Bringing Boys to the Yard for Raphael Spells Trouble
By BeBe Sweetbriar | wwwBeBeSweetbriar.com
The Trip-Hop singer/songwriter Raphael recently released his single “Boys Are Trouble”, a dark, seductive track with moody piano, beautifully sad strings, and raw vocals in its original version that is being compared to ballads by Lana Del Rey and The Weekend. In a press release Raphael explains Boys Are Trouble’s addiction theme. “I tend to fall for guys who are aloof and ridiculously overconfident. I become so consumed in vying for their attention that I completely lose myself.” But, the single also has a club remix by superstar DJ/Producer Joe Gauthreaux that brings all of the boy troubles to the dance floor. “It would be easy to blame it on the guys,” continues Raphael. “But what I’ve learned from my experience is that I am the one who brings the trouble upon myself. I want who I want at that moment, and I don’t really care what happens as long as I get the guy.” I know plenty who can relate to that, as I stand staring at a mirror. Boys Are Trouble is from Raphael’s upcoming album The Dark of My Mind, mixed by multi-Grammy winning mixer Tony Maserati (Beyonce) and due out in mid-Spring.
BEBE: Boys Are Trouble is the second release, following Superstar, from your upcoming album The Dark of My Mind. What does the album’s title tell us about the songs on it?
RAPHAEL: It is a concept album, and it’s an album about desire, love and romance. When it comes to topics like that, we kind of keep these things in the back of our heads, in the dark of our minds. The album is about me singing these things that we don’t talk about. For me, it’s easier to express in music.
BEBE: Boys Are Trouble talks about obsession and addiction, in this case, for a man, but can be applied to other obsessions and addictions?
RAPHAEL: Absolutely, the song is very much about addiction which could love, sex…. with addiction you always want more and never get enough. Today there are so many accessible attractive people in the world that I feel this generation with so many apps we develop an addiction and never fill up. It can get you into trouble.
BEBE: The backdrop story in the video for Boys Are Trouble involves New York City’s underground boxing Friday Night Throw Down where actual male models become amateur boxers in the ring with real boxers. What significance does that have to the song and video? Is there a domestic violence message in there?
RAPHAEL: The stories in my videos are well planned out. I am a part of the concept. For me bringing hidden meanings and symbolism to the things I create is really important. In the video there is the violence concept not only in the boxing ring but it sort of ups the ante of situation that I am in (in the video). I felt it important to tell that (domestic violence) story because if I don’t it may never be told. We usually see domestic violence, whether emotional or physical, between a guy and a girl, but it absolutely happens between two men and two women. It is a part of me and important to me to tell, or I would have never included that message.
BEBE: Your Joe Gauthreaux remix to Boys Are Trouble Is the first time you have had one of your songs remixes. Why a remix now, and did you have any fear the remix would affect the darkness felt from and the message present by the original mix of Boys Are Trouble?
RAPHAEL: I thought the remix was essential to get the song into the clubs because I knew that the chorus would sound great in a dance remix. It was always my attention to have a remix with this song. Losing the message…. I think watching the video for the remix can tie back to the original video of the song. The message is really clear, “boys are trouble”, whether a dance track in the club or listening to the original version in your bed drifting into the dark of your mind.
BEBE: Your music has been put in the genre of Trip Hop music. Can you define that?
RAPHAEL: It essentially is Pop. Growing up in Miami, however, I was influenced by a lot of Hip Hop. What I do is Pop, but goes into Trip Hop because of my spoken rap influence there. It is really dreamy, too, and there is another genre called Dream Pop. Trip Hop or Dream Pop, it’s about romance.
Boys Are Trouble Is now available on iTunes and Spotify with videos on YouTube. For more info on the release of the album The Dark of My Mind go to www.officialraphael.com
Out of Character: A Candid Chat with Alex Newell
Glee star on questioning his gender, stealing church-choir solos and Red Lobster
By Chris Azzopardi | Photos Brian Ziff
Maybe Alex Newell’s star-making moment – the Dreamgirls showstopper “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” which the 23-year-old gloriously belted out on The Glee Project, before nabbing a spot on Fox’s Glee – was meant to be. After all, as a fiery kid in church choir, Newell was not about to let some lesser singer steal any church-choir solos from him. To get his point across, he would scream “at the top of my lungs.” He would throw things. Until that solo was his, no, Newell was not going.
“If I wanted it bad enough, I would throw a hissy fit until they’d just give me the solo,” he recalls, reliving the early onset of his now-famous ’tude.
With a new EP, Power, to his name, Newell opens up about his reputation as a diva, being mistaken as transgender and – who can blame him? – his meltdown over nearly missing out on singing a Sister Act song.
Which church solo are you most proud of stealing?
What was that stupid song that I wanted… oh my god, yes! It was “Oh Happy Day” from _Sister Act_. I wanted that solo and they gave it to someone else and I was soooo livid. I was like, “She can’t even sing it! I can sing it so much better than her!” I remember yelling at my aunt in the sanctuary after everybody left and she was like, “You need to calm down,” and I was just like, “NO! I’m not gonna calm down. That solo is mine. I should have it,” and I got it. (Laughs)
What’s an Alex Newell hissy fit like now?
Now, an Alex Newell hissy fit is being extremely quiet and not giving anything. Nothing but silence. I’ll just look at you and be quiet, or I won’t look at you and I’ll be quiet, or I won’t make direct eye contact and I’ll just walk away – that’s when you know I’m genuinely angry at you.
So honestly I don’t even know how you’re alive at this moment because I’m assuming you watched Beyoncé during the Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime show.
Absolutely! And then I immediately turned the game off.
Of course you wouldn’t miss Beyoncé – she’s one of your all-time favorites.
Oh, she’s my idol.
What is it about her? How does she inspire you as a performer / singer / fashionista?
Honestly, she’s so just so… she’s made herself a verb, she’s made herself an adjective, she’s made herself such an entity – a force of nature. She literally almost fell (during the halftime show) and without missing a beat got right back up and didn’t miss a single count – that in itself makes anyone want to look up to her. She stands for so much. She means what she’s singing now, and she’s telling a message and a story.
In your own career, how are you influenced by that?
I guess just work ethic, and also her singing – having so much passion behind what she’s singing. You can feel her, you can feel what she’s singing when she’s singing it, and I feel that’s something I want to convey as well.
But you’ve been doing that for years.
Oh stop it! Stop, stop. (Laughs)
Who were your musical influences when you first discovered you were into music – before Beyoncé even existed?
Oh my goodness – I mean, was there a before Beyoncé? I’m not that old! Whitney Houston was giant for me because we kind of had the same background of growing up in church and all of that. Chaka Khan, Donna Summer, Aretha. Even gospel artists like Yolanda Adams, Karen Clark and Kirk Franklin. Just like… voices. People who can sing. Patti LaBelle, Mariah Carey. I’ve always gravitated toward voices, whether it be someone screaming in my face, a hard R&B or pop ballad, or even opera and musical theater. I’m always inspired by people who can sing and don’t give any… I won’t say that word….
Feel free to say whatever you want.
Like Jennifer Holliday gives zero fucks about her vocal chords and I live for it.
How much were you inspired by your influences on your debut EP? Because I hear Whitney influences on “This Ain’t Over.”
Absolutely. I mean, just like melodic riffs and runs that she always did and executed so perfectly. Vocal acrobatics – just that. And the passion behind it, where you’re singing something that you actually believe in as well and you make yourself believe that everyone believes it at the same time. That’s what Whitney was, and I pulled that in there (for the EP). There’s some Donna Summer in there too. Just some of my greats. I tried to emulate them without imitating them.
What do you make of people who refer to you as a diva?
Sometimes it’s a compliment. But it doesn’t mean best in their craft anymore. It has this attitude about it, like “I’m a diva because I’m fierce at what I do” not because “I’m the best at what I do.” So, that bothers me a little bit. It doesn’t mean prima donna anymore; it means, “I can wear a leotard on stage and give a subpar show,” rather than, “I can get on the stage and murder everyone”– not murder everyone in the sense of killing them, but murder my performance and be the best at what I do. Be the prima donna, be No. 1, First Lady of the Stage. It’s like calling yourself your race: “I’m black.” OK, great. Good for you. Moving on. It’s just claiming the obvious.
You broke a lot of ground as Unique on _Glee_, which helped to start a conversation regarding gender and trans issues, both of which are now in the forefront. What does it mean to have been one of the first trans characters on television?
It was a great platform and such a great show, but to have a role come into your life that means something – that actually changes the way people view society – it’s just great. Just to know that I was a part of something that’s bigger than me makes it even better. Sometimes you get those roles twice, sometimes once, so I’m just happy I had mine so early in my career.
Do people ever misidentify you as the character in real life?
Absolutely, and still to this day. I was at some AIDS benefit and I was walking the carpet and this one man literally looked at me and said, “So, your character is great, but how far along are you in your transition?” I was just like, “Excuse me? No, no, no, no. My character is transitioning. I’m not. I’m just a little black gay boy from Massachusetts.” But that means I’m probably just doing my job that much better. And I’m not angry about it. I’m not bitter about it, that people don’t separate character from real life. It just… it happens.
Did the show have you questioning your own gender at all?
Sometimes I’d be like, “Am I (a woman)? No, no, no.” I can’t sit and say that I haven’t, but for a better part of the last three years I was literally playing a woman and sometimes I’d wake up and be like, “I have to put this dress on,” and you go into a routine and I would mentally be preparing myself and waking up mentally prepared as Unique. I was like, “Oh my god, I have to stop this. I have to separate.” But yeah, I’ve done a lot of self-discovery. And I guess I’ve never really seen myself as a woman. Yes, I physically have seen myself as a woman, but when I think about 30 years in the future, I don’t see myself transitioning into a woman. I see myself as a gay male with my husband and my children and living that life. I guess that’s how I’ve confirmed it with myself, which could change. I don’t know. Who knows. I could have another cathartic self-discovery down the line.
When did you know you were gay?
I didn’t know what “gay” was; I just knew that I liked boys. Oh my god – I was boy crazed. I still am boy crazed! Like, I can’t… I just can’t… I’ve looked into it (girls) and I can’t. But as a child, if you go to church seven days a week (who you’re attracted to is) probably gonna be one of your friends from church. It was never – because all the boys were ugly and the girls were trying to be prettier than me. (Laughs) It was so much competition. My obsession with boys is how I’ve always known I was gay – and I wasn’t about to get cooties from all the girls.
Have you always been as comfortable in your own skin as you seem to be?
Yes and no. There was always this insecurity of not having a father growing up. It’s different just having a single parent. You have an insecurity, because the majority of people around you have both of their parents, so I was a little bit shy for that reason. You’re not socially accepted because you have mommy day and daddy day and your mom shows up for both. So I guess I always was a social outcast, in my own mind rather, and I don’t think I was that confident.
Now look at you. You and Adam Lambert are touring, which has to be the gayest billing of the year.
No – it’s gonna be the gayest event of life. Two gays on the road! How fabulous!
Adam was one of your earliest supporters. In 2012, he tweeted you, “Diva I’m blown away by u on Glee! You are KILLIN it Mary!” What’s it like to know that you’ll be touring with him now?
To think someone of that caliber – someone who I looked up to – even acknowledged my work when I was just starting, I was floored. Like on the ground, palpitating for air. And to be friendly with him now and to be going on tour with him – that he would even trust me to open for him – is just an amazing feeling and an experience that I will hold with me forever.
What can people expect?
Two hours of screaming the entire time and just singing in your face and just great vocals and runs. We might just explode by the end of the night every day.
What about incorporating a Beyoncé cover? Which song of hers would you do?
I mean, I’m literally about to sing “Formation” wherever I go now because I just want to say (a la Beyoncé), “If you fuck me right, I’ll take you to Red Lobster.”
Do you eat at Red Lobster?
I’ve never been to Red Lobster a day in my life.
But you’ll eat there now?
Unless Beyoncé is there herself, no.
Kathy Sledge Finds Nu Family with Aristofreeks, and a Nu Anthem with Keep It Movin
By BeBe Sweetbriar | www.BeBeSweetbriar.com
We Are Family, good Lawd, how many Pride parties have we all been to where that 80s hit Anthem by Sister Sledge led everyone to the dance floor in celebration of our Brother and Sisterhoods? Countless times. I don’t know if it was so much the lyrics of the song, the fact that it was performed by real sisters, a real family, or was it that voice coming from the young lead singer Kathy Sledge that drew us so much to the song. I lean more to the latter because in order to connect to a song you have to have a catalyst that can bring feeling and emotion to the music, the lyrics and that’s what Kathy’s voice did and does every time. Now in a solo career, Kathy Sledge may have “moved on” from the chorus with her sisters but she is still making us feel the music as in her latest release Keep It Movin’, a collaboration with Aristofreeks (Max Martire and Shanti Matkin) on her new label home Pacific Electronic Music (PEM). Aristofreeks was formed to inject Disco into modern House music creating Nu Disco and they hit gold with Kathy by recreating this new sound with the reworking of Sister Sledge’s We Are Family in 2013, receiving the Outstanding Contribution Award at the 2013 Ibiza DJ Awards, and now going #2 on Billboard’s Club Chart with Keep It Movin’. With a personal message in the song written by Kathy, Keep It Movin’ with that Kathy Sledge voice may be the Anthem that leads us to the dance floor at our next Pride gathering.
BEBE: Congratulations on your collaboration with Aristofreak and your latest release Keep It Movin’. It definitely has introduced your legendary voice to whole new generation of folks post-Sister Sledge days. How did the song and working union come about?
KATHY SLEDGE: They contacted me because they loved my voice. They originally contacted me to recreate some of the older stuff I had done with my sister’s with the “edge” of today (Nu Disco). Good music and vibes always come back. It’s new for a different generation.
BEBE: Speaking of back in the day, I remember as a child in the very early 70s seeing you with Sister Sledge playing the Hollywood Bowl and thinking how does this young teen girl have this adult sounding voice? You have Gladys Knight way of putting so much emotion in a song just by the way your voice sounds. How was it for you growing up trying to do kid music and you have this adult sounding voice?
KATHY SLEDGE: Well, you are good because Gladys Knight back then was one of my favorite singers. Before We Are Family, we would perform locally and I would do a lot of the Gladys songs. A lot of people don’t notice that influence, you are one of the first. She was and still is one of my favorite artists along with Mavis Staples.
BEBE: I know you have a real big thing about messages in songs. How important for you is it to have positive messages in songs you create even if they are songs that make you shake your booty like Keep It Movin’?
KATHY SLEDGE: Because I’m a songwriter, I have always wanted express my words, messages through song. I feel with people on the dance floor you have a captive audience. When people are on the dance floor singing along, before you know it, they are feeling the lyrics. With Keep It Movin’ that was a personal story of things in my life. Some of the lyrics are a double entendre sounding like a love song but it’s about life. You gotta keep it movin’ “for me, myself and I” (lyric line in the song). How can you help other people if you can’t help yourself first? That’s my testimony.
BEBE: You have not been as present on the radio as in your days with Sister Sledge, and many people think if you ain’t on the radio anymore, you must not be doing anything. But, you have been doing stuff. One thing is your revitalizing the music of Billie Holiday in a show called The Brighter Side of Day.
KATHY SLEDGE: When I was 16 my sister’s and I would work the Las Vegas circuit a lot and Billie Holiday was a part of our act. I have never studied her voice but I can do Billie Holiday’s voice. There are only two major productions about Billie, on and off Broadway, and both of those projects landed in my lap at one time. The Audra McDonald starring Broadway play Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill (McDonald winning her 6th Tony with the performance) by Lanie Robertson, and Dee Dee Bridgewater’s starring musical Lady Day. We all know the Billie Holiday story but the music tells so much more about her. I believe if she had lived in a different time it might have been a different story. So The Brighter Side Of Day is about Billie at her best! Marilyn (Monroe) had her challenges but we’re not reminded of them all the time. I wanted to remind people of the time Billie looked her best and sang her best. That’s what we celebrate. I am living in a time where I can do all the things I have always wanted to do, and that’s what I’m doing.
BEBE: You’re keeping it movin’ (we laugh).
Keep It Movin’ is now available digitally on iTunes and Apple Music. Music Video can be seen on YouTube. Keep up with Kathy Sledge at www.kathysledge.com and Twitter @KathySledge
BRITNEY SPEARS: 2016 ALBUM RELEASE?
The 33-year-old star has been causing a buzz with all her pictures from the studio over the past months. “I’m gonna do [a new album] slowly but surely,” Brit told Billboard in March 2015. Britney’s past few albums have been brought together relatively quickly when you consider her status as a global superstar, and hugely successful residency in Las Vegas (recently extended until 2017), but the Louisiana native is taking a more considered approach for album number nine – especially after the star’s record sales took a big hit with 2013’s lackluster ‘Britney Jean’. Brit continues to tease on her social media accounts that there’s something in the offing and she’s already been in the studio working on new music for well over a year. According to Larry Rudolph Britney’s new album – as well as being the best she’s sounded in years. “[The album’s] probably about 80% of the way done,” Britney’s manager Larry revealed to the Las Vegas Sun. “I’m thrilled with it. I spoke to her this morning and she said, ‘This is my favorite album that I’ve ever done’. “It’s different, it’s a turn,” he explained. “This is almost like, if you can imagine, Britney meets The Weeknd,” he added. “It’s got a really interesting vibe, it’s a lot of really cool stuff… I think it’s gonna be really big.” – 95-106 Capital FM UK
GWEN STEFANI ‘THIS IS WHAT TRUTH FEELS LIKE’
Gwen Stefani and Target gave fans #MoreMusic the first music video ever created on live television featuring the national broadcast debut of Gwen’s new single “Make Me Like You.” The action unfolded live on CBS as part of a four-minute commercial break during the 58th Annual GRAMMY Awards®. Gwen’s upcoming album “This Is What the Truth Feels Like” is out March 18.
Sia, This Is Acting
Before she rebranded herself as a behind-the-scenes scribe for mainstream pop giants, Sia reveled in authenticity. Every feeling was pure – and even if it didn’t reflect her life, you believed it could. Remember “Breathe Me”? There was a big sigh, and then she broke you into a million sad, empowered pieces as she came clean one key change at a time. These days, having constructed a persona that’s distant and vague, that same Sia hides behind actual veils so as not to reveal too much of herself, generating hits for radio heavyweights like Adele and Beyoncé. So what happens when they and other pop stars pass on your songs? If you’re Sia, you record them yourself. Once again, Sia, following _1000 Forms of Fear_, is larger than life. It’s a role she’s fine at playing – her distinctive warble packs a powerful punch – but it has become apparent that the same mask concealing her face is also obscuring the fact that Sia is a gifted storyteller full of things to say about herself. So if this is, indeed, acting, the bump-and-grind windup “Move Your Body” is either an Oscar winner… or a Razzie contender, depending on how you look at it. Same with “Sweet Design,” a very Bey-during-B’Day banger, with Sia singing contrived lines like, “Word travels fast when you’ve got an ass like mine.” Not that Sia doesn’t have a great ass, but it’s a hard, silly sell for an artist not known for such boasts. Her strengths lie in underdog anthems like “Bird Set Free,” where she pushes through the cage door and unleashes herself, singing, “I find myself in my melodies.” There are 11 other songs after “Bird Set Free,” none of them great, leaving you thinking: If only they, too, could find her essence again.
– Chris Azzopardi
CYNDI LAUPER TAKES A ‘DETOUR’
Cyndi Lauper’s celebrated musical journey takes an unexpected southern turn on DETOUR, her 11th studio album, which finds the Grammy®, Emmy® and Tony®-winning singer-songwriter putting her signature spin on a dozen classic country songs. DETOUR showcases Lauper’s unmistakable voice on country classics from the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s and features guest appearances from notable county music stars. DETOUR is available May 6.
ENYA NEW ALBUM CONTEST GIVEAWAY
Enya, the Queen of Trance, has returned after a long absence (since 2008). Started in 2012, Enya’s eighth studio album ‘Dark Sky Island’, inspired by the designation of the island of Sark as the world’s first “dark sky island” and a series of poetry books on islands from Roma Ryan is finally here! CLICK HERE for details on how you can WIN a copy of Enya’s latest album – available now. – BeBe Sweetbriar