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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The history of Annikafiore and Alcazar

Hello Poptastic Readers,

While we wait for Annikafiore's next EP (and it is coming soon), I thought it might be fun give a history lesson in all-things Alcazar, the group where Annikafiore got her start!

As usual, to watch the video or performance, click on the link. Enjoy!~

Once upon a time in Sweden, three friends came together to form a new disco pop group called Alcazar. The three friends were Annika, Andreas and Tess. The year was 1998.

While recording their debut album Casino, producer and songwriter Alexander Bard, formerly of Army Of Lovers, gave Annika the nickname Annikafiore and the name stuck.

The group's first single in 1999 was a mid-tempo ballad-esque song called "Shine On." It came with a nice little video of them hanging around a stage. It wasn't a radio hit, but the remixes went to #2 on the Swedish Dance Chart.

The second single in 2000 was a song called "Ritmo Del Amor" and you can guess by the Spanish title that this has a Latin America vibe. Also, Annikafiore and Tess are on lead vocals. It's quite the fun song! Unfortunately, no video was made and I'm not sure if the song charted anywhere.

Next up was the 2001 single that changed everything for the group: "Crying At The Discoteque." This was a massive worldwide hit for them. And for many, it was the first song heard by the group. The music sampled a disco song from 1979 called "Spacer" by Shelia B. Devotion, which was produced by Chic. However, I had no idea at the time that it was sampled as I had never heard the original song. The new lyrics and melody were partly provided by Alexander Bard, who also has a talking part in the middle of the song. He's also featured in their rather bizarre video. Alcazar perfected a dance routine for their live performances that was simply amazing! See an amazing performance in Italy here!

After the success of "Crying At The Discoteque", the group recorded 5 new tracks and re-released Casino to the international market with a brand new cover. The album just made the Top 40 in Sweden.

The next single taken from the new "Casino" was "Sexual Guarantee." Like the previous single, the music was also sampled. This time it was from the 1979 Chic song called "My Forbidden Lover." The new song wasn't as big of hit as "Crying" but it did all right. The video was a spoof on the 80s TV show "Dallas." And it was campy, funny and fabulous.

The last single from Casino was a remake of the Human League's song "Don't You Want Me." Originally they recorded the song for the re-release of Casino. However, the 2002 single version was re-recorded with the Almighty producers and it was given a little more "oomph." The cover is pretty faithful to the Human League's version. And this was minor hit in the US. The video was pretty fabulous.

Near the end of 2002, Alcazar performed "As Good As New" at a ABBA Tribute Concert. This performance included Andreas' then boyfriend Magnus Carlsson. Magnus was the lead singer of a band called Barbados. By the end of the year, Magnus quit Barbados and joined Alcazar.

In February of 2003, Alcazar entered Sweden's Melodifestivalen, a pre-selection contest to see which song will represent the country in the Eurovision Song Contest. Alcazar's song "Not A Sinner Nor A Saint" came in third. However it also gave the group their first #1 song in Sweden. This would also be the first single from the forthcoming album.

Funnily enough, a singer named Lina Hedlund also competed in the 2003 Melodifestivalen with a song called "Nothing Can Stop Me." Lina will come into the story of Alcazar in about four more years.

In May of 2003, the group released their second album in Scandinavia, Alcazarized and it went to #2 in the Swedish charts.

Shortly thereafter came the second single "Menage A Trois." The group made a super-cute video for the song. However, the subject matter of the lyrics was just too risqué for radio and the song didn't chart well.

The group quickly released another single in July called "Someday." It was also "The Official Song of Stockholm Pride." The song can make you want to cry listening to this anthem. An inspiring video was made, but the song charted lower than the previous single.

In the fall of 2003, the band released the fourth single called "Love Life." This song was written by the Pet Shop Boys for them. Even though no video was made, the song managed to get to #10 in the Swedish charts. And the group did some promo performances for it. 

In the beginning of 2004, Alcazar performed a Swedish-language song for the Melodifestivalen TV show. The group was not competing in the song competition that year, but they were asked to perform a song during a pause in the show. As a joke, they picked this old song written by a famous Swedish comedian named Jonas Inde. The song was called "Grillvagn" and was about a love for portable grill. It had funny lyrics, but Alcazar decided to present it in a very serious, sexy and glamourous way. Sadly, the song was never commercially released.

In the summer of 2004, Alcazar recorded a few new songs and re-released their second album Alcazarized to the rest of Europe with a new album cover. Sound familiar?

The first single was one of the new recordings. It was called "This Is The World We Live In." The chorus of the song was taken from the 1986 hit "Land Of Confusion" by Genesis, while the verses were new and original. When they were first recording the song, the music was sampled from Diana Ross' 1980 hit "Upside Down." Diana Ross did not approve and would not give them her permission to sample her song. However, since she didn't write the track, the writers Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of Chic (notice a pattern?) gave them permission to remake the song, thus Diana Ross got no royalties. Too bad, as this was a worldwide hit for the band. And it was one of the first times that a hybrid mashup-like song was so popular.

The video featured Alacazar in a discoteque setting. As a result, the video is really dark. Still, it had a cute dance routine that the group traveled around Europe performing. The song went to #3 in Sweden. And instead of re-releasing Alcazarized in their home country, they released a best-of compilation called Dancefloor Deluxe.

The album was a 2-disc affair with the singles and the new songs on one disc, and a non-stop mix on the second disc. The album soared up the charts.

In the fall of 2004, the group released their next single "Physical" which was one of the newly recorded tracks. The music of the song sampled Londonbeat's 1990 hit "I've Been Thinking About You." Originally, Alcazar's song was called "The Bump" but the group didn't like the chorus and changed it to "Physical." The video was ultra glamorous.

The next single was radio mix of "Here I Am" released at the end of 2004. It was originally on the Alcazarized album in a longer form. The single didn't get an official video, but it was performed a few times.

The beginning of 2005 started off very promising. Alcazar was participating in Melodifestivalen again. This time with a song called "Alcastar." A fun song with strange lyrics and wonderful hand clap, not to mention Annikafiore hitting quite the big note and key change near the end. Just like in 2003, Alcazar came in 3rd place this year. And upon release, the single went straight to #1 in Sweden.

In the summer of 2005, Alcazar released a single called "Start The Fire." The music of the song sampled a disco tune from 1980 called "Heartache #9" by Delegation. And the chorus is from the Billy Joel's 1989 hit "We Didn't Start The Fire." The verses to the song were new and original. Unfortunately, during the video shoot Annikafiore slipped and fell and broke her foot. And that was the last time Annikafiore would be with Alcazar. 

The group was scheduled to do a summer concert tour with a live band. Alcazar did this tour without Annikafiore. At the time, Annikafiore was not replaced. After the tour, the group took a 2+ year break.

During the break, Andreas entered the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest with a group called Six4One, who represented Switzerland. He had some solo singles that year with "Lovegun"/"Nightfever", which went to #1 in Sweden and "Dollar Queen." 

In 2007, Andreas entered Melodifestivalen in Sweden with a solo song called "Move."

Andreas wasn't the only one going solo. Tess recorded a track in 2006 called "Metal Will Stand Tall" with the heavy metal group called The Poodles.

Magnus also entered Melodifestivalen in 2006 with a song in Swedish called "Let Livet!" and again in 2007 with a song called "Live Forever." Magnus had two solo albums both of those years. He had a few more singles in Sweden and had success on the charts there. So much success, that Magnus didn't return to Alcazar when they reunited at the end of 2007.

Magnus wasn't the only one. Annikafiore also didn't return to Alcazar. And during the long break, she was rather quiet, musically speaking.

Alcazar reformed in London for a show at the G-A-Y nightclub in December of 2007. This time, the lineup was Andreas, Tess and Lina. 

It was March of 2008 that the new lineup released their first single "We Keep On Rockin'." The song was a big return for them in Sweden as it went to #4 in the charts. The video was filmed in a bowling alley and it was a nice way to introduce Lina to the fans.

In the summer of 2008, a follow-up single came out called "Inhibitions." Even though it was a top ten hit in Sweden, sadly, no video was made. They did do some performances with a cute dance routine.

Around this time, Magnus released a single that sounded very Alcazar-esque called "Crazy Summer Nights."

The group did some shows later that year and they were performing a remake of "Funkytown" by Lipps, Inc. Many fans thought this might be the third single, but the rest of the year was rather quiet.

In February of 2009, Alcazar entered Melodifestivalen with a song called "Stay The Night." The song was a smash hit and went to #2 in the Swedish Charts.

The next week, their album Disco Defenders was released and it went to #4 in the Swedish charts.

If all that wasn't enough, suddenly there was new music from Annikafiore, although not a solo effort, but with a new group called Avatar versus Eve or A.v.E. The song was called "Party People." Unfortunately, no video was made.

"Burning" was the next single from Alcazar in the spring of 2009. It was definitely a stand-out track on the album. It came with a video with Alcazar hanging out in the loo at a discoteque. Even though the group did lots of promotion for the song, it failed to chart.

A Germany-only download track of "From Brazil With Love" was lightly promoted, and no video was made.

In the late summer of 2009, Annikafiore filmed a video for A.v.E.'s song "I've Still Got The Highest Heels In The Room." And it was ultra fabulous and campy! Unfortunately, A.v.E.'s record company didn't release the single and the band and label parted ways, and A.v.E. dissolved.

Before the year's end, Annikafiore was featured on a single by Sophie Rimhen. The song was a remake of Bruce Springsteen's "I'm On Fire."

Also at year's end was a holiday single from Alcazar. It was a remake of Wham's "Last Christmas." The video was pure camp! 

In 2010, Alcazar were competing again in Melodifestivalen with a song called "Headlines." It didn't do as well as "Stay The Night" the year earlier.

Alcazar did some summer shows around Sweden. But otherwise, the rest of the year was quiet for them. 

In August of 2010, Annikafiore released her first solo song called "Forbidden Love" and it was the Official Song of Copenhagen Pride. The video featured Annikafiore in her wedding dress while shirtless men wrestle in the mud.

All was quiet until June of 2011. Annikafiore released her first EP called Preaching To The Choir to rave reviews. And it soared to the top of the iTunes charts in many countries.

Later that month, Alcazar had a new song out with Dream Beats called "Feel 4 U." The video was very odd with a woman having some sort of drug trip with Alcazar in her head.

In July, remixes for Annikafiore's song "Don't Wanna C U 2nite" came out. Her video wasn't ready in time, so she shot her own video for the SoundFactory remix. The video was a Skype love story gone astray. 

Near the end of summer, Alcazar announced they would be taking another long break. This came a surprise to me as I thought they were working on their next album.

In late November of 2011, Annikafiore released her video to her song "Love 2 Life." It was shot in boutique hotel with some friends and it was amazing! Best video of the year!

In 2012, Andreas competed in Melodifestivalen as a solo artist and sang a song in Swedish called "Aldrig Aldrig." This was Andreas' fourth solo attempt at Melodifestivalen, as he competed in 1996 and 1997 before Alcazar was formed. 

That pretty much brings us up to date. I didn't talk about Magnus after 2008. Mainly because he was not an original member of the group. But Magnus's solo career has continued and his last album in 2010 called Pop Galaxy featured a few singles, my favourite being "Feel You."

I'm not sure what the future holds for Alcazar. However, Annikafiore has a new EP called Recovered coming out at the end of June, 2012. The EP is a collection of remixes, as well as a remake of an Alcazar classic with two versions! And after that, I think Annikafiore will come out with another EP with original material. Stay tuned ...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Mercy Mercy 2012 by Le Kid

Hello Poptastic Readers ...

One of our favourite pop groups from Sweden have a new song out in Germany. Although the new song isn't really new. In fact, it is a new version of their first single in 2010 called "Mercy Mercy."

If you click on the song name above you can watch the original video with the original version. It was a bit more classic, you might say. The band also had five members.

The new German version has a fresh update. And it's nice to hear a more modern version of the song. It also comes with a cute new video, too.

You'l notice that the band now has four members, and that is just fine. Now, we just need Le Kid to make videos for their other songs this year: "Human Behaviour" and "Superficial."

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Magic Hour by Scissor Sisters

Hello Poptastic Readers!

This week saw a new album release from the Scissor Sisters!

The album is called Magic Hour. And I have to admit something ... I didn't download the whole album ... only 4 songs. Why? Well, I bought their first 3 albums and over the years I realized that I only ever listen to the singles. I like the band, but I'm not crazy about them like some my favourite groups. So, I just decided to download the songs that I knew I would listen to. I actually really like them, and I am very tempted to go back and buy the rest of the tracks on the album. Can any of you readers recommend that? If so, leave a comment below.

The first single planned was "Shady Love." You can see the video by clicking the title. On first listen, I didn't like it at all. It was scheduled for a February release and it was cancelled. I still downloaded the track this week. While it's not a favourite of mine, it has its charm. It's a grower.

The first official single was "Only The Horses" and it went to #12 in the UK. Somehow I missed it. I downloaded it this week and it has become a favourite of mine. Unfortunately, there is a really boring video for it. If you click on the title of the song, it will take you to a live performance on The Voice UK. I love this song! It should make my Top 20 of 2012.

Their latest single to coincide with the release of the album is piano-pop track called "Baby Come Home." I like it. It's very Scissor Sisters, and reminds you of their megahit "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'." The video is cute, too.

Now, I did say that I downloaded 4 tracks. But there isn't a 4th single as of yet. However, earlier this spring a track leaked called "Let's Have A Kiki." And while it has naughty lyrics with plenty of bad language, the track is hilarious! It's basically Ana Matronic leaving a voicemail for someone named Pickles. So funny. Don't miss this song. Just don't play around children!

So there you go! If you like the band, go out and get the album now! And if you aren't sure, download these 4 tracks and see if that makes you want to buy more.

Love, Truth & Honesty,

—Sausi O'Sullivan