Showing posts with label John Hill. Show all posts
Showing posts with label John Hill. Show all posts

Monday, March 24, 2014

MileHighGayGuy Music Review: Kylie Minogue - Kiss Me Once

By John Hill

Kylie Minogue, the patron saint of happy gays everywhere, has returned. Depending on whom you ask, Kiss Me Once is her twelfth studio album, unless you count 2012’s The Abbey Road Sessions, which found her revisiting past hits in an orchestral fashion. Let’s just say that this is her first album of new material since 2010’s stellar Aphrodite, a disc that saw Ms. Minogue touring the United States as if she was a conquering heroine. The question is, can she bring it the same way twice in a row? It appears the answer is “it depends.”

The album starts off with the epic “Into the Blue,” which easily grabs the title for “best pop song that will never see the light of day on US radio stations.” Listening to “Into the Blue” for the first time feels similar to how Aphrodite’s lead single “All the Lovers” did on first listen, and that’s a good thing. There is a timeless vibe to “Blue” that makes you feel like you are being launched into orbit willingly. “Million Miles” follows with a driving, upbeat groove that segues nicely into the synth shuffler “I Was Gonna Cancel” and the funky “Sexy Love.” At that moment, Kiss Me Once is everything you expect from Kylie. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The MileHighGayGuy Guide to 2013’s Top Albums Featuring Drake, Pet Shop Boys, Lorde, and More!

By John Hill

If someone asks you about music in 2013 and you think of Miley Cyrus, chances are you weren’t paying close enough attention because a LOT of quality music came out over the past 12 months. Pop, rock, hip hop, dance, country…a lot of genres had great records to talk about and listen to. Here are ten of those albums in no particular order that are worthy of being considered the best of the best.

Drake/Nothing Was the Same
The impressive thing about Drake is that he is still considered legit by the hip-hop community while courting a large mainstream fan base that loves his more pop-leaning tracks. 2013 saw Drake maintain that dichotomy by first releasing the back to basics “Started from the Bottom” which debuted the night he won a Grammy for Best Rap Album for 2011’s Take Care. “Started” peaked at number six on the Billboard Hot 100, followed by the even bigger pop hit “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” which made it up to number four. The way that Drake brags about his prowess in business, on the mic and in bed while still maintaining a level of accessibility and vulnerability that keeps him edgy and relatable is impressive, and that dynamic that will keep his fans coming back for more. Highlights: “Started From the Bottom,” “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” “The Language”

Sara Bareilles/The Blessed Unrest

Pretty much everyone in the industry was caught off guard when Sara Bareilles garnered an Album of the Year Grammy nomination for The Blessed Unrest at the 2014 Awards. That surprise fell into two categories: those who hadn’t paid attention to the album, and those who had but figured it didn’t stand a chance. Count me amongst the latter…on her fourth full-length studio album, Bareilles expanded her musical palette outward from her piano-driven pop to a more eclectic collection, but the album seemed overshadowed by higher profile releases like Taylor Swift and Justin Timberlake. Now that her name is up for consideration, she may actually have a chance if the Grammy voters are in an underdog kind of mood. No matter which direction that vote goes, check out The Blessed Unrest and its diverse body of work, including the instant gay marriage anthem “I Choose You.” Highlights: “Brave,” “Manhattan,” “I Choose You”

Lady Gaga/ARTPOP
When hype overwhelms art, there is no way that art can be taken at face value. Such is the dilemma that Lady Gaga experienced upon releasing ARTPOP. Gaga created such an enigma around her latest disc that even a classic album like Thriller wouldn’t live up to that much hype. That’s a shame, because ARTPOP is a solid album filled with the Lady’s trademark anthemic hooks. “Applause” grabbed my attention on first listen and I instantly declared it the winner in the Gaga vs. Katy Perry showdown. However, the big surprise on this record was the inclusion of a duet with none other than R. Kelly on “Do What U Want.” Crazy thing is that it’s not a stunt: it works! Highlights: “Applause,” “Do What U Want,” “Gypsy”

Haim/Days Are Gone
What is it about sibling trios recording solid pop/rock music? Hanson, the Jonas Brothers (I heard your eyes roll), the Bee Gees…whatever your opinion, these groups had catchy songs combined with tight harmonies. In 2013, music lovers all over the globe added Haim to that list. In fact, their album debuted at number one in the UK, preventing the second edition of Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience from hitting the top of the chart. Haim are part 80s dance pop, part 80s yacht rock, and 100% grounded in the present with tight harmonies and great studio production. Highlights: “The Wire,” “Falling,” “Forever”

Kacey Musgraves/Same Trailer Different Park
“Make lots of noise/kiss lots of boys/or kiss lots of girls if that’s something you’re into.” That was potentially the most talked about lyric in Nashville this year, thanks to singer/songwriter Kacey Musgraves. Upon first listen, radio programmers said “we love it, but we’ll never play it.” True to their word and despite a well-received performance by Musgraves on the Country Music Awards in November, the single stalled at Country radio. However, let that serve as a great reason to dig in to the rest of her album. Kacey mixes traditional country instrumentation with modern takes and circumstances to deliver an album both country lovers and non-believers can relate to. It might be seen as crude by some, but the picture Musgraves paints is vividly real. Highlights: “Follow Your Arrow,” “Merry Go Round,” “I Miss You”

Pet Shop Boys/Electric
How do you criticize a band that’s been blazing trails for over 25 years and is beloved within the gay community? It’s tough, but the Pet Shop Boys earned some of that criticism with their last album (Elysium) that was uneven at best. Fortunately, Neil and Chris decided to dedicate their newest album to the dance floor and brought in producer extraordinaire Stuart Price to helm the project. The resulting album is Electric, and it is easily their best album since Very back in the early 90s. From the anthemic “Love is a Bourgeois Construct” to the modern “Thursday” with rap interlude included, the Boys sound like they’re having fun, and it’s great to hear that. But it is album closer “Vocal” that really struck home. “I like the people/I like the song/This is my kind of music/They play it all night long” That’s the club I want to be at, and Electric is the soundtrack I want to hear. Highlights: “Vocal,” “Thursday,” “Love is a Bourgeois Construct”

Lorde/Pure Heroine

Normally when a song spends nine weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, I get to a point where I can’t bear to hear the song for a good month. That didn’t happen with “Royals,” which I still can’t get enough of. There is something so unique and fresh about the song and Pure Heroine that keeps it from getting stale, and the singles that have followed (“Team,” “Tennis Court”) have kept Lorde’s momentum rolling. Pure Heroine ended up being one of the best debuts of 2013, even if the Grammys neglected to nominate Lorde for Best New Artist. Highlights: “Royals,” “Team,” “Tennis Court”

St Lucia/When the Night
I’ve spent the better part of 2013 raving about St. Lucia based on seeing them open for Ellie Goulding back in February. As the buzz around them built, the release of their first full-length album When the Night became something to get excited for. Fortunately, the record dropped and was even better than you could expect from a debut. St Lucia’s sound is very reminiscent of the 80s New Romantic/New Wave sound of groups like Spandau Ballet, Thompson Twins and even Peter Gabriel and his most commercial point. Lead single “Elevate” is a joyous party, “Closer Than This” is synthtastic, and “All Eyes On You” has that awesome end of a John Hughes film vibe to it. Best played on repeat over and over. Highlights: “Elevate,” “All Eyes On You,” “The Way You Remember Me”

Jason Isbell/Southeastern
Somewhere between Country music and Folk music lays Alt-Country or Americana, and the sub-genre was responsible for some of the best music to come out in 2013. The Mavericks, Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison, Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell…all of these folks released stellar albums, but none could surpass the emotional depth and passion that Jason Isbell captured on Southeastern. Frank, raw tracks like “Traveling Alone” and the heart-wrenching “Elephant” are musical stories of the finest kind. Highlights: “Traveling Alone,” “Elephant,” “Cover Me Up”

Jessie Ware/Devotion  

One of the most promising artists on the rise in 2012 was Jessie Ware, and she delivered in spades this year when she finally released her Devotion album here in the US. Songs that we had already heard last year like “Wildest Moments” and “Running” were paired with new gems like the disco-tastic “Imagine It Was Us” to make her US debut a memorable one. Here’s hoping that her record company hangs in there with promotion so more of America gets to hear her amazing voice. Highlights: “Wildest Moments,” “Running,” “Imagine It Was Us”

I hope you all have an amazing New Year filled with new experiences and amazing music. I will be kicking off the New Year by counting down my Top Songs of 2013 over at Pop Music Notes.

While his full-time job is in education, John Hill also writes a successful music blog titled Pop Music Notes. He is also active on Twitter @popmusicnotes and lives in Denver with his partners in crime James and Bruiser.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The MileHighGayGuy Guide to 2013's Best Christmas and Holiday Music: Erasure, Kelly Clarkson, Mary J. Blige & Tamar Braxton

By John Hill

Have you had a hectic December? Did it just dawn on you that Christmas is mere days away? If that’s the case, we’re here to help you get in the Christmas spirit with four Christmas albums that you may have missed while being busy doing whatever else was more important. Hopefully something here will help your heart grow three sizes like the Grinch.

Erasure, Snow Globe – Part 80s New Wave Pop, part traditional Christmas music (in Latin, no less!), and 100% gay…who would expect any less from Erasure! In all seriousness, this album is brilliant. Leave it to Vince Clarke and Andy Bell to take a 16th Century hymn like “Gaudete” and turn it into a thumping Christmas jam that you’ll want to listen to on repeat. While there are traditional carols like “White Christmas” that receive the full Vince Clarke treatment like “White Christmas,” the originals are the true stars here. “Make It Wonderful” is easily one of the best Erasure songs of the past 10 years, and "There'll Be No Tomorrow” bring back memories of old-school Depeche Mode while still sounding current. If you are looking to make the Yuletide gay, Snow Globe is the way to go.

Kelly Clarkson, Wrapped In Red – Speaking of originals, Kelly Clarkson got in the holiday spirit and decided to release her own Christmas album with original songs as well. “Underneath the Tree” has been hailed as the best new Christmas song since “All I Want for Christmas is You,” but if you want something a bit left of center, check out “4

Carats,” a modern take on “Santa Baby” co-written with pop legend Cathy Dennis. “Wrapped in Red” has that old school vibe as well, and “Every Christmas” goes for the torchy vibe as Kelly is “waiting, praying” for her man to come home. If you like your Christmas songs on the traditional side, Clarkson’s got that covered as well, including a diva-tactic version of “Silent Night” recorded with country royalty Reba McEntire and Trisha Yearwood. There is something amazing about the harmonies on this track, which has quickly become my favorite version of the traditional carol. The mix of classics with new compositions should help keep you from getting bored while still feeling the Christmas spirit.

Mary J Blige, A Mary Christmas – Of COURSE Mary J. Blige would release a Christmas album that uses her name in the title. That’s a no-brainer. What is surprising is the song selection, which changes up things a bit from Mary’s typical R&B style. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” works on the same level as a Michael Buble recording with the big band arrangement, “Noche de Pas (Silent Night)” is a sweet bi-lingual duet with Marc Anthony, and “Little Drummer Boy” busts out the choir to open but settles into a more contemporary arrangement. If there’s one song that doesn’t quite work, it would probably be “When You Wish Upon a Star,” which features Barbara Streisand in a duet that doesn’t wow the way you would expect this pairing to do. All is forgiven by the time “Mary, Did You Know” pops up, imbuing this modern classic originally recorded by Michael English with an original take that evokes No More Drama-era Mary. While you would expect an album filled with R&B standards, this eclectic mix works just as well, showing a versatility that Blige’s fans have known was there for years.

Tamar Braxton, Winter Loversland – She did that! Toni’s little sister not only came into her own in 2013, she decided to double the return on her visibility by releasing a Christmas album only two months after her comeback disc Love and War. As with Blige’s A Mary Christmas, if you are expecting a strictly R&B Christmas party, you might be a bit disappointed. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” takes on a loungy vibe that suits Braxton’s voice well and the stripped-down medley of “Away in a Manger/Little Drummer Boy” show off a more restrained Tamar than the over-the-top personality would lead you to believe. Still, Tamar does a great job of making a few standards her own, including “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late),” which she sings with sister Trina, and “Sleigh Ride.” However, the most satisfying track on this record is the original “She Can Have You,” which Braxton has described as a personal song about being alone at Christmastime but choosing to be alone rather than with Mr. Wrong. Tamar covers all aspects of love at Christmas on Winter Loversland, and it works all the way around.

While his full-time job is in education, John Hill also writes a successful music blog titled Pop Music Notes. He is also active on Twitter @popmusicnotes and lives in Denver with his partners in crime James and Bruiser.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

I Love It: New Music from Icona Pop

By John Hill

If you have been near a radio anytime this past summer, the chances are good that hearing the phrase “I Love It” will immediately bring to mind a couple of rowdy girls singing about crashing their car and kissing off an ex. “I Love It” was inescapable for a solid two months, but how does an unknown group with such a striking single follow it up? In the case of Icona Pop, you release a whole album driving pop anthems called This Is…Icona Pop that keep the party going for at least another half hour.

Notice I said “half hour?” The full album clocks in at less than 33 minutes, but honestly, that is all you really need. Each three minute gem packs a punch that doesn’t stray too far from the formula behind “I Love It,” and this type of pop probably is better in action-packed morsels anyway. Follow up single “All Night” sounds a lot like “I Love It,” but with a slightly different vibe. Add to that the gorgeous video that pays tribute to the ballroom culture made famous in Paris Is Burning, and you have one of my favorite songs for the fall.

This Is…Icona Pop does not need a deep analysis because that’s not the point. It is a hop in the car, pick up your best club friends and head on out for a fun night on the town disc, and it succeeds in its mission. In a time where it seems like there’s just one tragedy after another on the news, Icona Pop provide a soundtrack for your escape from reality that got here just in the nick of time. 

While his full-time job is in education, John Hill also writes a successful music blog titled Pop Music Notes. He is also active on Twitter @popmusicnotes and lives in Denver with his partners in crime James and Bruiser.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Coming Soon: New Music from St. Lucia

By John Hill

If you ask anyone who knows me, one of the first facts they can probably confirm is that I am a music nerd. Always have been and always will be. One of the traits of a music dork is that they leave no stone unturned in their never-ending search for new cool music. As a result, any time I go to a concert I always arrive early so I can see the opening act. Oftentimes this leads to disappointment or a trip to the bar for a refill before the main act comes on, but every once in a while I come across an opening act so good that I have to know more. Such was the case this past February when I saw St. Lucia open for Ellie Goulding at the Ogden Theater.

For those of you not in the know, St. Lucia is primarily the brainchild of Jean-Philip Grobler, a native of South Africa who now calls Brooklyn home. His music is what I would call “ethereal 80s,” and reminds me of the album cuts from artists like Thompson Twins, Peter Gabriel, Howard Jones and Spandau Ballet that you thought you were the only person in the world who really appreciated. A self-titled EP was released in March of last year, and the band has toured steadily since then. By the time I saw St. Lucia in February, they were already testing out new material in anticipation of a full-length debut later in 2013. That time has now come, as When the Night will see the light of day here in the US on October 8th.

To whet our appetites, there has been a steady trickle of music released, and it hasn’t disappointed at all. First buzz cut “Elevate” carries that New Romantic vibe of the 80s off on gentle breeze and Grobler’s soaring vocals, and second track “Too Close” brings the synths front and center for a slow build to a chorus punctuated by rapid-fire drums. If they were trying to hook me into being excited for When the Night next month, then it is mission accomplished. Add to that their return to Denver on October 21st as an opening act for Two Door Cinema Club and my month will be made. Check out their latest down below, and then grab tickets to their opening gig at the Ogden Theater here.


Monday, September 16, 2013

On the Rise: A Review of Ariana Grande’s Yours Truly

By John Hill

If you were listening to the radio a few months ago and thought you heard a new Mariah Carey song that didn’t quite sound like Mariah, you are not alone. There was “#Beautiful,” her duet with Miguel that sounded more like a Miguel record than a Mariah record, and then there was “The Way,” a breezy throwback to early-90s Mariah with a rap collaboration by Mac Miller that was not even Mariah singing it. Instead, it was Nickelodeon alum Ariana Grande with her first top ten hit preceding her debut album. But does Yours Truly sound like a Mariah disc or is there a more distinct sound?

The good news is that Yours Truly has more than just Mariah-inspired music, but the theme seems to be “back to the future.” From the girl-group-sounding “Tattooed Heart” to the Wicked-inspired “Popular Song” (a Mika track that was originally recorded with Priscilla Renea), it is clear that Ariana is guided by her musical influences in a big way. Even the opening “Honeymoon Avenue” uses a vocal intro that sounds very similar to a doo-wop riff Michael Jackson used in live performances of “The Way You Make Me Feel” in the late 80s. Despite the number of blatant influences from the past, Yours Truly sounds like a very current record.

This is not to say that Mariah’s influence doesn’t pop up elsewhere, because tracks like “Lovin’ It” could easily be recorded by Mimi with its layered harmonies and built-in vocal runs. However, the highlights on Yours Truly are decidedly non-Mariah. “Piano” is destined for the pop charts with its bouncy chorus and upbeat message, and “Almost Is Never Enough” pairs Grande with The Wanted member Nathan Sykes showing off some seriously soulful pipes on a beautifully understated ballad. In addition, let’s be honest…any hook that gets Mika’s “Popular Song” played on the radio in the US is a welcome one.

As debut albums by former teen stars go, this is a solid effort. It will be interesting to see Grande’s perspective begin to shine through as her recording career progresses, but fortunately Yours Truly should hold listeners over for a while as she begins that journey. 

While his full-time job is in education, John Hill also writes a successful music blog titled Pop Music Notes. He is also active on Twitter @popmusicnotes and lives in Denver with his partners in crime James and Bruiser.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

You’re So Classic: New Music from MKTO, Jesse McCartney and Mayer Hawthorne

By John Hill 

You know what they say…what’s old is new again. There is a glut of retro sounding records out right now, with “Suit and Tie,” “Get Lucky” and “Treasure” going top five on Billboard’s Hot 100 and “Blurred Lines” dominating EVERYTHING, so you will probably see a lot more before the trend is over. To help sort it all out, here are three tracks from the pack to throw your support behind. 

MKTO “Classic”

If MKTO doesn’t sound familiar to you, don’t feel out of the loop. The duo released their first single “Thank You,” back in January, and their album is not currently scheduled for release. For those of you with kids that watch Nickelodeon (or those that watch the channel themselves), Malcolm and Tony played best friends on the show Gigantic back in 2010, but went on to become both bandmates and friends in real life. They have become big in Australia but US success has not found them just yet. That could change with their new single “Classic,” which is getting major play on Sirius/XM’s pop channels at the moment. This record breaks one big rule for me: I normally HATE songs that name-check celebrities, but the way “Classic” references not only Michael Jackson and Prince but also classic R&B artists Marvin Gaye and Donny Hathaway works well in this context. Add to that a backing track that references the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” and a rap from Tony that isn’t annoying, and you may have just found your late-summer guilty pleasure.

Jesse McCartney “Back Together”

Jesse and I have a history. Okay, not PERSONALLY, but I’ve been a big fan of his work over the past few years and his Departure album and reboot in 2008/2009 specifically. I don’t know specifically what went down with him and his former label Hollywood Records, but Jesse is back with a new track on independent label Eight0Eight Records called “Back Together.” It’s clear that Jesse is capitalizing on the retro vibe that Justin Timberlake has blazed over the past few months, but it doesn’t feel faked in any way with McCartney. In fact, it feels like a natural progression from previous hits like “How Do You Sleep” and “Body Language.” Here’s hoping this new label and vibe gets him the attention he deserves musically.

Mayer Hawthorne “Her Favorite Song”

Near the center of this retro revival on the charts is Pharrell Williams, who not only provides vocals on Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and writer/producer duties on “Blurred Lines” but also has produced similar sounding records for artists like Usher (“Twisted”). That’s why it is no surprise that Mayer Hawthorne’s Where Does This Door Go ends up being a stone-cold funk jam with Pharrell producing four tracks including the stellar “Wine Glass Woman.” First single “Her Favorite Song” has a grimy bassline and a slinky guitar riff that wouldn’t be out of place on a Chic record that fits Hawthorne’s loungey vocals well. In most scenarios I would say this is a great album cut on a solid record, but in this current retro environment, it actually has a shot at pop radio airplay. Here’s hoping… 

While his full-time job is in education, John Hill also writes a successful music blog titled Pop Music Notes. He is also active on Twitter @popmusicnotes and lives in Denver with his partners in crime James and Bruiser.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

It Takes Two: New Music from Toni Braxton, Babyface, Janelle Monáe and Miguel

By John Hill

It takes two to tango, two to make a thing go right, and two to get one in trouble. If this week’s new music is any indication, it also takes two to make beautiful music and (possibly) revive a musical career. Here are two duets that arrived on Monday and should have your immediate attention.

Toni Braxton and Babyface “Hurt You”
Back in February, fans of Toni Braxton were rocked by the news that she was retiring from music because she just wasn’t feeling inspired by it anymore. Whether this was a genuine sentiment or just a publicity stunt for a career that many already assumed was dormant is for others to determine, but Toni has consistently put out great music for 20 years and her not recording new music would have been a shame. Enter Babyface, as documented on the We TV reality show Braxton Family Values, who talked Toni down from her career crisis and turned said publicity into a duets project called Love, Marriage and Divorce that is due from Motown Records on December 3rd. The pair first recorded together in 1992 on “Give U My Heart” from the movie Boomerang, and their chemistry remains strong on “Hurt You.” This is R&B for grown adults who have been through both good and bad relationships and can relate to the fact that there are no easy answers to questions of the heart. Babyface and Braxton’s voices still gel well and the production is solid, but don’t expect a pop chart resurgence from this understated midtempo track.

Janelle Monáe and Miguel “PrimeTime"

Janelle Monáe has been slowly unveiling music from her upcoming third album The Electric Lady, and as with previous releases, it’s an eclectic mix of traditional and modern R&B that makes it hard to peg her musical style. That’s a good thing: Monáe can be called a lot of things, but boring is not one of them. Monáe’s third single from The Electric Lady “PrimeTime” finds her in a more mellow, romantic mood as she trades verses with man-of-the-moment Miguel. “It’s a prime time for our love/And Heaven is bettin’ on us” sums up just how committed these two people are to each other and the relationship they share, and it is reminiscent of Prince in his heyday when he could inject both soul and rock elements into a heartfelt ballad. The Electric Lady is available on September 10th, but you can pre-order it now and get some great perks, including advance access to tickets for Monáe’s imminent tour this fall (more on that coming soon).

While his full-time job is in education, John Hill also writes a successful music blog titled Pop Music Notes. He is also active on Twitter @popmusicnotes and lives in Denver with his partners in crime James and Bruiser.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Up and Coming: New Music from VV Brown, Foxes and Aiden Grimshaw

By John Hill

Monday the Internet exploded. Okay…maybe it didn’t explode, but it sure got heated with the dueling debuts of Katy Perry’s “Roar” and Lady Gaga’s “Applause.”

For those folks who don’t pay attention to new releases it wasn’t a big deal, but for those of us who get to hear a lot of new music, we can’t help but feel for up-and-coming artists who get lost in the shuffle of a high-profile release.

Here are three new releases that you need to make room for on your playlist.

VV Brown - “The Apple”

The word of the day in pop music is “retro,” and VV Brown has a strong Grace Jones vibe going on with her new video “The Apple.” It is a big change sonically from her poppy “Shark in the Water” that made a few waves here in the US back in 2010, but you won’t hear me complain. The offical single preceding her new album is called “Samson,” but “The Apple” has a bit more mainstream appeal to my ear. Samson and Delilah appears to be a much more downbeat and introspective album than her debut, in part because Brown set up her own label to release the type of music she wanted to release. A UK release of Samson is scheduled for September, but the rest of the world will have to wait until October 6th to hear the full album.

Foxes - “Young”

Whether you know it or not, Foxes (nee Louisa Rose Allen) has already been all over your radio this summer as the vocalist for Zedd’s massive hit “Clarity.” As is often the case, she is not what you would call “new,” having kicked around the UK music scene for a few years now and already dropped an EP entitled Warrior last year. Fortunately, the music on Warrior meshes nicely with where the US music scene is at, prompting RCA to sign her domestically. To keep the momentum going, RCA is releasing “Young” as an EP on October 8th, but the single will be available on its own August 20th. Foxes uses a bit more of her lower range vocals on “Young” compared to “Clarity,” but her style is distinct which should give her a good shot at a solo hit.

Aiden Grimshaw - “The Way We Are” (Free Download!)

The pop charts in the US are crawling with contestants from the UK version of The X Factor these days: Little Mix, Olly Murs, Cher Lloyd and One Direction all got their start on a talent show that hasn’t been able to replicate a superstar act here in the US, although Emblem3 and Fifth Harmony are both giving it a go at Top 40 radio at the moment.

One of the more interesting contestants of the past few years on the UK show was Aiden Grimshaw, whose 7th place ouster was considered one of those “shock eliminations” you hear about in reality TV. His first album Misty Eye came out last year and made a few waves on the British charts, but it never saw a release here in America. While pinning down Grimshaw’s musical style is tough to pin down (think a moodier Bright Light Bright Light), his brooding, soulful vocals add a solid contrast to the more mechanical synths and drum machine on “The Way We Are.” Download the free track and decide for yourself!

While his full-time job is in education, John Hill also writes a successful music blog titled Pop Music Notes. He is also active on Twitter @popmusicnotes and lives in Denver with his partners in crime James and Bruiser.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Music News: Battle of the Divas - Katy Perry vs. Lady Gaga

By John Hill

The Pop Gods took pity upon mankind this week, with not one pop diva releasing new music, but TWO! Because every gay boy will have an opinion, let’s break down the new offerings from Katy Perry and Lady Gaga who both have new albums coming out in mid-October.

Katy Perry - Roar
At first glance, this is a paint-by-numbers pop song for 2013 preceding her upcoming disc Prism. That opening bit sounds just like Sara Bareilles’ current single “Brave,” and the verses steal vocal stylings from Avril Lavigne, but the chorus is decently solid. There isn’t anything all that substantial to the track, and even the backing track sounds a bit half-hearted, but don’t count the track out because after a few listens it WILL be stuck in your head. A decent track, but a bit of a letdown next to much stronger cuts from her last album Teenage Dream.

Lady Gaga- Applause
If “Roar” sounds like someone is capitalizing on current musical trends, then “Applause” starts out cashing in on a retro mid-80s punk sound pioneered by female-led groups like Missing Persons and Berlin. In fact, Gaga seems to have taken a few notes from Dale Bozzio in her vocal style and delivery on those verses (“I’ve heard your theory/nostalgia’s for geeks” hits home instantly). But once she segues into the anthemic chorus, it’s all Gaga vocally and the track takes flight. This is how you kick off the promotion of a new album like ARTPOP.

So who wins this Battle of the Divas? Gaga, and it wasn’t even close. Both tracks are now on Amazon and iTunes, so cast your vote with your wallet and let your inner diva OUT!

While his full-time job is in education, John Hill also writes a successful music blog titled Pop Music Notes. He is also active on Twitter @popmusicnotes and lives in Denver with his partners in crime James and Bruiser.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Hang On To Your Groove: New Music from Sam Sparro

By John Hill

In a perfect world, Sam Sparro would have already been a superstar many times over. Instead he is seen as a one-hit wonder in much of the world for “Black and Gold” and as another struggling musician here in the United States. Still he persists, and we should all be grateful for that. In an attempt to get his music to the masses in a faster and more expeditious manner, Sparro has opted to release a series of EPs. Entitled "Quantum Physical," this body of work is being preceded by Mechanical, a mixtape that has quickly become my go-to for a pick-me-up pretty much any time of day. Interspersed between remixes by the likes of Aaliyah, Rihanna, Kendrick Lamar and Rosie Gaines are unreleased tracks from Sam that will be part of the Quantum Physical era.

While Mechanical is a groove-laden mix from start to finish, its heart and soul lies in “Hang On 2 Your Love,” which will be released as a single on August 13. A thumping bass combined with a warped synth line, strong house keyboard riffs and Sparro’s dynamic vocals equals musical perfection I wish I had to listen to earlier in the summer, but I am glad to have it now. Don’t sleep on Sparro’s other new tracks, which include the oh-so-timely “Fascism” that seems custom-made for these hypocritical times we currently live in.

Part one of Quantum Physical will be released in September (no specific date has been published yet), but follow Sam on Twitter (@sam_sparro) for all the latest details.

While his full-time job is in education, John Hill also writes a successful music blog titled Pop Music Notes. He is also active on Twitter @popmusicnotes and lives in Denver with his partners in crime James and Bruiser.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Out in the Music Marketplace: Mary Lambert and Steve Grand ... This One Time, at Bandcamp

By John Hill

Being out and in the music industry is not a bad spot to be in right now. With predecessors like Elton John, Melissa Etheridge and even Adam Lambert leading the way, many newer artists are met with yawns when they decide to come out.

However, being out and being successful do not necessarily go hand in hand.

That’s why it is so promising that two out singer/songwriters are garnering attention in the mainstream press for their music. Coincidentally, both artists are also selling their current music at, but that may be where the similarities end.

Mary Lambert “She Keeps Me Warm”
“No I can’t change/Even if I tried/Even if I wanted to.” It’s getting to a point where you can’t leave the radio on a Top 40 station without hearing this refrain, and that’s a good thing. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s “Same Love” takes up the torch for marriages of all kinds, and Mary Lambert sings the hook on the chorus that drives that point home with a lightness and matter-of-factness that is undeniable. The part I didn’t expect was that Lambert would take that beautiful hook and craft a lush love song around it. Rather than recap it, here is Mary’s take on how the full-length song evolved:

‘Same Love’ had to be written from a place of love, I believed. I think that the best way to impact the world positively is to come from a place pure of heart, with complete and total love for humanity. I love. I love so much it makes me cry for no reason. I love humanity even when it is sickening and fails miserably at taking care of each other. When humanity seems devoid of love, it’s because it hasn’t been nurtured enough. I believe in nurturing it.

Releasing ‘She Keeps Me Warm’ today is a massive and scary step. Simply because this song is not political. It’s not about oppression or marriage equality. This song is a love song. That’s all it is. It’s an honest love song, an extended version of my chorus from ‘Same Love’. It’s another side of the story. The only difference with this song is that there are female pronouns. I’m not trying to be shocking. I suppose it’s inadvertently making a statement, but I hope this song sits in all hearts- gay or straight. It’s not about any of that. It’s about love. It’s always been about love.

The song was a Bandcamp exclusive up until this past Tuesday, but is now available on iTunes as well. No matter where you buy it, just do it. Lambert’s voice, combined with a unique perspective in the pop marketplace, is a welcome and needed addition.

Steve Grand “All-American Boy”

If you haven’t heard about Steve Grand being “country’s first gay superstar,” don’t feel bad, because it is definitely a misnomer. Steve Grand IS a promising singer/songwriter and “All-American Boy” IS a good song, but to declare Grand a star off of one independently-released song that has tinges of Country in its melody is a huge overreach. Then again, all publicity is good publicity, right? Not to mention the pictures that have come out from his modeling career or how he charged up all of his credit cards to pay for the video that currently sits at 1.8 million views.

All hype and publicity aside, “All-American Boy” is a solid if not innovative song (besides the subject matter). “Boy” reminds me a bit of Ferras’ “Hollywood’s Not America,” which was utilized during season seven of American Idol in 2008. It does not take much to picture this playing on the radio alongside songs from Maroon 5 or Katy Perry, and hopefully he gets the attention that a song of this quality deserves.

While his full-time job is in education, John Hill also writes a successful music blog titled Pop Music Notes. He is also active on Twitter @popmusicnotes and lives in Denver with his partners in crime James and Bruiser.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Free Music for the Weekend: Robin Thicke, Nomi Madness & Cash Cash

By John Hill

Free downloads for you! And for you! And for you! I feel like Oprah here, but when artists are feeling generous enough to get their music out to the public for free, why wouldn’t you take them up on it? 

Here are a few quality tracks and mixes to check out and maybe add to your weekend playlist:

Blurred Lines (Rejoyce Interpretation): Robin Thicke, T.I. & Pharrell
This song is EVERYWHERE this summer, but if you can’t get enough, producer and label owner Rejoyce adds enough oomph to the track to keep you movin’ and groovin’ on the treadmill or the dance floor. 

My Love Is For Real (Goh Hotoda Mix): Nomi Madness 
Nomi Madness should be familiar to regular readers as Warren Nomi, a severely underrated pop/dance artist who should already be a superstar on the dancefloor. This song popped up after the Supreme Court ruling on Prop 8 and DOMA, and it’s Inner City-influenced vibe has been burning up my summer playlist ever since. Fun fact: this song was co-written with 90s chanteuse Cathy Dennis for Victoria Beckham’s ill-fated sophomore album in the mid-00s that never saw the light of day. 

Cash Cash’s Royalty Radio #001 NYC’s EDM trio are not only recording artists, but they are also in-demand producers and remixers that are enjoying success right now with up-and-coming group Krewella. Check out their first episode of Royalty Radio, featuring cuts from artists like Miley Cyrus, Matthew Koma, Charli XCX and Krewella. If this doesn’t get your weekend off to a strong start, I’ve got nothing for ya.

Friday, June 28, 2013

MileHighGayGuys Discuss DOMA and Marriage Equality: John Hill

"Less than three days after a majority of Supreme Court justices found a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act indefensible, I find myself in Canada. Talk about perspective. Marriage equality is old hat up here, whether you are in a metropolis like Vancouver or a small town like Strathmore where I will be for the next three days.

Humans are an adaptive bunch: they may bitch and moan and complain about their current circumstances, but they make it through. That's how we got from swinging between trees to sitting in traffic. No matter how some people complain about marriage equality, they will come around. We as the LGBT community need to live our lives publicly and proudly so those who want us unequal cannot continue to point to the shadows and worry about what we might do with equality. Only then will they realize that we are not the threat they think we are. 

My partner of four years and I know that we will eventually be married, but it remains to be seen where that will occur. As the number of states that allow same-sex marriage increase, Colorado risks becoming a dinosaur to the world. Now is the time for us to push for a new Amendment to our Constitution that is inclusive instead of exclusive when it comes to marriage. Momentum is on our side, and we should now utilize that energy to create a climate where progressive-minded people will look to Colorado as a desirable place to be instead of one to be avoided. That is our challenge, but it is one that is achievable. We owe future generations this effort so they will never be ostracized for who they love and want to spend their lives with."

Friday, June 14, 2013

Presenting Your Denver Pride 2013 Playlist

By John Hill

While the purpose of Gay Pride festivals are to celebrate how far we’ve come and those who helped get us so far in the Gay Rights movement over the past 40+ years, you’ve GOT to have a solid musical playlist to go along with the festivities, right? Here are some recommendations to kick off your Denver Pride celebrations in style.

Fall Out Boy “My Songs Know What You Did In the Dark (Light ‘Em Up)”
In a year full of comebacks, few have hit with the same impact as Fall Out Boy’s first single from their reunion record Save Rock and Roll. Bedsides being a guaranteed sing-along for their show at the 1stBank Center on September 18th, they get bonus points for including a dubstep-like breakdown on the chorus that doesn’t sound annoying.

Dominique Pruitt “To Win Your Love”
It’s tough to nail down a genre for Dominique. One minute she’s sounding like a 60s girl group version of Belinda Carlisle, the next she’s rolling over a Rockabilly beat. All I know is that “To Win Your Love” is a fun track that will sound perfect at your next pool party.

Sara Bareilles “Brave”
Sara is the girl every gay boy wants as a friend and a confidant (cue the Golden Girls). But seriously…”Brave” sums it all up with its advice to “say what you want to say/and let the words fall out.” Be honest, be upfront, and be yourself, and if they don’t like it, then you know what to say next.

Tamar Braxton “The One”
If you were in doubt about Tamar Braxton being a serious recording artist based on her antics on the reality show Braxton Family Values, she drops the perfect top-down R&B jam in “The One.” Bonus points for her trying to drop it like it’s hot while pregnant. You bettah get yo’ life!

Ciara “Body Party (Dave Aude Club Mix)”
After a few misfires (including the amazing “Got Me Good”), Ciara is back in a big way with “Body Party” from her upcoming self-titled fifth album. While the original is more of a slow jam for the bedroom, the Dave Aude remix is strictly for the clubs. Work that body out!

Robin Thicke featuring Pharell and T.I. “Blurred Lines”
“Everybody get up!” From the opening declaration to dance to the sample of Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up,” you need to check your pulse if this jam doesn’t get you grooving. Thicke has been working the blue-eyed soul angle for a while, but with this infectious jam he just picked up his first number one Pop record.

While his full-time job is in education, John Hill also writes a successful music blog titled Pop Music Notes. He is also active on Twitter @popmusicnotes and lives in Denver with his partners in crime James and Bruiser.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Meet the MileHighGayGuy Bloggers: John Hill

Music columnist John Hill is a self-identified chart geek who has a passion for pop music of all kinds. Along with his chart-watching that began as a boy, he has also worked in the music industry in both retail and radio capacities, along with establishing a successful music blog.

John's experience with popular music goes back to his childhood, where he maintained his own charts based off of the Billboard Hot 100. As he progressed through his teens, he wanted to work in radio, and even achieved degrees in Radio/TV and Communications during his undergraduate studies. After graduating, he was drawn to the retail side of music for close to a decade before deciding that he liked having holidays with his family.

While his full-time job is in education, he currently writes a successful music blog titled Pop Music Notes. He is also active on Twitter @popmusicnotes and lives in Denver with his partners in crime James and Bruiser.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Best Gay Grooves of 2012: Denver’s DJs Pick Their Favorites

By John Hill

Happy New Year! 

I’m a big believer in looking back to see where we’ve been as we look forward to new opportunities and adventures, so every year I tally up my favorite music from the past 12 months post it for all to see. This year, I’m fortunate to have three of Denver’s favorite DJs help me out with lists for 2012’s best dance music. 

Check out the favorites, and then let us know what music kept you movin’ and groovin’ in 2012.

Frequent DJ at the Wrangler’s Sweet and other Denver clubs and prolific podcaster:

1. Lost In Music (Chus & Ceballos Iberican Mix) - Chus & Ceballos, Cevin Fisher
2. Symphony (Original Mix) - Prok & Fitch
3. Listen Bitch (DJ Escape Vs DJ PP Mix) - DJ Escape, DJ PP
4. Dance Again (DJ Chus Iberican Remix) - Jennifer Lopez
5. BiMac (The Cube Guys Mix) - UAP
6. 212 (Tommie Sunshine_Disco Fries Edit) - Azealia Banks
7. Covergirl, Where Have You Been? (Hardwell Club Mix, RuPaul Mash) - Rihanna, DJ Brent
8. Opa-Locka (Original Club Mix) - Manuel De La Mare, Luigi Rocca
9. Unique Form (origianl mix) - Peter bailey
10. Only The Horses (Calvin Harris Remix) - Scissor Sisters

Denver based DJ who stands out in any crowd. Saturday, January 5 he will be DJ’ing Tryst Saturdays at Coco Breeze Lounge located at 539 W. 43rd Ave.
1. Let’s have A Kiki (Ben Castañeda's Reconstruction Mix) – Scissor Sisters
2. Groupie – Bob Sinclair
3. Lemonade (Cahill Mix) - Alexandra Stan
4. Beauty and a Beat (feat. Nicki Minaj) [DJ Laszlo Body Rock Club Mix] - Justin Bieber
5. Alive (Cash Cash & Kalkutta Remix) – Krewella
6. Scream & Shout - DJ Smerk & DJ GirlyVega Awesome Bootleg (Dirty) - Will.I.Am ft Britney Spears
7. Step Through The Door (Freeze KlubJumpers Club Mix) – Dmanti
8. Catch My Breath (DJ Kue Remix) – Kelly Clarkson
9. Die Young (The Scene Kings Remix) – Ke$ha
10. Too Close – Alex Clare

Resident DJ at the Wrangler and master remixer:

1. Azealia Banks - 212 (Tommie Sunshine/Disco Fries Edit)
2. Madonna - Addicted (Craig Cs Master Blaster)
3. Alex Clare - Too Close (Cazzettes Amphitheatres Surrounding Her Mix)
4. Kylie Minogue - Timebomb (Peter Rauhofer Club Mix)/(Style of Eye Remix)
5. Lana Del Rey - Blue Jeans ft. Azealia Banks (Smims&Belle Remix)
6. Calvin Harris feat. Florence Welch - Sweet Nothing (Extended Mix)/(Grandtheft & Diplo Remix)
7. Chris Lake & Lazy Rich feat. Jareth - Stand Alone (Original Mix
8. Kat Graham - Put Your Graffiti On Me (Richard Dinsdale Remix)
9. Dance Again (Iberican Remix)/(Chus Dub)
10. Ke$ha - Die Young (Seamus Haji Extended Mix)

And for good measure, here are my ten favorite club tracks of 2012. You can check out my other favorites at Pop Music Notes

1. Get Over U (Director's Cut Mix) - Frankie Knuckles presents Director's Cut featuring B. Slade
2. Thinkin Bout You (Lonsdale Boys Club Remix) - Frank Ocean
3. Let's Have a KiKi (Ben Castañeda's Reconstruction Mix) - Scissor Sisters
4. The Veldt (feat. Chris James) [Original Mix] - Deadmau5
5. Perfect World (Seamus Haji Club Mix) - Gossip
6. Vision Of Love (Maison & Dragen Remix) - Kris Allen
7. Losing Myself (Bimbo Jones Club Mix) - Will Young
8. Call My Name (Richard Vission Remix) - Cheryl Cole
9. Try (Cosmic Dawn Remix) - Pink
10. Let There Be Love (Country Club Martini Crew Original Extended) - Christina Aguilera

Monday, December 24, 2012

Make the Yuletide Gay: LGBT Christmas Music for Your Holiday Season

By John Hill

Okay … so maybe they don’t mean “gay” the way that you and I mean “GAY,” but still, why not? 

Here is some original music from LGBT artists that will set the mood for your holiday season.

George Michael – “December Song (I Dreamed of Christmas)”

In the midst of George Michael’s Live 25 tour in 2008, he decided to make a Christmas song called “December Song (I Dreamed of Christmas)” available for free for two days. That song, which alludes to the focus on television during the holidays as well as a former love, became an instant classic, prompting the song’s proper release in 2009, 2010 and 2011 in the UK, where the song peaked at number 14 in 2009. While there are several new Christmas songs each year, you will be hard-pressed to find one as beautiful and understated as “December Song.”

Matt Morris – “My First Snow”

Local boy Matt Morris made some noise on national charts in 2010 with his album When Everything Breaks Open, and in the wake of that success, Morris released his first Christmas song “My First Snow” at the end of 2010. In Morris’ words, he hoped that “My First Snow” “inspires people to think about what they like the best about the holiday season. When it starts to get cold, I find myself getting really nostalgic and introspective.” Matt succeeds on that front with a song that is mellow and reflective without being somber.

And while we’re talking about Matt, big props to him for co-writing Cher’s new buzz track “Woman’s World” with none other than Paul Oakenfold and Anthony Crawford. In the past he’s written hits for artists like Kelly Clarkson and Christina Aguilera, so here’s hoping he continues his successful streak.

Indigo Girls – “Mistletoe”

In 2010, I was fortunate enough to interview Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls and talk about their first holiday album Holly Happy Days. When asked about “Mistletoe,” Amy said “I was thinking about writing something that was tied to the season in a way that was less Christmas oriented, but had that emotional feeling around the holiday time, whether you’re Jewish or Christian or Buddhist or whatever. The passing of the season, that moment of hibernation where you should be pulling back in, and I wanted it to do with the heart and love and relationships.” “Mistletoe” invokes that holiday spirit in a gentle, peaceful way that will remind you of a quiet walk through the woods after a light snow, with the wind blowing through the trees as the only sound you hear, and Amy’s vocal is perfectly matched with the loping tempo of the song.

Monday, November 26, 2012

‘Tis the Season for Musical Divas: Kelly Clarkson, Christina Aguilera, & Rihanna

By John Hill

The holiday shopping season is in full swing, and that means sales galore. Among those bargains are a lot of new releases begging to be wrapped up and given to the ones you love (including yourself). Here are a few of the more high-profile releases to either consider or think twice about.
Kelly Clarkson – Greatest Hits
How is it even possible that Kelly Clarkson won American Idol over ten years ago? Time flies when you are releasing hit after hit. This Greatest Hits collection spans the entire timeframe, from her coronation song “A Moment Like This” to her current single “Catch My Breath.” Besides “Catch,” there are two other new songs: “People Like Us,” a danceable track that speaks to the outsiders (and is screaming for an epic remix); and “Don’t Rush,” a lush 80s-style country-pop ballad with the legendary Vince Gill playing guitar and singing harmonies. If you have any Kelly Clarkson gaps in your musical collection, this set is a must-buy.

Christina Aguilera – Lotus
Christina Aguilera recently said in an interview that her last album Bionic was a disc only appreciated by those who really love music. While I will be glad to argue that point with her, it was clear either way that she needed to come back a little closer to the masses if she wanted to sell more copies. If that was Christina’s goal for her new release, then it is mission accomplished. Lotus couldn’t be more of-the-moment unless PSY started rapping on a track. From the autotuned first single “Your Body” to the Cobra Starship-sounding “Let There Be Love,” Aguilera brings her potent pipes into the mainstream, making a case for her continued viability. Standout tracks include both of her duets with fellow coaches on The Voice: Cee-Lo Green on the bangin’ “Make the World Move;” and Blake Shelton on the power ballad “Just a Fool.” After a couple of listens, you (and the recipient of your gift) will have multiple songs lodged in your heads.

Rihanna – Unapologetic
Reviewing Unapologetic is a difficult task for me, as I have multiple issues with it before I even listen to it. Besides the fact that Rihanna should just take a vacation and let the public miss her for a minute, there is the inevitable discussion about why on Earth she recorded a duet with former boyfriend/pugilist Chris Brown. This fact is complicated by the simple truth that the duet “Nobody’s Business” is one of the best songs on a mostly decent album.  If you can make it through a few throwaway tracks, including the abysmal “Numb” with Eminem, as well as your disgust with Chris Brown, there are several songs that will justify the purchase. “Stay” is a stripped-down ballad that lets Rihanna’s vocals shine through, “Right Now” hops on the David Guetta Express for a future floor-filler, and “No Love Allowed” is a genuine reggae-flavored track that goes to show that Rih can take on just about any sound with the right production and make it work. Whether that’s enough to justify buying the album is a judgment call.