I have a confession. I don’t always pay for my music. I know, shocking right? However, I did just purchase Frank Ocean’s brand new album, channel ORANGE.
channel ORANGE is a fantastic album, destined to be on many “best of” lists come December. It sounds as if Prince and Stevie Wonder made a record with the experimental sonic sounds of Kanye thrown in and it works oh so well (listen to the stellar, genre shifting 10 minute Pyramids below). While the album and the talents of Frank Ocean definitely warrant the buy recommendation, it’s wasn’t the only reason for me.
I’d never heard of Frank Ocean until a few days ago, when the news of his coming out hit the media outlets. The news was a bit overshadowed by Anderson Cooper’s own coming out. Not to take anything away from Anderson (but come on now, who didn’t know?), Ocean’s coming out is a more significant one.
While everyone has a right to their privacy, anyone in the public eye that chooses to come out is helping to further our cause by increasing the visibility of our community. With all the bullying going on these days, it helps to let struggling gay kids know that their favourite actors, singers, athletes, writers, etc. are just like them and that there’s nothing wrong with it.
What makes Frank Ocean’s coming out braver is that he’s coming out in the r&b/hip hop community, a very macho (at times homophobic) world. Straight hip hop artists like Kanye and Nicki Minaj are helping to change that but no prominent artist in this genre has come out. Now Frank Ocean is by no means prominent (as I just stated, I hadn’t heard of him til but a few days ago), but he has been getting a lot of buzz and worked with the likes of Jay-Z and Kanye. Coming out at this juncture of his rising career could very well hinder his sales, as suggested by Target’s refusal to sell his album (Target claims it’s because the album was exclusive to iTunes first).
And that’s a huge reason why celebrities are reluctant to come out: their career. Or a lack of one, rather. The fear that coming out will somehow dampen their careers. Fewer roles. Fewer sales. At the end of the day, it’s all about the Benjamins.
So how do we encourage and support artists that come out? With our wallets. Buy their albums. Watch their movies. Show them a career can still be had.
And that’s what I did.
Emma Stone’s life. For being gorgeous, talented, and having Andrew Garfield.
the boys around me while I’m at Bikram’s Yoga. Focus. Zen. Boys. No. Focus. Zen.
I LOVE dance music. Maybe it’s the gay in me. I just love dancing around my house like I’m Robyn in her “Call Your Girlfriend” video. Oh the joy it brings me.
While I have an abundance of singles on my dance playlist, very few of them come from the same album. I can only name a few great dance albums in the last few years. Madonna’s Confessions, Britney’s Blackout, Kylie’s Aphrodite, Robyn’s Body Talk and more recently, Will Young’s Echoes come to mind.
Add Wynter Gordon’s With the Music I Die to that list. While it may not be as cohesive as some of the aforementioned albums, Wynter Gordon’s debut album is all killer, no filler - every track guaranteed to get you on the dance floor (or wherever the equivalent is in your house).
Ironically, my discovery of this album was from Wynter’s departure from dance. She just released a stunning, sparse new song called Stimela. The single is off her upcoming self-released EP Doleo, the first of 4 (free!) EPs that make up a collection called The Human Condition; Doleo being latin for “pain”. I’m very eager and excited for this indie project, which she clearly intends to be a new introspective phase in her career. But I digress, back to the (studio) dance album!
Being the obsessive music geek that I am, I listened to Stimela on repeat while googling all things Wynter Gordon. Previously I had only heard of her from her big hit Dirty Talk, which was a great dance track but a bit generic so I never bothered to listen to the whole album, which was released about a year ago. Well, never judge an album by it’s first single. I should have learned this by now. (Gaga’s Born This Way is a prime example.)
To my surprise, With The Music I Die, is chock full of catchy goodness in the dance realm without sounding all the same.
So-good-I-died tracks: Buy My Love, Still Getting Younger, Drunk On Your Love, In the Morning. But don’t take my word for it, check them out below.
And while I’m at it. Here’s the new single Stimela that started it all for me.
Norah Jones’ music has long been considered old people music and boring. Well, call me old and boring because my favourite album of the year so far has arrived.
It’s been ten years since Norah Jone’s debut album Come Away With Me became a surprising blockbuster. Since then she has been slowly and subtly reinventing herself, shedding her jazz skin while still managing to sound very much like herself throughout. The evolution is completely believable and her new album Little Broken Hearts is her greatest achievement to date.
As the title suggests, Little Broken Hearts is a break up album (aren’t all the best ones?). Norah herself has claimed that the album is a concept album inspired by her own heartache.
And boy is heartache in abundance here. The dark and sombre lyrics are wrapped in beautiful moody sonic landscapes, courtesy of producer Danger Mouse. The music works in unison with Jone’s vocals, which sound as gorgeous as ever.
Little Broken Hearts is a cohesive subtle record. There isn’t a song in here that I would consider filler, all of them work together to construct a whole. Fans of Norah Jones should be very happy with her artistic evolution while those that were never Team Norah are unlikely to switch camps but will at least find something pleasant to play at their next dinner party.
Love Spent (Acoustic Version) by Madonna
Beyond obsessed. So good I wet my pants.
Madonna fans all over the world can let out a big collective sigh of relief. Her new album MDNA is good, and in some sections - really good! I had my doubts and was losing a bit of faith in Madge. But could you blame me?
Her last album, Hard Candy, while producing some good tracks, overall was a desperate attempt at staying current and following the hip hop trend. Candy shop, with the lyrics “Come on into my store, cause my sugar is sweet”, is probably one of the lowest moments in her career.
Next came Celebration and Revolver, two dull as hell singles off a greatest hits collection. I had all but written off Madonna. I would always have the Ray Of Light years and the Confessions years and I was OK with that.
The first single off MDNA, Give Me All Your Luvin’ sounded like it was written for Avril Lavigne and I shuddered to think the album could be yet another attempt at relevancy and the youth market. Let’s face it Madonna, the youth market is no longer in your grasp. That reign has gone to Gaga. The only thing that gave me hope for this album was the fact that she was once again working with producer William Orbit, the mastermind behind the introspective and atmospheric Ray of Light, arguably her best album.
After listening to MDNA, I’m once again on board the Madonna train. MDNA showcases what Madonna has always done best, and that’s dance music. I have to give her some credit, she does take a few risks here and some of the songs are quite sonically interesting.
Gang Bang contains some of the hardest beats Madonna’s ever done. I’m not entirely sold but kudos for the attempt and it may be a grower upon further listens. Fans are already loving this track though.
I’m Addicted follows on that throbbing electronic beat and works much better.
The best track Love Spent, contains a banjo and starts one way but sounds like a complete different song by the end. It’s brilliant. (Find the acoustic version, it’s equally brilliant.)
Some Girls, another favourite, is a pure euro-dance gem. It reminds me of Gaga’s Heavy Metal Lover, the best track off Born this Way.
Turn up the Radio is a great pop song and probably should have been her first single. It could have done for this album what Hung Up did for Confessions. Beautiful Killer is also a catchy standout. Both songs are produced by French producer Martin Solveig, of “Hello” fame.
There are two and a half ballads on MDNA. Masterpiece is a snoozer, while Falling Free is a beautiful moody piece that blends electronic beats with strings. The last minute and a half of the song is breathtaking. I Fucked Up starts like a ballad but turns up the tempo and is a rather pleasant song, though nothing to write home about.
This is not a perfect album. The lyrics are juvenile and laughable at times. Easily 4 or 5 tracks could have been eliminated to create a more cohesive and better record. The best tracks off this album are William Orbit produced (Love Spent, Some Girls, Falling Free) . There’s something about the collaboration between Madonna and Orbit that just yields amazing results. I would have loved to see what the album would have been like had she chosen him as producer for the entire album.
I loves me a catchy hook. I’m not a snob when it comes to music. If it moves me in any way - whether that be making me wanna dance stripper-style around my condo or making me wanna curl up on my couch fetal-style and sobbing - I’m sold.
The following songs are currently on my playlist.
Flo Rida featuring Sia - Wild Ones: Sia has gotten more attention lately after working with Christina Aguilera on the Voice and David Guetta. Fans of this eccentric Australian singer/songwriter might accuse her of selling out by collaborating with a rap artist like Flo Rida, but really … who cares? Yes, it does sound odd hearing her sing about shutting down the club but this is a great dance-tastic track and her vocals are amazing. I didn’t post the actual video because it’s yet another “rapper and his entourage of girls dancing in a club” video.
Gym Class Heroes featuring Neon Hitch - Ass Back Home: I’m not a huge fan of Gym Class Heroes but they’re two for two so far on finding a featured artist to sing an insanely catchy hook (the first being Adam Levine on Stereo Hearts) that elevates an otherwise mediocre song. I have no idea where this Neon Hitch came from but her voice and the chorus…soo good!
Fun featuring Janelle Monae - We are Young: Talk about epic choruses. From the moment he sings “Tonight…”, you know this will be on repeat for days. The chorus reminds me a bit of My Chemical Romance.
Jesse J - Domino: The Katy Perry sounding UK singer has her biggest hit to date with this song. And it’s not wonder, another Dr. Luke pop gem. Reductive? Yes. Makes you wanna do all sorts of moves around the house while singing it? Yes.
Netflix is a bit light on selection (especially in Canada), but if you dig deep enough, you can find some real gems - especially in in the foreign categories. Here are 3 really great movies that I’ve discovered courtesy of of Netflix, 2 from the UK and one from France.
Before Michael Fassbender bared all in Shame, he bared all in Steve McQueen’s debut film (who also directed Shame). McQueen is an artist turned director and you can really see that in his shots - they’re beautiful. This dark and gritty movie deals with the IRA Hunger Strike in the Maze prison of Northern Ireland . McQueen takes a lot of risks: there is very little dialogue (except for a pivotal scene), the lead actor doesn’t appear until about 30 minutes in, and the best scene of the movie is single take 15-20 minute dialogue-heavy conversation between Fassbender’s character and a priest. This scene is genius. What starts off as shooting the breeze turns into a fascinating discussion on the ethics and morality of a hunger strike.
Fassbender appears to be McQueen’s muse (mine as well!), and with Shame, they are two for two so far. McQueen’s 3rd movie also features Fassbender and I can’t wait.
The Grocer’s Son.
This quiet and sweet French film doesn’t come with a lot of bells and whistles, but leaves you happily affected by the time the credits roll. It’s a coming of age tale about a quasi-estranged son who moves back home to help with his family’s grocery store/truck while his dad is sick. Strong acting by the Nicolas Cazale (swoon!) and Clotilde Hesme and beautiful landscapes. It just makes you feel good. Enough said.
Movies where it’s essentially two people in a room talking are very hard to pull off. But when done well, the dialogue and the interaction between the people give you more insight into the characters, their motivations and their desires. Weekend is such a movie. What makes this movie for me is the realism. It feels like we are listening in on two gay men as they meet and share a weekend together; men who are very different from each other but who somehow (over the course of a weekend), change and affect the other. As a gay man, the discussions are very frank and real to me. And as a hopeless romantic, you really do root for the two of these men.
This Movie has been described as the gay Before Sunrise. I can’t confirm or deny that as I haven’t seen it and it is not available on Netflix (as per the aforementioned limited selection).
Tom Cullen is fantastic in his debut role and a face to watch.
So if you have Netflix and love discovering great movies, check these out.