Lately...the pop scene just hasn't really been the same. Overwhelmingly controlled by a small handful of artists being produced mostly by an even smaller group of producers and songwriters, all keeping to an EVEN smaller type of sound. Ah, yes. The europop dance trend that took years to catch on in the US has become dominant, successful...and quite boring. Like many good pop music trends, the most interesting and talented artists in the genre are of course the ones being ignored. Instead groups like Black Eyed Peas & LMFAO easily rule the charts and airwaves with rehashes and derivative dance "anthems."
However, despite this rant...this hasn't even been my biggest problem with pop music over the last five years. My concern has been the gaping hole that has been left in the pop scene where male singers used to be. There was a time where boy bands and R&B-cum-pop male stars were as frequent, if not more so, than their female counterparts. And sure some of this is accounted for by the obvious fact that male singers are more likely to be in a rock band, coupled with the increased confusion over when a band is rock or pop.
Regardless of where they fall...the amount of strong male solo artists are pitifully small. I started thinking about this late last year while I put together my Best Of... list. Because while I will always prefer female singers (can men flip their hair to fierce up a performance? No. I didn't think so!), a good male artist is something to praise as well!
So for the last year or so I have been fiercely on the prowl for new or overlooked male singers. And recently I have finally started noticing something of a resurgence. Sure, this might just be because I am looking for it...but they are there nonetheless.
So, for the next few days I am going to be writing about some of the best male singers in their respective pop sub-genres. These are some of the men who have taken a place on my iPod, and how they are not just bringing back a male flavor (phrasing?) to the genre...but also some much needed change from the monotony of basic Europop songs flooding our music scene.
And let me just disclaim that this is not a comprehensive list...there are of course many male singers I have not mentioned. And don’t any of you dare try to point out that I left out Justin Bieber or Joe Jonas. It was on fucking purpose and you will deal. ANYWAY....Let's begin shall we?
I believe that Usher should be a bigger deal than he is. There is no reason he couldn't be the male version of Beyonce. Stunning voice with a great range. Sexy guy who always had a female fan base. Known to be a good, maybe not great, but good dancer. But he chose to never take it to the next level after peaking during his Confessions era, and has had something of an identity crisis ever since. Even with his most recent successful offering, he was all over the place. Hard-hitting R&B music one minute (Hot Tottie), throwaway dance tracks the next (DJ Got Us Falling In Love Again), and even a RedOne track (More). However, his influence in male pop cannot be denied, and he is still very much a force to be reckoned with.
Recommended Listening: Hot Tottie, Lil Freak, Burn
Insert Rihanna joke/comment/rant. OK, good that's out of the way. Now on to Breezy. I don't know if it is because of how young he started (he definitely had me sayin' he can't be 16) or because of how much he has been through in the press and the long, tireless quest for a true comeback...but I still have trouble believing that someone this young has put out such an incredibly varied and accomplished set of music. Not only that, but his performance style while lacking a little bit on the vocals side is still consistently thrilling. While Chris has been veering more towards urban and hip hop as those are the fans that stuck by him the most...he could easily be one of our generation's biggest pop stars by the end of his career. I just hope that black cloud doesn't ruin the chances of this happening.
Recommended Listening: Yeah 3X, She Ain’t You, Deuces
Man...who else misses the age of the boy bands? Sexy boys singing sweet, catchy tunes to choreography will always be something I am down for...and I am happy that JLS from UK X-Factor has proven that that age is not over just yet. Sure, the UK has always been a little bit more into their boy bands than the US (see bands like Westlife and Take That’s continued success)...but JLS have great vocals, club-worthy hits, and an even better look. How they haven't tried to take on the American market yet is beyond me...but I think it's time they get a move on it. I need a boy band renaissance and I need it now!
Recommended Listening: Take A Chance On Me, The Club Is Alive
Recently there has been an interesting crop of DIY pop artists coming into the scene such as the Ke$ha-like Ro Danishei and the beautiful and talented Adam Tyler. The cream of this crop, however, is one Simon Curtis. With close to a million plays on last.fm, an album on iTunes, and a rabid fanbase that includes almost every pop blog on the internet...you would think that Simon is the next big thing. However, somehow he hasn't been scooped up by a label yet! It is only a matter of time, though...and then the charts had better get prepared for a Robot takeover.
Recommended Listening: Diablo, Beat Drop, Laser Guns Up
While not exclusively a male pop band (the feverishly fabulous Ana Matronic is the co-vocalist) and not exclusively dance music (their music swings from disco to rock and straight into throbbing industrial beats)...this was the best place I could think to put them. Jake Shears, the frontman of SS, is a sexy force of nature that has brought back a renaissance of filthy 70s inspired pop music. Their debut album is a pop masterpiece and was recognized as such immediately. While their sophomore album seemed to slump just a bit, it is their third and latest album, Night Work, that had me booty-shaking for months. With obvious references to pop music of the past, a knack for bringing current pop/dance music, and the occasional famous friends to help out (uhm HELLO, Kylie Minogue!)...Scissor Sisters is perhaps the male-led pop act in the world right now. Any which way you look at it...you can bet I have my eye on them.
Recommended Listening: Any Which Way, Filthy/Gorgeous, I Don’t Feel Like Dancing
A newcomer to the pop scene, Penguin Prison's 2011 debut has been nothing short of a burst of adrenaline for me in regards to male pop music. While I try not to make comparisons, something about the seamless music and endlessly cool vibe, I almost found myself thinking that I had found the male Robyn. Every song I have heard from him has been top notch, and this was after he had already gotten a reputation for strong remixes and DJ sets. If PP plays his cards right...he could find himself at the top of the pop heap.
Recommended Listening: Fair Warning, Don't Fuck With My Money, His remix of GaGa's Alejandro
OK...well that's all for now folks! Check back tomorrow when I tackle the men of Pop & SynthPop!!