POWER OF POP INTERVIEW: THE SAM WILLOWS – THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT

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It’s been three years since The Sam Willows released its debut EP. Since then, the quartet (Jon Chua, Ben Kheng, Sandra Riley Tang & Narelle Kheng) have gone from strength to strength, developing into arguably the top pop group in Singapore and signing for Sony Music Singapore.

I caught up with Jon, Ben, Sandra & Narelle recently at the official press event for the release of their first full-length album, Take Heart, and found them to be the same down-to-earth, earnest, fun-loving group that I met in 2012, except now with a major label backing their music.

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2015 – THE YEAR SINGAPORE ENGLISH POP RECLAIMED MAINSTREAM STATUS?

image001SamWillowsTakeHeartTrick

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.

Watch the video

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!

… still there’s more … 

TRICK SHOWCASE AT HOOD BAR

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Singapore born and raised hip hop duo Trick blew the crowd away at Hood Bar and Café with a fast tempo heady rushed of lyrics. Supported by AMPed and hosted by Gerald Koh, the place was teeming with girls who were trying to catch a glimpse of their idols. Often resembling Jay Park and T.I., the duo threw the crowd off their feet with covers such as “Ringa Linga” by Taeyang.

Trick showed us how covers should be done, as lyrics were being changed to fit their personal styles into the songs. It is not something which every band is doing hence making them unique.

Trick-2

Keeping the crowd “Up All Night”, with hits such as “BPM” and “The Life”. My personal favourite was “BPM” as the high energy level brought out the essence of the song together with the hypnotic groove which left the audience sashaying their hips away.

To commemorate their success, champagne bottles were popped and a cake was being presented upon to the duo by die hard fans. Some lucky fans were fortunate enough to have themselves sprayed with champagne by Richard.

Ending their set with their latest single “Sunshine” an acoustic strip down approached was being adopted. The audience were certainly in for a treat as they smiled widely when the performance drew to a close. Excited fans started to flock to the meet and greet both to have their photos taken with Trick.

Trick certainly gave it their all as they interacted with their fans, whose live set was a dynamic blast of  pop music that remained engaging throughout.

Photographs by Cherlynn Lian – www.onefiftythree.com

Thanks to SONY Music for making this review possible. 

(Nikita Wong)

GEEK OUT!

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2
Directed by Marc Webb. Starring Andrew Garfield, Jamie Foxx and Emma Stone

Based on the trailers & promotional materials, the producers of Amazing Spider-Man 2 had indulged in misdirection to suggest that Spidey would be fighting THREE villains in this film viz. Electro (Foxx), Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan) and Rhino (Paul Giamatti). In that respect, there were concerns that the film seemed too similar to Sam Raimi’s flawed Spider-Man 3 which was bogged down by THREE villains as well.

Continue reading “GEEK OUT!”

GEEK OUT!

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 trailer is here and guess what? The movie looks like Spider-Man 3 – y’know three villains overkill. Mm. Hopefully, it will make more sense than Spider-Man 3 did. Note: that last sequence really looks like a video game. Ugh.

What did you think of the trailer?

LIKE PERFORMING LOVE SONY – GRAND FINALE [NEWS]

A total of 12 finalists will battle it out for the title, and you can check them out by viewing their audition videos on the Sony Singapore Facebook page here. Other than an exciting line-up of performances from the contestants, there will also be food and drinks served. What’s more, popular local band 53A will also be there to perform live on stage! Three pairs of tickets will be given away to the first three readers who leave this comment – “I love Power of Pop and SONY” below this post! What are you waiting for?

Details:

Date : Wednesday, 28 November 2012
Time : 6.00 – 9.00pm
Venue : Shuffle Bistro Bar
3D River Valley Road, Clarke Quay,
#02-03 Singapore 179023

PoPWARE – SONY XBA HEADPHONES

What Does Music Sound Like To You?

Most music is now listened to via electronic devices and by necessity on headphones. Thus your choice of headphones will certainly  be a critical factor in maximizing your aural pleasures. Which is the cue for the official product description of the new SONY XBA line of headphones –

Everyone has different taste when it comes to music enjoyment, and Sony has created a line of headphones that not only cater to your preference, but are designed to suit your character as well. For those who hate any interruption, we created headphones that reduces outside noise for high-intensity listening. If you’re into funky styles, we also have uniquely designed headphones that will turn heads when you put them on. Regardless of appearance, our headphones deliver high quality sounds.

Continue reading “PoPWARE – SONY XBA HEADPHONES”

PoPWARE: SONY 4 CONNECTIVITY

Melissa with the SONY Tablet

SONY rolled out the full slate of its communications and entertainment devices with a stress on “connectivity” at a media event this morning held at Sentosa Cove. Melissa and I listened to presentations regarding the ability of the various SONY devices (viz. Xperia smartphones, BRAVIA televisions, Tablets and VAIO notebooks) to share content amongst themselves via DNLA (Digital Living Network Alliance) and HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface). This integration would allow a consumer to, for instance, flash photos or video contained on a smartphone on a television screen by wireless network, play music files (residing on a Tablet or notebook) on Network Speakers.

There was also much capital made of SONY’s new BRAVIA TV which boasted of the most vivid HDTV pictures (including 3D) ever. I must say that the X-Reality PRO Engine was the most impressive with its picture quality and contrast. There was also a demonstration of HDTV 3D required fairly comfortable 3D glasses although the value of watching 3D TV I must confess still eludes me.

In addition, SONY launched its latest Xperia smartphones which certainly look sleek but user-friendliness still remains an issue. And for those who thrive on listening to music and watching videos on their phones would be dismayed the information that only 4GB is available for your media content on these phones. There is some way to go before SONY’s Xperia catch up with the standard  bearers for the mobile phone market.

One product that mystified us somewhat was the SONY Tablet P (above). It’s two screens split in half contained in a device that folds in on itself like a spectacle box! One cannot imagine the practicality of the design or how it would translate into user-friendliness but it’s definitely a curious looking Tablet.

Without prolonged use of the new devices, it’s difficult to give a proper assessment but suffice to say, that I was most impressed with the new BRAVIA TVs, especially the X-Reality PRO engines which certainly brings the term “picture quality” to totally new level.

UPHORIA PARTY WITH SONY

Two features for the price of one!


Technology is as advanced as it already is, but if there’s one thing that Sony could do on one eventful night on Saturday, 3rd December 2011, it would be to somehow make the rain go away.

But that didn’t stop the party from happening down at *Scape, as fans of international superstars Mike Posner and Train made their joyous way to watch an evening of performances. Already in the day-long event, regional superstars like Hao Ren from Malaysia, Julia Abueva from the Philippines and Slot Machine from Thailand, had graced the stage and showcased their homegrown singing talents.

With anticipation, the fairly packed crowd (however, much lesser than I myself had anticipated) were mainly youngsters, and gathered themselves before a relatively compact stage. Newcomer Mike Posner would be to appear first, as he only has an album under his belt (31 Minutes To Takeoff) so far. Fans need not wait any further, as second offering Sky High will be released sometime early 2012, with first single off it ironically titled Looks Like Sex. You read it right – and um, how much more intelligence can you expect from that, really?

Dressed in a bright and dashing red jacket, with a back embroidery titled Brain Trust, a plain black tee inside, black three quarter pants and loud sneakers, Mike looked refreshed and alive, as he looked ahead to his own debut Singapore performance and interaction with the fans alike. But alas, has he not been told or informed of the basic Singapore crowd behaviour – conscious, cautious and careful?

He performed songs from his debut, kicking start with Please Don’t Go, Do U Wanna, Bow Chicka Wow Wow (less Lil’ Wayne), a new song from the upcoming record (which I think he lied in saying that it was the first time he was performing it live, as an artiste’s marketing and hype technique to get more cheers and screams), covered Adele’s Rolling In The Deep (with an interesting drummed-up version) and a surprise slowdown to Oasis’s Wonderwall, away from all the current mainstream dance-pop that he is well associated with.

He had the look and eyes of confidence, arrogance and stride as a musician may have, and maybe that of an American. His energy was contagious, as he bounced and jumped up, down and across the stage, standing atop the sound speakers and various attempts to get close and intimate with the front of the audience. However, as much as he worked the crowd, it was quite concrete evidence (through his expression) that he was disappointed with the whole response – it wasn’t like an O2 Arena, U2 concert type. Nonetheless, both sides of the spectrum (Mike as performer and the audience at large) did their best, especially much so the ladies when Mike joined the crowd and lost his tee in the process. You can just imagine and visualize the girls go weak in the knees as a buffed Posner stood onstage to conclude his set and greet a goodbye.

*

With the success of Hey Soul Sister, Train reconnected with the mainstream this year, and the young ones talk about Train as though they know every single thing about them (when they don’t). And in a way, I pity Train for that, as they are more of an adult contemporary act than pop.

And how about did the fellows do to connect with a younger crowd, you may ask?
(a) got a handful of ladies from the audience onstage to just sing the line “hey soul sister”, in as many soulful attempts and versions as possible?
(b) got Mike Posner back onstage and covered Journey’s (or Glee’s, for that matter) Don’t Stop Believing?
(c) gave away an autographed acoustic guitar to someone in the audience?
(d) added random oh-oh’s during the musical bridges of songs?
(e) all of the above?

And the answer is (e). Patrick Monahan appeared onstage with messy hair, as though he had done up his nicely in the hotel room but had to rush to sing at the concert in the pouring rain. But he was entertaining, in an actor kind of way, as he cracked some very straightforward jokes. I suspected that there may be a bottle of liquor somewhere backstage, as sometimes it does help, when dealing with an audience who spent half the time with their hands up in the air, and a camera or a camera phone on it, taking non-stop snapshots. Jimmy Stafford looked the most sincerely merriest, like a person embracing this part of the world and the culture for the very first time.

If you have to ask, yes, despite not being a particularly big fan of their smash hit for the year, I couldn’t resist but to sing along to the lyrics out aloud (maybe I’m a closeted Train fan?). The Journey cover went down pretty bad, in my books, and I thought Patrick had the regretted look almost immediately as he started performing it together with Mike, as though he was trying to figure out what he was doing and what was going on here (the sobering stage, post-liquor, I reckon).

Other familiar songs performed in the quite short timeframe were their 1998 smash Meet Virginia, Calling All Angels (from the 2003 album My Private Nation), the title track from latest offering Save Me, San Francisco, and others like If It’s Love and the very close, intimate (he went around and took pictures with fans throughout the entire song, how much sweeter could he get, really) and some-may-consider romantic number Marry Me. He even joked just before singing the last round of chorus, saying, “now you really have to marry me”, in a slightly impatient manner, and in a very warm way, poking fun of their own selves and own hit song.

But the definite song of the night has got to be their biggest smash still, Drops Of Jupiter (Tell Me), which they performed as a one-song encore before closing the night. Yes, the same one local singer/songwriter Tanya Chua covered. I remembered myself belting out along, with emotions switched on full gear mode, and felt this small part of the world well connected together for that one particular moment. And then I took the train home.

Thank you to Sony for inviting Power Of Pop (and three pairs of our lucky readers) to this event.

[cj]

On December 2 the Sony Group of Companies held the UPHORIA Party with Sony press conference, with guests Grammy-nominated international hit band Train, and recent break-out star Mike Posner. The artists were in town for the UPHORIA Party with Sony, where their performances would be the highlight of the event.

First widely known as the ones behind massive hit Drops Of Jupiter (Tell Me), in the last two years Train has returned with a bang from their three-year hiatus. Especially with multi-platinum hit single Hey Soul Sister, which certainly took the airwaves by storm. As for Posner, his following has grown enormously from the time he was releasing mixtapes from his dorm room at Duke University to his 2010 debut album 31 Minutes to Takeoff featuring Billboard Hot 100 Top 10 single Cooler Than Me.

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This “press conference” with Train and Posner was more of a media promotional event, with contest winners, regional press, bloggers, the local reporters etc. all present, making the headcount about two hundred in total. It felt rather like Sony were trying to squeeze everything into one event and milk the most out of it, which was a pity as we didn’t get to spend much time (or any at all) actually interacting with the artists.

The session opened with a question for Posner: Will we be hearing any new material from the upcoming album at the UPHORIA party? “I’m planning on doing one or two new songs,” the singer/songwriter/producer replied.

Posner later talked about how he never expected to be performing on such a platform, sharing the stage with established international stars like Train. It’s certainly heartening to consider how far he’s come since he recorded his first mixtape in his dorm room. And he was evidently thankful for his label, family and fan support, and for friends who apparently treat him worse now to keep him grounded.

Throughout the hour the level of enthusiasm from the media was lukewarm at best. Disappointing, but then again, as the main interviewer helplessly acknowledged, welcome to Singapore. Fortunately the artists tried their best to liven things up, especially Train lead singer Pat Monahan, who had no problem throwing out jibes at the main interviewer and the other artists  present like Thailand’s Slot Machine, or bantering with Posner.

On the topic of a special collaboration between Train and Posner being planned, Monahan teased the gathered crowd with suggestions of a Pussycat Dolls cover performed with hot pants and tank tops. And when there was the customary awkward pause waiting for the first question, Monahan came to the rescue with: “I have one! Mike, is it true that I’m cooler than you?”

When asked what advice they would give to aspiring young artists, Monahan emphasised the importance of staying true to oneself: “The only advice I have for anybody is, be yourself, because if you’re successful, then you get to be yourself for a little longer, but if you try to be something you’re not and you’re successful, then you gotta try to figure out how to be that other thing for a really long time to keep it together. So if you’re not successful but you’re being yourself, then the reward is still cool because you get to make the work that you want. I mean you know money ain’t everything, so being yourself can be pretty awesome, and then you just get better at it.” And then in characteristic cheekiness he added, “Money isn’t everything, but it’s about nine-tenths of it.”

Somehow the topic of stars being discovered on the internet came up. “I’m one of those people,” Posner grinned, “so I think very highly of social networking and things of that nature.”

Monahan weighed in with his view that things like giving away music for free, which is what Posner did and continues to do, is a very smart move because it gets people to see his shows when they like his work. “If you come into this business to be a business then you’re not gonna probably be here long,” Monahan mused, “but if you come here to make great work then, you know how like Mike proving… You could be here for a long long time.”

What’s next for all of them?  Posner has just done another free mixtape, and his second album is scheduled to come out next year, “March-ish”. As for Train, according to Monahan their new single Drive By is lined up for a January release, with an as-yet untitled new album in April: “We don’t have a title for it, we’re thinking maybe, something along the lines of ‘Singapore kicks ass’.”

(Desiree Boey)

 

 

TRAIN WITH MIKE POSNER – LIVE IN SINGAPORE

Alright! Here we go. As you probably know by now, Train and Mike Posner will be performing at *SCAPE for a special concert put together by SONY. This special concert begins at 7pm on Saturday, 3rd December 2011 and closes SONY’s Uphoria event on a high! Well, the good news is that the kind folks at SONY have given Power of Pop three pairs of VIP tickets for this special concert and in order to stand a chance of winning a pair of VIP tickets, you need to do the following: –

First, follow us at Twitter @powerofpop

Second, retweet our special tweet promoting SONY Uphoria in its entirety.

It’s that simple. So follow us now on Twitter and look out for that special tweet.

And… if you’re not sure what’s in store, check out videos of Train and Mike Posner below.

For more info, visit the SONY Uphoria site.

Note: The decision of Power of Pop in relation to the selection of contest winners is final.

UPHORIA

(Press release)

Party With Sony at UPHORIA

The Very Latest Music, Movies, Games, Mobile Phones & Electronic Gadgets await visitors at the biggest party in town!

18 November 2011, Singapore – Come 3rd December 2011, *SCAPE located along Orchard Link will be magically transformed into an all-encompassing Sony lifestyle experience for party-goers. Called UPHORIA Party With Sony, this fun-filled, highly interactive extravaganza will feature exciting offerings from the various Sony companies in Singapore.

“Sony is more than an electronics company- we are a total entertainment company and this party aptly demonstrates this fact. For the consumer, UPHORIA Party With Sony represents the best opportunity for them to experience the latest variety of consumer electronics products, music, movies and PlayStation® games- all within the convenience of a single location,” said Mr. Narihiko Uemura, Managing Director of Sony Electronics Asia Pacific and Sony Electronics Singapore.

UPHORIA Party With Sony is the perfect platform to highlight Sony’s seamless integration between hardware and “heartware”- the rich range of content that only Sony is able to provide. It also epitomizes the spirit of “make.believe”, our global message that harnesses the power of people’s creativity coupled with the ability and desire to turn dreams to reality”.

UPHORIA Party With Sony represents the culmination of several months of activities that started in July with the “Like Creativity Love Sony” photography-based contest and the “Like Performing Love Sony” event- a singing contest held throughout the region. Winners of the various contests won attractive prizes with the Grand Finals of the singing contest taking place at UPHORIA Party With Sony.

The latest Sony gadgets will be highlighted at several experience zones; for example Loft will provide access to BRAVIA Internet TV services and visitors can experience first-hand the unique media “throwing” function of the latest Tablet S. At the aptly-named Sweet Treats zone visitors can relax and test the latest digital cameras. 3D Studio will showcase award-winning 3DTVs, 3D digital cameras, 3D VAIO computers, as well as a special Sony Ericsson PLAY Stadium and PlayStation® Game Pit focusing on mobile gaming contests. For football fans, try to top the FIFA12 tournament on PlayStation®3 while at the same time you can enjoy the same game at the event on the Sony Ericsson Xperia™ PLAY smartphone. And as a first for Singapore, the HMZ-T1 3D Head Mounted Display will be on demonstration at the Loft to wow the crowds.  Also find out more about Sony’s eco contributions at the Eco Park and test the latest αDSLR lenses and 3D Digital Binoculars at the Vantage Point.

Another highlight of the party will be performances throughout the day by regional Sony Music artistes like Slot Machine from Thailand, Hao Ren from Malaysia and Singapore’s very own Julia Abueva. This will culminate in an exclusive night concert showcasing renowned international acts Train and Mike Posner.

There will also be screenings of the latest movie “The Smurfs” from Sony Pictures. But perhaps the movie highlight of the event would be the exclusive first screening of the latest Adam Sandler blockbuster movie “Jack and Jill”.

All throughout the day many exciting entertainment activities like PlayStation® games and music performances are promised and visitors can be assured of a fun-filled day with Sony for the whole family. Entry to the UPHORIA Party With Sony is free though tickets would be required to attend the exclusive night concerts by the regional and international Sony Music performances.

UPHORIA Party With Sony will be on:

Saturday, 3rd December 2011

12pm to 6pm (Events & Activities Open to the Public)

7pm* to 10pm (Concert: Train and Mike Posner Exclusive to Ticket Holders Only)

*Doors open at 7pm & concert scheduled to start at 7.45pm

Location: *SCAPE, 2 Orchard Link Singapore 237978

Stay tuned for information on how YOU can obtain tickets for the Train/Mike Posner concert by following us on Twitter @poweropfop.

PoPWARE

SONY CYBERSHOT DSC-T110/B

Alright I admit it – I am a little shallow when it comes to digital cameras. So, the T110 (above) with its really slick design, bright colors and touch screen (with cool sound effects) totally does it for me. It does not have a zoom function but it’s so user-friendly and takes such sharp pix without too much fuss that it’s pretty much irresistible. I used the T110 at the latest Noise-Timbre Singer-Songwriter Programme and I believe that the pictures turned out rather nicely. Retails for about S$369.

More information here.

SONY CYBERSHOT H55

Now, this baby looks more the part if you need to be a tad more professional in the picture taking department. Not as sexy as the T series it must be noted but maybe a little more serious. So no touch screen but this sucker manages a competent zoom function which came in handy for the 2nd day of Music Matters 2011. I could easily remain seated in the 10th row and comfortably snap good pix on the stage. Although, it must be said that at times, there was a smidgeon too much yellow in some of the shots but overall, H55 gets the job down, even if you are an amateur photog like me. Retails for around S$499.

More information here.

PoPWare is a brand new feature where we review the latest hardware which makes your enjoyment of pop culture that much more pleasurable! If you’re interested in getting a review, get in touch at info (at) powerofpop (dot) com.