Monday, December 31, 2012

Paloma Faith breaks through to American audiences

Paloma Faith has had huge success in the UK and now with two hit albums under her belt. The British soul singer released her second album, and US debut earlier this month. She blends in the soul of Adele and Amy Winehouse with the melancholy of Lana Del Rey. On Fall to Grace, Faith mixes in many styles to form a classic blue-eyed soul masterpiece.
The album opens with the album's two best songs. Her single "Picking Up the Pieces" is a gorgeous soul song about how her relationship is being haunted by the memory of her boyfriend's former lover. "Now she's gone and I'm picking up the pieces," Faith sings painfully in the chorus. The song leaves the listener hearing Faith's agony. This song should blow up if the US knows what's good.
The second track, "30 Minute Love Affair" is a synthpop ballad that is about literally what the title says. Faith falls in love with somebody and has a fling with them.
Other highlights include "Let Me Down Easy" "Just Be" and "Black & Blue." One of the best songs on the record is the disco infused "Blood, Sweat & Tears." The song is about all of the struggles that go into being in a relationship. "I know sometimes it will hurt/ and you'll wanna hate me/ But we can conquer the world/ leave our footprints on earth/ We'll put in blood, sweat and tears," Faith sings. While the second half of the disc can get a little tedious, the songs are still great. "Beauty of the End" is about remembering the end of a relationship and missing that person. "Falling never hurts, but landing does," Faith sings in the chorus.
Every song on the album is emotional and beautiful. Faith has given us one of the best debuts of the year and if this album is any indication she'll be making records for a very long time.

Alicia Keys regains her footing on new album

Alicia Keys had three great albums at the beginning of her career, but in 2009 she released the disappointing "Element of Freedom." While a few songs were good, they just weren't up there with Key's other albums.
In September she released the buzz single "New Day" and the first single and title track of her fifth album "Girl on Fire." Both these hip hop laced soul songs were a sign that Key's was back to her prime. While the last few songs on the album are a tad boring the other songs make up for it.
The best songs on the album are the title track, the inferno remix is featured here which features Nicki Minaj. Minaj does her signature crazy on her raps. The two make a great duet on this track. Another highlight is "Tears Always Win." This soulful ballad was written with  Bruno Mars and talks about Key's missing her lover while he's away.
The piano ballads "Not Even the King" and "Brand New Me" find Keys returning to her early roots. Other highlights include "New Day," "When it's All Over" and "That's When I Knew" which features acoustic guitar, a change for Keys. While there are songs aren't as great.
The two closing songs "One Thing" and "101" are nothing special and the weird reggae inspired "Limitedless" is fun yet odd. Even with these mishaps Keys created a great album. She said that she was inspired by her marriage to hip hop producer Swizz Beatz and the birth of her first child. While most artists mellow out on their albums after finding love, Keys shows no signs of doing that. Hopefully she won't regress back to her was of three years ago and she'll continue on this path to greatness.

Rihanna disappoints on seventh album

Last month Rihanna came out with her seventh album in seven years. And while those albums have ranged from decent (Loud, A Girl Like Me, Music in the Sun) to great (Rated R, Good Girl Gone Bad, Talk That Talk) but her latest album Unapologetic is very disappointing. While Loud was also overrated at least there were some memorable songs. Unapologetic has a few great songs but they are overshadowed by the bad songs.
The album starts out okay on "Fresh out the Runway." This hip hop number is Rihanna's bragging song. While the song isn't bad to listen to  it's not as memorable as past hits like "Umbrella" or "S&M." The album then slows it down for the hit single "Diamonds." The single is a good move for Rihanna but it's in no way a classic. The album then goes into three songs that lack any spark. "Numb" featuring Eminem, "Pour it Up" and "Loveeeeee Song" featuring Future are just filler and aren't memorable at all.
The album then goes into three great songs. "Jump," "Right Now" which features French DJ David Guetta and "What Now." The latter being a very emotionally charged song with soul and rock elements. "Jump" is a dubstep song that samples "Pony" by Ginuine. The club ready anthem should be a single at some point.
Then the album goes into the forgettable second single. This if followed by the album's most talked about track, "Nobody's Business" which features Rihanna's exboyfriend Chris Brown. The song features the two singing about how their love is nobody's business. While the song is catchy, it's more shocking than it is good.
The album then goes into one of the best songs, "Love Without Tragedy/Mother Mary." The song is a six minute, two song combination that is nothing short or great. The song, even though not written by Rihanna, is her most personal to date. The song itself starts out like an 1980s pop song and then goes into a slower second half. "I'm from the left side of an island, never thought this many people would even know my name," Rihanna sings on "Mother Mary."
Then the album goes into two boring songs and closes with "Lost in Paradise." This dubstep laced ballad features emotional vocals from Rihanna. One of the turns of off this album is the presence of so much filler.
While this album isn't anything special, Rihanna has had bad albums in the past and come out with classics the next year. Here's to 2012 Rihanna.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Keyshia Cole redeems herself after last album

Heartbroken R&B diva Keyshia Cole released her new album last month and it makes up for her third and fourth albums weren't good.
On her fifth album Woman to Woman Cole keeps up the amazingly sad soul anthems of love gone wrong. While Cole herself is happily married and has a child, she can still channel past heartbreaks to make great R&B anthems.
While this album isn't as perfect as her first two were, it still is a step forward instead of going back. The two best songs on the album are the beautiful "Stubborn" and the iTunes bonus track, the dance anthem "Here We Go." These songs show Cole proving that she can still shine bright. Other highlights include "Enough of No Love" which was the first single and features Lil' Wayne. The album showcases Cole's signature lyrics about cheating. I'm not sure who Cole's exes are but they seem like the scum of the earth.
Other highlights are the funky "Who's Gonna Hold Me Down" and the soulful "Wonder." Both of these songs are not on the standard editon, but the Target exclusive deluxe edition. Another highlight is the beautiful "Signature." The piano heavy song is about love and how it stays with you forever. Another good song is a duet with Ashanti. Ashanti and Cole duet on the title track, a kind of 2012 version of "The Boy is Mine." The only problem with the duet is that Ashanti is nowhere near being as talented a vocalist as Cole is.
The album does contain some cheesy songs. "Hey Sexy" sounds like a terrible song from the 90s. "Forever" is an explicit mistake. The song is gorgeous and Cole dropping the f-bomb is out of place and unwarented.
This album is far from perfect but it's a welcome change from Cole's recent musical mistakes. Hopefully her next album will get her back to the greatness of her hits like "I Changed My Mind" and "Let It Go."

Take a breather Nicki Minaj

Nicki Minaj released her debut album Pink Friday in 2010. Then in 2012 Minaj released her amazing Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded. Just a little under a year and a half later. Both albums were instant classics and Minaj became a household name. She ever earned a place as an American Idol judge.
In November, seven months after her second album came out, Minaj released a rerelease of that album called The Re-Up. While Roman Reloaded was amazing, only one of the eight songs on the EP come close to that level of amazing. Songs like "I Endorse These Strippers" which features Tyga and Brinx and "Up in Flames." are fun, but they don't hold a candle to half the songs on the original release of the album.
"I'm Legit" featuring Ciara and "Freedom" are both great songs. But songs like "High School" featuring Lil' Wayne and "Hell Yeah" featuring Parker are okay, they're not "Starships," Marilyn Monroe" or "Roman Holiday."
The best song on the album is "The Boys" which features washed up singer Cassie. The song is based off of a Cassie demo called "Money on Love." The song mixes rap, R&B, electropop and folk rock into a crazy song that is just as good and out there as anything Minaj has ever done.
The eighth song is the single "Va Va Voom," which was already featured on the deluxe version of the original album. The inclusion of that song feels like robbery.
With Minaj planning to release her third album in May of 2013, tentatively titled Pink Friday: The Pinkprint, Minaj is showing no signs of slowing down. While the album will probably be amazing, I for one am kind of getting tired of Nicki Minaj.

Kelly Clarkson is never going to stop

Kelly Clarkson will always be one of pop-rock's queens. This year she released her first greatest hits album and on it were classics like "My Life Would Suck Without You," "What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger), and the best pop song ever "Since U Been Gone." Clarkson recorded three new songs for the record. They aren't her best songs but they are great and they show some new sounds for the singer.
"Catch My Breath" is a electropop/rock song. While Clarkson has done this before this song features a more heavier electrpop sound. The song is uplifting, a first for a Clarkson single. Most of her songs are about the negative sides of love, yet the new engaged singer brings out the positive in this single. This song is a great new direction for Clarkson.
The best new song on the compilation is "People Like Us." This song is a dance anthem that is about people going through dark times. "It's hard to stay high when you're livin' on the bottom," Clarkson sings. The song is Clarkson's note to people going through rough times. Clarkson is saying that she's been there and it will get better. Kind of like a better version of her song "Dark Side."
"Don't Rush," a duet with Vince Gill and the second single is an acquired taste. If you like soulful country jams then this is sure to be a favorite. The song is a easy breezy number that is a good chill out song. Clarkson and Gill's voices mix together so amazingly.
This greatest hits album is a reminder of how great Clarkson is. These three new songs make this blogger excited for her next album. Clarkson is showing that happiness won't put a damper on her career.

Christina Aguilera rises up on new album

Christina Aguilera has never been a weak person. From early hits like "Fighter" and "Come On Over (All I Want Is You)," Aguilera has always had a certain attitude about her. Her songs are both sassy and sexual. They exude strength yet show vulnerability at the same time. Lotus, Aguilera's first album since her divorce, packs in the breakup anthems.
While her last album, the underrated Bionic, was released at the very end of her marriage, on Lotus she is truly writing about it. The first two songs, "Lotus Intro" and "Army of Me" which are also the best songs on the record, are about strength. "Rise up, lotus rise/ This is the beginning," Aguilera sings on the intro to the album. On the dance-rock "Army of Me" Aguilera tears her ex-husband a new one. She goes to show that she isn't going to be walked on.
The next few songs are positive and sexy. From "Red Hot Kinda Love" to "Make the World Move" which is a duet with her fellow The Voice judge Cee-Lo Green. Aguilera mixes dance and soul into a killer duet. Another album highlight is "Let There Be Love," a thumping trance song about Aguilera finding love with her new boyfriend. These positive songs show that Aguilera isn't going to let heartbreak ruin her life.
The album then goes into two gorgeous ballads. "Sing for Me" and "Blank Page" are all about struggle and overcoming it. Aguilera proves that she can still pull off a sad, gentile ballad. After a few songs that aren't memorable Aguilera brings the attitude again on the rocking "Circles." "Spin around in circles on my middle finger," Aguilera tells the haters during the chorus of the song. The song is so bad that it's fantastic.
The album closes off with another highlight. A duet with Blake Sheldon, "Just a Fool." Aguilera gets her country on with this song. The duet is a ballad about moving on after love gone wrong. The deluxe edition of the album has two good songs. "Light Up the Sky," which is a gorgeous piano-rock song. Better than most of the songs on the album, this is a highlight. Another song that will surely get fans talking is the heavily edited "Shut Up." The song features Aguilera telling the haters to "shut the bleep up." The song would be stronger if it weren't edited. The album does feature a parental advisory sticker so it should not be edited. Even with this flaw, the song is catchy and sassy.
On Lotus, Aguilera shows that she isn't going anywhere. Sadly if she doesn't pick better singles, the album won't be a hit.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Lana Del Rey stays brilliant on new EP

When Lana Del Rey released her first official album Born to Die this year it quickly stood out as one of the year's best albums. With quirky songs like "Diet Mountain Dew" and "Video Games" Del Rey became a hipster's wet dream. Last month she released her EP Paradise. The EP was intended as a re release but it also stands alone.
The songs are not that different than on her album. "Ride" starts the album off nicely with gorgeous vocals. Del Rey always sounds like a female Johnny Cash. Some of the best songs off of the album are a little out there. From her cover of "Blue Velvet" to "American" to "Body Electric," Lana knows how to hold the listener's attention.
The best song on the album is also the most attention grabbing. "Cola" tells an interesting story of a woman who is going out with another woman's husband. The song has memorable lyrics that are sure to make people gasp. "My pussy tastes like Pepsi Cola," Lana sings in the first line. This song is sure to be stuck in people's heads for months to come. The song is so catchy and it features some of Del Rey's best vocals. During the second half of the song she hits some high notes that she's never tried to hit before.
There are some boring songs on this album. Specifically the last two "Bel Air" and "Yayo." These songs are boring but that doesn't take away from the quality of the EP. This EP is a wonderful addition to the world of Lana Del Rey. Hopefully she continues on this path to greatness she is already on.

Punk Goes Pop 5 disappoints

The Punk Goes... Series used to be interesting. With albums like Punk Goes Crunk and Punk Goes Classic Rock peppered in amongst the Punk Goes Pop albums the series was interesting. Now all that comes out is Punk Goes Pops and this album is the worst one yet.While Issues makes Justin Beiber's "Boyfriend" worse...if that was possible and We Came as Romans shitifies The Wanted's "Glad You Came" not all the covers are terrible.
There are only four great songs. Forever the Sickest Kids rocks out "We Found Love" by Rihanna and adds a metalcore style breakdown with unclean vocals. The cover is just as fun as the original. Making this the best song on the album.
Secrets version of "Ass Back Home" by Gym Class Heroes and Neon Hitch is another highlight. The clean vocals on the song are more emotional than Hitch's are on the original. Another highlight is
"Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" by The Maine and Adam Lazara from Taking Back Sunday. The song is slow and lovely. I'm sure it made Cyndi Lauper proud. The last highlight is Mayday Parade and Vic Fuentes from Pierce The Veil doing "Somebody That I Used to Know" by Gotye and Kimbra. The cover is a rocked out improvement on the original.
Basically bands should just cover songs on their albums and Fearless Records needs to kill this Punk Goes Punk crap.

All That Remains take a musical shit...I mean have a new album

All That Remains have always been a good band. While most of their songs aren't classics they do have a few that are unforgettable. Most of them were off of their last album For We Are Many. The band are an average metalcore band with an average metalcore style most of the time. In their earlier albums and on their last record they mixed in some melodic death metal moments. Like if A Day To Remember and Arch Enemy had a strange baby.
Last month they released a new record called A War You Cannot Win. The album only has one good song and the rest are simply okay. The good one is the title track. It features more clean singing by front man and conservative, beefcake, hick Philip Labonte. Labonte is a decent singer but his strength lies in his unclean vocals. This album intends to make use of his cleans more and that's fine but the outcome sucks.
The biggest problem I have with this record is the music. On all of their older albums All That Remains had kick ass music but on this album it's just lame. The same shitty ass double bass drum and guitar chords make up this album. There are two acoustic interludes which suck. One is twenty seconds long and pointless.
Another highlight is the mildly touching "Asking Too Much" which showcases Labonte's sensitive side. His clean vocals actually portray some emotion and the song is decently written. It has some cliche lyrics but other than that it's a decent song.
Hopefully the new All That Remains album is a smaller crock of shit than this one was.

Flyleaf new album is a mixed bag

Flyleaf begin their third album New Horizons in a big way with "Fire Fire," their best song on the album and one of their best songs period. The song seems to be about front woman Lacey Sturm. This is the final record with Sturm and this song seems to be about her struggle to leave the band. "That's enough now dry your tears. It's been a long 11 years." Sturm sings in the first verse. The song is catchy and emotional and gets the album off on the right foot.
The band burst onto the scene with their self titled debut that sounded like a more hardcore version of Evanescence. Sturm's vocal style blended her beautiful singing with some metal screams to form something that hadn't been done by too many females until Flyleaf. Their debut featured songs like "I'm So Sick" and the band's only top 40 hit "All Around Me."
The band have always been proud of their Christian faith and while a few songs on the first record had religious lyrics, there was always another meaning. The on their second record 2009's Memento Mori the band embraced their Christianity more. This was a turn off for non-religious fans and despite that the songs just weren't as good.
But New Horizons is a decent album. While most of the songs are enjoyable like "Call You Out" and the title track, there are a few less memorable moments. Songs like "Saving Grace" and "Cage on the Ground" are boring.
"Broken Wings" is a beautiful tribute to friendship that is packed with so much passion that it's almost overwhelming. The song is so gorgeous and Sturm sounds fragile and sad. Another highlight is the rocking "Great Love." "Green Heart" takes the band back to their early metal sound.
While New Horizons is bittersweet because it's the last album with Lacey Sturm it's also a good sign that Flyleaf will survive.