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Strong releases from Kesha, Trainor ignite airwaves, streaming platforms

’TiK ToK’ hitmaker returns with mature-but-still-playful new sound, lyrics



New albums out Jan. 31: ‘High Road’ from Kesha and ‘Treat Myself’ by Meghan Trainor. (Photos courtesy RCA and Epic respectively)

We’re off to what’s shaping up to be a deliciously big year for women in pop. Selena Gomez and Halsey released new albums in January and Meghan Trainor and Kesha (stylized as Ke$ha until the release of her 2017 “Rainbow”) have new albums out last week.

It’s hard to believe that “TiK ToK,” Kesha’s first single as a solo artist, reached the no. 1 spot on Billboard exactly one decade ago. Her 2010 debut album “Animal” was followed by the platinum EP “Cannibal” in the same year. Singles like “We R Who We R,” “Die Young,” “Timber” and “Blow” still dominate club play. If pop music continues to be remembered by decades, the 2010s may well be the decade of Kesha — certainly the first half. Bawdy, dancey, unapologetically electronic, masterfully produced — these are all defining features of Kesha’s artist output. Vocal virtuosity is sidelined in favor of her distinctive party girl persona.

Kesha’s 2017 comeback “Rainbow” was something of an anomaly. With singles like “Praying,” she was clearly trying to revise her previously successful formula and add some depth to her artist production. “High Road” is the brilliant culmination of her previous work, seamlessly incorporating a variety of genres, yet it remains fiercely distinct. It is both a return to the Kesha of “TiK ToK” and marked evolution from that Kesha — a perfect balance of playful and serious, innovative and mature.

Take, for instance, lead single “Raising Hell,” which features Big Freedia. It’s a bouncy anthem that manages a thumping pop bassline and churchy, gospel feel at the same time. There is even a fabulous breakdown with bluesy organ. It’s refreshing to see the effects of gospel beyond Kanye West. Like “Praying,” Kesha cleverly appropriates religious language for her un-religious party anthem: “I’m all fucked up in my Sunday best/no walk of shame ’cause I love this dress/hungover, heart of gold, holy mess/doin’ my best, bitch, I’m blessed.” Kesha has always been lyrically strong, if not vocally, but “High Road” takes it to a new level. In lieu of the empty monotony of overdone, feel-good tropes, Kesha has a sense of humor.

The song “Honey” is different sort of song. The influence of rock groups like the Red Hot Chili Peppers is evident from the first guitar stroke. The stripped down instrumentation gives one of several opportunities on this album to appreciate Kesha’s soulful vocals. The song “Cowboy Blues” is another outlier, an unexpected hipster-girl tune with ukulele — think Zooey Deschanel’s band She & Him. But, as usual, Kesha puts her own spin on quirky.

Perhaps, the biggest surprise of the new album is “Resentment,” which features Beach Boys co-founder Brian Wilson, country artist Sturgill Simpson and the singer Wrabel. It is a beautiful country song and it could reasonably find its way onto the country charts. It’s a crossover into country from the other direction, a sort of reverse Faith Hill. It perhaps speaks to the vitality of country music in the past several years thanks to artists like Margo Price.

But in addition to the surprises, Kesha still leaves us with a healthy dose of raucous party music. “Kinky” is a delightful up-tempo dance track that celebrates sexual freedom and polyamory: “Monogamy ain’t natural/at least not for me and you/we’re in our own dimension/we’re making up our own rules.” It’s like the 2020 update to Katy Perry’s now classic (and now utterly uncontroversial) “I Kissed A Girl.” And as always, Kesha gives us a taste of the carnivalesque with “Potato Song (Cuz I Want To).”

Treat Myself” is Meghan Trainor’s third studio album, and she’s come a long way since her emergence on the charts with the release of her no. 1 debut album “Title” in 2015. The singles “All About That Bass” and “Like I’m Going To Lose You,” which features John Legend, both from her debut, have over 500 million streams on Spotify. The new album has been in progress for some time, and is a slick, well-produced pop album.

The catchy lead single “No Excuses” was released in 2018 and has already had extensive radio play. But the album is fairly robust and offers several other excellent tracks. “Wave,” released as a single last fall, is a heavily electronic anthem that showcases Trainor’s well-harnessed vocal abilities. Of the singles, it’s hard not to be a partisan of “Nice to Meet Ya,” a collaboration with Nicki Minaj. It has similar feel to hip-hop dance tracks from the early 2000s and the way Minaj’s punctuates the last word in each line of her verse is in some ways reminiscent of songs like J-Kwon’s 2000 “Tipsy.”

“Genetics,” a collaboration with the Pussycat Dolls (who knew they were still around?), is an impeccable dance track. The bass line would make even the most resistant person in the friend group sway along. It makes me nostalgic for the Pussycat Dolls of “Don’t Cha” and “When I Grow Up.” And Trainor gives some needed vocal competence to the pulsing beat.

Perhaps the most delightful part of the new album is the song “Funk,” Trainor’s funky answer to Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ 2014 “Uptown Funk.” In fact, it feels like it might have started an improvised riff on it. But it strikes a groove all of its own, and the horns take on something of Michael Jackson feel, as the chorus cleverly hammers away: “I miss the way we used to funk.” It is an inspired new direction for Trainor’s music. But if there is one thing to reproach Trainor for, it’s that her lyrics peddle in endless strings of cliché. She could stand to learn a thing or two from Kesha on that front.


Music & Concerts

Gay country artist and brother win big at CMA Awards

Brothers Osborne grew up in Deale, Md.



John and T.J. Osborne at the 57th Annual Country Music Awards in Nashville on Nov. 8 2023. (Photo courtesy of the Brothers Osborne/CMA)

The biggest names in country music gathered Wednesday at Music City’s Bridgestone Arena for the 57th Annual Country Music Association Awards, hosted again this year by country star Luke Bryan alongside former NFL star Peyton Manning. 

Walking away with Vocal Duo of the Year were sibling musicians John and T.J. Osborne.

The Brothers Osborne as they are known by, in previous years have won in this category, this year making it their sixth win.

T.J. Osborne, lead singer of the country duo, came out as gay in an exclusive interview with Time Magazine, which was published Feb. 3, 2021.

While other ostensibly country artists are openly LGBTQ, such as Orville Peck, Brandi Carlile, Lil Nas X, Chely Wright and Billy Gilman, Osborne’s revelation makes him the first — and so far, only — openly gay musical artist signed to a major country label.

John and T.J. Osborne grew up in the small Chesapeake Bay bayside town of Deale in Anne Arundel County, Md., writing and playing songs for friends and family in their father’s shed. T.J. with his brother John formed the Brothers Osborne duo in 2012. Signed with EMI Records Nashville, they’ve released seven country Top 40 singles and three studio albums, to date. Their platinum hit “Stay a Little Longer” was a crossover to mainstream radio.

The siblings took home their first Grammy in 2022, winning Best Country Duo/Group Performance for their song “Younger Me,” inspired by T.J.’s coming out. The band has been nominated for 10 Grammys in total, standing as a now six-time CMA Vocal Duo of the Year, and are three-time ACM Duo of the Year. 

Overall, they have collected six CMA awards, six ACM trophies and received the ASCAP Vanguard Award in 2019. Their critically acclaimed hit songs have tallied multiple RIAA Gold and Platinum certifications, while surpassing more than 2.5 billion global streams. 

In addition to the Brothers Osborne winning Vocal Duo of the Year, country singer-songwriter Lainey Wilson took home three of the top awards of the night, including the coveted entertainer of the year award, as well as female vocalist of the year and album of the year. 

This is also the first time in CMA history that two women have been nominated for Entertainer of the Year in four consecutive years.

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Music & Concerts

Janet Jackson to headline World AIDS Day concert

Annual fundraiser sponsored by AIDS Healthcare Foundation



Janet Jackson will headline a World AIDS Day concert in Houston.

Pop icon Janet Jackson will headline the annual World AIDS Day concert sponsored by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation in Houston.

The Dec. 1 event at NRG Arena will feature a full-length concert from Jackson. In addition, AHF will honor actor and activist Blair Underwood with its lifetime achievement award; choreographer Debbie Allen is slated to speak at the event.

Jackson is a longtime LGBTQ ally and AIDS activist. Her eighth No. 1 single, “Together Again,” released in 1997, paid tribute to a friend who died of AIDS and honored those lost to the disease.

Underwood co-founded Artists for a New South Africa to direct attention to “the catastrophic impact the disease has had on families and children across the continent,” according to Billboard. The actor has worked with AHF for years. The Underwood Center in D.C. provides state-of-the-art HIV medical treatment and care and related services for more than 600 patients at its offices at 2141 K St., N.W. 

“I’m so honored to be receiving this gracious award by AHF,” said Underwood in a statement. “We have had a long-standing partnership in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and there is still more work to be done.”

AHF is the world’s largest nonprofit HIV/AIDS service organization and AIDS advocacy group, with healthcare centers located throughout the U.S. and around the world.

Proceeds from the concert will be used to combat HIV/AIDS. Tickets are on sale now via TicketMaster.

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Music & Concerts

New dance single pays tribute to Town Danceboutique

Local musicians pen ‘Town’ in honor of shuttered club



Bryce Bowyn (Photo by Clarissa Villondo)

The closing of the LGBTQ nightclub Town Danceboutique in the summer of 2017 was heartbreaking to local musician Bryce Bowyn. He and his Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter friend Lexie Martin decided to honor its legacy in their new single, “Town.”

For Bowyn, who moved to the District about a decade ago to attend school at American University, the memories he has from Town Danceboutique are endless. And when it closed, it was a massive loss to Bowyn and many others. 

“It was such a cool space,” Bowyn said. “It was just disappointing to see a place that brought so many people together become part of the landscape again.” The building Town Danceboutique used to be housed in is now home to upscale apartments and a CVS. 

Town Danceboutique was a formative place for Bowyn and Martin, and it was Bowyn’s first experience in an open and accepting LGBTQ environment. His favorite memories at the club were always on Halloween, he said. Patrons, including Bowyn, would go all out with their costumes to look their very best. 

Bowyn and Martin met while they were both in the musical theater program at American University. Despite their years-long friendship, “Town” is the first song they have written together. They sat down over FaceTime and got to work. It was Martin’s idea to pay homage to Town Danceboutique, and the song follows the story of pre-gaming, going out, and hitting the dance floor. 

But the single also serves as a hype song for going out in any city, at any place. 

“It was important to me for the song to remain relatable and accessible,” Bowyn said. “So the whole foundation of the chorus, ‘Let’s go to town,’ can either mean Town Danceboutique, or painting the town red and having the night of your life.”

Bowyn started writing and producing his own music in 2018. He released an EP titled “A Rosy Retrospect” in 2022, and most recently released a single “A Bridge Burned Down” in June. His music is inspired by late 2000s pop and ‘80s synthpop, influenced by stars like Madonna and Charli XCX. Lexie Martin released her self-titled EP in 2019 and most recently came out with her single “SUPERPOWER” in 2021. 

Bowyn has been a lifelong pop music enthusiast. He distinctly remembers watching Britney Spears perform “Oops!…I Did It Again” at the MTV Video Music Awards when he was a kid and thinking “That was what I wanted and what I was set to do in life.”

“My heart was always with pop music,” Bowyn said. 

“Town” is available now for streaming on Spotify, Apple Music, and Soundcloud.

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