the present day and when placed together in one place like this, is probably the closest a classic pop fan will get to heaven in 2014.
It is impossible not to fall in love with perfect pop songs like “Be My Friend Awhile,” “Apples,” “Answers on a Postcard,” “Fall Down”, “It’s Nice to be Nice” and so on and on and on. These 17 tracks constitute some of the finest pop music made since the new millennium and deserves as much attention as possible, if there’s any justice left in this cruel world.
I was lucky enough to catch the band live last year in London and believe me, it’s a wonder to behold. That Rickenbacker sound, those harmonies and infectious tunes will have you singing along in no time, unfamiliarity be damned! So check out the US tour dates below to make sure you don’t miss out on the fun, PoPies!
Check out the video for “It’s Nice to be Nice” below…
Some of the classic pop music was written in the studio, without having been road-tested in live performance. The Beatles and The Beach Boys come easily to mind, of course. Appropriately, Dave Ody (aka Mothboxer) names both bands as principal influences and it’s no surprise that his music reflects the same ethos that his more famous forebears pioneered and mastered during the 60s.