Poptastic Confessions

Poptastic Confessions

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Le Kid's New Album "Oh Alright!"


If you haven't heard of Le Kid, you are in for a treat! They are a pop music group from Sweden with two female singers, and three band members. They create some wonderful music that truly is amazing. Even though I knew of Le Kid last year, I didn't really hop on the bandwagon until this year. Now, I'm a fan. And if you like happy pop music with gorgeous melodies … there isn't a reason you should deny yourself of loving Le Kid.

Le Kid are: Märta, Johanna, Anton, Helena and Felix.

Last year, they released two singles: "Mercy Mercy" and "We Should Go Home Together." At first, I wasn't crazy about either song, although I liked their style. This year, both songs started to grow on me as I heard other songs from the group. I learned that the members of the band had helped with Alcazar's last album. And suddenly … the pieces of the puzzle started to go together.


 
The artwork for their first single "Mercy Mercy"
The artwork for their second single "We Should Go Home Together"

Earlier this month, Le Kid released their debut album titled "Oh Alright!" after releasing 5 singles! I already knew these songs so hearing them all together makes it a veritable cornucopia of poptastic tunes.

The artwork for their debut album "Oh Alright!"

The first track on the album is the latest single called "We Are The Drums." This song sort of sums up everything about Le Kid. I love it. I'm not sure if they are making a video for it or not, but here is a live performance.

"We Are The Drums"

The second track was the first single called "Mercy Mercy." Even though I wasn't wild about it last year, I'll admit the song is growing on me. Cute video, though.

"Mercy Mercy"

The third track was the fourth single earlier this summer called "America" and it is my favourite track on the album. There is something so melancholy about it that I just love it. And the video is fabulous, too!

"America"

The fourth track was the third single and the band's entry for Sweden's Melodifestivalen, which their contest to see who represents their country in the Eurovision Song Contest. The song "Oh My God" didn't win, despite the large spinning cupcakes, but it is still a fun song. The SoundFactory remix of this song is a dancefloor stomper! LOVE it!

Le Kid's "Oh My God" performance for Melodifestivalen

Well, the use of religious words continues with the next song that is called "Bigger Than Jesus." I wasn't sure what to expect when I read the title, but the song is rather dreamy and a haunting downtempo track. I quite like it. 

"Bigger Than Jesus"

Next up is song called "Kiss Me." This just sounds like a hit. It also kinda reminds me of the Scissor Sisters in a good kind of way.

A sneak peek of "Kiss Me"

Track seven is the band's second single "We Should Go Home Together." I'll admit, I love this song, even though I didn't know what to think of it last year. I think it is wonderful and video is brilliant. I'd love to be on that cruise!

"We Should Go Home Together"

The next track is called "Seventeen" and it is probably the one true "album track" because everything else sounds like it could be a hit. Having said that, it's a nice song. And my 11-year old son loves to sing it ... "What if I were 17 ... would you love me?"

The ninth song is the amazing "Telephone." This is actually the first track I heard from the group as my friend Jason sent it to me saying, "You're going to love this!" I did, indeed! The song was a track that came with the first single "Mercy Mercy." I much preferred this song the single. I also think had this been a single last year, it would have definitely made my Top 20 of the year.

A sneak peek at "Telephone"

"Escape" is the ballad of the album. And it was also an extra track with the first single. It is just so beautiful. I love it. And I love belting out the second verse!

An orchestral live version of "Escape"

The album ends with a remake of The Killers' "Mr. Brightside." They completely transformed this song into their own. And Le Kid was nice enough to give a us this as a free download from their website at the beginning of the year.



Overall, the album is truly poptastic and it is definitely my favourite album of the year! For those of you in the US, the album isn't on iTunes yet. I think it will be in time. Until then, you can find the song "America" on US iTunes and Amazon.com.

The artwork for the single "America" ... available on iTunes and Amazon

Thursday, September 8, 2011

An Interview with Annikafiore

On a night in 2002, I was out dancing with friends at club in San Francisco called Badlands. At this club, there was a wall of TV monitors next to the dancefloor that played the videos of the songs. That night, they played the video of a remake of the Human League classic "Don't You Want Me" by Alcazar. I have always been a Human League fan, and I immediately loved Alcazar's version, as well as the video, and my love for the Swedish group began. 

The fabulous video for "Don't You Want Me" by Alcazar.

I rushed out to the Tower Records in the Castro to buy Alcazar's first album "Casino." It was then, that I learned of Annikafiore … the redhead of the group! I thought she was fabulous and so glamourous. I was a tad bit bummed when the album version of "Don't You Want Me" was not the video version I had seen at Badlands. So, I searched for the CD single while I enjoyed some of the other Alcazar songs on the album.

Alcazar's first album "Casino."

However, it was a few years later that I went absolutely bonkers over Alcazar. It was when they remade the music to "Upside Down" by Diana Ross and mixed that with chorus to "Land Of Confusion" by Genesis and had their own new verses. The result was the poptastic "This Is The World We Live In." At first, I didn't know what to think of it, but then I couldn't stop playing it. To this day, it remains my most played song in my iTunes library.

The video for "This Is The World We Live In."

Alcazar took a break, and in 2006 I went looking for all of their back catalogue, collecting CD singles and such, as their music wasn't available on in the US (However, their second album called "Alcazarized" is now on US iTunes and Amazon).

Alcazar's second album "Alcazarized."

In 2007, Alcazar reformed and Annikafiore and Magnus didn't come back to the group. I was less upset about Magnus, but was bummed about Annikafiore not returning. Instead, Alcazar returned with a new member named Lina, and I was quite pleased that I liked her. But it was a little bittersweet.

In 2009, I found out that Annikafiore had a new group called Avatar versus Eve. I was happy that she was back making music. However, before the year's end … the group was over, and I was bummed again.

A year later, Annikafiore was back with a fierce track called "Forbidden Love", a new website, and Facebook presence that seemed to be her doing the updates. How grand was this? I remember being over the moon when she commented on one of my posts. From there, we kept in touch via email.

This year, she released her first solo EP. And she co-wrote and co-produced all of the songs with Antti Vuorenniemi. She even put the music out on her own label. If that wasn't enough, she made her music available worldwide on online sites like iTunes, Amazon and CDBaby.com. 

To me, she is an inspiration. While she doesn't have a powerful record company behind her, Annikafiore still makes a splash as her current single is soaring up the Swedish Dance charts. 


The artwork for Annikafiore's latest single.

A couple of years ago, Annikafiore did a fabulous interview with the Schlagarboys! I thought it was time for the world to have another interview with her. But the place had to be right. For a few years now, I have been a regular visitor to a website called Scandipop.co.uk. It is this website that I have found out about some of my favourite popstars like Le Kid. I've been able to keep tabs on Alcazar as well as Annikafiore on Scandipop. I emailed the owner Karl and asked if I could interview Annikafiore for his site and he agreed. Next up, I asked Annikafiore, and she was delighted.


For the latest Scandinavian Pop Music News, check out Scandipop!

I believe the interview on Scandipop was a success, as it had an amazing amount of viewers! Karl did wonderful job of putting it all together with a brilliant introduction. Here on my blog, I wanted to tell the story of how I came to know and love Alcazar and Annikafiore. I've added a few more pictures and videos, but the interview is the exact same.

I hope that if you enjoy the music, you'll consider supporting the artist by purchasing the music. 

Annikafiore's solo music can be found on iTunes, Amazon and CDBaby.com. 

Avatar versus Eve's "Party People" can be found on CDBaby.com.

***

Hello Annikafiore! Let’s start at the beginning. Did you always know you would be a singer?

My dream was never to be a singer. It’s always been about creating music, storytelling, and communication with an audience. I just think singing came very naturally for me, but growing up dancing, acting and writing songs was equally important to me.

Annikafiore.

I read that you were the lead singer in a girl group called "The Dreamettes." And a dancer and backing vocalist for another group called "E-type." Plus, as teenagers, you and Mitch (from A.v.E.) made music together. Any chance there are any early recordings that fans could hear?

Well, The Dreamettes was a Dreamgirls inspired group I created with Laila Bagge, Malena Laszlo and Åsa Fång all of us singing lead, sharing the spotlight. We did some TV like TV 4 on New Year’s Eve of 1994. As one of E-types back up singers I did a lot of TV.

The Dreamettes with Annikafiore in the middle!

I hope they end up on YouTube soon! How did you meet Andreas and Tess? And how was Alcazar formed?

We hung out with the same crowd of people, and wound up doing everything together. Then Alexander Bard contacted Andreas and we became a disco mènage-a-trois.

Alcazar from 1998 to 2002 was Andreas, Annikafiore and Tess.

Is it true that Alexander Bard christened you as “Annikafiore”?

Yes, and I don't know why. Maybe it was from Casta di Fiore in the Tintin comics? But I love flowers and Italy so I kept it.

Annikafiore in Alcazar.

"Crying At The Discoteque" was such a club hit around the world. Did you ever meet Richard Gere? Or hear from him about what he thought his name used in the song?

Yes, and he’s been hiding in the mountains of Tibet ever since. ;)

A live performance of "Crying At The Discoteque."

How did the group dynamics in Alcazar change when Magnus joined the group?

It divided us in to girls and boys, where the boys got most of the attention and the girls became more backup singers. But it also brought Magnus’ beautiful voice and a new friendship. And since Magnus was famous in Sweden, we got the national recognition we craved. 

From 2002 to 2005, Alcazar was Tess, Annikafiore, Andreas and Magnus.

Which Melodifestivalen performance is your favourite, and why? "Not A Sinner Nor A Saint" or "Alcastar"?

I loved Sinner/Saint and think we could have won that year, if people had known more about us. I’m so proud of that. Still haven’t watched Alcastar, don’t like watching myself after a show, and although it has a good chorus I never understood the lyrics. And people say my lyrics are weird …

Alcazar's "Not A Sinner Nor A Saint" 2003 Melodifestivalen performance.

Alcazar's "Alcastar" 2005 Melodifestivalen performance.

When you broke your ankle on the set of "Start The Fire", that was the end of your time with Alcazar. Did you know then, that would be it?

That unfortunately was a nightmare coming true. Bad hair day, indeed. Couldn’t wear heels for 6 months.

Alcazar's video for "Start The Fire" barely shows Annikafiore 
due to she broke her ankle during the video shoot.

Ouch! You didn't talk to Andreas and Tess for a long time after that. But now everything seems to be OK, right?

I’m so thankful to life, how it all turned out for me and I wish them all the best.

Alcazar fans have taken great comfort knowing that you really like Lina, and that you are happy that Alcazar continued on. Have you ever spoken to Lina after she joined the group?

I always loved Lina as an artist, and I think she’s perfect in Alcazar. I could never get away with wearing that much pink. ;)

Alcazar from 2007 to 2011 is Lina, Tess and Andreas.

You were recently at Alcazar's last show. What was that like for you?

Exciting, and a totally different Alcazar. New and reinvented. They did a great job transforming, and seem so united style-wise. More happy party, less ”tears on the dancefloor” and bittersweet, than what we were going for creating the first edition in 1998.

Your first music venture after Alcazar, was with a group called Avatar versus Eve. You were the vocalist, and Mitch was the producer. Who was Lola?

She was a wicked plastic makeup doll head, with a huge ego and a tiny voice.

The artwork for "Party People" by Avatar versus Eve.

The first A.v.E. single was "Party People." It came with a nice remix package, but there was no video. Why not? And if you could go back in time to make a video, what would it have been like?

The goal for me was to learn how to write songs and create music. At first I didn’t want anyone to know it was me. I wasn’t ready to go Fiore yet. I wrote a script to the video but the timing was off. It was however, inspired by ”Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and that Capote kind of decadence I love so much.

A snippet of A.v.E. performing "Party People."

The second A.v.E. single was the fabulous "I've Still Got The Highest Heels In The Room." This time, it had a wonderfully campy video. And you looked amazing. Yet, the song was not available for commercial download. Can you tell us what happened?

Record label stuff … Did the video, signed and waited for them to do their job (like watching grass grow). So we parted with the label and they promised to retract everything. But the other day I found it on Spotify, so someone (not me) is making a dime on it I’m sure. Buying shoes meant for me. ;)

"I've Still Got The Highest Heels In The Room" by A.v.E.

Well that doesn’t seem right! A.v.E. Performed at Copenhagen Pride in 2009. You sang an amazing cover of "Relax" by Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Was that to be on the A.v.E. album that never was?

Yes, that and ten other songs. R.I.P

A.v.E. performing "Highest Heels" and "Relax" at Copenhagen Pride, 2009.

Next up was your remake of Bruce Springsteen's "I'm On Fire" with Sophie Rimheden. How did that come about?

We are from the same small town and were asked to do a tribute to Bruce Springsteen. We had so much fun, so when she asked if I’d sing it, I said yes. I love the way she makes her own statement.

Annikafiore singing "I'm On Fire" with Sophie Rimheden.

In 2010, you released your first solo single, the amazing "Forbidden Love", which was also the official anthem for Copenhagen Pride. Was it your first time working with Antti Vuorenniemi? 

When I decided to go solo, I contacted him wanting him to produce a couple of songs I’d written. He challenged me to develop a new sound and after a few sessions we started writing songs together. I think he’s a very gifted songwriter and producer and I love the way he can do all kinds of music — everything from punk to disco. We wrote FL after I read about Uganda’s horrible treatment of gay people. It’s outrageous! It wasn’t the first song we did, but this one was so full of feelings and pain that it changed our sound for the future. Daring me to leave my comfort zone and sing with a broken voice, telling the story full out and him combining African drums with Scandinavian style strings. 

WOW, that is amazing. You also let your fans have the first single for free when they went to your new website. That was very nice of you! What made you decide to give it away for free?

Well darling it was a combo PR for my new website ;), but also that it wasn’t thought of as being a first single but a statement. For free love.

The artwork for "Forbidden Love."

The video for "Forbidden Love" was brilliant. I still can't believe you wore your wedding dress in the mud, and it came clean in your pool. (All of this I know from your blog on Annikafiore.com). Did your husband mind?

Until I reminded him that I’m not gonna use it again … and then he saw the beautiful men I shared the mud pit with and appreciated the amount of fabric between me and their naked bodies. :)

The AMAZING video for "Forbidden Love."

In March of this year, you filmed the video for "Love 2 Live", which was intended to be the first single from your EP. Will it be the next single?

I have no idea, but it’s a really stylish video …

Your first EP "Preaching To The Choir" is amazing! And so many people loved the melancholy opening track "Don't Wanna C U 2nite". Is that how it came to be the first single?

Yes, absolutely. As the title of the EP suggests, it’s for fans and friends. I love all my songs equally, so I have to listen to the reactions. And that’s the magic of websites and Facebook — getting the feedback right away.

The cover for the "Preaching To The Choir" EP.

SoundFactory really made the song a dancefloor stomper! How did you feel when you heard the remix rework your song into a dance hit?

I am all in awe and a huge SoundFactory fan, so I love it!

The video for the SoundFactory remix of "Don't Wanna C U 2nite."

What is next musically for Annikafiore? Did I hear there are two more EPs on the horizon?

At least right now, it’s all about getting my single out, on dancefloors and radio, but there are a lot of songs in the pipeline.

Would you consider taking the lyrics to "Party People" and "Highest Heels" and recording new music with them to make them your own solo songs?

For Party People, I think that the perfect version has been made all ready by SoundFactory, but for ”I’ve still got the highest heels in the room”, I will re-record and produce it differently for sure. Without Lola.

What? Lola sings on “Highest Heels”? I’m confused!

Yes, Lola is singing too. But she couldn't be in the video, cause she got drunk and went on a gay cruise, and we haven't seen her since. Last thing I heard she's modeling wigs in Canberra, Australia. She was very upset cause she thinks that Lady Gaga stole her body ...


Oooh! La la!

I heard that you have a solo version of "Crying At The Discoteque" for your live shows. Are there any other Alcazar songs you perform live or remake?

I’ve done ”This is the world we live in”, ”Sinner/saint” and ”Don’t you want me”, in my own versions on longer shows, but I won’t remake them for a release. But I will release ”Crying” one day. 

Do you think you would ever join Alcazar on stage again? Say for a 20th reunion show?

I’m sure Alcazar will be back, but with the present cast. Lina earned her place in the group, and I respect that. And I’m having a little too much fun doing my own thing. ;)

Well, thank for the interview. Good luck in the future. And congratulations on “Don’t Wanna C U 2nite” having success on the Swedish Dance Charts! 

And thank you, Sir. :)

...


For the latest news about Annikafiore, please check out her website at  .... http://www.annikafiore.com/

Thursday, September 1, 2011

25th Anniversary of "Venus" by Bananarama


This weeks marks the 25th anniversary of Bananarama's version of "Venus" hitting the #1 spot in America. It was no small feat for the British all-girl trio. Here is the history behind the song ...

The 1986 single cover.

"Venus" was written by Robbie van Leeuwen, who was the guitarist for the Dutch group Shocking Blue. The song was originally released in 1969 and went to #1 in America in February of 1970. Yes, it was at the #1 spot just a few weeks prior to my birth. Perhaps it is possible that I heard it while in my mother's womb? Ha! But the original song was very much a rock song.

"Venus" by Shocking Blue.

Fast forward to the 80s. Sara Dallin, Keren Woodward and Siobhan Fahey formed Bananarama in London after doing back-up vocals for the Sex Pistols. They started performing some covers like "Venus", "Really Saying Something" and "Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)." The latter two being singles off their first album. The group didn't cover "Venus" on their first two albums because they didn't want to be known for only doing cover versions.

Bananarama took to writing their own songs like "Cruel Summer" and "Robert De Niro's Waiting." They were working with producers Jolley and Swain. Bananarama and their producers made their third album and presented it to the record company. Unfortunately, the record company didn't hear many hits. And, the group also felt like things had become a bit stale. So they were put to the task to come up with some hits!

Bananarama's third album "True Confessions" contains "Venus."

Bananarama really liked a Dead Or Alive single and told their producers that they wanted to remake "Venus" in a hi-nrg way like "You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)." Their producers said they couldn't do it. So, the girls went to the producers of "You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)", who were Stock, Aitken & Waterman (SAW). Again, they said they wanted to do a hi-nrg "Venus" and SAW said it couldn't be done. The girls insisted! And the record was made.

This song inspired Bananarama to do a hi-nrg version of "Venus."

Apparently, Bananarama went into the studio and only sang the song through twice. The result was a hit. To go along with the amazing cover version, the girls set out to make one the campiest videos ever. They dressed up as goddesses, a she-devil, and vampires. Along with a lot of shirtless men! And a campy dance routine choreographed by future Dancing With The Stars judge, Bruno Tonioli. I remember seeing the video for the first time and my jaw dropped. It was amazing. Bananarama used to wear overalls, and now they were glamorous! 

Bananarama's AMAZING video for "Venus."

The song was worldwide hit, and at the time, had a rare distinction of having been to the #1 position twice, by the Shocking Blue and Bananarama.

Unfortunately, there have been some really bad covers of the song like the latest one from Jennifer Lopez, that seems to copy the Bananarama version without any of the fun. I won't even bother posting them here.

Bananarama's version was used at a crucial point for the movie Romy & Michele's High School Reunion.

"Venus" in Romy & Michele's High School Reunion.

Bananarama are now a duo composed of Sara and Keren. They always get a great crowd reaction when they perform the song live. And you better believe all the gay guys know the dance routine. I could probably do it in my sleep.

Bananarama as a duo performing "Venus."

If you don't have "Venus" in your music library, head over to iTunes now and buy it! As well as "The Very Best of Bananarama!" You won't be disappointed!