Wednesday, November 26, 2014

FIFTH HARMONY : Sledgehammer

Though they're not really a household name here in Australia - for now - US girl group Fifth Harmony, who were formed as part of the 2012 season of 'The X Factor' Stateside, did alright for themselves with their 'Better Together' EP, released towards the end of last year.
It hit the No.6 position on the Billboard 200 albums chart in its week of release, selling 28,000 copies.
Now the band (Ally Brooke, Camila, Dinah, Lauren and Normani) is marching on towards the release of their debut album 'Reflection', which is due on January 23 here in Australia.
The new single from it is 'Sledgehammer'. Co-penned by Ms 'All About That Bass' Meghan Trainor, the track is a thumping electro pop number with a driving bassline that sounds like it comes straight from the biggest pop minds of Europe rather than the United States. To that end, it feels like the kind of song that The Saturdays might have wanted to release in their efforts to crack the US market.
Despite the cover image (above) looking cheap and tacky, the studio-based clip feels a little more polished, mainly thanks to the lighting effects added in during the post-production phase. We like the song, we like the clip.


http://youtu.be/gCJ3rmiZFr8

SINEAD ADDS MELBOURNE

It was earlier this month when acclaimed Irish singer songwriter Sinead O'Connor announced sideshows in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth as part of her visit down under for the Port Fairy Folk Festival. But those in the Victorian capital who weren't thinking of going to the latter were seemingly missing out. Until now, that is.
Sinead has this morning confirmed a Melbourne show as part of the local leg of her 'I'm Not Bossy, I'm The Boss' tour - at the city's Hamer Hall on Wednesday March 04.
As with all dates, she'll be showcasing songs from her recently-released album 'I’m Not Bossy, I’m The Boss', but she'll also be dipping into her back catalogue to perform fan favourites, including her inimitable breakout smash 'Nothing Compares 2 U'.
Melbourne pre-sale tickets are on sale from tomorrow at 10am AEDT, with general public tickets to follow from 10am AEDT on Monday December 01.

February 28 : Perth (Concert Hall)
March 04 : Melbourne (Hamer Hall) NEW SHOW
March 11 : Brisbane (QPAC)
March 19 : Sydney (Opera House)

MIDWEEK NEWS WRAP

• Take That's new single 'These Days' has been officially serviced to Aussie media. The track is lifted from the band's upcoming LP 'III', which is the first for the newly slimline line-up of Gary Barlow, Mark Owen and Howard Donald. 'III' is due for release in Australia on Friday December 05.
• Also out and about this week are the new Beyoncé singles '7/11' and 'Ring Off', plus Tove Lo's 'Talking Bodies' and the new Tiga and Pusha T single 'Bugatti'. We'll bring you our weekly look at the new releases on our FACEBOOK page tomorrow.
• Billboard made the call back in the middle of October, but it's now been officially confirmed that Katy Perry will be the half-time entertainment at the 2015 Superbowl. She'll no doubt be rolling out her cavalcade of hits at the February 01 event, which will be held in Glendale, Arizona. Meanwhile, Katy will film her December 12 and 13 'Prismatic' concerts at Sydney's Allphones Arena for the forthcoming live DVD release.

• Ahead of tonight's ARIAs, where he's expected to collect a number of the top awards, Chet Faker has announced a new Fremantle show to his upcoming tour. The show will hit the Fremantle Arts Centre on Sunday February 22, with general public tickets on sale from 9am local time on Tuesday December 02. There's also been a venue upgrade for Chet's Canberra show. Originally at ANU, the February 11 show has now shifted to the larger Royal Theatre, with new tickets on sale now.
• After more than 3400 entries from 1949 songwriters in 17 different countries, the 50 finalists have been announced for the 2014 Vanda & Young Songwriting competition. A number of well-known names are featured, including auspOp favourite Andy Bull, Little May, former 'Australia Idol' songstress Hayley Warner, Lior, Meg Mac and Husky. Check out the full list of finalists and more details of the competition HERE.
• Seattle-based outfit Odesza has confirmed another show at Sydney's Oxford Art Factory. The band's original show has now completely sold out; the second will take place on January 22 and tickets are on sale now.

• The new version of 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' was always going to be a shoo-in for the No.1 spot on the British singles chart and it doesn't disappoint, premiering in the top spot ahead of the fab new Clean Bandit single 'Real Love'. Olly Murs battles hard to get a No.3 debut for his infectious new single 'Wrapped Up', with David Guetta debuting two spots lower with 'Dangerous'. Wretch 32 premiere in the No.8 spot with '6 Words'.
• As they did here in Australia over the weekend, the world's biggest boyband One Direction debut in the No.1 position with their latest album 'Four'. Last week's No.1 from Pink Floyd drops to the No.4 spot, while Bette Midler premieres at No.6 with 'It's The Girls'. Interestingly, the album's not planned for release in Australia until early in the new year. Could its release here be used to coincide with a tour announcement? We can but hope. David Bowie and Katherine Jenkins also see their latest releases debut in the top ten (at Nos.9 and 10 respectively).

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

1D WINNERS

The One Direction juggernaut rolls on uninterrupted, with the band just notching up their fourth Aussie No.1 album in a row with their latest, imaginatively titled 'Four'.
'Four' comprises a dozen new tunes, including lead single 'Steal My Girl', second single 'Night Changes' and other iTunes favourites including 'Fools Gold' and 'Girl Almighty'.
Of course, when it came to our One Direction competition, we also asked which of the boys was your favourite and it seems there's no real clear favourite... Harry was the least popular, with Zayn and Liam apparently the most popular.
To celebrate the release of 1D's new album 'Four' across the planet, the lovely team at Sony Music threw us a handful of copies to give away to you. But we're not holding onto them. Oh no. We're sending them out to five lucky winners, who are...;

Jason from Applecross in Western Australia, Caroline from Park Holme in South Australia, John from Pennant Hills in New South Wales, Marcus from Sydney in New South Wales and Jake from Murrarie in Queensland!

Congratulations to you all! A copy of 'Four' will be heading to you shortly, with big thanks to our friends at Sony Music Australia.

BACK BACK BACK TO PACK A PUNCH

Laura and Andy from up and coming Melbourne pop duo Back Back Forward Punch have been incredibly generous with their tunes over the past couple of years, gifting many of them free of charge to their increasing band of followers.
And they're at it again with their latest; a double dose of funky pop beats in 'Big Time' and 'Up Late In The Jungle'. There's an abundance of disco influences on both tracks; 'Big Time' is a sublime, bright, breezy pop track that feels a little bit Goldfrapp, a little bit Donna Summer, but all Back Back Forward Punch. 'Up Late In The Jungle' ups the disco vibe with vocoders, beeps, blips and fat, funky beats.
Sensationally, both songs are available for free download on the band's FACEBOOK page just by giving them a little 'like'! Best you get onto that!


https://soundcloud.com/backbackforwardpunch/back-back-forward-punch-big-time

INTERVIEW : Betty Who

Just two years ago, she was a fledgling pop wannabe, releasing songs she'd recorded in the basement of a friend's apartment. Now, thanks to some perseverance, the help of a viral video and a subsequent record deal with RCA, Betty Who is fast becoming one of the hottest properties in pop.
In Australia to support Katy Perry as part of her 'Prism' tour, we popped on the phone to the starlet to chat about her recently-released debut album, singing at weddings and the rollercoaster ride of the past two years. But she begins by explaining the interesting story of how the 'Who' came to be.

"You can decide whether it’s interesting or not," she begins. "When I was a teenager I was writing songs and kind of figuring out my life a little bit. I wrote a song and I thought that the name ‘Betty Who’ for it was pretty cool. It was nowhere in the lyrics, it was just a title and I thought it was a cool name.

"To me, it kind of encompassed the idea of the song, which was that I was never going to be the perfect girl that this man wanted me to be. I didn’t fit into this mould of a woman that he expected. He wanted me to be something that was totally different. And so that was the title of that feeling to me.

"A couple of years later, I was talking about stage names and I had long since swept the song under the rug. I was in a room with a couple of people and I just piped up, ‘what about Betty Who?’ and everyone sat on it in silence for about ten seconds and then said, ‘yep, that’s perfect’. So pretty much the first idea that I came up with as a stage name was Betty Who and I stuck with it."

Betty Who first rose to prominence via a free download of her debut single 'Somebody Loves You'. Picked up by a selection of blogs throughout the US, it set her on the path to stardom - and to her eventual record deal with RCA.

"To be honest with you, it was such low stakes," Betty (real name Jessica Newham) admits. "I didn’t know anything, I was a brand new artist, I was still in college, I was 20 years old. All of those things led to me just thinking, ‘I’m just going to put an EP out and see what happens’.

"My manager was 21 at the time, my producer and I were both the same age, so we were all just babies trying to figure out how to put a song out and get people to start talking about you. My manager did a really good job. He went around and introduced himself to a bunch of people on blogs, just trying to get everybody talking and thinking about me. We did it all online.

"And it kind of worked in this totally miraculous crazy way that none of us was really expecting and I gained far more notoriety and clout much faster than anybody really expected from me. It’s only been a year and a half since I put out my first EP!

"I think I signed my record deal six or seven months after the EP and that was when I said, ‘I don’t know anything, I just made this in my friend’s basement’! So the learning curve has been very intense."

That intensity went up another notch entirely when 'Somebody Loves You' was featured in a video that went viral on YouTube. Salt Lake City native Spencer Stout uploaded a video of him proposing to his partner Dustin at a Home Depot store (below), using Betty's track as the basis for a routine that would hopefully do the trick. It did - in two respects; Dustin said yes and the video went viral, going on to notch over 12 and a half million views.


http://youtu.be/l4HpWQmEXrM

"I didn’t know about it until it was up on the internet and going viral," Betty reveals. "They emailed it to my manager when it went up and said, ‘is this okay? We gave her credit, we just really want to put this up so our friends and family can see it?’. My manager watched it and thought, ‘oh my god, this is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my whole life’. So my manager emailed it to me and said, ‘you’re going to cry’, which I did.

Not even 12 hours later, by the time I was going to bed, it already had a million views and we learned that’s what happens when a video goes viral. It was a very interesting and hectic weekend. Something like that happens and every major label is banging down your front door trying to get you to sign a contract with them immediately. The video went up on Thursday, it was viral by Friday and I signed my record deal on Sunday night. So it was pretty crazy."

Suffice to say, Betty feels she owes the boys a lot.

"Oh are you kidding? We’ve become friends since the video – they did a bunch of press for it, they were on ‘Ellen’, they were like little celebrities for the time that this video was going viral. I always maintain that they’re more famous than I am! I said to them, ‘you’ve met Ellen, I haven’t met Ellen. That makes you more of a celebrity’.

"Everytime I see them now when I go on tour to Salt Lake City, I say, ‘you boys changed my life’ and they say the same thing to me. They actually did change the course of my life, so I’m totally indebted to them and think they’re the most wonderful boys. I sang at their wedding, actually. I sang ‘Somebody Loves You’ as they walked down the aisle. Beautiful."

And, as mentioned previously, the clip played more than a tiny role in Betty finally inking her deal with RCA Records.

"I’d been talking to a bunch of different labels for a long time and I was definitely leaning towards RCA. My lawyer had been talking to them and there were a couple of things in the deal that I wasn’t totally happy with. Then by the time the video went viral, it was perfect timing because it gave us leverage."

Now she's signed to a major label in her hometown of New York, she's just released her debut album and is getting to tour with one of the biggest pop artists on the planet... Katy Perry. Betty admits that sometimes she's a little tempted to pinch herself.

"Oh totally! But I think, to my credit, it’s probably one of the best things about me, because I’m still totally ‘oh my god, how cool is this? Can you even believe it!?’ I’m not jaded, I’m not bitter at all. Everyone else is saying to me, ‘it’s just a job, chill out’ and I’m saying, ‘no, this is so fucking cool, I’m freaking out’, so I’m very excitable in that way."

Betty grew up here in Australia and spent her first 15 years on Aussie soil. That home-grown accent is still clearly audible, despite being laced in parts with a slight New York twang. She's seemingly found the right balance.

"My mum’s American, so I definitely feel half and half. I obviously miss Australia and feel way more connected to Australia as a child, because I grew up here, but I’ve definitely found a home in America. I went to college there, I finished high school there, so by the time I was starting to talk to labels, obviously my biggest demographic was in New York City, because that’s just where I physically was.

"New York is my favourite place in the world too, so it kind of worked out ideally almost in that I ended up signing with a major label that was based there. A lot of the major labels are based in LA and RCA happens to be in New York. It just kind of worked out for me.

"And the reason that it was so organic for me, was that I felt really on the same page as a lot of the people who I met with at RCA initially. I would say something and they’d say, ‘or we could do this?’ and I’d say, ‘yes, that’s a great idea’. Everyone is super-creative and excited on the RCA team, which is so hard to find, but very important to me."

We ask Betty whether she feels that it's easier to try to carve out a career in the US or here in Australia. She reveals that each territory throws up its own unique set of challenges, but it's the scope of the market in America that she finds daunting.

"It feels like an impossible job to try to succeed in America," she admits. "I have to remind myself all that time that if my career ended tomorrow, I would have had the best run ever and it would have been so cool and my experiences are ten fold just the most incredible things ever.

"It’s just like this constant pressuring yourself to be better and to do better and to do more to get people excited, which is the whole point of it. You’re either built for it or you’re not. And I definitely feel excited and challenged by it in a really great way.

"But I think the thing about being in Australia and being an Australian artist is that people want to claim you as this home-grown girl. A bit like their baby’s all grown up and gone over to America to make it big, which I love. I felt that way too. I remember hearing about Missy Higgins doing her first tour of America and thinking ‘YES, our baby’s all grown up, she’s flown off into the world’. So I love that and I love the ownership that people feel about me in Australia.

"I’ve had a couple of people in the States say, ‘well she’s Australian, so that makes her even cooler’. That’s really nice. ‘Cause I care that I’m Australian. I love being here and I love people talking about that as part of my artistry."

The latest fruit of Betty's artistic endeavours is her debut album 'Take Me When You Go'. The collection of 13 pop nuggets is diverse in its sound and although it was brought together across a number of years, with a range of different collaborators in world-class studios and apartment basements, it feels cohesive and fresh. On it, she got to write with, among others, big name pop supremos Starsmith and Claude Kelly.

"I was so lucky to work with those boys. When I heard the list of people that I was going in to write with, I was incredibly intimidated," she admits.

"I don’t know if this will change and where that moment is when you think, ‘oh I’ve made it, now I feel important’. I don’t feel important ever, because I respect these people so much and I’m such a fan of pop music and of pop production, so when I walk into a room with Claude Kelly, I sit there and want to say, ‘tell me everything. Teach me your ways’. So for me, writing the album was this totally awesome, really exciting and geeky experience for me where I’d walk into a room and say, ‘hi, I’m such a huge fan and I’m sorry I’m geeking out right now because we’re supposed to be writing for me’.

"Actually the really nice thing about it is that all the people that I wrote with are really well respected and have had such incredible success. But then they heard what my music was doing and where my music was going and they were super into it and really respected it, which is why they came on board. That’s the coolest thing ever, because not everyone’s going to do that. Not everybody is going to take a chance on an artist that they don’t know a lot about, just because they think it sounds cool. So I’ve really made some incredible relationships because of that and from making this album.

"It came together over a course of two and a half years. A handful of the songs on the record are from old EPs or songs that are from before anything had every happened to me – in my producer’s basement in Rhode Island. So from ‘Somebody Loves You’ being written in my producer’s basement in Rhode Island to ‘Dreaming About You’ or ‘Glory Days’ being written in the Micheal Jackson studio D in West Hollywood and recording the piano that Sir Paul McCartney played on for ‘The Girl Is Mine’ for the ‘Thriller’ record, there’s a huge difference in that respect.

"Half my vocals were recorded in one of the best studios in the world and the other half are recorded in my producer’s bedroom. So I definitely wanted to keep that, ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it’ kind of idea to it. So even the new songs, I recorded some of those vocals in my producer’s bedroom."

Though she may be getting to lay down vocals in some slightly flashier establishments these days, something that hasn't changed about her vocal is the distinctly Australian accent laced throughout. And, Betty tells us, it's always been a conscious decision for her to ensure it remains that way.

"I never want to lose my Australian accent in my songs. I think it’s what makes it special," she admits. "Whenever I hear a British singer singing in an American accent, I think, ‘no, stop! Your British accent is what makes you so special!’. So I really love doing that and I love it when people say, ‘I love the way she sings!’. Americans love a good Aussie accent, so it’s also a bit of a gimmick in a way."

No surprise to find out then, that Betty's a huge fan of Missy Higgins, who's penchant for the Aussie vocal is legendary.

"She’s the queen of that! That’s what I love about Missy Higgins," she exclaims. "I listen to her songs and it feels more honest. It’s not a production, it’s not a play, it’s not put on. When I listen to her songs, I imagine sitting in her home an hour outside of Sydney on bushland somewhere drinking tea and talking to her. You feel like you know her."

Suffice to say, if Missy Higgins does indeed live on a bushland property an hour out of Sydney sipping tea, she may be inclined to think that a certain 'Who' is a bit of a stalker.

"I’m hoping she doesn’t now you’ve said that," she laughs.

We conclude by asking Betty what she thinks is the biggest false perception the wider public has about pop artists.

"That’s a really good question," she responds, pausing for a moment to think about her response. "I think there are a lot of them. I think that a lot of conceptions about pop artists are very misconstrued and confused. But I think one of the biggest ones that’s crazy to me is that people just assume that you don’t work hard.

"It’s so much work. There’s so much to think about and you can’t even imagine how much you have to keep in mind to do this kind of work. So when people say things like, ‘life is soooo hard… you get to play shows and have fun all the time and be a pop star’, I say to them, ‘no! This is hard! I’ll swap with you! Nine to five sounds like the most relaxing thing in the world right now’.

"That’s something that people have definitely said to me. I said, ‘well you don’t know anything about what I do then, apparently!’ I watch Katy do it! The Katy Perry show is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen in my whole life. It looks like such hard work. She must be so tired at the end of every night. So people who say, ‘oh well she doesn’t really do anything and other people make all the decisions for her’, I say, ‘no, this is her vision’.

"And what I’m doing is my vision. I have articulated and I have made this happen for myself, with the help of a hundred odd people, of course. But at some level, you’re spearheading it and a lot of people don’t give, particularly women in the pop music industry, credit for that.


Betty Who's album 'Take Me When You Go' is available physically and digitally now.

Monday, November 24, 2014

DEMI DOES DOWN UNDER

The countdown's on for Australian fans of Demi Lovato.
Not only is the deluxe edition of the pop starlet's latest album 'Demi' due into stores this Friday, but Live Nation has today upped the excitement levels to 15, with confirmation they'll bring her to Australia for her first live tour in April.
Though final dates are still being nutted out, it appears that Ms Lovato is already locked in for the visit, which will also encompass a stop-over in NZ.
Fans are being encouraged to sign up to Live Nation's mailing list for the latest information.
Despite a succession of chart hits in America, Demi's never cracked the top 20 on the singles chart here in Australia, performing best with her rendition of 'Let It Go' from the 'Frozen' soundtrack. But her album chart positions have continued to improve; 'Demi' peaking at No.14 on its initial release last year.

TOVE STYRKES WITH BORDERLINE EP

Up and coming Swedish pop sensation Tove Styrke has been signed to RCA Records (Sony Music here in Australia) and, over the weekend, dropped her new EP 'Borderline' to digital retailers.
The 22 year old has come a long way since placing third in the Swedish version of 'Idol' back in 2009, after which she signed a deal with Sony and released a number of singles, an EP and an album. But now there's a new push to transform her into one of pop's hottest properties. And she's well on her way, with big props from some of the biggest taste-maker sites on the planet already claiming themselves to be big fans.
But for the singer herself, it appears to be all about the music.
"I think that one of the great things you can do with pop music is describe things that are important in a simple way," Tove says in a statement. "I love taking complex ideas that are reflective of society as a whole, rather than problems that are specific to me, and working them out in a naive way."
The 'Borderline' EP is available now.

01. Borderline
02. Samurai Boy
03. Brag
04. Even If I’m Loud It Doesn’t Mean I’m Talking To You
05. Walking A Line
06. Borderline (Salvatore Ganacci Remix)