One Direction do the predictable – debut at no. 1 and move lots of albums. Midnight Memories managed to sell 546,000 copies, giving the Brit-Irish boy band its largest sales week ever. 2012 sophomore album Take Me Home moved 540,000 copies to give the band a second no. 1 in the US. It was history when their debut effort, Up All Night, debuted in the top spot in early 2012, though its numbers were just a fraction of what the last two studio albums have sold (176,000). As for newbies on the chart, Garth Brooks does some work as Blame It All on My Roots sold 164,000 copies good for a no. 3 bow. That is awesome considering it’s a box set. Box sets tend to be more expensive and generally move less copies. Given it’s release during the Black Friday hubbub and its exclusivity via Walmart, it’s not shocking Brooks had some takers. Besides One Direction and Brooks, the week was all about previously releases efforts.
Eminem once more was forced from the top perch to no. 2, but sold 199,000 more copies of The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (already platinum). Others holding over include The Robertsons’ Duck the Halls: A Robertson Family Christmas (no. 4), Katy Perry’s Prism (no. 5), Kelly Clarkson’s Wrapped in Red (no. 6), Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP (no. 7) and Luke Bryan’s Crash My Party. What is significant about those albums? They all sold > 100,000 copies. Miley Cyrus also and Now 48 close out the top ten at nos. 9 and 10 respectively, but sold 79,000 and 77,000 copies, breaking the >100,000 copies sold.
Lorde’s Hot 100 reign is officially over with “Royals” – well at least for the time being. It was a nice nine weeks for Lorde, who has no reason to hang her teenage head. Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” climbs it way back to the no. 1 spot. “Wrecking Ball” is the song that just can’t keep people from talking, really! Better yet, it can’t keep people from making their own versions…
Whose Got Next? Britney Spears of course, but the numbers are looking relatively small, with Billboard prognosticating between 115,000 to 120,000 copies sold. Yuck Britney! Why those numbers suck? Well, Britney is usually a lock for no. 1 or at worst no. 2 like Blackout, however, the numbers may not be strong enough to hold back previously released (aka holdovers) from charting ahead of the pop diva. Could Spears be blocked out of the top 3? Possibly. Besides Britney, it’s a pretty boring week for new releases.
- The 2013 Fourth Quarter Music Releases Underwhelm… (brentmusicreviews.com)
- One Direction’s ‘Midnight Memories’ Tops U.S. Album Charts (variety.com)
- On the Charts: One Direction Making ‘Memories’ at Number One (rollingstone.com)
- One Direction land a third US number one album with “Midnight Memories” (thecelebculture.com)
Okay, I’m thankful for plenty in my young life. One thing I’m most thankful for besides those traditional things like God, family, friends, employment, etc. is of course music. Previously, I issued a playlist of “Songs of Thanks” which featured titles that all had the words “Thank” included within them. This ten song playlist is a more ‘personal’ and merely my opinion of some songs I enjoyed. No this is not my top ten and no these are in no particular order. Yes, there are plenty of songs I left off and could’ve easily supplanted in favor of some I chose. Why didn’t I include them all? Well, that would just be incredibly time-consuming. So here’s Ten Random Songs I’m ‘Thankful For’ from 2013. Enjoy!
“This is for the girl that can get down low / the whole club wanna see you go / ay, shake, shake like you’r famous, girl / head back, lay it down like a Vegas girl…” Sigh, it’s truly something when I find myself nodding my head to some young kid’s jam. Sure, I’m not THAT much older than British pop star Conor Maynard, but I’ve got a couple of years on the recently turned 21-year old. Still, I just couldn’t resist “Vegas Girl” given the addictiveness of both the urban-styled groove and Maynard’s swag-tacular approach. Yeah, I know ‘swag-tacular’ is not even a word, but I can still wish. BTW, he’s a bit risqué too, see “Another One” from the same album (“For once I hit the spot real early / quickly spotted this beautiful girlie / she had me going damn oh la la / said she wanna pell my banana-na”).
From No Beginning, No End
If you say the words jazz or R&B, I’m usually there. José James offered the best of both worlds on his underrated, yet exceptional album No Beginning, No End which materialized in January 2013. While the majority of No Beginning, No Ending tickled my fancy, nothing did more so than the hip “Trouble”. Incredibly soulful, James bears his soul, epitomized by the refrain:
“I need someone like you to understand my heart and my soul / it’s on my mind babe, it’s always trouble, trouble, trouble / trouble, trouble, trouble / all my life lately call on me to / struggle, struggle, struggle…” I feel ya homie, I feel ya!
Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite
“We Can’t End This Way”
From Get Up!
I have a soft spot for a mix of blues and gospel music… I’m certainly the eclectic listener. Ben Harper’s collaboration with harp player Charlie Musselwhite Get Up! Was easily one of my favorite albums from 2013 and yet another underrated one. Out of all of the killer joints, the gospel-infused “We Can’t End This Way” was most relatable for me for some reason. Maybe its the gospel backing vocalist or perhaps that churchy, addictive 6/8 groove. It doesn’t hurt that my boy Ben has some serious vocal grit going on. Whatever it is, I’m thankful “We Can’t End This Way” graced my playlist in 2013.
Harry Connick, Jr.
“S’pposed To Be”
From Smokey Mary and Every Man Should Know
Harry Connick, Jr. Knew he had a good thing going with sensational gospel-blues infused number “S’pposed To Be” as he featured it on both his 2013 studio albums (Smokey Mary and Every Man Should Know). I’ll leave you with what I previously wrote about one of my favorite jazzy jams of the year:
“S’pposed To Be” is nothing short of a showstopper. Written in a distinctive southern gospel-jazz style, Connick delivers one of his more distinct cuts of his career, using a gospel choir on the chorus (“…Every road leads back to you / be with you when I’m s’pposed to be…”). Kim Burrell & Tara Alexander and the Frontline Vocal Movement guest, giving the brilliant number even more oomph. #LetTheChurchSayYes
“Strictly Reserved for You”
From Victim of Love
I adore soul music. While I know that soul music in its most pure form is a thing of the past, I also adore the retro-/neo-soul movements. Neo-soul has fallen by the wayside, but there are still some key proponents within the retro-soul movement still doing their thing. What’s more fitting than a 66-year old who’s been grinding for years just to get his chance to be doing what he should’ve been doing in his heyday? No matter though, as Charles Bradley is a true proponent of soul music. “Strictly Reserved For You” was Mr. Bradley’s electrifying promo single from an equally alluring sophomore album, Victim of Love. As you listen, you can hear the undeniable influences of the late great James Brown. Bradley’s grit is something many new-school singers couldn’t even hope to achieve.
In a ‘down’ week for albums sales this week, unsurprisingly given a lack of star power bowing… no offense to those artists releasing albums mind you. Eminem finds himself in a familiar spot once more as The Marshall Mathers LP 2 ascends to no. 1 after spending a week at no. 2 behind Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP. Eminem managed to sell another 120,000 copies of TMMLP2, putting its three week totals at approximately 1,122,000 copies sold (792K + 210K + 120K). Yep, Em has yet another platinum album to his name and selling another 120,000 copies – six figures, is impressive in this day and age. As for his fine feathered friend Lady Gaga, she takes a massive tumble from the penthouse to no. 8 after selling a somewhat disappointing 258,000 copies last week. This week, she only moves 46,000 copies, making her overall totals stand at just 304,000 copies over two weeks. Could Gaga end up merely achieving a gold record with ARTPOP? Only time and most importantly sales will tell.
There were some debuts, though as alluded to, nothing extremely anticipated. Five Finger Death Punch release their second album of the year, The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell, Volume 2. The second volume arrives at no. 2 matching the peak of the first. What doesn’t match are the sales. Volume 1 moved 112,000 copies while this installment settles for a respectable, but lest robust 77,000 copies. As we know, if an artist releases two albums in one year with similar concept/theme, usually the second one receives less enthusiasm commercially. Justin Timberlake experienced this as his triumphant The 20/20 Experience sold 968,000 copies its first week while The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2 was met with much less enthusiasm selling on 350,000 copies. Both debuted at no. 1, but the numbers and the sustainability have been markedly different.
Other debuts? The Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack debuts at no. 5 selling 55,000 copies. Daughtry underwhelms with his entry at no. 6 selling 55,000 as well. Those numbers are far off from Daughtry’s first two albums 2006’s Daughtry (304,000) and 2009’s Leave This Town (269,000). Yo Gotti debuts at no. 7 with I Am, selling a respectable 48,000 copies. Of the charts new debuts, Gotti has the most to be proud of. KTCZ’s Cities 97 Sampler, Live From Studio C: Vol. 25 bows at no. 10 with 40,000 copies. Holdovers for the week besides Lady Gaga and Eminem included Now 48 (no. 3), …A Robertson Family Christmas (no. 4), and Kelly Clarkson’s Wrapped in Red (no. 9).
On the Hot 100, Lorde’s “Royals” continues to be one of the year’s most unstoppable forces as the ‘little song that could’ spends its ninth consecutive week at no. 1. Even so, according to Billboard, Eminem’s hot joint “The Monster”, featuring Rihanna is looking for that no. 1 spot. As we know, Em and Ri-Ri have had some star power in the past with ‘monster’ single “Love The Way You Lie”. Watch out Lorde, you may not be ‘royal’ too much longer!
Who’s Got Next? No brainer, it’s One Direction. Mark my words, Midnight Memories, the quintet’s third album in two years will sell big. Besides 1D, the other new releases pack less of a punch. Billie Joe Armstrong (of Green Day) and Norah Jones release a remake of an album by The Everly Brothers entitled Foreverly (the remake is of Songs Our Daddy Taught Us from 1958), but it doesn’t seem to be a powerful commercial title. Pop/Vocal veteran Barbra Streisand can never be ignored as she releases Back to Brooklyn. Voice victor Danielle Bradbery releases her self-titled debut, but who knows if it will have match the numbers of previous victor in the country genre Cassidee Pope, who sold 43,000 copies of Frame by Frame. Regardless, the week will belong to One Direction.
- Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP Hits No. 1 (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2 Debuts Big (brentmusicreviews.com)
- The 2013 Fourth Quarter Music Releases Underwhelm… (brentmusicreviews.com)
Need ten jams to spin? Here’s my list of ten of November 2013’s hottest joints!
“Do What U Want”
“Applause” may have been a bust of sorts, but Gaga got herself together with the help of one of R&B’s most salacious presences, R. Kelly. Playing on words, “Do What U Want” accomplishes Gaga’s love for double meanings. If examined sexually, Gaga presents herself as, well easy. But when examined less pervertedly, Gaga is suggesting she is more than her body and could care less how you scrutinize it, etc.
(Trill O.G.: The Epilogue)
Bun B probably isn’t most of the present generation’s ‘go to’ MC, but the veteran UGK MC is nothing short of a beast. Here, his late, great partner Pimp C delivers a masterful hook, while Bun is joined by Lil Boosie and Mississippi underrated MC Big KRIT. KRIT also handles the production work, which seems like the perfect match for the 42-year old Bun B. My favorite catch line, “Them thighs come with that shake / b**ch in yo mind, ho I got cake.”
R. Kelly may just be R&B’s most popular commodity again as Justin Bieber taps him for arguably his best Music Mondays release to date, “PYD” (“Put You Down”). Previously, the Biebz has been whining about heartbreak and Selena Gomez namely, but on “PYD” he wants to get… well, down. No more of the G- and PG-rated Bieber where “damn” is as far as he’ll step from his teen-pop roots… he’s ready to step it up a notch. And if we didn’t understand his intentions, him and Kelly repeatedly iterate the acronym throughout (“P-Y-D, P-Y-D”)
(Sail Out – EP)
From the first track “Vapors”, one knows that Jhene Aiko’s EP Sail Out is something special. Playing doubly as a weed-smoking joint as well as a yearning for an ex- who was good in bed, “Vapors” is both brilliant and highly representative of the newfound alternative R&B movement. “Can you hit it again?” never sound more telling from Aiko’s cool, calm, and collected vocal perspective.
“Water And A Flame”
(Loved Me Back To Life)
Celine Dion’s latest album has plenty of strong songs that tickled my fancy, with the Daniel Merriweather cover “Water And A Flame” amongst ‘em. The original is little known as Merriweather isn’t a big name in the United States. Regardless, if Merriweather never receives his deserved recognition, at least one of the greatest pop singers provides a stirring rendition here.
(The Marshall Mathers LP 2)
What more is there to say, Eminem delivered the hottest rap track of the year this side of Kanye West’s “Blood On the Leaves” and Kendrick Lamar’s epic rap verse on Big Sean’s “Control”. If I’d been Big Sean, I would’ve fought to have gotten “Control” on Hall of Fame, even if it meant delaying it (it’s sold abysmally anyways). But this is Eminem’s moment and quite an electrifying moment it is indeed.
(Us Against Them)
“Homeless” is among the cream of the crop from Jake Miller’s debut album Us Against Them. Vocally, Miller sounds solid as he sings plaintively on the chorus: “Here I stand in the cold / I try to knock as you change the locks / now I’m all alone / where am I supposed to go / if you are where my home is, I guess that makes me homeless.” The serious vibe of the sung vocals is matched by Miller’s more agile, rhythmic rapped vocals. While it’s a ‘bummer’ as far as its overall tone, it is at least a standout ‘bummer’.
“The Art of Letting Go”
Mimi’s latest single, “The Art of Letting Go”, finds one of R&B’s preeminent divas doing what she does best, BALLADS. Whether she’s singing in her lower register or ascending to her upper register with every bit of her emotion, Carey compels the listener and makes us think of our own moments when we’ve struggled to let go. “The Art of Letting Go” is filled with exceptional, memorable, and prudent lyrical moments including “Evidently your words were merely lies / reverberating in my ears / and the echo won’t subside / there’s a deep deep loss of hope…” from verse two. The bridge confirms that “Baby letting go, baby letting go / ain’t easy…”
“A Song About Love”
Recently I reviewed Jake Bugg’s sophomore effort, Shangri La. While I had mixed feelings, I certainly had rave reviews for one particular standout in “A Song About Love”:
“Is that all you wanted? Songs about love? / Is that want you hoped you would find / when it’s burning inside / but a song about love’s not enough.” Poetic by all means, “A Song About Love” seems to be the most complete performance of the album. The metric shifting “A Song About Love” certainly offers the incredible nuance and an overall unique selection Where many of Bugg’s songs seem quite simple, “A Song About Love” definitely steps up the game.
Another Lady Gaga track really? Yep. “Dope” is completely different from “Do What U Want”. Sure, it sounds as if it shouldn’t be a substantive track, but Gaga’s intents are quite notable, more so than some of ARTPOP’s ‘looser’ cuts. On the sole ballad from the album, Gaga opens herself up to vulnerability, suggesting that despite her past screw-ups with substances, she needs her man “more than dope”. Sure she’s literal and dope doesn’t lend itself to the greatest heart-warming moment ever, but her personalized touch truly shines here.
- Bieber Strikes Gold on Surprising “PYD” (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Review: Bun B, ‘Trill O.G.: The Epilogue’ (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Review: Jhene Aiko, ‘Sail Out (EP)’ (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Justin Bieber and R. Kelly Join Forces on R&B Song (rollingstone.com)
Unsurprisingly, Lady Gaga finds herself at no. 1 once more with latest album ARTPOP. Selling 258,000 copies would be pretty impressive if it weren’t Lady Gaga. Born This Way moved 1.1 million, and while a special discounting offer helped to seal the deal there, 258,000 copies seems like quite the fall off from her previous sales best. Still, her Gaga-ness outsold her next closest competitions, Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (210,000) and the debut of Now That’s What I Call Music, Vol. 48 (142,000). What is impressive about Eminem’s second week numbers and Now 48’s debuting numbers is that both buck the ugly trend where lately the second and third bestselling albums fail to move 100,000 copies. Billboard rightfully discusses the significance of Now 48’s sales in particular.
Even though Lady Gaga was the big thing, ARTPOP wasn’t the only new blood to the charts. Other debuts also make their respective splash into the top 10. The Beatles’ On Air: Live at the BBC, Vol. 2 bows at no. 7 with 37,000 copies. Jhene Aiko’s EP Sail Out lands at no. 8 with a respectable 34,000 copies. Holdovers within the chart aside from Eminem included The Robersons’ Duck the Halls: A Roberson Family Christmas (no. 4) , Katy Perry’s PRISM (no. 5), Kelly Clarkson’s Wrapped in Red (no. 6), Drake’s Nothing Was The Same (no. 9), and Lorde’s Pure Heroine (no. 10). And just because you asked, yes “Royals” is no. 1 on the Hot 100 for the eighth consecutive week.
Who’s Got Next? Well now… Daughtry’s Baptized could certainly make some noise. Yo Gotti releases his major label debut (after being an independent artist mind you) with I Am. Also Jake Bugg releases his sophomore album Shangri La. Basically, it seems like a ‘down’ week, compared to previous ones. No disrespect of course.
- Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2 Debuts Big (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Why isn’t Lady Gaga’s ‘ARTPOP’ getting a sales boost from her ‘SNL’ appearance? (music-mix.ew.com)
- Interscope loses $25 million promotional bet on Lady Gaga ‘ArtPop’ bomb (kingsofar.com)
- Lady Gaga’s $25 Million Art Machine Can’t Buy a Real Hit (businessweek.com)
- Fumbled Lady Gaga Release Could Cost Interscope $25 Million (hypebot.com)
2013 has produced many notable albums overall. Among the many triumphs include an alternative juggernaut (Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of the City), a soulful return (John Legend’s, Love in the Future), an atheistic Brit-metal reunion (Black Sabbath’s 13), and an electronic thriller (Daft Punk’s, Random Access Memories). Those aforementioned titles are just some of the sound efforts that thrilled us in 2013. That said, it is usually the fourth quarter (October through December) in which the record companies roll out those unstoppable commercial blockbusters. Some arrive in September as well, though the first week sales totals tend to ascend to loftier heights during the month of October. The problem for fourth quarter releases in 2013 is that there seem to be fewer of these sure-fire blockbusters or worse yet, the expected blockbusters are flops.
In October, the ‘big-time’ releases included Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2 (released off-cycle on September 30), Miley Cyrus’s Bangerz, Pearl Jam’s Lightening Bolt, Katy Perry’s PRISM, and Arcade Fire’s Reflektor. That’s not a bad list in the least with all of these albums debuting at no. 1. The numbers for these releases were superb contextually given album sales in recent times. That said, it wouldn’t be until Eminem’s November 5th release of The Marshall Mathers LP 2 that sales would move past that 500,000 threshold. In fact, the top release of the October collective of albums was Timberlake’s second album, which sold 350,000. That paled in comparison to the near million that The 20/20 Experience sold just earlier in the year. The smallest of the no. 1 bows impacting the charts came from Arcade Fire’s Reflektor with 140,000 copies sold. 140,000 copies are solid numbers, especially for an alternative rock band, but those numbers can’t dig music sales out of their recession.
On a related note, what’s been more troubling when analyzing chart numbers has been the top-heaviness of the chart usually with only the ‘star’ album. This week, Eminem gave the charts nearly 800,000 copies boost, BUT the week’s second bestseller, Celine Dion’s Loved Me Back to Life, sold <100,000 copies (77,000 to be exact). If fourth quarter sales continue at this tepid rate, particularly with former bigger names like Celine Dion and Avril Lavigne underperforming, the fourth quarter certainly won’t make up for the sales issues of 2013; The effect of an 800,000K blockbuster wouldn’t be sufficient.
The best bets left to impact the charts in a big way seem few and far between. The biggest impacters are likely Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP (November 14), One Direction’s Midnight Memories (November 25) and Britney Spears’ Britney Jean (December 3). Lady Gaga’s numbers are quite underwhelming based on early prognostications; she may sell 260,000 copies. As for One Direction, big numbers wouldn’t be shocking, particularly considering Take Me Home debuted at no. 1 last year with over 500K, but how much will Midnight Memories move, particularly given a younger demographic? Can they match or exceed their former numbers? Britney Spears certainly can have a huge week, but has she cooled off since her heyday? What I’m basically saying is, the fourth quarter seems a couple of releases short of a definitive hit.
The other problem or a question with the fourth quarter is, will their be that Christmas album that puts the music industry on its back to infuse some charting numbers? There have been holiday albums released by Mary J. Blige, Kelly Clarkson, Susan Boyle, and The Robertsons (of Duck Dynasty). Will any of these become that hot selling commodity leading into Christmas? The best bets would be Clarkson or Duck Dynasty as Susan Boyle and Blige haven’t made much of an impact as of yet. Also what about this albums lingering in or around the top ten such as Drake’s Nothing Was the Same, Katy Perry’s Prism, Miley Cyrus’ Bangerz, or surprise Lorde’s Pure Heroine. Can any of these gain a second wind and salvage the fourth quarter glory?
As stated earlier, personally, I feel this year’s fourth quarter feels a piece or two short. Time will tell if this is the case of course.
- Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2 Debuts Big (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Arcade Fire’s ‘Reflektor’ Hits No. 1 On The Billboard 200 (huffingtonpost.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)
Gaga remains ‘eccentric’, goes über-risqué on Artpop
Lady Gaga⎪ ARTPOP ⎪ Interscope ⎪⎪ US Release Date: November 11, 2013
Lady Gaga can be likened to CBS’s reality television show Big Brother in one regard in particular: “expect the unexpected”. Just when you think the pop/dance artist has topped her eccentricities and set that bar to almost unreachable heights, she once more shocks, making one’s mouth fall agape. 2013 effort ARTPOP is as much an eye-/ear-opener as her previous efforts, sporting those signature Gaga cues, but also incorporating some timbral contrasts and infusing more ‘stank’. That stank? Amplified sex, drugs, and electronica. Even though Gaga still goes for shock value, it doesn’t necessarily mean that ARTPOP truly one-ups her strongest material.
Opener “Aura” is the first hint that Gaga has landed…on some other planet. ‘All over the place’, yet slickly produced, “Aura” definitely makes a statement. The first statement is just plumb cray cray: “I killed my former and / left her in the trunk on highway 10 / put the knife under the hood / if you find it, send it straight to Hollywood…” WTF? Later, the lushly, full-fledged voiced chorus definitely seems to be playing into double meanings – one meaning being literal and the other more metaphorical: “Do you wanna see me naked, lover? / do you wanna peak underneath the cover? / do you wanna see the girl who lives behind the aura, behind the aura…” To answer that question, I’m not sure… LOL.
On “Venus”, at least Lady Gaga admits she’s not from planet earth. Well, she doesn’t really, but perhaps she should as it is one strange, if intriguing number. Essentially, the song is one of many centered upon many people’s favorite three-letter word – sex. Even though Lady Gaga certainly has some kind of way with words, after listing the planets during the bridge section, she especially highlights Uranus: “…Ur-anus! / Don’t you know my ass is famous?” There are also other references to sex, notably during verse two when she sings “Have an oyster, baby / it’s Aphrod-i-sy / act sleazy / Venus…”. The point? Oysters are supposed to be an aphrodisiac, or so I’ve heard. And being named “Venus”, she’s not really talking about the planet… Read into that how you wish.
“G.U.Y.” is a definitely standout, continuing on the quirkiness that Gaga has laid on heavy here… no pun intended. The intro is bizarre: “Greetings, Himeros / God of sexual desire, son of Aphrodite / lay back, and feast as this audio guides you through new and exciting positions.” Even so, Gaga does let you know where she’s going with this. The first verse says it all: “I wanna be the girl under you (oh yeah) / I wanna be your G.U.Y.” So she wants her man to hold her down and make good love. That’s actually very human of Lady G. On the lustfully bold “Sexxx Dreams”, we learn even more about Lady Gaga’s fantasies. She’s honest on the chorus: “Last night / damn, you were in my sex dreams / doing really nasty things…making love in my sex dreams…” Relatable lyrically? I guess so, but the Gaga-ness definitely makes it a bit awk-ward.
On “Jewels & Drugs”, Lady Gaga goes gangsta, or at least it sounds that way. “Jewels & Drugs” brings an all star hip-hop cast including T.I. (verse one), Too Short (verse three), and the ultra-agile Twista (verse four). As a record, it definitely provides alluring ear-candy, matching the slickness of any hip-hop record. As a song, well, it’s filled with widely interpretable lyrics, particularly when Gaga sings “Don’t want your jewels, I want your drugs / don’t want your money, want your love…” It’s not the ‘love’ part, but the ‘drugs’. Is she referring to ‘drugs’ metaphorically or literally? Probably both. “I admit that my habit is expensive / and you may find it, quite offensive,” she sings on her sole verse, “… but I won’t die at the hands of another.” “Jewels & Drugs” is… um something. Seems like it belongs elsewhere…
“MANiCURE” rocks, literally finding Gaga asserting herself here against a rocking beat. That said, Gaga isn’t studying a manicure, but she wants her ‘man to cure her’ of her horniness. Verse two epitomizes this sentiment: “Touch me, in the dark / Put your hands all over my body parts / throw me, on the bed / squeeze, tease, and please do what I said!” There it is. Single “Do What U Want” is much more electrifying, arguably the valedictorian of ARTPOP. Who would’ve ever envisioned a duet between Lady Gaga and R. Kelly of all people? That said, it works perfectly, particularly given the sexually charged themes of ARTPOP. What’s more alluring here is the fact that for once Gaga doesn’t seem to be as literal here. The wider message seems to be one of empowerment and inner beauty as evidenced by the hella catchy chorus: “You can’t have my heart and / you won’t use my mind but / do what you want with my body… you can’t stop my voice, ‘cause / you don’t own my life but / do what you want with my body.”
Title track “ARTPOP” is one of many production treats on ARTPOP (produced by Paul “DJ White Shadow” Blair and Gaga). It’s also pretty attractive record overall, with a sense of mysteriousness about it. The point of the song? Well it’s obvious isn’t it? She wants to create ‘art’ and ‘pop’ music. If you want to get all technical, she there are skeptics who wouldn’t consider pop, particularly modern pop, to be ‘art’. In some cases, skeptics are ‘on point’. However, anything Gaga seems to do seems to be captivating and “ARTPOP” is no different. It’s not Beethoven, but it is ARTPOP.
On “Swine”, Lady Gaga is doing some hardcore name-calling: “I know, I know, I know, I know you want me / you’re just a pig inside a human body / squealer, squealer, squeal out, you’re so disgusting!” This manic number may not be a preeminent feature like say “Do What U Want”, but it is Lady Gaga being Lady Gaga and she does that well. And she’s pissed!
“Donatella” (named after Donatella Versace) is centered around a motto of self-confidence and affluence: “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.” With this theme of ‘being-the-shhh’ basically, the attitude is conveyed not only lyrically but instrumentally through Zedd’s production work (Gaga also produces). Keeping in line with fashion and affluence, “Fashion” is in company. If nothing more, the somewhat predictable Gaga cut is superbly produced by Gaga, Giorgio Tuinfort, will.i.am, and David Guetta. Vocally, as always, Gaga impresses.
“Mary Jane Holland” wasn’t necessarily one of my ‘go to’ songs, but the bridge is definitely a highlight, particularly when Gaga states “I know that Mom and Dad think I’m a mess / but it’s alright, because / I am rich as piss / When I ignite the flames and put you in my mouth / the grass heats up my insides and my brunette starts to sprout…” See why it stands out? “Dope” was introduced prior to the release of ARTPOP and is the slowest track of the set. While that could be a bad thing, it’s not because it finds Gaga pouring out her heart, something that the faster dance cuts don’t always do nearly as effectively. Confessional by all means, Gaga draws the listener in with such lyrical moments such as “I promise this / drink is my last one / I know I f*cked up again / because I lost my only friend / God forgive my sins…” or even the grit she puts into repetitive chorus lyric “I need you more than dope”. It may not be another “Speechless” but it’s one of my personal favorites.
Penultimate cut “Gypsy” begins slower, but the tempo and intensity picks up, contrasting the more emotionally-driven “Dope”. Don’t let the quick danceable nature fool you though – Gaga still shows the power and rawness of her pipes. Oh and by the way, she alludes to Born This Way’s “Schieße”. “Applause” is an appropriate closer, and stands out more in the context of ARTPOP than it did as a single. It is still trumped by more intriguing listens (and ‘sex’), but it was smart choice to have a relatively successful single by Gaga standards conclude.
So how does ARTPOP fare? Well it’s a big pop/dance album, so that always seems to signify a mixed-bag that is all over the place. Some of ARTPOP shine brightly while others are just less impressive. This particularly Gaga album won’t necessarily give any of her previous albums a ‘run for their money’ as one can’t envision the same level of success for this set’s singles. That isn’t to knock the records, but there is not another “Bad Romance” or “Poker Face” here. Still, it’s enjoyable and very much done Gaga’s way.
“G.U.Y.”; “Do What U Want”; “Artpop”; “Dope”; “Applause”
- Lady Gaga : The Best Of ARTPOP (lifeunderaluckystar.org)
- A Cultural Manifesto of Lady Gaga, and a review of ARTPOP (thevinylwarhol.wordpress.com)
Various Artists⎪ NOW That’s What I Call Music, Vol. 48⎪ UMG ⎪⎪ US Release Date: November 11, 2013
In some respects, the term ‘compilation’ is synonymous to a swear word. Maybe it’s not quite as obscene as the f-word itself, but it’s at least worthy of a baby-curse word, LOL. Why? Because compilations – particularly music compilations – seem to always be filled with flaws, period. The main reason is not only the choice of song that makes the compilation versus those that miss the cut, but also because of timing. Generally, I’m a firm believer that all compilations would be better if the songs included were just nearing that peak and were still considered ‘hot’ you might say. Unfortunately, NOW That’s What I Call Music, Vol. 48, like former installments of the NOW series, doesn’t see my perspective obviously.
Among smart inclusions on this particularly compilation include “Roar” (Katy Perry), “Treasure” (Bruno Mars), “Wake Me Up” (Avicii), “Applause” (Lady Gaga), and “That’s My Kind of Night” (Luke Bryan). The aforementioned numbers all seem to still have a ‘hotness’ and relevance and relevance about them. While Lady Gaga’s “Applause” is lukewarm compared to her more risqué “Do What U Want” featuring R. Kelly, you can still see the logic of its inclusion. “Roar” has truly been a beast (no pun intended), while all things Luke Bryan seem to be in.
Among more questionable inclusions on Now 48 are “Blurred Lines” (Robin Thicke), “Get Lucky” (Daft Punk), “We Can’t Stop” (Miley Cyrus), “Slow Down” (Selena Gomez), “Sail” (AWOLNATION), and “Brave” (Sara Bareilles). Yes, there a some big name songs that were big time hits included within that list. The problem is, many of these should’ve and could’ve been included on earlier compilations. “Blurred Lines”, “Get Lucky”, “We Can’t Stop” and “Sail” all seem too late. Sara Bareilles’ “Brave” is definitely late, but also an questionable inclusion when you look at the company it resides alongside. Similarly, “Slow Down” by Selena Gomez seems out of place, particularly given that “Come & Get It” was the notable hit from a cooling off Stars Dance.
Other arguments could be made for and against Now 48 as well as the franchise as a whole. I appreciate the fact that it does offer listeners with a slice of popular music. However, as shown by my nitpicking, I think that the assembling of such a ‘slice’ could be even better executed. No compilation will ever be perfect or tailor-made for every music listener, but couldn’t Now 48 come just a wee bit closer?
Eminem unsurprisingly debuts at the penthouse with The Marshall Mathers LP 2. And yes, the numbers are gargantuan. While Eminem was unable to beat the 968,000 copies that Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience, he did sell 792,000 copies. The former second-largest debut of 2013 was Drake’s Nothing Was The Same (658,000 copies), which now settles for third-largest debut. Eminem is the biggest news, but not the sole news on the Albums chart this week.
Celine Dion’s Loved Me Back To Life debuts at no. 2, selling 77,000 copies. Those numbers are nothing to ‘write home about’. Sure, they aren’t ‘vintage’ Dion numbers, but more troubling again is that only one album sold more than 100,000 copies. Avril Lavigne also had an unimpressive week as Avril Lavigne sold a tepid 44,000 copies. As troubling? 44,000 copies was good enough for a no. 5 debut. Oh, and some a cappella group named Pentatonix closes out the top 10 with PTX: Vol. II. Go figure.
Holdovers: The Robersons’ Duck the Halls: A Roberson Family Christmas (no. 3); Katy Perry’s Prism (no. 4); Kelly Clarkson’s Wrapped in Red (no. 6), Drake’s Nothing Was The Same (no. 7), and Lorde’s Pure Heroine (no. 8). Speaking of Lorde, since you asked, a certain song entitled “Royals” is still no. 1.
Who’s Got Next? Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP should be a lock. However, according to Billboard prognostications, ARTPOP is only expected to move about 260,000 copies. How far off is that from Born This Way, oh A LOT! Born This Way sold 1.1 million… Otherwise, well, it seems to be a so-so week as far as releases.
- Eminem’s ‘The Marshall Mathers LP 2′ Debuts at No. 1, Bests 2010′s ‘Recovery’ (variety.com)
- Arcade Fire Launch at No. 1 With Reflektor (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Charts: Eminem scores second biggest sales week of 2013 (music-mix.ew.com)
- On the Charts: Eminem Goes ‘Berzerk’ With Huge First-Week Sales (rollingstone.com)
- Lady Gaga And Avril Lavigne’s Latest Albums Sell Big In Japan (popdust.com)