One of the hottest topics debated around the POPDOSE roundtable is the severe lack of quality pop stars coming from Kazakhstan. Well, that’s all about to change with the February 13th release of Californ-i-a, the sophomore outing from Yulianna.
Like Madonna, Rihanna and Sha-Na-Na before her, Yulianna proves you don’t need a last name to make a lasting impression. She is Jane Mansfield and Lady Gaga morphed into a beautiful bombshell. Tired of those anorexic Disney Channel Princesses? Yulianna will keep the dancefloor packed while they hit Subway to eat a freaking sandwich already.
Yulianna has been in the States for some time but has clearly cultivated fans around the world (her website is also offered in Russian). She got a Masters from the California Institute of the Arts and won the Best Music Video award at the Colorado Film Festival for the very imaginative single “Race Car” from her first album La-La-Land:
Californ-i-a and La-La-Land share a love for the Golden State and hyphens because being a multi-hyphenate is a prerequisite for living in Los Angeles. That said, I wasn’t expecting much from this lovely singer/violinist — my desk is cluttered with bad disco from every wannabe diva with access to an iPad, Armani and GarageBand. Needless to say, I was stunned when I found myself liking this album — a lot.
My least favorite things about Californ-i-a are probably the ingredients that will make it a big hit with the youths: a splash of AutoTune here, a dash of Dubstep there. But for a Weezer-era geezer like me, there is still plenty to groove to. The sexy, sultry, mid-tempo first two songs on the album, “Back at You” and the title track, are way better than anything I’ve heard from Christina Aguilera or Shakira in a decade. The Adult Contemporary genre has served Adele very well and this is where Yulianna shines.
The production throughout the disc is world-class. On “Back to You,” the drums splash like warm rain while haunting guitar lines meander in out. With tight rhythms, sexy keys and earwoom hooks a plenty, “Californ-i-a” is a monster smash waiting to happen. SNL should make it the new theme song to The Californians.
In the tracks that follow, Yulianna starts to get her Gaga, Donna Summer and Selena Gomez on with “December Sky” and “Don’t Take Your Love Away.”
“Hard Drive” is a delicious robo disco song that Body Talk-era Robyn would approve of, though I am sort of confused by the mixed metaphor of a woman singing “put your love in my hard drive” (warning: kids, please do not try this at home on your parents’ Lenovo). Then again, my ill-hastily conceived rewrite, “put your hard in my love drive” would be even worse, so I’ll just go with Yulianna’s flow.
Plenty of great moments round out the disc — an insanely hip Reggae track careens in from left-field on “Revolution.” Why do I think this track is so awesome? I hate it when white people do Reggae. No wait, I hate it when white people do Lite Reggae.
All in all, Californ-i-a sets the bar high for big-sounding indie disco records. Love it. Love her.