State In The Real – Penn State Music Scene

Author - Chris Will

Summer Jam of the Week: Breathe Carolina vs. The Ready Set

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It’s no secret that pop music is a genre led by females.  Some of the most ubiquitous top 40 artists are women (Gaga, Perry, Jepsen, Adele, etc), but that doesn’t mean that men can’t be successful in the genre as well.  Two of the most innovative male-fronted acts in the dance-pop scene are hardcore-electro duo Breathe Carolina and the hip-hop emotronic artist The Ready Set.  Both The Ready Set and Breathe Carolina dropped new singles this week.  The two tracks are explosive, fun, party-ready, and have a sure-fire shot at becoming hits.

But which one is better?  Well, that’s up to you to decide.

The Ready Set first made his mainstream appearance in 2010 with his Caribbean-tinged electronic hit “Love Like Woe.”  It was his only charting hit from his debut album I’m Alive, I’m Dreaming and it peaked within the top 40.  Earlier this week he premiered “Give Me Your Hand (Best Song Ever),” which is the first single from his upcoming album.  “Give Me Your Hand” is a stronger, louder track than “Love Like Woe,” and is likely to make a bigger impact on the radio and charts.

If “Give Me Your Hand” is anything, it’s infectiously happy.  Everything about the track lifts up the spirits, from the quick-fire singsong rapping in the verses, to the joyous, melodic yelling in the first half of the chorus, to the fuzzy house breakdowns in the second half of the chorus.  The single is a perfect summer track.  It’s blissful and fun, shamelessly catchy, and equally at home in a club or blaring from car speakers.   Though it’s debatable if the track is really “the best song ever,” it’s definitely up there.  With its composition and lyricism, “Give Me Your Hand (Best Song Ever)” could very well be the #1 song in the country come mid-summer.

Breathe Carolina’s alcoholic single “Blackout” slithered its way into the top 40 this past fall, taking the airwaves by storm with its icy-cold, smooth production and party-themed lyrics.  For a while, it seemed like the band would fall into the one-hit wonder mold, as Breathe Carolina failed to release a second single from their album Hell Is What You Make It.  That all changed when the band dropped “Hit And Run” earlier this week.

“Hit And Run” is bigger, brawnier, and all around better than “Blackout.”  Where “Blackout” was built mostly around minimalist electro, “Hit And Run” crunches and cackles with several layers of thunderous, choppy house production.  Monstrous synths rumble and growl underneath David and Kyle’s powerhouse vocals, and the two singers stuff the chorus with hook after hook.  The song progresses like a violent beast housed in a cage, barely containing the dubstep-infused beats that threaten to completely overtake the vocals.  In the bridge, the beast is let out of its cage, and the end of the chorus drops off into a gorge of fierce, animalistic synthesizers.   “Hit And Run” also has a good chance at topping the American charts, and could give the band an even bigger break than “Blackout.”

Summer Jam of the Week: "The Veldt" by Deadmau5 feat. Chris James

“The Veldt” is a powerful song, but underneath it is an even more powerful story.  Deadmau5 had created the track originally as an instrumental, uploading it to his Soundcloud for his fans to enjoy.  Chris James, a virtually unknown pop artist from Long Beach, California, decided to write and record a vocal verse over part of the song.  He shared it on his Soundcloud, and other Deadmau5 fans immediately reacted, praising the work and tweeting the track to Deadmau5.  Deadmau5 found the vocal recording, fell in love, and soon thereafter got in contact with James to record more vocals.  Deadmau5 decided to release the new version of “The Veldt” as a single, and it currently stands at #166 in the top 200 iTunes songs.

“The Veldt” takes inspiration from the Ray Bradbury story of the same name, and both the production and lyrics are based off of the short story’s plot and content.  Deadmau5 crafted the song using foggy, piano-fed, optimistic trance, kept aloft by a modest dance beat.  Chris James adds further ambiance to the track, his voice soft, but with enough of a rough edge to give the song a brush of human emotion. “The Veldt” skirts on the edge of drawing comparisons to Owl City, but luckily Deadmau5’s production is strong enough and James’ vocals are unrefined enough to give “The Veldt” it’s own kind of unique musical identity.

Summer Jam of the Week: "Hello" by Karmin

Step aside Jay-Z and Beyonce, because it looks like mainstream music has a new power couple!  Sweethearts Amy and Nick make up Karmin: the hip-hop/pop duo that’s been lighting up the music scene for over a year.  They first turned heads with their jaw-dropping covers of some of pop’s most ubiquitous hits.  Now they’re tearing into the airwaves with their own slick, original tunes.

Earlier today, Karmin released their highly anticipated freshman debut Hello, and the 7-track album does not disappoint.  Amy and Nick stay true to the sound that made their covers so popular, creating edgy yet family-friendly music that transcends the barriers of pop, hip-hop, and R&B.  From the sassy, spunky “Too Many Fish,” to the soft, sedated “Coming Up Strong,” Hello truly has something for everyone.

Though Hello is filled with potential singles, the title track stands out as one behemoth of a pop anthem.  “Hello” lyrically embodies Karmin’s impressive breakout, and stands as a delightfully brash greeting to new fans, old fans, the music industry, and the world.  Everything about the track is big; smoky synthesizers and sputtering beats rumble and thunder underneath Amy and Nick’s flawlessly synchronized vocals.  Amy is at her most confident in the verses, rapping with a feisty snarl, nimbly switching tempo above crisp handclaps and a grooving bass.  “Are you a believer?” Amy demands before launching into the second chorus.  After experiencing Hello, I’d definitely have to say yes.

New Passion Pit Single: "Take A Walk"

Passion Pit premiered their new single “Take A Walk” a few days ago via Soundcloud.  “Take A Walk,” in typical Passion Pit style, is a cascading landscape of squelchy keys, loud drums, and quirky melodies.

“Take A Walk” will be featured on their long-awaited sophomore album Gossamer, set to drop July 24th.  Give the song a listen and get excited for the new album!

Summer Jam of the Week: "Out Of My Mind" by B.o.B feat. Nicki Minaj

Fresh off of B.o.B’s new album Strange Clouds, “Out Of My Mind” is one of the loudest, craziest, and most aggressive tracks on the rap/pop artist’s sophomore release.  Here we find B.o.B as unconventional as he’s ever been, taking a break from the static, corny pop hits that he’s been known to make.  Mental instability never sounded like so much fun, and when Nicki Minaj joins B.o.B for her crazed, erratic second verse, the collaboration really takes off.   This song packs a punch, and though Strange Clouds is over-stuffed with collaborations, “Out Of My Mind” definitely rises above the rest as the most unique and enjoyable track.

Even the beat comes across as insane, as a synth warbles and rambles across sporadic burps of bass.  B.o.B, to his credit, is pretty intimidating with his tone and lyrics.  He’s in your face, cackling gleefully as he spins off lines about why he’s unstable, using his insanity for bragging rights.  The track initially comes across as a little one-sided until Nicki Minaj comes in.  It then becomes clear that this isn’t just a song for the haters, or a song about being crazy.  “Out Of My Mind” is a rap battle, and Nicki clearly wins. She calls Bobby Ray out on everything: his name, his ego, and even one of his hit songs, “Airplanes.”  This is not only one of B.o.B’s most intense tracks, it’s one of Nicki’s wittiest verses as a feature.

Rihanna Premieres "Where Have You Been" video

Earlier today Rihanna dropped the music video for her fifth single from Talk That Talk, “Where Have You Been.”  Helmed by producers Calvin Harris, Dr. Luke, and Cirkut, “Where Have You Been” is a lustful dance track, contrasting Rihanna’s pure voice with gritty breakdowns.  This could have been a ridiculous, rainbow slathered, sexually infused circus of a video (a la Starships), but instead Rihanna took a much more seductive and sedated approach.  The music video finds Rihanna in a tribal-like setting, rising from a pool of water, dancing in tribal-like clothes, and rolling around in a giant bird’s nest.  The best thing about the “Where Have You Been” video is that it calls back to how pop music videos used to be.  It’s a bit quirky at times but never over the top or in your face.  It has relatively simple but impressive choreography, and Rihanna is actually pretty striking (without crazy colored hair).  This is Rihanna as the Barbadian pop princess that we all remember, and hopefully marks a change for her appearance.  There are enough crazy pop stars with brightly colored hair running around RiRi, you really don’t need to join in.  Especially if you keep making videos like this one.