Tag Archive | Drake

Review: YG, ‘My Krazy Life’


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Overall, YG delivers a compelling debut with My Krazy Life

YG • My Krazy Life • Def Jam • US Release Date: March 18, 2014

YG-KSR-015031YG is the latest rapper on a long list of hopefuls to release his major label debut, searching for his ‘come-up’. Judging by its title (My Krazy Life) as well as the content enclosed, Y.G. has good reason to eye stardom and the hope for a ‘better’ life. Throughout this dark 14-track set (18 tracks on deluxe editions), YG tells the story of his life, in all its explicit details – sometimes its even TMI. Overall, YG ends up delivering a compelling effort, though it’s not perfect. While the MC has a sensational flow, he’s not as quite alluring (yet) as the very best in the game. Still, for his first album, this west coast effort is more thrilling than not and shows tremendous potential.

Momma Speech Intro” definitely foreshadows and establishes the tone: “…I hope you ain’t outside hanging with them gangbangers / you gon’ end up in mother f**king jail, like your damn daddy.” A heavy way to kick things off, it’s truly just a facet, a piece of YG’s Krazy Life. The following “BPT” is brief, and continues to find YG sort of introducing him self and the way he has/does live. “I’m from BPT (West side)…400 Bruce Street”, he raps on the hook. On the verses, he delivers incredibly agile rhymes with a rough and tumble sentiment: “That 40 Glock snap like Insta, ain’t no need for a caption / I got put on by four n***as, wasn’t need for no bandage…” “BPT” ends abruptly, sort of like a cliffhanger – you must keep on listening to discover what’s to come essentially. “BPT” sort of confuses early on taken out of context, but it makes perfect sense later on.

I Just Wanna Party” can be considered to be the first full-length cut. Here, YG, assisted by Schoolboy Q and Jay Rock, spits “But I just wanna party, I don’t wanna hurt nobody”, but also states “I’ll beat the f**k out of a n***a.” YG definitely talks some trash, but if you can get past the street savvy, he’s also being trill, particularly rapping “All these hoes f**kin’, but they don’t wanna seem like a ho / so you gotta hit ‘em on the low…” Schoolboy Q handles the second verse, boldly bragging he “could sell a key to God”, referencing drugs, specifically kilos. Jay Rock, who takes the third verse is all gangster: “I ain’t got a stunt double / you ain’t got no hands so you might let the gun touch you…” “I Just Wanna Party” is certain edgy, but also the first standout from My Krazy Life.

Left, Right” (featuring DJ Mustard) ends up being an exceptionally produced club banger with booty on the mind. YG is definitely in full-on salacious mode, leaving few elements of sex to the imagination. “…She can divide her legs on this d**k like a fraction,” he naughtily spits on the first verse, “right, right, left, hit ‘em with that right, left”. Of course, “Left, Right” is nothing more than physical as YG could care less about his partner: “… if you cheated on me, I won’t care, right?” He follows up his emotionless hook-up with the eye-catching “Bicken Back Being Bool”. Why such an odd title? Apparently, the Bloods, a prominent gang in California, avoid the use of the letter “C” or words using “C”. This would be because of the rivalry with the Crips. So, if you can rewrite the title of the song, it’s likely “Kickin’ Back Being Cool” (“K” would have the same sound as “C” and wouldn’t be in true Blood style likely). Another enjoyable cut, among my favorite lyrics were “Wifey don’t like SEGA, I don’t play that b**ch.”

YG-KSR-015028Meet The Flockers” seems like a titular play on the Ben Stiller movie Meet The Fockers, but more relevantly, it’s a joint about robbers (“flockers”). If normal people think of “flocks” referring to geese, YG is using “flockers” as slang for robbing in groups. “Meet the mother f**king flockers / make some noise if you ever stole something in your life…make some noise if you ever stole a dollar out your mama’s purse,” YG spits on the hook, “When she wasn’t lookin while y’all was in church.” He gets an assist on the second verse by Tee Cee. “My N***a” ends up being one of the album’s highlights, despite its overuse of the controversial African-American reference to “homie” or “bro”. A Slickly produced skeletal cut impacted by punches of 808, “My N***a” really says very little, but it doesn’t need to say much to be successful. Jeezy and Rich Homie Quan come along for the ride contributing verses, with Rich also handling the hook (“I said that I’mma ride for my mother f**kin’ n***as…”).

Sex becomes the focus of the next two cuts, “Do It To Ya” (featuring Teeflii) and “Me & My B**ch” (featuring Tory Lanez). “Do It To You” isn’t a love song given its physical nature, but it sounds like one from YG’s perspective. A standout it is, the obligatory “Face down, a$$ up / that’s the way we likes to…” definitely is nowhere in the gentleman’s handbook and eschews chivalry. “Me & My B**ch” also fails to be the traditional love song, but deeper examination makes one relate to YG’s sentiment. Tory Lanez’s sung hook explains part of YG’s lot: “Used to have a girlfriend / now all I got is hoes / just looking for a down girl / but she was f**kin’ on the low.” Basically, YG’s “ride or die” wasn’t being faithful (“…Damn she was with him last weekend”), despite how much he cared and invested in her (“I was claiming her when we was … wasn’t using condoms no nothing…”). In the end, YG’s chick tries to use possible paternity to get him back because he’s rich now. It’s a twisted tale, but a compelling one.

Who Do You Love?” brings in Drake, who definitely steals the show – no disrespect to YG, who also has some sound lyrical moments (“I’m that n***a on the block / police pull up, I’m tryna stash the Glock”). “I’m the general, just makin’ sure my soldiers straight,” raps Drake on verse two, “Had to leave my n***a, homie got an open case / But I’m big in the south / so we gon’ pay some people off, we gon’ figure it out.”

“Who Do You Love” is followed by arguably the album’s best cut, “Really Be (Smokin N Drinkin)”, featuring Kendrick Lamar. Not one for subtlety, YG speaks his mind without a filter from the onset: “I woke up this morning, I had a boner / I went to sleep last night with no b**ch…I was a loner.” While YG keys in on ‘not getting any’, ultimately the MC is actually referencing the stress of various things on his mind, and smoking and drinking help to alleviate that stress. As for KL, well he goes H.A.M. as usual: “I swear this industry sh*t, to me is one big a$$ lick / I walk inside of a buildin’, tell the A&R n***a strip / Tell ‘em I need all of my chips, my life been on Section 8 / I’ve been a welfare case, AFDC pump fake.”

YG-20140307-1471AM” has a difficult act to follow, but handles the pressure well. Another autobiographically driven number, YG references the lack of discipline he received in his youth, specifically from his mother. Hence, such irresponsible actions including unprotected sex and empty relationships make perfect sense. “Thank God (Interlude)” features singing from Big TC (verse one) and rapping from RJ (verse two). RJ’s rapping alludes to jail time/making bail for Y.G., going back to his ‘flocking’. On sincere closer “Sorry Momma”, where YG is assisted by Ty Dolla $ign, Y.G. takes responsibility for his own actions and apologizes to her. Ty Dolla $ign conveys this superbly via the hook: “I’m sorry Momma / let me take some weight off your shoulders / I’m singing to momma / you ain’t gotta worry now, them days is over.” The production for the closing cut is lush and simply beautiful.

My Krazy Life isn’t quite comparable to the epic nature of big-time debuts like Kanye West’s The College Dropout, Drake’s Thank Me Later, or Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid M.A.A.D. City, but YG definitely has a compelling story to tell. The fact that My Krazy Life can be examined so analytically beyond the overt nature of its rhymes is a testament to the potential of YG There are truly no misses to be found as every track has a relevant role to the larger narrative. Perhaps it’s not the next rap classic, but it’s definitely one of the best rap albums of the year as of yet.

Favorites:

“I Just Wanna Party”; “My N***a”; “Do It To Ya”; “Who Do You Love?”; “Really Be (Smokin N Drinkin)”

Verdict: ★★★★

March Madness: 16 Songs For The Sweet 16


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The first four, second round, and third rounds of the NCAA Tournament are over my friends, and after numerous upsets and the birth of those Cinderella teams looking for another shot to slay the giant, the tournament marches on with the upcoming Sweet 16 and Elite 8.  What better way to celebrate and prepare for these deep tournament runs with a playlist of 16 songs fit for the Sweet 16? Let’s go #TEAM! 

1

Queen

“We Will Rock You” 

Most spirited lyrics:

Buddy you’re a young man hard man / shouting in the street gonna take on the world some day / you got blood on your face, you big disgrace / waving your banner all over the place” (verse one)

“We will, we will rock you!” (Chorus)

Swag, swag, swag! The big boys are going to take down the little boys – the fakes are out!  “We Will Rock You” isn’t ultimately about basketball, but the ‘fight’ within the lyrics of the song sounds much like the moxie and the mind-set required on the court.  “We Will Rock You” is confident, much like a veteran, and experienced team that understands their roles should be.  Nope, it’s not basketball specific, but there are more than enough parallels.   

2

Aloe Blacc

“The Man”

(From Lift Your Spirit) 

Aloe Blacc-LMK-060235Most spirited lyrics:

“Well you can tell everybody / yeah you can tell everybody / go ahead and tell everybody / I’m the man, I’m the man, I’m the man”

Athletes and musicians have something in common, even if they come from completely different worlds – they have a swagger, a confidence, sometimes an arrogance.  A lead singer, guitarist, or lead trumpeter can be likened to the star player on a basketball team (regardless of the position he plays be it guard, forward, or center) in the sense there is that fearlessness and confidence.  On “The Man”, Blacc wants everybody to know that he’s “the man”.

3

Jeezy featuring Kanye West

“Put On

(From The Recession) 

Most spirited lyrics:

“I put on for my city, on, on for my city…put on (east side)…put on (south side)…put on (west side) / put on”

Sure, Jeezy didn’t even mention basketball or championships in his song about representing his city, but the sentiment can be transferred into college basketball.  After all, don’t all college basketball players want to represent both college and hometown? Winning the national championship would definitely be away to do so! 

4

Wale featuring Meek Mill & Rick Ross

“Ambition

(From Ambition) 

Wale-20130912-19Most Spirited lyrics:

“For my ambition / easy to dream a dream, though it’s harder to lie it / They gon’ love me for my ambition…Beautiful music, painting pictures that be my vision.” 

There’s a number of ways one could interpret the “ambition” of which Wale speaks.  One such way is just having dreams in general, taken contextually within the tournament, means winning the national championship.  A more liberal interpretation is that Wale is referencing the Cinderella teams, which aren’t favored to win, but ultimately ‘shock the world’.  Yes, the Dayton Flyers (defeated Ohio State 60-59 and Syracuse 55-53) and Mercer (defeated Duke 78-71) among others.  Sigh… if the slipper fits!

5

Chingy

“Balla Baby”

(From Powerballin’) 

Most spirited lyrics

“I’m a balla (say what) high, roller baby (baby, baby) / shot caller (that’s right) aint nobody this crazy (like me) / you a hater (you a hater) why you tryin’ to play me (I don’t think he know) / Fake player (fake player) ain’t nobody killin’ (hey, I’m a balla for real)”

There’s really not a lot that needs to be explained here… Chingy is the point guard (“Shot caller”).  We all know that besides the coach that the point guard is like the coach on court.  And if the point guard doesn’t have a clue, the team is toast.  Horrendous guard play definitely kills the vibe.  Word.   

6

Christina Aguilera

“Fighter”

(From Stripped) 

Christina Aguilera-AES-115812Most spirited lyrics:

“I am a fighter and I / I ain’t gonna stop / There is no turning back / I’ve had enough”

I know what you’re thinking – why the hell is a Christina Aguilera song about a broken relationship on a March Madness-related playlist? Well it’s the ‘sentiment’ of ‘fighting’ more so than the lyrical content.  Aguilera is a “fighter” because she decided not to play the ‘victim’ card and has shown strength from a bad situation.  College basketball players and teams face a different sort of fight – the fight to advance further in the tournament and to live up/meet expectations whether they are realistic or unrealistic.  Blue blood schools in particular are expected to be competing for championships, not merely a sweet sixteen.  That “fighter” mentality that Aguilera refers to apply to collegiate basketball after broken plays whether it’s poor transition defense, a bad foul, a missed shot, etc.  “Fighter” mentality!

7

Drake featuring Kanye West, Lil Wayne, and Eminem

“Forever”

Drake-AES-089760Most spirited lyrics:

“…I’m shutting down sh*t in the mall…I want this sh*t forever, man” (Hook)

“Forever” is the ultimate baller’s anthem.  Sure, the song really has nothing to do with being on the court, but like many of the cuts on this playlist, there are parallels to having ‘swagger’ on the court.  Drake’s opening rhymes from his verse exhibit the grit and confidence players must show: “Last name Ever, first name Greatest / Like a sprained ankle, boy I ain’t nothing to play with.”  Kanye West’s swagger is even more pronounced on the second verse, in which he claims “I stuck my d**k inside this life until that b**ch came / and went hard, all fall like the ball teams.” Ignore the overt sexual references, and West is the MVP…he’s already claimed victory.  For good measure, Lil Wayne references Space Jam while Eminem just goes H.A.M.  

8

DJ Khaled featuring Ludacris, Rick Ross, Snoop Dogg & T-Pain

“All I Do Is Win”

Most spirited lyrics:

“All I do is win, win, win no matter what / Got money on my mind, I can never get enough / and every time I step up in the building / everybody hands go up / and they stay there, and they stay there…” (T-Pain, on the hook)

Confidence is essential to playing sound basketball – it’s part of the whole teamwork aspect.  The best teams have the confidence knowing they will be playing deep into March.  Teams that lack the resolve and the “winning” spirit exemplified by “All I Do Is Win” go home with their heads hung down.  T-Pain sings it best on the hook – ‘nuff said.

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Review: Young Money, ‘Rise Of An Empire’


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Young Money’s Rise Of An Empire is a fail… an ‘epic’ one if you will 

Young Money • Rise of An Empire • Cash Money / Motown • US Release Date: March 11, 2014

Lil Wayne-20140317-70It is incredibly difficult to be unbiased towards compilation efforts prior to listening.  Honestly though, the compilation often incurs issues that the studio album/ solo studio album seems to avoid.  There’s just something about random tracks with no rhyme or reason that hurt the overall cohesiveness that many sound and exceptional albums possess.  Sigh* Young Money, following a five year hiatus, return to release their second compilation album, Rise of an Empire. Young Money, their previous album, actually had some fine moments, including the raunchy “Every Girl”, “Bedrock”, and “Roger That”.  Rise of an Empire isn’t as ‘wonderfully made’ you might say – it has some…umm…yeah, just read on!

We Alright”, featuring Euro, Birdman, and Lil Wayne, opens Rise of An Empire, umm interestingly.  On the first verse, Euro raps “They said I’d never do it, now I’m looking like, ‘N***a, what’s never?’ / and now they run from us when they see us, boy, that money’s pressure.”  Umm yeah…on the hook, the rapper confirms the message: “Long as my n***as right then we alright / long as the women right then we alright / long as the drinks on ice then we alright / long as these private flights…” – yeah you get the idea.  Birdman dumbs it down on his second verse, opening with a reference to money (“Yeah, it’s money over everything”).  Lil Wayne has the most interesting rhymes, most notably “You just a crocodile, I drink a full cup of his tears / can’t recognize you n***a, like Santa cut off his beard.”   Don’t call it a hit… please don’t, I’m begging you!

Drake-20140317-36Trophies” follows “We Alright”, led by the honorable Drake.  If nothing more, the pounding beat rocks.  “Trophies” is driven by rappers other favorite topic (besides money and sex) – the ‘come-up’.  The off-beat hook says it all: “…I’m just tryna stay alive and take care of my people / and they don’t have no award for that, trophies, trophies…” Overall, “Trophies” isn’t a bad track, but don’t call it Drizzy’s best either.  All said and done, “Trophies” won’t be awarded in trophies over much of the material from Nothing Was The Same when it’s all said and done.  Contextually, it is better than the opener.  But really, isn’t this another “Started From The Bottom”, sort of?

Bang” comes courtesy of Sonny Digital who is always good for a malicious production job.  Lil Twist, Euro, and Corey Gunz handle the rhymes here.  Lil Twist spends a portion of his verse referencing pro ballers, before bragging about his cliché threesome.  Euro drops references to being like the four ‘Michaels’ at the beginning of his verse: Michael Jordan, Michael Tyson, Michael Phelps, and Michael Jackson.  Besides being awesome, he references shooting, sexing, and of course money.  Corey Gunz drops lines like “War paint like a baboon and my b**ch got a red a$$ on” as well as referencing shooting, money and drugs.  True to its sound, “Bang” couldn’t be characterized as a ‘warm’ track.

Nicki Minaj9-20131105-2Senile” features the talents of Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, and Tyga.  Tyga kick starts thing with an agile verse over the slinky, minimalist production work.  In addition to delivering nastiness on the opening verse, Tyga delivers the simple, but addictive hook: “Can you see now? Are you senile? / Can you see now? You could see now…” Nicki Minaj does her normal thing on the second verse, fitting right in with the guys – shocker! Lil Wayne takes the final verse, closing it out classically: “I’m in this mother f**ker gettin’ money ‘til I’m senile, Tunechi!” Compared to “Bang”, “Senile” is more creative. Don’t call it a masterpiece, but it definitely gets the club poppin’… or something like that.

Euro gets his third moment to shine on his solo track, “Induction Speech”.  Think of it as more “trophies”: “I think I’m getting wasted tonight / I realized that I made it tonight /you gotta hear just how I made it tonight / ‘cause it’s crazy how I made it / and tonight is the night…I know what it takes to get here, and I’m glad that you could make it tonight.”  So essentially, Euro is now successful and he is going to live it up.  Fair enough.  Yet another ‘I came up’ tale – Is what it is.  Could’ve been shortened – brevity ain’t a bad thing.

One Time” features quite the crew: Lil Twist and Tyga once more, with the addition of YG.  What is common between the three? Well all three get raw – nasty if you will.  Unsurprisingly both the production and hook set the tone: “I’mma mack, on this ho, one time…If you a pimp, break a b**ch…” Lil Twist’s is confident (“You know the life? B**ch, I’m living that / now do that 100 yard dash and run that money back…”), Tyga’s cocky/misogynistic (“My n***a told me bout ya, had to see what you was worth / that p***y come a dime a dozen, you’ll be mine, you know it…”), and YG is the worst (“Too much money, I’ll never f**k a fat lady / now that’s a fact baby, sit on my lap baby”). “One Time” is enjoyable if you enjoy the objectification of women and like low IQ tracks.  Otherwise, one just sort of shakes your head at the shamefulness/shamelessness that pours out through the speakers.

Here’s the moment all have been waiting for – the controversial Nicki Minaj feature, “Lookin A**”, which opens with the ‘electrifying’ introduction “Look at y’all n***as…”. Can you sense the sarcasm? Honestly, examining the lyrics and listening, I sort of want to see how many times Nicki Minaj uses the word n***a because that’s what the whole song sound like – how many times can Nicki use the ‘n-word’. There’s nothing wrong with an edgy, aggressive Nicki Minaj (I loved the raunchy-fest of “Beez in The Trap” as much as anybody else), but a bit more substance would’ve been nice.  Judge for yourself – that’s my advice!

Fresher Than Ever” enlists the duties of Birdman, Gudda Gudda, Flow, Jae Millz, and Mack Maine.  Guess what the MCs spit about – $$$.  Yep, that’s hella fresh… Gudda Gudda offers the most ‘original’ lyrics of the album: “Yea, man we came from the bottom / Stunna told me get these n***as so I got ‘em!”  Please – how tried-and-true/tired is this! Birdman’s immense rhyming skills shine throughout a series of interludes…NOT: “Yeah, number one in that field…Stacks on top of stacks / b**ches, whips, floss, gettin’ in puttin’ it in…” After multiple references to material, Jae Millz does make a clever Roy Hibbert (Indiana Pacers center) reference, even it is still “for the love of money”: “Money stand tall as Roy Hibbert, hater forget it”.  Mack Maine chooses Captain Phillips as his cool reference (“Young Mack my driver but I’m Captain Phillips n***as”).  Fresher than ever really – Nope, not by any means whatsoever!  I call it recycling…maybe garbage…LOL.

Tyga2-20140221-51Back It Up” leaves little to the imagination, but honestly, would you expect any more from Lil Twist & Tyga? That is rhetorical times a million – literally. What’s the point of analyzing the rhymes if the content and theme is clearly laid out without explanation?  Don’t Twist and Tyga know there is more to life than the strip club? That’s a rhetorical question too by the way – SMH!

Moment” gives Tunechi a ‘moment’ literally – LOL.  Before he even gets into it, he’s high (“I’m so high I feel weightless) and like Rick Ross, he’s got shooters (“All my shooters courageous”).  On the hook, which precedes the verses, Weezy wishes to “Have my cake and eat it too, I want a bakery…” while later stating “I’m gon’ shoot it if I wave it, shoot it if I wave it / do yourself a favor, save yourself cause I can’t save ya.” “Moment” isn’t Lil Wayne’s best track ever, but the classic cues are in play, particularly references to weed, guns, money, and sex (see the final line of verse three).

Lil Wayne2-20140317-71You Already Know” has at least one bright spot – featuring up-and-coming R&B singer PJ Morton.  Additionally, Mack Maine, Gudda Gudda, and Jae Millz handle the rhymes.  Listening through the standard edition closer though, it’s not anything to write home about.  Where memorability is concerned, “You Already Know” has little of it.

So the verdict is in…drum roll please! The verdict is that Rise Of An Empire is not a great title for this album.  Perhaps “fall of an empire” would be more appropriate.  Rise has a few moments worthy of a second listen – namely “Trophies”, “Senile”, and perhaps even “Moment” – but otherwise, it falls into the normal pitfalls of the compilation.  Compared to the first album Young Money, Rise leaves more to be desired… My advice to Young Money is to ‘step out of the box’ or maybe in some cases, out of the booth.

Favorites:

“Trophies”; “Senile”; “Moment”

Verdict: ★★

Review: Various Artists, Now 49: That’s What I Call Music


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Now 49 is an improvement over previous compilations

Various Artists • Now 49: That’s What I Call Music • UMe • US Release Date: February 4, 2014

Compilation efforts have great intentions, but also can possess their respective flaws as well.  The Now Series is a superb way to give music lovers some of the biggest hits via one album.  The problem with the series is often by the time some of the hits make the compilation they’ve actually faded or cooled off a bit. Part of this is the restlessness of society while part of it is the assemblers being mindful of what’s currently “hot” and what’s “not”.  Now 49 serves its purpose like its colleagues, but of course there are puzzlements with the inclusion of certain songs given the timing.  Ultimately though, Now 49 is an improvement over previous compilations.

Some excellent choices found on Now 49 definitely includes the opener, “Timber”, a recent number one hit performed by Pitbull and featuring Ke$ha.  “Timber” fits perfectly because it is arguably the freshest song on the track list.  Another excellent choices with release date being a considered is “Say Something” by A Great Big World featuring Christina Aguilera.  While “Say Something” has been out a while, A Great Big World’s debut effort Is Anybody Out There? was just recently released.  Additionally, the former Billboard Hot 100 top five hit has remained and only grew in popularity.  Another solid choice is “Demons” by Imagine Dragons.  With “Radioactive” still incredibly popular after a lengthy run, current single “Demons” seems ‘brand new’, even with album Night Visions original bowing in 2012.  One could also make the argument for others, like “Unconditionally”, Katy Perry’s outgoing single before the rise of the “Dark Horse” (featuring Juicy J), or the sustained popularity of “Hold On, We’re Going Home” (Drake featuring Majid Jordan) or “Stay The Night” (Zedd featuring Hayley Williams).  There are some solid tracks featured on Now 49.

As always, there are also question marks.  Britney Spears’ “Work Work” (an edited version of “Work B**ch”) may have no issue given its relevance where time is concerned, but Britney Jean as a whole was a bomb. “Work” received some attention, but it certainly wouldn’t earn the honors as the pop star’s best single ever.  Similarly, “TKO” by Justin Timberlake feels out of place with much bigger, more relevant hits. The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2 definitely didn’t match the popularity of the original.  “TKO” could’ve been axed from this set and wouldn’t have been missed.  “Gorilla” by Bruno Mars is an excellent song (I didn’t think so when I first heard it over a year ago, but it grew on me), but it has ‘expired’ for this particular set.  To the ear, one truly nitpicky person might even chastise the inclusion of Lady Gaga’s duet with R. Kelly, “Do What U Want”.  While ARTPOP‘s best joint has only been on the Hot 100 for about 15 weeks, it’s ‘peak’ success has been finished for a couple of weeks at this point.

Ultimately though, Now 49 seems to be an improvement over the last couple of compilations.  There are fewer miscues in regards to who and what is included.  Now 49 is not perfect, but what compilation is? On greatest hits albums don’t the assemblers often goof somewhere? Sometimes aren’t soundtracks only so-so when listening to them outside the context of the film? Now 49 sports enough meat to please fans, particularly those who want some of their favorites for their own personal playlist.

Verdict: ★★★½

Thoughts On The 2014 People’s Choice Award Music Winners


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

Favorite Male Artist:  Justin Timberlake

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

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

Favorite Female ArtistDemi Lovato

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

Favorite Breakout Artist: Ariana Grande

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

Favorite Pop ArtistBritney Spears

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

Favorite Country Artist: Taylor Swift

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

Favorite Country Music Icon: Tim McGraw

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

Favorite Hip-Hop ArtistMacklemore & Ryan Lewis

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

Favorite R&B ArtistJustin Timberlake

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

Favorite BandOne Direction

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

Favorite Alternative Band: Fall Out Boy

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

Favorite Song“Roar”, Katy Perry

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

Favorite Album: The 20/20 Experience, Justin Timberlake

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

Favorite Music Video: “Roar”, Katy Perry

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

Favorite Music Fan FollowingLovatics, Demi Lovato

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

 

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

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


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

25

“Started From The Bottom”

Drake
From album: Nothing Was The Same

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

24

“Diane Young

Vampire Weekend

From album: Modern Vampires of the City 

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

23

“Q.U.E.E.N.”

Janelle Monáe featuring Erykah Badu

From album: The Electric Lady 

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

22

“Who Do We Think We Are?”

John Legend featuring Rick Ross

From album: Love In the Future

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

21

“Two Fingers”

Jake Bugg

From album: Jake Bugg

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

20

“F**kin’ Problems”

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

From album: Long. Live. A$AP

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

19

“Wrecking Ball”

Miley Cyrus

From album: Bangerz

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

18

“Black Skinhead”

Kanye West

From Album: Yeezus

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

17

“Power Trip”

J. Cole featuring Miguel

From album: Born Sinner 

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

16

Eminem

“Rap God

from album: The Marshall Mathers LP 2

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

15

“Mirrors”

Justin Timberlake

From album: The 20/20 Experience 

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

14

Miley Cyrus

“We Can’t Stop”

From album: Bangerz 

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

BTW, what about a little parody fun?

13

“Reflektor”

Arcade Fire

From album: Reflektor

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

12

“Obvious Bicycle”

Vampire Weekend

From album: Modern Vampires of the City

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

11

“A Couple of Forevers”

Chrisette Michele

From album: Better

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

10

“Same Love”

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert

From album: The Heist

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

9

“Blood On The Leaves”

Kanye West

From album: Yeezus

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

8

“If I Had A Tail”

Queens of the Stone Age

From album: …Like Clockwork

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

7

“We Can’t End This Way”

Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite

From album: Get Up! 

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

6

Do What U Want

Lady Gaga featuring R. Kelly

From album: ARTPOP 

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

5

Roar

Katy Perry

From album: PRISM 

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

4

“God Is Dead?”

Black Sabbath

From Album: 13 

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

3

Blurred Lines

Robin Thicke featuring T.I. & Pharrell Williams

From Album: Blurred Lines

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

2

“Royals

Lorde

From album: Pure Heroine 

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

1

“Get Lucky

Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams

From album: Random Access Memories

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

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

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


Panic At The Disco-PFR-010814After a year filled with numerous albums and even more songs, choosing 100 of the best is an incredibly difficult task.  Like with the best albums of 2013, there will be surprises as well as snubs.  Sometimes the snubs are oversights while at other items there are just so many notable songs that some just get lost in the mix.  Regardless, here are 100 songs I found to be notable in 2013.

50

“Drunk In Love”

Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z

From album: Beyoncé

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

49

“Netflix”

2 Chainz featuring Fergie

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

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

48

“Wait For Me”

Kings of Leon

From album: Mechanical Bull

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

47

“Who I Am”

Pusha T featuring 2 Chainz & Big Sean

From album: My Name Is My Name

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

46

“Wildfire”

John Mayer

From album: Paradise Valley

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

45

“Do I Wanna Know?”

Arctic Monkeys

From album: AM

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

44

“All American Boy”

Steve Grand

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

43

“Take A Fall For Me”

James Blake featuring RZA

From album: Overgrown

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

42

“Shabba”

A$AP Ferg featuring A$AP Rocky

From album: Trap Lord

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

41

“Primetime”

Janelle Monáe featuring Miguel

From album: The Electric Lady

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

40

Kisses Down Low

Kelly Rowland

From album:  Talk A Good Game

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

39

“Retrograde

James Blake

From album: Overgrown 

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

38

“Almost Is Never Enough”

Ariana Grande featuring Nathan Sykes

From album: Yours Truly

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

37

“Made Up Mind”

Tedeschi Trucks Band

From album: Made Up Mind

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

36

“Without Me”

Fantasia featuring Kelly Rowland & Missy Elliott

From album: Side Effects Of You

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

35

“Florida

Jaheim

From album: Appreciation Day

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

34

“Ya Hey”

Vampire Weekend

From album: Modern Vampires of the City

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

33

“Bugatti”

Ace Hood featuring Future & Rick Ross

From album: Trials & Tribulations

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

32

“Touch”

Daft Punk featuring Paul Williams

From Album: Random Access Memories

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

31

“Hold On, We’re Going Home”

Drake featuring Majid Jordan

From album: Nothing Was The Same

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

30

“Miss Jackson”

Panic! At The Disco

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

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

29

All of Me

John Legend

From album: Love in the Future

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

28

“Entertainment”

Phoenix

From album: Bankrupt!

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

27

“Suit & Tie”

Justin Timberlake featuring Jay-Z

From album: The 20/20 Experience 

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

26

“We No Who ‘U ‘R”

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

From album: Push The Sky Away

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

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

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


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!

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

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”

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