Rick Ross keeps a good thing going strong on LP number six
Rick Ross • Mastermind • Def Jam • US Release Date: March 3, 2014
Six albums in, the best way to describe Rick Ross is that he ‘is what he is’. Ross’ high watermark artistically was his fourth LP, 2010 masterpiece Teflon Don. Up until Teflon Don, it seemed that Ross was just trying to find his artistic identity – his niche if you will. After finally finding himself, Ross spent fifth LP God Forgives, I Don’t ‘flexing’, something he carries over into Mastermind. Mastermind ultimately is another sound, enjoyable Rick Ross album, even if it lacks some of the excellent, luxurious rap of Teflon Don or even the exceptionalness of the best moments of God Forgives. Quibbles and nitpicks aside, Mastermind is another welcome addition to Rozay’s discography.
“Intro (Rick Ross/Mastermind)” opens familiarly with the “Maybach Music” intro – surprise, surprise. The intro as a whole references being a ‘mastermind’, hence setting the tone for the album. Sure, a brief interlude doesn’t equate Mastermind with epitomizing or embodying its title, but it does foreshadow Ross’ point… sort of. Apparently, Rick Ross’ idea of being a ‘mastermind’ is not synonymous with being an intellectual. This is confirmed on first full-length joint, “Rich Is Gangsta”. As to what that even means ultimately, who knows. Regardless, on the hook-less number, Rick Ross is “all about the Benjamins.” “I just upped my stock, f**k them cops,” he brags on the first verse. “If you love hip-hop, bust them shots.” Later, he even manages to brag about his success as a rapper: “Cocaine worth much more than gold, n***a / so what’s your goals n***a? / All my sh*t when gold, n***a.” Sure, Ross is overconfident with his bravado, but he does tell the truth… all his sh*t did go gold.
While “Rich Is Gangsta” sported exceptional, lush production work, sophomore cut “Drug Dealers Dream” features the MC more on ‘autopilot.’ He continues to count his stacks, evidenced by the intro (“Your checking account available balance is $92, 153,183.28”). Even though Rick is rich, the means is questionable by all means, yet Ross rides it for all its worth: “Murder, a mother f**kin’ murder / no you didn’t see it but I know you b**ches heard it / blood on the corner, damn I miss my dawg / I’m just thinkin’ ‘bout his daughter, in another life he ballin.” One relates to the sympathy that Ross has for his fallen comrade, which could be any person stripped of their life, yet on the other hand, the game of drug dealing, violence, and “I get shooters on clearance…” is just ugly. Unsurprisingly, interlude “Shots Fired” proceeds, with Rick Ross being alluded to (“We’re being told by people here on the scenes, specifically the manager that a famous rapper was riding in that car when someone opened fire shooting at the car…” Dark stuff – quality though.
“Nobody” didn’t appeal to me personally the first time I heard it, but it grows on you. French Montana continues to appear on every one’s track and here is no different as he delivers the hook: “Mama’s tryna save me / but she don’t know I’m tryna save her / man, them n***as tried to play me / man, ‘til I get this paper / you’re nobody ‘til somebody kills you.” Essentially, the theme of doing wrong and dangerous things to achieve riches continues on this track. The tone is aggressive, not merely because of Diddy’s pointed interludes, but also thanks to Ross’ unapologetic rhymes, including “The mortician, the morgue fillin’ with more snitches / we kill ‘em and taking their b**ches, R.I.P.” Ultimately, “Nobody” eventually reveals it’s magic if it isn’t apparent the first listen. Don’t let the Notorious B.I.G. sample (“You’re Nobody (‘Til Somebody Kills You)”) dissuade you.
“The Devil Is A Lie” benefits from sampling, maybe more so than “Nobody” did (“Don’t Let Your Love Fade Away”). Don’t call “The Devil Is a Lie” a song of praise… there plenty of blasphemy. “Big guns and big whips / rich n***a talkin’ big sh*t,” raps Ross on the hook, “…Bow your head cuz it’s time to pay tithes / opposition want me dead or alive / motherf**ker but the devil is a lie / the devil is a lie, b**ch I’m the truth…” If that’s not enough, Jay-Z’s religious beliefs are, well, unique: “Is it true or it’s fiction / Is Hov atheist? I never f**k with True Religion / am I down with the devil cuz my roof came up missin’ / is that Lucifer juice in that two cup he sippin’…” Well, regardless of where either MC stands spiritually, both acknowledge, “the devil is a lie.” It is up for debate whether that makes Rick Ross “the truth” though…
“Mafia Music III” keeps the momentum top-notch. Sporting unexpected reggae production, “Mafia Music III” seems to really fuel Rick Ross into some inspired rhymes. Not only that, Ross references Kenneth Williams (gang member), Bill Belichick, and Farrakhan – go figure. Mavado’s hook contributes to the overall success of the track as well, solidifying the tropical vibe. Keeping it G, “War Ready” brings in Jeezy for the assist, who seems to have dropped the ‘Young’ as a of late. Obsessed with ‘shooters’, Rick Ross continues to reference them for the millionth time as of late: “War ready / you got shooters, I’ve got shooters / we’ve got money / let’s do what them other n***as can’t do…” Mike Will Made It gives Ross and Jeezy magnificent, relaxed, yet malicious production work to do work over, which both do. Surprisingly, it is Jeezy who references the ‘Box Chevy’ (“Box Chevy hit the block, run the whole 50 shots / you just poppin’ ‘til you know you can’t pop ‘em no more…”) “War Ready” keeps things 100 and consistent.
French Montana makes his second appearance of Mastermind on “What A Shame”, a brief cut produced by Reefa and Stats. The production is excellent though the track itself could stand more development and ‘meat’ you might say. Unsurprisingly, Ross once more references those shooters, and they aren’t shooting jump shots. On “Supreme”, Rick switches from ‘magazines’ to “Clean Maybach, but it’s filthy as sh*t / they partitioning for the women, how busy we get…” So, you guessed it, with Keith Sweat lending his soulful new-jack pipes and Scott Storch infusing some soulful, swagger-laden production, “Supreme” is about the ‘fun’ things in life… I’ll leave it at that. “BLK & WHT” does have a play on race, but it’s not merely what you may think it is before listening. Here, Ross talks about ‘slanging’: “Young n***a black, but he selling white…N***a crib so big, it’s a damn shame / n***a sellin’ white for a gold chain.” If nothing else, “BLK & WHT” has a hypnotizing quality about it.
After the silly “Dope B**ch Skit”, The Weeknd drops a joint featuring Rick Ross… or at least that is how “In Vein” comes over. Sure it’s lush, and in the emo-alt R&B style that The Weeknd has come to be associated, but it doesn’t really show off Rick Ross himself. That said, standout “Sanctified” is more of a team-effort from Betty Wright, Big Sean, Kanye West, and Ross, but the overall product is satisfactory. Let’s face it – where would this track have been without Betty Wright’s soulful, un-credited vocals? No disrespect to Mr. West, but few of us need another “Yeezus” as he refers to during his verse – another My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, perhaps. Ross’ best line on his verse: “Soldiers all in gators, new Mercedes for cadets / Balmain uniform, you know Donda designed the vest…” Like “The Devil Is A Lie” though, I wouldn’t invest too much spiritually into this track, particularly with Big Sean’s hook (“All I wanted is 100 million dollars and a bad b**ch…”) At least he admits his sins.
“Walkin’ On Air” has a difficult act to follow after the ‘sanctification’, but it’s definitely not a shabby penultimate track. Again, the blasphemy can’t be good for Ross’ spiritual being: “Baptized by the dope boys, ordained by the a**holes / my salvation is the cash flow / whoa, oh I’m walking on air.” Even aside from misinformed spiritual allusions, lines like “She let me f**k early so she trustworthy…” certainly has no relation to the church. Meek Mill confirms this song is, um, sinful (“Make a call, call Papi for a brick / and papi call José, cause José got fish…”). “Thug Cry”, featuring Lil Wayne and produced by J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League closes Mastermind soundly. Don’t call the multi-sampling work a classic, but it definitely closes an overt album a gentler than it was throughout its course.
All in all, Mastermind turns out to be another well-rounded, enjoyable album from Rick Ross. There is more than enough wealth to please more casual and hardcore Ross fans alike. It won’t supersede the top two albums of Ross’ collection, but it definitely can hang. Not sure why the banging “Box Chevy” was omitted, but it is what it is. Not perfect, but well played, well played.
“Drug Dealers Dream”; “The Devil Is A Lie”; “Mafia Music III”; “War Ready”; “Sanctified”
Singer/songwriter Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) delivers big-time on St. Vincent
St. Vincent • St. Vincent • Loma Vista/Republic • US Release Date: February 25, 2014
After several albums, St. Vincent (Annie Clark) still isn’t what you’d call a household name. It’s a shame given the singer/songwriter’s most recent self-titled effort is nothing short of captivating, filled with some truly exceptional material. On St. Vincent, the groove seems to propel every track, and there’s not one thing wrong with that. The songwriting throughout isn’t too shabby either, making this alt/indie-pop affair quite the musical treat. St. Vincent isn’t perfect (“Perfect Isn’t Easy”), but there are very few flaws for even the most nitpicky of nitpickers. You could say being ‘different’ pays off for St. Vincent, like big-time.
“Rattlesnake” captures the ears from the onset, delivering quite a unique sound. The mix of distorted guitars, drums, and synths definitely highlight. As previously mentioned, the groove itself is killer from the onset, inviting the listener to ‘move’ to the music. Sure, “Rattlesnake” is by no means an alt-dance song or club-cut, but the music itself gives it a pop sensibility. Lyrically, its all bread and butter with lyrics like “I see the snake holes dotted in the sand / as if the Seurat painted the Rio Grande / am I the only one in the only world?” If that’s too ‘abstract’, perhaps repetitive lyrics like “Running, running, running, rattle behind me…” are more lighthearted and fun.
“Birth In Reverse” would capture anybody’s attention, if for nothing else than the title itself. St. Vincent isn’t literally referring to ‘birth in reverse’, but she does seem to be figuratively playing on the idea of ‘death’ or sort of the predictability and boringness that can be everyday life. “Oh what an ordinary day,” she sings on the first verse. “Take out the garbage, masturbate / I’m still holding for the laugh…” Essentially, it’s as if there is no change of pace – the routines remain the same. Because St. Vincent captures this lyrically, “Birth In Reverse” shines marvelously.
“Prince Johnny” doesn’t let up off the gas, delivering a moody cut that proves to be equally beautiful. Lyrically, St. Vincent’s lyrics are ingenious, as she sings through numerous allusions and metaphors. The character Prince Johnny ends up being incredibly complex, but then again, St. Vincent relays that lyrically at the onset (“Prince Johnny, you’re kind but you’re not simple / By now I think I know the difference”). Among St. Vincent’s most clever allusion is to Pinocchio, in which she sings “Saw you pray to all to make you a real boy…” “Huey Newton” proceeds in hypnotic fashion, with an air of mysteriousness. Lyrically, St. Vincent continues to allure, whether its overt moments like “F**kless porn sharks / toothless but got a big bark / live children blind psychics / turned online assassins…” or more poetic ones such as “entombed in the shrine of zeros and ones / you know, you know /with fatherless features, you motherless creatures.” Annie Clark, you’re truly something!
“Digital Witness” is a definitely standout, with its soulful, groove-laden production work. St. Vincent definitely criticizes social media/networking, and how it’s affected traditional social relationships. “People turn the TV on, it looks like a window.” Basically, St. Vincent seems to suggest that real-life interaction has been supplanted with any number apps and social networking avenues. “Digital witnesses / what’s the point of even sleeping,” St. Vincent sings on the chorus. “If I can’t show it if you can’t see me / what’s the point of doing anything?” Does she overreact to the power of social media? Perhaps or perhaps not, but she makes one awesome song in the process.
“I Prefer Your Love” is another meaningful moment from St. Vincent. Written about her mother, Clark confidently sings, “I prefer your love to Jesus”. Lyrics throughout give away the fact that it is a dedication to her mother, including “Mother, won’t you open your arms and forgive me of all these / bad thoughts I’m blinded to the faces in the fog”. Relaxed, yet still rhythmic, “I Prefer Your Love” is easily one of the year’s most touching ballads. “Regret” is a contrast to the slow tempo of “Love”, incorporating more of a ‘rock’ nature about it, driven by the distorted guitar. “Regret” doesn’t quite have the same oomph of the cream of the crop, but there is still plenty of lyrical and instrumental personality exhibited. I mean, lyrics like “I’m afraid of heaven because I can’t stand the heights/ I’m afraid of you because I can’t be left behind…” will always standout regardless of the song itself.
“Bring Me Your Loves” thrives on lyrical repetition as one of its weapons. Unusual sounding at the onset, “Bring Me Your Loves” is also quite appealing. “I thought you were like a dog / I thought you were a dog, but you made a pet of me…” Wow, St. Vincent, wow! She goes on later to say “I took you off your leash / but I can’t, no I can’t make you heel.” She can’t control her man – he’s controlling her? Seems that way. Then there’s “Psychopath”, which is consistently rhythmic throughout. The use of acoustic guitars gives the cut a nice timbre. Still, the lyrics certainly aren’t what you would call ‘warm and fuzzy’: “Wanna make a bet whether I can make it back cause / I’m on the edge of a heart attack.” “Every Tear Disappears” benefits from its quirkiness, a pro that characterizing the entire of album. Simple, yet clever lyrically, that’s just the way Annie Clark rolls apparently. “Severed Cross Fingers” closes exceptionally; the harmonic progression shines, the groove anchors, and St. Vincent is, well St. Vincent.
Ultimately, St. Vincent ends up being a superb album. It is creative, quirky, and incredibly enjoyable. St. Vincent doesn’t go for the ‘humdrum’, but instead is forward thinking and truly thoughtful from both a lyrical and musical perspective. Sure, the singer/songwriter has been a round for years and the premise hasn’t changed, but St. Vincent continues to think outside of the box and plays against clichés rather than playing into them. Because of this, St. Vincent is one of the year’s best.
“Rattlesnake”; “Prince Johnny”; “Digital Witness”; “I Prefer Your Love”; “Severed Cross Fingers”
Now 49 is an improvement over previous compilations
Various Artists • Now 49: That’s What I Call Music • UMe • US Release Date: February 4, 2014
Compilation efforts have great intentions, but also can possess their respective flaws as well. The Now Series is a superb way to give music lovers some of the biggest hits via one album. The problem with the series is often by the time some of the hits make the compilation they’ve actually faded or cooled off a bit. Part of this is the restlessness of society while part of it is the assemblers being mindful of what’s currently “hot” and what’s “not”. Now 49 serves its purpose like its colleagues, but of course there are puzzlements with the inclusion of certain songs given the timing. Ultimately though, Now 49 is an improvement over previous compilations.
Some excellent choices found on Now 49 definitely includes the opener, “Timber”, a recent number one hit performed by Pitbull and featuring Ke$ha. “Timber” fits perfectly because it is arguably the freshest song on the track list. Another excellent choices with release date being a considered is “Say Something” by A Great Big World featuring Christina Aguilera. While “Say Something” has been out a while, A Great Big World’s debut effort Is Anybody Out There? was just recently released. Additionally, the former Billboard Hot 100 top five hit has remained and only grew in popularity. Another solid choice is “Demons” by Imagine Dragons. With “Radioactive” still incredibly popular after a lengthy run, current single “Demons” seems ‘brand new’, even with album Night Visions original bowing in 2012. One could also make the argument for others, like “Unconditionally”, Katy Perry’s outgoing single before the rise of the “Dark Horse” (featuring Juicy J), or the sustained popularity of “Hold On, We’re Going Home” (Drake featuring Majid Jordan) or “Stay The Night” (Zedd featuring Hayley Williams). There are some solid tracks featured on Now 49.
As always, there are also question marks. Britney Spears’ “Work Work” (an edited version of “Work B**ch”) may have no issue given its relevance where time is concerned, but Britney Jean as a whole was a bomb. “Work” received some attention, but it certainly wouldn’t earn the honors as the pop star’s best single ever. Similarly, “TKO” by Justin Timberlake feels out of place with much bigger, more relevant hits. The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2 definitely didn’t match the popularity of the original. “TKO” could’ve been axed from this set and wouldn’t have been missed. “Gorilla” by Bruno Mars is an excellent song (I didn’t think so when I first heard it over a year ago, but it grew on me), but it has ‘expired’ for this particular set. To the ear, one truly nitpicky person might even chastise the inclusion of Lady Gaga’s duet with R. Kelly, “Do What U Want”. While ARTPOP‘s best joint has only been on the Hot 100 for about 15 weeks, it’s ‘peak’ success has been finished for a couple of weeks at this point.
Ultimately though, Now 49 seems to be an improvement over the last couple of compilations. There are fewer miscues in regards to who and what is included. Now 49 is not perfect, but what compilation is? On greatest hits albums don’t the assemblers often goof somewhere? Sometimes aren’t soundtracks only so-so when listening to them outside the context of the film? Now 49 sports enough meat to please fans, particularly those who want some of their favorites for their own personal playlist.
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!
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.
“Tribute”; “Love Me Again”; “Losing Sleep”; “Out Of My Head”; “Cheating”; “Down The Line”
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!
“Transgender Dysphoria Blues”; “True Trans Soul Rebel”; “Drinking With The Jocks”; “Osama Bin Laden as the Crucified Christ”; “Paralytic States”
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.
“High Hopes”; “American Skin (41 Shots)”; “Just Like Fire Would”; “Frankie Fell In Love”; “Hunter Of Invisible Game”
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.
“Retreat”; “We Get Along”; “You’ll Be Lonely”; “People Don’t Get What They Deserve”
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.
“Recovery”; “Nobody But You”; “Struggle To Be” featuring Q. Parker; “Paper Heart”; “Mystery”
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.
“Rockstar”; “Land of Opportunity”; “I Really Want It”; “There Is An Answer”; “Say Something” featuring Christina Aguilera
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.
“The Movement”; “Show Me”; “Iz U Down?”; “Murda”; “No Miracles”; “Bad Ass”
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.
Ten years later, Confessions stands tall as a modern R&B classic
Usher • Confessions • LaFace • US Release Date: March 22, 2004
As hard as it is to believe, it has been a decade since R&B artist Usher released his ‘ace in the hole’, Confessions. Back in 2004, there was no bigger album than Confessions, which went on to sell ten million copies, earning diamond certification from the RIAA. Diamond albums certainly don’t grow on trees, and Confessions was one special album by all means. Not only was Confessions special with its immense commercial success and multiple number one singles, but it can also be considered to be both a modern R&B classic and arguably a modern classic regardless of genre. Consistent from start to finish, whether it’s the original release or the rereleased ‘Special Edition’, Confessions is a musical gem.
“Intro” foreshadows the theme of the album, obviously Usher’s ‘confessions’ in regards to various romance issues. While the 0:46 cut could be wrote off in regards to its ultimate importance to the effort, it does set the tone if nothing more. “Yeah!” is the attention-getter, serving as the set’s club joint. “Yeah!” bangs hard ten years later, even with crunk falling by the wayside. “Peace up, A-Town down!” was easily one of the signature lines of 2004 with “Yeah!” ultimately sitting atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 12 weeks. Before ‘swag’ came to be associated with Justin Bieber, Usher certainly epitomized it: “Yeah, shorty got down low said, come and get me / yeah, I got so caught up, I forgot she told me / yeah, her and my girl, they used to be the best of homies / yeah, next thing I knew she was all up on me screamin’…” Throw in Lil Jon’s exuberant shouts and Ludacris’s nastiness (“If you hold the head steady, I’mma milk the cow…I won’t stop till I get ‘em in their birthday suit…”), and “Yeah!” showcases ultra beast mode.
“Throwback” appeared on the original Confessions without the assist of Jadakiss, who joined the remixed version on the special edition. Regardless of the version, “Throwback” smartly uses a soulful sample as inspiration for its “throwback” nature in addition to the real meaning of “throwback” contextually within this standout. Usher says it best on the first verse: “You never miss a good thing ‘til it leaves ya / finally I realized that I need ya back / I want ya back…” Usher’s love loss is the listener’s gain, sigh.
After ‘throwing back’, Usher dives into both his confessions – “Confessions” and former number one hit “Confessions, Pt. II”. On the original release, “Confessions” was merely an interlude, but was expanded into a full-fledged, enjoyable track on the special edition. The confessional lines ring true on the memorable refrain: “Everything that I’ve been doing is all bad / I got a chick on the side with a crib and a ride / I been telling you so many lies / ain’t none good it’s all bad…” The drama only gets deeper on the even more electrifying “Part II”: “Now this gon’ be the hardest thing I think I ever had to do / Got me talkin’ to myself askin’ how I’m gon’ tell you / ‘bout that chick on part 1 I told y’all I was creepin’ with, creepin’ with / said she’s 3 months pregnant and she’s keepin’ it…” Ten years later, “ Confessions, Pt. II” is a type of contemporary R&B song many still wish had hung around in present times. The rhythmic approach to the vocals, the songwriting, and exceptional production work make the song valedictory.
“Burn” is another superb contemporary R&B smash, still sounding incredibly fresh and meaningful. Usher delivers the Grammy-winning ballad with supreme sincerity, capped off by “ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh,” representing the singer’s own ‘burning’. A favorite lyrical moment arrives via verse two: “You’ve been gone for too long / it’s been fifty-eleven days, um-teen hours / I’mma be burnin’ till you return…” On “Caught Up”, Usher speaks of the misconceptions of the “hit it and quit” method without repercussions: “My mama told me / be careful who you do cause karma comes back around / same old song / but I was so sure / that it wouldn’t happen to me, cause I know how to put it down / but I was so wrong…” Ultimately, the listener comes to find out that this girl, well, she’s got ‘Ursher’ “twisted” and “losing control.” Usher simply can’t hook up with this one and forget about it. Even so, Usher’s pain once more is the audience’s gain, and they (we) benefit big time.
On “Superstar” (also preceded by its own interlude), Usher unselfishly switches roles. Rather than focus on his own superstardom – which was established prior to Confessions – Usher makes his “number one” the superstar. Usher proclaims “I’ll be your groupie baby / cuz you are my superstar / I’m your number one fan, give me your autograph / sign it right here on my heart…” The results are both consistent and excellent, with “Superstar” easily fitting into the top tier of Confessions. Nine tracks into Confessions, a verdict of high praise is almost imminent, given the quality of the front half of the LP.
It could be argued that the span of songs following “Superstar” up until “My Boo” (Special Edition), are a shade less enthralling. While this group of songs isn’t the juggernauts of the front half, on any other album, they possibly might be standouts on their own. What that says is that Confessions is ‘deep’ from top to bottom with no misses. “Truth Hurts”, for example, features chill, easygoing vocals from Usher and delivers another well written, memorable song. Sure, “Truth Hurts” isn’t quite as compelling as “Burn”, but it also isn’t deserving of skipping by any means. Similarly, “Simple Things” is simply beautiful and soulful, with the electric piano truly throwing given this cut that vintage, soul cue. Throw in the backing vocals, and “Simple Things” proves you can’t ‘simply’ write off non-singles and less heralded cuts from a five-star album.
“Bad Girl” wasn’t released as a single, but a portion was featured on the “My Boo” music video. Confessions had more than a successful run with its singles, so there was no need to release “Bad Girl”, BUT honestly, it would’ve made yet another electrifying hit potentially. It’s another clubby cut, but without the same edginess of “Yeah!” Still, swag is written all over this cut, only confirmed by Usher’s slick upper register and falsetto. Usher doesn’t slow down on follow-up “That’s What It’s Made For”, which seems like a natural segue in the narrative sensually. Usher is incredibly sexed-up here, though he has manners you might say: “Figured I’d hit it and quit it just one night / got so good to me doubled back twice…” (Verse one) only later stating “Game rules, no cap no cut / but even Superman couldn’t turn your love down, I / slipped up, slipped in / hey man what the hell you doin’?” (Verse two). Bad girl or bad boy – “that is the question!”
Both “Can U Handle It” and “Do It To Me” continues to find Usher igniting the bedroom, though Usher keeps it much classier than many of today’s male R&B artists. Sure, its obvious Usher is talking about sex, but he keeps its ‘sensual’ as opposed to overtly ‘sexual’. After slower tempi, “Take Your Hand”, a very underrated hip-hop soul-grooving joint, speeds the tempo up, brilliantly closing the standard edition. “Take Your Hand” doesn’t supplant the best, but it definitely supplements them.
The special edition of Confessions rocks four additional tracks, with all four ending up consistent for the most part. “My Boo” featuring Alicia Keys is the gem of the group, residing with the top tier of the effort. Back in 2004, “My Boo” was the ultimate superstar duet between two stars at the very top of their games. In fact, Confessions and arguably Keys’ best album The Diary of Alicia Keys would face off in the album of the year category at the Grammys. The song itself, was well produced, well written, and had a remarkable authenticity and vocal chemistry. The remainder of bonus tracks didn’t stand a chance against this juggernaut. Even so, “Red Light” was sound, sensually driven club cut, while “Seduction” served the perfect purpose for making love into the night. The least notable is a remix of “Confessions, Pt. II”, featuring Shyne, Twista, and a breakout rapper by the name of Kanye West.
Overall, Confessions stands as one of R&B and music’s modern masterpieces; its tremendous legacy continues to live on a decade after its original release. As of late, R&B has cooled off considerably, with few marquee albums to show for it – no disrespect. With identity issues sometimes plaguing the genre, Confessions serves as an album chocked to the brim with confidence, personality, and the upmost quality. More R&B artists, maybe even Usher him self, should reexamine this exceptional, modern classic for inspiration. Confessions represents and artist and genre at their most brilliant.
“Yeah!”; “Throwback”; “Confessions, Pt. II”; “Burn”; “Caught Up”; “Superstar”; “My Boo”
The X-Factor girl group show promise on debut EP
Fifth Harmony⎪ Better Together (EP)⎪Syco / Epic ⎪⎪ US Release Date: October 22, 2013
Face it, the boy/girl group isn’t quite the same as it was at the turn of the millennium. Yes I know, One Direction are doing their thing, but they haven’t attained the same success of say The Backstreet Boys or N*N*Sync. Fifth Harmony is actually a promising prospect in the girl group field, something that hasn’t been 100% really since Destiny’s Child (yes, Danity Kane had a run). Fifth Harmony come by way of X-Factor, a show that has been struggling to back up the entertainment of watching it with some notable Billboard chart numbers. The most successful act from the US version of the show has been one ‘boy band’ by the name of Emblem 3. Still, they aren’t exactly taking the reins over from One Direction number wise (and One Direction has a little bad boy / swag streak going on). But back to the girls, Fifth Harmony seem legit enough on their debut EP Better Together.
“Don’t Wanna Dance Alone” makes a sound initial statement, taking things straight to the dance floor. The production is slick, the vocals are enthusiastic, bright, and bubbly, and the song – specifically the chorus – is catchy. “I got my bet on and I feel like dancing / all night long / nothing’s gonna stop me / you’re what I want / oh baby come and get me, cause I don’t wanna dance alone”. Anything new or innovative? No, but it’s a solid start for sure. “Miss Movin’ On” continues to sound youthful, fresh, and catchy, mixing electro and modern pop sensibilities. Everyone loves a good ‘broken relationship / moving on’ song and that’s just what the quintet offers here. Lyrics like “I’m breaking down, gonna start from scratch / shake it off like an etch-a-sketch…” and “…I jumped the fence to the other side / my whole world was electrified / now I’m no longer afraid / it’s Independence Day” are nothing short of music to the ears. Corny and schmaltzy? Perhaps, but their young and it’s definitely catchy.
“Better Together”, the title track doesn’t suffer from what I pen as the ‘titular bug’ – aka when the title track sucks! Here, the girls sit aside the modern pop for more contemporary R&B fare. This track should appeal to the demographic of Fifth Harmony’s audience who most enjoyed their stunning take on Shontelle’s “Impossible” on X-factor. The chorus is nothing flashy, just simple and repetitive. That said, it suits the gimmicky nature of the genre these days where artists just love their minimalism (“Boy I miss you, said I really do / boy I miss you / now understand that we’re better together…”) Another pro? The form as far as the songwriting structure works soundly.
The final two cuts are less intriguing, but still worthwhile. “Who Are You” benefits from its use of piano, occasional harmonized vocal moments, and the powerful ad libs appearing at the end. Lyrically, the use of the days of the weeks definitely stands out, creating the narrative of the song. Closing cut “Leave My Heart Out of This” quickens the tempo, rivaling the speed of the opener. Unfortunately, it’s less notable but the girls still have something to say: “I tell my heart to just butt out / keep its opinion to itself / I should just listen to my head / cause it’s the one who knows what’s best…” There it is!
Final thoughts? It’s very difficult to be ‘blown away’ by an EP, which is nothing more than a snapshot into what an artist or group’s full length album will sound like, but Fifth Harmony definitely come out of Better Together favorably. They don’t reinvent the wheel or the girl group, but they do deliver that thing call ‘promise.’ Promise is worth something, right?
Favorites: “Don’t Wanna Dance Alone”; “Miss Movin’ On”; “Better Together”
- Album Review: Fifth Harmony – ‘Better Together’ (rawmusicent.com)
- Fifth Harmony Talk About the Elevator, Upcoming “Better Together EP” and Stalking Fans (popwrapped.wordpress.com)
- Fifth Harmony Release “Better Together” EP Today (hispanicbusiness.com)
- Girl groups on the rebound (nydailynews.com)
- EXCLUSIVE! Fifth Harmony Prove They’re Some Talented, Little Miss Movin’ Ons! Watch HERE! (perezhilton.com)
- Fifth Harmony Blows Away The Stage With Their Performance Of Miss Movin’ On (perezhilton.com)
- Fifth Harmony confirmed “Better Together” as next single! (heartbeatmusik.wordpress.com)
Khaled’s Not ‘Suffering from Success’, perhaps suffers from a lack of innovation…
DJ Khaled⎪ Suffering From Success⎪ Cash Money ⎪⎪ US Release Date: October 22, 2013
If there is one reservation I (and likely others) have with DJ Khaled’s albums, it is that generally they all seem ‘one-dimensional’. Maybe that is a harsh critique, or maybe it’s just actual reality. Of the Khaled albums that I have partaken of in recent times, they’re always good for some top-notch club bangers (“I’m On One”), but cohesively, the albums feel like somewhat detached compilations. Suffering From Success proves no different, ultimately yielding some pleasant, head-nodding moments, but eschewing the ‘second coming’.
After intro “Obama (Winning More Interlude)”, “Suffering From Success”, featuring Ace Hood and Future, kicks off the album of the same title. Ultimately, the production work (Young Chop) is dark, malicious, and characteristic of the hardcore rap idiom. Future delivers his first of many hooks, sounding his typical, auto-tuned self: “Got too many racks on me, I can’t even go to sleep / just to get ‘em out V.I.P., I’mma need to see I.D. (I don’t trust you) / I’m sufferin’ / I’m sufferin’ from success / I’m sufferin’…” Really, “suffering from success”? Please! The best part of the so-so title track may be Ace Hood’s aggressive rhymes.
“I Feel Like Pac / I Feel Like Biggie” is much stronger, sporting production from The Beat Bully. Ah the weight that synthesized brass and a hard underlying beat carry! The inspiration seems to be full-fledged here, whether that’s just the mere mention of rap royalty or a star-studded cast including Rick Ross, Meek Mill, T.I., Swizz Beatz, and Puff Daddy. Swizz Beatz’s hook is definitely ‘on point’ as they say, while Meek Mill kills it on his verse. The momentum is propelled even further on “You Don’t Want No Problems”, yet another juggernaut assisted by Big Sean (the hook), Rick Ross, French Montana, 2 Chainz, Meek Mill, Ace Hood, and Timbaland (who produces with Khaled). There are numerous highlights, including 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…”)
“Blackball” follows, again relying on the ubiquitous Future for a hook (“They tryna blackball me, they say I get too much money / they want my name from me because they know what it do…” etc.). Plies and Ace Hood handle the verses, though compared to the previous duo, “Blackball” is less triumphant. “No Motive” featuring Lil Wayne sort of falls into the same boat, sounding ‘solid’, but not exceptional. The hook definitely didn’t take much thought: “F**k all you b*****s… f**k all you hoes… one million, two million, three, four…” “I’m Still” is enjoyable enough, but I feel like I’ve heard this cut over and over again. Chris Brown excels at infusing some R&B into hip-hop, but at this point it’s not truly new or rousing. Wiz Khalifa joins the lengthy credit list, rapping unsurprisingly “So high don’t see no problems / b**ch I’m on them trees like Tarzan…” It works, but doesn’t excite. Personally, I’m sick of hearing about Wiz getting high.
“I Wanna Be With You” again brings in Future, but also sees another return from Rick Ross and a debut appearance from Nicki Minaj. Minaj remains at her best when she’s raunchy, if you can handle her un-lady rhymes. Even though Minaj is a “girl on fire”, Rick Ross has arguably the best line: “That ho chick gets you no play, all I talk is cocaine.” Hit “No New Friends” is a showstopper, again rekindling some magic between Khaled and Drake (“No new friends, no new friends…f**k all y’all n***as except my n***as…”). Rick Ross hops on board (“…All I hug is blood n***a, Khaled that’s my flesh though / all I want is love n***a, money bring that stress though…”) as does Lil Wayne (“…B**ch we good-fellas, boy all them n***as with you they just pall bearers…”). The production work is aligned with the ‘Drake’ sound as the track is produced by Boi-1da and Noah “40” Shebib. A standout? Of course!
The remainder of the album is so-so. “Give It All To Me” (Mavado featuring Nicki Minaj) sounds like it’s going to be a deal breaker initially, but it’s respectable enough. “Hell’s Kitchen” has its moments, thanks to the sound and solid rhymes from J Cole and Bas. Still, “Hell’s Kitchen” sits too long. Lengthy duration also hurts the super ambitious “Never Surrender”, which manages to utilize three R&B singers in John Legend, Anthony Hamilton, and Akon. Add raps from Scarface, Jadakiss, and Meek Mill to that mix and it’s quite ‘big’. “Murcielago (Doors Go Up)” is not only ‘tired’ in name, but the song itself is a ‘C’ at best – merely average and unmemorable. “Black Ghost”, credited to Vado is ok, but like “Murcielago”, it’s nothing to write home about.
Thoughts overall? Suffering From Success isn’t really suffering from success, but it may be suffering from a lack of innovative spirit. It’s good enough, not great If you’re looking for depth, avoid it. If you want to get it poppin’ at the club, this is for you.
Favorites: “I Feel Like Pac / I Feel Like Biggie” ; “You Don’t Want These Problems” ; “No New Friends”
A maturer Katy Perry isn’t a total deal breaker…
Katy Perry⎪ Prism ⎪ Capitol ⎪⎪ US Release Date: October 22, 2013
“I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter / dancing through the fire / ‘cause I am a champion, and your’e going to hear me roar…” I suppose there comes a time for every childish pop star to grow up, right? Katy Perry eschews ‘going stupid’ on her fourth studio effort Prism, which is a shocking revelation for an artist who in the past has tended to ‘push the envelope’. That isn’t to say that Perry doesn’t have her share of fun here (she does), but if fans were looking for a Teenage Dream repeat, they just might be disappointed. Personally as a music listener who has always been ‘on the fence’ about Perry, there are aspects of Prism that give me more respect for her artistry. That said, there are also times I’d wish she’d throw out a line like “Ur so gay and you don’t even like boys…”.
“Roar” starts off Prism energetically and inspired. The lyrics uplift, something that “Ur So Gay” and “Teenage Dream” didn’t seek to do. I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t given Perry’s first single the due praise that it deserves, but I repent to the upmost. The cut is solidly produced (Dr. Luke and Max Martin) and Perry sings it well ultimately. I mean, I feel like “I am a champion” after listening. Sophomore cut “Legendary Lovers” isn’t too bad, but anything that proceeded “Roar” would struggle to match or eclipse the album’s flagship. Still, the gargantuan chorus and Perry’s newfound maturity are welcome. Still, we wouldn’t mind for some ‘ear candy’ either. Standout “Birthday” could be characterized as a toned-down, more tasteful “Teenage Dream”. Don’t let Perry’s more thoughtful persona fool you though; she’s still got some naughtiness going on (“So let me get you in your birthday suit…” and “Pop your confetti, we can get it on”).
“Walking On Air” has a danceable, partying vibe about it. Here, Perry is “walking on air” because she’s so taken by her man: “You’re giving me sweet, sweet ecstasy…” or “You’re reading me like erotica / boy you make me feel exotic yeah…” Yeah, maybe it’s still risqué and not quite ‘PG’, but it’s certainly a departure from the overt “Peacock” right? She may exaggerate a bit with lines like “Heaven is jealous of our love / angels are crying from up above”, but she seems to be in a good spot. This ‘good spot’ continues on “Unconditionally” which is one-dimensional conceptually, but does convey genuine emotion. “All your insecurities / all the dirty laundry never made me blink one time” and “I’ll take your bad days with your good / walk through the storm I would” supplant “I kissed a girl and I liked it.” Guess that’s something we’ll just have to get used to Katy.
While Prism wasn’t really sagging, “Dark Horse” does arrive perfectly timed to give the effort a bit more excitability. Ubiquitous MC Juicy J ends up being a nice fit on this hip-hop oriented pop cut that sports arguable the sickest beat of the entire effort. 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 only make the deal sweeter and of course the cut wouldn’t be nearly as swag-a-licious without Juicy J lines like “Uh, she’s a beast / I call her Karma / she eat your heart out / like Jeffrey Dahmer…” “Dark Horse” ranks right up there with “Roar”. “This Is How We Do” isn’t a bad follow-up, though the Mariah Carey line is hella corny: “Day drinking at the Wildcats, sucking real bad at Mariah karaoke…” Well at least we know “how we do”… I guess.
“International Smile” may be one of the most enthusiastic minor-key centered cuts you’ve ever heard. Perry paints a picture of ‘this girl’s greatness (and rebelliousness) for sure, whether it’s “Fire was in her hair, she don’t care / Peach pink lips, yeah, everybody stares…” or “She’s got that je ne sais quoi, you know it / so trés chic, yeah she’s a classic / but she’s pole dancing, so fancy free…” The point? “That girl’s a trip…takes you miles high, so high, cause she’s got that one international smile…” OK. “Ghost” and “Love Me” don’t have the same ‘edge’ of “International Smile”, making them a bit of a bore. “Ghost” shines on iterations of the chorus as well as the bridge, but the verses sag a bit. On “Love Me”, it feels as if Katy Perry has gotten a bit too serious for her own good. Still, it has a few notable moments.
“This Moment” ordinarily might not have been a favorite, particularly for Katy Perry, but the cut injects some much need momentum after two relative humdrum showings with “Ghost” and “Love Me”. It doesn’t ascend to the high level established by “Roar”, “Birthday” or “Dark Horse”, but fares well overall. “Double Rainbow” takes a back step, but what Perry sings about isn’t unfathomable or far-fetched… just a bit blah. “By the Grace of God” is overall nicely thought out, but again, attaching the level of seriousness to Katy Perry certainly will take many of us some time. ‘Moving’ may be an overstatement, but there are definitely some nice pieces here.
Ultimately, Prism is a solid, enjoyable album. It is not flawless mind you, but in some respects, Katy Perry has stepped up her game. It is also quite impressive that that Perry desires to be ‘grown up’ if you will. My question might be is this effort ‘fun’ enough to maintain Perry’s elite commercial status at radio? “Roar” did, so time will tell.
Favorites: “Roar”; “Birthday”; “Dark Horse”; “This Moment”
- Review: Katy Perry’s ‘Prism’ (nicholashautman.wordpress.com)
- Carson Daly Premieres Katy Perry’s “Unconditionally” On AMP Radio (amp.cbslocal.com)
- Katy Perry’s ‘Prism’ streaming on iTunes one week early (nydailynews.com)
- Katy Perry – Prism Review (ohmydaniel.wordpress.com)
C’É shows listeners the reward of broadening musical horizons
Cosimo Erario⎪ C’É ⎪EGP ⎪⎪ US Release Date: February 25, 2013
Listening to pop/rock music in the U.S., do you ever wonder how the same style of music might differ in another country? I certainly do, though until a recent experience, I wouldn’t have called the question a burning one. That said, I was given the unique opportunity to partake of an album of Italian pop/rock music performed and written by singer/songwriter Cosimo Erario. I had never heard Erario, and while I’ve always wanted to speak Italian, particularly given its significance in music terminology, I’m restricted to just that, fluency in Italian music terms. Listening to the overall impressive album C’É, it certainly further expanded my already eclectic and liberal tastes.
So how does Italian rock/pop sound? Well not incredibly far-fetched (at least on C’É) from ‘guitar-driven’ pop/rock in the states. Opener “Senza bussare” would sound very much at home on any of my rock playlists, with the lyrics being the only exception of course. From the onset, “Senza bussare” grabs one’s attention with its rocking guitars, which continue to drive throughout. As a first impression, “Senza bussare” proves to be an exceptional one. The follow-up “Ricominicio da te” is no slouch itself, continuing to impress. Among several notable moments? The gargantuan nature of the bridge and a catchy chorus, regardless if you comprehend the language. The unification created by the riffs doesn’t hurt either.
“Una trilione di pianeti” (translates to “A Trillion Planets”) caps off a brilliant opening trio, characterized by its beautiful melody, particularly on the refrain. The soloing guitar lines are athletic in sound and ‘right on point’ as you might say. Perhaps “Dall’universo” (“From The Universe”) brings things down a notch, but the ballad offers both a strong contrast and is ultimately quite thoughtful. One of the best moments? When the vocals harmonize beautifully when the anchoring bass drops out. “Noi di vento” picks the tempo back up, though doesn’t certainly doesn’t go ‘lightening speed’. The sound is once more rock-driven, nothing that doesn’t feel comfortable in American pop circles. Those drum ‘runs’ are certainly standard fare to my ears, accentuating the rhythmic identity.
“Vilcambamba” is among the elites if for no other reason than how distinctly different it is from everything else. Named after a small village within the valley of Vilcambamba (via Erario’s soundcloud description of the track), the “Valley of Longevity” as it is known certainly fully invests into its Ecuadorian influences. In addition to its variety of sounds and great vocal production, can you ever go wrong with the ukelele, like ever? “Ci sei ancora” has a tough act to follow, but the more traditional pop cut still has plenty of worthwhile moments. “Magneticamente” proves to be as ‘magnetic’ as it’s title translates, characterized by its gritty, distorted guitars and a sort of neo-new wave danceable-rock vibe going on. It’s not quite as ‘poppy’ as new-wave though, given the beefiness of the guitars. The guitar soloing? Magnificent!
Erario describes standout “Svuota la tua stanza” as ‘Italian pop-soul’. A correct label? Certainly. “Svuota la tua stanza” continues to show Erario’s musical versatility and his eclecticism. “Paura degli aquiloni” confirms that eclecticism, infusing some ‘funk’ into the picture. “La nostra estate”, a song about a “summer relationship”, contrasts once more opting for pop balladry. One of its best assets is its pacing, growing gradually in both scope and emotion. Penultimate cut “Passato prossimo” throws in some reggae, like “Vilcambamba” and “Svuota la tua stanza”, showcasing Erario’s ambitiousness as a musician at its loftiest. The whistle tune “D’autunno” packs much more of a punch than expected, closing the album with the upmost positivity.
Overall, C’É is a fine album with plenty of superb moments. Cosimo Erario transcends rock and pop, using the two styles and springboards for deeper creativity and experimentation. Having experienced the pleasure and musicianship that defines this effort, it only further makes me as a critic, listener, and musicians broaden my own horizons even more. To Erario, props brother, props.
Favorites: “Senza bussare”; “Ricomincio da te”; “Una trilione di pianeti”; “Vilcambamba”; “Svuota la tua stanza”; “Passato prossimo”
- C’È – Cosimo Erario (spheremusic.me)
Pax-Am Days leaves more to be desired…
Fall Out Boy⎪Pax-Am Days ⎪ Island ⎪⎪ October 15, 2013
Um, what does one say about an eight-song EP that lasts just over 13 minutes? Well not very much to be honest. To add to the lack of words from my pen (or computer keyboard in this case), save for closer “Caffeine Cold”, none of the cuts reach two minutes in length. Basically, PAX AM Days is a punk-rock EP that contrasts the punk-pop that characterized the band’s 2013 comeback studio album, Save Rock and Roll. Some may prefer this edgier, quick-paced EP to the band’s more commercial albums (particularly the last), but personally, it just sounds incredibly random and clunky. And no, don’t scold me with things like “in the spirt of punk…” Fall Out Boy should likely make sure they keep the ‘pop’ affixed to the ‘punk’.
Sure punk isn’t exactly the most substantive genre, but here it’s reduced to even less substance, and I mean that with all respect to FOB. While “We Were Doomed From The Start (The King Is Dead)” sports appealing, gritty, grimy sounding guitars and aggressive vocals by Patrick Stump, it just seems like this doesn’t seem like and ideal direction or sound for the band. “Art of Keeping Up Disappearances” doesn’t exactly give much flavor to savor itself, but like “We Were Doomed From The Start”, it does make a statement…of some kind. “Hot To the touch, Cold On The Inside” works a bit better than the opening duo, maybe because it has more defined production, and a couple more decipherable vocals. Or maybe it’s just finding something positive… “Love, Sex, Death” predictably highlights the titular lyrics during the chorus, leaving little to the imagination. To its credit, the music is worthwhile and definitely hearkens back to authentic punk. The song is average at best.
“Eternal Summer” like the majority of the EP is ‘all over the place’ with no shortage of being maniacal. Personally though, I prefer it more when Patrick Stump sings as opposed to screams. I just don’t think his voice is best served as a punk-rock singer without the soulfulness attached. “Demigods” isn’t too shabby, though I’d question if anyone will remember it a year from now (they won’t). Penultimate cut “American Made” plays like everything else – okay, but nothing to write home about or label as the savior to the genre. “Caffeine Cold” closes the album, which is a good thing for both FOB and even better for the listener.
So after spending 13 minutes listening, I’m thinking to myself, “so what” or maybe more dramatically, WTF? Pax-Am Days just didn’t pack much of a punch, even given its short duration. Yes, it showcases the aggressive, coarseness that epitomizes punk music, but I feel otherwise it’s a project that should remain nothing more than a side project such. And in case you were wondering I still love you Fall Out Boy – just not this EP!
- Fall Out Boy – Pax Am Days (Review) (craigreviewsmusic.wordpress.com)
- Fall Out Boy Preview New EP ‘Pax Am Days’ (popwrapped.wordpress.com)
- Fall Out Boy Debut Punk Throwback Anthem, ‘Love, Sex, Death’ (klli.cbslocal.com)
- Pete Wentz On Fall Out Boy’s Future & Saluting Punk With Their New EP, ‘Pax-Am Days’ (klli.cbslocal.com)
- Fall Out Boy Releases ‘Just One Yesterday’ Music Video Ft. Foxes (aceshowbiz.com)