Songlighting with J.R. Price
Welcome to Songlighting with J.R. Price, a new weekly installment of Rock the Pigeon where we highlight the songwriting technique of indie artists from all cultures, genres, backgrounds, and styles. What inspires them to create art, and why music is the answer for them personally. In this edition we will be enveloped by the siren sculptress Danielle Cardona and her body of work, iced with Latin disco and retro nuances. I am most excited about getting to review her latest single Break Away, a pop collaboration with four time Glam Award Winner Jayse Vegas, and producer/singer Christopher Ambrose, which is my favorite Cardona production to date. It drops on 8/26 on all platforms! (LISTEN NOW)
Danielle Cardona is a Colombian-American pop singer, songwriter and former model, born and raised in Brooklyn New York. She studied fashion merchandising management (yes much like ICON Elle Woods in Legally Blonde) at the Fashion Institute of Technology, between her education and modeling background, it’s no surprise that she is the fashion role model of NYC nightlife. Always giving a lewk, always styling a piece of perfection at any given performance or outing. It also should be noted that Cardona actually got the music bug while working with Alex Simon in their electro pop duo LEXELLE, which definitely explains a lot of her productions choices and musical stylings throughout her work. However, her sound has dived into her inspirations and influences. She credits Cher, Tina Turner, Prince, Selena Quintanilla, Ana Gabriel, Shakira, and many other greats, as to why she has decided to go in this more Latin, Disco, with Rock and Roll flare, genre.
I have had the best time diving into the music of Miss Cardona, I specifically want to discuss the new collaboration single BREAK AWAY, and other singles she has released that I love, Sabotage, Amor, Unfinished Business, and The Winner Stands Alone (Clip featured above, watch the video HERE ) Even though I love Danielle’s covers and fresh spins on some great songs such as her covers of You Drive Me Crazy by Britney Spears, and The Beat Goes On by Cher, and more, this article is about songwriting. So let’s shine the songlight on her originals, shall we?
Let’s start with the Kylie Minogue verses Madonna battleground that is The Winner Stands Alone. There is a vocal delivery in this track that gives Frozen by Madonna while the production is referencing the disco mix house vibes of miss Minogue’s Fever album, I like to compare it to In Your Eyes the most. But it’s more about the energy of these retro diva icons. I also think the melody gives a nod to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic title track of Phantom of the Opera. In the melodic structure of the phrasing, but also in the set up of a saga about a hard to reach winner who tears others down to fight for success. The joy of the song comes from Cardona, and while she is singing about something sad, she is actually finding a power from her ability to choose integrity over being a sociopath. It’s a fun track, and while the production and the lyrics fight, I do want to point out how freeing and dancey Call Your Girlfriend by Robyn is, in that same vein, Danielle creates a perfect house vibe of, my ex is a monster and he deserves the road he chose cause I am doing amazing. The video shows lots of mannequins and artsy camera swooshes, we see fashion and Danielle’s modeling techniques at play. She is fine without him, and she is not just someone’s arm Candy, she has a brain and will not be dressed up to look pretty on the arm of someone else, she isn’t a mannequin, and if that is what you are wanting out of her… you can stand alone!
Another track that has this energy of I don’t need my ex is Sabotage. This track I think is more fun, it’s figuring out how bad the relationship is and saying it’s time to call the losses, at this point being in the relationship is Sabotage. This song has a hooky production, and fun pop rhythmic sound. It reminds me of Vanessa Hudgen’s lesser known sophomore album Identified, specifically Hook it Up, because the electric buzz of the bass line and the percussive dance beat, more of the production than the vocal line itself. The production had that Disney 2008 vibe. Which is a little commercial for Danielle, but it really works in this song. I think this song is the most fun of her catalog too, when Danielle takes the stage with this track her eyes light up, her body takes flight, her dress literally comes to life… she knows it’s a hit. I would like Cardona to develop more dance tracks like this, as I feel like it is her home of Latin inspired pop.
Amor is a great example of Cardona’s strengths in Latin influenced Pop music. This track about not getting enough of someone new who sparks a new life inside of you at the very sight of them, is baked up as a sexual prowess that Danielle encapsulates with her sultry voice. This track delivers a sound I akin to Selena Gomez’s Hands to Myself, as well as many other Gomez gems. The way she lightly develops the hook instead of giving a power house vocal, but as a choice and not because of incapability. I also think this song gives me Camilla Cabello’s Celia, in this Colombian trance. It makes me want a margarita real bad.
Unfinished Business has to be my favorite song that Danielle Cardona has written that I have heard. The emotion is pressing and vulnerable without being overwhelming. This song is interesting for Cardona in the sense of it’s not a dance track, it’s a real authentic ballad. A guitar swells the hook, a timeless bass line leans into a Midnight train to Georgia era of music that sounds classic and romanticized. Gladys Knight and the Pips would be proud of this song that also reminds me of Adele’s 25 track When We Were Young. I think it’s mostly the way Cardona bleeds the melody, she opens up and really gets her emotions out in a way we don’t hear on her other records. I think Unfinished Business is a risk for her that paid off. I would love to hear more of this sound to continue to balance her artistry as more than a retro dance pop diva. This song is my selling point for Danielle. It’s the delivery in this song about saying goodbye without ever receiving closure, I know this message helped me a lot, and anyone who listened can hear the struggle she is going through, and rooting for her inner strength to carry her onwards and upwards.
Her new song Break Away complete with Christopher Ambrose (who originally created the concept of this song, don’t worry we will be chatting with Christopher Ambrose soon on the Songlighting with J.R. Price journey, so stay tuned), and Jayse Vegas, is all of the greatest parts of Cardona with new flavors and rejuvenation thanks to this unique and completely inspired trio. Like all of Danielle’s work, there are tangents of Jennifer Lopez, while other tracks are giving On the 6 or even Jenny on the Block, I think this new song is the sound JLO was developing in her movie Marry Me. The vocal stylings for this track and the big love song On My Way are very similar to the ear. That sweet cascade over the melody, in a delicious new wave we haven’t heard in Danielle’s other works. I also have to say that Christopher Ambrose really stepped up her production level in this track. Breathing new life to her work. The vocal pad synth that plays a simple hook at the beginning is mixed in to add a flare of bounce and it is correlated with these retro pads that remind me of Father Figure by George Michael in a classic retro flashback that is true to Danielle’s over all esthetic. All this is flipped on it’s head when Jayse Vegas leaps into action with a rap verse, surprising the listener with a new texture three fourths of the way through the journey. His lyrics are uplifting, to correlate with the over all inspiring message. Much opposed to other Cardona tracks, this song is specifically about your own mental blockage and being able to Break Away from that pain to create a brighter world and more peaceful state of mind. Jayse takes the track to a new level, swooping in like G Easy in the under appreciated hit Make Me… from pop icon Britney Spears. He also reminds us of TLC and the late and great Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopez. The three musicians on this track are blended in together in a cohesive way that allows a listener to travel between decades of genre inspirations, multiple languages, and even different perspectives lyrically… all leading to the same message… Break Away from your pain “I can still see with my eyes closed!” I think this is Danielle’s most ambitious track thus far, and it really pays off. I applaud all three of the artists on this endeavor. I think it’s a huge success and I want to see Cardona continue to develop this new JLO sound! LISTEN NOW
I make it a point to give a critique to each of the artists I cover in this article, and while I love Danielle’s body of work, here are some things I want to hear in future productions. I want more backing vocal stacks. I think Cardona has such a sweet voice, but if you look at her comparisons, we need a fuller sound vocally. Backup choirs, and harmonies. Almost like a wall of sound. I want her to double maybe even triple her vocal lines to make it stronger and more resonate in the mix. I think we can boost her sound more with a vocoder, a staple of the Jlo sound that I think would suit her voice best. I also would like to hear more ballads. While I love her bouncy Becky G side, I think Danielle’s truly unique sound comes from her melodic structures and phrasing choices. Maybe it is because of her recent passing, but Unfinished Business is giving Hopelessly Devoted to You by Olivia Newton John, and I am living for it. I think Cardona is trying to sound like new music and not really developing her retro sound that is classic and true to her. I would love a true disco Latin house song from her, but because of the modern structure she writes and produces with instead of house disco I get Selena Gomez beach party. Which is still a bop, still a party, still great music… but I want it to be a little more grounded, and not afraid to sound less electronic and more real instruments with a sexy bass player. I think a real bass in every song is required for her vocal tone. To me it’s almost as if she is trying to sound like a girl, when I really find her beauty when she is embracing being a woman. Which we get pockets of, but imagine if it was the whole song!?! That being said, this is still some amazing music and these notes have nothing to do with my recommendation to listen and enjoy the Latin Beach Party music of Danielle Cardona. Now let’s see what Danielle Cardona had to say about her art in my exclusive interview with her for Rock the Pigeon!
J.R. Price: What are your songwriting influences and inspirations?
Danielle Cardona: I love, love songs. Nothing gets me quite like a good power ballad! I write a lot of songs about love – my own experiences, as well as my observation of how others love. I love listening to lyrics, but I am more often interested in how the artist found their flow – I’m that person who could hear the best lyric in the world, but if the flow isn’t right it’s like nails on a chalkboard for me. A lot of artists l love have amazing songs that they didn’t necessarily write – but their delivery is what really made the song , in many cases more famous than the originals (which are also amazing) – Witney’s take on I Will Always Love you, some of Cher’s Covers on the Jackson Highway Album, Ike and Tina’s Proud Mary, etc etc (for example)
J.R. Price: What about those specific writers or songs move you?
Danielle Cardona: It’s very hard to put into words but I know it when I feel it – I think what makes a good song, is raw hard emotion and vulnerability, but coming from a place that is empowered, rather than whining. Artists who have always gotten this right are Tina Turner, Madonna, Prince, Ana Gabriel, Omara Portundo, Sia…
J.R. Price: If you could have written any song that already exists, what song would it be and why?
Danielle Cardona: Elvis – If I Can Dream
It’s one of my favorite songs to sing, in a style I don’t often get to do, and its message is universal.
J.R. Price: What is your favorite lyric moment that you have written? What inspired it?
Danielle Cardona: In my song FILLER MAN – the bridge
“He’s the only one who never hurt me, He’s a friend with benefits who cares, It’s a situation I can see, It’s a love.. without the wear and tear”
It’s meant to have double meaning – sort of up to the listener. Some hear “friend with benefits, WHO cares? (So what?), Others hear “friend with benefits who cares. (A friend/lover that cares for me). Some hear “its a situation I can see” (I’m in control of and won’t be hurt), Others hear its a situation. I can see (I’m well aware/someone could be hurt)
J.R. Price: You have a distinct way with words like that. My favorite lyric from what you have released thus far is:
“You & me, we’ve been keeping our distance, Will there ever be, A time we don’t give in? Every time I finally think I moved on alright… You always find your way…back into my life” – Unfinished Business, Danielle Cardona
J.R. Price: What does this mean to you, and what do you want your fans to know about this song?
Danielle Cardona: This song, is about a lover who was a recurring guest star in my life… for a very.long.time…. That entire verse/prechorus is about the grey area lovers sometimes dwell in – between wild passionate love, and obsession – IS it true love? Or have they just become a bad habit, an addiction? Most people assume these sorts of narratives to be about horrible toxic people and terribly unhealthy relationships – they certainly CAN be, but this story is about a person who I loved very much and who loved me the same. The telling of that story, is from a place of complete awareness and growth, not angst.
J.R. Price: What is your writing process? Where do the songs come from? How are they brought to life?
Danielle Cardona: I don’t really have a specific process – the songs sort of come to me. I write about my life, my own experiences, my observations. I’ve never been one to set out and WRITE – the words have to come to me, and then get written down on paper. My notes app is always open in my laptop and phone, and I have notepads all over the house because sometimes I will be hit with something, and if I don’t put it down right away it will be gone. In an effort to exercise my skills a bit, and avoid writers block, I’ve been accepting every collab that comes my way, and every live show. I love shows like Vinyl Fantasy because the challenge of learning a cover – most of the time assigned by the team, has forced me out of my comfort zone singing and performing, but in that way has also affected my writing!
J.R. Price: What is your biggest obstacle in bringing your songs to life?
Danielle Cardona: Time management! I’m at the point now where I can no longer be and do all the things. I have to become more comfortable with delegating. I’m currently looking for a manager to help relieve myself of some of the heavy lifting and focus more on creating.
J.R. Price: What is your biggest hope for your music? Why do you write songs? What does it mean to you personally to continue this artistry?
Danielle Cardona: I want to be the Latina Cher. Like, truly. I want the over the top glam, I want a variety of my influences woven into a sound that is recognizably me, while having a universal message of love, especially encouraging SELF love. I hope to continue to evolve and explore new sounds the way she did, all the while defying the societal norms imposed on women specifically with regards to aging. She’s 76, has not stopped creating, and still gets on the stage in a sheer bodysuit and pasties, and it’s as regular as going to the bodega for toilet paper. I aspire to have the impact she’s had, and be that unbothered.
J.R. Price: If you couldn’t write or listen to music for 1 year, what would you do? Would you find other passions? Would you isolate and recoil? What would you do without music for one year?
Danielle Cardona: I guess I would have to switch to writing poetry! Or short stories! Or a romance novela!!! Hahaha
Actually I have a slew of creative interests that I would probably direct more focus to, so I’d find a way to put a positive spin on it!
J.R. Price: Despite your influences, how would your best friends describe your music?
Danielle Cardona: I often get compared to Madonna – like 90s romantic, lower vocal range Madonna, which I take as a huge compliment because she was my first pop star. I’ve also been compared to Cher, but this is also because I use more of my lower range in my music, and prob the physical resemblance. Any comparison that has ever been made, has always been coupled with a “pop music, but with vintage vibes.”
J.R. Price: Here is the greatest debate among all songwriters, are you ready? Lyrics or melody first? Why?
Danielle Cardona: I always hear the melody first, and if it catches me, I will feel the urge to hear the lyrics. However, if the lyrics suck, I have a hard time appreciating the song – it could be a total banger, but it won’t grab me the way good lyrics will. If the melody is great, and the lyrics are great, but I hate the delivery – the diction, I’m also turned off. So I think Lyrics, coupled with lyrical flow are supremely important.
J.R. Price: When did you start writing, and did it come naturally or was it a decision you made and worked hard to achieve?
Danielle Cardona: It happened TO me. I wrote my first song ever when I was 20 years old. (Filler Man, which I wouldn’t release until several years later). Singing and songwriting came very naturally, but I suppressed it for a very long time, because I had it ingrained in me that this wasn’t a practical or functional pursuit. (I have a business degree) – I spent a lot of years pursuing the plan B without ever even entertaining this as a plan A.
J.R. Price: What is your latest release? Where can we listen to it?
Danielle Cardona: August 26th! Dropping a collab with Christopher Ambrose and Jayse Vegas called Break Away! (LISTEN NOW)
J.R. Price: What are you working on next? Any spoilers? I won’t tell!
Danielle Cardona: Im working on a cover song sung by one of my favorite artists, WITH one of my favorite artists (and close friend) R0zegld.
J.R. Price: Where can we follow you?
Apple, SPOTIFY , Tidal all the places and all the things!
So there we have it, another installment of Songlighting with J.R. Price right here on Rock the Pigeon you music blog that covers indie artists and gives exposure to their passions and projects! This week covering Danielle Cardona was a sweet spell of Latin vivaciousness and vintage vocal stylings that serenaded me into a romantic mood, ready to Break Away from my pain and look ahead! I finally am ready to set Unfinished Business to rest and focus on my Amor, me! I encourage you to dive into her sound too, especially if you are still devouring last week’s topic of the heartbroken self awakening story of Therapy by Madge Dietrich, this will send you into a lover mode that dances through the pain! And of course check back next week as we cover another great indie artist and what makes them create! I hope you have a great day and remember, in a world full of Nightmares, be a Daydream! – J.R. Price