Call Me Crazy, But… is a good start for Sevyn, but not without flaws
Sevyn Streeter • Call Me Crazy, But… • Atlantic • US Release Date: December 3, 2013
Getting into the R&B game as a solo artist these days is tricky. It seems so many newbies have nothing short of an uphill battle just to earn some notoriety, which doesn’t even necessarily include or translate into commercial success. Singer/songwriter Amber “Sevyn” Streeter seems hungry to be R&B’s next star, but despite her impressive resumé, she’s not necessarily in advantageous position to do so. Barriers aside (given a cooling genre), Streeter sports a superb voice and has some skill with her pen. Call Me Crazy, But… is a good start for Sevyn, but isn’t absent of flaws.
“Come On Over” matches up well with today’s current generation, which appreciates a sizable amount of suggestiveness. Sevyn takes numerous lyrical opportunities to convey both his and her sensual endeavors. Among the most notable hails from verse two as Streeter sings “Sent me a message / you don’t usually text me / say you want me for breakfast…” Innocent it may sound out of context, but the chorus confirms Streeter is playing up double meanings with one meaning likely being her aim: “I’ve been thinking ‘bout you / can’t get you off my mind / and if I gave it to you / why didn’t you love me right? / But I won’t have to wonder / if you’ll just come all over…” The opener is all about doing the do.
“It Won’t Stop” follows up “Come On Over” in a chill, cool fashion. Where “Come On Over” embraced overtness, “It Won’t Stop” may not percolate enough. That is surprising considering Chris Brown guests here and usually provides an energetic lift collaboratively. Sure Streeter and Brown mesh well on this duet, but instead of being a dynamic collaboration, its more mellow. Overall, it’s pleasant and enjoyable, though not the ‘second coming’. “Sex on the Ceiling” atones, finding Streeter once more relying on sex as fuel for the fire. It works, even if Streeter exaggerates just how good it is. Still, she’s really into it and into him: “Take me hard yeah…switch it up one time / want you to drive me crazy / baby we gon’ have sex on the ceiling / I don’t ever want to come down boy / and I have you stand up when I’m around boy… we gon’ have sex on the ceiling.”
Title track “Call Me Crazy” follows up “Sex on the Ceiling” exceptionally, characterized by sound production work, some memorable lyrics, and a solid performance by Streeter. Basically, Streeter is really, REALLY high on her man, period. On verse two, an infatuated Streeter asks her man to “Lock me up in your arms forever / and never set me free, no free, throw away the key / damn right I be on that obsessive sh*t.” Obsessive indeed, Streeter vows on the chorus “I ain’t going nowhere, you’re my life apart / call me crazy…” Following that dedication, Streeter then delivers “B.A.N.S.”, which stands for b**ch @$$ n***as. O.M.G.! Streeter regrets giving herself to ‘him’, and spends the whole song venting: “I should’ve never offered it / but he made me feel like this could be forever / never thought he gon’ run off with it / but that don’t make it no better…” She comes to the conclusion that “N***as be on that bullsh*t / acting like they don’t do sh*t…” As the soul classic goes, “It’s the same old song…”
“Shattered” is more subtle than the angry “B.A.N.S.”, but doesn’t quite reach the levels of the best tracks of the EP. Still, the lyrics are nice, particularly the tail-end of the chorus: “It’s like we’re throwing stones at a glass house / and it shatters.” Closer “nEXT” is arguably the set’s strongest track for several reasons. The theme is traditional, as is the overall songwriting approach. The production embodies the cool, modern R&B sound, which is tasteful and not overproduced by any means. Essentially, Streeter wants her ex back, without the rifts within the relationship (“How can my ex boyfriend be my next boyfriend…”). She cites the issues within the ailing relationship throughout the song, including “Together, forever / I would never, never let you go / see now soon as we say that, we at war…” (verse one) or “Every time we break up / we turn around and we make up / momma wonder when I’m goin’ wake up…” (verse two). I’m sorry Streeter is having relationship issues, but “nEXT” is certainly the gem of Call Me Crazy, But….
How does Call Me Crazy, But… stack up? Overall, it is a good start for Streeter. It’s not the most memorable collection of seven songs I’ve ever heard, but it has some notable songs and specific moments. My hope for Streeter is that her full-length album has more memorability and distinction. I also hope Streeter has another “nEXT” in her arsenal.
“Come on Over”; “Sex on the Ceiling”; “Call Me Crazy”; “nEXT”
- Video: Sevyn Streeter Talks her EP “Call Me Crazy” (getmybuzzup.com)
- [Watch] Sevyn Streeter Tells Whether She is Cool with Rihanna or Karrueche on The Breakfast Club (getmybuzzup.com)
- 7 Sexy pics of singer Sevyn Streeter (rollingout.com)
- New Music To Know: Sevyn Streeter Proves She’s More Than Just a Hit Songwriter on Debut EP (923now.cbslocal.com)
- Review: Sevyn Streeter – “Call Me Crazy, But…” EP (theuptownlounge.com)
On December 10th, R. Kelly will release what seems to be the return of ‘nasty’ R. Kelly with album Black Panties. Kelly is easily among R&B’s most preeminent artists. Sure, his sales have falling off much like his contemporaries, but no one can deny the salacious singer/songwriter has a long and illustrious career. This particular post won’t discuss Kelly’s earlier successes with tracks like “Bump and Grind” or his Grammy-winning track “I Believe I Can Fly”, but will instead focus on his post- new millennial success. The early part of the millennium was kind to R. Kelly, much like it was to a number of neo-soul artists. But as Nelly Furtado asks on her 2005 album Loose, “why do all good things come to an end?”
Tie – 10th
The Best of Both Worlds & Unfinished Business (with Jay-Z)
I was only actually privy to Unfinished Business (2004), which managed to debut at no. 1 on the Billboard Albums chart (215,000 copies) – don’t ask me how. That said, I didn’t hear too many good things about R. Kelly and Jay-Z’s previous collaborative effort The Best of Both Worlds (2002), which landed at no. 2 with 223,000 copies sold itself. I’ll only speak for Unfinished Business to be fair, but I’ll just tell you I thought it was an undercooked affair. Sure there were some bearable moments – emphasis on ‘some’ – but ultimately, the album just felt second-rate for both musicians with such shimmering careers. Balling these two were not…SMH.
Don’t let the inclusion of “Trapped in the Closet” fool you folks – TP.3 Reloaded (2005) found R. Kelly doing what he does best pretty mediocrely. Yeah, I was one of the 491,000 who purchased it when it came out, but looking back, its just not my favorite album by R. “In The Kitchen” adds a freaky bright spot, as do risqué sex-inciters like “Remote Control” or “Put My T-Shirt On”, but otherwise, Kells is a lil’ too freaky for his own good. I mean for a man who seems to be able to make some incredibly outlandish references to S-E-X, TP.3 Reloaded just was so-so.
Write Me Back
You could lump Kelly’s Love Letter and Write Me Back albums as one in many respects. Both are Kelly back in conservative, neo-soul mode as opposed to cutting edge, “let’s get down” mode. Write Me Back isn’t a bad album, but it is pretty conservative. There’s nothing wrong with singles like “Share My Love” or “Feelin’ Single” save for the fact they sound incredibly similar to Kells a la Chocolate Factory (that was 2003). “Clipped Wings” is a nice moment, though Write Me Back could’ve used a few more like that to truly make it a signature R. Kelly showing.
Like the fine Write Me Back, my main issue lies with the conservative nature of Love Letter. It’s not bad, but it may fall a shade short of Kelly’s more balanced albums, specifically Chocolate Factory, which manages to balance the freak and the soul. “When A Woman Loves” is a nice addition to Kelly’s collection, though he milks it for every bit it’s worth. “Love Letter” is smooth as silk while “Radio Message” appeals as well. Still, I believe I speak for many R. Kelly fans in saying we remember his bedroom work more than his more refined, less risqué offerings.
Justin Bieber – “Change Me” – Single – Label: Island – US Release Date: December 2, 2013
“Girl I’m ready if you’re ready now / oh, as I’m ever gonna be / if you’re with it then I’m with it now / to accept all responsibility…I don’t wanna be the same…” Whoa! For his most recent installment of Music Mondays, Justin Bieber delivers a thoughtful, mostly piano-accompanied ballad entitled “Change Me”. Lacking the sensuality of his pivotal “PYD” featuring R. Kelly and the funkiness of last week’s “Rollercoaster”, Bieber is definitely more moody here and heartbroken for sure. The tempo is slow, matching the drag of Bieber’s own emotions.
A definite pro about “Change Me” is that Bieber shows, perhaps for the first time, his willingness to ‘bend’ within the relationship. It appears to be overdue mind you, but at least it seems Bieber has soul-searched and arrived at that point. This is evidenced by the chorus: “Maybe you could change me / maybe you could change me / maybe you could be the light that opens up my eyes / make all my wrongs right / change me, change me.” That newfound ability to listen and grow is further shown on the second verse, with lyrics like “If I’m screaming, talk quieter / understanding and patient…” or “Be like serenity / help reposition my mind / take a chance, make a difference, in my life.” Say what you will about Bieber, but he’s definitely thinking and aiming deeper than before.
“Change Me” may not possess the same swagger of his two previous offerings, but still Bieber sounds mature and much more ‘grown’ than anything he offered on 2012 studio effort Believe. For once, you feel that at least the ‘bad boy’ is backing up his desire to be a man with more masculine, grown music to match. Another possible takeaway is that Bieber is actually trying to get his act and life sorted out. Maybe that’s reading to much, but the Music Mondays lyrics are his journals correct? Overall, I’m on board.
- Justin Bieber Releases New Song “Change Me” – Listen Now (popnewsint.wordpress.com)
- Justin Bieber Releases New Song “Change Me”–Listen Now! (eonline.com)
- Justin Bieber Is Here With a New Song Called ‘Change Me’ (celebuzz.com)
- Music Monday: Justin Bieber Drops Soulful Ballad “Change Me” (popdust.com)
- Justin Bieber Has a “Bad Day” (Music Mondays) (brentmusicreviews.com)
More mature Britney Jean is a mixed blessing of sorts…
Britney Spears⎪ Britney Jean⎪ RCA⎪⎪ US Release Date: December 03, 2013
Let’s just cut right to the chase people! Britney Jean is different from previous Britney Spears albums, period. While Britney Jean still possesses some of the suggestiveness that typically characterizes Britney Spears (“Work B**ch” being a prime candidate), it also seeks a more mature script to convey her deepest emotions. Is Britney Jean always exciting because of this departure? That’s a definite no; it’s no Britney (2001) where we were all shocked and captivated when Ms. Spears presented “I’m A Slave 4 U”. Put into perspective, however, Spears is no longer that spunky teen singing “Oops (I Did It Again)” or even a rebellious, liberated twenty-something. I’m not sure if we’ll see another “Circus”. Sigh, she’s 32 (or will be come December 2). I wouldn’t let mature Britney completely dissuade you – Britney Jean still has it’s moments. It also has its question marks as well.
“Alien” is the first indication that this isn’t quite the same Britney you grew up with – if you were around for the teen-pop invasion of the late ‘90s and early ‘00s that is. The production work is solid (as to be expected), opening with mysterious, building synths and vocal cooing in the background. Eventually, stronger, thudding 808 drums anchor things down. Spears’ lyrical statements are what is more interesting or surprising than the sound itself. “But the stars in the sky / look like home, take me home / and the light in your eyes / lets me know, I’m not alone…,” Spears sings on the refrain. Essentially, Spears deals with loneliness, likening her loneliness to that of being an extraterrestrial, aka “alien” (she’s E.T. perhaps?). However, her loneliness is now a thing of the past because she’s found “her everything”, as Mary J. Blige would put it. Not a bad start.
👍 “Work B**ch” definitely shows more of the risqué, unapologetic Britney Spears… well sort of. Take a closer look at a seemingly ‘shallow’ message from Spears on the chorus: “You want a hot body? You want a Bugatti? / You want a Maserati? You better work b**ch / You want a Lamborghini? Sip martinis? / Look hot in a bikini? / You better work b**ch…now get to work b**ch!” Sure, Spears is using the overt, shock value of today’s generation to her advantage, but she’s also suggesting to attain the things you want in life, specifically the ‘fame’, you’ve gotta work for it. Basically, the double entendre number is all about “work” effort, and no, not the kind on a pole. Additionally, through the adversity, Spears seems to be suggesting to keep working hard (“Hold your head high, fingers to the sky / they gon’ try and try ya, but they can’t deny ya…”). “Work” actually shines brightly due to its superb, danceable production, and a playful, energized Spears.
👍 “Perfume” is a fine contrast to the honest “Work B**ch”, sporting a much less aggressive sound. Even so, Spears is still in serious mode to an extent. She’s struggling with paranoia and jealously throughout the cut, a narrative in which Spears fears her man is cheating (remember on “Alien” he’d eliminated her loneliness). Because of this, Spears sings as follows: “I put on my perfume, yeah I want it all over you / I gotta mark my territory / I’ll never tell, tell on myself, but I hope she smells my perfume…” So basically, she wants to ensure no one gets her man. There it is.
“It Should Be Easy” follows up “Perfume” fairly well, but lacks the same ‘latch’ of the former. will.i.am enters in the picture collaboratively, delivering the chorus: “Baby love / it should be easy / it shouldn’t be complicated / it should be easy / I don’t know how or where else to say it.” Huh? Is this serious will.i.am who usually goes as ‘dumb’ as they come? Yep, yet another ‘thoughtful’ message in regards to how true love feels – ‘easy’ as opposed to ‘labored’. Spears toys with this as she sings “I let you in but don’t you break my heart / don’t you rip me apart” (verse one) and “I’ve got visions boy, I’ve got visions / of me and you happily just livin’ / I know they’re out there, them beautiful men / but you my future baby…” (verse two). Even through Spears’ newfound seriousness, the cut is still futuristic and danceable in the modern pop sensibility.
👍 If “It Should Be Easy” was too tame, “Tik Tik Boom” keeps Queen Britney lively. Hey, there are very few songs that couldn’t be exciting with lyrics like “You got sex drive in your face / let me get up on it, let me get up on it.” Throw in T.I. literally “hitting all the right buttons” on his guest verse (“Right there in my wife beater / she like the way I eat her, beat her, beat her / treat her like an animal somebody call PETA”) as well as a naughty hook from Britney (“better make me tik tik tik tik tik tik boom…”), and it seems Spears is still “A Slave 4 U”. If the ‘ticking time bomb’ wasn’t enough, Britney knows what’s best for you on the equally alluring “Body Ache” (“I know you feel my fire / draw you into my flame / tonight we take it higher / what I got ain’t no game…”). My quibble with “Body Ache” would be that Spears’ thin vocals leave plenty to be desired. Sure, grit is not the expectation, but the performance is a bit too ‘cool’.
The remainder of Britney Jean lacks some of the bite of both the beginning and the standout cuts. “Til It’s Gone” is again prudent, with Spears teaching “You never know what you got ’til it’s gone…” on the chorus. Still, the aforementioned line is the extent of the depth of the chorus. How seriously can you take a song still filled with a bag of production tricks (synths, gimmicky vocals, predictable cues, etc.). On “Passenger”, Britney’s vocals on the verse are emotional in effort, but I don’t feel they show her in her best light per se. Even, so, you can see where Spears was going, considering this cut is all about “losing control” of being the “driver” to become the “passenger”. Basically, Spears is letting go of ‘control’ and letting her man / love lead her. For concept, it gets my blessing, but as a song, I wouldn’t call it the ‘second coming.’
“Chillin’ With You” seems like Spears’s lighthearted approach to contemporary R&B utilizing acoustic guitars and harder drum programming – two unlike things. The end of each chorus has a more hip-hop oriented sound, contrasting the rest of the song itself. True to its title, “Chillin’ With You” is indeed incredibly chill, though I’m not sure how ‘important’ it is to Spears’ musical legacy or even Britney Jean itself. She gets the assist from sister Jamie Lynn Spears here. “Don’t Cry” closes the album, but sorta sits never catching fire. Sure, B is once more emotional touching on the real aspects of life as opposed to youthful sexual endeavors (“This is going to be our last goodbye / our love is gone but I’ll survive / hide my tears and dry my eyes…”), but she’s also a bit less exciting in the process. I would never associate Britney with ballads because I don’t think her voice is best suited for that regardless of the fact she’s had a few that’ve worked in the past. I’m not sold on “Don’t Cry” though.
So Britney Jean, what does Brent think of thee? A mixed blessing of sorts. I appreciate the maturity, and I believe that some of Britney’s fans that progress alongside her will also appreciate this more grown-up Britney who is not ‘young’ anymore (contextually). On the other hand, there is so much truth and maturity, it sometimes causes Britney Jean to lack to the luster of what Britney Spears has been known to be. Sure, she gets in a “Work B**ch” to balance out fun and real life, but the album sags some towards the end, something big given it’s tight 36 minute duration in standard form. Good, not her best; the post-twenty-something album.
“Work B**ch”; “Perfume”; “Tik Tik Boom”; “Body Ache”
Austin Mahone⎪ “Banga Banga” ⎪ Chase / Cash Money ⎪⎪ US Release Date: November 17, 2013
Pop singer Austin Mahone (who is now 17) is looking to transcend the restrictive labels of teen-pop, at least from my perspective. Why? His music is becoming more mature. Following hot single “What About Love”, Mahone follows it up with a banger that definitely would make Chris Brown proud. Why do I say that? Because “Banga Banga” is the type of track Chris Brown would eat up. With rhythmic pop-rapped moments and smooth sung ones, “Banga Banga” epitomizes the modern day contemporary sound. Gimmicky, chopped-n-screwed, and most importantly fun, “Banga Bang” has plenty to offer. “Banga Banga” sounds much more urban than not, which is surprising. The question is, is Mahone trying to be a contemporary R&B singer? Maybe or maybe not, but Mahone’s got some swag for sure.
Regardless, who needs stylistic labels these days? Pop and R&B seem incredible mixed relying on one another, sometimes to alluring results and other times questionable ones. “Banga Banga” seems like a better mix of the two and certainly sheds some light on the type of artist that Austin Mahone would like to be. Sure, he’s probably not going to be bustin’ rhymes on his debut, whenever it finally materializes, but at least he’s trying to go beyond the archetypical teen male script.
“Banga Banga” has plenty of lyrical play, much of it centering around a topic that effects every teen boy’s mind not to mention most grown men’s minds… girls (I’ll leave it at that). Perhaps my favorite line is comes on the second verse: “Got me asthmatic / ‘cause you’re like a perfect ballerina / I’m on my Brad Pitt, come and be my future Angelina…” That’s not Mahone’s only notable moment. He’s more suggestive previously when he states “Formal introduction / you got me focused, now it’s time for you to show me something…” Show you what, Mahone? What exactly would you be referencing? LOL.
Ultimately, “Banga Banga” is impressive. It may have some corny lyrics, but it’s definitely fun. For a 17 year old with so much confidence – or apparently so at least, this is the perfect track.
- WATCH: Austin Mahone Performs “Banga Banga” for First Time at MTV EMAs (gossipcop.com)
- Austin Mahone Gives Sexy Sneak Peek Of ‘Banga Banga’ Music Video – Watch (hollywoodlife.com)
- Artist of the Week: Austin Mahone (aceshowbiz.com)
Justin Bieber⎪ “Roller Coaster” – Single⎪ Island ⎪⎪ US Release Date: November 25, 2013
Is it just me, or did “PYD” possibly light a fire under Justin Bieber’s saggy pants? LOL (I couldn’t resist). For the second week in a row, Bieber impresses with his Music Mondays offering. That should evoke mouths falling agape, really. Sure my new fave jam “PYD” is one hella tough act to follow, but “Roller Coaster” is nothing too shabby by any means. The first ‘groovy’ selection from Music Mondays, “Roller Coaster” brings some funkiness to JB, or should I say ‘swag’. I mean, you actually want to move your body a little to this one folks. Sure, the chorus still finds a moody Bieber at work, but at least it’s memorable: “Roller coaster, roller coaster / spinning all around and around for a while baby / roller coaster, roller coaster / for a minute we were up, but the next we were falling down…” There it is – the ‘sad’ and the ‘glad’ all in one.
That sentiment of sad and glad is present throughout the verses as well; Bieber is still sulking, big time. “Where did they go? / Nights like this don’t happen anymore / I need to know / is it me? And did I lose control?” (Rhetorical JB, rhetorical). On the pre-chorus, Bieber states “Wish I had the key to your heart / people come and go / baby, they don’t know / what we had before / before it fell before our eyes.” And on the second verse, ole boy is “just happy there’s no more fights no more / but it’s nights like this that I never ever missed you more…” Basically, he’s not over Selena Gomez.
Not that we get pleasure out of a pained Bieber (though some of us do), the past two Music Mondays tracks have certainly made me strip some of my criticism of the pop singer. No, I still would rather not be privy to his shirtless-ness or the excessive flashing of the waistband of the boxers, but I do approve of “PYD” and “Roller coaster”. I’ll still roll with “PYD” FTW, but I’m onboard with “Roller Coaster” as well.
- Justin Bieber Rides a “Roller Coaster,” Releases Latest Single (thehollywoodgossip.com)
- Hear Justin Bieber Go All New Jack Swing on ‘Roller Coaster’ (b96.cbslocal.com)
- Justin Bieber Releases ‘Roller Coaster’ – About Selena Gomez? (hollywoodlife.com)
- Justin Bieber: ‘Roller Coaster’ Full Song & Lyrics – Listen Now! (justjared.com)
- Justin Bieber Drops “Roller Coaster” This Fine Music Monday (LISTEN) (popdust.com)
1D grow up some on Midnight Memories, lose some of their fun
One Direction⎪ Midnight Memories ⎪ Syco ⎪⎪ US Release Date: November 25, 2013
Once more, everyone’s favorite boy band One Direction return with their third album in two years… yes you read that correctly. On the one hand, it could be argued that One Direction should be perfect candidates for overexposure, like really. Yet on the the other hand, you can’t ‘knock the hustle’ as the band are easily one of pop’s hottest commodities, no questions asked. Midnight Memories finds the Brit-Irish band taking one step closer to adulthood as well as for the most part eschewing the teen-pop sound in favor of rock. It works, but in the process, some of the fun falls by the wayside and personality in itself still remains a drawback musically.
“Best Song Ever” opens Midnight Memories, establishing a ‘fun’ tone from the onset. Personally (and I wouldn’t be surprised if many possess this same sentiment), I found the music video to be more entertaining than the song itself. Nonetheless, “Best Song Ever” has all the pieces to make it fit the teen-pop script, namely its addictive, anthemic chorus: “And we danced all night to the best song ever / we knew every line now I can’t remember / how it goes but I know that I won’t forget her / cause we danced all night to the best song ever…” Ultimately, it should satisfy the tweens, even if it’s not quite “What Makes You Beautiful” or “Live While We’re Young”.
Following the childishness of “Best Song Ever”, the script grows more serious for the twenty-something band (Harry Styles is still 19, I’m aware). A folk-pop element kicks on “Story of My Life”, which proves to be an incredibly mature step for the band. Instead of opting for and urban, teen-pop sound, One Direction actually look toward’s Mumford and Sons or Phillip Phillips’ “Home” for inspiration. The production is incredibly conservative during the verses, highlighting the band’s vocals. The chorus naturally becomes more anthemic, and the lyrics shine: “The story of my life I take her home / I drive all night to keep her warm and time / is frozen…I spend her love until’s she’s broken inside / the story of my life.” While it lacks the carefree fun of “Best Song Ever”, it’s a nice progression for 1D ultimately.
“Diana” follows a strong opening duo, but falls slightly short of the same glory. The production signals the influence of the ‘80s rock/pop sound, something that remains throughout the course of Midnight Memories. The main rub is that the verses come over as nonchalant and lacking personality. The chorus atones, but “Diana” still feels a piece short. Title track “Midnight Memories” is the more exciting track of the two, however the rock production cues seem way overdone. Sure, one can sense that the goal on the title track is to beef up One Direction’s image and expand their base, but it doesn’t feel natural or legitimately authentic. To the band’s credit, 1D do get some lyrical punches, namely two instances that find the band alluding to the s-word: “People talk shh we don’t listen” and “Same old shh but different day.” Ah, how even the censored profane signals growing up, LOL.
“You & I” slows the tempo following the rocking title track. The timbre shifts, with the use of acoustic guitar and touches of strings. The reason why “You & I” is effective is because it manages to both fit the boy-band mold as well as incorporate rock cues without separating the two. After all, few would label 1D as a legit ‘rock band’. Another more ‘serious’ cut, “You & I” follows the footsteps of “Story of My Life” to infuse more of a mature side to the band. Here, the young men straddle the line just right without boring the listeners.
After striking gold on “You & I”, the band strikes out on “Don’t Forget Where You Belong”. The main issue here is that the song feels ‘rushed’ and lacks pizazz. The lyrics are quick and the performance once more on the verses is a bit dry, which doesn’t truly allow the listener to connect. The vocal harmonies during the chorus as well as the chorus itself are highlights on an otherwise so-so number. “Strong” has it’s moments without being, say, top echelon contextually. “My hands, your hands / tied up like ships drifting / weightless, waves try to break it / I’d anything to save it” is just a sample of some of the clever lyrics the rear their head. ‘Course the line “Think of how much love that’s been wasted / people always try to escape it / move on to stop their heartbreaking…” is none too shabby itself ;).
“Happily” may please skeptics to an extent who find One Direction a bit too clean-cut musically. Sure, they don’t overtly sing about sex, but they do have their suggestive moments such as “It’s four AM and I know that you’re with him / I wonder if he knows that I touched your skin / and if he feels my traces in your hair / sorry love but I don’t really care.” They don’t stop there, making Directioners imagine the possibilities when they sing “…you know I wanna be the one who holds you when you sleep…” Hmm, sounds more mature than “Live While We’re Young” right?
“Right Now” is another one of those so-so numbers. It opens predictably and really has little draw compared to the best. Here it is as if One Direction take themselves too seriously and are afraid of being labeled as merely a boy band. “Little Black Dress” is an improvement, but also sort of falls into the same pitfalls that “Midnight Memories” did. An overt rock track, there is still the sense that this ‘rock thing’ is being pushed too hard as opposed to occurring naturally. Authenticity once more becomes a question mark. “Through the Dark” again plays ‘copycat’ of sorts, this time very similar to the better “Story of My Life”, again seeking inspiration from Mumford and Sons. It works, but again, the band doesn’t sell it 100%.
The closing trio of cuts on the standard edition doesn’t reach the high watermark by standouts like “Best Song Ever”, “Story of My Life” or “You & I”. The appearance of “Something Great” proves there are one too many folk-driven cuts. Still, the boys manage to sing some poetic lyrics (“The script was written and I could not change a thing / I want to rip it all to shreds and start again”). “Little White Lies” again has a suggestiveness about it that’s innocent enough, but not completely innocent (“You say it’s getting late…and you don’t know if you can stay… your hands touching me, they’re touching me / and your eyes keep saying things…”). It’s not the ‘second coming’, but it interesting in some regards. “Better Than Words” continues reference to physical touch (“Every time we touch / I’m all shook up / you make me wanna…”) as well as the emotional aspects of love (“I can’t explain your love, no… it’s better than words”). “Better Than Words proves to be an acceptable closer ultimately.
The deluxe edition sports four additional cuts in “Why We Don’t Go There”, “Does He Know”, “Alive” and “Half A Heart”. Of the four, the best cut is “Half A Heart”, which could’ve easily been included on the standard edition. The weakest cut is “Alive”, though it’s not too bad.
So, how does Midnight Memories stack up? Overall, it should be another fan that pleases One Direction fans. It is admirable that One Direction take a more mature and less teen-pop oriented approach. That said, I’m not sure that Midnight Memories is the perfect album for One Direction or even as ‘fun’ as Take Me Home. With maturity you do have to let things go, but perhaps the still youthful band loses too much of their schmaltzy, fun side here. All in all though, Midnight Memories keeps the über-popular boy band at the top. Though one has to ask themselves, would it really matter if Midnight Memories were good or not, ultimately? That’s rhetorical by the way.
“Best Song Ever”; “Story of My Life”; “You & I”; “Happily”; “Half A Heart” (Deluxe)
- Album Analysis: One Direction, Take Me Home (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Boy Band Head To Head: Emblem3 vs One Direction (brentmusicreviews.com)
- OMG, A New One Direction Video (“Kiss You”)! (brentmusicreviews.com)
- [ALBUM REVIEW] One Direction’s ‘Midnight Memories’ – More Rock n’ Roll and Even More British Charm (suburbanremix.com)
- One Direction, Midnight Memories, album review (telegraph.co.uk)
- One Direction: Midnight Memories – review (theguardian.com)
- One Direction’s ‘Midnight Memories’ Album Leaks Early – Listen (hollywoodlife.com)
- Midnight Memories track by track review: One Direction album verdict (mirror.co.uk)
- One Direction’s ‘Midnight Memories’ Is Their Best Album Ever (hollywoodlife.com)
- ALBUM REVIEW: One Direction – Midnight Memories (popgoesthecharts.wordpress.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)
Bugg’s second album has its moments, less thrilling than his debut…
Jake Bugg⎪ Shangri La⎪ Island ⎪⎪US Release Date: November 19, 2013
After his self-titled debut album appeared in the U.S. In 2012, Jake Bugg drew rave reviews as a the modern day Bob Dylan almost instantly. Sporting an acoustically-driven sound with his distinct, if raw, unpolished voice, the 19-year old Bugg seems like the ideal continuation of the Dylan lineage (no disrespect to you Jakob Dylan). That said and all things considered, the Bob Dylan comparisons are a wee bit overhyped as is the notion of Bugg being some sort of ‘savior’ of rock music in its most traditional form. Bugg has plenty to offer, as he shows on Shangri La, but he also has plenty of room for improvement. Shangri La has its moments, but it also has its flaws.
Among the best moments of Shangri La are tracks i “Slumville Sunrise”, single “What Doesn’t Kill You”, “A Song About Love”, and “Kingpin”. “Slumville Sunrise” reminds me of sort of a poor man’s “Two Fingers”; it is similar in conception, though by now means a supersession. “Slumville Sunrise” finds Bugg reflecting upon his life and the place he comes from (“My face upon the concrete, the dirt is in my mouth / I clench my fist and feet, I try to cry out loud…”). “What Doesn’t Kill You” is saddening but truthful, particularly upon its verses where Bugg references a friend (verse one) and a ‘flame’ (verse two) in which he “couldn’t face the world without her eyes…”. Through the pain, Bugg shows the utmost prudence on the chorus: “What doesn’t kill you / what doesn’t hurt / sometimes you feel you’re up against the world… this life it seems / to bring you to your knees / you try you bleed then finally you breathe.”
“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. Throw in a brief, but rocking joint like “Kingpin”, and Bugg is able to lose some of his seriousness, which is a pro. Still, I wouldn’t call being a kingpin synonymous with ‘fun’, LOL.
Shangri La also has its less satisfying moments. While opener “There’s A Beast And We All Feed It” sounds true to its bold title, it also seems a bit rough around the edges. Perhaps it’s more aimed as an ‘interlude’ or ‘intro’, but it could stand a bit more polish. A track like “All Your Reasons” isn’t ‘bad’ by any means, but clocking in at over five minutes is a bit of a stretch, particularly given the fact Bugg’s voice is an ‘acquired taste’ of sorts. Another longer number “Kitchen Table” is more accessible, but still the prolonged length doesn’t lend itself as well as say a classic Dylan track might. Other tracks are ‘good’ or average without being stellar or memorable. The lack of another “Lightening Bolt” or “Two Fingers” certainly takes away from this effort.
Ultimately, Bugg’s second recording foray seems less thrilling compared to his debut. Yes the sound palette has increased, but that doesn’t ensure a ‘hit’ in the least. Shangri La overall is less memorable, even if Bugg basically picks up where he left off the first time. For me, my question for Bugg is has he reached his ceiling or does he have room to grow? I’m not sure that Shangri La clarifies an answer to this completely; it may confound even more. Still, the effort has its moments.
“Slumville Sunrise” ; “What Doesn’t Kill You”; “A Song About Love”; “Kingpin”
- Jake Bugg’s new album Shangri La released (meteamedia.org)
- Jake Bugg’s “Shangri La” fails to do, well, anything (americanoflondon.wordpress.com)
- First Listen: Jake Bugg, ‘Shangri La’ (npr.org)
- Jake Bugg – ‘Shangri La’ Album Review (deliciousmusicldn.wordpress.com)