Tag Archive | Janelle Monáe

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 50 (+1) Best Albums of 2013


Kanye West-20131126-42

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

1

Vampire Weekend

Modern Vampires of the City

XL

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

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

Seals The Deal:  “Obvious Bicycle”

2

Kanye West

Yeezus

Def Jam

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

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

Seals The Deal: “Blood on the Leaves” 

3

Janelle Monae

The Electric Lady

Bad Boy

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

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

Seals The Deal: “Prime Time” featuring Miguel

4

Daft Punk

Random Access Memories

Columbia

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

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

Seals The Deal: “Get Lucky” featuring Pharrell Williams

5

John Legend

Love in the Future

Columbia

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

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

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

6

Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite

Get Up!

Stax 

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

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

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

7

Black Sabbath

13

Republic 

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

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

Seals The Deal: “God Is Dead?”

8

Drake

Nothing Was The Same

Republic 

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

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

Seals The Deal: “Wu-Tang Forever” 

9

Beyoncé

Beyoncé

Columbia

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

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

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

10

Arcade Fire

Reflektor

Merge

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

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

Seals The Deal: “Reflektor”

Read More…

25 Best R&B Albums of 2013


John Legend-20130621-53

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

1

Janelle Monáe

The Electric Lady

Bad Boy

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

 

Recommended Spins:

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

2

John Legend

Love in the Future

G.O.O.D. / Columbia

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

Recommend Spins:

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

3

Beyoncé

Beyoncé

Columbia

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

Recommended Spins:

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

4

Charles Bradley

Victim of Love

Daptone

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

Recommended Spins:

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

 

5

José James

No Beginning, No End

Blue Note

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

Recommended Spins:

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

6

Fantasia

Side Effects of You

RCA

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

Recommended Spins:

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

7

Bilal

A Love Surreal

Entertainment One

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

Recommended Spins:

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

8

Alice Smith

She

Rainwater

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

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

Recommended Spins:

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

9

Jhene Aiko

Sail Out (EP)

Def Jam

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

Recommended Spins:

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

 

10

Chrisette Michele

Better

Def Jam

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

Recommended Spins:

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

11

Jaheim

Appreciation Day

Atlantic

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

Recommended Spins:

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

12

Raheem DeVaughn

A Place Called Loveland

Mass Appeal

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

Recommended Spins:

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

 

13

Ariana Grande

Yours Truly

Republic

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

Recommended Spins:

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

 

14

Mavis Staples

One True Vine

Anti

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

Recommended Spins:

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

 

15

K. Michelle

Rebellious Soul

Atlantic

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

Recommended Spins:

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

 

16

Robin Thicke

Blurred Lines

Interscope

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

Recommended Spins:

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

17

TGT

Three Kings

Atlantic

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

Recommended Spins:

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

18

Mayer Hawthorne

Where Does This Door Go?

Republic

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

Recommended Spins:

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

19

Ciara

Ciara

Epic

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

Recommended:

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

 

20

Kelly Rowland

Talk A Good Game

Republic

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

Recommended Spins:

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

 

21

Joe

Doubleback: Evolution of R&B

Massenberg Media

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

Recommended Spins:

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

22

Tamar Braxton

Love and War

Epic 

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

Recommended Spins:

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

 

23

Teena Marie

Beautiful

Ume

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

Recommended Spins:

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

 

24

Aaron Neville

True Story

Blue Note

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

Recommended Spins:

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

25

R. Kelly

Black Panties

RCA

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

Recommended Spins:

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

Playlist: A ‘Relationship’ Soundtrack for 2013 (Or Something Like That)


Love songs can be so touching and certainly can propel any relationship (and in some cases hookups…).  I have constructed a list of 12 ‘love’ songs that have the emotional and physical connection between lovers in mind… or something like that!  I attempted to make some narrative, but like most soundtracks, they’re all over the place anyways!

Track 1

61WNU5xS-EL._SL500_AA280_Raheem DeVaughn, “Complicated”

(A Place Called Love Land)

As we know, no one relationship is ‘cut and dry’ by any means; all are their own diverse entity.  Among Raheem DeVaughn’s best tracks on his underrated indie-R&B album A Place Called Love Land (“Complicated”), DeVaughn claims to be“… kinda single, but I’m in love / it’s complicated because, because…can’t say we’re dating / I can’t explain it, it’s complicated.” Do relationships even need labels anymore?

#CommitmentIssues  #QuasiRelationship

Track 2

51FYy9s6GlL._SY300_Ronald Isley, “Dinner and a Movie”

(This Song Is For You)  

So, being a guy, we have to get the balls to show our vulnerable and sensitive side and ask that girl we’re digging on out.  Easier said than done right for us shy ones right? Well basically, Raheem DeVaughn stated how “Complicated” things are, evidenced by an unlabeled bond somewhere between friendship and a relationship.  Why not seal the deal with some Mr. Biggs.  He’s certainly not shy, but his way of sharing his feelings and taking things to the next level is pretty simple, old school, and effective: “Hello, hello / girl what’s your name? / I was thinking maybe we do dinner and a movie / girl don’t say no if you feel the same / I was thinking maybe we do dinner and a movie.” #FirstDate

Track 3

41o5xUIKO+L._SL500_AA280_John Legend, “Made to Love”

(Love in the Future)

John Legend also keeps it relatively simple, yet definitely flattering.  “I was sent here for you / we were made to love / we were made to love / you were sent for me too / we were made to love / we were made to love”.  Read into how far the love goes and whether it transcends ‘puppy dog’ status or is both an emotionally and physically cohesive union.  Seems to be ‘the real deal’, judging by the fact ole boy refers to her as an “extraordinary machine…” in verse one.

#Smitten 

Tracks 4 & 5

51Fc7Pmf5aL._SL500_AA280_Jaheim, “Morning” and “P**** Appreciation Day”

(Appreciation Day)

Basically, Jaheim just continues where John Legend leaves off – or didn’t dare to go (which ever comes first). After truly being “made to love”, Jaheim isn’t worry about those meaningless details such as “What’s your name, never mind, tell me all about it in the (morning)…” on “Morning”.  No, he just wants some… really bad: “Girl can you hang? / take your time, go slow, make love to the middle of the (morning) / I know you’re wondering if I’m the type to quick heat the sheets and get you out by the (morning)…”  If that wasn’t evidence enough, he spends a whole song describing the ‘object’ of his pleasures without ever overtly stating what it is (“So warm it’s, so soft, it’s so tight, it’s the greatest / so I laid in it, played in it / stayed there ‘til daybreak…”).   #HookUp

Track 6

51WHDUdSVlL._SL500_AA280_Tamar Braxton, “Love and War

(Love and War)

Elliott Yamin may have said it best when he stated that “some people fight for love…” However, Toni Braxton’s baby sister delivers the sentiment of the fight to preserve the flame in dramatic fashion that never wanes.  “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…” Course, wasn’t it Mary J. Blige that sang about such a love as this in the 90s (“Real Love”)? Oh and Braxton also wants to “stay and fight with you…” on you guessed it, “Stay and Fight”.  #TilDeathDoUsPart

Tracks 7 & 8

61yONCH4jQLJustin Timberlake, “Pusher Lover Girl” and “That Girl” 

(The 20/20 Experience

It is safe to say that Justin Timberlake loves to sing about girls… but then again, how many males can you find that don’t? Though to be accurate, I think he’s eschewed all girls in favor of one.  On his first album of 2013 (The 20/20 Experience), Timberlake manages to call his girl (likely named Jessica Biel wouldn’t you say) his “drug…” urging her to “…go on and be my dealer baby” and further confirming his commitment simply by stating “I’m in love with that girl / and she told me, she’s in love with me…” Guys, how exactly does this support your relationship or potential relationships? It seems to be all about devotion and JT’s got that, whether you consider it corny or full of swagger.  #UrTheOnlyOneIWant

Track 9

71m3q5MbpvL._SL1425_Bilal, “Winning Hand” 

(A Love Surreal)

Fellas looking to make a change – like a game change? Bilal’s “Winning Hand” is “just what the doctor ordered.” Basically, Bilal proclaims “Baby you’re a winning hand / a game change, I’m on the roll / hit me again, dealer hit me again / yeah we’re winning again, I’m on the roll.” Yep. Tell her how special and how much she means to you and compare her to gambling and rolling the dice and that should do the trick… ha ha. I guess it works for Bilal (“Yeah I got an ace, damn she’s a queen / she feels like a winning hand to me…”).  #BestHandOfCardsEverrr

Track 10

51q3xK+M7zL._SL500_AA280_Janelle featuring Miguel, “Primetime” 

(The Electric Lady

Basically, “It’s a primetime, for our love”.  I agree, regardless of my continual eligible bachelor status, haha.  But for two new, young lovers, this duet is perfect fuel for the burgeoning relationship.  This would be perfect for the bedroom; it’s got that ‘vibe’. Just sayin’!

#MotivationForMakingLove

Track 11

41sfgC3cRPL._SL500_AA280_Marsha Ambrosius featuring Ne-Yo, “Without You”

(Without You – Single

“Looking in the mirror / I’m all in my feelings / got me f–ked up out her / without you / Yeah you can call me crazy / f–k it I’m demented / I’m out of my head in this bead / without you / I can’t go long without you babe.”  Love’ll do  just what Marsha sang on the chorus.  She’s infatuated, he gone, and she’s to’ up from the flo’ up.  It’s kind of a turn on, right?

#MessedUpWithoutMyBoo 

Track 12

91zMqP7d2NL._SL1500_Robin Thicke, “For The Rest of My Life” 

(Blurred Lines)

As hard as it may be to believe, “Blurred Lines” wasn’t the sole gem from Robin Thicke’s album of the same title.  “For The Rest of My Life” has much more substance than its addictive, 70s-soul favoring brother.  Here, Thicke definitely more chivalrous here: “For the rest of my life you know I wanna be yours…” What better way to close any soundtrack than a sincere, gentlemanlike statement that is “For the Rest of My Life”.  After all, Thicke has come a long, long way: “…You’d have nothing to do with me baby / thank God that you changed your mind.”

#DedicatedToTheOneILove

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


51fPYIf0aQL._SL500_AA280_

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!

Favorites…

Pop 

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.

Rock

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.

Metal

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.

 

Alternative

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.

R&B

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.

 

Rap

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.

Mixtape

Logic, Young Sinatra: Welcome To Forever

He’s got next, period.

Reggae

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.

Country

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.

Gospel

Shirley Caesar, Good God 

It is a gospel legend… that’s enough said…

Blues

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.

 

Jazz

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!!!

Playlist: 5 Favorite September 2013 Albums


Janelle Monae-PRN-104757

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

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Kings Of Leon, Mechanical Bull

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

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4

Ariana Grande, Yours Truly

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

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Drake, Nothing Was The Same

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

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John Legend, Love in The Future

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

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1

 

Janelle Monáe, The Electric Lady

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

 

Review: Janelle Monáe, ‘The Electric Lady’


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Janelle Monáe Scores A Home Run on The Electric Lady

Janelle Monáe⎪The Electric Lady⎪ Bad Boy / Wandaland ⎪⎪ US Release Date: September 10, 2013

Janelle Monae-PRN-104757Merely calling Janelle Monáe one of a kind would be a total understatement, like really.  Janelle Monáe is one of a handful of R&B artists who brings something truly different, fresh, and eclectic to the table.  Incredibly nonconformist, Monáe beats to her own drummer, from the tuxedo she swears by to the bombastic, illustrious tunes she captivates us with.  Her second full-length album (third if you include her debut EP in that conversation) The Electric Lady shows no fall-off for Monáe – girlfriend’s got it y’all.  Perhaps most shocking about the album is that she was able to get Prince to collaborate with her – your mouths should be agape ‘cuz don’t no one get ‘The Purple One’ on their album!

An orchestral overture opens, entitled “Suite IV Electric Overture”.  Establishing the refined, artistic liberation of this album and the incredibly individualistic Monáe, the overture seems appropriate.  “Givin’ ‘Em What They Love” brings the first punch, intact with Prince lending his distinct pipes.  The vocal chemistry between the two is like a match made in musical heaven – it’s that good.  The vocal harmonies rock as well, though perhaps the biggest highlight is when Monáe really digs in to her inner rock-chick showing some unstoppable grittiness.  Follow that juggernaut up with another, the fantastic single “Q.U.E.E.N.” which features a legend in it’s own right in Erykah Badu.  Catchy, ‘real talk’, soulful, contemporary, and laden with swagger, “Q.U.E.E.N.” is 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 the artist’s versatility and restlessness.  No complaints thus far.

Title track “Electric Lady”, featuring Solange, continues the musical impressiveness, even if it can’t outdo the one-two punch of “Givin’ ‘Em What They Love” or “Q.U.E.E.N.”. As always, Monáe compels vocally, as does the more eclectic, hipster Knowles sister.  Following one of many interludes (“Good Morning Midnight”), “Primetime” is an alternative R&B match made in heaven. Janelle Monáe and Miguel? YES! No wonder “…it’s a prime time for our love / and heaven is betting on us”, as the standout refrain goes on this valedictory showing.  To make it even more romantic and sexy, those vocal harmonies are simply stunning as are the lead vocals.  After being “Primetime”, Monáe declares “we were unbreakable / we were like rock and roll / we were like a king and queen / I want you to know…” on the fine “We Were Rock and Roll”.  Like “Primetime”, love remains the theme, compared with rock and roll.  Works right? Yep.

Janelle Monae-AES-089584Following “The Chrome Shoppe” (another interlude), Janelle goes cray cray on “Dance Apocalyptic”.  The hip-hop leaning intro is enough to signify this: “Bands they make her dance apocalyptic now…” Initially, I felt a bit less enthused about Monáe’s second single, but hearing it contextually, it is still good stuff.  I mean, she “…need to know, if the world say’s it’s time to go / tell me, will you freak out?” Sensible enough, right?  Well in Janelle’s world that is.  Monáe goes chill on “Look Into My Eyes”, sounding much like ‘60s or ‘70s pop.  A lovely showing, “Look Into My Eyes” doesn’t supersede any juggernauts, but it still manages to please at a high level. It closes Suite IV capably.

Another orchestral overture opens Suite V (“Suit V Electric Overture”), borrowing it’s basis from none other than “Look Into My Eyes”… at least initially.  The interlude eventually opts for major key, uptempo fare, only to return to a slower tempo.  “It’s Code” proceeds with soul in mind, anchored by a rich, animated bass line.  As always, Monáe delivers the vocal goods with her nuanced vocals.  The cut segues into the uptempo, groovy “Ghetto Woman” which sounds like a soulful, funky throwback as well, but without being anachronistic.  The words are as much a draw as the production, particularly the chorus: “And when you cry don’t you know that I am crying with You? / When people put you down, yeah way down and you feel / like you’re alone…” Empowering, “Ghetto Woman” seems like a fine companion cut to the previous “Q.U.E.E.N.” – rap intact as well.  And shout out to Kellindo Parker’s awesome guitar solo as well.

Janelle Monae-PRN-104766Following the android-themed  interlude (“Our Favorite Fugitive”),  Monáe wants the “Victory”.  “And if tomorrow shall come to me,” she sings at the end of verse one, “I’ll count your every kiss as a victory.” She confirms the toughness of victoriousness: “Cause to be victorious, you must find glory in the little things…” True, and I suppose a kiss could certainly signify a blooming romance.  Lyric analysis aside, what about those soaring upper range notes from Monáe? This totally sounds like a Lauryn Hill type of song!  Continuing on the much travelled pathway of love, “Can’t Live Without Your Love” is self-explanatory.  That definitely doesn’t make it a deal breaker or second-rate either.

Sally Ride” is definitely clever, particularly if “Can’t Live Without Your Love” seemed the slightest bit too ‘normal’ for Monáe.  While there are several messages going on here, there  seem to be allusions to the late Sally Ride (“I’m packing my space suit / and I’m taking my shit and moving to the moon”) that transcend Monáe’s ‘android’ stuff.  Also lines like “Just wake up, Mary / Have you heard the news? / oh, just wake up, Mary / you got the right to choose…” seem like a reference to freedom of choice in numerous social regards (sexuality, career, etc.).  This wouldn’t be far-fetched given Monáe’s love of individualism, nonconformity, and empowerment of women.

Janelle Monae-ZNV-001038Monáe receives the assist from another eclectic, classy standout in Esperanza Spalding on penultimate cut “Dorothy Dandridge Eyes”, another love-oriented. “It’s too late, you’re hypnotized / she’s got Dorothy Dandridge eyes / and you love her, you love her, you love her, you lave that girl…”  The poetic nature of the cuts makes it shine.  The closer “What an Experience” says it all.  Sure it’s referencing love, but in the context of this 19 track effort, isn’t it quite the experience in itself?

How good is The Electric Lady? It’s awesome, simply put.  Consistent, fresh, retro, and captivating, Monáe continues to pave her own way.  Forget all notions about a post-R&B world where the soul is dead, Monáe has got it going on.  Go on and twerk it Janelle! #QUEEN

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

Verdict: ✰✰✰✰½

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


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Chart Rewind: Highlights from Last Week

(September 11, 2013) 

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

Keith Urban Debuts At No. 1, By A Smidgen 

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

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

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

Miley Cyrus-PZH-000280

Miley Hits No. 1 on Billboard Hot 100

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

Who’s Got Next? 

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

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