Allow me to blog this topic again. Always…I am always self-justifying my pop music addiction (affliction?). Usually to myself, not even to the outside world. Perhaps people don’t “get” it, as they scroll past my Facebook updates and I have posted another Gaga video, and while I take the occasional “ew that is crap” comment people are generally nonplussed and sometimes, when kindred spirits, supportive.

I spent my teenage years loving pretty “serious” music as far as teenagers go. I was into the singer-songwriters at a young age so I was pondering things like Sunny burning her house down and divorce when you’re 36 with kids to take care of and no job skills. That’s hefty. Because of that I largely ignored the boy bands and bubblegum pop of the late 90’s and early 2000’s (but I did love me some Backstreet Boys…just that one song).

So one would think a logical progression would have me listening to Bach concertos and going to the opera if age means maturity. Not the case.

I went to see Demi Lovato last night in Dallas and it was a great show. I stayed with some friends but I went alone because um…no one I know likes Demi Lovato that much. I did list her album in my Top Albums of 2013 post, so I was pretty excited.

It was, as expected, a great show. Fifth Harmony opened for the the opener, meaning they did 5 songs, one of them being a Destiny’s Child cover. I was thrilled because I was one of the 12% of people in the venue old enough to remember when Independent Women Pt. 1 came out (THROW YOUR HANDS UP AT ME). There were 5 members of Fifth Harmony (clever), and they tried. They were so young. Part of me wanted to root for them and part of me thought perhaps 5 unsure teenagers singing to a backing track reeked of exploitation. I am pretty sure the minds behind this group are all old dudes in suits, but hey. We need the next generation of pop star from somewhere. At this juncture I felt a little unsure of what I had gotten myself into and considered slinking out to the parking lot to find something more grown up to do, like apply for a job at HR Block or whatever serious people do at 8:30 at night.

My fears were assuaged the minute Little Mix took the stage. Also singing to pre-recorded tracks, I immediately thought “here we go again,” except the four members of this British group (if you mixed Fifth Harmony and Little Mix together and divided by 2 and added a little more glitter you would get the Spice Girls) look way more seasoned (I don’t mean “old” but yes ok, they were older) and at home on stage. They opened with Salute and I was hooked. It was practiced, the harmonies were tight, and I didn’t feel like I was participating in some TLC show called “So Your Kid Wants To Be A Pop Star.” Little Mix also dipped into cover land, interestingly throwing out another Destiny’s Child cover as well as TLC’s “No Scrubs.” Again, shout out to the 90’s kids.

Demi took the stage to about 5000 screaming teenage girls going nuts which again, I had wondered if I might want to shrivel up and stuff a $40 concert t-shirt in my ears to dull the roar, but…it was actually thrilling. Being in a room full of enthusiasm can really lift a spirit. That and I looked over and my two (apparently of age) seatmates to the left were each drinking a 40 of Michelob and I knew I was going to be ok.

Demi started with one of her radio hits (of course), “Heart Attack” and having a room full of people singing along at the top of their lungs provides a rush for anyone in it. Demi had a full band but actually smaller than I expected – drummer, bassist, keyboardist, guitarist, and two background singers. I think I was expecting Lady Gaga proportions, which this show was not. Which was fine. We heard the hits – “Skyscraper”, “Neon Lights”, and “Give Your Heart a Break”. We heard some album cuts. She told us about her battles with eating disorders-cocaine-alcohol-cutting (good grief bless her) and that we can survive anything. Everything moved seamlessly from one to the next and before I knew it, the show was done.

It felt great to scream in a room full of people. It felt awesome to sing along like I do in the car except be watching it happen live. It felt great to drive to my friends’ house and go to bed. Pop concerts in your 30’s…I think I’ll keep doing it. Next up on the bucket wish list…Ke$ha.

These end of the year list things are always fun and popular, but I can’t keep track of a whole year, people. It’s hard to remember what is a 2013 release. The fact of the matter is my listening habits have shifted with the rest of the world and I listen to a lot of single tracks. It is what it is. I’m not listing a lot of hip stuff. Lorde is cool but I am tired of “Royals” on the radio every 30 seconds. Patty Griffin put out a couple and she sounds like Patty. Katy Perry’s album sounds like Katy Perry. One of Natalie Maines’ best tracks on her solo album was a Patty cover. WHAT? It’s all good, but sometimes fleeting.

On the flip, these are all albums that caught my interest and kept it.

Drew Kennedy: Wide Listener

Drew

Drew is a smart writer and his songs are all gems. While I rant above about only liking singles this year, Wide Listener holds my attention the whole way through. “Age and Color” and “Rose of Jericho” are good places to start. He also wins for favorite album art, how cool is that?

Brandy Zdan: Lone Hunter

Brandy

Brandy came to Texas from Canada and I am super glad she did. She sounds like nothing else in this state, and I have had Mourning Dove stuck in my head in total for approximately 1/32nd of this whole year. Seriously, it’s going to get stuck in your head. Brandy writes with metaphor and poetry, and her guitar playing is fantastic. Get it.

Demi Lovato: Demi

Demi

The only list of 2013 where you’ll see Drew and Brandy followed by Demi Lovato, but hey. This is my favorite pop album of the year. It’s mature, hooky, Demi can sing like a fiend, and she manages to (thus far) avoid the drama and circus that a lot of the pop folk have going on these days. She’s a lived a little, and you can tell it from some of the song topics. Just look at all that dirt on her arms!

Holly Williams: The Highway

Holly

I’ve been following Holly since her first album, and this one continues her streak of excellence. I can’t really imagine trying to follow up on a family name like Williams with a music career, but she’s more than capable of handling it. “Railroads” and “Without You” are stand outs.

Lady Gaga: ArtPop

Gaga

Ok, of COURSE this is on my list because I unapologetically love Gaga.   I think she is the best thing to happen to commercial pop in a long time.  This is a good record. That being said, I am not in love with every single track, but that’s what happens when someone delivers what is, to them, a piece of art. “Applause,” “Swine,” and “Gypsy” are my favorites.

Haim: Days Are Gone

Haim

I found these girls on a music blog early this year, happened to find them at SXSW, had my mind blown, and now they are all over the TV and festival circuit. Good on them. This record is full of chill pop-rock-80’s hybrid tunes, but go see them live and prepare for your face to melt off. Best of both worlds.

I am really looking forward to 2014…the first half of the year brings us releases from SUSAN GIBSON (yay!), Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Rosanne Cash. Oh, and some folk-pop from moi. Brang it.

Kids. I am not even kidding. We are having such an amazing time making this EP. If you all like it 1/8 as much as we have loved making it, you will dig it. I think you will.

Right now, as I type, Dan is playing some killer electric guitar on the fastest, rockingest, most uptempo song on the album. And it’s got some different electronic sounds happening on it, too…as Dan just told me, “This is when Folk meets Gaga.” He’s pretty right.

photo.JPG

I cannot express how thrilled I am (but watch me try to express it) about the direction of this EP. It’s got my acoustic guitar on it, which is the backbone of everything I do. It’s strong on electric guitar sounds, which is what I grew up on and love. Then there’s this love for pop music I have been shy about expressing but have had for about 4-5 years now. We are throwing all these things in and it sounds like meeeeeeee! Phew. Onward.

Get in on the Kickstarter here – there’s still time! I’m doing special sneak peeks for backers and of course you get this thing the first possible chance when it’s done!

This week I got to spend an afternoon with Dan over at Rubicon Artist Development making an acoustic demo of one of my newer songs. I’m really proud of this love song that doesn’t mention the word “love” at all…that’s how I roll. I also think people should cover it…Susan Gibson and Elizabeth Wills did an amazing version at the Cactus last fall, and my friend Rena Wren in Arkansas is learning it, too. The more the merrier!

I demoed it so I could send it places. Which places to send it to…that is still the question. I’ve been researching pitching songs and how to get things placed with artists. It’s a new world to me but it’s fun to research (my inner history nerd declares) and who knows? Something might happen. I did find a site taking submissions for album projects by Nicole Scherzinger and Naya Rivera, so I sent it in…because pop music, heeeey!  You gotta start somewhere.  Naya is one of my favorite performers on Glee, so she should definitely cut this song. If she did, she would move up the ranks to be my all time favorite singer on Glee, I am pretty sure.  I’m positive that’s high on her list of things to achieve.

Lady Gaga Ball

We did it again, and Gaga did it again. SG and I went to see our 2nd Gaga show and the Lady managed to make it just as cool as the first one.

Last time we dressed up, and this time we just slummed it, which was fine because I’ve been too busy to think about something crazy to wear. The weird thing was…we were kind of spectacles last time and on this tour, I think we saw way more people dressing up and we definitely saw some spectacles. I saw a hotdog, lots of Gaga incarnations, lot of costumes that lit up, and lots of metallic plastic. It was awesome just wandering around the Toyota Center and gawking.

GAGA!

Our seats were so high there was no one behind us, but we were to the right of the stage and if you spit with the right projection and windspeed, it might have landed on the stage. (I did not spit on the stage). The view was good and I enjoyed not having anyone behind us to talk or distract me from my pop ecstasy.

Gaga

There was a weird story line about Mother G.O.A.T. (Government Owned Alien Territory) and a weird floating head which at some point Gaga vanquished by pointing at it (pop super powers?), but the stage and set itself was stunning. A giant castle that moved in an out, Gaga emerged the first time on a horse (made of people), a wardrobe section that spun around and recollected some great tour costumes from years past (the Kermit dress!), Gaga as motorcycle riding around, the dancers popping out of a giant alien um…birth canal…oh! And there was a MEAT COUCH along with the meat dress.

Each song was a spectacle and required a costume change, but none of it dragged. The energy was non-stop. Gaga peppered her banter with things to make us feel empowered and proactive, which should really happen at more pop shows. Think how well adjusted the kids would be if they heard that a lot. I’m serious…one can argue she’s weird or frivolous, but her Little Monsters head home feeling good about the world and themselves no matter what they look like or where they came from, and that’s an important thing.

I’d go again…next time we’re dressing up. No meat dress for me, though. Maybe zucchini.

Born This Way Ball - Lady Gaga

Blue

Psssssst. Hey, my name is Jana and I love pop music.

First point: Lady Gaga tickets have been acquired for January, 2013. It’s on.

Second point: Dan pointed out that I seem to constantly amaze myself when I admit I do like the sugar-coated world of beats and repetitive choruses and autotune, but I really really like it. Diehard folk music fans scoff but I CANNOT GET ENOUGH EAR CANDY.

Phew, that felt better.

I still really love songwriters and folk and country and Americana, but sometimes you just need a good beat and a bass thump that makes your windows vibrate. None of those genres provides that, and I also refuse to head in the direction of thrash metal to obtain said vibrating windows, so pop music it is.

A lot of it is harmless. It is the most scrutinized of music genres in popular culture because most of the time the artists are throwing themselves front and center…it goes with the territory. Some of it is insidious…I refuse to download a Chris Brown song and some of the messages put out there by some of the women folk are less than ideal for young people. (Yes, I’m old…see previous blog mentioning upcoming birthday).

BUT…a lot of the pop ladies are actually really good at what they do, and they’re really savvy business people to boot (or surround themselves with savvy people anyway). Gaga is of course the main one here but Katy Perry and Pink and Ke$ha are all pretty prolific in their own ways. Ke$ha writes hits for other people. Gaga employs tens if not hundreds of people under the Haus of Gaga…how’s that for good old fashioned American business building? Don’t hate the good business people just because they sing pop music.

What this all translates into for me is that while I love guitar and songwriting forever and always, I have plans to mess with pop music as my new music hobby. Remixing songs has always intrigued me, and I’ve done a miniscule amount of research on how that happens and it’s intrigued me enough to do more. It’s one of those nerd hobbies where you can sit at home and buy a program and work on your skills. Even if none of my remixes ever see the light of internet day (but come on, you know I will post something), I’ll be thrilled to explore how beats and dynamics and rhythm change a song. Boom. Mixing the hits. Maybe Gaga will pick one up one day…weirder things have happened. Like running into her in this wax museum in Vegas.

Me and Gaga's Wax

Signed –
DJ Po