Dig These Discs :: Lady Gaga, Nero, Rumer, Georgia Stitt

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Saturday December 17, 2011

Rumer knocks it out of the park!  Watch this talent rise!
Rumer knocks it out of the park! Watch this talent rise!  

Lady Gaga heats up a chilly winter with a one-two combo knockout of her DVD, "The Monster Ball Tour: Madison Square Garden", and her new CD remix project, "Born This Way: The Remix". Some slow, sultry music comes via Georgia Stitt and Rumer, who is set to be the breakthrough artist of the year. And Nero releases a new album of indie-dubstep hybrids.

"The Monster Ball Tour" (Lady Gaga)

Lady Gaga played five shows at Madison Square Garden, and starts off her concert video of the last of these with her everyday routine; sauntering around midtown in an ass-out bodysuit, fishnets, and a leather jacket, and popping into a local bodega for coffee regular and a pack of gum. "Know how many times I came to this arena? And now they're opening these gates up for us," says Gaga, as her big black Escalade rolls into Madison Square Garden's underground parking garage. A crowd of excited girls and gays screams as she starts the show off with, "Dance in the Dark." She segues to "Glitter and Grease", with her dancers surrounding a smoking, broken Bentley. She takes to the piano for her breakout hit, "Just Dance", and belts it out in a latex cheetah bodysuit. Particularly notable are Gaga's many amazing costume changes, featured in the DVD's insert. She starts in the cheetah bodysuit and big-shouldered jacket with glitter epaulets and glitter sunglasses. She adds a glittery "ice queen" headdress, and later, dons a hot-pink robe with pointed shoulders and head wrap, á la the evil queen in "Sleeping Beauty." Following "Fame", Gaga steps out of a fake subway car in her see-through latex dress and nun's habit for "Love Game". She dons a black latex ball gown for "Telephone", and doffs it shortly after in favor of a black latex and silver-studded bra and panties. "Now dance, you motherfuckers!" she screams, holding aloft a torch. Later outfits include a white, feathered gown, and a short black, feathered vest with a fringed eye covering. "You have made me brave, little monsters," she says to an adoring crowd, urging them to reject anyone who made them feel like they didn't fit in. "You just remember that you're a goddamned superstar, and you were born this way." A fan holds up an inflatable, rainbow-horned unicorn (mine, identical, is named Gary), and Gaga teases, "all the New York gays have come out to play!" Adding much to the show are the innovative sets and roughneck backup dancers that she employs. It also doesn't hurt that she screams, "New York City" -- her hometown -- repeatedly at the top of her lungs. Twenty songs later, the crowd (which includes gay icon Liza Minnelli) is still begging for more. Luckily, the DVD includes backstage footage, an a capella version of "Born This Way", and a photo gallery. Lady Gaga seems to be following in the footsteps of that ubiquitous boundary-pusher, Madonna. (And what's more, she can sing!) Whether you love Lady Gaga or just adore her, all must admit that she puts on one hell of a show. May "The Monster Ball Tour" be only the first of a long line of concert DVDs released by this talented artist. (Streamline Records)

"Born This Way: The Remix" (Lady Gaga)

La Gaga teams up with some of today's most prominent artists for a remix of the album that broke the iTunes record for the fastest rise to #1 on the day of its release. The result is a sometimes uneven collection of 14 remixes. While the intro track, the Zedd Remix of "Born This Way", sounds like it was trapped inside a vacuum cleaner, a strong bass line enhances the Twin Shadow Remix of "Born This Way". Similarly, the Wild Beasts Remix of "You and I" makes a fantastic song sound muddy and distant; the Metronomy Remix of the same song is by contrast crisp and spare, as Gaga sings "Taste like whisky when you kiss me, oh/ I'd give anything again to be your baby doll/ this time I'm not leaving without you." "Marry the Night," [The Weeknd & Ilangelo Remix] sounds like two different remixes in one. But it's anyone's guess what occasion would merit a playing of "Bloody Mary" [The Horrors Remix]. Michael Woods remix of "Black Jesus + Amen Fashion" feels dated. But other remixes are fantastic. The German-language "Scheiße [Guena LG Club Remix] is strong, as is "Electric Chapel [Two Door Cinema Club Remix] as Gaga sings, "If you want to steal my heart my heart away, meet me meet me baby in a safe place, come on meet me in Electric Chapel." (I'm guessing it's somewhere in Times Square). Other remixes really absorb the spirit and vibe of the artist who undertook it. The Goldfrapp remix of "Judas" is imbued with the ambient vibe for which this electronic duo is known. And Foster the People's "The Edge of Glory" has the melodic, muted pop-rock feel found in tracks like their crossover hit, "Pumped Up Kicks". The closing track, the Sultan & Ned Shepard remix of "The Edge of Glory" gives it the "Sweet Child of Mine" treatment, to interesting effect. All in all, the album is more hits than misses, and will surely be snatched up by serious Gaga fans, and those DJs searching for that one perfect remix. (Streamline Records)

"My Lifelong Love" (Georgia Stitt)

Award-winning composer and lyricist Georgia Stitt gathers some of the entertainment industry's most exciting singers together to sing 13 of her original songs in "My Lifelong Love". The album features songs about love in all its incarnations, from first love to last love, love of music to love of children. Among the most interesting is the performance of the title track by "Modern Family" star Jesse Tyler Ferguson. He sings of his lifelong love -- music -- couched in the story of his coming out. He tells of his first love: the smartest boy in the whole sixth grade. "There are men who make you lose yourself or fill you with regret/ but Adam won my lifelong love because he played the clarinet." He joins the band, only to discover that Adam's girlfriend plays the flute. "The music had a hold on me, more than any fling/ I knew I'd found my lifelong love, and Adam didn't mean a thing." Anika Noni Rose shows off her chops on "Kites and Children" -- all each need is air and wind. Jazz duo Jessica Molaskey and John Pizzarelli put forward a winning rendition of "Invested in You." Christopher Jackson thrills in "At This Turn in the Road", and Heidi Blickenstaff does a fine job in "Not Yet", a song about loving oneself. Michael Arden of "Bare" and "Source Code" is surprisingly tender in "If I Could." Kate Baldwin sings "More of My Mother", a song about seeing herself grow into her mother, "I carry her hips behind my pockets, I carry her values in my heart/ I wonder when did all this copycatting start?" Stitt also sets to music works by Shakespeare, Dorothy Parker, Derek Walcott, and Alicia Partnoy. Brian d'Arcy James sings "Sonnet 29", and Laura Osnes of "Anything Goes" and "Bonnie and Clyde" takes on two songs, "Communication" and "A Very Short Song." "My Lifelong Love" closes out with "The Wanting of You" by Stitt's collaborator, Susan Egan, for whom she wrote songs on several albums, including her new release, "The Secret of Happiness," recently reviewed in November's Dig These Discs column. (Sh-K-Boom Records)

"Seasons of My Soul" (Rumer)

When the press reps at Fly Life Music sent over "Seasons of My Soul" with a note saying, "This is my FAVE CD," I initially dismissed it as just another empty platitude. About halfway into the first song, "Am I Forgiven?", I was a believer. British singer-songwriter Sarah Joyce, aka Rumer, is a cross between Adele and Amy Winehouse, with some Karen Carpenter thrown in for good measure. Her debut album, "Seasons of My Soul", is track after track of deep, pure, sotty soul. Eat up her illicit, louche intro as she sings, "Come to me high/ come to me restless." Her 2010 debut single, "Slow", smacks of a trance-like, come-hither love song, á la Everything But The Girl. Her second single, "Aretha", released later that year, is a fitting, horn-rich homage to the Queen of Soul. Rumer sings,
"I got the blues in springtime, 'cause I know that I'll never have the right shoes/ Mama she'd notice but she's always crying/ I got no one to confide in Aretha, nobody but you." In "Saving Grace", she channels Joni Mitchell's "Free Man in Paris," singing, "I was running out of café conversation, I was weary of fashion parades/ and it seems like there's a whole lot of people from out of town around here these days." And the piano and strings in "Thankful" are reminiscent of Mitchell's earlier stuff, such as "Ladies of the Canyon." She ends the album with the sweet, "On My Way Home", which delves deep into loss, and fittingly, "The Goodbye Girl". Rumer spent the better part of 2011 racking up UK nominations and wins, including the MOJO Award for Best Breakthrough Act. Her new album drops in the U.S. on January 24, 2012. Prepare to see her blow this place up. (Atlantic)

"Welcome to Reality" (Nero)

DJs/artists Dan Stephens and Joe Ray team up as Nero, releasing their debut album "Welcome to Reality", a messy blend of generic synthetic beats. The overall effect is a painful synth-pop nightmare, as if a bunch of first year high school students crushed and snorted a bunch of Ritalin and got crazy with their older brother's Moog keyboard. Perhaps this critic is simply not a fan of indie/dubstep hybrids, but some tracks, like "Scorpions", are just painful to listen to. The tracks with the most cohesive feel are those featuring the vocals of Alana Watson, their longtime singer. These are palatable, including "My Eyes", "Me and You" and "In the Way." Probably the best of the bunch is their August single "Promises", which hit the top of the UK charts, and evokes early Massive Attack. (A Skrillex remix of this is included as a bonus track) But selections like a cover of The Jets "Crush on You" -- an '80s classic that's hard to hate -- come across like The Chipmunks singing, "How did you know, if I never told/ You found out, I got a crush on you." Unfortunately, there is no anthropomorphic-rodent cuteness to fall back on, rendering it akin to listening to bad robot sex. That said, it is oddly catchy. Ditto for "Must Be The Feeling," with Watson singing, "Every time I hear this groove, it makes me wanna move/ Must be the feeling, it brings to you that makes you feel what to do." The album also features cameos by guitarist Bush, and '80s pop star Daryl Hall on "Reaching Out", which features the hook Hall & Oates made famous in their 1984 hit song, "Out of Touch". The two say that they wanted to make a dance album that takes listeners on a journey, with Ray admitting that it's the type of album they would have loved as kids. On this we are of one mind; "Welcome to Reality" would have been fantastic in the early days of techno. (MTA Records)

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.