Sunday, August 30, 2009

Album Review: Whitney Houston - I Look to You (4 / 5)

It seems like decades ago Whitney Houston used to be the biggest thing in contemporary pop. A true balladeer, scoring hit after hit, hitting note after note, winning seven Grammys and earning 26 nominations, becoming among the most awarded women in the world and selling 140 million records along the way. Ever since her last good album, My Love is Your Love (1998) Houston never quite captured her mojo back, going through a series of public downfalls, all down to drug problems and personal endeavors--a 15 year marriage to R&B singer, Bobby Brown which was annulled in 2007, which essentially solidified as kicking post for tabloids around he world. The poor reception of her last album, Just Whitney (2002) capitalized on the decadence of Houston's career--it resulted in being Houston's weakest album both in quality and commercially.

Fast forward seven years and we have newly refined Whitney, looking healthier and stunning like she use to in her prime and leaving her demons behind her, but can the music stand up to the recovery? I Look to You, is definitely a return to prominence, Whitney is sounding the best she has in years--which is the way it should be--production and star studded line up of producers aside, Whitney's voice is the driving force behind the whole piece. Providing a winning combination of melodic old school R&B, catchy uptempo dance-pop, groovy mid-tempo's and only a couple ballads and limited to a harsh 11 tracks, there really is no room for filler.

Opening number and lead single "Million Dollar Bill" is a nicely crafted '70s influenced number, also with obvious hip-hop influences; beginning with a subdued, '70s styled strumming of the guitar--slowly advancing into accompanying hand claps and Houston's rejoyceful opening notes. Houston swaggers it out on the verses before ascending into a breezy, catchy chorus--in which Houston's vocal continue shine through as she proudly exclaims: "If he makes you feel like a million-dollar bill, say, 'Oh, oh." It's written by R&B singer, Alicia Keys and produced by Kasseem "Swizz Beatz" Dean, a triumphant combination of talent--both Keys and Dean's work on Keys' own album, As I Am, were fantastic.

Next up is the fairly more contemporary, Danja produced "Nothin' But Love" which begins with modern, electronic synth lines, before busting into a more unobtrusive ambiance. It doesn't show off Houston pipes, but with an attempt to modern it up, I don't think it's suppose to. Contemporary R&B fronted "Call You Tonight" is fine mid-tempo--I wouldn't call it a ballad--backed admirably with tamborines, a recurring click and clap venture and layered strings. Houston sounds awesome on here, the song doesn't call for any "I Will Always Love You" notes, but with Whitney can't help up but add a little agglomeration of notes at the end. Upon initial listens, I thought this was produced by Ne-Yo, as it actively resembles the general sound of of his ballads, like "Go on Girl." Infact this is produced by Norwegian duo Stargate, who've produced tracks for Beyonce ("Broken Hearted Girl" and "Ave Maria") Jennifer Hudson ("Spotlight").

The first piano ballad of the album is the title track "I Look to You," written by R. Kelly, sets up the perfect leeway for Houston to show off her incredible range. "Like I Never Left" has a tasteful R&B arrangement produced by Akon, fronted by quiet flutes and persisted by hand claps, bells and tambourine sounds. It sounds so smooth, even with Houston's ablibbing towards the end, there's still a sense of subtlety. Following is a cover of Leon Russell's 1970 single "A Song for You," the second production by Stargate, which so far has been the song I've listened to the most--It's nicely so crafted, I haven't heard the original so I don't know if this how it's always been. It starts out a piano ballad, as Houston vocalizes over the top, before lifting up into a heavenly melodic uptempo, dance-pop production, pounding with layers of synth, handclaps but with still a dramatic piano keys running through. It's an awesome track.

The ballad "I Didn't Know My Own Strength" is another stunning vocal performance for Houston. Singing with considerable control and passion. There aren't too many runs in the song, Houston gives a compelling performance, but nothing too calculated. I love the dramatic build up in the bridge, but when the last chorus arrives--the song beings to thin out, despite attempting to go for that big finish with the piano, drums and whatnot. I think it needed a choir instead of an isolated Houston.

The last couple tracks, unfortunately aren't as good as the ones before, the second half is definitely weaker than the first--but that's not to say the last couple tracks are lackluster, I just don't like them as much. "Worth It" is a silky mid-tempo, backed smoothly with a chastened bassline, with moments of synth here and there. I don't think it's anything that preeminent, but it does attempt to go for a big finish, before it fades out at the end. "For the Lovers" kicks up a funky '70s bassline and the Akon produced "I Got You" is backed nicely by Spanish guitar, all the the dramatic atmosphere is more the centerpiece of the song. Closing the album is the piano key and bass backed "Salute" although it sounds completely different, the lyrics are more in the same vein as Mariah Carey's "Through the Rain." It's a great closing to the album. I especially like the lyric: "Don't call it a comeback, I've been here for years."

There wasn't any doubting that during Whitney's time of struggle that she still had the power to return to prominence with a solid album--that was relavent to this age in music, but not so much that found Houston dumbing it down a bit. Time will tell wether I Look to You indeed Whitney's, The Emancipation of Mimi, at this point it doesn't look like it--as it hasn't spawned any hits as of yet, but I think there's plenty of time for that. I Look to You, is a solid album--a clear sign that Houston as indeed returned--even though she sings: "I've been here for years."

Best: Million Dollar Bill, A Song for You, I Look to You, I Didn't Know My Own Strength, Call You Tonight, Nothin' But Love, Like I Never Left, Salute

Mariah Carey "I Want to Know What Love Is"

"Obsessed" didn't exactly prove to be underwhelming in its chart performance--it could earn Mariah a 26th top 10 next week, but yet they've decided to scrap it and go with a cover of The Foreigner's "I Want to Know What Love Is." It's not bad--she's never hitting them "Vision of Love" notes again, but for what it is, it's pretty decent.



I noticed, it's definitely no "We Belong Together" but more like "Through the Rain" sporting more tender vocals in the beginning, building up to that wonderful finish. Will this be a hit? well time... or sales will tell.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Happy Birthday Michael!

Today Michael Jackson would've been 51 years old. I've been listening to cuts from all his albums on my iPod all day--and there's been dedicated hours to him on music channels today. Here my 10 favorite MJ videos, in no particular order:

Childhood

A heartfelt ballad, accompanied by a whimsical video, as Jackson reminisces about his childhood.The line: "before you judge me, try hard to love me" tears me up.

Remember the Time

I don't get to see the full video that often, it's incredibly shortened on television, but this is creativity at it's finest and this song just rocks.

Thriller

What's to be said about this video that hasn't already been said. A truly groundbreaking piece of work. This is another video that I don't normally get to see the full version of.

Jam

I use to think this song use to suck, but obviously it did grow me. Seeing Jackson playing basketball almost makes him seem normal for awhile.

Black or White

This is a fantastic video--I like the whole multicultural vibe. The last scene of the different faces is pretty cool. I almost didn't recognize Tyra Banks in there.

Beat It

Another groundbreaking video.

Billie Jean

The video that broke racial boundaries--knowing what it achieved gives me goosebumps.

Smooth Criminal

I've tried to that slow motion slanting move so many times. This is a great video. The videos from, Bad, tend to be my favorites.

Leave Me Alone

Is just me, or does this seem a tad too futuristic for the '80s... it's probably just me.

You Rock My World

Updated, modern, classy. Love it!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Album Review: LeToya Luckett - Lady Love (3.5 / 5)


In 2006, former Destiny's Child member, LeToya Luckett released her first album, LeToya, which turned out to be a surprisingly solid effort--packed with both cutting edge Hip-Hop and R&B flavored tracks and great mid tempos and despite a couple duds still managed to feel compact. Sadly, Luckett's follow up, Lady Love, isn't nearly as good--calling it a disappointment would be somewhat harsh as I do give credit to Luckett for wanting to switch up the formula a bit, she could have easily cut tracks from the same vein as the first album to be on the safe side, but in this case it's more of a 'hit and miss' situation.

There's no doubting Luckett has vocally grown as she struts and swaggers it out on the glossy opening title track. She also hits it right on the mark on the drum machine and piano key laden "Good to Me" and gels nicely with Estelle on the mellow "Take Away Love." The singles "She Ain't Got..." and "Not Anymore" are also winners. The latter being a firey disco number--fronted by Luckett's somewhat unconvincing expletive's as she repeats in the chorus: "she ain't got shit on me." This would explain why this is her first album to be tagged with an Parental Advisory label and "Not Anymore" stirs up a more laid back, contemporary R&B ambiance, backed with drums and piano keys.

Where the album falls short is a mix of where it tries to duplicate songs from the same vein and songs that just don't click. "Over" thumps a slick rhythm, it's a fine ballad that seems to wear itself out too quickly. "After Party" also has nice rhythm to it, but could some livening up--for a party track, the results seem pretty bored. Luckett attempts a Janet Jackson styled sensuality on "I Need a U" which falls short--as it comes across more weak singing to a fragile beat rather than an oozing dose of sensuality backed onto a soothing composition. The closing track "Don't Let Me Get Away" isn't too bad.

With a lengthy 15 track set, it's not surprising that there is a pretty decent balance between the lackluster, the somewhat listenable and the great. Possibly among the best on the album is "Tears" which gives off a distinctive Aaliyah reminicent. The cool click and clap mid tempo styled "Regret" with Ludacris, is pretty good. Showing a bit of pop crossover presence is "Drained" it sounds like something that wouldn't seem out of place on JoJo's The High Road album. Apart from the distorted layers of vocals in the chorus, it's quite a neat track--she really sounds good on the verses.

Lady Love, is far from a perfect follow up to its predecessor, but it's nothing disasterous either--there are a handful of great tracks on here, which should solidify Luckett as a force to be reckoned with within R&B and soul boundaries (if only she had the sales to back it up).

Best: Tears, Good to Me, Take Away Love, Not Anymore, She Ain't Got..., Regret, Drained

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Billboard Hot 100, 5/09/09

Not that exciting on the Hot 100 this week. Here are the highlights:
  • Black Eyed Peas cling onto #1 for a 9th week, possibly looking to outrun their 12 week run at #1 with "Boom Boom Pow." It's stays bulleted this week,
  • Miley Cyrus surprisingly manages to hang onto the #2 position for a second week. I would've expected to have taken a pretty steep dive now, but it's still atop the Tunes chart.
  • Jay Sean and Lil' Wayne's "Down" rises 5 spots to #3, earning this weeks airplay gainer award, this could be a serious contender to dethrone BEP's "Feeling."
  • Mariah Carey's "Obsessed" stays bulleted at #11, a top 10 entry looks like a possibility next week.

Personal airplay, 27/08/09

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 1 .... I Gotta Feeling - Black Eyed Peas (2 weeks @ #1)
2 .... 2 .... You Belong With Me - Taylor Swift
3 .... 3 .... Knock You Down - Keri Hilson (1 wk @ #1)
4 ... 12 ... Sweet Dreams - Beyonce
5 .... 4 .... Supernova - Mr. Hudson & Kanye West
6 .... 5 .... Use Somebody - Kings of Leon (2 wks @ #1)
7 .... 7 .... Battlefield - Jordin Sparks
8 .... 9 .... No Surprise - Daughtry
9 ... 10 ... Remedy - Little Boots
10 .. 13 .. She Wolf - Shakira

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Alexandra Burke "Bad Boys"

Check out the new single from X-Factor winner, Alexandra Burke, "Bad Boys" Featuring FloRida It's not bad, It's very catchy. Flo Rida does sound a tad out of place though.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Album Review: Arctic Monkeys - Humbug (4 / 5)


As a pop and R&B fan, the Arctic Monkeys don't hold that much appeal to me, and although I do like a lot of rock and alternative music--the Arctic Monkeys haven't always done it for me. The band's first album, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, was a commercial success and had a couple of noteworthy tracks, but for the most part felt a bit flimsy. The follow-up, Favourite Worst Nightmare, fell into the same shoes, but was overall a better affair ("Brainstorm" was awesome).

The bands third album, Humbug, is their most solid effort yet. Like on the previous 2 albums, there are no multiple 2 minute tracks that stem from the same roots and fail to satisfy the ear to its full penitential--excluding the albums closing track. In comparison, it's more darker and hardly accessible. You can easily obtain this vibe from the opening track "My Propeller" a traditional pacing string and drum affair, with an aphotic ambiance and Alex Turner's moody vocal.

Next up is the single "Crying Lightning" among the best tracks on here. I don't understand what their talking about, but it sounds good--the moody atmosphere, the blackish ambulated composition of strings and drums--making this a very fantastic number and it's the song that made want to give the album a chance. "Dangerous Animals" is slightly more upbeat and energetic, cutting from a more lively raw rock sound. "Secret Door" follows up well, as it seems it's cut from the same vein as "Dangerous Animals" but noticeably more light.

"Cornerstone" is another favorite. It's not as darkening as some of the most of the other songs on here. It's probably the most contemporary sounding, with it's strumming of an acoustic guitar and drums--it actually has a notable melody. Another one I really like is "The Jeweller's Hands" it's more slow, but not any less compelling.

Drums play a huge part in "Potion Approaching" a dramatic '60s rock inspired number. The vengeful punding of drums essepcially before (what I think is) the chorus, is really nicely worked.

A couple ones I don't like, well not yet anyway, are "Fire and the Hud" a spooky, tambourine and drum stricken number. I think it's maybe a bit too tame to be on the album--but it could be a grower. "Dance Little Lair" is another. I feel it needs to be shook up a bit.

"Pretty Visitors" is an awesome track. It's pretty funny too, espically the line: ("what came first, the chicken or the dickheads") explicit, but who cares? right? It starts out with static styled vocals, pacing drums and strings, before it picks up on a more fast paced venture, it's really great. The album closes with the rap styled "Sketchead" backed by fast paced strings and drums.

Humbug, is Artic Monkeys best album so far, if anything it's their most solid. I just thought, Favorite Worst Nightmare, needed a bit of bulking up.

Best: Conerstone, Crying Lightning, Pretty Visitors, The Jewelle'rs Hands, Dangerous Animals, Secret Door

Dizzee Rascal "Holiday"

Likely to top the UK singles chart next week is the new Dizzee Rascal single "Holiday." Just like the title implies, it's an awesome summer track. Check it out below:

Saturday, August 22, 2009

What I'm listening to...

Haven't done this in awhile. Here is what I'm listening to these days:

"Hotel Room Serivce" Pitbull - The jaunty anthem stylings of "I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)" took awhile to grow me, but it did. "Hotel Room Service" sounds more fresh--despite its vulgar undertones, which is why I like it more.

"Goodbye" Kristinia DeBarge - I've been listening to this for awhile now. Kristinia DeBarge finally hits the UK with her debut single "Goodbye." The single became a top 20 hit in the US--hopefully the success can transfer to here. It's not a bad song, I like the electro stomp. Her vocals aren't bad either.

"Down" Jay Sean Featuring Lil' Wayne - Being a fan of his earlier work, Jay Sean's US debut "Down" is a slightly different venture--it's more dance-pop, kinda like Chris Brown's "Forever." Not bad.

"Run this Town" Jay-Z Featuring Rihanna and Kanye West - I just saw the gothic styled video to this song and it completely rocks. It's a great song, just the more reason for me to look forward to Jay-Z's forthcoming album.

"Good Girls Go Bad" Cobra Starship - This song is just awesome. Very catchy and electronically fueled.

"Slow Dance" Keri Hilson - Very different from "Knock You Down" and "Return the Favor." The new Keri Hilson single is more slower and sultry and whilst I like this a lot, I would pick "Make Love" another sultry and slow song on her debut album, In a Perfect World... over this.

"Break Up" Mario Featuring Gucci Mane and Sean Garrett - I didn't like this at first--it's definitely no "Let Me Love You." I thought it sounded dry and mindlessly beat-driven. I still don't like it that much, but I'm still listening to it quite a bit.

"Celebration" Madonna - From her upcoming greatest hits album, Madonna releases "Celebration" a great club channeled number.

"Sexy Bitch" David Guetta Featuring Akon - A very different sound from "When Love Takes Over" but it's still pretty cool. I love the energetic chorus and the thumping bassline throughout.

"Never Leave You" Tinchy Stryder Featuring Amelle (of the Sugababes) - Well, I love anything Tinchy Stryder does. This is just as good as "Number 1."

"Lovegame" Lady GaGa - After pevious doubts, "Lovegame" has been released in the UK as the follow to "Paparazzi" with the lyric "I wanna take a ride on your disco stick" still intact. I love this song. Ms. GaGa has yet to disappoint me.

"Out From Under" Britney Spears - I heard this was being used as promo single in Sweden in replace of "Radar."

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Nora Jones Preps Fourth Album

Billboard report that Jazz singer, Nora Jones is prepping her fourth studio album which is set to be released sometime in November. I can't wait for it. I've only fallen in love with Jones this year--her first and second albums were both brilliant in quality and commercial terms. Her third album, Not Too Late, which switched up her subtle jazz/acoustic pop venture for a more accessible folksy sound, I didn't like so much. She's also working with Jesse Harris, who was responsible for her breakthrough hit "Don't Know Why."

The X-Factor returns!

I can't wait for the new series of the X-Factor which starts this Saturday. Known best for spawning the successful career of Leona Lewis, who became the shows third winner in 2006. Last years' winner Alexandra Burke has an album out in October and runner ups JLS have already scored their first #1 with "Beat Again" topping the UK chart for 2 weeks. The adverts for this season look so good, it should be a good one.

Personal airplay, 20/9/2009

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 3 .... I Gotta Feeling - Black Eyed Peas (1 week @ #1)
2 .... 8 .... You Belong With Me - Taylor Swift
3 ... 13 ... Knock You Down - Keri Hilson (1 wk @ #1)
4 ... 15 ... Waking Up in Vegas - Katy Perry
5 ... RE> Use Somebody - Kings of Leon (2 wks @ #1)
6 ... 19 ... Supernova - Mr. Hudson & Kanye West
7 ... 16 ... Battlefield - Jordin Sparks
8 ... 12 ... I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho) - Pitbull
9 ... 14 ... No Surprise - Daughtry
10 .. 17 .. Remedy - Little Boots

I got bored so I thought I'd revamp my chart to make it more airplay based, which means huge drops from enteries in the chart from last week and re-enteries from songs that have hit #1 or have been in the top 10 previously.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Best Albums of My Generation

Here are the best albums of my generation:

1. Coldplay - A Rush of Blood to the Head
2. The Killers - Hot Fuss
3. Janet Jackson - The Velvet Rope
4. Paramore - Riot!
5. Dave Matthews Band - Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King
6. Sugababes - Three
7. Green Day - American Idiot
8. Britney Spears - In the Zone
9. Luther Vandross - Dance With My Father
10. Kelly Clarkson - Breakaway

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Album Review: Calvin Harris - Ready for the Weekend (3.5 / 5)


To think Calvin Harris' style of music acquires some kind of calculated preferences would be wrong. Harris' last album, I Created Disco, I in fact liked a lot, plugged with amoebic melodies which then morph into massive synth supported and heavy bassline backed house influenced numbers--that same blueprint is used for the new album, Ready for the Weekend, which almost automatically makes it a decent follow up and whilst I'm not completely won over, the good points are: The lyrical content is deeper, the melodies seem more complex whilst not completely abandoning the element of fun which makes this album a real party record.

Opening the album is "The Rain" a heavily synth adjusted number, featuring random bleeps and beeps and a haunting organ. I like the distortion of Harris' vocal on the chorus, it's sounds really cool. Next up is the title track "Ready for the Weekend" compact with synth chords and drums--all contributing to that fresh eery feel, the song also features vocals from British singer, Mary Pearce who for Chaka Khan, Beverley Knight and Lionel Richie, she definitely puts in a very good vocal on the chorus. The song is set to be the albums second single.

Whilst I do like the album for the most part, the reason I'm not completely psyched about it is because I don't think it's as consistent as, I Created Disco, although some of my friends seem to think otherwise. Highlights are scattered throughout the piece and in between tracks that don't necessarily click as well as others. One of the instant winners was "Stars Come Out" a nicely composed upbeat synth coated number, which included a great melodic R&B kick in the chorus--which works well as the verses sound hardline electro-pop--you can't help but notice the contrast.

The more stripped down "Worst Day" is another one I really like, It's found towards the middle of the album. It incorporates rapid hand claps and faint synth. It also has a killer chorus. The energetic "Flashback" is another favorite, Harris sounds great on here. Surprisingly is a moment of experiment on here, the leisurely 2 minute instrumental "Burns Night" is a great moment--it wouldn't sound out of place if it sound itself on a Coldplay album.

Now, onto the tracks that aren't necessarily bad but don't seem to catch on as well as others. "You Use to Hold Me" is a great catchy track for the summer--with a trance like chorus, which features repetition of its name, it does sound a bit samey. "Blue" goes for the all round electronic feel, featuring persistent alienatic bleeps which begin to annoy. It also features a lot of starting and stopping which I don't quite fancy. "Relax" seems to lack a good melody to get hooked on. The hevily auto-tuned "Limits" could be a grower but for the meantime isn't anything special.

More tracks I like is the '70s disco influenced "Yeah Yeah Yeah La La La" which has a distinctive Prince feel and possibly the biggest highlight on the album; the #1 hit, lead single "I'm Not Alone" a fresh and contemporary club channled number. The album closes with the haunting piano laced "5iliconeator." It seems Harris just couldn't avoid adding the odd bleep here and there, I guess to keep that electronic feeling goining.

Saying, Ready for the Weekend, is an underwhelming album would be very harsh. It's actually not a bad piece of work. For the moment I'd like to say the tracks I'm not that into could be indeed growers, especially "Limits" and maybe "Relax" but the for the most part, Ready for the Weekend, is a decent follow up to, I Created Disco.

Best: I'm Not Alone, Ready for the Weekend, Yeah Yeah Yeah La La La, Worst Day, Stars Come Out, Burns Night

Mariah update

Mariahdaily confirm that "Obsessed" will no longer serve as the lead single from Mariah's upcoming album, Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, which has now been moved to a September 29 date. Can she do that? The new lead single hasn't been accounced yet, but it's suppose to be in the same vein as "Vision of Love." Interesting.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Preview Whitney Houston's I Look to You


Amazon have put up previews of the new Whitney Houston album. Preview it here. Here are some of my first impressions of the tracks...

1. "Million Dollar Bill". The second single. A nice '70s vibe, still think it sounds a bit dated.
2. "Nothing But Love". A pacing light Danja produced R&B track, sounds nice.
3. "Call You Tonight". A Ne-Yo-ish styled R&B track, produced by Stargate not bad.
4. "I Look to You". The first single and the first ballad--It's not the highlight from what I can tell, but I still think it's a pretty fine ballad.
5. "Like I Never Left" (with Akon). The chorus is fantastic. A nice handclap and tamborine venture. This is an instant winner.
6. "A Song for You". Another piano laced ballad, more dramatic than the title track. Whitney sounds awesome.
7. "I Didn't Know My Own Strength". Another ballad, not as good as the other 2 but still decent.
8. "Worth It". Another instant favorite. A Toni Braxton styled track, produced by Eric Hudson.
9. "For the Lovers". This hasn't won me over, from what I'm hearing it sounds bland but it could be a grower.
10. "I Got You". A dramatic mid-paced R&B track, very nice.
11. "Salute". Sounds a like "Like I Never Left" with a bit more bass. It's not bad.

This sounds very promising, Whitney's best album? probably not and I wasn't expecting it to be. I can't wait to hear it in full.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Billboard Hot 100, 22/08/2009

Not that much news on the Hot 100 this week. Highlights:
  • Black Eyed Peas are in their seventh week at the top with "I Gotta Feeling" could Miley Cyrus dethrone them next week with her new single "Part in the USA" as it sits atop the iTunes chart.
  • The airplay gainer award goes to Jay Sean's "Down" featuring Lil' Wayne, which stays bulleted at #6.
  • Pitbull scores his second top 10 with "Hoten Room Service."
  • Shakira rockets into the top 20, scoring her fifth top 20 hit with "She Wolf / Loba."
  • Mario scores his third top 20 with "Break Up."

Tidbits

Few music tidbits
  • Mariah Carey has cancelled all promotion on her upcoming album. The release date for, Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, is now September 29.
  • The new Amerie album has also been pushed back, to a November 3 date.
  • I listened to the new Whitney Houston song "Million Dollar Bill" and I'm on the fence, it has a nice '70s vibe to it, but I think it sounds a bit dated. Hear it here.
  • That Grape Juice report on the upcoming Michael Jackson movie, This is It. Looks like it should be good.
  • Congrats to Jennifer Hudson and her new born baby.

Personal airplay, 13/8/2009

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 1 .... Paparazzi - Lady GaGa (3 weeks @ #1)
2 .... 2 .... Obsessed - Mariah Carey
3 .... 5 .... I Gotta Feeling - Black Eyed Peas
4 .... 6 .... Sweet Dreams - Beyonce
5 .... 3 .... Bulletproof - La Roux
6 .... 9 .... Beat Again - JLS
7 .... 4 .... Radar - Britney Spears
8 ... 10 ... You Belong With Me - Taylor Swift
9 .... 7 .... Untouched - The Veronicas (1 wk @ #1)
10 .. 14 .. 21 Guns - Green Day

Jay-Z "Run This Town"

I liked "D.O.A." a lot, but the new single "Run This Town" from Jay-Z, featuring Rihanna and Kanye West is a knockout, it's a great haunting piano laced number hovering over a great hip-hop production. The Blueprint 3, seems more and more promising.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Album Review: Mariah Carey - Daydream (1995, 5/5)

August is always such a droll month. It's usually always the month where nothing interesting happens in music (I'm writing this 15 days before I'm posting this, so please forgive me if something interesting has happened). With no new releases that have yet to interest me, I thought I'd indulge in sudden need for Mariah Carey's music, with her forthcoming album, Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, pushed back to a September 15 date, it seems we won't be hearing from the songstress for awhile, unless there's a new single on the way--I'll be over "Obsessed" soon. In the meantime, there's no harm in reminiscing through Carey's pretty stunning discography (well, through the '90s anyway).

Carey has released a string of fantastic albums (especially through the period 1993 - 1997). 1993s Music Box, often cited as Carey's masterpiece, partly due to the fact that it's her best selling album worldwide--I thought was an almost flawless album (how can you question the classics "Hero" and "Without You")--I guess I just don't love it as much as everyone else. 1997s Butterfly, was the first "emancipation" where Carey first fully emerged as an up straight R&B artist--showing near little signs of pop presence, collaborating with hip-hop and R&B legends, Bone Thugs N Harmony (which was the result of "Breakdown," among my favorite Mariah tracks ever), Missy Elliot ("Babydoll") Dru Hill ("The Beautiful Ones") Brian McKnight ("Whenever You Call") and the biggest shocker at the time, P.Diddy on the lead single "Honey."

Both great albums, but my favorite Mariah album is, Daydream, arguably Carey's most solid piece of work and among the best albums of all time and whilst some people think it's overrated, I think it's rated just fine. In a commercial prospective, Daydream, is Carey's best selling in the US (10 million) and second worldwide (25 million) second to, Music Box. I'll also add, it's possibly among among the most influential albums in history. Daydream, marked the period Carey began to gain creative control over her music--as previous offerings had been carefully crafted by Ex-Husband, Tommy Mottola--which would explain the notable absence of hip-hop influences in any past albums prior to this point. As the hip-hop genre began to gain popularity by 1994, so did Carey's interest. It's noted that, Daydream, was the first time Carey really got involved in the creative process of an album, ironically, the album became Carey's second album to be nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammys and she took home 2 AMA's.

Like the breezy radio friendly opener "Dreamlover" for Music Box, Daydream, opens with "Fantasy" which I think is her strongest lead singles and opener for an album. The song was just as breezy and radio friendly but backed with an heavy R&B kick--thanks to its sampling of the Tom Tom Club's 1982 hit "Genius of Love." It's one of my favorite Mariah singles. "Fantasy" became the second single in Billboard history to debut atop the Hot 100 (second only to Michael Jackson's "You Are Not Alone"). Much to Carey's record label's dismay, the single was later remixed--dubbed with an even more urban styled bassline--featuring among Carey's most unlikely collaborators, the late, 'Ol Dirty Bastard. Naturally, I've always preferred the original to the remix, but I''ve always liked the repetition of the 'question and response' lyric in the middle: ("Q: Whatcha gonna do when you get outta jail? A: I'm gonna do a remix"). The single was nominated for 5 Grammys.

In track listing order, the follow up track is the mellowing "Underneath the Stars" a blusterous soak in lighthearted urban pop, which finds Carey feeling the nostalgia as she sings over a dreamy composition with appropriately fitted faint soars of high pitched vocals in the background. Following is the uplifting, ground breaking duet with R&B quartet, Boyz II Men on "One Sweet Day" one of the best power ballads ever recorded. Carey and the boys' vocals blend of magically on here, such a treasured rarity in music, I would think. The song's initial inspiration C+C Music Factory member, David Cole and Def Leppard guitarist Steve Clark, but in the end the protagonist of the song was to acknowledge death of friends. "One Sweet Day" spent a record breaking 16 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100--a record that Boyz II Men had previously broken twice with their singles "End of the Road" which topped the chart for 13 weeks and "I'll Make Love to You" which reigned for 14. The song earned 2 Grammy nominations for Record of the Year and Best Collaboration with Vocals.

The first solo ballad of the album is Carey's remake of Journey's 1982 hit "Open Arms" a fantastic vocally fronted ballad--possibly acquiring the same blueprint as "Anytime You Need A Friend" without the choir, whilst not becoming an official single, it earned Carey a top 5 hit in the UK. As you would expect, Daydream, is a pretty ballad heavy album--which was what I really liked about it most. The gospel influenced piano and drum ballad "I Am Free" is a terrific number, not as noticeably vocally challenging as some of the other ballads, but when has that ever stopped a ballad from amounting to greatness. The more traditional ballad compositions appear on "When I Saw You" probably coming in at the top of the best Carey and Afanasieff hook ups on the album. It's emotionally sung, giving a great build up to the last chorus.

Daydream, marked the first time Carey would collaborate with rapper and producer, Jermaine Dupri--who then become a recurrent staple to Carey's music for years to come. The collaboration spawned the guitar strung, urban tinged "Always Be My Baby" Carey's 11th #1 single, also earning her a Grammy nomination in the R&B category. This is a fantastic song, definitely among her best. This is a pretty R&B fronted number, but the album really switches up Carey's traditional adult contemporary--urban--pop for more hip-hop and R&B preferences on "Long Ago" which thumps a slick, slightly darkening, hip-hop bassline--accompanied by Carey's sharp vocal. I also like the use of piano keys throughout.

There's not a bad track in the bunch, even the last couple tracks don't show any signs of steam loss. Babyface's producing skills are put to the forefront on "Melt Away" a smooth but swagger laden ballad. The '50s inspired ballad "Forever" is another gem; Carey gives a stunning vocal performance. The only dud about the album is the dance remix of "Fantasy" which I don't like very much (this was also done for "Honey" on, Butterfly) this was the first time she'd incorporated a remix onto an album. The only time Carey's done a remix of a single on an album that I've liked is the "Heartbreaker" remix, Featuring Missy Elliot and Da Brat, on the, Rainbow album.

The album plays out with "Looking In" a haunting ballad, in which Carey proclaims there's more to her than what we see: ("you look at me and see the girl, who lives inside a golden world"). It's pretty touching, backed with nice orchestrations too. I guess, this was pretty nice set up for what was to come on, Butterfly. Daydream, is a phenomenal album and aside from, Butterfly, I don't think Carey has ever been able to match it--not even with, The Emacipation of Mimi--which I've given a lot of praise to. Whilst I'm in love with the current single "Obsessed" I'm doubt the forthcoming album, Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, will be force to reckoned with, Daydream or Music Box or even Butterfly.

Best: One Sweet Day, Fantasy, Always Be My Baby, Open Arms, When I Saw You, Underneath the Stars, Forever, I Am Free

Best albums of the '90s

Let's take a lengthy look back at (what I thought was) the best albums of the '90s.


1. Alanis Morissette - Jagged Little Pill (1995)
Alanis Morissette's star may have faded this decade and any recent attempts of a new release have foiled, but in the mid '90s there weren't an alternative, pop/rock female artist who could do it better. Her masterpiece third album was a resplendent piece--and a pretty good bandwagon to jump on at the time (as it sold 34 million copies worldwide and was nominated for 6 Grammys, winning 4). Plugged with rage--a slick combination of acoustic styled ballads, mid-tempos and your archetypal fashioned alternative pop/rock numbers, all fronted by Morissette's off pitch, but still bearable vocal. The vengeful hit single "You Oughta Know" is just among the many highlights--the chorus is terrific. The string and drum backed ballad "Hand In My Pocket" is another favorite. The carefree "Ironic" which became the albums biggest hit in the U.S. is another one I really love. This is possibly the most ambitious album ever recorded by a teen.

(Standout tracks: You Oughta Know, Ironic, Right Through You, Hand In My Pocket, You Learn, Perfect, Forgiven)

2. Céline Dion - Falling Into You (1996)
After three English releases that solidified Céline Dion's name as a household name, she capitalized on that success with her fourth album--which made Dion a force in pop music to be reckoned with. Winning 2 Grammys and selling up to 30 million worldwide, Falling Into You, isn't just amongst the best albums of the '90s, but possibly among the best pop albums of all time. It's packed with some spectacular pop moments like the 7 minute climatic, Jim Steinman produced ballad "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" (the accompanying video was just as dramatically haunting). The famous remake of Eric Carman's 1975 hit "All By Myself" in which features that wonderful moment where Dion hits that long note, where the breathtaking orchestra soars behind her and plays out just as dramatic. More highlights include the melodic ballad "Because You Loved Me" and the energetic remake of "River Deep, Mountain High."

(Standout track: All By Myself, It's All Coming Back to Me Now, River Deep, Mountain High, Because You Loved Me, Call the Man, I Don't Know, Dreamin' of You, Falling Into You, Fly)

3. Janet Jackson - janet. (1993)
Showing she was socially conscious on 1989's Rhythm Nation 1814, mostly filled with hard hitting, cutting edge beats and rhythms--Janet Jackson let loose on her fifth album, it was the first time Jackson has portrayed her more sensual side to the world--stemming from the sultry lead single "That's the Way Love Goes" thumping a slick soulful bassline, fronted by Jackson's smooth vocal. Among the albums biggest highlights is the dark, new jack swing inspired "If" in which we find Jackson successfully attempting more haunting, deep vocals on the verse before letting up on the hook and chorus. The vengeful "This Time" which includes some interesting operatic moments and the piano ballad "Again" are also favorites. One of the albums notable moments would be on the seductive "Any Time, Any Place" which is among Jackson's most sensual offerings to date, laced with a soothing jazzy horn, lenient clicks and piano keys. The janet. album is her best work.

(Standout tracks: If, Thats the Way Love Goes, Any Time, Any Place, Again, This Time, Because of Love, Funky Big Band, Whoops Now, What'll I Do)

4. R. Kelly - R. (1998)
During the '90s, arguably R. Kelly was the best male R&B artist of that decade and through the decade he released 3 back to back, consecutively brilliant albums--so it's hard to pick a favorite but nevertheless, his fourth album (2-disc) was a fantastic album, that really capitalized on '90s R&B. Plugged with funky urban tinged basslines (which mostly featured on the first disc) and a series of passionate and constraining ballads (which mostly featured on the second). The albums biggest highlights mostly come up on the second disc--the fantastic orchestral ballad, duet with Celine Dion on "I'm Your Angel" which has become a forgotten chart topper. The signature, uplifting ballad "I Believe I Can Fly" (which is among my favorite songs of all time). The funky piano laced, click and clap backed "Spendin' Money" is fine number from the first disc. The sexy mid-tempo "Half on a Baby" and the old fashioned ballad "If I Could Turn Back the Hands."

(Standout tracks: I Believe I Can Fly, I'm Your Angel, Home Alone, Only the Loot Can Make Me Happy, If I Could Turn Back the Hands, Half on a Baby, Don't Put Me Out, Ecetera, Reality, Gotham City)

5. The Bodyguard Soundtrack (1992)
Possibly among the most important and biggest selling soundtrack of all time, selling a mass of 42 million worldwide it also won the Grammy for Album of the Year. There are only a few cases were the soundtrack actually succeeds the movie--and this is one of those rare cases. The album was chock full of fantastic songs, both uptempo and balladry. It's easy to forget that it's not just a Whitney Houston album, after the first 6 solid tracks performed by Houston--other artists also contribute to the albums highlights like Kenny G's soulful, bluesy "Even If My Heart Would Break" laced nicely with horns, strings and piano, Lisa Stansfield's upbeat "Someday (I'm Coming Back" and Soul System's rendition of Bill Withers' 1972 classic "Lovely Day." Back to the Whitney's side of the album--the first 4 tracks are as solid as ever--her signature ballad; her vocally powerful rendition of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You," the romantic "I Have Nothing" I've always loved the horns they incorporate on here, the heartrending "Run to You" and the classic '90s dance-pop styled remake of "I'm Every Women."

(Standout tracks: I Will Always Love You, I Have Nothing, Lovely Day, I'm Every Women, Run to You, Even If My Heart Would Break, Someday (I'm Coming Back), Queen of the Night

6. Mariah Carey - Daydream (1995)
I have a full review for this album coming soon so I don't wanna say too much. Daydream is my favorite Mariah Carey album and possibly one of the most solid pop albums ever created. Daydream was the first time Mariah had incorporated elements of R&B and hip-hop into her music--which was also reflected in the phenomenal collaboration with Boyz II Men on the uplifting ballad "One Sweet Day" which stayed atop the Hot 100 for a whopping 16 weeks. The lead single "Fantasy" is also among the highlights, sampling Tom Tom Club's 1982 hit "Genius of Love" it was also more urban than anything Carey had did at the time. The dreamy "Underneath the Stars" and the acoustic, urban soaked "Always Be My Baby" are also favorites.

(Standout tracks: One Sweet Day, Fantasy, Always Be My Baby, Open Arms, When I Saw You, Underneath the Stars, Forever, I Am Free)

7. Madonna - Ray of Light (1998)
After the lukewarm reception of her previous album, Bedtime Stories, Madonna waited 4 years before releasing another. With a new lease on life, Madonna churned out the best album of her career, Ray of Light, was her first step into electronica--with help from techno producer William Orbit, who produced the some of the albums greatest moments, like the trance styled "Swim" the retro synth fronted, guitar backed "Candy Perfume Girl" thumping a dark, trip-hop designed bassline, the very very unusual "Shanti/Ashtangi" and the spacey cultured closing number "Mer Girl." The best Madonna/William hook up is on the retrospective opening number "Drowned World/Substitute for Love," the title track is another knockout. More highlights include the haunting "Frozen," the synth styled, melodic laden "The Power of Goodbye" and sweet ode to her daughter "Little Star."

(Standout tracks: Drowned World/Substitute for Love, Ray of Light, Mer Girl, Frozen, Nothing Really Matters, The Power of Goodbye, Little Star, Skin, Candy Perfume Girl)

8. Backstreet Boys - Millennium (1999)
Capitalizing on the teen-pop era was the third (second U.S.) album from Backstreet Boys. Millennium became an earth shattering smash for the boys, selling a staggering 40 million copies worldwide. I would've named it the best pop album of 1999. With the help of pop genius, Max Martin--they carved out a perfect pop album, plugged with fresh catchy numbers such as the worldwide hit and possibly signature song "I Want It That Way," the haunting harmonious ballad "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely" and the persistent, energetic "Larger than Life."

(Standout tracks: I Want It that Way, Larger than Life, Back to Your Heart, Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely, The One, It's Gotta Be You, I Need You Tonight)

9. Lauryn Hill - The Misedcucation of Lauryn Hill (1998)
After disbanding from The Fugees, Lauryn Hill put out her debut album, which would go on to becoming among the best masterpieces in R&B and Hip-Hop. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, earned Hill 5 Grammys, including Album of the Year and sales of 19 million worldwide. Constructed with hard hitting beats--verging on both Hip-Hop and R&B guidelines and fronted by deep, esoteric lyrics and Hill's gritty vocal--the album is a very compelling listen and possibly among the few strict urban based albums that can appeal to audiences across the genre board. From the anthem styled opener "Lost Ones" through the singles "Ex Factor" and "Doo Wop (That Thing)" to the closing light R&B flavored remake of "Can't Take My Eyes off of You" the album runs seamlessly, it's R&B perfection.

(Standout tracks: Doo Wop (That Thing), Lost Ones, Ex Factor, I Use to Love Him, When It Hurts So Bad, Final Hour, Can't Take My Eyes off of You, To Zion)

10. Britney Spears - ...Baby One More Time (1999)
The power of the debut album from Britney Spears is definitely undeniable. Producer Max Martin, had struck gold with the Backstreet Boys and N'SYNC and Spears was next. The album was a simple yet coercive venture in teen-pop--the painfully catchy piano ridden title track, the energetic stomper "(You Drive Me) Crazy" and the cute pop ballads "Sometimes" and "From the Bottom of My Broken Heart" were all that shaped the album to appeal to teen audiences, which was a result of sales of 25 million worldwide. This may not be Spears' best album (although I like it a lot), but is amongst the most important albums in the teen-pop genre.

(Standout tracks: ...Baby One More Time, (You Drive Me) Crazy, Sometimes, From the Bottom of My Broken Heart, I Will Be There, The Beat Goes On)

Friday, August 07, 2009

Album Review: Florence + The Machine - Lungs (4 / 5)

Angelically haunting would be a nice way to describe the debut album from London based--indie rock/pop singer Florence and the Machine. Layered with a despondent mood like trance, Lungs, doesn't sound as consistent as it should, but it delivers an expansive batch of weirdly but cleverly structured darkening alternative rock compositions, although there are moments of lightheartedness. Not everything on here works, but when it's on point, it's fantastic.

The album opens "Dogs Days Are Over" laced with invariable handclaps, assortment of persistent piano keys and a soaring haunting choir which acquires the background--which is essentially the back bone of the opener, It's a great theatrical endeavor and a nice opening to the album. Next up is the current single "Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)" pulsing with drums, cyclical string synths and an overall whimsical spacing. The song is constructed very well, the verses aren't conventional, but they hold up well as they as build up to that brilliant chorus.

Packed with 14 tracks (which is more than enough tracks for the common alternative rock album) you would expect there to be a little filler. Florence has a very interesting voice, it's bold and deep--and somewhat faintly scratchy--when used well, her vocal and bring a song to its higher heights--like on "I'm Not Calling You a Liar" a haunting fanciful number, which is sweet fueled by Florence's vocal--I barely even notice the jaunty piano keys and the buoyant strum of the harps in the background.

Another song that gets treated well with Florence's vocal is "Girl With One Eye" a string and drum ballad affair, in which she gives a fantastic vocal performance, possibly among the best songs on the album. I love the old western sound. Also, "Kiss With a Fist" a country/rock styled number, the first part of the album where it begins to pick up the pace.

Points where it doesn't seem to work (for me anyway) are--for starters "Hurricane Drunk" which could've used a bit more livening, it sounds like it was aspiring to take that direction anyway. Intertwined with clanging sounds, drums and deep piano chords--the composition seems to overshadow the vocal, especially during the chorus. The verses are more stripped in comparison to the chorus, fortunately it sounds a whole lot better, I like the lyric ("You can't hold me down, 'cause I belong to the hurricane"). Many of my friends said to me, this would be among the albums biggest highlights--It was also praised in many reviews I've read but I just can't get behind it.

More duds include "Blinding" a slow number, which paces with African styled drums and percussion. Maybe it just boils down to taste, but I don't like this that much. "My Boy Builds Coffins" was an initiall favorite, but what I liked about it--the melody--begins to wither away halfway through the song (mind you, it's less than 3 minutes long). I feel like I'm splitting hairs--or being too harsh hear, but the albums great moments greatly outshine what I feel don't hit the mark quite right.

"Howl" is a fantastic '60s inspired number, tied with melodic piano keys, violins and consistent drums. The enthusiastic "Drumming" is indeed not a misleading title--it's mostly backed by drums, percussion and doses of synth. I love love love the chorus, it's so awesome. Pounding with hard, fast paced and recurrent drums as it comes to a close and moves into the next verse, repeating the lyric: ("Louder than sirens, louder than bells, sweeter than heaven and hotter than hell").

The tambourine, piano and clap backed "Between Two Lungs" is good too. The spacey "Cosmic Love" is another highlight, she sounds great on here. Aided by angelic strums on the harp and lenient piano keys while not completely softening by incorporating a cutting edge agglomeration of drums. Fantastic stuff.

"Rabbit Heart" and "Cosmic Love" are both great tracks, but the one track on the album that leaves them coughing in the dust is the brilliant remake of The Source and Candi Station's 1991 top 5 hit "You Got the Love" an absolutely stunning remake and vocal performance. I've loved this for a long time now, it was also my favorite song for a while, so it's really nice to see a very decent cover of it. In 2008 the song was released as B-Side to "Dog Days Are Over" but with the release of this album, the song peaked at #68.

The album closes with "Swimming" a steady--piano, drum and orchestration affair. I wasn't expecting to like, Lungs as much I did. As I said before, it's not as consistent as it should be and maybe so that accessible, but it's a decent album, especially for a debut. It has its many moments of songs that don't quite hit the mark, but the songs that do make up very notable moments on here.

Best: You Got the Love, Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up), Cosmic Love, Drumming, Howl, Dog Days Are Over, Girl With One Eye

Thursday, August 06, 2009

T.I. "Remember Me"

Even in jail, T.I. manages to churn out a fantastic track. The new single with Mary J. Blige "Remember Me" is a brilliant song, with a killer chorus. The songs protagonist is pretty obvious. It's a shame it wasn't included on, Paper Trail--It's my favorite single out as of now. Check out the song below:

Billboard Hot 100, 17/8/09

1. I Gotta Feeling - Black Eyed Peas

After ending the 12 week run of "Boom Boom Pow," "I Gotta Feeling" extends its run at #1 to 6 week. Last week, Black Eyed Peas became the fourth band in Hot 100 history to replace themselves at #1, following Boyz II Men ("I'll Make Love to You" and "On Bended Knee") Outkast ("Hey Ya!" and "The Way You Move") and The Beatles, but they are the first in the digital age to accomplish this.

3. You Belong With Me - Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me" earns the airplay gainer award as it rises back up to #3--as the rath of BEPs "I Gotta Feeling" begins to wear off, I wonder if Swift can go all the way and earn her first #1. It's not a long shot.

4. Knock You Down - Keri Hilson
5. Use Somebody - Kings of Leon

Keri Hilson has a 6th non consecutive stay at #4, this week it falls a notch from #3, it's not bulleted--I fear it could suffer a drop out of the top 5 next week. Kings of Leon stay bulleted at #5.

6. Down - Jay Sean Featuring Lil' Wayne

I haven't heard this yet, but it always makes me happy when a UK artist experiences commercial success in the US (Leona, Duffy, Amy, Craig ect...). Singed to Lil' Wayne's Cash Money Records, Sean puts out his first US single "Down" which this week rises a whopping 26 spots up the chart, landing at #6--earning Sean his first top 10 single and the digital gainer award. This is being received so well, I'm gonna check it out soon. Sean first captured my attention with his second UK single "Eyes on You" which became his first hit--who knew he would've amounted to such success today. Maybe he'll be the Craig David of the 2010s--which won't be good news when that decades nearly over.

10. Good Girls Go Bad - Cobra Starship Featuring Leighton Meester

Pop/punk band, Cobra Starship score their first top 10 with "Good Girls Go Bad" the first single from their third album, Hot Mess. Leighton Meester, known as Blair Waldorf in the US TV show, Gossip Girl, also scores her first top 10.

14. Obsessed - Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey keeps climbing with "Obsessed" -- she rises 3 spots up from last week, could the Eminem (pretty pathetic) diss be helping? Carey also earns her 29th appearence on the Pop Songs/Top 40 Mainstream chart, making her the most artist with the most appearnces within its 17 year run. She leads other artists suc as Madonna, Britney Spears, Janet Jackson and Nelly.

15. Hotel Room Serivce - Pitbull

"I Know You Want Me" proved a success for Pitbull, he follows it up with "Hotel Room Service" which scores the rapper his second top 20.

21. She Wolf - Shakria

God I love this song (and the video). Shakira's so goddam hot! "She Wolf" receives a digital boost, it rises 41-21.

29. Remember Me - T.I. Featuring Mary J. Blige

Even in jail T.I. manages to impact the charts, this week his new single with "Mary J. Blige" debuts at #29. I really love this song.

Personal airplay, 6/8/2009

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 1 .... Paparazzi - Lady GaGa (2 weeks @ #1)
2 .... 3 .... Obsessed - Mariah Carey
3 .... 2 .... Bulletproof - La Roux
4 .... 6 .... Radar - Britney Spears
5 .... 7 .... I Gotta Feeling - Black Eyed Peas
6 ... 10 ... Sweet Dreams - Beyonce
7 .... 4 .... Untouched - The Veronicas (1 wk @ #1)
8 .... 5 .... New In Town - Little Boots
9 ... 13 ... Beat Again - JLS
10 .. 11 .. You Belong With Me - Taylor Swift

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

R. Kelly & Keri Hilson "Number One"

With his involvement with the upcoming Whitney Houston album, a new R. Kelly album seems a long way away. But he has been putting out singles, "Hair Braider" and "Skin" from last year didn't work for me, but the new collaboration with Keri Hilson "Number One" is pretty good. Check it out below.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Album review: Rebelution - Bright Side of Life (3.5 / 5)


I've never been into discovering new music that's not top 40, R&B, contemporary hip-hop or active rock, as much I have this year. I'm really enjoying it. Rebelution is a Santa Barbara based reggae band. They're style features a smooth blend of both reggae and light rock, broadening their sound slightly, which works wonders for their second album, Bright Side of Life. The album has yet to spawn any singles, so the highlights aren't so obvious--for the most part, the album runs seamlessly with tracks that sound more or less the same. The best track is "Lazy Afternoon" a lighthearted mid-tempo, smartly backed with twingy strings and an xylophone.

"Outta Control" another highlight, is underscored by jaunty piano keys and drums--giving off a live feel. "From the Window" isn't bad either, I like the electronic guitar which runs its course on the hook and chorus. The rest, while not bad, aren't necessarily standouts, "Bump" extracts from the same old, same old sound and could use a bit of trimming. Better tracks are "Dubzilla" an interesting track, merging instrumental, jazz and reggae elements together. The tile track is a nice breezy opener and the closing rack "Wake Up Call" is a drum, string and piano affair. Bright Side of Light, could've used a shake up in the differentiation between the tracks, but for the most part, It's not a bad album.

Best: Lazy Afternoon, Outta Control, From the Window, Dubzilla, Wake Up Call, More Than Ever, Bright Side of Life

MTV's VMA Nominees

Here are the nominees for this years Video of the Year award.

1. Single Ladies - Beyoncé



There wasn't much to it, but that's the beauty of it. Beyoncé's video for "Single Ladies" features nothing but a 1 take shot of her and 2 other women performing a slick choreographed routine in front of a white background. It seemed like a long shot but when I first saw this, I thought the 2 other women were former Destiny's child member's Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams.

2. Womanizer - Britney Spears



If you thought Britney Spears' shaving her head, beating up a car with an umbrella, flashing her privates 3 nights in a row and a lackluster performance could end her career and the you were terribly mistaken. Spears' comeback video "Womanizer" was definitely a return to prominence (not to mention scoring Spears' her first US #1 in nearly 10 years). The video tells a story of a man thinking he can get one over on Spears' by seeing 2 other woman--who are in fact Spears' herself, she disguises herself as a housewife, secretary and a cab driver. This is my favorite video in the pack.

Spears scored a hatrick at last years' VMA taking away this award (for "Piece of Me") and 2 others.

3. We Made You - Eminem



This year saw the return of Eminem, back to his jaunty ways with the single "We Made You" --doing what he does best, taking shots at other celebs. This time it was more than just one--including, Jessica Simpson, Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears and many more. I liked it, although it had nothing on "Without Me."

4. Love Lockdown - Kanye West



Kanye West's video for "Love Lockdown" was indeed a strange but great affair, featuring transitional visual sets of West in a white set, swiftly merging with a tribe--coming to and fro the screen, the impact very powerful.

5. Poker Face - Lady Gaga



Loved the song, but I was never too fond of the video. The by the pool set with the Dalmatian dog is a great scene, I also like the strip poker scene which was strangely unique. The rest not so much. I also noticed the ensemble she wears during the dance scene looks like what Britney wore for her air hostess scene in her "Toxic" video.

Rankings:

1. "Womanizer"
2. "Single Ladies"
3. "Love Lockdown"
4. "We Made You"
5. "Poker Face"

Jay-Z's Blueprint Cover

Check out the cover to Jay-Z's forthcoming 11th studio album, The Blueprint 3. I cannot wait!

Monday, August 03, 2009

What I'm listening to...

  • "Already Gone" Kelly Clarkson. I'm happy this has become a single, it was one of my favorites from, All I Ever Wanted, (along with the title track and "Cry"). It's a haunting--Beyonce "Halo" retread, Ryan Tedder collaboration. It's fantastic.
  • "Supernova" Mr. Hudson Featuring Kanye West. The London based artist, Mr. Hudson releases his breakthrough single "Supernova" a fantastic futuristic, but '80s tinged number, with a smashing chorus--of course featuring vocals from West. He's the second new artist to be signed to West's label (after Kid Cudi) who I've really liked. The song is taken from his forthcoming first solo album, Straight No Chaser, out in October.
  • "Remedy" Little Boots. Currently being cited as the UK's answer to Lady GaGa is newcomer Little Boots--I can see why, their styles are somewhat similar. Anyway, The new single "Remedy" is great, a fast paced, synth fronted number, I don't like it more than "New In Town" just to note.
  • "Never Forget You" Noisettes. "Don't Upset the Rhythm" was a fantastic song but I think the new Noisettes single is even better. A Duffy styled '70s influenced mid-tempo, I really love this. The chorus is brilliant. I just might buy their debut album, Wild Young Hearts, after all.
  • "Bonkers" Dizzee Rascal Featuring Armand Van Helden. At first I thought Dizzee Rascal's "Bonkers" was just annoying--but its--still annoyingly--energetic nature has grown on me, It's not as good as previous offerings, such as "Fix Up, Look Sharp" or the more recent "Dance Wiv Me" with Calvin Harris and Chrome.
  • "Jump" FloRida Featuring Nelly Furtado. Whilst I'm loving the new FloRida single "Jump," I do fear FloRida's sound is beginning to get repetitive--I mean, how long can he keep cutting the same upbeat dance tracks from the same formula ("Low," "In the Ayer" and "Right Round"). I figured this after seeing the video for the first time today--how long can he keep doing the same thing? however, I still love the song--maybe he needs a song with meaningful lyrical content to round out his music, like Ludacris' "Runaway."
  • "Ready for the Weekend" Calvin Harris. The new Calvin Harris song is awesome, I love the jaunty piano keys--backed bold synth. I can't wait for his upcoming second album of the same name.
  • "Here We Go Again" Demi Lovato. I'm not a fan of Demi Lovato, but I really this. It's the lead single from her new album of the same name, which opened at #1 in the US last week. The chorus is brilliant.
  • "Strawberry Swing" Coldplay. I seem to like this more now that it's become a single. It wasn't among initial favorites from the, Viva La Vida or Death and His Friends, album but I liked it. On a side not I hope "42" becomes a single or is it too late?
  • "Straight through My Heart" Backstreet Boys. Special thanks to rcLoy for bringing this to my attention. Backstreet Boys are returning with a new album, This Is Us, after 2007s attempt at a comeback with, Unbreakable, failed. The new song "Straight through My Heart" I've really gotten into, it sounds like Chris Brown's "Forever," it's definately more urban than we've ever seen them. I think this new album will sound like the latest NKOTB album, sadly.
Others:
"She Wolf" Shakira. I think I finally know what she's saying!
"Sweet Dreams" Beyonce.
"Radar" Britney Spears. Will this ever get old?
"Obsessed" Mariah Carey. I've had a sudden Mariah kick lately, I'm curently writing a review of my favorite album of hers, can you guess which one?
"Shatter'd" Tynisha Keli. Just as long as I know someone out there is also listening to this fantastic song then I'm happy (Mel.)
"Beat Again" JLS
"Man In the Mirror" Michael Jackson
"22" Lily Allen

Sunday, August 02, 2009

New Music Releases - September

August seems to be a very quiet month for new album releases, with only a couple notable albums I'm really looking forward to, lets take a lengthy look at what September has to offer, it could just be the most exiting month for music of the year.

September


















Whitney Houston - I Look to You (1/9) After 7 years of continuous declining, Whitney Houston--one of the most influential voices in music--is finally releasing her 7th studio album. So far we've heard 2 ballads from the set "I Didn't Know My Own Strength" and "I Look to You" which are both good ballads, but don't exactly amount to a promising album, but let's hope the body of work will be solid. Houston's last album, 2002s Just Whitney, was considered a disappointment--but I liked it. I Look to You, is fueled by a start studded lineup of songwriters and producers; Alicia Keys, Ne-Yo, R. Kelly, Dianne Warren and David Foster who's previously and famously produced hits for Houston off The Bodyguard Soundtrack. Overall, so far this is the album I'm most excited about.

Amerie - In Love & War (8/9) It's a new start for R&B singer, Amerie. Recently signing a deal with Island Def Jam, she's ready to release her fourth album, In Love & War. Her last album, Because I Love It, was actually pretty good, it spawned 2 UK top 40 singles, including "Take Control" which scored her second top 10, but the latter failed to connect with commercial success. The lead single from the upcoming album, "Why R U" has yet to become a hit.

Polvo - In Prism (8/9) American Indie rock band, Polvo return with their fifth album. It's actually their first album since 1997. What a wait! It's yet to spawn any singles, but the track "Beggar's Bowl" is available to stream here.

Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II (8/9) East coast rapper, Raekwon returns with his fourth album (a whopping 24 track set) featuring singles "New Wu" and "House Of Flying Daggers."

Boys Like Girls - Love Drunk (8/9) Pop/rock band are back with their second album, Love Drunk. I've yet to check out their first, but for now all I've got to go on is the albums lead single "Love Drunk" which I think is fantastic. It scored the band their highest charting single on the Hot 100, peaking at #22.

Jay-Z - The Blueprint 3 (11/9) My favorite rapper of all time returns with his eleventh album, The Blueprint 3, the third installment in the, Blueprint series. I've been waiting so long for this album, it's actually quite sickening. Jay-Z's last album, American Gangster, was just another fantastic album from the rapper. It didn't score any notable hits, apart from "Roc Boys (And the Winner Is...)" which became a moderate hit in the US, but I didn't particular care. So far we've only heard the lead statement ladened single "D.O.A. (Death to auto-tune)" and the new single "Run this Town." Both songs making up for a very promising album. A couple acts to be collaboraters on the album are rock band, MGMT, Kid Cudi, Drake and Rihanna. I can't wait for this.

Muse - The Resistance (14/9) Ever since I bought the Twilight soundtrack, I've had a sudden Muse kick, their single "Supermassive Black Hole" has become among the most played in my iTunes and I've also checked out and loved some of their other stuff, notable from their last album, Black Holes & Revelations. Lead single "Uprising" is due September 7.

Kid Cudi - Man on the Moon: The End of Day (15/9) I was very excited about Kid Cudi's debut album initially, I loved the single "Day 'n' Night" which became a UK and US smash, but the second single "Make Her Stay" Featuring Kanye West and Common failed to impress me, which makes me a tad weary about how solid this album is going to be, either way I suspect this should be an interesting listen.



















Mariah Carey - Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel (15/9) Another album I'm very excited for. Mariah Carey's last album, E=MC2, left very mixed feelings. I loved it for the most part but didn't feel it was good as 2005s comeback, The Emancipation of Mimi. Whether Mariah's eleventh album is going to be as good as, Mimi, is highly questionable, but telling from its lead single "Obsessed" I doubt it's going to be anything dreadful. Carey has said there will be some "big ballads" on the album and some, Butterfly, reminiscent. If this is true then I really can't wait to hear this.

Editors - In This Light and On This Evening (21/9) Birmingham based, indie rock band return with their third album. First single "Papillon" should be out soon.

Mika - We Are Golden (21/9) Pop singer, Mika returns with his second album. I really liked his first, Life In Cartoon Motion--especially the single "Happy Ending" the album wasn't as well received as I think it should've been. The album features first single "We Are Golden."

Christina Aguilera - Light & Darkenss (25/9) 3 years later and Christina Aguilera is ready to release her fourth album. The last time Aguilera was in the spotlight she was promoting her first Greatest Hits album, which spawned the single "Keeps Gettin' Better" whilst other artists are succeeding with the whole electronic movement, its just not working for her. If this new album is anything like "Keeps Gettin' Better" (which I'm pretty sure it is) I'm really not interested. Now a married mother of 1, a return to her, Stripped days is out of the question.

















Madonna - Celebration (Greatest Hits)
(28/9) Madonna prepares to release her third greatest hits album. It follows 1990s The Immaculate Collection and 2001s GHV2 (which my mum owns). The lead single "Celebration" is available for purchase on iTunes. It's not bad. I think is going to be the first Madonna album (and first greatest hits collection) I've bought in awhile. I've never really been a fan of these; by the time a favorite artist of mine has released a greatest hits album, I've already bought all of their albums--but I'll make the exception for Madonna.

50 Cent - Before I Self Destruct (29/9) There were rumors that the new 50 Cent album would face head-to-head competition with Jay-Z. De ja vu anyone? (Kanye vs. 50). It looks like that rumor has been scrapped. Whilst I don't appreciated tacky marketing, I'll always be a fan of 50 Cent. Before I Self Destruct, has already spawned 3 singles (including "Get Up" from last year) and it hasn't even been released yet. The title 50 Cent says, it was inspired by my beloved Britney. Should we expect a cover of "Baby One More Time"?

















Paramore - Brand New Eyes (29/9) I love Paramore! It seems like such a long time ago, they their released second; breakthrough album, Riot!, but it was only back in 2007. It became a commercial success for the band, giving the band their first million seller in the US--it also sold 3 million copies worldwide. It spawned many singles, my favorite being "Misery Business" which became their highest charting single in the US. This is the second act I've gotten into because of the Twilight soundtrack, the first song I heard of them was "Decode" which was chosen as a single from the soundtrack. I can't wait to hear this.

Also:

Chris Young - The MMan I Want to Be (1/9)
Slipnot - Slipnot (10th Anniversary Edition) (9/9)
Nelly Furtado - Mi Plan (15/9)
Pearl Jam - Backspacer (20/9)
Sean Kingston - Tomorrow (22/9)
Crash Love - AFI (29/9)
Alice in Chains - Black Gives Way to Blue (29/9)
Bowling for Soup - Sorry for Partyin' (TBD)

Mel's Songs of the Summer

Over on Melismatic, check out Mel's top 20 Songs of the Summer so far this year (according to her Last.fm). I always find it refreshing to know that others listen to artists I listen to, who aren't necessarily "big," like Tynisha Keli for instance. Fantastic list.

Pixie Lott "Boys and Girls"

I can't get enough of the new Pixie Lott single "Boys and Girls" the follow up to her UK #1 "Mama Do (Uh Oh, Uh Oh)." This is somewhat more uptempo and funky, rounded off with a fantastic (Rachel Steven's reminiscent styled) chorus. Her debut album, Turn It Up, is due out September 14th.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Whitney Houston "I Look to You"

I've been giving the new Whitney Houston single "I Look to You" time to grow on me and as it turns out I think it's pretty fine ballad, definately more compact than "I Didn't Know My Own Strength." Houston's forthcoming seventh album, I Look to You, has been pushed up to an August 31st release date. Check out the song here.

Album review: Fabolous - Loso's Way (3.5 / 5)


I may not be as much of a hip-hop fan as I use to be, but I still have my favorites: (Jay-Z, Kanye West and Lil' Wayne). Fabolous, I've always thought of as a very underrated artist--partly because of his more commercial peers becoming (or starting out) more mainstream. He's remained one of those hip-hop artists who keep the grit in their work, telling stories through their albums without the use of radio-friendly singles. If I were to compare, Jay-Z's had many--with "Excuse Me Miss" being the best of the bunch. Lil' Wayne's "Lollipop" and Kanye West and 50 Cent have too many to count. On, Loso's Way, Fabolous seems to descend into temptation a bit. Fabolous' last album, From Nothin' to Somethin', had the light and breezy single "Baby Don't Go" but for the most part was a pretty caustic album. Loso's Way, I think is his most accessible album yet--though not his best, I've always thought that title belonged to, Sweet Dreams (2003).

What makes, Loso's Way, more accessible that Fabolous' previous offerings is the album as a whole sounds more contemporary than you would think--which isn't a bad thing as there are moments of up straight hip-hop. The album opens with the 4 minute introduction "The Way" a horn, drum and bass studded number, whilst I'm pretty sure the lyrics serve up some deep undertones, I'm surprised the intro drags on for so long--this his only one to do so, the From Somethin' to Nothin' introduction, was half as long.

The intro then descends into "My Time" Featuring new R&B singer, Jeremih (famous for his recent hit "Birthday Sex."). It thumps a slick bassline--backed with recurrent 808 drum machine, there are also some bells incorporated introducing a haunting element. The subject matter should be obvious, the song talks about Fabolous' time to shine, also noting some specific influences from Biggie Smalls, P. Diddy and Busta Rhymes. Jeremih puts in a good verses too. Following is "Imma Do It" and "Feel Like I'm Back" which feels like they've been cut from the same generic hip-hop sound, but "Feel Like I'm Back" is a pretty nice number--showing Fabolous the business man ("I take my ladies hand, I shake my eternie's").

The next couple tracks (seven to be specific) are all star studded--which shouldn't be surprise as features seem to a must in all hip-hop albums. Keri Hilson pops up on "Everything, Everyday, Everywhere" an empowering number, I really like the chorus, which Hilson's delivers so brilliantly--with Hilson's appearence on the track, it shouldn't be so surprising that it sounds very R&B. Not a bad tune for the summer either.

Fabolous acquires his "Excuse Me Miss" or "Lollipop" so-to-speak, on the albums lead single "Throw It In the Bag," which features The-Dream. It's a light piano key and bass backed number--it does what "Baby Don't Go" did for, From Somethin' to Nothin', which is giving the album a more contemporary feel. I actually prefer this to "Baby Don't Go" -- definately among favorites on here, but possibly among the most outstanding is "Money Goes, Honey Stay (When the Money Goes Remix" which features non other than Jay-Z. Upon initiall listens to the album, the (apart from the stunning Jay-Z hook up) I was excited for the anthem styled "Salute" which features Lil' Wayne, but eneded falling short, Fabolous sounds good and so does the beat, but Wayne sounds hoarse. Sad, this could've been a highlight.

"There He Go" is another track I really like. It's produced by the Blackout Movement, a Florida based, production crew, who are known most for producing fellow hip-hop star's Mims' US chart topper "This Is Why I'm Hot." "There He Go" is a very intricuite number, the beat is quiet but sharp and Fabolous' laid back rap style on here is a plus. Ryan Leslie features (and also acquires producing credits) on "The Fabolous Life." Leslie, is among favorite R&B and hip-hop producers, I first heard his work through R&B singer Cassie's "Me & U" in 2006. "Fabolous Life" is a jaunty piano backed number, I really like the breezy chorus.

Ne-Yo appears on the raunchy "Makin' Love." Possibly one of the most specific desciptions about the process of sex I've ever heard in a song. Normally every time Ne-Yo makes an appearence on an album, it usually ends up being the albums biggest highlight--unfortunately that's not the case here. "Last Time" with Trey Songz is a light number hovering over a slikc JD produced beat. It's pretty melody stricken, it's not a favorite but it does hold some appeal.

The albums title is named after Fabolous' own feature film, which takes influences from Al Pacino's vehicle, Carlito's Way, which is the backstory behind the track "Pachanga" named after the character. "Stay" with Marsha Ambrosius is an admition into fatherhood, it's a pretty heartfelt number. Possibly showing signs that the album could've done with some trimming, is the last couple of tracks somewhat drag on the album without being productive.

Loso's Way, may not be as good as, From Nothin' to Somethin', it's still racks up as one of the finest hip-hop albums I've heard in awhile. It's a solid body of work, holding some compelling highlights, but it does have its clunkers which do indeed bring down the album as a whole--but my 3.5 rating isn't that far of a 4.

Best: Money Goes, Honey Stay, Throw It In the Bad, There He Go, Stay, The Fabolous Life