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August Alsina Finds His ‘Testimony’ Stuck Behind Frozen at No. 2


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51Q2c-T9xKL._SL500_AA280_No one can stop the unstoppable Frozen Soundtrack – it grows sales to a whopping 259,000 copies! It’s nearly May, but the winter hit continues to be the much-needed gift that keeps on giving to the music industry, keeping it afloat.  August Alsina sells 67,000 copies of his full-length debut album, Testimony.  To be the closest to Frozen (no. 2)is to be “oh so far away” as it wasn’t even a close contest in the least.   While 67,000 copies are great for an R&B upstart, I wish that Alsina could’ve moved even more – Testimony is truly a great album (in my opinion).  NEEDTOBREATHE move 49,000 copies of latest album Rivers In the Wasteland, good enough for the no. 3 spot.  Jason Derülo, an artist who has suffered from chart success where his albums are concerned, lands at no. 4 selling a respectable 44,000 copies of Talk Dirty.  The success can likely be attributed to the ubiquitous single of the same name.  Ingrid Michaelson wasn’t to be denied a top five showing as Lights Out sells 37,000 copies, bowing at no. 5.

81CdwhWvDFL._SL1500_Otherwise the top ten is more of the same according to Billboard, with familiar artists including Luke Bryan, Pharrell Williams, and Lorde rounding out things.  As my new motto is, “it is what it is”.   Pharrell is no. 1 on the Hot 100 for the millionth week – well 9th week, but that’s quite an achievement – with “Happy” continuing to strike a hopeful chord everywhere.  As far as new entries next week, some interesting albums should impact that charts with Neon Trees (Pop Psychology), Future (Honest) and Iggy Azalea (The New Classic) among them.

Music Shopping List: Albums for Your Consideration, April 22, 2014


NeonTrees-100510-0004 Keeping things 100, April hasn’t been the best month of new music releases.  While April has saved my budget, still I’d love to see a gargantuan week of new music releases –  “Do it for the music industry!”  This week’s releases (new release day being Tuesday, April 22) don’t have any monumental releases necessarily, but does have some interesting albums to check out.

81JN-g1SCkL._SL1500_ Pop Psychology

Neon Trees

Island / Mercury 

It wouldn’t be far-fetched to see Neon Trees make a bigger splash with latest LP Pop Psychology.  “Everybody Talks” certainly did just that (a no. 6 Billboard Hot 100 hit), elevating the collective’s profile.  The brief Pop Psychology – just over 36 minutes – is led by single “Sleeping With A Friend”.

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Honest

Future

Epic

The autotune loving MC returns with his second major label album, Honest, following 2012 effort Pluto.  While Pluto wasn’t necessarily my cup of tea, there were some solid tracks, led by club banger “Same Damn Time”, not to neglect “Turn On The Lights”.  The Kanye West assisted single “I Won” is a notable new track, if you are a Future fan.

51KILBn7GgL._SL500_AA280_-2 All This Bad Blood

Bastille

Virgin

Don’t call it a new album – it’s not.  Bastille, known for a ‘little hit’ entitled “Pompeii” rerelease 2013 album Bad Blood as All This Bad Blood with plenty of extras.

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The New Classic

Iggy Azalea

Island / Def Jam

Naming your debut album The New Classic is a bold move.  Hopefully, Iggy Azalea has the goods to back up such an assertion.  Definitely not what one would stereotype as a rapper, it should be interesting to see how Iggy fares ultimately.

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Deitrick Haddon’s LXW (League of Xtraordinary Worshippers)

Deitrick Haddon

Tyscot Records

The cover of Deitrick Haddon’s new album, Deitrick Haddon’s LXW matches the superhero theme the gospel singer is promoting.  While perhaps the superhero sensibility may not spill over into all of the track titles, its obvious the ‘worship’ side of things is covered tremendously (“With God”, “We Need Your Power”, “Healing Virtue Flow”, etc.)

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Food

Kelis

Ninja Tune

The major label route was never a good one for Kelis, even though she released solid material.  With her first indie album, Food, arriving four years after Flesh Tone,  Kelis can be as out-there as she wants to be. Perhaps there isn’t another “Milkshake” to be had, but knowing Kelis’ restlessness artistically, Food is bound to be both bizarre and interesting at the same time.

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Ready Steady Go!

Drake Bell

Surfdog

Ready Set Go! is Drake Bell’s first album since 2006 effort, It’s Only Time.  If for no other reason, Ready Set Go! is interesting because of the title of single “Bitchcraft”, which was co-written with Brett Boyett.   The album also features covers of Billy Joel (“It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me”) and Queen (“Crazy Little Thing Called Love”) among others. 

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Give ‘Em Hell

Sebastian Bach

Frontiers Records

The metal artist seems like a definite sinner, given the title of his latest LP.  While the title is ‘tried and true’, its definitely easier to spell and more conventional sounding than Abachalypse Now – LOL.

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BLUESAmericana

Keb Mo

Kind of Blue Music

The blues guitarist follows up his 2011 effort, The Reflection.  Yep, that’s about all I have to say about it.  

Frozen Proves to be the Shining Moment on an ‘Ice Cold’ Albums Chart


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Well, another week and another chart and guess who’s on top – yep you guessed it, the Frozen Soundtrack. While sales aren’t exactly hot across the board, the additional 133,000 copies that the unstoppable soundtrack sold are solid, particularly compared to the rest of the albums.   How sound is 133,000 copies? Well according to Billboard, Pharrell ascended back to his peak position (no. 2) this week, selling 29,000 copies. Talk about April being the month of the music sales drought!

71gh3xPpjvL._SL1500_Honestly, the news on the charts isn’t good, particularly since a holdover like G I R L outsold the new entries. MercyMe bring little inspiration where sales are concerned, dropping Welcome to the New at no. 4 and a modest 26,000 copies. Black Label Society isn’t too far off, as Catacombs of the Black Vatican lands at no. 5. SoMo, t
he third new offering in the top 10, seems to have a small ceiling given a no. 6 bow with 23,000 copies sold. Still, there is prestige in claiming a Billboard top ten album – some better known/veteran R&B artists have yet to accomplish the feat. Saddest in regards to numbers is Martina McBride, whose soul covers album Everlasting sold a scant 21K. While the no. 7 bow isn’t shabby, the numbers aren’t impressive. Ultimately, it seems the four newbies in the top 10 underwhelmed in regards to their impact. Then again, everything is underwhelming – save for Frozen.

81cg4cMMqIL._SL1500_On the Hot 100, Pharrell Williams continues to sit pretty at no. 1 with “Happy”. Keeping R&B locked up at the top, John Legend continues a remarkable run with “All of Me” at no. 2. As far as albums that should make some sort of impact next week, August Alsina (Testimony) and Jason Derülo (Talk Dirty) are among the group. Ingrid Michaelson is also in the mix with Lights Out. Still, April seems to be absent of a true blockbuster album with commercial footing.

Review: Jason Derülo, ‘Talk Dirty’


51Q2c-T9xKL._SL500_AA280_ Derülo’s over-reliance on sex and swagger holds the album back at times

Jason Derülo • Talk Dirty • Warner Bros • US Release Date: April 15, 2014

Jason Derulo2-20140225-49It has been a minute since “Whatcha Say” had this music enthusiast excited about new pop/R&B artist Jason Derülo. Nah, I wasn’t a ‘fan girl’ as any number of YouTube personalities might put it, but I did think ole boy had something fresh about him. Judging by the uniqueness of that number one hit, it seemed he was well on his way to conquering the music industry. Things didn’t quite work out that way for a number of reasons. Sure, Jason Derülo hasn’t exactly set the Billboard 200 on fire (understatement), but nor has his music since his debut truly stacked up either (no shade – or at least not that much shade, I promise). Future History, Derülo’s second album (first full-length technically), was the first sign of an artist with a connections problem. The album just didn’t have the personality or substance to make much noise. Here on his latest effort, Talk Dirty, Derülo is in much better shape; he has a big hit on his side. Even so, Derülo’s over-reliance on sex and swagger holds the album back at times.

Jason Derulo3-20140225-46Talk Dirty” kicks off the album alluringly with its sinful brilliance. Calling the joint heavenly is blasphemous considering its suggestive lyrics and equally ‘dirty’ production. By the way, “Talk Dirty” owes a ton to Balkan Beat Box’s “Hermetico” – like the majority of the production! Face it, that seductive sax comes off as nasty as Derülo’s opening lyrics from verse one: “I’m that flight that you get on, international / first class seat on my lap, girl, riding comfortable”. Nope, Jason D. is not really talking about a plane! If Derülo is a bit subtler regarding sexual endeavors, 2 Chainz is more explicit, holding little back about the ‘pleasure’. Even if you’re the type waving the finger at the shallowness Derülo and 2 Chainz exhibit, the addictiveness of the chorus section is undeniable: “Been around the world, don’t speak the language / but your booty don’t need explaining / all I really need to understand is when you / talk dirty to me”.

Wiggle” doesn’t add any greater sophistication to Talk Dirty, as Derülo uses the song to talk about booty (“You know what to do with that big fat butt…wiggle, wiggle, wiggle”). Matching the slinky nature of “Talk Dirty”, “Wiggle” is another track concentrated on getting down without ever citing genuine, authentic emotion. With Snoop Dogg assisting, confirmation is provided that it’s gotten “Hot” and X-rated. With fantasies being Derülo’s bread and butter, on “Trumpets” he sings “Every time that you get undressed / I hear symphonies in my head…yet the drums swing low / and the trumpets they go…” Right on cue, the trumpets enter, in all their brilliance. While “Trumpets” is catchy, ludicrous lines like “Is it weird that I hear / angels every time that you moan” are questionable, near – if not – deal breakers.

Jordin Sparks-20140130-45Bubblegum” brings in the king of sexed-up, minimalist rap these days, Tyga. “Bubblegum” of course couldn’t possibly retain any sense of innocence – even it becomes a naughty, raunchy reference. “She just wanna pop, pop, pop, pop, pop that bubblegum.” Yeah, what kind of bubblegum Jason? SMH. “Vertigo” arrives in the nick of time to deliver Talk Dirty from being completely overexerted. Duet-ing with boo Jordin Sparks, “Vertigo” has something the opening quartet of the LP lacked – substance. Sure, no one expects total ‘abstinence’ from Derülo or R&B in general, but “Vertigo” balances physical and emotional without just piling on, well the three-letter word. But of course, “Kama Sutra”, featuring Kid Ink, returns Talk Dirty from whence it came… no pun intended. Even though it is Kid Ink rapping here, the listener could totally picture Tyga on this track. Like the other risqué songs, it is what you make of it.

Personally, “Zipper” is a turn-off, specifically thanks to Derülo’s opening lyrics: “I’mma mark my territory / shawty I’m an animal, slowly digging into your / spread you like a bad story…” If that’s not enough to raise an eyebrow, the stupid hook accomplishes the task: “up and down like a zipper”. Even if Derülo were solely referencing his fly, “Zipper” would be nasty. “The Other Side” provides atonement, finally toning things down a might. “The Other Sides” straddles (Ha “straddles”) modern pop and contemporary R&B. Derülo shines on the big-time chorus: “Tonight, take me to the other side / sparks fly like the Fourth of July / just take me to the other side / I see that sexy look in your eyes…” Don’t call it the ‘second coming’, but it is easily among the cream of the crop of Talk Dirty.

Jason Derulo4-20140225-52Unfortunately for “With the Lights On”, the momentum fades as the song has only occurred “x” amount of times in the past. Honestly, look no further than this album itself – everything is about “the do”. “Stupid Love” at least sports more of an air of being refined, but that doesn’t make it truly notable by any means. “Marry Me” closes the standard edition of Dirty Talk trading the hook up for matrimony – quite a 360 huh? The thing is, contextually don’t “Stupid Love” and “Marry Me” both feel like departures among the clubbier cuts that ignore the emotional aspects of a relationship? Still, if you need a kinder, gentler cut, “Marry Me” is it.

Ultimately, Talk Dirty is average at best. It has its moments, but it also seems to put its eggs too much into one basket – specifically booty. Much like Derülo’s Future History, Talk Dirty seems to lack cohesion; it’s missing something. There is nothing wrong with Jason’s voice – he can sing – but his music just doesn’t lend itself to making a genuine connection as a listener. That said, nothing eclipses “Talk Dirty”.

Favorites:

“Talk Dirty”; “Vertigo”; “The Other Side”; “Marry Me”

Verdict: ★★★

5 Seconds of Summer Settle For No. 2


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5 Seconds of Summer, the new Australian teen band, has nothing to hang their heads about; debuting at no. 2 with 143,000 copies of a four-song EP (She Looks So Perfect) is definitely notable.  Settling for that no. 2 spot behind the unstoppable Frozen Soundtrack (149,000 copies sold) – well that should boost confidence even more considering no one can end Frozen’s run.  After the slim margin separating album nos. 1 and 2, there is a huge gap.  Chevelle’s La Gargola sold 45,000 copies, good for the no. 3 spot.  Former “Jar of Hearts” pop singer/songwriter Christina Perri debuts at a familiar spot (no. 4), but does so smaller numbers for sophomore album Head or Heart (40,000 copies).  Country gets its representation from Dan + Shay, who sold 29,000 copies of Where It All Began (no. 6).  Nickel Creek also get a top ten berth, selling 27,000 copies of their first album following a lengthy hiatus, Why Should the Fire Die?  Hey, they don’t call it lucky no. 7 for no reason, right?

On the songs chart, specifically the Billboard Hot 100, Pharrell Williams continues to make us all “Happy” for yet another week, according to Billboard.  What is most shocking to me is that John Legend’s “All Of Me” is so hot, though I felt the hit potential when the underappreciated Love in the Future arrived in September 2013.  For R&B and for Legend, the popularity of the rather conservative track is awesome.

Next week doesn’t seem electrifying as far as notable new releases.  Still, albums arrive from Martina McBride (Everlasting), MercyMe (Welcome To The New), James Durbin (Celebrate), and SoMo (SoMo) among others. “It is what is”.

Review: SoMo, ‘SoMo’


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SoMo’s major label debut leaves the listener underwhelmed 

SoMo • SoMo • Republic • US Release Date: April 8, 2014

YouTube has become the ‘it’ means of being discovered as an artist these days. Honestly, the art of self-promotion is truly savvy, aggressive gameplay personally. Where so many talented artists don’t have the confidence or the moxie to put them self out there, those that use a platform like YouTube deserve success. Even so, that doesn’t mean that what they have to offer is necessarily exceptional or laden with swag. SoMo, a burgeoning R&B/pop artist, takes his stab at fame with his major label debut, SoMo. Being signed to Republic is definitely a come-up from YouTube uploads. While SoMo shows the potential SoMo has to offer, it doesn’t prove to be fully cooked. Much of the cons with SoMo is the lack of an identity for its singer. SoMo doesn’t do enough vocally to necessarily impress on his official debut. No, that doesn’t mean he can’t sing – he can – but he also doesn’t come off as a superstar persona in the least.

TMWYKAL”, which stands for “Tell me what you know about love”, initiates SoMo. If there had been more development, “TMWYKAL” could have actually been an enjoyable, full-length song. Instead, it’s merely the minute-long intro that precedes “I Do It All For You” with some solid vocal production. “I Do It All For You” unsurprisingly plays off of “TMWYKAL”, with SoMo doing whatever he has to please his baby. SoMo has a nice voice, but both song and vocalist leave more to be desired. In other words, there is a lack of distinction. “Show Off” isn’t bad – pleasant by all means – but it also is plays upon tired clichés. Many times, listeners have been subjected to the sexual reference of teacher/student (“I’mma be your teacher, you gon’ learn the details / then I’m on a test, you’ll just follow the leader”). Again, there’s nothing wrong with it, or “love hits like rocket ships from outer space”, but it also doesn’t give SoMo an artistic edge.

We Can Make Love” opts for the overt approach, which delivers questionable results for the singer. “We can make love / or we can just f*ck…” doesn’t necessarily scream ‘romantic’, as SoMo references. Sure, every male R&B artist these days thinks it cool to supplant ‘sex’ with the f-bomb, but that doesn’t mean that they necessarily should. Here, SoMo sounds more desperate than anything. “Head first, chest hurts / never thought it get worst” opens “Crash” embracing the modern R&B sound. Drenched in a drunken, druggy vibe, the coolness of “Crash” appeals yet doesn’t exactly send chills or thrill; there’s just something extra missing. Distinct lyrics “Her fingers are coiled on my skin / what is this whole that I’m in / taking my clothes off again / feeling her warmth, but it ain’t warm,” catches the ear on “Blind”. Like “TMWYKAL”, “Blind” is a teaser, serving as only a minute-long interlude.

Back To The Start” is a rhythmic slow jam, focused on sex – shocker. Like everything else, it is pleasant and works, but doesn’t scream “wow” by any means. Even if SoMo lives “for the rush” he sings about on “Back To The Start”, the audience doesn’t get the same effect – aka the climax is anticlimactic. “Fire” may only inform the listener that SoMo’s girl “got that fire, fire, fire”, but it is actually one of the better cuts from the album. SoMo’s interpretation of a club cut isn’t exactly the ‘banger of the year’ (it still feels incredibly generic), but it does provide a slight spark. It’s the little things – the tiny victories.

Hush” lifts from “Hush Little Baby” cornily within its chorus, but it is what it is. At least it has a nice contemporary soul groove working for it. Still, there is an air of generic. Maybe it’s the over repetition of “hush now, hush now”. Penultimate cut “Ride” is filled with innuendo – yet another shocker. “Naughty, let’s get naughty / Girl, it’s only on or two,” SoMo sings towards the end of the first verse, “fever’s f**king running / feel the heat between us two.” Of course SoMo provides details, including how he’s gonna “Kiss your body from the tip top / all the way down to your feet.” ‘Course, when a song opens with moaning (“Whoa”), what do you expect? For a sex song, it’s not bad but again, it’s also not revolutionary. “Red Lighter” closes the album solidly. A bit more developed compared to many of the other cuts, “Red Lighter” has more depth and potential.

Ultimately, SoMo lacks an emotional connection. Sure, SoMo sings of very relatable topics in love and sex, but something about the delivery as well as the material leaves the listener feeling empty. The cupboard isn’t completely bare on this album, but it’s definitely nowhere near full. Next round, SoMo will need to step up his game to make a truly thrilling, distinctive artistic statement. Here, he settles for trendy urban music that leaves its audience with a sentiment of “so what”. Now, it is time for the YouTube star to develop into his own.

Favorites:

 “Show Off”; “Fire”; “Ride”; “Red Lighter”

Verdict: ★★½

Music Shopping List: What To Consider Buying April 8, 2014


91oaj2JsGOL._SL1500_Ah new release Tuesday, where dreams come true and are broken for many artists who hope their album will sell these days.  This Tuesday, April 8, 2014, the releases aren’t exactly star-studded – that would be an understatement.  That said, there are some possibilities to choose from, whether you’re looking to go vintage, be spiritually uplifted, or want to stomach an immature pop star’s life…

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1

Duets

Linda Ronstadt

Rhino

(Pop)

Ronstadt doesn’t release new music anymore, but the vocalist has released more than enough classic material to solidify her veteran musician status.  Duets is a compilation featuring some of Ronstadt’s most notable collaborations with others including “Don’t Know Much” with Aaron Neville and “Somewhere Out There” with James Ingram.

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2

Catacombs of The Black Vatican

Black Label Society

Entertainment One

(Metal)

The title should be enough to allure the potential listener – or drive them away (whichever comes first).  Catacombs of the Black Vatican is the heavy metal band Black Label Society’s fourth release for mega indie label Entertainment One and their tenth studio album overall.

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3

Welcome To The New

MercyMe

Fair Trade/ Columbia

(Christian)

Jesus freaks everywhere should be rejoicing as one of the preeminent contemporary Christian bands releases their follow-up to 2012 LP The Hurt & The Healer.  And yes, I do realize “Jesus Freak” was the title of a dc Talk album and song, not MercyMe – LOL.  

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4

Everlasting

Martina McBride

Vinyl Records

(Country/R&B)

Martina McBride’s latest album definitely isn’t your standard country album.  McBride covers soul classics including “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” and “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted”.  On a rendition of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home” she brings Gavin DeGraw along for the ride while she gets the assist from Kelly Clarkson on “In the Basement”.  If there were a country artist to pull it off, McBride would certainly be the one to do it.

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5

Love & Hate

Joan Osborne

Entertainment One

(Rock)

Entertainment One adds yet another album to the April 8th release date with Joan Osborne’s latest album, Love & HateLove & Hate marks the Kentucky-born artist’s eighth studio album.  The album follows up 2012 LP Bring It On Home.

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6

Justin Bieber’s Believe

Justin Bieber

Universal Studios

(Pop/Documentary)

My advice would be to proceed with caution here…really.

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7

Celebrate

James Durbin

Wind-Up

(Rock)

The former American Idol contestant drops his sophomore album Celebrate, albeit with little fanfare.  Celebrate follows up 2011 debut, Memories of a Beautiful Disaster.

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8

SoMo

SoMo

Republic

(R&B)

After releasing My Life digitally in 2013, burgeoning R&B artist (another YouTube discovery), release his ‘official’ self-titled debut via Republic.

Review: MKTO, ‘MKTO’


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MKTO don’t reinvent the wheel, but deliver worthwhile pop music

MKTO • MKTO • Columbia • US Release Date: April 1, 2014

MKTO-PFR-011985Every year, there are new pop acts that come and go. Some make a gargantuan impact and either exemplify current trends soundly or begin a new trend. Others fall by the wayside, going unnoticed. For MKTO, made up of actors/musicians Malcolm Kelly and Tony Oller, they don’t reinvent pop’s wheel (if there is such a thing), but they do execute pop’s current trends very well. Don’t call MKTO the saviors of pop or perhaps even the next ‘great’ thing, but the twenty something duo definitely have something to offer. With Kelly handling the rhymes and Oller handling the soulful vocals, debut album MKTO definitely shows there’s something there.

Thank You” begins MKTO incredibly positive and upbeat; there isn’t the slightest ounce of negativity. Calling “Thank You” something previously unheard in pop music would be a major overstatement, but in the context of a debut album, MKTO get off to a solid start. If nothing else, the vocal grit courtesy of a soulful Tony Oller is noteworthy. While “Thank You” is a highlight, “Classic” is even stronger. Don’t go so far as to say it exemplifies its title, but it is definitely irresistible pop. I mean lyrics like “I wanna thrill you like Michael / I wanna kiss you like Prince…” are just, scrumptious and that’s not even the chorus (“You’re over my head / I’m out of my mind / thinking I was born in the wrong time…you’re one of kind living in a world gone plastic / baby you’re so classic”)! Malcolm’s pop-rap swag seals the deal (“A 70s dream and an 80s best…Girl you’re timeless, just so classic.”)

God Only Knows” isn’t bad, though it doesn’t quite live up to the bar established by “Classic”. Still, “God Only Knows” is no waste, once more benefiting from catchy lyrics, most notable on the chorus (“God only knows /how much I need you…”). A song of both emotional investment and physical desire (“When you touch me with your body / and all that I can think is how to lose our clothes”), “God Only Knows” is highly relatable to all ages. “American Dream” opens with the statement, “Do something with your life”, a definite foreshadow to the positivity of the song. Where Malcolm played a minimal vocal role previously on “God Only Knows”, “American Dream” allows the MC to shine as well. The results are none too shabby, though again, nothing incredibly innovative or ‘brand new’. Still, hard to deny clever lyrics like “This ain’t the same summer that you used to know / ‘cause Jack left Diane thirty years ago…”

MKTO-PFR-012360Could Be Me” brings pop-soul singer/songwriter extraordinaire into the mix, Ne-Yo. Like everything else, the results are definitely pleasant, particularly adding Ne-Yo’s smooth vocals. As expected, “Could Be Me” is a soundly crafted pop cut with great potential to appeal to multiple audiences. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of “Could Be Me” is that Malcolm doesn’t allow the perceived ‘innocence’ of “Could Be Me” hold him back when it comes to his rhymes: “She keep on searchin’ for the wrong man / with the iced out Cartier on hand / So mean but he look like Tarzan / little b*tch but he act real hard man.” A little gutty-ness never hurt anyone, right? “Forever Until Tomorrow” cedes no momentum, as the duo continue to please. The lyrics are revolutionary, but simplistic, conveying emotions everyone experiences: “Girl I, I’m gonna love you / forever and ever and ever / girl I, I’m gonna hold you / forever and ever and ever…”

If there was any doubt that MKTO had some rebelliousness despite their ‘feel good’ pop, “Wasted” definitely proves this – all it takes is one f-bomb, right? Honestly, “Wasted” is the edgiest song of the otherwise ‘sunny’ debut, and the only ballad up until this point of the effort. “Am I crazy to think that I could be in love when it all ends up,” sings Oller on the chorus, “…I’d give you my heart, but I’d just f*ck it up / we’d end up, we’d end up wasted / la la la…” The sharp song manages to reference “Jack and coke smokin’ on the fire escape” as well as the religiously skeptical lyric “If I believed in God I’d pray, to God I’d pray.” Maybe it won’t appeal to those who enjoy everything being utopian, but personally, a little edge never hurt anyone.

Atonement arrives on “Heartbreak Holiday”, in which a quicker tempo and bright sound returns to MKTO. Even so, it’s pretty safe to say that MKTO don’t enjoy February 14: “(Baby I hate) I freaking hate / (Valentines Day) Valentines Day / (I’m feeling this pain) It cuts like a blade when I think about you…” Even through Oller’s soulful disdain for being without his baby, the listener is treated with another winner overall.   The opening of “Nowhere” is certainly suggestive…um, just plum freaky (“Breakfast in bed, bacon and eggs… she keeps me fed / breast and some legs / well done, yeah, well done”). It is what it is… hey MKTO are comprised of two twenty something guys – what do you expect? Ultimately, MKTO aren’t going “nowhere” anyways, though one has to question if it’s merely the emotional benefits of the relationship… just saying!

MKTO-PFR-012376Penultimate cut “No More Second Chances” opens lovely, with Oller displaying the sheer beauty of his pipes on the chorus (“No more second chances, no more plastic lies / no more giving me reasons to make me have to say goodbye”). It follows with quasi-rap/spoken word by Malcolm, who gets a slight change of pace with the production to progress the cut. Sure, Malcolm goes a bit stupid, but the reference to Waka Flocka and a variant on the f-bomb does capture one’s attention: “She trying to be my flame like Waka Flocka with the focka”. A guesting Jessica Ashley definitely shines here, providing another contrasting voice to the mix and eliminating any sense of predictability. In regards to the production, “No More Second Chances” works well.   Closing cut “Goodbye Song” puts the sentiment of ‘goodbye’ out there explicitly: “Ya I’mma put your sh*t out on the lawn / leave my heart and take your bone / there’s nothing left to say so long / this is your goodbye song.” Well, at least the album ends with a bang.

Overall, MKTO is an enjoyable, solidly conceived pop album. Like many of the albums it competes with, the rub is its lack of big-time innovation. Though MKTO isn’t particularly innovative or strikingly different from other pop/hip-hop hybrid acts, it’s still one of the better albums using this style. There are no misses, just certain numbers hitting home more than others. There is room for improvement, as there is with a number of artists and bands, but MKTO certainly get off to a good and speedy start.

Favorites:

“Thank You”; “Classic”; “Could Be Me”; “Forever Until Tomorrow”; “Wasted”

Verdict: ★★★½

Review: 5 Seconds of Summer, ‘She Looks So Perfect (EP)’


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Australian Band Hopes for more than ‘5 Seconds’ of fame on Latest EP

5 Seconds of Summer • She Looks So Perfect (EP) • Capitol • US Release Date: April 1, 2014

Let’s just cut straight to the chase here. Who are these dudes 5 Seconds of Summer you ask?  Well, 5 Seconds of Summer are an Australian band comprised of Luke Hemmings, Michael Clifford, Callum Hood, and Ashton Irwin.  As is customary (and smart) these days, rather than release/invest into a full-length album initially, the band releases EPs.  She Looks So Perfect is the latest EP, certainly meant to elevate the band’s fan base.  How did 5 Seconds of Summer come to ascend to the record label ranks? Wait for it – Youtube, arguably the best promotional tool for establishing a music career these days. As for the EP, is it any good? Don’t call it the ‘second coming’ – it’s an EP after all – but it does successfully showcase the potential of the Aussie band.

She Looks So Perfect” is the best track off the EP, showcasing spunkiness about it.  Bright sounding pop/rock with sharp lyrics and a catchy, irresistible chorus, “She Looks So Perfect” is arguably the best ‘sell’ here of the artists 5 Seconds of Summer can be/become.  “You look so perfect standing there / in my American Apparel underwear,” the band sings on the chorus, “And I know now, that I’m so down / your lipstick stain is a work of art.” Throw in some innocent-enough profanity (“We worked too damn hard for this just to give it up now”) and 5 Seconds of Fame are slightly edgier than One Direction, of whom they’ve opened for.

The rest of the EP isn’t quite as triumphant, but still shows off potential nonetheless.  “Heartache On The Big Screen” like “She Looks So Perfect” is centered in a major key, keeping the positive vibes going.  The chorus is the selling point, latching more than the verses could ever hope to (“This ain’t a movie that I wanna see / a tragic story, starring you and me…my script is ripped and now I see”).  The biggest rub is predictability; exhibiting even more personality could mask this some.   “The Only Reason” is my least favorite.  The verses are underwhelming, constricted too much to vocal undertone.  The pronounced chorus atones somewhat, but a better-rounded consistent performance would be the best fix.  It’s not bad, but more than jagged, ‘balls-to-the-walls’ guitars are needed to seal the deal.  A closing cover of “What I Like About You”, much like opener “She Looks So Perfect”, truly gives a sense of artistic direction.  It certainly doesn’t eclipse nor touch the original, but it helps formulate where 5 Seconds go from here.

Will 5 Seconds of Summer become stars stateside? Only time will tell.  Many truly exceptional artists have missed out on success, no matter what they had to offer.  Ultimately, the proper measurement of this will take more than a four-track EP.  As She Looks So Perfect is the only tool to make a judgment as of yet, as of now, the band has “Only Just Begun” to establish their brand.

Favorite:

“She Looks So Perfect”

Verdict: ★★★

Shakira Settles For No. 2 as ‘Frozen’ Keeps The Top Spot Warm


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On the Billboard 200 Albums Chart this week, multiple new albums graced the top ten.  Unfortunately for them, not were able to take down reigning champ Frozen Soundtrack, which once more sells six figures (161,000 copies) according to Billboard.  The new releases underperformed where numbers are concerned, keeping Frozen easily ahead of them. Frozen, led by ubiquitous Academy Award winning song “Let It Go” seems unstoppable.  As to what or who could kill Frozen’s vibe, I don’t know.

51Z9GVuOpnL._SL500_AA280_Shakira was unable to stop the beloved soundtrack, as Shakira. debuted in the runner-up slot with only 84,000 copies.  84,000 copies is nothing to snicker about, but for the pop diva, the numbers are underwhelming.  Johnny Cash’s lost album Out Among the Stars comes in third place, selling 54,000 copies.  The gap between nos. 2 and 3 is incredible, and the ride continues as Memphis May Fire land at no. 4 with 27,000 copies sold of Unconditional.  The difference between the top four album totals at 161,000, 84,000, 54,000, and 27,000 is incredible.  The top four albums sold approximately 326,000 copies.

Erica Campbell couldn’t squeeze her way into the top 5, but she did make it to no. 6 with her gospel solo debut Help, selling 23,000 copies (a piece off from her Mary Mary albums). Barry Manilow wasn’t far off from Campbell, as Night Songs fell one spot behind with 22,000 copies sold.  My Chemical Romance’s May Death Never Stop You (Greatest Hits) sold 20,000 copies, good for a no. 9 debut.   Still, examining the 20K copies of each of the aforementioned, the ceiling of each album seems incredibly low.  Sure, you don’t expect a gospel album (Campbell’s Help) to go extremely far on the pop charts, but still, given the crossover appeal of Campbell/Mary Mary, you might expect slightly more enthusiastic numbers.

Judging by titles issued this week, the charts may still be only so-so come next week. Releases from MKTO (MKTO), Ronnie James Dio (This Is Your Life), Chevelle (La Gargola), Nickel Creek (A Dotted Line), or Christina Perri (Head or Heart) don’t exactly scream big-time hit potential, no offense.

Grantland

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