“Diplo and an Orthadox Jew walk into a studio” sounds more like the opening line of an off-color joke than a surpisingly fruitful musical pairing.
While most people were likely introduced to British vocalist Alex Clare through a commercial for Internet Explorer 9 wherein his addictive single “Too Close” captivated unprepared television viewers’ eardrums, they may not have been aware that he actively studies the Talmud, has indeed collaborated with Major Lazer, or that he even used to date the late Amy Winehouse. Now happily married and tight-lipped on the latter, the electro-soul singer sat down with VH1 Tuner this week to candidly discuss the opportunity that saved his career, and the whirlwind that has been his last few months.
“I was stuck in a bit of a career rut,” remarked Clare on the period before radio would touch “Too Close,” a Mike Spencer-produced song that has since charted internationally and hit #7 on Billboard’s Hot 100 domestically. “Without [the IE9 commercial], I definitely wouldn’t be sitting here right now… No one was really listening to my music, and now people are.” It’s been quite the 180. When his debut LP The Lateness Of The Hour dropped in the UK in July of 2011, incorporating electronic elements into soul music was more rare than it is now, but Clare has since surrendered to the fact that, as we approach 2013, “everyone’s doing it.”
After taking five weeks off to observe Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot in Israel, celebrating Hanukkah while on the road is “easy” for the gritty-voiced singer who performed at Irving Plaza on Tuesday night. “Wherever you go, you just light your menorah, sing some songs, eat some donuts – happy days.” But seeing an Israeli flag lifted in the show’s crowd on that fourth day of the Festival of Lights was a first for Clare, who could only really make sense of the incident with a geographical explanation: “I guess it’s New York and there’s a lot of us here.” Despite the venue’s sound being quite a bit off, Clare’s live show showcased his versatile voice well, and he was able to execute a wide variety of covers including Prince’s “When Doves Cry,” Etta James‘ “Damn Your Eyes,” and Gyptian’s “Hold Yuh” – a version of which he was forced to re-write since an actual cover of the dancehall song would be both “inaudible and slightly obscene.”
We have eagerly anticipated No Doubt‘s return, first taking comfort in the fact that even if they couldn’t match their Tragic Kingdom game, we would at least have Gwen Stefani back on the scene again. But then we heard “Settle Down,” and were reassured that they still had it. However, it turns out that “Settle Down” was basically just a warm-up for this frenzied and infectious next single.
This morning Ryan Seacrest let loose a second Push and Shove cut, the album’s whiling and genre-shifting Diplo produced title track, featuring Major Lazer and dancehall hero Busy Signal. The song — which we heard snippets of in that early webisode — goes all in, moving between their signature ska-pop and party banger and a soaring chorus and back at a clip so quick it makes the upbeat “Settle Down” sound like a lazy jam by comparison. And though they try on a whole bunch of new sounds and styles in these four minutes, the song manages to avoid cacophony and all the while sounds distinctively like No Doubt. Like Stefani rap-sings, “just when you think it’s over, we be back on another level like we’re doing yoga.” September 25th can’t come soon enough.
No Doubt‘s long await comeback album has, at last, a name! The band revealed in a note on their website that their first record in 11 years, which is set for release this September, will be called Push and Shove. They also shared news that the album’s first single “Settle Down” will drop July 16th (finally!) with a video treatment by Sophie Muller, whose past work with the band includes classics like “Don’t Speak” and “Simple Kind of Life.”
Last month in a webisode, the No Doubt previewed a track — which we now know is the title track — called “Push and Shove.” Over a beat produced by the on-trend Diplo and Switch, Gwen Stefani sings: “You push and shove / I take the bait / It’s a risky business / Gonna play it anyway.” Which, given the time the that’s eclipsed since their last outing, could perhaps be about the pressures of returning to the studio. If so, it’s good to know that, solo albums and clothing lines and babies later, they are still willing to play together.
Usher’s smash hit “Climax”, produced by Diplo, shot all the way to #1 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart shortly after it was released. It was a burning slow jam with electronic flourishes, but with his second single from his upcoming album Looking For Myself, Usher’s looking to switch things up a bit. No stranger to making songs that appeal to your inner dancer, “Scream” reminds us a bit of his past hits like “OMG”, “Hey Daddy” and “DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love.” In other words, his latest will surely be a club banger.
Sonically, it’s closely similar to “DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love” where Usher’s voice rides the uptempo beat. We can totally imagine people doing the Jersey fist pump when this comes on in the club. For a pop sounding dance track, it has all the essentials. And although his R&B ballads tickle our fancy a bit more than this, an Usher album isn’t complete without something to dance to in the mirror when you’re home alone. We can’t wait to hear the rest of the record.
New Song: Usher, ‘Scream’ [MTV Buzzworthy]
[Photo: Usherworld.com, Getty Images]
Looking for a Pandora-style music streaming service that’s curated by your friends instead of an algorithm? Or want to help DJ your own station? That’s the idea behind turntable.fm, a startup that went viral two weeks ago. The site is open to any user who has a Facebook friend who’s a member. Join a “room” (popular ones include Coding Soundtrack and Indie While You Work), and listen to songs uploaded to the site, or selected from its database, by one of up to five “DJs,” whose songs play one at a time, consecutively by DJ.
Users hoping to play more than one song in a row, like the curated playlists of Muxtape, are out of luck, as turntable.fm is trying to position its legality in terms of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (as Pandora does). This is also why a user, alone in a room, can only play a thirty-second preview of a song. These measures may not be enough to protect the site from litigation, though, especially if private rooms continue to be allowed.