Dig These Discs :: George Michael, Kylie Minogue, Boy George, Cyndi Lauper, Shakira
Aussie superstar Kylie Minogue drops her twelfth studio album, and we dare you not to dance. George Michael puts ditches his 25-joint-a-day habit to release his sixth studio album backed by the Symphonica Orchestra. Also dropping a 14-track album is Culture Club frontman Boy George. Cyndi Lauper celebrates the 30th anniversary of her chart-topping album, "She's So Unusual," and Shakira turns out a mixed bag of tracks.
"She’s So Unusual: 30th Anniversary Celebration" (Cyndi Lauper)
These days, you’re just as likely to find Cyndi Lauper in the studio as you are finding her on Broadway checking out things at the Tony Award-winning musical "Kinky Boots," for which she wrote the music. But back in the ’80s, she was just a wild, wacky redhead with a squeaky voice and a ton of energy and charisma. Lauper brings all that energy to the 30-year anniversary release of her groundbreaking album, "She’s So Unusual." Part homage, part celebration, the album features remastered cuts from the original album, rare demos, live concert recordings and remixes by some of today’s hottest DJ and producers, including NERVO, Bent Collective and Yolanda Be Cool. The physical deluxe edition also includes a reusable sticker set with vinyl cut-outs of Lauper’s wacky outfits and accessories, and a 3D fold-out backdrop of the bedroom featured in her "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" video. "I’m always looking forward, trying to do something that’s new and different. But every once in a while it’s good to look back and celebrate," said Lauper, who thanked her fans for years of support. You’ll find all your favorites from the Grammy Award-winning, 16M copy-selling album here, from "Time After Time" to "All Through the Night." You’ll even go back in time with Lauper’s "When You Were Mine," the Prince song that Lauper covered, keeping the pronouns intact, leading to much speculation. But you’ll also find "I’ll Kiss You," an early ska-influenced track that never received a commercial release in the U.S. You’ll also find new tracks like the short, old-timey bit, "He’s So Unusual," which is a lead in to the track "Yeah Yeah." If you just want to have fun, this is the album to get!
(Legacy Recordings/Sony Music Entertainment)
"This Is What I Do" (Boy George)
Back in the ’80s, before any rocks stars were openly gay, Culture Club frontman Boy George was that wacky, colorful gender-bending character that gave legions of weirdos a glimmer of hope. Their debut album had three top ten hits, rivaling The Beatles. George gives a nod to Yoko Ono in his first cut, "Love is Bigger Than War." He even covers her track, "Death of Samantha," on the album, singing, "people say I’m cool, I’m a cool chick baby." George dabbled in charity via Band Aid, and in Broadway via the 2004 Leigh Bowery show, "Taboo." But he hasn’t dropped a studio album since 1995’s "Cheapness and Beauty," telling the press that his 18 year hiatus was prompted by his foray into DJ work and dance music (not to mention his cocaine binge and a related kidnapping). But George is just as spry as ever, and his new album bears witness to such. As he sings in "My God," a song about meeting a Jesus freak in a New York gay bar, perhaps "he had to get it wrong to get it right." He adds a reggae vibe to "My Star," "Love and Danger" and adds a little bit of that Sade sound to "Live Your Life," with the intro, "everyone knew the boy was strange..." The bulk of these new songs are reggae-inspired cuts, and although they blend into one another, all are fairly good songs. "Play Me" has the added benefit of British rapping by Dreadzone’s MC Spree, who also adds to "Nice and Slow," with the "Ab Fab" shout-out, "I’m just like Patsy, I got my sparkle back again." A Neil Young vibe mellows the soft rock cut "It’s Easy." He croons "if you don’t know where you’re going ’Any Road’ will take you there," as he sings about the passage of time and the lessening of craziness with this covert homage to George Harrison’s song of the same name. "Feel the Vibration" includes a Middle Eastern intro, and some sax along with the reggae vibe. He even includes the Bob Dylan piano ballad, "Make You Feel My Love." George has included a bit of everything that’s influenced him over the years, from soul to dubstep. George’s voice shows the ravages of time (and again, all that cocaine), but if you don’t mind an album that’s got everything but the kitchen sink thrown into it, this isn’t a bad return to the spotlight.
(Kobalt Label Services)
"Symphonica" (George Michael)
You gotta have faith -- Wham! frontman and public restroom hook-up queen George Michael is back with a new release of 14 hot tracks for our listening pleasure. He’s put down his 25-joint-a-day habit and hit the studio to record his sixth album, "Symphonica." But critics are already complaining that the material is not so new. The album is presented with a live version of tunes backed by the Symphonica Orchestra, and you can see that his voice is not too much the worse for wear, but as he sings in his opener, "Through,": "enough of these chains, I know they’re of my making, no one else to blame for where I stand." Yes, kids can be cruel, but starting out with a song that literally says, "I know I’m through," isn’t the way to play it, girl! The rest of the album is actually pretty strong, even if it is a hodgepodge of classics. He sings Nina Simone’s "My Baby Just Cares for Me," and "Feeling Good," as well as Roberta Flack’s "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face." He even, inexplicably, covers Bing Crosby’s "Brother Can You Spare a Dime?" (lay off the weed, man!) Michael borrows Elton John’s 1970’s hit "Idol" and Rufus Wainwright’s "Going To a Town." Does that count as gay-on-gay violence? He also sneaks off with the country cover of Dustin Lynch’s "Cowboys and Angels." He dips back into some of his own archives, too, singing his 1986 song, "A Different Corner," and his 1990 number-one hit, "Praying for Time." He beautifully croons "John and Elvis Are Dead" from his 1990 album "Patience," and his 1991 Billboard hit "One More Try." He also includes his 1997 hit, "You Have Been Loved." Michael may have seen his prime years in the ’90s and gotten into plenty of legal hijinks since then, but he’s still a gay treasure, and we’re glad to see him back on the menu, even if he is serving up leftovers.
"Kiss Me Once" (Kylie Minogue)
Australian music sensation Kylie Minogue enters her fourth decade as a recording artist with the release of her twelfth studio album, "Into the Blue." The title track also serves as the first single, released at the end of January. It is a pop delight featuring a strong drum line and lyrics like, "’Cause I ain’t waiting up for no miracle, yeah tonight I’m running free." Minogue has been keeping busy serving as a coach on the third season of "The Voice" Australia and "The Voice" UK. Her soft soprano vocal has been the voice of some of our most treasured dance floor tracks. Her track "I Was Gonna Cancel" is a good example of the fast-moving, affable dance cuts Minogue favors. She veers into Katy Perry territory with her flippant pop song, "Sexy Love," and delves deep into Rihanna’s bad-ass R&B sound with the sultry "Sexercize." She adds an international flair to "Les Sex," singing, "If love’s a drug, we’re higher than a stiletto." She adds a rocking ballad, "Kiss Me Once," plus "Beautiful," a lovely song with an unnecessary auto-tune intro. She chugs along on tracks like "Million Miles," and "If Only," and although the album isn’t all winners, the only losers here are those who didn’t come to dance. Minogue has traveled a long way since she first dropped her cover of "Locomotion," but it seems that the forward momentum continues.
(Warner Bros. Records)
Multi-platinum Grammy winner Shakira kicks off her new gig as a coach on season six of "The Voice" with her new self-titled album. She teamed up with the industries biggest names, including John Hill, Kid Harpoon, Greg Kurstin, Steve Mac, Mark Bright, Busbee and more, and the album pretty much sounds how you think it would, in light of that. She’s got a few Spanish-language songs, like "Loca Por Ti" and "Nunca Me Acuerdo De Olvidarte," which sound like classic Shakira, since she first began singing and songwriting. But she’s also got a hodgepodge of other sounds at work here, from dance to pop to reggae to rock. In "Broken Record," she goes acoustic, telling her love 700 times that her search is done, giving off a bit of a country vibe. She goes full country in "Medicine" with Blake Shelton, nearly bringing to life one of the plot lines on the hit show "Nashville." She dives into acoustic again for the album’s final track, "The One Thing," but sweetly, she is singing about the love she has for her son Milan, "the one thing that I got right." She also sings about falling in love with boyfriend Gerard Pique in "23," another acoustic rocker with the lyrics, "A couple years ago I was lonely, I used to think that there was no God /But then you looked at me with your blue eyes, and my agnosticism turned into dust." These lyrics elevate an otherwise rote song. She gets totally pop in "Spotlight," giving it her best Taylor Swift impression. And in "Cut Me Deep" featuring Magici, she gives it her reggae best, like early No Doubt, as she sings about a love so strong it changed them both forever. Her electronic dance jam "Dare (La La La)" is a saucy piece about fleeting love that will have your feet moving. "There’s no reciprocation; before you came along it was all beautiful," she sings in "You Don’t Care About Me," one of the album’s most catchy songs. She shows her vocal range off in "Empire," with its prog-rock vibe, and a bit of a bad-ass Alanis Morissette thing happening. She teams up with Rihanna for "Can’t Remember to Forget You," the album’s first single, about a troublemaking man in their past. This also has a ska vibe to it -- and a white-hot video that is turning heads. You’ll be sure to hear some of these hits at the club this spring!
(RCA Records/Sony Latin Iberia)