State In The Real – Penn State Music Scene

Author - Chris Will

Hear the second offering from Miley Cyrus’ BANGERZ: “Wrecking Ball”

Turning from the inebriated shuffle of her current top 5 smash “We Can’t Stop,” Miley Cyrus, the porcupine-haired hip-pop priestess of 2013/LIFE, cushioned the meteoric eruption of her soon-to-be turnt-up magnum opus BANGERZ (…erz) with a second single; a ballad at that. But this is no ordinary ballad, where the entire song is composed of Cyrus singing loudly over a typical mix of acoustic guitars, strident piano keys, and suffocating violins. Instead, she does what any smart, forward-thinking pop star would do. Cyrus put a spin on the conventional standards of a ballad, doing everything to change what would be ordinary to quite extraordinary. And it works wonderfully. More impressionable at first listen than “We Can’t Stop,” will “Wrecking Ballad” be Miley’s first #1? It’s hard to say, but chart metrics aside, “Wrecking Ball” is proof that Hannah Montana is not only long gone, but Miley Cyrus is making a point to show the world that she’s serious about this whole making music shpiel. And she’s planning on impressing and mystifying at every turn.

And wait a second…aren’t the VMA’s tonight? I wonder…

Indie-pop Chanteuse Stacy Clark Drops Delectable "Days Into Nights" EP

Days Into Nights is an appropriate name for Buffalo-born songstress Stacy Clark’s latest EP, churning through the haze and shadows of Clark’s softly downtrodden lyricism with rays of bright acoustics and electronics. This delightful dichotomy brings the highs and lows of the 4-track effort together into one cohesive, charming musical product.

The title track tugs and pulls with a delicate indie-electro flow, the burping bass thrusting the beats into Clark’s cyanide hooks as the chorus singes with electric acoustic guitars. The instrumentation effectively bolsters the pain and frustration in Stacy Clark’s voice, and even when the second chorus opens up into the light bridge, the darkness is still felt even amongst the breath of sun.

“Days Into Nights” transitions effortlessly into “Lose My Mind,” toning down the indie and turning up the frothy sugar and pop production. Opening up with a chorus of Clark’s bittersweet harmonies, an upbeat acoustic guitar floats amongst the adorable 808 beats. And even when Clark cries “seeing you, it makes me lose my mind,” the lyrics are sandwiched between such gripping melodies and cotton candy synthesizers that it comes across as wonderfully unnerving.

The third quarter of Days Into Nights, “Next Town” makes no efforts to hide the melancholy fog that sifts amongst the eclectic electronica, as Clark layers her voice over ambient guitar licks and organ keys. There’s a burning sense of nostalgia and bitterness that adds a cunning edge to each word and note that Clark sings, and though short, “Next Town” certainly leaves its mark.

“Everything’s Changing” is an entirely acoustic affair, featuring former Jack’s Mannequin frontman Andrew McMahon. The track shows both Clark and McMahon at their most organic, gently harmonizing over the pooling acoustic guitars and raindrop piano keys. Both vocalists imbue a haunting sadness into the track, and the refrain perfectly encapsulates the emptiness of apathy amongst the strange monotony of life’s changes.

The EP dropped earlier this month, and you can stream it in full on SoundCloud BY CLICKING HERE. You can also find it on iTunes BY CLICKING HERE.

Kick off your week with a pop-infused sparkle: download Betty Who’s The Movement EP

Underground pop has its share of best-kept secrets, but none seem as unfairly hidden as this summer’s sun-kissed chanteuse, the 21-year old Australian lovely Betty Who. Her three-track EP The Movement has been spreading its sticky-sweet 80’s-tinged euphoria across music blogs and Tumblr posts since its inception in April, and with each new download and stream, Betty Who’s growing in popularity as 2013’s fairy-tale pop princess. Pairing her strong songwriting and refined vocal talent with cloudy indie-dance production and atmospheric, hook-laden melodies, it’s fair to say Betty’s already started her path to mainstream prominence.

What makes Ms. Who such a standout presence? It’s the charming glow she infuses into the electronic production, with each piece of her musical catalogue as bright and warm as the sun’s rays, emanating a bubbly sincerity that hasn’t been felt since Robyn or Frou Frou. And there’s a wonderfully outspoken quality to the happiness she conveys in her music, like the simple appeal of being with the one you love, drinking chardonnay and forgetting those things that weigh you down in “High Society.” “You’re In Love” opens with a sugarcoated piano riff and squiggly vocal warps, expanding into a chorus that sweeps you off your feet into an explosion of funky basslines and vocals so joyous they’ll lift you right off the ground. And then there’s “Right Here,” a soft exploration of sensuality that moves with such smooth purpose that you find yourself inexorably lost in Betty’s silken voice and radiant lyricism.

Best of all, Betty Who is currently offering her grade A tunes for absolutely free! You can stream the The Movement EP below, along with her soulful, synth-smattered single “Somebody Loves You,” and click the download links to own all that perfection without paying a cent!

Get Swept Away in the Deafening Pop Prowess of Katy Perry's "Roar"

As the goddess of cookie-cutter pop, the lovely Ms. Katy Perry, began dropping hints about her forthcoming third album, it was clear that she was leaving the teenage dreams behind. She made a point to convey that she was moving on not just in her ridiculously public love life, but also in her ridiculously gargantuan musical career. A gothic look, partnered with statements that her album was going to be “much darker” than her current catalogue, had the pop-hungry masses as confused as they were intrigued. Would Katy be going for more of a morose, cutting pop sound a la’ Kelly Clarkson’s My December? What kind of strange and shadowy musical textures would the “Wide Awake” enchantress be delving into? And, most importantly, would it be a career-derailing move for Ms. Perry? America, nay, the world could barely handle the anticipation.

But when concrete details of her third effort came into fruition, everyone began to realize that “darker” may not have been quite as dramatic as Perry led us all to believe. A glistening golden semi, emboldened with the title and date of her third album, was sent on a journey across the United States to let everyone know that the entirety of Prism would grace our ears come late October. A series of video teasers, which gradually began to actually have small snippets of the leading single, showed Katy Perry as relatively normal looking and decidedly ungothic. And with the unveiling of the title and cover work of her first single “Roar,” depicting Perry looking intensely over her shoulder while showing off a tiger emblazoned-jacket, it became blatantly clear that “dark music” in the Dr. Luke world was a bit different than the “dark music” we expected. And finally, when “Roar” jettisoned onto the Internet in its full glory on Saturday, we saw that Perry wasn’t eschewing her pop foundation or fan base to wallow in self-pity. Instead, she gathered the power of her past radio-crushing efforts with the sonic influences of present pop and created an anthem that tears through the stratosphere with a thunderous shout, playing like the liberating sequel to “Wide Awake.” “Roar” isn’t really darker than her past singles; it’s just more determined.

It’s obvious Katy took note of fun.’s radio overthrow, as “Roar’ vibes with the distinctive hip-hop turned indie-pop feel of some of Nate Ruess and co.’s best, with the twinkling piano, guitars and drums purposefully overshadowing the buzzing bass synthesizer. The verses are so stuffed with catchiness and camp that it doesn’t seem feasible that the chorus could be bigger, but it is, and it literally catapults you into the heavens. Everything about the chorus makes “Roar” the undeniable, ear-grabbing smash that it is, from the fantastically cheesy Survivor reference to the “OH-OH-OH-OH-OH-OH-OH” that trails off the end of the divine hook. Whether or not “Roar” is indicative of Prism’s overall sound remains to be seen, but one thing’s for sure: Prism is gonna be huge, and like One Of The Boys and Teenage Dream, it’ll be another colossal landmark in Perry’s behemoth music career.

 

Weird and Wonderful: Wallpaper.'s "You n Me n Everyone We Know."

Wallpaper. may be one of the most party-centric and eccentric pop acts of the past few years, making their mark on the music world with a smattering of tunes that erupt with spunk and shine with vivacity and light. And through the red solo cups and synth drops, frontman Ricky Reed exudes a wonderful sense of camaraderie and friendship, harping on the memories made more than the drinks in your hand and the music pulsating through the air. It’s this humanity that gives his pop music a grounded sense, which perfectly counteracts the outlandish, in your face production that clothe some of Wallpaper.’s best tracks. One of those songs lies at the tail end of their debut album Ricky Reed Is Real, and is a perfect way to wrap up the wild and crazy ride down Hollywood Boulevard with Mr. Reed. After club hopping through supreme cuts like “Good 4 It,” “Life Of The Party,” “Drunken Hearts,” and “WHO RLY CRS,” “You n Me n Everyone We Know” takes you to the after party, where the night is fading as the faded bask in the warmth of friendship and hope, feeling young and drunk and free. And that’s what “You n Me n Everyone We Know” is; it’s a record that’s warm, young, and free. Reed really shows off his pipes in this song, capturing the heart with golden lyrics and a hook that feels more like a hug. The line “bright nights, dark days, we’re gonna be ok.” carries over the angelic synthesizers before the track opens up into a rollicking beat and cushioning acoustic guitars, as a strangely-endearing robotic voice croons across the rhythmic landscape. So take a listen to the song below, and appreciate the track for what it is. It’s a reminder that we’re only given one chance to enjoy life, so we should embrace the little sparks of light that illuminate the days. And always remember that, as Reed sagely states, we’re gonna be ok.

Stars Dance: Selena Gomez And Her Pulsating Pop Paradise

In the title track to Selena Gomez’s newest album, the former porcelain princess of Disney dance-pop coos “I can make the stars dance,” a telling line in an album awash with star-dusted synthesizers and galactic grooves. But if anything, Stars Dance isn’t as much about what Selena can do, it’s a statement encompassing the path of Gomez’ juggernaut music career to her current Mount Olympus-like standing in the heavens of pop stardom. But how did she get there? It almost seems that Gomez’s current radio reign was due to a meticulously planned overthrow, as her transition from Disney channel to the club floor was much smoother and slicker than her colleagues. She didn’t rip through the radio with a lion-like roar like bold and brazened balladeer Demi Lovato, nor did she slither up the charts with a drug-induced drawl like porcupine haired hip-pop priestess Miley Cyrus. She built herself slowly and steadily, until she smoothly brought the ceiling down and turned up the heat with the booty-shaking Bollywood groove and obnoxious earworm chorus of  “Come & Get It.” Using her first bonafide top 10 smash as an anchor, she’s crafted a dream-like paradise of dance tracks both touting her growth into a young woman and her independence as a solo artist. Where she lacks in vocal power, she absolutely makes up for it with her vocal prowess. And though Stars Dance may not be a groundbreaking album by any means, it sure as hell is a damn good pop album, which makes it definitely worth a listen (or 20). And if you’re looking to start at some of the album’s strongest points, three of its best offerings are delved into below.

#1. Birthday

The auditory equivalent of Selena’s previous movie Spring Breakers, “Birthday” is a nonsensical slice of over-sexualized electro-pop party cake that tastes way too great to seriously hate. The muggy bass-synth wriggles under the crisp hand-claps and warped moans as Selena crafts a sluggish procession of hooks that not only reel you in but refuse to let you go. And to be honest, it’s a pretty solid sentiment the lewd and lovely Ms. Gomez is conveying in the song. Why not live it up every day like it’s your birthday?

 

#2. Stars Dance

Though the splendor of the album’s title track was previously alluded above, it’s far too perfect of a pop paradigm to just reference. Produced by Rock Mafia, who also molded “Love You Like A Love Song,” “Stars Dance” strikes across space and time with an ethereal ambiance that clearly marks it as the pinnacle of Selena Gomez’s catalog. The ebb and flow of the track shifts constantly from light and airy to heavy and humid, and Selena’s autotuned purr melts wonderfully into the sifting and shivering dubstep, sending the percussion crashing and stuttering at every effervescent moment.

 

#3. Forget Forever

“Love Will Remember” may be knighted by the masses as the most intimate record on Stars Dance, but it still doesn’t hold a candle to “Forget Forever,” which was leaked back in March as “Rule The World.” A massive breakup anthem perched right in the middle of the dance floor, the track perfectly mirrors the emotional push and pull of a solitary night contemplating a failed relationship. We’ve all been there, burning with anger and drowning in grief, emotions building and fanning the fires of regret until we break in desperation and decide we’ve had enough. And as the booming drums thunder to the ground like the past falling off our shoulders, we pick ourselves up and move on with an aching liberation that soars like the sky-high breakdown, sardonic wedding-bells, pulverizing beat, sweeping synth drops and all.

Listen to the entire album on Spotify below, and buy the album on iTunes HERE.