Kid Cudi is one of the most unique artists of recent times. He’s classified as a rapper, but he’s definitely from the left-field breed. Ultimately, Scott Mescudi is incredibly eclectic, and for hardcore fans, they wouldn’t have the artist without his eclectic spirit. Over the course of five years, the Kid has managed to release four studio albums (a fifth as part of WZRD). All four are quite captivating in their own way but let’s face it – they can always be ranked by level of importance, quality, and creativity. Coincidently, personally, I rank Cudi’s four albums in the order they were released.
Satellite Flight: The Journey to Mother Moon
Following the new ‘shock value’ trend of releasing albums, Kid Cudi joined the bandwagon by surprising everyone with his fourth album, Satellite Flight. Compared to his previous efforts, Satellite Flight might be the rapper’s oddest effort yet. Of its ten tracks, four are instrumental, or 40% of the album. To be a ‘hip-hop’ album, that is definitely a healthy portion. The standouts, such as “Going To The Ceremony” or title track “Satellite Flight” are reminiscent of Cudi’s work on Indicud from the previous year. Ultimately a solid effort despite feeling more ‘mixtape’ than studio LP, Satellite Flight is the rapper’s fourth best album, but contextually, it is still a worthwhile listen, particularly for hardcore fans.
Indicud was much more anticipated than Satellite Flight; it had been three years since Cudi’s sophomore album bowed. Indicud featured more production from Kid Cudi himself, something that some were indifferent to. Overall, Indicud was a shade less enthralling than Man On The Moon II was, but not too far off base. Tracks like the confident “Unf**kwittable”, The Kendrick Lamar assisted “Solo Dolo, Pt. 2”, and “Girls” were bright spots. The Father John Misty sampling “Young Lady” was interesting as well, not to mention “Just As I Am” and “Beez”. At 71 minutes though, Kid Cudi was perhaps a bit too profound. Still, there were plenty of highlights.
Man On The Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager
Man On The Moon II was a solid continuation of the excellence of Cudi’s debut, Man On The Moon: End of Day. Like Indicud is to Man on the Moon II, Man on the Moon II is a hair less notable than Cudi’s debut album. That said there is plenty of ‘meat’ for one to sink their teeth into. “REVOFEV” is incredibly bright and unique, while the Mary J. Blige assisted “Don’t Play This Song” is incredibly emotional and honest (“Wanna know what it sound like when I’m not on drugs / Please, please don’t play this song”). Then there’s a whole joint (no pun intended) dedicated to Mary Jane entitled “Marijuana” (“Pretty green bud all in my blunt, oh I need it”), the cocky and confident “Mojo So Dope” and of course the infectious, cleverly titled “Ashin’ Kusher”. Ultimately, Man on the Moon II is stacked with plenty of songs that open the door to deep analysis and personal revelations into Scott Mescudi.
Man On The Moon: End of Day
When I first heard Man On The Moon: End of Day, I considered it to be one of the oddest albums I’d ever heard. Even so, it was brilliantly odd. Rather than getting your standard rap effort, Man on the Moon: End of Day was conceptual and completely left of center. It wasn’t an album for everybody, particularly if your idea of hip-hop is what pops in the club, but I considered it one of the more notable albums of the past decade. “Day ‘N’ Night” would be the breakthrough Kid Cudi would need to get commercial footing, even if the track was by far extraterrestrial. Still it would peak at no. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Make Her Say” would give Kid Cudi another hit, pairing him with Common and Kanye West, not to mention an incredibly-timely (in 2009) Lady Gaga sample (“Poker Face”). “The Pursuit of Happiness” brought some positivity despite dissatisfaction, led by it’s irresistible hook: “I’m on the pursuit of happiness and I know / everything that shines ain’t always gonna be gold / hey, I’ll be fine once I get it, I’ll be good.”
The list of standouts could go on and on; Man on The Moon was just that good. No matter how consistent successive albums have been by Cudi, his first is truly his masterwork. All hail King Wzrd’s best.
On March 3, 2014, Rick Ross released the sixth album of his career, Mastermind. At this point, Rick Ross has established himself as one of the more consistent rappers, scoring four number one albums, one number two album (Teflon Don missed no. 1), and five gold-certified albums. Six albums in, an examination of where Ross’ five albums rank seems appropriate. Let’s go!
The Academy Awards was filled with a lot of predictability ultimately, but there were some interesting moments as well. For the music world itself, there was plenty to rejoice about. Jared Leto, who’s been more associated as the front man of 30 Seconds To Mars as opposed to acting as of late, won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for an exceptional role in Dallas Buyers Club. 20 Feet From Stardom (Morgan Neville, Gil Friesen and Caitrin Rogers), a brilliant documentary that focuses the attention on the background singers as opposed to the star, won deservingly for Best Documentary Feature. Darlene Love, one of the featured background vocalists gave praise to God, belting out a powerful rendition of “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” onstage while accepting. And what about the victorious Documentary short, The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life, about a Holocaust survivor Alice Hertz Sommer, a pianist? Sommer passed away just a week before the telecast, making the victory for The Lady in Number 6 even more special.
Music was well recognized at the 86th Annual Academy Awards. All Original song nominees would have their chance to perform, with perhaps the most infectious being Pharrell Williams’ no. 1 hit, “Happy”. The performance itself was enough to brighten even the cloudiest day, especially to see children and actors alike feeling the good vibes. Idina Menzel would have her name butchered by John Travolta before performing “Let It Go” from Frozen, but a questionable performance of the ubiquitous children’s favorite wouldn’t undo the momentum or ultimate win in a tightly contested category. U2 would evoke some magic with “Ordinary Love” from Mandela: A Long Walk To Freedom while Karen O (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and Ezra Koenig (Vampire Weekend) would mysteriously and quietly perform “The Moon Song” from Her. The multiple times victorious Gravity (winner of seven), would also get some music swag, with Steven Price snagging Music – original score.
Other non-award related performances are worth noting. Bette Midler, who is 68, performed her classic ‘ace in the hole’, “The Wind Beneath My Wings” following the In Memoriam segment. Midler’s performance couldn’t be called technically perfect, but at her age and having never performed live at the Oscars, it was solid. P!nk surprising eschewed being suspended in air (surprisingly), to perform “Over The Rainbow”, with Liza Minnelli in the audience. Don’t call it a classic performance by Moore, but it worked.
Ultimately, this years Oscars not only recognized a Mexican Best Director (Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity), or the first black Best Picture winner (Steve McQueen becomes the first black producer to win) for 12 Years A Slave, but it also recognized the music world too. Whether directly or indirectly, the academy has truly embraced music and shown the world its importance and relevance.
2013 has been quite the momentous year in music and pop culture, no questions asked. There were ample things to rave about as well as some to gripe about. The good and the bad go with the territory of being a music enthusiast and music journalist. Even so, the best music journalist – just like the most angelic person – has New Years resolutions. Yeah, journalists may seem like cocky, over-opinionated SOB’s, but we’ll admit we have room to grow and evolve as well. Enough chattering though, let’s get to some musical New Years resolutions!
Review more country albums…
As hateful as this may sound, I personally found much of country music to be a snooze fest in 2013. Folks, much if what I heard was blasé. Luke Bryan was the biggest attraction, and all he seemed to care about was next beer. Commercial evidence also seems to support the assertion country music was a bit ‘down’ as well. The numbers, save for a few exceptions weren’t particularly kind. Even so, whatever is released in 2014, the resolution is to review more country albums. Even if the album is painful and forces me to deliver the ugliest, most scathing review ever, well, I gotta do it! Gotta do better for my country audience!!! Ye-haw!!!
Provide more review / buzz opportunities for up and coming artists…
One of my personal goals as a music journalist – particularly in 2013 – was to provide as many opportunities to support new artists and give as much buzz as possible. Part of the reason for this is because of my own personal aspirations within the music industry on both the artistic and business side of things. While I was honored to hear many unfamiliar new voices, I also had to be selective therefore someone equally hungry to achieve the dream didn’t get their slice of the pie. Yeah, I know it sounds cold, but I’m human and part of life is about taking ownership. I hope to provide more opportunities for newer artists in 2014.
Be even tougher when penning reviews and opinion posts…
I consider myself pretty tough when it comes to being impressed. I may enjoy an album, bu that doesn’t mean I’m ready to call it the album of the year. However, aside from reviews and opinion editorials, I’m a nice guy with a big heart. Sometimes this ‘charitableness’ influences reviews and might add a 1/2 star or so the the rating, aka that thing known as the ‘benefit of the doubt.’ In 2014, the resolution here is to eliminate any ‘benefit of the doubt’ or wavering and be as tough as possible. Hey, The Bible does say “the truth will set you free…” (just don’t ask for the exact location of the scripture though).
Oh and by the way, yes, that means teen-pop artist and shallow rappers don’t stand a chance!
Ranking the very best albums of any year is incredibly difficult; there are always misses. 2013 was filled with some triumphant musical moments, though not all of their parent albums were necessarily ‘worthy’ of being considered the best of the year. Because of various factors, this list has its surprises and like any album reviewed, its triumphs and flaws. One thing’s for sure – the top ten to fifteen albums are pretty close to the cream of the crop from my perspective. Here are the 50 (+1) best albums of 2013!
Modern Vampires of the City
Recommended Spins: “Obvious Bicycle”; “Unbelievers”; “Diane Young”; “Finger Back”; “Worship You”; “Ya Hey”
Seals The Deal: “Obvious Bicycle”
Give credit to Mr. West where credit is due – previously Yeezus probably wouldn’t have landed in the top five, let alone the top two. But as with certain wines and cheeses (Swiss namely), there is an aging process to provide a delicious and satisfying taste. The same could be said of West über-ambitious Yeezus – or something similar that is!
Recommended Spins: “Black Skinhead”; “I Am A God”; “New Slaves”; “Blood on the Leaves”; “Bound 2″ featuring Charlie Wilson
Seals The Deal: “Blood on the Leaves”
The Electric Lady
Don’t put the fork in R&B music just yet – Janelle Monae delivers the year’s most intriguing R&B album that brilliantly encompasses numerous styles and keeps things both classic and progressive. One of a kind, all should bow down to JM.
Recommended Spins: “Give Them What They Love” featuring Prince; “Q.U.E.E.N.” featuring Erykah Badu; “Primetime” featuring Miguel; “Dance Apocalyptic”; “Dorothy Dandridge Eyes”
Seals The Deal: “Prime Time” featuring Miguel
Random Access Memories
The best, and arguably most exciting electronic album of 2013, is shockingly less futuristic compared to its colleagues, drawing back to old-school pop, disco, and soul. Throwback it is, Random Access Memories is one of the year’s finest albums regardless of genre, and stands a solid shot of winning the Grammy for album of the year.
Recommended Spins: “Give Life Back to Music”; “Giorgio By Moroder”; “Lose Yourself to Dance” featuring Pharrell Williams; “Touch” featuring Paul Williams; “Get Lucky” featuring Pharrell Williams; “Fragments of Time”
Seals The Deal: “Get Lucky” featuring Pharrell Williams
Love in the Future
John Legend redeems himself big time on his fourth studio album Love in the Future following a somewhat disappointing effort in 2008′s Evolver. While there are some more contemporary ideas here, Love in the Future is more about Legend flexing his soulful muscles, a niche he perfectly fits.
Recommended Spins: “In The Beginning”; “Who Do We Think You Are?” featuring Rick Ross; “Made To Love”; “All of Me”; “Stay The Night”; “Tomorrow”
Seals The Deal: “Who Do We Think We Are?” featuring Rick Ross
Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite
Blues albums rarely rack up huge accolades on a ‘big stage’, but Get Up! is that incredibly worthy exception. Soulful and consistent through and through, Get Up! Easily ranks highly among the year’s gems.
Recommended Spins: “We Can’t End This Way”; “I Ride At Dawn”; “Get Up”
Seals The Deal: “We Can’t End This Way”
More than just the agnostics, atheists, and secularists will be pleasantly surprised with Black Sabbath’s most important album in years. Why is album 13 so important? It reunites the whole Black Sabbath crew (save for the drummer) for the first time 35 years! Dark and foreboding, yet ‘sinfully’ appealing, 13 is quite the epic heavy-/black-metal album.
Recommended Spins: “End of The Beginning”; “God Is Dead?”; “Zeitgeist”; “Live Forever”; “Dear Father”
Seals The Deal: “God Is Dead?”
Nothing Was The Same
Drake didn’t necessarily ‘step his game up’ on Nothing Was The Same – he just continued to flex his emo-/ alt-rap muscles like the pro that he is. NTWS is filled with gems, all completely different from one another. One thing’s for sure, he may have “Started On The Bottom”, but Drake is on top of the game by all means.
Recommended Spins: “Tuscan Leather”; “Started From The Bottom”; “Wu-Tang Forever”; “From Time”; “Hold On, We’re Going Home”; “305 To My City” featuring Detail
Seals The Deal: “Wu-Tang Forever”
Beyoncé shocked the world with her surprise fifth studio album, Beyoncé. Even so, that’s not the reason ‘Yoncé makes this list. Ultimately, the R&B chanteuse delivers a sharp, risqué fifth effort that separates itself from the rest of her discography and many of the other releases from 2013. Both shocking and alluring, Bey does her thang.
Recommended Spins: “Pretty Hurts”; “Haunted”; “Drunk in Love” featuring Jay-Z; “Blow”; “Rocket”
Seals The Deal: “Drunk in Love” featuring Jay-Z
Few might’ve expected for Arcade Fire to follow-up their album of the year winning effort The Suburbs with an album like Reflektor (I didn’t). However, as all-over-the-place as Reflektor is, there are plenty of moments for alt-rock fans to cheer about. Danceable, conceptual, and ultimately incredibly unique, Reflektor cracks the top ten best of the year, easily.
Recommended Spins: “Reflektor”; “We Exist”; “Here Comes the Night Time”; “Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)”; “It’s Never Over (Hey Orpheus)”; “Porno”
Seals The Deal: “Reflektor”
Cutting straight to the chase, Justin Bieber probably had the crappiest year of his entire career. Honestly, it was plumb terrible. It was sort of like my favorite college basketball team, the Kentucky Wildcat’s fall from glory during the 2012-13 season after dominating the previous season with their eighth NCAA title. Yeah, it was that bad. The problem is, even experiencing so many PR miscues, few – save for the most loyal Beliebers – ‘gave a what’. Personally, feeling sympathy for one of the most privileged 19-year olds in the world, whose living a dream that only a select few ever reach just isn’t an emotion that registers at this point. Maybe, as Bieber suggests, it is because he is Justin Bieber that there is such an outcry against him. Perhaps, it’s more that Bieber, who became a success overnight at such a young age, just comes over as an arrogant a-hole, something he specifically said he didn’t feel one Kanye West was (“Kanye West isn’t really an a$$hole…”). Personally, his cockiness has been my rub on Bieber throughout his recent career.
The most recent FAIL speaks to at least partially to the arrogance of the Bieber brand as well. The expectation for the tatted teen-heartthrob has become that everything that he touches turns into gold. Basically, anything that is associated with the Bieber name or brand, will generate a tone of the green stuff for the labels, managers, and of course Bieber. As many apparently didn’t know judging by the numbers, Justin Bieber released his second movie, Believe on Christmas Day. While this film has been referenced a couple of times, the most overt promotional campaign directed toward this documentary seemed to be “all wrong from the start”. Don’t let its seemingly lackadaisical promotion completely fool you though; the PR team has had some subtle tricks up their sleeves. They haven’t been successful per say, but they did do some ‘work’.
Is it such a coincidence that Justin Bieber released and completed his ‘Music Mondays’ just prior to the release of Believe the film? The Music Mondays series were centered on Bieber’s ‘journals’, obviously positioned to be more personal than his bubblegum pop music. In other words, Music Mondays tries to eschew anything remotely sounding like “Beauty and the Beat”. The word ‘journals’ was thrown around not so subtly, leading one to believe that Bieber’s promotional team had bigger plans for random contemporary R&B tracks being thrown around. If there weren’t bigger plans in the works, the release of the mature “PYD” featuring R. Kelly surely had to signify something… it actually drew critical praise throughout online circles, including from me. The ends of those ‘journals’ – an iTunes promotion that groups the tracks together for a brief period of time right before Christmas (December 23) and even more strategically the same week that Believe the film drops. So – If the movie bombs, then that means Bieber is still getting paper from Journals? Seems that way!
While Completing Bieber’s Journals was a huge promotional trick, another risky one failed miserably, in theory. Bieber tossed around this idea he planned to retire at the age of 19… Most hilarious, if ‘hopeful-it-does-really-happen’ joke I’ve heard all year… Anyone who serious thinks this dude is going anywhere – unless his sales completely go under – is cray cray. Bieber has become a fixture, regardless of positivity or negativity, and is quite prosperous to both him self and the industry. Sources seem to confirm that this was another one of Bieber’s completely horrid jokes, much like when he showed his booty on Instagram. While it may have been Bieber just playing around, the timing could also suggest this was another way to drive home some sales for that Believe film.
My beloved beliebers I'm officially retiring—
Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) December 25, 2013
The media talks a lot about me.They make a up a lot of lies and want me to fail but I'm never leaving you, being a belieber is a lifestyle.—
Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) December 25, 2013
Ultimately, the promotions have not worked for Believe as it has underperformed even with lowered expectations according to first day numbers. Fear not Bieber, your movie may not have a chance in the least to top the movie charts, but you did manage to top Billboard’s Social 50 chart, if that’s any consolation. That said, the Social 50 chart certainly doesn’t make the rich any richer, unless your fuel is publicity… BUT, does his social popularity, particular with his most devoted fans, still signal Bieber has plenty of pop life in him? Perhaps. There is always a new teen-pop star as well as a fresher trend waiting (likely Austin Mahone), but Bieber’s empire may not come completely crumbling in 2014. Time and the climate of music will be the big predictor of how Bieber will fare in the future.
- Justin Bieber ‘Believe’ Movie Review Roundup: What Do Critics Say? (rightcelebrity.com)
- No One Saw Justin Bieber’s Movie (thewire.com)
- Justin Bieber Enjoys a “Confident” Lady on Music Monday’s Latest (brentmusicreviews.com)
- The Man Behind Justin Bieber (esquire.com)
- Director Jon M. Chu Talks JUSTIN BIEBER’S BELIEVE, Comparing Concert Tours to Feature Films, G.I. JOE 3, RUN, MATCHED, and More (collider.com)
- Justin Bieber Movie Bombs at the Box Office (thehollywoodgossip.com)
- ‘Justin Bieber’s Believe’ Review: Portrait of an Artist Who’s No Longer a ‘Baby’ (thewrap.com)
2013 has been an exceptional year for rap album releases. Some were hot, while others were far from it – cold as Antarctica. Still overall, there were plenty of releases to be proud of, no questions asked. Below, you’ll find my ‘MIA’ list as well as my top 20 rap albums of 2013. This excludes mixtapes and previously released material FYI.
Missing in Action:
Had its moments, but didn’t feel nor sound like elite Jay-Z.
Lil Wayne, I Am Not A Human Being II
Tunechi wasn’t at his best.
Tyga, Hotel California
Felt completely uninspired compared to 2012 effort Carless World: Rise of the Last King
Lacked a strong musical personality; didn’t feel elite…
Rich Gang, Rich Gang
Sounds like all they think about is money and not quality.
Maybach Music Group, Self Made 3
A notch less satisfying than Self Made 2 was…
DJ Khaled, Suffering from Success
Plays like any number of DJ Khaled albums – that’s both a blessing and a curse…
So some things went down in music this past weekend, as they always do. But being December, it’s naturally busier within the holiday season, with more ‘hustle and bustling’ happening. Some of the hustling and bustling was just too colorful not to mention, so watch me ‘go to work’ folks!
Selena Gomez’s Bad Night
Friday, December 6, 2013
Apparently, Selena Gomez got incredibly frustrated on stage at the Jingle Ball 2013 and left her set early after microphone issues. According the Us Weekly, this involved a colorful f-word many frequent during those rebellious teen and collegiate years. Ultimately, from what I gather, didn’t seem like the greatest moment for the young star… I wouldn’t have wanted to “Come & Get It” anyways – remember my review of Stars Dance? Just saying!
Does Carrie Underwood Have an Even Worse One?
Thursday, December 5, 2013
Carrie Underwood apparently didn’t do The Sound of Music justice, or at least the critics give it the big thumbs down. Actually, no only was it the critics, but also one of the original cast members, Kym Karath. I mean, all I have to do is do a Google search of “Carrie Underwood Sound of Music” and the links of reviews and buzz are infinite. USA Today features an article entitled Carrie Underwood ‘proud’ of ‘Sound of Music’, certainly a defense from the country superstar to the critical panning. An obvious sign of frustration from the usually cool, collected singer? Killing ‘em with Jesus via tweet:
Plain and simple: Mean people need Jesus. They will be in my prayers tonight… 1 Peter 2:1-25—
Carrie Underwood (@carrieunderwood) December 07, 2013
Personally, I enjoy Carrie Underwood, but one of her shortcomings for me is how her personality translates artistically. She definitely has a voice on her, but few could also be a credible replacement for Julie Andrews. Classics are difficult to remake for a reason –their classics. I was not privy to the NBC performance, however it didn’t sound like a good idea when I heard it was going to occur.
The Grammy Nominations Are In…
Friday, December 6, 2013
On Friday night, the Grammy nominations were announced at the annual Grammy Nomination Concert. This was the first concert I missed and for two reasons – (1) I forgot and (2) I was more focused on watching my Kentucky Wildcats play a basketball game versus Baylor, which they dropped 67-62. Oh well, at least the nominations were much more up my alley than they have been in previous years, which is shocking. Among the nods that most pleased me were big time nominations for Kendrick Lamar (Good Kid M.A.A.D. City), Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (Thrift Shop), Daft Punk (Random Access Memories), and Lorde (“Royals”). Among puzzlements were an album of the year nomination for Sara Bareilles’ The Blessed Unrest and Justin Timberlake’s snubs in the biggest categories of record, album, and song of the year. Sigh, you win some, you lose some I guess. By the way, Billboard has an interesting read on Grammy Nominations Concert: Things You Didn’t See on TV.
Robin Thicke Gets Support from Soul Vet in Defense of “Blurred Lines”
Saturday, December 7, 2003
There’s been a ton of controversy surrounding “Blurred Lines” despite its monstrous popularity. Before the cool “Royals” came along and dominated the single headlines, there was “Blurred Lines” which just kept on going and going and going – yeah sorta like the Energizer Bunny. Anyways, with a lawsuit pending over whether Thicke ‘lifted’ “Blurred Lines” from Marvin Gaye’s classic “Got to Give It Up”, Earth Wind & Fire’s Verdine White provided his two cents, defending the same point that I made that Thicke did not ‘cop’ “Blurred Lines”. I’ve always said the inspiration was there, but there are differences where the music theory is concerned between both songs.
Disappointing Pending Album Sales for Britney Spears?
Friday, December 6, 2013
Britney Spears’ new effort Britney Jean hasn’t exactly been a critical smash (see Metacritic), but does that always matter if you can offset the bashing with album sales? Why Of course not as money is money! The problem is, Britney Jean’s pending numbers are looking pretty skinny. And we thought that Lady Gaga had a bad week contextually with ARTPOP. According to billboard.com, Spears is expected to sell between 115,000 and 120,000 copies of her latest. While there are artists who’d kill for those numbers, they don’t match the singers past triumphs and may hold her from no. 1. Going back to the critical thing, well, I wasn’t exactly thrilled with Britney Jean, but it had its moments. Single “Work B**ch” was among ‘em.
Joe Jonas’ Confessions
December 1, 2013
So Joe Jonas has revealed he is “not that innocent” this past week via a New York Magazine article, Joe Jonas: My Life As a Jonas Brother. Someone get Usher’s 2004 Confessions album cued up, will ya? What is more surprising is just how rebellious the former Disney star has been considering the façade being ‘put on’. Sure, if any other 20 year old discussed losing his virginity it wouldn’t be shocking (probably just another notch on the belt as they say), but it becomes sensational news with a Jo Bro. I mean, did were we ready for such a brash tone from Joe throughout the article? While Jonas’ sexual history is ultimately his business, perhaps it was his Miley Cyrus / Demi Lovato marijuana dare that is more troubling, considering they are couple of years younger than Jonas and at the time of the great ‘lighting up’, they would’ve been like 14… Hmm. The Hollywood Reporter did a fine job of summing up the confessions.
As far as the reactions, well they range as to be expeced. Dylan Sprouse and Zendaya, both of Disney fame had reactions (Former Disney Stars Respond To Joe Jonas’ Confessional). Personally, I’m both interested yet apathetic. It is interesting to find out that Joe Jonas was more like your normal young adult than Disney wanted to present, but the other side of that is, so what?
- NBC’s “The Sound Of Music” – Starring Carrie Underwood – Is a Massive Rating Success (roughstock.com)
- Carrie Underwood ‘Proud’ Of ‘Sound Of Music Live!’ Performance After Original Star Blasts Her (contactmusic.com)
- Who the Von Trapps Wish Could Replace Carrie Underwood in ‘The Sound of Music Live’ (abcnews.go.com)
- In Defense of Carrie Underwood (entertainment.time.com)
- ‘Sound of Music’ — and Underwood — largely a success (newsday.com)
R&B just ain’t what it used to be commercially, period. 2013 has not been a great year to be a ‘soulful’ singer not because of the quality of releases, but because the genre suffers with its sales relevance. Yeah, the motto that ‘sales aren’t everything’ still carries weight as there are times when art for art’s sake is notable. However, when it comes to major labels backing an artist who stands little chance to sell, money plays a key role. Below, here are a couple of examples of how R&B stack up between artists previous solo album and the album they released in 2013.
|Year||Album title||Albums Chart Peak||Copies Sold 1st Week|
|2013||Love in the Future||4||68,000|
John Legend managed to keep himself in the top five after a five-year gap between solo efforts, but his numbers dwindled during the hiatus. How telling are the numbers? Well 68,000 copies certainly wouldn’t be considered to have a very high ceiling. In other words, reaching gold certification (500,000 copies) seems a stretch for the platinum/gold-selling artist. Dig deeper in Legend’s past, and even 2008 effort Evolver underachieved.
|Year||Album title||Albums Chart Peak||Copies Sold 1st Week|
|2010||Back To Me||2||117,000|
|2013||Side Effects of You||2||91,000|
Fantasia has a very similar situation to John Legend. Her previous album, Back To Me, sold six figures, good for a no. 2 bow. 2013 effort Side Effects of You didn’t experience quite the drop in sales that Legend’s Evolver experienced, but did bow with under 100,000 copies sold. As of yet, Side Effects of You hasn’t been certified by the RIAA.
|Year||Album title||Albums Chart Peak||Copies Sold 1st Week|
Same shh, different artist? Yep that’s bout the size of it. Jaheim saw a huge sales drop between 2010 effort Another Round and 2013 effort Appreciation Day. Gold never seemed like a possibility for my boy, who debuted the same week with 10,000 less copies than John Legend.
|Year||Album title||Albums Chart Peak||Copies Sold 1st Week|
Ciara is the only artist in this study to show growth between her previous album and present release. That said, Ciara was at the lowest point of her career when Basic Instinct debuted. While the 58,000 copies Ciara sold is an improvement, like Jaheim, the effort looked like it had little chance to go anywhere from the start.
|Year||Album title||Albums Chart Peak||Copies Sold 1st Week|
**The-Dream also released an album under Terius Nash called 1977 that was originally a free album following Love King.
Talk about a come-down (as opposed to a “come-up”), The-Dream has had a horrid career as of late. His 2010 effort peaked at no. 4 with only 58,000 after his previous effort bowed at no. 2 with 151,000 copies. Now his 2013 effort, IV Play brings a new level of underachievement to the talented singer/songwriter/producer: a tepid 23,000 copies sold. Add to those ugly numbers that the album was critically panned (including myself), and The-Dream must do some soul searching in regards to his career as a viable recording artist.
What does this study show? R&B is sinking fast commercially. I should mention that Robin Thicke and Tamar Braxton were among high points for the genre, moving >100,000 copies. No need to end pessimistically.
- Ranking John Legend’s Five Albums (brentmusicreviews.com)
- The 2013 Fourth Quarter Music Releases Underwhelm… (brentmusicreviews.com)
What this Brent? Another post about Lady Gaga? Yes, and get over it! I realize I’ve already penned a lengthy, analytical review for Lady Gaga’s latest effort ARTPOP, but this particular album, like any Lady Gaga album always leaves plenty or room for analysis. And perhaps you found my colorful take on ARTPOP too lengthy, so here’s a summarization, of sorts. ARTPOP has been drawing mixed reviews from what I can gather, evidenced by its 60s Metacritic aggregate. Even given the mixed view some of us share about this album, there is still plenty of fascinating takeaways, which I’ll colorfully convey right now. “Get ready, get ready get ready!”
1. She wants “art” and “pop” to work as a unified force.
Well, the album first is entitled ARTPOP, which combines the words “art” and “pop”. Often, neither is a word associated with the other, particularly by skeptics who have some critical things to say about modern pop in particular. On “ARTPOP” (the song), Gaga references both the combo and unlikenesses with lyrics such as “A hybrid can withstand these things / my heart can beat with bricks and strings / my ARTPOP could mean anything” or the repetitive chorus lyrics “We could, we could belong together (ARTPOP).” Like many Lady Gaga lyrics, you can come up with multiple interpretations of what Gaga is saying.
2. She likes her records slick with plenty of ear-catching music.
As a music journalist and critic, I like to read what others have said about what the same products and genre of music I am reviewing. Generally, one of the flaws about dance, electronic, or dance-pop albums is that the songwriting (lyrics) and vocals don’t always match the slickness of the production. At times, the highlighting feature of ARTPOP is the production itself. Sometimes instead of crafting a truly moving song, it seems Gaga and producers are equally if not more concerned about sound itself, hence making ARTPOP at times more of a ‘records’ album versus a ‘songwriter’s’ album. The production, in all honesty, doesn’t miss a step.
3. She enjoys sex.
Understatement of the year. Gaga devotes numerous songs and specific lyrics to the three letter word. “Aura” provides the first taste of sensualness when taken literally (“Do you wanna see me naked, lover? / do you wanna peek underneath the cover?”). “Venus” definitely doesn’t seem to be solely referring to the planet, but rather to females as well as possibly and oddly the female anatomy. You just never know with Gaga. On “G.U.Y.”, Gaga proclaims “I wanna be the girl under you (oh yeah),” which is definitely a double entendre if I ever heard one. On “Sexxx Dreams”, Gaga is honest about her fantasies and self-stimulation while on “MANiCURE”, she’s definitely not worried about her nails getting did. Even “Do What U Want” has a sexual element about it, if you read into the chorus literally (“Do what you want with my body…”).
4. She’s a modern day feminist through and through.
“Venus” is among the first instances of this new feminism that Lady Gaga touts. “Donatella” is the perfect example, where Gaga sounds fierce and charged up “I am so fab, check out / I’m blonde, I’m skinny / I’m rich, and I’m a little bit of a b*tch.” Also, “Do What U Want” also has the female empowerment thing going on: “You can’t have my heart and / you won’t use my mind but…you can’t stop my voice, cause / you don’t own my life but…” Gaga is definitely embracing the female during ARTPOP.
5. She could care less what you do to her body.
The previous takeaway goes right along with this one. Gaga doesn’t care what people say about her physical appearance because “You can’t have [her] heart…won’t use [her] mind…can’t stop [her] voice…don’t own [her] life…” Basically, she’s more than her body, which also likely includes her ‘stunning’ wardrobe. Even though she drops “Donatella” and “Fashion”, Gaga makes sure that her following knows she’s ‘more than material’.
6. She seems to (possibly) have / have had some substance/drug issues.
Gaga alludes to drug and substance issues, depending how you read into things. On her hip-hop number “Jewels & Drugs”, she claims “don’t want your jewels, I want your drugs…”, later going on to say “I admit that my habit is expensive / and you may find it, quite offensive / but I won’t die at the hands of another…” Figuratively, ‘drugs’ certainly seems to be how much effort Gaga puts into pleasing fans and that because she grinds so hard she’d be the one that ended her own life. Literally, we know drugs aren’t cheap. “Mary Jane Holland” definitely seems to titularly allude to weed. “Dope” definitely has substance abuse in mind: “I promise this / drink is my last one / I know I fucked up again / because I lost my only friend…”
7. She enjoys double and triple meanings when it comes to lyrics.
Gaga seems like she can both be a clever songwriter as well as a perverted one. “Do What U Want” seems like it is a song initially about a woman willing to let a man have her and use her sexually any way he wishes. Ultimately though, this cut seems less sexual compared to it colleagues, delivering a message of empowerment… sorta.
8. She’s all about fashion.
“Donatella” referring to Donatella Versace and “Fashion” referring to fashion, DUH (“Walk into the light / display your diamonds and pearls in light…”). Maybe Gaga doesn’t care about “jewels” or “what you do to her body”, but she still goes hard when it comes to dressing up… in her own Gaga way of course.
9. She is human, or at least has some human qualities.
Well there are actually numerous references. On “G.U.Y.”, she both wants her man to hold her down and well, do it... On “Sexxx Dreams”, she fantasizes just like everyone else in the world. On “MANiCure”, she wants good love making from a “man” to “cure” her ails. Less sexually driven, on “Swine”, Gaga is totally pissed off and name calls. Finally on “Dope”, her man transcends her demons, which is apparently “dope”.
10. Even though she shows her ‘humanness’, she’s still indigenous to another planet.
ARTPOP is all-over-the-map, period. Both “Aura” and “Venus” are off-putting starters for the album, though also alluring. While “Swine” is emotionally-driven, it is also manic as albeit. And as good as “ARTPOP” is as a song, it is also not your typical, straightforward song. Gaga is still not terrestrial.
- R. Kelly ‘Amazed’ With His Lady Gaga Collaboration (rollingstone.com)
- ARTPOP-Lady Gaga (mostlymusicality.wordpress.com)
- So, Just How ‘Dope’ Is Lady Gaga’s ‘ARTPOP’? (celebuzz.com)