Tag Archive | 2 Chainz

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: ★★★

Viral Video: Sam Tsui Covers Jason Derülo’s “Talk Dirty” Like A Champ 


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First things first! I have a love/hate relationship with R&B – or urban-pop singer – Jason Derülo.  Some of his music I dig, while some of his work I kick to the curb, or off my listening rotation.  Derülo’s self-titled debut EP had some good tracks on it, specifically “Whatcha Say” with its Imogen Heap sample and the sick “Riding Solo”.  When Derülo released his proper full-length debut, Future History, I found myself a bit overwhelmed.  Perhaps it’s the biases I have towards pop- and electro-oriented R&B, or perhaps its was just some of the material was average.  Still, I was able to get “That’s My Shh” out of the album, a true contemporary R&B cut courtesy of The-Dream.  Having released a new EP, Tattoos in 2013 (Tattoos was released as a full-length album elsewhere), Derülo delivers one truly compelling hit single in “Talk Dirty” (featuring 2 Chainz).  Regardless of my criticisms of Jordin Sparks’ boo, “Talk Dirty” bangs.  It is definitely a great promo single for the artist’s upcoming album of the same name.

I didn’t think I could enjoy “Talk Dirty” anymore than I already have, until Sam Tsui (YouTube channel is The SamTsui) delivered an electrifying cover that gives the original a contrasting ‘sound’.  It wasn’t as if “Talk Dirty” needed new life, but Tsui’s take on the tastefully-risqué number offers a worthwhile alternative to the original, something many covers fail to do.  Utilizing strings as opposed to the nasty sax of the original, Tsui tailors “Talk Dirty” to his superb voice, which is definitely meant for pop stardom in my eyes.  Tsui was featured in a previous post earlier this year, covering Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” alongside Peter Hollens.  The dude definitely has talent.   He has an original album, Make It Up available digitally.

Review: Schoolboy Q, ‘Oxymoron’


51HOVga9zOL._SL500_AA280_ Oxymoron proves to be a dark, captivating, yet sometimes difficult album to listen to 

Schoolboy Q • Oxymoron • Top Dawg/Interscope • US Release Date: February 25, 2014

Schoolboy Q keeps things 100 on Oxymoron – he keeps it real “from the jump” (catch the Drake reference?).  In fact, the MC keeps things so ‘real’ that at times Oxymoron is a truly difficult (polarizing) to listen to.  Sure, the old saying “honesty is the best policy” applies here and the candidness and frankness of Schoolboy Q is appreciated, but Oxymoron isn’t exactly the most endearing rap effort because it is so grimy and raw.  Schoolboy Q’s intentions seem to be emphasis on his machismo, his demons, and a trying, difficult life.  As always, the rap album (his third) serves as the ultimate ‘come-up’, with the rapper’s daughter playing a central role in his life-changing experience, judging by numerous references throughout.  Ultimately, Oxymoron, an album that is confounding yet impressive, ends up showing the range of abilities of the rapper.  It’s not perfection realized, but there are plenty of exceptional moments working toward that goal.

Schoolboy Q is a “G” from the get-go, as his daughter asserts on the intro of “Gangsta”: “Hello…hello? F**k rap, my daddy a gangster.” If the idea of being a ‘gangsta’ wasn’t firmly planted, Schoolboy Q ensures on the hook he repeats it a million times so that you know his status.  While merely stating a description of himself wouldn’t make him a ‘G’, Q backs up things with brash rhymes that he spits over incredible production work.  He also asserts he’s a pimp…he gets it in, easily.

As much as a bang “Gangsta” is, “Los Awesome” is better, sporting more agile rhymes and sick production courtesy of none other than one ubiquitous Pharrell Williams.  The hook slays from a first listen: “I’m a groove type n****a, rather two-step with you / pants sagging, rag dragging, rather gangbang with you / triggers squeeze, throw a palette, throw them thing-things with you / hot degrees, anti-freeze, chilling cool-cool with you…” Q doesn’t stop on the hook as he also spits ether throughout his verses: “Looking like a reaper in your driveway / strays through your living room / liable to drive-by on a summer day / July 4th will be in June…” He also gets the assist from Jay Rock, who complements the violent tilt: “N***as that’ll murder ya, steal you like a burglar / seemed the soul was long gone before I got them / he was dead before I shot him, it’s the reaper.”

Collard Greens” proceeds in top-notch form, retaining its greatness since being released as a single back in 2013.  From the opening groove by the drums, to the gimmicky, infectious hook, “Collard Greens” is quite distinct.  “Oh, oh luxury / chidi-chidi-ching could buy anything, cop that / oh, oh, collard greens / three degrees low, make it hot for me drop that”, Schoolboy Q raps on the hook.  Schoolboy Q is on autopilot, rapping “Kush be my fragrance, we love marijuana / function on fire, burn the roof of this mother f**ker”. Kendrick Lamar captivates on the second verse, providing a little bit of everything including Spanish and his signature gun sound effects.  Among Lamar’s best lines is when he proclaims, “I’m more than a man, I’m a God, b**ch, touché, en garde.” Stoners and non-stoners alike can indulge in the greatness of “Collard Greens” – the song itself that is!

Anytime 2 Chainz is featured on the track, well, you know there is probably an element of perversion and stupidity about it.  “What They Want” doesn’t go too dumb, but it is also sort of what you would expect – driven by sex.  The hook sums up Q’s intentions: “This the sh*t that they want / this the sh*t that they need / tell me where are you from / drop you pants to your knees, girl I’m capital G…” Even so, Q has his moments, like the clever “Might cop the Phantom, get ghost…” He ruins it with a line about his… and what he plans to do to her… but it is what it is! As for 2 Chainz, he goes the blasphemous route: “Oh Lord, she in Christians, all gold on my Adventist / pull it down and she kiss it, all gold where my wrists is.”

Hoover Street” is one of those difficult moments to listen to as Q expresses his ‘story’.  It is insightful, but certainly is an experienced that not everyone will relate to.  “I got that work, f**k Labor Day, just bought a gun / f**k punching in, throwing rocks, no hopscotch / Bet my 9 milli hit the right spot…,” he spits on the intro.  Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the narrative of “Hoover Street” comes on verse two, in which Q spits “Gangbanging was a ritual and grandma would help / should’ve never left her gun on the shelf.”  After “Hoover Street”, Q switches gears for a bedroom-joint, “Studio”, featuring the vocals of BJ The Chicago Kid.  Rather than focusing on shooting someone or violence, Q thinks with his pants (“See I’ve been in the studio just trying to get to you, baby / all night laying verses though I’d rather lay with you baby…”).  Ultimately, it works, providing a nice change of pace from the violence and darkness of “Hoover Street”.

Prescription/Oxymoron” proves to be an exceptional two-part track.  The first part, “Prescription” is all about being on drugs.  Throughout, Q alludes to addiction, epitomized by rhymes “Prescription drugs, I feel in love / my little secret, she gon’ kill a thug / my body numb, she like to give me hugs / I love her touch, I get a rush.”  While the line doubles as a sexual reference cleverly, Q is clearly under the influence of drugs, not love.  “Oxymoron”, the titular track, is truly an oxymoron as Q spits “I just stopped selling crack today…O-X-Y, a moron…” So he’s been addicted to drugs as well as sold drugs, which he was addicted to? That seems to be the sentiment of one of the better tracks of Oxymoron.  Not sure that it is compliment worthy given the danger of drugs and demons in general…

The Purge” is a beast, produced by and featuring Tyler, The Creator.  Again, Schoolboy Q’s daughter establishes the tone: “My daddy said drown, n***a.”  The significance of the line seems to be “the purge” that Schoolboy Q references within the title and song.  “Coming in for yours / n***as got them choppers and they knocking at your door,” Tyler, the Creator spits on the hook. “The sirens getting louder when the bodies hit the floor / why you look confused? Mother f**ker this is war.”  Schoolboy Q plays right on the maliciousness, referencing kilos, drug money, and guns. Q’s most notable moment comes during a bridge between verses: “Bust my gun all by myself / rock cocaine all by myself / poured propane all on myself / go so hard might harm myself.”  Oh, and did I mention Kurupt also guests on the third verse? “The Purge” goes hard.

Blind Threats” proceeds, but lacks the oomph that “The Purge” possessed.  Sure, having Raekwon guest on any track raises it up a notch, but as a whole, “Blind Threats” is a tad less enthralling than the best.  Still, “Aim that, shoot that, pledge allegiance / kill mine, kill yours, make it even / soul need saving, Mr. Preacher…” is a pretty awesome lyric. “Hell of A Night” is more ‘down to earth’ compared to edgier cuts like “Hoover Street” or “The Purge”, which makes it feel ‘looser’.  It isn’t that Schoolboy Q is giving up on his street savvy, but he’s more about having some fun, popping some bottles, and “making it do” as opposed to shooting someone or selling drugs.

On penultimate cut “Break The Bank”, Q keeps things ‘street-smart’, claiming its “My time to show out, finally the illest Crip / and I guarantee, I spit harder than concrete.”  He does spit pretty hard, so Schoolboy Q seems to be honest. “Man of the Year” concludes the album superbly, coming over more accessible than some of the edgiest cuts.   Still, he’s not forgotten where he came from.  “Fast forward getting real tell me now / every dog need a cat to meow, every once in a while,” he raps on the second verse. “I see hands in the crowds / see whites, blacks blazing a pound, jumping around…” Hey, he’s the ‘man of the year’, and by having a unified fan base coming out to see his shows, he’s really came up.

All in all, Oxymoron is a fine introduction of Schoolboy Q to many.  He shares what life has been like for him before becoming an up-and-coming MC in the rap game.  He’s honest, and seems to adhere to a no BS approach, which is something not all major label MCs can attest to.  Still, there’s a lot of grime and brutal honesty to sort through at times, which might be something Schoolboy Q may want to better balance out on his fourth studio LP.  Still, Oxymoron is well played.

Favorites:

“Los Awesome”; “Collard Greens”; “Prescription/Oxymoron”; “The Purge”; “Man of the Year”

Verdict: ★★★★

The 100 Best Songs of 2013: Complete!


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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.

100

“I Luv This Sh*t”

August Alsina featuring Trinidad James

From album: Downtown: Life Under the Gun

August Alsina has one foul mouth on him, but his real talk mixed with the slower, horn-accentuated production is a match made in heaven, if a blasphemous one (see the hook).

99

“Cabaret”

Alice Smith

From album: She

According to highly underrated alt-R&B musician Alice Smith, Hollywood isn’t very kind: “I see no reason for chasing / in Hollywood, got to lose my patience / want this life to be a cabaret…” Hollywood may not be for the ‘faint of heart’, but “Cabaret” it self is brilliant.

98

“Every Man Should Know”

Harry Connick, Jr.

From album: Every Man Should Know

Sometimes the simplest, and most important life lessons to become a gentleman are best conveyed through song, preferably a mix between traditional pop, jazz, and country.

97

“Sophomore”

Ciara

From album: Ciara

Judging by this track, Ciara is far from being a ‘freshman’… definitely. “I ain’t no amateur / baby I know how to handle ya / If you ready for this ride, get your saddle up / I need a boy with some stamina…”

 96

“Golden Salvation (Jesus Piece)”

Wale

From album: The Gifted

We expect nothing less than Wale’s clever wordplay between “piece” and “peace”, particularly on an album titled The Gifted.  Specifically, Wale informs us that too many people don’t want to hear about Jesus or his ‘peaceful’, Christian approach; they’re more concerned about the bling-bling (aka Jesus piece).

95

“Holy Grail”

Jay-Z featuring Justin Timberlake

From album: Magna Carta…Holy Grail

Magna Carta…Holy Grail certainly left plenty to be desired, but few can deny that Jay-Z is one of the kings – all hail, “Holy Grail”!

94

“Unf**kwittable”

Kid Cudi

From album: Indicud 

Basically, Cudi is saying you can’t mess with him… he’s unbreakable… or something like that.

93

“Let Us Move On”

Dido featuring Kendrick Lamar

From album: Girl Who Got Away

Even English singer/songwriter Dido had to get Kendrick Lamar on the track… can’t blame her.  “Let Us Move On” is arguably the best moment from an underrated album nobody bought.   Well, I bought it to be fair.

92

“Vegas Girl”

Conor Maynard

From album: Contrast

The video is a trip…‘course the song is too.  Conor may still have some ‘schmaltz’ about him, but he also has some swag.  Swag on brother – swag on!

91

“Pusher Lover Girl”

Justin Timberlake

From album: The 20/20 Experience

Love and sex have been compared and likened to everything at this point (thanks R. Kelly).  JT decides to make his lady like a drug dealer, only she deals love instead of say cocaine.  What’s shocking is that this album opener works triumphantly.

90

“Clappers”

Wale featuring Juicy J Nicki Minaj

From album: The Gifted

What does one learn from the ‘cellulite anthem’ “Clappers”? That “Shawty got a big ole butt…OH YEAHHHHHH!!!”

89

“Heart Attack”

Demi Lovato

From album: Demi 

I’m not going to front, I’ve been listening to Demi put her “defenses up” all summer…  I don’t think she could really survive the number of heart attacks she’d receive at the hands of my playlist on repeat though…

88

“The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here”

Alice In Chains

From album: The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here

While the Bible doesn’t mention dinosaurs (at least that I can remember off the top of my head), I’m not so sure Satan created them… Regardless, this title track from Alice In Chains’ most recent album was among the best hard rock performances of the year, potential misconceptions and all.

87

“While I’m Alive”

STRFKR

From album: Miracle Mile

While I’m Alive” sports an irresistible, danceable groove; Electronic cues further sweeten things while the soulful guitar is the ‘cherry on top’.  Well written, the theme of “While I’m Alive” is getting past the past, broken relationships, and living ‘while I’m alive.’

86

“Bandz A Make Her Dance

Juicy J featuring 2 Chainz Lil Wayne

From album: Stay Trippy

Everyone needs a good stripper anthem in his (or her) lives, right? On the raunchy “Bandz A Make Her Dance”, Juicy J spits: “Bands a make her dance, bands a maker her dance / All these chicks poppin’ p***y, I’m just poppin’ bands…”

85

“Body Party”

Ciara

From album: Ciara

Just when ‘the art of making love’ was getting boring… Ciara’s here to spice things up!

84

“Her Favorite Song”

Mayer Hawthorne

From album: Where Does This Door Go

Yeah, the accompanying music video is weird, even if the ‘dogs’ are meant to represent guys that are dogs (in theory), but the song is brilliant.  “But when she gets home, she puts her headphones on / she plays her favorite song and fades away…” I do the same thing… well not quite in the same context though…

83

“Brave”

Sara Bareilles

From album: The Blessed Unrest

Here’s the gist of the song: STAND UP AND BE A MAN!!!  $%^!

82

“Trojans”

Atlas Genius

From album: When It Was Now

I promise this song is not about a popular brand of condoms or making love… really:  “Take a picture you could never recreate / write a song / make a note / for the lump that sits inside your throat…” I promise!

81

Forbidden Fruit

J. Cole featuring Kendrick Lamar

From album: Born Sinner

I know, I know – I somehow missed this gem on my “50 Best Rap Songs”, but the atonement is on this broader list.  The one-two punch of J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar is nothing short of fire, period.

80

“Love Me”

Lil Wayne featuring Future Drake

From Album: I Am Not A Human Being II

“Love Me” may have been a shallow as everything else was on I Am Not A Human Being II, but at least it was enjoyably shallow.  “Long as my b*****s love me / I can give a f**k ‘bout no hater…”

 79

“Angel”

Depeche Mode

From album: Delta Machine

Sure, this track is titled “Angel”, but it surely must be representing a dark angel… Mysterious, chilling, and ‘bothered’, “Angel” finds Depeche Mode doing what they do best.

78

“Nosetalgia”

Pusha T featuring Kendrick Lamar

From album: My Name Is My Name

The rap IQ on “Nosetalgia” is off the charts, particularly with Kendrick Lamar collaborating with Pusha.   Pusha T proclaims himself the “Black Ferris Bueller, cutting school with his jewels on…what I sell for pain in the hood, I’m a doctor…” while Kendrick Lamar’s slaughtering verse is capped off with “Go figure mother f**ker, every verse is a brick.” True.

77

“Ain’t It Fun”

Paramore

From album: Paramore 

Ain’t It Fun” may be Paramore’s best track EVER.  Driven by a funky groove, the band goes ‘big’ with a gargantuan bass line, full-force punk-laden guitars, and gospel vocals.  ‘ain’t it fun’? – Definitely!

76

“Pop That”

French Montana featuring Rick Ross, Drake & Lil Wayne

From album: Excuse My French

The raunchiest track from French Montana’s debut album is the best.  It’s all about popping… and I’ll leave it at that!

Read More…

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.

The 100 Best Songs of 2013: Part 3 (#50 – 26)


Panic At The Disco-PFR-010814After 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.

50

“Drunk In Love”

Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z

From album: Beyoncé

Well, since Beyoncé and Jay-Z are husband and wife, it’s probably fine for them to be ‘drunk’ off of each other’s love.  That said, some of the personal side of that ‘romance’ is made public on this bold track from the surprise ‘visual’ album.  It is what it is…

49

“Netflix”

2 Chainz featuring Fergie

From album: B.O.A.T.S. II: #METIME

You know how fitness trainer Shaun T. says he “don’t do anything but abs”? Well 2 Chainz don’t do anything but stupid.  At least he does it like a pro.  Making a sex tape and putting it on Netflix may be genius, maybe. LOL!

48

“Wait For Me”

Kings of Leon

From album: Mechanical Bull

Caleb Followill explains it best: “It’s all better now, it’s all better now / wait for me, wait for me.”

47

“Who I Am”

Pusha T featuring 2 Chainz & Big Sean

From album: My Name Is My Name

Because Pusha T and his star-studded crew stay true to themselves, they shine on “Who I Am”.  “Woo! They said be all you can be / Woo! They said be all you can be / I just wanna buy another Rollie / I just wanna pop another band / I just wanna sell dope forever / I just wanna be who I am.” To each his own… not that I wouldn’t mind a Rollie let alone more than one!

46

“Wildfire”

John Mayer

From album: Paradise Valley

“Wildfire” is a folksy/roots/country/pop hybrid that sounds incredibly distinct from anything Mayer has released previously. Vocally, Mayer sounds clear and enthused, shedding with mad skill (as always) on the guitar. 

45

“Do I Wanna Know?”

Arctic Monkeys

From album: AM

Ah, drunken confessions of love.  Alex Turner is honest on this exceptional opener from Arctic Monkeys’ most recent effort, AM: “Crawlin’ back to you / ever thought of calling you when you’ve had a few? / ‘Cause I always do / Maybe I’m too, busy being yours to fall for somebody new…” You get the idea!

44

“All American Boy”

Steve Grand

Has there ever been a viral hit that was such a ‘hit’ as “All American Boy”? Steve Grand’s country song with a gay love storyline made a gargantuan impact, everywhere.  Because homosexuality and country are rarely associated with one another, “All American Boy” like “Same Love” was to hip-hop, breaks down social barriers.

43

“Take A Fall For Me”

James Blake featuring RZA

From album: Overgrown

At the beginning of “Take A Fall For Me”, James Blake claims that, “You can’t marry her yet…” RZA goes on later to state “I heard through the grapevine that great love, it takes time / sex shapes the body, truth shapes the mind…” So basically, this track seems to be about a relationship that is incomplete of all the necessary facets, or something along those lines.

42

“Shabba”

A$AP Ferg featuring A$AP Rocky

From album: Trap Lord

Ferg and Rocky are on that “Sha-Sha-Shabba Ranks”… rings, change, gold teeth, women… Sound so appealing, doesn’t it?

41

“Primetime”

Janelle Monáe featuring Miguel

From album: The Electric Lady

Sometimes, a great R&B duet doesn’t have to be oversexed or completely stripped of its romance.  “Primetime” is a perfect example of this.  The vocal chemistry between Janelle Monáe and Miguel is magnificent.

40

Kisses Down Low

Kelly Rowland

From album:  Talk A Good Game

Ooh Kelly, you so nasty! “I like my kisses down low / makes me arch my back / when you give it to me slow / baby just like that…” When the word ‘arch’ is used in a song, it’s rarely referencing the ‘arch’ of the foot… just sayin’!

39

“Retrograde

James Blake

From album: Overgrown 

“Retrograde” finds Blake channeling his urban side superbly, accompanied initially by piano.  Blake’s initial vocal runs sounds indigenous to R&B or gospel, making “Retrograde” all the more unique. Things truly grow epic on pivotal line “Suddenly I hit,” where excitement reaches a lofty peak.

38

“Almost Is Never Enough”

Ariana Grande featuring Nathan Sykes

From album: Yours Truly

Duet “Almost Is Never Enough” should be incredibly sappy but it isn’t!  Grande and boyfriend Nathan Sykes (of The Wanted) sport sound vocal chemistry on this enjoyable track. A musical oxymoron of sorts, “Almost Is Never Enough”, is soulful, yet contemporary, and old school, yet fresh.

37

“Made Up Mind”

Tedeschi Trucks Band

From album: Made Up Mind

If one was unconvinced just how resolute Susan Tedeschi was, listening to her gritty, passionate performance on the bluesy “Made Up Mind” erases all doubts.  She can S-A-N-G!

36

“Without Me”

Fantasia featuring Kelly Rowland & Missy Elliott

From album: Side Effects Of You

Guys are totally in the ‘doghouse’ on this jam from Fantasia and friends, but even they can’t resist the nodding of head or the tapping of foot.

35

“Florida

Jaheim

From album: Appreciation Day

Jaheim spent most of Appreciation Day ‘appreciating’ women, but he took a detour to go socially conscious on the phenomenal “Florida”, a track questioning the controversial Treyvon Martin verdict.  Sure Jaheim sounds inspired when he’s singing of pleasure, but he sounds equally, if not more powerful, singing of pain and repercussions here. 

34

“Ya Hey”

Vampire Weekend

From album: Modern Vampires of the City

Someone’s not been going to church lately… “Ya Hey” is a play on the word “Yahweh”, which refers to God.  Can you say blasphemous? Religious stance aside, “Ya Hey” is another creative song courtesy of everyone’s favorite vampires. They sure know how to bite!

33

“Bugatti”

Ace Hood featuring Future & Rick Ross

From album: Trials & Tribulations

I rarely compliment Future (I’ve been pretty critical), but “Bugatti” sports Future’s best hook of the year/perhaps ever… “I woke up in a new Bugatti!”

32

“Touch”

Daft Punk featuring Paul Williams

From Album: Random Access Memories

On the warm and beautiful track “Touch”, Paul Williams delivers a superb vocal performance against an excellent neo-disco styled backdrop. There’s not a thing wrong with that retro swag!

31

“Hold On, We’re Going Home”

Drake featuring Majid Jordan

From album: Nothing Was The Same

“Hold On, We’re Going Home” has nothing at all  ‘hip-hop’ about it. Despite this, this 80s-styled R&B/pop cut is nothing short of a pleasure to partake of. It’s like the most delicious dessert ever… Scrumptious!

30

“Miss Jackson”

Panic! At The Disco

From album: Too Weird to Live, To Rare to Die 

“Miss Jackson” (featuring Lolo) finds Panic! At The Disco front man Brendon Urie using his contemporary R&B chops, with some emo-pop swag of course! Catchy and manic, “Miss Jackson” is nothing short of pop gold.  And as “nasty” as Miss Jackson is, “…[he] love her anyway!”

29

All of Me

John Legend

From album: Love in the Future

The thoughtful, radiant “All Of Me” strips down to piano, vocals, and ‘robots’, with sensational results. Legend sings chivalrously: “‘Cause all of me loves all of you / love your curves and all your edges / all your perfect imperfections.” Aww!

28

“Entertainment”

Phoenix

From album: Bankrupt!

“Entertainment” is quite exhilarating, characterized by its use of oriental sounding synths and its superb, unifying chorus. “Entertainment, show them what you do with me / when everyone here knows better / what I once refused to be / is everything they long together / I’d rather be alone”, front man Thomas Mars sings enthusiastically.

27

“Suit & Tie”

Justin Timberlake featuring Jay-Z

From album: The 20/20 Experience 

Interpreting what it means to be “on that suit and tie sh*t”: Basically ole boy is looking like one dapper mother [shut yo mouth!] and he’s going to do any and everything he can to impress this girl.  “Let me show you a few things…”

26

“We No Who ‘U ‘R”

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

From album: Push The Sky Away

Well written, mysterious, and diverse from many other songs in 2013, “We No Who ‘U ‘R” is alt-singer/songwriter, alt-rock at its best. The sound is reminiscent of a 60s blue-eyed soul hit.

Be sure to check out the previously released parts with songs #100-76 and #75-51, as well as upcoming part, #25 – 1.

The 100 Best Songs of 2013: Part 1 (#100 – 76)


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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.

100

“I Luv This Sh*t”

August Alsina featuring Trinidad James

From album: Downtown: Life Under the Gun

August Alsina has one foul mouth on him, but his real talk mixed with the slower, horn-accentuated production is a match made in heaven, if a blasphemous one (see the hook).

99

“Cabaret”

Alice Smith

From album: She

According to highly underrated alt-R&B musician Alice Smith, Hollywood isn’t very kind: “I see no reason for chasing / in Hollywood, got to lose my patience / want this life to be a cabaret…” Hollywood may not be for the ‘faint of heart’, but “Cabaret” it self is brilliant.

98

“Every Man Should Know”

Harry Connick, Jr.

From album: Every Man Should Know

Sometimes the simplest, and most important life lessons to become a gentleman are best conveyed through song, preferably a mix between traditional pop, jazz, and country.

97

“Sophomore”

Ciara

From album: Ciara

Judging by this track, Ciara is far from being a ‘freshman’… definitely. “I ain’t no amateur / baby I know how to handle ya / If you ready for this ride, get your saddle up / I need a boy with some stamina…”

 96

“Golden Salvation (Jesus Piece)”

Wale

From album: The Gifted

We expect nothing less than Wale’s clever wordplay between “piece” and “peace”, particularly on an album titled The Gifted.  Specifically, Wale informs us that too many people don’t want to hear about Jesus or his ‘peaceful’, Christian approach; they’re more concerned about the bling-bling (aka Jesus piece).

95

“Holy Grail”

Jay-Z featuring Justin Timberlake

From album: Magna Carta…Holy Grail

Magna Carta…Holy Grail certainly left plenty to be desired, but few can deny that Jay-Z is one of the kings – all hail, “Holy Grail”!

94

“Unf**kwittable”

Kid Cudi

From album: Indicud 

Basically, Cudi is saying you can’t mess with him… he’s unbreakable… or something like that.

93

“Let Us Move On”

Dido featuring Kendrick Lamar

From album: Girl Who Got Away

Even English singer/songwriter Dido had to get Kendrick Lamar on the track… can’t blame her.  “Let Us Move On” is arguably the best moment from an underrated album nobody bought.   Well, I bought it to be fair.

92

“Vegas Girl”

Conor Maynard

From album: Contrast

The video is a trip…‘course the song is too.  Conor may still have some ‘schmaltz’ about him, but he also has some swag.  Swag on brother – swag on!

91

“Pusher Lover Girl”

Justin Timberlake

From album: The 20/20 Experience

Love and sex have been compared and likened to everything at this point (thanks R. Kelly).  JT decides to make his lady like a drug dealer, only she deals love instead of say cocaine.  What’s shocking is that this album opener works triumphantly.

90

“Clappers”

Wale featuring Juicy J & Nicki Minaj

From album: The Gifted

What does one learn from the ‘cellulite anthem’ “Clappers”? That “Shawty got a big ole butt…OH YEAHHHHHH!!!”

89

“Heart Attack”

Demi Lovato

From album: Demi 

I’m not going to front, I’ve been listening to Demi put her “defenses up” all summer…  I don’t think she could really survive the number of heart attacks she’d receive at the hands of my playlist on repeat though…

88

“The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here”

Alice In Chains

From album: The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here

While the Bible doesn’t mention dinosaurs (at least that I can remember off the top of my head), I’m not so sure Satan created them… Regardless, this title track from Alice In Chains’ most recent album was among the best hard rock performances of the year, potential misconceptions and all.

87

“While I’m Alive”

STRFKR

From album: Miracle Mile

While I’m Alive” sports an irresistible, danceable groove; Electronic cues further sweeten things while the soulful guitar is the ‘cherry on top’.  Well written, the theme of “While I’m Alive” is getting past the past, broken relationships, and living ‘while I’m alive.’

86

“Bandz A Make Her Dance

Juicy J featuring 2 Chainz & Lil Wayne

From album: Stay Trippy

Everyone needs a good stripper anthem in his (or her) lives, right? On the raunchy “Bandz A Make Her Dance”, Juicy J spits: “Bands a make her dance, bands a maker her dance / All these chicks poppin’ p***y, I’m just poppin’ bands…”

85

“Body Party”

Ciara

From album: Ciara

Just when ‘the art of making love’ was getting boring… Ciara’s here to spice things up!

84

“Her Favorite Song”

Mayer Hawthorne

From album: Where Does This Door Go

Yeah, the accompanying music video is weird, even if the ‘dogs’ are meant to represent guys that are dogs (in theory), but the song is brilliant.  “But when she gets home, she puts her headphones on / she plays her favorite song and fades away…” I do the same thing… well not quite in the same context though…

83

“Brave”

Sara Bareilles

From album: The Blessed Unrest

Here’s the gist of the song: STAND UP AND BE A MAN!!!  $%^!

82

“Trojans”

Atlas Genius

From album: When It Was Now

I promise this song is not about a popular brand of condoms or making love… really:  “Take a picture you could never recreate / write a song / make a note / for the lump that sits inside your throat…” I promise!

81

Forbidden Fruit

J. Cole featuring Kendrick Lamar

From album: Born Sinner

I know, I know – I somehow missed this gem on my “50 Best Rap Songs”, but the atonement is on this broader list.  The one-two punch of J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar is nothing short of fire, period.

80

“Love Me”

Lil Wayne featuring Future & Drake

From Album: I Am Not A Human Being II

“Love Me” may have been a shallow as everything else was on I Am Not A Human Being II, but at least it was enjoyably shallow.  “Long as my b*****s love me / I can give a f**k ‘bout no hater…”

 79

“Angel”

Depeche Mode

From album: Delta Machine

Sure, this track is titled “Angel”, but it surely must be representing a dark angel… Mysterious, chilling, and ‘bothered’, “Angel” finds Depeche Mode doing what they do best.

78

“Nosetalgia”

Pusha T featuring Kendrick Lamar

From album: My Name Is My Name

The rap IQ on “Nosetalgia” is off the charts, particularly with Kendrick Lamar collaborating with Pusha.   Pusha T proclaims himself the “Black Ferris Bueller, cutting school with his jewels on…what I sell for pain in the hood, I’m a doctor…” while Kendrick Lamar’s slaughtering verse is capped off with “Go figure mother f**ker, every verse is a brick.” True.

77

“Ain’t It Fun”

Paramore

From album: Paramore 

Ain’t It Fun” may be Paramore’s best track EVER.  Driven by a funky groove, the band goes ‘big’ with a gargantuan bass line, full-force punk-laden guitars, and gospel vocals.  ‘ain’t it fun’? – Definitely!

76

“Pop That”

French Montana featuring Rick Ross, Drake & Lil Wayne

From album: Excuse My French

The raunchiest track from French Montana’s debut album is the best.  It’s all about popping… and I’ll leave it at that!

Be sure to check out the next three parts with songs #75-51, #50 – 26, and #25 – 1.

Review: B.o.B., ‘Underground Luxury’


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B.o.B. • Underground Luxury • Atlantic • US Release Date: December 17, 2013

B.o.B. delivers a so-so effort on third LP Underground Luxury

BoB-20130510-43B.o.B. had a hot start off to his rap career back in 2010 when The Adventures of Bobby Ray debuted at number one on the Billboard album charts, eventually being certified gold.  “Nothing On Youwas a number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100.  Later, a huge record entitled “Airplanes” seemed to be just what B.o.B needed to establish a viable, lengthy rap career.  If only the magical fairytale had worked out that way for the ATL MC.  Second album Strange Clouds (2012), didn’t receive near the buzz or success of the first.  Now after a ‘bomb’, B.o.B is forced to pick up the pieces on third LP Underground Luxury.  Unfortunately, the many of the pieces seem to be bent or broken throughout this somewhat underwhelming effort by a relatively talented MC.

All I Want” isn’t the greatest opener ever.   Within the intro, the MC comes off a bit ‘shallow’, playing up hip-hop clichés: “Whether I can afford it or not, n***a / I want b*tches, I want cars, I don’t give a f**k, I want it all / that’s what the f**k we’re here for.” Really? B.o.B clarifies his attitude on the verses, softening his tone from the bravado: “I used to say I never cared about the money until I put food on my momma’s table / follow the trail / could’ve been in jail  / the way that I live / could have been fatal / must have had an angel…” While his ambitions are more relatable after details of his ‘come-up’, “All I Want” doesn’t have the effect it could’ve had.  Follow-up “One Day” doesn’t quite get it done convincingly either, even as B.o.B continues on a personal trek.  The opening duo just feels like it lacks ‘magic’.

BoB-ADB-029295Paper Route” isn’t perfect, but with the clapping drums and sharp-sounding synths, it sports more oomph than the previous tracks.   B.o.B strikes gold with quite the opening lyrical salvo: “You don’t know who you f**king with / ain’t no democrat, and by far I’m no republican / this the type of talk that’ll probably piss off my publicist / and I ain’t even started, the water ain’t even bubbling…” He doesn’t let up off the gas, with his most meaningful line coming courtesy of verse three: “Don’t let these f**kers rob us for our freedom and your rights.” OK…

Ready” proceeds, assisted by the ubiquitous Future, but doesn’t achieve the same level of quality as “Paper Route”.  Future’s hook may use his signature trick (autotune), but the wordiness hinders it from being catchy.  Luckily for Bobby Ray, “Throwback” is the banger Underground Luxury could’ve used earlier.  Sure it’s a ‘booty’ cut, but at least it good one.  As for Chris Brown’s guest rap on the second verse – he’s just plain nasty.  Feminists won’t be pleased, and they shouldn’t.

Playing a seesawing game, “Back Me Up” isn’t horrid, but it’s not great either.  Basically, B.o.B is stating he’s got support from everywhere: “East side gon’ back me up, gon’ back me up / West side gon’ back me up, gon’ back me up / South side gon’ back me up, gon’ back me up / North side gon’ back me up, yeah.”  It works, but don’t call it a hit.  “Coastline” leads a group of misses – just saying! “Wide Open” features Ester Dean who’s vocal role is as follows: “Bust it wide open, let you see what I’m workin’ with.” B.o.B. predictably talks about his plans to hook-up, making a comparison to a four by four.  Shameful!  “Fly Muthaf***a” is even worse.  It’s as if B.o.B wants to see how many f-bombs he can drop to sound cool.  “N***as don’t like it when you fly as f**k / but I’m fly as f**k.” Not on this track B.o.B!

BoB-RWP-010126Headband”, another ‘booty’ anthem (featuring 2 Chainz) atones for the numerous improprieties of a horrid outgoing stretch.  Of course it lacks depth and really isn’t respectable, but it’s the energy Underground Luxury needed at this juncture in the album.  Still, B.o.B bragging about his favorite strand of weed and his sexual desires is by no means meaningful or truly enhancing. As for 2 Chainz, he’s just as bad if not worse: “Her a$$ would knock your a$$ out, you better stick and move / chain hang to my…” SMH! “John Doe” keeps momentum flowing, serving as a stark contrast to “Headband”.  Priscilla handles a superb hook while B.o.B matches the song’s tone with more meaningful lyrics – he eschews another ‘cellulite’ ode.

BOB-ZNV-001741After “John Doe”, things grow mediocre once more.  “Cranberry Moonwalk” is a bore save for some stinging one-liners including “Killin’ through the presidents / that’s assassination…” (verse one) and “I got my own lane but  I ain’t got no genre / I’m sh*ttin’ on n***as, you might need a plunger…” “Nobody Told Me” is an inspirational-style rap cut, but lacks memorability.  “Forever”, similarly, doesn’t feel distinctive.  Single “We Still In This B*tch”, featuring T.I. and Juicy J, closes the effort with a knockout punch.  Even so, this anthem isn’t enough to ‘save’ Underground Luxury, which has plenty of flaws.

The verdict? Underground Luxury is B.o.B’s weakest album to date – no question about it.  That may sound harsh, but Bobby Ray isn’t always on his ‘A’ game here.  Even the good tracks don’t stack up with his best from his biggest claim to fame, The Adventures of Bobby Ray.  Clubby anthems do help to close the gap between abysmal and say mediocre/average, but it’s not enough to alter the judgment of the album as a whole.  Two and half stars out of five might be being generous.

Favorites:

“Paper Route”; “Throwback”; “Headband”; “Jane Doe”; “We Still in This B*tch”

Verdict: ★★½

Review: R. Kelly, ‘Black Panties’


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R. Kelly sounds exceptionally vocally on Black Panties, goes overboard sensually 

R. Kelly • Black Panties RCA • US Release Date: December 10, 2013

R Kelly-AES-115612R. Kelly has a compelling argument for the title of the “King of R&B”, easily.  For years and years, the sensually driven R&B singer has captivated audiences with his R- (and sometimes X-) rated brand of contemporary soul, ultimately epitomizing the urban sound.  Like many of his contemporaries and other artists he’s influenced, Kelly’s sales have taken a tumble from their glory days – the plight that is R&B music these days. Kelly’s previous two albums consisted of brand new material, but found the singer relying on his retro-soul and adult contemporary R&B sides as opposed to risk-taking contemporary R&B.  There’s little to knock about the consistency of either Love Letter or follow-up Write Me Back, however both lack Kelly’s ‘bad boy’ persona.  That certainly is not an issue on Black Panties, an effort that is drenched in sex, sex, and more sex.  Sometimes Kells hits the jackpot, while others he oversteps moral boundaries.  Regardless, Black Panties is unapologetic R. Kelly.

Legs Shakin’” opens Black Panties with a bang… no pun intended.  Slated somewhere between contemporary R&B and perhaps a more age-appropriate adult contemporary R&B (Kelly is in his 40s), “Legs Shakin’” offers the best of both worlds.  Kelly’s mind is keyed in on the bedroom, evidenced by a shallow, simplistic chorus: “I’m going down, down, down / do it to your legs shakin’”.  If Kelly’s pronounced focus on physical pleasure wasn’t enough, a guesting Ludacris enters into the picture to ‘put a cap’ on it.  While it’s a bit long at four and a half minutes, “Legs Shakin’” isn’t too shabby.

R Kelly-20131125-37Cookie” may be a better track, though you have to get past it’s raunchy, cringe worthy lyrics to enjoy it.   Edgy with no escapes, R. Kelly clearly doesn’t give a flip what anyone things (see “Shut Up” later on). “Mm, like an Oreo / I love to lick the middle like an Oreo / Oreo, Oreo, like an Oreo / I wanna bite it and get inside it…”, Kelly sings on the carnal hook.  Perhaps the most shameless moment is when Kelly sings “Cookie, cookie, cookie – I’m a cookie monster…”, before delivering every inappropriate reference he can string together. Desperate? Maybe, but Kelly has always been ‘left of center’.

Prelude” wastes three minutes of time, period.  Kelly is going for an edgy, street savvy interlude, but he overindulges in utter ridiculousness.  Somewhere between the guy talk and overindulgence in both f-bombs and n-words,  “Prelude” is a big-time turn off.  “Throw Money On You” isn’t exactly the most chivalrous tune, but at least Kelly seems like he’s into it.  After all, all Kelly wants to do is “throw money on you…”.  The bridge sports one of the most ridiculous, sensuous lines: “Damn girl, you my type girl / a** swole like it’s been stoned by the whole hive girl…” Definitely not Shakespearean writing, that’s for sure.  After “throwing money”, Kelly rewrites the classic tale of ‘the guy she’s with is no good, and he can treat her better’ on “You Deserve Better”.  Sure Kelly crowns his new potential lady, but he also tries to entice her with material things… but who am I to judge?  Ultimately, it’s a decent track, but not exactly one to write home about.

Marry the P***y” is as shallow as they come, like really shallow.  “This is a sex proposal…gonna get down on my knees and ask that p***y to marry me…” Really R., really? If Kelly was going for something romantic, this is not it.  The subtle approach usually works better.  Standout single “Genius” isn’t an innocent track by any means, but it’s also not nearly as ‘in your face’ as “Marry the P***y”.  The chorus says it all: “I’m blessed it feels, like to please yo body / girl tonight you’re lying with a sex genius / nothing like the ordinary, I’mma love one / but tonight you’re lying with a sex genius”.  Perhaps he’s just keeping it real.  Regardless, “Genius” is well produced, suggestive enough without being obnoxious.   Kelly sweetens things more with “All the Way”, a lovely duet with Kelly Rowland.   How’s the vocal chemistry you ask? Magnificent.  The backing vocals also play a big role in making “All the Way” the standout that it is.

R Kelly-ADB-029688I was rather unimpressed with “My Story” when I first heard it ahead of Black Panties.  It’s not horrid, but the gimmickry just doesn’t tickle my fancy.  Kelly’s approach is more of a pop-rap one and you’re given the impression that he’s opting to hang with the young crowd here… SWAG.  “Right Back” finds Kelly using vocal effects and ultimately going “right back to my n***as…” Charming right? Basically, Kelly never turns his back on his friends, I suppose.  If “My Story” and “Right Back” had their question marks, the hard club cut “Spend That” is what it is – a sick, slick banger.  Jeezy provides the assist and sounds right at home here; “Spend That” sounds similar to Jeezy’s own “R.I.P.”  The best / most absurd R. Kelly line you ask? “Got Picasso on the wall, I spend that / Tom Ford on the drawers, I spend that / three b**ches, one me / and they all on the dick, call it 3D…” Shameful, but ‘it is what it is’.

R Kelly-PRN-105066Penultimate cut “Crazy Sex” leaves little to the imagination, something that is a con throughout Black Panties.   Closer “Shut Up” is stronger, featuring production work that is a mix between gospel and contemporary R&B.   What’s sort of odd about “Shut Up” is the fact it has a bit more of an inspirational tone that contrasts the filthy-minded cuts that make up the majority of black panties.  Sure, there’s nothing wrong with Kelly thanking God for his voice given his vocal issues, but it’s definitely strange Kelly goes from having “crazy sex” to testifying… just sayin’!

So how does Black Panties stack up?  It has its good moments and its clumsy ones.  An observation I’d make is that it seems at times that R. Kelly tries too hard to be “in”.  There’s nothing wrong with Kelly adapting to the ‘new style’, but he’s a bit too eager perhaps.  Yes, “sex” is what Kelly does, but he falls into some of the pitfalls that The-Dream did on IV Play from earlier this year where he overdoes it one too many times.  I’m glad to see risqué Kelly once more, but I also think he could’ve better balanced Black Panties with some more refined cuts.

Favorites:

“Legs Shakin’”; “Cookie”; “Genius”; “All The Way”; “Spend That”

Verdict: ★★★

November’s Playlist: The Best of October 2013


I’ll admit that during the month of October I missed out on a couple of albums (Pearl Jam, Scotty McCreery, Korn, Paul McCartney, etc.).  Alas, that is the life of a music journalist and music critic – you can’t listen to ‘em all.  Despite this, from the albums I did partake of, I’ve assembled a list of ‘gems’ to start out November 2013 just right!

1

Panic! At the Disco, “Nicotine”

Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die 

(Fueled by Ramen) 

Panic at the disco2-20111101-36Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die is filled with standouts.  Rather than revolve towards “This Is Gospel”, “Miss Jackson”, or “Girls/ Girls/ Boys”, I selected “Nicotine”.  Excerpted from my review of the album, I wrote this of “Nicotine”:

Nicotine” is nowhere near “f*cking drag” Urie speaks of throughout the song referencing addictive alkaloid […] “Cross my heart and hope to die / burn my lungs and curse my eyes”, Urie poetically sings on the first verse. “I’ve lost control and I don’t want it back / I’m going numb, I’ve been hijacked.”  The allusion of love and smoke is flawlessly executed, best evidenced during the refrain: “I taste your lips and I can’t rid of you / so I say damn your kiss and the awful things you do / you’re worse than nicotine.”  Ultimately, “Nicotine” proves to be as addictive a listen as it is the “f*cking drag…I need it so bad” which the frontman conveys.

Addictive indeed!

2

Katy Perry featuring  Juicy J, “Dark Horse” 

Prism

(Capitol) 

Katy PErry4-20131017-108

“Dark Horse” provides a spark to Perry’s PRISM once it appears.  Juicy J is a perfect fit on this hip-hop oriented pop cut which sports one sick beat.  The chorus definitely latches: “So you wanna play with magic? / boy, you should know what you’re falling for / baby, do you dare to do this? / cause I’m coming at you like a dark horse…” Second verse vocal harmonizations make the deal sweeter while Juicy J’s lines such as “Uh, she’s a beast / I call her Karma / she eat your heart out / like Jeffrey Dahmer…” seal the deal.  “Dark Horse” ‘roars’ equally if not more so than the ubiquitous “Roar” itself.

3

Danny Brown, “Dip”

Old

(Fool’s Gold)

51Sz35Wx2KL._SY300_From my Playlist: Bangers That Get It Poppin’ At The Club… (Part 2) I commentated on “Dip”:

Dip” has so many one-liners that an entire essay could be written examining each and everyone.    The premise of the song? Well Danny Brown is pretty to’ up, period. The Forrest Gump reference definitely captures attention early on (“Like Lieutenant Dan, I’m rolling back to back / I keep on smoking…”).   My favorite moment involves you guessed it, ‘molly’: “Now all these rappers talking ‘bout that molly / bet a million dollars these n***as ain’t dipping / pure MDMA, put it in a shot we talking ‘bout crystals / been thizzin’ hard up all day, rest in peace to Mac Dre…” Banger? Yes…also seems like Brown is way past the need for rehab… just sayin’

4

Arcade Fire, “Reflektor” 

Reflektor 

Merge

51wzw69ySAL._SL500_AA280_Excerpted from my  Review: Arcade Fire, ‘Reflektor’:

Reflektor” initiates things shockingly given its percussive, danceable groove.  Thankfully, this cut does danceability conservatively and tastefully, eschewing today’s EDM bass drops and pointed synths in favor of something that sounds both neo-disco and Arcade Fire-like simultaneously.  The songwriting is accessible, well perhaps save for Régine’ Chassagne’s pre-chorus French, LOL (“Entre la nuit, la nuit et l’aurore / entre le royaume des vivants es des morts”). The chorus is incredibly catchy and simple though: “I thought I found a way to enter / it’s just a reflector…”

5

Pusha T featuring Kendrick Lamar, “Nosetalgia”

My Name is My Name

(Def Jam)

1380240_642433222456704_1148407337_n

On “Nosetalgia”,  rap IQ goes off the charts, between Pusha T and guest collaborator Kendrick Lamar.  Among Pusha’s best lines is his proclamation that he was the “Black Ferris Bueller, cutting school with his jewels on…what I sell for pain in the hood, I’m a doctor…” while Kendrick Lamar’s slaughtering verse is capped off with “Go figure motherf*cker, every verse is a brick.” Rap musicianship at his best, two of the best in the game rock it out here, no questions asked.

6

Miley Cyrus featuring Nelly, “4X4″

BANGERZ

RCA

Miley Cyrus25-20130917-26I still ask myself why do I like the song “4X4” from Bangerz.  I was in the same sort of situation back in early October when I penned a review for the album:

“4X4” would normally be the sort of cut I would tar and feather because of its stupidity.  And it is really dumb, mind you. But, the country-pop-rap cut is sort of hypnotizing.  Maybe it’s because of Pharrell Williams’s odd-ball production or even Nelly’s midwest touting rap, but for whatever reason, it sticks with you.  Still, I’m not to keen on Cyrus’s line about “driving so fast ‘bout to piss on myself…” Please girl!  Have some dignity!

I guess things ain’t changed.  I’m still listening to it and Miley still seems about ready to piss on herself.  SMH.

7

Mary J. Blige featuring Barbra Streisand & Chris Botti, “When You Wish Upon A Star”

A Mary Christmas

Verve

Mary J Blige-KSR-020874

When You Wish Upon A Star” finds Mary J. Blige and Barbra Streisand duetting beautifully with Chris Botti accentuating things with his warm, lush trumpet sound.  “When You Wish Upon A Star” really isn’t a Christmas song, originally serving as the main theme from Disney’s 1940 animated feature Pinocchio, but it definitely fits the vibe of A Mary Christmas.  Additionally, “When You Wish Upon A Star” has been transformed several times; it’s quite a flexible song you might say.

8

Eminem, “Rap God”

The Marshall Mathers LP 2

Aftermath

Eminem-20130823-19

An excerpt from my upcoming The Marshall Mathers LP 2:

“Rap God” is freaking epic.  The hook varies slightly, but the beginning’s the same: “I’m beginning to feel like a rap god, rap god / all my people from the front to the back nod, back nod…” Across three verses Eminem ‘schools’ us.  On verse one he touts his flow (“Made a living and a killing off it / ever since Bill Clinton was still in office / With Monica Lewinsky feeling on his nut-sack / I’m an MC still as honest / but as rude and as indecent as all hell”) while on verse two he talks influences and disses sucky MC’s (“Everybody want the key and the secret to rap immortality like I have got / well, to be truthful the blueprint’s simply rage and youthful exuberance … hit the earth like an asteroid, did nothing but shoot for the moon since”). On verse three, he goes “H*A*M*”, ripping critics, skeptics, and some fans (“Innovative and I’m made of rubber / so that anything you say is ricocheting off of me and it’ll glue to you / I’m devastating, more than ever demonstrating / how to give a motherf**kin’ audience a feeling like it’s levitating)”. Lady Gaga said it best… “Eh, there’s nothing else I can say.”

See my previous post How Eminem Devastates the Competition on “Rap God” for full, in depth analysis.  You can literally write a book about this one song!

9

Arcade Fire, “Porno”

Reflektor

Merge

So yeah, I included a second song from the same album… but this one deserves to be here, it’s definitely interesting!

Excerpted from my  Review: Arcade Fire, ‘Reflektor’:

Porno” definitely had my attention given the title.  The song itself is no disappointment with it’s dark, sort creepy vibe.  The ultimate take away seems to be that young guys are selfish when it comes to sexual desires and how they expect their girlfriends to fulfill their selfishness. “Yeah, something’s wrong / little boys with their porno / and boys they learn / some selfish sh*t / until the girl / won’t put up with it…”

There it is!

10

Kelly Clarkson, “Every Christmas”

Wrapped in Red

RCA

Kelly Clarkson-20121102-116

The horn-filled six-eight balladry of “Every Christmas” serves as yet another instance of confirmation of Clarkson’s artistry and prowess on Wrapped in Red.   Having organ and a backing gospel choir doesn’t hurt her cause either.

 

 

11

DJ Khaled featuring 2 Chainz, Ace Hood, Big Sean, French Montana, Meek Mill, Rick Ross & Timbaland, “You Don’t Want These Problems”

Suffering from Success

Def Jam

DJ Khaled-20120821-53

Excerpted from Playlist: Bangers That Get It Poppin’ At The Club… (Part 1)

“You Don’t Want No Problems” is one of the shining moments from DJ Khaled’s recent album, Suffering From Success.  On this juggernaut, Khaled is assisted by Big Sean, Rick Ross, French Montana, 2 Chainz, Meek Mill, Ace Hood, and Timbaland.  Highlights include memorable lyrical moments from Rick Ross (“On the phone at the light, Kelly Rowland’s a friend / Catfish in the Benz, Manti Teo’s a sucker…”), 2 Chainz (“They slept on me, I stopped sellin’ work and started sellin’ coffee…”), and Ace Hood (“My sanctuary’s that cemetery / my choppa, named it obituary…”). I mean, I kinda enjoy the “problems” personally…

12

Robert Glasper Experiment featuring Jill Scott, “Calls”

Black Radio 2

Blue Note

81SiZAQqUaL._SL1500_

“Calls” is nothing short of a stunner.  Jill Scott is at her best as is Robert Glasper and company.  Lush, sensual, and jazz, “Calls” epitomizes the urban sound at its best.  The chorus, though simplistic it is, is a perfect representation of jazz and soul styles: “You always answer my calls / when I call, you come…” The best moment is the bridge, where Jill Scott gets in done in a big way.  “Calls” is ‘big time’ for sure.

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