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Pop Making Sense
by David Byrne with Tony Peregrin

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As if it needs to be announced again, Lady Gaga just released her latest, ARTPOP. It would not be Gaga without moments that demand a double take. These include a surprisingly decent duet with R. Kelly on "Do What U Want" and "Jewels N' Drugs" featuring T.I., Too $hort and Twista. The energetic "Gypsy" and the ballad "Dope" are destined to become fan favorites. But there is filler like "Manicure" and "Swine" plus eye-rolling references to drugs and hyper-sexualization to skip over throughout ARTPOP.

Certain over-the-top tracks like "G.U.Y." ( girl under you ) and "Mary Jane Holland" give me flashbacks to the '90s Swedish camp dance outfit Army of Lovers. A sizeable chunk of these tunes could have been recorded by any pop star, such as Miley Cyrus or Katy Perry. Luckily, Gaga's quirky personality is present on the title track and "Applause." Just like her bodysuit with a platform dubbed as Volantis, the first flying dress, ARTPOP does not quite go into orbit, despite the hype.

It is worth the wait; Sky Ferreira's full-length debut—Night Time, My Time—is finally out now via Capitol Records. "Heavy Metal Heart" and "24 Hours" are fun electro-pop rock ditties, while "Love in Stereo" is overly cool and emotionless. In the video for "You're Not the One," the blonde sports a denim jacket with a black sheer top and shades, ultimately serving up my FDA daily requirement of Desperately Seeking Susan realness. The references to the '80s do not stop there; "Boys" brings Transvision Vamp to the 21st century and "Nobody Asked Me ( If I Was Okay )" summons the spirit of The Flirts. Ferreira will be at The Vic Theatre, 3145 N. Sheffield Ave., on Saturday, Nov. 23, with Smith Western.

On Innocents, Moby favors a more tranquil, soothing approach. Damien Jurado's vocals on "Almost Home" are heaven-sent, as if a traveler nudges his companion and whispers, "wake up, wake up, wake up, we're almost home." Cold Specks, the guest on "A Case for Shame" and "Tell Me," has a gorgeous voice that is older than its years with its bluesy, folksy styling. On "The Perfect Life," The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne is paired with a choir, which can be described as divine intervention. A limited edition of Innocents is also available with angelic bonus tracks.

Sir Elton John has been garnering many praises for his album The Diving Board. Here, the out icon tells stories on piano-driven material, which he penned with his loyal lyricist Bernie Taupin. The timeless collection gels nicely with his '70s classics. A choir superbly provides back up on the highlight "Take This Dirty Water." The fun "Mexican Vacation ( Kids in the Candlelight )" shows off his skills on the keys. The music industry veteran brings his tour to All-State Arena, 6920 N Mannheim Rd., Rosemont, on Saturday, Nov. 30.

Folk legend Patty Larkin returns with the new album Still Green. The set opens with the simply beautiful "Best of Intentions," which is followed by the slightly moody "Down through the Woods.""My Baby" and "Nothing Else Matters" shine brightly with backing from the band.

Larkin previously released the collection 25, where she revisits her catalog as duets with folk-music greats like Shawn Colvin, Suzanne Vega and Dar Williams. In 2005, Larkin produced the compilation La Guitara: Gender Bending Strings, which showcases different talented female guitarists. On Sunday, Nov. 24, Larkin takes to the stage at Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln Ave.

On his new single "Box," openly gay singer Daniel Sobrino offers hope for others to never give up. Also he uses the parallel of "living in a box" to being closeted and not being oneself. In a video of the recording sessions of "Box," the young crooner opens up about a personal experience when he was taunted by a classmate for taking gymnastics as a kid. His previous single, "Power of Us," is equally inspiring. Sobrino's EP, Born Again, is on the horizon.

Having coached many singers and conducted performances, it is hard to believe that Love Is Born at Christmas is David Edelfelt's debut album. This collection has Edelfelt's rich, expressive vocals on holiday evergreens like "Mary, Did You Know?," "Go Tell It on the Mountain" and "O Holy Night." "God Bless My Family" features beloved Windy City cabaret and stage performers Tom Michael and Amy Methany. Get a jump start on the season, as Edelfelt will be accompanied by Beckie Menzie for It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year at Davenport's, 1383 N. Milwaukee Ave., on Friday, Nov. 29, through Sunday, Dec. 1. Reservations are suggested.

About two years ago, Chicago siren Meghan Murphy and I were judges together for Windy City Gay Idol. She wowed the crowd with her hilarious song "Yo Titties Look Funny in That Dress." Here, she displayed everything the hopefuls should strive for with her stage presence, jaw-dropping chops and, most importantly, the right material to emphasize her talents. Lovingly nicknamed "Big Red," Murphy joined songwriter and pianist John Fournier to form the band Everybody Says Yes. Fournier's lyrics perfectly suit Murphy's passionate, soulful delivery. The duo filled out and now operates as a seven-piece band. Expect to launch soon to complement the group's official fan page on Facebook with news and concert schedules.

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