The Veronicas Premiere Tracks off of Upcoming Album at Los Angeles Show

by ALEX NAGORSKI

This past Thursday, the West Coast was given a gift of epic proportions. The Veronicas, Australia’s superstar female twin pop duo, performed a one-night only exclusive event at The Viper Room in Los Angeles to showcase songs from their eagerly anticipated upcoming album.

Best known in the United States for their singles “Untouched” and “4Ever,” The Veronicas played to a sold out crowd of fans dying for a taste of the girls’ new material.

While I was unable to attend the show (due to a rude case of “I live in New York and can’t afford airfare”), watching fan videos posted online after the concert got me hyped for the new record in borderline unhealthy ways.

The Veronicas slay harmonies unlike any other pop act currently out there. The first time I heard them sing live (with their AOL Sessions acoustic version of “Heavily Broken”), I was literally reaching for Q-Tips to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating what I was hearing.

Lisa and Jess’ voices blend like your two favorite desserts coming together to create one ultimate sweet indulgence that makes everything else you’ve ever tasted seem completely flavorless. Just listen to the stripped-down version of “Untouched.” Upon first hearing the key change in that song, I actually thought I was going to need to be pushed to the top of the heart donor recipient list.

In “Let Me Out,” one of the new (and my personal favorite) tracks that was debuted at The Viper Room, the girls’ unmatched harmony skills take front and center. “I’m making it easy for you to go leave me, just let me out,” they sing. As Lisa croons the song’s high melody, she is accompanied by Jess’ sultry alto harmony – creating an emotionally charged chorus that snips your heartstrings in half.

Lisa’s vocals carry the pained lyrics of the song with raw pleas of desperation. You don’t even need to listen to the words of the song to hear the hurt in her voice and know that she’s singing about unrequited love. And as Lisa tugs at your tearducts, Jess strums along on the acoustic guitar before seamlessly jumping up an octave and taking over the chorus of what is the girls’ most vulnerable song to date.

Sidenote about Jess: She’s pretty much the most bad-ass chick in the game. With her slicked back new platinum hairdo and elegant little black dress tightly pressed against her slender, tattooed-all-over body, she’s a bonafide supermodel. Specifically, the hardcore type of femme fatale supermodel from a Bret Easton Ellis novel with an unquenchable thirst for danger. She’s friends with Courtney Love and is dating Billy Corgan from The Smashing Pumpkins. She’s the petite girl with lungs of steel that can do anything from belt gorgeous mezzo-soprano notes to emo-scream like she’s starting an Atreyu cover band. So naturally, she’s the one with the electric guitar strapped across her chest.

The Veronicas also premiered “Cold,” the song that Lisa stated was “probably our favorite song we’ve ever written.” The lyrics, the girls described, were born out of a writing exercise in which they wrote monologues to their ex-lovers. The result is a song that mixes sorrow and anger in an almost scarily spot-on way.

The verses of “Cold” are comprised of rhythmic spoken-word (similar to the Hook Me Up bonus track, “Insomnia”) before unleashing into a soaring rock chorus that evokes memories of early Evanescence. “And I’m dying here and I’m crying over you and I remember, but now you make me shiver, you’re so cold,” the girls sing over the song’s dark instrumentation.

Other songs that The Veronicas debuted included the upbeat “Dead Cool,” a track that could have easily fit on Muse’s latest album. “Baby, I’m Ready” blurs the line between pop and grunge rock that the girls have been dancing on since the release of their debut album. Between its catchy chorus and pop/rock instrumentation, “My Best Mistake” might be the radio smash the girls need to permanently break the American market in the way they deserve. And their flawless cover of Sonny & Cher’s “Bang Bang” revitalizes an otherwise cheesy song into a twisted and contemporary anthem of betrayal.

While a release date for the album has yet to be set, the fact that The Veronicas are starting to perform songs off of it gives me hope that the wait won’t be much longer. But in the meantime, I’m praying to all things holy and Australian that the girls will decide to do a showcase of the new material in New York. And soon.

Judging by the lyrical content of the songs premiered at The Viper Room, I think it’s a pretty safe assumption to say that The Veronicas have one explosive breakup album on the horizon. And if these songs prove anything, it’s that hell hath no fury like a Veronica scorned.

Originally published on MuuMuse

And a very special thank you to The Veronicas for the Twitter love of this review!


That Time Katy Perry Tried To Take Missy Elliott Down With Her

by ALEX NAGORSKI

When Jewel released “Intuition” back in 2003, I remember thinking to myself “that’s it. This is the end of pop. Nobody will ever come out with music worse than this.” The joke was of course on me when Katy Perry hit the scene a few years later.

To date, Katy has spawned five #1 singles from her sophomore album, last summer’s “Teenage Dream.” Why? Because America is tone deaf and apparently undergoing a nation-wide labotomy.
Sidenote: The last time an artist had five consecutive #1 singles off of one album was Michael Jackson with his record, “Bad.” The fact that now Katy Perry ties this record makes me wonder: maybe the Rapture is still coming after all?
Truthfully, the lyrics of this song make last Friday night sound pretty terrible. I mean think about how much debt she must be in after it. She maxed her credit card, got her car towed, ripped her dress, will definitely need a few STD tests (she “sings” about sleeping with three different people throughout the song) and probably will need to bail herself out of jail if any cops follow through with that looming arrest warrant.
So what’s Katy’s brilliant solution? “Do it all again.” Oh. Okay. Glad you have the ability to learn from your actions. You’re not an addict or anything.
“My husband, who’s been clean and sober for almost nine years, you know, I — I see him working a program and working on himself every single day,” Katy recently said to ABC News. “And I see how much work it takes to be clean and sober when you have, you know, addiction on your hands.”
Being the supportive and understanding wife that she is, Katy is doing everything in her power to make as much money as possible off of her song promoting binge-drinking. Therefore, the official remix of this moving and inspirational piece of art has just hit iTunes. And speaking of 2003, it features Missy Elliott.
I’ve been a Missy Elliott fan since the glory days of popping my booty on the middle school dancefloor to “One Minute Man” and “Gossip Folks” (I had a lot of friends back then). News of her alleged comeback genuinely excited me.
But when I heard that Missy would be returning to the scene via an appearance on a remix to a Katy Perry song, it became clear to me that her management team has still not learned how to say “no” (like, c’mon – did ANYONE really think that “Car Wash” would do well?).

The same way that Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jaggar” did not know how to properly feature Christina Aguilera, the remix for “Last Friday Night” does not nearly utilize Missy enough. She only appears briefly to spit some opening rhymes and returns for a hot second on the song’s bridge. But maybe that’s actually a blessing in disguise considering production auto-tuned her to death until all that was left was a Ke$ha-esque robot in the shell of where a hip hop icon once stood.

It’s almost as though throwing Missy Elliott onto this song is a cruel joke. Why tarnish her reputation like that? It’s not like Da Brat was too busy to put down the box of Entemann’s and knock out a verse in the studio.
Lyrically, the song’s content feels very juvenile for Missy to be attaching herself to. Its thesis is basically that if you’re famous, it’s okay to break the law because you won’t actually get into trouble and why bother wasting your brain cells on memories when there’s the internet to remind you how much fun you had?
“It’s a Friday night now here we go/ I ain’t no stripper but I work the pole/ Bartender can you pour some more/ And I’m so tipsy coming out the club,” Missy raps as the song begins, adding her own blacked out antics to Katy’s. Call me crazy, but that doesn’t seem like a 40-year-old musician’s choice subject matter.
There is a serious lack of mainstream female hip hop artists right now. Sure Nicki Minaj is guest-featured doing her Sybil impressions on every other person’s songs and Lil’ Kim is releasing mix tapes from prison, but there hasn’t been a woman to really resonate culturally at large in that genre since Missy went on hiatus. The door was literally wide open for her to come back and dominate again.
The fact that Missy is belittling herself to overly auto-tuned rent-a-rapper status is insulting to her legacy. This is after all, the same woman who brought us generational classics like “Get Ur Freak On,” “Work It” and “Lose Control.” Why risk throwing that away just to make some extra coin for chanting “T.G.I.F.” over and over again?

When Mariah Carey discovered hip hop, it was all downhill from there. I believe that it is our civic duty to make sure Missy Elliott’s newfound fascination for contemporary club-pop doesn’t lead her down this same path of self-destruction. Therefore, I believe we would all benefit from thinking of the “Last Friday Night” remix as a cry for help and call to arms. Kill the beast!

Snow Patrol Shifts Gears With New Album’s Lead Single, “Called Out In The Dark”

by ALEX NAGORSKI

When Snow Patrol released “Just Say Yes,” the lead single off of their first career retrospective album, many fans and critics responded negatively to the new direction the band was going in.

The song had the band layering in a heavy dose of radio-friendly electronica influences, adding a much more mainstream element to their trademark adult-contemporary sound.

“Where Keane and Peñate actually succeeded in introducing a new feel to their sound, Snow Patrol have merely grafted on a few floaty keys and hoped for the best,” said Mayer Nissim of Digital Spy about the song. “There’s no spark, no OOMPH, and worst of all, no fun,” wrote Fraser McAlpine of the BBC. Ouch.

While initially thrown off by “Just Say Yes,” I came to think that it was actually a very natural musical evolution for Snow Patrol. The song was the quintessential dance/rock hybrid, blending just enough ingredients from both genres to complete a near-flawless recipe.

This fall, Snow Patrol will release their sixth studio album, Fallen Empires. The record’s lead single, “Called Out In The Dark,” premiered last week on BBC Radio 1 and will be officially released to iTunes as part of an as-of-yet-untitled EP on September 4th.

In the vein of “Just Say Yes,” “Called Out In The Dark” finds Snow Patrol expanding their repertoire and infusing their signature melancholy rock sound with generous portions of synth-pop and dance beats. For all of my fellow indie lovers out there, think of this stylistic expansion as a (slightly less extreme) version of how Discovery reworked Ra Ra Riot and Vampire Weekend’s sounds on LP1.

Since the release of “Called Out In The Dark,” the blogosphere reception has been divided down the middle. Some are praising Snow Patrol for taking risks while others are accusing of them of selling out and just trying to reclaim the commercial success they once tasted with “Chasing Cars.”

The truth is, however, that there is no room for artistic growth if musicians don’t experiment in the studio. I respect that the band is expanding their range. After all, nobody wants to make the same record twice, right? Just take a look at Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver). His first album was a soft, acoustically driven masterpiece. This year, he released his second album, which was a complete musical departure. And yet, the record received rave reviews from both fans and critics alike. My point? Sometimes it’s okay to not play on the safe side.

“And while the heavens, they opened up / Like arms of dazzling gold / With our rain washed histories / Well they do not need to be told,” lead vocalist Gary Lightbody sings, kicking off a crescendo of synethizers and percussion that pave the way to the climactic chorus. Musically, Snow Patrol may have undergone some changes – but lyrically, they’re the same doleful band behind “Run” and “Set The Fire To The Third Bar.”

As far as lead singles go, “Called Out In The Dark” is a smart choice for the band. It’s a seemingly perfect formula for a late summer hit: the melding together of their alternative soft rock with enough synthesizers to easily boom through a stadium theater. The only question that remains now is will enough people get on board with Snow Patrol’s new musical direction to actually fill that stadium?

I’ve been a huge, huge Snow Patrol fan for years. Ever since it was announced, Fallen Empires has been one of my most anticipated record releases of 2011. With “Called Out In The Dark”, the band has released a brilliant slice of alternative synth-pop. And personally, I can’t wait for a full album’s worth of this stuff.

Originally published on MuuMuse