Donna Summer and Her Pop/Dance Legacy

There comes a time in one’s life where favourite performers begin to pass away in bigger numbers than usual.  So imagine my shock, having grown up in the disco era, to learn that Donna Summer died on May 17 age 63 from cancer.  I don’t ever remember hearing about her illness, and it apparently was kept quiet.  So, as I tweeted on Thursday, Donna Summer songs were dancing in my head all day.  There were so many of her songs that I heard, sang, and yes, danced to as well.

Like most of the rest of the world, I became familiar with her first huge hit “Love To Love You Baby” in early 1976.  It was a pretty innovative-sounding record, and I purchased the 45 of it, even though its basis probably owed more to 1973’s “Pillow Talk” by the late Sylvia Robinson than any other song.  “Love To Love You Baby” was expanded to a full album side on its same-named album.  It was quickly followed later in the year by the concept albums A Love Trilogy (featuring her cover of Barry Manilow’s “Could It Be Magic”) and Four Seasons Of Love, including the lovely ballad “Winter Melody” and the dance hit “Spring Affair” (a double-whammy 45 that I also bought).

It was mid-summer 1977 though when I began listening to the Canadian radio show “90 Minutes with a Bullet” on the CBC’s AM station.  It was the only show that I knew of that would take me out of my local radio stations’ comfort zone and bring news about performers and hits from around the world that hadn’t hit the charts here in Canada.  I believe it was near the end of the show that the host told us about what was going on in the UK music scene.  He announced that the new number one song was the latest by Donna Summer, and it was a different kind of hit record.  I’m talking about the Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte produced “I Feel Love”, which busted electronica into the mainstream via disco, even though the R&B community had already been incorporating it into that style through artists like Stevie Wonder (“Superstition” for example).  But this was five years after “Superstition” and electronic music was getting more sophisticated, and using the basic rhythms of disco to find its anchor.  I couldn’t get “I Feel Love” out of my head.  I visited a friend of mine in Ottawa shortly after, and by then Donna’s classic I Remember Yesterday album was released.  It and “I Feel Love” had already made inroads into the Quebec and Ottawa markets, which were more radio friendly to disco/dance than Toronto.  If the rest of the record represented Yesterday, then “I Feel Love”, the last song on the album, was the Future.  I was sure a believer!  Full steam ahead into the Future…  Another concept album, Once Upon A Time, featuring “I Love You”, followed in early 1978, followed by the late Paul Jabara’s Oscar-winning contribution to the film “Thank God It’s Friday”, Donna’s seminal “Last Dance”.

So Donna Summer’s many songs were part of the rest of my teenage years on the radio, in dance clubs, and on my stereo. But Donna Summer was way more than a by-product of studio production, she could sure sing.  I never did see a live show but of course saw her perform many times on TV.  The double live album Live And More sure sealed the deal with a new version of Richard Harris’ 1968 epic “MacArthur Park” (that was the ‘More’ part, not being recorded live – live performance video above).  Extended out to a full album side, the electronic production, disco trappings, and Donna’s emotional interpretation scored her first #1 single and album in North America.  Her 1979 double album Bad Girls also went to the top and it was pretty much the pinnacle of her career, with two more dance classics (the rock-oriented Grammy-winning “Hot Stuff” and title track) reaching #1, and album tracks like the percolating “Sunset People” keeping club crowds happy.  And after the success of her duet with Neil Diamond, Barbra Streisand teamed up with Donna for the still-amazing “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)”, her last #1 single.  As the disco phase of 70’s dance came to an abrupt close, Donna’s On The Radio greatest hits album became her last #1 album (three double albums in a row), and the title song became a Top 5 hit.  It was also Donna’s finale for long-time label Casablanca Records, as she became a born again Christian and shed her sexy image.

Late 1980 found Donna Summer one of David Geffen’s new signees to his Geffen label, and allowed Donna to branch away from her disco queen image with the solid pop/rock album The Wanderer.  Still produced by partners-in-crime Moroder and Bellotte, the record yielded two of my favourite singles by her, the bouncy title track and the cutting “Cold Love” with its supurb rock guitar riff (listen above).  Her self-titled 1982 album, with production by Moroder, Bellotte, and Quincy Jones, was more of a hodgepodge of styles and songwriters, including James, Jon Anderson & Vangelis (the familiar “State Of Independence” was revived in the 90’s by Moodswings & Chrissie Hynde), Bruce Springsteen (one of the best songs, “Protection”), David Foster, and Michael Sembello, but disappointed commercially.  She charged back with the 1983 anthem “She Works Hard For The Money”, with one final album for Geffen (the so-so 1984 release Cats Without Claws), but didn’t find herself back near the top of the charts until 1989’s Stock-Aitken-Waterman production of “This Time I Know It’s For Real”, her last but memorable and enjoyable Top 10 hit in North America (video below).  The dance club hits never stopped, with highlights like “Melody Of Love” and the Grammy-winner “Carry On” in the 90’s and, a recent favourite, 2008’s “Stamp Your Feet” from her last studio album Crayons (video also below).

Looking back at her UK successes, Donna had an entirely different radio audience in the UK than in North America.  While “I Feel Love” was her only #1 in the UK, she had a different set of hits, such as “Love’s Unkind” (also from I Remember Yesterday), the theme from the film “The Deep” (“Deep Down Inside”), “I Love You”, and her last Top Tenner,  “MacArthur Park”, until “This Time I Know It’s For Real” got there again 11 years later.  “I Don’t Wanna Get Hurt” was her last Top 10 hit in the UK from the Another Time And Place album in 1989.  Donna’s music was steadily on the charts and in the clubs in the UK in the 80s but she was no longer a doyenne of the radio.

The songs of Donna Summer helped shape my personal foundation of music.  To me, she ranked right up there with the best female singers ever – among them Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Gladys Knight.  She broke ground as a black woman performing rock-oriented music as early as 1979 when she won the Grammy for Best Female Rock Performance for “Hot Stuff”.  Her songs were sexy, sweet, personal, and a whole lot of fun.  With the Top 20 appearance of Crayons in 2008, her first full studio album since 1991, old fans found her again and she almost certainly found new ones.  Her many talents will be missed.

Quick Takes: Bright Light Bright Light album preview and Darren Hayes remix, Baiyu, Low Level Flight, and Andreas Moe

The pic above is the forthcoming cover for Make Me Believe In Hope, the long awaited album from Bright Light Bright Light (Rod Thomas).  It contains all of the favourites that you’ll find written up in my blog pages – the current “Waiting For The Feeling”, “Disco Moment” (currently featured on the outstanding This Beat Is…Poptronik compilation), “Love Part II”, “Cry At Films”, and “A New World To Say”.  Below is a teaser that will whet your appetite for the new songs.  Can’t wait!  Make Me Believe In Hope is available June 4 in the UK, and June 26 in North America.  You can order deluxe and cassette versions and more from the Bright Light Bright Light store or Amazon.

In a case of pitch perfect timing, Darren Hayes has released a dazzling BLx2 remix of “Stupid Mistake” for free download right here (initially courtesy of the always amazing Arjan Writes).  Darren is such a great friend to the online world – musicians, producers, bloggers, and fans – and he has embraced rising stars such as BLx2/Rod, Penguin Prison, Monsieur Adi, and others to help show different sides to his music.  Who could ask for anything more?  🙂

Baiyu featuring Rotimi “Invisible”

I have never been a huge fan of the video format, seeing it more as a commercial for the song than anything.  So it’s a treat when I see a video like “Invisible” totally capture its content.   It starts off like it might be vampy/campy, but quickly accelerates into a sexy/sensual and very romantic offering with featured performer Rotimi more likely to cause dreamy sighs at the end than anything.  Baiyu’s got such range to her voice that “Invisible” may be the song to click for her.  Baiyu’s next offering, titled Carter, is coming on June 13.  Watch “Invisible” below.

Low Level Flight “Tsk Tsk”

On their latest record Through These Walls, Canadian outfit Low Level Flight (led by the first Canadian Idol winner himself, Ryan Malcolm) continues to prove itself quite capable of making a place for themselves in the similar world of fellow Canuck rockers Marianas Trench, Simple Plan, and Hedley.  You can’t do that without being incredibly tight, which the band proved last Saturday in Toronto at The Mod Club with a fierce set that was free for their online followers.  Urgency was the title of their 2008 release, but it continues to fit the style of songs like their latest single “Tsk Tsk” – listen below.

Andreas Moe, “Collecting Sunlight” and “Boyfriend”

I’d put money on hearing much, much more from new Swedish singer Andreas Moe in the coming years.  The UK-based Andreas marries that elusive mix of emotional electronica (not unlike Bright Light Bright Light – future collabo?? 😉 ) and sensitive-singer/songwriter pop.  “Collecting Sunlight” (listen above) feels so good and reaches out warmly like you’ve known it for years.  Shortly after the release of “Collecting Sunlight” (due June 26) was announced, Andreas posted his free download cover of Justin Bieber’s “Boyfriend”.  Andreas gives the song a rocking soulful edge and dispenses with Bieber’s attempt at an *NSYNC reboot.  You can also watch his compelling performance of the song below, which is bound to give you a completely different impression of it.

Spring Popervescence #2, featuring Gentlemen Hall, Jane Badler, Casey Stratton, BAKER, I Am A Camera, Craig Powell, and Cadence Burns

There’s so much good new music about that I can’t get a chance to write about it all.  There may have to be a Spring Popervescence #3 before any Summer Popervescence happens!

Gentlemen Hall “All Our Love”

I’ve been enjoying the Boston 6 man ensemble’s EP When We All Disappear for a while now, but it’s taken the video for “All Our Love” to bring the song’s anthemic call for love to the forefront for me.  Led by a Gavin Merlot vocal, the video takes a few frames to digest but once you’re in, there’s a most worthwhile story that should be a calling card for people to put aside their differences and celebrate love.  You can download When We All Disappear from Gentlemen Hall’s website.

Jane Badler “Yesterday’s Tomorrows”

Jane Badler is best known as an actress from the 1980’s sci-fi show “V” (as Diana, the lizard queen – and she made a cameo in the recent reboot too), but in the years since the show she relocated to Australia to continue her film and stage career.  Like many multi-talents, Jane is also a singer who has released a few jazz-oriented albums over the past few years.  But it’s no wonder that her talents have spread back to the North American market with the upcoming release of an EP called Mistaken Identity.  “Yesterday’s Tomorrows” is a stunning and catchy theatrical piece of business where everything old-fashioned is new again, and is most deserving of your attention.  Rock it’s not, but visions of theatre or movie theme songs will dance in your head to leave you captivated.  Don’t be surprised if Jane Badler quietly makes her mark again worldwide on record.  Listen below.

Casey Stratton “When The Fates Came” (EP)

The prolific Michigan-based singer and multi-instrumentalist is on deck with the upcoming album The Calling Of The Crows, which is preceded by this six song EP which will only make you want more.  Like many others, I discovered Casey through his major label releases back in 2003/04 which yielded a number one dance/club play hit (“House of Jupiter”).  But dance music was not where his music was meant to be.  He’s moved comfortably into territory where he joins the likes of Sarah McLachlan, Loreena McKennitt and others who create lush landscapes to compliment personal, direct, and articulate stories.  Independently released, as with all of his records since 2005, When The Fates Came touches on loss, love, self-discovery and more.  And it’s all led by Casey’s compelling high register, beautifully sung, particularly on the title song and “All I Am”.  You can listen to it all and purchase it at Casey’s store (link below).

Casey Stratton’s store

BAKER “Convince Me” and “Heart-Shaped Box”

BAKER is an L.A.-based singer/songwriter who’s in the process of recording his first album, but has put forth a number of songs over the past few years online for your listening pleasure.  The model, Harvard grad, and classical cellist alternates between pop/electronica and softer songs which show off his range and style.  So in anticipation of some new songs, I’ll tip you off to the infectious “Convince Me” and an engaging take on Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box”, which shows that Baker’s boundaries appear to be limitless.  Listen to them below and watch an interview with BAKER as well to learn more.

I Am A Camera “Factory Boys”

I’ve talked about a darker nu-disco kind of dance music that seems to stem from New York City (Jessica 6, Penguin Prison) but I’ve also found out of Austin, Texas (Eleven:Eleven), and now out of the U.K.  British duo I Am A Camera do reference the late 70’s and early 80’s club scene with the energetic nu-disco of “Factory Boys”, sure to stay in both your head and your feet.  Watch the video below.

Craig Powell “One Night Stand”

You may remember Craig Powell from his appearance on last year’s Ballroom Remixed extravaganza (“You Could Change a Tiger’s Stripes”) though UK dancephiles will know him from some local hits as well as a member of Uniting Nations (“Out of Touch” got to the UK Top 10).  Using some of the same key people from Ballroom Remixed, such as producer/remixer extraordinaire Ricardo Autobahn, Craig now showcases “One Night Stand” via Soundcloud below.  With a crisp vocal, the song celebrates a crunchy late 80’s early 90’s flavour which could find success in other territories as well.

Cadence Burns “Smile”

Sheer delight overcomes me when I find a new viral talent emerging online.  Cadence Burns is a Canadian singer who has been working in L.A. with fellow Canadian Tim Feehan, who has had some hits of his own (1986’s “Where’s The Fire”, particularly) as well as several songs featured in movies.  Cadence just has that unspeakable and joyous natural talent about her which rings so true in “Smile”.  This is a talent to be nurtured, and I’m sure we’ll hear much more from her.  There’s not much available online about Cadence – yet.  Watch below.

BILLCS Chart #378 – May 7/12

The new chart is anchored at the top once again by Toronto group River Tiber, with the rocking “Someday” at #1 for a third appearance (6 weeks) and the quiet and thoughtful “Symmetry” moving up to #2.  The band is working on their next album, and will be playing in Toronto on Saturday June 16 as a part of NXNE at C’est What restaurant and bar.  Check them out if you’re in Toronto!

Closing in at rapid speed though is “Waiting For The Feeling”, the latest single by Bright Light Bright Light, from the upcoming Make Me Believe In Hope album, due now in a month.  If the lyrics don’t strike you at the first couple of listens, they do hit home not long after.  Hence “Waiting For The Feeling” is the fastest riser on the chart, moving 14-3.  Rod Thomas (aka Bright Light x2) has already had two #1’s on my chart, “A New Word To Say” and “Love Part II”, in 2010.

You can view the full chart using the link under ***BILL’S PERSONAL CHART*** to the right, or you can click right hereYou can hear all of the songs on the chart or watch their videos by clicking on the pics on the chart page.  Any free downloads that are identified are sanctioned by the performer.

Moving along, Toronto’s Colin Munroe is also working on a highly anticipated album, but in the meantime “The Fight Of My Life” climbs to #5, followed behind at #6 by “Call It What You Want”, the insanely catchy song that is the true follow up to “Pumped Up Kicks” by L.A.’s Foster the People.  I’m looking to catch Ryan Star’s show in Toronto on June 5 at Lee’s Palace when he opens up for The Parlotones.  In anticipation of a follow up album to 2010’s 11:59, “Stay Awhile” rises to #9.

Somehow it doesn’t seem quite right that “Happiness” by Sam Sparro and “Could It Be Magic” by Elouise have only inched up to #11 and #12, but there’s a load of competition brewing underneath.  “Prince Of Nothing Charming” by Tyler Hilton jumps to #13 – I have my tix to his May 17 show at The Virgin Mobile Mod Club here in Toronto.  As far as I know, it’s Tyler’s first show in Toronto since 2006.  Adam Tyler’s “Music Freak” can be found mid-way at #15, followed by the soaring “Silenced By The Night” by Keane at #17 (and another Toronto concert on deck, for June 19 at Sound Academy), and the three-fold punch of “Warrior” by Mark Foster/A-Trak/Kimbra at #17.  “Only The Horses” by Scissor Sisters is turning into a current favourite with its bright melody and urgent Jake Shears vocals at #19, followed by “Stupid Mistake” by Darren Hayes at #20 (live clip from his New Year’s show is below).

(Psssst watch Twitter and Facebook for what will be surely some online celebrations of Darren’s 40th birthday on Tuesday May 8!)

I’m hopeful for some success of the five very strong debuts which have hit the chart.

My raving about the supurb dance compilation This Beat Is… Poptronik Volume One continues, as some favourites from that record have surfaced to rank alongside the six songs on the record that have already appeared on my chart during the last year.  There are so many great songs inside that I play regularly, but there are two that I’m going to more often.  The one that’s grabbed me and won’t let go is the Lindsay Lohan-inspired “Celeb” by half-Dutch, half-Japanese singer Tao Hypah, which bolts onto the chart at a stunning #14.  The bouncy and fun vibe of this song is worth your time as Tao Hypah prepares to release more new songs, including his latest “Play The Girl”, whose video will be online in a few weeks (pic from the video is above).  In the meantime, you can get “Celeb” on the Poptronik release, though it has been available as a free download on Soundcloud for quite sometime as well and you can get it right here.

Also very impressive and bowing at #27 from the Poptronik album is “How It Feels To Be A Man” by Latvian sensation Markus Riva.  Markus is a true DIY performer – already a noted singer, actor, and model in his home territory – so “How It Feels” serves as a sturdy breakout for him (he also directed the video, above).  Some genuine lyrics carried by Markus’ rich voice, which reminds me a lot of British singer Peter Murphy’s low timbre (listen to “The Sweetest Drop” for example), make the theatrical-sounding song highly recognizable.  I’d love to hear some remixes too!

Two songs immediately carry over from my last post to arrive quickly on the chart.  Jeronimo’s “One Kiss” spells Mass Appeal and has the potential for worldwide success.  It’s from Jeronimo’s upcoming album and bows at #24.  “Can’t Say No” by UK sensation Conor Maynard is a nice companion to “One Kiss” with its good-natured fun, and premieres at #28.

Lastly at #25 is a song whose intriguing video of psychological drama (ab0ve) I wrote about a few months backQuigley (aka Casey Carlson) hits the chart with “Inkblot Game”, from her brand new EP Pleiades.  Pleiades is a star cluster within Taurus, hence why lovely Quigley released the EP on her Taurian birthday!  The EP is available for free download at and “Inkblot Game” arrives concurrently with her featured vocal on “Notice Me” by Vincent Did It (aka FrankMusik) moving up to #22.  Of course “Inkblot Game” and the two other gorgeous songs in Pleiades (which all also appear in instrumental form) are all produced by FrankMusik.  The music of Quigley and Frankmusik will not be free forever.  This is high quality craftmanship most deserving of way more than online success.  FrankMusik has also posted a few more of his demos for you to hear on his Soundcloud page.  I just can’t get enough 🙂

Final chart geek note:  You’ll notice on my chart that “Memorize Me” by Rune RK & Databoy has hit the magic mark of 11 appearances (22 weeks) on the chart.  One of my few rules is that songs drop off after a 10 appearance run, but because “Memorize Me” has had two non-consecutive runs, it continues past the 10 appearances 🙂

Spring Popervescence #1 featuring Jeronimo, Audio Playground, Daniel Bedingfield, Martika, Conor Maynard, The Garlics, and HandS

It’s that time of year again, when new songs start to swell at the seams, resulting in a big POP – hence Spring Popervescence is born for 2012 🙂

Jeronimo “One Kiss”

Pardon me while I rave.  You’ll recall that I got all mushy and teary-eyed at “Somebody Who Loves Me”, the Jeronimo song which hit my chart late last year and rose to #22.  The Brazil-born Dutch singer has done one even better.  “One Kiss” manages to capture the same charm as “Somebody” while riding the crest of success of groups like The Wanted.  You’ll notice a folksy European flavour to “One Kiss” similar to “Glad You Came” and perhaps to other dance hits like Edward Maya’s “Stereo Love”.  But the real key is Jeronimo, for if his vocal wasn’t so spot on the song would be less than the sum of its parts.  And it’s available internationally – get it on iTunes 🙂

Audio Playground featuring Snoop Dogg “Emergency”

Yes, you ready that right.  It’s a huge score for a Canadian group to have an internationally successful performer participate on a record.  Audio Playground just reached the Billboard Dance Club Top 10 with “Famous”, featuring Kardinal Offishall.  Snoop Dogg is the featured performer on “Emergency”, whose similar dance vibe is already breaking big time out of Montreal.  “Famous” was a Top 40 radio hit domestically.  Expect the equally fun but rocking “Emergency” to follow suit.  Audio Playground is headed for the global market soon.  Like “Famous”, “Emergency” is available in English and French.  Watch for more linguistic dynamics from AP as their songs become known throughout the world 🙂

Daniel Bedingfield – Stop The Traffik – Secret Fear (EP)

Comeback kid #1 in this post is New Zealand-born, L.A.-based Daniel Bedingfield, who we last heard from back in 2004/05 with his sophomore album Second First Impression, which somehow didn’t even get international release despite hits with “Nothing Hurts Like Love” and “Wrap Your Words Around Me”.  Of course, you know him best from the title song of his 2001/02 release Gotta Get Thru This, whose title track with pitched-up vocals and D’n’D remix reached the top of many country’s charts.  Stop The Traffik – Secret Fear is an EP available for free download with an email subscription, but is also available on iTunes with two additional songs.  And with the gap in time, expect the music you hear to be a little different.  Released independently, the EP rocks out and totally kicks butt with the outpouring of release on “Secret Fear”, the emotional strength of “O.V.E.R. U.”, the blunt, quirky and quick “Rocks Off”, and the funky Maroon 5 companion “It’s Not Me It’s You”. You can listen to the free EP on Grooveshark right here .

Martika “Flow With The Go”

I already told you that U.S. singer Martika was headlining the “Poptronik” music festival in Spain this September.  But I hadn’t yet heard “Flow With The Go”, comeback kid #2’s latest release.  And it’s one catchy piece of business with the singer sounding and looking just fabulous as if she had never left her heyday of #1 “Toy Soldiers”, “Love… Thy Will Be Done”, and “Martika’s Kitchen” some 20 years ago.  “Flow With The Go” glides and bounces along with a positive summer flavour sure to keep you happy during those warm months.  It’s from her forthcoming album The Mirror Ball.

Conor Maynard “Can’t Say No”

To me, “Can’t Say No” is a breath of fresh air among male pop singers who have a major label (EMI) behind them.  They actually picked UK’s Conor off of You Tube thanks to his viral performances.  They’ve done good with “Can’t Say No”, a delightful slice of soulful pop that sets the stage for much more success ahead of him.  The song was kept out of #1 by Canada’s own Carly Rae Jepsen in the UK, but be prepared for some deserved North American success.

The Garlics featuring Amasic “Tout ce que t’es pour moi”

In efforts to broaden your appreciation of pop music recorded in another language, I bring you the latest from Quebec rockers The Garlics.  “Tout ce que t’es pour moi” means “all you are to me”, and it’s a high energy effort carried by lead singer May and guest vocalist, Quebec teen sensation Amasic.  The voices truly sound like they were meant to be together.  And thanks to always top notch production and mixing by John Nathaniel (who also co-wrote it), the song is even taken to a higher level.

HandS “Wake Up”

Joining in the big, excellent sweep of Nordic music that is finding its way across shores internationally, we have duo HandS, consisting of Hakon and Sofie (hence H and S – get it?), who hail from Bergin, Norway, home base for Annie (“Don’t Stop”) and the dynamic duo Royksopp, but are now based out of London.  The music of HandS fits nicely alongside the emotional pop of the likes of Bim, Bright Light Bright Light, and of course Robyn – touching lyrics alongside melodies that make you sway and more.  Listen on Soundcloud below.

Tyler Hilton’s new album, Richard Barone’s new video, Roz Bell’s new song, and Billy Franks’ upcoming book

Tyler Hilton, Forget The Storm

Tyler Hilton rocks up a good time on some of the best songs on Forget The Storm and perhaps leaves behind the attractive whimsy that tickled many of us in 2004’s The Tracks Of Tyler Hilton.  But Forget The Storm seems to be a coming of age album in some ways, and in other ways weathering several different storms of sorts that the singer has been caught up in the interim between records, despite acting in One Tree Hill and acquiring thousands of new fans along the way.  But all things happen for a reason, and in turn there are many good reasons to buy Forget The Storm.

Forget The Storm ups Tyler’s rock music ante big time, starting with the opener “Kicking My Heels”, which gives a stylish grandiloquent start to the record.  “Loaded Gun” preceded the album’s release as a crackerjack free download, a song that grows big time with repeated listens with its clever wordplay.  “Ain’t Foolin’ Me” puts you in the middle of a big ol’ bar somewhere in the south for a rocking good time.  And “Jenny” (listen below) is an angry breakup song that drops a line “love is not some fucking movie” – not a lyric that you might have expected in a Tyler record, till now, but the shoe fits and it’s a great song that features lovely harmonies by Elizabeth Huett.

Whether it’s about love or other issues, the thoughtful side of Tyler is always worth hearing.  “Prince Of Nothing Charming” has already had that unassuming, yes charming effect, because it’s lovably understated.  And “Leave Him” and “Can’t Stop Now” tackle serious breakup issues directly with a softer pop or country flavour to change up the mix.  There’s also a redux of Tyler’s “You’ll Ask For Me” from a few years back to keep long-time fans happy.

Tyler is in the midst of a tour that’s going to take him to the UK, Ireland, and Europe starting in June.  Forget The Storm is an enjoyable and diverse way to try and catch our boy before his music blows up real big everywhere.

Richard Barone, “Hey, Can I Sleep On Your Futon?”

The talented New York-based singer who came back (but was never really away) with his thoroughly likeable album Glow (the title song is still my unofficial theme song for NYC 🙂 ) is one of several performers who appear on the upcoming Occupy This Album (including Willie Nelson, Jackson Browne, and many, many others).  He also celebrates his 25th anniversary of his debut solo album Cool Blue Halo.  I stay away from politics, and I don’t entirely agree with the “Occupy” movement, but will always support stellar music.  I think Richard’s latest, co-written with Matthew Billy, says a lot in both words and images:  Help the people that deserve it because the economy is preventing them from getting ahead.  I think the video for “Hey, Can I Sleep On Your Futon?” could reach new heights just like “Breathe” by Ryan Star in 2010 actually helped some of the people in the video get jobs.  The sentiment is genuine here and Richard’s performance is a delight.  Watch the video above (and take a look at “Breathe” again below while you’re at it).  EDIT:  Courtesy of Richard himself, also below is an interview video about the song, which is actually based on the classic “Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?”.

Ryan Star “Breathe”

Roz Bell, “Half A Man Down”

Toronto singer Roz Bell always writes songs that sink in more than just like a slice of life.  You know him from 2008’s The First Sunbeams, which featured the hits “Yesterday Man” and “Papercut”.  It was followed in late 2009 with a deeper and somewhat darker digital release October, and then the pensive and free The Gran Cavallo Mixtape.  According to his tweets, Roz has been doing a lot of writing in Nashville, and the brooding spirit of that city shows in “Half A Man Down”.  The song holds back no punches about the way the singer feels as a relationship crumbles away while he tries to keep his head straight.  It’s another generous free download from Roz – get it right here and watch for more music ahead from the talented singer.

Billy Franks’ upcoming book A Far Cry From Sunset

UK singer Billy Franks always has a place in my heart as one of the most underappreciated singers in the 80’s as a leader of the band The Faith Brothers, whose two stunning albums Eventide and A Human Sound I still play to this day quite regularly.  The singer is finding a new audience through writing, and the premise behind his book A Far Cry From Sunset is this:  Could 4 friends who travelled to America a few years back try to convince 10 superstar singers to appear on a tribute album to Billy?  So who did they try to approach?  Start big with McCartney, Springsteen, Rod Stewart, Bryan Adams, Jon Bon Jovi, and also try Elvis Costello, Huey Lewis, Aaron Neville, Tom Petty and Steve Earle.  The book  intends to explore how all of the approaches occurred and what happened in the midst of what is essentially a road trip.  You can find out much more about how you can get involved as well as purchase the book when it’s published at   I’m sure this will be a once-in-a-lifetime and very telling story, and don’t plan on missing it.  What about you?  Listen to one of my favourite solo songs by Billy, “My Beautiful Heresy”, below.

BILLCS Chart #377 – April 23, 2012

With Springtime just brimming with new music, this new edition of my chart was pretty decisive.

Up top for a second appearance at #1 is a song that doesn’t look like it will let go, unless it yields to another song by the same performer:  “Someday” from River Tiber’s independent album From Now On.  Another brilliant and totally different song from the album, “Symmetry”, soars 7-3.  You can get From Now On (cover below) on iTunes and find out more about River Tiber at (including a free download of the EP Massachusetts).  Sandwiched in-between is Eric Saade’s long-lasting “Backseat”, while the Swede sensation’s “Fingerprints” falls to #5.  “Glad You Came” by The Wanted holds steady at #4.

The Top 10 continues to be super busy.  Toronto’s Colin Munroe has another collaboration on deck with RZA called “Invincible” which you will hear more about soon, but in the meantime his pairing with Pusha-T on “The Fight Of My Life” rises to #6.  You can get both for free with an email subscription at  The release of the Promising Promises album is coming up within a month, and Jon McLaughlin & Sara Bareilles’ duet of “Summer Is Over” climbs to #7.  Turns out I like The Knocks’ cover of “Midnight City” better than the M83 original.  Featuring rousing vocals by Mandy Lee, it rises to #8.  The exuberance of “Call It Want You Want” by Foster The People sends it to #9, and “Stay Awhile” by Ryan Star moves up to #10 as he is about to begin another tour on May 17.  Watch the video for “Stay Awhile” below.

Moving on, Sam Sparro’s perfectly joyful slice of retro soul “Happiness” jumps to #12, while the fastest riser on the chart is by the performer pictured at the top of this post.  Welsh singer Rod Thomas is Bright Light Bright Light, and his long-awaited album Make Me Believe In Hope is due June 4.  Rod specializes in melancholy dance-pop that always has a bright side to it.  Thus we have one of his best releases to date “Waiting For The Feeling”, moving up 23-14, with an EP of remixes on deck on April 30.  To celebrate the upcoming album release, Rod is releasing limited pink cassette bootleg versions of his album which feature some ‘special’ versions of his songs.  So to coincide with the appearance of “Disco Moment” on the stunning This Beat Is Poptronik compilation,  there is “Gypsy Moment” by Bright Light Bright Light vs. Crystal Waters!  Listen below and download for free!

Last week’s other debuts all move up four spots on the chart:  “Music Freak” by Poptronik featured performer Adam Tyler is at #20, Keane’s “Silenced By The Night” is at #21, and Scotland’s Aerials Up rises to #22 with “I Am”.  Watch for these songs to make impressive moves in the coming weeks!

You can view the full chart using the link under ***BILL’S PERSONAL CHART*** to the right, or you can click right hereYou can hear all of the songs on the chart or watch their videos by clicking on the pics on the chart page.

As I said earlier, the chart was pretty decisive, and I’ve written about all of the chart’s debuts before, the highest two just two weeks ago.  The unique blend of talents that is Mark Foster (of Foster The People) plus DJ/producer A-Trak plus Kiwi sensation Kimbra is featured on “Warrior” (#23), which is a free download courtesy of Converse and Journeys.  Independent of the raucous video, the song is extremely catchy and is definitely hit-worthy unto itself!  Then we have a song whose interest to me was reignited by its stunning video.  That’s “Stupid Mistake” by Darren Hayes which bows at #24 as the fourth single from Secret Codes And Battleships, which contains some of Darren’s best ever vocals.  Then we have the perfect pairing of Vincent Did It, the alter-ego of Frankmusik, and Quigley, who is his gal Casey Carlson (you may have seen her on tour with him when he wasn’t singing with Colette Carr).  From Vince’s free download of The SOPA Opera EP is the beautiful “Notice Me” (#26).  Vince needs no major record label to continue creating stunning new music.  Lastly, from the much-awaited forthcoming album Magic Hour is Scissor Sisters with the Calvin Harris co-production “Only The Horses” at #27.  This instant ear-grabber should put the Sisters back on the map outside of dance clubs.  It’s a perfect pop radio confection – let’s hope it gets there.

Reinventing the Dance Compilation With Style: This Beat Is Poptronik, Volume One

When I first heard about the launch of This Beat Is Poptronik and its accompanying concert to be held in among the beautiful beaches of Sitges, Spain, on September 1 and 2, I was very impressed at the idea of such an ambitious project.  But upon learning the lineup on the Poptronik record, I couldn’t help but think how well it has set the stage for the concert to happen (the Poptronik concert headliner is none other than “Toy Soldiers” singer and comeback queen Martika!).  

And after being afforded the opportunity to listen to the record in advance, the great folks behind Poptronik have done something so overdue:  They have reinvented the dance compilation with style.  This Beat Is Poptronik Volume One not only contains six songs with which I was already well acquainted, it contains several others that should have no trouble finding favour in dance clubs worldwide.

This Beat Is Poptronik Volume One is a must-have compilation of 32 songs that will get your groove on, and more, for the next several months!  And it’s great to be excited about contemporary dance music.

First – those familiar songs… readers of this blog are no doubt already familiar with them 🙂

  • “Flesh” by Simon Curtis – an intense and sexually charged June 2011 release from the L.A.-based singer’s independent sophomore unique R∆ album, the song spent 2 months at the top of my chart, following other #1’s like 2010’s “Beat Drop”, “Delusional”, and “8bit Heart”.  Simon’s most recent release is the free download of the ballad “Starlight”, produced by Frankmusik.  A live performance of “8bit Heart” and “Flesh” from Simon’s London show put on by the EQ Music Blog is below.
  • “Disco Moment” by Bright Light Bright Light – a glorious August 2011 release from the upcoming debut album via The Blue Team/Aztec, Make Me Believe In Hope.  BLx2 aka Wales native Rod Thomas got to #3 on my chart with “Disco Moment”, following 2010 #1’s “A New Word To Say” and “Love Part II”.  Its impressive video is below.
  • “Like A Drug” by Adam Tyler – a smouldering late 2011 release from L.A.-based Adam’s  wonderful debut independent album Shattered Ice.  A Top Tenner on my chart, following previous Top 5 songs like “Friction” and “I Won’t Let You Go”, the song is complimented by an intriguing video (below) and a recent EP of remixes.
  • “Stupid” by Databoy – a fun, smart early 2011 digital single from the Texas duo which went Top 5 on my chart, and was followed by two #1’s, “Just Once” and “Memorize Me”.
  • “Head Over Heels” by Bim – a heartbreaking electro ballad from mid-2010 and the UK duo’s debut digital album Scatterheart, which got to the Top 5 on my chart.  Their latest release is the infectious “Scream”.
  • “We Don’t Miss A Beat” by Van Go Lion – a bouncy dancefloor filler from the Portland, Oregon duo which became a Top 15 hit on my chart.

These six songs may be reason enough to purchase the album, but in fact there are many top notch songs within that I didn’t know.  The variety of song styles capture the essence of electronic dance music of the last three decades.

I can’t mention all 32 songs here, so I’ll highlight my favourites (in no order), but you could play the album all the way through and not skip a beat!  Global-wide talent here 🙂

  • “Hotter” by Parallox handily modernizes the crunchy and innovative funky electro sound spawned by producers Mark Liggett and Chris Barbosa on Shannon’s seminal 1983 hit “Let The Music Play”
  • “London Is Banging” by Disco Damage (pictured below) vs Dr. Jekyll teases us at the start with a Pet Shop Boys vibe but becomes a ridiculous and somewhat campy late night track
  • “Homosapien” is a delectable low-key cover of Pete Shelley’s grand 1982 hit by singer Matthew Duffy
  • “In The Beginning” by Maighread sounds like it uses Grace Jones’ Warm Leatherette album as a jumping off point for a tough, pulsating song
  • Great voices and totally infectious singalong hooks come from Tao Hypah’s “Celeb”, “Pitiful” by Carlos Nobrega (pictured below), “Bad Boyfriend” by Johnny Lazer, and the not-so-campy “How It Feels To Be  A Man” by Markus Riva
  • “Psycho” by Killian Wells takes the other point of view (singer-as-psycho 😉 ) – sort of the reverse of Simon Curtis’ ‘Super Psycho Love” but equally catchy
  • “Turn Up The Radio” by Monti Montanez (pictured below) is hit-worthy and could find the former Menudo member in radioland around the world
  • “Stay In Touch” by Garcon Garcon and “Where Are You Now” by Queen of Hearts accompany Van Go Lion’s “We Don’t Miss A Beat” into more emotionally-rooted pop-house territory
  • SIRPAUL’s breezy “Going Down In La-La Land” stands out with a familiar theme accompanied by a killer hook
  • Disco Damage accompanies Lady Joker on her self-named song – an entertaining and creative blend of Nicki Minaj meets Kesha via 90’s house styles

My raving could continue on, but suffice it to say that Aztec Records and the Poptronik organizers have created a template for the ’10’s dance compilations, and I wish them great success with their vision.   I simply can’t wait till Volume Two!

This Beat Is Poptronik Volume One is one of the best albums of the year.  Get all of the details about it and the Poptronik festival at  You can buy This Beat Is Poptronik Volume One through iTunes, Amazon, Beatport, and other digital stores starting Monday.

Listen to the songs through Soundcloud at 

BILLCS Top 30 #376 – April 9/12 plus Stunning New Videos from Darren Hayes and Mark Foster/Kimbra/A-Trak

The new chart has another changeover at the top and four debuts, plus I have comments on two new videos in what will likely be my only blog post till the weekend.

Being a former college radio programmer, I have always been a huge supporter of independent music.  And while independently released music has appeared in my chart over the years, it wasn’t until around 2009 when the calibre and quantity of quality independent music appeared to dominate the commercial releases through major record labels.  So more than half of my current chart currently consists of independently released songs or ones that are not yet available in North America.

Advancing to the top therefore is the independent release of “Someday” by Toronto band River Tiber.  “Someday” is a song that slowly draws you in, basking in some great guitar work, and then takes you on a little journey that keeps you hanging in till singer Tommy Paxton-Beesley’s last breath at the end.  River Tiber also has a quieter more moody song in the Top 10 at #7 with “Symmetry”.  This one relies on a vocal climax followed by relaxing jazzy instrumentation and has an incredibly dreamy feel-good vibe.  Be sure to buy River Tiber’s From Now On album on iTunes.  You can view the videos for both songs by reading my comments about From Now On right here.

All eyes are on One Direction and The Wanted right now, but the latter’s “Glad You Came” has won me over and soars to #4 on my chart.  Ya gotta admit – everyone has their favourite boy-band songs.  For me, the last one that was special was the BT-produced “Pop” by N Sync, which got to the top of my chart for a month in 2001.  In addition to “Symmetry”, song on the rise in the lower Top 10 include “Something” by JMSN at #6 (the drums/percussion arrangement alone is outstanding), “Summer Is Over” by Jon McLaughlin & Sara Bareilles at #8, and Colin Munroe’s magnificent “The Fight Of My Life”, featuring Pusha-T at #9.  I can’t wait for more from the talented Colin, including perhaps a video for this song?  Listen below.

The rest of the chart is jam-packed with great songs, some of which by all rights should be in my Top 10 if there wasn’t so much fantastic music out right now.  As M83’s “Midnight City” slides down the chart, the unique cover by The Knocks featuring Mandy Lee is the fastest riser, climbing 19-11 and about to pass the #10 peak of the original.  Nadia Ali is one of the busiest female singers in dance music today, and she lends her many talents to Spencer & Hill’s “Believe It” which ranks #12.  Ryan Star is about to embark on another tour in support of his upcoming album, led by the single “Stay Awhile”, which climbs to #13.  

“Could It Be Magic” by Elouise revives Barry Manilow and/or Take That via Donna Summer’s rendition at #15, followed by “Happiness” by Sam Sparro (making us anxiously wait for the Return To Paradise album) at #16, Foster The People’s “Call It What You Want” at #17 (which makes a great mix with Scissor Sisters’ “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin'”), Kaya & Pierre Lewis’ beauty of a ballad “When I Was Blind” at #18, “Hand Dance” by that tantalizing teasing trio Liquid Diet at #19, and “Prince Of Nothing Charming”, the understated lead single from Tyler Hilton’s top notch Forget The Storm.  I’ll have my own review of Forget The Storm soon – I didn’t realize it until reading further about it, but Tyler released Forget The Storm through his own Hooptie Music label (whose name comes from Tyler’s song “When it Comes”).

Debuting in this edition though are four songs, the first of which you can view at the top of this blog post.

Rod Thomas under his Bright Light Bright Light moniker is a performer whose releases I always listen for since I first heard “A New Word To Say” more than two years ago.  “Waiting For The Feeling” is classic Bright Light x2 as Rod always finds those moments in time in-between everything and captures them beautifully in words and music.  His Make Me Believe In Hope is now due in June and I just can’t wait to hear it in full.  “Waiting For The Feeling” debuts at #23 and will undoubtedly join his best songs near the top of my chart very soon.

Next up is “Music Freak” by Adam Tyler from his Shattered Ice album.  As “Like A Drug” departs my chart (but is still in the midst of full-on promotion thanks to its compelling video), I’m adding “Music Freak” because over the several months since the release of Shattered Ice, the lyrics of this song have become increasingly important to me as a music fan.  Being a music freak myself, I can’t let it hide in the midst of several strong songs on the album, so “Music Freak” debuts at #24.  You can listen to it right here.

I’ve already posted blogs about the next two songs, but they bear repeating!  Keane has come out of the gate blazing with “Silenced By The Night” at #25, the first gorgeous single from the upcoming Strangeland album.  Watch the video below.  And lastly, Scotland’s Aerials Up is a talent to watch for with their independent release of “I Am” at #26 – video is posted again below.

You can view the full chart using the link under ***BILL’S PERSONAL CHART*** to the right, or you can click right hereYou can hear all of the songs on the chart or watch their videos by clicking on the pics on the chart page.

Darren Hayes “Stupid Mistake”

I got up this morning to find that Darren had posted his new video for “Stupid Mistake”, which I had heard was to be the fourth single from the singer’s fourth brilliant solo album Secret Codes And Battleships.  The video is captivating in its simplicity, which shows Darren alternately in stage make up or in the process of removing it.  In relationships whether we know it or not we all put on masks, which eventually get stripped away like make up.  And if you keep the mask on too long, then you lose yourself in your daily life which becomes a performance and ultimately will hurt the ones you love.  Watch it all the way through, it’s amazing!  Those of you who have had long-term relationships end will completely relate.

Mark Foster + Kimbra + A-Trak = “Warrior”

It’s a sly bit of promotion for Chuck Taylor Converse shoes and Journeys, but what a cool way to do it!  Who’d have ever thought Foster The People’s Mark Foster, New Zealand singer Kimbra, and Canadian DJ extraordinaire A-Trak would all get together for a project, let alone film a highly entertaining video?  “Warrior” is a must-view and listen, and could be a sneaky hit in the making for the trio.  I seriously wonder how many bruises were achieved during the making of the video.  I’m not into watching wrestling but the entire concept is spot on.  Best of all, you can download “Warrior”for free from the Journeys website right here.  Kudos to whoever planned this project – more please!

Feel Good Pop & Electronica: Vincent Did It aka Frankmusik, Herve, Scissor Sisters, Cascada,Theophilus London, and more…

With my recent Canadian Music Week and other rock ‘n roll distractions lately, you may have thought that electronica/dance was taking a backseat with me – with that having been said I think Eric Saade would think otherwise since his rocking electronic song of the same name is up top of my chart.  So the next few weeks will turn primarily back to one of my favourite genres, especially with the upcoming release of what will be the electronica soundtrack of the summer, This Beat Is Poptronik Volume 1 – more on that next week!  So on to catching up with some songs I’ve been listening to for the last while…

Vincent Did It, The SOPA Opera EP

Frankmusik, aka Vincent Frank, or recently Vincent Did It, constantly delivers great music to us.  Throughout the past few months, he’s shared the songs “Dynamo”, “Somebody”, “So You’re Alive”, and “Notice Me” with us in various renditions and formats to start off his new era in music.  But it looks like the plan was always to share the songs as a complete package, hence we now have The SOPA Opera EP, which Vince has made available for free download for us on his revamped FreeFrankmusik site.  These are the sort of songs that major record labels should be killing themselves over:  Engaging, creative, playful, and positive dance/electronica with all kinds of variations, including a rap by Jay White in “Somebody” and Vince’s gal Quigley carrying most of the gorgeous vocals in “Notice Me”.  Plus there are remixes of “Dynamo” and “So You’re Alive” by the likes of Digiraatii, Leisure Council, and Hervé (which is just as enjoyable as Vince’s own mixes).  Get it while you can!!

Hervé “Better Than A BMX”

Speaking of Hervé, aka British producer Joshua Harvey, his own release of Pick Me Up Sort Me Out Calm Me Down is due in May, and to precede that album have a listen to “Better Than A BMX” below.  You’ll find a similarly effects-laden and uplifting feel to the songs of Frankmusik here – and isn’t it so appropriate that the guest vocalist on the song is none other than one Vincent Frank.  Sounds like an engine getting ready to revvvvv….

Scissor Sisters “Only The Horses”

Finally!  After the misfire that was “Shady Love” earlier this year, Scissor Sisters have returned to supurb form with their upcoming single “Only The Horses”, from their album Magic Hour due later this year.  It was a darned shame that engaging songs from 2010’s Night Work kind of came and went, but if the rest of the songs from Magic Hour are anything like “Only The Horses”, it will be an album that resonates throughout the rest of the year.  “Only The Horses” is specifically designed to fill the dance floor but will probably translate to pop radio play as well.  Jake Shears has never sounded so good.  This may be the group’s best single to date, it’s so very refreshing.  Listen below.

Cascada “Summer Of Love”

Lest I be the one who thought he’d be writing about the German trio whose massive pop/dance hits of “Everytime We Touch” (2007) and “Evacuate The Dancefloor” (2009) quickly bored me.  But “Summer Of Love” is just one of those irresistible confections that draws you in whether or not you know who the performer is.  “Summer Of Love” is a joyous and anthemic pleasure.  Listen below and purchase it on iTunes if it’s available to you (the song is not available in Canada yet).

Theophilus London “Lightning” (Jeffrey Jerusalem remix)

Brooklyn rapper Theophilus London proves once again why his diverse music finds an audience everywhere with a sly Jeffrey Jerusalem remix of “Lightning”, originally from last year’s album Timez Are Weird These Days.  Rarely does R&B/rap sound so comfortable in an electronic setting, and the mid-90s vibe that Jerusalem pulls (I hear sound effects from Chemical Brothers’ “Setting Sun” in there) will fill the bill for a late night club crunch.  Listen and download it for free at the link below.

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs “Tapes & Money”

I wrote about T.E.E.D. last Fall, when I introduced you to their free download of the sublime “Dream On”.  The duo continues to build its reputation as a force to be reckoned with in the electronica world with “Tapes & Money”, which dances to its own trippy club tune to make a difference to your ears and feet when enjoying your nightlife.  Think of T.E.E.D. as the disembodied offspring of 80s electro outfits like Yazoo and Blancmange.  I wanna say there’s a sample within – a cover of The Trammps’ “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now”?  Listen below.

And if you think you’ve heard all that the boy band world of pop will offer us in 2012 in the forms of One Direction and The Wanted, well be sure to hold that thought, for there will be much, much more.

Lawson “When She Was Mine”

The four British lads of Lawson are going to make you think twice with their equally tight hit-bound melodic pop/rock of “When She Was Mine”, from their forthcoming album.  These guys have the goods as I previously wrote about last year when they did a most pleasant and striking acoustic version of Lady GaGa’s “Marry The Night”.  And unlike other boy bands, Lawson up the ante by not being a strictly vocal band.  While the official single release isn’t due till end of May, you can listen to the song below.

It Boys! featuring Jeffree Star and Lacey Schwimmer, “Burnin’ Up”

Just looking at the featured performers made me want to listen to this song.  But before I get to that, I’ll introduce you to It Boys!, a five piece band from L.A. consisting of Matt, Tommy, Jeff, Judah, and Duck (he’s the drummer).  The band jumps a few steps to the left of the boy band scene that is more reminiscent of the Fall Out Boy/Panic At The Disco rivalry of a few years back.  Nonetheless they’ve toured recently with the likes of Breathe Carolina and released “Guys Don’t Like Me” for free (which you can get from their website).  But the highly entertaining video for “Burnin’ Up” has captivated me 🙂 if not so much the song itself.  It’s well-directed, contains great “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” kind of effects, features some sultry verses from Dancing With The Stars/So You Think You Can Dance fave Lacey Schwimmer, and a most well-placed interlude from on-the-bubble celeb Jeffree Star.  Watch below – and be sure to stay for the ending!  It Boys! look to have enough of the goods to make heads turn.  You can get this on iTunes.