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March Madness: Best Album Tournament for the 1st Quarter, 2014


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Ah, there is no better time of the year than March Madness… well maybe except for Christmas, LOL! It is a time where brackets continue to be devastated by college basketball teams many haven’t heard of upsetting highly favored giants.  As disappointing (when my John Wall-led UK Wildcats lost to WVU in 2010 in the Elite 8) as it is exciting (when my UK Wildcats won the 2012 Championship), there are few things less satisfying than weekends filled with toughly contested basketball games.  Still, what better way to celebrate all the basketball madness with some music madness?

I chose 16 albums released between January and March 11, 2014 to play off against each other, tournament style – hey can’t get enough of the “Madness” (Muse btw).  Teams were seeded based on my opinion of their quality and how I believe they might be ranked (opinion). Don’t worry, there are some upsets based on basketball tournament trends to keep things interesting (again opinion).  Additionally, each game is assigned an actual score from this year’s tournament or tournaments in the last couple of years.  The score is meant to be indicative of how well matched respective albums would be in a playoff.  Nerdy and pointless – perhaps, but I think its an interesting concept and read (opinion, self-promotion, LOL).

Here’s the bracket:

Best Album Tournament 1st Quarter 2014

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Ranking Rick Ross’ Six Studio Albums


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On March 3, 2014, Rick Ross released the sixth album of his career, Mastermind.  At this point, Rick Ross has established himself as one of the more consistent rappers, scoring four number one albums, one number two album (Teflon Don missed no. 1), and five gold-certified albums.   Six albums in, an examination of where Ross’ five albums rank seems appropriate.  Let’s go!

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Good Riddance X-Factor!


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Xfactor-020811-0002A death has occurred in the reality television show family – gasp!  X-Factor (USA) was kicked to the curb – CANCELLED! Dun dun dun!!! Normally, being the reality television enthusiast that I am, I might be upset by the ending of the show.  However with the cancellation of X-Factor, I don’t really give a flip (and yes you know what I mean instead of “flip”).  I’m not the only one who does care – few others care either judging by the ratings.  X-Factor just didn’t connect on the level that American Idol did when it first came out and even with Idol sagging in the ratings now, it’s still more ‘relevant’ than X-Factor ever was.  Sure, the series’ loyal fans are probably hurt to their soul, devastated by its ‘untimely’ ending, but personally, I never connected with the show.

Perhaps the main issue with X-Factor was its relevance, particularly compared to the competition.  The format always felt too similar to American Idol, despite extra care to try to distance itself from it competitor.  Sure, there was a different means of doing things, but X-Factor felt as if it arrived too late to truly compete with the juggernaut itself, or even NBC’s own popular singing competition, The VoiceWith Idol still getting some ratings and The Voice coming up, there was no room for X-Factor to co-exist.  Remember that short-lived Duets show when ABC decided they wanted a slice of the singing competition pie (Kelly Clarkson, John Legend, Robin Thicke, and Jennifer Nettles)? Or what about the revived Star Search, how did that go? Fox returning with mean judge Simon Cowell on a different show with similar ends just didn’t work AT ALL!

The X Factor4-20111026-19Another facet of the relevance argument is the success of the victors. I struggled through the first season of the show, mainly because there was one voice that really tickled my fancy.  That voice was Melanie Amaro, who had absolutely ridiculous pipes.  Deservingly, Amaro won, but her singles didn’t go anywhere; commercial success and wining a competition are not one and the same.  Even though significant duds clouded her commercial fortunes, there has yet to be an album by the winner of the first season of the U.S. version of the show. It is never good when the winner’s album never materializes.  Still, finalists Josh Krajcik, Chris Rene, Marcus Canty, and Rachel Crow would release efforts, all with limited relevance.  That last part is an understatement by the way. Record companies certainly didn’t profit off those releases.

The X Factor13-20121024-86Season two would see some shake-ups and even an even more casual viewing from me.  Judges Paul Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger exited, as did host Steve Jones. Total bummer – NOT! The replacements seemed interesting enough with Britney Spears and Demi Lovato, however, Spears ended up being a total dud, much like the sales of eventual winner Tate Stevens’ debut album.  The acts most interesting were Emblem3 who epitomized the contemporary boy-band and third place finishers Fifth Harmony.  Stevens won, but Emblem3 had more success with their album Nothing To Lose. That said, despite its top ten debut, it didn’t exactly light up the charts either. Of course more turnover would occur before the third season, with boring Britney Spears leaving as well as L.A. Reid.  As for the third season of the show, well, I bounced too. I did hear Demi exited following what turned out to e the final season.  That probably didn’t help matters any.

Essentially, there need not be a memorial service for X-Factor at all – no graveside eulogy.  X-Factor is sort of like Super Ted (the teddy bear) – “made all wrong from the start”.  All Cowell saw was dollar signs, but instead, all the audience got was a less enjoyable American Idol.  Be thankful for its demise television watchers because its cancellation truly is no loss.  And with American Idol losing its own audience and edge, there is more than enough karaoke to tide us all over.

Ranking Seven Reviewed Albums From January 2014


John Newman-20131115-47

In January 2014, I reviewed seven new album releases.  Sure, there were some other reviews thrown in the mix, including the Arctic Monkey’s AM that I’d slept on previously in September, a Pitbull EP from last November (Meltdown) housing a former number one hit called “Timber”, and a P!nk live tour DVD, but none apply to ‘brand new’ albums.  This list ranks those seven new albums I reviewed from 1ST to 7TH – favorite to least favorite / best-reviewed vs. worst reviewed.  Here goes nothing!

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1st

Tribute, John Newman

Previously, Tribute was summed up as follows:

Ultimately, Tribute epitomizes musical excellence through and through.  In an age where many question ‘where the soul has gone,’ Newman shows that soul music is still very much alive.  For any further questioning if the British soul movement was a thing of the past in it self, well, question no more.  John Newman is legit as they come and he has top-notch material working in his favor on this affair.  For pop and R&B fans alike, Tribute should easily tickle your fancy.

Favorites:

“Tribute”; “Love Me Again”; “Losing Sleep”; “Out Of My Head”; “Cheating”; “Down The Line”

Verdict: ★★★★½

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2nd

Transgender Dysphoria Blues, Against Me!

Previously, Transgender Dysphoria Blues was summed up as follows:

Ultimately, Transgender Dysphoria Blues is an exceptional affair.  It both educates and compels, giving voice to a group of people who many don’t understand or know very little about.  While Transgender Dysphoria Blues may not answer all the questions those who are green in regards to transgender/transsexuals, it does give the listener a snapshot. Overall, nothing short of high quality from Against Me!

Favorites:

“Transgender Dysphoria Blues”; “True Trans Soul Rebel”; “Drinking With The Jocks”; “Osama Bin Laden as the Crucified Christ”; “Paralytic States”

Verdict: ★★★★ 

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3rd

High Hopes, Bruce Springsteen 

Previously, High Hopes was summed up as follows:

Overall, High Hopes isn’t Springsteen’s best album, nor is it merely average.  Vocally, Springsteen can still deliver a rousing performance, and the production throughout High Hopes is quite compelling.  Perhaps the fact the album isn’t completely new is a bit of a bummer, but there is plenty of quality material to tide casual and hardcore Springsteen fans alike.

Favorites:

“High Hopes”;  “American Skin (41 Shots)”; “Just Like Fire Would”; “Frankie Fell In Love”; “Hunter Of Invisible Game”

Verdict: ★★★★

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4th

Give the People What They Want, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings

Previously, Give the People What They Want was summed up as follows:

Ultimately, Give The People What They Want is a fantastic album period. Brief at only 34 minutes and consistent from start to finish, there is truly little to criticize.  Sharon Jones sounds superb throughout, as do the Dap-Kings.  It’s not innovative, but the fact that Jones and company hearkens back to the classic sound, that is refreshing enough in itself.

Favorites:

“Retreat”; “We Get Along”; “You’ll Be Lonely”; “People Don’t Get What They Deserve”

Verdict: ★★★★ 

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5th

Recovery, Algebra Blessett 

Previously, Recovery was summed up as follows:

All said and done, Recovery is a fine R&B album, particularly to be released in a quiet January.  There is a classiness and coolness about this effort that is appealing.  Algebra never over sings; she always gives just the right amount of oomph and emotion to connect with the audience.  Recovery is nothing flashy, but it doesn’t need to be.  It is what it is – a narrative that a many of folk have experienced in real life, not merely an R&B album.  Kudos Algebra – kudos.

Favorites:

“Recovery”; “Nobody But You”; “Struggle To Be” featuring Q. Parker; “Paper Heart”; “Mystery”

Verdict: ★★★★

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6th

A Great Big World, Is There Anybody Out There?

Previously, Is There Anybody Out There? was summed up as follows:

Overall, A Great Big World delivers a compelling debut with Is There Anybody Out There?.  It’s not the perfect album mind you, but its pros easily outweigh its cons.  In a generation where optimism in music or anything seems to be rare, A Great Big World deliver an album that thrives on its positivity and reminds the listener its okay to be ambitious and dream.  Perhaps Chad and Ian’s tremendous jubilance will rub off on the world.  We can only hope.

Favorites:

“Rockstar”; “Land of Opportunity”; “I Really Want It”; “There Is An Answer”; “Say Something” featuring Christina Aguilera

Verdict: ★★★½

51GAgaeFo3L._SL500_AA280_ 7th

My Own Lane, Kid Ink

Previously, My Own Lane was summed up as follows: 

Overall, My Own Lane is a solid album with enough captivating tracks to make it worth the money ($7.99 seems to be the common price).  That said My Own Lane also has its flaws, price aside.  When Kid Ink settles for clichés like on “Rollin’” for example, he’s not at his best, failing to distinguish himself from others.  When he is on his game, however, he’s lethal.

Favorites:

“The Movement”; “Show Me”; “Iz U Down?”; “Murda”; “No Miracles”; “Bad Ass”

Verdict: ★★★½

Final Summarization:

510nrTStAjL._SL500_AA280_John Newman was the best-reviewed album from January 2014, hence one top honors in my rankings.  Kid Ink’s album, the worst reviewed of the seven, was by no means a bad album; comparatively, I enjoyed the others more.  Although it landed second in the rankings (and nearly at the top), Transgender Dysphoria Blues was definitely the most interesting album of the bunch.

Why The Rap Community Is Mad About Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ Grammy Wins


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No other act received more criticism for their Grammy success then Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.  Ultimately, the rap community was pretty pissed off.   After so many years of rap being under recognized by the Recording Academy, now an act grabs a victory in one of the coveted big four51-mkLBVPoL._SL500_AA280_ categories (Best New Artist) and the fans are not pleased.  Why the wall of hatred for Macklemore & Ryan Lewis?  Ultimately, it’s not so much about the Seattle MC or his producer pal; it’s more about the perception of rap by the Academy voters.  With a golden opportunity before them to award the more representative MC of the genre, Kendrick Lamar, the voters decided to go the safe route and in the process further alienate both a genre and make many question the Academy’s credibility.

Face it folks, the Grammys have screwed up multiple times over the years – yes Milli Vanilli comes to mind.  In recent times, since OutKast was somehow victorious for Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, it seems that the rap album can’t get a break.  Every time a gargantuan hip-hop album has presented itself worthy for recognition, the Grammys seem to avoid it like the plague, often only giving it recognition in rap categories.   This year, if you were to ask rap purists who should’ve cleaned up the hip-hop categories, the answer definitely would’ve been Kendrick Lamar.  Macklemore wouldn’t cross their minds… at least as a ‘traditional’ rap artist.

The Rap Slight – 2005 – Present…

2014 – Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid M.A.A.D. City (0 Grammys)

2011 – Eminem, Recovery

2009 – Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III

2008 – Kanye West, Graduation

2006 – Kanye West, Late Registration

2005 – Kanye West, The College Dropout

Yes, there is another elephant in the room – Macklemore is white and many of the serious rappers are black.  Yep, and some folks might be quick to play the reverse racism card here. However, Eminem is highly respected and he’s Caucasian.  While Eminem is the best example of a breakthrough Caucasian rapper, he’s not the only white rapper who has received respect from the hip-hop community.  Paul Wall certainly had a run when the H-Town movement came-up in the mid 00s.  Yelawolf, though not a commercial success, has also proven the legitimacy of his chops as what’s perceived to be traditional rap.  Cleveland’s MGK definitely has mad skills, and certainly has little that is pop about him.   But does Macklemore truly match the aforementioned rappers? No, he’s certainly different comparatively.

Personally, I thought The Heist was a solid album; I gave it a favorable view.  That said, the only time I felt it would receive Grammy attention was when “Thrift Shop”, “Can’t Hold Us”, and “Same Love” blew up in pop circles.  Still, the three songs don’t align with my idea of hip-hop; they all feel more pop. Generally, so does The Heist, even when the beats go a bit harder.  Particularly compared to Kendrick Lamar’s good Kid M.A.A.D City, The Heist just didn’t feel like a perfect fit.  Sure, it’s not as extreme as potentially nominating a Black Eyed Peas album in hip-hop categories, but it still seems a stretch.  I think this, more than the say ‘race’ that some may point to, make the win more painful to rap enthusiasts.

Kendrick Lamar-AES-115564There are two more reasons for the post-Grammy backlash.  The biggest and saltiest rub is that rap’s newly proclaimed savior, Kendrick Lamar, was snubbed.  Even Macklemore agrees, and it’s not even his fault!  The backlash from the Recording Academy’s out of touch voting actually took away from Macklemore & Ryan Lewis celebrating – which they should.  Macklemore doesn’t need to apologize to Kendrick Lamar for winning, even if he does feel guilty.  He won… live it up, M.  But the Academy ignored Kendrick, arguably the freshest breakout voice in rap in years.  But unless one really studies and understands rap for what it is, then being out of touch seems the only option I suppose.

The more troublesome reason for the post-Grammy backlash is the future. Does this rather conservative voting in regards to such an overt, brash genre make it even more difficult for ‘pure’ rap artists and albums to receive their just due? Does pop now begin to invade hip-hop and cause it to have the identity issues that R&B has had in many regards as of late? If rappers are looking for recognition, do they begin to rely on a safer platform to succeed? Maybe this is completely too cerebral, but look over recent times and The Heist definitely seems a departure.   I won’t even mention this is the first solo album (Yeezus) that Kanye West has been nominated for that didn’t win…

My personal opinion is that Macklemore & Ryan Lewis did deserve Grammys – I’m just unsure they deserved to sweep the rap category, particularly for Best rap album.  At this point though, it’s a done deal and there is no reason for Mack to hang his head down.  Still, It just doesn’t quite feel right.

56th Grammy Awards Reactions: The Triumphs and Fails


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Another year and another Grammys ceremony has come and passed.  As always, there were moments that thrilled me while others made me curse under my breath. Luckily, as a music journalist, this guy has learned how to think like the Recording Academy, hence the accuracy of many of my picks this year.  Still, even being correct, you have to wonder what the Academy is thinking sometimes.  Yes, I’m specifically referencing the fact that Kendrick Lamar was shut out – ridiculous!  But here goes nothing examining the awards given.

The Big Four:

Record, Album and Song of the Year & Best New Artist

 

41FJb1q2VyL._SL500_AA280_Record of the Year:  Get Lucky”, Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams & Nile Rodgers

Honestly, “Get Lucky” had been a lock for Record of the Year all summer.  Even with such a tight category, “Get Lucky” felt like the strongest candidate here. Additionally, Daft Punk’s victory in the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance category was a lock.

Album of the Year:  Random Access Memories, Daft Punk

Personally, Good Kid M.A.A.D. City would’ve been my choice for album of the year, but using Recording Academy psychology, I knew Kendrick Lamar didn’t stand a chance – NONE! So ultimately, Random Access Memories seemed the logical, safe choice for voters.  It was also a great album and moved some major numbers for an electronic album.  Not even Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ brand of hip-hop was going to take this one.  Additionally, Daft Punk was a lock in the Best Dance/Electronica Album category.

41XAtgtU1xL._SL500_AA280_Song of the Year: “Royals”, Lorde

Here, voters made the best choice in regards to impact.  “Royals” was a gargantuan hit, with only “Roar” rivaling in regards to buzz.  “Same Love” was a breakthrough record (same sex marriage equality, etc.), but would’ve been a stretch over the most unique record of the bunch.  And as good as “Same Love” was, was it necessarily more special than P!nk’s “Just Give Me A Reason” or Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven”?

“Royals” victory in the Best Pop Performance category was also #winning; it was the most unique song/performance of the bunch.

51-mkLBVPoL._SL500_AA280_Best New Artist: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

I picked Kendrick Lamar, but honestly, I’m not too angry about Macklemore & Ryan Lewis winning this one.  Still, Kendrick is the more valuable long-term artist in my eyes.

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Thoughts On The 2014 People’s Choice Award Music Winners


Britney Spears-MTO-009471 On Wednesday, January 8th, the 2014 ‘awards’ season went underway with the ‘prestigious’ People’s Choice Awards.  Not partaking of the event personally (college basketball takes precedent, sorry), being the pop cultural junkie that I am, I naturally watched the buzz afterwards.  As interesting as the film and TV categories are themselves, this particular post will key in on the music categories/awards, which are…interesting.  The categories for the People’s Choice music awards are as follows:  Favorite Male Artist, Favorite Female Artist, Favorite Breakout Artist, Favorite Pop Artist, Favorite Country Artist, Favorite Country Music Icon, Favorite Hip-Hop Artist, Favorite R&B Artist, Favorite Band, Favorite Alternative Band, Favorite Song, Favorite Album, Favorite Music Video, and Favorite Music Fan Following.  For the most part, the categories positively allow for music to be widely recognized, which is a pro.  So, let’s dig in and analyze the winners!

Favorite Male Artist:  Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake snags a few nominations here and there...

For the most part, this category was stacked with sound musical representatives from 2013 (Avicii, Blake Shelton, Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake, and Michael Bublé).  Still, the only other result that could’ve upset Timberlake would’ve been Bruno Mars – or I’d like to think so.  I didn’t vote, but I would’ve gone in this direction.

Favorite Female ArtistDemi Lovato

My mother told me if you couldn’t say something nice, don’t say anything a tall. Obviously I didn’t listen.  Demi Lovato was definitely a ‘slice of the pie’ from 2013, but was she the majority of it? Apparently a certain group of voters thinks she trumped a category including Britney Spears, Katy Perry, P!nk, and Selena Gomez.  Being fair, Britney Spears definitely had an off year and Selena Gomez’s “Come and Get It” was so ‘Rihanna’ it was pitiful (don’t get me started on the album itself).  Still, was Lovato larger than Katy Perry or P!nk? “Roar” or “Give Me The Reason”?  Nah, “Heart Attack” or not!

Favorite Breakout Artist: Ariana Grande

This was a solid category that included some stiff competition aside from its deserving winner.  Austin Mahone will probably have more a breakout year in 2014, while Icona Pop, Imagine Dragons, and Lorde all rode a big time hit.

Favorite Pop ArtistBritney Spears

Britney Spears24-20131017-10This win for Britney – no disrespect – leads me to believe this award was based more on her total body of work as opposed to 2013.  Face it; Britney Jean couldn’t have possibly been the basis of fans’ votes… just saying.  Additionally, voting began more than a month before Britney Jean dropped in stores.  After the year that Justin Timberlake or Katy Perry had, you would’ve thought fans might lean in that direction.  Bruno Mars and Demi Lovato were also nominated in this category.  My vote would’ve been with JT.

Favorite Country Artist: Taylor Swift

2013 was a weak year for country music – sorry country music lovers! Swift was the best option here and likely should be the best option at the upcoming Grammys.  The Band Perry released an enjoyable album, but don’t call it a heavyweight.  Blake Shelton would’ve been a worthy runner-up while Lady Antebellum’s album Golden was about as exciting “watching paint dry.” As for Carrie Underwood who is always on her game, she didn’t do enough the past year – well save for that Sound of Music remake that was panned.

Favorite Country Music Icon: Tim McGraw

Fair enough.  Any of the five are icons: Alan Jackson, George Strait, Toby Keith, and Willie Nelson.

Favorite Hip-Hop ArtistMacklemore & Ryan Lewis

Macklemore-MSA-015669Hmm.  Some hip-hop fans will like this while others will take issue.  Macklemore had a big year for sure, so I can see this particular vote.  Still, he beat the likes of Drake, Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Lil Wayne – hip-hop royalty.  But again, The Heist was a huge deal in 2013.

Favorite R&B ArtistJustin Timberlake

Here’s my issue with this category.  Timberlake won previously for Best pop artist, so why should he also be considered an R&B artist?  Sure, Timberlake is nominated for Grammys in both pop and R&B categories this year, but most of his career he’s been honored as a ‘pop’ artist.  Is he more urban-leaning? Definitely.  But, should Timberlake carry the torch for two distinct categories? The other side of that is who was nominated against him: Alicia Keys, Ciara, Rihanna, and Robin Thicke.  Ciara and Thicke were more active in 2013, but as big of a year as Thicke had as the truer R&B artist of the two, he didn’t steal Timberlake’s thunder.  “It is what it is.”

Favorite BandOne Direction

Harry Styles-AES-104078All I can say is yuck… you can change the first letter of “yuck” if you wish.  This is definitely the ‘popular’ choice, which would be the point contextually with these awards.  Still, hard to ignore “Radioactive” or “Demons, right Imagine Dragons?  Furthermore, I guess the lines of a ‘band’ are truly “blurred” here categorically speaking.

Favorite Alternative Band: Fall Out Boy

I like Fall Out Boy.  That said, where is the love for Imagine Dragons? C’mon people!  Mumford & Sons and Muse are about a year late by my estimations.  Paramore did score a no. 1 album in 2013, but perhaps it wasn’t ‘big enough’.

Favorite Song“Roar”, Katy Perry

“Roar” was the best choice in a stacked category that included the no-love-receiving “Radioactive” (Imagine Dragons).  Others slighted were “Just Give Me A Reason” (P!nk featuring Nate Ruess), “Mirrors” (Justin Timberlake), and “When I Was Your Man” (Bruno Mars).

Favorite Album: The 20/20 Experience, Justin Timberlake

This was, or should’ve been a no-brainer.  However, the category was varied, including albums from country superstar Blake Shelton (Based on a True Story) and Michael Bublé (To Be Loved).  Also included were Miley Cyrus (Bangerz) and Robin Thicke (Blurred Lines).  Personally, there were ‘better’ choices besides the five nominated, but whatever.

Favorite Music Video: “Roar”, Katy Perry

Demi Lovato-AAG-017107If there were ever a time One Direction would stand a chance to receive my vote, this would be it.  “Best Song Ever” as a music video was quite entertaining.  “Wrecking Ball” (Miley Cyrus) was ‘too hot to handle’.  Of the five nominees, which also included P!nk and Demi Lovato, the best choice was made.

Favorite Music Fan FollowingLovatics, Demi Lovato

Neat category, but I’m apathetic to the nominees and the result.  Congratulations Lovatics.

 

Overall thoughts?  Well, at least the people have a choice.  Can’t block our votes!

The 100 Best Songs of 2013: Part 4 (#25 – 1)


Lady Gaga-20131031-66After a year filled with numerous albums and even more songs, choosing 100 of the best is an incredibly difficult task.  Like with the best albums of 2013, there will be surprises as well as snubs.  Sometimes the snubs are oversights while at other items there are just so many notable songs that some just get lost in the mix.  Regardless, here are 100 songs I found to be notable in 2013.

25

“Started From The Bottom”

Drake
From album: Nothing Was The Same

Once more, the hook sums it up best: “Started from the bottom now we’re here / started from the bottom now my whole team f**kin’ here…”

24

“Diane Young

Vampire Weekend

From album: Modern Vampires of the City 

‘Dying young’ in it self is a drag, man, but “Diane Young” and its bubbly sound, quick tempo, and sharp-as-a-tack wordplay is a blast! “Baby, baby, baby, baby, right on time!”

23

“Q.U.E.E.N.”

Janelle Monáe featuring Erykah Badu

From album: The Electric Lady 

Catchy, ‘real talk’, soulful, contemporary, and laden with swagger, “Q.U.E.E.N.” proves to be one of the best songs of 2013, regardless of genre. “Am I a freak for dancing around?” Of course not! Monáe even throws some rhymes in there, further showing her incredible artistic versatility and restlessness. Dance on Janelle – dance on!

22

“Who Do We Think We Are?”

John Legend featuring Rick Ross

From album: Love In the Future

Legend impresses lyrically on the soulful, throwback “Who Do We Think We Are?”  Filled with widely interpretable lyrics including “We love, we love, we love the stars / we could fall so hard…”, Legend seems to reference any number of things including stardom, living up life, and/or literally getting high.  Rick Ross balls hard on his assist: “She gets Chanel / Ski trips to Vail / only the highest grade like trees that I inhale”.

21

“Two Fingers”

Jake Bugg

From album: Jake Bugg

From Jake Bugg’s perspective, life hasn’t been easy – Clifton (England) had its issues, though he’s getting moving forward from a rough past.  On this brilliantly penned, retro singer/songwriter cut, Bugg has to “…drink to remember, I smoke to forget…”, and eventually “…hold(s) two fingers up to yesterday / light a cigarette smoke it all away / I got out, I got out, I’m alive, but I’m here to stay.”

20

“F**kin’ Problems”

A$AP Rocky featuring 2 Chainz, Drake & Kendrick Lamar

From album: Long. Live. A$AP

Basically, even though adding an f-bomb technically intensifies problems rather than solving them, the relief of letting the obscenity slip psychologically makes things feel both calmer and better… something like that! LOL! The f-bombs are here for the taking.

19

“Wrecking Ball”

Miley Cyrus

From album: Bangerz

Thank goodness there was more to “Wrecking Ball” than the atrocious video where Miley Cyrus rides the wrecking ball in the nude.  Miley’s shock value seems to be part of her ‘new Miley’ thing, but “Wrecking Ball” it self stands tall without any extra attention-seeking gimmicks.  The refrain alone is shimmering pop at its best.

18

“Black Skinhead”

Kanye West

From Album: Yeezus

“Black Skinhead” was one of the most unapologetic tracks of the year – no questions asked.  Among my favorite lyrics:  I’m aware I’m a wolf, soon as the moon hit / I’m aware I’m a king, back out the tomb b***h!” There it is!

17

“Power Trip”

J. Cole featuring Miguel

From album: Born Sinner 

All about love or a play on double meanings – you decide on the year’s smoothest rap track that’s got Cole “up all night, all I’m singing is love songs…” Face it – you can’t go wrong when you got Miguel on the track! He’s a beast…a sensual one at least.

16

Eminem

“Rap God

from album: The Marshall Mathers LP 2

Eminem confirms whom the real “Rap God” is as he ‘wipes his butt’ with the competition (not as frankly as he might put it, but I’m trying to ‘be good’ here).  No one is exempt – well maybe except for Kendrick Lamar.

15

“Mirrors”

Justin Timberlake

From album: The 20/20 Experience 

On standout track “Mirrors”, Timberlake graces his audience with an eight-minute juggernaut that straddles the lines between pop and urban music.  His falsetto is sweet as syrup, the vocal harmonies superb, with the strings of The Benjamin Wright Orchestra providing the ‘cherry on top.’  The chorus is among the very best moments: “Cause I don’t wanna lose you now / I’m lookin’ right at the other half of me / the vacancy that sat in my heart / is a space that now you hold …”

14

Miley Cyrus

“We Can’t Stop”

From album: Bangerz 

You know, the sad thing is that when Ms. Cyrus told us she “won’t stop,” well, she told the absolute truth.  Who would’ve thought that referencing twerking and popping mollies would only be the beginning? “It’s our party we can do what we want!” Indeed Miley, indeed.

BTW, what about a little parody fun?

13

“Reflektor”

Arcade Fire

From album: Reflektor

“Reflektor” definitely didn’t represent the expected direction many thought that Grammy-winning collective Arcade Fire would take, given its percussive, danceable groove. The cut dances tastefully though, eschewing today’s EDM cues in favor of a mix of neo-disco and traditional Arcade Fire characteristics.  The songwriting is accessible, with the chorus being irresistibly catchy and simple.

12

“Obvious Bicycle”

Vampire Weekend

From album: Modern Vampires of the City

“Obvious Bicycle” is arguably the most beautiful song from Vampire Weekend’s discography at this point.  Highlights of the mysterious opener include Ezra Koenig’s effortless falsetto, which is ripe as ever on the chorus. “Obvious Bicycle” is nothing short of warm and hypnotizing.

11

“A Couple of Forevers”

Chrisette Michele

From album: Better

Chrisette Michele returns the ‘passion’ and ‘romance’ to R&B with this breathtaking, thoughtful ballad.  “Just a couple of forevers / a couple of forevers / I’m the only one, you’re the only one / together ‘til never…” I’ll be your ‘forever’ CM.

10

“Same Love”

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert

From album: The Heist

This hip-hop anthem embracing tolerance and equality for same-sex relationships was quite a risky, courageous move.  More than just merely breaking barriers, “Same Love” is a brilliant song.

9

“Blood On The Leaves”

Kanye West

From album: Yeezus

Blood On The Leaves” is the crowning achievement from Yeezus. Constructed around a Nina Simone sample (“Strange Fruit”), thoughtful piano, and some awesome biting brass, “Blood On the Leaves” shines like a beacon.

8

“If I Had A Tail”

Queens of the Stone Age

From album: …Like Clockwork

Characterized by a killer driving groove, a classic rock-worthy anthemic chorus, and standout songwriting, “If I Had A Tail” yet another gift that keeps on giving.  “If I had a tail / I’d own the night / if I had a tail / I’d swat the flies.”

7

“We Can’t End This Way”

Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite

From album: Get Up! 

Soulful, gritty, and organic, this blues-gospel number is truly a gem.  The backing gospel choir truly puts the cherry on top.  After all, “we can’t end this way!”

6

Do What U Want

Lady Gaga featuring R. Kelly

From album: ARTPOP 

Taken at its most literal (aka sexually), “Do What U Want” is a good song.  When examined figuratively (empowerment, non-shallow things), it’s just plain awesome.  If there was ever a question of Lady Gaga’s vocal abilities, she squashes them deader than a doornail here.

5

Roar

Katy Perry

From album: PRISM 

The lyrics say it all:  “I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter / dancing through the fire / cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar…” You better “roar” Katy!!!

4

“God Is Dead?”

Black Sabbath

From Album: 13 

Atheists and Christians alike can appreciate this hard-rocking joint… well to an extent (at least the question mark is in place).  To Ozzy’s credit, later on in the track he states, “I don’t believe that God is dead…” Still, the communion (sacrament) seems compromised when Ozzy states “The blood runs free / the rain turns red / give me the wine / you keep the bread…” Oh well.

3

Blurred Lines

Robin Thicke featuring T.I. & Pharrell Williams

From Album: Blurred Lines

Even after multiple controversies surrounding “Blurred Lines” (misogyny and potential ‘artistic theft’), Robin Thicke’s career is thankful for the gift that just kept on giving. You can’t deny how catchy it is, or how slick ole boy’s falsetto is.

2

“Royals

Lorde

From album: Pure Heroine 

Now this teen has real swag… Justin Bieber, take notes!  “And we’ll never be royals / it don’t run in our blood / that kind of lux just ain’t for us / we crave a different kind of buzz…”

1

“Get Lucky

Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams

From album: Random Access Memories

The groovy, sexy “Get Lucky” only makes the act of ‘making love’ even more enticing.  Pharrell sings it best on the golden hook: “She’s up all night to the sun / I’m up all night to get some / she’s up all night for good fun / I’m up all night to get lucky…” Yeah boy!

Be sure to check out the previously released parts with songs #100-76, #75-51, and #50 – 26.

Miley Cyrus’ “Adore You” Continues Down The Provocative Path


Miley Cyrus-AAG-017241

Is it just I, or does Miley Cyrus keep milking this risqué, unapologetic thing to the excess?  SMH, in fact SMFH!  Miley Cyrus got that “fifteen minutes of fame” with her shocking artistic makeover and now that the buzz has cooled/settled off a bit, she keeps on seeking more and more attention.  Ole girl said she “can’t stop” and “won’t stop” and true to her word, she hasn’t.  Perhaps to some this is a blessing (if a blasphemous one) while others of us are pretty tired of the outrage, oversexed image that Cyrus has identified herself with.  I’m quite open-minded, and “It is what it is”, but still, it’s…um… very provocative.

As usual in her latest music video – third single “Adore You” – Ms. Cyrus is out to shock the world just like a buzzer-beater shocks a basketball team.  When I reviewed Bangerz back in October, “Adore You” wasn’t among my favorite tracks.  I thought it was too slow and lacked punch to be the opener of Bangerz. Hearing it now, the song is more appealing, though by no means the ‘end all, be all’.  Still, Cyrus finds a way to make even a lethargic ballad like “Adore You” plumb controversial.

Miley Cyrus-20130917-29After the violation of teddy bears, a foam finger, and a wrecking ball respectively, it truly seemed like there was little left for Miley to do.  So without any object to desecrate, she decides to touch herself…yep.  Perhaps some will find Cyrus’ pleasuring titillating, but personally, it’s a bit much.  Few will deny they enjoy a little eye-candy in their music videos, but still, whatever happened to a thing known as ‘subtlety’?

The ‘sexy’ music video has now been supplanted by the ‘sexual’ oversexed music video, and there is a difference between both. Just because one word stems from another, doesn’t mean they are really one and the same.  This is a misconception that too many artists and music video directors seem to have.  “Adore You” is just another example of this.  2013 was filled with plenty of sexed-up vids including offerings from Kanye West (“Bound 2”) and Robin Thicke (“Blurred Lines”).  It’s a trend that doesn’t seem to be dying anytime soon.

The 100 Best Songs of 2013: Part 2 (#75 – 51)


Mac Miller-PFR-010521

After a year filled with numerous albums and even more songs, choosing 100 of the best is an incredibly difficult task.  Like with the best albums of 2013, there will be surprises as well as snubs.  Sometimes the snubs are oversights while at other items there are just so many notable songs that some just get lost in the mix.  Regardless, here are 100 songs I found to be notable in 2013.

75

“Cookie”

R. Kelly

From album: Black Panties

Oreos everywhere has been violated… enough said.

74

“Work B**ch”

Britney Spears

From album: Britney Jean

To Britney done told y’all – you better get to work! “Work B**ch” is the best song from a lackadaisical Britney Jean.

73

“Blow”

Beyoncé

From album: Beyoncé

Examine the entire song or even excerpted lyrics and you’ll understand why it graced this list:  “Can you lick my skittles / that’s the sweetest in the middle…” Couple that with R. Kelly’s “Cookie” and something is definitely going down in the bedroom…

72

“For The Rest of My Life”

Robin Thicke

From album: Blurred Lines

Well, at least Robin Thicke followed up “Blurred Lines” with a lovely ballad with some substance.  Still won’t get the skeptics off his back about “Blurred Lines” though, LOL.

71

“Porno”

Arcade Fire

From album: Reflektor

Front man Win Butler has a message for you young guys – don’t be so selfish about sex/endeavors when it comes to your girlfriend(s)!

70

“Winning Hand”

Bilal

From album: A Love Surreal

The lyrics speak for them self:  “Baby, you’re a winning hand / a game change, I’m on the roll.”  I want a winning hand… Hehe.

69

“Here’s To Never Growing Up”

Avril Lavigne

From album: Avril Lavigne

In case you’re wondering, Avril hasn’t grown up any.  If anything, she’s prolonged her carefree youth with curse words.  Cheers to eternal youth!

68

“Love and War”

Tamar Braxton

From album: Love and War

Another instance where the lyrics speak for them self:  “We stay on the front lines / Yeah but we’re still here after the bomb drops / we go so hard we lose control / the fire starts then we explode / when the smoke clears we dry our tears / only in love and war.”

67

“The Way”

Ariana Grande featuring Mac Miller

From album: Yours Truly

Basically, young Mariah is at work, and she gets the assist from Easy Mac.  Did I mention Grande sounds angelic?  And ole boy keeps it clean…no ‘birdcalls’.

66

“Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)”

Arcade Fire

From album: Reflektor

A tragic story given Eurydice’s death and Orpheus’ infatuation with his late lover (Greek mythology),  “Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)” finds AF front man Win Butler singing “I know you can see / things that we can’t see / but when I say I love you / your silence covers me…” Ultimately, “Awful Sound” matches the ‘all over the map’ nature of its parent album.

65

“New Slaves”

Kanye West

From album: Yeezus

Ever controversial, Kanye West manages to resurrect the horrid past of African-Americans, particularly playing up past shortcomings and present stereotypes (“Y’all throwing contracts at me / y’all know that n***as can’t read…”). Even so, agile and edgy rhymes make “New Slaves” worthwhile.

64

“Trouble”

José James

From album: No Beginning, No End

Jazz and soul music create a beautiful union on the signature cut from José James’ superb album No Beginning, No End.

63

“Wild For The Night”

A$AP Rocky featuring Skrillex

From album: Long. Live. A$AP

A$AP is partying hard, and he’s bringing an unlikely buddy in Skrillex with him. What more can be said – clubs are bumping!

62

“Goosebumpz”

Mac Miller

From album: Watching Movies With The Sound Off

Based on some of Mac Miller’s lyrics, the goose bumps he be giving his girl are serious, cause when he dies he “bet she f**k my hologram…” He’s confident in his, err – he’s confident, we’ll leave it at that!

61

“I Need”

TGT

From album: Three Kings

This song has been my ringtone for minute, really! TGT absolutely slaughter the chorus: “Now I know / it ain’t ever worth your heart / and it ain’t ever worth your tears / and it ain’t ever worth those scars that might not heal / I need, I need, I need (you)…” Hey, us guys sometimes need that masculine R&B perspective, even when it’s sensitive!

60

“Where Are We Now?”

David Bowie

From album: The Next Day

Sometimes it is simplicity that carries a great deal of weight: “Where are we now, where are we now? The moment you know, you know, you know…” Bowie slays this ballad, no questions asked.

59

“You Lust”

The Flaming Lips

From album: The Terror

Three words:  “LUST TO SUCCED!”

58

“Holy Ghost”

Mavis Staples

From album: One True Vine

“Holy Ghost” – a cover from band Low – finds Staples commanding and soulful atop folksy production work.  While she’s reserved, Staples still packs a punch, particularly when her 74-year old voice cracks with expression.

57

“Don’t Swallow the Cap”

The National

From album: Trouble Will Find Me

The National’s “Don’t Swallow the Cap” shines, despite its pessimism (“…I have faith but don’t believe it / it’s not there enough to leave it…”). Sporting exceptional songwriting as well as a solid arrangement/production, characterized by keyboards, haunting strings, and pummeling drums, “Don’t Swallow the Cap” is arguably the valedictory track from Trouble Will Find Me.

56

“Take This Dirty Water”

Elton John

From album: The Diving Board

On brilliant track “Take This Dirty Water”, Elton John combines facets of gospel, blues, and rock.  Incredibly soulful and feel-good, “Take This Dirty Water” is easily one of Elton John’s most distinct and best songs in years.

55

“Bound 2”

Kanye West featuring Charlie Wilson

From album: Yeezus

“Bound 2” bucked the trend of most of Yeezus; it sounded more like West’s classic material with soulful sample intact.

54

“Strictly Reserved For You”

Charles Bradley

From album: Victim of Love

Every bit of Charles’ love – well, it’s “strictly reserved for you.” Aww, the feeling of feeling loved.

53

“Dope”

Lady Gaga

From album: ARTPOP 

Didn’t you know you’re worth more than a dime bag any day in Lady Gaga’s eyes? “I need you more than dope.”

52

Genius

R. Kelly

From album: Black Panties

When it comes to R. Kelly, well, everything seems to revolve around a three-letter word.  Here, the salacious 46-year old R&B singer/songwriter is a “sex genius”, supposedly.

51

“Cowboy”

Tyler, The Creator

From album: Wolf

As written previously, Tyler, The Creator is the “cowboy on [his] own trip”; he holds his own destiny. Be sure to check out the previously released first part with songs #100-76, as well as upcoming parts #50 – 26, and #25 – 1.

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