It's time to face facts. With the upcoming release of the latest 98 Degrees album dangling like a phallic symbol, I mean a carrot, in front of our eyes, the teen-pop takeover of the charts and airwaves will mostly likely continue into the year 2001. For those you who have resisted the temptation, here is my attempt to make the world of pubescent safe and sanitized for your sensitive ears.
Pete Waterman's previous songwriting and production collaborators, Mike Stock and Matt Aitken ( who helped Waterman to define and refine the Stock-Aitken-Waterman Brit-dance-pop sound of the 1980s ) may be absent from Step One ( Jive/Zomba ) by Steps, the latest Waterman project, but they are there in sonic spirit. Think Rick Astley, think Bananarama, think Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan. While you're at it, think Abba, who predated S.A.W., but paved the way nevertheless. Steps will remind you of the '80s—just in time for the '80s nostalgia movement —and they're not ashamed of that ( or perhaps they're too young to feel shame ) . Their winning cover of the Bee Gees' "Tragedy" gets things off to a rousing start, and perky dance-beat tracks such as "One For Sorrow," "Last Thing On My Mind," "Love's Got A Hold On My Heart," "Better The Devil You Know," and "Deeper Shade Of Blue," deliver the kind of no-nonsense big disco rhythms lacking from so many other teen tunes. The album's low-point is a pandering faux-country dance number that makes my ears hurt just thinking about it.
Speaking of Abba and shame, the A*Teens' The Abba Generation ( MCA ) is what happens when those two things collide. I have to say that I don't understand the adoration of Abba. It's a phenomenon that practically rivals Beatlemania. When the Information Society released a cover of Abba's "Lay All Your Love On Me" in 1988, they made the effort to make the song their own. This album by four Stockholm teens ( most of whom were born after Abba's final studio album was released in 1982 ) is pure imitation—the laziest form of flattery. Shame on them, shame on everyone involved in this insipid project. If you have children ( or know any children ) , the least you can do is introduce them to the original versions of silly Abba songs such as "Mama Mia," "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! ( A Man After Midnight ) ," and "Dancing Queen," instead of these pale imitations.Read more story below....
Oslo, Norway, is just a short distance from Stockholm, Sweden, but Shades Of Purple ( Atlantic ) , the debut disc by M2M ( Marion Raven and Marit Larsen ) is worlds away from the A*Teens. The two M's co-wrote eight of the disc's 13 tracks, with one of the M's ( Marion ) getting sole writing credit for the song "Girl In Your Dreams." As teen tunes go, these are sweet and infectious, and didn't have me running for cover, making me think that maybe gay men have teenage girls trapped inside. "Don't Say You Love Me," "Give A Little Love," and the ballad "Dear Diary," are sophisticated pop trinkets, as shiny as bracelets and thumb rings. Not surprisingly, the best tracks ( such as "Everything You Do," "Mirror Mirror," and "Pretty Boy" ) are the "adult" contributions, on which M2M seems to let loose and have a good teen time. M2M also has something in common with Steps, as they incorporate the chorus of the Bee Gees' "Too Much Heaven" into their song "Our Song."
Britney's back! And I for one am glad that at least she's not on her back. On her second album, Oops! ... I Did It Again ( Jive ) , teen goddess Spears does it again indeed, continuing to mine the Euro-Scandi-funk thing. She struck platinum last time out, so who can blame her for going back for more, as she does on the title track, "Stronger," "One Kiss From You," and "Can't Make You Love Me," to name a few. M2M's "Dear Diary" ( with the lines "Today I say a boy and I wondered if he noticed me/He took my breath away" ) shows that Spears has more in common with gay men than she might have suspected. Britney also does a cover of The Rolling Stones' " ( I Can't Get No ) Satisfaction," but I think I like Devo's version better.
Phoenix Stone's shoulders look like they could carry the weight of the world, or anything else you might have in your dirty little mind, with very little effort. Too cute to be straight, this bleach-blonde number sounds like the Backstreet Boy that got away, because he wanted to write his own songs— which he does. Perhaps he had a fever of 98 degrees that day, which kept him from being N'Sync, and becoming a member of a boy band. Whatever the case may be, Stone's producers ( most of whom only go by one name—Jam, Delgado, Cutfather, Joe ) definitely know how to make this Phoenix sound as if he was a member of the Boys' club on his self-titled debut disc ( Universal/Transcontinental ) . This is especially true on the songs "Nothing Good About Goodbye," "Never Fall In Love Again," "Count On Me," and "Sorry," to name a few. Stone spears the boy-Britney title on the faux-Euro-funk track "Still Be Loving You." The album's best track, for which Stone gets producer credit, is the Hall & Oates-sampled "Kiss," which sounds like it could become a circuit spin with the right remix.
On the subject of "too cute," we have the British trio BBMak ( Christian Burns, Mark Barry and Ste McNally ) . What sets these guys apart from the other pre-fab dudes melting teen ( and gay male ) hearts is that these guys write their own songs and play their own instruments on their self-titled debut disc ( Hollywood ) . For three cute young men with groovy accents, they've sure experienced an awful lot of heartache ( "Ghost Of You and Me," "Next Time," and "I Can Tell," for example ) . Most of their songs are either the best sympathy-&-sex pick-up lines in the world or these guys ought to consider the stability of a same-sex relationship. Their smash hit single "Back Here" is the most hopeful track on the disc and as catchy as a summer cold.
Kinds Finds Gold in the 'Gutter'
by gregg shapiro
Kina opens for Savage Garden at the Auditorium on Aug. 18.
The next time you turn on your radio or tune in to MTV you may be surprised to find that this summer's unexpected hit is "Girl From The Gutter," a slamming bit of power pop by Kina, a former member of the pre-Destiny's Child R&B trio Brownstone. This uncharacteristic track is the first of its kind to garner this much attention and acclaim since Dionne Farris's "I Know" in 1994. Kina's self-titled solo debut disc ( on Dreamworks ) , with its unstoppable pop/rock spirit crossed with old-fashioned soul ( just wait until you hear "Have A Cry" ) is certainly an enigma and, coming as it does in the midst of a teenybopper takeover of the airwaves, it is a joy to behold. This is one "Girl From The Gutter" who is definitely looking at the stars.
Gregg Shapiro: There is a tradition of African-American women, such as Tina Turner and Nona Hendryx, whose work had more of a rock edge to it. Would you consider them to be influences?
Kina: I would say Tina, in her later years. But, not really. My mother brought her first record she came out with; when she did her first big solo thing, but that was pretty much it though, honestly. Nona, I'm not very familiar with, except when she was with LaBelle.
GS: In the past couple of years other African-American female vocalists such as Dionne Farris, Janice Robinson and yourself have released records that don't have much in common with your contemporaries. Have you ever met Dionne and Janice and had the chance to share advice with each other?
K: I haven't sat down and spoken to them. I like Janice Robinson and I would like to meet her. I just did a record that's full of influences that I had growing up in my house. My mom listened to a lot of music, and my uncle did. I didn't necessarily love it as a kid, I wanted to listen to Evelyn "Champagne" King. My mother had Jean-Luc Ponty, Spyro Gyra and Hiroshima. Of course she listened to a lot of old R&B: Stevie Wonder, Isley Brothers, Earth, Wind and Fire, you know, Rufus, Chaka Kahn, a lot of Rufus. My uncle's a big rock fan: Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones and he loves Parliament and Funkadelic. That stuff was playing in my house. I didn't necessarily start to love music until I was around 14 or 15 with Michael Jackson coming out in my middle school years. I was a fanatic. I was a huge Whitney Houston fan and that's when I discovered that I could sing. It's a wide variety for me
GS: You've been touring in support of your solo debut disc and I'm wondering if you are aware of the presence of Brownstone fans in the audience, and if so, how have those fans who know you from Brownstone reacted to you?
K: The reaction has been positive for the most part. There are diehard Brownstone fans and I'm learning that more and more. I did the first tour around February, it was mostly retail though, and it went very well. This is like the third round of me doing these tours. The response has been great. For the most part they've been receptive. A lot of Brownstone fans came, they heard the name Brownstone, and they were looking for that sound, but of course it's a completely different sound and they've been receptive to it, which is great.
GS: Is there a song, when you perform, over another that seems to be getting the best response?
K: God it's hard to say, one song ... "Have A Cry" gets a great response. The single gets a great response, "Girl From The Gutter," and "Me" gets a great response. I would say those three more than all of them, but I feel like they're really with me for the whole show. I'm a performer, I love being on stage, and I think it's a little more energetic than the record.
GS: When you go out on tour, will you be performing on stage with any of the musicians that you worked with on the album?
K: There's one, my guitar player, Brent Hoffert, he played on my record and I think his sound is very important, my sound. He's great and I had to have him play on my band, too. On the next record I plan to have my band on my record.
GS: What can you tell me about your songwriting process?
K: I realize I need to be sitting straight up. I wrote every record sitting at my diningroom table. I can't lay down and write a record, I need to just sit up and I'm really thinking. I can't write in a studio. I need to be by myself with nothing but me and that music. It's almost like I'm in school or something. I used to write all of my songs in the bathroom ( laughs ) . Not using the bathroom, but pulling down the seat, and literally shut the door, and I wrote everything sitting on the toilet, writing on the counter.
GS: Were you singing stuff out loud?
K: I sing everything out loud. I don't have equipment at home, I plan on buying my own stuff. I have three different tape recorders and I'll tape one melody on one and then I'll tape another one on another one. I continuously tape over and over ... it sounds horrible, but I have an idea of what's going on. It's like my own version of tracks.
GS: You often hear about an artist recording an album in a bathroom. There's something about the tile walls and the acoustic and the sound quality.
K: It's a great echo. It contains the sound.
GS: Even I sound good in the shower.
K: Right. Everybody can sound good in the bathroom ( laughs ) .
GS: Kid Rock, Eminem, and Madonna, to name a few, all hail from your home state of Michigan. How does it feel to be in such company in the music world?
K: It feels great, even more so lately. They just did a big piece on entertainers from Detroit in the Detroit News. I always knew that Detroit is so full of talent. Motown left, but the talent is there, full of it. It's great to see how many people are not only out, but coming out, from the city. I'm proud actually, of the city.
GS: Even though your album has a pop/rock focus, have you ruled out the possibility of working with dance music remixers on any remixes of songs from the disc?
K: Oh, I just did some remixes, with Hex Hector. I did a remix for "Girl From The Gutter" and I'm going to do some more. I did one so far, and I'm going to do some more with him, he's the bomb.
GS: Your fierce rock diva persona is sure to have a strong appeal to queer music lovers. Is there anything that you'd like to say to your gay and lesbian fans?
K: It's funny, I have a lot of gay couples, a lot gay male and female people in my audience and you know, come one, come all. That's all I could say, come one, come all. I think that my music is universal, it speaks to everybody. I want everybody to come and enjoy my music.
Where it's @
compiled by Gregg ShapiroWhere it's @
compiled by Gregg Shapiro
@ Abbey - 773/478-4408: Yvonne Doll & The Locals 8.11 / Mr. Blotto 8.18
@ Allstate Arena - 312/559-1212 ( TM ) : Phish 9.22 & 23
@ Arie Crown - 312/791-6000: Dennis Miller 11.3
@ Auditorium Theater - 312/559-1212 ( TM ) : Savage Garden 8.18 ( Kina opens ) / k. d. lang and Shelby Lynne 8.19
@ Big Horse - 773/583-2838: B-Line 8.12
@ Borders Lincoln Park - 773/935-3909: The Choir of King's College, Cambridge 8.11 / Jen Wood 8.13 / Malachi Thompson 8.18 / Handsome Family 8.19 / Andy Narell 8.23 / Vandermark 5 8.25 ( 6pm ) / Carrie Newcomer 8.25 ( 8pm ) / Frisbie 8.26 / Chris Mills 8.27 ( 3pm ) / Josie 8.27 ( 5pm )
@ Bordo's - Gayle Ritt ( Tuesdays )
@ Burkhart Underground: 773/348-8536: Tim Hort ( of Radio Hour ) 9.17
@ Chicago Theater - 312/559-1212 ( TM ) : D. L. Hughley 9.23 / Philip Glass & Kronos Quartet perform Dracula 10.27 / John McLaughlin and others 11.10
@ Davenport's - 773/278-1830: Dan Stetzel ( Mondays 8.14 - 8.28 ) / Daryl Nitz 8.10 - 13 / Sally Schleker 8.16 - 20 / Margaret Dill 8.23, 25 & 26 / Kat Taylor 8.24, 26 & 27
@ Double Door - 773/489-3160: Elvis Presley impersonators, Cash Audio, Devil In A Woodpile 8.11 / Menthol 8.17 / Dolly Varden 8.18 / Nash Kato 9.1 / Snake River Conspiracy 9. 2 / Liquid Soul 9.3 / Mike Watt 9.28 / O M D 10.7
@ Elbo Room - 773/549-5549: Kat Parsons 8.10
@ Empty Bottle - 773/276-3600: The Kimball Roeser Effect 8.11 / Bobby Conn 8.12 / Evil Beaver 8.14 / Fareed Haque 8.16 / Demolition Dollrods 8.24
@ Fermilab - 630/840-2787: Odetta 8.19
@ FitzGerald's - 708/788-6670: The Juleps 8.11 / Lunasa 8.16 / Rosie Flores & Sonny Burgess 8.24 / The Riptones 8.26 / Alice Peacock 8.31
@ Gentry on Halsted - 773/348-1053 ( call for times ) : Catherine Smitko 8.4, 5, 11, 18 / Honey West w/Bob Moreen 8.13, 20, 27 / Rudy De La Mor 8.2 - 6 / Alexandra Billings & Nan Mason 8.6 & 27 / The Weird Sisters 8.12 & 26 / Nan Mason 8.13, 20, 27 / Justin Hayford 8.2, 9, 16, 23, 30 / Open mike w/Dan Stetzel ( Tuesdays )
@ Gentry of Chicago ( State St. ) - 312/836-0933: Open mike w/Beckie Menzie ( 8.6 & 13 ) / Open mike w/Michael McCassey ( 8.20 & 27 ) / Kathryn Payne ( Mondays & Tuesdays early ) / Mark Farris ( Mondays & Tuesdays late ) / Job Christenson 8.4, 7, 14 & 28 / Equity Fights AIDS benefit 8.21 / Honey West 8.11, 18, 25
@ Grant Park - 312/744-3370: Lunasa 9.16 & 17
@ Gunther Murphy's - 773/472-5139: Yvonne Doll 8.10 / Big Hello 8.11 / Karma Sutra and Pelvic Delta 8.19
@ Heartland Cafe - 773/465-8005: Tim Hort 9.2
@ Hot House - 312/362-9707: Rokia Traore 8.15 / William Parker and Matthew Shipp 9.1 & 2 / 2nd Annual World Music Festival 9.19 - 30
@ House Of Blues - 312/923-2000: Ratt 8.10 / Blue Floyd 8.11 / Hello Dave 8.12 / Amel Larrieux 8.15 / Zakk Wylde 8.16 / Lucy Pearl 8.17 & 18 / Reggaeblitz Summerfest 2000 8.23 / Phat Cat Players 8.24 / Wilson Pickett 8.26 / Dope 8.27
@ Jazz Showcase - 312/670-2473: The Chicago Jazz Ensemble 9.11
@ Joe's - 312/337-3486: The New Bohemians featuring Edie Brickell 8.19 / Leftover Salmon 8.20
@ Martyrs' - 773/404-9494: Project/Object 8.12 / Trey Gunn 9.6 / Robbie Fulks 9.23 / Andy Summers 10.4 / Jupiter Coyote 11.3
@ Maywood Park Race Track - 773/625-0506: "Motown