Today sees the release of the fourth proper Justin Bieber studio album, Purpose, an album that contains a fair amount of listenable material from Bieber (at least three songs!). Preceding this album has been a string of derpily titled singles—“Where Are Ü Now,” “What Do You Mean,” “Sorry”—that work on their own as proper songs and don’t require built-in fandom for appreciation. They’ve all gone Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 (“What Do You Mean” debuted at No. 1, in fact), which has helped shape a narrative that this album marks a comeback for Bieber. But where did he go? What do you mean, music press? And, most importantly, why should we care? Below we attempt to unravel these great mysteries.
How should a pop diva grow older in public? When your career is based not so much on virtuosic vocal ability but charisma, X factor, taste, and performance, where do you end up? What is the “age appropriate” equivalent to singing standards for the artists whose output is rooted in the dance pop of the ‘80s? How does the artist who is characterized in part by her command on culture and ability to communicate with the masses thrive when the masses stop listening? How do you make pop music when you know it has little chance of actually being popular, per the ageist standards of the music industry?
Patti LaBelle is up to her old tricks: screaming at people. Last night at a concert in Vancouver, an audience member the diva had presumably invited to come dance onstage began unbuttoning his shirt. That wasn’t part of the deal Miss Patti had in her head, so she interrupted him and the music (“Lady Marmalade,” of course). “Don’t you dare, not on my stage!” she hollered. She explained with what initially seemed like good humor, “I am not Nicki Minaj or that little, uh, Miley.” The dancer took this as an opportunity to arch his back and present his ass to her. Here’s a tip: Do not arch your back and present your ass to Patti LaBelle.
Well, at least it isn’t “Bad Blood.”
The Weeknd sings about sex a lot, and it almost always sounds like a miserable experience. Who wants that? Do you? If yes, please ask yourself why. Actually, I’m going to stop you right there and assume that it’s because you are lost. Luckily, I found you—and I’m here to tell you something: Do not do that. Do not fuck the Weeknd.
People.com points out that Deee-Lite’s enduring dance-pop staple “Groove Is in the Heart” turns 25 this month, which is insane because it means everyone is old. The song and its day-glo retro video brought club kid culture into heavy rotation for a period of time. The NYC-based trio were signed to a decent-sized label (Elektra) with major distribution (Atlantic) at an idealistic time when house music was starting to really break, and it seemed like the sky was the limits for the acts who were making it. (I mean, Uncanny Alliance were on A&M!) Record companies would soon discover the financial folly of their investments, as these club-oriented acts left and right proved to be one-hit wonders, if that. Regardless, some wonderfully enjoyable, often inventive dance-pop came out of it.
My friend, producer/DJ Morgan Geist, recently released a single under his Galleria moniker called “Calling Card”/”Mezzanine,” which is heavily influenced by Latin freestyle. Since there is nothing more that I like to do than get paid to talk about freestyle, I invited him to the Gawker office for a podcast about the mostly forgotten ‘80s/early-’90s sub-genre of dance music that helped define my youth while growing up in South Jersey.
This is the time of year when we turn our thoughts to the important matter of what will be this year’s song of the summer, an officialish distinction based on chart success and ubiquity (not to be confused with the more subjective concept of summer jams). No one knows for sure yet what song will claim the title, as Iggy Azalea and Charli XCX’s “Fancy” ended up doing last year, but I’m putting out into the universe that I think it should be “King” by Years & Years.
The video for the ill-fated Britney Spears/Iggy Azalea duet “Pretty Girls” dropped today and oh my god it includes an interlude with dialogue that is almost certainly the best worst thing you will see this year. I can’t imagine anything being better or worse than this going forward until the world ends, in fact.
Experiencing Mariah Carey live nowadays is like listening to someone start to make a Forrest Gump reference: You pretty much know what you’re going to get, but you can’t be certain what kinds of twists, turns, and yes, surprises are in store. Mariah’s voice ain’t what it used to be, on account of her being in her third decade of singing her lungs out for public consumption. Sometimes she is good, sometimes she is bad. She’s in the weird position of being a superstar underdog, a singer who’s still a billion times more talented than your average human being but who has been brought back down to earth over the years via unmistakable humanity.
At this stage in her career, it seems needless to distinguish between Madonna's musical output and her stunts. Both are products of a savant-like aptitude in attention-grabbing. Both have defined her image. Both have worked in tandem from the earliest days of her superstardom. "Like a Virgin" was a great slice of post-disco dance pop, but it was also the background music to her feral roll around the stage of the 1984 MTV Video Music Awards. "Justify My Love" is a truly bizarre pop song from Venus that was brought down to earth when its video was banned by MTV. The list goes on. She is the queen of shocking moments.
He's best known for dabbling in the macabre, but when I talked to the 67-year-old director/musician John Carpenter by phone earlier this week, he told me he was "just delighted." We were discussing his new (and first) album John Carpenter's Lost Themes and the glowing reception it has received thus far. Carpenter is best known for directing horror movies like Halloween and 1982's The Thing, as well as gritty action fare like Escape from New York, but all the while he's been composing music (in fact, he has scored most of this movies, including all of the aforementioned).
[Wednesday night's Eagles concert marked the reopening of the L.A. Forum. The renovation cost over $100 million and included adding the world's largest vinyl record, a recreation of the Eagles' Hotel California, to the roof. The new owners hope the Forum will become the "nation's largest indoor facility designed with music as its top priority."]