Watch: Madonna Releases Met Gala 2018 Performance Recording

As a special gift to fans on her 60th birthday, the Queen of Pop dropped the professional recording of her May 7, 2018 performance. 

 Source: YouTube

Source: YouTube

Every Madonna fan can relate to the phrase "playing the long game," as official video releases from today's birthday girl often take months or years to come to fruition. In fact, some of her most tantalizing tapes from decades past exist only on VHS, or are locked away in Hollywood vaults. Three months, then, wasn't so long to wait for this gorgeously edited official version of Madonna's May 7, 2018 Met Gala performance.

The theme of Anna Wintour's 2018 Met Gala was Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination. Since Madonna has explored her Catholic upbringing and the Church's aesthetic across almost her entire career, she was the obvious and rightful performer choice. 

The 13-minute video clip was produced by NCR Films, the production company of Nathan Rissman. Rissman is a frequent Madonna collaborator; he directed her Rebel Heart Tour and Sticky & Sweet Tour films, "Give It 2 Me" and "Miles Away" music videos, and 2008 documentary I Am Because We Are, written by Madonna about the AIDS pandemic in the African country of Malawi.

"Madonna - Met Gala 2018" is edited in a style reminiscent of her recent MDNA Tour and Rebel Heart Tour video releases. This fast-paced, multilayered video editing style tends to divide fans, but I enjoy how it so conveys the excitement of physically attending a Madonna show. The editor in question, Danny Tull, has edited nearly every Madonna video release since her 2006 The Confessions Tour film.

Her performance consists of three songs; the choir-assisted "Like A Prayer," the brand new song "Beautiful Game," and a striking cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," in the style popularized by Jeff Buckley. Madonna's voice is strong, clear and dynamic throughout. It might be one of her best live audio recordings to date. 

She also published a statement on Instagram explaining the surprise video release:

In celebration of my birthday🎂🎉💕 , and as a “thank you” for all your donations on my Birthday Fundraiser, I wanted to share a very special performance from this year’s Met Gala 🎉🎂💕🙏🏻🇲🇼 🎼
Check out on my YouTube page and enjoy entire performance! #celebrate #raisingmalawi #homeofhope #metgala #likeaprayer #blessed 🙏🏼 @ncrfilms @dannytull
— @Madonna on Instagram

You can donate to Madonna's birthday fundraiser here. Every dollar raised will go directly to meals, schools, uniforms and healthcare for children in Malawi. Ripple will match every dollar donated to this campaign!

Whatever you think of Madonna or her video editing style, please take a moment to reflect on her art and legacy so far, as we celebrate her 60th birthday today. "Where's the Party"? Everywhere!


Tell me how you are celebrating #Madonna60
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Vinyl: Cher Album "Dancing Queen" Continues the ABBA Resurgence

The living legend promises to deliver us the pure fun we desperately need.

 Photo: Machado Cicala

Photo: Machado Cicala

Music tends to reflect the time it's released in, and thus the current offerings dominating the Billboard Hot 100 seem to be divisive, unoriginal, and a little melancholy.

Pop icon Cher is back to once again shake things up with what may possibly be her most fun album in decades, Dancing Queen. Produced by "Believe" producer Mark Taylor, Cher's 10-track collection of ABBA covers is all-killer, no filler; each of the songs she picked can be found on the Swedish pop group's iconic ABBA Gold: Greatest Hits LP.

Cher's first Dancing Queen single, "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)" is already evidence enough that the Goddess of Pop wants the album to be a dancefloor-ready escape from the hard times we're living in.

I’ve always liked Abba and saw the original Mamma Mia musical on Broadway three times. After filming ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,’ I was reminded again of what great and timeless songs they wrote and started thinking ‘why not do an album of their music?’ The songs were harder to sing than I imagined but I’m so happy with how the music came out. I’m really excited for people to hear it. It’s a perfect time.
— Cher

Indeed the ABBA resurgence is in full swing after the global success of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, the announcement of this Cher LP, and the fact that ABBA is releasing two new songs at the end of 2018.

While I can't wait to hear Dancing Queen, the album's digital and CD release date of September 28 is not too far away. And while vinyl details are scarce, the wax edition is listed for pre-order on Amazon with a release date of November 6.

Tracklisting

1. Dancing Queen
2. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)
3. The Name Of The Game
4. SOS
5. Waterloo
6. Mamma Mia
7. Chiquitita
8. Fernando
9. The Winner Takes It All
10. One Of Us

Pre-add or pre-order on your favorite digital service here

Pre-order the CD on Amazon here

Pre-order the vinyl on Amazon here


What's your favorite Cher song? Tweet me! @DerekPlease

Review: Panic! At the Disco Opens Pray for the Wicked Tour in Minneapolis

Frontman Brendon Urie celebrates his truth with a new generation of fans. 

This article is set to appear inside Issue 119 of Twin Cities Gay Scene magazine.

 Photo by Jake Chamseddine from @panicatthedisco on Instagram 

Photo by Jake Chamseddine from @panicatthedisco on Instagram 

The mysterious touring band of Panic! At the Disco slowly ascended from under the stage, playing an atmospheric overture in darkness. Suddenly, a small trap door opened in front of them. Sole official band member Brendon Urie literally launched out of it, surrounded by a burst of silver streamers.

Urie strutted across the Panic logo-shaped stage singing "(Fuck A) Silver Lining" like a conquering hero making his proud return. Fitting, since Panic! At the Disco is fresh off releasing a US #1 album; last month's Pray for the Wicked. The Minneapolis stop at Target Center on Wednesday was opening night for the 68-date Pray for the Wicked Tour. 

 Photo by DerekPlease.com (Taken during Death of a Bachelor Tour )

Photo by DerekPlease.com (Taken during Death of a Bachelor Tour)

Opening night jitters? Non-existent. High-energy fails to describe the show that followed. Urie said a quick hello to the crowd before keeping the chaos going with the B-52's-sampling "Don't Threaten Me With A Good Time." Despite the track being a deep cut from Panic's 2016 Death of a Bachelor LP, the audience erupted in the sort of concert sing-along usually reserved for an act's biggest hits. This trend held throughout the night; fans were audibly singing along to every song, including a surprise Bonnie Raitt cover. 

Panic! At the Disco has been releasing albums to continued success since 2005, but the band's audience has always been primarily composed of teenagers. These days, that's a whole new generation: Generation Z. The Millennials that were teens when A Fever You Can't Sweat Out debuted mostly stayed home. In fact, it was rare to spot any adults except parents and chaperones. 

The setlist seemed catered to the youthful, hyped-up crowd. Only a few slower songs were performed, and Brendon almost exclusively pulled from the band's 2010s catalog. Only two '00s cuts were played throughout the night; "Nine in the Afternoon" (2008) and "I Don't Write Sins I Write Tragedies" (2005).

 Photo by Jake Chamseddine from @panicatthedisco on Instagram 

Photo by Jake Chamseddine from @panicatthedisco on Instagram 

The high-energy crowd went into hysterics early on when Urie sang about wearing high heels, especially when he pulled out his falsetto. He seemed to take pleasure from this response, later utilizing his highest pitch more often than the original songs called for it.

Behind the stage, an array of massive, vertical video screens provided visual accompaniment to each song. "LA Devotee" featured Instagram-filtered looks at Los Angeles. Graphics for 2011 single "Ready to Go (Get Me Out of My Mind)" hypnotized the crowd with iTunes Visualizer-like patterns.

Pray for the Wicked Tour was also noticeably more personal than previous tours. Brendon Urie even dedicated a song to his mother. "This is a song I wrote for my mom, thank you, mom," he said, before launching into the new track "Hey Look Ma, I Made It." The video screens featured a debaucherous puppet version of Urie living large in Hollywood. That puppet was a fan favorite. In the venue's lobby, he was featured inside a custom fortune teller machine; sort of like Zoltar Speaks from the movie Big.

His dedication to the LGBTQIA+ community felt more personal, too. Brendon recently came out as pansexual after years of being a vocal and exceptional ally. He proudly pulled Pride flags of all varieties from the audience during "Girls/Girls/Boys," his 2013 anthem dedicated to queer fans. It is one of Panic's most demanding songs vocally, but Urie sounded stronger than ever while draped in rainbow flags. The standout performance was made even more spectacular by the crowd, as they held paper of different rainbow colors over their smartphone flashlights, which created a rainbow array across Target Center. "You are gorgeous," Urie proclaimed afterward. 

The marathon 28-song-long setlist felt a bit indulgent at times, but the charismatic Urie pulled it off. Even songs he could cut, like deep cuts "Casual Affair," "Nicotine," and "Crazy=Genius," made for engaging performances that highlighted the immense quality of Panic's career catalog. 

 Photo by Jake Chamseddine from @panicatthedisco on Instagram

Photo by Jake Chamseddine from @panicatthedisco on Instagram

Despite the tour's title, and performances of songs like "Hallelujah," "This Is Gospel," and "Say Amen (Saturday Night)," Panic! At the Disco didn't feature much religious imagery in the show. An exception was a video of Urie trolling around a graveyard in demonic prosthetic makeup during "Emperor's New Clothes." 

It felt like the majority-teenage audience was at church, though. They literally evangelized during "Hallelujah," hands swaying in the air in devotion. Their favorite frontman noticed. At the end of the performance, Brendon Urie only yelled one word… "Church!" 

"Is that for me? You drew this? Holy shit," Urie said while holding fan art over his face. Crowd interaction like that feels so natural with Panic! At the Disco shows. During "Golden Days," a fan threw roses on the stage. Urie gripped them between his teeth while trying to sing the bridge. He joked it wasn't "sounding good," and gave them to the drummer. Moments like that were more special than anything Panic could have planned during rehearsals.

The height of fan interaction came when Urie walked through the Target Center floor sections singing "Death of a Bachelor," giving literal meaning to lyrics like "I'm walking the long road" as he made his way to the b-stage. 

 Photo by DerekPlease.com (Taken during Death of a Bachelor Tour )

Photo by DerekPlease.com (Taken during Death of a Bachelor Tour)

From there he boarded a flying piano, where he performed a medley of the Bonnie Raitt cover "I Can't Make You Love Me" and a new Panic! At the Disco ballad, "Dying In LA." The latter really showed off the strength of his Broadway-tested pipes (he had a headlining run in Kinky Boots last year). 

Panic! At the Disco later paid individual tribute to Cyndi Lauper. The legendary pop singer wrote the music and lyrics for the Kinky Boots musical. Brendon Urie had a blast covering Lauper's classic hit "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun." He acknowledged his audience's youth, and said, "If it's a little old school and you don't know who [Lauper] is, hopefully, you know this song."

They knew it. One audience member even threw her bra on stage. The performance was crazy. All the female members of the Panic! At the Disco touring band united to jam together, while Urie sang the song with no lyrical alternations. Distorted VHS visuals of the original 1983 music video played on stage screens.

The ‘80s love kept on with "Dancing's Not A Crime," a bombastic pop-rock cut from the new Pray for the Wicked album. Urie paid tribute to Michael Jackson as he moonwalked and sang, "I'm a moonwalker, I'm like MJ up in the clouds." This track took on more of a sociopolitical tone live, with Urie giving intense emphasis to the line "whatever they tell you" before declaring "dancing's not a crime."

The King of Pop-referencing song was the perfect segue into "Miss Jackson," a 2011 hit from Panic and Lolo that references Janet Jackson and her iconic single "Nasty." During the middle eight, Brendon indulged himself in an interesting drum solo that featured vocal samples from Christopher Walken's 2000 Saturday Night Live skit "More Cowbell." Once that randomness was over, he landed a truly shocking backflip off the platform the drum kit was on. 

"I always say this but it's true. I wish I wrote this song," confessed Urie, before leaning into his famous cover version of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." It was a welcome carryover from the Death of a Bachelor Tour. It's something Panic! At the Disco is known for now; the studio version is even included on the band's Apple Music Essentials playlist. 

 Photo by DerekPlease.com (Taken during Death of a Bachelor Tour )

Photo by DerekPlease.com (Taken during Death of a Bachelor Tour)

The fact it was opening night of the Pray for the Wicked Tour was occasionally evident, and Urie was quick to confess the show only had a few rehearsals. The setlist being six songs longer than their last tour felt like a workshopping element of sorts. Perhaps Panic! At the Disco gauging audience reactions before settling on a final setlist.

It was not immediately apparent we were waiting for the encore, once that time came. No usual fake-out "goodnight" was said before Brendon Urie and company left the stage. 

After a few minutes, Panic came back for a three-song encore. Surprisingly, Pray for the Wicked lead single "Say Amen (Saturday Night)" was the best cut from it. The relatively tame studio version is not my favorite on the album, but the live rendition was hard rock and seriously fun. It actually made a Wednesday night feel like a Saturday night.

Before Panic! At the Disco ended the night with "Victorious," Urie took one more moment to tell the audience how special they were to him, and to humanity as a whole. It was a genuine and touching end to one of the most ambitious arena concerts the Twin Cities has seen in a while.



What's your favorite Panic! At the Disco song? Tweet me! @DerekPlease

Review: Kesha Closes Out Pride Month in Minnesota

The singer-songwriter brought her all killer, no filler Rainbow Tour outdoors at Mystic Lake.

Photography: DerekPlease.com

This article is set to run in the upcoming Issue 118 of Twin Cities Gay Scene magazine.


June 30, 2018. Dressed in their best early-‘10s, Ke$ha-style garage glam looks, the mostly millennial crowd at Mystic Amphitheater was on fire before Kesha's “Rainbow Tour” show even started. Rainbow makeup shined on the cheeks and eyelids of various fans of all genders.

Photography: DerekPlease.com

Just past 9, a full band walked on stage in white suits. Two backup dancers flanked the sides of a staircase. Above it, a giant spaceship set piece loomed. A glittery curtain in the middle of the spaceship fluttered. Kesha emerged. As she slowly descended the staircase to her dancers, she teased us with the spoken word intro to “TiK ToK.” 

The crowd erupted as Kesha opened her set with “Woman,” a standout single from her latest LP Rainbow. Her and her dancers flipped the bird in synchronized fashion during the chorus. Screens behind them lit up with lyrics. 

Mystic Amphitheater was packed, but the venue was very organized; clear lanes were spray painted in the grass so attendees could leave any standing area for a bathroom or beer run. Not like anyone was leaving during exciting numbers like “Boogie Feet,” though. For that one, Kesha donned a bedazzled cape. “My natural habitat is… in a cape,” she joked. 

Kesha talked to the diverse crowd about it “technically” being the last day of Pride Month. She told the crowd, “One could argue we should go extra f—ing hard because it’s the last day of Pride Month.” Thunderous applause ensued. “Pride is never over,” she declared. 

She then dedicated a rollicking performance of “We R Who We R” to the LGBTQIA+ community. The dedication excited the crowd; the US #1 hit made for probably the largest sing-along moment of the night. It was electric. 

Photography: DerekPlease.com

The singer-songwriter later paused to sign a fan’s vinyl copy of Rainbow. The fan was pretty far back in the audience, so it was endearing to see the crowd work together to pass her record to the stage. Being a vinyl nerd myself, being a part of around 10,000 people witnessing a single record be signed was a cool moment. 

Despite most of her back catalog being dance pop, Kesha performed new rock renditions of her hits. Gone were the digital drums and synths from the original versions. How easily the songs were translated to real instruments proved how much song-craft Kesha put into writing even her “danciest” of songs, like "Die Young."

“Songwriting is in my blood,” Kesha said, while recounting writing her huge radio hit “Your Love Is My Drug” with her mom, fellow singer-songwriter Pebe Sebert. Kesha's performance of the song took on new meaning after learning this tidbit. 

The highlight of the night came when Kesha noticed a giant, glittery, golden penis sculpture in the audience. Naturally, she asked for her fans to pass it to the stage. While it initially read as a joke to the crowd, Kesha took it to a deeper place. She confessed she’s always wanted her shows to be a place her fans could bring their own art. When she attempted to give it back unsigned, the crowd chanted, “Sign it!” - She did.

Kesha taunted us before starting crowd-favorite track “Take It Off” - she claimed she couldn’t start singing until people stripped and threw their clothes at the stage. Obviously, the crowd obliged. She pushed it further, asking specifically for a bra; she received multiple. 

Photography: DerekPlease.com

The spaceship stage piece was a perfect callback to the cartoon ones on her Rainbow album cover. Lights came out of the circular windows on it, which made for a unique and visually interesting light show. Vintage sci-fi cartoons played on the screens behind it.

When Kesha announced her final song, the crowd emitted sounds of confusion; admittedly, the setlist of this tour is a bit short at a nightly average of a dozen songs. However, audience interaction is integral to Kesha's shows and she clearly builds in time specifically for that purpose.

The pop star reassured her concerned audience that it was only the “pretend last song,” and she’d be back afterwards for a couple more. She launched into the brilliant banger “Blow,” which is arguably the most EDM out of any of her singles. Kesha and her band pulled it off fantastically as a balls-to-the-wall rock-n-roll number. 

As promised, she later reemerged for her encore, beginning with a powerful rendition of “Praying,” the confessional lead single off Rainbow. She encouraged the crowd to sing along, and we did. After the song concluded, she spoke about how grateful she was for that, as the song is difficult for her to perform. It came from a time where she wasn’t sure she’d be legally able to release music ever again.

Photography: DerekPlease.com

Kesha declared she had one more “boogie" song’s worth of energy left, and jumped into an electro-tinged, upbeat performance of her debut single “TiK ToK.” The summer before I left for college, I got a free download of that track on her website. It went on to become a giant #1 hit, selling over 16 million copies worldwide. Eight years later, I was standing at her show, reviewing it as press. Talk about a full circle moment. 

When the song was over and Kesha said goodnight, the sentiment of the audience seemed unanimous. We had all just witnessed an artist in her prime, performing exactly the way she’s always wanted to. 

Rain began falling immediately after Kesha left the stage. Fitting, as she had sung “I’ll bring thunder, I’ll bring rain” only a few minutes before. 

5/5

Opening Act: CVBZ

Los Angeles-based opening act CVBZ, pronounced “cubs,” was a hit with the audience right off the bat. The stage name of Sean Jacobs, CVBZ is so fresh he doesn’t have his own Wikipedia page yet. With candid lyrics the crowd immediately vibed with, CVBZ felt like a perfect fit for an outdoor venue like Mystic Amphitheater; even his knitted poncho seemed like something straight out of Coachella. 

Midway through his set, CVBZ humbly stated he wasn’t "the best" singer. However, his voice had a great tonality and shined during songs like “Vicodin,” “Drugs,” debut single “Be Like You,” and “Be Somebody.” The tracks were accompanied by interesting visuals involving CVBZ wearing a full-body green screen suit.

Before his final number, CVBZ referenced a technical difficulty in the previous song. He said, “What you just witnessed is a singer’s worst nightmare.” He brushed it off and offered the crowd fruit, which he threw from the stage. 

Standout track “Feels Great” was a collaboration with Cheat Codes and Fetty Wap. “Feels Great” recently passed 100 million streams on Spotify. Fitting, he encouraged the audience to find him on the music platform. I have a feeling a lot of them added his music to their playlists.


Tickets to upcoming shows at Mystic Lake Casino Hotel are available here.

Find out when Kesha is coming to your city! Visit KeshaOfficial.com 


What's your favorite Kesha song? Tweet me! @DerekPlease

Interview: Aja on Her EP "In My Feelings" and 'Drag Race' Musicians

The RuPaul's Drag Race Season 9 and All Stars 3 legend spoke exclusively to Twin Cities Gay Scene ahead of her Pride block party event at Lush nightclub.

 Photo: AjaKween.com

Photo: AjaKween.com

Fresh off releasing her debut EP In My Feelings last month, the multitalented Aja is headlining Lush's Pride Kick Off Block Party this Friday, June 22. I had the chance to speak to the Brooklyn-based queer performance artist about her whirlwind rise to fame, creative music videos and more.


With RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 9 and All Stars 3 airing within a year of one another, multiple DragCons, and gigs around the world, have you had a chance to sit and process it all? 

Honestly, I can start to process it when I’m dead [laughs]. Being in an industry like this means nonstop work, and there really isn’t any time to process it. You just have to keep an open mind and let it flow. The only thing you can really do is direct the current.

What’s your favorite song on your new EP In My Feelings?

My personal favorite song off the EP would have to be “I Don’t Wanna Brag (feat. AVG JO)." Which is also my next music video. It will be released this summer and will feature some cool cameos. 

The music video for “Finish Her! (feat. WNNR & DJ Accident Report)” was gorgeous. Where did you get your inspiration for it? 

My inspiration for “Finish Her!” was pretty much Mortal Kombat. Basically, it was a huge metaphor for me saying I’m killing the game, and I am surpassing the expectations of the people who do not believe in me.

You join a long history of Drag Race alums who are also recording artists. Who are some of your favorites? 

I think there are some immense talents in the alumni. Some of the girls are very talented. I think Blair St. Clair has a great voice. Adore Delano has pretty much her own genre. And then there is Shea [Couleé] who is also killing the game. Trixie Mattel being the only country queen in the mainstream. Love all talents.

 Photo: AjaKween.com

Photo: AjaKween.com

If you could have a Ru girl sing a hook on one of your rap tracks, who would it be? 

Honestly, I’m not sure, but it would be a pleasure to work with any of them.

You’ve kept it real when it comes to bad fan behavior at meet and greets. A lot of queens dance around those issues. Have you noticed a positive change in fan behavior since you addressed those issues on live streams? 

I never really pointed out fans having bad behavior at meet and greets. But I did bring attention to a mutual respect when it comes to big arenas such as DragCon. I think it is important for people to be mindful of all the sacrifices coming from all different places to make that amazing of [an event] happen. I received a lot of different reviews from these comments. But mostly they were positive. It’s good to know the fandom is respectful and understands mostly where we’re coming from as the artists.

 Photo: AjaKween.com

Photo: AjaKween.com

With all the amazing things you and the other RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants are doing, it seems the sky is the limit. What would you love to accomplish next? 

I want to be signed on to a major record label and continue my work as a recording artist. I’m starting to use my drag less as a means of a theatrical performance, and more of a queer expression. So Aja is becoming part of who I am every day. I also want to tour the world doing burlesque shows. Violet [Chachki] got to tour with Dita von Teese, and I think that’s amazing. I’ve always wanted to channel burlesque like them and other queens like BenDeLaCreme, and now I have the resources to make it happen. 

 Photo: AjaKween.com

Photo: AjaKween.com

What can fans expect at your Lush Pride Kick Off Block Party gig June 22? 

Expect lots of fun. I’m insane, I’m crazy. Expect emotions and love! I’m such a human. 


Purchase tickets for the Lush Pride Kick Off Block Party here.

A VIP meet and greet experience with Aja is available here.


What's your favorite Aja song? Tweet me! @DerekPlease