Mariah Carey Teams Up With Ty Dolla $ign On Breezy ‘Caution’ Cut, ‘The Distance’!

Mariah Carey has already blessed us with “GTFO” and “With You” over the past month, but despite new singles, we’ve been hard-pressed for info about the Elusive Chanteuse’s forthcoming 15th studio album. This week, Mariah‘s finally spilled the deets: The album is called Caution, the highly-glam face artwork above is the official cover art, it’s tight 10-track collection, and it comes out on next month on November 16.

This news is also accompanied by a third new promotional single called “The Distance” featuring the inescapable Ty Dolla $ign – a romantic slice of mid-tempo R&B loaded with a slick and infectious hook that was co-crafted with hit-making collaborators Poo Bear and Skrillex, who are responsible for a majority of Justin Bieber‘s Purpose album.

There’s lots to love about the production, but it’s really all about the timelessness that Mariah always so elegantly exudes: She’s actually giving us signature Mimi here, fluttering up and down (“Look at us we’re going the distance!“). And of course, in true Mimi fashion, there are those heaven-sent runs echoing in the background during the final seconds.

The combination of that buoyant baseline and honey-sweet croonage is a total breath of fresh, breezy air, and also perfectly suited for the fall season: I’m already Daydream-ing about laying out in the leaves and letting this one blast from the speakers on repeat.

Mariah Carey’s latest “The Distance (feat. Ty Dolla $ign)” is also available on Spotify and iTunes!

from Jon ALi’s Blog


Zara Larsson Returns Grown-Up On New Single, ‘Ruin My Life’!

My Swedish sweetie Zara Larsson has returned.

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been over a year since Zara made her international debut and stole our hearts away with her appropriately titled album, So Good, which brought us gems like “Lush Life,” “Ain’t My Fault,” “I Would Like,” and the MNEK-assisted “Never Forget You.”

Now, Miss Larsson is kicking off the next phase in her career with the release of brand new single: “Ruin My Life,” the first song off of her anticipated international follow-up LP due out early next year.

Striding into the speakers on a gentle guitar strums and spacey atmospherics, Zara drops the swag shtick and supplies us instead with a full-bodied, super grown up midtempo power ballad of mega-proportions: That chorus is just, like, earworm to the max: “I want you to ruin my life, you to ruin my life, you to ruin my life, yeah/ I want you to fuck up my nights, yeah/ Fuck up my nights, yeah, all of my nights, yeah/ I want you to bring it all on/ If you make it all wrong, then I’ll make it all right, yeah,” the pop princess chants.

It’s a refreshing new start for Zara, she truly sounds comfortable and confident here. And coupled with those magnificent synths chiming in the distance and the crashing drums, it’s all so instant and pleasant to the ears. You’ll be putting this one on re-pea-pea-peat, that’s for sure.

Zara Larsson’s new single “Ruin My Life” is also available on Spotify and iTunes now!

from Jon ALi’s Blog

Major Lazer Light It Up With Tove Lo On ‘Blow that Smoke’!

All good things must come to an end — it looks like Major Lazer are creeping towards their final stretch.

Over the past few months, the trio – Diplo, Jillionaire and Walshy Fire – have been steadily revealing cuts from their soon-to-be farewell project single by single, all of which have been showcasing innovative and trendsetting Afrobeats.

Diplo recently confirmed that the group’s next album will be their last: “I think so, because I got [these] other side projects, like LSD with Sia and Silk City,” he said, referring to his project with Mark Ronson. The LP, he added, will feature “a bunch of stuff you haven’t heard like that we made the last ten years. Next year marks our last album, so we got a lot of stuff in between now and then.”

Following the release of the Kranium and Kizz Daniel-assisted “Loyal” earlier this month, Major Lazer link up with Tove Lo on “Blow That Smoke.” The track sees the Swedish singer-songwriter gliding across caressing acoustics and infectious, dancehall-tinged beats.

Blow that smoke and let me love that fire/ I don’t need no memories,” Tove sings on the hook. “Bed is broken now I’m floating higher/ This madness so good for me.”

Blow That Smoke” abounds in soft pads and relaxed percussion, showcasing a more reserved side of the boys and Tove. A winning combo if I ever heard one.

“This song has been long in the making,” Tove said in a statement. “It started with me and Diplo just sending ideas back and forth until I sent this vocal I was unsure what to do with, and they made magic with it! To me the song is about the sweet escape from your troubles or just mundane life by being a bit reckless and romantic.”

Major Lazer’s latest “Blow that Smoke (feat. Tove Lo)” is also available on Spotify and Apple Music!

from Jon ALi’s Blog

Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper Premiere Their Epic Duet ‘Shallow’ From ‘A Star Is Born’!

We’re far from the shallow now…

At last! “Shallow,” the first song released from the motion picture soundtrack to A Star Is Born, is finally here. The original song, performed by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, is indeed the one that Gaga‘s character Ally belts out when she’s brought up on stage in all the trailers for the upcoming musical drama. It’s probably been stuck in your head since the trailer debuted…

Shallow,” which was written by Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando and Andrew Wyatt, is a slow-building power ballad that finds Bradley and Gaga trading verses over twinkling acoustics and a resonant piano melody. It steadily moves towards a potent soaring Gaga vocal run that culminates in a chilling final chorus perfectly suited for a stadium.

Wooaaaah/ Woaaaaaaaaaaah/ I’m off the deep end, watch as I dive in/ I’ll never meet the ground,” Gaga sings. “Crash through the surface, where they can’t hurt us/ We’re far from the shallow now.” While Gaga is truly the highlight in this number, Bradley without a doubt holds his own and even indulges in some impressive harmonizing. It’s a moment.

I got the chance to attend an early screening of the film on Tuesday (September 25) and was driven to tears with the build up to “Shallow.” It’s hard to say anything else about the film without maybe spoiling the experience for you – so I will just say that I cried, I want the full soundtrack like now, Bradley is a dreamboat and I’m a happy Lady Gaga stan.

Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper’s “Shallow” from A Star Is Born is also available on Apple Music and Spotify now!

from Jon ALi’s Blog

Hail, Zombies!

Hail, zombies, thou heav’n-made dead,
Forsaken by the God we dread;
Great metaphor for all we fear!
All hail the end of all that we hold dear!

It was back in 2013, after watching the movie Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter (coincidentally starring BBAJ’s Benjamin Walker). It was just a few hours after watching the movie that I started thinking about what kind of similar mashup I might concoct in the realm of musical theatre. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of art made from other art. Maybe that’s because so many musicals are based on stories in other forms, plays, novels, movies. Also, I had been wanting to read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but hadn’t gotten around to it yet.

But if I wanted to adapt an existing piece, I realized I needed to find a work in the public domain. I couldn’t fuck around with Carousel or Damn Yankees. And then it hit me – one of my favorite shows ever, the very first show I ever saw on Broadway, The Pirates of Penzance. It first debuted in 1879 and it is in the public domain.

So I would write The ZOMBIES of Penzance. And yes, I was mega-stoned at the time.

I already knew the show by heart, backwards and forwards. And the plot wouldn’t have to change much at all. Major-General Stanley still wouldn’t want the title characters to marry his daughters, though for slightly different reasons. I went through the plot in my head, figuring how each plot point would translate. It seemed pretty straight-forward.

In fact, that was the key for me. I realized it would be more an act of translation than a rewrite. How do we tell this same story, but in the language of zombie movies? As I’ve said in other posts, the real appeal for me was the delicious mismatch of form and content, an aggressive, comic rejection of Sondheim’s Law, that Content Dictates Form (much like another New Line show, Bukowsical).

I started with a test for myself. I decided I would first work on the new zombie lyric for “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General.” If I could do that well, I knew I could do the whole show. I started that same night. It took me three days to finish it. I’ve changed only a handful of words since then.

So I set to work. I don’t think I could have done it with a show I knew less well. It took me four years, though there were periods when I had to put it aside for a while. I finished it in summer 2017, and passed it off to my buddy John Gerdes, who had agreed to arrange the score and orchestrate it. He finished our piano score in November, we went into rehearsal, and we presented a public reading in January.

And the response was wonderful. Even with no set, costumes, makeup, or band, our overflow crowd totally loved it. They caught all the jokes, they followed the plot, and it was confirmed that you didn’t need to know The Pirates of Penzance in order to enjoy The Zombies of Penzance, but knowing the original does offer extra laughs here and there.

The response from the talkback after the reading was so helpful. I took a few months, did some rewrites, added a song and a half, and reconstructed the last part of the plot. Then I gave it back to John, who had already finished most of the orchestrations. In August, we went back into rehearsal for this first full production of The Zombies of Penzance, or At Night Come the Flesh Eaters, Gilbert & Sullivan’s long-lost treasure.

As I mentioned in my last post, in translating the central conflict to one about Monsters instead of Bad Guys, it also shifted the show’s thematic content. The Pirates of Penzance is about the absurdity of social class, but The Zombies of Penzance is about the “Othering” and demonizing of those who aren’t like us, usually by those who claim the highest morality. Of course, as befits Gilbert & Sullivan, the conflict is raised to ridiculous proportions in this case, since the Others are actually zombies.

Zombies that sing really well.

And partly because I cut the Policemen, this rewrite has also empowered the Stanley Daughters, much more than most (any?) of Gilbert’s other women characters.

I know some hardcore Gilbert & Sullivan fans will be terribly offended at what I’ve wrought. But that’s part of the point, part of the central meta joke, that I’ve chosen the single most inappropriate storytelling form to tell a zombie apocalypse story – polite English light opera – and the larger meta joke, that Zombies actually is Gilbert’s first draft, rejected by his producer Richard D’Oyly-Carte.

There is a long and interesting tradition of art made from other art, including, but not limited to, half or more of the great American musicals, most of Shakespeare’s plays, and one of the greatest short films I’ve ever seen, Todd Haynes’ brilliant Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story. Of the nine other musicals I’ve written, two were based on true stories, but the rest were all original stories. So this has been a fascinating experiment for me, and it has been really wonderful living in the language of Gilbert all this time, writing in his peculiar voice, both in the hilariously overwritten dialogue and the heavily rhymed lyrics. I kept every rhyme scheme!

The best part of all this is seeing it onstage and getting to share it with our audience. People seem to be really excited about it. There will be some hardcore G&S fans who will be horrified by this, but that’s really kind of the point of it all…

I’m so grateful to this superb cast, who not only sing Sullivan’s glorious music like they’re a cast of forty, but they also nail the wacky, silly, ridiculous, but always straight-faced Gilbertian humor. I often say that I can’t make musicals without lots of other talented people, but this time I needed lots of very talented people. And we got them. And my co-director Mike Dowdy-Windsor added so much, as he always does, including the most obvious, most perfect final moment – which hadn’t even occurred to me till he said it…

I cannot wait to share this with our audience now. I’m really happy with how it has all turned out, and I’ll dare to say that I think Gilbert would enjoy my adaptation, after getting over his outrage that I’ve rewritten his show, of course…

Come join the crazy fun. When will you ever again get the chance to see a zombie operetta…?

We preview tonight and open tomorrow!  Get your tickets now!

Long Live the Musical!
from The Bad Boy of Musical Theatre

‘Honey’: Robyn Finally Unleashes Her Sweet & Dreamy Club Escape!

Come get your “Honey“…

The title track from Honey, Robyn‘s upcoming first album in eight years, originally emerged last year in the final episode of HBO’s Girls. She’s performed it live and changed it since then, but today we finally get to hear it in its fully finished, polished glory.

“It’s not produced or written as a normal pop song. It is totally based on this idea of club music… when you’re listening to club music, there’s no reward. The reward isn’t, ‘Oh, here’s the chorus, here’s the lyric that makes sense.’ You have to enjoy what it is. You have to enjoy that there’s no conclusion,” Robyn told the New York Times.

“Club music taught me so much about myself. Having patience, or appreciating a different type of way of taking in life,” Robyn continued. “That to me is like, what Off the Wall is. Or “I Feel Love” or “Rock Your Baby” with George McCrae… it’s a hypnotic thing. Time stops, and I don’t even think about where I am when I hear music like that. That’s the high that I want. That’s what I need.”

The track was crafted alongside Robyn‘s longtime collaborators Joseph Mount and Klas Åhlund, who also produced “Missing U.”

While the explanation of the track would suggest a four-to-the-floor stormer on the dance floor, the truth is that the dreamy, intimate tune is better suited for a hot and heavy make-out session whilst smoke-and-chilling at home.

It’s a vibe: The infectious synth pads, the chilling atmospherics, the hypnotic, euphoric beat, and each one of Robyn‘s inviting breathy verses. It’s pure sexy, dream pop. As a sucker for anything that Robyn does, this certainly hits that sweet spot – but did you really expect anything less?

Robyn’s latest single “Honey” is also available on Apple Music and Spotify now!

from Jon ALi’s Blog

We’ll Hunt the Dead and Mount Their Head

Now that we’re running all of The Zombies of Penzance at each rehearsal, it’s easier to assess my writing, and I’m pretty happy with it. The public reading we did in January was enormously helpful, and I did tons of small rewrites, and several big rewrites, after that, including 1 ½ new songs. Watching it now, I think those changes were all good ones.

It’s still weird for me because Gilbert & Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance has been a part of me since I saw it on Broadway in 1981, and I’ve known the show, and the Kevin Kline cast album, by heart ever since. So even though I wrote all these new lyrics, I still hear the originals in my head.

It’s fascinating to see the results of my transforming (translating?) of these Penzantian Pirates into Zombies. On the one hand, the essential plot outline changed very little, and the core motivations of the characters changed very little.

But changing mediocre criminals into actual monsters did change some things. As comically high as the stakes are in Pirates, they’re considerably higher in Zombies. Sure it’s terrible to be kidnapped and married against your will (what is it with musicals and forcible marriage?), but it’s much worse to walk the earth as the living dead for the rest of eternity. The horror elements of our story have changed, even super-charged, Gilbert’s satire. But also, the Gilbert & Sullivan storytelling form has changed the horror elements.

Unlike a horror movie, our show is populated by funny, clumsy, vaguely charming, and seriously gullible zombies, who are hard to find terrifying when they’re singing intricate, Victorian-era, operetta lyrics. And so we get to like these goofy zombies, even root for them (and pity them) a little.

And then Act II opens, and we discover that the proper young Victorian ladies we met in Act I have all been trained as zombie hunters! They sing a creepy lullaby to their troubled father:

Oh, taste the glistening blood,
The giver of life and breath;
Your loving children ache
To hasten the undead death.
You trained us from the cradle,
We must kill again the dead.
We’ll hunt the dead and mount their head,
As Father has said.

The next time we see them, they’re all decked out as hunters. We realize we formed opinions about them in Act I – because of the G&S form, the period costumes, etc. – and we accepted the convention that women are weak, that they are to be victimized and then rescued. But now they have weapons and they’re singing about “a headless zombie running ‘round the garden.” We realize these women are more complicated than most G&S women; partly because they live in two competing story forms, but also because they live in two competing worlds, 1879 polite society vs. the dangerous, physical, visceral world of zombie hunting. These women have found a way to synthesize those two parts of themselves. Both personas are part of them.

Although, does any of that actually matter in a zombie apocalypse? You’ll have to see the show to find out.

Gilbert loved plot twists. He loved subverting his audience’s expectations. He also loved toying with his audience’s allegiances over the course of the story. In The Zombies of Penzance, this transformation of the Stanley Daughters into zombie hunters, after we’ve come to like these zombies (we spend a fair amount of time with the zombies before we even meet the daughters), leaves us torn when the conflict comes to a head. Do we really want the zombies to be killed (again)…?

In The Pirates of Penzance, when the story reaches its climax, Frederic’s nursemaid Ruth shows up with some important information, which resolves everything quite tidily. I hope Zombies will be lots of fun for people who know Pirates really well, because we will subvert their expectations around every turn as well. There is no Ruth in our version. So when that big moment comes in our version, the hardcore Pirates lovers will have no idea what happens next! I love that.

When I first thought about writing The Zombies of Penzance, I knew I had to make several important decisions. The center of the plot would remain unchanged – Major-General Stanley doesn’t want the title characters to marry his large family. I tested myself by writing the Major-General’s big patter song first. The title ended up being, “I Am the Very Model of a Modern-Era Zombie Hunter,” which forced me to make the character a retired zombie hunter. But he needed to be older and retired because that character is really passive throughout the whole story; and that also let the daughters become the heroes. I figured out how to resolve the central conflict ultimately, in a parallel but different way from the original. The new resolution is only barely logical and supremely silly, and I think Gilbert would approve.

All these decisions made me realize I no longer needed Ruth. Revealed information can no longer save the day at the end of our story. This is a zombie apocalypse. I spent a long time wondering if I needed the Policemen and I realized it would be much cooler to turn the Stanley Daughters into zombie hunters, and give them all the Policemen’s songs. I was worried it would throw the show out of balance, but it doesn’t.

In its original form, as The Pirates of Penzance, the story is a satire about the absurdity of class. The big deus ex machine at the end of the show is Ruth revealing that the pirates are all actually “noblemen who have gone wrong.” Since they’re of the correct class after all, they can marry the daughters.

But The Zombies of Penzance is a satire about Othering, the practice of dehumanizing those not like us, so that it’s easier to hate and/or oppress them. (Some might call that America’s Pastime.) It’s why soldiers usually have derogatory nicknames for the enemy – it makes them less human and easier to kill without remorse. Today in America, we see on the political right the Othering of Mexicans, Muslims, Gays, the press, and more. As long as people are “illegals” (they’re not even worth a noun), it’s easier not to be humane to them, not to think of them as families, not to see them the same as the Italian and Irish immigrants a century before. And frequently that Othering is done by those who profess most loudly their Christianity.

In The Zombies of Penzance, the Major-General and his daughters profess loudly and often their Christian beliefs. But in the song “We’re Christian Girls on a Christian Outing,” they also give us a few hints that their Bible-based morality might be flimsier than they would admit. In fact, several of the things they predict (or warn about) in this song will come to pass by the Act II finale. The contrast among their devotion to the Bible, their burgeoning though still sublimated sex drives, and their ferocious hatred for zombies makes a fun parallel to today’s fundamentalist Christians, and their demonizing of gays, atheists, feminists, etc.

It’s been cool working on this, taking this piece I love deeply, and making a new piece of art out of it. I often thought of the process as “translating” the story from one form into another. I often thought of a professor friend in college, Norman Shapiro, who translates Feydeau farces (among other things), and the conversations we had about the process – and art – of translation. I’m seriously thinking about trying another “new” Gilbert & Sullivan show, but next time, not just a variation on the original plot, but a completely different story. That will be harder to write, but should also be fun.

We open next week! Get your tickets now!

Long Live the Musical!
from The Bad Boy of Musical Theatre