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Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

Vocal Points: A Single Voice Rings Out

Adrina Thorpe, singer-songwriter from California, has been involved with music for a long time. Originally a classically trained musician, she fell in love with songwriting at the tender age of six. Since then, she has turned this love into a craft that she approaches masterfully. But it is not her songs which make her so special; it is her incredible voice that conveys emotion with such intensity and passion that makes her stand apart.

Her vocal ability is off the charts. She has such a powerful voice, but she sings in a way which is never forceful or overbearing. Her voice is flawless”not only can she carry a tune, she can work with her voice to create many different effects. At times her voice is soft and gentle, other times it pierces through you, giving you shivers. Thorpe has an amazing way of picking and choosing the right moments to let her full vocal power out. Obviously, this ability comes from familiarity with her voice and, of course, from practice. Because of her vocal control, Adrina’s second album Halflight & Shadows, which was released in 2009, is incredibly interesting to listen to. From a song like, “Everything Changes” which is more upbeat to “Midnight” which is hauntingly beautiful, you never know what pleasant surprises you’ll find when you listen to the album.

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Sound And Vision: Why I Miss the '90s

Every decade lives twice. Each one seems to get a second shot about twenty years after the fact. The ’50s were hot again in the ’70s (which might be why Happy Days was one of TV’s biggest hits). The ’60s resurfaced in the ’80s (as did tie-dye t-shirts and the British invasion), and Saturday night fever flared up one more time in the ’90s (though that didn’t stop the film 54 from flopping).

We’ve been stuck in the ’80s for a while now, but the ’90s are coming around again. I recently attended a ’90s party at a nightclub in Sydney, Australia, and the dance floor was packed with the retro-obsessed. The beats were technotronic indeed, but thanks to the varied playlist, I remembered that there was so much more to the decade in music than grunge and Europop. (Bell Biv DeVoe‘s “Do Me” and Elastica‘s “Connection” provided particularly pleasing trips down memory lane.) Here are five reasons why the ’90s rocked even harder than you might recall.

1. Sisters with voices ruled. And I’m not just talking about Sisters with Voices (otherwise known as SWV). TLC was arguably the most unique multi-platinum girl group ever, while En Vogue was the most glamorous one since the Supremes. Solo stars like Mariah Carey, Toni Braxton, Mary J. Blige, Celine Dion and Sarah McLachlan joined the hit parade, and Whitney Houston could still raise the roof”and she did with the soundtrack for The Bodyguard. Aside from Adele and Beyoncé (when she’s not huffing, puffing and trying way too hard to bring the house down), none of today’s female hitmakers can match the fierce ruling divas of the ’90s for sheer vocal power.

2. Rock & roll was king. Grunge may have been a relatively short-lived turning point, but for a moment there, the music was actually more important than the marketing. Thanks to bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Radiohead (all of whose platinum success seemed more accidental than calculated), Britpop (Blur vs. Oasis was so much better than Kings of Leon vs. Glee or the lead singers of Coldplay and Muse being married to Hollywood), and the grrrl power of female and female-driven acts like Bjí¶rk, P.J. Harvey, Alanis Morrisette, Hole, Belly, the Breeders and L7, rock and alternative music was both popular and interesting.

3. Stars were born, not manufactured on television and YouTube. This year, Rebecca Black went viral on YouTube and became a “star” without ever actually having a hit. (“Friday” topped out on Billboard’s Hot 100 at No. 58, 24 notches lower than the Glee remake.) And nothing against American Idol it’s given us some bona fide, hit-making talents (Kelly Clarkson, Fantasia, Carrie Underwood and Adam Lambert, among them)”but it’s also gave us William Hung! When music stars are created instantly (in Hung’s case, due to an extreme lack of talent) or groomed in front of our very eyes, pop stardom starts to lose its mystique. Clarkson’s fame will never seem as hard-won as Celine Dion‘s; Carrie Underwood will never be as good a story as Shania Twain; and I’d trade soulful, one-hit wonders like Dionne Farris and Des’ree for Fantasia every day of the week. At least we never had to watch them almost self-destruct in public. Which brings us to…

4. Less was more. Before Twitter, YouTube and tabloid media overload, pop stars always left us wanting more. Now they reveal every thought and all of the minutiae of their lives via endless Twitter updates. (Sean Kingston recently tweeted a photo of himself surrounded by medical equipment while recovering from a jet-ski accident in Miami that nearly cost him his life. Too much?) The tabloids give us 24/7 access, showing them doing just about everything except going to the bathroom (including having sex!). And we can catch them whenever we want to on YouTube (and make them seem more popular than they actually are by continuously pressing play in order to increase their “views”) and watch them falling and bombing onstage, tangling with the paparazzi, and getting prickly with TV interviewers before doffing their shirts and hitting the streets of New York City.

Lauryn Hill was one of the biggest stars of the late ’90s yet she always managed to sidestep overexposure. Where is she now? God only knows (though it recently was revealed that she’s pregnant with her sixth child). If only Amy Winehouse, her critically acclaimed late-’00s equivalent, had been able to fall apart in the privacy of her own home.

5. Courtney Love was far more daring than Lady Gaga. I’ll admit it: I miss Courtney Love. Whatever you thought about her music, the lead singer of Hole was never boring. Take away Lady Gaga’s freaky-creepy visuals, though, and all you’re left with is a talented but over-earnest, politically correct pop star. She’s says all the right things, but listen closely”none of it is even slightly provocative. Her carefully considered soundbites are intended to be up with underdogs and offensive to no one. Even her pro-gay agenda is as respectful as possible to the political right. Just once, I’d like to see Gaga get naked and sexy (for someone who wears so little clothing, she’s remarkably, and safely, asexual), or totally lose it, throwing good intentions out the window and engaging in a public bitchfest. Isn’t the moral majority asking for it?

20 Essential ’90s Albums

Annie LennoxDiva

BabyfaceFor the Cool in You

BellyStar

Bjí¶rkPost

The Cardigans - Gran Turismo

Dolly PartonThe Grass Is Blue

Elvis Costello and Burt BacharachPainted from Memory

Faith No More - Angel Dust

John AndersonSeminole Wind

Kate BushThe Red Shoes

k.d. lange - Ingenue

Mary J. BligeMy Life

Morrissey - Vauxhaull and I (or Your Arsenal)

Neil YoungHarvest Moon

Neneh CherryHomebrew

Portishead - Dummy

Radiohead - The Bends

R.E.M.Automatic for the People (or Out of Time or New Adventures in Hi-Fi)

Sarah McLachlanFumbling Towards Ecstasy

SuedeComing Up

Friday, March 11, 2011

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein beat up Sarah McLachlan

We already told you to check out Portlandia, but this time we really mean it. IFC has released a teaser for next week’s episode, and it’s a chortlefest. Watch Carrie and Fred ravage a Sarah McLachlan piñata while their maid, singer-songwriter Aimee Mann, tries to intervene.

Nicki Minaj creeps on to SNL

Nicki Minaj is both sexy and macabre, and nowhere do those two sides come together more seamlessly than in SNL‘s new digital short starring The Lonely Island. Watch her do the creep on a corpse, and try not to wish you were the corpse.

The Bad

BIEBER’S VOICE IS CHANGING!!!

Now don’t panic, he’s still the same Bieber, only a little deeper. In an interview with Matt Lauer on the Today show, the teen pop star admitted his voice was changing. It’s definitely lower, he says, but I have a great vocal coach who’s helping me. A better Bieber is just on the other side of the puberty rainbow, kids. So don’t stop beliebing.

White Stripes officially break up

After a prolonged hiatus, the White Stripes announced that they will no longer record or perform as a band in a message posted on their Web site. Please know that it’s not because of anything you did. As the message explains, The reason is not due to artistic differences or lack of wanting to continue, nor any health issues as both Meg and Jack are feeling fine and in good health. It is for a myriad of reasons, but mostly to preserve what is beautiful and special about the band and have it stay that way. Third Man Records will continue to issue recordings from the vault. And Meg and Jack want you to know that they both love you very, very much.

The Ugly

Robbie breaks into Moby’s place

Robbie, in case you didn’t know, is the name of the stranger who broke into Moby’s house in the Griffith Park area of Los Angeles. The musician awoke at 7 AM to find Robbie standing in his living room, lost and tripping on acid. That Robbie! Always up to something! To read Moby’s account of the whole experience, go here.

Miscellany

High Places


It helps to have friends in high places. And if you don’t have one of those, then a friend-of-a-friend can sometimes do the trick. When California-based artist Adrina Thorpe stepped into the studio to record Halflight & Shadows, she brought with her a team of seasoned musicians whose recording credits span anyone from Mick Jagger, Sting, Justin Timberlake, and Kanye West. Not that Thorpe needs the big guns. On her own she’s a force of nature”a gifted pianist blessed with emotive, ethereal vocals that recall Sarah McLachlan. On the cinematic Coming Home a sonorous piano gets some levity with Thorpe’s lilting voice. Midnight is darker, heavier stuff”a haunting melody with muffled, syncopated beats and a keening cello. But if you’re looking for a serotonin kick, not a dose of disturbia, put on the dreamy, airborne Fly Fly Fly or the teasing Everything Changes. With or without her killer session musicians, Thorpe’s music has amazing range. Expect this songbird to fly far.

Rock 'n' Roll Call: Playlist for an Autumn Day

The leaves have changed, the temperature has dropped…there’s no doubt that it’s officially fall. Before the really cold weather starts to set in, sometimes it’s nice to go for a walk with some hot chocolate and an awesome acoustic playlist.

Here are our picks for music as chill as the air outside” the soundtrack for that perfect autumn day. Click on each artist on the list to check out their OurStage profile!

1. Andrew Varner – “Autumn Leaves” Could there be a more perfect title for this playlist? Andrew Varner starts us off on the right foot with this soulful yet spunky tune, complete with some The Fray-esque piano parts.

2. Hana Kim – “Chase the Morning” Hana’s voice is beautiful and perfectly compliments the soft guitar parts on the track. If you like A Fine Frenzy or Missy Higgins, you’re sure to be a fan of Hana’s!

3. Caleb Lovely – “Stay” Caleb’s voice makes this love song soothing and endearing. Definitely love the hand drumming as well!

4. Ron Pope – “Drop in the Ocean” This song grabs you right from the start. It’s an older version of the song, which now has a full band on it. Ron’s piano playing is flawless and his vocals truly capture the emotion in the lyrics. Ron performed this song as an unsigned artist on MTV’s Total Request Live and was soon awarded a record deal with Universal Republic!

5. Jesse Thomas – “Say Hello” Like KT Tunstall, Jesse Thomas’ voice is both pretty and rough, with a slightly raspy quality that makes her stand out from the typical female singer-songwriter. If you listen closely to this cute and quirky tune, you may realize the lyrics are deceptively dark.

6. Jordan Tolentino – “Closer To You” Jordan’s got the right idea on this song, as he sings, “We can grab some hot chocolate, walk and talk about the things that make you who you are.” The vocal melodies, fantastic harmonies and lively guitar on “Closer To You” remind us of Jason Mraz!

7. Torin Dinh – “I Could Lose the Night” This song has an almost country-like feel to it. The bells in the background add a bright and bouncy quality to this sweet acoustic number.

8. Natalie Creel – “To California” Sounding like a young Sarah McLachlan, Natalie Creel’s voice is full of emotion and sincerity. With songwriting chops like this, it’s hard to believe she’s only 20-years-old!

9. Chris Ayer- “Say What You Mean” One listen to this song and you’ll see why Chris Ayer has received a multitude of awards and praise for his music. On this track, Chris’ warm and encouraging voice asks listeners to “Say what you mean this time and stay who you are.”

10. Micah Premnath – “Oh My” Micah’s impressively smooth vocals start off this track on a high note, and it only gets better when the reggae-style beat fills in behind the guitar. With romantic lyrics and a catchy chorus, “Oh My” is sure to please fans of Amos Lee and Bruno Mars.

Check out all the songs in the player below and let us know which songs you would add!

Catch Strictly Global’s Episode Dedicated To Lilith 2010’s OurStage Artists Here On OurStage

Strictly Global is a weekly broadcasted television series featuring alternative takes on pop culture. The program aims to enhance public understanding and provide alternative representations of diverse ethnic groups that contradict the stereotypical images frequently encountered in mainstream media through music, art and entertainment. OurStage recently collaborated with the folks at Strictly Global to help tell the story of Lilith 2010. In case you didn’t know, OurStage and Lilith partnered in May to give up-and-coming artists a shot at performing at the legendary festival as it made its way across the country. Strictly Global and OurStage worked together to feature some of the winning artists from the Lilith competition on the season premiere of the series.

The season premiere of Strictly Global was televised on September 17, 2010, but don’t worry” you can catch the entire episode right here on OurStage. The hour and a half-long episode showcases interviews from Lilith founder Sarah McLachlan and co-founder Terry McBride, OurStage CEO Ben Campbell and various winners of the Lilith Local Talent Search. Check out behind the scenes interviews and new music from these budding stars.

Q&A: Darrelle London at Lilith Festival

Back in May, OurStage partnered with the Lilith to give artists across the country the opportunity to perform at the famed festival on tour stops in their hometown. We caught up with singer-songwriter Darrelle London, who won the opportunity to perform in Toronto on July 24th,  to talk about the performance experience along with her plans for the future.

OS: You are currently signed to Perez Hilton’s label, how did you get on his radar?

DL: I knew from his Web site that he loves music and promotes his favorite artists, so I just emailed him one day, hoping that he might like my music. He got back to me right away, and we’ve been working together for over a year now.

OS: Can you tell us about your experience performing at the Toronto stop of the Lilith Festival? How has the buzz been since you performed?

DL: I was so excited to be there, but the experience even surpassed all my expectations. Chantal Kreviazuk joined me onstage for a song that we wrote together. She also brought me up onstage during her set to sing backup, along with Sarah McLachlan, Melissa McClelland and Butterfly Bouchon. It was an amazing and surreal experience. All the women were so talented and down-to-earth. Even though it was raining, the fans were still in great spirits and so was I! Buzz since the show has been great. I met some new fans that day, and I did interviews with CBC, CTV, eTalk and MuchMusic.

OS: It seems like 2010 has been a big year for you so far, what are your plans for the rest of the year?

DL: I’m on tour now in eastern Canada. I’m hoping to tour the northeastern US in the late fall. I’m about to release my new single, “Selfish”. I’m going into the studio soon, to finish recording two new songs I wrote with Chantal Kreviazuk.

OS: Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans and supporters on OurStage?

DL: Thank you so much for getting involved and judging! You made my dream come true and I’m so grateful!

Lilith Local Talent Search Winner Announced For Toronto!

It is a busy time in the Toronto vicinity with the MMVA‘s and the G20 summit recently taking place, leaving the city and it’s inhabitants ready for a little breather. While the teens recover from their “Beiber fever” screaming fits, the adults are recuperating after their highly spirited showings at the G20 summit.  Aside from this general pandemonium, now is an especially exciting and busy time for another winner in the Lilith Local Talent Search Competition. Take a look at the winner for Toronto below.

Lilith Winner
Toronto
Darrelle London