From the first song on the veteran R&B diva's new
album, it's clear that this is more than just a random
collection of songs. Whatchulookinat is a pointed
critique of the media frenzy engendered by Houston's
various recent run-ins with the law, and of the pitfalls of
stardom, in which she lashes out at the same spotlight
that once gave me fame now tries to ruin me. The song
sets a defiant tone for the album, which runs the gamut from
pulsing, contemporary R&B to I Will Always Love
You style ballads. There is also a statement of her
continued love for her beau, Bobby Brown, and even a cover
of the quintessential '70s love ballad, You Light
Up My Life. Whitney's voice is as powerful as ever,
but the question is: Does anyone care anymore? Judging from
the album's absence from the charts, the answer seems
to be perhaps only her diehard fans.
Things must have been pretty boring in the Mormon heartland
of Orem, Utah, where the four members of The Used hail fromboring
enough to produce the frustration that spills from every track
of their much-hyped debut. The voice of singer Bert McCracken
bears an unmistakable resemblance to that of Soul Asylum's
Dave Pirner, and the similarities don't end there. Like
Soul Asylum of a decade ago, The Used voice the timeless teen
frustrations of American suburbia. But unlike that Minneapolis
band, The Used seem to have had an even harder time, adding
homelessness to usual topics like substance abuse as material
for lyrics. They've also taken in the intervening developments
of nu metal and rap rock, and rock harder than the alt-rock
bands of a decade ago. Shattered shards of guitar collide
against monster drumbeats in songs with titles like Bulimic
and A Box Full of Sharp Objects, just the right
foil for McCracken, one of most powerful singers rock has
produced of late.
Mercury Prize winner Roni Size has dropped another bangin'
one, of that there can be no doubt. But compared to previous
releases New Forms and In the Mode, the drum 'n'
bass innovator on Touching Down focuses purely on man and
machine, dropping most of the melodic vocals, raps and contributions
of Reprazent band mates in favor of pure, bone-rattling jungle.
The luscious harp introduction of Sound Advice
quickly gives way to the grinding, relentless beats of Forget
Me Knots, setting the pace for the rest of the album's
punishing 16 tracks. A limited release from Size's Full
Cycle label, Touching Downwritten, produced and mixed
by Sizeseems more like an offering to the drum n'
bass dancefloor faithful than a crossover effort as was the
case with the immensely popular New Forms. In advance of an
upcoming major release due out in the spring, Touching Down
is a statement of Size's mastery as a creator of some
of the most burning drum n' bass on the planet.
As if anyone ever doubted.
V.A./SPACE LAB YELLOW
Jerome Sydenham Live Vol.1
New York-based house DJ Jerome Sydenham liked venerable Nishi
Azabu nightclub Yellow so much he decided to release a series
of special vinyl compilations in celebration of the club's
10th anniversary last year. Those tracks are now collected
in this new mix CD to be released by Sydenham at Yellow's
upcoming New Year's Eve party, and offer an outstanding
taster of some of the better house to come out of The Big
Apple in recent years. Sydenham dishes up some of his own,
superbly produced tracks, including the feisty, Brazilian-tinged
Escravos De Jo, while other royalty of New York
house are present including Kerri Chandler and Joe Claussell.
Japan is even represented by one of its most experienced house
producers in the form of DJ Nori, who chips in the superbly
danceable Nomad. In recognition of a decade of
house history, Derrick May's Strings of Life
and other vintage tracks are also in the mix. For information
on Yellow's New Year's party stay tuned to Metropolis'
Before I Fall
When the label that brought you Britney Spears and the Backstreet
Boys decides to sign their first Japanese act, you can imagine
they do almost as much legwork as an NBA scout in China. After
all that looking around, Jive uncovered the mysterious, unphotographed16-year-old
Fukuoka twins Michiko and Yoko (they also make do without
a last name), at the same World Music Academy that produced
J-pop princess Misia. With the alchemy of some of the world's
top producers including Max Martin (producer to the aforementioned),
Twill (Twin + Will=Twill) run through material thatsurprisesounds
very much like Britney Spears or the Backstreet Boys. Before
I Fall is the big single, and it's really quite
a likeable and innocent ditty about teen romance sung sweetly
if perhaps more forcefully than your average Japanese idoru,
and in perfectly pronounced English to boot. Look for Twill
to join Crystal Kay in representing the latest wave of internationalized
Japanese teen pop.