Solange shines brightly on her own with a new EP featuring her brand of retro-inspired, understated pop gems
Being a sibling of someone famous can be a mixed blessing, especially for someone who happens to be pursuing a career in the cut-throat entertainment industry. Virtually everything they do is subject to comparisons _ even dropping their last names and adopting a mononym often intensifies the attention rather than dispelling it (just ask Janet Jackson and Dannii Minogue). And when you're related to someone as insanely famous as Beyonce, things are bound to get that much harder.
Starting out by shadowing and filling in for unavailable members of her sister Beyonce's former girl band Destiny's Child, Solange was initially poised to fill a slot as the group's fourth member, but instead went on to release her own material _ the tellingly titled debut album, Solo Star. Having failed to break through, Solange spent the following four years concentrating on writing songs (still for her sister and members of Destiny's Child) and acting while juggling all of that with her domestic life.
In 2008, she returned with a new album, Sol-Angel and the Hadley St Dreams, featuring the markedly different sound influenced by the Motown and '70s girl groups. With a diverse lineup of producers including the Neptunes, Mark Ronson, Cee-Lo Green and Thievery Corporation at the helm, not only did the record prove to be a success, it also established Solange as an artist in her own right with a distinct voice. She has truly carved a niche for herself.
A quick glance at her past collaborators further attests to her inclination for going off the beaten path. Having previously worked with indie acts such as Chromeo, Of Montreal and Midnight Juggernauts, it's no surprise that her latest offering, a seven-track EP called True, is released on Terrible Records, the label co-founded by indie outfit Grizzly Bear's bassist Chris Taylor, and co-produced by indie bedroom beat-maker Dev Hynes, aka Blood Orange.
The album's opener Losing You paints an intriguing contrast between its buoyant production and Solange's almost deadpan vocal delivery. ''Tell me the truth, boy, am I losing you for good?'' she asks defeatedly, not really expecting an answer. The track perfectly sets the mood and tone for the rest of the EP, which revolves around heartbreak and/or a relationship on the verge of collapse.
The melancholy-tinged, 80s-inspired vibe continues on Some Things Never Seem To F***ing Work, a mid-tempo number where she once again finds herself doubting her relationship: ''So baby, is that all you've got?/Tell me if you got some more/I'm thinking of some time off.'' She then proceeds to blame it all on herself on the ballad Lovers In The Parking Lot.
Elsewhere on the EP, we get a sequel to Blood Orange's single Sutphin Boulevard, Don't Let Me Down, and a subtle, more minimalist take on R&B (Looks Good With Trouble and Bad Girls). We have to give it to Hynes for keeping things consistent throughout while still giving each track an identity of its own.
Solange doesn't disappoint either when it comes to singing _ think a sweeter, more textured Beyonce. Our one and only gripe with True is the very fact that it's an EP with less than 30 minutes of music. We are left wanting more _ literally.
P.O.P/ Chob Ah ROCK it LIKE it
After their saccharine first single Khon Tee Mai Bok Pan (Non Passer-By) following the band's eight-year hiatus, Nop Ponchamni and co take things up a few notches with their second single, Chob Ah ROCK it LIKE it. Kicking off with killer guitar riffs paired with solid drums, the song has Nop coming clean about his feelings towards his crush: ''Speaking right from the heart/I like ya/Dedicated to you and only you, 'cause you're so lovely/You're really all that.'' This is perhaps the most rock-sounding number we've heard from the boys.
Girls Aloud/ Something New
We blinked and the next thing we know the UK's favourite girl band Girls Aloud are celebrating their 10th anniversary with the release of Ten, the group's second greatest hits album following their first back in 2006. Anticipation is running high as this compilation marks the girls' first reunion since 2009, and also includes new material, such as this particular tune. Something New packs in the group's signature energy, with semi-rap verses and shouty choruses. Musically, this is nothing more than a contemporary take on good old Eurodance, but the hook, ''We're the leaders of the pack/Tell me can you handle that?'' is just too darn catchy not to sing along.
Mikky Ekko/ Pull Me Down
If you had a chance to read our review on Rihanna's latest album last week, then the name Mikky Ekko should ring a bell. For those who missed out, here's a guy whose warm and tender crooning makes the piano ballad Stay one of the few best moments on Unapologetic. Now with his own track Pull Me Down, the first single from his upcoming debut album, Ekko continues to impress with vocals that seem custom-made to reap success in the charts. We're also thankful for the fact that Clams Casino, one of the most inventive hip hop producers of the hour, throws his experimental flair into the mix, effectively stopping it from becoming a run-of-the-mill ballad.
will.i.am (featuring Britney Spears)/ Scream and Shout
American producer and all-around talent will.i.am shares with us the third single from his fourth studio album #willpower, Scream and Shout. Featuring the one and only Ms Spears, the track is clearly geared towards the dancefloor with the LMFAO-inspired electro-dance beat, the infamous Gimme More's ''Britney, bitch'' hook, plus enough synths to last until the end of 2013. Despite it all, the song fizzles out pretty quickly, and with a running time of almost five minutes, the rather uninspired hook ''I want to scream and shout, and let it all out'' becomes annoyingly repetitive rather than pleasantly catchy.
Cher/ Women's World
While her smash hit Believe was ahead of its time when it came out in 1998 (we'd like to think she's the one to blame for the whole Auto-Tune business in pop music), her 2012 offering Women's World comes rather late in the electronic dance music game. Why? For one, the song is produced by Paul Oakenfold, British trance DJ who hasn't produced anything memorable since his 2002 megahit Starry Eyed Surprise. As the title suggests, the song fully endorses female empowerment while the 66-year-old diva belts out: ''Everybody in the club stand up, come together now/This is a women's world.'' Cher's forthcoming 26th album _ her first studio album since 2001's Living Proof _ is said to feature collaborations with fellow female artists Pink and Lady Gaga.
About the author
Writer: Chanun Poomsawai