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Pop Making Sense
MUSIC
by David Byrne with Tony Peregrin
2011-06-01

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Lady Gaga returns with the highly anticipated album Born This Way. The title track still gets me pumped up with the catchy, reinforcing lyric "I'm on the right track, baby." She continues to be a voice for those who feel like outsiders, as apparent on "Bad Kids" and "Highway Unicorn (Road to Love)." Despite its irresistible sound, "Scheiße" (German for "shit") is a dose of shock value pulled out of Madonna's time capsule circa 1994. During "You and I," I can imagine my dad interrupting Gaga mid-song to correct her grammar. The second single, "Judas," has a thumping beat, but ultimately comes across as knock-off of her smash hit "Bad Romance." "The Edge of Glory" is the blonde New Yorker's fantastic dance take on a power ballad.

Born This Way surely will be the most unavoidable album of the summer. I will take Lady Gaga and her eccentricities any day over Katy Perry, Ke$ha or Britney Spears.

Matthew Morrison's self-titled debut mirrors his hit TV program Glee with its star studded guest list and clever covers. Gwyneth Paltrow joins Morrison for a reworking of "Somewhere over the Rainbow," while Sting guests on a remake of his own "Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot." Sir Elton John appears on a medley of "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters / Rocket Man." Former 'N Sync member JC Chasez contributes the upbeat "Don't Stop Dancing" and "Hey." "My Name," "It Don't Matter to the Sun" and the Kris Allen-penned "Still Got Tonight" prove to be solid pop ditties. Morrison's debut is fun, romantic and schmaltzy—well suited for his loveable character, Will Schuester.

Morrison canceled some of his scheduled solo appearances so that he can open for the wildly popular New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys tour. Unfortunately, the dimpled Broadway veteran has no Chicago-area dates currently listed.

Can't get enough Glee? Members of the cast have three concerts lined up for Friday, June 3, and Saturday, June 4, at Allstate Arena, 6920 N. Mannheim, Rosemont.

Fans of P!nk should check out Jessie J.'s Who You Are. The British newcomer shows her feisty side on "Price Tag" and "Nobody's Perfect." The album's showstopper is the YouTube breakout "Big White Room," based on the singer-songwriter's hospital stay when she was 11. "Casualty of Love" recalls the big, passionate vocal delivery of Joss Stone.

J. is one of the co-writers behind Miley Cyrus's hit "Party in the U.S.A." It is also refreshing to hear that this young artist does not smoke or drink unlike her peers P!nk, Adele and Lily Allen.

For the first time since the '80s, kd lang has a proper band, Siss Boom Bang, backing her up. The results found on Sing It Loud are rewarding. lang gives her best Elvis Presley impersonation on "I Confess" and seamlessly returns to her country roots on "Inglewood." The remake of "Heaven" by The Talking Heads is absolutely godlike.

The Grammy winner and the Siss Boom Bang will be at Ravinia in Highland Park on Thursday, June 23. lang hints that this tour will mark her last time performing "Hallelujah," as writer Leonard Cohen wants to put the often-covered classic to rest.

Also coming Ravinia are The Go-Go's and B-52's with a show on Friday, June 17. Both beloved bands have queer members and they have toured together in 2000.

The Go-Go's just released a 30-year anniversary edition of the debut Beauty and the Beat, which contains "Our Lips Are Sealed," "How Much More" and "We Got the Beat." The reissue has a bonus disc with a concert from 1981, notes from each of the five members, a photo of the set list from bassist Kathy Valentine's first concert with the all-female-band and Charlotte Caffey's notes as she wrote "We Got the Beat."

I fondly remember checking out Beauty and the Beat and Blondie's Parallel Lines on cassette from the library often as a little kid. Thirty years later, it aged well. Last year, lead singer Belinda Carlisle came out with her autobiography, Lips Unsealed.

Haberdashery's synth-pop outing, Tonight the Angels, is not "computer blue." It is bubbling over with early Depeche Mode-like endearing, love songs. The title track is an electronic lullaby, while "Tonight Is Forever" serves as a security blanket.

All of the material on Tonight the Angels is written, arranged, performed and sung by local artist Stephen Pearlman. Haberdashery is going to release all 10 tracks as singles, complete with a B-side, remixes, cover art and a music video for each. Some of the material is posted at www.haberdasheryinfo.com as a free download. Tonight the Angels is due out June 21.

On Party Groove: White Party 11, DJ David Knapp serves as a parade marshal, welcoming summer. The continuous set opens with bursts of sunlight, courtesy of the uplifting "Freefallin'" by Zoe Badwi. Chicago's very own Cyon Flare joins Edson Pride on the beckoning anthem "Free Your Body." Timeless club divas Ultra Nate, Crystal Waters, Kathy Brown and Jeanie Tracy deny White Party 11 from any lulls with their respective cameos. The set also includes dance remakes of the radio staples "Firework," "Commander" and "Only Girl (In the World)." Party Groove: White Party 11 is out now.


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