Sunday, March 30, 2008

Collectibles #20: Hairspray 2-Disc Collector's Edition Soundtrack (2007)

Hairspray is quickly becoming my favourite musical soundtrack ever, and displacing previous champ, Grease, in the process. I love both films, and the music from both films are just as enjoyable. But perhaps it's because Grease has been around for 30 years now, so it's inevitable that it sounds just a little dated compared to Hairspray.

To be fair, both Grease and Hairspray originated from stage musicals, and much of the music were brought over to the film versions. Actually, in Hairspray's case, it's slightly more complicated. The 2002 musical was based on the original 1988 film, while this 2007 film version was based on the 2002 musical.

But anyway, the point is that the films were based on the musicals and many of the songs were carried over from the musicals.

Back to Hairspray, the reason why the soundtrack works so well is largely because of the well-assembled cast, who provide as much joy to the movie as they do the soundtrack. It's hard to believe that the lead actress, Nikki Blonsky (who plays Tracy Turnblad), had no prior acting experience, let alone singing experience. She comes across totally convincing as tracy, and matches her on-screen performance with a wonderful vocal performance as well.

Indeed, the tracks that feature Blonsky are among the most enjoyable in the soundtrack. Opening with Good Morning Baltimore, the film and soundtrack starts on a great note, and the energy and optimism here sets the tone for the rest of the album. Blonksy also shines on the lovely I Can Hear The Bells and Welcome To The 60's, a duet with John Travolta.

Speaking of John Travolta, he plays Edna Turnblad in Hairspray, a gender crossing role. However, in the spirit of the film, you can simply ignore the fact that it is Travolta beneath the fat suit, and the only slightly awkward moment was when he was singing You're Timeless To Me with Christopher Walken. That said, Travolta does not alter his voice to a woman's, which is strangely fine.

James Marsden (Cyclops from the X-Men series) also gives a credible performance as Corny Collins and his voice is surprisingly quite good. Another surprising performance comes from Michelle Pfeiffer, whose (The Legend Of) Miss Baltimore Crabs is the most unique song from the compilation. The cha-cha beat fits her sultry vocals perfectly and you can tell she had a whale of a time recording it.

Another actress who features quite prominently in this film/soundtrack is Queen Latifah. She is of course no stranger to music, having six albums to her credit already, and she also had an Academy Award-nominating role in the 2002 musical, Chicago. She enjoys a few solo turns here, including the poignant I Know Where I've Been.

Having already established his heart-throb credentials with High School Musical movie, Zac Efron turns up the swoon factor here once again with his role as Link, who is well, the high school heart-throb. To showcase him, the film-makers specially composed a song, Ladies' Choice. It is one of only two songs that were specially composed for the 2007 film. The other track is Come So Far (Got So Far To Go), which was used in the closing credits. This track is one of my favourites from the soundtrack.

The final two key cast members are relative-unknowns Elijah Kelley and Amanda Bynes, who play the loving inter-racial couple Seaweed and Penny. Elijah Kelley is particularly impressive in his standout track, Run And Tell That.

The whole cast comes together in the finale song, You Can't Stop The Beat. It's indeed a showstopper, as the choreography for this song in the film was crazy. I watched the documentary and all the cast members were commenting that this song was a killer because it contained so many words in the chorus and they were all out of breath by the time they reached the end of it. The only person who had absolutely no problems with it was Queen Latifah, simply because she is an MC, a rapper. Her character is not called Motormouth for nothing.

You Can't Stop The Beat is an absolute joy to listen to because each of the cast members really gave it their all and you can tell by the vocal performance. Especially John Travolta. When he (she) sings "And you just can't stop my knife and fork when I see a Christmas ham. So if you don't like the way I look, well, I just don't give a damn!", you can tell that he (she) really doesn't give a damn and he's (she's) having so much fun immersing in character. It's amazing.

However, that's not my favourite track, and the honour goes to...Without Love. This tune reminds me slightly of Breaking Free from High School Musical, but it's better. It's such a joyful song (I know I used the word "joyful" a lot because that's what it is. I agree with VW that it's the most joyful film of 2007) and it marks the turning point of the film, where the cast decide that love is more important than anything else.

I'm usually not a lyrics person, but I can't help but love this certain phrase in the song: "Like a week that's only Mondays, only ice-cream never sundaes, like a circle with no centre, like a door marked "Do not enter!". Darling I'll be yours forever 'cause I never wanna be...without love..." It's just so smart to pun on the word "Sundays". And I seriously cannot imagine a week with only's a great metaphor.

This Collector's Edition contains a bonus CD of outtakes and alternate recordings, but I haven't really listened to them. Perhaps the more useful extras are the karaoke instrumental versions of five songs. But it'll be quite hard to sound as good as the cast though.

In all, this is a soundtrack that you definitely should get. The package also contains postcards of the key cast members and a sticker sheet. The booklet also contains the lyrics to all the songs and it's colourfully decorated, just like the film itself. Very nice.

Friday, March 28, 2008

KT Rocks!

Who: KT Tunstall
What: The Drastic Fantastic Tour 2008
When: 27 March 2008, 8:00pm
Where: Suntec City Hall 603

Before the concert, I knew KT Tunstall from only one song: Black Horse And The Cherry Tree, the one where she goes "woo hoo" throughout. So I went into the concert not knowing much about her and what to expect.

And I must say that I was totally blown away at the end of the concert. She played the guitar for every song with such ease and her singing was top notch too. There aren't female many singer-songwriter-guitarists and she's one very good example. The best I've seen so far actually.

Compared to Colbie Caillat, whom I caught last week at Movida, KT wins by a mile. Where Colbie is more laid back and "pretends" to play the guitar once in a while, KT really works her socks off and put on helluva show.

She was charismatic, funny and in control all at once. I felt like I didn't even have to try to enjoy myself. I simply enjoyed myself. There are some gigs where you know the band quite well and many of their songs and lyrics, but somehow you still feel that you had to make an effort to enjoy the show, if you know what I mean. But enjoying KT's show was just effortless.

She was backed up by a 4-piece band with 2 backup singers and I felt that the sound quality wasn't too bad. I have heard so much about Suntec being a lousy place for concerts as the acoustics are known to be quite bad, but it sounded alright to me. She must have had good sound technicians.

The band was tight and not overly fanciful, which was good. I was especially impressed when KT played solo for Black Horse And The Cherry Tree. She used a loop pedal, a device that allowed her to record sounds from her guitar and voice microphone and loop the recorded stuff. SO she essentially became a one-woman band as she layered the different parts of the song together. She's a great multi-tasker!

I also especially enjoyed her quieter songs, where you could listen to her singing and displaying her guitar skills. It was mesmerising just listening to her play.

The venue was almost fully-packed (it wasn't that big a venue anyway) and more than half of the crowd consisted of Westerners. I was in the free standing area and the crowd was pretty responsive, moving to the beat and clapping their hands most of the time.

It was such a good show and you could tell that everyone had fun. I'm quite a fan of her now. She's so talented! Oh, and I couldn't keep my eyes off her chest too as it was too distracting...because she was wearing a T-shirt with MJ's eyes (from the Dangerous album cover) printed on it. Haha...

Tonight's gig was her only stop in Southeast Asia, and I must say we were really quite privileged to have her perform here. Well, she promised she'll be back, so if you didn't make it today, wait for her to come back again!

Here are some live performances of Black Horse And The Cherry Tree and also a cover of the Jackson 5's debut single, I Want You Back. In both, she uses the loop pedal to great effect. Super cool! (Yeah she's an MJ fan, maybe that's why I like her haha) Enjoy and be converted!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Rarities #31: Red Hot Chili Peppers Stadium Arcadium CD Sampler (2006)

This is a CD sampler released by Warner Music ahead of the Peppers' Stadium Arcadium album in 2006. It's basically a Best Of compilation, featuring the best tracks from the Peppers' previous albums.

Needless to say, all of their biggest hits are here and every track is good. If this was meant as a preview of what we could expect from Stadium Arcadium, in retrospect, it certainly didn't disappoint, as Stadium Arcadium managed to match the high standards set by the previous releases.

If I have to select my 3 favourite Peppers songs from this compilation, I would say Under The Bridge, Give It Away and Around The World.

I was fortunate enough to catch the Peppers live in concert in Singapore, and their energy and chemistry was simply awesome. That's how you do a rock show. I'm quite sure the Foos will out-rock them. :)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Rarities #30: Muse Box Set (2006)

This is a very rare Muse box set released in conjunction with their fifth album, Black Holes & Revelations. This box contains all of Muse's albums and 2 DVDs. I believe it is a promo item and it is not sold anywhere.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Collectibles #19: Kaiser Chiefs Yours Truly, Angry Mob (2007)

Yours Truly, Angry Mob is Kaiser Chiefs' second album, the first being Employment, which was released in 2004 to great critical acclaim.

I first heard of the Kaiser Chiefs when my friend VW bought a T-shirt from HMV bearing their name. Since then, I didn't hear much of them until they released their second album, with their lead single Ruby hitting the top of the UK singles chart.

Ruby is a great song with a very singeable chorus. The quadruple refrain of "Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby!" is either lazy songwriting or pure pop genius, and I think it's the latter. It's fun, catchy and a crowd rouser when performed live.

After Ruby, I next encountered Kaiser Chiefs on a Rhythms Del Mundo Cuba CD, which is a compilation of pop/rock songs but performed in a Latin/cuban style. The track Modern Way (from Employment) was covered in that compilation and their version sounded really good. I hadn't heard the original at that point.

That convinced me that there was something good about the Kaiser Chiefs and I went to buy Your Truly, Angry Mob. And I must say that I'm not disappointed.

This limited edition comes with a bonus DVD with 6 tracks performed in Berlin, and I watched the DVD (the "Television Disc") first before listening to the album (the "Phonographic Disc").

It was my first time seeing them perform and I must say they're quite good. It's a no frills show, entertaining the rather small crowd with tunes from an album that hadn't been released yet. And the crowd lapped it up. Sometimes, it's the low budget and intimate shows that are the best, where the band really gets to connect with the audience through their music and performance.

The album is chokeful of good tunes, and I would recommend Ruby, The Angry Mob, Heat Dies Down, Highroyds, Love's Not A Competition (But I'm Winning) and Everything Is Average Nowadays.

While doing research for this article, I read that Kaiser Chiefs have been compared unfavourably to Blur. I didn't think that they sounded anything like Blur, but now that they mentioned it, yah it's true to a little extent. Early Blur maybe, but I think Kaiser Chiefs stand tall by themselves.

They have a knack of writing catchy hooks and funny song titles and still maintain credibility. If they were to tour Singapore, I will gladly pay top ticket to watch them. Hope their third album will be just as good!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

America's Best Dance Crew

Caught a few short clips of MTV's new show, America's Best Dance Crew, on youtube (can't watch it on the site because of geo-blocking), and I must say I'm super impressed by the quality of the crews.

Here's one fantastic clip for you to enjoy. Jabbawockeez performing P.Y.T. by Michael Jackson, a tribute to the 25th anniversary re-release of the Thriller album. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Cheer Up Boys!

Oh, I'm so happy that the next single from the Foos' ESPG album will be Cheer Up Boys (Your Make Up Is Running). It's a damn good rock/pop song and it rocks. Just the sort of song that I would love to perform, with interesting drum parts and a great sing-a-long chorus.

This song is in the vein of second single Long Road To Ruin, but even more upbeat and happy. It's a feel good song that only Foos can do without sounding like a boyband (think McFly, Simple Plan). You should definitely check it out! Hope the single will be released soon!


Monday, March 17, 2008

Smooth walrus Criminal!

Oh man, I came across this video on an MJ fansite, and it's so darn cute! I just had to post it here. Hope you like it too...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Girl Is Mine!

Here's a cool version of The Girl Is Mine by John Legend and Stephen Colbert. The original version was of course by Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


After one week, Discipline has finally reached our shores! I was so happy to see it on the shelves that I bought it immediately, but had to resist the urge to listen to it at work cos I know I wouldn't be able to concentrate for the rest of the day.

And I wanna give the album a fair assessment by listening to it properly without distractions. And after the first listen, I would say that this album is much more accessible than 20 Y.O. Whereas the previous album was heavily slanted towards R&B and hip-hop, Discipline definitely pumps it up in terms of the dance numbers and is more pop-oriented.

First single Feedback is a stomper and it's one of the best songs on the album. The album immediately follows with Luv, another track that is serviced to radio at the moment and it's quite a catchy song. Not catchy in the hummable and singable sense, but the beat is bouncy and it sounds very fresh.

Another Rodney Jerkins contribution follows, and it's Rollercoaster. It sounds ok to me at the moment but I think it needs more spins to hook on me. Second single Rock With U is another fantastic track. I love the running keyboard notes and the beat, and coupled with Janet's breathy vocals, I can really picture myself on the dance floor with strobe lights everywhere.

An immediate standout track is 2Nite. It's another track made for the dance floor and I can't wait to see Miss Jackson shoot a kick-ass video for this song.

After the first 5 tracks of high energy dance numbers, Janet slows it down with Can't Be Good. And contrary to the title, it's actually pretty darn good. I liked it the first time I heard a snippet of it. Potential single material.

Another potential single is Never Letchu Go, which sounds very familiar to a lot of the R&B ballads that have done well on the charts recently. Not that it's a bad thing. It's a sweet ballad with a nice melody and I hope it does well.

Greatest X follows in rapid succession and the chorus is quite nice too. By this time, I can safely say that the ballads in this album are not too bad!

Another memorable track is So Much Betta, which is produced by surprise, surprise, Jermaine Dupri. It features a kiddish sounding vocal track trading verses with Janet and it sounds a little strange, but quite cool. It's the type of song with not a lot of lyrics, quite repetitive, but it works because of how the song sounds. If you understand what I mean.

Missy makes a guest appearance on The 1, and I was quite skeptical at first when I learnt that she would be guesting on the album. But after 2 spins, I think that Missy's rap is quite hot. Though I think overall, the song's beat can be improved. It reminds me a little of Beyonce's Crazy In Love, but without the horns.

What's Ur Name is mid-tempo and I don't quite understand why the song is only 2 and a half minutes long. It's like they turned the fader down early. It's not too bad a track, but the sheer short length of the song makes it feel like a filler track.

Discipline is the much talked-about "dirty" and "baby-making" love song on the album, and it's soft porn for the ears. I'm sure the song will come in handy one day. The album closes with Curtains, nothing very outstanding with this track at the moment.

Overall, it's a satisfactory first listen and it's definitely better than 20 Y.O. There are more hits in here and more club bangers. I really hope this will translate to more hits for Janet and hopefully she'll have a crack at the top 10 singles chart. But anyhow, Discipline is going to open at #1 on the Billboard 200 this week, so congrats Janet on returning to the top!

Besides Discipline, I also finally found the Thriller 25 album in Singapore today. I have already bought a copy of the regular edition in Jakarta last week, but it has only been released here today. So I bought the zombie edition as well. Waiting for the deluxe edition to come out. (UPDATE: Deluxe edition is out already. See first pic)

Maybe it's because of Rihanna's sampling of Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' on her Don't Stop The Music, coupled with Akon's new version of the track, but I'm really feeling Michael's original version of WBSS, Thriller's opening number. MJ's vocals are really strong here, and the beat is insane. The chant is genius also, and I'm liking this track more than ever before.

That said, I also like Akon's new version. I like how he tries to change the feel of the song by starting with a piano and adding new verses to the song. The only irritating thing is that he changes the chant from "Mama-sey-mama-san..." to "Ahma-sey-mama-san...". It's not a big thing, but it irritates me. But I still like the song.

Will.i.Am contributed 2 tracks here. The Girl Is Mine 2008 is quite good and I don't miss Paul McCartney's part at all, which is a good thing. The original is a duet by MJ and Paul, so it's great that the song still worked despite losing one half of the original vocals.

Will's version of P.Y.T. is a totally remake of the original. I don't even know where he got those vocals of MJ from. They don't sound like they were taken from the original because the melody has been changed totally. It's a major reworking of the song and it's surprisingly good too.

Fergie's take on Beat It is the weakest of the new tracks offered here. Fergie tries too hard to match MJ's grit, and the final result just shows how strong a vocalist MJ is. Fergie can try really hard, but MJ doesn't even need to try. He just does it. The thing I like about this new version is the instrumentation, courtesy of Will once again. It's like a remix for the new generation.

Kanye West also contributes a remix of Billie Jean, which at first listen sounded weak. But after a few more spins, I think it's quite good as well. He removed the track's most signature feature - its bassline, and replaced it with his own signature drum sound. I think his intention was to not over-produce it, but let the strength of the song and vocal performance shine. And now, I think it works, so good job Kanye!

The other "new" song here is of course For All Time, an unreleased song from the Thriller sessions. It was wisely left off the final tracklisting because while it's an ok song by itself, it wouldn't have fitted into the powerful 9 songs that made the cut eventually. It would have stuck out like a sore thumb because it was just that bit weaker.

Then there's the DVD containing the 3 most famous music videos in history. The Billie Jean video was important because it was the video that broke MTV's self-imposed rule o not playing videos by black artists. MJ was simply too big at that time for MTV to ignore him.

Beat It marked the beginning of how music videos could be treated as an art form rather than just a promotional tool. It was heavily inspired by West Side Story in terms of cinematography and choreography. And MJ gave a preview of his immense dancing talent towards the end of the video.

Which brings us to the #1 video of all time, Thriller. It was the most expensive music video ever produced at that time, and it had a running length of 14 minutes, which was unheard of then. MJ got John Landis, the direcotr of An American Werewolf In London, to direct this masterpiece.

The makeup and choreography was superb, and it had a storyline, rather than just having the singer miming to the song as if it were a karaoke track. It completely revolutionised the way artists made videos. At its peak, it was shown in its entirety twice an hour on MTV. That's how crazy it was then.

The 4th video included in the DVD is the famous Billie Jean performance on the Motown 25 show, where MJ moonwalked for the very first time on public television, to an audience of 47 million people around the world.

All in all, it's a great package and you should get it if you don't already own a copy of Thriller in some form. Even for a fan like me, who has seen all the videos a million times before, it's quite an attractive package because of the new tracks. I'm glad it's not just a remix, but rather a remake. A new take on an old classic. And that's fantastic.