Last night at Manhattan’s posh Hotel on Rivington penthouse suite, HP and blogger Arjan Writes presented a special preview of “Halcyon,” the new album by British pop sensation Ellie Goulding. Best known in the United States for her monster hit, “Lights,” Goulding has gone on to great success stateside, appearing on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and “Saturday Night Live,” as well as a special guest appearance at the White House last December, where she sang Christmas carols onstage with Barack Obama. For all of her enormous success in the last few years, though, Goulding is a very humble, down-to-earth and endearing personality.
The evening began with a bit of background on Goulding, who grew up in the small town of Hereford and got heavily into music early on. “My mum was cool with music,” she says. “She would buy every new thing that was out. We really had no money, but whatever we did have, she’d spend it on CDs and tapes.” Idolizing singers like Bjork, Joni Mitchell, Beyonce and Stevie Nicks, Goulding says she quit college because “something was pushing me into music.” Elaborating on what that something is, she also says, “Having people come together for the same cause is really important. The fact that I can do that with shows is really awesome.”
Delving into “Halcyon,” we heard samples of a few tracks, including the clearly Bjork-influenced “My Blood,” which shares thematic water imagery with other songs on the album. Goulding says, “I have a fascination with the ocean, being lost at sea. I kind of want to be a mermaid.” The title track, “Halcyon,” addresses another theme of the album in its plaintive chorus: “When it’s just us, you show me what it feels like to be lonely, you show me what it feels like to be lost.” “I write songs out of being alone,” Goulding says. “I’m around people all the time, but there’s a theme of loneliness on this album.”
That is not to say the album is relentlessly downbeat or somber, however, as Goulding is quick to point out that “I like making things that give people hope, I suppose, in the least cheesy way possible.” Ellie Goulding’s career certainly seems to show a lot of hope, with unreleased collaborations with the likes of Skrillex and Swedish House Mafia possibly on the way “in the next couple of years,” proving her mantra that anything could happen.
Last night at Manhattan’s East River Park, the legendary Lyricist Lounge continued their 20th anniversary celebration with a free show featuring two of Hip-Hop’s all-time greatest producers and deejays, Pete Rock and DJ Premier. Hosted by Lyricist Lounge founders Danny Castro and Ant Marshall, the show was dubbed “Pete Rock vs. DJ Premier,” though it was really less a battle than a collaborative showcase. Castro began the show by schooling the audience on a bit of trivia about the East River Park bandshell, which is where the finale of the 1983 Hip-Hop classic “Wild Style” was filmed.
Unfortunately, before they could get into the golden era of ’90s Hip-Hop, including the promised battle of their own productions and a promised special guest rapper (who, based on the outstanding scope of their past collaborations, could have been virtually any heavyweight emcee still alive and breathing), there was a power failure that brought the show to a premature end. I thought it was a gimmick at first, and much of the crowd began chanting “Hip-Hop,” as if our true belief could bring the lights and sound back on. Sad to say, in a city with subways full of ads featuring the slogan “Never be powerless,” the promoters and technicians were unable to bring the show back. It was a disappointing ending to an otherwise enjoyable evening of music brought to us by two of the greatest deejays alive.
Last night at the Hotel on Rivington in Manhattan, ArjanWrites.com presented a special ARTIST #TALK session with Miami-based club rapper Flo Rida, a massively successful artist who has sold 60 million records and scored 14 hit singles, including the ubiquitous hits “Low” and “Right Round.” Arjan describes the ARTIST #TALK series as “as a listening session meets ‘Inside The Actors Studio‘,” and this is a fairly accurate way to put it. The evening began with a basic interview summing up Flo Rida’s career thus far, and then proceeded to a preview listening session for his new album “Wild Ones.”
Flo Rida began as a hype man for the legendary 2 Live Crew, who were equally loved and hated in their time for boundary-pushing songs like “Me So Horny.” Of this experience, Flo says, “I heard about the crazy things that went on, but I never took part in that. I just went out and did the shows.” This is a large part of of his persona as an artist, a relentless positivity that embraces partying while avoiding explicit lyrics about drugs, guns or any other negative tropes often heard in club music. He says, “I was happy to have music that my mom could listen to … and put smiles on the faces of young and old people.” He has even started his own charity, Big Dreams 4 Kids, to give back to underprivileged youth in slums like the one in which he grew up. When asked about the way his music has mixed Hip-Hop with electronic dance music, he also points to his upbringing: “Growing up in Miami, Florida, it’s like a gumbo of different cultures.”
We then moved on to the listening portion of the evening, previewing 90-second snippets of all nine tracks from the new album, “Wild Ones.” The first single, “Whistle” has a pleasant, laid-back feel to it, with a hook that is almost reminiscent of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The title track, “Wild Ones,” features the up-and-coming singer Sia, and Flo spoke of his interest in finding new talent because “when you’re starting out, you don’t have the chance to work with who you want to, you just have to do what you can, and that’s how I started out.” He would seem to have a good instinct for future success, judging by songs like “Starstruck,” an early collaboration with a then unknown artist named Lady Gaga.
The rest of the album largely follows the template of “Wild Ones,” with thumping dance beats and Flo’s facilitating delivery. It should give fans exactly what they’ve come to expect, but it would be nice to hear him switch up his style more. Flo is a club rapper, though, not an emcee’s emcee, and he has found a sound that works for him. Even his more reflective song, “I Cry” has a similarly up-tempo flow on the verses, though the beat is a bit slower than the rest. “Good Feeling” is another standout track, featuring a beautiful Etta James sample, and according to Flo, “she passed away right after we went number one” with the song, a strange omen that meant a lot to him. Perhaps the worst track on the album is “Sweet Spot,” which features a guest turn from Jennifer Lopez and lots of lazy sugar/sex references, even dropping the phrase “candy shop,” a reminder of 50 Cent’s most embarrassing work. Still, this is a record for people to dance to, not analyze, and it should satisfy that need quite nicely.
Hewlett-Packard (HP) presented a product preview of several new professional and consumer desktop computers yesterday afternoon at the Edelman Offices in Manhattan. The presentation pointed to HP’s future, which seems to be streamlining its efforts toward more all-in-ones, as opposed to the more traditional tower and monitor design, in response to consumer demand. Many of the new products presented will not be available in the United States until August or September of this year, but one of the most interesting models is already on the market as of today.
The HP Passport 1912nm Internet Monitor is a relatively inexpensive option for direct access to online content without the use of a PC. Starting at $259, the monitor provides quick and easy internet service through its “plug-and-play” set-up, and is especially designed for consumer-oriented business environments such as lobbies, waiting rooms, cyber cafes, airports and conference centers. According to HP’s official press release, this monitor “delivers access to email, videos, images and music through an easy web interface with a locked-down operating system that prevents vulnerability to viruses. With an Ethernet input and plug-and-play connectivity options, the HP Passport 1912nm offers a four-in-one HP Media Card Reader and five USB ports to support digital cameras and other accessories.”
Also previewed yesterday, and expected to hit the U.S. market on June 24, was the new HP 2311xi IPS LED Backlit Monitor, which features a 23-inch diagonal full HD display in an ultra-slim chassis designed to fit into any environment without taking up too much space. Its IPS panel technology provides an exceptionally sharp, clear picture with rich, vibrant colors and wide viewing angles. Perhaps its most unique and exciting feature is its 178-degree viewing angle, which makes photo or video sharing, as well as gaming, much more convenient for large groups of people. With this monitor, even sitting far to the side of the screen allows for a comfortable and clear viewing experience, making any seat in the house as good as any other.
HP continues to be on the vanguard of exciting new professional and consumer products that make life easier in both business and pleasure settings. As Jun Kim, vice president and general manager of HP’s Display Business Unit, says, “The needs of customers continue to evolve, and HP is well-positioned to meet these new demands by expanding its award-winning display portfolio. HP’s new IPS monitors bring professional-grade technology directly to consumers, while our internet monitor serves as a new tool for businesses to engage with their patrons.”
Last night at Manhattan’s Bowlmor Lanes / Greenwich Village Country Club, Axe previewed its new interactive global gaming experience, “AxeMan,” at a special, exclusive event shrouded in secrecy. Guests were taken by pre-paid car service to the venue near Union Square, where we were served complimentary food and drinks such as Axe’s signature drink, the “AxeMan” (basically just a good, strong Manhattan), and uniquely delicious breaded-and-fried mac & cheese bites.
We quickly learned the reason for the event’s top-secret, exclusive guest list: as we were seated with our drinks, all the event’s guests were provided with complimentary iPads on which we were given a tutorial on how to play “AxeMan.” In this case, the “axe” in question is an electric guitar played by a tough-looking bro reminiscent of Jack Black‘s “Brutal Legend” character, Eddie Riggs, but with shorter hair and nicer clothes. The game itself combines “Guitar Hero” with a first-person shooter, such as the classic “GoldenEye 007,” though its game-play is a much less complex horizontal scroll.
The object of the game is to collect curvaceous, scantily clad women (hereinafter referred to as “honeys”) to your “crew” while simultaneously defeating bad guys, just like in real life. The game’s setting is the fictional university “PWN U,” and the bad guys are frat-boys who throw either dodgeballs, beer bottles or free-weights at you as you attempt to gain honeys. You can block these by tapping them as they come toward you, and you kill the bad guys by strumming guitar notes at them from a fretboard at the bottom of the screen. The “boss” at the end of the game’s first level is the school’s mascot, a huge bull that comes to life and charges you, depleting your supply of honeys until you defeat him or die. It sounds pretty stupid, and to be honest it is, but it’s also surprisingly fun and addictive.
In addition to the “AxeMan” game, Axe has also launched “Planet Axe,” a social networking hub containing “AxeMan” and other games, where players can connect to share their high scores and talk trash. “AxeMan” also features a user-generated soundtrack of songs supplied by your own iTunes or other music player, so if you prefer to shoot bad guys to the sound of heavy metal, while your friend would rather pick up honeys to the sound of smooth jazz, everybody still wins. Watch out for the bull at the end, though – music of any kind will not likely sooth that savage beast.