It’s been a long time, but I’m back in town…

Michiel Vos michielvmusic

Regular visitors of my blog might have noticed that it has been rather quiet here recently. I am here to tell you that I definitely did not forget about this site. Actually I am planning on updating with a lot of new reviews as there are bucket loads new music coming in the always interesting Q4, but first of all I want to tell you what I have been up to recently.

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The best pop albums of 2013

Because it is almost the end of the year, I will present you some lists of the best things that happened in pop music in 2013. Today, it is time for the list of the 20 best pop albums released in 2013. Let’s have a look!

20. Bastille – Bad Blood
Bastille Bad Blood
Bastille is one of the most exciting new acts that broke through this year. Bad Blood is a great record with a distinctive sound, mostly because of the singer Dan’s warm vocal style. ‘Pompeii’, ‘Things We Lost In The Fire’ and ‘Laura Palmer’ are all brilliant songs with a great production and instrumentation. Impressive debut!

19. Sara Bareilles – The Blessed Unrest
sara-bareilles the blessed unrest
A deserved Grammy nomination for this one. Sara Bareilles released an impressive album with amazing songs like ‘Brave’, ‘Hercules’, ‘Cassiopeia’ and the gorgeous ballad ‘Islands’. Sara always released good albums, but it feels like this time, everything is even a little better and this style fits her completely.

18. Marco Mengoni – #ProntoACorrere
marco mengoni-pronto a correre-cover
Marco Mengoni represented Italy at the Eurovision Song Contest with the wonderful ballad ‘L’Essenziale’. On his album, he shows he also sounds great on up tempo pop songs like ‘Non Me Ne Accorgo’ and the title track. His voice is amazing and the hooks on the tracks are extremely catchy. No wonder this was one of the most successful albums of the year in Italy.

17. Emmelie De Forest – Only Teardrops
The Danish Emmelie De Forest won this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, but ‘Only Teardrops’ was not the only good song she put out this year. Her debut album was full of good pop tracks in the same style as her Eurovision song. She shows she is more than a one hit wonder with this album and I hope we will get to enjoy more of her music in the next few years.

16. Ellie Goulding – Halcyon Days
Ellie Goulding came up with a re-release of her brilliant album Halcyon, now called Halcyon Days. She had huge hits with ‘Burn’ and ‘How Long Will I Love You?’ and the other tracks on this new version are great too. It is not the best collection she released so far (how could she ever top Halcyon?), but still she once again managed to put out wonderful songs like ‘Hearts Without Chains’ and ‘You, My Everything’.

15. Janelle Monáe – The Electric Lady
Janelle Monáe’s eclectic mix of R&B, soul, pop, funk, hip-hop and more, delivered us some amazing songs on her debut record The ArchAndroid. Her second effort does not disappoint with some of the best songs in her career so far, like the beautiful duet ‘PrimeTime’ with Miguel. The album has great variation but still feels like an extremely cohesive work of art. Janelle Monáe never disappoints.

14. Natalia Kills – Trouble
Natalia Kills came back with a surprisingly strong second album. Where her first record was quite hit and miss, Trouble is a more cohesive body of work with a higher quality of songs throughout the album. From the emotional ‘Saturday Night’ to the bonkers ‘Rabbit Hole’, Natalia Kills impressed with a great collection of strong pop songs.

13. AlunaGeorge – Body Music
AlunaGeorge was one of the most promising new acts this year and they absolutely delivered with their album. Their electronic style with Aluna’s distinctive vocals are immediately recognizable. Their singles ‘Your Drums, Your Love’ and ‘Attracting Flies’ are the best songs on the album, but almost every track has a memorable chorus and a great production.

12. Anouk – Sad Singalong Songs
Anouk Sad Singalong Songs
Dutch singer Anouk left rock music behind for a bit and made an orchestral album full of beautiful ballads. She represented the Netherlands at Eurovision with the gorgeous ‘Birds’ and songs like ‘Kill’, ‘Stardust’ and ‘The Good Life’ all have that same cinematic and captivating quality. The lyrics are heartfelt and personal and Anouk’s voice sounds better than ever.

11. Icona Pop – This Is…
These Swedish girls had an enormous hit with the amazing single ‘I Love It’, but they showed they have more to give with their album. Their music is a bouncing mix of pop, electro and dance and literally every track has a huge chorus with a great hook. Absolutely one of the best and catchiest releases of the year.

10. Diana Vickers – Music To Make Boys Cry
Diana Vickers took some years to record her second album, but it was definitely worth the wait. She changed her style a bit and focuses more on electro pop these days. Music To Make Boys Cry is a cute little record with a handful strong pop songs with great hooks and memorable choruses. The title track, ‘Cinderella’, ‘Boy In Paris’ and ‘Dead Heat’ should have all been hit singles.

09. Lady Gaga – ARTPOP
lady gaga artpop cover
Lady Gaga will always have to deal with huge expectations when it comes to the release of her albums and there will always be people who are disappointed with her new output. For me however, ARTPOP is a decent pop record with some great tracks on it. It is not her best work so far (The Fame Monster says hello), but still ‘Applause’, ‘Sexxx Dreams’, ‘Do What U Want’ and ‘Venus’ show she still knows how to write huge choruses.

08. Beyoncé – BEYONCÉ

Beyoncé BEYONCÉ album cover
I waited until the last day of the year to complete this list, as I could not predict if any artist would ‘pull a Beyoncé’ and release a record out of the blue. She surprised the world with this interesting, cohesive and captivating album. Almost every track on there sounds fresh and it seems Beyoncé found the style that fits her best. ‘Haunted’, ‘XO’, ‘Mine’ and ‘Jealous’ are all brilliant tracks and with every listen another song stands out. Great work Bee, we now understand why it took you so long!

07. Lorde – Pure Heroine
The success of the young singer Lorde from New-Zealand might be one of the biggest surprises of the year. It is still hard to imagine how a then sixteen-year-old was capable of creating such a cohesive, well-written album full of huge tunes. Not only singles ‘Royals’ and ‘Tennis Court’ are great songs, but she shows her talents on beautiful and catchy songs like ‘White Teeth Teens’ and ‘Buzzcut Season’ as well. If she is this good at the age of 16, what will happen when she is a grown woman?

06. Birdy – Fire Within
If any artist this year showed how she grew and matured musically, it is Birdy. After releasing an album full of covers as her debut, she did co-write her whole second album with a surprisingly strong record as a result. Beautiful ballads like ‘Words As Weapons’, ‘Strange Birds’ and ‘No Angel’ are still an important part of her music, but she also tries new, more up tempo sounds on ‘Light Me Up’, ‘Wings’ and ‘Standing In The Way Of The Light’, which fits her wonderful vocals perfectly. Definitely one of the most impressive albums of the year.

05. Charli XCX – True Romance
Charli XCX, known for her feature and co-writing on Icona Pop’s ‘I Love It’, released a brilliant debut album herself this year. True Romance is an album full of slick, stylish and pumping electro pop. Her lyrics are sharp, the beats are fat and her vocal style is immediately recognizable. Tracks like ‘You (Ha Ha Ha), ‘You’re The One’ and ‘Nuclear Seasons’ all have huge choruses with killer hooks. This young woman knows how to write some perfect pop tracks, ladies and gentlemen!

04. Gabrielle Aplin – English Rain
Gabrielle Aplin English Rain
Gabrielle Aplin has been working very hard for quite a few years, but in 2013 she finally dropped her first record ‘English Rain’. Her voice sounds angelic, her lyrics are strong and often relatable and the melodies are beautiful. The album deals with a broad range of emotions and Gabrielle is convincing as the teller of the stories. She is angry on ‘Keep On Walking’, thankful on ‘Salvation’, done with a relationship on ‘Panic Cord’ and cautious on ‘Please Don’t Say You Love Me’. This album has a great variety of strong songs and that voice is just lovely.

03. Miley Cyrus – Bangerz

The most talked about pop star of the year did not only twerk, she made a pretty great album as well. Singles ‘We Can’t Stop’ and ‘Wrecking Ball’ are both brilliant, but Miley proved to be capable of even more. There are a few missteps on this record (‘SMS (Bangerz)’ and ‘Love Money Party’), but the heights, such as the singles, ‘Drive’, ‘FU’,‘4×4’ and ‘Someone Else’ are all so good that it makes you forget not every song is perfect. Miley Cyrus proved herself to be an interesting pop star with some great tracks!

02. Haim – Days Are Gone
HAIM-Days Are Gone
Band of sisters Haim started the year with huge expectations after they won the Sound of 2013 poll. They did not disappoint with their debut record ‘Days Are Gone’ with a great recognizable sound and eleven strong tracks. The first single ‘Forever’ is still the standout track, but songs like ‘Falling’, ‘Days Are Gone’ and ‘Let Me Go’ all show their song writing talents. The sisters created an own sound and delivered a cohesive album that never bores.

01. Laura Jansen – Elba
The best album of 2013 came from an unexpected place for me, but Dutch singer-songwriter Laura Jansen delivered a truly impressive album. First single ‘Queen Of Elba’ is one of my favourite songs of the year and basically all tracks on the album are great. The lyrics are all well written, touching and tell very personal stories and the melodies are utterly gorgeous. From the uplifting ‘Golden’ to the emotional ballad ‘A Call To Arms’ and the more electronic ‘Lighthouse’ and from the great mash-up ‘Smalltown (Come Home)’ to the heartbreaking and personal ‘Pretty Me’, literally everything about this album is right. She crowned herself the queen of Elba, I crown her the album queen of the year!

Album Review: Lady Gaga – ARTPOP

lady gaga artpop cover

Lady Gaga delivers a solid pop record
Ever since Lady Gaga became one of the biggest pop stars on the planet, the singer has been dealing with huge expectations from the crowd and the press on what she does next. It is almost impossible for her to top the successes of The Fame and The Fame Monster and in terms of quality pop music, it seems hard to ever release a better body of work than the latter. Even though Gaga once again delivered a great pop record with Born This Way, her popularity seemed to have decreased a bit around that release. These days during the release of ARTPOP, again questions arise if Lady Gaga still has ‘it’ or that she lost her magic and her popularity is fading. The simple answer is: no, Lady Gaga is still going strong with releasing great pop music and we should not expect her to come up with something as brilliant as The Fame Monster, every time she releases new music.

Although I do not think we should compare everything she does to her earlier work, I certainly understand people tend to do this and miss the old days where everything she touched turned to gold. She managed to take the world by storm with a fresh image and great banging pop tunes in a very short period of time and of course it is hard to stay at this top for years. Although her new material does not contain tracks of the brilliant level of ‘Bad Romance’ and ‘Paparazzi’, there are quite a few great tracks to be found. From here on I am going to talk about ARTPOP as the independent, solid pop album it really is.

The title ARTPOP could make you expect some experimental and avant-garde pop music, but Gaga actually chose to go with straightforward pop bangers again. The album opens with ‘Aura’, the track Gaga debuted in a lyric video with scenes from the Machete movie she is currently starring in. At first listen, I was not convinced, but it turns out ‘Aura’ is a grower. The verses are completely bonkers and noisy, but it gives the track a nice edge and contrasts with the soft and melodically brilliant chorus. Gaga shows she still knows how to write outstanding pop tunes, as evidenced by the already released ‘Venus’, ‘Applause’ and ‘Do What U Want’, which all have catchy choruses and more than one infectious hook throughout the song.

Another highlight is ‘Sexxx Dreams’, that screams to be the next single. It is like Kylie Minogue’s ‘Aphrodite’ and ‘In My Arms’ had a love baby that grew up to be a very cheeky girl and that actually is one of the biggest compliments a perfect pop tune can receive. It is cheery, playful and the chorus is one of the catchiest I have heard in a while. It is quite surprising to me that Will.I.Am actually co-wrote and produced on one of the better tracks on the album. After some disappointing work with Britney Spears and his own group The Black Eyed Peas, I did not expect him to work on a great tune like ‘Fashion!’. There is no noisy production taking over, but it is actually perfectly underlining the strengths of the track. Gaga’s delivery is on point as always and there is nothing pretentious about this track, just a good pop song.

Other good songs are the single worthy proper pop track ‘G.U.Y.’ and the anthemic ‘Gypsy’, that could easily become a hit as well. Despite the fact that ARTPOP is a fairly solid and qualitative pop album there are few tracks that kind of miss the mark. ‘Jewels & Drugs’ could have done with fifteen guest rappers instead of three and it still would have been a poor song. ‘Dope’ is a lovely ballad, which is supposed to show of Lady Gaga’s impressive vocals, but it feels like she thought she needed to prove herself on this one, which makes her voice sound a bit too much and try hard at times. ‘Swine’ has a good hook somewhere, but it is buried under a whole lot of noisy production and beats. Overall, Gaga does not disappoint and shows she is still relevant in pop music, despite what some people might say. Gaga just released one of the better proper pop albums of the year.

Must Listen: Sexxx Dreams, Venus, Fashion!, Do What U Want, Aura, G.U.Y.

Single Review: Lady Gaga – Venus


Lady Gaga releases another single from ARTPOP

Lady Gaga is unstoppable at the moment. Next month, her new album ARTPOP will be released, and the singer is already promoting the record by releasing several singles. In August the first single ‘Applause’ was released. Earlier this month, Gaga premiered ‘Aura’ in a lyric video, linked to the movie Machete Kills, in which she plays a role. Earlier this week ‘Do What U Want (feat. R. Kelly)’ was released as a promo single and ‘Venus’ was supposed to be the second single. Gaga and her team turned things around. Now ‘Venus’ is released as a promo single only.

Although these changes in the releases are a bit confusing, I think Gaga and her team made a good decision when they pushed ‘Do What U Want’ forward as the new official single. The song got a good reception from the public and reviewers and it did very well on the American iTunes charts. When compared to ‘Venus’, which is released today and was supposed to be the second single, ‘Do What U Want’ is a more instant and radio friendly track, so in order to get a hit, I think Gaga made the right decision.

This is by no means saying that ‘Venus’ is not a good track, because it definitely is. The thing is, this song is a lot to take in on first listen, because there are so many different parts and melodies. After a few listens, all these different parts make sense in combination to each other and a gorgeous pop song unfolds. Especially the pre-chorus and chorus are melodically very strong and take the song to a high level. Gaga produced the track herself and she did a pretty good job on it. The song has some eighties influences, but most of all it is a modern pop track that fits Lady Gaga perfectly. Her style is definitely omnipresent in ‘Venus’ and this is exactly what we need from her. She is at her best on fun and characteristic productions with incredibly catchy hooks. More of this on ARTPOP please!

Gaga performed ‘Venus’ and ‘Do What U Want’ on X Factor UK tonight.


Lady Gaga brengt alweer een single uit van ARTPOP

Lady Gaga is niet te stoppen op dit moment. Volgende maand verschijnt haar nieuwe album ARTPOP en de zangeres is de plaat al flink aan het promoten met de releases van verschillende singles. In augustus verscheen al de eerste single ‘Applause’. Eerder deze maand ging ‘Aura’ in première in een lyric video met beelden van Machete Kills, een film waar Gaga ook in te zien is. Maandag ging ‘Do What U Want (feat. R. Kelly)’ in verkoop en dit lied was slechts als promo single bedoeld. Inmiddels is dit veranderd en nu is ‘Venus’, dat vandaag werd uitgebracht, de promosingle.

Hoewel deze veranderingen in het uitbrengen van singles nogal verwarrend zijn, denk ik wel dat Gaga en haar team de juiste keuze hebben gemaakt door ‘Do What U Want’ als de officiële tweede single naar voren te schuiven. De track werd goed ontvangen door het publiek en de recensenten en deed het goed in de Amerikaanse iTunes hitlijst. Als je het lied vergelijkt met ‘Venus’, dat eigenlijk de tweede single zou worden, is ‘Do What U Want’ pakkender op het eerste gehoor en vooral radiovriendelijker. Daarom denk ik dat Gaga een goede beslissing heeft gemaakt als ze een grote hit wil scoren.

Dit wil echter absoluut niet zeggen dat ‘Venus’ geen goede track is, want dat is het zeker wel. Het lied is komt echter druk over en zit vol met verschillende melodielijnen, waardoor er best veel op je af komt tijdens de eerste luisterbeurt. Na het een paar keer gehoord te hebben, vallen alle verschillende stukjes op zijn plaats en komt er een prachtige popsong tevoorschijn. Vooral de aanloop naar, en het refrein zelf, maken indruk met hele sterke melodieën die het lied naar een hoger plan trekken. Gaga heeft ‘Venus’ zelf geproduceerd en dat doet ze goed. Het lied heeft wat invloeden uit jaren ’80, maar klinkt toch vooral als een zeer moderne plaat die perfect bij Gaga past. Haar persoonlijke stijl is alom aanwezig op ‘Venus’ en dat is precies wat Gaga zou moeten maken. Ze is op haar best op opzwepende, karakteristieke producties met ongelooflijk catchy hooks. Meer van dit soort songs op ARTPOP, alstublieft!

Single Review: Lady Gaga – Do What U Want (feat. R. Kelly)


Lady Gaga gets help from R. Kelly on new promo single

Lady Gaga is busy promoting her upcoming album release at the moment. Her new record ARTPOP will drop on the 11th of November and Gaga started teasing with letting us hear some new tracks. In august she released the lead single ‘Applause’, earlier this month she uploaded a lyric video for ‘Aura’ and now she put ‘Do What U Want (feat. R. Kelly)’ on iTunes. Later this week, she will release the official second single ‘Venus’. This means ‘Do What U Want’ is only a promo single, but it is a good one.

The first single ‘Applause’ is a good pop track, but for a lead single by Lady Gaga, you would expect a little bit more than that. ‘Aura’ has a great hook, but does not really work as a full track, but that might change after hearing the proper studio version. ‘Do What U Want’ is a straightforward pop track with some slight R&B influences and this works well. The chorus is strong and catchy and the other parts of the song are full of infectious hooks as well. The production of the track is on point and the lyrics are clever.

Lady Gaga’s vocals sound very powerful and convincing on ‘Do What U Want’. Also, R. Kelly does a pretty good job on his verse and it actually adds something to the song. Some fans have already expressed that they think this track sounds like Gaga’s material on her first album The Fame, but personally, it reminds me a bit of ‘So Happy I Could Die’. The tracks both share the same sort of pop mixed with R&B style and some of the hooks in ‘Do What U Want’ remind slightly of this The Fame Monster track. This is not a bad thing though, as the new promo single is good enough to stand out on its own. If this song is anything to go by, ARTPOP might turn out to be a great record after all.

Check this space to read a review of ‘Venus’ later this week.


Lady Gaga krijgt hulp van R. Kelly op nieuwe promosingle

Lady Gaga is druk bezig met de promotie van haar opkomende albumrelease. Haar nieuwe plaat ARTPOP wordt op 11 november uitgebracht en Gaga begint haar fans nu te ‘teasen’ met het uitbrengen van verschillende tracks van het album. In augustus verscheen de eerste single ‘Applause’, vorige week zette ze een lyric video voor ‘Aura’ online en vandaag werd ‘Do What U Want (feat. R. Kelly)’ op iTunes uitgebracht. Later deze week verschijnt ‘Venus’, de officiële tweede single van het album. Dit betekent dat ‘Do What U Want’ slechts een promosingle is, maar wel een goede!

‘Applause’ is een goede popsong, maar voor een eerste single van een Lady Gaga album, zou je toch wat meer verwachten dan dat. ‘Aura’ heeft een sterke melodie in het refrein, maar als een volledig lied lijkt het niet te werken, maar dit kan nog veranderen na het horen van de volledige studioversie. ‘Do What U Want’ is een recht toe recht aan poptrack met wat R&B invloeden en dit werkt goed. Het refrein is sterk en pakkend en het gehele lied zit vol met memorabele melodielijnen. De productie is dik in orde en ook op het gebied van de tekst stelt Lady Gaga niet teleur.

Haar stem klinkt overtuigend en krachtig op deze track. R. Kelly levert ook een sterk couplet af en hij is dan ook zeker van meerwaarde. Een aantal fans liet al weten dat ‘Do What U Want’ hen doet denken aan Lady Gaga ten tijde van The Fame, haar debuutalbum. Persoonlijk doet het mij meer denken aan ‘So Happy I Could Die’. Beide tracks zijn in dezelfde pop en R&B stijl opgenomen en hier en daar doet de melodie van de nieuwe song wat denken aan de The Fame Monster track. Dit is echter totaal niet storend, want ‘Do What U Want’ is goed genoeg om op zichzelf te staan. Als deze song een voorbode is voor de rest van ARTPOP, dan zou het toch zomaar eens een zeer goed album kunnen worden.

Houd dit blog in de gaten voor een recensie van ‘Venus’ later deze week.

Video Review: Lady Gaga – Aura (Lyric Video)


Lady Gaga promotes new movie with ‘Aura’

Lady Gaga is a pretty busy woman at the moment. Not only is she planning the release of her new album ARTPOP in November, she also has a movie coming out this week. Gaga plays her first acting role in Machete Kills, directed by Roberto Rodriguez. To promote both projects, Lady Gaga released a lyric video for ‘Aura’, a new song that will be part of her album. The video contains parts of the upcoming movie. From a commercial point of view, it is a smart move to combine the promotion for both causes.

The execution however, could have been better. The lyric video feels more like a trailer for the movie, with a song in the background. There are simply too much lines and noises, that distract heavily from the song. If this was toned down a bit more and there were a little less sounds from the movie in the lyric video, it would have worked a lot better. The graphics however are well worked out and the lyrics of the song match well with the chosen scenes of Machete Kills.

But what about the song ‘Aura’? To be fair, it does not come close to Lady Gaga’s best output. Of course it is a little harder to judge the song, because it is not the final studio version that we hear (without the distractions of the movie) and it is not a hundred per cent certain, this is the full length version of the song. Still it is obvious that the verses are not that great. The lyrics are nice, but the beat and the melody are nothing special. The chorus however, gives us a little spark of the brilliant song-writing Gaga is known for. The part where she sings, “Do you wanna see me naked lover, do you wanna peek underneath the cover, do you wanna see the girl that lives behind the aura?”, has a great hook, and I wish it would last longer than just these sentences.

Let’s hope we hear more of that melodically brilliant Lady Gaga on the new album. ARTPOP will be released on 11 november.


Lady Gaga promoot nieuwe film met ‘Aura’

Lady Gaga is momenteel een drukbezette vrouw. Ze is niet alleen bezig met de aankomende release van haar nieuwe album ARTPOP in november, er komt deze week ook een film uit waar ze in speelt. Gaga maakt haar acteerdebuut in Machete Kills, geregisseerd door Roberto Rodriguez. Om beide projecten te promoten brengt ze een lyric video uit voor ‘Aura’, één van de tracks op haar nieuwe album. In de video zien we stukjes van Machete Kills. Vanuit een commercieel oogpunt is het een slimme zet om de promotie van deze twee projecten te combineren.

De uitvoering is helaas wat minder sterk. De lyric video komt meer over als een trailer voor de film, waar toevallig een liedje op de achtergrond speelt. Er zijn simpelweg te veel zinnetjes en geluiden uit de film over het lied heen gezet. Als dit allemaal wat meer in proportie was geweest, zou het goed hebben gewerkt, maar het lied wordt nu enigszins ondergesneeuwd. De graphics zien er echter goed uit en de lyrics van de song matchen goed met de uitgekozen scènes van de film.

Maar hoe is het lied zelf dan? Om eerlijk te zijn komt ‘Aura’ niet in de buurt van Gaga’s betere werk tot nu toe. Het is uiteraard nog enigszins lastig te beoordelen, omdat we hier nog niet te maken hebben met de uiteindelijk studioversie (door al het filmgeweld erdoorheen) en het is ook niet zeker of dit de volledige versie van het lied is. Het is echter al wel duidelijk dat de coupletten weinig voorstellen. De teksten ervan zijn aardig, maar de beats en melodie maken totaal geen indruk. Het refrein laat ons echter weer een kleine flits zien, van de briljante songwriter die Gaga kan zijn. Het gedeelte waar ze zingt, “Do you wanna see me naked lover, do you wanna peek underneath the cover, do you wanna see the girl that lives behind the aura?”, is qua melodie ijzersterk en het is daarom jammer dat het in verhouding weinig terugkomt in het lied.

Het is te hopen dat we op haar nieuwe album meer van deze melodisch briljante Lady Gaga zullen terughoren. ARTPOP verschijnt op 11 november.