Darren Hayes Hub




MUSIC NEWS: Beyoncé, Patrick Wolf, Taking Back Sunday, Missy Elliott, Hunx & His Punx, Oh Land, CocknBullKid, Darren Hayes

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BY NORMAN BRANNON

Guestblogger Norman Brannon is a pop critic, musician, and author based in New York City. He presents a weekly music update here on Towleroad and writes regularly at Nervous Acid.  

Follow Norman on Twitter at @nervousacid.

EXTENDED PLAY:

Beyonce-4-cover Beyoncé 4 (Columbia/Sony)

The early word on 4 indicated that Beyoncé was moving into some uncharted territory: Reports surfaced of a recorded collaboration with Diplo and the Brooklyn noise-rock duo Sleigh Bells. The underperforming lead single "Run the World (Girls)" seemed to confirm a forward-thinking direction of some sort, sampling Major Lazer's "Pon de Floor" and pairing fidget-house pioneer Switch with R&B stalwart The-Dream on coproduction duties. And Odd Future's Frank Ocean got the call to write and produce. In the end, some of those things made it onto the album, but "forward-thinking" is not quite the right word for the outcome — in fact, just the opposite. Beyoncé's fourth album is, by and large, a record guided by the rearview, and the bulk of its material — downtempo, occasionally sullen, grasping for timelessness — ends up in some sort of mid-'80s R&B limbo. When they're there, the hits are forceful and definitive: "I Still Care" boasts an incredible urgent vocal delivery over a beat-driven, ambient soul track and "Countdown" is a midtempo open-letter-to-the-ladies empowerment song as good as any Beyoncé's ever given us. Unfortunately, the misses are just as pronounced — whether it's the Bruce Hornsby '80s rock-lite of "Best Thing I Never Had" or the grossly anachronistic "Love On Top," time-stamped by Shalamar in 1982 — and by album's end, the difference between 4 and its predecessors is a psychic one. Beyoncé says that she became "focused on [these] songs being classics, songs that would last," but in doing so, she tempted a well-known artistic truism: Longevity is achieved with time, not intent.

THE DISPATCH:

Ed Road Stereogum compiled a list of reactions to last week's passage of the Marriage Equality bill in New York, including notes from LGBT artists like Kaki King, Justin Bond, Tegan & Sara, JD Samson, and Vampire Weekend's Rostam Batmanglij, as well as allies like Ted Leo, The Decemberists' Colin Meloy, Best Coast, and Passion Pit. But the most personal reaction came from Grizzly Bear's Ed Droste: "As a gay man in a 7-year relationship getting married later this year, I can't tell you how thrilled I am about NY marriage equality!"

Road Missy Elliott has been largely out of the public eye since The Cookbook was released in 2005, and recent revelations might explain the gap. This week, Elliott revealed to People magazine that she's been suffering from Graves' disease — an autoimmune disorder better known as hyperthyroidism. "I couldn't write because my nervous system was so bad," she said. "I couldn't even use a pen."

Hunxpunx Road Hunx & His Punx recently stopped by the KEXP studios in Seattle to share their brand of queer retro-rock. A full performance stream is available for listening now.

Road A profile in the Guardian this weekend revealed two little-known facts about the ongoing rise of Nanna Øland Fabricius — or Oh Land to you and me: For one, the Brooklyn-via-Copenhagen singer had been originally tapped to open for Shakira at Madison Square Garden. (She declined.) But more perplexing, a random meeting in a London studio led Rihanna to request that Fabricius write a song for her. That never happened, she said, because "I got so intimidated that I didn't give a proper response."

Bombay-bicycle-club Road This week's premiere listens are plentiful: Björk's "Crystalline" is our first full taste of her forthcoming Biophilia, Wilco's "I Might" is the lead single from The Whole Love, Gold Panda released a new and unreleased track for download called "MPB" in advance of his forthcoming U.S. and European tours, and my personal favorite track of the week goes to Bombay Bicycle Club, whose upcoming third album A Different Kind Of Fix promises to be a rhythmically-oriented follow-up to last year's largely acoustic Flaws. The first single is called "Shuffle."

Santigold Road Following up on a cameo for the new Beastie Boys album, Brooklyn's Santigold is hard at work prepping her second full-length album with help from friends like Karen O and Nick Zinner from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV On The Radio and Jane's Addiction member Dave Sitek, and even Jay-Z — who called the album so far "epic" and "important." You can also expect to see Santi in an upcoming movie starring opposite Community's Donald Glover.

Road In support of his just-published memoir, Bob Mould sat in with The Roots on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon this week — and tackled a kind of awkward version of Sugar's "If I Can't Change Your Mind" in the process.

Road Arcade Fire will be releasing a deluxe edition version of The Suburbs on August 2, which will also feature Scenes from the Suburbs — a Spike Jonze-directed short film inspired by the album. The movie is currently available to watch, free of charge and in its entirety, from the indie film site Mubi.

COMING OUT:

Lupercalia Patrick Wolf's long-awaited Lupercalia is an album about love, and on "Bermondsey Street," he makes it clear that this is a love that dares speak its name. He sings: "Love knows no boundaries / Sees beyond sexuality / And holds the sun in the palm of its hand / And laughs down on the cynical man." On some level, Wolf is singing from an autocritical standpoint: His fifth album is a kiss-off to cynicism and a love note to the idea that romanticism and realism are not as far apart as many might suggest. To that end, there are countless images of space ("The City," "House") and time ("The Future," "Time of My Life," "Slow Motion"), but none more vivid than the 51-second long ode to his fiancé, also named "William," in which Wolf counts his blessings, and asks, "Oh William, will you be my conqueror?" It's a far cry from the title track to his last album, The Bachelor, where he swears "I'll never marry at all," but it's also a much better look: Whereas Morrissey seems intent on staying miserable forever, Patrick Wolf is finally ready for joy. It really does get better.

Taking-Back-Sunday-self-titled-album-art-work Taking Back Sunday have had more ex-members than they've had records, so the line-up for their self-titled fifth album seemed like kind of a big deal: For the first time in almost ten years, the original members behind their breakthrough debut Tell All Your Friends were reuniting for an all-new set. Of course, recreating the past is more boring than inventing a new future, and on Taking Back Sunday, the band does a little bit of both. Lead single "Faith (When I Let You Down)" is an all-grown-up version of the band that filters a clever lyrical conceit through church organs and a choir-like middle-eight, while "Sad Savior" mines the past with an unflattering tribute to Weezer's Blue Album and an outro heavily lifted from Braid's "Never Will Come For Us." But if Adam Lazarra has any one gift, it's the one that allows him to sing simple things like "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, come back" with a sympathetic pathos that easily forgives its own lack of profundity.

Also out today: The Feeling — Together We Were Made (Island UK), Gillian Welch — The Harrow & The Harvest (Acony), The Chemical Brothers — Hanna: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Sony UK), John Digweed — Structures Two (Bedrock), Dolly Parton — Better Day (Dolly)

SOUND & VISION:

CocknBullKid — "Yellow" 

The fourth UK single from CocknBullKid gets a video this week and gives new evidence to establish Anita Blay's unique position in the pop music canon: The bells and whistles and glittery outfits worked fine for Beyoncé at Glastonbury, but the first thing Blay does in the video for "Yellow" is take the bells and whistles off — choosing instead to rely on simple sets, an exultant everyman cast, and the best song Sugababes never wrote.

Darren Hayes — "Talk Talk Talk"

After four years away, Darren Hayes returns with the lead single from his upcoming Secret Codes and Battleships. A collaboration with Swedish producer Carl Falk, who is currently riding high after a UK #1 single for Nicole Scherzinger, "Talk Talk Talk" pits Hayes' pensive delivery against a silvery club track — and, so far in 2011, I'm hard-pressed to recall a more confident comeback.

Anna Calvi — "Desire"

She's got the co-sign from Brian Eno and the producer of PJ Harvey behind her, and that right there says a lot about what to expect from Anna Calvi. "Desire" is at once widescreen and soft-focus, with Calvi's unmistakable voice as its deep and expansive anchor. Like Harvey, you get the idea that we're really only scratching the surface of her depth. 

Wynter Gordon — "Til Death"

Honesty time! When I first got the link for "Til Death" a few weeks ago, I passed on it. A club track about partying "til death" and a tautological video of people at a party gave me the impression that, somewhere along the line, somebody ran out of ideas. But this weekend, while I was clearing out some of the promos on my desk, I threw on Wynter Gordon's With The Music I Die EP for a second-chance listen, and — maybe I was under the influence of this week's Pride festival — but this damn song really grew on me! I'm not one to believe in guilty pleasures, but OK: I might feel a little bit guilty here.



Towleroad Guide to the Tube #874

NO MORE DOWN LOW: Discrimination at Dinah Shore Weekend, and Darryl Stephens interview.

SAM WATERSTON: He's a New Yorker for marriage equality.

DARREN HAYES: The 9th in a series of video blogs documenting the making of and release of his 4th studio album due this year.

MAJOR ENDORSEMENT: Gary Busey stumps for Trump.

For recent Guides to the Tube, click HERE.


Music News: ...Everyone Is Gay

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GuestbloggerRobbie Daw presents a weekly pop music update here on Towleroad! Robbie runs his own site called Chart Rigger.

Eminemelton"Teenage angst has paid off well. Now I'm bored and old." So begins Nirvana's third and final album, 1993's In Utero—the opening lines of "Serve The Servants."

Nirvana. Not the most gay topic of discussion, nor the gayest of music to bring up. So why bring it up at all?

This week is actually the eve of my first year doing a pop music column on Towleroad.

One question I keep coming back to is this: what really constitutes "gay music"? Scissor Sisters, Ari Gold, Elton John, Sam Sparro, Darren Hayes, Pet Shop Boys, The Feeling, George Michael and Andy Bell are mainstream gay artists or groups with gay members—all of which we've talked about here on Towleroad—but is the actual music those folks create gay?

As well, Madonna, Amy Winehouse, The Killers, Britney Spears, Sally Shapiro, Mariah Carey, LCD Soundsystem, Robyn, Kylie Minogue, Frankmusic, Sugababes, Cyndi Lauper, Spice Girls, Girls Aloud and Saint Etienne are music artists who have somewhat of a "gay appeal," though what does that really mean?

NirvanaflagsIs country music gay enough? Did Mika ever come out? Does Hip hop speak to us? When all was said and done, was Hard Candy any good?

And where do Chris Brown, Miley Cyrus, Duffy, Fall Out Boy, Santogold and Smashing Pumpkins fit in?

The truth is, I don't have the foggiest idea. What I do know is that pop music is subjective. And while I can't answer the question on what gay music truly is, I can say that no two people will probably every see completely eye to eye when it comes to individual taste.

But that's okay. Life would be pretty dull otherwise.

Over the past year, I've pondered my own psychological state after listing to Mariah's "Touch My Body," posed the question to you on whether Katy Perry is truly offensive, let nostalgia get the best of me over the re-release of Michael Jackson's Thriller and offered up Robyn scolding her godchildren in Swedish over the phone from Stockholm here on Towleroad—all in the name of delivering pop music news to the online masses from one guy's gay perspective.

Something about pop, whether it be one song, one artist or a single bar or note, can reach into the heart and send the imagination soaring, or hurtling back to a certain time and place.

NirvanaWhich brings us back to the original topic at hand. This past week NPR ran an interesting "All Things Considered" feature on 17-year-old Los Angeles native Spencer Elden (pictured right), who you may remember best as the baby swimming after the dollar bill on the cover of Nirvana's Nevermind album.

Admittedly, I'm a longtime Nirvana fan from the time when I was 17 myself and Nevermind hit like a grenade. So it's a bit surreal to catch up on what this kid's been up to.

Given that Elden appeared sans clothing on the cover, it's amusing to read him looking back: "Quite a few people in the world have seen my penis. So that's kinda cool. I'm just a normal kid living it up and doing the best I can while I'm here."

As for teenage angst paying off well, he notes that his father was given $200 for letting his son be photographed for the seminal, 26-million-selling record's artwork.

I guess it should be noted that, judging from his comments about "worrying about stupid girls," Spencer is apparently straight—a fact which inevitably calls to mind the opening of "All Apologies," the last track on Nirvana's final album:

"What else should I say? Everyone is gay?"

Nbroad.jpg THE WEEK'S NEW RELEASES:

Josh Kelley's Backwoods. (You know, the guy married to Katherine Heigl.)

British trip hop act UNKLE's End Titles... Stories For Film.

Remixes of Natasha Bedingfield's current hit, "Pocketful Of Sunshine".

The self-titled debut album from alt rock band Scars On Broadway.

Hot Chip's iTunes-only Live:Berlin Festival EP.

New singles from Lindsay Buckingham ("Did You Miss Me"), Jonas Brothers ("Tonight"), T-Pain ("Can't Believe It") and Hinder ("Use Me").


Music News: Jay-Z Burns Oasis At Glastonbury, George Michael, Annie, Kurt Cobain, Sam Sparro, Labelle

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GuestbloggerRobbie Daw presents a weekly pop music update here on Towleroad! Robbie runs his own site called Chart Rigger.

Jay-Z headlined England's famed Glastonbury festival on Saturday, a controversial move given the rock-heavy bill the event usually touts. Perhaps no one was more vocal about their disdain for Hova as headliner than Noel Gallagher of Oasis: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it. If you start to break it then people aren't going to go. I'm sorry, but Jay-Z? No chance."

In turn, the rapper and music mogul clearly wowed the crowd with his opening song choice: a cover of "Wonderwall."

On a bit more tame note -- well, lately, at least -- George Michael brought his 25 Live tour to The Forum in Los Angeles on Wednesday. It was the first time he's played L.A. since 1988.

Just before the final encore, in which he performed "Freedom '90," Michael was surprised by Bo Derek, who walked on stage to give him a birthday cake as his band played "Happy Birthday." The London-born singer is 45.

Sam_sparroroad.jpg Enough about Jay-Z...what were the reviews like for Sam Sparro's appearance at Glastonbury?

road.jpg Word on the street has it that Norwegian pop blondie Annie, of "Chewing Gum" fame, has got a new EP out. Towleroad vehemently looks down upon illegal filesharing, but something tells me that if you typed in "Annie" and "EP" into a search engine, you might be taking the first step to finding out more information on this bit of noise.

road.jpg This Delicate Film We've Made, a live concert DVD containing the last night of Darren Hayes' 2007 tour, will be released from his own Powdered Sugar Productions on July 22.

road.jpg Creole Lady Marmalade! All three original members of seminal '70s funk-glam trio LaBelle are set to reunite for their first album together since 1976. The group will also perform this Saturday during the Essence Festival -- where else -- down in ol' New Orleans.

Converseroad.jpg London's Madame Tussauds Wax Museum will unveil a statue of Amy Winehouse later this year: "We are really pleased to be creating Amy; she is a real icon in mondern British music, a continual award winner and an internationally recognized star widely requested by our guests.

road.jpg So imagine if a bunch of Alanis Morissette fans got together online and did karaoke to try to win free concert tickets...

road.jpg Did you know you can now purchase Converse sneakers from Nordstrom with writing from Kurt Cobain's journals on them? This seems like something to get up in arms over, but if Courtney Love says it's ok, then... Oh, well. Whatever. Nevermind.

road.jpg Aerosmith's Steven Tyler finally admits he checked into rehab to recover from more than just foot surgery: "I don't know about (guitarist) Joe (Perry) but I was off and running and I didn't like the me that was me. This was a month ago, so I just put the brakes on and checked into detox and just pulled the plug on all of it."

John_mayer__where_the_light_isroad.jpg TODAY'S NEW RELEASES:

Where The Light Is, a live CD/DVD from John Mayer recorded at Los Angeles' Nokia Theater.

High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens' second solo effort, Identified.

R.E.M.'s iTunes-only set, Live: From London.

Love To Make Music To, from L.A.-based electronica producer Daedelus.

New singles from The Faint ("The Geeks Were Right"), LL Cool J ("Baby") and Lee Ann Womack ("Last Call").

Guilt, a new EP from Sheffield indie band The Long Blondes.


Music News: How Gay Is Katy Perry? Plus, Nas, Pet Shop Boys, Jennifer Hudson, The Ting Tings

Katy_perry_2

GuestbloggerRobbie Daw presents a weekly pop music update here on Towleroad! Robbie runs his own site called Chart Rigger.

Beginning last year, I'd been getting pitches from a publicist dealing with online press for an artist called Katy Perry and her song "Ur So Gay." To be completely honest, I just didn't dig the song. But as the title might imply, I also started wondering whether or not I was right to feel a bit offended by the lyrical premise -- a female telling off her H&M scarf-wearing boyfriend with the insult, "You're so gay and you don't even like boys," implying that he'd rather spend time with his friends and "MySpace-ing," etc. I basically chalked it up to me being a bit uptight, the song not being my thing, and moved on.

But the pitches kept coming. Soon Katy was signed to Capitol Records, a major label, and the press releases started mentioning Perez Hilton was touting her as a next big thing for summer 2008. In an interview with Blender, Perry, who turns out to be a pastor's daughter, exclaims, "I'm completely outrageous and I'll do anything for attention!"

Now the singer's got a heavily-promoted single called "I Kissed A Girl" (not a Jill Sobule cover), though it doesn't have a video. But rather than expound upon what I think of a seemingly heterosexual 23-year-old woman singing about her drunken female conquest, "I don't even know your name, it doesn't matter/You're my experimental game," I thought I'd turn it over to see what you, the Towleroad reader, think.

Are Katy Perry's lyrics offensive, or are they just silly, gimmicky pop songs by a self-proclaimed attention seeker to be taken with a grain of salt? Clips of "Ur So Gay" and "I Kissed A Girl" are below.

Two things to think about: 1.) A bit of digging finds that Katy Perry released an album of Christian music a few years back under the name Katy Hudson. 2.) Would your thoughts on the level of offense, if any, be different if it were a straight male artist singing either song (particularly if the latter were "I Kissed A Boy")?

Incidentally, Katy Perry's album, One Of The Boys, is out in June.

Ferras1road.jpg Hip hop star Nas drops the original controversial title for his new album.

road.jpg The Pet Shop Boys are working on new material with frequent Sugababes' collaborators Xenomania. Meanwhile, clips from a 2006 episode of U.K. program The South Bank Show on Dusty Springfield have popped up on YouTube, wherein the Boys discuss what it was like working with the singer on her 1991 album, Reputation.

road.jpg Recording artist Ferras (pictured left) -- whose track "Hollywood's Not America" you likely recognize as this season's American Idol good-bye song -- took to his MySpace blog Friday to dedicate the new single "Liberation Day" to the overturning of California's ban on same-sex marriage: "YAY!!!!!!!!!! ITS LIBERATION DAY EVERYONE!!!! WAKE UP!!!!!! It's 'LIBERATION DAY' for GAY PEOPLE everywhere!!!! The road to liberation day has been a long one, filled with tears and a great fight, but one that thankfully does not include giving up hope. Today, the end of the road is a little bit closer. Today, two people in love can finally be recognized just like everyone else. Its about love, acceptance and life. This is not only about a piece of paper, its about human rights. Its about rejoicing in the beauty of each and every person living on this planet! Its about individuality and the right to exist! Gay people are citizens just like everyone else and should be afforded the same rights. Without recognizing gay marriage as a legitimate expression of love, partnership and equality, we are still living in the dark ages-communicating a message of intolerance and hate. It's 2008. Its a new time. A new era. A time to wake up and 'throw your illusions away.' May all beings rejoice and be happy, as we get one shot- one life- to be all we can be, be the best humans we can be and to love and be loved equally, as we all bleed the same blood. To all my gay and lesbian peeps- this ones for you. All my love and respect, FERRAS"

road.jpg Darren Hayes will appear as a guest judge on the upcoming season of Austalian Idol, along with fellow Aussie Tina Arena. The London-based singer will help suss out talent in the U.K. for the program: "As an Australian entertainer living in London I definitely have a soft spot for Aussies trying to make it overseas. Rather than judging people, I'm going to be looking for that little bit of magic that someone once saw in me."

road.jpg Janet Jackson's going on tour: "It will definitely be a big production but it will definitely also be something that I've never done before, that people have never seen from me before." Don't they all say that?

road.jpg Jennnifer Hudson's album due out in September: "I think people will be pleasantly surprised, because it shows a side of my work that no one has heard before." Now, hold on a second...!

Ting_tingsroad.jpg TODAY'S NEW RELEASES:

The Ting Tings' debut set, We Started Nothing. The dancey pop/rock duo have the current #1 single on the U.K. chart with "That's Not My Name," while they're also enjoying a sizeable stateside hit with "Shut Up And Let Me Go," thanks to its inclusion in an Apple commercial.

Donna Summer's Crayons, her first studio album of pop material since 1991's Mistaken Identity.

Stop Drop And Roll from Foxboro Hottubs. The big "secret" is that it's actually Green Day doing punk-infused, '60s-sounding bubblegum.

Liverpool electro quartet Ladytron's fourth LP, Velocifero.

Actress Scarlett Johansson's album of Tom Waits covers, Anywhere I Lay My Head.

Jesse McCartney's Departure. McCartney is currently enjoying the success of having co-written Leona Lewis' "Bleeding Love" with OneRepublic's "Ryan Tedder."

New singles from Aimee Mann ("Freeway"), Solange ("I Decided, Pt. 2") and Judas Priest ("Visions").


Towleroad Guide to the Tube #235

BOOING KEN HUTCHERSON: Focus on the Family's Stuart Shepard discusses the horrible liberal teachers who booed Pastor Ken Hutcherson when he was invited to speak at a high school MLK day. He neglected to mention Hutcherson's taking on of Microsoft or his association with the Watchmen on the Walls group. More here.

MAKE ME A SUPERMODEL: Dynamic duo of something rocks the sheets on the Bravo reality show.

CASEY: Video for Darren Hayes' new single "Casey".

ANONYMOUS: Declares war on Scientology. More here.

Check out our previous guides to the Tube here.


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