Music lovers, raise a glass to another fabulous week, filled to the brim with new albums from Kelly Clarkson and Brandi Carlile, a live performance by exciting new hip-hop act Lizzo, a Sigur Ros boxed set, and one zany video just for fun!
New albums: Kelly Clarkson and Brandi Carlile
This week the music world is absolutely dominated by Kelly Clarkson, original American Idol and longtime LGBT ally. Today Clarkson releases Piece by Piece, her first studio album in four years, and the media blitz surrounding the occasion includes a soul-searching interview with The Advocate. Reviews of the album have been overwhelmingly positive, with critics lauding, naturally, Clarkson's stellar voice, and also her willingness to experiment with genres including R&B and electronic music.
Thirty-two-year-old Clarkson earns enthusiastic thumbs up from LGBT music lovers for so many reasons, starting with her sheer talent. Her soulful anthems and catchy dance tunes have long been staples in our bars and in our cars going back to her American Idol days. Last month she released a video for "Heartbeat Song" that featured a gay couple. This week she told the press she thinks it would be "Awesome!" if one of her three children came out.
Certainly with her unfussy, all-American gal personality, Clarkson has always appealed to lesbians, but folks in the know will tell you that the real passion is between Clarkson and her gay male fans. Don't believe me? Ask around. I did, and I learned that Clarkson is beloved by approximately 100 percent of my gay male pals, and they were all too eager to tell me why. I heard again and again about Clarkson's "realness" and "lack of BS" One friend in his 20s, a cabaret singer, explains, "Big, bold, brassy anthem singer. I mean, we can't resist!"
Straight or gay, Clarkson's fans are gobbling up the just-released video for her newest single, "Run, Run, Run," an evocative duet with R&B singer John Legend. Watch it here:
Out folk-rocker Brandi Carlile this week releases her fifth studio album, The Firewatcher's Daughter, and it's filled with Carlile's signature country-fried vocals and Americana-tinged pop. This time out, however, Carlile, who welcomed a daughter last year with spouse Catherine Shepherd, sings about parenthood and family life. Carlile also this week kicks off an extensive tour in support of The Firewatcher's Daughter. Watch Carlile and longtime collaborators Tim and Phil Hanseroth in the video for the album's rootsy first single, "The Eye."
Artist to watch: Lizzo
I was lucky enough last week to see the newly reunited Sleater-Kinney perform in New York City. The capacity crowd included a bevy of celebrities, such as singer-guitarist Carrie Brownstein's Portlandia partner Fred Armisen; Armisen's sweetie, actress Natasha Lyonne; Lyonne's Orange Is The New Black costar Taylor Schilling; and J. Crew creative director Jenna Lyons.
Of course, the band put on a phenomenal show, yet the night's most exciting discovery was opening act Lizzo. Backed by DJ Sophia Eris and a live drummer, the Minneapolis-based hip-hop artist served up smart, feminist tunes filled with sweet bravado and charm. One song, "Batches and Cookies," found Lizzo and her cohorts tossing small packages of cookies into the crowd. She's already got a collaboration with Prince under her belt as well as a performance last year on Late Show With David Letterman, so it's a safe bet we'll hear more from her. For now, enjoy Lizzo's body-positive "Let 'Em Say," a collaboration with Minneapolis artist Caroline Smith:
A Sigur Ros boxed set
Fans of Icelandic alt-rock band Sigur Ros will be thrilled to learn the band intends to release an expanded reissue of its critically acclaimed 1999 LP Agaetis Byrjun. The deluxe boxed set edition, due this summer, will feature unheard studio recordings, rare live cuts, photos, and other documentary materials from that period. The band, fronted by out singer-guitarist Jonsi Birgisson, has been critically lauded for a decade and a half for its ethereal blend of classical and rock instrumentation as well as Birgisson's lilting falsetto and his penchant for singing in make-believe languages. In 2012 the band collaborated with Hedwig and the Angry Inch star John Cameron Mitchell and artist Dash Shaw to create a six-minute animated video about bullying. Here is Sigur Ros performing the title track of Agaetis Byrjun:
Just for fun: Christina Aguilera and Jimmy Fallon
Have you ever wondered what Cher would sound like singing the Folgers coffee jingle? How about Britney Spears singing the "This Little Piggy" ditty? Shakira belting out the Golden Girls theme? Watch this clip from The Tonight Show and give Christina Aguilera some props for these zany impressions. Especially her Britney! That was spot-on!