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Pop Making Sense
by David Byrne with Tony Peregrin
2008-03-19

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#1 Patti LaBelle in 1981. Photo by Vern Hesterby David Byrne and Tony Peregrin. #2 The Ones. Photo by Aaron Cobbett. #3 Kylie Minogue.

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Leona Lewis, winner of the British talent show X-Factor, is making quite an impact with her breakout single, Bleeding Love. Under the wings of diva-makers Clive Davis and Simon Cowell, her debut is reminiscent of Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera's rise to fame. The comparisons to Carey, Celine Dion and Whitney Houston are undeniable; her exotic looks and powerful chops help Bleeding Love stand out as a true pop hit. Lewis' debut Spirit will be out stateside with bonus tracks on April 8 via J Records.

The Ones have a club smash with Flawless. The trio's futuristic looks suit the song, bringing the Manhattan underground to the mainstream. Even George Michael incorporates the anthem into his track Flawless ( Go to the City ) . Now, The Ones are delivering their anticipated self-titled debut. Cuts like Superstar, Ultramodern and I Feel Upside Down translate well, since these scenesters know how to fuse the fashion world with the music industry. Nashom Wooden may be better known as drag persona Mona Foot and Paul Alexander added his vocal flair to the house classic Gimme Luv by David Morales and the Club 69 side project Size Queen's staple Walk!, whereas Jojo Americo collaborated with Danny Tenaglia on Headhunter. The Ones is out now; a limited edition is available solely through Patricia Field, featuring mixes plus a cover of Human League's ( Keep Feeling ) Fascination.

Music serves as the mediator of global harmony once again as Chantal Chamandy performs live from the Egyptian Pyramids. Not only is the show caught on the DVD Beladi: A Night at the Pyramids, but highlights will be airing on PBS affiliates as well. Chamandy's message of unity is ever-present, as the Egyptian-born chanteuse performs numbers like Peace and an exotic take on West Side Story's Somewhere. Not only is this the first concert ever permitted at the Pyramids on the Giza plateau, but the multi-lingual vocalist is accompanied by the Cairo Symphony Orchestra. Some may recall, Chamandy was the godmother of Montreal gay pride last year. The double-disc DVD and companion album are due out March 25.

The ageless diva Patti LaBelle still can 'stir it up,' as she said she was not down with the 'down low' on CNN when talking about her movie, Cover. A true supporter of the LGBT community, LaBelle is encouraging men that it's OK to be out. Also, an actor appearing in films such as Semi-Pro, Idlewild and Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy, the vocal powerhouse behind hits like On My Own and If You Asked Me To is releasing her own line of wigs through Especially Yours. Succeeding here should be no surprise, as she is also an author and has her own line of fragrances. Known for her legendary live show, LaBelle is scheduled to return to the Windy City on Fri., March 28, with Jeffrey Osbourne at the Arie Crown Theatre, 2301 S. Lake Shore.

It is the ultimate folk-cum-rock concert, as Mary Gauthier and The Cowboy Junkies share the bill at the Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, Sat., March 29. There will be a set at 7 p.m. and another at 10 p.m. Gauthier recruits the acclaimed Joe Henry to produce her latest, Between Daylight and Dark. In return, Henry puts Gauthier up to the challenge of recording this album live—perfect for translation onto the stage.

Chicago's beloved cabaret duo of Beckie Menzie and Tom Michael knows the highs and lows of traveling. Having toured the world, the pair is reliving some of the funnier moments, as they present a new set, Postcards from the Road: The Travel Show at Davenport's, 1383 N. Milwaukee, on Saturdays throughout April at 8 p.m. Having a knack for rearranging pop songs for a more intimate setting, expect to hear Menzie and Michael's renditions of Sentimental Journey, April in Paris, Leaving On a Jet Plane and You Belong to Me. Don't miss out once these After Dark Award winners say, 'All aboard.'

Is it 1991 once over again? Madonna and Kylie Minogue have new releases looming while Janet Jackson and Paula Abdul are hot on the charts. Even Sinead O'Connor is joining in on the fun, making headlines like only she can. The Celtic siren recently said that Minogue's music is unlistenable and a bullet may be better than being subjected to it per gabbybabble.com . This may have been blown out of proportion, but then again, maybe O'Connor just heard Minogue's lifeless remake of Kool and the Gang's Celebration.

Most of Minogue's albums require a few listens before I fully appreciate them. The Australian pop star's tenth studio release, X, is no different. Minogue finally seems to be having fun making electro-flavored pop gems, especially on Wow. She has not been this giddy since working with The Hit Factory on Let's Go To It or, possibly, the Abdul-penned Spinning Around. The breast cancer survivor examines mortality on Cosmic, a far cry from the post-treatment anthems like Anastacia's Sick and Tired or Kristine W.'s Fly Again. The pint-sized Minogue perfectly manages to come across as a fun-loving, electro-flavored Jem and the Holograms character on In My Arms and the Benny and Clyde sampling Sensitized. The upbeat X will be out on April 1 with a new mix of All I See.

American Idol judge Randy Jackson proves he is a top dawg in his game. Recruiting a variety of talents, including Joss Stone and Angie Stone as well as American Idol alumni Katharine McPhee and Elliott Yamin for Randy Jackson's Music Club Volume 1, the Grammy-winning producer reminds Idol fans that he is an industry veteran. Here, he masters a variety of genres like dance and country, but soulful pop remains his specialty. On the set's first single, Dance Like There's No Tomorrow, Idol co-panelist Abdul's delivery is blurred with a voice coder, following the steps of Cher's 1999 comeback single Believe. What would she say if an Idol hopeful did that? This summer the Straight Up singer will come out with a full-length album and a remix compilation of her hits. Hopefully she will save the special effects for her music videos.


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