Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Non-Pop Releases: The Good, The Bad & The Boring

So between all of the Beyonce, Britney, GaGa mania, I have needed an occasional escape from all the pop and dance releases I love so very much and have turned to the recent releases in other genres, and thought I would put together a little post about it. There is of course more good than bad because I try to avoid shit music...but these are ones that the I THOUGHT would be good.

The Good

Friendly Fires - Pala
A nice, moody rock with pop hooks mixed in to make an enjoyable, if sometimes on the slightly on the boring side, listen.

The Antlers - Burst Apart
One of the better bands to create a desolate soundscape in the tradition of Radiohead, but less experimental and more emotional. It is all falsetto and depressing...and a really great listen,

Explosions in the Sky - Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
One of the longest enduring, and now most popular, instrumental bands around. With the theme of Friday Night Lights in their pocket, they went ahead and made one of their best albums in years, the highlight being Human Qualities.

Stevie Nicks - In Your Dreams
Her first solo outing in 10 years, the Fleetwood Mac legend makes a typically beautiful and warm record with her signature vocals. Definitely one of my favorites of the year so far.

The Civil Wars - Barton Hollow
A great new folk duo who make music that is both fresh and relateable, and the male and female vocal melodies do wonders for the songs.

Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi - Rome Rome Rome
This one is a tad on the sleep side, but feels like a proper lullaby. It is always exciting to watch Danger Mouse show yet another side to his giant production skills, and this is nothing if not a beautiful album.

The Vines - Future Primitive
This one almost didn't make it as it is a BIT derivative of the rock sound that The Vines sprung from in the early 2000s that revisited old garage rock. But it is a good rock album, without resorting to sappiness or screaming that many rock albums do nowadays to get attention. Could do with a little bit of editing, though.

Alison Krauss & Union Station - Paper Airplanes
The Angel of country music and the female with the most Billboard awards returns to her band after a successful outing with Robert Plant in 2007, and while some of the male vocalist's songs can get a bit grating after hearing Alison's effortless soprano, it is a strong album overall for folk lovers.

The Bad

Okkervil River - I Am Very Far
One of the things that drew me to OR during the Black Sheep Boy era was that the music relied heavily on Shemp's emotive voice and strong lyrics. A few years later, the band has become a fuzzy, over-produced mess with not much to get out of it, except for being sort of annoyed with how much nothing is going on in every song.

Destroyer - I have been a fan of Dan Bejar because of his involvement in New Pornographers, and very much enjoyed his Rubies album. But this one, I consistently kept forgetting I was listening to anything, only to be annoyed with the background noise. Nothing enjoyable about this, so I promptly deleted it. I suggest you do the same if you had any funky ideas about getting this one.

Foo Fighters - Wasting Light
I almost thought I liked this. I didn't turn it off or even want to. But then as I listened more, I was reminded that years and years later, Grohl can't ever seem to shake grunge undertones, and screams his way through most songs in order to show some kind of sincerity. It comes off fake and a little desperate, and I no longer felt myself scrolling to this on my iPod.

Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
I don't get their appeal. The musicianship seems a little clumsy, the lyrics seem a bit scattered, and I don't personally see the talent that people are always raving about with them. I think this might be a situation where I stand alone...but I will be happy to not hear this one again.

The Boring

Death Cab for Cutie - Codes & Keys
Ben Gibbard has been singing the same melodies with the same progression and lyrics for years and years. It wasn't a problem back around the time of Transatlanticism (or even Plans) because they were at the top of their game. They had progressed from lo-fi indie darlings to mainstream rock, all the while maintaining their sensitive edge. It has gotten a bit dull for me, though. By track 5 I was yearning to move on to the next new download. I didn't stop listening to GaGa to be whined at to death. Bored bored bored

Emmylou Harris - Hard Bargain
This one almost made The Good category as there are a few SPECTACULAR songs from my favorite country legend's latest outing. But most of the songs lost their sparkle almost immediately, and when I decide to listen to the full album now, I feel bored. So here she is. Still have much love for this woman, though.

So there you have it...any recommendations?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Lady GaGa - Born This Way Album Review (2nd Opinion)

Why even bother opening this review with a brief history of Lady GaGa? Not much more can be said other than she’s snatched the wigs of ALL of your favorites in 3 years time. Her debut album The Fame was a solid collection of pop/dance songs with catchy hooks that instantly became engrained in your head. Singles notwithstanding, half of the album fell a bit flat which could be the reason GaGa spent no time releasing a second 8 track “album” to keep the success ball rolling. The Fame Monster took what made the first album special and ascended it into pop history with the inclusion of the juggernaut that was Bad Romance [Aside: to this day, I remain PRESSED it only peaked at #2 on the Hot 100—fuk you Ke$ha, ya dumb 'tik toking' c*nt. hehe..] Not one to keep her adoring fans waiting, Lady GaGa teased by unveiling the 3rd album title last September, Born This Way. With it she promised to give her fans the album of a decade—did Mother Monster deliver?

To start, if you’re coming into Born This Way expecting to hear rehashed versions of Just Dance, you will be disappointed. And if you are, then you really weren’t paying attention for the past year and a half. The Fame Monster hinted at the direction GaGa would be taking her music. From the synth-heavy and noisy sounds of the aforementioned Bad Romance to the dark and edgy Euro techno of Dance In The Dark to the 80's inspired Alejandro to the Queen-like ballad Speechless to the ‘WTF’ funk of Teeth—it was clear GaGa wanted her next full-length album to use these sounds and take them to the next level. Gone was the glamorous and fabulous styles of her debut and she soon created a new look and feel for this project. As Andrew pointed out in an earlier article, the creation of a new “race” of people, the prosthetics, the even more outlandish outfits, the religious undertones, the campy album cover are all part of the this elaborate presentation for the album. The Born This Way era has been touted in GaGa’s own words as a “cultural baptism.” While that may be a little farfetched, GaGa’s vision for this album is just as much substance as it is style.

At the end of the day, it comes down to the music. If GaGa’s talent has ever been doubted—the doubt can stop here. She and her small team of right-hand producers (notably Red One and Fernando Garibay) have transcended decades and genres with their creations. Somehow Born This Way manages to fuse 80's pop, 90's dance, industrial techno, Euro-pop, trance, stadium rock, and jazz into a cohesive collection of songs that will rapture your mind. This is not to say the album does not have its faults.

The biggest flaw to address is the over-production throughout the album. At times the songs feel over-bearing as there is too much going on in some songs that it makes it hard to appreciate the wonderful composed melodies. Make no mistake, GaGa is known for her catchy hooks—they are present, but some of them are buried under so many sledge-hammering beats it takes a few listens to discover them. I’ve pointed out that Born This Way is structured in a similar manner that’s reminiscent of Kanye West’s latest record, My Dark Twisted Beautiful Fantasy. A pop opera to a hip hop opera, both albums are achievements in compositions taking you on a roller-coaster of sounds and rhythms but each track is filled with so much that, as Andrew has put it, it becomes too cluttered and cumbersome for its own good [<--much like that sentence]. This also results in making both albums slightly ill-suited for radio play as current mainstream radio is stuck in its tired, generic dance-pop phase. For that reason alone, one can appreciate GaGa for going in this left-field direction.

The 14 track (17 for the deluxe edition) affair starts off with Marry The Night. It’s a backlit, piano-driven, electro song with lyrics that tell of GaGa’s love for New York City and a night out on the town. It’s one of the more understated songs production-wise and it sets up the album perfectly when it ascends into its techno climax at the end.

Even though I never officially reviewed the title track, I still believe it to be one of the best songs of 2011. Express Yourself comparisons aside, the self-empowerment song is a good indication of the production style for the rest of the album. GaGa soars over the booming beats to sing-a-long verses and hooks with just enough passion to keep the song from falling apart. What makes Born This Way a standout are its literal lyrics which boldly goes where pop songs haven’t since Michael Jackson’s Black or White.

Government Hooker relies on the early 90's techno beat to keep you interested but unfortunately stalls halfway through the song, sounding somewhat monotonous. GaGa opens the song with operatic vocalizing until the underground club beat creeps in. While certainly not bad it’s out-shined by 2 the similar heart-pounding tracks—the first being Judas. You can read the long-winded review of Judas here; it’s dark tone and hard-hitting beats fit the rest of Born This Way’s make-up. Whether because of its similarity to Bad Romance or biblical references it’s not performing as well on the charts as I would have hoped but I will continue stanning for it.

Americano… I am not here for this song. Essentially Alejandro on CRACK, this Latin-tinged single is mariachi band meets-- I don’t even know. Apparently, I’m in the minority about this since I’ve noticed an over-whelmingly amount of others seem to like it. I suppose it’s danceable but the absurd lyrics, obnoxious vocals, and random noises are just too much for me. Props to GaGa for giving her lesbian fans a shout-out though!

Hair is half stadium rock, half dance complete with saxophone runs laced throughout and for the most part it works. The pop/rock style of the chorus is a bit generic and I can’t help but feel like had the song stuck with the switch up that comes in at second verse the song could have made more of an impression. With that being said, it was one of the more mainstream songs and could easily find its way onto radio. Lyrics come off a bit cheesy when she references wanting to live as free as her hair, but it’s all in good fun.

After that joyous celebration of self-expression, Scheiße, the other heart-pounding track, sneaks up on you and hits you like a rocket. “I don’t speak German, but can if you’d like” –GaGa starts off by talking in some random languages until the runway/club anthem beat zooms in at a blistering pace and never lets up. Simply put, Scheiße slays. Lyrics that deal with double standards and female empowerment prove to be more effective than some other diva’s newest song [#shade]. We can only wish this song can be censored for radio play so it can become an official single!

When we get to Bloody Mary things come to an eerie halt. The slower, hauntingly beautiful track is drenched with religious atmosphere: “I’m gonna dance dance dance with my hands hands hands over my head head head like Jesus said.” The production is melodically brilliant right down to the monk-styled chanting of “GaGa” in the background. From there, 80’s pop returns with the synth-funk of Bad Kids, Gaga goes back and forth between calling herself a “twit” and then telling those twits “you’re still good to me, you’re a bad kid, baby.” It’s a surprisingly fun, rebellious record that could see some success if released as a single.

Highway Unicorn (Road To Love) would otherwise be a amazing record, but the raspy belted out vocals, heavy synths, and big drums practically drown out the chorus. The verses and bridge fair better and thankfully, keeps the song afloat even if the overall outcome is a bit messy. “Ride, ride pony tonight” GaGa only fittingly sings in this thumping number that with all it’s claustrophobic sounds still manages to be enjoyable. Much more successful is the euphoric Heavy Metal Lover where she sensually opens with “I want your whiskey mouth all over my blond south.” [yasssss] This is another highlight of the album where the production is executed flawlessly. The religious motifs return with Electric Chapel, a solid techno track with an addictive hook and rocking 80’s guitar riffs. It has a nice gothic feel as church organs and bells line the background of the song. You’ll notice that the album starts to come full circle at this point which will prompt you to ask “why don’t other artists do this?”

As we approach the end of the album, the slower number, You and I, quickly builds to an Queen-inspired rock ballad. Gaga sounds on point and emotional in what can be considered one of those ‘lighters in the air’ moments. As good as You and I is, it is a set up for finale track, The Edge Of Glory. In this fist-pumping, stadium rock, Bruce Springsteen-like epic, GaGa delivers a fervent vocal like never before. An ode to her late grandfather, The Edge Of Glory ends the album like no other song could. This day and age, it’s rare to see such an energetic song placed at the end of an album, and this is bolstered by the fact that Born This Way is an album that you listen to as a whole. The chorus is at worse, typical fare for this type of song, but GaGa packs such an impassioned punch with her vocals that it’s overlooked. And just when you think you’ve figured out the song, the breakdown features a saxophone solo that’s just the right amount of cheesy and awesome. Soon to be one of GaGa’s staple songs, if there were any doubts to how the album would perform, The Edge Of Glory will assure it’s dominance.

By the end of the last saxophone note, you’ve been bombarded with dizzying sounds that are familiarly retro but excitingly fresh at the same time. Lady GaGa has never sounded better. She does her best Madonna-esque talking, channels Whitney’s belting, snatches Christina’s growls, and yet still remains herself with her pop/jazz-styled technique. She trounces most of her pop contemporaries just with her raw and honest SINGING. Vocal effects are used when needed, not relied on. She shows off some pretty impressive vocal acrobatics; distorting and using her voice in all sorts of ways. Her influences on this album are a clear indication of the music she grew up listening to: the aforesaid Queen, Madonna, ABBA, Bruce Springsteen, and Whitney Houston being the primary examples, but GaGa's flare and personality are still present on every track.

What Lady GaGa has set out to create is an album that would become an anthem for anyone wanting to rid their insecurities and be free to dance, live, and love. Admittedly, some of the bigger and more intricate sounds don’t quite work all of the time but the album never derails. One cannot dismiss the effort GaGa has put into this record. Born This Way is sonically over-the-top, but if anything, haven’t we come to expect this from the woman who made an entrance by hatching out of an egg? In fact, it almost plays exactly like one of her concerts. There will be some backlash against this album and many people will be thrown off. But for those that actually take the time to listen and take the album for what it is, they will be more than satisfied. At the very least, this album only solidifies Lady GaGa’s already-cemented discography. Is this the album of the decade? Eh, to each their own, but one would be hard-pressed to find another mainstream pop album as daring and exceptional as this.

Put your paws up, 'cause you were born this way, baby

4.5/5 Wigs Snatched

Definitely (legally) Download:
The entire album, but highlights are:
-Born This Way
-Bloody Mary
-Heavy Metal Lover
-The Edge Of Glory

* Deluxe Edition songs:
-Black Jesus + Amen Fashion – a good listen, creepy and fun
-Fashion Of His Love – a decent listen, ode to I Wanna Dance With Somebody
– an OK listen, another dance/rock ballad, a little too long

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Born This Way Review (Standard Edition)

Here we are! Probably the most anticipated album of the year, the most hyped, and the most ambitious, has finally arrived. Lady GaGa's Born This Way took its time getting here, but it is ours at last. Does it live up to the excitement?

A couple intro notes so you understand where I'm coming from with GaGa.

1) I am going to try to not comment on the hype or statements made about the album. GaGa has been hyping and bragging and making ridiculous claims for the last year, and ultimately it has NOTHING to do with the music, and I think it is unfair to talk badly of an album just because it isn't what we thought it was going to be.
2) For me, one of the main appeals of GaGa has that she been sort of a walking contradiction. She expertly juxtaposed simple and amazing pop songs with a high level image and extravagant videos. She carried on with props and costumes, but if you didn't look all you heard was an extraordinary voice singing undeniable and catchy tunes. When all else failed when defending this meat dress or that bubble dress...all us GaGa stans had to do was put on the song and know her music was something special.

OK, so now that that is out of the way, let's get down to it. Although, how to review an album this jam packed and intricate will be difficult. Let's start with the singles released shall we?

Born This Way, for me, was always the perfect opener. Upbeat, catchy, HUGE sound, and clearly a representation of the image she was trying to present for the album. Did it have its problems? Of course. But overall it was, and still is, one of my favorite GaGa songs to date. Even when a bit heavy handed, the song is a fun romp and watching her perform it has been exhilarating. After having MASSIVE success with the song, GaGa released Judas. I instantly knew it was a mistake. Right away people started referring to it as Bad Romance 2.0, and not in the good away. I do personally love the song, and what better song to rip off than the best pop anthem of the last 5 years? But...why release it as a single? It wasn't necessary. However, it is a roaring dance song that has just been slaying the clubs and I am still here for that, so I am into the song regardless of the foolish release decision.

Then we were given the 2 promo singles. First came the album's closer: Edge of Glory. Guys, this is one of the best songs of the entire year, and probably second only to Bad Romance for me in GaGa's repertoire. It is one of the best 80s rock throwbacks I have ever heard, and it is incessantly euphoric and upbeat. Tailor made for night time drives in the summer, it could easily become one of the anthems of Summer 2011. It was so widely liked that GaGa has even chosen it as her 3rd single! Then this week, the 2nd promo single, Hair was unleashed. At first, I thought that it was the worst of the era, calling it boring and forgettable and only listening to it once. But as GaGa so often does, she proved my opinion incorrect. It is not unlike EOG, in that it is a dance infused 80s rock song, and even has a similar feel to the optimism. It is sort of EOG's immature little sister. The lyrics are pretty stupid, but once the chorus kicks in with "I've had enough! This is my prayer that I will die just as free as my hair!", well you will be singing along no matter what the lyrics are.

About a day after this last promo single was released, the rest of the standard edition leaked out. With relatively high standards so far, and a pretty diverse set of sounds, it was exciting to see if the rest of the album measured up.

Marry the Night
is the album opener, and sort of a generic GaGa track. Groovy verses about sinning and leather, that catapults into a big chorus talking about dancing. Yes, the end sort of has a nice switch-up in the beat and it becomes slightly more epic. I remain unimpressed with this track, though. Another slight let-down is Government Hooker. It starts out with a sort of funny operatic "GaGa, GaGaaaaaaa" and then descends into a thick industrial beat and a VERY early 90s dance melody, but eventually seems to bottom out into a little bit of a monotonous beat and I don't think the whole hooker thing is as cute or endearing as GaGa thinks.

Next is Americano, a sort of sequel to the Latin tinged flavor of Alejandro. Complete with clapping, la-la-la-las (y'all know how much I love that), this was the first of the non-singles I loved. It almost reminds me of a System of a Down song at parts with the erratic instrumentation and odd chanting, and it is a very rewarding and well put together track. After a brief sunny break with Hair, we have the crunchy, surging Schiße, which absolutely is one of the best on the album. The best example of the German, industrial sound she uses on a few of the tracks, while still having a few of the shining GaGa poppy moments, as well as one of her more interesting vocals on the whole album.

Bloody Mary is one of the slower, less production-heavy tracks, and it is overall a pretty great one. Good melody, throbbing beat, and some of the better lyrics on the album...I could see this growing to be one of my faves on the album. Also how brilliant is the monk-y GaGa chant? I need to see a cathedral set video for this! A bit jarring is the transition to the next song, Bad Kids. This sort of douchey song takes the self-love thing to the level of "even if you are an asshole it's ok!" and I don't approve. It is a fun-ish song, but the chorus and verses don't really connect with one another and it feels a bit off to me. Not one of my faves.

Highway Unicorn (Road to Love) returns me back to my favorite sound that GaGa uses on this album, that 80s power chorus. Even though this song has a similar problem as Bad Kids in that the verses don't sound like the same song as the chorus, this one's chorus is much more rewarding, complete with "WE CAN BE STRONG!" and a signature GaGa "OhhhhHHH, OhhhOHHH". It is enough for me to love it and become one of my frontrunners on the album. One of the worldwide frontrunners Heavy Metal Lover follows it, and it is a doozy of tight beats and some filthy lyrics ("I want your whiskey mouth over my blond south", GaGa? She really IS trying to steal Xtina's dirrty swagger!), but really the only part of the song I found myself loving is the bit where she chants "I could be your girl girl girl girl girl"...it is the most Fame Monster moment of the album, and it is a nice touch. I could see this one growing on me, but it is not the instant favorite for me that it is seems to be for the people who got it trending on Twitter all night.

The standard edition ends with the 1 2 3 punch of Electric Chapel, You & I, and Edge of Glory. The first one is a moody, production-light track that immediately grabbed me. This is exactly the type of pop song I love from GaGa, with all the "Da da da, DA DA da da"s and the easy flow of the lyrics. It is probably my fave of the non-singles so far, and the way it was trending all night makes me think that people agree. You & I is of course well-known by now, because she has been performing it for ages on tour and other appearances. However, this is the first time we hear the final production, which is 1-part rock, 1-part honky tonk, and 2-parts GaGa ballad. In one way, I am glad to not hear the rehash of Speechless it has been sounding like on tour; in another, I was sort of upset to see yet another over-produced song, especially with such a simple, beautiful song. It is still one of my favorites on the album, though, and having this right before the crowning jewel of the album, Edge of Glory, fits just perfectly.

Closing statements:
1) This is a great step for GaGa to have taken. It is an evolution of her sound, with The Fame Monster's sound sort of split between The Fame and this album. It is extremely ambitious in its scope of sounds, lyrics, arrangements, and all around presentation. For that alone, she will get good reviews and a pat on the back for really going for it with her proper sophomore release. There is no slump here to be seen. So that was the positives, and clearly I adore almost all of the tracks, but I do still have a few gripes...
2) The production. Top-notch, intricate, complicated...and TOO. FUCKING. MUCH. I can't remember the last time a pop album was so difficult. There isn't a moment of silence. There is no room for the considerably brilliant songs to breathe. Imagine needing a nice pop album to listen to after a hard day...you won't be putting on Born This Way. It is cluttered, noisy, confusing...for all its brilliance, it is quite hard to swallow. It is sort of the pop equivalent of Kanye West's acclaimed Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy last year (shoutout to Court for supplying this comparison). For all its brilliance...I could see myself avoiding putting it on because I don't need all of that in one album all the time.
3) That old GaGa I used to love, with all the contradictions? The one I mentioned earlier? Not quite here anymore. She has a rock n roll image, and has made her music the same. She has been talking about this album with the bloated self-confidence of Charlie Sheen...but then the album is bloated as well. All of the imagery has been dark and layered and poignant...and so has the music. No longer can I appreciate the crazy videos as much by telling myself that at least the song is simple and fun...they aren't anymore. Whether or not this is a good evolution, I can't tell. She is still one of the best and most interesting pop stars on the planet...but she isn't really as much fun anymore is she?
4) However, with ambition and talent, it is no surprise that things got a little out of hand. It is a shame because with stronger attention to lyrics, more dedication to the hooks of the song, and easing up on the production a little...this really could have been the landmark album GaGa has spent all of her time raving about.

For now, however, this gets:

4/5 Wigs Snatched

Thursday, May 12, 2011


Beyonce is getting ready to roll out her 4th solo album, and she has already done with this era what she has never been able to do before: the unexpected.

After taking a break for what seemed like a lifetime (only about a year and a half) after the juggernaut that was I Am…Sasha Fierce and the following tour, Beyonce is finally ready to enter the current crowded pop fray. This era has residual Katy Perry, Ke$ha, and Rihanna singles, as well as new music from Chris Brown, Britney Spears and the unstoppable Lady GaGa. I had full faith that somehow Beyonce would stride right to the top of the pile when I heard that she was putting out music at the same time, especially when she already had a headlining spot at Glastonbury (the QUEEN of Promotion!).

Then we began hearing little whispers and clues. One of the first was the very unexpected move to separate from shady success building manager, Matthew Knowles, who also was her father and exterminator of Destiny’s children’s futures. Some people rejoiced this move citing a hopeful stop to all of the shady deals that B has long been accused of. Some were apprehensive that maybe he was the brains behind Beyonce’s considerable talent. Personally, I felt a little of both.

Then we heard about all of the producers possibly working on her project. People like Switch, Diplo, Sia, Of Montreal, and a slew of more underground producers. Beyonce has always gotten a little flack for getting her hits with predictable hitmakers like The Dream, Ne-Yo, and Sean Garrett. So, again she was serving some unexpected moves.

Then came the news about the first single, unimpressively called “Girls” which would sample Major Lazer’s Pon de Floor. We later found out that in fact that song’s producer, Diplo, was in fact the producer for this. Boy, was I excited…how could it fail?! Beyonce’s hurricane vocals over a blistering dance track to both meet today’s dance trends but moving out the overdone Euro dance trend or falling into the overhyped dubstep. This will slay lives, I said to myself.

Then the sort of rushed release of the song as multiple low quality versions began to leak out, but with none of the fanfare that GaGa uses when such things happen. The song grew quickly at first, then slowed down, then stalled, and began to plummet. I believe after only a few weeks of being out it is already sitting in the 200s on iTunes. Still no video. No promo. No Twitter. Most of this time has been spent hanging out in Paris with hubby Jay-Z. So…Beyonce. What the fuck is going on?

Only in the last day have we FINALLY been getting teasers for what looks like a fantastic video (possibly best of the year so far) that will be out on Friday. But will it be enough to save the absolute flop this song has turned into? Probably not. I personally LOVE the song, and I commend her for doing the unexpected…but what happened to the Beyonce we all love? That Queen B never takes chances with her success, and we know she will always deliver.

Luckily in an interview with Billboard that was released today, we finally begin to get some answers, including the name of the album, which is just simple 4. Here were a couple of the more interesting bits:

The new single, "Run the World (Girls)," is a very bold statement for you.

It's definitely riskier than something a bit more...simple. I just heard the track and loved that it was so different: it felt a bit African, a bit electronic and futuristic. It reminded me of what I love, which is mixing different cultures and eras -- things that typically don't go together -- to create a new sound. I can never be safe; I always try and go against the grain. As soon as I accomplish one thing, I just set a higher goal. That's how I've gotten to where I am.

This is your first record that you've made without your father managing you. What sort of options opened up that may be different than before?

It's not that anything bad happened between us. My family has my support always, and they support me, but when you've been working with the same people for 15 years, it's natural to eventually have your own ideas. I believe that parents prepare their kids for the moment that they're on their own: at this point, I'm taking everything my dad and my mother have taught me, and I'm able to do things my way. We were at a point where we'd learned so much from each other, and now it's exciting for me to do this on my own and hire my own team. I've started managing myself.

After all those achievements, what was it like going solo?

Scary and empowering! Everyone in the group was very nervous, and terrified to do things on our own. We missed each other; it was hard having to make your own decisions and not have someone there to say, "I agree" or "I don't agree." But going through that is a part of life; it was a big first step for me, but one of many first steps I'm sure I'll have. I kind of feel like that now again.

I'm approaching 30, and finally took a break in my life, which I've never had. I took more than a year off: I traveled around, spent time with my husband, woke up in my own bed, ate whatever I wanted, went to museums and Broadway plays, watched documentaries, and just had life experiences. I never get to go to concerts because I'm usually performing, so I saw so many shows - great bands, like Muse and Rage Against the Machine, that also inspired the album. There were a lot of artists I'd never been exposed to: I'm like a sponge and soak everything up, and I learned so much from watching these great performers. Having time to grow as a human being was really inspiring, and gave me a lot to pull from. I'm excited about growing: I can just have fun, and the artistic freedom to do whatever I want. At this point, I really know who I am, and don't feel like I have to put myself in a box. I'm not afraid of taking risks - no one can define me.

So it seems to me that Beyonce has spent more time between these 2 records travelling and learning about new music and cultures than she has in many years, and that is probably determining all of the unexpected changes. She is independent from her girl group. Under her own management, rather than her father’s. Experiencing new music and new influences.

So, yes. She is doing things in unexpected ways. She is releasing unconventional singles. She is doing her promotion in a different way. As I said, she is finally surprising her fans by doing the unexpected.

And suddenly, I realize that because of this I have never been more excited for a Beyonce album. Welcome back Queen B…time to take back your crown. This time on your own terms.

Nicole Scherzinger Readies US Domination

So now that former Pussycat Doll leader Nicole Scherzinger has finally found some success overseas as well as a shiny new hosting job on the US X Factor (SHOULD have been Paula’s fucking judging spot…grrr), she is finally readying herself for her US comeback. Nicole’s long past of flopping when trying anything solo must make her apprehensive…recently she spoke with Rap-Up.com about some of her plans for her plans:

At the time I was doing my U.K. album, I was really into more dance-inspired music, which is amazing and so much fun for Europe. For the U.S., I wanted to go back to my roots where I started, a little bit more urban sounding ’cause that’s still a very big part of me as well, and I wanted to make sure I wove that into the album. I got a song that R. Kelly wrote, which is amazing. Snoop’s on it. It’s called ‘Peep Show’ and I love it ’cause it actually reminds me a little bit of the Pussycat Dolls, but it’s Nicole. It’s just a really fun and sassy song—a dope song with a great beat. R. Kelly’s such an unbelievable writer. It’s a really hot track I think.”

Hmmm…is it smart to urbanize your currently great dance pop sound, Nicole? Did that work so great for you last time? Even the big names in urban and R&B have been pushing the dance sound over here, and the ones who haven’t flopped (see: Ciara, Keri, Keyshia)…so why do you think you can?

Don’t get me wrong…if she can bring fire and mix in the hotter songs on Killer Love, then I will be even more in love with her. And the XFactor job will certainly help her, although it is to be seen if America will care about her music without her being a judge.

Will Hitzinger become Flopzinger once more?

Ciara Finally Free from Britney's Puppet, Jive

Since Jive can only be bothered with fronting Flopney with thousands of shipments of her album for a cheap certification of “platinum”, Ciara has decided she has had enough of not getting the proper treatment for her career. Her album this past December was a disastrous flop…a lot of which was Jive’s fault for refusing to promote certain songs, making Ciara pay for her video with her own money, and general fuckery towards one of their most talented artists. Shortly after she pleaded with them to just let her leave and find a new contract…and it appears it has finally happened.

As Toyaz World so astutely reported earlier today (), she has officially been taken off of their official list of artists. And even if she has been flopping, you can be sure that Jive would want to have her on there as she is still a big name.

Here is hoping she gets a good and supportive label to give her a new contract and comes back and slays with a fresh new sound like Jennifer Lopez did…Ciara is one of my favorite entertainers and I would be sad to see her join the likes of Ashanti and Brandy in no-woman’s land.

Lady GaGa for V Magazine

I guess it isn’t enough to slay all the other pop wannabes like Britney and Beyonce with just a promo single (ok ok, it is an official one now, but it wasn’t when it sold!). She can’t just be happy with appearing on Idol as the best mentor of the season. No, she has to go and remind everyone that she is the top fashion bitch while she is at it. Please show yourself to the SICKENING shots from V magazine that surfaced today.


Daily Praise of Rihsus

So at this point, Rihanna makes a blogger’s job easy, doesn’t she? Everyday it is a new endorsement, video, collaboration, fragrance, single, bowel movement (OVER THE LINE)…today it is a single cover. See the cover for Man Down below (courtesy of Pop Music Universe):

Gorgeous as usual…it makes me even more excited to see the Jamaican set video for the slinky island song.

In addition, Rihanna is following the esteemed footsteps of Taylor Momsen (gag) by being linked to one of Madonna’s brands. She has been named the face (and what a beautiful face it is) of the Queen of Pop’s Vita Coco Coconut Water. As usual, Madonna knows a winner when she sees one. Keeping on reigning, Rihanna!

Adele & Lady Antebellum Here to Slay

Some sort of interesting Billboard numbers this week, children!

This week’s top 10 singles:
  1. Adele – Rolling In The Deep
  2. Katy Perry featuring Kanye West – E.T.
  3. Jennifer Lopez featuring Pitbull – On The Floor
  4. Black Eyed Peas – Just Can’t Get Enough
  5. Bruno Mars – The Lazy Song
  6. Britney Spears featuring Nicki Minaj and Ke$ha – Till The World Ends
  7. Lady Antebellum – Just A Kiss
  8. Pitbull featuring Ne-Yo, AfroJack and Nayer - Give Me Everything
  9. Rihanna – S&M
  10. Chris Brown featuring Busta Rhymes and Lil Wayne – Look At Me Now
ADELE FINALLY GOT HER FIRST #1!! I was actually sort of worried it wouldn't happen because the song has been out so long, but some last minute promo and numerous covers on Glee, Idol, and The Voice reminded people that it is easily one of the best songs of the year. I gotta say, she is wearing the crown of a pretty impressive Top 10 as well!

Lady Antebellum and JLo both reaped the benefits of performing on the Idol machine, with JLo's still-amazing On The Floor reaching a new peak of #3 and Lady Antebellum making an impressive debut at #7.

In shady news, Til The World Ends continues to be able to reach #1 because even with a remix, it is still just another Ke$hus song, and thankfully the Black Eyed Peas abortion of a song begins its plummet. Hopefully Pitbull's new generic shit also doesn't rise much higher. But good on Breezy for holding on to the Top 10 position this long...

What else...what else...oh right...for all of the Bruno Mars haters who want him to fail

Chris Brown Readies "Next 2 You" For Next Single

Chris Brown is finally making the smart move of making the Justin Bieber assisted song, Next 2 You, a single soon! The song is a perfect mid-tempo for summer radio, and the two have great vocal chemistry in it. And nothing like squeaky clean Bieber to continue the work of rehabilitating Breezy's image, eh?

MTV Reported:
Bieber's manager, Scooter Braun, confirmed the video plans on Twitter. "NP- #Next2You w/ @justinbieber and @chrisbrown - video treatment is crazy ... yeah it's coming!!" he wrote.
I am very excited about this and think this might be the biggest smash from FAME! Team Breezy!

Adele's Pressed Ex Wants Some Coins

So while Queen Adele has been out slaying the entire world and clawing all of your faves cheap rugs off their now-bald scalps, the ex that her recent album is about must have been living in some cheap flat getting more pressed with every purchase of Rolling in the Deep. This behavior has led him to reach out to Adele...to ask her to fork over some change!
“For about a week he was calling and was deadly serious about it,” Adele told British paper The Sun. “He really thought he’d had some input into the creative process by being a p****. I’ll give him this credit – he made me an adult and put me on the road that I’m traveling. Finally, I said, ‘Well, you made my life hell, so I lived it and now I deserve it.’”

I guess Adele can add whatever 1£ toupee he has been marching around town with to her pile of wigs. Only the Queen!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Rihanna Adds Another Jewel to Her Crown

Rihanna just will not stop this era. One triumph after another, another stunning video to start my week with.

In the video for one of her 2 next singles (the other being the Caribbean thumper Man Down), Princess RiRi gives us the visual for her head LOUD ballad, California King Bed. This has always been one of my fave songs on the album, and second only to Russian Roulette for Rihanna ballads. It explores the point of a relationship where even though you remain intimately close with your partner, it seems there couldn't be more distance between the two of you. The video presents a perfect representation of this. It shows a GORGEOUS Rihanna (seriously guys...she is breathtaking) and HOT man (seriously guys...I am gonna stalk him) in an enormous bed cuddling one minute and sitting on opposite sides alone the next, detailing the distance between them. The best part of the video is when Rihanna is behind the bed and it is black and white and depressing, and she is singing while small glimpses of color and sunlight try to seep their way to her.

A great video for a great song. I would love for this song to smash...Rihanna's reign this era is well deserved.

Whitney Houston Hitting the Good Shit Again

Sigh. It becomes more and more difficult to forgive our divas when they continue with their bad habits, isn't it? I mean I will defend Judy Garland down to the ground for her addictions...but Whitney Houston..why do you make it so hard to do the same?!

A WH rep told People magazine today:
“Whitney Houston is currently in an out-patient rehab program for drug and alcohol treatment,” the rep told the mag in a statement. “Whitney voluntarily entered the program to support her long-standing recovery process.” This marks Houston’s third rehab stint since 2004.
While they may be trying to act like it is just another step to keep her sober, I am not having it. She is just so self-destructive and is going to just continue to fuck up her voice, career, and legacy. Whitney literally could have been the defining diva of our generation, and now she has been brought down to nothing but tabloid fodder and mockery. Even batshit Mariah Carey sort of has her shit together at this point having just birthed twins...what's YOUR problem, Whitney? Oh right...you don't have one...

Where's I'm At with Big Sean

So, Kanye West's head protege's name is Big Sean. With impressive verses at last year's BET Cypher, certain Kanye songs, and a well received mixtape, he is primed to be the next big thing in hip hop, following other successful newcomers such as Drake and Nicki Minajesty. And while at first he kind of excited me because he seemed to have similar Southern swag as T.I. (one of my faves)...my opinion of him sort of gets lower and lower.

Today he came out with his second single from his upcoming debut album, and you can catch it below:

See what I mean? Nothing specifically wrong with his swag or his flow...in fact they are still quite good. But I have yet to hear a really great verse lyrically. While this isn't too surprising coming from a protege of King of Painful Rap Lyrics, Mr. Kanye West himself...it IS disappointing to hear. Always weird girl references, talking about money we all know he doesn't really have yet, and other generic and boring rap things. You will have to do better than this Sean, if you want to make a splash in this relatively impressive hip hop landscape we have had over the last year or so.

What Has Been GaGa Been Up To, You Ask?

Well...quite a lot actually.

Greetings readers, Court & I apologize for our absence the last few weeks. Court descended into a rut of alcoholism, debauchery and an act that could be defined as prostitution in certain cultures, and I had to take time out of my busy unemployed schedule to bring him back to health. But we are going to jump right back in with one of our top queens and what she has been doing since Court's life flew off track.

First up! The Judas video, where-in the GaGa dusts off her drama school moves and creates her own demented Jesus Christ Superstar interpretation for the 21st century biker gang style that is so popular nowadays (EVERYONE is wearing these outfits!). But anyway...the main positives of the video is that it is typically visually stimulating, it is more or less the same length of the song, and was pretty fun to watch. The negatives was that it was a bit confusing and didn't exactly make me like the song more, which I believe is one of the chief responsibilities of the music video (see: our next post on Rihanna's CKB video). Catch the video below!

Next was her HBO special for the thankfully never-ending spectacle, The Monster Ball. Over 200 shows, the tour became the most successful debut artist's show in history. Watching even a small portion of the 2 hour extravaganza will both remind attendees of how stunning the show was and clue in those unlucky enough to not be a part of the show of what they were missing. As I crowded around the TV with my gays this past Saturday night to watch the show, I grew more and more in love with GaGa all over again (also reminding me how keen a publicist she is before album releases!). The costumes, the incredible live singing, the sets, storyline, crowd banter, and all-around star power of the Monster Ball would leave MOST veterans trembling. A few of the more spiteful gays around me who have been hating on GaGa and saying she has "lost it" or they want "old GaGa back" all more or less agreed that the show brought them back on her side. Well played Mz Germanotta. And speaking of publicity, this brings us up to today where the first promo single for the album was released...

EDGE OF GLORY!! The album closer is the first of 2 promo singles GaGa is generously giving her fans on top of the 2 official singles, Born This Way & Judas. It had been described as a power ballad, and BOY is that accurate. It might be an understatement. Interesting that the promo single is better than both of the lead singles for the album...and also a promising sign for the rest of the album. Could it be that GaGa has been toying with us for these first 2...that maybe they were just small teasers for the real epicness that is on its way? Maybe. But one thing is for sure...Edge of Glory is one of the best song of hers to date. Possibly second only to Bad Romance. It is endlessly joy-inducing and optimistic lyrically, detailing being at the edge of the beginning of a relationship, being on the edge of death, and yes, the edge of glory. Big instrumentation, a driving chorus that includes a stunning vocal from Lady G, and a fun sax-breakdown complete the song to make what is so obviously a perfect album closer. It also brings immediately to mind a drive home from an amazing night out. An immense closing song at your favorite club. A neverending parade with everyone you love. The instant connections & possibilities for this song are endless, and for that reason it is an almost instant classic in Lady GaGa's already impressive roster of anthems.

Oh GaGa...you've left me speechless...once again.