Interview with Lelia Broussard

by ALEX NAGORSKI

A few years ago, you could take a walk down to Bleecker Street and catch a show at a small venue called The Bitter End featuring back to back performances from two of Manhattan’s most up-and-coming artists: Stefani Germanotta and Lelia Broussard.

One would ultimately ask Cher to hold her meat purse and get blasted by Bette Midler for coming out on stage dressed as a mermaid in a wheelchair, while the other would be a final contender to be the first unsigned artist to grace the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.

On August 2nd, Rolling Stone will announce which unsigned artist will be the first to make the magazine’s cover – and the contest has narrowed its way down to two finalists. Will alt-rock quartet The Sheepdogs win or will the quirky Lelia flash her signature facial-warpaint on the most esteemed music journal in the biz?

If anyone is close to stealing Florence Welch’s crown as queen of the indie chanteuses, it’s Lelia Broussard. Ever since her most recent album, Masquerade, came out in November of last year, Lelia has exploded onto the scene. No, really. I challenge you to find a coffee shop, book store, or Forever 21 that doesn’t have her song “Satellite” (written about “a sad robot in love”) on constant loop.

On August 24th, Lelia will be performing a very special one-stop show at the Highline Ballroom in New York. I caught up with Lelia to talk about what to expect from the show, how the Rolling Stone contest has impacted her life, which one of the Spice Girls she most identifies with, and more.

If you win the Rolling Stone competition, what would your ideal cover look like? Any specific photo-shoot themes or photographers you’re envisioning working with?

I can’t give it away! But I like the classic looking covers they do.

What has been the most rewarding part of being involved in this Rolling Stone competition? What has been the biggest change since it launched?

Playing Bonnaroo was really incredible. Biggest change is my new DIVA attitude … just kidding.

You wrote your first song about your orthodontist when you were very young. Why was he so terrible that it birthed this form of self-expression in you?

He told me boys wouldn’t want to look at me if I got my braces off a few months early. Quite the douche.

Tell me about the hipster bitch who inspired “Hipster Bitch”?

Haha! She’s actually a really cool lady. But I met her in a not so fun situation for me.

You’ve become known for wearing lots of eclectic face paint during your shows. What does the face paint represent to you and why has it become such a trademark part of your live sets?

My album is called Masquerade and I wanted to sort of create a visual element to go along with that. I also love David Bowie and glam rock, so it’s definitely partly inspired by that.

What’s the most bizarre gift a fan has ever given you?

Assorted screws, nuts, bolts, and a smelly T-shirt. No joke.

As an unsigned artist, what do you think the benefits of not being tied down to a major record label are? What are the downsides?

There are a whole lot of options for independent artists now. I’ve been doing it myself for quite awhile. It’s nice to have total control of everything you’re doing. But the downside is not having enough money. Also that there are not enough hours in the day to do everything you need. It really all depends on what your goals are and what the deal is like. Signing to a major label is certainly not the be-all-end-all.

What is your favorite song to perform live and why?

“Something True” is a fun one. I usually come out in the crowd with my band and we do a little bit of a different arrangement than what’s on the record.

If you were a Spice Girl, would you be Posh, Ginger, Baby, Scary, or Sporty? Why?

Sporty, because she can sing.

You have found a lot of success through the Internet. Between tons of plays on MySpace and an insane amount of views on YouTube, you’ve become quite the viral indie phenomenon. What’s the best advice you have for a new artist that’s trying to get their stuff out there?

Good music will promote itself.

You’ve divided the past few years between Los Angeles and New York. So here comes the tough question: do you consider yourself more of an East Coast or West Coast girl now?

I moved to LA about three years ago but have recently moved back to New York. I love it here so much. New York is more my speed.

Have you begun the process of writing and/or recording a follow-up album to Masquerade yet?

I’m always working on new music! The winner of the Rolling Stone contest will release an EP so I’m all ready for that.

What surprises can your fans look forward to at your New York show at the Highline Ballroom on August 24th? Are you planning on announcing a full tour in the near future?

Lots of rock! My good friends Greg Holden and Allison Weiss are opening for me that night so we’ll all do something together, I’m sure. But I definitely will be announcing a fall tour soon! Stay tuned!

Originally published on MuuMuse

KELLY CLARKSON CHANNELS HER "DARK SIDE" ON LATEST LEAK

by ALEX NAGORSKI

I like my Kelly Clarkson the way French people like their steak: raw, bloody, and vulnerable.

Let’s face it: she releases her best material when Clive Davis isn’t acting like Mary fucking Poppins and trying to force spoonfuls of sugar down her throat. He is to her what Sam Lutfi was to Britney Spears or what Kalteen bars were to Regina George: the catalyst for an all around disconnect from personal reality (with a side of dramatic weight gain).

Kelly’s greatest work will unarguably forever be her third studio album, My December (I say unarguably because if you even try to argue this with me, just know that you’ll go down faster than Bionic’s album sales). That record featured truly heart-wrenching, beautiful and honest tracks like “Maybe” and “Sober,” dark and hurt songs like “Haunted” and “Irvine,” and the vindictively delicious slash-your-ex’s-tires-anthem “Never Again.”

The entire album was (while not commercially viable) completely flawless. Why? Because Kelly had full artistic control. It was her baby. The aural transcript of her attempting to cope with and move past the tremendous suffering her heart had been through.

Then, like a venomous spider, RCA Music Group CEO Clive Davis came crawling around to suck the life out of Kelly’s artistic integrity. Since My December did not perform nearly as well as Kelly’s previous album (2004’s Breakaway), he had her relinquish her reigns of control and tried to revamp her image to be more of a sugarcoated and generic bubblegum pop star.

The result? The spitefully titled All I Ever Wanted, featuring such inauthentic tracks as the Katy Perry-written “I Do Not Hook Up” and Beyonce’s horcrux, “Already Gone”. Even the album artwork was a slap in the face to Kelly. Gone was the lady in the red dress perched on a Tim Burton-esque staircase and in her place was the sad-eyed product of a brutal industry, posing in a leather jacket amidst a recycled backdrop from Britney’s Blackout album.

But then something miraculous happened. Tracks and demos from Kelly’s upcoming fifth album (set to be released this fall) started leaking online. Songs like “Let Me Down” and “I Forgive You” had Kelly returning to the dirty grunge of My December while songs like “What Doesn’t Kill You” blended that sound with the commercial dance-pop elements of her more mainstream hits like “My Life Would Suck Without You.” Could it be that Kelly’s new record will finally be a happy merging of her white and black swans?

It seems like all the signs are pointing to yes. The strongest example of this comes in the form of the leaks’ strongest track, “Dark Side.” The song opens with a soft jewelry box introduction, followed by the entrance of Kelly’s subdued vocals. This seemingly mid-tempo number, however, takes a sharp turn as it reaches its fast-paced, rocking, power-pop chorus.

“Everybody’s got a dark side / Do you love me? / Can you love mine? / Nobody’s a picture perfect/ But we’re worth it/ You know that we’re worth it / Will you love me / Even with my dark side?” Kelly belts over slick guitar riffs, pounding percussion and the slightest pulse of dance beats.

Lyrically, “Dark Side” is reminiscent of previous gems in Kelly’s repertoire such as “Can I Have A Kiss,” “Empty As I Am” and “Don’t” – all of which are self-aware songs about her looking for someone to love her despite her flaws. Musically, the track is composed of the soaring and triumphant pop/rock that made songs like “Since U Been Gone” and “Behind These Hazel Eyes” such standout smashes.

With “Dark Side,” it seems like divided Kelly-aholics can finally meet halfway. On one side, you can cry, rip up old pictures of an ex and scream-sing until your face is an unnatural shade of red. While on the other side, you can throw your hands up in the air and make like Paula Abdul by dancing like there’s no tomorrow. For the first time, it’s a win/win for both sides of the Clarkstan spectrum.

If the songs that have surfaced online are truly an indication of the direction Kelly Clarkson’s next album is going in, I am nothing but confident that it will be the best release of the year (yeah, I went there). While I understand that My December will never happen again, I believe that “Dark Side” is the closest we’ll ever get to it – and that makes it easily the most refreshing and exciting song I’ve heard in months.

Originally published on MuuMuse

WHAT IF POPSTARS WERE VIDEO GAMES?

by ALEX NAGORSKI

Musicians are always being compared to one another. If Lady GaGa has a new single, it has to immediately be put in a fighting rink against Britney Spears’ latest single. If Kanye West is releasing an album one day, then 50 Cent has to release his album that day too to try to prove himself. My point? It’s unnecessary.
Instead of pitting artists against one another, I think we should all view them in comparison to something that makes far more sense … like video games. For example:
Joe Jonas as Major League Baseball 2K11
Let’s be honest: no matter how masculine you try to pretend like you are, you’re still wearing a jock strap under your tight pants while you play with phallic objects and shower in a locker room with other men.
Christina Aguilera as Epic Mickey
In theory, this sounds like it could be great. After all, the concept involves lavish costumes and squeaky voices ripping off the past and trying to pass it off as original. But the final product is overly convoluted and stuffed with obstacles that make it nothing short of an epic flop.
Britney Spears as Mario Kart
Granted, this is not the most complicated game. But at the same time, it’s a guaranteed crowd pleaser, even if people seem apprehensive about it at first. And no matter how many Koopa shells (or Cheetohs) get flung in your direction, you know that you won’t be disappointed when you ultimately cross the finish line.  
Vanessa Hudgens  as Chicken Riot
I’m sorry but … does anybody know this even existed?

Ashlee Simpson as Avatar: The Game
It’s the classic story of the sad spin-off to a pre-established successful franchise that people buy out of brand loyalty but never touch again after storing it in the attic when they’re done using it the first time.

Kelly Clarkson as Arkham Asylum

It’s dark, twisted, and full of surprises. And just when you think you have it figured out and can see a glimpse of hope, a demon from your past comes back to haunt and torture you in the most painful ways.

Whitney Houston as every Sonic The Hedgehog game after the ‘90s

A sad resurggence of lost glory gasping for a breath of contemporary relevance. Like Tyra, we were all rooting for you. But noooooooooo, you just had to go and take something great and ruin it by making it incredibly boring.

Miley Cyrus as The Lion King for Super Nintendo

At first glance, you would assume this is child-friendly. Well, you’d be very mistaken. Full of bloodthirsty predators (paparazzi), overprotective parents (Billy Ray), bursts of rebellion (an Annie Liebowitz-shot Vanity Fair cover), jungle exploration (“salvia”), and an eventual spurt of maturity (Can’t Be Tamed), this game beats the innocence straight out of any Southern beast who plays it. 

Danity Kane as Donkey Kong
And it’s not just because of the initials. The second you lose Diddy, you lose the game.

Adele as The Legend of Zelda

Stunning, beautiful, and complex, this game makes you think more than the majority of the rest of what’s out there do. Plus the end result is far more satisfying. 

New Kids on the Block/Backstreet Boys super-group as Lego: Star Wars

Aw. It’s cute how hard you’re trying.

Jennifer Lopez as Mega Man

Whenever people hear that it’s coming back, it’s met with a mix of a lot of excitement and skepticism. But after one week on the shelves, it’s already forgotten about.

Ke$ha as Raving Rabbids
Because you can only really experience the brilliance of it when you’re high.
Agree? Disagree? Have some more comparisons you thought of? Share in the comments section below!

 

Zooey Deschanelegend Frolics Through the Hundred Acre Wood

by ALEX NAGORSKI

Remember when Tom Cruise jumped up and down on Oprah’s couch about how much he loved Joey Potter (sorry, Katie Holmes)? Well, had that not been a meticulously crafted PR stunt, it would have actually been really endearing. Endearing in that so-elated-that-of-course-you’ll-act-like-a-baboon-on-Oprah’s-furniture kind of way.

Well, imagine Williamsburg on the day that it was announced that Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward were collaborating again – this time for the soundtrack to Disney’s new film adaptation of Winnie The Pooh. So many ecstatic hipsters. So much broken eco-friendly thrift store furniture.

Zooey is to hipsters as Jesus is to Catholics or as Christina Aguilera is to herself. Disney’s decision to select her as the vocal muse for arguably their most nostalgic film to date (I dare you to tell me you didn’t tear up during that trailer) was brilliant. Not only because of her revered status among the adults who have so many childhood memories associated with the Winnie The Pooh franchise, but also because of her new-wave vintage sound.

In this new Pooh film, Disney has gone the opposite route than it has with its recent releases. Instead of creating an entirely CGI world like in Tangled, Winnie The Pooh is a return to classic Disney: 2D animation and music that doesn’t sound like a failed American Idol winner’s debut ballad. Who better than to provide the sound for this reverting to old-school agenda than Zooey, the reincarnation of 60’s female pop?

Upon first hearing Zooey’s take on the classic Pooh theme, I was overtaken by that warm, fuzzy feeling that you get when you’re in a play-pit with multiple puppies or when you realize you’re next to Patrick Dempsey at a urinal and can take a sneak peek. To hear Zooey’s gentle alto voice singing “tubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff” is like a spoonful of honey in itself. Crack-infused, smooth, delicious honey.

For the majority of the tracks, Zooey merely provides rich background vocals. Her little doo-wops and scooby-doo-bops create a near flawless harmony with the film’s bouncy and sunshine-tinged score.
Zooey and M. Ward also contribute an original song, “So Long.” Interestingly enough, the duo don’t cite the song under their band’s name (She & Him), but rather credit themselves eponymously.

“So Long” has all the essential ingredients of a typical She & Him song; a blend of indie surf rock with lo-fi ‘60s pop. Throw in the sugarcoated, cutesy and kid-friendly lyrics (“Well I could be the blossom / And you could be the bee / And then I could call you honey”), and you have the perfect new theme for the film.

Now, I’m not saying that I made sure I was up at midnight on Tuesday when the soundtrack came out on iTunes so I could buy it as soon as it was released. I’m also not saying that I listened to it while cuddling with a stuffed Eeyore in my bed before falling asleep. I’m also definitely not saying that I teared up. But HYPOTHETICALLY, if any of these things were true, it would mean that (like in the criminally underrated genius film, Your Highness) Zooey hit a home-run with her contributions to this movie.

Moral of the story: Zooey is the poo(h). So take a whiff. And don’t forget to bring your ski masks to the theaters this weekend when you go see Winnie The Pooh. This way nobody will see you ugly-cry.

Originally published on MuuMuse

Michelle Williams Releases Buzz Single, “Love Gun”

by Alex Nagorski

Yesterday was a big day for all of the ladies of Destiny’s Child.

Despite a flop (and totally misleading) single and mixed album reviews, Beyoncé’s latest record 4 premiered at the top of the Billboard album charts. Snippets of all the tracks on Kelly Rowland’s upcoming album Here I Am hit the interwebs. LeToya Luckett stayed at home petting her cats while Googling reasons to sue Mathew Knowles. And Michelle Williams released “Love Gun,” a buzz single in anticipation of her fourth solo record, slated to hit stores this fall.

If the Druski-produced “Love Gun” is truly an indication of the direction Michelle is going in, then her upcoming album is going to be nothing short of fiyah burnin’ on the dancefloor.

While Michelle flirted with dance/pop on her previous record, 2008’s Unexpected, “Love Gun” completely removes her from that raspy Fantasia-like R&B sound she often experimented with. Instead, she fully embraces her electro-pop side to kick off what’s expected to be a completely dance-oriented album.

Sidenote: Had former band member Kelly Rowland looked at how her previous solo attempts had been received (“When Love Takes Over,” “Commander”), she would have wisely gone the dance/pop route as well. Instead, those new, bland leaked clips left the six fans she had left drained with no motivation to even pretend to give her album a second listen. (See what I did there?)

As far as buzz singles go, nothing will ever be superior to Lindsay Lohan’s “Bossy.” (RIP Spirit In The Dark.) That being said, Michelle Williams truly serves up a refreshing dish of beats and sultry vocals that could have easily fit on Robyn’s Body Talk album.

In these David Guetta-over-Timbaland times we live in, “Love Gun” is far more mainstream and radio-ready than Michelle’s previous solo efforts. I wouldn’t be surprised if–for the first time since she did Beyonce’s back-ups–Michelle had a real Top 40 hit on her hands. Let’s just hope the rest of the album lives up to the bar she’s now raised for herself.

So to sum up: Beyonce = Rich but meh. Kelly Rowland = Just go home and try again. Michelle = YOU DO YOU, BABY. ALL ‘DEM OTHA BITCHES GETTIN’ SERVED.

Originally published on MuuMuse