After her performance of "Blue Jeans" and the haunting "Video Games" on a recent Saturday Night Live, Lana Del Rey is receiving a lot of unfounded flack. More established acts have delivered much worse showings.
Ashley Simpson's embarrassing Saturday Night Light moment in 2005 is the first to come to mind. Britney Spears bombed at lip-synching for her life at the 2007 Video Music Awards, ultimately making "Gimme More" her much-needed comeback hit. Let's not forget Madonna and Lenny Kravitz's uninspired effort on "Ray of Light" at the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards. Then there's the all-time low when Katy Perry was caught for fake-playing a recorder (the instrument).
Del Rey's voice did not project well, but that could have been tweaked on the soundboard. As far as the rumors whether she had plastic surgery, the same could be said about any celebrity. Only Amanda Lepore and Pete Burns can cast that first stone.
Regardless, I look forward to hearing Del Rey's new album, Born to Die, when it is released Jan. 31. Give the rising starlet another chance; Del Rey is slated to appear on Late Show with David Letterman and The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Levi Kreis captures his one-man show on Live @ Joe's Pub. Here, Kreis proves he has the grit and soul that rightfully won him the Tony Award in 2010 for his portrayal of Jerry Lee Lewis in Million Dollar Quartet. Throughout the set, Kreis talks with the audience, assuring the listener that once an artist finds his or her truth, success will follow. Although Kreis is single-handedly handling vocal and piano duties during this concert, he carries it well, as heard on his cover of "I Can't Make You Love Me." The openly gay singer-songwriter dedicates the coming-out tale "We're Okay" to his mother. The storming anthem "Nothing at All" brings down the house as the finale. Live @ Joe's Pub is out now digitally.
Darren Hayes has tried with more experimental sounds, but on Secret Codes & Battleships he returns in fine form doing what made us fall in love him in the first place: pop. The set opens with the surprisingly mature ballad "Taken by the Sea." He still holds onto the giddiness from his Savage Garden days as heard on the standout "Talk Talk Talk." Here, he chirps, "All I want to do is just talk talk talk to you." On "Nearly Love" he confesses endearing pillow talk. Nobody else could make quite an upbeat number called "Hurt." The midtempo "Black out the Sun" recalls Leona Lewis' smash "Bleeding Love" as Hayes belts out, "I don't wanna be lonely." "Bloodstained Heart" shows off the out singer's mighty upper register. Secret Codes & Battleships is out now via Hayes's appropriately named label Powdered Sugar Productions.
Hayes issued a moving "It Gets Better" video on his YouTube page, where he discusses being bullied as a youth and how he can look back at those times from a much happier place.
Uh Huh Her avoids the sophomore slump with Nocturnes. Here, the duo favors more rock leanings, but the electro-pop vibe that made "Not a Love Song" a hit can be found on "Same High." "Human Nature" is bursting with a delicious guitar hook and "Debris" is a welcomed edgier turn. "Criminal" is the set's highlight, as Leisha Hailey wails on the chorus, "Say it, say it loud, say it again please, I cannot hear you."
The pair recently caused a stir when Hailey was escorted off of a Southwest flight before departure for kissing girlfriend/bandmate Camila Grey. A heated argument and fiery exchanges over Twitter followed. Hailey portrayed Alice Pieszecki on The L Word.
Last month I caught an acoustic show by Graffiti6, as the British pair opened for Ximena. Here, Jamie Scott sang soulfully and played the guitar with TommyD on bass. "Free" and "Goodbye Geoffrey Drake" sounded fantastic, even though these were stripped down considerably compared to the more elaborate production heard on the newly released full-length Colours. Graffiti6 returns to Chicago Saturday, Jan. 28, to Park West, 322 W. Armitage Ave. This time, Scott and TommyD will be joined by a full band. Here's to hoping my favorite "Annie You Save Me" finds its way into the setlist this time.
The queer-oriented Flesh Hungry Dog Show takes place at Jackhammer, 6406 N. Clark St., on Friday, Feb. 3. The line-up consists of the acoustic medley-makers Fatally Cool, Dyke van Dyk, Skinny Paul and Andrea Sottovoce.
I caught van Dyk's hilarious drag performance at last year's Alt Q Festival. Van Dyk croons beautifully and in an over-the-top fashion, as if teleported straight from Las Vegas circa 1960. For more information and tickets, visit www.fleshhungrydog.com .
Another great artistic showcase is in store as Cake Chicago will be at The Red Line Tap, 7006 N. Glenwood Ave., on Saturday, Feb. 4. On the bill are performance artist Rebecca King, multi-instrumentalist Vanessa Vincent and local vocal talent Roxy Swain. Ripley Cain hosts Cake Chicago. To celebrate the night's theme, come as your favorite Madonna moment to win a prize. The Material Girl is the entertainment during the Super Bowl XLVI halftime show Sunday, Feb. 5.