SINGLE REVIEW: Terror in Disguise by Savannah Nider

Savannah Nider is a singer and songwriter born and raised in Pawnee City, Nebraska. She was already getting music industry attention for her singing at just fifteen, which led to working with people who were involved in the careers of Grammy winning artists including Collin Raye and others.

After moving to Nashville in 2019, she met a well known songwriter, Joie Scott, which led to her first co-written song. She was then introduced to producer Bryan Cole, who produced her latest EP. Her song We Are Us reached no.1 on the ITunes country singles chart in South Africa.

This song, Terror in Disguise, is an upbeat and highly emotive pop/rock track produced to perfection by Bryan Cole. It represents something of a departure for Savannah, who had previously been solidly in the country genre. But to her credit, she’s pushed herself out of her comfort zone in order to do something a little more musically daring.

Beginning with a haunting piano melody over an insistent guitar figure, Savannah’s expressive and instantly distinctive lead vocals then take centre stage in a compelling way. The verse conveys that a relationship has gone awry, as a partner turns out to be not the person they thought they knew (“maybe that’s why it’s a dangerous disaster…”).

The rhythmic descending melodies on the verse are contrasted by the cathartic chorus, which finds Savannah in her upper register augmented by beefy electric guitars. Musically, it brought to mind Shania Twain, the Stevie Nicks songs of Fleetwood Mac, with more modern artists like Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus and Sia. More remotely, it reminded me of great 80’s female pop like Belinda Carlisle and Alannah Myles.

The chorus succinctly captures the strong emotion behind the song: “As it all falls down we just watch it from the ground...”. The second verse is just as emotionally visceral: “You’re a tragic masquerade….”. The genuine melancholy of the depicted situation is perfectly counterpointed by the relatively upbeat energy of the music, with every musician playing with passion and conviction. The final choruses allow Savannah to express the considerable power and range of her voice, leaving the listener on a high.

Overall, this is a superb follow up song to the hugely successful We Are Us. This song constitutes a brave leap into uncharted artistic territory for Savannah, but she pulls it off owing to her versatile voice and deeply emotive performance. If she can maintain this high standard, the sky’s the limit for Savannah Nider.

 

VERDICT = 9.1 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

Listen here:

 

SINGLE REVIEW: Ain’t It Strange by Xanthia Skye

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Xanthia Skye is an English singer and songwriter. She was highly musical from a young age, becoming involved with musical theatre at six and triying different instruments, settling on the piano. In achieving her classical Grade 8 in professional vocals she encountered numerous musical styles and developed a love of such diverse artists as Ella Fitzgerald, Fleetwood Mac and The Cranberries. This eclecticism is reflected in her music, which is a blend of pop with jazz and soul influences intertwined.

This song, Ain’t It Strange, is her second release after her debut single, Hold Me. The song is a slow paced pop ballad with a sophisticated jazzy undertone. It’s the ideal showcase for Xanthia’s outstanding voice, bringing to mind the vocal power of Adele and the range of from Florence and the Machine, another noted influence. Set to a melancholy and emotive backing of warm electric piano, Xanthia’s vocals captivate from the moment they enter.

Lyrically, Ain’t It Strange is about reflecting on painful relationships memories from the past, captured in the opening lines: “Words in my head stained like tattoos on my skin, when I vowed to forget you, how could I begin?”. It builds to an understated chorus with some poignant lyrics: “Twenty three turns on this earth, I know people are not the same, show me love can change, ain’t it strange?”.

The way the arrangement builds gradually across the verses and choruses is very skillfully done, along with the pristine, faultless production. A beat emerges only during the final choruses, augmented by subtle but very effective backing vocals and some lovely vocal extemporizing from Xanthia.

Overall, this is a very well crafted and exquisitely performed pop ballad from a young singer and songwriter blessed with a fabulous voice. The music has a radio friendly sound, slightly jazzier than mainstream pop, and she’s already managed to carve herself a commercial niche. For fans of artists like Adele and Taylor Swift, they will most likely find Xanthia Skye’s music much to their taste and so the sky really is the limit for her in the future.

 

VERDICT = 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

ARTIST INTERVIEW: Vanlalchhanhima Ralte

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Vanlalchhanhima Ralte is an independent singer, musician and songwriter. Along with this, Vanlalchhanhima Ralte is a Director of Vanlalchhanhima Ralte (OPC) Private Limited, which is an Independent Record Company, an Independent Record Label & an Independent Publisher. He has released both cover versions and original material, accruing a very large fanbase in the process. His latest release is a cover version of the well known song Achy Breaky Heart, watch the video below:

 

 

I got to ask him a few questions about his music:

Your latest single release is a cover of the well known country pop classic Achy Breaky Heart, originally recorded by Billy Ray Cyrus. What made you want to cover this particular song?

“Yes, that’s right. It’s a well known song, even to my childhood, I know and listen to that song. It make me want to cover because for the sake of the love of a classical music in it time. And I do interested to build it into this modern influences…”

You’re an independent singer, musician and songwriter as well as owning your own record company, do you find it difficult to balance your role as an artist along with dealing with the business side of the music industry?

“Yes, of course. A very good question in here. Too much, let me just say the role is too much to think from an artist level to an executive level. All so much for one person. One in a performance, and one in a none performance streamline of doing it all independently. Sometime, I think I need a balanced diet.”

Who are a few of your favourite artists or groups and do you have one all time musical hero?

“Yes, although I haven’t met in real life. One to mentioned the one whose era has been changing from country music to a kinda pop appeal, the one and only Taylor Swift. Whom I’ve been trending her through an internet, mostly Facebook, YouTube and on an Instagram. In that sense, she kinda well known for more than a decade.”

How do you feel about the modern music industry, do you think streaming music helps an artist reach people or is it unfair for the artist to allow people to listen and enjoy their music without paying for a single or album as it used to be?

“Into this modern digital world of consideration, an internet plays and transform the way the music industry used to be as comparing from the classical 70’s 80’s 90’s. I don’t see any unfairness for the people on the music to stream and listen them freely, if they want to make benefit for an artist, they will, if not, they wouldn’t.

What are your future plans for your music? Let people know about upcoming releases after this one and how they can keep informed about any new music you decide to release.

Well, good question. I’m currently working under one Christmas project. That I haven’t had any set for it releases date, but it will be in the month of December 2019. This will be for the love of the Lord & Saviour Jesus Christ, the sweet born baby, sent on earth by thy Heavenly Father God. The writes of the lyrics has already been completed, which I completed last month October 2019. It will be in an English & Mizo. As this is not yet a release or published, I will not mentioned the title of the EP or the songs name yet. So, stay tune for my upcoming Christmas song release. It will be available on my website, Official Artist Channel (YouTube), etc. Website: https://www.vanlalchhanhimaralte.com OAC: https://www.youtube.com/VanlalchhanhimaRalte

Thank you, Vanlalchhanhima, for the great interview!

 

 

Visit Vanlalchhanhima Ralte’s official website HERE

 

 

 

 

ARTIST REVIEW: SharaLee

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SharaLee is a singer and songwriter hailing from Canada. She was born into a very musical family where every member played an instrument or sang, and SharaLee made her debut singing on stage at just five. She developed into recording demos then her own songs, with Postcards her first album of original material.

This led to writing with Mark Zubek, with their co-written song Together Again winning an Akademia award and considered for an Etta James biopic. She is strongly influenced by the great soul and Motown artists of the past but also loves pop, rock, gospel and country western music.

These eclectic influences become apparent through listening to the various songs she has made available online on her artist page. The first track Fall Down is a powerful introduction to her work, an epic ballad that brought to mind artists like Adele and Amy Winehouse. Like them, SharaLee has a soulful, strong voice full of character as well as considerable range.

She sings near the top of her register on this one, depicting a heartbroken lover over terse, rhythmic strings and brooding bass. The song is about those who have built their lives with a “wall of lies” and how it eventually catches up with them. The opening lines capture the sense of personal pain: “My heart was broke when you walked away like a hit and run.…”. SharaLee‘s vocal performance is highly emotive and it remains captivating until the final bars which are performed ‘a capella’.

Her love of Motown and soul comes to the fore in the excellent Deja Vu. It’s a ballad in 6/8 time and, as with Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black album, it effectively recreates the magical Motown sound. The feel of the music is very authentic with the unmistakable sound of musicians playing their instruments, an unfortunate rarity in this era. SharaLee’s vocals are more gentle and tender here, crooning a beautiful melody augmented by backing harmonies, along with strings and brass.

She shows another side to her musical persona with the funky pop of Now. Built around a slick groove that brought to mind George Michael’s classic Freedom, it’s propelled by a pulsing bassline and interspersed with moody organ. The catchy chorus hook latches in the memory upon the first listen and the detail in the music means this great track stands up to repeated listens.

Don’t Need A Hero is another superb piece of songwriting with a ballsy, brass-led soul sound and an epic chorus. The rich sound of the organ and picked guitar lines reminded me of The Animals’ perennial classic House Of The Rising Sun, especially with the blazing organ solo after the second chorus. This one is my personal favourite.

You Can’t Stop Me showcases the more modern pop side to her songwriting though retaining the emotional punch that is a consistent feature throughout her music. It alternates between a sparse verse and defiant, uplifting chorus which again soon sticks in the memory. Her ability to write memorable and convincing choruses is testament to her skills as a writer. You can imagine an artist like Taylor Swift having a huge hit with this song.

The aforementioned Together Again is the last song on her artist page and it’s another well crafted soul ballad that made me think of Carole King’s great songs of the late 60’s and 70’s. With an excellent arrangement, SharaLee excels vocally here especially on the skyscraping chorus. It’s a truly wonderful song and deserved the awards and plaudits it has received.

Overall, SharaLee has written and performed some first rate soul songs in the course of her career that deserve recognition and a wide audience. She writes accessible and easily relatable songs that stand out from the crowd due to their musically authentic sound, emotional depth and SharaLee’s distinctive singing. Motown and soul fans will particularly appreciate her work but her appeal is truly universal.

VERDICT= 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

SINGLE REVIEW: An Angel For You by Gina Michaells

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Gina Michaells is country singer and songwriter born in La Union in the Philippines and now based in Denmark. She was performing at fairs and festivals as a singer from the age of six, singing in bands through high school and college. At twenty, she decided to take her talent worldwide and has performed in Japan, Indonesia, Greenland and Malaysia, amongst other places. Her music initially started out as pure country but she has since diversified into other genres.

This song, An Angel For You, is an epic country-tinged pop ballad written with Nashville producer/songwriter Lonnie Ratliff and mixed by Arthur Pingray (Sia, Flo Rida), released October 2. Starting with a short but evocative intro of delicate piano and guitar, Gina’s emotive and powerful vocals enter, commanding the listener’s attention. After a brief, well-crafted verse the instantly memorable chorus is where the song, and Gina’s voice, really shines.

The song is about trying to live up to someone’s expectations of you and stand by them even though it’s hard: “If you’re looking for an angel then the least that I can do is try to be an angel for you…”. The arrangement builds gradually, giving the song increasing emotional power, with a key change after the second chorus lifting the music still further (Gina at the top of her considerable vocal range). Another modulation takes the song into the stratosphere and brings the music to a satisfying climax.

Overall, this is a powerfully performed, highly emotional country-pop ballad that showcases Gina Michaells’ dual gifts as a vocalist and songwriter. Well arranged and recorded by Nashville session musicians, it has everything it takes to have a huge hit including very high quality, radio friendly production. Most importantly, it has an emotive force that people will connect with, and subject matter they will relate to. Gina Michaells has immense commercial potential, and this song deserves to make big waves in the music scene.

 

VERDICT: 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

 

Learn more about Gina Michaells HERE

 

E.P. REVIEW: Nashville Songwriting Sessions by Claudia Norris

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http://www.claudianorris.ca/

Claudia Norris is a singer/songwriter currently residing in Edmonton, Alberta in Canada. She has been songwriting since 14 and sharing her music on YouTube since 2007. She has run her musical career in parallel with her career as a certified make-up artist, and regularly travels to Nashville and L.A. to write, perform and record.

Her Shine EP received airplay on over 100 radio stations and she was a finalist in the Great American Song Contest in 2015. She’s amassed a huge fanbase (30k+) online, her army of fans known as Claudiators! She regards her influences as Taylor Swift, Adele and Meghan Trainor, and these influences are in evidence on this 5 track EP, Nashville Recording Sessions.

Opening track Say Yes is a finely crafted piece of country-tinged pop that Taylor Swift would be proud to have written, and a showcase for Claudia’s crystal clear and powerful voice. Like Taylor and Adele, her music mostly deals with timeless emotional issues, though there is also the light-hearted exuberance of Meghan Trainor in the musical mix.

Second song Stronger is the standout on this EP, for me. It’s an emotive ballad about a trust and communication breakdown in a relationship, with Claudia delivering a vocal performance of both passion and restraint. Lyrically, it shows the empowering message behind her music with lines like, “Don’t blame me, I’m not changing, couldn’t be your Barbie doll“. With its radio friendly sound and memorable chorus, this sounds like it could become a huge worldwide hit.

Third track Heartbeat is a more upbeat and fun Meghan Trainor-style song which is based on classic 1950’s era chord changes and has the sweet innocence of that musical period. The chorus is ultra catchy, the whole track driven by propulsive, rhythmic piano and it also brought to mind the British pop group Scouting For Girls.

Stay is another Stronger-type ballad which is well written and performed, though perhaps a little too similar to Sam Smith’s massive hit Stay With Me, at least lyrically. Final track Love On Replay is the most modern sounding song here, with a Rihanna/RnB influence that adds another interesting facet to her music. It broadens her appeal and is, again, extremely catchy and packed with hooks.

Overall, this EP is first class evidence that Claudia Norris is a superb singer and songwriter. As an artist, she stands poised halfway between the two pop giants of this era, Taylor Swift and Adele. Her positive, empowering message is perfect for the times, and with Stronger, she has a song that could catapult her to the centre of the world stage and deservedly so.

 

VERDICT: 8.7 out of 10

 Alex Faulkner

ARTIST REVIEW: Susan G

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Susan G is a singer and songwriter hailing from Seattle. She possesses an authentic, rich soul voice and you can hear the influence of classic soul singers like Etta James and Mavis Staples, along with modern pop singer/songwriters like Sia and Sara Bareilles. Musically, she fuses the retro-soul sound of Amy Winehouse with 90’s pop/RnB to create a unique synthesis.

In 2009, she released her first album The Way To Here and then the single No Room For You in 2014. This was followed by the Some Freedom EP in 2016, featuring the classic song A Better You, which became regularly featured on IHeartRadio. The same year she experimented with a more urban sound, releasing the single Need You Here featuring the rapper Redhead.

In terms of live performance she has shared the stage with Colbie Caillat, Sony artist Ryan Cummings, The Voice’s Austin Jenckes, Zarni de Wet, amongst many others as well as selling out venues all across Seattle. She is due to release another album later this year, and her YouTube Channel is helping her reach a wider audience, featuring a mix of original material and covers of well known songs.

Usually she performs with just vocals and keyboards, and I particularly enjoyed her interpretations of The Weeknd’s I Feel It Coming, her cover of I Fall Apart by Post Malone and a haunting rendition of the Amy Winehouse modern classic Back to Black. She also does excellent versions of well known hits like the ubiquitous Shape of You by Ed Sheeran and Look What You Made Me Do by the current Queen of Pop, Taylor Swift.

But it is her own original material that showcases what a great talent she is. The epic six minute ballad Push and Pull had me enthralled from start to finish and the lilting Unafraid, featuring the guitar talents of Skylar Mehal, is another fine piece of songwriting that could appeal to country audiences. Indeed, she has the potential to appeal right across the musical spectrum.

Overall, Susan G has everything it takes for major success in terms of singing ability and image. If her upcoming album is as strong as her previous work, there’s no reason why her fanbase won’t increase exponentially. Her soulful yet modern sound is perfect for the times. This could be a name you’ll be hearing plenty of in the future.

VERDICT: One To Watch!

Alex Faulkner

www.instagram.com/susangmusic