Bianca Claxton needs no elongated introduction to pop lovers. She is nothing but pure pop. As she embarks on releasing her debut single & corresponding album, DSTP thought it only sensible to sit down & interview her about her exciting collaborations, Sweden, Aqua and legwarmers.

You've been busy recording nailing your sound. What was the moment when you  the feel of the album was realized?

It's definitely a gradual process creating the sound, but it did feel like all of a sudden, the music instantly started to come together and make sense. We got a few songs back from writing and recording sessions that all really worked together and it felt like we had some really strong quality songs and single contenders. That's when it started to get really exciting for me.

So, I've heard few of the songs....You've been working with Emma Rohan, Biff and Steve Anderson...Of course who have written for Kylie. What was it like going into the studio as a solo star with them?

It was such an amazing opportunity. To be in the same room writing and recording with people who have created some of the most incredible songs ever is such a privilege. I've had so much fun working with all of them and we have a right laugh in the studio. I'm so proud of all the songs that have come out of those sessions. 

There is a huge vocal feel in a lot of the demos (I'm thinking Lovelight for instance here). The sound has aspects of big hair Whitney, Annie Lennox and PWL-Kylie. BiancaWorld is very much about that 1988/1987 sound. Was that intentional?

Definitely. I am such an 80's geek, and it's been really essential for me in writing this album to capture the feel of what was great about music back then, but to also make it feel contemporary and still relevant for today's market. I definitely have to reign my inner 80's self in sometimes! 

I love that we're hearing that big vocal you've got over and inside the pop demos you've been working on. Did you utilize that Royal Academy training during the sessions?

My vocal training definitely helps in the songs that have long sustained phrases and higher notes throughout. Some of the songs on the album are definitely a right workout for me so it's important to use proper technique and not do lazy singing, otherwise I would batter my voice! 

Have you been primarily based in the UK, or are there plans to record in Europe/US?

I've done the majority of the album in the UK, but I went out to write and record in Sweden with amazing writers and producers such as Quiz & Larossi, Fredrik Berger, Holter & Erixson, Anders Hansen and also lovely Sharon Vaughn. It was great to be out there to write because they do pop so well and it was great to get a couple of really fun pop songs to go on the album from over there. A US writing trip is definitely on the cards as well as i’d love to work with Billy Steinberg, Diane Warren and Linda Perry - total legends!

Yes! I could so see Lovelight and Invisible being huge in Scandanavia and yet also Asia. Will there be any nods to Kpop on the album?

Yeah Lovelight definitely has that Scandinavian vibe! K Pop - i'm not sure i’d be able to carry it off as well as them! I love how visual exciting their videos are, so maybe I can bring a bit of that into mine!

Oh my god, talking of scandipop wasn't it true Aqua's Barbie Girl was your first record you ever bought?

Indeed it was. I remember it being my jam at school at the time. I still love it though. It's definitely a bit of a guilty pleasure that one. 

Have you and your team identified the lead single yet? I loved Lovelight. But there is so much more! Its totally legwarmers and yet has that beautiful vulnerability to it.  Its Annie Lennox meets Robyn. 

We do have a lead single that will be going up online v soon. It's a fun pop tune with a little bit of a retro disco vibe. I co-wrote it with Anu Pillai (he wrote and produced Ladyhawke’s Paris Is Burning) and also Ali Love from Hot Natured and I love it. I might try and incorporate some legwarmers into the video!! 

They say a strong pop song is measured in how quickly  it takes to get its chorus and its middle eight.!! Not time wasting - straight out of the cannon.

Lovelight was one of those songs that pretty much wrote itself. Myself, Emma Rohan and Steve Anderson were listening to a few of those big old 80's tunes and Belinda Carlisle 'The Same Thing' popped up and became a real inspiration for this song. Lyrically, we were thinking about that moment at a festival where complete strangers are united in an artists performance and nothing else matters but living in that moment and enjoying where you are right then and there. 

You're pretty much midway through putting together your album. What were the ups...

Writing with such amazing people such as The Nexus, Steve Anderson, Anu Pillai, Hygrade and the guys in Sweden has been a real highlight. It's also been so much fun to have the freedom to write and sing about whatever you want and to have so much creative control. When the sound really started to come together and we had some really exciting songs that all made sense, that was a definite up moment!

and downs? 

There haven't really been that many downs to be honest. I think when you're lucky enough to be able to write and record and do what you love, it's hard to find many negatives. It's definitely a long, hard process trying to create exactly the right sound, but when it does come together, all the stress that came before trying to get everything perfect instantly gets forgotten and it makes it more rewarding that you worked so hard to get there. 

Looking to the lyrics to Heart on Black it seems you address some of the challenges set by the music industry. Is that right? Its very much "a must get this of my chest" song. Your confessional. 

Definitely. Heart on Black is without a doubt one of my favourite songs on the album and one of the songs I'm most proud of. It's so true to the experiences I've been through in this industry, but I also think lyrically it is relevant to anyone in any walk of life who is working hard toward something. If i'm ever feeling stressed, I whack Heart on Black on and it kicks me back into shape!

So if you could offer any advice to someone entering the industry as a performer what would be your first thing that springs to mind?

It's such a cliche, but it would be that you have to believe in yourself otherwise nobody else well. It's such a crazy, intense industry and you just have to keep your own head, have faith in yourself and never take no for an answer. 

What living artist(s) inspires you the most? And has influenced the sound going into the studio?

I'm such a massive fan of Pat Benatar and she is an artist that has always inspired me. Obviously another huge one is Madonna in the 80's and 90's. She is one of those artists that never felt the need to conform to what was happening in the industry around her and was always unique and true to her own sound. I'd like to be able to capture essences of both of these artists in my own music. 

To those who didn't know, you were previously in the UK band Parade. Fans in the UK have wondered why that chapter came to end.....

It just felt like the group had reached a natural end to be honest. After Louder went in the Top 10 of the UK single chart, we worked really hard and got the opportunity to do lots of amazing gigs and tours. We were together for 3 years in total and had so much fun, but all good things do have to come to an end, and it felt that the group had achieved everything it could and it was time for us all to try something new.  
Did you simply have a moment when you just wanna be a solo singer? 

It wasn't really a decision about being a solo singer or not, it was really about the fact that Parade felt like it had come to a natural end and it was time for us all to start a new chapter. It wasn't until after the group came to an end that I actually sat down and had a serious think about what I wanted to do next, and felt that I wanted to have a go at making an album and trying to do a solo record. 

Scandanavian states supports the arts (especially young musicians). Do you think this government (and previous ones) does enough to assist young musicians and artists?

I think it's really easy to sit and say that this government could do things better. There is definitely a different attitude towards the arts and music in Scandinavia than there is here in the UK, but we are so lucky to have such strong and inspiring artists, producers and musicians in this country. I feel like here in the UK, we are setting the standard for music all over the world. The UK music scene right now definitely feels like it's setting the trend rather than following it - particularly by looking at the success of British artists breaking over in the US.

I mean you really get the sense of how important pop music is to...say sweden...with its amazing ABBA museum which has recently built alongside the Swedish Music Hall of Fame. Would you like the same to be established here in London?

That would be amazing!!! We have so much musical history in the UK that I think we could create something really incredible that people from all over the world would want to see. Yes, I did visit the ABBA museum and I had so much fun. I was like a kid at Christmas. Being that close to the outfits they wore in the videos and on stage, I thought I was the fifth member of the group at one point! Haha. 

And lastly, the BBC has an amazing product in the form of Top of The Pops. That could highlight the most important chart-breaking tracks sold that particular week and the importance of British musicians that you mentioned. Do you think its time to bring it back rather than let it pick up more dust. I mean Top Of The Pops 2, its archive show, is gonna soon run out of golden oldie footage to show. They is gonna need to recommission the show sooner or later!

I would love them to bring Top Of The Pops back. It used to be the highlight of my week when I was growing up. Back then it was about the only chance you got to see your favourite songs from that week performed by your favourite artist. I loved it!

If they did - what would be on your rider? And how many dancers would you have?

If they did, I wouldn't be particularly demanding with my rider. Just lots of bottles of water, a kettle, and maybe a cheeky bag of sweets! I'd love to have loads of dancers if I was on Top Of The Pops, but I wouldn't want professional dancers doing routines, I'd just like to go out and find loads of normal people of all ages and sizes and just have a massive rave and party on stage. Basically just have loads of fun!

The Steve Anderson Interview 2014!

2012 saw the AntiTour, K25 and Abbey Road. It was hectic but also celebratory year tocelebrate Kylie and, critically, her songbook. 2 years on, what do you make of k25?

I loved every single minute of it - there are so many of my best memories associated with that year from being lucky enough to make a record at Abbey Road , the Proms performance which was a real highlight and of course the Anti Tour which we all hold so dear to our hearts. It was the most warmth I’ve felt in a room of strangers in my entire life and she had an absolute ball. It was the perfect way to celebrate 25 years and herald the beginning of the next 25.

I have to ask, will we ever hear the studio version of That's Why They Write Love Songs?

There is one and you never know one day it might appear on a Special Edition of a CD as a bonus track but that would be up to the label. We’ve let it out to play a few times live and it holds a special place for us - you never know - one day it might appear somewhere...

Talking of which how is the Kylie musical coming along? Is it still in the development stages?

These things take time, that’s all I’m saying.

Looking back, you've done Rent Remixed, The Hurly Burly Show, Little Belter, Viva La Drag , Orchid and the new amazing show starring Denise Van Outen Some Girl I Used To Know written by Terry Ronald (writer behind Becoming Nancy). Bit by bit the glare of the musical and stage are taking hold - what has been the key attraction that has drawn you to the West End?

I’ve always loved West End and Broadway theatre (can’t you tell!) but to me its not that different from putting on a huge arena show. Its about entertainment and really focusing on the audience being with the show all the way. I’m incredibly lucky to work with a close team of amazing people on most of these shows and it helps we are all really close friends too. William, Terry, Ashley and I have known each other forever so its just second nature when it comes to putting on a show - first and foremost it has to be fun for everyone even though we are all incredible perfectionists. And of course it was inevitable we would all end up working on a world class drag show! One of which we are all very proud of mainly due to the incredibly talent of the girls and their superb voices.

In many ways - the difference between a club and a musical is you can swing from mirrorballs in one and chandeliers in the other. Through your stage arrangements, your remixing but with a different intention? 

I’ve always said that remixes are just the new name for traditional musical arrangements  - its taking the song and making it fit within the remit of the show which can sometimes mean not changing it too much and others totally reinventing it which we did a lot of in “The Hurly Burly Show” especially changing something like ‘Bad” into a sleazy big band jazz number. I’m massively inspired by the creative vision on all of these shows and probably none more so when it comes from someone like William and especially Kylie for her shows.

I mean, Denise sings an amazing version of Sonia's You'll Never Stop Me From Loving You in such a way that deconstructs not only the song but the way you perceives the pop song. Was that the way you wanted it to be?

The story there is I knew Denise loved that song and she kept bringing it up. Terry was adamant that it was wrong for the show so one morning before we had a studio session I put together an arrangement for it and surprised her with it later that afternoon. Her face absolutely lit up - she recorded the vocal that day and Terry just turned round and said ‘that’s got to go in the show!”. I have so much love and respect for what Stock Aitken and Waterman did and beneath all that processed pop are some beautiful melodies and lyrics which can be allowed to shine even more when stripped back. Her vocal on it is extraordinary and the first night she performed it Terry just turned to me and said ‘dear - its happening!” . It always gets a massive round of applause.

Now when I first heard it, I was immediately reminded of the genesis behind Kylie's new version of Never Too Late!

I think “Never Too Late” is much more delicate. Again the extraordinary brilliance of Stock/Aitken/Waterman songwriting and one of the most tender and beautiful vocals Kylie has ever performed. I knew that “You’ll Never Stop Me From Loving You” had to go big at the end as boy does it!

Indeed, the entire album? How was that experience? With Kylie & Cliff Masterson?

Abbey Road was probably the most satisfying and brilliant recording process I have ever been involved with. I loved going to work everyday , it never got old pulling up in front of that beautiful building and signing in (its a tradition everyone does). We filled Studio 2 with our amazing band , singers and orchestra for 3 weeks of amazing memories. We had previously work-shopped and rehearsed all of the songs so it was all about getting them recorded well. I still think Kylie’s vocals on that record are amongst the very best she’s ever performed and we had a blast doing it. Also it was great to work with Colin Elliot (who I had admired for a long time especially for his Richard Hawley productions) and as always with the brilliant Cliff Masterson who has the best sparkly baton in show business!

Were there any songs that the list of songs you all wished to do but then didn't quite work out in the recording stage?

Amazingly no - we had a a great two week workshop rehearsal and the ones that seemed most natural within the new sonic environment worked out perfectly.

And with the AntiTour? What songs, if any, just didn't quite cut the mustard during rehearsals?

Again none - in fact we kept adding as the tour went on - by the time we got to London it could easily have been a 3 hour show. We all knew it was a one time only thing so the more we could cram in the better!

What was that like to be in the same rehearsal space as where Intimate & Live was rehearsed?

Absolutely amazing not only because of that but its the warmest, loveliest rehearsal space I’ve ever been in. Obviously the sunshine and staying in my adopted second home of Melbourne really comes into it plus so many memories of the first band rehearsals I had ever done in my life back in 1998 for I & L. 

You are currently working with the new artist Harriet in-between your work with Kylie, Susan Boyle and Leona Lewis. You can hear interesting correlations between songs & the arrangements you've done with Kylie (including the likes of Come On Strong and You Are There) with Harriet. Where do you similarities between the two artists come from?

I think certainly the Abbey Road side of Kylie is present in the sound of Harriet’s music, its very organic and very much driven by what inspires her and the sound she has dreamed of making ever since she grew up in a house full of music predominantly from the great singer/songwriters of the 70s such as David Gates. Carole King and Stephen Bishop. What I love about Harriet is her voice stops people and makes them listen , really listen to the lyrics and melody.  Judie Tzuke said that it sounded like it was from another place and time so we wrote a song about that called “Whats Mine Is Yours” that addresses it ‘some part of me has been here before, you can hear it in my voice’. Its so true, What makes it even more fascinating is that she’s so young and incredibly beautiful that when the voice comes out people are genuinely taken aback. We’ve pretty much written an album together and I can’t wait for everyone to hear more as this year progresses.

How would you best describe Harriet? And what did you make of that voice when you first heard it?

I would say she a contemporary old soul , by that I mean as much as she adores everything about the great artists of the 70s she’s just as much at home listening to Drake or Daft Punk and her look and style is absolutely now. A lot of the time when artists reference something from another time its because they fall out of love with the now but this couldn’t be further from the truth with her. I do remember the first time I heard her voice it stopped me in my tracks and I knew I had to work with her but it felt so important to me to bring out what she wanted to do rather than impose any idea of what I thought she should be. It just so happened they were both the same thing so it worked perfectly. I always say play to your strength, if you love something then embrace it no matter how many people tell you that you should be doing something different - you can be completely true and it might take longer to get there but at least when you do you’ll know its not down to a massive compromise.

How is Harriet's album is slowly coming together?

I think it will appeal to fans of everyone from Carole King to George Michael. Its an album of beautiful songs arranged really organically but with an eye on pop appeal rather than just musicianship for the sake of it. In one word, honest.

Harriet is also working with Cliff Masterson for her album. Both you and Cliff previously collaborated on Susan & Abbey Road so what can we expect from Harriet's work with Cliff?

I’ve worked with Cliff as a collaborator on string arrangements for far too many years than either of us would care to mention now - we have that thing where we don’t really have to say it now as one knows what the other is thinking. However the Susan album was the first time we co-produced and we both loved it. Susan is so much fun and when she hits those vocal moments in the studio its like that first time on BGT every single time! I’m thrilled with the first songs Harriet and Cliff have written together - can’t wait to hear more.

I am taking some time to absorb the latest Kylie album - I know. Its certainly unlike her previous releases. My favourite two tracks are the title and Mr President. Quite different in style and yet both very "Kylie". 

I think there are some incredible hooks and melodies on there - whether everyone likes every track or not its undeniable that they won’t be able to get them out of their heads (sorry). For me I think the song “Kiss Me Once” is one of the best things she’s ever done - its beyond glorious and the chorus just explodes, loved it from day one. I also really love “Mr President” as i think its so her , “Sleeping With The Enemy” which is sublime and of course “Into The Blue” which is the first one she played me and I adored it from then. 

Which recorded KM song was you most disappointed when you’d seen it hadn’t made the final tracklisting …..

The thing is - if the tracks are really good they always find a way of sneaking out one way or another. For instance I really love “Sparks” which isn’t on the “KMO” album but is on a limited edition version. Going back I always wished “Love Is Waiting” was on KM94 but again it ended up on a rarities disc so all good.

Gosh, What I LOVE about Love Is Waiting is that amazing vocal especially at the end (with terry ronald doing the vocal prod on that!). Epic. Looking at the Steve Anderson songbook, you work with artists who use their voice at the very essence/art. Whether its Harriet, Kylie, Leona, Susan or Mark...there is always familiarity of tenderness conveyed in the way sing……

I’m all about vocal performances - its the essence of the record for me and the most important thing much more than technicality is believability. I’ve been incredibly lucky to work with such an incredible selection of singers over the years and that human emotion is what I think really touches people especially in an age where the record buying public are often mistrusting of some of the technology used in vocal production. The one thing that can’t be digitally manipulated is emotion and believability and thats what I strive for with any performer I’m producing. My biggest inspiration for this was Phil Ramone who sadly passed away recently just after completing work on George Michael’s “Symphonica” album. He produced everyone from Frank Sinatra to Amy Winehouse but reading his book it was fascinating to see how much emphasis he placed on making sure the artist was completely comfortable and in the right moment to sing. People don’t realise that even though it may only be 3 or 4 takes, records last forever so its actually some of the most important moments in an artists career when they are in front of that mic. Everything has to be right so they can almost go outside of themselves and deliver something magical. Its like stardust, honestly it is. Especially with Kylie, there is often one take that seems like its from another world - it comes out of her mouth perfectly formed and totally true and that’s one of the many reasons I love my job and never for a moment take it for granted how lucky I am to do it.

Actually how is Mark's new album coming along?

I’ve been friends with Mark for a long time now as I worked on a lot of Westlife tours. There was actually a song on one of their albums called “Talk Me Down” which I produced and featured Mark very heavily - it was then that we started writing together and when the band split up we put some sessions in to start seeing where the sound would go. I really don’t want to give too much away at this stage but I will say its probably the last thing people are expecting, Its very honest and comes directly from him plus of course he just happens to be my favourite male singer in the world so the vocals are extraordinary.  

Developing his sound as a solo artist....I really appreciate he's taking his time...thats been really important for Mark right? 

Exactly - I think people are sometimes in too much of a rush to get things done and out. He wants to make an album he’s incredibly proud of and one that his existing fans will hopefully love as much as a new audience. I love perfectionists so we get on really well - when its ready its ready but I would say it won’t be too long now. I can’t tell you how excited I am for people to hear it.

How do you bring the skills you've learnt on the road with KM, Westlife and Leona and their tour your work with the likes of Harriet who are just entering the industry?

Its all about a love of music and entertaining. Every situation is different but essentially its people in a room hoping they click creatively and what we call ‘daring to suck’. Meaning that writing a song sometimes with a complete stranger for the first time is one of the most harrowing experiences you can think of but once everyone realises they are all gong to come up with a bunch of really bad ideas but in the middle there will be a gem that’s fine. Regarding new artists I don’t really treat them any differently to established ones as we are all learning all the time. A new artist can teach me things just as much as I can teach them, This is why I have such a passion for new music and continually blog and tweet about ace new music because that’s where the inspiration comes from. I have never tired of the feeling I get when I hear something for the first time, fall completely in love with it and can’t wait to play it to my friends, This is why I adore doing the radio show with Larry Flick on Sirius. I get to share new music and if just one person picks up on it and finds something they can fall in love with that is the best feeling in the world.
How does the song-writing process work for you? It seems a very collaborative affair for you. Does the artist present the lyrics and you mount a melody over that or is it more messier. I mean where did Can I Keep You (free download here) come from?

Its always different - sometimes it can be a musical idea or in the case of “Can I Keep You’ it was the title plus the fact we’d written two songs that fitted with what we thought we should do so we let ourselves off the hook and decided to try and write a more traditional song structure so not verse, bridge , chorus but more two rounds of one melody , once bridge section then back again - a lot more like standards are written. Then it was about making sure the words really delivered as those songs can so easily drift into Hallmark Cards schmaltz - they had to be honest, true and heartfelt without being cheesy. Luckily that one happened quite quickly - a lot of the best ones do - like you’ve had it there for a while and it just flows out. It really is different every time though.

Was it initially a song she wrote about her mother - I mean have you see the fan video online? Even if it wasn't written about her mum it relates and conveys. That's what i love about songs like Can I Keep You or Flower - they can mean so much to the songwriters but once those songs take flight - the listener rewrites them into their own narrative. Its quite magical how that happens.

I think you are absolutely right - every song means something different to every person. “Can I Keep You’ could be about a mother, about a baby or it could be the perfect wedding song. Its so important to let the listener define how it affects them emotionally as that way each one will find their own connection with it.

That triangle between the artist, audience and label has always intrigued me and recently undergone huge developments. The British music industry has become streamlined in recent months. Indeed, a lot of capital stems from streams and the dust appears to have settled from the loss of EMI - the last British label. The majors are now either French (Universal), American (Warner) or Japanese (SONY). What do you make of the future of the music industry in the context of the breaking artist/writer?

Thats true but I think that the UK still has some of the best A&R talent in the world and we do make incredible records in this country. Its interesting because years ago people needed record companies to be able to get intro studios to make records - now so much can be done relatively cheaply but people still need help when it comes to promoting and often guiding them. I’m sure artists 20 years ago would love the technology as much as artists now would love the input from a record company. Obviously there are always horror stories when it comes to corporations but I still believe there are some incredibly talented people who just happen to work for someone different than before around today.

How do you think the growth of the label services & the likes of Kobalt?

I’m really interested to see what happens with Caroline at Universal as that’s a superb team of people. Ultimately the artist still needs a source of revenue to be able to pay for the elements a traditional label would have done before. Its much easier for an established artist with existing fan base to go through label services as they can pretty much guarantee their fans will buy whatever the release and go to the gigs. Its a little harder when it comes to new acts but I think both majors and label services can exist side by side for the best of both worlds.

In ten years time do you think the distinction between major and minor label will be as bold as it is today?

I think its all music whichever way you look at it - as long as the cream rises to the top and for every Pitbull there is a Luke Sital Singh I’m happy!

And…..lastly, I’ve always been intrigued with the song Butterfly which you co-wrote with Kylie all those years ago. It was then produced by Mark Picchiotti. Or rather the version we got to hear on LY was the Mark production. How did the original sound? The one by you?

It didn’t sound that different actually - obviously it was a very rough demo from Real World and was a little more piano/strings (of course) but I loved where Mark took it - it needed a more contemporary club sound but he kept all of the gospel backing vocal ideas and the ending etc. Similarly with Johnny Douglas and “So Now Goodbye” . The essence was in the demo but he glitzed it up even more.


Essential Links
Harriets Soundcloud & Twitter

"Post another pic i wanna see that cappuccino" - KIDS!

Fucking love the single by Soso & Style of Eye the moment I heard it. Suck its teeth deep into my flesh. Now addicted with its great video. Hipster funky triangles included naturally.


Say Lou Lou – Beloved
I can’t quite properly convey how much love I have for Beloved. Suffice to say Beloved is one of the finest songs of decade. It deserves every applause and every appraise. It is beautiful. I truly hope Say Lou Lou have plans to upgrade its current b-side status to a-side. It is absolutely stunning. There are songs. And there are songs like Beloved. Amazing. Listen

Broods – Bridges
Setting blogworld alight with their debut, it was incredibly difficult not to fall in love Broods. It helped they were, as duo’s go, pretty nice to look at. This facet aside, Broods released one of the finest songs of the year. Cosy, warm yet anthemic Bridges became one of signature songs of 2013. Listen
Style Of Eye with Soso – KIDS

I love Soso. I love Style of Eye. Kids was always going to become one of favourite songs of 2013. And it did. The lyrics are amazing especially the lines about generic hipsters. Pop world shines ever brighter with Sophia Somajo in it. Listen  

Wild at Heart - Saving All My Tears
I love Erik Lindestad and Li Stanley! I am so pleased they decided to reform into Wild At Heart after Cleast Eatwood decided to splinter up. While Saving All My Tears is sadly not a cover of the Cher anthem, it is pretty amazing nonetheless. Featuring gorgeous vocals from Erik that glide over the delicate fabric of the tender song which sounds gentle to touch.  With its tremendous cosmic arpeggios the rather majestic Saving All My Tears has emerged as one of my all time favourite songs of recent years. It is glorious. Listen

Museum Of Bellas Artes – Abyss
It was a trip to Eurovision earlier where I first discovered on the beauty that are Museum of Bellas Arte so yes I’m a little tardy to the party. Yes, again another Swede outfit make the list. Abyss easily stabbed itself deep into my heart and refused to leave. Taking me hostage for about 2 months. Then came my borderline obsessive love for their debut album which is out now. Listen

Hanna – Rain Dance
Okay, so I put my hands up! I adored Cat5 so I was an instant but biased fan of Hanna’s solo efforts and with her Lioness EP she didn’t disappoint last year. This year she gave us two trinkets in the form of the amazing North Star and Rain Dance. Both could’ve been on the list here today but the tasty unusualness and abnormal pop of Rain Dance circled itself around my head and is why its here over the disco-tastic North Star. Cannot wait for Hanna’s album. Listen

Marlene – Bon Voyage
Produced by French friends Tepr and Myd, Bon Voyage by Marlene is a wonderfully designed pop fuelled R&B anthem that you could imagine on the 3rd Little Mix album.  Great synths and uplifting vocals Marlene’s debut single instantly became one of most deliciously overplayed songs of 2013. Listen

Club 8 – Stop Taking My Time
Nothing to do with the S Club 7 spin-off  band, the Swedish duo delivered one of the finest synth-driven debut albums of the year in the form of Above The City via Labrador Records. Stop Taking My Time sounded like felt like beat in the stomp of every fierce supermodel during the 1990s. It growled, prowled and roared. Listen

Xenia Kriisin – Firearms
Putting aside the rather brilliant name, this anthem stopped me in tracks and wore me out. I get the sense this is the sort of song Loreen tried to attempt with her Warrior release earlier in the year. Xenia’s Firearms was every bit epic as the title suggests. Pretty much fucking amazing. Listen

Niia – Generation Blue
I am an absolute sucker for layered and delicious string ballads and murky hints of electro synths  marauding at the back. Generation Blue arrived around December and consequently I’ve been doing my Christmas shoppin and hoppin with Niia firmly on constant repeat. Absolutely beautiful. Listen

Sirena – Don’t Fear The Water
Don’t fear the Water is one of my favourite songs of the year. But I intensely dislike the fact that it as finishes far too soon. Way too soon. I want it to last longer. Anyho, the anthem by the Spanish-Swedish Sirena constructs her stunning anthem with a  beautiful prologue in the form of a acapella before interweaving sweeping arpeggios that breathed life into the Monday morning when I first came across it. I can’t wait for her album next year. Truly magnificent. Listen

Icona Pop – I Love It
Overlooking the fact that the song came out in 2012, Icona Pop delivered an immense set of pop anthems pretty much the moment they landed here on planet pop and I Love It was simply the tip of a huge iceberg. They stormed the charts with their debut single that was used in a multitude of syncs from big Hollywood films to trashy beer companies all of which proved the high addictivity – is that even a word? – of the anthem. It just couldn’t be denied. It soared into 2012 and stamped itself all over 2013 as well.  Illustrating that they are not simply about I Love It, their two recent albums are full of bombastic pop anthems. If you want to find a twin to their global smash, let me suggest On A Roll. Listen

Mmm - Volcano of Diamonds

Volcano of Diamonds is a smoky explosion that illuminates and ruminates like a good rum on a very cold winters day. In other words, it was it was more of a slow grower rather than an instant pop firework.  Nonetheless, it glows gloriously. Hailing from Norway, Mmm masterfully create a sparkly production with dreamy ethereal high-pitched falsettos and vocoded trinkets that twists and turns, all of which made sure Volcano of Diamonds eventually wrapped itself around me. Listen

Anana – Island
Anana and her song Island are amazing. I can’t get enough of either. Experimenting in what she describes as her genre of “underwater-pop”, Anana certainly pulls the living and listening under her wave. Incredible. Listen

Mons Montis – Swept
Sounding somewhere in-between Kylie’s Love At First Sight, the soundtracks of Drive and Blade Runner, Swept arrived in September and knocked me over. I found myself swooning and asking for my salts. Can’t wait to hear more from the new Swedish group. Listen

Name The Pet – So Slow
I love absolutely everything that Hanna does. However I must remain detached. Distant, cool and unbiased. Yet, I couldn’t leap for joy when I heard So Slow. It simply sparkled. A little more mature than her previous outings, So Slow sounds as if Name The Pet is certainly finding her feet. Listen

Azure Blue – Time Is On Our Side
Tobias Isaksson (Azure Blue) returned with the absolutely glorious second album this year and the single Time Is On Our Side was its flagship song. I fell head over heels for its dream-like Blade Runner sensibilities. Check out the Azure Blue album Beyond The Dreams There's Infinite Doubt as it could be the best electro-synth pop album to come out during 2013 and one of the finest Swedish releases of the year. Hugely inspirational and sumptuous. Listen
Avicii ft. Aloe Blacc – Wake Me Up
I very nearly put Avicii’s tremendous Eurovision effort with Bjorn & Benny but instead went for the poptastic global smash Wake Me Up. Explosive and tremendous, Wake Me Up smashed together dance & country  making a rather stunning cocktail I’ve not heard since Dolly Parton experimented with disco hit Baby I’m Burnin’. Listen
Betty Who – High Society

I love the Australian songstress Betty Who! Who doesn't? She’s the toast of every pop blog and has appeared in all the right “ones to watch lists” for next year. 2013 has been an immense year for Betty culminating by signing to RCA in September. High Society is one of favourite songs from her so far. Listen

Paola & Chiara – Divertiamoci

It is little bit heartbreaking to list the Italian pop group as the moment they released their poptastic J-Pop-inspired album in July they decided to call it a day after years reigning the Spanish, German and Italian radio waves especially during the summer months for years. They blamed the Italian music business. Which, given its reputation at the moment, you can understand why. Alas, I'm sure they will return perhaps not as a duo though. Divertiamoci was a huge Europop anthem of epic proportions and in many ways a good final single for the sister-group. Take a bow, P & C you were amazing. DSTP will miss you! Listen
Frida Sundemo - Jaguar

When Frida released her amazing Indigo EP, all eyes & ears rightfully fell deep in love with the title song, but for me it was all about Jaguar. It shimmers and radiates as one of my favourite b-sides released this year. It recalls some of her earlier ambient textures realized on her debut album released in 2010. After receiving her second album the other week I get the sense that next year will be Fridas. Listen

W/I - Love Divine

Sounding like a squeezed Sound of Arrows or something from the Drive soundtrack, Love Divine was the first single by WI otherwise known as two film music students Ola Wilhelm Tappert and Sandra Windahl. Check out their dreamy electro pop E.P available on itunes now. It wonderfully borrows from the Blade Runner soundtrack which is amazing considering that it manages in the short space of an EP to create a delicious sci-fi landscape and realm via their atmospheric and tender electric musings. Amazin. Listen

Lady Gaga - Gypsy 

Taken from one of my favourite album's of 2013, Gypsy was one of the strongest songs from Lady Gaga's third album. Pushing aside the huge polemic fanfare that surrounds Lady Gaga and especially this album, ArtPop was another pretty good effort but it was Gypsy that caught my eye perhaps because it was produced by RedOne. Full on poptastic pop with turbo bells. Listen

Join The Riot - Queen Marmalade 
Four rather delicious Swedish boys based in Stockholm produced this bombastic cute ditty in the summer and I was instantly hooked. Such was the sweet candy beauty of Queen Marmalade it sounded somewhat like a cross between Aha and S/A/W. Listen

Laurel – Blue Blood

The trippy-pop beats next to the lush arrangement of course draws similar comparisons to Lana Del Ray but this should not be seen as a slight in any way. Laurel wrote and produced the entire track which is immense considering its rich, mighty and huge wall of sound. Her album promises to be absolutely amazing. Listen

Ask Embla - Einn

By producing the album of the year, it thus became rather difficult to pick the one song from the Norwegian pop legends Ina & Arnthor which was impossible to separate or divorce on first hearing. Northern Light, their album, is weighed down by their pop brilliance and belief that every song should be all thriller and no filler. However, looking at my most played it is Einn that pushes past the rest with almost triple amount of listens than any other song by Ask Embla. In fact, deeper scrutiny reveals that Einn along with Beloved by Say Lou Lou is my most played songs of 2013. If you've ever wondered what the valkyries listened to on their mp3 players as they bring the fallen to the god Odin wonder no more. Einn emerges as a soaring uplifting torch ballad providing warmth from the embers after the burning pain of loosing a loved one.  I was emotionally shaken after my first listen and months on I still cry a little. A powerful moment of remembrance enshrined in one song. Beautiful. Listen

Veronica Maggio - Dallas (Wagner Remix)

It is Wednesday which can only mean one thing! Its time for a Maggio remix! By Wagner! Nay of X Factor or German opera composer. But of the Danish outfit ColorKaleido! Its a rather funky remix with delicious disco trimmings on the side. Yummy. More remixes Wagner.

The Soraya Interview

The singer Soraya is about to release her 6th studio album through her very own record label, Valentia Records. Comparisons with the Swedish firework of a popstar, Robyn, who left her own major label SonyBMG to set up as an independent, have been made and understandably so. With the release earlier this year of the stand-alone single Con Fuego under her belt, tomorrow sees the release of Soraya's first single, Plastic, from the new album Universe In Me. On the eve of this new chapter in Soraya's career, as she firmly parks herself in the captain's chair, DSTP spoke to the singer about the creation of the album, the good early reviews of Plastic and what it feels like to be boss!

So lets start with the album! It has elements the disco movement of the 1970s, Moroder and of course the 1980s..what was the genesis of the album

I was inspired by the early legendary pioneers of electronic dance music - the likes of Donna Summer, Grace Jones, The Supremes and Gloria Gaynor. I wanted this album to be different from my last five. I wanted to create a journey through the album. As if it told a story. A story of music. I wanted the music to be central to my first album released through the label I set up myself. I had so many ideas so I called up Tortuga as I wanted this album to be a little bit like Robyn's Body Talk, Madonna's Ray Of Light and Donna Summer's Greatest Hits. All rolled into one. I wanted this album to be dance, but to feel live. With real instruments. Alive. That was very critical to me from the start. To feel the passion of the dance within.

You're completely in control on this album.

Yes. I am a businesswoman. I run my own music company now. That was the central framework to the album. At the very beginning of the process, I would sit with the songwriter Isabel Guzman and we would brainstorm where to start. I love that funky disco sound by Nile Rodgers and I absolutely loved a particular song she demoed and put aside especially for me and a project like this.

Which was?

Plastic. It became the starting point. That's where I would work to create and direct the vibe of the album. Isabel had written the song Plastic a few years ago and hadn't discovered the right project for it until now. When I heard the demo I knew it was right. So Isabel and my production team Tortuga flew out from Stockholm to Madrid throughout the year and we'd really start to work on formulating the sound of the album. The rest of the album was written and recorded in Spain.
Was Plastic always going to be the first single from Universe In Me?

Yes. Two other songs were quite popular in the studio when we first started recording. One was actually the second song we recorded for the album called Walking On Water. I cannot wait for you guys to hear it. I wanted a song about empowerment and picking yourself up after you've been knocked down and Walking On Water was that for me. I picked Plastic. It had to be Plastic.

It is a turning point for you? Sound-wise.

Yes. My producers wanted to really push me, which I loved! And naturally I pushed them in return. It was vital for me that parts of the album explored the dark side of relationships but also the beauty of love. That's the spirit behind the song Something. I loved layers of that song. The strings are thrilling. When that was being written the studio came alive. The sparks flew. It was amazing to hear the strings filter through the speakers. The same must be said for the Vega song El Huracan and Armour which is a big electronic ballad. Vega and Björn of Tortuga created an amazing production on El Huracan as I wanted to experiment with trip-hop. The arrangement is enchanting.

The Vega song is a little bit like the British bands Massive Attack and Portishead.

Yes! Exactly. I wanted this album to be different yet follow from Dreamer and Sin Miedo. Universe In Me has different moods but the songs are all interwoven together. They had to fit.

What was it like recording the album?

A joy. I had a very specific story of the album in my mind. In fact, there was a moment when we recorded what was going to be last song of the album, Is It Worth It, when I challenged Tortuga to up the ante. I wanted two more songs on the album. I really wanted this album to sparkle with all the glamour of the disco era of the 1970s. Isabel thought about two demos from the same session as Plastic; Love Song and When You Were My Friend. Those were actually the last two songs to be a  part of the album. Like Plastic, they were waiting for an album just like Universe In Me. It all fell into place. The moment I heard them I needed them. They sounded like disco gems you'd hear at Studio 54 and Danceteria. That's what I wanted the sound of the album to be. For me, the album became immediately one in that moment!

Yes. Although the album feels retro, it is also very modern and forward. For instance, the title track is a little AlunaGeorge meets Disclosure meets Eurythmics.  
That's an interesting comparison! Jocke, Isabel, Bjorn and myself have the similar music tastes and are roughly born around the era of the cassette and disco so I think that's why the writing, production and direction came together very naturally in the studio in Madrid. Actually it was a few years ago when we met in London that the stars already began to align for the album. I wanted it to be retro but modern. If it could be described as a colour I'd say it was neon blue.

Yes! When You Were My Friend fits that description. It is very dark.

Yes. I liked Isabel's demo. But I wanted changes. I wanted it to be darker with strands of Depeche Mode. When Vega gave me El Huracan it was a revelation for the album. So the album needed a connecting song and that had to be dark and maybe a little sinister. So I had to re-direct the ambiance of When You Were My Friend. Tortuga are excellent in listening and delivering exactly what I wanted.
The reaction from fans, djs and music critics to Plastic and the shift in that direction have been very positive.

I am so thankful for my fans. It is humbling. Especially during this moment. Words cannot express how I feel about it. My fans are the best.

It is a massive step you are doing with this album which just also happens to be the first under your own record label. I mean, its the first album with Valentia. You could've played it a little safer.

Yes, this album is a shift. A development from the last. I had to. It was in my blood burning in my heart. I wanted my voice to be really be free. In many ways, this is what the song Armour is about. You have to meet the challenge that you set yourself. Armour has a lyric that I love that goes "When the curtain falls, then its up to you". You have to be bold, an artist and strong. I had to take this next step with this album.
How did you come up with the title of Universe In Me?

The Universe In Me conveys a lot to me. It says everything. Yes, it is me on stage but I am also about my family, fans, friends, my community and loved ones. My label, management and my production team. They are all a part of this...All my fans are a part of this journey. I can't overstate this. That is the meaning behind the title. What makes this dream possible is the universe around me.