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Pop Making Sense
by David Byrne with Tony Peregrin

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Blonde divas Britney Spears and Beyonce have new albums out to add to the year-end rush. "Perfume" and "Now That I Found You" dare to shed the overproduced dance sound Spears has been favoring. But she sings as if clothespins are pinching her nose and her tongue during "Work Bitch." The club-ready tracks—ike "It Should Be Easy," the mindless "Tik Tik Boom" and "Til It's Gone"—surely will give her extended live engagement in Las Vegas an extra jolt of energy. Just be mindful of cliche-plagued fillers "Passenger" and "Don't Cry" on Britney Jean.

There is a video for all 14 tracks plus bonus clips on Beyonce's self-titled album, which becomes a bit too much. Beyonce has a mighty guest list contributing here. Frank Ocean appears on the midtempo "Superpower" and husband Jay-Z is on the dreadful "Drunk in Love." Beyonce's daughter Blue Ivy has a cameo on "Blue." The lead single, "XO," is very pop, yet is forward-thinking for the "Single Ladies" superstar. "Jealous" ranks as my favorite here with its stripped-down electronic arrangements. Even though released earlier than planned, Beyonce debuted on top of the charts.

On Light Sweet Crude ( Act 1: Hybrid ), Vanessa Daou puts her music into motion. "Revolution" has strings with a groove that the body cannot resist. On "Danger Ahead," Daou opens with spoken word as if at a beat club, then steps next door to a lounge once the slick electronic beat sneaks in. Love is many things.

Daou creatively illustrates the powerful emotion and then silences the opposition by unveiling love's universal definition on the standout "Love Is War" by singing, "Love is peace, love is war. Love is what we're fighting for." "One Think I'm Missing" finds her mesmerizing and breathless over a drawn-out, hypnotic beat. Light Sweet Crude never loses its groove or sensuality. Whether it is her vocal's timing, her phrasing of lyrics or captivating me in her music's rhythm, once again Daou is simply spellbinding. The self-released Light Sweet Crude and remixes to "Danger Ahead" are available now digitally.

New York dance artist SirPaul returns with Seventh Star and he has love on his mind. "Turning Me On" and "Black Leather" are lyrical foreplay, letting his lover know what is to follow. The edgy electro vibe on "He's So Unusual" adds more spice to Seventh Star. "Every Single Moment" is a dance ode about missing his partner, while the youthful "Be Mine" is very flirty. "Love Sick" is asking for remixes or even a video. Seventh Star is out now on SirPaul's label Controversial Records.

This year's success story belongs to Mary Lambert. The lesbian singer-songwriter wrote and sang the chorus on "Same Love" by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. This popular testimony pleading for marriage equality received a Grammy nomination. Lambert expanded the chorus into a proper composition called "She Keeps Me Warm," which is on her new EP, Welcome to the Age of My Body. The accompanying video finds Lambert at a coffee shop, eyeing a barista. Expect a full-length debut in 2014 on Capitol Records. Lambert showcases a positive image for all body types, as seen on two versions of "Body Love" and her collection of poetry, 500 Tips for Fat Girls.

The British rock quartet Bastille manages to keep its credibility with the track "Of the Night," which is a clever medley of the euro-dance songs "Rhythm of the Night" by Corona and "Rhythm is a Dancer" by Snap. The song became a huge hit overseas and can be found only on the forthcoming extended edition All This Bad Blood. Bastille topped the alternative charts stateside with "Pompeii," which has a catchy chant as its hook. Bad Blood also boasts noteworthy cuts like "Overjoyed," "Icarus" and "Laura Palmer."

As part of the Rock 'N' Roll Ball, JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound will perform to its hometown crowd on Tuesday, Dec. 31 at Montrose Room, 5300 N. River Rd., Rosemont. The soulful rock band's latest Howl is out now on Bloodshot Records and contains the remarkable tracks "Rouse Yourself" and "River." For a tickets and complete line up of Rock 'N' Roll Ball, please visit .

Beloved female rock group Luscious Jackson reunited and released the hilarious video "#1 Bum." Here, women gawk over a guy who wears jeans well. The clip is so outrageously done, especially with its conclusion. The song itself does not stray from the band's style during its Riot Grrrl prime, showing that its shtick has not gone missing since the last effort, 1999's Electric Honey. "#1 Bum" is from the comeback album Magic Hour.

Centaur Music's Outright series is making sure my workout playlist never gets tired. There are three exceptional installments; Outright Tea Dance, Outright '90s and Outright Divas. These continuous mixes contain updated remakes of memorable classics, keeping the best traits of the originals intact. Tea Dance cherishes big choruses, as heard on "If You Could Read My Mind" and "Oh L'amour," as well as reinterpretations of Heather Small's anthem "Proud" and Christina Aguilera's showstopper "Beautiful." The '90s summarizes the eclectic decade with new versions of Black Box's "Strike It Up," Amber's "Sexual" and Olive's "You're Not Alone." Some of the sirens saluted on Divas are Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, P!nk and Cher. Centaur Music's Outright collections can be found at and on iTunes.

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