Thursday, March 31, 2011

REVIEW: Britney Spears - Femme Fatale

So after much hype, Femme Fatale, the 7th studio album by former Pop Princess has finally released. Going into this review I was torn between how I should review it. On one hand, we have an effortlessly produced, but mostly generic pop/dance album with catchy beats made to get people out on the dance floor. And on the other hand, we have an artist who's never really shown us why she deserves all of the hype around her music something that doesn't change with this album. Nothing in this review is going to sway any of the Britney fans out there--evident by the hordes of delusional stans at her concerts, so in saying that…

Let's get to the point. Femme Fatale is not breaking any new ground and it doesn't set itself out to. It's playful, sexual and self-indulgent. Lyrics never get too deep (which is actually a good thing for Ms. Spears, recall "My Baby"?) so largely everything is club-friendly. First single, "Hold It Against Me" is honestly one of the best and edgiest of the record. Venturing into dub-step territory, it's imitated underground Euro-dance beat is unlike anything on the rest of the album. Like "HIAM", the majority of the tracks are produced by current hit-makers Dr. Luke and Max Martin. These two are responsible for most of the Ke$ha and Katy Perry songs you hear on the radio today…hence where the problem of Femme Fatale lies. They've become so rooted in their production pattern that many of the songs sound like they were going to be used for Ke$ha's third album instead of a Britney album. Written by the "Tik Tok" singer herself "Till The World Ends" is reminiscent of her own song "Blow" as is "Seal It With A Kiss" to her "Blah Blah Blah." For the most part, these tracks still end up working and will have no problem getting radio play.

But where Luke and Martin deliver in clever melodies, they stumble when it comes to handling Britney's voice. We know, the girl has a nasally range of about half an octave, but in the past she's been able to play that off by seductively cooing or adding her country twist, think "Toxic" and the rest of In The Zone. Since Blackout, producers have taken her voice and have distorted it to almost unrecognizable, but yet her vocals still tend to be bland because there is nothing dynamic about them. Using auto-tuner in dance/electronica works when it needs to, but in basic pop/dance songs, it's completely unnecessary. Even hardcore Britney fans cried foul against it's use. I find it strange that Luke and Martin didn't continue what they teased with "HIAM"--pushing the pop/dance genre more left field.

Where the magic lies is in songs like "How I Roll" produced by none other than Bloodshy one of the masterminds behind "Toxic." The techno backbeats are dropped in favor of a poppy/hip-hop style that's maybe not meant for the club but perfect for the car ride to the club (personal experience lol). Another standout is "Criminal," while not my favorite track, it's flute folk-sounding melody prevalent throughout offers some variety from the rest of the album even if it comes at the end.

Here's the thing, most of the tracks on Femme Fatale aren't bad, but they aren't necessarily that good either. I was never really one to judge an album for it's tracklisting, but there could have been some shuffling around to keep the album from sounding like the same song. Also, two of the songs that appear on the Deluxe Edition should have easily been included in the Standard Edition. "Up N' Down" and "Selfish" (the latter from the Stargate production team is a quasi "Only Girl" meets "Sexy Bitch" track with a slick guitar loop begging for recognition) have a distinct sound that would have broken up some of that repetition.

For the most part, Femme Fatale is going to appease her die hard fans, but it's not going to convert anyone who already questions this girl's talent. Still, this IS one of Brit-Brit's better overall albums just not on the same level as Blackout. Admittedly, I under-appreciated Blackout when it first came out, but it was so ahead of the curve, I can't deny how good it is now--even if it was a "producer's album." Femme Fatale is definitely not the Flop Fatale I jokingly say it is, but it also leaves much to be desired. It's enough to get people on the dance floor that is until the novelty wears off.

2.5/5 Wigs Snatched

Definitely Download:
- Hold It Against Me
- Selfish
- How I Roll

Erik Hassle premieres video for new single "Are You Leaving?"

One of my absolute favorite male singers, Erik Hassle, has released a video for the lead single for his EP, "Mariefred Sessions." The song is reminiscent of a Robyn song, with a tears-on-the-dancefloor vibe. It has Erik's usual soulful voice, pop sensibility, and great lyrics. This is someone I really would LOVE to blow up over here in America...very few good male pop singers these days and I have never heard a bad song from Erik. Peep the video below, and enjoy!

Enrique is Out...Is Usher In?

So it is widely known by now that Enrique Iglesias was initially set to be the "co-headliner" for Britney Spear's upcoming tour and then canceled just hours after Britney announced it. Yesterday he issued a VERY short message about the situation on his blog:
"Hey guys, sorry for the confusion regarding a possible tour in the summer with Britney Spears. We are on the Euphoria tour and will continue to do so including some soon-to-be-announced dates in US. So hope to see all of you soon."
Seems like a kind of shitty apology, but I wouldn't either! Enrique is a big performance and allegedly he didn't feel like he was getting the respect that a co-headliner deserves. I doubt we will ever hear the full story, but I never really got that combination anyway.
Meanwhile, Britney is already on the prowl for a replacement for Enrique, and she has her eye on another headliner: Usher. In an article by Hollywood Reporter, Britney reportedly told MTV News
"I think Usher's really great right now,” she tells MTV News. “I think he's really hot right now. That would be cool [to tour with him].”
Personally, I don't really get why Britney thinks she needs someone who is a headliner by themselves to essentially open for her. The OMG tour has been wildly successful...why would Usher then lower himself to opening? It's ridiculous. And I don't think Britney is really the type to do a bunch of fun collaborative things within a concert...especially with someone who can sing live like Usher.

I think Britney should be the trendsetter she likes to call herself and try to get a kpop group to open for her...they are on their way to becoming bigger in America, and it would be a great venue for them to get a new audience! Hallyu all the way!

Christina Aguilera Eyes Rock Record Next

One of the music industry's biggest chameleons, Christina Aguilera, reportedly wants to do a rock record next! In an interview with one Xtina's most frequent collaborators, Linda Perry, the songwriter had this to say
It’s not all about selling a bazillion records to her. She just wants to be able to stand behind it. In the end she did say to me, “Maybe I did release the Bionic record too soon. Oh well. Now, I wanna make a rock record!”

If any pop queen can pull it off a rock record, it's Xtina! To pull off a really great rock crossover you have to have a strong voice, and that is certainly not something that has ever been a criticism. I don't expect it to be like Courtney Love or Karen O...I am expecting something more along the lines of Fighter or even a KClarkson type song. Either way, I am always excited for new Xtina music so I hope she gets on it soon!!

Coldplay's 5th Studio Album Readying Completion

According to Coldplay's official blog, Roadie 42, their 5th studio album is starting to take shape and might be getting close to being done!

Back in the studio, the songs are now very much pushing their heads above the soil and straining towards the light. I suspect that the band has had a reasonable idea all along of how things will feel when they’re finished, in the same way that a sculptor sees the finished piece, but just needs to dig it out of the block. There’s been much chiselling and smoothing and now things are really developing a recognisable form and an emotional resonance.

It's actually kind of hard to believe that this is only their 5th album! It seems like Coldplay has left such an indelible impression upon rock/pop music since their debut release in 2000...I wasn't a very big fan of their last album but in the past I have really enjoyed their music so I am getting excited! I personally wish they would drop some of the arena rock business and focus on making gorgeous pop music.

REVIEW: Natalia Kills - Perfectionist

One of my most anticipated albums of the year has been Natalia Kills' debut album, Perfectionist. Natalia broke onto the scene last year with stylized video teasers and a couple free singles to KILL for (see what I did there?). I remember hearing Zombie and Activate My Heart (how is this not on the album?) and simply loving the pop noir sound she was going for. Between those songs, leaks like Wonderland, Free, and Break Ya Hard, and the official first single Mirrors...I was convinced that Natalia Kills was to be one of the brightest future pop stars. However, I do have a couple of disclaimers regarding Miss Kills before I begin this review (feel free to skip to the actual review if you don't want to hear my rambling).

The main problem that other people (not me) and the media will bring up if Natalia Kills ever begins to blow up is the same problem that has plagued Christina, Britney, the eccentric girl in the drama department, and the 5 yr old girl down the street who just put on a hat: GAGA. GaGa has become so saturated in music and public image at this point, that people are beginning to forget what came before her. Now I love GaGa for having this big of an effect on pop culture...but it is frustrating to me that people never stop with the comparisons. And comparing is the nice term for it. Where did the days go that I could walk around in a meat dress without being called a GaGa wannabe? I kid...but seriously! GaGa does so much and is so overexposed that everything can look like a copy of something she did. And Natalia certainly is doing a lot that can be seen as GaGa-esque: Singing style. Dark imagery. Chanting random words in the middle eight of the song. Songs about fashion. Not to mention that Natalia is getting her start with Interscope's imprint to help new artists, Cherrytree Records.

However, I am going to choose to ignore all of this because even if you are leaning towards agreeing with the doesn't take away Natalia's considerable singing talent and taste for hot pop music. And it is her debut after all...with a little success, she might find herself with a STUNNING sophomore album. Remember when people called Adele a lesser Winehouse when she released her debut? Now look at her! So...with that GaGa elephant out of the room, time for the review!!

As I said, most of the album has leaked or been released prior to this release so many of the songs are familiar. But they are no less stunning for it, and hearing them in a cohesive album like Perfectionist only make them that much more thrilling.

The album kicks off with a spliced, spoken word intro describing a perfectionist. I am not really here for intros so moving on...the intro leads into one of the best Kills tracks, Wonderland. A great pop song with strong vocals littered with fairy tale references. Natalia decries the idea of a fairytale romance, stating "I don't believe in fairytales, but I believe in you and me, take me to wonderland." She doesn't need a Prince Charming to come save her...her fantasy is a relationship set in reality.

The next track, Free, is actually one of the weaker choices for the album. I had heard this leak a little while back and assumed it would never make it. The subject matter is a little cookie cutter for pop music right now. "I'm free/I just spent all my money/But I rocked that like it don't cost a thin." A bit vapid for someone like Natalia who mostly slinks through her music with sex and dark imagery. Not one of the better tracks.

Thankfully, the following song, Break You Hard, is fantastic! Over a hard beat, Natalia declares "This is not a love song/Hunny if you want one better turn it off", and she lays into the song detailing that her man better take her love while he can, because afterwards she will be breaking his heart. The track has a great flow to it, and a really catchy chorus, and is one of the strongest offerings on the album.

The next 3 tracks are arguably the focal point of the album. Zombie is a slinky, sexy auto-tuned affair detailing the distant man she is in love with. It begs to be played in a dark club with bodies bumping together...definitely one of the sexiest songs delivered. Also, this is a great example of why auto-tune is not the devil. When it is used for effect not as a handicap (ahem), it can render great results. Love Is A Suicide is a single-worthy track that furthers the message of Zombie's distant lover theme. It details the hurt and devotion that love can create at the same time "You can run, you can hide/But sooner or later/It’s gonna cut like a knife/Sooner or later/Nowhere to go, I’m already inside/You know no one’ll love ya like I love ya." It is well-crafted and perfectly executed and remains one of the shining examples of what Natalia Kills is capable of. Finally, to round out that one-two punch is Mirrors. Driving beat, sex and s&m imagery, and Natalia describing a night of sex so steamy that the "mirrors are gonna fog tonight."

The second half of the album takes it down a little bit. Coming off the very club worthy Mirrors, Not In Love is a melancholy, humming song giving in to Mr. Right Now but acknowledging that it won't be enough because the man is not Mr. Right. It is a pretty song, and has her dark, sexy edge to it. She isn't saying she isn't enjoying the moment...but is aware that without being in love that it will never be enough.

Acid Annie rips into some a more rock sound right away following, and to me this is the low point of the album for me. Yes, the house-trashing makes me think of Carrie Underwood/Kelly Clarkson/Trina and that is always a good thing...but it comes off as more of an Avril Lavigne throw away track. And for the record, almost any of Avril's songs should have been thrown away anyway. I will probably be dropping this trying-too-hard-to-be-inspirational flop from my tracklisting.

Superficial is a fun, but yes very superficial song. Not a high point but has a good flow to it and it has already wormed its way into my brain. I much prefer the slower, following track Broke. It is a vulnerable, regretful ode to her past love (perhaps the Zombie from earlier?). This is a great track that showcases Natalia's formidable vocals and is a much better low-tempo song than the follow-up Heaven. Heaven is a trite, slightly corny dedication to a family member who has passed away. It actually has some great Postal Service-type production. But it doesn't connect in the way I thought it would when I first heard the subject matter.

Nothing Lasts Forever takes aim at the clubs with more auto-tune and a rap interlude about hooking up with a stranger in the club. That is always something I can get down with! Not the most inspired moment on the album, and probably not great to put such a song near the end of the album, but I approve and can feel it growing on me. And finally the album ends with a slightly throwaway low tempo called If I Was God. The sentiment is a bit dramatic, and I probably would have picked a song like Broke to end the album on a slower, but high, note.

Overall, the album is one of the more interesting and enjoyable listens I have heard this year. A few filler tracks could be trimmed out, but most importantly I got a solid taste of the many different things that Natalia Kills can offer to the current pop landscape. Yes, GaGa might do dark, clubby pop a little bigger...but Natalia has a very nice toned down, yet always sexy, way about making music that will definitely keep me interested and excited.

4/5 Wigs Snatched

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Rihanna is a kinky ass girl!!!!

Interesting that Rihanna has gone on and on talking about how S&M isn't about the sexual kind, but her relationship with the media, because she has gone on the record in her new interview with Rolling Stone that she likes it like that!
"Being submissive in the bedroom is really fun," she says. "You get to be a little lady, to have somebody be macho and in charge of your shit. That's fun to me...I like to be spanked. Being tied up is fun. I like to keep it spontaneous. Sometimes whips and chains can be overly planned – you gotta stop, get the whip from the drawer downstairs. I'd rather have him use his hands."
 Amen, sister! It is these types of statements (and these types of covers, see below!) that have made me fall absolutely in love with her. Playful, honest, and endlessly girly, Rihanna has become a chameleon when it comes to sexuality. One minute she is playing the hard, in control dominatrix, and the next prancing around with all of the femininity in the world. Happy to see that we finally have a new sex kitten in pop music!

Fantasia to Perform New Single on American Idol

One of the more successful Idols, Fantasia, will be returning to the stage on Thursday to deliver what will be sure to be a stunning performance of her third single from her album "Back To Me": Collared Greens & Cornbread. This is a fantastic song, and 'Tasia is usually pretty solid with her performances. JHud last week, Fantasia this week? Idol sure is bringing it this season!


REVIEW: Katy B - On A Mission

OK, I am also going to kick off the premiere of the blog with my first review! I plan on doing all sorts of reviews on this blog, but the 2 main types will be 1) in-depth, song-by-song, drawn out reviews of albums I deem to be either particularly worthy of my readers' time or ones that are so horrible that I need to drag it to pieces and 2) short reviews of albums I enjoy but don't feel the need to break down too carefully. This will be one of the latter!

Katy B, formally known as Baby Katy, is a British singer who's debut has arrived with much anticipation based on her lead single "Katy On A Mission" which shot into the UK Top 5 last August. She is known mostly for her electronic Brit-pop leaning, but also incorporates dubstep, funk, and UK garage/grime. One of the remarkable things about Katy is her ability to take great, classic vocals and lay the over the dirtier and grittier electronica that the UK underground has come to be known for. Whether she would have much success outside of the UK is a little hazy, but for fans of Britpop and interesting new voices in electronic music, this album is absolutely worth checking out. You can listen to one of my favorites on the album "Lights On" featuring top grime femcee, Ms. Dynamite, below!

RATING: 4/5 Wigs Snatched

Katy Perry snatches her 4th #1 with ET

Wow! Like her or not, Katy Perry made some major moves to prevent the sophomore slump with Teenage Dream.

She has secured her 4th #1, according to Billboard. This is only the ninth album to get 4 #1's on the Hot 100 in the history of the chart, and she is the first solo female to do it since Mariah Carey's debut all the way back in 1991. This is quite an accomplishment, and at least one thing can always be said for the california gurl...she has worked very hard for this. Katy hasn't stopped promoting since the album came out last summer, and if it's one thing I always applaud, it is working hard for their music. Congrats Katy!

Queen Robyn covers Elle Magazine

One of my absolute favorite artists, Robyn, is finally starting to get some of the mainstream recognition that she deserves. I say with no bias that this lady has the chops to be one of the foremost pop girls in the world...hopefully all of the non-stop critical acclaim will eventually start to leak into the consumer's minds! Take a look at the gorgeous black and white cover below!

Jennifer Lopez premieres 2nd single, I'm Into You ft Lil Wayne

If there was any doubt over whether JLo was back with this new album, here is the proof!

The 41 year old dynamo (can anyone believe that she is a day over 25? My goodness the lady never ages!) let her American Idol co-worker Ryan Seacrest reveal a sneak-peak of her new single I'm Into You, with the feature creature himself, Lil' Wayne. The song is breezy with an island flavor and features JLegend, turning in her best Rihanna-inspired attitude, telling her man that she is letting her guard down for him. Listen to her next smash below!

Update on the Chris Brown comeback

For the record, I am in Chris Brown's corner for his comeback. I think he has put in his time of scorn, and as long as he knocks it the hell off with the outbursts on Twitter and in public, I think he will be golden to continue to regain his popularity. Now, for the update!

A huge congrats is in order to him for gaining his first #1 album on the Billboard 200 Chart, Billboard reported earlier this morning. And this was up against the #2 album, Jennifer Hudson's I Remember Me, as well as one of the surprise sales juggernauts of the year, Adele's 21. Breezy worked very hard over the last couple of years to slowly regain his followers and fans after Rihanna-gate and his commercial flop, Graffiti. But it is safe to say that people have put their confidence back in singer, and I wish him all the best!

And as a display of one of his many talents, Chris was invited to perform on ABC's Dancing With the Stars last night, and stunned with well choreographed moves and breathtaking effects. This was a performance worthy of an award show, and that is typical of Chris...he almost always brings his A-game regardless of the size or importance of the performance. Catch his performances of Yeah 3x and Forever/Beautiful People below!

Yeah 3x

Forever/Beautiful People

No But Really, We'll Be Ya Faves

...And I'm Court! As much as Andrew and I tend to rant on Twitter and to our friends about music, we figured it'd be best to consolidate our opinions in one central location--so why not a blog?!

I have an absolute love and passion for music. While I'm nowhere near as musically inclined as all most (not to throw anyone under the bus) of the artists we'll be discussing, I tend to think Andrew and I both have a keen ear to what's currently hot in the music industry. My tastes are eclectic and I stay open-minded, but my preference is definitely POPular music. I grew up in the MTV generation so it should come to no surprise that I have the utmost respect for the late and great Michael Jackson.
Some of my most listened to artists are: Christina Aguilera, Beyonce, Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Brandy, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Kanye West and Nicki Minaj. Looking forward to sharing our opinions and hearing your feedback! Just know, I have my faves, Andrew has his faves, and they are all better than ya faves ;-)

Don't Stop The Music ♪

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Welcome to Better Than Ya Faves!

Hello! My name is Andrew, and I started this blog with my friend Court to bring any and all future readers the music news they are interested in. I am personally interested in almost any and all music genres and artists, so I plan on bringing you a diverse offering of pop, r&b, hip hop, dance, soul, rock, and country. This will include breaking news, reviews of new singles/music videos/performances/albums, introducing up and coming artists we think our readers will like, and other general thoughts on the music industry I would like to share with you all! Hope you enjoy, and realize that all of our blog posts are better than ya faves!

Also, FYI: just to get a feel for my music tastes, my top 10 most played artists on my are:
1) Robyn
2) Kylie Minogue
3) Christina Aguilera
4) Rihanna
5) Adele
6) Nicki Minaj
7) Britney Spears
8) Madonna
9) My Chemical Romance
10) Lady GaGa