NuHouse: Charli XCX’s ‘Hot In It’ As The ‘New Sound’

by Shelt Garner

One of the highlights of my life to date was when I DJed at a little expat bar in Seoul called Nori. I have greatly romanticize what happened at the bar, but I did realize that I have an ear for music. The bar was very much an “American Bandstand” type place and usually if it had a “beat and you can dance to it” it played well there.

Charli XCX

For sometime now, it seems as though a number of artists have been thrashing around, looking for a “New Sound” of some sort. Usually, it just sounds like New Wave. But I think maybe we’ve settled on what the New Sound is going to be — NuHouse.

A number of major artists — Beyonce among them — have come out with Neo-House albums. My favorite song at the moment is Charli XCX’s “Hot In It.” It’s just the type of single that would make people go crazy at Nori during the weekend primetime slot.

It’s got a beat and you can dance to it, as they say. I love it. I have it on heavy repeat on Spotify right now. It will be interesting to see if anyone else comes out with a dance pop rock or NuHouse album.

More of that, please!

Miley Cyrus & Her Quest For ‘The New Sound’

by Shelt Garner

One thing I never thought I would say is, “Miley Cyrus is making the best music out there right now.”

But here I am.

Now, let me qualify that statement. She keeps doing all these Rock and New Wave covers as if she’s trying to figure out what the New Sound should be. Several of her latest songs, “Midnight Sky” and her cover of “Zombie” are really, really good. The latter is great because it’s an angry song that she can scream at the top of her longs and not sound ridiculous. She screams “Heart of Glass” and it falls flat. If you listen to the Blondie version of the song, it’s sung in a much more subdued manner.

I mean, if she really wants to scream a cover, might I suggest Sinead O’Connor’s “Troy?” Now, that’s a song that’s meant to be screamed. As is the Eurythmics, “Would I Lie To You.” Or, she might cover The Rolling Stones’ “Bitch.”

But the point is, it’s obvious that Cyrus wants to strike out on her own, and start a New Sound for the 20s. She claims she’s doing an album of all-Metallica covers for some reason, but that seems misguided to me. Find a pop-rock producer like Butch Vig or Timbaland and drop her own interpretation of what she’s obviously interested in doing — bringing back pop-rock as a viable commercial art form.

I feel like I’m speaking into the void. No one listens to me. It seem so obvious to me that we’re in something of a musical vacuum right now.

‘Don’t Block The Box’ — A Song Proposal For A ‘Rona Rock’ ‘New Sound’ Song

by Shelt Garner

First, no one listens to me. Absolutely no one listens to me. So, really, I’m just rambling into the darkness of the aether right now. But while I was in Atlanta on my personal Writer’s Retreat, I saw a sign that said, “Don’t Block The Box.”

I found that phrase catchy and, in the right context, kind of suggestive. Like the female equviolent of “Don’t cockblock me.” There are a few women I could see being interesting such a song — Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry and Ariana Grande being among them.

But, here’s the deal — I would want this song to be more like the songs found on Nelly Furtado’s “Loose” album than the shit we have to listen to now. So, what you might do is something like this:

Start with this song:

I say this because “Kickstart my heart” has the same beat structure as “Don’t block the box.”And, I want this to be a fast pop-rock song. Something you can really dance to. It has a real guitar and real fucking drums.

Then what you do is, update the above song by giving it some modern influence — this song.

So, what I was thinking is — you get Katy Perry to sing the main part of the song, then throw in a rap aspect to the song, maybe like this song:

If you think about it, rock and rap go together far better than rap and the fucking shit of Adult Contemporary. Rap being co-oped by Adult Contemporary is a modern crime against music.

I guess what I’m saying is I want an actual good song that doesn’t insult your musical palet to be produced using the title “Don’t Block The Box.”

I would try to write the lyrics myself but the more I work on the novel the more I realize there’s absolutely no point to do that unless I’m willing to do it right. Writing usable song lyrics is tough and requires at least a basic knowledge of music.

So, I’ve decided just to simply explain the concepts of songs rather than try to write the lyrics. Though I find writing lyrics so relaxing I might do it just for the sheer enjoyment of it.

The finished product, I guess, in my fevered “delusional and stupid” mind would sound like more pop version of this song with a rap aside, while keeping the speed and traditional rock “wall of sound.”

The Absence of Pop-Rock In The Top 40 Is…Odd?

by Shelt Garner

I was DJ in Seoul for a few memorable months in late 2006, early 2007. There was a very specific type of music that was popular at the bar I was working at. It’s pop rock. It’s music that’s got a beat and you can dance to it.

Since about 2008 or so, pop-rock has dropped of the face of the earth. Don’t quite understand what’s going on. As I keep wondering, is this an existential situation or just the right cultural conditions haven’t occurred yet? Or, more specifically, is this an issue of the Great Musician theory of musical history or simply general macro trends that no one can control?

I don’t know. It’s just frustrating. It would be nice to have good-to-great music to listen (and dance) to again.

To date, Trump’s time in office has been completely value-free on a cultural level. He hasn’t caused any change in music at all. It’s wild. Surreal, even.

Skylar Gray, Lorde, Billie Eilish & The Untapped American Rock Audience

by Shelt Garner

What’s interesting about Blur — one of my favorite acts — is how their one big hit in the US, Song #2, is not really their normal song. They actually usually do moody, ruminative ballads, not rock bops.

While that happened 20 odd years ago, if you look how successful Guns & Roses continue to be performing live, then it definitely seems as though there is a pretty large untapped audience for good old rock music in the USA. Or, put another way, the audience is there but the dynamics of the modern music marketplace just don’t make pop rock tenable.

The only people willing to actually BUY MUSIC are tweeners who are so busy shaking their ass on Tik-Tok that they’re oblivious to the wonders of good old rock music. So, as such, it makes you wonder how you might change that.

There are three women I can think of who could pull of a Song #2 kind of hit — Skylar Gray, Lorde and Billie Eilish. They have very strong, very rock-friendly voices. I would go so far as to say that Ms. Gray is pretty much one slight tick in popular tastes away from being a massive rock star.

Or, put another way, if Ms. Gray teamed up with Annie Clark to write a thumping rock song, it would be a huge hit. (I keep thinking up different parings of singers because I’m desperate to listen to pop rock again.) Americans natively love a really powerful wall-of-noise rock song and the music industry is pretty much saying fuck you.

It’s all very frustrating.

Miley Cyrus Should Work With Timbaland

by Shelt Garner

I loved Nelly Furtado’s “Loose” album. In fact, that’s probably one of the last albums I thought was “good.” In fact, what’s notable about Miley Cyrus’ latest work is how much it sounds like that album. Sorta.

So it seems as though Ms. Cyrus is kind of looking for a “new sound.” It would be cool to bookend the rise (and fall?) of Adult Contemporary as “pop” with Timbaland producing an album.

I continue to wonder if I’m just old and all this talk of a “New Sound” is just me feeling nostalgic for my lost youth. It definitely seems as though rock is dead, never to return. Tastes have a changed, moved on and there’s no going back. It definitely seems as though that’s what’s going on.

The reason why I say this is Adult Contemporary’s tyranny is based on the cold, hard metrics of the music industry. With the rise of steaming services, it’s a lot more difficult for a “new sound” to pop out because how are they going to make any money? As such, you have to find and established act to take a risk with a “new sound.”

They have a vested interest in no doing so, so, it never happens.

Anyway. I hate Adult Contemporary.

Billie Eilish, Rock Star?

by Shelt Garner

One of the seminal musical events of the 80s was Aerosmith teaming up with Run DMC to do a fusion version of “Walk This Way.” It was an earthquake because rap threw down the gauntlet — it was here and it was here to stay.

Now, flash forward to 2020 and we got a problem. Adult Contemporary, which is just warmed over Steely Dan that’s been reanimated like some sort of musical zombie, has dominated the Top 40 for about 15 years. Something. Has. Gotta. Fucking. Give.

So, maybe we plot a return of pop rock. I call it Rona Rock because it’s catchy and ties into what is at the center of life right now — COVID19. But here’s what I would do — get Billie Eilish to team up with Guns & Roses to do a rebooted version of their cover of Paul McCartney’s Live And Let Die.

Here’s how you do it. You open with Axel singing the song then — plot twist — Billie Eilish belts out the chorus. It would be a symbolic changing of the guard, if you will. I pick Ms. Eilish to pull this off for a specific reason. She has a very strong, very rock voice.

Something about Miley Cyrus’ voice is just too light to ever be a true rock voice. I point out how out of place her attempts to sing Led Zepplin are. She’s a beautiful woman who has an excellent singing voice, but Ms. Cyrus is better cut out for more pop songs. Or she needs to stop screaming at the top of her lungs songs that don’t need to be — like Heart of Glass. (Ugh.)

I see Ms. Eilish as a secret weapon for the forces of rock. She’s young. Has cross-generational appeal and her voice is so strong that she could carry the weight of a song like Live And Let Die.

Annie Clark Needs To Team Up With Taylor Swift

by Shelt Garner

I’m a pretty big fan of St Vincent. And, yet, my mind grows irritated with her music for some reason. And with all this talk of a “New Sound” beginning to — maybe– develop, I realize what it is : Annie Clark needs her Paul McCartney.

See, this is what’s going on — St. Vincent is so busy producing weird art-rock music that she’s squandering her potential. She needs someone like Paul McCartney to force her to balance her need to write the next “Tomorrow Never Knows” with, say, her ability to produce something closer to “Revolution.”

The thing that draws me to Clark is her guitar ability. But the songs that are associated with those guitar solos are…just too fucking weird. If you could, like, get someone to create a female version of Guns & Roses with Annie playing the part of Slash, well, then, that would be pretty cool.

Ok, hear me out. Who’s the one person that could balance out Clark’s weirder tendencies? Taylor Fucking Swift. That paring would be perfect. Put Meg White on drums and maybe make Carrie Brownstein the group’s “George Harrison” and I think you would have the makings of a rock group for the ages.

You’d need some serious ego-management to make that particular dream line up a reality. But, alas, no one listens to me. At least my novel is going well at the moment.

Save Us, Miley Cyrus, From Adult Contemporary’s Tyranny

by Shelt Garner

I don’t know what what’s going on with Miley Cyrus. Even though she wants to scream her songs for some reason, she is obviously searching around for a “new sound.” What’s so weird is she wants to do this within the context of the dreaded Adult Contemporary.

Why can’t we have nice things in music anymore, like regular old pop rock? You can update it anyway you want to, but give me a rock sound that’s got a beat and you can dance to. Here are a few songs that I think, if you modernized them, would serve as a great source for the “New Sound.”

Now, let me point something out. There is plenty of rock music out there, I know, but it’s not pop rock and it’s not Top 40. I want that vibe we used to have of a pop rock Top 40 hit. It makes you wonder if the death of rock is existential or if it’s just that our new Lennon is only 13 and hasn’t gotten his heart broken yet.

Or, it could be that I’m just old and all this talk of a “New Sound” is really just my way of telling Zoomers to get off my musical yard. But I will note that it is…odd…that we’ve suffered under the jackboot of Adult Contemporary for so very fucking long.

I wish Miley Cyrus — of all people — would hook up with Butch Vig and come out with a Garbage-like sound. That would be sooooo cool.

A Note To Finneas — Turn Billie Eilish Into A ‘Rona Rock’ Star

by Shelt Garner

I love rock music. Or, more specifically, I love American Bandstand rock music. I was there — as the song goes — watching Madonna make her absolute first appearance on network TV on, you guessed it, American Bandstand.

The one modern musician who really rubs my musical clit is Billie Eilish. That someone who sounds so much like Billie Holiday would be a mainstream success with tweeners simply blows my mind. But, to date, she’s stayed safely within the confines of…ugh…Adult Contemporary.

I would suggest to her brother Finneas that the way to take his sister to the next level is to pull a Amy Winehouse and have her embrace the past in a big way. Cover this song:

If you could get tweeners to belt out such a classic rock tune, there would be an earthquake in pop music — the era of Rona Rock would begin. The reason why I suggest this is Janus and Billie have very similar voices (at least in my view.) They both have a deep raspy voice and they can hit high notes really well.

Eilish already has a huge adult following. If they pulled up the “What’s New” feature on Spotify to Eilish of all people belting out Janus, well, you just sold yourself a shit ton of albums. The only people with more disposable income than tweeners is old people with careers.

I leave you with this. Imagine Billie Eilish covering this song. Gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.