Tag Archive | Ariana Grande

The 100 Best Songs of 2013: Complete!


Juicy J-WBU-019355

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 2 (#75 – 51)


Mac Miller-PFR-010521

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

75

“Cookie”

R. Kelly

From album: Black Panties

Oreos everywhere has been violated… enough said.

74

“Work B**ch”

Britney Spears

From album: Britney Jean

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

73

“Blow”

Beyoncé

From album: Beyoncé

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

72

“For The Rest of My Life”

Robin Thicke

From album: Blurred Lines

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

71

“Porno”

Arcade Fire

From album: Reflektor

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

70

“Winning Hand”

Bilal

From album: A Love Surreal

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

69

“Here’s To Never Growing Up”

Avril Lavigne

From album: Avril Lavigne

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

68

“Love and War”

Tamar Braxton

From album: Love and War

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

67

“The Way”

Ariana Grande featuring Mac Miller

From album: Yours Truly

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

66

“Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)”

Arcade Fire

From album: Reflektor

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

65

“New Slaves”

Kanye West

From album: Yeezus

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

64

“Trouble”

José James

From album: No Beginning, No End

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

63

“Wild For The Night”

A$AP Rocky featuring Skrillex

From album: Long. Live. A$AP

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

62

“Goosebumpz”

Mac Miller

From album: Watching Movies With The Sound Off

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

61

“I Need”

TGT

From album: Three Kings

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

60

“Where Are We Now?”

David Bowie

From album: The Next Day

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

59

“You Lust”

The Flaming Lips

From album: The Terror

Three words:  “LUST TO SUCCED!”

58

“Holy Ghost”

Mavis Staples

From album: One True Vine

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

57

“Don’t Swallow the Cap”

The National

From album: Trouble Will Find Me

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

56

“Take This Dirty Water”

Elton John

From album: The Diving Board

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

55

“Bound 2”

Kanye West featuring Charlie Wilson

From album: Yeezus

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

54

“Strictly Reserved For You”

Charles Bradley

From album: Victim of Love

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

53

“Dope”

Lady Gaga

From album: ARTPOP 

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

52

Genius

R. Kelly

From album: Black Panties

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

51

“Cowboy”

Tyler, The Creator

From album: Wolf

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

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The 50 (+1) Best Albums of 2013


Kanye West-20131126-42

Ranking the very best albums of any year is incredibly difficult; there are always misses.  2013 was filled with some triumphant musical moments, though not all of their parent albums were necessarily ‘worthy’ of being considered the best of the year. Because of various factors, this list has its surprises and like any album reviewed, its triumphs and flaws.  One thing’s for sure – the top ten to fifteen albums are pretty close to the cream of the crop from my perspective.  Here are the 50 (+1) best albums of 2013!

1

Vampire Weekend

Modern Vampires of the City

XL

51Tqebc+IZL._SL500_AA280_The Ivy Leaguers outdo themselves on this eclectic, alt-rock tour de force. Stacked from start to finish, Ezra Koenig and company deliver sharp wordplay and highly liberal thinking.

Recommended Spins: “Obvious Bicycle”; “Unbelievers”; “Diane Young”; “Finger Back”; “Worship You”; “Ya Hey”

Seals The Deal:  “Obvious Bicycle”

2

Kanye West

Yeezus

Def Jam

51xNTn2L83L._SL500_AA280_Give credit to Mr. West where credit is due – previously Yeezus probably wouldn’t have landed in the top five, let alone the top two.  But as with certain wines and cheeses (Swiss namely), there is an aging process to provide a delicious and satisfying taste.  The same could be said of West über-ambitious Yeezus – or something similar that is!

Recommended Spins: “Black Skinhead”; “I Am A God”; “New Slaves”; “Blood on the Leaves”; “Bound 2″ featuring Charlie Wilson

Seals The Deal: “Blood on the Leaves” 

3

Janelle Monae

The Electric Lady

Bad Boy

51q3xK+M7zL._SL500_AA280_Don’t put the fork in R&B music just yet – Janelle Monae delivers the year’s most intriguing R&B album that brilliantly encompasses numerous styles and keeps things both classic and progressive. One of a kind, all should bow down to JM.

Recommended Spins: “Give Them What They Love” featuring Prince; “Q.U.E.E.N.” featuring Erykah Badu; “Primetime” featuring Miguel; “Dance Apocalyptic”; “Dorothy Dandridge Eyes”

Seals The Deal: “Prime Time” featuring Miguel

4

Daft Punk

Random Access Memories

Columbia

41FJb1q2VyL._SL500_AA280_The best, and arguably most exciting electronic album of 2013, is shockingly less futuristic compared to its colleagues, drawing back to old-school pop, disco, and soul. Throwback it is, Random Access Memories is one of the year’s finest albums regardless of genre, and stands a solid shot of winning the Grammy for album of the year.

Recommended Spins: “Give Life Back to Music”; “Giorgio By Moroder”; “Lose Yourself to Dance” featuring Pharrell Williams; “Touch” featuring Paul Williams; “Get Lucky” featuring Pharrell Williams; “Fragments of Time”

Seals The Deal: “Get Lucky” featuring Pharrell Williams

5

John Legend

Love in the Future

Columbia

41o5xUIKO+L._SL500_AA280_John Legend redeems himself big time on his fourth studio album Love in the Future following a somewhat disappointing effort in 2008′s Evolver.  While there are some more contemporary ideas here, Love in the Future is more about Legend flexing his soulful muscles, a niche he perfectly fits.

Recommended Spins: “In The Beginning”; “Who Do We Think You Are?” featuring Rick Ross; “Made To Love”; “All of Me”; “Stay The Night”; “Tomorrow”

Seals The Deal: “Who Do We Think We Are?” featuring Rick Ross 

6

Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite

Get Up!

Stax 

51dp0nxPTmL._SL500_AA280_Blues albums rarely rack up huge accolades on a ‘big stage’, but Get Up! is that incredibly worthy exception.  Soulful and consistent through and through, Get Up! Easily ranks highly among the year’s gems.

Recommended Spins: “We Can’t End This Way”; “I Ride At Dawn”; “Get Up”

Seals The Deal: “We Can’t End This Way”

7

Black Sabbath

13

Republic 

510gRIX6xfL._SL500_AA280_More than just the agnostics, atheists, and secularists will be pleasantly surprised with Black Sabbath’s most important album in years. Why is album 13 so important? It reunites the whole Black Sabbath crew (save for the drummer) for the first time 35 years!  Dark and foreboding, yet ‘sinfully’ appealing, 13 is quite the epic heavy-/black-metal album.

Recommended Spins: “End of The Beginning”; “God Is Dead?”; “Zeitgeist”;  “Live Forever”; “Dear Father”

Seals The Deal: “God Is Dead?”

8

Drake

Nothing Was The Same

Republic 

41E34dng69L._SL500_AA280_Drake didn’t necessarily ‘step his game up’ on Nothing Was The Same – he just continued to flex his emo-/ alt-rap muscles like the pro that he is.  NTWS is filled with gems, all completely different from one another.  One thing’s for sure, he may have “Started On The Bottom”, but Drake is on top of the game by all means.

Recommended Spins: “Tuscan Leather”; “Started From The Bottom”; “Wu-Tang Forever”; “From Time”; “Hold On, We’re Going Home”; “305 To My City” featuring Detail

Seals The Deal: “Wu-Tang Forever” 

9

Beyoncé

Beyoncé

Columbia

31-q26oFwyL._SL500_AA280_Beyoncé shocked the world with her surprise fifth studio album, Beyoncé.  Even so, that’s not the reason ‘Yoncé makes this list.  Ultimately, the R&B chanteuse delivers a sharp, risqué fifth effort that separates itself from the rest of her discography and many of the other releases from 2013.  Both shocking and alluring, Bey does her thang.

Recommended Spins: “Pretty Hurts”; “Haunted”; “Drunk in Love” featuring Jay-Z;  “Blow”; “Rocket”

Seals The Deal: “Drunk in Love” featuring Jay-Z

10

Arcade Fire

Reflektor

Merge

51wzw69ySAL._SL500_AA280_Few might’ve expected for Arcade Fire to follow-up their album of the year winning effort The Suburbs with an album like Reflektor  (I didn’t).  However, as all-over-the-place as Reflektor is, there are plenty of moments for alt-rock fans to cheer about.  Danceable, conceptual, and ultimately incredibly unique, Reflektor cracks the top ten best of the year, easily.

Recommended Spins: “Reflektor”; “We Exist”; “Here Comes the Night Time”;  “Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)”; “It’s Never Over (Hey Orpheus)”; “Porno”

Seals The Deal: “Reflektor”

Read More…

25 Best R&B Albums of 2013


John Legend-20130621-53

It truly saddens me to see R&B, a personal favorite style of music, in a state of uncertainty.  2013 found the numbers of R&B down considerably, a trend that is consistent year in and year out. Save for a select few commercial bright spots (led by an unexpected Beyoncé album), R&B only dented the charts.   Even so, finding 25 albums with some significance wasn’t difficult to do.  Sure, some of the lowest ranked albums have their flaws, but each has some reason for being selected.  Enjoy! 

1

Janelle Monáe

The Electric Lady

Bad Boy

51q3xK+M7zL._SL500_AA280_In a world where R&B and soul music have cooled off considerably, one incredibly talented Janelle Monáe is still ‘on’ so to speak.  Monáe balances the retro with the contemporary and alternative like a champ on her brilliant The Electric Lady, my pick for the best R&B album of 2013. Simply put, this album kicks some serious… watch yo mouth!  Consistent, fresh, retro, and captivating, Monáe paves her own way and has it going on in a big way.  All hail “Q.U.E.E.N.” Janelle!

 

Recommended Spins:

“Givin’ ‘Em What They Love”; “Q.U.E.E.N.”; “Primetime”; “We Were Rock and Roll”; “Ghetto Woman”; “Dorothy Dandridge Eyes” 

2

John Legend

Love in the Future

G.O.O.D. / Columbia

41o5xUIKO+L._SL500_AA280_John Legend may take some risks on Love in the Future, but ultimately, his formula is the same as it always has been.  Love in The Future not only has the goods to challenge for the best R&B album of the year, but it also challenges Legend’s own discography as his best album yet.  With five years between solo albums, Legend sounds riper than ever on this top-notch work.  Rock on John!

Recommend Spins:

“In The Beginning”; “Made to Love”; “Who Do We Think We Are?” featuring Rick Ross; “All of Me”; “Stay The Night”; “Tomorrow”

3

Beyoncé

Beyoncé

Columbia

Digital Booklet - BEYONCÉBeyoncé shocked the world by keeping her fifth studio album Beyoncé a secret.  Her rollout wasn’t the only shock; the album itself is alluring because of its cutting edged approach.  No longer does Beyoncé show herself as a suggestive R&B diva – she’s now an unapologetic, fierce one unafraid to state her emotions or intentions.  At her most naughty, ‘Yoncé is at her best.

Recommended Spins:

“Pretty Hurts”; “Haunted”; “Drunk in Love” featuring Jay-Z; “Blow”; “Rocket”

4

Charles Bradley

Victim of Love

Daptone

Charles Bradley1-20131108-265-year old soul singer Charles Bradley represents for the retro-soul veterans atop these rankings.  Bradley isn’t nearly as ‘decorated’ as his colleagues of similar age because his ‘chance’ didn’t arrive until late in his life.  Regardless, Bradley does it like a pro, delivering a compelling, soulful tour de force on Victim of Love.  The young bucks can learn plenty from Bradley, who is on autopilot throughout the course of Victim of Love – no misses to speak of.

Recommended Spins:

“Strictly Reserved For You”; “Victim of Love”; “Confusion”

 

5

José James

No Beginning, No End

Blue Note

412OsY-eNgL._SL500_AA280_Distinctly voiced jazz/soul singer José James joins a list of incredibly underrated, super talented artists.  His Blue Note January release No Beginning, No End was nothing short of a critical smash, consistent through and through.  Sure James is refined like any jazz musician, but he also allows for his sensual, soulful side to shine on tracks like “It’s All Over My Body.”  His best moment, however, comes by way of instant jam “Trouble”.

Recommended Spins:

“It’s All Over My Body”; “Trouble”; “Vanguard”

6

Fantasia

Side Effects of You

RCA

51R6Qpg7HKL._SL500_AA280_Over the course of four albums, former American Idol winner continues to captivate vocally.  Sure, sometimes the material doesn’t always match up with her prodigious pipes, but more often than not, Fantasia makes up for it with her heart-wrenching, soulful vocals. Side Effects of You overall is well put together featuring some enjoyable songs showcasing ‘Tasia at her best.

Recommended Spins:

“Supernatural” featuring Big K.R.I.T.; “Ain’t All Bad”; “Without Me” featuring Kelly Rowland & Missy Elliott; “Change Your Mind”; “Lose To Win”; “End of Me”

7

Bilal

A Love Surreal

Entertainment One

518G2jOk81L._SL500_AA280_Bilal has been captivating alt-soul fans’ hearts years before Frank Ocean, Miguel, or The Weeknd came along.  He continues to shine on his fine A Love Surreal, where his vocals remain powerful and soulful. Eclectic and consistent, A Love Surreal is easily one of the year’s top R&B efforts.

Recommended Spins:

“Westside Girl”; “Back To Love”; “Winning Hand”; “Slipping Away”; “Butterfly”

8

Alice Smith

She

Rainwater

Alice Smith's She easily ranks among 2013's best albums.

Underrated and under-appreciated, Alice Smith is an exceptional artist by all means.  On She, Smith delivers magnificent vocals coupled with magnificent songwriting and production.  Among her most triumphant moments is a fierce cover of Cee-Lo Green’s “Fool For You”, which she makes her own.  A tight album with only 11 tracks and 36 minutes in duration, She is that exceptional album you definitely shouldn’t be sleeping on.

Recommended Spins:

“Cabaret”; “Another Love”; “Loyalty”; “Fool For You”; “Be Easy”

9

Jhene Aiko

Sail Out (EP)

Def Jam

51vWznSh56L._SL500_AA280_Don’t let Jhene Aiko’s chill delivery discourage you – the girl can pack a knockout punch without sweating once! Sail Out provides an excellent picture of what the singer’s full length will sound like, embracing elements of pop and alternative R&B.

Recommended Spins:

“The Vapors”; “Bed Peace”; “Stay Ready (What A Life)”; “Comfort Inn Ending (Freestyle)”

 

10

Chrisette Michele

Better

Def Jam

51v0nrvYiuL._SL500_AA280_Chrisette Michele just might be R&B’s most underrated female.  While commercial success has only been so-so for Michele, she’s been rock-solid where consistency is concerned.  Better is a sensational and eclectic R&B effort that shows Michele’s range as an artist.  Nothing is better here than promo single “A Couple of Forevers”, which was easily among the year’s best.

Recommended Spins:

“A Couple of Forevers”; “Let Me Win”;  “Love Won’t Leave Me Out”; “Visual Love”; “Charades”

11

Jaheim

Appreciation Day

Atlantic

51Fc7Pmf5aL._SL500_AA280_Jaheim has cleaned up his act since his excellent ‘Ghetto’ days, but don’t get it twisted, he’s still an edgy R&B singer.  Jaheim appreciates the female throughout, perhaps most specifically on “***** Appreciation”… gasp.  But he’s most impressive on his socially conscious turn on “Florida”, written about the Treyvon Martin controversy down south.

Recommended Spins:

“Age Ain’t A Factor”; “He Don’t Exist”;  “Morning”; “Baby X3”; “Sexting”; “Florida”

12

Raheem DeVaughn

A Place Called Loveland

Mass Appeal

61WNU5xS-EL._SL500_AA280_Raheem DeVaughn is one of the most underrated R&B artists, but he’s also one of the best and most consistent.  A Place Called Loveland may lack the flash to appeal to a new audience, but it is exceptionally put together.

Recommended Spins:

 “Love Connection”; “Wrong Forever”; “Complicated”; “Cry Baby”; “Make A Baby”; “Make Em Like You”

 

13

Ariana Grande

Yours Truly

Republic

41VAP7icdZL._SL500_AA280_Is she pop or R&B – that is the question? Not from my perspective, as Ariana Grande cements herself as Mariah Carey’s successor on her fine debut Yours Truly, which debuted at no. 1 on the Billboard 200.  Quality from start to finish, Grande has a promising career ahead of her.

Recommended Spins:

“Honeymoon Avenue”; “Baby I”; “Right There”; “You’ll Never Know”; “The Way” featuring Mac Miller; “Almost is Never Enough” featuring Nathan Sykes

 

14

Mavis Staples

One True Vine

Anti

51fqkurDW+L._SL500_AA280_You could argue this album is ‘Americana’ as the Grammys suggest, but the Mavis Staples I know and love has gospel and soul roots.  Album One True Vine may be a genre bender, but Staples sounds incredibly compelling as a 74-year old.  “Age ain’t nothing but a number” Mavis.

Recommended Spins:

“Holy Ghost”; “Every Step”; “Can You Get To That”; “I Like The Things About Me”

 

15

K. Michelle

Rebellious Soul

Atlantic

51AjsEvsGwL._SL500_AA280_I’m not sure if its cool for guys to listen to K. Michele, but ole girl definitely keeps it real.  Early cuts like “Kiss My A$$” and “I Just Wanna” don’t even grace the set… If you are a woman scorned, K. Michele is who you should listen to for reassurance or a ‘pick me up’.  Brash but honest, K. Michele soulfully executes on her debut, Rebellious Soul.

Recommended Spins:

“Damn”; “Can’t Raise a Man”; “V.S.O.P.”; “Ride Out”; “When I Get A Man”

 

16

Robin Thicke

Blurred Lines

Interscope

91zMqP7d2NL._SL1500_For Robin Thicke, it was a career transformative year.  “Blurred Lines” was the gift single that kept giving (and perhaps taking), making the former neo-soul singer relevant within pop circles.  “Blurred Lines” wasn’t the only shining moment, as Thicke kept his silky, smooth pipes going strong on thoughtful ballad, “For The Rest Of My Life”.

Recommended Spins:

“Blurred Lines”; “Take It Easy On Me”;  “Give It 2 U”; “Feel Good”; “For The Rest of My Life”

17

TGT

Three Kings

Atlantic

51Y8U1sKI3L._SL500_AA280_Super groups are hard to come by these days.  TGT, comprised of Tyrese, Ginuwine, and Tank, three of R&B’s finest, come together to deliver one of the finest panty-dropping fests of the year.  Just imagine of Trey Songz had somehow made his way in and Three Kings would’ve totally been too hot to handle.

Recommended Spins:

“Sex Never Felt Better”; “I Need”; “Next Time Around”; “Explode”; “Running Back”; “Burn Out”

18

Mayer Hawthorne

Where Does This Door Go?

Republic

41bg0QHWBCL._SL500_AA280_Mayer Hawthorne’s album sadly drifted from the ranks of playlist glory on my iPod, but I couldn’t tell you why.  Where Does This Door Go certainly had its skeptics, but I wasn’t one of them.  Vocally, one of the hippest bespectacled white dudes can blow and does here.

Recommended Spins:

“Back Seat Lover”; “The Innocent”; “The Only One”; “Her Favorite Song”; “Reach Out Richard”

19

Ciara

Ciara

Epic

51TpXUESJhL._SL500_AA280_Even though Ciara received high marks on my end of things, I may have still underrated it.  Ciara doesn’t sport a powerful voice like some of her contemporaries, but it sits well contextually within her music.  Ciara is both sexy and enjoyable.

Recommended:

“Sophomore”; “Body Party”; “Keep On Lookin’”; “Super Turnt Up”

 

20

Kelly Rowland

Talk A Good Game

Republic

8121kg2H5XL._SL1500_Kelly Rowland has been consistently patterning herself as a more risqué alternative to her ‘sister’ Beyoncé (well until Beyoncé itself shocked the world).   Talk A Good Game comes full circle, intact with parental advisory label to match.   It doesn’t supersede the exceptional Here I Am, but it definitely has some shining moments.

Recommended Spins:

“Kisses Down Low”; “Down on Love”; “Dirty Laundry”; “Red Wine”

 

21

Joe

Doubleback: Evolution of R&B

Massenberg Media

6160ddGP8hL._SL500_AA280_After several albums lacking the quality of his best, Joe returns with a throwback (“doubleback”) R&B album that finds him flexing his sensual muscles like a G.

Recommended Spins:

“Something For You”; “Easy”; “I’d Rather Have A Love”; “Love & Sex” featuring Fantasia; “More”

22

Tamar Braxton

Love and War

Epic 

51WHDUdSVlL._SL500_AA280_Tamar Braxton makes this list because of the significance of her accomplishments with Love and War.  The album has some shining moments, but doesn’t lack flaws.  Even so, Braxton has an exceptional voice and when she’s fully invested with superb material to perform, it’s pure fire.

Recommended Spins:

“The One”; “Stay and Fight”; “Love and War”; “One On One Fun”; “Where It Hurts”; “Prettiest Girl”

 

23

Teena Marie

Beautiful

Ume

51qA7widqQL._SL500_AA280_Teena Marie passed on in 2010, but she left a stunning final studio album in Beautiful, which is just that.  Beautiful is Teena Marie at her very best – soulful, sensual, and brilliant.

Recommended Spins:

“Luv Letter”; “Sweet Tooth”; “Love Starved”; “Definition of Down”; “Beautiful”; “The Long Play”

 

24

Aaron Neville

True Story

Blue Note

51FcjEZV-6L._SL500_AA280_My True Story isn’t a flashy album, but it is a fine retro-soul effort that covers classics from the early era of R&B, the 1950s and 60s.  Neville may be long past his prime, but vocally the 72-year old still got it.  Bow down!

Recommended Spins:

“My True Story”; “Ting A Ling”; “Under The Boardwalk”

25

R. Kelly

Black Panties

RCA

51l9Oz9KgnLMaybe it’s a stretch to include Black Panties on this list, but part of the reason for its inclusion is because Kelly returns to his true self – edgy, sensual, and just plumb freaky.  Sure he overdoes it and seems to think sex supplants sexiness, but there’s some pieces there.  Oreos are still tasty…

Recommended Spins:

“Legs Shakin’” featuring Ludacris; “Cookie”; “Genius”; “All The Way” featuring Kelly Rowland

Five Music Takeaways from 2013…


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Ah, there is always plenty to write about the music industry and the number of trends that come and go, as well as those remaining constant.  2013 was another interesting year, whether merely for its pleasant surprises or its disappointments.  Many observations will and can be made of the year musically and pop-culturally in regards to its artists.  While my inner musical nerdy side wishes that I could nitpick and analyze every facet microscopically, I’ll rely on a Childish Gambino rhyme to express why that’s not possible: “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” What I do have time for is to share five takeaways I gathered from music in 2013.  

1

Pop music was ‘down’ overall, but had its moments…

51PXgWbbyILMaybe I’ll be stoned (not that I care), but I wouldn’t consider 2013 a particularly great year for ‘pop music’, at least how most year’s are traditionally evaluated.  Sure, Justin Timberlake carried the torch single-handedly with his surprise comeback The 20/20 Experience (both albums debuted at no. 1 with 968,000 and 350,000 copies respectively) until things percolated with releases from Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, Lorde, and One Direction, but generally, pop’s impact seemed slower than usual.  Other than big-time late pushes, who else was there to help a brother out?  I mean John Mayer seems to have lost his swagger – Paradise Valley didn’t have a great footing, bowing modestly at no. 2 with 144,000 copies.  Yeah 144,000 copies would be great for most, but not considering Mayer’s track record.  Pop/R&B starlet Ariana Grande was impressive on Yours Truly, bowing at no. 1 and selling an impressive enough 138,000 copies, but the album hasn’t had sustainable success per se.  

2

R&B music continued to limp commercially compared to other genres.

51Y8U1sKI3L._SL500_AA280_This isn’t news, but R&B hasn’t been nearly as competitive as it was, say, five years ago.  This year, the genre’s artists continue the uphill struggle for commercial footing.  The fortunes haven’t improved, with most of the genre’s stars settling for sub 100,000 copies selling bows.  It’s sad because there were some exceptional releases courtesy of Fantasia, John Legend, Chrisette Michele, TGT, K. Michele, and Jaheim amongst them.  All sold < than 100,000 their debut week with only Fantasia coming close (91,000 sold of Side Effects of You).   Still, a few artists got a sound start. Tamar Braxton’s Love and War sold 114,000 copies its first week out while Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines moved 177,000 copies.  Take the victories when and where you can get them I guess.

3

Country wasn’t nearly as dominant or relevant as it’s been in the past…

51AN-VnY7bL._SL500_AA280_I’ll admit I slept on country music throughout the year, but can you blame me? There was once a time where new releases from Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, and Toby Keith were among the most anticipated releases regardless of genre.  All these folks released albums in 2013, but who’s talking about ‘em? Alan Jackson even managed to release two!  Country still managed to have its bright spots with the likes of Blake Shelton and a rising Luke Bryan holding down the fort, but others dropped the ball.  The Band Perry didn’t have the commercial impact that I’d have predicted, while Lady Antebellum’s Golden was about as much fun as watching paint dry when compared to previous albums.  Then there’s the newbies, who I can’t personally keep up with, mainly because they’re impact is quite minimal commercially.

 

4

Rock/alternative delivered some of the years most sensational albums.

41HOLOY507L._SL500_AA280_Rock and alternative music had a much more triumphant 2013 than other genres from my perspective.  That doesn’t mean they were necessarily commercial powerhouses, but they did deliver some knockout punches critically. Black Sabbath’s 13 and Queens of the Stone Age’s …Like Clockwork both outperformed expectations commercially, not to mention how awesome both albums were in regards to the material.   Vampire Weekend (Modern Vampires of the City), The National (Trouble Will Find Me), and Arcade Fire (Reflektor) delivered exceptional efforts that also put up respectable chart numbers in the alt department.  Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (Push the Sky Away), certainly no household name to most, STRFKR (Miracle Mile), and Atlas Genius (When It Was Now) were among other alt bright spots failing to receive big-time commercial recognition, but definitely were critically praised for exceptional studio releases.  There were others as well.

5

Like rock, hip-hop/rap was a bright spot in 2013. 

51xNTn2L83L._SL500_AA280_You know, for a while, it seemed that it was a popular sentiment to consider hip-hop as being “dead”.  Perhaps hip-hop was dead briefly, but 2013 has shown no death or funeral for the genre, which had some gargantuan commercial impacts on the music industry. Big sales from Eminem, Drake, Jay-Z, Kanye West, and J. Cole definitely pumped some meds into a sagging musical economy (792K, 658K, 528K, 327K, and 297K debuts), not to mention had us head-nodding, LOL.  Other hip-hop albums also captivated us with solid 100,000+ starts, including Kid Cudi’s Indicud (no. 2, 136,000 copies), A$AP Rocky’s Long.Live ASAP (no. 1, 139,000 copies), and Mac Miller’s Watching Movies With the Sound Off (no. 3, 102,000 copies).   Others fell below that 81LFx7SM8AL._SL1400_‘threshold of success’, but gained our attention nonetheless: Tyler, the Creator (Wolf, no. 3, 80,000 copies), Earl Sweatshirt (Doris, no. 5, 49,000 copies), and A$AP Ferg (Trap Lord, no. 9, 32,000 copies).  “Hip-hop don’t stop.”

Of course there are plenty more takeaways…there’s always more takeaways.  Lady Gaga’s underwhelming showing would be worth noting, while Miley Cyrus definitely deserves a headline all by herself.  Daft Punk and the successes of electronic music itself are quite notable, but I’ll save those for a later time.  Enough analysis and opining for one post!

 

Album Playlist: Favorites, Least Favorites, and Honorable Mentions of 2013, Part 3…


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Welcome to the final part of my Favorites, Least Favorites, and Honorable Mentions of 2013.  Here is where I housed my honorable mentions, which were many.  If you missed the previous two posts, here’s how I opened them up respectively, beginning with Favorites and ending with Least Favorites:

Favorites:

“As I look over my 2013 playlist from my iPod, I realize I have listened to numerous albums this year.  In fact, the amount of music that my ears have consumed and my pen has analyzed is pretty scary…and I still missed lots of albums! SMH! Some were special, some made me cringe, and some fell somewhere in between the two extremes.  As difficult as it was, as of October 7, 2013, I have compiled a list housing my favorites, least favorites, and honorable mentions.  I’m almost certain I’ve slighted someone and I’m sure there will be continual revisions, but for now, here’s what you should’ve spun, what you should’ve avoided like the plague, and those that were strongly consideration for favorites. Enjoy!”

Least Favorites:

“Welcome all who dare to part deux of my Favorites, Least Favorites, and Honorable Mentions of 2013 for all who dare to enter the brentmusicreviews zone! Ha… If you missed the first part (Favorites, Least Favorites, and Honorable Mentions of 2013, Part 1), you should like totally check out my favorites from 2013, ‘cause there was some awesome albums.  If you’re not one for positivity and optimism, maybe you’re just checking this out because some you enjoy skepticism, criticism, and the occasional, um, cynicism.

Onward to the honorable mentions!!!

Honorable Mentions…

Pop

tumblr_mt55ywZm6R1qayn75o1_500John Mayer, Paradise Valley

Travis Garland, Travis Garland

Ariana Grande, Yours Truly

Lorde, Pure Heroine

Conor Maynard, Contrast

There was one dominant pop album in 2013 and it was not by Justin Bieber (yep cheap shot).  Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience was sort of ‘the promised land’ of pop.  But Justin wasn’t the only album that impressed.  John Mayer has been more subtle lately, but Paradise Valley was well conceived.  Travis Garland isn’t well established yet, but he should be following EPs and his compilation effort Travis Garland.  Ariana Grande sounded angelic, particular with boyfriend Nathan Sykes (The Wanted) on “Almost Is Never Enough”.  Lorde’s sorta pop, sorta alternative mix made it a fine listen while Britain’s Justin Bieber Conor Maynard out-swag’d the “swaggy” singer easily with debut Contrast.

Traditional Pop

51lF5QOjyGL._SL500_AA280_Harry Connick, Jr. Smokey Mary 

Harry Connick, Jr. Every Man Should Know

George Benson, Inspiration – A Tribute To Nat King Cole

Michael Bublé delivered my favorite traditional pop album of 2013, but who can deny the musicianship of either Harry Connick, Jr. Or George Benson? Smokey Mary introduced the funky “S’pposed To Be” to my constant rotation playlist while Every Man Should Know added its country-tinged self-titled ballad.  As for George Benson? What more is there to say to hear a legend paying tribute to one of his own legends on tracks like “Route 66” or “Unforgettable”?

Rock

51UokMRA8lL._SL500_AA280_Kings of Leon, Mechanical Bull

Alice in Chains, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here

John Fogerty, Wrote A Song For Everyone

Rock certainly didn’t dominate 2013, but there were definitely some exceptional albums.  While Queens of the Stone Age’s …Like Clockwork and David Bowie’s The Next Day took top honors in my eyes, Kings of Leon, Alice in Chains, and John Fogerty definitely ‘did work’ too.  Kings of Leon impressed on “Supersoaker” and were humanized on the seemingly autobiographical “Wait For Me”.  Alice in Chains reminded us just how good 90s rock/metal was, particularly on title track “The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here”.  As for the legend of this trio, John Fogerty’s collaborations effort Wrote A Song For Everyone was so much better than expected, like really!

Alternative

41pNHSnGAYL._SL500_AA280_Phoenix, Bankrupt!

Depeche Mode, Delta Machine

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Push the Sky Away

The National, Trouble Will Find Me

Let’s just keep this short and sweet.  Stacked, stacked, stacked!!! This category of music is always loaded, period.  An annual number one seed you might say.  Vampire Weekend were definitely the act to beat, but Phoenix, Depeche Mode, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, and The National all rocked too, as evidenced by their spot on my list.   “Entertainment” from Phoenix just made me feel happy because of its bright brilliance.  For electro-alt vets Depeche Mode, it’s the general darkness of the music that has a hypnotizing effect; they never sound old.  Nick Cave’s exceptional songwriting is undeniable, particularly on standouts like the opening “We No Who ‘U ‘R” and the infectious groove of “Finishing Jubilee Street”, which is a follow-up to “Jubilee Street”.  The National pleased with “Don’t Swallow The Cap” and “Humiliation” among others.

R&B

51v0nrvYiuL._SL500_AA280_Fantasia, Side Effects of You

Bilal, A Love Surreal

Chrisette Michele, Better

Alice Smith, She

Yeah, I know I’ve whined about R&B, but most of the time it wasn’t the quality of the albums but rather the dismal sales.  None of the above mentioned albums exactly made a huge chart impact (Fantasia did well contextually speaking), but all four were and are definitely worthy of some spins.  “Without Me” was definitely my jam from Side Effects Of You, even if it is more of a women empowerment cut… don’t judge me, it’s sick!  “Winning Hand” tickled my fancy from Bilal’s A Love Surreal, while one of Alice Smith’s best moments was actually a cover of Cee Lo’s “Fool For You”.  As for CM, “A Couple of Forevers” is among my top cuts of the year regardless of genre.  All four albums receive my humble approval.

Traditional R&B

Teena Marie, Beautiful

Aaron Neville, My True Story 

R&B isn’t getting much attention in general, so of course the veterans get the worst of it.   Teena Marie’s posthumously released final studio album is one she would’ve been incredibly proud of.  As for Aaron Neville, there is literally no one who come close to the versatile soul singer’s vocal timbre. He exceptionally covers old, old school classics on My True Story.

Rap

51M-LzDg8kL._SL500_AA280_Kanye West, Yeezus

Mac Miller, Watching Movies With The Sound Off

Tyler, The Creator, Wolf

Earl Sweatshirt, Doris

A$AP Rocky, Long. Live. A$AP

A$AP Ferg, Trap Lord

This is one lengthy list right?  There are also probably omissions and arguable omissions.   To answer the skeptics, yes I purpose excluded Jay-Z’s Magna Carta…Holy Grail off this list – it was not my favorite, least favorite, nor really an honorable mention in my eyes.  Kanye West definitely had an argument for a ‘favorite’, but I also had my own reservations with the album itself.  Mac Miller showed more maturity on Watching Movies With The Sound Off, but not without his fair share of references to his… Anyways, Odd Future releases are always captivating (Tyler, The Creator and Earl Sweatshirt), while A$AP Rocky and A$AP Ferg both impressed with their respective efforts and signature styles.  I know I’ve left off others… it was a good year for hip-hop.

Reggae

51X-3igkk3L._SL500_AA280_Congo Natty, Revolution 

I’ll admit, I knew very little about Congo Natty, also known as Rebel MC.  After being given the opportunity to review Revolution, however, I was extremely impressed with the album and  Congo Natty himself.

Jazz

Avishai Cohen, Duende

Gerald Clayton, Life Forum

Redtenbacher’s Funkestra, The Cooker

I absolutely adore jazz, period.  However, it is easy to ‘sleep’ on a genre which played a huge role in my musical education.  Yes, it sounds like I turned my back which seems hypocritical given my jazz piano background.   Actually much of the reason is that popular music tend to ‘shock’ and pull in so many major headlines.  It’s not fair obviously, as some of today’s greatest talents lie within the jazz realm and definitely don’t receive the attention they deserve.  Jazz may often take a backseat on this particular site, but it doesn’t in my heart in the least.  I do review it in addition to the ‘pop’ and Avishai Cohen, Gerald Clayton, and Redtenbacher’s Funkestra definitely had killer albums.  #MadRespect

Chart Moves, Oct. 9, 2013: Justin Timberlake’s Second No. 1, Lorde Triumphs


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Justin Timberlake Gets It Done, Again! 

Justin Timberlake scores his second no. 1 album of 2013 as The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2 sold a respectable 350,000 copies, easily ascending to the penthouse.  Compared to The 20/20 Experience though, the numbers are off significantly, as that effort (arriving justin t2-20130711-33after a seven year hiatus mind you), sold 968,000 copies.  Still think about this, JT has had two albums move gargantuan numbers their first week.  Even with 350,000 copies sold of the second installment, Timberlake still has onof the larger debuts of 2013 behind The 20/20 Experience (968,000), Drake’s Nothing Was The Same (658,000), Jay-Z’s Magna Carta…Holy Grail (528,000) and Luke Bryan’s Crash My Party (528,000 copies).   To further put it into perspective, Timberlake’s second album of 2013 outsold strong debuts from Daft Punk (Random Access Memories, 339,000 copies), Kanye West (Yeezus, 327,000 copies), and J. Cole (Born Sinner, 297,000 copies) amongst them.  Impressive right?

As For The Rest of the Top 10…

41XAtgtU1xL._SL500_AA280_After a spectacular first week, Drake comes back to earth with Nothing Was The Same dropping to no. 2 with 148,000 copies sold.  Sure that’s a far cry from 658,000 copies, but add it up and Drizzy has sold 806,000 copies in two weeks.  He’s going for another platinum plaque, something that’s more of a rarity in today’s music climate.  Lorde comes in at no. 3 as predicted, selling an impressive 129,000 copies of Pure Heroine, which I happened to review this week.  Compared to another newbie’s debut, Ariana Grande, the numbers are right inline (Grande sold 138,000 copies of her fine Yours Truly, good for a no. 1 bow).   After the top three, let’s just say that the numbers get ugly…

Tyler Farr makes his country debut at no. 5 with Redneck Crazy moving 29,0000 copies.  Personally, I’m unfamiliar with Farr, but if the musical enthusiast that I am is unfamiliar, I’m sure there’s a whole lot of people who are unaware of him as well.  I’m also unfamiliar with HAIM, who debut at no. 6 with 26,000 copies of Days Are Gone, a second debuting act/album.  The rest of the top ten are holdovers with the tenth album, Elton John’s The Diving Board selling a smallish 19,000 copies. Yuck (rhymes with every college students favorite profanity which is probably what these artists are saying to themselves as they see these number roll in).

Hot 100 Update

Lorde-20130618-171After stealing Miley Cyrus’ thunder with “Royals”, Lorde remains atop the Billboard Hot 100 for a second week.  The question is, will somebody steal her thunder next week? Since “Blurred Lines” was dethroned, there hasn’t been a track to have much staying power.  Only time will tell if “Royals” truly has a king-sized touch.

Who’s Got Next? 

51PXgWbbyILMiley Cyrus (Bangerz)is sure to be the huge attraction for the October 8th bunch of albums.  Panic! At The Disco exhaustively titled Too Weird To Live, To Rare To Die should also get some love, as should Korn’s Paradigm Shift.  Even so, there are a host of other releases.  These other releases include Cage The Elephant’s Melaphobia, Alter Bridge’s Fortress, Danny Brown’s Old, Pusha T’s official debut My Name Is My NameKenny RogersYou Can’t Make Old Friends, Sleigh BellsBitter Rivals, Lyfe JenningsLucid, Amos Lee’s Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Spring, and Of Montreal’s Lousy With Slyvianbriar.  Not to be negative, but I don’t see the longevity for most of the aforementioned albums.

Playlist: September 2013 Jams To Lead Into October


Drake-AES-089760

It’s that time… for me to list songs that made me :-) over the past month.  14 of ‘em baby, get ready!

Katy Perry,”Roar” 

PRISM

Katy Perry-20130618-80You knew it would take some mega force to unseat Robin Thicke from the top spot of the Billboard Hot 100 with the ubiquitous smash “Blurred Lines”.  That force came via everyone’s favorite pop star Katy Perry, who shocked with her maturity on “Roar”.  Sure, Ms. Perry had a lot of fun in her jungle music video to accompany her number one single, but she goes all inspirational on us as opposed to, um, risqué.  I wasn’t one hundred percent onboard at first, but it certainly tickled my fancy after a while.

2 Chainz featuring Fergie, “Netflix”

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

2 Chainz-ZNV-000958I wouldn’t call 2 Chainz the most intellectually-stimulating rapper – he goes dumb (and sometimes dumb-er) with the best.  Throw in the queen of silliness in Fergie and the resulting cut “Netflix” should be a total bust.  Instead, it is one of 2 Chainz’s most triumphant moments from B.O.A.T.S.II:#METIME, which also turns out to be a much better album than it should be.  The best line from my perspective? “Let’s make a sex tape and put it on Netflix”.  SMH.

John Legend, “All Of Me”

Love In The Future 

John Legend-20130621-53There may never be another John Legend number as touching as his acclaimed, stripped ballad “Ordinary People” was, but “All of Me” seems to be the closest Legend has came to that Grammy-winning classic.  Simplistic sporting a certain innocence about it, part of the appeal of ballad is its sheltered, chivalrous genuineness.

Tamar Braxton, “Love and War”

Love and War

1174751_634685723230300_847700807_nYeah, I know, I know.  “Love and War” has been out for a minute… but it is still arguably the best track on Braxton’s sophomore effort.  Sure, the album was kinda so-so at best, but “Love and War” would easily rise to the top of most track lists.  Soulful, old-school yet contemporary enough, it’s no surprise that the ‘battling through love’ track helped propel Braxton to number two on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart.

Miley Cyrus, “Wrecking Ball”

BANGERZ

Miley Cyrus25-20130917-26A Miley Cyrus song on a Brent Faulkner playlist? Something must be wrong! It’s not, if you can believe it.  For as much controversy as Miley Cyrus has successfully stirred up around her hyper-sexual makeover for upcoming studio album BANGERZ, “Wrecking Ball” the song is actually pretty impressive.  Honestly, I was onboard from the first time I saw the video, even if I found the video itself to be…um… yeah I can’t think of the word.  As for the song and the concept of the song, I’ll give it to ole girl.  I’m still no fan though…

Janelle Monáe featuring Prince, “Givin’ ‘Em What They Love

The Electric Lady

Janelle Monae-ZNV-001038Q.U.E.E.N.” one killer jam by all means, but Monáe’s promo single has been receiving buzz for a minute.  More surprising and equally alluring is her collaboration with Prince, who definitely doesn’t lend his pipes or skills to many…  The results, specifically the vocal chemistry between two left-of-center artists is nothing short of brilliant – pretty fly from my perspective.

Drake featuring Detail, “305 To My City

Nothing Was The Same

Drake-SIN-000189Is it just me, or is every Drake album stacked? Nothing Was The Same has a hard act to follow compared to either Thank Me Later or Take Care, but there is still plenty of notable numbers from rap’s softest heavyweight.  “305 To My City” benefits from it moodiness, grinding tempo, and honestly its ‘Drake-isms’.  Hard choice between this one, “Tuscan Leather”, “Wu-Tang Forever”, or contemporary R&B number “Hold On We’re Going Home”.

Ariana Grande featuring Nathan Sykes, “Almost Is Never Enough”

Yours Truly

Ariana Grande-MSA-011914I’m not one who is into boyfriend/girlfriend duets nor big youthful pop/urban duets.  However, every now and again, one comes around that works splendidly.  Remember a little hit called “No Air”? Exactly. Sure there is no comparison of Ariana Grande’s fine duet with The Wanted boyfriend Nathan Sykes to the gargantuan Jordin Sparks/Chris Brown duet, but it is so much better than it sounds on paper.  Vocally, the chemistry is undeniable, the maturity transcendent of both stars’ age, and the songwriting ‘tried-and-true’ yet relatable.  Yeah, “The Way” and “Baby I” might garner more attention, but “Almost Is Never Enough” is a definite sleeper.

Raheem DeVaughn, “Complicated

A Place Called Love Land

Raheem DeVaughn-PFR-009779Love is a complicated thing.  Just imagine how complicated and complex it is in the context of A  Place Called Love Land, Raheem’s DeVaughn’s slept on, exceptional fourth studio album? Basically the premise of this soulful standout is that DeVaughn is in a relationship (or something like it), but doesn’t want to label it.  Therefore even if ole boy is “…kinda single” but also in love, it truly is complicated.  Nothing complicated or questionable about the strength of this number though.

Kings of Leon, “Wait For Me

Mechanical Bull

Kings-of-Leon-bh09Mechanical Bull was a fine new effort from Kings of Leon overall.  Sure, I was looking for another “Sex on Fire”, but maybe the lovin’ has leveled off.  Regardless, “Wait For Me” is a brilliant showing offering multiple interpretations (though likely referencing Caleb Followill’s demons) while ultimately delivering a plea of ‘waiting’ for the ‘lost’ to clean up his act.  It’s that sort of situation where one went on the wrong pathway and is now back on the straight and narrow.

Jaheim, “Florida

Appreciation Day

1001626_191194147710313_1819334795_nOn his underrated sixth album Appreciation Day,  Jaheim spends a good chunk of time discussing the opposite sex, particularly on the incredibly sensual title track.  However, he breaks away from the female anatomy on the brilliant, socially conscious “Florida”, which details the infamous Trayvon Martin case.  One of the most ‘trill’ songs I have heard in sometime, “Florida” strikes a soulful, chilling chord from an initial listen.

Stalley, “Coupes & Roses”

Self Made 3

81Zuo+7lWuL._SL1425_Maybach Music Group’s third compilation wasn’t exactly charm.  Self Made 3 seemed to lack the same spark as the 2012 compilation which was loaded with the likes of “Power Circle” and “Bury Me A G”.  Still, Stalley’s “Coupes & Roses” is a standout that blends luxurious sounds, old-school, and swagger a la 2013 into a winning formula.  All bow to rap’s ‘next’.

The Weeknd, “Belong To The World”

Kiss Land

The Weeknd4-20130729-217I’ll be the first to criticize The Weeknd’s follow-up to mixtape compilation TrilogyKiss Land feels pretty blasé for the most part, but this overproduced number has its moments.  Particularly, its lyrics are quite alluring: “Ooh girl,  I know I should leave you / and learn to mistreat you / cause you belong to the world / and ooh girl, I want to embrace you / domesticate you / but you belong to the world.”  Who would’ve thought a song alluding to a stripper Abel Tesfaye wants to ‘domesticate’ could be fascinating?

MGMT, “Alien Days”

MGMT

MGMT-music-f04You wouldn’t be making an generalization if you said that MGMT’s music is getting weirder and spacier.  “Alien Days” is certainly and opener that requires more than one listen to truly digest and understand what’s going through the band’s head.  Opening with a child’s voice that eventually is taken of very VanWynegarden’s trippy, nonchalant voice,  MGMT is characteristic of the band while continue to stretch (perhaps overstretch) the boundaries.  I think it is  quite possible to get high of the cut without even smoking.

Playlist: 5 Favorite September 2013 Albums


Janelle Monae-PRN-104757

September 2013 yielded a number of notable new music releases. As a blogger, music journalist and critic, I found it incredibly difficult to make the time to listen to the over abundance of music provided. That said, I am so glad for there to be an over abundance as opposed to an under-abundance. While all of the albums I listened to left me with something special and a new jam to add to my playlists on my iPod, I chose five albums that stuck with me for various reasons.  If you haven’t partaken of these, you should definitely check them out!

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Kings Of Leon, Mechanical Bull

Who thought this would happen? After all the breakup rumors, everyone’s favorite southern-rock/traditional rock band return with a solid album in Mechanical Bull.  Sure the an electrifying “Sex On Fire” is missing here, but memorable cuts like “Supersoaker” or the personally-based “Wait For Me” are definitely worthwhile.

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4

Ariana Grande, Yours Truly

Ariana Grande is THE young Mariah Carey, period. The girl can ‘sang’, evidenced throughout her brilliant pop/contemporary R&B debut Yours Truly. Flaunting an impressive upper register, not to mention her overall beautiful vocal tone, Grande sounds much more mature than her youthful twenty years of age. While “The Way” featuring Mac Miller was a huge attraction in promoting the effort, there are plenty of other delightful ‘treats’ to partake of.

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Drake, Nothing Was The Same

Drake‘s latest studio album lacks a knockout punch like the ubiquitous “Over” from Thank Me Later or a banger like “HYFR” from the Grammy-winning Take Care, but like a defending national champion, Nothing Was The Same remains loaded.  Still very much a Drake album, the moody production work and even more emo-tinged lyrics continue to represent the new, modern hip hop way.  Tracks like hookless juggernaut “Tuscan Leather“, “Wu-Tang Forever“, and “305 To My City” certainly tickle my fancy.

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John Legend, Love in The Future

John Legend is definitely the man, I mean I would totally like to be Legend, particularly being a pianist myself.  He sounds as if he should’ve been a recording artist in the ’60s and ’70s given his incredible soulfulness. While Love In The Future does pay ode to old-school, it is contemporary enough to keep the throwback retro-soul singer fresh. It doesn’t hurt that “All of Me” seems like Legend’s closest number to his classic “Ordinary People“. Throw in some covers and notable soul samples and Love In The Future will definitely be a mainstay within my playlist into the future!

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1

 

Janelle Monáe, The Electric Lady

I was totally ready to put John Legend in the top spot for his classy, refined solo comeback effort, but Janelle Monáe totally outdoes herself on her brilliant sophomore album. Just how consistent is this album? Well, I’d call it not only the best I heard in September, but also among the best of 2013. I mean, you know this album is poppin’ if Prince is one of several notable guest artists!

 

Chart Moves, September 18, 2013: Keith Urban’s Narrow No. 1


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Chart Rewind: Highlights from Last Week

(September 11, 2013) 

Ariana Grande-GFR-020808Ariana Grande found her debut album Yours Truly debuting at no. 1 with 138,000 copies sold.  Tamar Braxton followed behind her in the no. 2 spot with Love and War selling an impressive 114,000 copies.  Nine Inch Nails returned with their first major label effort in a couple of years, selling 107,000 copies.  John Legend arrives to a cooler reception as Love in the Future sells a somewhat underwhelming 68,000 copies good for a no. 4 start.  Jaheim’s numbers are also modest, as Appreciation Day enters at no. 6 with 58,000 copies sold.  As for others charting, Bastille’s Bad Blood bowed at no. 11, Neko Case’s Worst Things Get, The Harder I Fight…  lands at no. 12,  while former typical top ten R&B artist Raheem DeVaughn found his fine A Place Called Love Land debuting outside the top 20 at no. 22. Ouch!

Keith Urban Debuts At No. 1, By A Smidgen 

The Weeknd3-20130729-216Keith Urban debuts at no. 1 with latest album Fuse, but it was no landslide.  Urban’s latest sold under its 100,000 prognostication, selling 98,000 copies.  Respectable in an age where few albums are wowing with their sales figures, but certainly not ‘juggernaut’ status.  The Weeknd really just needed a little more firepower behind it with its 95,000 copies to top the charts with Kiss Land. But no. 2 ain’t bad, especially when his last album the compilation Trilogy debuted at no. 4 with 86,000 copies.  He came up… a little.  As for Urban, well, he’s had better charting days – much better.

91tGmpxRhlL._SL1500_2 Chainz certainly didn’t make the impact on the charts that his debut Based On A T.R.U. Story did in 2012 (no. 1, 147,000 copies).  2 Chainz suffers from the sophomore slump as B.O.A.T.S. II #METIME lands at no. 3 with 63,000 copies.  Those are better numbers than anticipated, but still, maybe dumbness isn’t paying off for ol’ boy. Janelle Monáe has a solid debut as The Electric Lady lands at no. 5 with 47,000 copies.  The Arctic Monkeys do relatively well all things considered, landing at no. 6 with 42,000 copies sold of album AM.  As for Ms. Sheryl Crow, she’s had better days as Feels Like Home debuts at no. 7 with only 36,000 copies.

Top 10 holdovers rule the rest of the chart including Luke Bryan’s Crash My Party at no. 4, Tamar Braxton’s Love and War at no. 8, Ariana Grande’s Yours Truly at no. 9, and John Legend’s Love in the Future at no. 10.

Miley Cyrus-PZH-000280

Miley Hits No. 1 on Billboard Hot 100

There is plenty to scrutinize about Miley Cyrus (like a crap-ton), but “Wrecking Ball” gives the rebellious twenty-year old her first no. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100.  Honestly, the song itself is quite likable… yes I said it.  It’s the video that raised eyebrows, specifically some tongue/sledgehammer action and the nudity.  But regardless, Miley came up.  I could make a Katy Perry joke in regards to “Roar”, but I won’t.

Who’s Got Next? 

519q2dveFcL._SL500_AA280_The fall is always rich with new albums.  This week is no different. Jack Johnson seems to be leading the charge as From Here To Now To You wouldn’t be a shocking chart topper come next week. Maybach Music Group return with a third compilation set Self Made 3, while MGMT return with their third, self-titled effort.  Elvis Costello and The Roots have a thing going on with collaborative album Wise Up Ghost, while a country trifecta of Chris Young (A.M.), Justin Moore (Off The Beaten Path), and Billy Currington (We Are Tonight).  Johnny Lang also bows with his latest (Fight For My Soul) as does power-pop favorite Five For Fighting (Bookmarks). Need some electronica/dance? How about Avicii’s debut True?  Or some alternative goodness – Grouplove’s Spreading Rumours.  Jam-packed week, but Jack Johnson seems like he’ll be hard to beat.

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