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Rexha unveils ‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’

Howard shines in new solo album

In this April 29, 2017 file photo, Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes performs at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans. Howard’s personality and songwriting shine through on ‘Jamie’, the singer and guitarist’s 11-track solo debut. (AP)

LOS ANGELES, Sept 21, (Agencies): Elton John did it. Christina Aguilera did it. Beyonce did it. And now Bebe Rexha did it, becoming the latest pop singer to join a Disney soundtrack.

Rexha dropped the track “You Can’t Stop The Girl”, which will be featured in the upcoming Disney sequel “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil”. The song, which she co-wrote, follows the release of the fan exclusive song “Not 20 Anymore” on her 30th birthday on Aug 30.

The song was produced by the Futuristics and co-written by that collective along with Rexha, Michael Pollack, Nate Cyphert, Evan Sult, Aaron Huffman, Jeff Lin and Sean Nelson.

Fans can expect an accompanying music video in the next few weeks from the prolific music video director Sophie Muller. Muller has directed videos for artists such as Weezer, No Doubt, Beyonce, Shakira and the Killers.

In addition to her Disney entree, Rexha is touring with the Jonas Brothers’ “Happiness Begins Tour” as a special guest. The tour has two nearly sold-out nights slated at the Hollywood Bowl.

“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” is the followup to 2014’s “Maleficent,” about the titular villain from “Sleeping Beauty”. In the newest iteration, Maleficent and her goddaughter Aurora split to opposing sides in a battle between fairies and humans after a wedding arrangement gone wrong. The film stars Angelina Jolie, Michelle Pfeiffer, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Elle Fanning. “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” hits theaters Oct 18.


LOS ANGELES: According to a source close to lead singer Nicole Scherzinger, the Pussycat Dolls will be reuniting sooner than previously expected – she’ll be back in the studio to record new music for the group starting today. Another source says that Scherzinger bought part of the rights to PCD from choreographer Robin Antin, who founded the burlesque troupe in 1995. Meanwhile, The Sun in the UK recently reported that Scherzinger accepted a “multi-million pound deal” to rejoin the original Dolls for a 2020 reunion tour, including new material. “I am working on music,” she confirmed to Variety at last night’s Songs of Hope event in Los Angeles. “I’m still evolving as an artist and as a writer and as a performer, so I can’t wait to release new stuff next year.”

Scherzinger previously recorded an entire solo album, “Her Name Is Nicole”, that never came out. Interscope reportedly invested $1.5 million and hooked her up with a battery of top hitmakers from the past several years: Timbaland, Will.i.am and Ne-Yo, who contributed a pair of songs he originally wrote for Britney Spears (one was titled “Save Me from Myself”). She even recorded a duet with Sting.


Granted, Scherzinger did release a total of five singles in 2017, including the banger “Whatever U Like”, which was produced by Polow da Don, the man responsible for “Buttons” by the Dolls and Fergie’s first solo single, “London Bridge”. Tastemakers at the time who heard an advance copy wondered why the album was never released despite a rumored relationship with former Interscope head Jimmy Iovine (who was then married to current ex-wife, Vicki Iovine). Scherzinger famously first caught Iovine’s eye during auditions for PCD when they transformed from a burlesque troupe into a Grammy-nominated group.

But the reason her solo album was shelved remains a mystery. “I don’t know,” Scherzinger said by way of an explanation. “I guess timing is everything.” And “The Masked Singer” panelist is determined to look on the bright side. “It just means the world that I had a beautiful team that saw my vision and supported me,” Scherzinger said wistfully. “I recorded so many songs. I probably recorded five albums that never came out.” (A source who worked on the project estimated that it was more like 300 songs.)

LOS ANGELES: Solo projects can be hit or miss for artists looking to break from a band. For some, their newfound creative independence allows them to hit their stride. For others (even rock legend Mick Jagger), they seem to function better as part of a collective effort.

Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes falls into the former category. Her personality and songwriting shine through on “Jaime”, the singer and guitarist’s 11-track solo debut.

Howard doesn’t play it safe on “Jaime”. She experiments with musical styles more than she typically has in her work with the Shakes. While Alabama Shakes adhere to a more classic rock sound, Howard brings in gospel, lo-fi and funk influences on “Jaime”.

In her subject matter, she also doesn’t pull any punches, tackling religion in “He Loves Me” and race in “Goat Head”. Even seemingly simple songs, such as “Georgia”, carry weight. In a world where lesbian love songs are a rarity in the mainstream, this tender track feels both powerful and vulnerable.

“He Loves Me” samples church sermons as Howard sings, “I don’t go to church anymore.” The song confronts the dissonance between religious teachings and progressive lifestyles head on. “I know He still loves me when I’m smoking blunts/ Loves me when I’m drinking too much,” she sings. Then later, “He doesn’t judge me.”

Just as Howard brings to light the gray area of religion in “He Loves Me”, she does the same with race in “Goat Head”. The song gives a personal account of her experience as a child born to a white mother and a black father. She learns that her father’s car was vandalized – someone not only slashed his tires, but put a goat’s head in the back.

The track starts with a chilled-out beat, not introducing the shocking imagery of the goat head until the song is two minutes into its three-minute runtime. The image is meant to jolt listeners and shed light to a further point – conversations on race can’t be painted into a pretty picture when the underlying history reflects a grotesque past. She not only alludes to this past, but her own struggle with identity.

Howard has rewarded audiences with her honesty, proving that she stands both within her band and on her own.

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