NBC's The Voice distinguished itself from American Idol by having openly gay contestants. Prior to the competition, some of the hopefuls have released albums and appeared on other similar programs. One of the standouts from the first season of The Voice is Vicci Martinez.
The out lesbian from Tacoma, Wash., released the album Vicci on Universal Republic. The set opens with a welcoming message in "Come Along." This duet with her mentor Cee-Lo Green boasts a video worthy of the "It Gets Better" campaign. The same positive vibe appears on the radio-ready tracks "Touch That Fire" and "Little Faith." Martinez shines on the killer rock song "I Can Love," which reminds us what made her stand out on The Voice. The album is rounded out with the playfully sexy "I Want Your Kiss" plus the more introspective moments "Hold Me Darlin'" and "Let Go." Although she already released multiple albums, Vicci serves as a great introduction to a broader audience. Martinez will perform at Summerfest in Milwaukee on Thursday, July 4.
Nicky Click makes a long overdue return with Metaphorically, of Course on her label, Crunks Not Dead Records, with her dazzling signature wigs, lingerie and garter belts in tow. Keeping in tune with her prior works, Click oozes sex appeal on the bouncy electro-dance cuts "Booty," "Move It Around" and "Dirty and Filthy." "Dear Diary" is insightful spoken-wordcut that recalls the ad lib from Deee-Lite's "Call Me."
This comeback outing has a few rewarding surprises too. Click delivers a fun reworking of Rocky Horror Picture Show's "Creatures of the Night" and the Erasure hit "Love 2 H8 U." It has been five years between albums, now Click relies less on beats and breaks character by heading into country territory, most notably with the stunning, intimate number "Easy Way Down."
Metaphorically, of Course is available digitally. Select tracks from Click's catalog like "Two Femme Girls" and the interview "Dykes on Mykes Radio Feature" can be downloaded for free at www.nickyclick.com . The openly queer DIY artist will be taking to the stage at Toronto Pride and Montreal Pride this summer.
In the year that she would have turned 70, Ladies of the Canyon Presents pays tribute to Janis Joplin on Thursday, May 30 at Fitzgerald's, 6615 Roosevelt Rd., Berwyn. This collective of talented Chicago-based musicians proved they can rock when they previously celebrated female icons like Blondie, Heart and Pat Benatar. For tickets, visit www.fitzgeraldsnightclub.com .
Legacy Recordings released two special collections of the influential psychedelic-blues siren's works. Live at the Carousel Ballroom 1968 by Big Brother & the Holding Company featuring Janis Joplin contains the staples "Summertime," "Piece of My Heart" and "Coo Coo." The posthumous album Pearl was reissued as a double-disc set with demos and alternate takes of classics like "Cry Baby," "Woman Left Lonely" and the chart-topper "Me and Bobby McGee."
Baz Luhrmann directs The Great Gatsby in an over-the-top fashion, just as his did with William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet. Both films serve as extended commercials for the companion soundtracks, yet leave me reaching for the previous adaptations that were more loyal to what I read in high school.
The soundtrack to Great Gatsby follows the same model as the director's previous remake. The film's sense of extravagance is captured by having music royalty Jay-Z performing "100$ Bill" and Beyonce taking a stab at Amy Winehouse's best track "Back to Black." For the livelier moments, willi.i.am continues to successfully reduce dance music to the lowest common denominator with "Bang Bang." On "A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)," Fergie is joined by Q-Tip and Goonrock to follow the same pattern as her solo material by sampling and referencing classics with catchy hooks and big vocals. Surely, Florence and the Machine's "Over the Love" mindlessly will be pegged as amazing, simply because she oversings and slurs her words, as Winehouse did.
The Great Gatsby soundtrack does have strong points, like Lana Del Rey's well-written slow burner "Young and Beautiful" and the new arrangement of "Love Is the Drug" by Bryan Ferry with the Bryan Ferry Orchestra. Nero sheds its dubstep sound for the impressive drum 'n' bass number "Into the Past." The set closes on a high note with Sia's James Bond-inspired power ballad "Kill and Run."
Acclaimed DJ and producer Peter Rauhofer lost his battle to cancer. The Vienna-born talent remixed the works of many, including Cher's "Believe," Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together" and Adele's "Skyfall." He also provided one of Madonna's best remixes with his magical tweaking of "Nothing Really Matters." In the late '90s, his remixes were unavoidable. Yet, what he did with Depeche Mode's "It's No Good" felt like the same beat was on an endless loop, leaving me wanting something better.
Rauhofer also fronted his own projects. Club 69 delivered sassy pop songs with a driving beat like "Let Me Be Your Underwear" and "Diva." Chicago's very own Suzanne Palmer provided her powerful vocals to Club 69's hits "Much Better" and "Muscles." "Walk" by Size Queen captured the tribal sound that Rauhofer was known for spinning during his residency at New York's Roxy. His pairing with Pet Shop Boys produced a tremendous spin on the club classic "Break 4 Love."
The out artist opened up about being diagnosed with a brain tumor less than a month before his passing.
Noteworthy new releases:
Alison Moyet: Minutes
Bitch: In Us We Trust
John Grant: Pale Green Ghosts
Kelly Rowland: Talk a Good Game
Music from the Original HBO Film: Behind the Candelabra
Natalie Maines: Mother
Original Cast Recording: Kinky Boots
Pet Shop Boys: Electric
R.E.M.: Green 25th Anniversary Edition
Sigur Ros: Kveikur
Susan Werner: Hayseed
Tylan: One True Thing
Ladies of the Canyon Presents the Music of Janis Joplin on Thursday, May 30, at Fitzgerald's
Darren Criss on Saturday, June 8, at House of Blues
Joan Baez and Indigo Girls on Sunday, June 9, at Ravinia
Glen Hansard and Lisa Hannigan on Sunday, June 9, at The Metro
Jewel on Sunday, June 16, at Ravinia
John Reilly with Becky Stark, Tom Brosseau and Andru Bemis on Saturday, June 22, at Old Town School of Folk Music
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings on Tuesday, June 25, at Ravinia
John Grant on Thursday, June 27, at Schuba's
Melissa Etheridge with Joan Osborne, Paula Cole and Jessie Payo on Saturday, June 29, at Ravinia
Yeah Yeah Yeahs with Bush and Awolnation on Saturday, June 29, at First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre
Susan Werner's Hayseed Project on Friday, July 5, at City Winery Chicago