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June 2010 Email this to a friend
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Guide recommends Todd Alsup

By Michael Paoletta

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Todd Alsup is on the road these days. His spring tour has focused on colleges and universities in the northeast. The tour culminates June 4 at the Rockwood Music Hall in New York. The trek precedes the release of Alsup's self-released, eponymous debut album (toddalsup.com). The 11 well-crafted songs on Todd Alsup, all penned or co-penned by the artist, are a gorgeous blend of soul and R&B, rock and pop. Consider Alsup the bastard child of Ben Folds and Robin Thicke as produced by the Fray -- or, in the case of Todd Alsup, Steve Greenwell, James Walsh and Jeremy Sklarsky. The lead single, "Let's Have a Party," is an exuberant pop jam. "The Way It Goes" is a heartfelt ballad that spotlights Alsup's late-'70s/early-'80s Billy Joel influences. The disco-splashed "The Only Thing" recalls the vibrancy of Stevie Wonder's "I Wish." Album closer "The Good Fight" is feisty and anthemic. Timeless, too.
Though Alsup is out, loud and proud, he feels no need to hit folks over the head with lyrics about being gay. "I'm about writing songs that speak to everyone and that hopefully move them," Alsup says. "I write songs that celebrate the emotions that unite us all. My goal is to get a listener -- any listener -- to have an experience."
To illustrate, he points to "You Are," a love song he wrote for his partner and which he would like to see become an anthem for marriage equality. Is it overtly about gay marriage? No. "But the whole point of avoiding stating that literally is that love is all the same and doesn't need classifying," he explains. "And I hope other people would see it that way, too. I like the idea that any listener -- gay or straight -- can hear an unabashed love song by an openly gay artist and relate to the sentiment universally. I think it's a pretty engaging way to get people to recognize our equality."
Sweet child of mine. With his gorgeous blend of soul, R&B, rock and pop, consider Todd Alsup the bastard child of Ben Folds and Robin Thicke.

Andy Bell's primary job is singer of British synth-pop duo Erasure. Of course, he moonlights as a solo artist. Witness his 2005 collection, Electric Blue. Now, three years after the release of Erasure's last album, Light at the End of the World, Bell returns with his second solo project, the aptly titled Non-Stop (Mute Records). In signature style, Bell stands tall and proud in the middle of the dancefloor, belting out disco churners -- albeit with less falsetto this time around. "Will You Be There?" and "Running Out" have already been championed by tastemaking DJs. Expect "Call on Me" and "Honey if You Love Him" (a duet with Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction) to repeat the process. "DHDQ" is a campy ode to new wave icon Debbie Harry (and stands for "Debbie Harry Drag Queen"). The songs on Non-Stop were co-produced and -written by Bell and Belgian-born pop guru Pascal Gabriel (except "Honey if You Love Him," which was penned by Farrell). Consider this a summer soundtrack.
On the Erasure side of things, Bell and his Erasure musical partner Vince Clarke have written several new tracks for their next album (a release is scheduled for spring 2011). With artists like Lady Gaga, Just Kait, Little Boots and La Roux wearing Erasure's musical influences on their sleeves, the timing couldn't be better.
Speaking of Gaga, if you've been lucky enough to snag a ticket to her Monster Ball Tour, chances are good you are well aware of Semi Precious Weapons. The wildly photogenic New York quartet -- singer Justin Tranter, drummer Dan Crean, bassist Cole Whittle and guitarist Stevy Pyne -- has been the opening act for the chart-topping princess since December. Like Gaga, SPW revel in visual stimulation of the sexy, glamorous and dangerous kind. Unlike Gaga, SPW make down and dirty, unapologetic rock 'n' roll. (Sex Pistols meets AC/DC by way of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, anyone?) The band's new album, You Love You, was produced by Jack Joseph Puig (Green Day, Beck); it is the first album from Lady Gaga's Haus of Gaga label (issued by Interscope Records). Throughout, lyrics teeter between tongue-in-cheek and sincere, with the most memorable moments being "Statues of Ourselves," "Leave Your Pretty to Me," "I Could Die" and "Look at Me."

Author Profile:  Michael Paoletta

Michael Paoletta is the former dance music editor for Billboard magazine.

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