I will make you dance, so don't fight it.

Welcome to a new week here at 3FING3RS, lovers. You know what Monday means. It’s time for me to rant about some musician you’ve probably already heard of, but let’s agree to entertain my silly delusion that I listen to music that no one else does and therefore must share it with everyone. Just give me one more week and, next week, I promise I’ll present you someone relatively brand-new.

Now that that’s out of the way, on to today’s fun…

My choice for this week’s music must is a Brit import. A little tidbit about my music preferences: I have a bit of an obsession with music from over the pond. I’m constantly scouring the UK iTunes Store, cursing my computer that it won’t let me purchase music from it. (Seriously, what’s up with that, anyway? I thought it was the World Wide Web!)

Anyway, this bloke, Jack Penate (whose last name actually has a tilde over the “n,” something I’m unable to figure out how to do here on WordPress) is another find from the UK iTunes. I felt so lucky, though, when I found that his album had been released here in the States, too. Granted, it was released last June, but sometimes albums from over there never see the light of day over here (I’m referring to you, Just Jack, and your elusive second album!).

A little bit of background on Mr. Penate. He released his first album, Matinee, in October of 2007. It wasn’t very good and wasn’t received very well, critically. Commercially, however, it was eaten up. And thank the Brits for it, otherwise, we probably wouldn’t have ever heard his follow-up album, which was radically different and much better.

Everything Is New was released in June of 2009 and is amazing. It’s the kind of album that I imagine putting on at a summer party. It’s sunset, everyone is gathered around the pool, there is Sangria everywhere. And suddenly, this music plays. It’s a rousing concoction of soul, funk, African tribal, and dance music. Everyone is on their feet. No one can resist moving to this sound. The party’s a big success and it’s all because of Jack Penate (and probably the Sangria, too). It’s like the party of my dreams.

Anyway, while I entertain more ridiculous fantasies, take a listen and tell me what you think. I’ve attached the videos for “Be The One” and “Tonight’s Today”. Gosh, he’s pretty dreamy, too, right? (I defy anyone to not want to move to this music!)

Enjoy, nerds.

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Also, one requirement for my liking your music: I must want to sleep with you.

So, I need to get something cleared up. Contrary to what this post, and my music library, may make you believe, I absolutely loathe American Idol. I stopped watching the rating-juggernaut years ago. I grew disheartened by the ridicule and cruelty shown to the delusional auditioning contestants in the show’s early weeks. (And, anticipating your argument, yes, I realize the most delusional need to be told they have no chance. But it doesn’t have to be done in a way that makes the person a complete joke. If the show was really striving to celebrate artistry, they wouldn’t make this such a focus.) And, on the same token, I grew irritated with the shlock-fest the show would become in the finalist portion of the competition. Every batch of contestants was always the BEST GROUP EVER, even when they weren’t, by a long shot. Look, I went to a performing arts school where I worked alongside a group of talent that could out-sing about 85% of the contestants to grace the Idol stage, I know of what I speak. While I don’t watch, I’ve encountered footage of some of this season’s “singers” and they could be described, at best, as “turgid”.

This isn’t to say the show hasn’t produced some successful, and sometimes even miraculously great, artists: Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Adam Lambert, Kris Allen, Jordin Sparks, this week’s focus Blake Lewis; and, hey, I even loved a few of Katherine McPhee’s singles. I owe the show that much credit. I just wish it existed somewhere else, where it didn’t suck ratings and money from scripted programming that people actually pour their artistic lives into creating. That’s all.

(And, yes, I totally realize I’m in a minority in this opinion. The ratings prove that to me every week. People gobble this shit up, while shows like Better Off Ted, Dollhouse, and Chuck are routinely ignored. People also believe the shit that Sarah Palin has to say. I understand little of how the world works.)

But, like I said, some people come out of the behemoth and do some great stuff. Blake Lewis is one of them. He was the runner-up in the sixth season of the show, losing to Jordin Sparks. I actually watched most of this season because I was dating my rat-turd ex at the time and he was an Idoloonie. I remember not liking Blake much during the competition. His ridiculous beat-boxing made me uncomfortable.

He lost and I figured I’d never think of him again. That is, until I stumbled upon his gem of a single “How Many Words”. It was slinky, electro-pop candy and I gobbled it up. It was featured on his first CD Audio Day Dream, which came and went with little fanfare. I didn’t like the whole album much, but this song stuck in my craw. I couldn’t get enough.

I didn’t think I’d hear much more from Blake again, after reports of Arista dumping him from the label after the album failed. But Tommy Boy Records saved the day and Blake released his second, and far-superior, album, Heartbreak on Vinyl, through them in October of last year. The album is like “How Many Words” x100, with some extra funk thrown in. If you like your music to be sexy, sugary, weird, and electric, look no further. The whole album is one big, unpretentious dance party waiting to happen.

No, this isn’t indie-hipster cool kid’s music, but it’s simply good. Next week, I’ll tell you all about some weird Scandinavian girl group who shriek and play pickle jars and how they’re the second coming of Christ, in effort to regain my cred. But, for now, just have fun.

Below I’ve attached “How Many Words” and my favorite track off the second album, “Left My Baby For You.” Enjoy.

I want to lick your openly-gay face, Mr. Martin. Come over, now.

Boy, was this an interesting piece of news to read today. Only three weeks ago, I was on here blathering about Ricky Martin’s forgotten career and his suspected homosexuality and then, as if I willed the universe to make him somewhat relevant again, he admits his truth.

This announcement is not surprising or timely. But does that really matter? In a surprisingly touching open letter on his website, the Livin La Vida Loca singer touched on his long-standing desire to truthfully represent himself and briefly mentioned the many discussions he had with those in his life who suggested he not, as he stood to lose much if he did. And then, after much meandering, he finally, sweetly, powerfully, succinctly states: “I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man. I am very blessed to be who I am.”

That’s it. Simple.

But, with it, immediately comes the snark. An account I follow on Twitter, using the handle gaycivilrights, quickly had two things to say. First: “Ricky Martin Comes Out: ‘I Am Homosexual.’ In Other News, The Earth is Round” and second: “Ricky Martin says he’s gay. Do you applaud him for coming out or wish he had come out earlier?” Several personal acquaintances of mine on Facebook, all gay, echoed each other with snide remarks regarding the announcement, each with the sentiment that he took too long.

And I find myself asking why? Why is this where we immediately go? Do we really want to be the community that treats each other with such derision? Here we have a man who, clearly, must have been struggling with this decision for some time. I remember how I struggled with my decision to come out. It took me about three years and I hardly stood to lose anything. What was the worst that would happen to me? My parents would cry? This is a man who had a career, and a lot of money, to consider. And it’s unfair to blame him for being afraid to admit this terrifying truth to a professional community and a society at large that aren’t so welcoming of our kind.

Is it Ricky Martin’s fault that half the world really, truly hates gays? Simply, no. Until the atmosphere around, and opportunities for, openly gay entertainers improve, it’s understandable for people like Martin to be apprehensive.

But what isn’t understandable, what’s downright reprehensible, is for his display of courage to be mocked by the very people who know what he’s going through and who’ve been in his shoes. A person’s coming-out is their own private journey. Who’s place is it to decide when a person should be ready to open themselves up in the most naked way imaginable? We should be applauding his courage, not chiding his timing. He’s one of us, let’s have his back.

So, Ricky, welcome to the family, officially. Now, where can I send you my number? I’m ready for that date I’ve been dreaming about since seventh grade.

Remember how incredible Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black album was? All the tracks were delicious throwbacks to 1960’s and 70’s soul and funk, a time when music felt raw and personal and real. The credit for this sound was taken largely by producer Mark Ronson and Winehouse, herself. But there a few more people who you can thank for that sound. People Winehouse and Ronson forgot to thank. People known as The Dap-Kings.

The house band of Daptone Records, The Dap-Kings teamed up with front woman Sharon Jones in 2002 and are widely, and correctly, credited with the soul-funk revival, by people in the know. Jones brought with her quite the back story. A woman nearing 50, she had spent the majority of her adult life working as a corrections officer on Rikers Island and as an armored car guard for Wells Fargo Bank. Translation? Jones is one hardcore bitch.

The band released their first album in 2002, entitled Dap Dippin’ with Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings. Since then, they’ve released two more, Naturally in 2005 and 100 Days, 100 Nights in 2007. It was during their latest album’s release that I discovered the band and I instantly fell in love with the sound. The band shuns modern digital recording methods in favor of traditional analog recording equipment and limits their instrument use to that of instruments that would have been available up until the mid-70’s. Through this, they achieve a truly authentic sound that doesn’t even feel like a throwback.

I had the pleasure of seeing the band live in the summer of 2008, when they opened for Feist at the Hollywood Bowl. Let me just tell you, this band is the real deal. For a woman now nearing her mid-fifties, Jones is as fierce, powerful, and, in spite of her hardened background, sexy and feminine as the rest of them.

A new album, I Learned The Hard Way, is expected to be released in early April. If the eponymous first single is any indication, we’re in for another brilliant trip back in time.

Below I’ve attached the video for my all-time favorite track, “100 Days, 100 Nights” (itself a delicious throwback video) and the excellent new single, “I Learned The Hard Way.” Take a listen and let me know what you think!

Today’s Viral Vision comes to you courtesy of Vincent Van Gogh’s severed ear lobe, because if it were alive today, and had thumbs, it would give this glorious music video by French band Hold Your Horses two thumbs way up! Van Gogh himself, on the other hand, would probably whine for a couple of hours and then have a seizure about it.

wah wah wah i'm sensitive

I love things like this because it validates the one Community College Art History course I took by making me look smart to all my friends when I can name every single painting portrayed. It’s like when Jeopardy does Teen Week and you can answer all the questions because they’re basically tailored for 10th graders. You ever  notice how there’s always one pop culture category that no one ever does well in? That’s because smart kids are nerds.

ANYWAY, the song is pretty mediocre, but the concept and execution of the visuals is adorably fantastic, and I’ll bet by the end you’ll be smiling. Also, violin playing goat! Happiness isn’t happiness without a violin playing goat.

Any recording artist that introduces me to a new slang term I can add to my vernacular is instantly an artist I like. Couple that with an ability to spit rhymes and sing and you’ve earned a new obsessive fan out of me.

Kid Sister is one such artist. She released her debut album, Ultraviolet, on November 17, 2009. I picked it up, following the advice of one of Katy Perry’s tweets, (Wait. Did I really just admit to that? I guess so.) and I was blown away. The album is an electro-hip hop-R&B  pastiche that is totally engrossing. The beats are insane and the songs flow into one another like it’s one of the greatest mix tapes ever.

Now, about that new slang. In nearly all of her songs, she talks about “juking” and how she’s going to “juke” all night. I had never heard of this action before, but it sounded fun. So, I did some investigating. Kid Sister hails from Chicago, where something called  “juke house” was originated. Juke house is also known as ghetto house or booty house and they are themselves an extension of Chicago house music. They feature minimal 808 or 909 drum machine-driven tracks and a sexually explicit lyric. To juke is the sort of dancing that’s done in conjunction with juke house and is something akin to krumping. (Wow, I just explained something so street in the most vanilla way possible.)

Below, I’ve included the video for her song “Right Hand Hi,” (which is totally awesome, BTW) and “54321,” which doesn’t have a video released yet, but is totally sick, nonetheless.

So, take a listen, get ready to juke, and tell me what you think!

I have something to tell you, dear readers. I’m a big Gaga fan, as if my thoughts on her new video wasn’t evidence enough. I discovered her during the summer of 2008, before anyone had heard of her. She’d only just released “Just Dance” and I only stumbled upon it because I was a fan of that Colby O’Donis song “What You Got” and wanted to find more music he had made. My search brought me to the song, as he is featured. I instantly fell in love with the song and began obsessively hunting for any news regarding appearences or an album release date. A month after I discovered the song, I heard that she was going to perform it live at The Factory in West Hollywood, a gay nightclub. I didn’t get to go because no one would go with me, as no one had heard of her. (Can you imagine anyone turning down the opportunity to see Lady Gaga in a small venue now? That’s how long ago it was.) Since then, I’ve had the good fortune to see her live twice. And trust me when I say, if she ever comes to your town, you must go. She is truly brilliant.

But, that’s not what I wanted to tell you. No, what I have to share is something more intimate.

 This last Halloween, I was Lady Gaga for Halloween.

Yes, but, I didn’t just put on a wig. I committed to the full drag. I’d never done this before, and I certainly don’t ever plan to again, but it was fun. I shaved my entire body, got a wig from a wig shop rather than a costume shop, and rocked a skin-tight bodysuit, fishnets, and some killer heels. And I thought I was pretty fierce. But, nothing, NOTHING, I could have done would even come close to the fellas in this video.

This Gaga is so fierce and so ballsy; it’s amazing. This video is the greatest fan video I’ve ever seen. The production value is unparalled and, seriously, where are they filming? I want to get a drink in this place! I must say, though, that the Beyonce is pretty bunk. They couldn’t find someone, oh, I don’t know, black? Putting that aside, this is a funny, fierce, and (dare I say?) sexy video.

Watch.

Friends, I’m speechless.

You see, I just watched Gaga’s magnum opus, her video for “Telephone.” I didn’t get the opportunity to watch last night when it premiered, so I spent today patiently counting down the minutes until work was over and I could experience the madness that is Gaga.

And, boy was it worth it.

“Telephone” is, by far, her most outré video to date. Equal parts a sequel to her madcap “Paparazzi” video and the beginning of a whole new story, as evidenced by the “To be continued…” tag at the end, the video plays out like Chicago meets Thelma and Louise meets Bound, all through a Warhol-ian lens.

We open on Gaga in prison, presumably for the murder she committed, of Alexander Skarsgard, at the end of the last video. She’s soon sprung from the joint by her Honey-B, Beyonce (driving the famed Pussy Wagon from Kill Bill, no less!) and the two embark on a mission to poison an entire diner full of patrons, including Tyrese Gibson. Oh! And there’s a whole lot of singing and dancing in the in-between. The nine-plus minute epic closes with Gaga and B driving off into the sunset, hands clasped, with a promise of more insane genius to come.

I imagine the biggest complaint this video will receive (besides the usual “She’s weird.”) is that the plot of the video has nothing to do with the song, which already has a bit of story to it. And, while I don’t necessarily agree, I understand the argument. But, really, would you rather Gaga had given us some video of her and B dancing in a club, ignoring a phone call, or this?

I rest my case.

The video is visually stunning. I mentioned Warhol before and, while it’s obvious he’s always influenced Gaga, I think this is the first time it’s been really dialed in. This is pop art at its finest. It has been a long time since we’ve had music videos that were this ambitious and daring. But, then again, it’s been a long time since we’ve had an artist like Lady Gaga, as well. I mean, can you remember the last time a music video was this heavily anticipated? I’d say it was probably Michael Jackson’s “Remember The Time” video and I don’t think I’m skipping over anything in between, not at all.

So, with that, I leave you the video. It’s insane. It’s risky. It’s a blast. It’s Gaga.

Enjoy.

Welcome, lovers, to the first edition of a weekly feature here at 3FING3RS we like to call “Remember Me?” Each week, we’ll dreg up the memory of a long-forgotten pop culture icon. We’ll look at what brought them to the height of their fame and attempt to find evidence of life, post-flameout. Will it be pretty? Not always. Will it be depressing? Sometimes. Will it be fun? Hell yes! And away we go…

This week finds us reminiscing the man who sprung the Latin craze on America. He who took the world by storm at the Grammy’s so long ago with his hit “The Cup of Life.” That’s right! The one, the only: Ricky Martin.

First of all, how old does it make everyone else feel to know it was a whopping ELEVEN years ago that the star-making Grammy performance occurred? I kid you not, it was 1999 when Ricky took to the stage with his creepy stilted, ribbon-dancing concubines. (Seriously, watch the video below. It’s a trip. The kicker? Look for the shot of Baby JLO at the end of the performance. Feel old now?)

Martin deftly tapped into markets that always turn profit: horny housewives and gays. Here’s this Latin king, who can sing and shake his hips and look so exotic! We ate him up. A string of hits followed “The Cup of Life”: “Living La Vida Loca,” “She Bangs,” and “Nobody Wants To Be Lonely,” his duet with Christina Aguilera.  The well seemed to run dry shortly thereafter.

He constantly fielded suspicion regarding his sexuality, probably because of his huge gay following; or because he could dance; or because, let’s face it, those black leather pants he wore at the ’99 Grammy’s scream “I loves the mens!” Martin adamantly denied being gay whenever questioned, saying he’s gay-friendly, but he’s not gay. Whatever, I guess I believed him. But then he had to go and have those twins through gestational surrogacy two years ago with no woman visible in his public life and I’m back to thinking “Ricky, who you think you fooling?”

Besides a blip on the radar in 2008 for the aforementioned baby bonanza, Martin largely fell off the map in the early 2000’s. His third album, an attempt to regain the sales charts mojo of his two prior blockbusters, was released in 2005, titled Life, and is something I’ve never heard of. I was shocked to learn it debuted at number 6 on the Billboard Top 200 Album chart.

According to Wikipedia, Martin has been working on an album since last summer and is hoping to have it released this spring. He’s also writing a book. Why? I’m not certain. But, I’ll probably read it.

Below I’ve embedded Ricky’s breakthrough Grammy performance from 1999 and a video released in 2005 for a song from the phantom album, Life. I’m pissed I wasn’t aware of this five years ago. Did Ricky ever look hotter that he does in this?

Ah, Ricky Martin, the world at large may never care about you again, but you and I? We’ll always have la vida loca.

Welcome, music lovers, to the first edition of our weekly feature, Music Must Monday. With a fairly self-explanatory title, MMM is a weekly opportunity for us here at 3FING3RS to shine a spotlight on a lesser-known artist or band that we truly feel anyone seeking out quality music ought to know of. We hope you’ll give each of them a listen. You may not love every one, but hopefully you’ll discover a few new favorites.

Our premiere selection is the English folk rock quartet, Mumford & Sons. The band formed in London in late 2007 and released their debut album, Sigh No More, in the UK in October of last year. The album was finally released in the US just last month. I first came across the boys through their February 17th performance on Letterman. Their performance of “Little Lion Man” (which I’ve embedded below for your viewing pleasure) prompted me to seek out their album.

Now, I’m hardly what you’d call a religious man. But, I must say that listening to this album for the first time was probably the closest I’ve ever come to having a religious experience. I don’t mean this because of the religious themes in their lyrics, but because of the ability these boys have to create a swelling sound that fully envelops the listener. I saw the universe in their wall of sound. Take a listen to “The Cave”, the second track on the album, which I’ve also embedded below. Pay particular attention to the 3:00 mark, onward. If you don’t feel a stirring inside when the cacophonous flurry of fiddle, guitar, and horns erupt into a climactic expression of faith and devotion, then I fear you have no soul.

But, what do I know? Sample the wares and leave your thoughts in the comments.

We’ll see you next week!

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