Tag Archives: The Voice

PROFILE: Glee‘s Matthew Morrison Serves Up Standards For Seconds

Begin again.

Begin again.

You know him well as the character of Will Schuester on Glee, which was recently renewed for not one, but two more seasons. You think it’s a little premature to come to that announcement? I do too, but the network seems to really believe in it. When he’s not teaching the students at McKinley High, Matthew Morrison is an artist himself. There’s been a little bit out there on his recent developments in the music world, but now that the first single from his second album has magically appeared online, let’s have a listen to it, shall we? First, a little bit of background on the matter.

Glee attained a pretty good audience when it premiered in the fall of 2009, but it wasn’t until the second part of the first season that things really started to pick up for the crew. As the show rocked the ratings, Morrison signed a solo deal with Mercury Records, who released his self-titled debut album in the spring of 2011. He performed one of the songs on it, “Still Got Tonight”, on an episode of Glee that season, and the radio single from the effort, “Summer Rain”, made the top 20 on Adult Contemporary radio. It also made the top 20 on my personal chart, but we know those things don’t count in the real world. Sigh. Despite duets with Elton John and Sting and a top show on the air, he couldn’t really promote the album when it came out, and thus, it debuted moderately and then crashed down, never to be seen again. He was then, understandably, dropped from the label. However, just a year later, Morrison became the first signee on 222 Records, a label put together by the lead singer of Maroon 5, Adam Levine. He’s been working on this project ever since, and now his baby is ready to be revealed to the world in just a few weeks.

Where It All Began marks Matthew Morrison‘s first full release to go in an all-standards direction rather than the pop record he put out two years ago. The twelve-song set, released on June 3, is a mix of songs from the musicals and big band era, from “The Lady Is A Tramp” (from Babes In Arms) to “Luck Be A Lady” (from Guys And Dolls) to the first single from it, a take on the Duke Ellington classic from the 30’s, “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)”. (You can hear that rendition below.) The album was produced by the late Phil Ramone, so there may be some curiosity buys based on that unfortunate event. There are some peculiar choices, including a duet with Smokey Robinson on “Ease On Down The Road” from The Wiz (who made that decision?) as well as a cover of “Send In The Clowns” from A Little Night Music, which is generally sung from the female perspective, although I guess that didn’t stop Frank Sinatra from recording a version of it. This is purely based on viewing the tracklisting; we’ll see if Morrison’s collection of songs actually works when it comes out in June. (You would think the label would want to put it out for Mother’s Day to cash in on that. Way to go, kids.) The first single is decent enough and a pretty faithful version of the old song, so I have decent-sized expectations for the rest of the eleven tracks.

(Pre-order Where It All Began on Amazon.)

Morrison hasn’t announced a full tour to promote his forthcoming album yet, but he will be doing two dates with the Boston Pops on May 28 and 29, two dates at 54 Below in New York City on June 2 and 4, as well as two dates with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. on November 29 and 30. In the meantime, perhaps we’ll see him pop up on The Voice for a performance with coach Adam Levine on the show. The genre of the album may be a hard sell to younger audiences who enjoy his stuff on Glee, but should he see the older folks come out for it, he may be able to stretch this era a bit. Otherwise, he still has a television to fall back on until the spring of 2015. At least this is the kind of material he wants to do artistically rather than being forced in a studio to record something, and I’m sure that’s enough satisfaction for him.

Listen to the first single from Morrison’s Where It All Began, “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)”. You can also request it at your local Adult Contemporary radio station, where the song has been serviced as of this week. Let me know what you think of it in the comments or on Twitter: @AdamFSoybel.

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“Beautiful” Sounds: Two Soulful Songs Hit The Airwaves

Springtime has got a whole lot of soul going on. At least, it may thanks to these two cool duets about to hit mainstream radio. One includes an artist who has already had a number-one song on the radio; the other features two relative newcomers to our shores, though it’s already hit the #1 spot in the United Kingdom. Does the format have enough room for these classy collaborations to hit the top of the chart? Let’s hope they dig these smooth grooves.

We couldn't "forget you".

We couldn’t “forget you”.

CEE LO GREEN featuring LAURIANA MAE – “Only You”
Release Date: at radio now (CHR radio)

It’s been nearly seven years since Cee Lo Green first made the transition from urban radio to the mainstream airwaves as one half of the duo Gnarles Barkley. Their one big hit in the U.S., “Crazy”, became a huge success. Five years after that, Green once again broke out with the viral hit, “Forget You”, which eventually went to #1 on CHR radio in April 2011 after an abbreviated top-40 run the prior fall. If you’re expecting this song to sound anything like those singles, that’s not happening. “Only” leads off Green’s forthcoming fifth studio album, Cee Lo Green… Is Everybody’s Brother, due out in the summer. You may remember that Green put out a holiday-themed disc last year, which did moderately well, thanks to some help from his judging role on NBC’s The Voice. Green has left the show for this season to pursue a residency at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. The show’s entitled Cee Lo Green Is Loberace, a play on famous pianist’s Liberace’s name. This single, which he will likely be performing in his act, features a newcomer, Lauriana Mae, who was featured four years ago on the MTV reality series, P. Diddy’s Starmaker. She came in fourth place. She’s been recording since, putting out an EP called Love Mae a few months ago through Atlantic Records. She was also featured on a track by B.o.B. on his 2012 release, Strange Clouds. The Green and Mae collaboration is a sweet little number that picks up sonically where he left off from his featured appearance on the Vicci Martinez single, “Come Along”, very much old school-influenced. However, this song skews more towards the Urban crowd than it does a mainstream audience. Despite that, it has a charming lyric about the symptoms of love and how each perspective completes the other one. They sing, “When everybody says, time will clean up this mess / But only you / Only you can make it better put me back together.” It isn’t the most conventional love song, but it gets the job done. It probably would’ve done better around Valentine’s Day, but it’s off to a decent start, picking up about a dozen stations at CHR radio last week. We’ll see how far it goes. It’s not an instant record, so it may take time to get this one fully started.

Rising stars don't look down.

Climbing buildings and the charts.

LABRINTH featuring EMELI SANDÉ – “Beneath Your Beautiful”
Release Date: March 19 (CHR radio)

Finally! It’s been a long time coming for this producer and singer based out on London. “Beautiful” hit the top spot in the United Kingdom last November and also went top ten in Australia, New Zealand and Poland. It appeared on his album Electronic Earth, which has yet to see a release in the U.S., but look out for it to potentially come later this year. This single wouldn’t have made it to the States had it not been for the sudden rise of Emeli Sandé here recently, over a year after she first began regularly charting overseas. Her first single, “Next To Me”, is steadily increasing in airplay on nearly half a dozen radio formats after a failed attempt to promote the song last year. Due to the popularity of it, RCA Records, the U.S. label that Labrinth is signed to, is releasing his collaboration with Sandé to mainstream radio in two weeks. You probably don’t remember that the label was going to promote his 2011 single, “Earthquake”, featuring Tinie Tempah, to mainstream radio early last year. The rapper was on the charts with a few singles in 2011, so I suppose it was to jump on his bandwagon. It was a dubstep driven effort that was ultimately pulled for reasons unknown, but most likely because Tempah’s follow-ups couldn’t match the success of his sole top ten hit with Eric Turner, “Written In The Stars”. So, second chance it is for the artist originally born Timothy McKenzie. “Beautiful” is a soft ballad that slowly picks up in intensity thanks to a powerful vocal from both singers, who blend perfectly into the arrangement, as well a strong use of strings throughout the track. The two characters come from different backgrounds, which they express in their own verses. The male knows the female is “out of my league / But that won’t scare me way out,” while the female can see beyond his put-on façade: “Behind your Broadway show / I heard a voice say please don’t hurt me.” However, they both attempt to scale a “wall so high” of the fortresses they’ve built around one another, and if they fall, they’ll only be falling in love. It’s a really pretty song, but with an awkward-sounding title and the potential to get cancelled out with Sandé’s solo single, it may be a bit of a risk. I’m thinking that it’s one worth taking.

Are you a fan of either song? Could we see them on top of the Hot 100 this summer? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter: @AdamFSoybel.

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“Along” For The Ride: The Road To Vicci Martinez’s First Airplay Hit

Oh, Vicci, you're so fine.

Oh, Vicci, you’re so fine.

28-year-old Vicci Martinez has come a long way from her days on the television show The Voice. The Tacoma, WA born singer looks to finally be achieving her first big mainstream breakthrough after appearing on that launching pad. It’s been a long struggle for the performer, who has been attempting to find her first big hit for the better part of ten years.

Martinez originally auditioned for American Idol back in the spring of 2002 and placed well regionally, but because of how strict a contract the contestants were placed under, she didn’t want to be bound by all the limitations of it, and decided to part ways. She then appeared on the revived Star Search in 2003, but the showcase didn’t amount to much career-wise, and thus, she went the independent route, recording several albums in 2005 and 2006. It wasn’t until 2011 that she gained notoriety on the first season of a new singing competition at the time, The Voice. She auditioned with Adele‘s “Rolling In The Deep”, which got the attention of both Cee-Lo Green and Christina Aguilera, and Martinez ultimately chose Green to coach her. With memorable performances like “Dog Days Are Over”, “Jolene”, and a duet with coach Green, “Love Is A Battlefield”, she ended up make the top 4 of the season, with an original song, “Afraid To Sleep”, becoming a moderate digital single.

Fast forward to February of this year when I first heard a song by Martinez that wasn’t getting an immediate push to radio, but was getting some sort of promotional appearance of The Voice later in the season. I equate it to a modern-day musical equivalent of an old Western cowboy flick. I suppose it’s just the guitar in the beginning that establishes the flashback feel of it. “Come Along”, in fact, is not an original song; it was first recorded by Titiyo in 2002, but Martinez’s version fleshes the song out to where it should’ve been in the first place. The vocals are crispy, even a little edgy at times, and even Green’s featured vocals work on this hybrid folk-influenced pop record. Plus, who can’t relate to the message: “Time flies, make a statement, make a stand.” Powerful little thing right there about independence and control. I have to admit, I was expecting Martinez’s radio introduction to be with more of a rock single, but this one sounds really nice on the air on a format that’s becoming increasingly dance-oriented based on the sheer number of records coming off of the CHR survey.

The song charted for several weeks at Hot AC radio in mid-July and August, but never went beyond a daily peak of #45 and wasn’t making very much headway in terms of building spin detections or an audience. It quickly fell off the radar as several songs pushed it out of the top 50. That was, until early November, when the song suddenly appeared back in the Hot AC chart with a moderate-sized gain in airplay. Though it’s facing an uphill battle just as the first time around, it easily made the top 40 within a month, and has now achieved larger gains and double the audience that it did during its first run a few months ago, currently at #34. Perhaps it’s because of her recent appearance of The Voice where she performed with the finalists from Green’s team in a Christmas music showcase. Perhaps program and music directors are more open to her sound now. Perhaps it’s because of all the other twangy folk singles by The Lumineers, Mumford & Sons and Phillip Phillps doing so well that this got an unexpected boost. Whatever the case may be, Martinez’s song may just be the dark horse hit of 2013 on the format at the rate it’s going. It’s different, it’s appealing, it’s meaningful, and it’s not auto-tuned to death.

Martinez released an EP in May and a full length album, Vicci, back in June. Considering “Along” has become the biggest airplay single to come out from any contestant out of The Voice so far, she may well be remembered next year as the biggest overall success from it. It’s a nice way to believe that there’s a chance out there for singers from the show, other than the judges, to become well-known singers in their own right. She keeps breaking ground each week, and there’s no stopping her now. Time to “come along” for the ride. –AFS

Stream clips and Buy “Come Along” and/or Vicci on AmazonMP3.

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