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Pop Making Sense
by David Byrne with Tony Peregrin
2008-04-30

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Uber-diva Mariah Carey keeps her comeback afire with her latest, E=MC2. What a clever use of an equation. This certainly is not suggesting her artistic works are formulaic. Or is it? Let's do the math. Carey's album cover is a perfect shot of the Touch My Body singer from her good angle. ( See also Music Box and Butterfly. ) The record's title is something one of my grade-school nieces could come up with. ( See also Charmbracelet and Rainbow. ) The lead single is an uptempo piece where Carey acts out, proving she is a liberated, single woman. ( See 'Honey' and 'Heartbreaker'. ) This chart-topping album also includes ballads where the Grammy winner must be strong enough to carry on, like Bye Bye and I Wish You Well. ( See 'One Sweet Day' and 'My All'. ) E=MC2's 'I'm That Chick' goes into the '70s and '80s vault with its sample of Michael Jackson's 'Off the Wall'. ( See 'Fantasy' and 'Emotions'. ) Let's face it: Carey may be studying science, as there is chemistry with the way she heats things up; astronomy with her bright shining star; and' of course' earth science considering all of the recycling she has done, but she clearly needs a refresher course in evolution.

Groove Armada returns with the Strictly Rhythm release Soundboy Rock. The pair behind upbeat classics like 'I See You Baby' and 'If Everybody Looked the Same' recruits Candi Staton for the club hit 'Love Sweet Sound' and Mutya Buena on summer-jam-in-the-making 'Song 4 Mutya ( Out of Control ) '. On Soundboy Rock, Groove Armada continues to show its fondness for reggae-flavored pop ( 'Get Down', 'Soundboy Rock' ) and chill-out music ( 'What's Your Version', 'From the Rooftops' ) . A new EP is due out later this year, which will be the group's first outing after signing a groundbreaking deal with Bacardi.

The Puppini Sisters follow up their debut with The Rise & Fall of Ruby Woo. Favoring the singing style of the Andrew Sisters, this European trio flawlessly transforms more contemporary hits like 'Crazy in Love', 'Walk Like an Egyptian' and 'Could It Be Magic' into three-part harmony tunes. One of the set's highlights is the rendition of Patti Page's 'Old Cape Cod', which Groove Armada transformed into its masterpiece 'At the River'. Ruby Woo is not all remakes, as each of the lovely ladies takes a turn at songwriting duties here. If Christina Aguilera's recent hit 'Candyman' is what your sweet tooth craves, then be sure to feast on Puppini Sisters's sugary reworking 'It Don't Mean a Thing ( If It Ain't Got That Swing ) '.

In the spirit of Natalie Cole's Unforgettable album, Nina Simone's daughter is paying homage to her late mother. The single-named siren, Simone, is covering 13 of her mother's classics on the forthcoming Koch Records collection, Simone on Simone. Whether it is the brassy big-band numbers like 'Work Song', 'Gal from Joe's' or 'Feeling Good,' or the seductive 'Keeper of the Flame', this is the best Simone tribute yet. Many have covered the High Priestess of Soul's catalog, including Sophie B. Hawkins, Joan Baez, Cat Power, David Bowie and Michael Buble, but only George Michael's 1999 version of Wild is the Wind comes close to the bar raised by Simone on Simone. Having performed in the Chicago-based outfit Liquid Soul, Simone is also a stage veteran; she has also been in Aida on Broadway. Simone has a concert lined up at the The Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, Sat., May 3.

Lesbian electro meets hip-hop duo Scream Club will be stepping up to the mic at Ronny's, 2101 N. California, Sun., May 11. Members Cindy Wonderful and Sarah Adorable have teamed with indie icons The Gossip, Peaches and Nicky Click. These DIY artists from Olympia, Wash., have formed their own label ( Crunks Not Dead ) and have toured throughout the U.S. and Europe with a show one should not miss.

Continuing the tradition of Scandinavian female singer-songwriters like Sally Shapiro, Frost, Kate Havnevik and, of course Bjork, Lykke Li leaves quite an impression as she steps forth with the EP, Little Bit. As a precursor to her full-length debut, Youth Novels, this teaser is produced by Bjorn Yttling of Peter, Bjorn and John. Here, the songbird chirps on pop songs with a slight electronic influence. Li will be taking to the stage at Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, Mon., May 12, sharing the bill with El Perro Del Mar and Anna Ternheim. A clip of Li performing with fellow Swede Robyn has surfaced on YouTube. Can't get enough of those Scandinavian pop stars? Robyn will be performing at Park West, 322 W. Armitage, Wed., May 7.

Openly gay gospel singer-songwriter Marsha Stevens graces the Chicago-area with two free concerts. Stevens, who wrote the hymnal staple 'For Those Tears I Died ( Come to the Water ) ', will be at the Union Church of Hinsdale, 137 S. Garfield, Fri., May 9, at 7:30 p.m. and at Wesley United Methodist Church, 21 E. Franklin, Naperville, Sat. May 10, at 7:30 p.m. Dubbed the Mother of Contemporary Christian Music by The Christian Century magazine, Stevens is an original member of non-secular musical group Children of the Day.

Chicago's very own Mimi Marks is in Janet Jackson's latest video, 'Rock With U'. Appearing as the stunning blonde in red, Marks is one of the stars at The Baton Show Lounge. The Midwestern bombshell is also in Trantasia, the trans beauty-pageant documentary now on DVD, and has won the title Miss International Queen in Thailand. Ms. Jackson, meanwhile, recently received the Vanguard Lifetime Achievement Award at the GLAAD Media Awards for her ongoing support of the LGBT community.


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