TV and Showbiz / 17-01-2020

ADRIAN THRILLS: These are halcyon days for Halsey and America's songbirds 

Halsey: Manic (Virgin EMI)

Rating:

ADRIAN THRILLS: These are halcyon days for Halsey and America's songbirds 

Verdict: American star comes of age 

Ariana Grande: K Bye For Now (Republic)

Rating:

Verdict: Assured tour memento

The five nominees for best international female at the BRITs, announced last weekend, reiterated that we’re currently in a golden age for women singers from across the pond.

The shortlist, which honoured Ariana Grande, Billie Eilish, Camila Cabello, Lana Del Rey and Lizzo, was so strong that Madonna and a resurgent Taylor Swift both missed out.

There’s more talent coming through the transatlantic pipeline, too.

Born Ashley Frangipane — Halsey is an anagram of her first name — she credits Lady Gaga and Swift for showing her the importance of trusting your artistic instincts and writing your own material

The latest American woman on the cusp of global fame is Halsey, a New Jersey singer-songwriter whose third album, Manic, sets her autobiographical lyrics to an all-embracing blend of pop, rock and country.

Manic is imbued with more reflective, acoustic ballads than its title suggests.

It’s also a record that Halsey, 25, has been working towards ever since she began posting songs recorded in her bedroom online eight years ago, gaining her a cult following that led to a record deal in 2014.

The title of Ariana Grande’s first live album suggests that she is about to take a break following a hectic 17 months that have yielded two studio albums and a world tour

I caught her first British live show at a packed Islington Academy in London in 2015 and, even then, the sense of an artist with the potential to appeal to young, female pop fans and older rock enthusiasts was palpable. 

When she returns to the UK in March, she’ll be headlining arenas.

Born Ashley Frangipane — Halsey is an anagram of her first name — she credits Lady Gaga and Swift for showing her the importance of trusting your artistic instincts and writing your own material.

Her darker songs hint at Lorde’s gloomy pop and Del Rey’s melodrama, but she’s a distinctive singer in her own right.

Halsey was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when she was 17 and has talked openly about depression. She confronts many of her demons directly on Manic.

‘I spill my guts,’ she sings on Ashley. 

‘I’d like to tell you that my sky’s not blue, it’s violent rain,’ she admits on compelling piano ballad Clementine.

Amid the unease — ‘I’m constantly having a breakthrough or a breakdown’ — she delivers exceptional pop moments. 

You Should Be Sad is a Nashville heartache song, all slide guitar and nods to her idols Shania Twain and Carrie Underwood.

Without Me is an American chart-topping single which sets her romantic woes to subtle electronic beats. The outstanding Finally//Beautiful Stranger is an uncomplicated love song.

There are three revealing ‘interludes’, each with its own guest. The first, Dominic’s Interlude, is a duet with Florida singer Dominic Fike.

The others feature South Korean rapper Suga, of K-pop band BTS, and Alanis Morissette, in full-on Jagged Little Pill mode. They are indicative of Halsey’s creative aspirations: she wants to cover all bases.

There are a couple of slip-ups. Manic could lose the punky 3am and the quirky but slight More, though it’s a bold step from an unflinchingly honest artist.

‘I should be living the dream, but I go home and I got no self-esteem,’ she sings on hazy dance track Still Learning.

As a performer, however, she’s coming of age.

The title of Ariana Grande’s first live album suggests that she is about to take a break following a hectic 17 months that have yielded two studio albums and a world tour.

If that’s the case, then K Bye For Now (Swt Live), culled from last year’s Sweetener tour, is a stylish stop-gap for Arianators.

Taken from shows in London, Copenhagen, Nashville and New York, it captures one of pop’s finest voices in its prime.

Compared with most arena tours, Sweetener was visually modest. With the focus on songs rather than showy spectacle, relatively little is lost in translation here. 

With five studio albums to her name, Ariana now has a substantial back catalogue, enabling her to draw on songs from as far back as 2013’s Yours Truly, right up to 2019’s Thank U, Next.

Among the highlights here are Dangerous Woman and No Tears Left To Cry.

Emphasising her move away from bubblegum pop, there are references to Memphis soul song After Laughter (Comes Tears) on Fake Smile and a throwback to her Broadway roots on a jazzy cover of Cole Porter’s My Heart Belongs To Daddy, once sung onscreen by Marilyn Monroe.

Both albums are out now. Halsey starts a tour at the SSE Hydro, Glasgow, on March 7 (livenation.co.uk).

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Bravo for a brilliant and bombastic Boheme 

La Boheme (Royal Opera House)

Rating:

Verdict: Women steal the show

The old tearjerker still has the power to work our emotions, especially with a Mimi who sings as beautifully and acts as convincingly as Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva.

She can phrase Puccini’s melodies with melting simplicity or heartfelt intensity, and her death scene triumphs over the producer’s silly idea of propping her against a stove.

The other woman in the plot is the flighty Musetta of Russian soprano Aida Garifullina, who manages to sing superbly while acting in the most impossible, tempestuous way. 

[i]The old tearjerker still has the power to work our emotions, especially with a Mimi who sings as beautifully and acts as convincingly as Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva (pictured)

The nearest to an Italian is American tenor Charles Castronovo, half Sicilian and half Ecuadorian. 

He was hauled out of the audience in 2018 to sing from the wings opposite his wife Ekaterina Siurina, when the Rodolfo lost his voice. 

Husband and wife reunite on January 31 when Siurina takes over as Mimi. 

Though now in his 40s, Castronovo is an ardent Rodolfo who partners Yoncheva well but also fits in with the other Bohemians, sung by Andrzej Filonczyk, Peter Kellner and Gyula Nagy.

She can phrase Puccini’s melodies with melting simplicity or heartfelt intensity, and her death scene triumphs over the producer’s silly idea of propping her against a stove

Their scenes are loud but Nagy, as the musician Schaunard, is so genial that we are won over. 

Most successful in this 2017 production is Act 3, where Filonczyk’s Marcello sings sympathetically as first Mimi and then Rodolfo tell him they cannot live with each other.

Emmanuel Villaume conducts with a sure touch, the orchestra shows no hint of routine and the underemployed choristers, whether adults or the youngsters of the Tiffin Boys’ Choir and Tiffin Children’s Chorus, sing out with a will.

Tully Potter



17-01-2020 09:00, source: dailymail, by James Foster
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