February 3, 2008
Strobe lights make everything sexier
This has been one of the crappiest weeks I've had in many years. As always, my little playlist has been getting me through it. Here are some thoughts on a few worthy new tunes:
Janet Jackson Rock With U
Written by NeYo and, shockingly, well produced by Jermaine Dupree, this song is what Janet fans have been waiting for. It signals that she is not a slave to the American r'n'b market; it's actually more "Europop." Once you hear the pretty, bubbling synth, you know this is not the Janet of 20YO. The breathy vocals disguise the fact that it's another one of her "baby making songs" and when that 90's house beat comes in at 1:08 - it reminds me of Jody Watley - the deal is sealed. You might as well get out your chunky heels. The only (minor) problem: Rock With U is more of a groove than a song. It moves in a rhythm, but never reaches climax. That's okay, because not every encounter should, or can, end with an explosion.
Sarah Brightman Symphony
Like Janet, Sarah's last proper album (Harem) didn't really capture what she does best. This song, the title track to her new album, does. It's an orchestral ballad equal to the best songs on her Eden album (that one highly recommended). Typically, she scales the vocal charts, but it is in English - a rarity! - and it's panoramic enough to have you running over hillsides. Symphony also has a very pretty final 25 seconds. Goddess is in the details.
Idina Menzel I Stand
Sticking with a bit of pleasing schmaltz, everyone needs a good empowerment song now and then. Thankfully I Stand - produced by Glen Ballard - never really topples too far into guitar power pop, a consistent problem for Idina's fellow chanteuese Celine. Be warned, inside the strong melody are self-help lines like "I stand for the power to change." I was in the right mood for it.
Joe Jackson Invisible Man
For those of you old enough to remember when Joe had hits like 1982's Steppin' Out or 1984's You Can't Get What You Want, this song (from his latest CD Rain) sounds like it could have come from his perfect Night And Day album. It is Joe at his best, complete with an intricate piano-based arrangement (Tori fans take note) and a really strong vocal. I particularly like the bit at 1:56:"I used to own this town / Now I'm watching you / Now it's my turn." Joe is 53 now, but his voice remains unaged. Note that this song is making the blog rounds now.
kd lang Sunday
From her new Watershed CD, Sunday is a change for kd. The arrangement is a fusion of mellow jazz and a sort of glowing 60's psychedelia (check out the keyboard trilling through it). Lyrically, it's a slow burn: "Sunday afternoon / Naked in your room / Love is all consumed." The definition of languid, Sunday is like an old photo shot with a pink filter, if you get the reference. "Let the world disappear." Indeed.