There are so many things to be thankful for in life, or at least I think so. What better during Thanksgiving and the holiday season then to have a playlist filled with ten ‘songs of thanks’ to spin? Exciting huh? The artists featured on this playlist are thankful for various things in life – some quite relatable and others maybe not so much. Regardless, there should be something here for everybody (sorry country fans…).
From No Angel
This may be the most obvious “thank you” song to include. “Thank You” courtesy of Dido was an important track for a number of reasons. Number one, it is one of the English singer’s biggest hits, peaking at no. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. Number two, “Thank You” was sampled on one of Eminem’s most important singles, “Stan” from The Marshall Mathers LP. What exactly is Dido thankful for? “I want to thank you for giving me the best days of my life / Oh Just to be with you is having the best day of my life”. Sounds like she’s found the man of her dreams. Aww!
“Thank Me Now”
From Thank Me Later
Yeah I know, Drake is totally not giving thanks to anyone, but rather asking for thanks. This is evident on the hook, where Drizzy raps “You could thank me now, go ahead / thank me later, yeah I know what I said / but later doesn’t always come so instead / it’s ok, you could thank me now.” What’s my favorite Toronto homeboy saying? Oh something to the effect to “give me my flowers while I can still smell them.” I think if you transcend beyond Drake’s confidence, you’ll see he’s really saying to take time to say thanks now because later’s not promised.
From Blueprint 3
To be such a cocky and confident dude, Jay-Z seems a bit more humble on “Thank You” from Blueprint 3: “Thank you, thank you, thank you, you’re far too kind / hold your applause, this is your song not mines / thank you, thank you, thank you, please hold your applause”. He’s also pretty humble and thankful to God as he raps “There is no reason to treat me like I’m somehow from outta heaven / heaven knows I’ve made my mistakes, thank God, what a guy as I say my grace…” Even with his thankful, humbling moments such as the aforementioned hook, Jay-Z still is a baller…baby, don’t get it twisted: “Please don’t bow in my presence, how am I a legend / I just got ten number one albums, maybe now eleven…” (yep, he’s actually got more than that now).
From All of Me
Grammy-award winner Estelle (“American Boy” featuring Kanye West) was in contention for another grammy for R&B vocal performance on the thoughtful, emotional “Thank You”. One of the bright spots from her third album All of Me, “Thank You” finds Estelle thanking her man “…for making me a woman”. Sure, it may not be what we all have in mind as we gather with our family and feast on Thanksgiving, but I’m sure many can relate and attest to the same thing as Estelle does.
From Raw Footage
So this is one of those, ‘not your traditional thank yous by any means’. Ice Cube is thankful, but not for traditional reasons. The background on this cut is in that mindset that “hip hop is dead”. Because of this, the the ‘rap savior’ has come to resurrect it… I feel like I need to repent now for blasphemy. Basically, Ice Cube is thankful for, well Ice Cube. How so? See the hook: “Thank God, the Gangsta’s back / and we don’t gotta put up with this brainless rap…” Ice Cube’s the gangsta, and both he and us apparently should be thankful for that, I guess.
Mariah Carey, Joe & 98º
“Thank God I Found You”
Nothing like a big-time number one hit to ring in the holiday season. That is exactly what the superstar collaboration of R&B singers Mariah Carey and Joe and boy band 98º is on “Thank God I Found You”. Even though the subject of the artists thanks is their respective relationship, they give the thanks to God for providing that relationship. I’d do the same… if I weren’t single, LOL.
Angie Stone featuring Snoop Dogg
“I Wanna Thank Ya”
From Stone Love
Angie Stone remains one of my favorites from the neo-soul era of soul (how I wish that that era in soul music would return!). Anyways, I’ll tell you that my gal is not singing about being thankful for God, family, or friends – at least not just any friend. She is thankful to her man: “And I’m feelin’ everything you do / your love is gangsta, I wanna thank ya.” Snoop Dogg is thankful for his love too: “I thank God above that you were sent to me.”
“I Thank God”
From The Wonderful World of Sam Cooke
I believe the words speak for themselves: “This wonderful world we live in / is God’s masterpiece of art / and I live each golden moment / with his love in my heart.” Truly, if only more of us could carry this same sentiment Sam. Those prudent words stated, Cooke goes on to sing “I thank God / for blessing me / with eyes to see / each wondrous day”.
DJ Holiday and Gucci Mane
From Trap Back
So with more thoughtful thank yous also come, well different calibers of thank yous. Here on yet another simply titled “Thank You”, Gucci Mane raps “Pause the track for a second / I just wanna say thank you / all this money I made / I don’t wanna be ungrateful.” Prior to that, ole boy also raps “Fell in love with bricks / …I love my plug / my girlfriend broke up with me / cause she said she tired of them drugs…”, but that’s beyond the point, right?
“I’m thankful / for the blessing / and the lessons that I’ve learned with you / by my side.” Depending on how you read into the aforementioned lyrics excerpted from the chorus of Kelly Clarkson’s titular song from her debut, you might get two reads; either she’s thankful to the most high or her boo. I’d say she’s thankful towards her man, but the lyrics throughout are pretty open-ended.
Unsurprisingly, Lady Gaga finds herself at no. 1 once more with latest album ARTPOP. Selling 258,000 copies would be pretty impressive if it weren’t Lady Gaga. Born This Way moved 1.1 million, and while a special discounting offer helped to seal the deal there, 258,000 copies seems like quite the fall off from her previous sales best. Still, her Gaga-ness outsold her next closest competitions, Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (210,000) and the debut of Now That’s What I Call Music, Vol. 48 (142,000). What is impressive about Eminem’s second week numbers and Now 48’s debuting numbers is that both buck the ugly trend where lately the second and third bestselling albums fail to move 100,000 copies. Billboard rightfully discusses the significance of Now 48’s sales in particular.
Even though Lady Gaga was the big thing, ARTPOP wasn’t the only new blood to the charts. Other debuts also make their respective splash into the top 10. The Beatles’ On Air: Live at the BBC, Vol. 2 bows at no. 7 with 37,000 copies. Jhene Aiko’s EP Sail Out lands at no. 8 with a respectable 34,000 copies. Holdovers within the chart aside from Eminem included The Robersons’ Duck the Halls: A Roberson Family Christmas (no. 4) , Katy Perry’s PRISM (no. 5), Kelly Clarkson’s Wrapped in Red (no. 6), Drake’s Nothing Was The Same (no. 9), and Lorde’s Pure Heroine (no. 10). And just because you asked, yes “Royals” is no. 1 on the Hot 100 for the eighth consecutive week.
Who’s Got Next? Well now… Daughtry’s Baptized could certainly make some noise. Yo Gotti releases his major label debut (after being an independent artist mind you) with I Am. Also Jake Bugg releases his sophomore album Shangri La. Basically, it seems like a ‘down’ week, compared to previous ones. No disrespect of course.
- Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2 Debuts Big (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Why isn’t Lady Gaga’s ‘ARTPOP’ getting a sales boost from her ‘SNL’ appearance? (music-mix.ew.com)
- Interscope loses $25 million promotional bet on Lady Gaga ‘ArtPop’ bomb (kingsofar.com)
- Lady Gaga’s $25 Million Art Machine Can’t Buy a Real Hit (businessweek.com)
- Fumbled Lady Gaga Release Could Cost Interscope $25 Million (hypebot.com)
Who says that a twenty seven year old trained musician with a masters degree in music theory/composition can’t throw down to a banger? Nobody, so don’t judge me! I have compiled a list of twenty club bangers (not BANGERZ) and have divided it into two parts. See you at the club snitches!
August Alsina featuring Trinidad James
“I Luv This Sh*t”
(Downtown: Life Under the Gun)
“I Luv This Sh*t” is definitely among the most unapologetic song titles of 2013. Featuring everyone’s favorite molly-poppin’ MC Trinidad James and despite it’s unforgiving title, “I Luv This Sh*t” is, well, lovable. Alsina has one foul mouth, but his mix of real talk with slower, horn-accentuated production is brilliant, if blasphemous (“God dammit I love it, I love it… So I’mma keep on smoking cause I love this sh*t / I’mma keep on grinding cause I love this sh*t / she tell me keep f**king cause I love this sh*t and I love it…”). Verdict? I love this sh*t!
Pusha T featuring 2 Chainz & Big Sean
“Who I Am”
(My Name Is My Name)
On “Who I Am”, Pusha T didn’t exactly select the most intelligible collaborators to guest with him (2 Chainz and Big Sean). Regardless, “Who I Am” epitomizes the ‘banger’. All Pusha T wants desires and aspires to is to “…buy another Rollie” and “…pop another band / I just wanna sell dope forever / Just wanna be who I am.” 2 Chainz does simple ambitions well, rapping “Entrepreneur, strip club connoisseur / hot fudge sundae, pour it on you hallelujah…” Big Sean ‘college’ in a kindergarten sort of way, rapping “Pretty girls is my reputation / one on my arm, that’s decoration…” There it is.
Tyga featuring Wiz Khalifa, Mally Mall & Cedric Gervais
Don’t get it twisted: I am NOT on board with ‘molly rap’ in the least. I’m onboard with what my homeboy Kendrick Lamar told y’all… BUT if I had to choose a highlight from Tyga’s ho-hum Hotel California as well as a bearable, catchy ‘molly rap’ song, it would be “Molly”. The production work is exceptional, and all MC’s provide solid performances (Tyga, Wiz Khalifa, and Mally Mall). No it’s not the second coming, but it is banger…
“Dip” has so many one-liners that an entire essay could be written examining each and everyone. The premise of the song? Well Danny Brown is pretty to’ up, period. The Forrest Gump reference definitely captures attention early on (“Like Lieutenant Dan, I’m rolling back to back / I keep on smoking…”). My favorite moment involves you guessed it, ‘molly’: “Now all these rappers talking ‘bout that molly / bet a million dollars these n***as ain’t dipping / pure MDMA, put it in a shot we talking ‘bout crystals / been thizzin’ hard up all day, rest in peace to Mac Dre…” Banger? Yes…also seems like Brown is way past the need for rehab… just sayin’!
Gunplay featuring Rick Ross, Trina & Yo Gotti
(Self Made Vol. 3)
Self Made Vol. 3 as a compilation was a disappointment for me, particularly following an excellent second Maybach Music compilation (Self Made 2). However, the brash, unapologetic “Gallardo” is a notable moment, giving Rick Ross and company yet another ‘goes hard’ banger. Credited to Gunplay, the cut also features Trina, Rick Ross and Yo Gotti. “I only f*ck with n***as in them Lambos (Gallardo) / I only f*ck with n***as in them Lambos (Murcielago)…,” Trina asserts on the explicit, ‘guilty-pleasure’ hook.
(Magna Carta…Holy Grail)
“Tom Ford” is cool if nothing more since it’s named after the fashion designer. Ford is honored with a solid hook that manages to once more reference one ubiquitous ‘molly’: “I don’t pop molly, I rock Tom Ford / International bring back the Concorde / Numbers don’t lie, check the scoreboard / Tom Ford, Tom Ford, Tom Ford.” It’s not prodigious perhaps, but it definitely stands out on Magna Carta…Holy Grail, one of Hov’s weakest and least distinctive offerings in years.
Rocko featuring Rick Ross & Future
(Gift of Gab 2)
Much of “U.O.E.N.O” was overshadowed by Rick Ross’ controversial allusion to date rape (“Put molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it / I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it…”), and rightfully so. BUT as a song itself ignoring Ross’ irresponsibility, it’s a good one. I mean, I’m not always crazy about Future, but he’s perfect on the hook here: “This a thousand dollar pair of shoes and U.O.E.N.O. It / this a thousand dollar cup of lean and U.O.E.N.O…” Yeah, you see where this banger is going.
“Don’t Drop That Thun Thun”
(Don’t Drop That Thun Thun – Single)
The first time I heard it and being the naïve human being I can be, I assumed that this was a raunchy, clubbing track. I mean, doesn’t ‘thun thun thun’ sound like a great reference for the booty? The good news is that “Don’t Drop That Thun Thun” is a cut for the clubs, particularly with lines like “Alright oh my goodness I’m turnt up / I got a bottle you got a cup / you hit the dougie / I 2 step…” (Verse two) but the actual thun thun thun is not referring to the butt. LOL.
According to goto slang source Urban Dictionary, “thun thun thun” is MDMA otherwise known as ecstasy. Yep, it’s another song about molly.
So, the cut ends up being really bad, but still is the perfect banger. I wouldn’t encourage it’s message of popping mollies (much like the earlier “Molly”), but it is catchy.
Ali Maejor featuring Juicy J & Justin Bieber
(Lolly – Single)
The “lollipop” is always a popular item for a club banger. Lil Wayne may have done it best on his Grammy-winning “Lollipop” from 2008 album Tha Carta III. That said, Ali Maejor, Juicy J, and Justin Bieber (of all people) seem to be onboard with this oral sex alluding number. This cut is tasteless (no pun intended), however the beat and overall production are undeniably delicious. Bieber even tries to tone it down on his rap verse, but it’s hard to tone down a slang word for a ‘pickle’, he he he!
“Started From the Bottom”
(Nothing Was The Same)
…“Started From The Bottom” was not heavy on my rotation when it bowed. It seemed a bit of a disappointment from the MC who rarely misses. Contextually and after having reservations, “Started From The Bottom” is solid and of course honest. Just as Drake says, he “…done kept it real from the jump…” Apparently the DJ Khaled song was real talk: “No new n***as, n***a we don’t feel that / f*ck a fake friend, where your friends at?” #NoNewFriends for Drake.
- Playlist: Bangers That Get It Poppin’ At The Club… (Part 1) (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Review: DJ Khaled, ‘Suffering from Success’ (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Review: Pusha T, ‘My Name Is My Name’ (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Review: MMG, ‘Self Made 3′ (brentmusicreviews.com)
I believe that it was last week I suggested to readers to ‘take your pick’ at which album would debut at no. 1. Somehow when formulating such a statement, I must have forgot about a certain veteran band who would manage to sell six figures – oops! Pearl Jam debuts atop the Billboard Albums Chart with 166,000 copies of Lightning Bolt sold. Pearl Jam definitely aren’t strangers to debuting at no. 1 as several of their sets have landed there. 166,000 copies is a solid start in this day and age, though not exactly ‘breathtaking’. Still, it leads one to believe that the ceiling is wider than it would be had the vets sold under 100,000 copies. By the way, Lighting Bolt is the sole album to sell over 100,000 copies. Ew!
The second largest debut comes from Paul McCartney, whose latest album New bows at no. 3 with 67,000 copies. While that number is respectable, it’s not incredibly ‘sexy’. It only gets worst for those not named ‘Pearl Jam’. The Avett Brothers sell almost 58,000 copies of Magpie and the Dandelion (no. 5). Sure, Billboard references this as “their second-largest week”, but 58,000 copies definitely doesn’t seem to leave much room for ‘growth’ you might say. Scotty McCreery does much worse, particularly considering the platinum success of debut album Clear As Day, which debuted at no. 1 with 197,000 copies. See You Tonight settles for no. 6 with an unimpressive 52,000 copies sold. Can you say big time sophomore slump (excluding that Christmas album of course). Country veteran Willie Nelson bows at no. 9 with 43,000 copies sold of To All The Girls while The Head and the Heart debut at no. 10 with 42,000 copies of Let’s Be Still.
Holdovers? Miley Cyrus (no. 2), Drake (no. 4), and Lorde (no. 7). Cher re-enters the top 10 at no. 8. Oh and that Lorde song “Royals” – yeah, it’s still no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Who’s Got Next? All indications would seem to suggest Katy Perry’s highly anticipated PRISM to me, which was preceded by a very successful, former no. 1 single in “Roar”. That said, when Teenage Dream bowed back in 2010, the numbers were a bit underwhelming during its debut week considering the success of the promo singles (it still debuted at no. 1). Also released this week: DJ Khaled (Suffering From Success), AFI (Burials), Il Volo (Buon Natale: The Christmas Album), Andrea Bocelli (Love in Portofino), The Piano Guys (A Family Christmas), Motörhead (Aftershock), Fifth Harmony (Better Together (EP)), Najee (Morning After), and Wynton Marsalis (The Spiritual Side of Wynton Marsalis).
- On the charts: Pearl Jam land on top, Paul McCartney and Avett Brothers have strong showings (music-mix.ew.com)
- Pearl Jam Scores Fifth No. 1 Album (variety.com)
- Paul McCartney’s ‘NEW’ will hit top 5 in U.S. Billboard debut (examiner.com)
- Chart Moves, Oct. 16, 2013: Miley Is Unstoppable at no. 1 (brentmusicreviews.com)
- On the Charts: Pearl Jam Bolt to Number One (rollingstone.com)
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 after 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…
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
After 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?
Miley 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 Name, Kenny Rogers’ You Can’t Make Old Friends, Sleigh Bells’ Bitter Rivals, Lyfe Jennings’ Lucid, 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.
- Lorde Outsells Haim, Hunters And Timberlake Combined (noise11.com)
- Chart Moves, October 2, 2013: Drake 3Peats (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Justin Timberlake Tops Charts Again, Drake Follows (muzicupdate.wordpress.com)
- Justin Timberlake To Hit #1 On Album Chart; Drake’s Sales Fall 78% (allhiphop.com)
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!
Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience
Elton John, The Diving Board
My two favorite pop albums couldn’t be more different. One’s a more singer/songwriter and rock-oriented effort (John) while the other balances urban and pop (Timberlake). Two different extremes of the spectrum perhaps, both yield sound rewards.
Michael Bublé, To Be Loved
Bublé possesses one of the best voices in recent times by my estimations.
Electronic / Dance
James Blake, Overgrown
Daft Punk’s effort was the commercial triumph of the two, delivering the ubiquitous, tastefully risqué “Get Lucky”. Blake’s brilliant Overgrown shouldn’t be written off by any means, easily showing a huge amount of growth since his debut James Blake.
David Bowie, The Next Day
So we’ve got a legend who returns after a lengthy hiatus and an underrated band who somehow made their way to the number one spot on the Billboard Albums chart. Awesome. Both albums are among the year’s top regardless of genre.
Black Sabbath, 13
While atheism itself doesn’t personally appeal to me, Black Sabbath’s 13 is nothing short of brilliant, regardless of its numerous lyrical allusions to atheism and skepticism towards any religion.
The Flaming Lips, The Terror
The alternative music category is always stacked with gems, perhaps because this represents the ‘future’ of music with more experimental, less commercialized ideas. Both Vampire Weekend and The Flaming Lips outdo themselves on their respective albums, no questions asked.
John Legend, Love in the Future
R&B may be suffering commercially, but critically, there are still some unquestionable triumphs. Janelle Monáe epitomizes the future of the genre, mixing the best cues from the past and incredible creativity that clear thinks forward. Legend on the other hand is more classic, but as impressive as the results are on Love in the Future, there’s nothing wrong with that.
Mavis Staples, One True Vine
Haven’t heard these? Please take the time. Soul at its best in 2013.
Drake, Nothing Was The Same
No Kanye? He has an argument for both being here and not being here. Honestly, choosing a favorite rap effort is a difficult choice this year as I felt the field has been wide open. J. Cole definitely came up while Drake was a consistent and moody as ever. Others could’ve easily landed here as well… the genre has had a good year.
Logic, Young Sinatra: Welcome To Forever
He’s got next, period.
The Courtney John Project, Future
Reggae is underrated, but it shouldn’t be at the hands of veteran Cornell Campbell or innovative collective The Courtney John Project. Sure we’re going gaga over Justin Timberlake, Daft Punk, and Robin Thicke, but we should also be talking about both these exceptional albums.
I’ll admit, I’ve indeed slept on country some in 2013. Shame on me, I apologize. But, I do think that it is strange that from among the few country albums I partook, my choice for the best was a sequel, just saying. For me, I just couldn’t say that either Luke Bryan, Lady Antebellum, or The Band Perry had my favorite album… Can’t speak on Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Justin Moore, etc. I’ll do better next year.
Shirley Caesar, Good God
It is a gospel legend… that’s enough said…
Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite, Get Up!
Tedeschi Trucks Band, Made Up Mind
Talk about two underrated albums! Both are sensational and deciding between the two was incredibly difficult. That’s why I “made up my mind” and selected both.
Jaimeo Brown, Transcendence
José James could’ve landed in the R&B category, but we all know that jazz is a huge part of his artistry, right? No Beginning, No End is a terrific album that I hope the Grammy voters don’t shun. Jaimeo Brown offers quite a creative, modern-jazz album that is incredibly eclectic, including elements of Indian music and spirituals.
Make sure you check out part 2 (Least Favorites), coming soon!!!
- Potential Grammy Nominees, Mid September 2013 Edition (brentmusicreviews.com)
- 2013 Chart Trends: 5 Underachievers and 5 Overachievers (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Review: Justin Timberlake, ‘The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2′ (brentmusicreviews.com)
Despite lacking cohesion, Timberlake’s second installment of ‘perfect vision’ still captivates
Justin Timberlake⎪The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2 ⎪ RCA ⎪⎪ US Release Date: September 30, 2013
So I’ve been given the tall task of describing Justin Timberlake’s second album of 2013, The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2. Oh these are the albums that make a music critic work extra hard – these big uns you know. How does one describe such an affair such as this? Well, it’s certainly ambitious, lengthy as far a duration, very urban in quality, and well ‘all over the map’. Here’s the thing, Justin Timberlake tends to do pretty well by being all over the map and making a big, if disjointed pop album. Maybe disjointed isn’t even the right word, but I’m certainly pretty sure that this album couldn’t possible have ‘20/20 vision’, save for it’s focal theme of love. That said, even if this album has plenty of flaws, it still manages to be sort of captivating, somehow.
“Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want)” is a solid starting point overall, with a funked up beat and dually soulful and hip vocals from Timberlake. The song is definitely not promoting the chivalrous, with sexual innuendo being the focus on JT’s introduction: “Sounds are calm, when we become the animals that were made in the jungle.” If Justin’s dirty-minded antics weren’t enough, he confirms his lustful desires on the chorus: “Now take me to your jungle, I’m not afraid / and if you’re looking for your animal, hop in my cage…” All in all, while Timberlake overplays sex and Timberland/Jerome “J-Roc” Harmon overdo the production ever so slightly, “Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want)” works.
“True Blood” is an interesting listen if nothing else, but nearing the ten minute mark, the cut is a bit exhaustive. Still, one can’t deny the pleasure of this sensually-driven dance cut. It’s twisted, but undeniable, which seems to be Timberlake’s intention. “I think she’s got that true blood / every time your ‘round I can smell it in you / she’s got that true blood / I come around and raise the hell out of you / it’s that demon in me that’s got me screaming…” If you can bear a ten minute number (and a slickly produced one at that), this one has some great things going for it.
“Cabaret” featuring Drake isn’t too shabby, though like the previous cuts, the production work trends hyper. Still, the pop-soul quality, aided by the underlying harmonic progression and of course Timberlake’s pipes makes this cut a winner overall. Having Drake on the track doesn’t hurt either… Still, lyric “Cause I got you saying Jesus so much it’s like we are laying in the manger” seems a bit much, for believers and non-believers alike. Blasphemy, I say! What was he thinking?!?! Was it that serious JT?
“TKO” is cohesive lyrically, if you consider alluding to ‘the nasty’ through sports clever. Sure it’s on most people’s minds, but I’m not sure that boxing is usually associated with the bedroom. “Baby, every day in training to get the gold / that’s why your body’s crazy”, Timberlake generalizes on the first verse. Later, he goes onto say that “Baby, now I really know what we’re fighting for / this rematch sex is amazing…” Yeah, I think I threw up just a little bit. I’m all about swag and all, but is a does such a line really represent swag? Well, at least the hip-hop experimentation and switch-up at the end keeps things interesting.
“Take Back The Night” is a no-brainer highlight, no questions ask. Where the solid but somewhat clunky “Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want)” opens and establishes a tone for The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2, “Take Back The Night” sort of brings the album back to earth. The cut is this edition’s “Suit & Tie”, only with less fanfare. All the pieces are in play here, with Timberlake killing it with his falsetto and the production continuing to bang. Perhaps why “Take Back The Night” is more effective than some cuts is because it feels less forced in regards to the innuendo. Of course, The Benjamin Wright Orchestra doesn’t hurt either as the sound is as important as everything else.
“Murder” once more pairs Timberlake with the ‘Picasso’ himself, Jay-Z. There isn’t a supersession of their first collaboration, but “Murder” is a worthwhile listen from my perspective. Here, the vibe is more hip-hop oriented and of course JT fits right in. The song has its moments lyrically, with Timberlake’s line “You know you killin’ me softly but we can go as hard as you want to…” standing out. Jay-Z manages to successfully close out the allusion of murder and a favorite three-letter word: “Suicide I’m trying to cut / white chalk line ‘em up / give new meaning to dying to f**k…” There it is.
“Drink You Away” has an interesting sound, combining cues from R&B, pop, country, and rock. The use of acoustic guitar particularly provides some extra timbral contrast compared to previous cuts. As far as the concept, it is actually interesting too, but lyrically, the cards seem to be dealt to obviously and too early. “I can’t drink you away / I’ve tried Jack / I’ve tried Jim / I’ve tried all of them things / but I can’t drink you away…” I mean it’s not a deal breaker, but its pretty predictable to see where and how the lyrical narrative is going to end. Alcohol rarely solves big problems, remember that.
“You Got It On” is firmly slated in contemporary R&B and benefits from slightly cooler production and perhaps being less ‘forceful’. Sure, the production is still ‘busy’ and characteristic, but it doesn’t seem to pound ‘pedal to the metal’ like earlier numbers. Throw in exceptional vocal production and more emotionally thoughtful lyrics, and “You Got It On” is pretty well rounded, regardless of its six minute duration.
“Amnesia” finally kicks off a six-eight groove – you knew it was coming! The chorus in particular is smooth and lush, sort of matching the state one could imagine for amnesia itself. Still, “Amnesia” plays like an open book if you are familiar with the condition as profundity where lyrics are concerned seems nonexistent. “Only When I Walk” adopts a pop/rock edge, again finding production work to be top-rate. Timberlake delivers the song with distorted vocals, which reminds of vintage soul and rock. Good, “Only When I Walk” is not perfect nor in the same tier as the best.
Let me be the first to say I’m not fan of hidden tracks. In CD form, “Not A Bad Thing” closes the effort with hidden track “Pair Of Wings”. To take 11 and ½ minutes in duration, the final track(s) are just so-so. “Not A Bad Thing” isn’t bad, but it does lack flare. “Pair of Wings” doesn’t sustain attention particularly well, sort of closing an album that opened so resolute a bit underwhelming. My boredom may not be someone else’s though.
Thoughts? I dunno – on the fence. I think The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2 lacks cohesion and is by no means the best album of the year nor necessarily better than the earlier effort. I don’t think it’s bad, but the overstuffed tracks do take away from the album. I do dig the production switch-ups and Timberlake’s vocal abilities. Vocally, Timberlake seems to always shine, even if he has to fight layers of rhythm. Ultimately, I’d say this effort lies somewhere in the middle. It likely will be considered the stepsister to its older brother, The 20/20 Experience.
Favorites: “Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want)”; “Cabaret”; “Take Back The Night”; “Murder”; “You Got It On”
- Music Review: Justin Timberlake’s “20/20 Experience – 2 of 2″ (200wordreviews.wordpress.com)
- Review: Timberlake’s ‘The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2′ (nicholashautman.wordpress.com)
- Review: Justin Timberlake edgier on ’20/20 Experience – 2 of 2′ (latimes.com)
- Chart Moves, October 2, 2013: Drake 3Peats (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2 Is Stellar in Its Own Right (people.com)
- Video: Justin Timberlake Performs ‘TKO’ on ‘Ellen DeGeneres Show’ (aceshowbiz.com)
It’s that time… for me to list songs that made me over the past month. 14 of ‘em baby, get ready!
You 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”
I 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
There 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
Yeah, 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”
A 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
“Q.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
Is 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”
I’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
Love 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 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.
On 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
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”
I’ll be the first to criticize The Weeknd’s follow-up to mixtape compilation Trilogy. Kiss 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”
You 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 (brentmusicreviews.com)