Tag Archive | Elton John

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.


“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).



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.


“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.




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…”


“Golden Salvation (Jesus Piece)”


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).


“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”!



Kid Cudi

From album: Indicud 

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


“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.


“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!


“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.



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!!!”


“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…


“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.


“While I’m Alive”


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.’


“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…”


“Body Party”


From album: Ciara

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


“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…



Sara Bareilles

From album: The Blessed Unrest

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



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!


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.


“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…”



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.



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.


“Ain’t It Fun”


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!


“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!

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The 100 Best Songs of 2013: Part 2 (#75 – 51)

Mac Miller-PFR-010521

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



R. Kelly

From album: Black Panties

Oreos everywhere has been violated… enough said.


“Work B**ch”

Britney Spears

From album: Britney Jean

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




From album: Beyoncé

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


“For The Rest of My Life”

Robin Thicke

From album: Blurred Lines

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



Arcade Fire

From album: Reflektor

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


“Winning Hand”


From album: A Love Surreal

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


“Here’s To Never Growing Up”

Avril Lavigne

From album: Avril Lavigne

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


“Love and War”

Tamar Braxton

From album: Love and War

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


“The Way”

Ariana Grande featuring Mac Miller

From album: Yours Truly

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


“Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)”

Arcade Fire

From album: Reflektor

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


“New Slaves”

Kanye West

From album: Yeezus

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



José James

From album: No Beginning, No End

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


“Wild For The Night”

A$AP Rocky featuring Skrillex

From album: Long. Live. A$AP

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



Mac Miller

From album: Watching Movies With The Sound Off

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


“I Need”


From album: Three Kings

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


“Where Are We Now?”

David Bowie

From album: The Next Day

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


“You Lust”

The Flaming Lips

From album: The Terror

Three words:  “LUST TO SUCCED!”


“Holy Ghost”

Mavis Staples

From album: One True Vine

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


“Don’t Swallow the Cap”

The National

From album: Trouble Will Find Me

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


“Take This Dirty Water”

Elton John

From album: The Diving Board

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


“Bound 2”

Kanye West featuring Charlie Wilson

From album: Yeezus

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


“Strictly Reserved For You”

Charles Bradley

From album: Victim of Love

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



Lady Gaga

From album: ARTPOP 

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



R. Kelly

From album: Black Panties

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



Tyler, The Creator

From album: Wolf

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

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The 50 (+1) Best Albums of 2013

Kanye West-20131126-42

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


Vampire Weekend

Modern Vampires of the City


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”


Kanye West


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” 


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


Daft Punk

Random Access Memories


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


John Legend

Love in the Future


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 


Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite

Get Up!


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”


Black Sabbath



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?”



Nothing Was The Same


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” 





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


Arcade Fire



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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Album Playlist: Favorites, Least Favorites, and Honorable Mentions of 2013, Part 1…


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!



51zyslCFevL._SL500_AA280_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.

Traditional Pop 

Michael Bublé, To Be Loved 

Bublé possesses one of the best voices in recent times by my estimations.

Electronic / Dance

41FJb1q2VyL._SL500_AA280_Daft Punk, Random Access Memories

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.


41HOLOY507L._SL500_AA280_Queens of the Stone Age, …Like Clockwork

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.


510gRIX6xfL._SL500_AA280_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.



51Tqebc+IZL._SL500_AA280_Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City 

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.


41o5xUIKO+L._SL500_AA280_Janelle Monáe, The Electric Lady

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.

Traditional R&B

51fqkurDW+L._SL500_AA280_Charles Bradley, Victim of Love

Mavis Staples, One True Vine

Haven’t heard these? Please take the time.  Soul at its best in 2013.



41E34dng69L._SL500_AA280_J. Cole, Born Sinner

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.


61C7Cg69MKL._SL500_AA280_Cornell Campbell/Soothsayers, Nothing Can Stop Us 

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.


51dLxmUchfL._SL500_AA280_Alan Jackson,  Precious Memories II 

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…


41-PUo3AtUL._SL500_AA280_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.



5192VzEOazL._SX300_José James, No Beginning, No End

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!!!

Review: Elton John, ‘The Diving Board’


Elton John Doesn’t Miss A Beat on His Latest 

Elton John⎪The Diving Board ⎪ Capitol ⎪⎪ US Release Date: September 24, 2013

Elton John-DGG-041244When I hear the name Elton John, one of the first words that comes to mind is legend (piano too, but we’ll stick with legend for our purposes).  Elton John was certainly a gargantuan presence in pop and rock music back in the day. That might be an understatement within itself.   Sure, his days of being a commercial fixture are long past, but where many new artists lack musical longevity, John will always remain musically relevant.   That’s part of the reason why his first solo album in seven years, The Diving Board, is kind of a big deal.  Sure, there is no “Candle in the Wind” or  “Philadelphia Freedom” on this oft stripped set, but there are plenty of well written, worthwhile additions to John’s juggernaut-like collection.  Hey when Elton and Bernie get together – musically and lyrically – it’s always a good thing.

The Diving Board opens superbly with the stripped “Oceans Away”, which finds John accompanied solely by his piano playing.  Sure the number is an understated way to begin a ‘comeback’ of sorts, but don’t let the setting sway you away.  “Ocean Away” is prudent,  definitely packing more punch than expected.  And ode to the previous generation, John urges for the embracement of their consummate wisdom: “I hung with the old folks / in the hope that I’d get wise / I was trying to bridge the gap / between the great divide.”  The understated opener is proceeded by the more overt “Oscar Wilde Gets Out”, a fascinating narrative-driven number based upon the 19th century writer.  It may not necessarily appeal to all, particularly those unfamiliar with Wilde, but it has some truly notable moments.  The prized lyric? “Looking back on the cold bleak winter / looking back on those long dark days / felt like the head of John the Baptist / in the arms of Salome.”

Elton John2-20120717-28A Town Called Jubilee” infuses some funkiness into The Diving Board, propelled not only by an initial groove, but also John’s bluesy piano lines.  John gets to further flex his pianistic muscles during an instrumental section.  But more than John’s keyboard skills shine, so does his voice as well as the backing vocal support he receives during the standout chorus (“Come on little sister get up offa my knee / gonna settle down someday / in a town called Jubilee…”).  “The Ballad of Blind Tom” follows the epic number with less ‘hooky’ though still compelling results.  If nothing more, John’s piano skills always incite ear-catching moments.  This is especially true of the recurrent interludes.  “Dream #1” provides an intimate, piano only moment.

After the pianistic moment, “My Quicksand” captivates through its darker, more mysterious vibe.  John may not sound incredibly optimistic here (“My quicksand / let me introduce you / to my final stand / I went to Paris once / I thought I had a plan / I woke up with an accent / I wound up in quicksand…”), but the sprinkles of jazz lighten things up during the instrumental interlude.   Yeah, maybe he’s morose, but at least it’s impressively conveyed, right? “Can’t Stay Alone Tonight” provides more hope, though the lyrical bridge is still heavy stuff: “Bruised in this cold war of words / we’ve come undone two loose ends alone / possessed by the curse you’ve endured / the spell that I cast couldn’t make you come home.” Well, it’s in a major key with a gospel-country element.  Oh and Raphael Saadiq plays bass.

Any track titled “Voyeur” can only have an edge to it.  “Voyeur” certainly lives true to its title, as John sings “…the solitary eyes I’ve been looking through / committed to connecting the old ways to the new.” There it is.  “Voyeur” would never be a ‘commercial’ single given chordal progression quirks and an unapologetic singer/songwriter feel, but that wouldn’t be the intended approach anyways. “Home Again” appeals more, accentuated by the use of horns, keyboards, and bowed (arco) bass.  Strong songwriting and the expected commanding vocal performance by Elton John certainly doesn’t hurt.

Elton John-LMK-051125As good as “Home Again”, “Take This Dirty Water” steals the show, with Elton John combining facets of gospel, blues, and rock.  Incredibly soulful and feel-good, “Take This Dirty Water” just might be the album’s crown jewel.  “Dream #2” precedes “The New Fever Waltz”, which is indeed a waltz and doesn’t miss a beat.  “Mexican Vacation (Kids in the Candlelight)” gives “Take This Dirty Water” a run for its money, again calling upon gospel as a chief influence and some more bass accompaniment courtesy of Saadiq.  “Dream #3” finally delivers the entirety of the “Dream”, this time finding John receiving an assist from bass and drums. Title track “The Diving Board” closes solidly, if a bit too slow and prolonged.  It’s a cut with good intentions, but doesn’t dare supersede  stacked numbers like “Oceans Away” or “Take This Dirty Water”.

Ultimately, The Diving Board is an incredibly well done Elton John album.  It supersedes nothing from John’s discography, but it neither needs to or really should.  John has already shared with us his greatest contributions to music… he has nothing more to prove.  The Diving Board is John on autopilot, doing what he does best.  They say you can’t teach and old dog new tricks.  In John’s case, why would you want or need to?

Favorites: “Oceans Away”; “A Town Called Jubilee”; “Home Again”; “Take This Dirty Water”; “Mexican Vacation (Kids in the Candlelight)” 

Verdict: ✰✰✰✰


Chart Moves, October 2, 2013: Drake 3Peats


Drake’s 3Peat on the Billboard Albums Chart

Unsurprisingly, Drake lands atop the Billboard 200 Album Charts with his third solo album, Nothing Was The SameNothing Was The Same sold a career-best 658,000 copies, trumping the 631,000 copies that Take Care sold in 2011.  Ultimately, Drake’s latest sold just a tad below prognostications, but easily took honors as top hip-hop debut of the year and the second-best debut overall behind Justin Timberlake’s juggernaut, The 20/20 Experience.  Drake, dude, “you the f**king best”.

…More Debuts This Week…

51UokMRA8lL._SL500_AA280_The best he may be, Drake is only the start of a debut-heavy top ten.  Kings of Leon play bridesmaid with Mechanical Bull, which sold 110,000 copies.  That’s down from the debut of 2010 effort Come Around Sundown, but stronger than the band’s breakthrough effort Only By The Night, which was their fourth album.  Cher and Elton John apparently don’t miss a beat, even at 67 and 66 years of age respectively.  Cher’s anticipated CElton John-LMK-051125loser to the Truth, her first new album in 11 years, bows at no. 3 with 63,000 copies.  As for Elton John, The Diving Board arrives at no. 4 with 47,000 copies sold.  He impacted the chart last with Leon Russell on the fine The Union in 2010 (no. 3, 80,000 copies).

Guess what, there were more debuts! Dream Theater’s Dream Theater moves 34,000 copies at no. 7.  Krewella moves 27,000 copies of Get Wet, good for a no. 8 bow.  Metallica is the final top 10 bow as Metallica: Through the Never ends up at no. 9 with 26,000 copies.

Who’s Got Next

51C5yP6ZOqL._SL500_AA280_I’ll keep it simple… Justin Timberlake. The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2 should debut at no. 1.  The only spoils? Timberlake underperforms and Drake over performs after a brilliant debut.  Other releases arriving? Lorde’s Pure Heroine, Tyler Farr’s Redneck Crazy, Joan Jett & The BlackheartsUnvarnished, Steven Curtis Chapman’s The Glorious Unfolding, K-Ci & JoJo’s My Brothers Keeper.  Lorde should be the other biggie in addition to Timberlake according to billboard.com’s estimations.  Having the U.S.’s new no. 1 single “Royals” certainly helps the teen singer.

Chart Moves, September 25, 2013: Jack Johnson, Miley Cyrus and Drake


Jack Johnson Tops Without A Hitch 

51eExP80-XL._SL500_AA280_Every time there is supposed to be a slugfest for the no. 1 spot, that just fails to happen.  Again, after it was prognosticated that no. 1 was a toss up – this time between Jack Johnson and Justin Moore (seemed odd being honest), Jack Johnson did what he does – scores no. 1 albums.  From Here To Now To You opened at the penthouse with 117,000 copies.  Blah numbers right? His previous album sold more than twice as much as that, moving 243,000 copies its first week.  As for the bridesmaid Justin Moore, he debuted at no. 2 with Off The Beaten Path to respectable numbers (97,000 copies).  Hey, when you have never come near six figures, you’re doint something when you just miss by a smidgen, right?

81Zuo+7lWuL._SL1425_Besides Moore, country shined this week on the Billboard albums chart.  Chris Young can probably thank single “Aw Naw” for the no. 3 bow of A.M. With 54,000 copies.  Sure that makes for a low ceiling, but when you’re not exactly a household country name, those are some solid numbers.  Maybach Music Group (MMG) finds themselves in a familiar spot at no. 4 as Self Made 3 sells 50,000 copies.  That’s healthy for a compilation, but just not a MMG one necessarily.  The fine Self Made 2 sold 98,000 copies, nearly twice as many as this less heralded one. Avicii did well to land at no. 5 with 50,000 copies of debut TRUE sold.  However, another country brother didn’t get it done; Billy Currington found himself at no. 10 with only 26,000 copies of We Are Tonight sold.  Wonder if being charged with terroristic threatening played a role in the cool reception?

Miley, Miley, Miley

miley-cyrus-67Wasn’t it just weeks ago that Robin Thicke was on top the world for like twelve weeks with “Blurred Lines”? Katy Perry knocked him down, but her plan to stay atop the roost didn’t materialize as one Miley Cyrus shut that down with a nude video for actually likable song “Wrecking Ball”.  “Wrecking Ball” has already done something that popular first single “We Can’t Stop” or even earlier career single “Party in the U.S.A.” was unable to do – landed at no. 1.  I’m not really into Miley’s shock value, but I’ll give credit where it is do.  I’m onboard with “Wrecking Ball”… the song. Congrats on another week at no. 1.

Who’s Got Next?

41E34dng69L._SL500_AA280_Some of the releases from Tuesday, September 24 should definitely put some numbers on the chart… but you just never know with the way album sales have waned.  Drake should definitely make the top truly top heavy with his highly anticipated third album Nothing Was The Same.  Then there’s that southern rock band Kings of Leon who are releasing their first album in a couple of years (Mechanical Bull).  What about the oldies? Elton John, Sting, and Cher also dropped.  What about a newbie like Icona Pop? Hopefully, these albums move units and don’t disappoint. Drake, we’re counting on you!

Forthcoming Albums To Anticipate (August 2013 Onward)


As we are transitioning into the late summer, the album releases become increasingly more ‘blockbuster’ like.  Face it, the end of the year is always loaded.  We don’t know all of the releases that will materialize yet, but we already have a rich group of new albums we will be spinning beginning in August.


Lady Gaga, ARTPOP 

Genre: Pop / Dance

Anticipated U.S. Release date: November 11, 2013

lady-gaga-artpop-650-430“Let’s have some fun this beat is sick / I wanna take a ride on your disco stick!” Whenever a new Gaga album is released, watch out.  Details will come soon enough, but after a two year hiatus (Born This Way, 2011), is the world ready for nu Gaga? (That’s rhetorical). I’ll tell you one thing though, go ahead an sign, seal, and deliver another triumphant number one bow on the album charts.


Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience 2, etc. 

Genre: Pop

Anticipated U.S. Release date: N/A

Had we not already gotten our first taste of Justin Timberlake returning in a big way earlier this year, then JT probably would’ve topped this list.  2013 has been the year of Justin Timberlake, and it should continue this fall.  We’ve already be introduced to the set’s first single, “Take Back The Night”.


Arcade Fire, N/A

Genre: Alternative

Anticipated U.S. Release date: October 29, 2013

Arcade-Fire-006Right now the details are few about Arcade Fire’s follow up to The Suburbs (2010).  The Suburbs was a triumph, debuting at number one on the albums chart with 156,000 copies and selling 765,000 copies total. Numbers aside, The Suburbs won the coveted Album of the Year at the Grammys in 2011.


Elton John, The Diving Board

Genre: Pop / Rock

Anticipated U.S. Release date: September 24, 2013

This is a BIG Elton John release.  The 66 year old veteran is releasing his first solo album in seven years.  Ain’t much changed… he co-writes with his homeboy Bennie Taupin and we wouldn’t have it any other way.


Cher, Closer To The Truth

Genre: Pop / Dance

Anticipated U.S. Release date: September 24, 2013

Premiere Of "The Zookeeper" - ArrivalsIt’s been eleven years since Cher’s last studio album (Living Proof, 2002).  Can the 67 year old rekindle the fire after such a long hiatus? Let’s hope there’s another “Believe” in her!


John Mayer, Paradise Valley

Genre: Pop / Rock

Anticipated U.S. Release date: August 20, 2013

XXX _JOHN MAYER GAP 1669.JPG A FEAEvery John Mayer album seems to make a nice dent in the charts.  I have no doubt that Paradise Valley will follow suit and likely find itself at the penthouse.  That said, wasn’t it surprising that his 2012 effort Born and Raised missed out on the Grammy love he usually gets?


Nine Inch Nails, Hesitation Marks 

Genre: Alternative

Anticipated U.S. Release date: September 3, 2013

trent-reznor_1358298cThis is Nine Inch Nails’ first album since The Slip from 2008.  The Slip was given away for free is memory serves me correctly.  If you want to get technical, their last proper album via major label was 2007’s Year Zero, which debuted at number two (187,000) behind Avril Lavigne’s The Best Damn Thing.


Genre: Alternative

Anticipated U.S. Release date: September 17, 2013

mgmt1Who does trippy much better than MGMT? The duo’s third album arrives after a three year hiatus. 2010 effort Congratulations debuted triumphantly at number two with 66,000 copies sold.


Earth, Wind & Fire, Now, Then & Forever

Genre: R&B

Anticipated U.S. Release date: September 10, 2013

It’s the legendary soul band’s first album in eight years (Illumination, 2005)! Explanation enough!


Panic! At The Disco, Too Weird To Live, To Rare To Die 

Genre: Alternative

Anticipated U.S. release date: October 8, 2013

panic-2013-400Panic! At The Disco return with their fourth album, led by Janet Jackson alluding poppy single “Miss Jackson”.  “Miss Jackson are you nasty?” LOL.  Too Weird To Live, To Rare To Die follows up 2011 effort, Vices & Virtues.  


Raheem DeVaughn, A Place Called Loveland

Genre: R&B

Anticipated U.S. Release date: August 20, 2013

The neo-soul hippie returns after a three year hiatus (The Love & War MasterPeace, 2010).


Franz Ferdinand, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action 

Genre: Alternative

Anticipated U.S. Release date: August 27, 2013

Franz-Ferdinand-in-2009-002The band returns with their first studio album in four years (Tonight, 2009).  Here’s hoping the Scottish band can get back on their debut album’s swag (Franz Ferdinand, 2004).


Elvis Costello & The Roots, Wake Up Ghost

Genre: Rock

Anticipated U.S. Release date: September 17, 2013

I know very little about this album as of yet, but who cares? Elvis Costello AND The Roots? Count me in.


TGT, Three Kings

Genre: R&B

Anticipated U.S. Release date: August 20, 2013

71SLN8s527L._SL1425_Tyrese, Ginuwine, and Tank? That’s some kind of adult contemporary R&B album!


The Civil Wars, The Civil Wars

Genre: Country / Folk

Anticipated U.S. Release date: August 6, 2013

Sophomore follow-up to the duo’s Grammy-winning Barton Hollow (Folk Album, Country Duo/Performance (“Barton Hollow”)).


Many, many more releases will be announced as the year progresses.  Here’s some other notable upcoming releases:

KT Tunstall, Invisible Empire / Crescent Moon (August 6, 2013)

Glen Campbell,  See You There (August 13, 2013)

Washed Out, Paracosm (August 13, 2013)

Allen Toussaint, Songbook August 20, 2013)

Jimmy Buffett, Songs From St. Somewhere (August 20, 2013)

Tedeschi Trucks Band, Made Up Mind (August 20, 2013)

Avenged Sevenfold, Hail to the King  (August 27, 2013)

Ashanti, BraveHeart (September 3, 2013)

Arctic Monkeys, AM (September 10, 2013)

Gloria Estefan, The Standards  (September 10, 2013)

Goldfrapp, Tales of Us  (September 10, 2013)

Billy Currington, We Are Tonight (September 17, 2013)

Chris Young, A.M. (September 17, 2013)

Jack Johnson, From Here To Now To You (September 17, 2013)

Johnny Lang, Fight For My Soul (September 17, 2013)

Placebo, Loud Like Love  (September 17, 2013)

Sting, The Last Ship (September 24, 2013)

Candice Glover, Music Speaks (TBA)

Review: Fall Out Boy, Save Rock and Roll

Fall Out Boy ⎪ Save Rock and Roll ⎪ Island ⎪⎪ US Release Date: April 16, 2013

Introduction & Background

Pete Wentz (bass)

It’s been nearly five years since Fall Out Boy’s previous album, Folie á Deux debuted (December 16, 2008). Despite being another solid album by the punk-pop outfit, the effort failed to gain the same footing that 2007’s Infinity On High had from the onset.  Even the singles failed to catch as much fire – “I Don’t Care” topped out at no. 21 while “America’s Suitehearts” topped out at an unremarkable no. 78.  Perhaps part of the difference was that Infinity On High would build its success based upon the band’s breakout sophomore effort, 2005’s From Under A Cork TreeInfinity was certified platinum, after debuting at no. 1 (260,000 copies), propelled with hit singles “This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race” (no. 2) and  “Thnks Fr Th Mmrs” (no. 11).  Folie á Deux would bow averagely at no. 8 (150,000) and only attained gold certification.

Patrick Stump (vocals, guitar)

After Folie á Deux, the possibility of another Fall Out Boy album seemed extremely bleak. With a ‘hiatus’ that seemed like a definite ‘breakup’, the members of the band did their own thing, including vocalist Patrick Stump’s underperforming 2011 solo effort, Soul Punk (bowed at no. 47 on the Billboard Albums Chart).  It’s a shame I was one of the few souls who purchased and jammed to Stump’s solo effort, but I like everyone else was secretly desiring the ‘comeback album’.  And it happened! Who isn’t glad that Fall Out Boy “reunited, and it feels so good”?   2013’s long anticipated Save Rock and Roll is consistent, enjoyable, and for longtime fans, the memories of how much they love Patrick Stump, Pete Wentz, Andy Hurley, and Joe Trohman.   At just 42 minutes in duration, the Chicago boys keep things short and sweet over the course of 11 tracks.

Read More…

Advice To Some of Today’s Top Musicians – Brent Faulkner Style

This was just a “no no”.

No one does advice like me, Brent Faulkner.  I thought I’d impart some helpful thoughts to some of today’s top musicians – humorously and in my normal opinionated, liberal fashion.

Miranda Lambert

Ok, this is really for one faux pas. Miranda, girrrrrlllll, you did not need to be rocking that get-up at the Grammys. Nothing wrong with curves – I like curves personally. But, that outfit was not popping.

Frank Ocean 

Frank Ocean

Work on your overall showmanship, buddy.  Learn how to work a big audience and endear yourselves to audiences who may be unfamiliar with your cult-like phenomenon. Doing a controversial number like “Forrest Gump” probably wasn’t the best choice for the Grammys (why not do “Thinkin Bout You”). Furthermore, if you do go ‘bold’ like that cut, make it memorable (and with better pitch).

Conor Maynard

Kiddo, keep patterning yourself after Justin Timberlake as opposed to Justin Bieber. We don’t need “Another One” - another Bieber that is.


So glad that you haven’t forgotten your roots, my fellow 26-year old friend. That said, “Started From the Bottom” was what my friends and I might’ve called back in the day as um “whack”? Maybe it’s not “whack”, but it’s no “Best I Ever Had” that’s for sure!

Chris Brown

Chris Brown

Stop getting into trouble. Every argument/mishap that happens shouldn’t involve or center around you.  I know you think you are the victim of scrutiny and that everybody is a hater since your Rihanna abuse incident, but you have done nothing but bring the scrutiny upon yourself.  You are talented (great voice, dance moves), but you are selling your talent short with your behavior, which showed on sub-par album FortuneHonestly, I’m not sure that condoms, hedonism, and arrogance are a great mix for any album, no matter what genre.

Justin Bieber

Grow up.  You need to learn that not everybody is going to like or respect you and that not everything centers around you. Contrary to your beliefs and your newly grown ‘confidence’ with your physique, you are not the only artist who sells albums these days.  Your self-centeredness is contradicting your hopes to appeal to a wider audience that you attempted on album Believe and is making you come off more annoying.  Shirtless instagram photos, failed uStreams, pot smoking, reckless driving aren’t making you a BAMF – change the “B” to an “D”.

Alicia Keys

Um, enough high profile performances/variations of “Girl On Fire”.  I never have to listen to it on my iPod anymore. Also Mrs. Beatz, I think people wish for a quicker tempo for the National Anthem the next time you perform it.

Wiz Khalifa

Wiz Khalifa

Lots of people smoke marijuana. But Wiz, don’t you think you have taken it too far? Always stoned and all of your music has made references to how much you love weed.  Sure, everyone loves a good stoner song – look at Reggae! But, I think you might actually benefit from refraining from the ganja.

Elton John

Okay, I’m one of your biggest fans.  But, you probably should’ve left “The A Team” to Ed Sheeran.  Those vocals weren’t poppin’.  But you redeemed yourself later.  But I still remember that duet you did with the late Luther Vandross on “Anyone Who Had A Heart“… Yuck!

Kelly Clarkson

Kelly Clarkson

Girl, just keep being you!!! You’re so down to earth, even when you’re aloof of perhaps R&B’s next great artist in Miguel.  I quote: “Miguel, I don’t know who the hell you are, but we need to sing together. That was the sexiest damn thing I’ve ever seen.”  You just keep on proving why you are one of not only today’s greatest pop stars, but a dynamic vocalist who can sing anything.

Cody SimpsonAustin Mahone, and others…

Just throw in the towel right now-  This is Justin Bieber‘s game right now. Everything in the universe, twitterverse, and  swaggy-verse centers around the near 19-year old Canadian prince.



Girl, we know that you can sing anything.  You’re soulful, gritty, and you keep classicism in R&B vocally.  The voice is not the problem – even if some people aren’t a fan of gospel histrionics and an updated amalgamation of Patti LaBelle and Aretha Franklin.  The songs sometimes are the problem, but I’ll hold back on that (I don’t know that “Baby Mama” should’ve been released as a single back when). It’s the presentation!!! When you won American Idol, you needed to get out of your old ways and mature into a refined, cultured star. Instead, you have regressed with a lot of bad headlines (missing shows in The Color Purple, a poorly written social networking message, an affair/pregnancy with a married man, etc.). You are releasing an album this year on RCA right? Girl you need to clean it up and get it together. You know RCA probably doesn’t care what the album does and if it bombs, you are out!


Have you learned nothing from Whitney Houston and Tina Turner? Get away from the “bad boy”.  They are called “bad boys” for a reason!

The Black Keys (specifically Patrick Carney)

I’m going to be both complementary and critical.  Carney, you had the balls to say that Justin Bieber basically was more money than artist. Kudos.  To make it even better, you did it in nonchalant, hipster fashion that only you could do it.  Being critical, why didn’t you just shrug it off or say something like “it is what it is?” You became the victim of a teen pop firestorm or rather his most avid followers.

Tyler, The Creator

I realize you like being ‘shocking’.  So do I – I love saying things for shock value. But Mr. Creator, I’m going to need you to eliminate some of the homophobia from your lyrics…some of the excessive language would be worthwhile as well. :-)

Lil Wayne

OK, you can do whatever you want because you’re Lil Wayne.  That said, “Love Me” is a solid song, but aren’t you basically recycling yourself? Basically your saying girls love you and want you – specifically a certain part of you. Haven’t we been their done that? “Lollipop” specifically where you talk about “humping”, “lady lumps”, and “licking”? Just saying…

One Direction (and Justin Bieber)

I realize that tattoos are everywhere these days. But, don’t you guys think you’ve taken the trendy phenomenon overboard? If you think a tattoo is going to make the persona of artists performing songs like “What Makes You Beautiful” or “Boyfriend” more edgy, I think you’re mistaken.

Big Sean

We all realize you that can’t stay in your lane (“Swerve”), you often petition God (“Oh God”), and you love booty (as evidenced by numerous lyrical references and manifested in hit “Dance A$$”). But do you change up that formula any?

Nicki Minaj

Let’s avoid crazy songs like “Stupid Hoe” next album, ‘K? Also, stop trying to get with the Idol guys.

Kelly Rowland

Keep being evoking sexiness.  Most men were thrilled that you like your “Kisses Down Low”.


Can we have more entertainment like the Superbowl Halftime show? I think many of us were allured less by the music and more by the visuals…


Sports and Pop Culture from Bill Simmons and our rotating cast of writers | Grantland

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