I first became aware of Davis Fetter when he opened for Black Francis in March of 2013. Fetter appeared onstage with his Buddy Holly glasses, wife-beater, motorcycle jacket and pompadour (shaved on both sides for an edgier, punk-a-billy look) and might have fit in with some strange recast version of Happy Days if not for his blue Gibson Archtop and friendly, ernest introductions to his his songs and greetings to the growing crowd.
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If there’s one thing Adele has reminded us in the last two years, it’s that pop listeners aren’t all mindless receptacles of EDM. We like good lyrics that we can relate to, songs with fully developed verses and choruses, and, oh yes, someone who can actually sing live, without pitch correction.
Unfortunately, it looks as if Ms. Adkins will be on hiatus for a considerable length of time, busy raising her baby boy amidst rumors that she’s heading back to the studio. Her contemporaries are few and far between: Amy Winehouse left us too soon, while Duffy and Pixie Lott both hit the sophomore slump. For listeners aching to hear blues-inflected female pop, Florence Welch and Rebecca Ferguson are currently the closest matches.
You wouldn’t expect to see Hollywood Records, a subsidiary of Disney Music Group, on a list of record companies where Adele’s audience would find an interim substitute, but it is indeed there where fans should cast their attention, to singer-songwriter ZZ Ward.
As much as we praise and enjoy virtuosity in any single musical skill, be it writing lyrics that resonate with millions or shredding an electric guitar to bits, we really like it when someone is a double or triple threat. Eyes hesitated to blink as Beyoncé dished out gritty live vocals, popping choreography, and a general sense of drop-dead fierceness during the Super Bowl halftime show. P!nk already showed us she could sing live and twirl upside-down on silks on the Grammys a few year back, so for the 2012 AMAs she performed a shoulder-balancing, body-throwing dance routine fit for So You Think You Can Dance... while singing live, of course.
UK-born Florrie Arnold has her own intriguing set of aces up her stylish sleeves. She’s a drummer, singer-songwriter, guitarist… and she models for fragrances and jeans. Furthermore, her songs, all co-writes across three independently released EPs, straddle a beguiling mix of pop and anti-pop that manages to be catchy but strange.
Sadly, I do not have 20/20 vision. That has literally nothing to do with this discussion of Justin Timberlake’s recently released album The 20/20 Experience, but I just wanted to get it out there.
In all seriousness, I don’t see a lot of myself in JT (in fact, I don’t see very much at all out of my bum right eye, but that’s another story). I am, though, fascinated by him. As a number of reviews of The 20/20 Experience have pointed out, the 2002 single “Cry Me a River” was the song that propelled Timberlake out of the B-league and into the “next Michael Jackson” position that he currently occupies. Although there were a few other singles from the… “cleverly” titled Justified, none of them had the musical and cultural impact of that one, the video for which moved him carefully and deliberately out of the space occupied by Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and the boy bands, one of which he obviously used to be a part of. Over the past decade, building on the sonic template of “Cry Me a River”, Timberlake has gained even more fame, critical success, and cultural omnipresence. Amazingly, he has accomplished this despite releasing only one album between 2002 and 2013.
Alternative soul singer/songwriter Lori Nuic brings a sparkle to whatever she does.
A classic triple threat –- she writes, sings and dances with equal aplomb -– and backed by a stellar duo of well-connected producers in Adrian Eccleston and Martin ‘Doc’ McKinney (The Weeknd), Nuic seems perfectly positioned to take the pop charts by storm. She appeared on my radar last autumn when she won her second Best Pop crown at the Toronto Independent Music Awards (TIMA). Her blend of Motown-era melodies and urban-slick grooves is striking, both for its timelessness and for its contemporary sheen. Nuic’s is a classic sound, immediately comfortable, but it is pushing at the boundaries of the old form. Small wonder she won the top prize twice!