Not even her superstar sister, Beyoncé Knowles of Destiny's Child, started out solo, but Solange is ready to follow her own path into the spotlight with her diverse 2003 debut Solo Star (Music World). Already at age 16, this native Texan is an accomplished songwriter (she wrote the title track on Kelly Rowland's solo CD, Simply Deep, and an experienced performer (she toured with Destiny's Child as a backup dancer).
Her ambition knows no bounds, and her dedication is immediately evident. Like her muse Janet Jackson, Solange has a knack for belting out catchy hooks with attitude and tearing up the stage with killer moves. Her album also boasts an impressive lineup of well-known producers and collaborators like the Neptunes, Timbaland, Linda Perry, Rockwilder, N.O.R.E., B2K, Da Brat, and, of course, Beyoncé. Unlike many other pop artists, her songs keep her real because Solange refuses to pretend to be someone she's not. Instead, she talks about the ups and downs of adolescent life in her music. Without a doubt, her eclectic collection of songs proves Solange can write any kind of joint, whether it's her reggae-influenced first single, "Feelin' You," or her hip hop duet "True Love" with Lil' Romeo.
- Jin Moon
Bré may only be 11, but this energetic shorty has no problem spittin' rhymes with big leaguers like Jay-Z. It's no wonder such a multi-talented songwriter-rapper-dancer-actress was recently discovered and signed to H.O.V.A.'s label, Roc-A-Fella Records, as one of the youngest talents on a roster which touts such high-profile rappers as Cam'ron, Freeway, Beanie Sigel, and, of course, Jay-Z himself. A native of Los Angeles, Bré's upcoming debut Protected Innocence includes a hot track she co-wrote and recorded with Jay-Z, an extraordinary feat for an artist so young. Perhaps the secret to her precocious talent is heredity -- her father Sean McNair is a songwriter himself. So with her family fully supporting her foray into the professional rap community, Bré's ready to prove that dreams can come true at any age.
- Jin Moon
A native New Yorker, Emmy-nominated composer and multi-platinum writer/producer/remixer Frankie Blue came to Los Angeles in the mid-1980s, the beneficiary of a production/songwriting deal with Sony Records. Blue quickly established his reputation working with artists such as Garbage, Patti LaBelle, Jamiroquai, Earth, Wind & Fire and The Rembrandts, as well as newer artists Remy Zero, The Supreme Beings of Leisure, Lili Hayden and trip-hop artist Tricky.
Frankie continues to produce records and write songs but has increased his focus on music for film and television. He has been the composer on commercially successful projects such as Pamela Anderson's hit TV show V.I.P. (his main title theme was nominated for an Emmy), as well as a number of projects for Studios USA and the highly praised television film Redeemer, starring Mathew Modine, for Robert Greenwald Productions. Songs that he wrote and produced have appeared recently in the films Crazy/Beautiful (Touchstone), recorded by Remy Zero, and Suicide Kings (Miramax).
Far from a chameleon, Blue endeavors to write music that, no matter which form it takes, reflects a certain personality. His work combines a songwriter's tunefulness with an avant-garde compositional edge that creates a style that is fresh and modern. In addition, his multi-instrumental abilities enhance his understanding of diverse musical genres. Blue's ever expanding body of work displays an artist who is equally comfortable leading a full orchestra or tweaking the knobs on a Roland synthesizer module.
The Kiwi quartet Pacifier apply thick and winning
vocal harmonies reminiscent of Bob Mould's Sugar
over guitar tracks that are thick as thieves.
The effect is something more savory than sweet.
The band, newly minted by heavyweight producer
Josh Abraham (Limp Bizkit, Staind and Korn),
is set to conquer audiences stateside with a
concentrated dose of uncompromising rock that
sides more with a heavy melodic sound than with
nu-metal. Pacifier's expansive choruses and
inventively-layered vocal lines have more hooks
than a meat locker and sprawl over oxen beats
that provide a steady tug to the myriad melodies
Pacifier, neé Shihad in their native
New Zealand, changed their name in the wake
of September 11 hoping to avoid any awkward
problems that would arise in America with a
name that sounded so similar to the term for
religious war (jihad). The band went
through phases of discomfort and anger but eventually
decided that even an old name stood no chance
against their hopes and confidence in the new
album. From the impossibly infectious "Everything"
to the power-chant of "My Mind's Sedate," the
recording has highs and lows that come together
to complete a picture of the future of rock
and roll that is neither frivolous nor recondite.
- Karen Correa
Though he became blind at a young age, singer/songwriter Ellis Hall never lost his verve for making music and living life to the fullest. A prolific artist based out of Los Angeles and a former California Raisin, Hall can stretch his talents to create everything from commercial jingles to smash hit singles. Now with his latest solo album, Straight Ahead, on Ray Charles' Crossover Records, Hall further showcases his soulful vocals which recall such legendary influences as Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles and Otis Redding. In his own right, Hall was also a featured lead vocalist for California funk group Tower of Power's Power album in 1988, and sang lead on Kenny's G's successful debut single, "What Does It Take," from the double-platinum Duotones album in 1986. Other milestones include writing and performing on soundtracks for more than three dozen major television movies and an equal number of films, including Hercules, Chicken Run, and Big Momma's House. Most recently, Hall sang a rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" for Jim Carrey's movie, Bruce Almighty, which perfectly illustrates his innate sense of humor and joie de vivre.
- Jin Moon
Los Angeles-based composer/arranger Roger Neill is currently writing the score
for the popular Fox animated hit series, "King
of the Hill," as well as the new NBC comedy
"A.U.S.A.," which premiered in January of this
year. Other recent television credits include
"UC: Undercover," "Chicago Hope," and many others.
Neill's music in films include Alan Rudolph's
Trixie starring Emily Watson and Nick
Nolte, and Where the Money Is featuring
Paul Newman and Linda Fiorentino, both in collaboration
with composer Mark Isham. He also scored Jed
Weintrob's feature On Line, which premiered
at last year's Sundance Film Festival. Additionally,
Neill has worked with many recording artists
as an arranger. He holds a Ph.D. in music composition
from Harvard University and teaches film scoring
techniques at the UCLA Extension School in Los
Hailing from Southern California, The Exies are a melodic modern rock quartet who excel with accomplished songs and anthemic choruses. While the songs stick in the head, they also reveal greater depth and musical subtlety upon each repeated listening.
Amidst the heavy guitars and heavenly harmonies, the foursome skip along smoothly, propelled by a crisp rhythm section and well-crafted dynamics. But the music is not only a rich labyrinth of sounds and timbres. There are passionate words laying paths for the listener throughout each song. Named after a moniker John Lennon gave to the forgotten art equivalent of the Mods and Rockers in 60's Germany -- the existentialists -- The Exies often seem to reflect their namesake in many of their lyrics.
Formed in 1997, the foursome acquired a new drummer in 2000 and toured relentlessly until noticed by Grammy-winning producer Matt Serletic, who quickly took the band under his wing. After a year in the studio, they emerged with Inertia, which was released on Serletic's Melisma Records label, a subsidiary of Virgin Records.
- Karen Correa