Little Jackie — “The Stoop” (S-Curve) Regular readers of this column (hmmm, is that a bit like saying regular unicorns or regular leprechauns? anyway…) know that I love the ’60s soul-inspired revival that’s exploded in the U.K. the last year and a half. Amy Winehouse (“Back To Black”), Duffy (“Rockferry”) and Adele (“19”) have led the trend at home and Winehouse (in particular) and Duffy (to a lesser extent) have exported their success to the U.S.
I am tickled chartreuse to report that a homegrown female vocalist might finally be poised for a commercial breakthrough mining this still rich vein of retro music (that we created in the first place, you must remember). Friends, meet Little Jackie.
Okay, so my analogy is imprecise — Little Jackie is not a solo artist like the aforementioned Brits. But that’s beside the point. What matters is that the duo of singer/lyricist Imani Coppola (best known for her minor ’97 hit, “Legend Of A Cowgirl”) and DJ/programmer Andy Pallin have released what will surely be one of the year’s best debut albums, “The Stoop.”
Pallin and album producer Michael Mangini’s peppy, Motown and Stax inspired soundscapes provide head-nodding, finger-snapping support for Coppola to wax poetic, witty, bitchy and confessional on topics like the fact that she’s not relationship material (lead single “The World Should Revolve Around Me”), living in Bed-Stuy (“The Stoop”), a cheating boyfriend who’s busted by a miss-sent text message (“LOL”) and vacuous celebutantes (“Black Barbie”).
One track that’s creating considerable buzz is “Crying For The Queen,” wherein Coppola might or might not be dissing Winehouse for her cracked-out crazy behavior. She half-sings, half-raps on the chorus, “Judgin’ your behavior and your junky routine it’s time for you to get clean and stop creating a scene, girl you ain’t got shit on me, ain’t got shit on NYC got nothin’ on this city, save all that cryin’ for the queen.” R&B beef — it’s what’s for dinner!
Pallin, who was introduced to Coppola through Mangini, says of his collaboration with the 30-year-old singer, “My interest in this project was to bring back positive soul songs like the Motown era. But Imani takes what I’ve come up with and does her own thing. She’s clever and always surprising. It’s inspirational to vibe off what she’s doing.”
The Veronicas — “Hook Me Up” (Sire) The danceable electro-pop/rock sound was revived from its early ’80s slumber by the NYC underground in the late ’90s. Through the first half of the ’00 it was valiantly propagated by standard-bearers like Felix Da Housecat, Fischerspooner, Peaches, Electric Six and Scissor Sisters.
Today, and much to my surprise, electro-pop has become sufficiently commercial in sound and presentation to the point where artists are looking to the genre for chart hits (e.g. Katy Perry’s bi-curious smash “I Kissed A Girl”).
On Sept. 16, the electro-rock trend continues with the kicky sophomore album from The Veronicas (Aussie twin sisters Lisa and Jessica Origliasso). “Hook Me Up,” in stores now, eschews the pop-punk of the band’s debut for a 12-track collection of FNMTV anthems primarily fashioned from robotic drums, butcher-knife synth stabs and spitfire guitar licks.
“It’s been more than two years since we wrote the first record so our musical tastes have changed a bit,” Lisa says. “We’ve been living in Los Angeles where we got into the whole electro-pop/rock scene. When it came time to write the new album, we were really inspired by it musically.”
Jess explains, “We didn’t want to make a record that was the same as the first. We definitely wanted to create a different sound for ourselves and reinvent The Veronicas.” She enthusiastically adds that “Hook Me Up” turned out “exactly how we wanted it to, so we’re stoked.”
I’m not surprised. This assured follow-up elevates The Veronicas above the brainless Bettys who litter the pop music landscape.
Key tracks: “Untouched,” “Hook Me Up,” “Take Me On The Floor,” “Popular”
Delta Goodrem — “Delta” (Decca) You’ve almost certainly never heard of her, but Delta Goodrem is a big deal outside of the U.S. At just 23, she’s already one of Australia’s most successful and top-selling female artists of all time.
Goodrem’s 2003 debut, “Innocent Eyes,” spent a record-breaking 29 weeks at #1 on the Australian album chart, yielded five #1 singles — breaking an Aussie record held by Kylie Minogue and The Beatles — and is one of the few albums to sell more than a million copies Down Under. In the U.K., “Innocent Eyes” reached #2 and produced three top 10 singles. Here in America? Crickets.
Now, Goodrem is poised to become a household name in the U.S. with the recent release of “Delta,” the sun-kissed beauty’s first stateside album. The set is a mid-tempo pop jewel that stylistically recalls Kelly Clarkson’s blockbuster “Breakaway” and, more recently, Leona Lewis’ fast-selling debut that covered much of the same musical ground.
However, “Delta” gains added heft from the way it addresses Goodrem’s successful battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer that struck the singer as her tidal wave debut was cresting. On the unexpected toe-tapper “Possessionless,” Goodrem trills “All I’ve got is my body an I’m naked for you.” She’s not talking about physical intimacy, but about the true nature of love when you’ve lost everything else.
“My life had got so serious so fast,” Delta says. “Then I lost my hair, it went green, I had braces, I was on steroids and in chemotherapy — I thought about how when there’s absolutely nothing else, you’re possessionless, would you love someone when they’re bare naked like that? You have absolutely nothing, not even eyelashes. There’s no facade, nothing to hide behind.”
Despite the weighty topic, the song isn’t depressing or downbeat. In fact, by design the whole of “Delta” is rather uplifting. “This album has strong themes about going through hard times, but instead of being a victim standing up and being counted,” Goodrem says. “It’s good to focus on what life has to offer, find things that mean something to you. It’s pop music. It’s meant to be fun, magic, something you can relate to.”
Key tracks: “Believe Again,” “In This Life,” “Possessionless,” “God Laughs”