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|Written by Mike Cullen|
|Friday, 04 June 2010 00:00|
Madonna -- Sticky & Sweet Tour (DVD/CD Combo)
It's questionable whether Madonna has remained "relevant" in the last decade or so, but even with a little tarnish on her tiara she manages to put together one extravagant dance-fest in terms of a live show. Vocally, Madonna has never been the strongest singer live. I think this was perhaps most apparent during the Drowned World Tour. But, where perhaps she falls short vocally, she succeeds with spectacle, performance, and a slick production.
Hard Candy was not a particularly good album, but the accompanying tour managed to bring some life to the album's songs. Mixing old-school tunes with tracks spanning her entire career, this two-hour show did a great job of making new out of old, and making it seem a little brighter. Highlights definitely include Madonna's rock rendition of "Hung Up," through which she snarls with much contempt for a pathetic lover (hi, Guy Ritchie), fantastic choreography during "She's Not Me," and my personal favourite, "Human Nature," which included a video backdrop featuring Britney Spears.
All in all, you actually can't go wrong with this DVD/CD package, and I find myself recommending a Madonna release for once, but only because I'm doing it to pass the time before she releases something relevant and/or cutting edge again.
LCD Soundsystem -- "Drunk Girls"
LCD Soundsystem puts out some great tracks. Songs that you play at house parties, songs that you play when you need a good beat to get you through the household chores, and songs that just make you feel good. When LCD Soundsystem puts out a good track, like "Daft Punk is Playing at My House," the song becomes epic. When front man James Murphy puts out a poorer track, such as the latest single, "Drunk Girls," there's a feeling that the mark has been missed in an equally epic capacity.
It's not that "Drunk Girls" is a bad song through and through. It has a great instrumental beat that renders LCD Soundsystem so mainstream, yet below the surface in terms of popularity. It's the lyrics that kill this song. I'm all for inane party tracks as much as the next person, but I felt a bit let down by this one. In fact, I probably would've liked it more had it been an instrumental track. That said, I still have high hopes for this album.
Sarah McLachlan -- "Loving You is Easy"
Well, after a 20-plus-year career in music, it's apparent that Sarah McLachlan is actually capable of writing a happy love song. I'm a huge fan of McLachlan, but I definitely don't turn to her when I feel the need to hear blissful tunes about devotion. "Loving You is Easy" is presumably the lead single off of her upcoming album, The Laws of Illusion. For a woman who seems to take longer and longer between albums to write material, she does manage to release a good tune. It may not be instantly memorable, but this is both new and old Sarah McLachlan all rolled into one. On the surface, the melodies are that signature McLachlan-on-a piano sound, but there's a confidence in both her lyrics and her voice that hasn't been there before.
We all know about her divorce from nearly two years ago, and as a result -- upon listening to this track -- you can't help but wonder if perhaps she has turned a corner, both professionally and personally. She may never release a proper 'pop' song, but "Loving You is Easy" is definitely as close as she has come to date, and a great sign of what will hopefully be an album brimming with spiritually uplifting tracks.
Robyn -- "Dancehall Queen," "Fembot," and "None of Dem"
"Dancehall Queen" is the weakest of the tracks I'm assessing. This is your typical "girl-singing-about- dancing-in-a-club-and-not-wanting-to-be-bothered-by-whatever-guy-she-seems-to-have-caught-the-eye-of" track . Lyrically it's pretty safe, and musically it's not as daring as some of Robyn's other songs. It certainly has its moments, and as a stand-alone song it works well, but once the album is released it will likely get lost in the shuffle of superior tracks.
"Fembot" is perhaps the most experimental of the three tracks, and is very reminiscent of songs from her last album. While less hip-hoppy than "Konichiwa Bitches," the feel is still there. Of the three tracks, "Fembot" it should come as no surprise that it is also the strongest of what we've heard so far. The less mainstream Robyn is with her music, the more appealing it becomes.
"None of Dem" is a mid-tempo track that, to me, just doesn't work, and I think it comes down to the speed of the track. If it were a dancier number, it would probably accomplish what it set out to do. Instead it's got a darker, drawn-out vibe that actually makes it feel a bit... restricted. I'm not looking for crazy beats or death-defying vocals, but I was left wanting more after hearing this song, and not in a satisfying way.
While some will raise their eyebrows at Robyn's style, it's undeniable that she oozes musical creativity. Her songs may not be big chart hits, but I sense that in the future music critics will speak highly of Robyn's output these past few years -- kookiness and all.