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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

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Katy Perry's new record blends a variety of styles.
Katy Perry's new record blends a variety of styles. (Photo: KatyPerry.com)

Katy Perry's "Prizm" offers a dazzling blend of colors

Ever since the release of her first major single, "I Kissed A Girl," Katy Perry has been a hot topic in pop culture. From there, the hits just kept coming.

Her confidence and charisma catapulted Perry to pop icon status. Her fluffy, cute, fun-loving persona has been seen everywhere from magazines to news casts.

Perry's new album, "Prizm," is full of classic Perry sounds, from dance, to energetic pop, to inspirational ballads. The album will not disappoint those who have been anxiously anticipating its release.

1. "Roar" – An upbeat tempo hits your ears as Katy sings about being downtrodden and in an altogether low place. Then, the chorus comes in and the lyrics change from pitying to confident and passionate. "I got the eye of the tiger, dancin’ through the fire ‘cuz I am the champion. You’re gonna hear me roar!" The combination of the lyrics and the enlightening sounds make this song a hit for when you’re feeling proud of yourself or particularly self-confident. It inspires a good mood and positive attitude.

2. "Legendary Lovers" – Katy takes you on a mental ride with this odd-sounding tune. She tackles being entranced and so intensely in love with this other person that their union will create something epic and indescribable. "Legendary lovers, we should be legendary." A flawless drum beat breaks through the song and you can’t stop swaying to the beat. It’s a hypnotizing song, and is a great addition to the album.

3. "Birthday" – You feel like you’ve jumped into some insanely bubblegum pop music video while listening to this song. Katy is all about making you feel good. "We’re livin’ the life, we’re doin’ it right, you’re never gonna be unsatisfied." Especially if it’s your birthday, this song will bring out the excitement in you. "So let me get you in your birthday suit. It’s time to bring out the big balloons!" The energy in this song is overpoweringly fun and boosts your mood within the first thirty seconds.

4. "Walking …

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Beyoncé's surprise, self-titled album covers love, sex and family.
Beyoncé's surprise, self-titled album covers love, sex and family. (Photo: beyonce.com)

Beyoncé's surprise album hits a high note

We all know her from Destiny’s Child, and have followed her solo career ever since. She is the fabulous, the unstoppable Beyoncé Knowles.

Hits like "Single Ladies," "Irreplaceable," "Diva", and "Halo" helped rocket her career to the limelight, and her remarkable talents have kept her there ever since.

Her brand new, surprise self-titled album is sure to follow suit. It is complete with dirty, intense lyrics and mesmerizing sounds, turning almost anyone into a Beyoncé fan. Even those who are more judgmental of the singing sensation will have to get in on the action. There’s something for everyone.

1. "Pretty Hurts" – "What would be your aspiration in life?" "My aspiration in life would be ... to be happy," These are the opening sound bytes from the first moments of the song. Beyoncé continues by talking about perfection in the eyes of the country as a whole. "Perfection is a disease of our nation." The beat is slow and intense, which gets the listener grooving, whether they’re at their desk at work or hanging out at home. "It’s the soul that needs the surgery," she sings, commenting on how the nation is obsessed with perfection, getting skinny and changing what one deems as "imperfections." The song cliches and showcases Beyoncé’s voice nicely. It’s a great intro to her album and does a great job of making a statement about current pop culture.

2. "Haunted" – The bass begins the song after a sound byte of young Beyoncé accepting an award. The title is appropriate because the music is so haunting. It’s almost creepy, but stays on the border between creepy and sensual. There is another hint at perfection in this song. "It’s what you do, it’s what you see. If I’m haunting you, you must be haunting me." The beat remains relaxed, but changes a couple times through the song, which keeps the listener’s attention easily. The lyrics, although hard to understand at times, hold the song up as well. "It’s where we go, it’s where we’ll be. I know if i’m on …

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"Britney Jean" is the new record from Britney Spears, following 2011's "Femme Fatale."
"Britney Jean" is the new record from Britney Spears, following 2011's "Femme Fatale."

"Britney Jean" dances its way through the mainstream

Since we first heard "Baby One More Time," most of us have been unable to get Britney Spears off our minds. We have seen her in her greatest and worst moments, from pop princess to buzz-cut nutcase.

With her most recent album, "Britney Jean," now in stores, it’s no doubt that Spears is all revved up for another album of hot dance beats.

Her music is heavily centered around the mainstream and what is trending, and this album is a good example of this. Intense dance songs are mixed with slower, ballad-like songs that offer good breaks from the action.

1. "Alien" – It’s a nice intro song in terms to first impressions. Britney has had several sounds through out her career, and this is a nice reminder that she can actually sing. It’s slow, but not boring. Nice trans beats mix well with her voice. The song speaks to the relatively teenage feeling of being alone and finding someone that defeats the loneliness. "And the light in your eyes lets me know I’m not alone," gives the listener the reminder that the people who care about you will always be there. All in all, it’s a good song that is sweet, cute and sticks with the "you are loved and never alone" theme.

2. "Work B***h" – The beat and the background sounds in this song make it the most prominent song on the album. It’s a great dancing song and probably a very inspiring workout song. It makes you want give whatever you’re doing a one hundred percent effort. "You want a hot body? You want a Bugatti? You want a Mazerati? You better work b***h." Lyrics like this make the listener get worked up and into an "I can do this" state of mind. No matter who you are, Britney fan or not, this song has an infectious beat and oddly inspirational essence. It’s almost impossible to sit still while this song is on.

3. "Perfume" – We’ve all had that insecure feeling when it comes to our relationships. This song speaks to that feeling clearly, the feeling of distance, jealousy and paranoia. It may not be the best …

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Phoenix headlined the first night of the two-night Big Snow Show 8 at The Rave.
Phoenix headlined the first night of the two-night Big Snow Show 8 at The Rave. (Photo: Kiri Lin)
Phoenix lead singer Thomas Mars didn't talk much, but he did surf the crowd.
Phoenix lead singer Thomas Mars didn't talk much, but he did surf the crowd. (Photo: Kiri Lin)

Phoenix kicks off night one of Big Snow Show 8 with a bang

Question: What do you get when you cross a band of native Frenchmen with American pop music?

Answer: Alt-rock group Phoenix.

The group proved its worth Thursday night at the sold-out opening of the two-night The Big Snow Show 8.

Phoenix was joined by Alt-J, Grouplove and Bastille – all with current recognizable radio hits. The crowd was made up of mainly 20-somethings who were ready to rock. After eight years of The Big Snow Show, FM 102.1 has it pretty well figured out.

It was clear that Phoenix – which hasn't performed in Milwaukee since 2006 – was the main draw to the show, but the supporting acts definitely helped fill The Rave. The band was certainly the main draw for me.

However, I was completely blown away by the opening acts – especially Grouplove, which ran out on stage to A$AP Rocky's "Wild for the Night," and that set the tone for the performance.

Grouplove drove the crowd wild with hits like "Schoolboy," "Tongue Tied" and my personal favorite, "Ways to Go." Not sure how it kept the songs sounding so great considering the copious hair-whipping, but it did.

Alt-J was also a hit with the crowd – definitely more recognized than Bastille or Grouplove, but with less energy (read: no hair-whipping). I was impressed by its obviously strong fan base. The beautiful acoustic rhythms were quite a contrast to Grouplove’s upbeat melodies.

The show sold out early and tickets were scarce by opening night, some going for as much as $100 on StubHub and Craigslist. A larger venue may have been more accommodating, but fans appreciated the intimate setting of The Rave.

The acoustics of The Rave are not perfect, but Phoenix sounded just as clear as it does on its latest album and kept the crowd engaged throughout its set.

The band played songs from most of its five albums, including hits like "1901" and "Lisztomania" from 2009’s "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix" and "Entertainment" off this year’s "Bankrupt!"

I'd hoped for some great banter with a French …

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