40 Years of Love: Donna Summer and the Derivation of Electronica

It’s been 40 years since the world first heard the future of music when “I Feel Love” by Donna Summer shocked us into a new sonic awakening. The electronic masterpiece – composed by Summer along with Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte – was the foundation for what was to become known as electronic dance music. Whether you loved or loathed disco, “I Feel Love” commanded everyone’s attention and became a dance floor anthem during the summer of 1977. At the time, no one had previously heard anything like it. It’s hypnotic melody, combined with an irresistible synthesized bassline and pulsating dance beat was musical nirvana. Summer’s sensual vocal delivery was the icing on top of the cake as she perfectly conveyed the euphoric essence of the song’s timeless and universal message of love. The first lady of love had struck gold (and platinum) again and delivered another game-changing record every bit as earth-shattering as her breakthrough hit, “Love to Love You Baby.” [Read Full Review]

Advertisements

Harry Styles Emerges as Rock Star on Solo Debut Album

Harry Styles: Harry Styles

What do you do in your spare time while on hiatus from one of the world’s biggest-selling and most successful boy bands? If you’re Harry Styles you use that time wisely by dropping a debut album so commanding that it makes you an instant rock star. If you disregard preconceived notions concerning boy bands, as well as stop trying to decipher if lyrical subtexts may or may not allude to Taylor Swift, you will hear the emerging talent of an undeniably credible solo artist. Harry Styles effectually straddles the line between do-it-yourself production qualities and cock rock.

Harry Styles won’t stop Directioners from wondering if and when the notorious boy band will reunite, but it certainly affirms Styles has the goods to become a major solo star. It’s also utterly refreshing to hear a young artist embrace the use of organic elements such as strings, guitar, and choir instead of opting for the exhausted generic sounding beat-driven production gimmicks currently permeating the musical landscape. [Read Full Review]

Watch the “Sign of the Times” Music Video:

Lady Gaga Slays the Grammys with David Bowie Tribute

FullSizeRender (1)

Lady “Stardust” Gaga gave an inspired tribute to David Bowie with a show-stopping performance. With help from her creative team known as Haus of Gaga and alongside the legendary Nile Rodgers who served as musical director, Gaga delivered a glammed-up chameleonic performance as she belted out a medley chock-full of Bowie classics which included: “Space Oddity,” “Changes,” “Ziggy Stardust,” “Suffragette City,” “Rebel Rebel,” “Fashion,” “Fame,” “Under Pressure,” “Let’s Dance” and “Heroes.”

Watch Gaga’s unforgettable homage to her musical hero below:

 

Remembering David Bowie

Bowie final

Where to begin when discussing David Bowie? It’s almost impossible to define one of the most influential artists of all time with a musical legacy of near-mythic importance. Especially considering his career spans from 1962 to 2016 and includes such classics as “Starman,” “Rebel Rebel,” “Heroes,” and “I’m Afraid of Americans.” Not to mention his vast canon of 25 eclectic albums, each one a divergent musical statement contained within an illustrious work of graphic art.

Nearly every Bowie fan has a favorite period or persona with a specific entry point, making it all the more difficult to attempt summing up the gender-bending, sexually ambiguous performer and musician’s life and accomplishments without writing an entire book (of which there are already more than a few of in existence). So instead I’ll try to sum up what impact the icon of music, film, art, and fashion had on my life.

My initial exposure to David Bowie was from top 40 radio and television shows such as The Midnight Special, Soul Train, and Saturday Night Live during the 1970s. As a kid I already liked the songs I’d heard (“Space Oddity,” “Fame,” and “Golden Years” were my favorites), but as a sheltered pre-teen I was jarringly taken aback, even frightened by him when first exposed to his spaced-out androgynous Ziggy Stardust persona. My initial reactions to the glam rocker were fear, confusion, and intrigue as I’d never seen or heard anyone like him, but my initial perceptions morphed into unadulterated admiration in the 80s.

I can remember being completely blown away as I sat transfixed the very first time I saw the “Ashes to Ashes” music video on MTV. This resulted in my newly awakened interest, just in time for Bowie’s latest incarnation, as he dominated the new music video age. Let’s Dance was the first Bowie record I purchased (as I became hypnotized by the infectiousness of “China Girl” and “Modern Love”), which led to my own personal discovery period as I began to delve into and devour each of his past albums from Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) to The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, to The Man Who Sold the World, and Space Oddity.

My rekindled interest continued as I greedily consumed all of Bowie’s output from that point forward, especially Labyrinth and Never Let Me Down, which culminated into my all-time favorite Bowie tour and live recording, his epochal Glass Spider Tour (although it’s often maligned and dismissed by critics and fans alike). I would watch my VHS copy with such repeated regularity, it eventually caused lines of distortion to run through the worn video image. Let’s just say I was in desperate need of upgrading my fuzzy video years later when it was re-released as a DVD/CD combo. As the years went by, Bowie grew to be a perpetual constant in my life as one of my favorite artists, as it never ceased to be a major life event for me whenever he’d release a new musical opus.

I’m pleased to say in 2004, I finally had the opportunity to experience one of his electrifying and unequaled live performances during what was sadly to become his final concert tour. The two and a half hour set was truly one of the greatest moments of my life (as well as one of my most cherished ticket stubs) and not a moment too soon either. Just weeks after attending his concert, Bowie underwent an angioplasty procedure for a blocked artery and the remaining dates of his A Reality Tour were cancelled.

Following his heart surgery, Bowie seemed to all but disappear until 2013 when he quietly surprise released The Next Day, his first album of new material in a decade. Well worth the wait, TND debuted at number two on Billboard and received glowing reviews. After a 10-year span of virtual silence, it was a sigh of relief to hear exciting new material. This excitement continued as “Moonage Daydream” was forever immortalized as part of the Marvel Universe while featured in the film and soundtrack of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which was soon followed by news that we could expect another album early in 2016.

I was elated when Bowie’s Blackstar was released on January 8, the artist’s 69th birthday. I spent that entire weekend enraptured by the eerily dark, but strangely hypnotic new music. I couldn’t help noticing an indescribable undercurrent within the lyrics the more I listened, especially in “Lazarus,” “Dollar Days” and “I Can’t Give Everything Away,” but I was too elated at having new Bowie music to dwell too deeply. However, this uneasiness became all too clear when I awakened on Monday morning to the shockingly unforeseen news that Bowie had passed away after an 18-month struggle with cancer. My first thought was that it had to be an Internet hoax, but sadly it was confirmed as I watched the plentiful tributes begin to pour in from around the world.

Death is an unfortunate reality for all of us, but it almost seems as if some people are supposed to miraculously beat the cosmic odds and defy death. Somewhere deep down in my subconscious, I think I always believed that if anyone could escape the Grim Reaper’s grasp, it would have been David Bowie.

Thank you Mr. Jones for sharing your talent with us mere mortals and giving the world such a magnanimous and inspiring body of work.

“There’s a starman waiting in the sky/He’d like to come and meet us/But he thinks he’d blow our minds/There’s a starman waiting in the sky…”

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot

Sunflowers

It’s that time of year again when we find ourselves stretched between the realms of the past, present, and future. But before moving forward, it only seems fitting to consider those brilliantly talented souls we lost in 2015.

Sadly, the music world had to say goodbye to: country singer Lynn Anderson, British pop vocalist Cilla Black, soulful songstress Natalie Cole, gospel singer-songwriter-choir director Andraé Crouch, Grand Ole Opry icon Little Jimmy Dickens, Lesley “It’s My Party” Gore, Motörhead leader Lemmy Kilmister, legendary blues singer/guitarist B.B. King, prominent Nashville producer Billy Sherrill, soul legend Percy Sledge, and the inimitable frontman of Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver, Scott Weiland, just to name a few. They may be gone, but their momentous musical contributions will be eternal.

Although it’s painful to accept those who are no longer with us, a new year allows us to gleam into the future with great eagerness of what is yet to come. This year promises thrilling new releases from David Bowie (January 8), Panic! at the Disco (January 15), Elton John (February 5), Radiohead, The Cult, Green Day, Lady Gaga, Nine Inch Nails, Katy Perry, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Gwen Stefani, Rooney, and Lucinda Williams.

So here’s to a new year, new music, and making new memories in 2016.

At the Closing of the Year

2013

As we say goodbye to 2013 with all too fresh memories of Miley Cyrus’ embarrassing raunch, the aural overkill of Lorde’s “Royals,” and the over saturated blandness of Katy Perry still lingering about, we can only look ahead with hope that 2014 will redeem this year’s failures.

The beginning of a new year always seems exhilarating as it promises a fresh start and a renewed faith that things can only get better. Looking into the not so distant future we can expect new releases from U2, a return to alternative pop from Tori Amos (after her last three classical infused releases), Cher’s final farewell and last hurrah (Dressed to Kill Tour), and after an extended absence from live performing, cerebral shit stirrer Lady Gaga returns to the touring scene with her upcoming artRAVE: The ARTPOP Ball Tour.

Although too much time was wasted during the past few months on less than triumphant spectacles and dashed expectations, 2013 managed to deliver some great musical moments including David Bowie’s return with The Next Day, Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience, Cher’s first album in 12 years, Closer to the Truth, Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2, Christian Burns’ Simple Modern Answers, Panic! at the Disco’s Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! and of course Lady Gaga’s heady party record ARTPOP. The year’s end also saw masterfully crafted seasonal offerings by Kelly Clarkson, Erasure, and Leona Lewis, all of which brought 2013 to a fitting and timely end.

With fingers crossed and musical palettes cleansed, let’s close out 2013 by taking a beat to remember how music makes us feel as it permanently finds its way into the soundtrack of our lives. As we prepare to leap forward into a new year, let’s hope our high expectations of better days to come are fulfilled in 2014.