Saturday, October 4, 2008

HERE COME THE GIRLS

Just because Britney is coasting with her snoozefest of a new single doesn't mean all of the returning ladies of pop and soul are asleep at the microphone. A sampler of new offerings from the past few weeks:

(Note: I originally posted this on September 30, but it mysteriously disappeared from the blog. So I've rewritten it slightly and tried again.)

Alicia Keys Ft. Jack White: "Another Way To Die"
I'll never understand why, with the exceptions of Carly Simon's "Nobody Does It Better" and Rita Coolidge's "All Time High," every James Bond theme gets saddled with an unwieldy, meaningless title, even, as is the case here, when they don't match the name of the movie. But my carping stops there. This summit of rock and soul superstars will likely polarize disciples of both, and while I've never been particularly gaga over either, I think the pairing is inspired. Thanks to Jack, who wrote and produced the track for the upcoming Quantum Solace, Alicia sounds like she's having fun for the first time since...well, ever. Jack has brought out the woman in her, a feat Usher couldn't quite achieve several years back with "My Boo," his superstar collaboration with Alicia. Forget Timbaland. Every R&B diva on the block (how I wish Mary J. Blige, who could certainly use a new direction, had thought of this first) should be banging on Jack's door, begging for a piece of his action.

Dido: "Don't Believe In Love"
"I want to go to bed with arms around me, but wake up on my own," the queen of atmospheric pop declares right out of the box on her first single in five years. (I must admit that I didn't really notice her absence--and I'm a fan!) Dido sure knows how to make a grand re-entrance, and she does just that in the opening lines of this detailed account of the not-so-sweetest love hangover. The tale of a hopeless unromantic heart in armor begins promisingly with a spooky rhythm-driven verse and lyrics that carefully outline romantic indifference. But then we get to the chorus, and, like a beautiful but lazy lover, it just lays there. Where's the orchestral crescendo that characterized the choruses of previous hits like "Here With Me" and "White Flag." The pop landscape has changed drastically in the past five years, and Dido probably should have returned with something a bit more dynamic and dramatic. In the end, it looks like she might be unintentionally waving that white flag, after all.

Sugababes: "Girls"
Thank God, for small miracles. Sugababes have ditched the subdued, tasteful (translation: boooring!) pop of their 2007 CD, Change (the yawn-inducing title said it all), and returned to the in-your-face, sex-on-a-disc groove that made them UK superstars with this, the first single from their upcoming Catfights And Spotlights (now that's more like it!). Love the attitude! Love the party vibe! Love the horn riffs! It's the tastiest slice of girl-power pop since the heyday of TLC. It's a mystery why the trio's UK success has never crossed the Atlantic. Disharmony and back-biting within their ranks might partly be to blame. But that also makes them more interesting and gives the music an exciting tension that it might otherwise lack. Still, it's tough to properly promote an act when you don't know who'll be in the band on any given press day. In then end, though, the music speaks for itself. Ex-Sugababe Mutya must be kicking her self right about now for leaving so soon.

SAMPLE AND BUY:
"Another Way To Die"

SAMPLE: "Don't Believe In Love"

WATCH: "Girls"

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