Grimes Violence Video

'Violence': Grimes, of All People, Is Giving Us Choreography

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9SGYBHY0qs

"Baby, it's violence..."

It's, uh, difficult to predict what Grimes is going to do next, especially as of late: one minute she's accompanying a multi-billionaire to the Met Gala wearing a Tesla choker, stanning LOOΠΔ and duking it out with Azealia Banks via text, the next she's pledging allegiance to robots and metal with "We Appreciate Power," detailing her scream-session-and-sword-fighting-filled workout routine and starring in an Adidas campaign.

But, you know what? It's been fun trying to keep up with the Art Angels cyborg-pixie-warrior formerly known as Claire Elise Boucher, who apparently also thinks that amazing last album was "crap."

The latest unexpected move from the 31-year-old Canadian songsmith? Choreography.

To be fair, dancing is not actually that much of a surprise coming from a former ballet trainee. But still: to see Main Pop Girl energy coming from one of today's leading "alt-pop" pioneers is still something of a shocker. In a great way, obviously. Have we come to the point where choreography is subversive? I'll take it.

The song, "Violence," produced alongside Garrett Lockhart (i_o), is remarkably, accessibly pop as well: gone are the whining guitars and vicious noise of her more recent musical experiments. It is, if anything, a return to the ethereal realm of "Kill v Maim" and "Flesh without Blood" - and even earlier to the "Oblivion" days, really, with a sleek synth beat that is downright danceable.

Granted, "Violence" is still certainly Grimes-level weird.

"You wanna, make me bad, make me bad / And I like it like that, and I like it like that..."

Genius annotators seem to think the song is "from the perspective of the Earth and personifies the relationship between humans and climate change as an abusive one, a relationship the Earth seems to love even at her own expense." I happen to think it's like a cover of Willa Ford's "I Wanna Be Bad" from the year 2983. The truth lies somewhere in between the two.

As an H&M basics queen, I couldn't tell you exactly what in the Grecian-meets-Eastern-military-meets-pop girl futuristic fantasy is going on from a fashion standpoint, but luckily, Vogue can, and the finer details only enhance the overall experience:

The video which was directed by Grimes herself and styled by her frequent fashion collaborator Turner, finds the artist in a holy setting, sitting atop a white stone church pedestal, reading ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu’s treatise The Art of War. It’s only once she sets down her tactical reading material that you get a good look at the stunning Iris van Herpen gown, undoubtedly the centerpiece of the entire clip. The ethereal dress is a suminagashi-inspired piece from the designer's recent Fall 2019 couture collection. Suminagashi is an ancient Japanese ink-on-water marbling art, but Herpen’s technique is naturally a tad more futuristic: lines of dyed silk are laser cut then heat bonded to Mylar before being transposed onto gossamer tulle. Of course, Grimes managed to pull off the intricate design with otherworldly ease.

It's probably also safe to say "Violence" is the first music video to include Sun Tzu's The Art of War and what appear to be...Sony robot dogs?

Grimes Robot Dogs

"Did u guys watch the Violence video yet ? My first choreo 😣 eek Hahahahahaha I’m so in love! With life! Bless y’all for all the nice things y’all have been saying - we’ve been working so hard to get all this together Hahahaha," Grimes wrote on her Instagram, along with a lovely photo of herself in icy goth fairy mode, eyes blackened and hand raised in Little Monster paw pose. Good to see she's back to feeling like her old self again.

And I like it like that, and I like it like that.

"Violence" is featured on the MuuTunes Spotify playlist. Subscribe!

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Lana Del Rey Norman Fucking Rockwell

'Norman Fucking Rockwell!': Lana Del Rey (Album Review)

"So this is the American dream, right now. This is where we’re at—Norman fucking Rockwell. We’re going to go to Mars, and [Donald] Trump is president, all right. Me and Jack [Antonoff], we just joke around constantly about all the random headlines we might see that week, so it’s a slight cultural reference. But it’s not a cynical thing, really. To me, it’s hopeful, to see everything as a little bit funnier. The chaos of the culture is interesting, and I’m hopeful that there’s room for there to be some movement and excitement within it." - Lana Del Rey, Vanity Fair

At this point, you either feel the Lana Del Fantasy or you don't.

There's the "every song sounds the same, I don't get it, she's boring" camp. There are the ones who like her for that one "Summertime Sadness" remix and The Great Gatsby's "Young & Beautiful." And then there are those that have sat back and enjoyed the ride from 2012's Born To Die onward, finding meaning (and selfie captions) in every lyric and feeling the nostalgia in every note.

Born of grainy homemade videos, viral memes, blogger hype, Saturday Night Live mockeries and "industry plant" allegations, Lana Del Rey was supposed to fall as quickly as she started. She didn't, nor did she even slightly falter by the time 2014's stormy, black-and-blue masterpiece Ultraviolence rolled in. The darkness lifted (sort of), as she escaped the world by getting high by the beach, watching the boys and dreaming of space on Honeymoon a year later. But a gnarly political climate kept her spaceship grounded, and she became the unlikely ambassador of hope instead, providing (realistic) optimism and romantic reassurance with the socially conscious Lust For Life in 2017.

Two years later, there's nothing left for Lana to do but take a cue from the sign hanging in your aunt's kitchen and Live, Love, Laugh her way through the ludicrousness of the modern world - with a healthy dose of dark humor and, almost impossibly, hope.

To her dissenters' credit, Lana Del Rey does have a signature sound: somber piano melodies, swelling strings made for movie soundtracks, surf guitar and psych-rock detours. Her lyrical toolkit is packed with well worn Americana imagery, geographical references stretching from the Hamptons to Laurel Canyon, and pop culture icons aplenty, from Old Hollywood stars to rock 'n' roll legends.

In short: we already have a vague sense of what we're getting into when it comes to a Lana Del Rey album, sonically speaking. For those holding out hope that the 34-year-old singer-songwriter is going trance, or reggaeton, or klezmer - don't hold your breath. (But then, you never know. She's just done a song for the Charlie's Angels soundtrack with Miley Cyrus and Ariana Grande, after all.)

Lana Del Rey Norman Fucking Rockwell

This time, Lana teamed up almost solely with one of pop's most in-demand producers Jack Antonoff who, a week prior, co-produced Taylor Swift's pop culture-dominating Lover.

Both albums are a testament to Jack's talent as a collaborator: they don't sound anything alike for the most part - although Taylor's clearly found inspiration in Lana before. That said, both artists do have an easter egg-style approach to their songwriting: like Swifties, Lana fans will hungrily trace back terms like "cinnamon" and "blue" to older songs and dozens of leaked demos to find connections. It's like any great work of art: you can take a Lana Del Rey song at face value, or dig deeper and find a universe of alternative interpretations and meanings.

Even if the production style hasn't changed too drastically in nearly a decade, the artist's outlook on life certainly has. In fact, it's kind of funny to compare the opening line of Norman Fucking Rockwell!, released on Friday (August 30), to that of her 2011 major label debut single, "Video Games."

"Swinging in the backyard, pull up in your fast car, whistling my name / Open up a beer, and you say 'get over here,' and play a video game," she swooned all those years ago, dutifully doting on her bad baby.

Cut to the opening track and namesake of her sixth studio album: "Goddamn, man-child / You fucked me so good that I almost said 'I love you' / You're fun and you’re wild, but you don't know the half of the shit that you put me through / Your poetry's bad and you blame the news, but I can’t change that and I can't change your mood."

Once putty in her man's hands, Lana's now a foul-mouthed savage, equipped with a kind of Fiona Apple snarl and a fucklessness that could only develop after years of being fucked over. Find a line this year that stings as bad as "Why wait for the best when I could have you?" Lana is hardened.

That's not to say she isn't still woozily, woefully enamored throughout Norman Fucking Rockwell!, a start-to-finish standout in an already sturdy discography. But our girlfriend's back, and she's cooler, and more cutting, than ever.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qg3DxELVPj4

With just a handful of collaborators on this record compared to her more crowded full-length two years ago, Lana seemingly found more room to move on Norman Fucking Rockwell!. Then again, she knows she can get away with pretty much anything at this point, including her selfie-style single art submitted last minute via text, which she says pisses off her management...much to her delight.

The dreamy and sensual "Venice Bitch," for instance, ousts "Cruel World" as her longest, most meandering song to date, clocking in at a casual 9:37 minutes in length. The track owes much of its runtime to a hazy instrumental break that sputters and whines as Lana moans in and out - "crimson and clover, honey" - providing an ideal soundtrack to an end-of-summer backseat make-out session.

"Oh God, miss you on my lips / It's me, your little Venice bitch," she lusts. It's easily one of her horniest moments to date.

Speaking of backseat fun, Lana finds herself in the back of a car in one of Norman's purest moments: "Love song." True to the advertising in the title, there hasn't been a more quintessential Lana Del Rey love song in years - fast cars, party dresses, pleas for forever. It's so captivating, and the melody is so classic - written in "about a half hour," she revealed - that by the time the first utterance of "oh, be my once in a lifetime" arrives, you might be well past the point of choked up. A wedding song candidate? Quite possibly.

"It was one of those moments, kind of like when you meet a boyfriend, and you're like 'Oh my gosh, there's something really good here.' We should definitely keep working," Lana said of writing the song with Jack, which led to their continued collaborations.

Those dreams of an eternal love are short-lived, of course. They had to be. It wouldn't be a Lana Del Record without an excess of emotional turbulence. These men and their vices will always light her up and, inevitably, let her down.

The Neil Young title-sharing "Cinnamon Girl," which perhaps doubles as a nod to one of Lana's earliest works ("now my life is sweet like cinnamon" she once sang on "Radio"), sees our jazz singer sadly, hopefully yearning for the affection of a distant, pill-popping partner.

"If you hold me without hurting me, you'll be the first who ever did," she hesitantly coos. The fragile song turns into an un-Lana-like beast in its final moments, as ominous frequencies bubble up in the background, overtaking the strings with dooming beats, as if illustrating how their two souls clash.

Over and over again, Lana surrenders to the inevitability of disappointment in exchange for a fleeting rush of romance, even to the point of morbidity, if not slight gallows humor.

"If he's a serial killer, then what's the worst that can happen to a girl who's already hurt?" she innocently wonders on another tender highlight, "Happiness is a butterfly," a piano-led ode to an ephemeral love.

"All of the guys tell me lies but you don't / You just crack another beer and pretend that you're still here," she sings to a love named John on the sauntering "How to disappear," who, despite not being a liar, apparently can't show up for Lana full-time. Then there's Jim in the second verse, who's too busy getting cut up from fighting and getting high with his friends. All of these boys keep slipping away. Can't the girl just catch a break?

"I'm always going to be right here / No one's going anywhere," she calmly declares in the song's final moments, only to reiterate the sentiment one song later on the lurching "California."

"You don't ever have to be stronger than you really are / When you're lying in my arms," she pledges. And if anything, that's the underlying message of Norman Fucking Rockwell!: of all these pretentious, insecure, depressed men, Lana is the anchor that holds them down...or tries to, anyway.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1uFv9Ts7Sdw

Be it pop culture figures or past flames, Lana recognizes that men are a high volume, low value commodity, which is why, to no surprise, she steps in to wear the Blue Jeans and do the job herself.

"You're lost at sea, then I'll command your boat to me again / Don't look too far, right where you are, that's where I am / I'm your man," she declares on "Mariners Apartment Complex," inspired by a particularly disappointing exchange with a former fling. The Norman Fucking Rockwell! album cover feels like an illustration of this song in particular, as Lana holds out a hand to us while holding down Jack Nicholson's grandson, Duke.

She's our man.

Lana also assumes the role of the man in her endlessly cool cover of "Doin' Time," one of the Songs of Summer '19 recorded for the soundtrack of an upcoming Sublime documentary film produced by Interscope. It makes sense in a Norman Fucking Rockwell! context as well, as though from the perspective of the guys she's singing about. After all, it's not as if we ever get to hear from the other party in these doomed relationships.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qolmz4FlnZ0

The accompanying music video for "Doin' Time" is an unexpected, cheeky homage to Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. Giant Lana exacts revenge on a cheater, hammering home the fact that, for as predictable as Lana's music is sometimes criticized as being, she still has surprises tucked in the sleeves of her party dress to keep things spicy.

As displayed in "High by the Beach," another one of her wonderfully WTF music video moments, Lana Del Rey isn't very keen on sharing details of her love life beyond what she shares with her audience in her music, so paparazzi culture doesn't exactly jive with her lifestyle. And so, she's taking matters into her own hands to protect her personal life.

"I bought me a truck in the middle of the night / It'll buy me a year if I play my cards right / Photo-free exits from baby's bedside / 'Cause they don't know what car I drive / I'm just tryna keep my love alive with my bartender," she sings on the tender, stuttering piano ballad "Bartender" ("Bar-t-t-tender..."), created with longtime collaborator Rick Nowels. Of course, now the cameramen will be on the lookout for a truck, Lana. Oh, well. It was a good idea while it lasted.

Of all the songs on Norman Fucking Rockwell!, there's only one I take issue with - which, unfortunately, was one of my most anticipated tracks. (To be fair, it's my own fault.)

In its demo form, initially thought to be the title track of Lust for Life years ago, "The Next Best American Record" is a sad, damning condemnation of a lover who got lost in his obsession with fame while writing his music. ("You did it all for fame, tell me how it treats you now," she sings.)

In the new version, the rewritten chorus shifts the perspective, and the blame, to the both of them: "you were so obsessed" becomes "we were so obsessed."

"Whatever’s on tonight‚ I just wanna party with you / Topanga's hot tonight‚ I'm taking off my bathing suit / You make me feel like there's something that I never knew I wanted," she swoons. It's a slightly devastating revision that strays from the theme of the album, although the song itself is still a stunner, from the subtle "Video Games" homage ("It's you..."), to the Born To Die-esque production and yelps in the background, to the sick shattered glass in the bridge.

Then again, Lana isn't perfect! Maybe she was as obsessed with writing that next best American record, and the revised lyrics are an accurate representation of their doomed situation. Who knows? We know too much about the song, unfortunately. Demoitis is a dangerous thing to have.

And so is hope, for that matter. In one of the most revelatory songs on the album - "hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have - but i have it" - Lana echoes the sentiment of Lust for Life's "Get Free" and provides a realistic, live-through-this empowerment anthem while tearing around in her "fucking nightgown," name-dropping Sylvia Plath and serving up quotable, endlessly relatable line after line: "Don't ask if I'm happy, you know that I'm not / But at best, I can say I'm not sad."

Any time Lana mentions modern technology in her music, it somehow underscores the silliness of how we communicate these days: "Hello, it's the most famous woman you know on the iPad," she deadpans.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rY2LUmLw_DQ

As we enter into this Brave New World of TikTok stars and Instagram Lives, Lana's become understandably burned out in trying to keep up with the culture. Who hasn't? One of the album's grandest moments, suitably titled "The greatest," is a swelling tribute to what we've become and what we'll never get back - and doubles, potentially, as Lana Del Rey's swan song.

"The culture is lit and if this is it, I had a ball / I guess that I'm burned out after all," she declares on the arena-ready anthem.

It's funny: I never want anything to do with a bunch of dudes playing guitars at a bar, but the ache in Lana's voice as she sings "I miss New York, and I miss the music / me and my friends, we miss rock 'n' roll" feels personally devastating. Me too, Lana. That's the magic of Lana's music: making complete strangers long for experiences they've never even experienced in the first place. Everyone's got something from long ago that made them feel more alive than they do right now.

"I want shit to feel just like it used to." God. Same, Lana. Same.

If Lana seems stuck on wistfully looking back, it's only because focusing on the present is so frequently bleak: "Hawaii just missed that fireball / L.A. is in flames‚ it's getting hot / Kanye West is blond and gone / 'Life on Mars' ain't just a song / I hope the live stream's almost on," she sighs in the final seconds of "The greatest."

That she's dragging Kanye West for his recent behavior is especially pointed, considering she once sang at his wedding. But then again, Lana isn't one to give a fuck - she won't not fuck you the fuck up, period, as we already know.

If "The greatest" is to be believed, is Norman Fucking Rockwell! the end of the ride? Is she indeed burned out and signing off, bang bang kiss kiss, to become an Instagram baddie? She did openly ponder quitting music years ago, after all. And if she were to do so, she'd be ending on a high note.

But no, of course, it's not over: in typical Lana fashion, she casually revealed during the Norman Fucking Rockwell! promo cycle that she's in the middle of a follow-up record, which already has a title: White Hot Forever. It's due in the next year or so - just in time to offer some solace in the middle of an inevitably ugly political battle next year.

Why? Because Lana Del Rey is nothing if not constant, chaotic good in a cruel world.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrSX_OcpeJg

Over the weekend, I've seen publications proclaiming Norman Fucking Rockwell! to be one of her best albums - even her best. I don't disagree, although I also don't think Lana Del Rey has ever significantly faltered musically, either. It appears, at last, that she's being taken seriously as a songwriter by the same snobs who tried writing her off long ago.

If anything, Lana seems to have struck a cultural chord at a time of pre-2020 election angst and social media oversaturation, echoing the sentiments of an increasingly disillusioned, depressed generation more than ever.

Despite operating relatively outside of pop culture, and despite not being a pop star (even though she's treated like one by Stan Twitter), she has, all hyperbole aside, successfully paved a path entirely of her own and positioned herself as one of the defining voices of the modern American generation.

That sounds like a lot of pressure, but I honestly can't think of a better man for the job.

This album is featured on the MuuTunes Spotify playlist. Subscribe!

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Photo credit: Interscope Records


Hilary Duff

Will You Save Us, Hilary Duff?

As Hilary, as Lizzie, as Isabella...it doesn't matter who.

The Earth is on fire. Society has never been more polarized, as corrupt, self-serving political leaders drag us down a disgraceful path to irreversible ruin at breakneck speed. And Lizzie McGuire is officially getting a reboot on Disney+.

Life is a mixed bag, you know?

On Friday evening (August 23), news broke at Disney Plus's D23 Expo event that Hilary Erhard Duff will reprise her role as the titular Lizzie McGuire in a reboot of the original 2001-2004 Disney Channel series, Lizzie McGuire.

But this time, she's older and wiser.

"Lizzie has also grown up, she’s older, she’s wiser," Hilary declared at the event.

"She has a much bigger shoe budget. She has her dream job, the perfect life right now working as an apprentice to a fancy New York City decorator," adding that she also has “the perfect man, who owns a fancy restaurant. She’s getting ready to celebrate her 30th birthday.”

It sounds like Younger basically, although I haven't actually seen Younger. Or maybe a sexless Sex & The City. I'm just assuming.

Regardless! What this news actually means for us - aside from, yes, a brand new series to look forward to - is that Hilary will be thrust back into the spotlight with a role that not only provided us with The Lizzie McGuire Movie's signature song "What Dreams Are Made Of," but also served as the vehicle for her career as a Princess of Pop, beginning with 2002's chart-bottoming Santa Claus Lane all the way up to 2015's still better-than-you-remember Breathe In. Breathe Out., which possibly-maybe inspires Taylor Swift to this day. And, let us never forget, 2007's Dignity - otherwise known as baby Blackout.

As any Little Duffster would know, Hilary basically all but abandoned us after the short-lived success of Breathe In. Breathe Out. to pursue her acting dreams further with her successful TV Land series, as well as a brief, horrifying lapse in taste and judgment. She also got engaged...to her Breathe In. Breathe Out. collaborator Matthew Koma, which I can only assume was done specifically to taunt us.

Naturally, Hilary was hounded with questions about new music following the announcement. And, in typical Duff fashion, she swerved...hard. She didn't say yes. But she also didn't say no.

"I don't know. We haven't gone that far yet, but nothing's off the table...it could happen. Isabella could pop her wig on and come back into her life, I don't know," she gingerly tip-toed around the question with a smile.

It's hard to choose optimism in these trying times. But maybe, just maybe, this is the moment: maybe the nostalgia of being back at home at the Disney studios, and the wig department, and the good will and excitable fanfare surrounding this announcement, will reignite the sparks (REFERENCE) and remind her that it is her calling - nay, her destiny - to be a Main Pop Girl and Make Pop Great Again.

At least one soundtrack contribution? The theme song? Something?! Why not...take a crazy chance?

Hey now, hey now: this, if I remember correctly, is what dreams are made of.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVFe9GVwQPE

Photo credit: RCA Records


Lana Del Rey The Greatest Music Video

'Fuck It I Love You' & 'The Greatest' Video: Lana Del Rey Signs Off for Summer (And Maybe Forever)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrSX_OcpeJg&feature=youtu.be

And if this is it, she's had a ball.

Sorry, #HotGirlSummer: Sad Girl Fall is rapidly approaching.

Lana Del Rey might currently inhabit our world, but it doesn't feel like she actually belongs in it, like a depressed poet-turned-time-traveler with winged eyeliner who accidentally twirled her way into 2019.

And while there's always a heavy dose of nostalgia in her music - it's one of the signature characteristics of a Lana Del Record, like lyrical references to California, beaches, dresses and bad babies - there's a heavy sense of finality to the latest offerings from Norman Fucking Rockwell: "Fuck It I Love You" and, more specifically, "The Greatest," out on Thursday (August 22).

The first song was co-produced by Jack Antonoff, as well as collaborators Andrew Watt and Louis Bell, who've worked with everyone from Post Malone to Rita Ora. It's the trippier of the two, gliding across dreary guitars and tripping drums in the stormy vein of Ultraviolence (and some space-age Honeymoon vibes too), as she reminisces about her substance-fueled origin story and breathily longs for her lover.

"I like to light up the stage with a song / Do shit to keep me turned on / But one day I woke up like 'maybe I'll do it differently' / So I moved to California‚ but it's just a state of mind / It turns out everywhere you go‚ you take yourself‚ that's not a lie," Lana solemnly reflects. Basically, you can take the girl out of New York, but...

"And if I wasn't so fucked up, I think I'd fuck you all the time." Is there a more delightfully Lana Del Lyric than this? How has she managed to consistently keep her foot on my neck lyrically for the past near decade? That's just begging to be a selfie caption in the near future.

Oh, and speaking of selfies: Lana's had a lot of fun in this modern world - the culture is #lit, as you know - but she's burned out and signing off, after all.

Co-written solely with Jack, "The Greatest" is an immediate new favorite in her discography, as romantic and cinematic as the stuff of her debut, but less starry-eyed and vastly more worldweary than the girl she used to be.

This is the ultimate disillusionment anthem, essentially.

Ever the listless drifter, Lana wistfully looks back at the lives she lived before all this - back to New York, back with her friends, back at the bar where the Beach Boys would go. It's kind of the death knell of the pre-social media generation: "Me and my friends‚ we miss rock 'n' roll / I want shit to feel just like it used to," she murmurs.

"I'm facing the greatest / The greatest loss of them all..."

In the song's final moments, she rattles through just some of the insanity of the current State of Things: "Oh, I just missed a fireball / L.A. is in flames‚ it's getting hot / Kanye West is blond and gone / 'Life on Mars' ain't just a song / Oh, the livestream's almost on," she deadpans, alluding to social media oversaturation, David Bowie's ode to daydreaming about less depressing life elsewhere, delusional idol worship and global warming all in one go.

There's plenty more wrong with this country (she addressed gun violence on the fly one week before with "Looking For America"), and you can dwell further on that, or just surrender to getting lost in the song's beautiful piano outro instead. (I suggest the latter, personally.)

A glass half full outlook? Perhaps not - not nearly as much as parts of 2017's socially conscious Lust for Life like "Get Free," anyway. I've never turned to her music for a sunny outlook, anyway. And yet, there she is, all smiles throughout the slightly surreal, slightly campy Rich Lee-directed double video for the two Norman Fucking Rockwell songs.

Is she signing off, for real? Hopefully not. It's doubtful, anyway. She's threatened to do as much in the past. But if this is it, she'd be logging out on a high note.

These songs are featured on the MuuTunes Spotify playlist. Subscribe!

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Cascada Like The Way I Do

'Like the Way I Do': Cascada Returns to Rescue the Dance Floor

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_sfIM0Y9mA

Cascada, the legendary "Everytime We Touch" troupe, is back.

When it comes to German chart-toppers stateside, there are, admittedly, not many that spring to mind. But that barely matters when there's one iconic dance trio that has allowed the nation to dominate on dance floors across the world for well over a decade. Of course, we're talking about Cascada.

Not every Eurodance act has a hit that epitomizes an era, but "Everytime We Touch" - it's a Pop Excellence fact that "every time" must be spelled as one word, just ask Britney - is exactly that: give it a listen, and you'll be transported right back to 2006. Maybe right after you discovered Kelly Osbourne's "One Word" - what a moment we're currently having for mid-'00s electro-pop justice.

If you're cultured, you'll already know that Cascada are far from one-hit wonders: they smashed again stateside years later with that "What Hurts the Most" cover, the heavily Lady Gaga-inspired "Evacuate the Dancefloor" and "Pyromania," and even represented Germany at Eurovision in 2013 with "Glorious."

Granted, their output has slowed considerably to about a single per year - but they've made it clear they're not going anywhere.

Case in point: Natalie Horler and company returned to us on Friday (August 16) with a brand new single, called "Like the Way I Do." And, in keeping with almost all things Cascada, they've only gone and done it again.

One of the genuinely impressive traits of the trio is that their sound has managed to shape-shift along with the musical soundscape at the moment, always sounding reliably on-trend - and then usually driving that sound into the ground. The cover art and music videos? Maybe not quite as impressive. But Queen Natalie still makes the most of a $15 budget, a fashion hat and a furry couch.

"Like the Way I Do" sounds nothing like "Everytime We Touch," nor is it much of a stretch to imagine it shuffled into any of the current Spotify Dance/House playlists. Natalie's voice also sounds as excellent as always, and the lyrics are deceivingly wistful - always a plus when it comes to a dance floor anthem.

We'd evacuated the dance floor for so long, we barely remembered why we were there in the first place. Thank you for returning to us, Cascada.

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Ava Max Torn

'Torn': Ava Max Has Another Dance-Pop Hit on Her Hands

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPyQRtd7hNU

Should Ava Max stay or should she go?

From her global chart-dominating 2018 breakout smash hit "Sweet But Psycho," to that half-bob hairdo, to her latest release, one thing is becoming abundantly clear: Miss Ava Max is one conflicted rising pop princess.

That said, it's working out for her.

With "Torn," her latest single released on Monday (August 19), Ava's delivered a winning disco-inspired anthem dedicated to the Great Angst of Indecision.

Equipped with a brief synth flourish unquestionably reminiscent of ABBA's iconic "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)," as sampled in Madonna's equally iconic Confessions On A Dance Floor anthem "Hung Up," the Cirkut-produced track serves up all the drama of a properly good pop song ("You set the rain on fire / I wish the lows were higher / Wish I could stop, stop, stop to save me") and, mercifully, a chorus.

Yes: a real chorus - a sing-along earworm ("Oh no!") - in the middle of this pop drought.

“Love and hate are two of the strongest emotions we feel in relationships. ‘Torn’ explores the struggle between them that everyone can relate to. I’m so excited to share my new single with the world! Keep your eyes peeled for the video coming soon," Ava says of the new song.

Give "Torn" a spin, then give it another: the only thing you won't be, ironically, is torn.

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Photo Credit: Atlantic Records / Lauren Dunn


Normani Motivation

'Motivation': Normani Provides Hope for the New Generation of Pop Stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FKXSh14svlQ

Finally, the promise of a new pop supreme.

Just last week, I was leaning heavy into my Bitter Aging Gay feelings and bemoaning the demise of the Pop Spectacle - apart from a rare handful of standouts and rising stars, obviously.

Throw down your swords and shady tweets, because it doesn't matter where your allegiance(s) lies: Britney, Gaga, Beyonce, Rihanna, Madonna, Janet, whatever - we can still come together and agree they've all served up larger-than-life, genuinely iconic pop culture moments, which now feel unbelievably few and far between in a sea of #NewMusicFriday, Spotify algorithm-oriented sameness.

Normani has arrived, and she's providing a glimmer of hope for that Main Pop Girl glory of yesteryear.

Following a string of successful collaborations over the past year with acts like Khalid ("Love Lies") and Sam Smith ("Dancing With A Stranger") after breaking free from Fifth (Fourth) Harmony, "Motivation" is Normani's first actual, real solo moment, out on Friday (August 16) - and it does, in fact, feel like a moment. In 2019. Imagine.

More than the song (which we'll get into), the "Motivation" music video is a fiercely confident first statement - a defiant "I'm here, you bitches," while paying homage to the (now vintage) days of early '00s pop. Bey, Brit, J.Lo - you can feel their energy permeating throughout the video, directed by Dave Meyers, a music industry titan who's worked with almost all of our faves.

From the 106 & Park video premiere fantasy opening, to that "Crazy In Love"-esque opening strut, to the "...Baby One More Time"-meets-"Outrageous"-slash-Rolling Stone '99 shoot and "I'm Real" street/basketball court scenes (and that rain-drenched breakdown, of course, is clearly a nod to Legendtina's ahead-of-its-time "Not Myself Tonight"), Normani delivers a thrilling, genuinely impressive burst of choreography (praise be), showcasing her superb talent as a dancer while also providing a glorious tribute to the girls we idolize.

There are at least two memorably incredible moves in particular: That basketball butt bump? The cock-destroying split in the rain?

Normani Basketball GIF

Yes, and yes.

Normani Split GIF

The song itself is a fun and flirty, break-you-off bedroom romp, thematically similar to fellow girl group member-turned-solo star Kelandria Rowlegendary's own song of the same name from 2011. Oh, you didn't think this lifelong Rowland Stone would forget a K.Row reference, did you?

The track was produced by Ilya and co-written by her sweetener tour sis Ariana Grande, which would explain the Ari-ness of it all - and also co-written by Savan Kotecha and the Pop God himself, Max Martin.

I wouldn't say it's quite as massively hook-heavy and scream-singalong-worthy as I might have initially hoped coming from the likes of Max & Co. - but it does get increasingly better with each listen. More importantly - because this culture is visual-dominated, after all - the stellar music video thoroughly sells the song.

As she's already proven in the years leading up to this moment, especially with her awards show performances, Normani is unquestionably a star. That this is only the beginning for her is an incredibly exciting prospect at a time when pop's future was starting to feel a bit bleak.

Get on Normani's level, everybody else.

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Photo Credit: Dennis Leupold


Britney Spears Robyn Piece Of Me Demo

Robyn's Demo of Britney's 'Piece of Me' Surfaces Over a Decade Later

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rB-GktiMtZ4

Fun year to be a Britney Spears fan, right? So much fun. What a wonderful year for everybody all around. Are you having fun? Same. Definitely.

Uh, anyway.

Since basically nothing about the present is particularly joyous, despite B-Girl's own recent sage words of advice - live in the moment, baby - let's throw it back and dwell on the past instead...which is basically what Britney fans have been doing anyway for the past 1,000+ days since her last studio album, 2016's Glory. (Some even launched a podcast dedicated to everything she's done up until this year - I heard it was pretty good.)

Many (man on the) moons ago, in the year 2007, Britney released a really cool, indie, under-the-radar (REFERENCE) chilly dance record called Blackout at the height of paparazzi fever, during an era Britney scholars loosely refer to as "Rebellionney." (The formal name, of course, being the "rebellion-snippet.mp3" era.)

The world watched, and largely mocked, a once top-of-the-pops princess for her up-and-down (and-up-and-down-and-up-and...) lifestyle, marked by increasingly erratic behavior in the public eye - a Vegas "joke" wedding, an unglamorous, occasionally unflattering UPN reality TV show, two children, club nights with Paris Hilton, a divorce, late night drives to nowhere, British accents, lighters, barefoot gas station sprees, the M&Ms Tour, upskirt shots, a head shave, tattoos, an umbrella attack, photo shoot meltdowns, rehab, streams of consciousness, Remembrances of Who She Is, going to the light and seeing Jesus, and everything in between.

We've seen and heard all that, and - unless you're one of the teens with a Twitter account just joining us on this journey - we all lived through that, too. (Have a listen to the "2007" episode of It's Britney, Bitch! while you're at it for a refresher, anyway.)

At the time, Britney bit back with a still-fierce, still-relevant electro-pop anthem called "Piece Of Me," a musical middle finger to the tabloids, and the public, for criticizing her appearance and her behavior.

What we didn't have until this very moment was the bare bones of the track: the demo, produced by Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg (otherwise known as Bloodshy & Avant) and Klas Ahlund, featuring the Honey-ed guide vocals by none other than the legendary Queen of Swede-Pop herself, Robyn.

While any stan worth their weight in French-only "Anticipating" CD singles knows that Robyn can clearly be heard in the heavily manipulated chorus of the song as-is, we'd never heard the much-rumored Robyn version of the song...until now.

Likely due to the Indefinite Work Hiatus drought, Robyn's "Piece of Me" demo surfaced on Tuesday (August 13).

There aren't any lyrical or vocal surprises to be found here: it's Robyn delivering reliably Robyn-esque vocals for a song which feels like a cross between Robyn's own ahead-of-its-time 2005 record Robyn and the early DNA of what would become her own 2010 opus Body Talk, especially the sassiest of songs, like "Fembot" and "Criminal Intent." At the same time, it's clear that "Piece of Me" was never meant for Robyn: the Britney-related lyrics remain untouched in the demo, including "Oh my God, that Britney's shameless." (She also didn't write the song.)

While the odds of new Britney anything in the next God-knows-how-long seem slim to say the least (nor am I expecting to hear anything from her soon...or possibly ever again, honestly), hearing how "Piece of Me" sounded at its starting point in Sweden before being given the Britney treatment and polished to perfection is still enough of a nostalgic thrill.

Photo credit: Clare Shilland / RCA Records


Kelly Osbourne One Word

Kelly Osbourne's 'One Word' Is Finally on Streaming

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QXctSjshB1M

The year was 2005: Mimi was emancipating herself, Gwen Stefani was dressed as a cheerleader teaching the world how to spell "bananas," Kelly Clarkson was leading the pop-rock revolution and so moving on, Lindsay Lohan was feuding with Hilary Duff over Aaron Carter and then with Ashlee Simpson over Wilmer Valderrama, and Britney Spears was beginning to go rogue and have a baby. (For more on that, listen to the "2005" episode of the critically acclaimed It's Britney, Bitch! podcast.)

At the same time, Kelly Osbourne - she of Ozzy and Sharon, mortal enemy of Christina Aguilera, and star of MTV's The Osbournes, which was just closing out a successfully insane three-year run - was making music. Again.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdTQmRhYFIg

Kelly's solo endeavors kicked off with her critically "meh"-ed 2002 pop-punk debut Shut Up. The album was re-released a year later as Changes, including her cover of Madonna's "Papa Don't Preach," as memorably performed live at the MTV Movie Awards with that Nikki McKibbin-esque scene haircut, and her mother Sharon displaying the entire spectrum of emotions in the audience.

The album largely tanked, she got dropped, she signed to a new label, and opted to veer into New Wave, dance-rock territory alongside Linda Perry with her underrated follow-up, 2005's Sleeping In The Nothing.

The world generally remained unreceptive to Kelly and her brand of bratty 'tude, however. The album made slightly even less of a dent than the first, peaking at No. 117 on the Billboard 200 after selling less than 9,000 copies. (Sure, that's not too bad in 2019 standards, but back then, people actually paid for albums. I'll tell you kids all about it one day.)

The subject matter on Sleeping was often dark ("Don't Touch Me While I'm Sleeping," for instance, was about being a victim of date rape) if a blatant cry for help ("Save Me"), although at the height of paparazzi culture and her status as the offspring of rock royalty, none of her issues were taken too seriously by the press. She bounced in and out of rehab for drug and alcohol abuse, and frequently relapsed.

“I drank, I was rude, I said I’d do something and wouldn’t show up. I did what I could to destroy it," she said of sabotaging her own music career in 2009.

We sometimes forget how far society's evolved along as far as what is deemed acceptable to say to another human being: during an appearance on Jonathan Ross that year to promote the album, the host told Kelly that her cover art must have been airbrushed...because she was fat.

"The band that was performing was New Order and they refused to play until he apologized. A lot of it wasn't shown on TV because if they saw what he really said to me, I don't think any parent in the world would ever watch his show again. What he said to me destroyed me for two years," she revealed years later to The Guardian.

In any case, to no one's surprise, in a storm of disappointing sales, rehab and unfavorable press - Kelly was dropped again, and only one single ever came out of her final album to date. That one release also just happens to be...unexpectedly perfect.

"One Word," written and produced by the "Beautiful" legend herself Linda Perry, was treated about as well as the rest of the album when it was released in April of 2005, stalling at an abysmal No. 121 in the United States. (It sounds better to say No. 21 on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles Chart, though.) But then, American radio's taste level is rarely on point. The U.K. got it right of course, sending it into the Top 10.

As of this week, "One Word" (and Kelly's entire discography, for that matter) is now available on streaming.

The opening of the song alone is pure drama: the strings, followed by a whoosh of drum hits, French dialogue and '80's-style, Depeche Mode-y synths. Or should I say Visage?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMPR6Ujop4k

"One Word" was quickly accompanied by four more words: "see you in court."

After facing criticism for sounding too similar to the British synth-pop band's 1980 international hit "Fade to Grey," her team eventually forked over royalty rights in a reported out-of-court settlement. If you haven't heard the Visage song, listen to it- this isn't like one of those recent "Dark Horse" bogus copyright lawsuits. Kelly's team was...inspired to say the least, even if I vastly prefer her version.

Beyond the hypnotic (borrowed) sound, it's that monotone delivery and those yearning lyrics - "it's not the way that I want it, it's just the way that I need it, daaaay after daaaay..." - that seals the deal on this detached dance floor odyssey, especially coming from someone known for showcasing anything but restraint in the public eye.

The video is an artsy-fartsy noir feat as well, inspired by 1965's Alphaville by Jean-Luc Godard and directed by the prolific Chris Applebaum, who's directed everything from "Overprotected (Darkchild Remix)" for Britney to Rihanna's "Umbrella."

Life is a mystery, as is this super moody music video, which dives deep into a world of Twilight Zone-y '60's sci-fi, models, strange sets of numbers and shady scientists. It only barely makes sense, and feels a bit too try-hard sophisticated, but those scenes of her sitting in the backseat of that car, as well as that strut down the hallway in that coat flanked by mystery men, stay seared into my brain, nearly 15 years later.

I'm not saying the musical oeuvre of Kelly Osbourne singlehandedly inspired the forthcoming MySpace electro-pop revolution of the mid-to-late aughts, nor did her monotone delivery lend itself to today's overload of breathy half-octave #NewMusicFriday chanteuses, nor did the '60s imagery trigger the retro-pop revival that happened a few years later with acts like Duffy, Amy Winehouse and Adele - but it is cool to consider that she was just slightly ahead of the curve in some respects.

Well before Lady Gaga took a ride on her disco stick, and before Selena Gomezmerizing ASMR-ed her way into pop princessdom, it was Kelly Osbourne providing a most unlikely space-age, emotionless, dark synth-pop dance floor triumph.

Her inner demons, and the outer demons amplifying the voices in her head and enabling her self-destructive action, wouldn't allow her to pursue a music career past the point of her second studio album. But then, there are artists who've been in the game far longer, facing far less criticism, who still don't have one song anyone will want to write about over a decade later.

Despite a short run, Kelly Osbourne still managed to deliver at least one incredible song with just "One Word."

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"One Word" was released on April 19, 2005.

Photo credit: Secret Records


Megan Thee Stallion Nicki Minaj Hot Girl Summer

Megan Thee Stallion & Nicki Minaj Supply the 'Hot Girl Summer' We Deserve

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tS7cHwAmjV4

"Your actions make you a 'hot girl.' You have to be someone who is like energetic, the life of the party, just really nice, you know what I'm saying? You have to be able to put that confidence in other people and get along with all the girls and just like have a good time. Just unapologetically you. You just have to be lit." - Megan Thee Stallion, Founding Hot Girl

In case you haven't heard by now, it's a hot girl summer. (And after my AC died last month, I learned what it truly means to have a hot girl summer...all too well.)

While mainstream Western pop may be mostly flopping in 2019, female rappers certainly are not, including Saweetie with "My Type" (quite possibly my Song of Summer '19) and 24-year-old, Texas-bred Megan Thee Stallion, Thee Hot Girl, who is having a major moment after the release of her Fever mixtape in May. Her star promptly skyrocketed after her "hot girl" catch phrase went viral - meme culture truly is the key to success these days, after all.

Not only has she become an Internet sensation who seems to be getting on everyone's good side - just last night, she was twerking to the sound of Lizzo's flute, once again going viral - but she also got the attention of her idol, the Harajuku Barbie herself: Miss (Mrs.) Nicki Minaj (Petty?)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ya3AilYXOWw

After the two went live for the first time together on Instagram, engaging in a genuinely adorable conversation about college (Megan's about to graduate from Texas Southern University with a major in Health Administration), Megan quickly spiraled into fangirl mode, twerking to a classic Beam Me Up Scotty-era track, "Slumber Party," as Nicki gleefully chimed in.

Megan then mentioned she was working on a "Hot Girl Summer" track, but she was waiting on someone...hint, hint. You see, Thee Stallion is a smart hot girl: if the entire world is using your catch phrase to caption their selfies, you better capitalize on that SEO, stat.

Cue meltdowns in the comments as the girls giggled amongst themselves.

As it turns out, Nicki wound up writing a verse that same night for Megan's already completed track. The end result, after a brief delay to add the assist from her hero arrived on Friday (August 9) - and it's a strong, hot (duh!) showing from a well-established icon and a rising star, plus a catchy hook from Ty Dolla $ign.

Highlights from the jump include a recurring sample of the City Girls smash "Act Up," (which went viral in its own right, and also shares a producer in Juicy J), as well Megan shouting out her own new catch phrase from the live session: "Don't run from me, friend..."

Honestly, that pre-chorus is the kind of Hot Girl inspiration we needed to hear: "Should I take your love? Should I take that dick? / Got a whole lotta options 'cause you know a bitch poppin' / I'm a hot girl, so you know ain't shit stoppin'."

As an early enthusiast - one of the Ken Barbz, if you will - from all the way back to the Jeffree Star feature and "Itty Bitty Piggy" days (my mixtape Minaj college lip-sync videos will never see light of day until I pass), I want Nicki to stay winning. This was obviously not only a smart decision (like "Me Against The Music," we love a Queen-to-Princess endorsement), but a fun one, too: "Put this pussy on your lip, give a fuck about the dick I get that rrrrrr and then I rrrrr, I grab my shit, and then I dip, ooh!" Never change, Nicki.

Confidence-boosting camaraderie? In the words of one particular businesswoman, socialite, model, singer, actress, fashion designer and DJ: that's hot, girls.

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Photo credit: 300 Entertainment


Lana Del Rey Looking for America

'Looking for America': Lana Del Rey Reacts to the Latest Mass Shootings With a New Song

What is there even to say anymore about The State of Things in America in 2019?

It's all too sad, too infuriating, too grim - and despite all the helpfully retweeted advice to channel that energy into campaigning and donating and volunteering and voting, I think it's also completely acceptable and healthy to allow time and space to feel however you want to feel - be it depressed, helpless, or just hopeless.

Lana Del Rey is still processing the latest horrific events, plural, over the past weekend - which bring the tally up to 255 mass shootings in 2019 thus far. (There have been more shootings than days in the year.)

And in reaction to the news, she wrote a song, called "Looking for America."

"Hi folks came back early from Montecito with my brother this morning and asked Jack Antonoff to come into town because I had a song on my mind that I wanted to write. Now I know I’m not a politician and I’m not trying to be so excuse me for having an opinion- but in light of all of the mass shootings and the back to back shootings in the last couple of days which really affected me on a cellular level I just wanted to post this video that our engineer Laura took 20 minutes ago. I hope you like it. I’m singing love to the choruses I recorded this morning. I’m going to call it ‘Looking for America,'" she wrote on her Instagram.

"I'm still looking for my own version of America / One without the gun, where the flag can freely fly / No bombs in the sky, only fireworks when you and I collide / It's just a dream I had in mind," she sings. (Full lyrics down below.)

Beyond just being a beautiful, classically wistful, hauntingly sung Lana song about less worrisome days gone by while longing for a more peaceful future (which almost surely won't make the track list of her newly announced studio album Norman Fucking Rockwell, sadly), it falls in line with the direction in which Lana's been heading thematically since 2017's Lust For Life, which showcased a noticeably political shift in lyricism in a time of Trump.

While Lana's fully aware of the potential repercussions of speaking out in any capacity on social media ("excuse me for having an opinion") and, God forbid, getting canceled for an unfavorable take - please, by all means, show me a human being with an entirely unproblematic track record, you ever-so-saintly keyboard warriors - she's nonetheless using her platform as an artist to address the gun violence crisis plaguing this increasingly divided country.

She's not alone in her concern, either: Madonna also just released a song and video about it in June. Wake up. Wake up. Wake up.

Music is a crucial escape, and that includes Lana's nostalgic brand of Americana, but in these moments especially, it's kind of impossible to pretend everything's fine in the present. Life isn't all Bugatti Veyrons and bikinis - but it should be.

Of course, merely fantasizing about an idyllic America isn't enough. We need to do something. But until then - if there's ever a then - a girl can dream.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=em1pHFTvK1s

UPDATE: The studio version of "Looking for America" was released on Friday (August 9).

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Alice Chater Tonight

'Tonight': Alice Chater Keeps on Dancing Till the World Ends

About over a year ago, I posed a very simple question: Is Alice Chater going to save pop?

I was half-kidding, because the concept of "saving pop" is largely subjective, and there's plenty of good music coming out all the time. But I was also half-not kidding, because there's a very real void in the music industry - the Western music industry, anyway. We've largely moved away from the singing-dancing spectacle of yesteryear and into a kind of...Xanax-pop zone. Pop stars do not have to dance to be entertaining, obviously - nor do they even really need to sing live, without naming any names - but there's a certain larger-than-life factor missing from so many of today's crop of Spotify playlist bop-providing pop stars.

This isn't meant to be a stan war, or even shade really, because I fully understand that each generation will have their own style, but growing up on Britney, on Christina, on Rihanna, on J.Lo, on Beyonce, on Gaga - whoever your legends are, really - I feel like I've come to expect something...a little different. And yes, I'm fully aware I'm already a grandfather shaking my cane at Twitter: "back in my day, we watched Darrin's Dance Grooves just to keep up with our faves, and we liked it."

But Alice - Ms. Chater, if you're nasty - reminds me of an exciting, not-so-distant era.

On Friday (August 2), Alice released her latest song: "Tonight," produced by Mark Ralph (Years & Years, Clean Bandit) and co-written by Alice and Martin Terefe on "the day after a major event in London."

“We were reflecting on life, and thinking about what we'd want to do if this was our last day on earth. I was like, ‘I'd want to be with the person I love, and live my life to the absolute fullest until the very last second.’ And that’s really where the song came from,” says Alice.

Appropriately, the accompanying music video is apocalyptic - a theme accompanying many pop visuals, from B's "Till The World Ends" to Ariana Grande's found-footage horror-style "One Last Time," which I loved as a concept (admittedly as a found-footage horror movie lover), although I think everyone else hated it. Anyway.

“This video is my version of a coven. We hired this big mansion to film in, and the video shows me and my witches doing ouija boards and spells and full-on choreography in different rooms. We’re all wearing very high-fashion, Vogue-style outfits, so it’s probably not like any coven you’ve seen before!” she explains.

It's as simple as that, really: a witchy girl gang casting spells in an "If U Seek Amy"/"Slumber Party" mansion until that civilization-decimating meteor decides to circle back. Or the one that's coming next week!

But it's not simple at all: Alice is serving in this music video, firing on all cylinders as a pop star on the rise - the vocals (she's a Legend X stan, so you already know she's a belter), the moves, the lewks - and the effort is quite palpable ...and appreciated.

The slight hint of comedy with the Chater News Network at the start is a solid touch as well ("we are well and truly...fucked"), but she's strictly business when it comes to serving up a stylish spectacle, bolstered by an explosive chorus (finally, some ummmph in a song), ferocious choreography and clever visuals (the dancers wrapping their legs all around her like a dress - yes.)

And to think, all this without the massive budget that comes with being the biggest pop star in the world. Yet.

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Photo credit: Virgin EMI Records