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Pop Making Sense

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On Sat.-Sun., Aug. 9 and 10, Northalsted Market Days offers an array of local artists, queer icons and divas to delight the scantily clad crowd. Some of the draws include the blues-rock sound of the Kimi Hayes Band, hunky out singer-songwriters Ferras and Eric Himan, the Windy City's disco vocal powerhouse Linda Clifford, freestyle girl group Expose and Tony Award winner Jennifer Holliday. For a more detailed schedule, please visit chicagoevents.com.

Queer-fronted country quintet Devin & the Straights takes to the stage on Sat., Aug. 9 at 6 p.m. at Northalsted Market Days. On the group's solid self-titled debut, the guys pay homage to Lakeview establishment Town Hall Pub on 'Cowboy Night.' Devin & the Straights delivers timeless country and bluegrass music, tipping their hats to the greats like Hank Williams and Dolly Parton.

Also performing at the festival in Boystown Sat., Aug. 9 is out Chicagoan rocker Dylan Rice. He will return on Wed., Aug. 13 to Lilly's, 2515 N. Lincoln, for a special solo acoustic show, sharing the bill with Nashville-based talent Tori Sparks. The Chicago-born Sparks has a near-breathless voice on 'Cold War,' but then busts out a full-bodied chorus. Even 'Under the Rug' has a sweeping, optimistic tone to it, whereas 'Out of the Void' is ever so final. Produced by David Henry ( R.E.M., Ben Folds, Cowboy Junkies ) , her latest album, Under This Yellow Sun, would translate seamlessly to a live setting.

Looking for the ultimate party compilation? DJ Max Rodriguez culminates mixes and covers for the feel-good nonstop set Party Groove: Pride 08. This Centaur Release has reworkings of '90s club hits ( 'Hold That Sucker Down,' 'Fine Day,' 'People Hold On' ) as well as noteworthy upbeat takes on recent radio staples ( 'Bleeding Love,' '4 Minutes,' 'Apologize' ) . Rodriguez, who spins at the New York hotspot Splash, has also done the honors in this series previously. Pride 08 is out now.

Somebody recently asked me what song sounds like it samples Donna Summer's 'I Feel Love' and Depeche Mode's 'I Feel Loved' with the lyrics 'I don't speak words, I feel love.' Lo and behold, it is one of my favorite club tracks so far this year. X-Press 2 follows up 'Give It' and the mega-hit 'Lazy' with 'Kill 100.' This number does not have the warm Ibiza feeling of its predecessors. Guest vocalist Rob Harvey from the British outfit The Music provides dark, moody Dirty Vegas-inspired vocals. Found on X-Press 2's album Makeshift Feelgood, 'Kill 100' also appears on the duo's double-disc greatest hits and mixes retrospective Raise Your Hands.

Chicago's shining star, Jennifer Hudson, gives eager fans a peek to her forthcoming debut album with the new single, 'Spotlight.' Don't worry, it is not a remake of the Madonna jam of the same name from the '80s. Here, Hudson has the hook of the year with her 'hee-hee's. Dance-floor enthusiasts, keep an eye out for the Johnny Vicious remix, which is destined to be a late-summer anthem. 'Spotlight' and its mixes are now available on iTunes, while Hudson's highly anticipated self-titled debut is slated for a Sept. 30 street date via Arista Records.

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On a recent trip to Toronto, I ran into queer guitarist Stefan Olsdal from the British alternative-rock trio Placebo. He said they were in Canada recording new album with a new drummer. The already written material will have a rock edge to it in the style of PJ Harvey and My Bloody Valentine. Olsdal also promises that Placebo will take to the road again soon. Placebo's 2006 opus, Meds, features Alison Mosshart from the Kills on the title track and the remake of Kate Bush's 'Running up That Hill' had its video—consisting of a collage of fan clips—come out last year.

Former Moloko frontwoman Róisín Murphy had one of the best albums of 2007 with Overpowered. Chocked full with funk, R&B and electro-soul, this import-only release's fourth single is the pop gem 'Movie Star.' The clip is nothing short of a camp classic worthy of Pee Wee's Playhouse. Here, there are gender-benders, wigs with too much hairspray, a love scene with a giant plush lobster and lots of mandatory bad overacting. The end product for 'Movie Star' is a wonderful salute to B-grade zombie movies and videos of the '80s like 'Love is a Battlefield.'

After chart success in the early '90s, Cathy Dennis has turned into a hit-writing factory for other artists. She has been behind numerous songs, including Britney Spears's 'Toxic' and Kylie Minogue's electro-anthem 'Can't Get You out of My Head,' as well as the theme from American Idol. Now Dennis can claim having penned her first #1 hit with Katy Perry's 'I Kissed a Girl.' Per an interview with Billboard magazine, the redheaded Brit will return to singing with her forthcoming band, Sexcassettes. Best known for her top 10 hits 'Touch Me ( All Night Long ) ' and 'Too Many Walls' as well as a cameo on TV's 'Beverly Hills, 90210,' Dennis stepped behind the spotlight stateside after her underappreciated sophomore album, Into the Skyline. Now, where is Dennis's onetime contemporary, Tara Kemp?

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