A New Pop Music Wave In 2018 Please, Plus R. Finn and Frank Viele Premiere/Exclusives

01/12/2018 11:13 am ET Updated Jan 16, 2018

R FINN’S “DESPERATION USA” PREMIERE/EXCLUSIVE

R. Finn
photo credit: Peter Dawson
R. Finn

Recording artist R. Finn presents a timely song about hunger in America, produced by famed drummer Jim Keltner, featuring Adam Levy on guitar, Chris Rondinella and Madison Cunningham on additional vocals, Bo Koster on keys, and Will Gramling on organ.

According to R. Finn...

“I wrote ‘Desperation USA’ after a program I was watching on hunger in America. I was confused as to how a country as successful as ours could still have so many people going to bed hungry each night. Working people, not unemployed. Underemployed, under-payed. The working poor, which was becoming far too many.
“I adapted this character Jo and wrote the song from her perspective almost in a stream of consciousness. I don’t think the song took longer than an hour to finish. I imagined her having to pack it up and look for work elsewhere, starting a new life at an old age. Someone looking for their own ray of sunshine. Someone boxed in by the world around her. The story doesn’t really resolve. Why should it?
“For most people, the situation is still unresolved. My intention was that the hope would come through in the empathy of the performance. Empathy for this character and others like her. I didn’t want to wrap it up in a bow. I wanted it to feel real. I had my friend Madison Cunningham come and sing on it almost in a duet style. She sang beautifully. I’m glad its there, and why not give it a woman’s touch.”

A NEW POP MUSIC WAVE IN 2018 PLEASE

After what seems like endless Trumpish faux-fawning being given to everyone that sang or touched an instrument or laptop, and following relentless music industry adulations and award nominations for hundreds with Kardashian-level “talent,” many outraged music fans rightfully might be having a Howard Beale moment—mad as hell and unable to take another note. As a course correction and mimicking our current political landscape, is it possible 2018’s music scene might experience a “wave” of its own, perhaps in the form of a creative tsunami that washes out a year of obligatory “EEK!” samples, Ed Sheeran’s obsession with three topics (getting high, getting drunk, and getting some), and Taylor Swift’s cellphone suicide message? Not likely, although there are a few blips on the radar to watch this year.

Some of 2018’s new releases are supposed to include those by established acts like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Fall Out Boy, Brandi Carlile, Franz Ferdinand, Moby, MGMT, Arctic Monkeys, Echo & The Bunnymen, Jack White, Manic Street Preachers, The Prodigy, The Offspring, Joe Satriani and others who try to think “bigger picture.” Who knows what their projects will bring to the state of music beyond relief from the most homogenized Top 40 anyone can remember, but still, it will be something.

As for the younger class, there are some potential signs of life in an otherwise lazy pop field. There’s the cleverly-titled new album Voicenotes coming from Charlie Puth, a talented artist always worth rooting for whose latest singles have been getting more sophisticated. There are leagues more depth to him than, say, a Shawn Mendes, who also has shown some growth, though his producers, label or whoever need to stop molding him into a more masochistic Justin Bieber or Nick Jonas. Thankfully, Puth’s later hits abandon embarrassing hooks like “let’s Marvin Gaye and get it on” (not the classiest “tribute” to the late artist or the song) and he confidently flaunts his smarts in interviews.

Another pop pugilist is Justin Timberlake, whose “Can’t Stop The Feeling!” Trolls theme all but installed him as The King of Pop across multiple generations. If his new album Man Of The Woods offers new production approaches and technology as well as unique song topics and arrangements that expand beyond his last few releases, he truly deserves the title, though he probably will have to cage fight Bruno Mars for that honor. However, if he delivers a male version of a Selina Gomez album, he not only won’t be living up to his potential but also abdicating his role model status.

Which brings us to Justin Bieber. Yes, we must go there.

After my proclaiming on HuffPost-TV that his last album was pretty good—a sort of thematic “Sorry” concept album—I playfully was accused by the show’s online audience of being a Belieber, which, for that album at least, okay, right on. But in 2018, I beliebe—see what I did there—he can do even better. He also needs to get out of his own way with all the crazy crap, which has been improving, no? Somewhere in there is a “deep” project, especially considering his bizarre history, that would be interesting to hear. So perhaps next time, instead of picking up another tattoo, he might be compelled to pick up a pen.

As for the reliably good, yes, Beyoncé always is magnificent but can only release so many albums and radio singles a day; Bruno Mars actually is too good, he needs to stop that, no, just kidding; Imagine Dragon is a great placeholder for those missing the musical genre called “pop-rock,” and they even utilize what the ancients called an “electric guitar”; The Chainsmokers was fun for a minute, change it up a little please; adding some guest Eminem snarl for seasoning always is quite spicy; and there used to be this really fine artist named Lady Gaga, anyone know what she’s doing in her retirement? That’s a joke, she’s not retired, just a little MIA, like Train and Maroon 5 and...and...

Let’s face it. With few exceptions—perhaps guilty pleasure Camilla Cabello’s addicting, call to dance “Havana” being one—anyone who has listened to pop radio over the last couple of years (I have a teenage son, no choice) knows it desperately needs a 180, its own creative wave, that actually inspires through sonics and brain matter instead of indoctrinates with extreme marketing. Maybe it just needs a shot of Adele (sans another apology tour), definitely more .fun balanced by Sam Smith, and maybe less One Direction seedlings. Every generation has its heroes to define and test with its own criteria. Will 2018 demand more out of its pop gurus than 2017?

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FRANK VIELE’S “POMEGRANATE” PREMIERE/EXCLUSIVE

Frank Viele
photo credit: Shervin Lainez
Frank Viele

According to Frank Viele...

“‘Pomegranate’ is a song the developed for me over a period of a few years, one of those tunes that lived in my notebook that I kept going back to and fine tuning in hotel rooms on the road. Lyrically, I wanted it to be subtle, but paint the picture of the inner struggle between living for the moment and finding a purpose amongst a world that can seem to be against you. Sonically, I knew I wanted to walk the line between moody, dark, soulful, and slightly hypnotic. When I opened for Lee DeWyze at Daryl's House in Pawling, New York, and heard him accompanied by cellist Dave Eggar, I knew exactly what the song needed. Dave arranged and played the strings on the track and combining his beautiful arrangement with my nylon string guitar and what is almost a slowed down dance beat by the rhythm section gave the tune exactly the vibe I heard when I finished writing the lyrics.”
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