The uncontrollable thirst for giving love.

[ARTIST: TORI AMOS] [SONG: GIVE]

Taken from Tori Amos’ 2009 album “Abnormally Attracted to Sin”, this is a highly sensual track that reflects on a woman’s need to give herself away sexually in order to survive. Trip-hop meets Tori on her acoustic piano, resulting in a beautiful, haunting and provocative track from one of this world’s best comtemporary songwriters.


The album title, “Abnormally Attracted to Sin”, is actually a line said by the character Sarah Brown in the musical “Guys and Dolls”.

To accompany the album, Tori released 16 “visualettes”, all directed by Christian lamb, including footage from her 2007 tour combined with newer recordings of Tori acting out various feelings, urges and fantasies. In the video for “Give”, Tori is cruising men in a bar and sensually sipping Dry Martinis, not leaving too much room for alternate interpretations on the lyrics. It is about a woman who needs to give love in order to gain power. There are some clear references to vampirism in the song, but the difference is that she doesn’t need to take from others. Vampires will steal blood from another being to survive, unless someone is voluntarily giving it to them. This woman is giving love to men, comparing herself to those who would willingly give blood to thirsty vampires. And it gives her power.

The cover photo was shot by fashion photographer Karen Collins, and she was chosen for the job because Tori likes the way she shoots women, making them look empowered and sexy at the same time.

“Abnormally Attracted to Sin” was Tori’s tenth studio album, released in May 2009 on Universal Republic, with who she signed up in late 2008 after leaving Epic Records due to financial and creative disagreements. The album was followed up later that same year with the release of “Midwinter Graces”, her first seasonal album.

Breathing danceable electro-life into a Donna Hightower classic.

[ARTIST: SONNY J] [SONG: HANDSFREE (IF YOU HOLD MY HAND)]

Best described as simply a really really happy song, Sonny J sure knows how to recycle the retro stuff and breathe it right back in onto the dancefloors.


Originally from Liverpool, but currently residing in the seaside town of Whitstable in the southeast of England, Sonny J has made quite a name of himself after the release of his 2008 debut album, “Disastro”, which also included “Handsfree (if you hold my hand)”.

He first entered the mainstream music scene in 2007, after BBC Radio had aired an early demo of his first hit, “Can’t Stop Moving”, which Sonny J had made available for download on his Myspace. “Handsfree” adds an up-to-date danceable electro-sound to Donna Hightower’s 1972 soul classic “If you hold my hand”, and brings it perfectly back to life.

The idea of sampling Donna Hightower came as Sonny J first listened to her 1972 album: “Then it kicked in and didn’t sound like a black girl at all, it sounded like Dolly Parton and the black girl sounded country. I thought what a poetic fusion of a black girl sounding like country but with the currents of a kind of soulful voice” (from an interview with About.com).

The music video was directed by Eran Creevy, and is a mix of trailer-trash and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”.  Rebecca Reaney was hired to mime the Donna Hightower samples while blindfolded, and Sonny J received some criticizm for not choosing an african american woman to act in the video.

Sonny J’ s real name is Sonnington James III.

Antony Hegarty – unearthly transmissions from a transgendered angel

[ARTIST: ANTONY AND THE JOHNSONS] [SONG: EPILEPSY IS DANCING]

Uniqueness is impossible to define, just like Antony Hegarty refuses to let himself be encapsulated or precisely labelled. Turning an epileptic seizure into a beautiful place to be, Antony once again proves to be a musical magician in a league of his own. This is the true and deeply touching poetry of pain, coming from a towering transgendered angel that is simply just out of this ordinary world. Or as Leonard Cohen put it: “We don’t know what produced this sublime creature. It is so original”.

Antony grew up in Chichester, England and later relocated with his family to California. He moved to New York in 1990 and founded a cabaret ensemble called Blacklips who performed  in the Pyramid Club in Manhattan.

In 2000, Antony and the Johnsons released their first album, simply entitled “Antony and the Johnsons”, after which Antony started working with Lou Reed who he also toured with in 2003 as backing vocalist. The major breakthrough came in 2005 with the album “I am a bird now”. The success came as a surprise for the always modest and humble Antony, who fast went from having quite a marginal  audience to being appreciated worldwide.

“Epilepsy is dancing” is from Antony and the Johnsons’ third studioalbum, “The Crying Light”, which was released in 2009. The cover artwork for the album is a photograph of one of Antony Hegarty’s greatest inspirations, the Japanese Butoh dancer Kazuo Ohno, to who the album is also dedicated.

The beautiful music video was produced by the Wachowski Brothers (who also produced and directed The Matrix trilogy), and features an epileptic woman (played by Johanna Constantine, co-founder of Blacklips) who experiences a seizure and falls into a dreamworld full of body painted and semi-nude nymphs and colorful masks, while butterflies are coming out of Antony’s mouth. The video was clearly inspired by the Shakespeare play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream“.

Antony explained to Mojo Magazine that the lyrics: “I’m finding my rhythm as I twist in the snow” was just made up. He added: “We’re all twisting in the snow, trying to figure out who we are and how we can be in balance and harmony with the environment.”

Antony Hegarty also worked with Björk on “Dull Flame Of Desire“, and has described this collaboration as being very inspiring, seeing how creative and fearless Björk is in a studio, and how she is fully committed to what she does.

He also appeared in the Steve Buscemi film “Animal Factory“, playing an androgynous singing prisoner, and is also featured in the music video for Devendra Banhart’s “Heard Somebody Say” from 2005.

Those moments of ecstasy

[ARTIST: STEVIE WONDER] [SONG: CREEPIN']

“Creepin'” is from Stevie Wonder’s 1974 album, “Fulfillingness’ First Finale”, and is fundamentally not a typical 1970’s Stevie Wonder song. This is a beautiful, easygoing love song, far from “Superstition” and “Sir Duke”, but still with that classic Stevie Wonder touch that makes it inexpirable. The cover artwork for “Fulfillingness’ First Finale” tells a story of the past, but also predicts what may lie ahead.

click the image to enlarge

The cover design was done by Robert Gleason, and the front depicts  a staircase of keyboards going up into the sky. Stevie Wonder himself is standing on one of the steps, symbolizing the present day. Just like the album title says, Wonder has now reached a place of fulfillment, culminating with this album. But this is only a “first finale”, suggesting that it is by no means a final destination, and that many more finales are waiting up ahead. The African animals are a reminder of Wonder’s origin, and the Taurus is his zodiac. In 1973, while working on the album, Wonder sustained severe head injuries in an auto accident. This is depicted through a heavy log sticking out of the broken window of the red car.  Right next to the “Little Stevie Wonder” there is a girl holding coloured balloons, and the four grammophones each represent an album (this was Stevie Wonder’s fourth Motown album with full artistic control).

The back cover shows the Grammies and Gold Records that Wonder had received, as well as the Motor Town Revue tour bus. Two of Stevie Wonder’s biggest heroes, Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy, are also included. On the top are the covers for Wonder’s three earlier albums. The woman kissing Stevie Wonder on the cheek is his mother, Lula Mae Hardaway. The young Stevie holding a harmonica is most likely a hint back to “Fingertips“, his first big hit, which was mostly an instrumental piece featuring the harmonica and only very few lyrics.

Stevie Wonder plays all the instruments himself on “Creepin'”. The background vocalist is Minnie Riperton, famous for having a vocal range of more than 5 octaves and also one of the first celebrities to go public with her breast cancer from which she died in 1979.

In 1975, Stevie Wonder received 4 Grammy Awards for “Fulfillingness’ First Finale”, one of them being “Album of The Year” which he had also won the previous year for “Innervisions”. It would take Stevie Wonder 2 more years to finish recording his follow-up album, “Songs In The Key Of Life”, which led to Paul Simon, when receiving the Grammy for “Album of The Year” in 1976,  thanking Stevie Wonder  in his acceptance speech for not releasing any album that year. Wonder took his third “Album of The Year” Grammy in 1977 for “Songs In The Key Of Life”.

The Jazz Saxophonist Stanley Turrentine did an interpretation of Creepin’ on his album “Wonderland – Music of Stevie Wonder”. The song has also been covered by Luther Vandross in 1985, and later Jamie Foxx did his version on a Luther Vandross tribute album.

A heavy dance-funk track with a slice of punk and a few extra pounds

[ARTIST: GOSSIP] [SONG: HEAVY CROSS]

Shooting squirrels to eat as a child and being the overweight teenager with short hair who realizes that she is a lesbian in the middle of an intolerant Christian community are just some of the harsh realities that have made Beth Ditto who she is today: A strong, raw and wonderfully voluminous power dyke with a punk attitude who isn’t afraid of wobbling her bits and loudly supporting GLBT and feminist causes.

“Heavy Cross” is from Gossip’s 2009 album, “Music for Men”, which was a title that Beth Ditto, Gossip’s charismatic front-person, came up with as a feminist joke. After having been to a concert with a girlfriend where they were the only two women in the audience, and seeing all the men totally into the show, the notion of gender-pleasing music stuck with her. A lot of the material for the album was written in the Shangri-La Studios in Malibu, California, where it was also recorded. In the back stood Bob Dylan’s old tour bus, and Brace Paine, the guitarist and music creator, converted the bus into a little studio where he and Beth Ditto would work on the songs together.

Beth Ditto grew up in Arkansas in a trailer park with 6 siblings, right in the heart of the American Bible Belt. She came out as a lesbian when she was 18, and even though there was not much acceptance from the surrounding Christian community, her mother and siblings have always supported her and encouraged her to be herself. Beth Ditto met her girlfriend, Freddie Fagula,  when she was 19, and they are still together.

Vocalist Beth Ditto explained “Heavy Cross” to the NME June 27, 2009: “I know so many amazing people who devote their lives to undoing things, and I feel that’s the essence of punk now because punk’s already been done, it’s old. It’s about recreation and my friends, who I feel like are the ultimate creative re-creators.” The “heavy cross” is a symbol of the pressure that society puts on people who find it hard to fit in, and is most probably also a reference to the conservative Christian community in which she grew up.

The cover artwork for Gossip’s “Music for Men” is a photograph of Hannah Blilie, the band’s drummer who replaced Kathy Mendonca in 2004.

In 2009, Beth Ditto designed a limited edition clothes collection for the British plus size chain store Evans.

The fragile voice inside an old and restless soul

[ARTIST: LYKKE LI] [SONG: I'M GOOD, I'M GONE]


A song about the struggle to achieve your goals and keeping the faith along the way, even when others don’t believe in you. Lykke Li’s fragile, child-like voice that suddenly comes out through a megaphone in her live performances says it all. Sensitive but at the same time determined and strong. Mixing and combining styles and sounds into something truly genuine and honest. Without a doubt one of the best Swedish indie artists of today.

Lykke Li was born in Ystad in the south of Sweden, but was not very old when the family relocated to Stockholm. Her mother, Kärsti Stiege, is a writer and photographer who also had a short career as a singer in Tant Strul in the early eighties. Her father, Johan Zachrisson, is a musician also known as “Zilverzurfarn“, and formerly a member of the Swedish band Dag Vag.

In 1992, when Lykke Li was 6 years old, they moved to Portugal and lived for 5 years on a mountaintop. Back in Sweden again, the family still travelled a lot and spent the winter months in India or Nepal. Since the age of 5, Lykke Li had attended dancing classes, but when she was 14 she decided that she wanted to become a singer and musician instead, arguing that dancing was not creative enough and didn’t fit with the lifestyle she wanted.

At the age of 19, Lykke Li moved to Brooklyn, New York, to focus on her music. She has told in interviews that she wanted to become the next Madonna, starting out with nothing but a big dream and working her way up,  and that she chose New York because Madonna did the same in her early years. She played in the parks, attended open mics and took English lessons. When her visa ran out after 3 months, she moved back to Stockholm and began recording her first full lenght album, “Youth Novels”, from which “I’m Good, I’m Gone” is taken. At the time of release, in 2008, Lykke Li was already gaining popularity around the net due to her Myspace page, on which she offered some of her songs as free downloads. The album was generally well-received by the critics. It should also be mentioned that before releasing “Youth Novels”, an EP with 3 songs was put out in Sweden on her own label, LL Recordings.

In an interview with The Independent in 2008, Lykke Li described herself as “an old and restless soul”, and when asked to explain the fascination that people have with her she replied: “I talk about things people don’t expect me to talk about. I wish I didn’t think so much. I wish I was happy and dumb. When you look at me I look like a 12 year-old girl with this baby voice who hasn’t been through a thing in her life, but it isn’t true.”

“Youth Novels” are true stories from Lykke Li’s life, like pages from a diary, with the main subject being the difficult break-up with a boyfriend who didn’t love her. The intro to “I’m Good, I’m Gone” is clearly a reference to the Lee Dorsey classic Working in the Coal Mine.

The video for “I’m Good, I’m Gone”, made by the young Swedish director Mattias Montero, was recorded in Stockholm in an absurd comedy style, quite similar to that of Roy Andersson, one of Lykke Li’s own personal favorites.

Other filmed performances of “I’m Good, I’m Gone” include this amazing acoustic version (and yes, the blonde girl is Robyn). The song was remixed by Fred Falke. Rolling Stone listed the song at number 24 on the “100 best songs of 2008“.

“I’m Good, I’m Gone” was also featured in the 2009 horror movie, Sorority Row.

Lykke Li has worked with Röyksopp, providing the vocals for Miss it so muchand Were you ever wanted?, and is also featured on Kleerup’s Until we bleed“.

A Massive masterpiece without the Attack

[ARTIST: MASSIVE ATTACK] [SONG: UNFINISHED SYMPATHY]

It doesn’t really get any better, does it? “Unfinished Sympathy” has that undefinable something that makes it a masterpiece. With this song Massive Attack wrote themselves into music history, and showed, with Shara Nelson on the lead vocals, that electronic music does have soul.

“Unfinished Sympathy” was the second single from Massive Attack’s 1991 debut album “Blue Lines”. The album is widely considered to be the beginning of trip-hop as a musical genre, though at the time of release this style was simply defined as the “Bristol sound”.

When the single was put out in February 1991, the band name appeared as just “Massive”. This was a deliberate decision taken by the record company and more or less forced upon Massive Attack due to the outbreak of the Gulf War. Virgin Records  were afraid that the term “Massive Attack” was too sensitive at the time, and that it would not get enough radio airplay unless they took away the “Attack”.  “Unfinished Sympathy” is the only Massive Attack single to not actually bear the name Massive Attack.

“Unfinished Sympathy” uses samples from Flowers of the sea by Era and Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Planetary Citizen, but none of these were ever credited, which led to a dispute with Mahavishnu Orchestra’s John McLaughlin whose vocals (the “heh heh heh”) were actually sampled directly.

The video was filmed in one continuous shot on West Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles, and features Shara Nelson walking along the sidewalk without taking any notice of the drunks, gangmembers and bikers around her. It was one of the first music videos to be recorded in an unbroken camera shot, and later became the main inspiration for The Verve’s video for “Bitter Sweet Symphony“.

“Unfinished Sympathy” is a play on words of Schubert’s Symphony No. 8, which is more commonly known as the “Unfinished Symphony” because Schubert died before it was completed. Most probably it was the string section which Massive Attack added to the song that initially triggered the Schubert association.

In 1996, “Unfinished Sympathy” was covered by Tina Turner on her ninth solo album “Wildest Dreams”.

Loads of more great Massive Attack stuff can be found on www.massiveattack.ie.