Kerli – Love Is Dead

A track by track review of the new album by Estonian artist Kerli!
Buy it now in stores and on itunes.com.

1. Love Is Dead
A sad love song that torments the listener by telling a tale everyone has gone through. Kerli’s vocals on the track are reminiscent of Dolores O’Riordan from The Cranberries.

2. Walking On Air
The album’s breakout hit, which Kerli says is autobiographical and also a song she would dedicate to fans, is laced with a spacey beat that reminds you of walking on the moon. The song has a catchy and uplifting chorus, especially for anyone who feels a bit strange or out of place from time to time.

3. The Creationist
A fun, spiritual and airy song about living. It sounds like Kerli believes in the law of attraction as she sings about good things on the way and blue skies.

4. I Want Nothing
An edgier, rock styled song that you can bop your head to and see some attitude from Kerli. The perfect way to tell someone off!

5. Up And Up
This song has an ‘80s vibe mixed with Natasha Bedingfield and Adam Sandler’s Cajun Boy from an old “Saturday Night Live” skit. The verses end in words with “ion” like “emasculation”. It’s a fun, airy song that gets stuck in your head after you listen to it.

6. Bulletproof
This one is where the “darkness” of Kerli comes out. In Amy Lee fashion, Kerli’s vocals echo through the drums and the chords, and reveals a vulnerability that surprisingly the lighter songs on the album hide with positivity. The beginning of the chorus says: “I am trying not to think about all the things you did before, but sometimes it all just gets to me. I can’t fake it anymore.” This track is one of the best on the album! It would make a strong single and probably an awesome video, though “Walking On Air” is pretty unique, “Bulletproof” would be an amazing story to see on screen.

7. Beautiful Day
Kerli returns to the lighter side with “Beautiful Day”. That’s what great about this album, it takes the listener from up and down to light and dark. It’s real, not overdone, and enjoyable!

8. Creep Show
Right away, this track stands out. With a childlike taunting throughout the song, “La La La La”, Kerli makes fun of herself in “Creep Show”. The song says: “I’m from a land called secret Estonia, nobody knows where it’s. Cinnamon houses and licorice flies, nobody knows where it‘s at.” This track is humorous, great to blast in the car, and probably would make a great dance song.

9. Hurt Me
Kerli proves to be an excellent songwriter. The quick-paced lyrics of “Hurt Me” are punk styled, proving Kerli could basically make any genre of music work for her.

10. Butterfly Cry
Kerli says she wrote “Butterfly Cry” about a terrible depression she was in. In the song, Kerli talks about letting go of the pain, and you can actually feel a release as you listen to the comforting lyrics. A slow, melodic rhythm sets the mood and you’ll want to add this track to that i-mix that helps you get out of bed every morning.

11. Strange Boy
Another fun, danceable track on the album. Kerli reveals a twinge of bad girl in her as she sings, “Everything I do is oh so wrong, that’s why you like it”.

12. Fragile
Driven by powerful lyrics, “Fragile” sounds like a poem turned song that’s not drowned out by too many loud instruments. Kerli slightly sounds like Feist on this track, rounding out her diversity even more.

Overall Rating:
Love Is Dead is intoxicating, playful, unique, familiar and meaningful. A well-rounded album for any music fan. Kerli is an amazing songwriter, beautiful singer, and has a wonderful attitude towards life. She’s a true artist!

Up & Coming Artist: Chrissy

StarShine’s Lancaster, Pennsylvania friend, Chrissy is an up & coming singer managed by the Wright Entertainment Group. Her name and music have been floating around the internet for years now. Chrissy has been StarShine’s best kept secret for a while and we’re excited the rest of the world is finally starting to let the secret out!

Her songs “Strut” and “My Slushy” are edgy and fun with infectious beats. Both songs bring an old school flavor to danceable pop. Chrissy isn’t just another pop princess though, she screams girl power proudly with self-described “bubbly” tunes and with eccentric beauty that could be packaged into a Bratz Doll. Chrissy has the powerhouse vocals of Mariah Carey with all the individuality of Gwen Stefani and the musical stylings of every eclectic artist in between. Chrissy’s rock-tinged “I Took Your Boyfriend” and “Lucky Number” expresses that diversity.

Though still without a record label backing her, Chrissy’s songs have been featured on Fox’s Prison Break and ‘NSync’s Joey Fatone liked her so much, he used one of Chrissy’s songs on his personal My Space page.

Like her music, Chrissy’s fan base is diversifying rapidly. “I might have the kid who listens to mainstream pop who likes me, but I might have the punk kid like me too. I like having that versatility.” Chrissy explains.

Now with a great management team behind her, Chrissy feels confident a record deal will be soon to follow. “It was always my dream to be managed by WEG. I knew at some point in my heart that I would find my way to them.”

Chrissy is currently in the studio with producer, Alex Greggs, who worked on ‘N Sync’s albums, No Strings Attached and Celebrity. Keep an eye out for this girl – she’s sure to be the next big thing! In the mean time, you can listen to her album Relentless on itunes.com. Make sure you check out her My Space page: www.myspace.com/chrissy

Kerli is Eccentric Excellence

Most people think Estonia is a made up place from the 1992 Pauly Shore movie Encino Man. In fact, Estonia is in Northern Europe bordering Sweden and Finland, but enough geography. The only reason StarShine is mentioning the country is because of Kerli. Who? You’ll know soon enough.

Kerli is a 21-year-old blonde beauty who is redefining the sound of music. Like her influences Björk and Gwen Stefani had before her, Kerli has an eccentricity all her own which she shows in her Tim Burton-esque debut video “Walking On Air”.

“It’s this song about this little creepy girl that comes from a little creepy place and she has her big dream and she loves music, but nobody believes in her.” Kerli told StarShine in a recent interview. She also chose “Walking On Air” as the song she would dedicate to her fans, which is autobiographical for her and relatable to others. “That song is just about overcoming the obstacles. When the chorus kicks in, it’s like when you feel it, you believe it, like whatever you want to do, if you stand behind it, you’ll be walking on air. That song is just about bringing hope.”

Kerli self-described her music as pop, but it isn’t that simple. “It’s very structured, it has hooks, but it’s kind of dark.” She explains. “I always say that my music is a dark fairytale. There’s always light at the end of the tunnel.”

Though Kerli signed to Island Def Jam in 2006, she has been writing and recording songs for over five years. With 150 songs to play with for her debut album, Love Is Dead, it was a tough process. “A lot of songs I really love didn’t make it on the album because they’re too out there.” Kerli says, but has hopes they will make it on her second record. Trying to choose a favorite of her songs was also difficult for Kerli. “Your songs are like your kids.” Kerli explains. “Some kids have more potential in life and the other one has less potential in life but you still love them equally and you love them the same way.” Kerli did give mention to “Walking On Air”, the title track “Love Is Dead” and “Butterfly Cry”, which Kerli wrote about a long depression she was in.

In her interview with StarShine Magazine, Kerli‘s depression appears to be left in that far away land known as Estonia, which Kerli jokes about in the song “Creep Show“. “I‘m from a land called secret Estonia/Nobody knows where it‘s at“. Kerli feels happier and freer in America and says she felt restricted back home. “Growing up in Estonia, I was like a flower in a little black box, but now, when I’m [in America] I feel like I’m in the sunlight and I can finally bloom.” She says. “I’m just being crazy, eccentric…a freak. I do whatever I want now.”

Kerli is an inspiring soul with true talent, marketability, and a pure attitude. She is just the type of artist the industry needs and the type of person that deserves to be heard. When asked her future goals for her career, Kerli barely had any; just one: to be happy. “If I’m not happy and I’m not content, and not in touch with myself and the universe, then I can’t serve the universe the way I’m supposed to.” She says.

Kerli’s debut album Love Is Dead will be available online and in stores everywhere July 8th. With edgy flair, catchy choruses, and meaningful lyrics, Love Is Dead manages to blend an extreme mix of styles. Mix Gwen Stefani, Amy Lee, Natasha Bedingfield and Björk together and what do you get? Kerli!

There’s tons of originality with Kerli, both as an individual and in her music. She was able to do something rare on her first album: do it her own way. “I managed not to compromise my artistic vision or my music at all, so it’s actually everything I wanted to do.” She explains.

After her debut album hits stores, you can bet Kerli will be on tour to support it and gain the legion of loyal fans sure to follow her. If Kerli had the tour her way, she would want a fairytale theme, which she’s been fantasizing about since she was a teenager.

When StarShine asked Kerli to say something to her fans, it wasn’t a shameless self-plug to buy her album or to check her out on MySpace, her message was much deeper than that. “I just want people to realize that we are a limitless source of power and we can do absolutely anything.” Sounds like Kerli knows “The Secret”, she just might be Estonia’s best kept secret. Not anymore.

Enter Kerli’s world by going to: www.kerlimusic.com and www.myspace.com/kerlimusic. There, we shamelessly plugged Kerli for her!

StarShine Takes The Walk with Hanson

Zac Hanson with Sandy Lo.

Now on their own label, 3CG Records, Isaac, Taylor and Zac Hanson are still making music together. Although Hanson may not be the “it” thing anymore, they don’t mind as long as they’re making music they love.

StarShine caught up with Zac Hanson backstage on The Walk tour in Sayreville, New Jersey. The tour is supporting the band’s latest album of the same name. The album was recorded in Africa and inspired the band to take barefoot one-mile walks before every show. The walks are in conjunction with Toms Shoes who donates a pair of shoes to a child in Africa with every pair they sell.

“It’s a start,” says Zac, who admits there are even bigger things he feels the band could be doing to help out the less fortunate. He encourages people to purchase their single, “The Great Divide” on itunes. Proceeds go straight to help people with AIDS in Africa. “A 99 cent download seems like nothing at all,” He explains, “but when you realize that the ARV drugs that someone who is positive with AIDS needs to take only costs 17 cents a day, so 99 cents is like a week.”

At the age of twenty-two, Zac is poised, but that wasn’t really surprising. All of the Hanson boys have been ahead of their time since they started writing songs in elementary school. Now Hanson are all married with children, except for Zac, who has one on the way. He already considers himself a father though. When asked which life was crazier between being a rock star and a family man, guess which one he chose? Family man.

“It’s a difficult balance. We married the women we married for a reason. They understand and love what we do and know how much time it takes.” Zac explains. “You just do your best to find the balance between making sure you’re able to take care of the people that aren’t able to make themselves a priority everyday. They’re not going to call you up and say okay I’ll meet you for playtime at four o’clock.” He laughs.

After the interview, StarShine joined the band on the walk. Shoes were optional and of course all three brothers grinned and bared it, literally. Fans happily walked alongside their favorite band, snapping pictures and asking questions the entire time.

Soon it was show time, and by this point, everyone was pumped up. Hanson is reminiscent of an indie rock version of the Beatles rather than a bubblegum boy band who’s trying to make a comeback. Hanson never left. “We’re an interesting band in the pop genre.” Zac says with a smile. “We consider ourselves a pop/rock band. More and more we consider ourselves a rock & roll band. We grew up listening to late ‘50s, early ‘60s R&B and pop. I think it‘s much easier to understand who we are now than it was back then.” By “then” Zac is referring to 1997 when Hanson mania broke out.

Hanson took the stage that night at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville and the crowd was wild. They knew every word, every opening beat. Not only did Hanson croon, but they jammed. Playing hits like “If Only” and “Where’s The Love” were a highlight of the show, but hearing The Walk album live was even more amazing. If you closed your eyes, you might think you were at a Maroon 5 or Jack Johnson show. StarShine means that as a good thing. We would never take away from Hanson’s own sound, which is definitely there. Hanson will be one of those bands who will be around for years to come and will be remembered for being one thing: music artists.

Fashion Feature: Wylee Bags by Leighanne Littrell

Leighanne Littrell may be known for being a wife to Backstreet Boy Brian Littrell, but recently she embarked on a project that’s all her own. Wylee Bags is a new California made high-end line of backpacks, diaper bags and purses handmade by Leighanne and her assistant, Miguel Torres.

Originally an actress (film credits include “Olive Juice“, “Wild America” and “My Fellow Americans”), Littrell never even owned a sewing machine. “I avoided Home Economics in high school and took shop.” She explains. “I literally just bought a sewing machine and taught myself how to sew.”

The inspiration behind Wylee Bags came from having to lug around her son, breastfeeding pillow and diaper bag. As a traveling wife to Brian, the airport was quite difficult to manage while trying to juggle everything as well as go through security checks. Leighanne first created a simple bag with a strap made out of a sheet to keep the breastfeeding pillow in. “It just dawned on me that there was nothing like it.” And before she knew it, she upgraded to real fabric and started designing backpacks. “I’m not a huge diaper bag person.” She says. “I don’t like the big, square, hard bags that seem to never fit right on your shoulder and they move around a lot. There’s so many compartments that you can’t remember where you put what.”

Littrell evolved the style of her bags as her son grew and now she even uses it as a purse. Unlike most lines who think that adding multiple pockets to a bag will improve organization, Wylee Bags are expandable and contain two hidden pockets in the front. Littrell boasts her bags are both functional and stylish. Along with the bags, Wylee also carries jewelry, hats, and soon to come, T-shirts. Portions of the proceeds from any of the jewelry that features a heart will be donated to Brian Littrell’s Healthy Heart Club charity.

Even Leighanne’s husband sports one of the Wylee Bags! Brian Littrell helped to design the Cross Body Bag, which is available to purchase on the website as well as on the 2008 Backstreet Boys Unbreakable tour. Other celebrities Leighanne has given her bags to include Kelly Ripa and Ellen DeGeneres. Littrell even named a backpack after DeGeneres. “The Ellen Bag” is a brown patterned backpack Ellen picked out from the Wylee Bag collection. Though she is not specifically aiming her products at solely celebrity clients, she is hoping that they will be helpful in getting the Wylee name out to the public.

For now, Leighanne Littrell’s main goal is to keep expanding Wylee Bags. She will be looking for specialty shops to place the bag line in and see how they sell. And with the line already getting such a positive response, Littrell hopes to have “a big ol’ shop” of her own in the future.

Members of the StarShine staff are already big fans of the line. From girly to elegant to convenient, there’s something for everyone. Though the line may not be affordable for all, (backpacks and diaper bags are over $200) the quality can’t be beat because it’s all handmade and not mass produced. “I like making people happy and giving people a really good product.” For those looking for a Wylee Bag that won’t hurt their wallet as much, check out the mini-backpacks and the totes. Staffers also love that most of the backpacks are reversible! It’s like you get two bags in one! These bags are absolutely beautiful and though Wylee Bags items are mostly for women, there’s a few products appealing to men as well. Check out the site: www.wyleebags.com and see for yourself! For the upcoming season, Wylee Bags now carry beach bags and totes with fun, summery designs on them.

“Thank you for anybody who has gone on the site and I hope you enjoy your bag. We enjoy comments. We have t-shirts coming soon that’ll be really cute. I’m going to test those out. Thank you to everyone who’s given me support.”
–Leighanne Littrell, Wylee Bags

Fashion Feature: Wylee Bags by Leighanna Littrell

Leighanne Littrell may be known for being a wife to Backstreet Boy Brian Littrell, but recently she embarked on a project that’s all her own. Wylee Bags is a new California made high-end line of backpacks, diaper bags and purses handmade by Leighanne and her assistant, Miguel Torres.

Originally an actress (film credits include “Olive Juice“, “Wild America” and “My Fellow Americans”), Littrell never even owned a sewing machine. “I avoided Home Economics in high school and took shop.” She explains. “I literally just bought a sewing machine and taught myself how to sew.”

The inspiration behind Wylee Bags came from having to lug around her son, breastfeeding pillow and diaper bag. As a traveling wife to Brian, the airport was quite difficult to manage while trying to juggle everything as well as go through security checks. Leighanne first created a simple bag with a strap made out of a sheet to keep the breastfeeding pillow in. “It just dawned on me that there was nothing like it.” And before she knew it, she upgraded to real fabric and started designing backpacks. “I’m not a huge diaper bag person.” She says. “I don’t like the big, square, hard bags that seem to never fit right on your shoulder and they move around a lot. There’s so many compartments that you can’t remember where you put what.”

Littrell evolved the style of her bags as her son grew and now she even uses it as a purse. Unlike most lines who think that adding multiple pockets to a bag will improve organization, Wylee Bags are expandable and contain two hidden pockets in the front. Littrell boasts her bags are both functional and stylish. Along with the bags, Wylee also carries jewelry, hats, and soon to come, T-shirts. Portions of the proceeds from any of the jewelry that features a heart will be donated to Brian Littrell’s Healthy Heart Club charity.

Even Leighanne’s husband sports one of the Wylee Bags! Brian Littrell helped to design the Cross Body Bag, which is available to purchase on the website as well as on the 2008 Backstreet Boys Unbreakable tour. Other celebrities Leighanne has given her bags to include Kelly Ripa and Ellen DeGeneres. Littrell even named a backpack after DeGeneres. “The Ellen Bag” is a brown patterned backpack Ellen picked out from the Wylee Bag collection. Though she is not specifically aiming her products at solely celebrity clients, she is hoping that they will be helpful in getting the Wylee name out to the public.

For now, Leighanne Littrell’s main goal is to keep expanding Wylee Bags. She will be looking for specialty shops to place the bag line in and see how they sell. And with the line already getting such a positive response, Littrell hopes to have “a big ol’ shop” of her own in the future.

Members of the StarShine staff are already big fans of the line. From girly to elegant to convenient, there’s something for everyone. Though the line may not be affordable for all, (backpacks and diaper bags are over $200) the quality can’t be beat because it’s all handmade and not mass produced. “I like making people happy and giving people a really good product.” For those looking for a Wylee Bag that won’t hurt their wallet as much, check out the mini-backpacks and the totes. Staffers also love that most of the backpacks are reversible! It’s like you get two bags in one! These bags are absolutely beautiful and though Wylee Bags items are mostly for women, there’s a few products appealing to men as well. Check out the site: www.wyleebags.com and see for yourself! For the upcoming season, Wylee Bags now carry beach bags and totes with fun, summery designs on them.

“Thank you for anybody who has gone on the site and I hope you enjoy your bag. We enjoy comments. We have t-shirts coming soon that’ll be really cute. I’m going to test those out. Thank you to everyone who’s given me support.”
–Leighanne Littrell, Wylee Bags

Backstreet Boys: Fun Quotes

The Backstreet Boys are back, alright! StarShine was involved in a teleconference with Howie, Brian, AJ & Nick on October 3, 2007, and brought back a few fun quotes we thought our readers might like! So sit back, relax & enjoy…

On Kevin Richardson…
Howie Dorough: Kevin actually came to us right before we started recording this record over a year and a half and – with the break that we had, in his heart he just wasn’t feeling going forward with making another record right now at this time. His life right now is taking a different departure with this wife just having a baby and him wanting to have that time to properly be there for the baby during these early years. Which we all know that going into recording a record, between writing, recording, promoting, touring, it’s pretty much two years of your lives we’re giving up.

On Unbreakable…
AJ McLean: One of the things that we – that we really strived for on this new record is to – is to have those up tempos again so we can dance and we can perform and not just sit up there on stools and look like a bunch of old farts. You know? And, you know, as far as some of the mid-tempos, it’s classic Backstreet Boys. It’s what we’re good at. We didn’t try to go over people’s heads and try to be something that we’re not.

On Being The Only “Boy Band” Left…
Brian Littrell: We’re – I mean, we’re obviously blessed to be like the only ones left that are – that are still together. I mean, I think that’s attributed to, you know, the music that we put out and the quality. We’ve always stressed quality versus quantity when it comes to our career. And when with started this Backstreet Boys venture 15 years ago, it was always about a career in the music business. And I think that’s what is attributed to, you know, the music and the – and the loyal fans that we’ve had and also the passion that we all have. The Backstreet Boys has never been about one particular guy. It’s always about a team. And I think that’s what’s kept us together for this long. And like Nick was mentioning earlier, we’re all competitive. We’re very, very competitive, and we want to be successful and continue to be successful. So, you know, that’s – we’re blessed to still be doing what we’re doing.

On Working with JC Chasez (‘N Sync)…
AJ McLean: Writing with JC was actually a really, really interesting process. He’s coming from another vocal group just like us. So he really understands the harmonies, the melodies, and the complex simplicity [of what we do as a group] is what he had mentioned to me once while we were in the studio. But it was a blast writing with him. I mean, we just sat down at the SSL board and just listened to the track and just started writing. And it just kind of flowed out of both of us. And we just had a really good time.

He’s a very talented writer; he’s a very talented musician, as well as artist. And, you know, I would hope that we could work with him again. I’d hope that I could definitely continue working with him. I think I’ve developed a really good relationship with him and friendship with him. It was a fun process to not only write it with him but then to have all four of us and JC in the studio at the same time. And, you know, we told him, hey, if you want to come out for a couple shows, come on out. You know? I think it also shows to people that there was never any discrimination, there was never any, animosity between both us and N’Sync that everybody always put out there in the media world.

On Favorite Songs Off Unbreakable…
Sandy Lo Grasso (StarShine Magazine): Hi again, guys. My favorite song on the album is “Panic”. And I was wondering if each of you have …
Nick Carter: Yeah! [Sings] Go, stop and go. ((inaudible)) I’m sorry, we just got so excited.
Sandy Lograsso: (laughs) I love it! No problem. I was just wondering if each of you had a favorite song as well.
Brian Littrell: This is Brian. I’ve got to go with a song called “Unsuspecting Sunday Afternoon”. That – I know that’s like a – a paragraph and a mouthful. But it is the song title. It’s called “Unsuspecting Sunday Afternoon”. It was written by us as well as two of our favorite writers, Dan Mukala and Bill Mann, whom we’ve worked with for in the past. So I think that’s a – that’s one of those bridge songs I think that you’ll find on the next record for the future, not Unbreakable. But even kind of like where we’re headed. So …
AJ McLean: I like “I Want It That Way”. No, I’m just ((inaudible)).
Brian Littrell: [sings] Quit playing games with my – sorry.
AJ McLean: No, I think for me – this is AJ; it’s – it’s kind of a tie for me. Obviously I’m a little biased to “Treat Me Right” because …
Brian Littrell: Whatever.
AJ McLean: … JC and I wrote it together. And I just think it’s – it was a fun experience and I think it’s a great song and it – and I really showcases everybody. Everyone sounds great. But probably my ultimate favorite would be – I don’t know, probably “Helpless When She Smiles”, just because it’s the epitome of, you know, Backstreet Boys. I mean, great harmonies, it’s a great song, great love song. It’s timeless. And I think it’s just one of those songs that will be around forever ((inaudible)). You know, hopefully our fans love it as well.
Brian Littrell: For the record, AJ will change his mind next week.
AJ McLean: I probably will.
Howie Dorough: ((inaudible))
AJ McLean: What?
Howie Dorough: ((inaudible)) What did you say? Which one?
AJ McLean: “Helpless When She Smiles”.
Howie Dorough: You liked something else last week.
Brian Littrell: That’s what I said. Next week it’ll be different. Howie, Nick.
Howie Dorough: Nick. Yes, no, Nick. Nick. ((arguing with Nick))
Nick Carter: Yes, yes, yes. No, I was just – I – OK, let me see. I love a lot of the stuff on the record, especially the stuff that we were involved in, because I feel like that, you know, we had a higher influence in, you know, whether or not, you know, putting the song writers together or writing on them. But, you know, after listening to everything, you know, I’d probably say, I mean, the coolest song would be probably – if you’re going for ballads, I actually, I have to pick two…”Unsuspecting Sunday Afternoon” I love. But, you know, I’m a huge “Unmistakable” fan. I think that that one is – that’s probably my favorite song on the record, “Unmistakable”. Because we ((inaudible)) we fought for it to be written – produced a certain way, the track. You know, they wanted to kind of do some older sort of like Never Gone type of Backstreet Boy music to the song. And we fought tooth and nail to actually have it done more – a little bit more – a little bit more – I’d say the track a little bit more – I don’t know, rhythmic. So that’s really cool. People are…
Brian Littrell: Nice word.
Howie Dorough: Hi. Howie here.
Nick Carter: (mimicking) Howie here.
Howie Dorough: I think – I think – which one is that – Any Given …
AJ McLean: Any Given Sunday is a film, dude.
Howie Dorough: ((inaudible)) I keep on doing that.
Brian Littrell: Unsuspecting Sunday.
Howie Dorough: “Unsuspecting Sunday [Afternoon]”. Excuse me. I think definitely is a very artistic song. I think hopefully it’s going to be the song that when people listen to the record, you know, really see that we, you know, went out there and tried branching out a little bit and, you know, and – with our artistic side. But believe it or not, the – the current single, “Inconsolable”, has now become my favorite. I think it’s a great first song, you know, us coming out of the box. I think it’s a great ((inaudible)) last record to this record. Each of us sing on it. And I think we all sound great on it, I must say and …I think it’s a – it’s a really easy listening song. It’s not too deep. I mean, we couldn’t figure out what the word meant for the longest time. But – or even know how to spell it. But once we figured that out I think it really became a good representation of us.

On Recording Unbreakable…
AJ McLean: We really strived to do on this new record was just really have fun again as far as the creative process [goes]. We spent almost a month and a half in Nashville working with Dan Mukala as well as some other really, really talented writers, and just kind of living in the studio, and really having a full hands-on approach to this whole entire record. We predominantly A&Red this whole record ourselves along with management and some of the record company.

It was just really a very different process. It was very similar to like making records of like the old days for us, like making the Millennium record and even the very first record. There was just something about making this record… we were really excited about it. We really wanted to kind of find the sound that we’re really known for, but kind of modernize it and update it and try to be trend setters again, try to be a little bit more on the edge, but also timeless and classic Backstreet with really good harmonies, really great melodies, great lyrical content. Just positive, really good pop songs.

On Vocal Progression…
Nick Carter: I’m going through my third puberty. And – yes, it’s getting harder. No, I – well, this is Nick. I’ll start it off. Basically I feel like – I feel like I’ve gotten better. I feel like I don’t sound like an album from the Chipmunks anymore. And I feel like, you know, I’m very happy where I’m – where I’m heading vocally. So – what I can contribute to the group I think is a lot better. I don’t know about the other guys. You can ask them individually.
AJ McLean: I think, you know, it was really – there was – there was a moment yesterday in our – in our band rehearsal where we were singing and going over new stuff, getting ready for the promotional tour that we have starting next week. I mean, I – granted, we’re still working out parts and working this thing, you know – working things out. But I – I think we really sounded great. I think we – we’re just in a different place in our lives now where it’s just – we’re – again, I’ve got to go back to we’re having fun. And vocally, I think we’re all the strongest that we’ve ever been and I think, you know, obviously we’re all gone through vocal changes and – whether it’s higher, lower. And I think where all just – we’re all blending really well together now and, I mean – I don’t know, I – just – there’s a real – it’s just a really tight sound amongst us four now. And, I don’t know, I think the natural progression of everyone going through being 14 when I was first in this group and now going to be 30. And obviously my voice is going to change just a little bit. But also for me I think my voice has definitely changed every since I got sober, because, you know, drinking and partying and doing all those things definitely affects not only your voice but your morale and all of that. So I think for me now I’m – I think I’m at the top of my game. I really do. I think we all are.
Brian Littrell: If we can just get you to stop smoking.
AJ McLean: Yes, I’m working on that.

On House of Carters…
Nick Carter: I think that – I mean, I think it made me a better person. So ultimately if I’m a better person in this group. But before that I had a lot of issues, even going into the Never Gone cycle that we had done. There were a lot of things that were just unresolved and things that I had not taken care of, like mentally and even physically that I had been going through. And because of House of Carter ((inaudible)) watch myself on TV and say, holy crud, I’m pretty screwed up. Right? You know. So I just decided to ((inaudible)) myself on TV and just decided to do something about it. So I think that ultimately it made me a better artist and a better person for the future of the Backstreet Boys. I can’t tell you if maybe it hurt us, you know, in – or not in the – in the very – you know, in the immediate future and what has happened. I don’t believe so. But I’ll tell you this, for the long term goal of the Backstreet Boys it’s made me a better member. And, you know, all around we sustain this group.

On Concerts…
Brian Littrell: You’ll never come to a Backstreet Boys show and not hear like “[Everybody] Backstreet’s Back” and, you know, the signature songs. I mean, like AJ’s saying, the I Want It That Ways. I mean, those are the staples of really who we are and what we’ve based on our success on in the past. But you’ll also find new versions of those old songs that are really beefed up in a way production-wise that really go with everything that we’re doing today versus what we’ll be doing five years from now. So, you know, I mean, it would be disappointing, even as a fan – I mean, we’re all music fans. I mean, you don’t go to, you know, great groups of the past and not expect to hear their number one smash songs. So it’s just a disappointment if you don’t.

On New Choreography…
AJ McLean: It definitely different. Like it really feels different. Like sore. We’re all older now, so, you know, for me – this is AJ – I had – I had knee surgery almost three years ago and – I was just, you know, it was really funny last night because I have no shame to admit I fell last night at dance rehearsal. And Nick just kind of was shocked. He was like, you know, out of 15 years I’ve never fallen. And it’s like last night, I don’t know, I fell and …
Brian Littrell: Yes, you have. He lied.
AJ McLean: My freaking knee’s got a nice little cherry on it. But – I don’t know. I mean, you know, we’re just excited to be dancing again, because we – you know, we all really didn’t dance that much on the Never Gone tour except with some of the older stuff. So to be up there dancing like we were last night, I mean, it – it’s just fun again, it’s just – it’s just fun to be up there moving and dancing and just – everybody feels really good about it.

On Careers…
Nick Carter: Your career is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get. Right? But everything you get is going to teach you something along the way and it’s going to make you the person that you are today.

On Halloween…
AJ McLean: I want to go trick or treating. I don’t know. I – when I moved into my new house here last year I felt really bad because I wasn’t prepared and I — I had all these kids show up like within an hour. I didn’t have any candy. I was giving them pennies like my grandmother used to do. And I’m definitely going to be more prepared this time and have some candy for them – for the kids, but …
Brian Littrell: I’m trying go figure out what Winnie the Pooh character I’m going to be, because Baylee’s to be – my son Baylee’s going to be Winnie The Pooh. So I’m trying to figure out if I’m going to be Eeyore or Piglet or somebody like that.
AJ McLean: You could be Christopher Robin.
Brian Littrell: I think my father-in-law is going to be Christopher Robin.
AJ McLean: Oh, there you go. Nice.

Backstreet Boys: Still Unbreakable

It’s been ten years since “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart) hit U.S. airwaves, and the faces of a new generation of heartthrobs took over MTV. The music scene changed with the Backstreet Boys leading a pack of “boy bands” into the new millennium. Once again, music has evolved, and album sales continue to decrease. Boy bands are no more, but hip-hop, punk, and country are strong in the game. The only remnants of that past wave of pop is laced over with heavy dance/R&B/Hip-Hop via Justin Timberlake, and Mission: Man Band, a failing reality series of mix-matched has-beens called Sure Shot, is a sure flop.

With the dust settling over the years, the Backstreet Boys remain on top of their game still. Since the deflation of pop music in 2002, which is credited to squeaky-clean images gone bad, mixed with the inability to stick together, the Backstreet Boys have managed to keep the ball rolling. “We’ve always stressed quality versus quantity when it comes to our career,” Brian Littrell, 32, explains in a recent press conference. “I think that’s what it’s attributed to, the music, and the loyal fans that we’ve had, and also the passion that we all have. The Backstreet Boys have never been about one particular guy. It’s always about a team. I think that’s what’s kept us together for this long.”

Though in the early 2000s, the group was somewhat absent after their greatest hits album was released, they never wavered, and had a strong comeback in 2005 with Never Gone debuting at #3 on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums chart. The album was a departure from their previous recordings like Millennium and Black & Blue, which are considered some of the greatest pop records of this generation. Never Gone tugged on the pop-rock strings a bit, and was received well. However, two years later, the group is gearing up to release Unbreakable, which is a throwback to BSB’s “classic” sound, yet brings in new elements as well. “We really wanted to find the sound that we’re really known for,” says AJ McLean, 29, “But kind of modernize it, and update it, and try to be trendsetters again, but also timeless.” The Backstreet Boys achieved just that!

Unbreakable hits stores October 30th, and the first single, “Inconsolable” has already been creeping up the Top 40 charts. One of the obvious differences on the latest CD is the missing bass voice of Kevin Richardson, 36. He approached his band mates before they began recording, and decided he wanted to pursue other interests, mainly becoming a father. Richardson’s wife gave birth to son, Mason in July. Turning their usual five-part harmony into four appeared smooth, now leaving room for high-note hitter, Howie Dorough, 34, to gain more leads. “When making this record, we consciously had to make a decision on how we were going to do this with just the four of us and not feel like [people] were missing something.” Dorough explains. “I think we actually were able to really do that.” He credit’s the team of writers and producers like Dan Mukala, John Shanks, and Billy Man, who the group worked with on the album, as well as the group writing themselves.

According to McLean, the Backstreet Boys “A&Red” the album themselves, and worked on the project for a year and a half, which left them with thirty-five songs to play with. Of the thirty-five, fourteen made the cut, with a few bonus tracks thrown in for Wal-mart and special editions. Considering themselves a visual group, BSB thought of how their music would play out onstage. “One of the things that we really strived for on this new record,” Begins McLean, “is to have those up tempos again so we can dance, and we can perform and not just sit up there on stools and look like a bunch of old farts.”

When asked about the Boys’ vocal progression over the years, Nick Carter, 27, was eager to speak up. “I’m going through my third puberty.” Carter jokes. “I feel like I’ve gotten better. I feel like I don’t sound like an album from the Chipmunks anymore. I’m very happy where I’m heading vocally.“ AJ McLean added on, “I think we’re all the strongest that we’ve ever been. I think we’re all blending really well together; it’s just a really tight sound amongst us four now.” McLean says. “But also for me, I think my voice has definitely changed every since I got sober, because, you know, drinking and partying and doing all those things definitely affects not only your voice but your morale and all of that. I’m at the top of my game. I think we all are.”

While reading the album credits, one name will come as a surprise: former competitor/‘N Sync member, JC Chasez. McLean and Chasez penned “Treat Me Right” together; one of Unbreakable’s more unique sounding songs. “Writing with JC was actually a really, really interesting process.” Says McLean. “He really understands the harmonies, the melodies, and the complex simplicity [of what we do as a group]. He’s a very talented writer; he’s a very talented musician, as well as artist. I would hope that we could work with him again.“

While “Inconsolable” is reminiscent of “I Want It That Way”, don’t be fooled, Unbreakable has a lot more to offer than recycled hits. Though “Helpless When She Smiles” and “You Can Let Go” blends mostly old with a bit of new, “Panic”, “One In A Million”, and “Treat Me Right” turn a different corner with an interesting sound, great lyrics, and, a refreshing look into the future of the Backstreet Boys. “Everything But Mine” will get stuck in your head without even realizing it, while “Any Other Way” will have you singing along, and tapping your feet when you’re listening to your i-Pod. Rounding out the album are “Trouble Is”, “Love Will Keep You Up All Night”, and “Unmistakable”, which are mid-tempo love songs, a style the band has honed over the past fifteen years.

The final track on Unbreakable is “Unsuspecting Sunday Afternoon”, a ballad written by the Backstreet Boys with Dan Mukala and Billy Mann. The “mouthful” of a title, as Littrell puts it, appears to be one of the band‘s favorites off the album. Unbreakable will be something for everyone, and may surprise those anti-pop critics. Generations from grandmothers to children can still enjoy the Backstreet Boys, and looks like they will for a long time to come. Music needs an artist like this right now.

After promoting the album, the group is planning an extensive world tour, expecting to hit Asia, Europe, South America, and finally North America. The Boys are grateful to their loyal fans around the world saying it provides them with “good problems”, since they have so many places to perform. What can audiences expect this time around from a Backstreet show? More dancing!

Since the Never Gone album didn’t allow too much room for choreography, BSB want to bring the element back in again. The Boys even have new choreographers, Charm & Caitlin, who are young and fresh at nineteen and twenty-years-old. “We just have to get through the soreness first before we can hopefully look good.” Says Littrell. AJ even admits to falling during rehearsal recently due to a bad knee. “We’re just excited to be dancing again,” McLean explains. “It’s just fun again–it’s just fun to be up there moving and dancing and just–everybody feels really good about it.” Besides dancing, Nick hinted around at a big production with pyro and trampolines, which the other Boys weren’t too sure about. “These are just things we’re thinking about.” Nick corrected. “Our minds are wide open for the idea of something extravagant, and big and entertaining.”

In 2008, the Boys also plan to continue on with their solo albums as well. Carter is working on a follow-up to his 2002 rock-fused album, while Littrell is working on a sophomore album to his successful Christian CD last year. Both Dorough and McLean have been recording for their first shot at a solo career. “Each of our [solo records] are actually kind of different directions, which is kind of cool,” Dorough explains, “Because that’s the chemistry of each of us that comes together and makes the Backstreet Boys who we are. We can all be out there and not be competing with each other.” Until then, it’s all about the Backstreet Boys as a group, who continue to strive for longevity, which in the ever-changing music industry is becoming more difficult. “There’s so many artists now, young and new, up and coming artists that are more or less working a song.” Discusses Littrell. “They have one song or two songs and they don’t really get that opportunity to build a long career. In the time that we were so, so very successful in the late ‘90s, mid to late ‘90s, early 2000, is that that’s what people were looking for that integrity and that staying power. And it was a blessing.”

And blessed the Backstreet Boys are. With the ability to stay true to their sound, yet re-invent it album after album, it’s no wonder they’re the real “Man Band”, and that’s the only reality out there. Unbreakable is deserving of not only the Backstreet Boys’ loyal fans, but a new generation of music lovers. Hopefully critics, cynics, and the close-minded alike will be pleasantly surprised.

Hairspray – The Motion Picture Soundtrack

“Hairspray” the movie hits theatres July 20th, but the beat won’t stop there. With a fun, star studded soundtrack backing the musical, the beat rolls on through the summer. Every track tells a story, and not just about the Turnbladt family, or about the Corny Collins Show, but memories from real life. First crushes, coming of age, believing in yourself, love, and for an older generation, the music of “Hairspray” brings back a time of change both in pop culture and the world: the 60’s. From a cast of veterans like John Travolta, Christopher Walken, and Michelle Pfeiffer, the 60’s sound thrives. At the same time it teaches a new generation about rock & roll Elvis style via High School Musical’s Zac Efron, and soul through Queen Latifah and new comer Elijah Kelley.

Songs like “Good Morning Baltimore” and “Welcome To The 60’s” made the Broadway show a classic and now it’s doing the same for the movie. “Hairspray” introduces the world to lead actress/singer Nikki Blonsky and her amazing voice. She shines on “I Can Hear The Bells”, “Without Love”, and “Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now”. While Blonsky blows the roof off the soundtrack, Zac Efron charms girls with his crooning ability on songs like “It Takes Two” and the oh so fun, and fitting “Ladies’ Choice”.

Like a ball of fun and energy, Travolta adds a comedic factor to each track he sings on, including “(You’re) Timeless To Me”, a duet with Christopher Walken, which is oddly enough sweet and sentimental in its own hilarious way. Of course Queen Latifah is not to be forgotten. In fact, she empowers this soundtrack and rounds it out, completing the phenomenon it will become. Her amazing vocals on “I Know Where I’ve Been” takes the comedy down and brings meaning to the message of “Hairspray”.

Probably the most exciting track on the entire soundtrack is “You Can’t Stop The Beat”. Lead vocalists are Blonsky, Efron, Amanda Bynes, Elijah Kelley, Travolta and Queen Latifah. The song is energetic fun you just can’t sit still to. Other stars included on the soundtrack are James Marsden, Brittany Snow, and a surprise appearance by the original “Hairspray” lead, Ricki Lake.

The “Hairspray” soundtrack is in stores now, so run and get it before going to the theater on July 20th. You’ll be grateful to be able to sing along with your favorite stars while watching this sure to be a classic movie!

Elliott Yamin’s Idol Status Rises

Elliott Yamin came in third on the fifth season of “American Idol“ along with his debut album on Billboard charts, but finished at #1 on the Billboard Independent charts and #2 on the R&B charts. Yamin‘s self-titled debut album features eleven songs, most of which were co-written by him. When StarShine Magazine spoke to him, Yamin was very proud of himself. “For a change I actually followed through with something I set out to do.” Says Yamin.

Growing up in Richmond, Virginia, Elliott Yamin dealt with the difficulties of diabetes and being deaf in one ear. “What? Huh?” Yamin jokes when asked about the problem. “It was never really a hindrance. Just a pain in the butt.” Now that a down-to-earth guy like Yamin made it big, StarShine wondered how the people around him have changed. “Some people do treat me differently, but those times are far and in between.” Yamin assures us. “I think most people know who I am and what I’m about. It’s just kind of weird to have a lot of attention. Sometimes it’s weird.” He laughs. “It’s just a strange thing. It will always be strange to me.”

Yamin is set to tour starting May 15th through June 15th and can’t wait to sing for his audience. By the way he describes his music; StarShine can bet the show will be intimate. “It’s definitely soulful.” Yamin tells us about the album. “It’s real honest and genuine. There are some songs that are pop friendly, but I wouldn’t classify my music as poppy. It’s not too over-produced.”

The first single “Wait For You” hit radio back in March and debuted at #1 on the Mediabase Pop Callout Charts. “It’s a guy pleading for his love telling this girl how much he wants to wait for her and not give up on his love even though the feelings may not be mutual. Love kind of ran out on him and he’s trying to get it back.” Yamin explains.

Elliott Yamin is a contemporary-pop-soul dream come true! Finally an album you, your parents, your brother, and your friends can listen to together. It’s rare when an album can wet the palette for so many different appetites whether you want mellow, love, soul, or even a little funk thrown in.

“I just want to establish longevity in this industry.” Yamin confides about his goals for the future. “I want to seize every opportunity I can. I want to do a Broadway musical one day. I’d like to try and act and make appearances on shows. I just want to write good music and learn how to play the piano and connect with everyone out there.”

Connecting won’t be a problem. Through “American Idol” Yamin had the opportunity most won’t ever get. He was able to have millions of people discover him at once, something that each of his fans can hold onto for the rest of his career. They can say, “I knew he’d be a star. I remember him when…” For a music fan that’s a great feeling.

StarShine had to ask our favorite question next. What song would Elliott Yamin dedicate to his fans? “I really love the way Christina Aguilera did this thank you song on her [Back To Basics] album.” He says. “If I had a choice, I’d like to write one myself than taking a song or dedicating one.” Yamin admits.

“American Idol” or not Elliott Yamin would be a star somehow, some way. With a raw, soulful voice, a heart of gold, and a charisma that dates back to the early days of jazz and blues, Elliott Yamin is one of a kind for today’s music. This world won’t let him go.

Elliott Yamin Thanks the FANS…
“I’d just like to let [the fans] know how much I appreciate all the fanfare and all the support. Just thank them so much for being there for me. There’s just so much love and support, I couldn’t be in a better position. So I want to do this together with everybody with the fans included. They’re just as big of a part of this project as the producers and writers I’ve worked with. It’s a total team effort. That’s the kind of feeling I get from my fans; that everybody’s on my team. It’s a great feeling.”

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