Saturday, June 25, 2011

Beyonce '4' - Album Review

2011 has been a great year for the pop divas of the music industry: Rihanna and Katy have continued to slut their way to the top of the charts; Britney’s managers have defied all odds and kept her career alive with forced "performances" and remixes; Ke$ha is simply alive; Christina is still allowed to sing live; GaGa finally released her anticipated third album to just as much critical acclaim and commercial success as the controversy surrounding its 99 cent value; and Adele has already solidified herself as the frontrunner for Artist Of The Year by standing still in front of a mic and singing the same song that’s been out since last November. Not one to be threatened by such amateurism, King B had her crown set on 2011 as well. Commoners rejoiced when they learned her album would be released this summer and eagerly awaited for the first single to drop.

Unfortunately, not even her loyal Beyhive could help the flop that was Run The World (Girls). Lukewarm response to the song and video got this era off to a rough start. [Read my review of the song here and Andrew’s thoughts here.] Failed promo singles, too few and too late performances, and the inevitable (3 week) album leak has many in the industry (and fans alike) worried that the buzz surrounding a new album from such a high-profile star is unusually low. Beyonce’s fourth album is rightfully titled 4 --a number that apparently means a lot to her (her birthday, wedding anniversary, Jay’s birthday, the number that didn’t work for Destiny’s Child) --and she has publically addressed that this album means just as much to her.

No longer under the management of her father and with the help of the usual suspects, mainly, Single Ladies-helmed, The-Dream, Beyonce has created an album that’s refreshing, but at the same time familiar for her fans. In interviews, she’s expressed wanting to create a “new genre” of music by combining all of the styles of music she loves. By no means are any of the songs she’s crafted redefining, the obscure productions styles are a different route for the singer. She has named dropped Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson as a few of the artists that inspired her for the writing and recording process. While few of the tracks have the “dazzle” that any of the classics by those two artists have, the retro sound she was going for is evident in most of them.

The album starts off rather unconventional with the soulful ballad, 1 + 1. Right off the bat, it’s noticeable that Beyonce is taking her voice to new heights. Giving us a delivery style that we’re used to hearing from live performances rather than the clean-cut studio versions. “I don’t know much about algebra but I know one plus one equals two” she boldly asserts her lover. 1 + 1 remains rather impressive because of the emotion she conveys and less on a technical level. It won’t be receiving any airplay any time soon but it shows why vocals alone, she is above most of her contemporaries.

Without a doubt, I Care is one of Bey’s best vocals to date. Earnest and convincing, she belts over a slow-thumping beat. At the bridge of the song, Beyonce goes into a falsetto with a near Mariah-like range, further establishing that admiration of her voice is sometimes understated. I Care ends up being one of the stronger slower numbers on the album because of its overall composition. I Miss You has a very serene ambience to it akin to the sound from Alicia Key’s last record, The Element Of Freedom. But for all of the raw, vulnerability in the song, the empty beat doesn’t really go anywhere. Luckily, its short length allows it to end before it becomes too uninteresting. Third song in and you’re probably wondering, where is the club-banger? It should be noted that it doesn’t make its appearance until the 9th track--something many fans won’t be expecting.

From there we get to the most mainstream and commercial ballad on the album, the mid-tempo Best Thing I Never Had penned by Babyface. It’s this albums Irreplaceable only even more confident. “I bet it sucks to be you right now” she croons over a piano-driven beat --lyrics many people can instantly relate to. It’s the album’s 2nd single and has the potential to at least be a Top 20 hit. The old school production via Kanye West saturates the laid back, Party. It has a SWV-vibe about it and features Outkast alum, Andrew 3000, ensuring that Urban radio will eat it up. I can already see my peoples chilling to this one at a summer cookout!

Just when the album starts to find its groove it’s hampered down by mediocre Rather Die Young and Star Over. While the songs have a noticeable mature sound to them they come off as fillers and lack the spark that many of Beyonce’s songs usually have. The ball gets rolling again with Love On Top, a track that has been giving many stans life. A 70’s disco-funk throwback, the upbeat number instantly puts you in a good mood. Where it really excels is the bridge where Bey takes each new refrain to a higher key change. Just when you think she’s reached her peak, she goes for one more and as Andrew would say, it is defining!!!

Countdown is what should have been the first single. It’s the best up-tempo song on the album and succeeds on all levels. Her voice and delivery are on fire and the lyrics are smart and sassy. The hip-hop beat is filled with heavy percussion, lots of horns, and is destined to smash if ever released as a single. It’s so nice to see Beyonce using real instrumentation because with her tone included it gives the songs a much richer sound. End Of Time is another highlight from the album. Think Earth, Wind, and Fire meets Déjà vu. The horn section borrows the themes from MJ's Wanna Be Startin’ Something and it’s here we get that worldly sound Beyonce was has previously referenced. This is one to look out for on tour when she performs it, spread eagle and all.

As with any pop diva, it wouldn’t be an appropriate album without the big, swooping ballad. Beyonce brings in veteran songwriter, Diane Warren for the track I Was Here. Written to be a bigger song than it actually is, the result is a somewhat jaded listening affair. Beyonce makes a statement to let the world know that she’s lived and loved, but Ryan Tedder’s clichéd production is too drab to really care what she is singing about. The set closes with Run The World and it’s an odd placement considering it seems completely unnecessary within the framework of the album.

The best comparison for 4 is her self-titled album, Dangerously In Love. Dismiss the up-tempo songs from that album and much of is standard contemporary R&B. 4 is more a sophisticated version of that album, but without the radio-friendly smashes. Fans of the 1st disc of I Am...Sasha Fierce will pleased to know that that slower tempo and more mellow tracks on 4 are much less mundane, but will be slightly disappointed by the lack of real dance floor burners. The deluxe edition tracks may fill that void. It was reported that Beyonce recorded 70+ songs for this album and it kind of raises a question to what were all of the other songs like. While true, the material on this record is of more substance than her earlier work showing her growth as an artist, the problem lies in its stagnant production.

Overall, it’s a solid record and most tracks stand strong on their own, but even they aren’t memorable enough to warrant higher praise. 4 encompasses a lot of what makes a Beyonce album a Beyonce album which is why she sits above the rest of her R&B peers, but it’s that very reason that might hurt the album. Beysus continues to show why she is force to be reckoned with on stage, now it’s just time for her to demonstrate this within an album again. With that being said, your faves could never.

3 ½ out of 5 Wigs Snatched

Definitely Download:
I Care
Best Thing I Never Had
Love On Top
End Of Time

Available June 28th!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Beyonce Visits France...Destroys All Competition In The Process

So despite some disappointing leaks and chart positions this era, Beyonce has turned up the heat and delivered some of the best performances of her career, and the album isn't even out yet. Strong, emotional and controlled vocals. On-point dancing. A little looser and really looking like she is having fun on the stage. But then, when hasn't the Queen Beyopatra been a dynamo on the stage? She is without a doubt the greatest performer of this generation, and her work ethic has put her in the leagues of pop history's greats.

In Nice, France this past weekend Beysus put on a breakneck and showstopping show filled with solo smashes, Destiny's Child classics, and even a few covers. All of them were breathtaking, and I have already begun saving every penny to get the best seats possible for her next tour. I am ready for my life to be changed. Catch a couple of the stand-outs below. Be sure to take your heart medication first, though. Safety is important.

Christina Aguilera and Adam Levine Croak Out of Irrelevancy

The Voice is really shaping up to be much more successful for all involved than I think anyone would have thought! Smash ratings with tons of viewers (Court and I included), iTunes & Billboard charting performances, and it has helped each of the judges' careers for sure. Blake Shelton has reached a wider audience with his strong voice and stronger personality. Cee-Lo and his tiny hands was given a platform to continue promoting his smash single Fuck You and his next great song Bright Lights, Bigger City. Xtina is finally getting back into the public's good graces (and getting paid $225,000 an ep to do so.) And Adam Levine probably gets approximately 2 million people a week tweeting how hard he could get it (I do it at least once a week.)

So it is no surprise that when Adam's band Maroon 5 and Xtina did a collaboration, it would turn into $ucce$$ for all parties! Yesterday, they released the funky, smooth summer jam Moves Like Jagger, and it trended all day long with almost all positive reviews up until they performed it to little fanfare on The Voice's live show. A day later, it is now sitting at #1 on iTunes, which is something neither of these coaches have been able to say for quite a while. It is a great tune, and deserves the success it is finding. Catch the performance below and go purchase the song on iTunes!

Britney Finally Does Something Right!!

Britney!! Look! You did something fun! You participated! Your eyes looked more alive than C-3PO's! And you went ahead and made your best video since before the meltdown. Cheeky, nasty, and packed with witty homages to movies and music videos of past. And on top of that, your director said that in no uncertain terms you called the shots on this one. I am quite proud of you. Also, that body! Hotney Spears!

I know I give you a lot of shit Britney. Mostly because you are a lazy, overrated talent vacuum. But this makes one of the best videos of the year, and for that I salute you!

Oh by the way, I hear your tour is going well and you are even willing to sing live a little bit for the fans who overpay to see you live. Good for you! One of the best signs I have seen for your real return...maybe next album you can have a REAL comeback? Anyway, I put your video below so my 10s of viewers can view it. Maybe a few times?

David Guetta is Back To Make Dance Music Generic and Basic Again!!

Today it was announced that David Guetta's follow-up to his smash album One Love will be released on August 29th. It will be called "Nothing But the Beat." Funny title because he has a ton of guest singers, so it is clearly a lot of things other than the beat. But Guetta is not one to think outside of the box, with his beats OR his titles I guess.

It was also announced that there would be collaboraors such as Usher (good!), will.iam (KILL ME NOW), Snoop Dogg (funny how he is basically just a dance artist now), Akon (VOMIT), Jennifer Hudson (yassssssss), Sia (YUSSSSS), Timbaland (uhh..) and Dev (could go either way.) All of this on top of his chart smashing Nicki Minaj and Flo Rida "Where Them Girls At." So it looks like Guetta has outdone himself...I wish he picked some more dance divas such as Estelle and Chris Willis to replicate some of his better songs. But Guetta isn't so much a reputable DJ anymore as he is a chart reacher, so I guess we couldn't expect him to produce something of worth or value. Hopefully a couple of songs will be worth it.

Santigold Announces Her Sophomore Album! Santygold....wait no Santogold...oh right SANTIGOLD has finally confirmed her sophomore album to today. MIA's protege had a wildly successful debut era, with critical & commercial success and a boatload of cred. She claims that the label interference has made the recording more difficult than the first time around, and while it has been annoying that she approves of every part of the new album 100%. She had this to say about the sound:
"I wanted it to feel dynamic and powerful. I still have the songs that sound very electronic and clubby, but I have a couple ballads on this one -- my own type of ballads, where they just sound big, like the way some old Kate Bush or Peter Gabriel songs were…on this one song, we did a whole section that has a bottle used as the percussion, so there's layers upon layers of Greg Kurstin playing a bottle and literally filling it with different layers of water, and stacking each note. Mixed with a marimba and taiko drums!"
While MIA is off being a bitter, contrived bitch who makes absolute shit music at this point...I am happy to see one of her proteges coming out with something that will be more genuine and fresh than Maya could ever hope. And since Rye Rye seems to never be able to get her debut off the ground, I am glad Santigold is here to save the day.

And while I was most excited by all the big dogs of the industry's releases in the early part of the year...the second half of the year seems just as packed with more interesting and probably better music.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Girls Aloud Are Girls Who Shouldn't Be Allowed To Go Solo

British group Girls Aloud, one of the most overrated girl groups since Danity Kane (yes I am aware they were around before but I wanted to say something bitchy about DK), split up on hiatus a few years ago so that each member could pursue solo efforts. While I am not too into many of their songs, they were truly a force to be reckoned with in the UK, and remain the girl group to beat in the 21st century outside of ho patrol Pussycat Dolls. So what have they been up to? Let's do a quick recap:

Cheryl Cole

The Darling of the UK landed herself a spot on UK Xfactor and then went on to put out 2 successful albums with mediocre music and a few high charting singles, also mediocre. While Cheryl is gorgeous, a sweetheart, and not a half-bad dancer, she clearly does not have the talents that some of her group members had. Sort of the Posh Spice of GA. More recently she was supposed to come to the US XFactor and even began auditions, and all kinds of shady things went down, and now she is no longer on there, being replaced by the prettier and more talented Nicole Scherzinger, and is no longer involved in the UK version. What next, Cheryl?

Nadine Coyle

Often thought of as the VOICE of Girls Aloud, Nadine's solo album came out last fall, and was dead on arrival. Many blamed it on her having talent but not as much star power as Cheryl. Some said the production and songs were dated. I bet it was a little of both. Just this week it was announced that Nadine is going to have another go of it at the American market with a couple songs by American DJs in an attempt to find success where she couldn't in the UK. God bless her because she really is a talented girl.

Nicola Roberts

Whereas Cheryl went for the pop superstar and Nadine is treading underrated talent, Nicola just recently premiered her first single Dance To The Beat of My Drum and seems to be playing the indie pop card. Using a more inspired sample of Pon De Floor than Beyonce's latest flop, the single has been VERY well received by critics, although not exactly setting the UK charts on fire. Cheryl may have the success, but Nicola just might end up with the most credibility.

Kimberley Walsh

I picked a bigger picture for her because she has NOTHING going on.

Sarah Harding

See Kimberley Walsh. This ho got nothing.

Moral of the story is that even with certain successes from the top members of Girls Aloud, these gals are far less entertaining separate. Luckily for us, there is a confirmation that they will be reforming for some type of reunion. I may not be jumping up and down, but at least then it is just one group putting out subpar pop music rather than 5 (or rather, 3) entities putting out even worse music. Man...why did I even write this?

This Week's New Music!

Here are some of the newest and brightest music that leaked/debuted this week!

  • This one hasn't come out, but is CERTAINLY noteworthy. Christina Aguilera already had a song leak with fellow Voice coach Cee-Lo (Nasty), but this coming Tuesday a duet with another coach will officially premiere on the show. Adam Levine confirmed that his band Maroon 5 recorded a song with Xtina called "Moves Like Jagger." I am ALWAYS down for new music with Legendtina, and any additional visual with Adam are also welcome. Good job all.
  • Wynter Gordon, disco singer-songwriter extraordinaire, is finally releasing her full-length debut in Australia as well as an EP in the US this month. Everything we have heard from it, as well as other leaks and demos, have been uniformly flawless, and a couple of new leaks today are no different. Be sure to check out Back To You and the AMAZING Still Getting Younger.
  • UK X-Factor finalist Cher Lloyd, who was arguably the star of the last season despite not winning, had her first single leak yesterday. I hated her on there. I hate her now. It is a fucking mess. Even worse than I thought it would be But listen below so you can agree with me that she can go back to whatever trash neighborhood in London she crawled out of

  • One of the real stand-outs this year has been new pop artist, Florrie. This week her EP Experiments came out, and it is one of the more solid pop releases of the year. Going through and rating each song, there were no 5 stars, but every single song was a 4 star. And that's pretty damn good. She is a darling for pop blogosphere, and you should all get into her classy brand of music.

  • LMFAO and Pitbull's albums leaked. I do not give ONE single fuck.

That's all for now, folks!! Maybe one day soon I will do a feature on new dance music I have found so that CERTAIN friends of mine aren't asking me if I've heard that new Wynter Gordon song Dirty Talk anymore.

Lady GaGa Does European Promo; plans Edge of Glory video

Lady GaGa has not slowed down at all for her Born This Way album, and has taken to Europe to further her worldwide domination. I'm not even going to lie to you guys. I didn't watch any of this. I just don't care. Does anyone care? The performances by her so rarely have anything to do with the song. Back when she didn't have the budget of a movie studio, she would just have fun accents to her performance, but the spotlight was still on her. At this point, we know she will be flailing around acting retarded, so I just look at whatever pointless set she is peddling. I dunno. You know I will be at her concert and shaking and crying all over again...but I just can't with the performances. You can find them below, though.

Additionally, and this I am excited for...GaGa has announced that her video for my fave song on her new album, Edge of Glory, will premiere tomorrow night on So You Think You Can Dance!! I'm sure it will be overdone and stupid, too, but I would love a nice, lighthearted film for this jubilant parade of a song!


Last we met, Beyonce was prepping for her usual worldwide takeover with a slamming dance anthem in Run The World, fierce promo pictures, and usual confidence in her project, 4.

Since then, the album has leaked 3 weeks early (yikes), all official and promo singles have flopped (uh oh), and the album's reception has been very mixed (what the...). For the record, I love love LOVE the album and will do a proper review soon. Although all of you should know that if I like something that you should...right? Don't you all know that? No? Alright then...

There have even been rumors that her label might push the album back and force her to record some new songs for the project in an effort to make it more commercially viable. It is, after all, basically a straight R&B record with only one club song, and that one has already flopped harder than Xtina's Not Myself Tonight. However, Bey has made a point to talk about how she is determined to evolve and change during this era after finally taking the reins back from her father and being in control of her music and destiny. It will be interesting to see how one of pop music's biggest and most consistent players will survive on a scene that is rejecting the music she so truly believes in.

Katy Perry Releases Last Friday Night video; Remains Flawless

In the past I have never been much of a Katy Perry stan, but something about her Teenage Dream era has me doubting that. She is unrelentingly cheeky on her Twitter page (much like her BFF Rihanna), she has been a hardworking promo beast ever since her album was released last summer, and she got a series of interesting openers for her worldwide tour, including Marina & The Diamonds and one my faves, Robyn. But more importantly, she created an album of irresistible pop songs of all different types, with videos that range from nostalgic to hilarious. Yes her live singing on every award show are enough to send the Banshees of Hell running back to their mummies...but beyond that, I must say she has become quite a force to be reckoned with.

Her latest triump is her 8 minute long, star-studded video for party-anthem Last Friday Night where she sports a hilarious alter ego, Kathy Beth Terry (who has her own Twitter). It is interesting and side-splittingly funny from beginning to end, and completely worth your time. Catch it below:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Queen of Pop Back To Fuck The Young Hoes Up

Madonna, undisputed Queen of Pop, must be just like the rest of us. She has looked around at this year's releases by the so-called Trinity of Pop Music (Beyondslay, Godga, and Flopney) as well as other lesser princesses like Rihanna, Katy Perry, and JLo. And she must be wondering why all of it has been so utterly boring and lacking. I know we all are.

The difference between us peasants and a goddess like Madonna is that she can do something about. Her manager Guy Oseary took to his Twitter yesterday and had this to say:
“Madonna goes into the recording studio next month to begin work on new album…”. “Madonna has a good idea on which producers she will be working with…” “Lots of questions about what kind of music it will be… stay tuned…”

Madonna is legendary first and foremost for her impeccable taste in collaborators, and I have no doubt at all that she will deliver another legend for her 12th studio album. She is usually relatively quick in the studio because she does her homework beforehand so it is possible we will get a single by the end of the year if not an album. I would trade every release this year for a Madonna album...luckily I might not have to choose! Let the REAL cultural baptism begin.

Kelly Rowland Follows Up Motivation with Next R&B Smash

Kelly Rowland, Beyonce's former back-up dancer, is finally seeing the success she deserves after breaking through with her David Guetta summer jam "When Love Takes Over." After a series of confusing single releases flying between high-octane house anthems (Commander) and soaring R&B break-up jams (Rose-Colored Glasses), she finally settled on smooth, sexy Motivation featuring King of the Feature Creatures Lil Wayne. Its success was a surprise, and a welcome one at that. Currently holding the #1 spot on the R&B Billboard charts and in the Top 25 of the Hot 100, Ms Kelly announced her album would finally be released at the end of July, and her second single was selected.

Lay It On Me is a smooth-as-cocoa-butter R&B jam, with summery production and light but interesting vocals. It also features rapper of the moment, Kanye protege Big Sean. It is a tight song that screams radio smash, and while I love me a big Kelly dance track, it is a little relieving to have a change in pace to all the sonic abortions that the Pitbulls and LMFAOs of the world have been unleashing upon us. Catch the track below:

ABDC's Lady of Fivehead Remains Delusional

Failed femcee and resident fivehead judge of America's Best Dance Crew is reportedly working on music again to head up her one hit, Lipgloss. One person she was questioned about in her recent interview with VIBE was top femcee Nicki Minaj, who she had a reported feud with a few years ago when Her Minajesty rapped "5? Lil Mama you a THREE star!" in one of her first scene stealing verses in Yo Gotti's "5 Star Bitch." In particular, the hip hop magazine questioned her Minaj-esque bob hairstyle.
VIBE: I think the biggest style criticism was thrown at you this past MTV Movie Awards. Bunch of people thought you jacked Nicki’s haircut.

But my cut is blunt and futuristic and Nicki Minaj started wearing that bob on her head after she came to my show, so at the end of the day I know what I do and I know what I possess and I know who I am. I'm a trendsetter. The biggest form of flattery is imitation so I'm flattered. I understand the universal law. I'm not confused, I don't feel like a follower. I started so many things that new artists are doing now anyway –my style, the way I'm aggressive on a track, the way I come through, the way my beat bangs. There are so many things that were borrowed, that I influenced that's happening in music right, so I'm far from discouraged.

To hear Mamacita tell it, every rapper in the game is sitting there watching her one video taking notes on how to duplicate her stunning success. Some people, I'll tell ya.

Kris Allen Shows Off the Only Reason People Still Care

Kris Allen was undeserving of winning the American Idol title. We all knew it then. We all know it now. Busting out an acoustic and lowkey version of Kanye's "Heartless" seems cute at the time, but it does not indicate a good career (Dia on the Voice anyone?...ah, how we all make the same mistakes over again).

However, the real reason people voted for him remains. He went camping with his family this past week and is still good ol' down home country eye candy, and even better he brought his hot brother along....and I am here for this!!

Ladies and gorls, if I was on this camping trip I would have gone the way of Bruno and tried to break into one of their tents! Too bad his music is so intolerably boring, because he is cute enough that if he went the way of dirty pop music, he probably would actually be one of American's idols. Oh well, for now at least we have camping trips.