MY TOP 30: Year 3 Posts of ALL-TIME! 16. Stefani Vara 20Q Part 1

MY TOP 30: Year 3 Posts of ALL-TIME! 

Old School. 2009 Debut Release, Storybook Diaries.

16. Stefani Vara 20Q Part 1
The Year 3 Number 16 spot goes to Stefani Vara.  I just recently posted a new follow-up 5Q with her with a remix of her new single, “In the Middle of the Night.”  This particular interview is actually a re-post of an article I wrote for Popular Hispanics.  In its original inception it was always a 20 question interview.  Whereas it originally appeared as one interview at PH, I split it up into two parts here.  Part 1 is what makes the countdown.  I did include a stream of the original version of her latest song when I reposted here, which did not appear in the original PH article.

I think Stefani Vara is gonna’ do some big things.  I’m not just saying that because she’s a sexy Latina.  Not to say she hasn’t already done some things, but I foresee bigger, brighter, and better in her future.  Hopefully, I didn’t just jinx her.  All kidding aside, I think there is a lane there for her; it already exists, but I think she’d be combining a few lanes into one with her Latin/pop/dance music.   It could be said that J. Lo did it before and Kat DeLuna is doing it now.  While J.Lo was more R&B/Urban and Kat brings in a more world music sound, I think Stefani will have a specific H-Town and overall Texas flavor with more live instrumentation.  I could be wrong, but those are my thoughts on the matter.  ‘Nuff said on that.

Now, I’m gonna’ let you in on a little secret, when I do interviews for other sites, I’m just adapting my Questions for feature format to their specifications.  It might have a different title and look a little different than what I post here, but it starts as so many questions for so-and-so artist.

Read the original Popular Hispanics interview here.  See the Part 1  Monday, April 4, 2011 re-post here — 20Q for Stefani Vara Part 1 — H-Town.  Here’s Part 2.  It includes the first single of her yet to be titled forthcoming sophomore release, “In the Middle of the Night.”

See all 17 Year 3 Questions for interviews here.

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Music Video: Rihanna “Cheers (Drink To That)”

Music Video: Nicki Minaj featuring Rihanna “Fly”

Not So Random Videos: Homohop

Editor’s Note:  Zonisphere Media Group, home of the e-zine, Zubterrain, where my weekly music column, Urb’l (Urban Cool) Remedy lives, is undergoing a site overhaul that will take some weeks to complete. So, my column is currently halted.  I plan to finish out my June posts here at THE REAL popolio.

My articles normally went live on Tuesdays.  This edition of Not So Random Videos (NSRV) is what would have posted yesterday, June 21, 2011.  Look  for next week’s edition of R&R (Rant and Rave) as regularly scheduled on Tuesday, June 28, 2011.
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Cause of the Month:  It Gets Better Project

With it being Pride Month  across the country, June’s Cause of the Month interview highlighting the It Gets Better Project, and my declaration that it is also Pride Month at Urb’l (Urban Cool) Remedy, I wanted to feature something that packed a punch for this edition of Not So Random Videos (NSRV).

So, this time around I’m featuring homohop (or LGBTQ or queer hip hop) at NSRV.   I wouldn’t call myself a hip hop-head, but certainly I am of the hip hop generation and have been influenced and touched by it.  Who hasn’t it at this point?  It permeates the culture.  I will say that I do take issue with the sexism, homophobia, and materialism that often runs rampant through the musical form.  For those reasons, it’s interesting to me that LGBTQ people would want to emulate it.  For those very same reasons, I think it’s important.  Something about it, I think, helps deconstruct it or bridge the gap or something like that.

But, to be fair, there is a whole spectrum of points-of-view, topics, sub-genres, styles, sounds, etc. in hip hop and it’s not a black and white subject.   Homohop is no different.  Neither are people.   We all come in different shapes, sizes, and colors and we can each be ambivalent or ambiguous or contradictory as human beings at times.  We’re all the same, but different.  I think that’s the point, really.  It’s a concept that’s kind of simple and complicated at the same time.

These artists were all featured in the 2006 documentary film about homohop, Pick Up The Mic.  I first heard about it a few years back and I have always wanted to check it out, but have yet to do so.  I tried to pick songs from these artists that ran the gamut of the spectrum I mention above.   Collectively they show, but are not limited to, humor, religious faith, spirituality, hope, love, desire, covetousness, sexuality, intelligence, silliness, and lewdness.  I hope no one will be offended by the fact that I included a religious video with a highly sexual one.  But, like I said, I wanted to show the range of these artists and this genre.

I’d like to close with a wise statement, but I can’t think of anything that won’t come off corny.  The famous quote, “To thine own self be true,” by William Shakespeare is all that comes to mind.  Hope you enjoy the videos!

peace, love & all that jazz

freddie beat

Soce, The Elemental Wizard “Not Ready”

Miss Money “The Worship Song” freestyle to Rihanna’s “Rude Boy” from the Dreamweaver Mixtape

Tim’m West “fly-brotha” from independent film, heart breaks open

God-Des and She “Love You Better”

Cazwell “Ice Cream Truck” NSFW!  Mature Audiences Only!

EXCLUSIVE: 15Q for BoyMeetsGirl Music Part 3

Boy Meets Girl is George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam.  Now they are BoyMeetsGirl Music (BMGM) because, according to their website, the original name now brings up so-called dating sites and two other bands on internet searches.  They will always be Boy Meets Girl to me.  They started as an ‘80s singer-songwriter pop duo.  They are most known for writing two of Whitney Houston’s greatest hits, “How Will I Know” and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me),” singing back-up on Deniece Williams biggest, “Let’s Hear It For The Boy,” and their own, “Waiting For A Star To Fall.”  Just two weeks ago “WFASTF” was included in a list on the MTV Buzzworthy Blog regarding standout sax solos in reference to Lady Gaga’s “The Edge of Glory.”

They were lovers, spouses, and divorcees.  Through all of it they were and still remain friends and will forever be creative collaborators.  Every emotion of every era came out in their music.  Simply put, they are darn good pop writers.  I fell in love with their ode to love, their breakthrough sophomore release, Reel Life.  I saw “WFASTF” on Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 on TV in middle school, asked my parents to get me the full release, and wore that tape out.  I still have it and have listened to it from time-to-time as the years have passed and I’m listening to it now as I write this. 

There was just something about how sweet their pop sound was and how that combined with the intertwining of the feminine and the masculine voice, their melodies and harmony, and the purity of their love that came through their music.  ‘Nuff said. 

BMGM were gracious enough to provide me a song (plus one) to stream with each part of this interview.  So, today you get two songs and one of them is very special.

First, listen to “Don’t Remind Me” also from their last release, 2003’s The Wonderground, like yesterday’s selection.  George shared via email that it’s “the second to last song” that “gets overlooked” and that it is “one of [his] faves.”  He also thinks that “Shannon sings a great vocal on this one.”

Now, the one I’ve been most excited about sharing with you.  Here’s the demo version of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves) Me” as sung by Shannon.  If you didn’t know, now you know that BMGM wrote it for Whitney Houston and it became one of her biggest, and now classic, hits.  Enjoy!

Click the first pic to go to their official site and second, at the end of Part 3 of the interview, to get to their Twitter Account.

Part 1
Part 2

***

1980

11. What artist was the greatest to work with?   What artist would you like to work with? Individually and as BoyMeetsGirl Music?

Shannon:  We haven’t personally worked with many artists.  Our songs for other artists have been produced by other people.  One of my favorite experiences was co-writing a song with Henry Mancini, writer of “Moon River” and a number of other classic songs from a ways back.  His guest bathroom walls were plastered, literally, with the sheet music from his umpteen hit songs.  And, he was a very kind and humble person, to boot.  As far as who I’d like to work with, all I can say is it’s a shame that John Lennon is dead. For many reasons!

George:  Yipes, a massive question!  Well, there are so many interesting bands and writers – Maroon 5, Gwen Stefani, Katy Perry, Rihanna, the Script, just to name a few.  Never met any of ‘em except for Maroon 5, but I’m a big fan of their great music and I’m certain that working with them would be creatively exciting.  Good songwriting is one aspect I appreciate plus I’m learning new ways to record and create sounds to make the best use of the myriad new studio tools available.

12. After working so closely together, being married, and divorcing, how can you still be friends and ocassionally write together?  How do you make it work?

Shannon:  George and I have always been friends and are committed to maintaining our high regard for one another.  It’s just a choice we made.  I love writing songs with George – his music inspires me and we still have fun writing and recording.  Magic still happens.

George:  As it was for us from the beginning, we wrote.  Wrote our way through best times and worst; and so, we still do.  It’s an important part of life, is how I see it.

13. Okay, I’m going to ask the un-PC question, I would say Whitney Houston probably has one of the most soulful voices out there.  And Deniece Williams is pretty soulful, too.  How did two white folks get so much soul?

Shannon:  Here’s my un-PC answer.  Once, at one of the very first music business functions George and I ever attended I was in the ladies room and was somehow introduced to the wife of one of the A&M Records honchos.  She’d apparently heard some of our music and exclaimed in shock, “Oh my God, I thought you were black!”  It actually surprised me, but made me laugh, too.  I grew up listening to the Four Tops, the Spinners, Aretha Franklin, and attended the Alma Mater of Jimi Hendrix.  Not that I sound anything like any of them, but maybe just a little soul soaked in. Plus…nobody has a lock on soul, we all have soul! 

When I was in high school my family went to an Episcopalian church on occasion and when the organ played or the choir sang I couldn’t help moving my whole body in time to the music.  Invariably, my stepmother would reach over and tap my legs and tell me to stand still.  An impossible request.

George:  Ahem, Deniece is incredibly soulful!  When Russell Thompkins of the Stylistics sang “You Are Everything,” I figured out what to do with my scrawny little voice – sing high like he did.  Between that and playing piano at church growing up…it’s a funny blend of influenzas…

14.  What’s next?  Individually and as BoyMeetsGirl Music?

George:  Shannon is writing something outside the realm of pop songs; watch for Ian Hopkinson, Larry Kenneth Potts, Shades of Day, and Heather Ballentine – all new artists with cool new records on which I did various things.

15. What do you want the Boy Meets Girl legacy to be?  What do you think it actually is?

Shannon:  I think we’re known for melodic pop music with great harmonies.   Some might add that our music is a bit saccharine, but I don’t worry about that.  I would love for the Boy Meets Girl legacy to be that our music resonated with those unspoken desires of the heart.  I’m a mushy cornball.

George:  I would add that the intro to “Waiting For A Star To Fall” with John Goux’s bubbly guitar, my synth riff, and Andy Snitzer’s soaring sax line…might be a classic pop moment.  Oh, and the key change (Arif Mardin’s idea) and the vocal break with Susan Boyd singing BVs [background vocals] with us…THAT moment!  We’ll see – too early to tell.

***BONUS***Any advice for up-and-coming songwriters, singers, artists and performers?

Shannon:  Be wildly individualistic and exercise the courage of your convictions.  Pay attention to the business of music.  Have fun!

George:  Work harder than you ever thought possible at something you can’t possibly get enough of.

Thanks for inviting us, Freddie!

2004

THE END.


20Q for Stefani Vara Part 2 – H-Town

Editor’s Note:  This is a repost of my third interview as a contributing music & entertainment writer at Popular Hispanics, originally titled Stefani Vara:  Don’t Call It a Come-Up…I’ve Been Here for Years and originally posted here.  I’ll be posting it in 2 parts here at THE REAL popolio.

Stefani Vara is that Mexican-American around-the-way girl from H-Town, who also happens to be that pop star that’s been grinding for a decade.  That’s okay, because she’s been told it takes that long to become an “overnight success.” 

If she has anything to say about it, and I believe her, she will be hitting your radar faster than you can say, “Oye como va.”  She’s that Latin thang you should know about, but maybe haven’t heard about…quite just yet. 

The sexiness is a moot point; it’s her music that she wants you to care about.  With pop, dance, R&B, and, of course, Latin influences, she hopes to make music that, not only, makes you wanna’ dance, but that you’ll remember for years to come.

In [what was] this EXCLUSIVE no holds barred Popular Hispanics interview, Stefani Vara answered whatever we threw at her with grace, tact, and dignity.  

Listen to Stefani Vara’s new single, “Middle of the Night,” coming to iTunes and Napster for your downloading pleasure very soon.

Click the first pic to go to her Twitter account and second, at the end of the interview, to get to her Facebook Page.

Part 1

***

11. When I think of Houston, I think of Destiny’s Child and that chopped and screwed music.  Will any of that be making its way into your music?  I would love and it would be an honor for one of my songs to be chopped and screwed.  You are pretty official in Houston when that happens!!

12. Some artists, who shall go nameless, seem more interested in being a “star” than being an “artist” and perfecting their craft. Obviously, you need to get out there so people know who you are, hear your music, and buy it, but you also should be creating and performing if you are truly an “artist.”  How do you toe the line between the artistry and the star-tistry? You can get lost in those high profile events and realize at the end of the day you still have nothing.  It is important to continue to have a face and be in the scene, but also know what you want to get out of it.  It’s important to have balance and continue to remind yourself why you are there!  Product makes a career not a red carpet.

13. If you had to describe the sound your going for on your new stuff in a sound bite, how would describe it?  And the sound of Storybook Diaries?

My sound now:  Live, Fun, and Moving
My past album, Storybook Diaries:  Soft, Sultry, and Deep

14. As Hispanics, we’re often seen as sexy and sensual people.  I’ve seen some of your photos and your sexiness was obviously being played up (see Part 1, Pic 2).  Is there a line where you fear the public may not take you seriously as an artist?  Or is it about authenticity in your artistry, sexiness, and just how you overall present yourself? It’s definitely about authenticity.  I am very comfortable and confident in me; therefore I don’t worry so much about what people think!  I enjoy artistry and being creative – Staying true to yourself and what makes you happy is what really matters.

15. Talk about the new single “Middle of the Night.”  What were you trying to do with it lyrically and sonically? With “Middle of the Night” I wanted to keep the sexiness and have a track where people would want to get up and dance and remember the lyrics.  I have had so many people say, “It sticks in my mind.”…That’s exactly what I wanted

16. Tell us about what we can expect from your next release. The next release is a work-in-progress.  It’s very raw, live, and I think you’re going to like [it]!  I am working with a producer here in Houston and I am excited to be recording again and working on a new project!

17. Your story of the artist whose first label home does not work out is not necessarily unique.  Any advice for up-and-coming artists who may find themselves on a similar path? I stay positive in all my situations; because for me to grow and become stronger God wants me to learn from my mistakes.  I feel my label deal was unique – every label deal with every artist is different!  It didn’t necessarily not work, it just wasn’t the outcome we had hoped for, but I wouldn’t have changed a thing.  To me, something not working would have been that I never had this opportunity to record an album.

My advice for all other emerging artists is to stay positive and keep moving. Think of each situation as a learning experience to be better or go another route!  If it is meant to be, believe me, it will be!!

18. Do you want to distinguish yourself from other artists?  Or is just about doing what you do well even if it’s been done before?  I just feel like me being me distinguishes myself from everyone else.  It’s about style and personality!  I would never want to be put in a category as oh, everyone does that.

19. Who are you diggin’ musically right now?  Along the same lines, of who is out now, if anybody, who is Stefani Vara’s competition? I am really diggin’ Bruno Mars, Aventura, Juanes, and Lady Gaga.  I don’t worry about competition because I am doing what I want and how I want; so, to me, I stay focused on creating and continuing on my own path.

20. Any last words for the purposes of this [Popular Hispanics] interview?  Thank you so much for this interview and [the] support!  I continue to work hard in the hopes of being a role model to young Hispanics who are pursuing their own careers. I look forward to sharing my music with you and shouting you out when I’m on a red carpet!!!  Gracias!!

THE END.

20Q for Stefani Vara Part 1 – H-Town

Editor’s Note: This is a repost of my third interview as a contributing music & entertainment writer at Popular Hispanics, originally titled Stefani Vara:  Don’t Call It a Come-Up…I’ve Been Here for Years and originally posted here.  I’ll be posting it in 2 parts here at THE REAL popolio.

Stefani Vara is that Mexican-American around-the-way girl from H-Town, who also happens to be that pop star that’s been grinding for a decade.  That’s okay, because she’s been told it takes that long to become an “overnight success.”

If she has anything to say about it, and I believe her, she will be hitting your radar faster than you can say, “Oye como va.”  She’s that Latin thang you should know about, but maybe haven’t heard about…quite just yet.

The sexiness is a moot point; it’s her music that she wants you to care about.  With pop, dance, R&B, and, of course, Latin influences, she hopes to make music that, not only, makes you wanna’ dance, but that you’ll remember for years to come.

In [what was] this EXCLUSIVE no holds barred Popular Hispanics interview, Stefani Vara answered whatever we threw at her with grace, tact, and dignity.

Listen to Stefani Vara’s new single, “Middle of the Night,” coming to iTunes and Napster, for your downloading pleasure, very soon.  So, check for it!

Click the first pic to go to her official site and second, at the end of the interview, to get to her Facebook Page.

Part 2

***

1. Who is Stefani Vara? Stefani Vara is a determined woman who continues to create a path to her own destiny!

2. lt seemed like you were on your way in NYC having signed to indie label, Siri Music, with your debut release, Storybook Diaries, and all the fashion campaigns, red carpets, high profile events, and crazy media coverage.  What happened? Nothing happened.  I am here and still running!  You can still see me performing, supporting various events/charities, and walking the red carpets.  It was great experience working with a label, but we had creative differences and it was time for a new path.

3. During that time, you were in a lot of magazine features, but had not quite achieved cover girl status.  Is it about paying dues?  Do you want to be a cover girl one day? I’ve been told by many veterans in the entertainment industry that it takes ten years to really make it in the industry and have a name…I am currently in my 10th year!  The experience is different for everyone.  For some, fame and fortune comes quickly with no hard work, but that is not my destiny.  I feel the challenge of learning and understanding the business has taught me and shown me that there can be longevity in a career rather than easy come, easy go!  So, WHEN I finally become that cover girl, it’s going to mean much more to me than someone who didn’t pay their dues.

4. You were at one of Chris Brown’s release parties.  Was that before or after the Rihanna incident?  Any thoughts on that? The Chris Brown event I attended was before the incident.  The incidence of domestic abuse is always wrong and, unfortunately, this tarnished his career as a young pop star for awhile.  I am not here to judge anyone; people make mistakes.  Some small, some huge.  I know that he learned from his past mistakes and hopes to be a better person.

5. How did the 2008 Southpole Footwear and Azzure Denim campaigns come together? Are you still signed to them? Do you want to do more modeling and fashion campaigns? The Southpole and Azzure ads came through my [former] record label.  I am no longer signed to them, but I support them and thank them for all the support they gave me.  It was such a great experience to be the face of a brand and in the campaigns!  I am still modeling and auditioning for fashion campaigns, television, and films.  I recently had the opportunity to walk in my first NYC fashion week show last year which was exciting and fun!

6. If you could get everything out of your system regarding your debut release, Storybook Diaries, what would you say about that experience? I would say my experience was bittersweet.  If you know the music industry you know that just because you are with a label doesn’t mean you’ve necessarily “made it” and can just reap the rewards.  On one hand, I recorded an album and that is exactly what I went to NYC to do.  On the other hand, with the ever-changing industry, I never received a hard copy…I feel it could have gone a lot further if it wasn’t lost in the shuffle of the constant changes of the industry.  It has been a learning process and I know I had to go through it in order to know what I really want now and where I would like to go!

7. In a 2010 interview for another online publication you’re quoted as saying that your debut “…only slightly touches on who [you are] as an artist” and that, “There is tons more passion, culture, strength, and flavor that [you] want to give and show.”  Give me one example of each (passion, culture, strength, and flavor) and how you would bring that musically, lyrically, or otherwise.

  • Passion:  My love for music and entertaining.
  • Culture:  I want to bring in more of my Mexican roots and [a] live band sound.
  • Strength:  My continuance to keep going in this business.
  • Flavor:  My sexy style and fun personality.

All of these things are what I want you to get out of my music when you hear it.  I want you to be able to get a vision of who I really am.

8. That same article references your major influences to be Selena, Gloria Estefan, Shakira, and Alicia Keys. In the same way, give me one thing from each that you hope to emulate in your own music-making.

  • Selena:   She is my idol.  I think about her lyrics in Spanish and English and how the Hispanic community loved her.  I want to make music that people will love.
  • Gloria Estefan:  I want to bring in her vision of Miami Sound Machine.  A fun band that would bring in a live sound that can be heard anywhere.
  • Shakira:  Her sexiness and hip-moving beats that make you want to get up and move.
  • Alicia Keys:  Her strong lyrics and deep melodies.

9. Are there any other artists you are influenced by? Or genres? I am influenced by all types of music.  Growing up listening to country, R&B, and Tejano music has left me open-minded to artists from Portishead to Marvin Gaye.

10. Being a Houston girl, is it important for you to rep Houston and Texas?  How do you do that as an artist? It’s super important for Texas and me to rep Houston.  Most of my fans and supporters are from Texas.  My family and roots are from Texas and that has made me who I am.  Texas shows tons of love!!

To be continued TOMORROW…

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