Song: Rita Ora – “Let You Love Me”

When Rita Ora debuted a 100 years ago I wrote her off instantly as a Rihanna-wannabe with no musical identity and having eyebrows that didn’t match her hair. While both of these observations were true, Rita has evolved over the years and carved out her own lane, in both the music game and the eyebrow department. No longer is she the girl who sings Rihanna rejects who looks like a chav fresh from Manchester. Two things played into this evolution: firstly, her relationship with Calvin Harris pushed her away from R&B and more into a Euro-friendly EDM sound, and secondly, her signing with Atlantic and leaving the horrible Roc Nation (a label that almost ended Kylie Minogue’s career).

Rita is planning to release her second album, “Phoenix,” on November 23, and her newest single from the album, “Let You Love Me,” is her best song to date. Even better than “Anywhere” from last year, and that one was best-song-of-your-career caliber. “Let You Love Me” is a vulnerable song about self-sabotage within a relationship. There is a lightness to her voice when she sings about pushing away a person who cares about her. The chorus features a proper pop hook coupled with a light EDM drop that is sure to go down well all over Europe. This is a sad dancefloor anthem.

It’s been six years since Rita released an album. That’s a lifetime for any artist, let alone one that is only currently on album number two. The title of Phoenix is fitting since she is basically a phoenix herself. She released her debut album, it smashed in the UK with multiple number 1s. After that, she had a shitstorm of bad PR when Rob Kardashian claimed she cheated on him with Jonah Hill, and then Calvin Harris claimed she cheated on him too. I guess she’s an open-relationship type of girl. Calvin actually sought revenge on her by trying to hold up all her music in a legal battle since he owned it. Shortly after, she left Roc Nation and things seemed to be over for her. She was now an America’s Next Top Model host, not a pop star. But suddenly she rose from the ashes when she collaborated with Avicii on the amazing “Lonely Together,” which was a huge hit for her. Then the Ed Sheeran-penned “Your Song” smashed. Then the Alesso-penned anthem “Anywhere” smashed. She had risen from the ashes. “Let You Love Me” is off to a very strong start in the UK and is shaping up to be another huge hit for her. A Phoenix indeed.

I am really looking forward to her upcoming album. It is one of my most anticipated of the year. Something 2012 me would have never thought was possible.

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Koo HaRa – “Wild”

Former Kara member and wanted criminal domestic abuser Goo Koo HaRa released a new half-a-song called “Wild.” In the video, she serves the type of low-budget experience you’d expect from a YouTuber who normally vlogs about their personal lives while sitting on their bedroom floor would serve if they attempted to start a music career. Shot in what looks like a parking garage at her local Westfield Mall, Hara is shown in athletic gear (likely from the same mall) and does her most low-energy choreography she can muster. The song itself is a nice generic club song, but the production ends halfway through the song with no real middle-8 or true ending. The structure is a bit jarring and makes me feel like I’m listening to a demo. As of writing this, the video has less than 150,000 views in 3 weeks, and the song itself is not available for purchase or streaming with no release date in sight. Off to a smashing (no records at all) start.

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Analyzing Solo Spice

Image result for solo spice

Perhaps it is just my own nostalgia getting the best of me, but over the past year (or three) I have grown rather interested in post-breakup careers of former Spice Girls members, also known as the period of ‘Solo Spice.’ The Spice phenomenon was global, but in the UK all five members found brief solo success between a period of about two years.

 

It is interesting to me how similar the demise of the group and post-breakup careers of One Direction closely mirror that of the Spice Girls. Here is the timeline of both groups:

  1. Five-member British pop group is a total phenomenon, a manager named Simon is involved.
  2. One member quits out of nowhere.
  3. The four remaining members continue on for a while to much success. They have hit singles and albums that sell well enough, and they go on world tours. Meanwhile, the member who left immediately goes solo to huge success, seeming like the breakout star.
  4. The band breaks up.
  5. All five members go solo and score at least one moderate in the UK.
  6. Their successful solo careers last 2 albums at best, 1 hit single at worst.

 

Anyway, back to Solo Spice. After listening to all of each member’s solo work, I have to say my most listened to is Victoria Beckham, a.k.a. Posh Spice. Her catalog is easily the most straight-forward and lacks the most individuality, but it’s loaded with late 90s/early 00s pop gems that would feel right at home on a J.Lo B-sides collection. Besides her one outlier UK-garage track “Out of Your Mind” featuring the Truesteppers and Dan Bowers of “The Big Reunion Series 2” fame, most of her music is either the faceless R&B-pop Jennifer Lopez was making on her first two albums, or later on, it becomes a faceless disco-dance pop sound that literally everyone was doing by 2005. Holly Valance, Kylie Minogue, Dannii Minogue, Lisa Scott Lee, Rachel Stevens, maybe even one or two of the former Atomic Kittens all had a version of “Let Your Head Go” by that point. Is the fact that her music was so generic a bad thing? Well, yes and no. She never scored a number one hit, though that was mostly due to timing since she managed to get herself into two chart battles with Sophie Ellis Bextor and Kylie Minogue, (I mean she went head-to-head with “Can’t Get You Out of My Head.” It’s just not realistic no matter which soccer player you’re in bed with). That said, while I personally find her music to have the least personality, I find that it has the most replay value, which is a shame because she has a fantastic personality and amazing sense of humor.

Key tracks: Let Your Head Go, I Wish, Out of Your Mind, Not Such an Innocent Girl.

 

Next, we have Geri Halliwell, a.k.a. Ginger Spice. Geri is the catalyst for all of the girls going solo. She shockingly quit the group because they wouldn’t let her do a charity event or something. The reasoning makes no sense at all much like Geri’s “singing” career. I say “singing” lightly, as she can’t even seem to stay on key when tuned by an engineer on a single edit. Her number one hit “Lift Me Up” might be one of the worst things I’ve ever heard, (yes “things” not “songs” as it’s not music). So what did Geri do right? Well, she had the star power of all 5 members combined. She knew how to manipulate the media to her advantage. She had sex with Chris Evans (no not the hunky, ripped, #woke Chris Evans from Marvel Avengers, the frumpy one from TGI Friday), she maybe(?) had sex with Robbie Williams for tracks, and she sacrificed her former bandmate Emma Bunton to the Devil for a number one hit single. Her body was also in the press daily at the time. She was either too fat, too skinny, or just right, but it always made the news. I have to admit she is kind of a media manipulating inspiration of sorts. Also, while a truly awful vocalist, it is very clear when listening to her solo work that she was the ‘sound’ of the Spice Girls. Her campy, almost vaudeville-inspired pop delivery was all over the Spice Girls’ biggest hits and was absent from their music the moment she left. There is a reason Geri scored a then record-breaking 4 consecutive number one singles.

Key Tracks: Mi Chico Latina, Ride It, Bag It Up, Look at Me.

 

Next is Emma Bunton, a.k.a. Baby Spice. I will say at first I thought her discography was a total bore. Her first album is bland and vanilla, while her second and third albums were a bit too old-fashioned for my tween taste. Perhaps it is because I am old now with my first gray hair recently making its debut, but her music as a whole has grown on me quite a bit. Much like Geri, Emma has her own musical identity. Yes, it’s a vanilla identity, but she has her own sound and seemed to be focused on mature, lush productions instead of creating chart baiting hooks or pandering to the gays. Her first album is a breezy adult contemporary-pop listen, while her second album is a gorgeous and lush experience, full of romantic Bossa nova rhythms, dramatic Bond theme inspired tunes, and subtly edgy compositions based on the swinging 60s aesthetic. Possibly my favorite of the Solo Spice discographies if I’m being perfectly honest.

Key tracks: sexy Bond-esque Free Me, the haunting Life in Mono, the Fosse-inspired Maybe, the pre-Joanne era country-pop of What Took You So Long?

 

Mel C, or Sporty Spice, is next. Sporty has the meatiest discography and took me the longest to go through. She also has the widest variety of music out of the girls: rock, R&B, trance, electropop, and even musical theatre. She also has the best voice of any member. While Geri was the worst singer, I actually enjoy much of Geri’s solo work. I can’t say the same for Mel C. Her debut album is basically the only album she had that I enjoyed. By album six I was pretty glossed over.

Key tracks: I Turn To You (Hex Hector Remix), Never Be the Same Again (Feat. Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes)

 

Lastly we have Mel B, a.k.a. Scary Spice. Mel B never met her potential as a solo artist. She had a messy personal life similar to Geri’s, but unlike Geri’s, Mel B never felt in control of her mess. Mel B was a genuine disaster, and it shows in her solo career. It’s directionless, going from hip-hop, to generic pop, to really bland adult contemporary music. She just didn’t have any control of the steering wheel while navigating her career. That said, she definitely has the undisputed worst music video any of the girls made, and possibly even one of the all-time worst music videos ever, period. An achievement is an achievement.

Key tracks: Feels So Good, I Want You Back, For Once in My Life

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Beachy Summer Singles

Alvaro Soler –  “La Cintura”

Just like his previous smash hit “Sofia” which swept Europe last summer, the equally catchy “La Cintura” is basically doing the same thing. Italy, Germany, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, and Poland are already into it. RedOne produces Alvaro’s music so you know its quality europop.

Aitana Ocaña & Ana Guerra – “Lo Malo”

Number 1 in Spain for a month, this song is a total stomper.

Alexandra Stan – “MAMI”

A song sung in no less than 4 languages simultaneously, this track deserved to become a euro hit.

Vangelis Kakouriotis – “Heart of Summer”

Technically not released this year, but I discovered it this year so deal. I can’t really say no to some Euro-trophouse, can I? Especially when its presented with boyband-gone-solo esque glossy packaging.

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Stop Ignoring Louisa Johnson

 

X Factor UK winner, failed popstar, and former-homophobe Louisa née-Johnson has release two amazing singles in a row yet each does worse than the last, (3 amazing singles if you count Clean Bandit collab “Tears”). She has given us glitzy disco, mid-tempo electropop, and full-blown ho-anthem. Honestly, she has every right to tweet out homophobic things with the way the gays abandoned her glorious pop offerings.

Mentioned above, we have her Clean Bandit assisted single “Tears,” which gives me Donna Summers x Kylie Minogue realness. Beginning as a ballad, it turns into a full disco stomper halfway through.

Next, we got “Best Behavior,” a Britney-esque mid-tempo number. The fact that it wasn’t a number one hit hurts more than Brexit. Her newest single “YES” featuring flop rapper 2Chainz is the Xtina “Dirrty” throwback we all needed. It’s time to support real talent.

 

 

 

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Kylie Minogue – “Golden” (Review)

When 101% of your fanbase consists of gay men, going country is going to be divisive. Hilary Duff tried it a few years ago and got dragged, (though we all admit it was a classic smash nowadays), Gaga tried it last year by pretending she was her dead republican gay-hating aunt Joanne, and Miley tried with her hand at twang with her career ruining album “Younger Now.”

The issue with Gaga and Miley’s takes on country was that it was actual country. Miley’s album in particular channeled the genre too faithfully. When your fans are gays, you need to give them what they want. Gays are not faithful (check Grindr for examples), so they will drop you like a hot potato in a second if you switch up your sound or some hotter, more glamorous diva shows up on the scene with hair more platinum than yours.

After the poorly received “Kiss Me Once” and the failure of her engagement with that younger guy who was clearly trouble but was so attractive we all ignored the signs, it seemed fitting she would try something new musically. Her music and life were not working. I will admit, when she started recording in Nashville I was not pleased. I was promised a disco trop-house lead single produced by super-hot at the moment British EDM DJ Sigala. But we got “Golden,” a country-inspired pop album that is actually pretty darn good once you get past the shock of having to listen to country, (and by country, I mostly mean aesthetically).

Literally not one person on this planet wanted a Dolly Parton inspired song about dying from Kylie Minogue, which is exactly what the lead single from the album is. “Dancing,” while sung in a Dolly-esque style of sing-talking, is not too far off from old school Kylie. It’s shimmering and catchy and has a fun electro beat. Sure, it’s not the Sigala song I was promised, but I really did genuinely enjoy it.

Elsewhere on the album there is a pure pop masterpiece “Sincerely Yours.” A song that recalls Kylie’s Stock Aitken Waterman era in the 80s with its earnestness. “Raining Glitter” recalls the material she was releasing during her “Light Years” era, and the deluxe bonus tracks are all standouts, “Every Little Part of Me” in particular.

I was worried about how the album would do commercially but it’s been smashing the charts and is almost halfway to a gold certification after only 6 days. Perhaps the genre shift inspired mothers to go out and buy the album? Or people who voted for Brexit? I know the gays aren’t buying it. Gays don’t buy music anymore. They just complain and send inappropriate photos to people who did not ask for them. Who knew there was a market in the UK for music from the Republican National Convention. Melania Minogue is the new leader of the #Gays4Trump movement, and we should all fall in line.

 

 

 

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Flopstar’s Top 10 Eurovision 2018 Songs (in no particular order)

Poland: Gromee & Lukas Meijer – “Light Me Up”

Eurovision fans rarely like “DJ music.” Give them a diva ballad and they’ll go crazy, but an EDM song that could be played at a festival and they’ll either complain or totally ignore it. Thankfully Poland is a televoting mega-power, so this could possibly take a spot in the final despite Eurofans hating this type of genre. That said, this is dance-poppy enough to possibly win a few over. Yes, 40% of the song is beat drop, but its also really catchy and has a good pop hook.

 

Cyprus: Eleni Foureria – “Fuego”

The 2018 sister to Cyprus’ 2012 banger of an entry “La La Love,” I’ve had this song on repeat for months. Its a total smash, with a catchy chorus and an ethno dance-pop beat drop that I thank God every day for. Imagine a remix EP. Now if only she could sing.

Finland: Saara Aalto – “Monsters”

This is pure Eurovision pop magic. A big diva voice, a catchy chorus, and a big eurodance beat. Songs like these are why I got into the contest. Saara can be a bit over the top to say the least, so I am worried about how this will translate live and whether she will turn off voters with her insane theatrics, but the song is a total banger.

Sweden: Benjamin Ingrosso – “Dance You Off”

The Ingrosso clan really churns out catchy songs. Sebastian, and now his cousin Benjamin, are both very good at releasing quality pop music. “Dance You Off” is a smooth and silky disco track with absolutely EXCELLENT staging. I can’t imagine this flopping in May.

Israel: Netta – “Toy”

Easily the most charming and unique of the 2018 entries, this song is the current favorite to win by both the bookies odds and the OGAE poll, (not that either of those are good at predicting a winner). That said, she KILLED this song live a few weeks ago at Israel Calling. This will be top 3 at worst. Anything lower would be a robbery.

Czech Republic: Mikolas Josef – “Lie to Me”

Sure, this song features horrible lyrics such as “but steady plenty motherfuckers wanna eat my spaghetti,” and the production is alarmingly similar to former One Direction member and Cheryl Cole marry-er Liam Payne’s debut single “Strip That Down,” but it’s also super catchy and Czechia’s best entry ever. Some you win, some you lose.

Azerbaijan: Aisel – “X My Heart”

Dated? Generic? Not relevant to any current music trends? Awful lyrics? For sure. But from the moment I heard “luna moon me up up up” I was sold. This is why I love the contest. Music like this only exists within the ESC bubble. It’s tacky and dated and just so good.

Moldova: DoReDos – “My Lucky Day”

The slice of ethno-pop the contest needs every year. This time, in banger form. This is ehtno-folk music for the clubs, if there are clubs for ethno-folk music.

Belarus: Alekseev – “Forever”

Surprised how much this song grew on me. He’s revamped it 100 times and I pretty much ignored them all. One day I gave it another shot and found it to be a pretty good ballad. Sort of a throwback to Dima Bilan, though not a winner in this decade sadly.

Germany: Michael Schulte – “You Let Me Walk Alone”

The best German entry since 2012’s “Still Standing,” which this song kinda sounds like. A tender ballad about a father who walked out on their family, it is full of emotion. Not sure how well such a low impact song will do in May though.

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