Congratulations to Sara Bareilles on receiving the Half Decade Muse's Muse Award for:
1. Sara Bareilles - "Careful Confessions"
When Sara sings, you literally feel that she is letting you into her soul...exposing you to a kaleidoscope of emotions that she generates by playing piano, unleashing her evocative vocals, or by executing her mesmerizing arrangements. She sings with force and with gentleness - without ever losing conviction. Her project also displays her acute awareness of what publishers look for in a song, fans enjoy in a performance, and the industry looks for in a recording. Yes, she has it all, and she generously gives it to you on this incredible project that she refers to as a "demo."
2. Dasha - "It's Just A Number"
Dasha's writing talent is immense and her potential for industry success is enormous...she is simply on another level. Both the music and publishing industries willl strike gold when they get their hands on her catalogue. Congratulations on completing a project that is commercially strong, artistically developed, and musically sound.
3.Kelly Sweet - "We Are One"
Kelly Sweet, a singer/songwriter from Kanab, UT, delivers a rarity: a project of depth that can be enjoyed from start to finish. From her profound Enya-esque opening track, "We Are One," to the closing lullaby, "Je t'aime," this easy listening, jazz flavored, ambient, adult alternative CD will please your musical, emotional, and intellectual cravings…it’s a superior project with a wealth of potential and showcases a world of promise for a singer whose success will be a "sweet" independent achievement.
4. Vinny Blessed - "Music Train"
Vinny Blessed, a rapper and native of the Bronx, now living in Brooklyn, sent me a project describing his style as: "Spanglish/Hip-Hop, combined with catchy hooks and sharp lyrics." That wasn't the part that I took note of, it was the proclamation made after it that made me raise a suspicious eyebrow: "It will have the clubs around the nation jumping and the radio audiences wanting more..." Track after track he brings the heat like a deranged arsonist; torching competitors from East to West with pumping beats and tight rhymes...
5. Icarus Jones - "Fly Without Wings"
I first experienced the undeniable talents of Icarus Jones, a rap artist who is from Stockton, California, at a music industry seminar conducted by current "hot" producers, the Underdogs, who have produced for a slew of (commercially) successful music acts. Icarus turned the place upside down - accompanied by only an acoustic guitarist - evoking the greatest response from the audience and the esteemed producers…This curly haired white guy, who refers to himself as Mr. Jones, is the most potent and significant artist to emerge from hip-hop scene in the San Francisco Bay Area since...Tupac.
6. Melissa Forbes - "No More Mondays"
Melissa Forbes, an ex-lawyer turned singer/songwriter from Australia, turned in this self-produced debut which stimulates your ears, thoughts, and emotions while smoothly blending Jazz and R&B into a genre that Melissa can call her own. Like most great music artists, she leaves you with a message and invites and encourages all of us to not waste another day and not to wish your life away waiting for happiness to find you...
7. South Border - "Episode III"
South Border's stellar musicianship is second only to their palpable passion that comes through in their music, which is reminiscent of the great song-driven R&B bands of the 70's such as Heatwave, The Gap Band, and The S.O.S. Band, but with a contemporary flair. Like many of those R&B icons, South Border has showmanship that translates well in their recordings and is an essential part of their branding.
8. Tony Vic - "Vic[s]tor[y]: Testimonial Music"
San Francisco Bay Area rap artist, Tony Vic, makes a grand entrance onto the commercial hip-hop scene with panache. His debut project articulates the Vic story with power, eloquence and detail that will strengthen allegiance from existing fans, and gain him new ones in the process. Using a winning combination of musicality, melody, and strong production, Tony adds venomous talent and performance skills which fuel a vehicle that is built to transport him to long term success.
9.Preeta - "In This Moment"
This project, in which Preeta skillfully plays acoustic guitar on almost every track, is well-written and well-produced from beginning to end and displays the type of musicianship and melodic aptitude that will satisfy the burgeoning appetites of adult music lovers who are often starved for lyrical substance. Her pristine vocals function as a vessel for the uplifting message of empowerment that she sings about with conviction.
10. Wayna - "Moments Of Clarity"
From the opening of this twelve song project she instantly commands attention with a bright blend of talent, emotion, and vocal prowess that will disarm even the most resistant first-time listeners. How could you resist getting caught-up in her artistry when this CD has more hooks than a bait and tackle shop? With stellar songwriting, engaging lyrics, and magnetic vocals, "Moments of clarity" can easily be re-dubbed "Moments of Greatness," and there are plenty of those moments on this project.
11. Amanda Marshall - "Everybody's Got A Story"
Her talent is so immense that it defies categorization. With veteran industry producers Peter Asher & Billy Mann skillfully and artistically combining elements of Jazz, Hip-hop, R&B, Rock, and a whole lot of Pop in her music and vocal production, she single handedly creates a new genre and pronounces herself the Queen of it. Lyrically, she does with words what Picasso was able to do with a paint brush: create provocative, engaging, and stimulating work.
12. Ms. Triniti – “Ragga Hop”
Ms. Trinity who was born to a Trinidadian Father, and an American Mother, and then raised between the UK and the Caribbean and now resides in LA, sent me a project that showcases her singing and songwriting skills while defining a unique genre of music that she refers to as "Ragga Hop," which sounds like Reggae, Hip Hop, R&B, and at times, Pop. She’s a seasoned performer who was signed to Sony/Columbia and has recorded with almost every major Producer in her genre.
13. Danni O'Neill - "Picture Perfect"
The debut CD by singer/songwriter Danni O'Neill, from Toronto, Canada via Nashville, TN, delivers strong commercial songs that illustrate her comfort in the new "modern" Country format. She easily and effortlessly blends Pop music melodies with palpable emotional performances that cut through all boundaries and genres. This could very well be the first time that I've reviewed an Indie project that is equal to, if not greater than, those released by majors.
14.Typhoon Ferri - "Detergency"
This band is not about making recordings; they are driven by and committed to performing live which clearly and effectively comes through on this project. It genuinely captures the musical diversity and essence of Typhoon Ferri with skillful production that illuminates their strengths, talents, and creativity. It also emphasizes their commercial viability.
15. IBU – “Redefined”
The male vocal trio, IBU (which stands for Inspired By You) consisting of Tommy Chanthasene, Michael Musni, and Jonathan Shau from Chicago, Illinois, sent me a project that aptly showcases their lead, harmonizing, and performance skills through a repertoire of well-written songs that emphasize their greatest strength: ballads. With potent vocals and a strong musical identity, IBU has truly succeeded in creating an R&B sound that’s Redefined.
16. Alice Peacock – “Who I Am”
Every now and then I get a project that captures the essence of what great songwriting is about. Alice Peacock, a singer/songwriter/musician from White Bear Lake, Minnesota, via LA, sent me such a project. This - her third independent offering - brilliantly showcases her vocal skills and lyrical talents and proves that you can master the craft of songwriting through osmosis if you are fed a steady diet consisting of the Beatles, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Carole King, and Carly Simon as a child.
17. Tracey Amos - "Who Are We Really?"
Tracey Amos (who is in no way related to, or should be compared with Tori Amos) is a San Francisco Bay Area singer/songwriter/performer via Los Angeles whose debut project contains production and songwriting collaborations with one of the most overachieving and underutilized producers in the business, Xavier Dphrepaulezz, and a posse of top notch musicians. On this project, Tracey pulls her own strings and marches to the beat of her own drummer, showcasing superlative songwriting talent and a strong commercial brand identity in the process.
18. Dan Ferrari – “Don’t Let It Fall”
Dan Ferrari, a singer/songwriter/musician from New York, proves that he is in a league of his own by aptly demonstrating that he has the lyrical prowess and refined songwriting skills of a seasoned veteran on his sophomore project. With the help of his producer, John Lardieri, he captures and presents strong vocal performances that are effusive, penetrating, and perfectly framed. The tracks (on this project) have a live performance vibe that aids them in feeling more organic and less produced - which works well for the emotive qualities of Dan's voice and the purity of the accompanying instrumentation.
19.Kate Schutt - "No Love Lost"
With songs that flow seamlessly from track-to-track, Kate displays the poise and execution of a seasoned performer on a major label. From the provocative string arrangements on the projects' opening song, "How Much In Love," to the most commercial track, "Raining," this CD is a treat for both new and old school lovers of Jazz (who will especially appreciate the stellar "Wrecking Ball").
20.Eric Kamen - "Native Unit"
Eric Kamen (who simply goes by "E"), was born and raised in New York City, and is also a successful r&b/hip-hop producer. He programmed the beats and plays every instrument on this project including Flamenco guitar, bass, piano, Indian sitar, as well as Greek and Turkish bouzouki. The blend of these instruments with commercial, contemporary grooves is almost scientific, and nothing short of phenomenal. This project will appeal to hardcore hip hop fans, jazz enthusiasts, and world music lovers alike.
Click here for a list of Gian's 2007 Muse's Muse Half Decade Award Winners For Best Songs