The song might have changed, but we still sing along

Monet X Change
Monet X Change

In the Cookie Jar

Monét X Change

Since Monét X Change slipped onto the dance charts last year with the infectious house thumper “Soak It Up,” it was very clear that the now co-winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 4 had a future on both the stage and the charts. Her new EP “Unapologetically, without a doubt” cements that fact. Kicking off with a partially spoken word intro, “Ave Maria” shows that this classically trained chanteuse has true chops. Morphing into the low key but throbbing “There For You,” Monet shows her inner R&B dance diva and on “Gently” she rides the lines between D’Angelo and Angie Stone, tapping into a true neo-soul moment that is both smooth and utterly romantic.

The standout on the package is the perfectly titled “Beyonce,” showing not only does Monet have her finger on the pulse of what the kids are dancing to now but her abilities on the mic are as slick as the name checked Ms. Knowles herself. With a crown firmly on her head and a mic in her hand, Monét has a message that is detailed in her music, but one that many fans already knew: “Who Runs The World? Monét.”

Josh Zuckerman CD "Gone with the music"
Josh Zuckerman CD “Gone with the music”

Josh Zuckerman 

There has always been something about a hometown success story and Josh Zuckerman is, without a doubt, one of them. From his performances at Georgies, videos filmed at Paradise, and numerous headlining spots all over New Jersey, seeing Josh Zuckerman always assures you of a rollicking good time with some good old-fashioned rock/pop influences like Joan Jett being evident throughout Zuckerman’s catalog.

On his latest album Gone With The Music, Zuckerman takes that influence even further and has some guest stars, including original members from Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Thommy Price and Gary Ryan. The title track is a pulsing anthem with horns galore and classic Zuckerman sound, but with help from these rock and roll heavyweights, his classic sound is only amplified. “Saying Yes to Yourself” is a slightly stripped down, yet string heavy sound while “Who Am I” is an anthem of self acceptance and ownership that many of us of this generation are able to finally relate to. Wrapping up the package with “I Wonder” is the raucous rocker that we have always known Zuckerman to be. Both his vocals and orchestration have taken on a new layer of richness, and having Ryan and Price on board is a rare treat for the audience as much as it is for the artist.

Macy Gray CD "Ruby"
Macy Gray CD “Ruby”

Macy Gray 

Consistent is one of the many adjectives that can be used to describe the luminous Macy Gray. While Janelle Monae and Lizzo have helped redefine music that rides the line of soul/dance/pop/R&B, Macy Gray can be credited as one of the artists who helped pave that road.

Her latest offering Ruby is complete bliss, providing us tastes of both the “Sexual Revolution” dance hall Macy as well as the “I Try” Macy, both of which her fandom is consistently rabid for. “Just Like Jenny” is a haunting and mysterious track, while “But He Loves Me” draws images of a smoky blues bar and Ms. Gray on stage alone belting out this endlessly yearning track. “White Man” gets us to the dance floor socially conscious style while “Jealousy” is the smooth and tongue in cheek artist that we have all gotten to know Macy Gray as, live and in color. Like her career thus far and this album’s namesake, Ruby is consistent, smooth, and completely gorgeous.

Anne Steele CD " Made Out Of Stars"
Anne Steele CD ” Made Out Of Stars”

Anne Steele

From famous New York City theater haunts to stages all over the country and beyond, Anne Steele has taken the talent she cultivated in places like Marie’s Crisis and Rose’s Turn in New York City and ran with it. Her latest EP Made Out Of Stars is one of those rare musical finds where every song tells its own individual and relatable story. “Obsessed” is pure grown up pop fun, while “Love Somebody” emphatically states we all deserve and need love, with Steele experimenting quite successfully with an electronic style vibe.

If you have ever been lucky enough to see Anne Steele live (and if you have not, check out her website for her latest dates) she always is amazing with covers. Tears for Fears classic “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” is consistently part of that set list, and hearing it recorded for this EP is a true treat. Hearing her breathy vocals providing her take on a track that was historically sung by male voices is a fresh and interesting take on the track. The true standout on Made Out Of Stars, though, is “I Miss Those Days.” If songs tell a story, this one almost reads it to you. For so many of us, listening to this song will be like throttling through time, remembering times and people gone too soon. “The song may have changed but I still sing along” is one of the most relatable lyrics I have heard in quite some time. It ties not just this particular song, but Made Out Of Stars together beautifully. Get this EP immediately.

Carl Chesna CD "Prayer To The Black Madonna"
Carl Chesna CD “Prayer To The Black Madonna”

Carl Chesna

Local musician and bon vivant Carl Chesna has always been somewhat of a neighborhood celebrity. He manages to gain new fans of his music as Carl Chesna & Co. and as a local businessman in Asbury Park, ensuring that people see the best that the town has to offer while providing some fabulous recommendations!

His latest musical offering Prayer To The Black Madonna is what we will call the perfect kind of “cold weather rock,” the kind of music that makes you want to pop into a local bar, grab a beer, a high top table, and listen to some amazing talent. From the effortlessly down tempo “Wintertime Greys” to the brisk and haunting “Cold,” Chesna’s sound remains consistent. As far as stand outs, “We Drift Apart” is a yearning message to a loved one, making Prayer To The Black Madonna a must grab this season!

READ MORE of Michael Cook’s articles at Out In Jersey online here.