Well, another week and another chart and guess who’s on top – yep you guessed it, the Frozen Soundtrack. While sales aren’t exactly hot across the board, the additional 133,000 copies that the unstoppable soundtrack sold are solid, particularly compared to the rest of the albums. How sound is 133,000 copies? Well according to Billboard, Pharrell ascended back to his peak position (no. 2) this week, selling 29,000 copies. Talk about April being the month of the music sales drought!
Honestly, the news on the charts isn’t good, particularly since a holdover like G I R L outsold the new entries. MercyMe bring little inspiration where sales are concerned, dropping Welcome to the New at no. 4 and a modest 26,000 copies. Black Label Society isn’t too far off, as Catacombs of the Black Vatican lands at no. 5. SoMo, t
he third new offering in the top 10, seems to have a small ceiling given a no. 6 bow with 23,000 copies sold. Still, there is prestige in claiming a Billboard top ten album – some better known/veteran R&B artists have yet to accomplish the feat. Saddest in regards to numbers is Martina McBride, whose soul covers album Everlasting sold a scant 21K. While the no. 7 bow isn’t shabby, the numbers aren’t impressive. Ultimately, it seems the four newbies in the top 10 underwhelmed in regards to their impact. Then again, everything is underwhelming – save for Frozen.
On the Hot 100, Pharrell Williams continues to sit pretty at no. 1 with “Happy”. Keeping R&B locked up at the top, John Legend continues a remarkable run with “All of Me” at no. 2. As far as albums that should make some sort of impact next week, August Alsina (Testimony) and Jason Derülo (Talk Dirty) are among the group. Ingrid Michaelson is also in the mix with Lights Out. Still, April seems to be absent of a true blockbuster album with commercial footing.
5 Seconds of Summer, the new Australian teen band, has nothing to hang their heads about; debuting at no. 2 with 143,000 copies of a four-song EP (She Looks So Perfect) is definitely notable. Settling for that no. 2 spot behind the unstoppable Frozen Soundtrack (149,000 copies sold) – well that should boost confidence even more considering no one can end Frozen’s run. After the slim margin separating album nos. 1 and 2, there is a huge gap. Chevelle’s La Gargola sold 45,000 copies, good for the no. 3 spot. Former “Jar of Hearts” pop singer/songwriter Christina Perri debuts at a familiar spot (no. 4), but does so smaller numbers for sophomore album Head or Heart (40,000 copies). Country gets its representation from Dan + Shay, who sold 29,000 copies of Where It All Began (no. 6). Nickel Creek also get a top ten berth, selling 27,000 copies of their first album following a lengthy hiatus, Why Should the Fire Die? Hey, they don’t call it lucky no. 7 for no reason, right?
On the songs chart, specifically the Billboard Hot 100, Pharrell Williams continues to make us all “Happy” for yet another week, according to Billboard. What is most shocking to me is that John Legend’s “All Of Me” is so hot, though I felt the hit potential when the underappreciated Love in the Future arrived in September 2013. For R&B and for Legend, the popularity of the rather conservative track is awesome.
Next week doesn’t seem electrifying as far as notable new releases. Still, albums arrive from Martina McBride (Everlasting), MercyMe (Welcome To The New), James Durbin (Celebrate), and SoMo (SoMo) among others. “It is what is”.
After six non-consecutive weeks atop the Billboard 200 Albums Charts, the Frozen Soundtrack makes it a seventh week at the penthouse. This week, Frozen rallies to sell a gargantuan 202,000 copies. I guess folks just can’t “Let It Go” – bad joke, I know. I’d say that the release of the album to DVD/Blu-ray/Digital likely had a role in elevating those sales. After Frozen, things get a bit hairier.
YG debuts at no. 2 with album My Krazy Life, which sold 61,000 copies. 61,000 copies isn’t a bad number, but don’t call it sexy either. Foster The People land at no. 3, moving 54,000 copies of Supermodel, their second album. Skrillex follows at no. 4 with Recess, which sold 47,000 copies. Apparently there were physical copies of Recess, though when I visited the CD section, I was unable to find it – it obviously got its sales totals from digital sales. Rock band The Pretty Reckless bow at no. 5, with 35,000 copies sold of Going to Hell (charming title, right?). Enrique Iglesias’ Sex and Love enters in at no. 8 with a tepid 24,000 copies while Taking Back Sunday land at no. 10 with 22,000 copies sold of Happiness Is. Iglesias and Taking Back Sunday have both had better days where sales are concerned.
“Happy” continues to be the story on the Billboard Hot 100 as Pharrell Williams’ infectious throwback R&B single is a big-time hit. Perhaps more surprising is the success of John Legend’s “All of Me”, which according to billboard.com has risen to no. 2 this week! Two R&B tracks sit in the top two of the Billboard Hot 100 – shocking!
Several new releases landed in the top 10 this week, even though the numbers were so-so for some. Next week, new albums arrive courtesy of Shakira (Shakira), Karmin (Pulses), Johnny Cash (Out Among the Stars), Erica Campbell (HELP), and My Chemical Romance (May Death Never Stop You: Greatest Hits 2001 – 2013) among others. All should definitely have no trouble charting and making some noise.
2014 has been a mixed year for R&B. There’s been some good and there has also been so bad. Even though R&B is still struggling, 2014 has allowed for R&B to have its moments. Then again, it’s also had its bombs…big time bombs.
The Good :)
Alicia Keys regains some lost swagger, besting John Legend for the Grammy award for Best R&B Album
Sharon Jones shows she’s back with a vengeance following cancer on her new LP (with The Dap-Kings), Give The People What They Want
Toni Braxton & Babyface perform better than expected commercially on Love, Marriage & Divorce (66,000 copies sold the first week)
Pharrell Williams’ G I R L debuts at no. 2 and sells a respectable 112,000 copies…
The Recording Academy finally recognizes Robin Thicke with multiple Grammy nominations, albeit in pop categories.
John Newman (Tribute), Daley (Days & Nights), and Sam Smith (Nirvana EP) bring top-notch Brit-soul to America.
Algebra Blessett delivered one hot independent R&B album with Recovery (eOne).
Electronic duo Phantogram give legendary soul group The Chi-Lites some love on their song “Bill Murray” (Voices), which samples “The Coldest Days of My Life”.
Bruno Mars was awesome at the Super Bowl. Classify him as pop if you want to, but Bruno has plenty of soul. Oodles of it!
The Bad :-(
Tamar Braxton gets no Grammy love for her powerful adult contemporary R&B hit “Love & War”… guess it didn’t matter how much she was fighting for love…
No Grammys for Fantasia’s Side Effects Of You? Guess that’s what happens when one is nominated alongside Rihanna.
Candice Glover debuts with embarrassing numbers for her debut R&B album Music Speaks; additionally the numbers are south of R&B contemporaries (no. 14, 19,000 copies)
Going back to that American Idol thing, Ruben Studdard released his sixth album, Unconditional via Verve. It got very few bites… that would be an understatement. But this again, his debut did have that song “No Ruben” on it… just saying!
John Legend doesn’t win a Grammy of any sort for Love in the Future, a truly brilliant, soulful affair… just wrong! Do we have no appreciation for one of the classiest, soulful artists of our generation?
Ashanti’s numbers suck (regardless of the “good” point)… 28,000 copies, really? #NOSWAG
British R&B singer Daley’s debut album, Days & Nights got slept on big-time… Where was the promotional intensity? Dude can blow vocally!
Ty Dolla $ign is, um, NASTY! Have you heard Beach House (EP)?
Did I mention R&B doesn’t sell like it used to? I thought so.
Ah, who doesn’t love a good ‘come-up’ story? Schoolboy Q has reason to celebrate as his third LP Oxymoron takes over the no. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart. Apparently, them “Collard Greens” were pretty potent, as 139,000 people decided to add Oxymoron to their music collection. 139,000 copies isn’t the ‘end all be all’ in regards to album sales, but its definitely sound for what could be considered an up-and-comer, even three albums into a rap career. Compared to his colleague Kendrick Lamar, the numbers are less favorable (Good Kid M.A.A.D. City missed the top spot, but sold 241,000 copies), though Kendrick also had bigger buzz surrounding him at the time, not to mention the fourth quarter to propel him.
Schoolboy Q fended off that feisty Frozen Soundtrack, which continues to put up respectable numbers. This week, the magic number for the runner up was 91,000, which according to billboard.com was an increase from the previous week. Frozen kept another new release and veteran, Beck from the runner-up spot. Beck settles for no. 3 with 87,000 copies sold of Morning Phase, his first album in six years. Even though Beck couldn’t match a previous high watermark – a no. 2 peak for 2005 effort Guero – or its robust 162,000 copies start, he managed to outperform prognostications.
Surprise albums seem to be all the rage these days, with Kid Cudi’s oddball Satellite Flight: The Journey to Mother Moon fitting right into the trend. Kid Cudi doesn’t quite have the Beyoncé effect, but does debut at no. 4 with 87,000 copies. Compared to last year’s slightly more accessible Indicud, the numbers are down for the left-field rapper. In fact, Satellite Flight is Cudi’s lowest debuting album as of yet. The next closest in terms of his discography was his debut, Man on the Moon: The End of Day, which sold 104,000 good for a no. 4 bow. Previous album Indicud debuted at no. 2 selling 136,000 copies. Indicud was a drop-off itself, specifically from Cudi’s sophomore album, Man on the Moon: The Legend of Mr. Rager, which debuted at no. 3, but sold 169,000 copies. Is Scott Mescudi just too odd for sustainable commercial success? Perhaps.
Keeping things close (and new), Romeo Santos debuts at no. 5 with Formula: Vol. 2. Formula sold 85,000 copies, awesome numbers for a Latin album. Dierks Bentley didn’t quite get in on the “80s” action (80K that is), but Riser did debut at no. 6 with 63,000 copies. 63,000 copies doesn’t have much of a ceiling itself, but Bentley isn’t exactly country’s most consistent selling male artist. Still, 63,000 copies isn’t too shabby. The Fray would’ve enjoyed being even remotely close to 63K; they settle for a no. 8 bow and 37,000 copies sold of Helios. Seems like the popularity of “Over My Head (Cable Car)” hasn’t translated to the band’s more recent efforts. Other than Frozen, the only holdovers are Eric Church (The Outsiders), Now 49, and Beyoncé (Beyoncé). Good sales week – finally!
Pharrell Williams goes into next week’s chart with the momentum of retaining no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 (“Happy“). Pharrell’s second solo album GIRL is one of the competitive albums fighting for the top two spots on next week’s chart. Second solo album you ask? Well ole boy released In My Mind a couple of years back and snagged a Grammy-nomination for the LP. Rick Ross should have no. 1 locked up as he releases his sixth LP, Mastermind. With the exception of Ross’ best LP (in my opinion), Teflon Don, Ross has locked down no. 1 four previous times. Lea Michele wishes she could muster up the numbers expected from Ross or Williams, but according to Billboard prognostications, she won’t come close. And as for Eli Young Band, well 10,000 Towns is far behind. I won’t even mention Ashanti’s Brave Heart – it doesn’t have a shot.
Oh and going back to the Billboard Hot 100, what about my homeboy John Legend breaking into that top four (last week I believe)? Who would’ve thought that “All Of Me”, an old school, piano-driven ballad would be a hit in 2014? It remains at no. 4 this week according to Billboard. Rock on John, rock on!
The College Dropout sounds as fresh as ever, ten years later.
Kanye West • The College Dropout • Roc-A-Fella • US Release Date: February 10, 2004
“Sometimes I feel no one in this world understands us / but we don’t care what people say.” True that, true that. The aforementioned quote from “We Don’t Care” is a fitting characterization of Kanye West. Over the course of his career as a rapper, Kanye West has been one of the music’s most polarizing, idiosyncratic characters. Incredibly creative yet also incredibly complex and likely misunderstood, West has often found himself in trouble for being loud-mouthed and extremely opinionated. That creativity and frankness has served Mr. West’s music well, even when it’s personally hurt perceptions of him as a person. But as West would tell anybody, he “gives no f***s”. Charming. He certainly gives none on The College Dropout, his tour de force that is the ripe old age of ten. As difficult as it is to believe, it was ten years ago that The College Dropout changed the rap game forever. Listening to it ten years later in 2014, the album remains superb losing none of its edge.
The College Dropout initiates with a silly, though funny “Intro” performed from the by West’s ‘college professor’. “Me and the other faculty members was wonderin’ could you do a lil some…/ somethin’ beautiful, somethin’ that the kids is gon’ love when they hear it,” The professor states. “… somethin’ for the kids for graduation to sing?” The intro serves as the perfect precursor to full-length opening joint, “We Don’t Care”, West’s answer to his professor’s request (“Oh yeah, I’ve got the perfect song for the kids to sing”).
On the real-talk, rebellious “We Don’t Care”, the hook sums up the sentiment of its title: “Drug dealin’ just to get by / stack ya money ‘til you get sky high (Kids sing, kids sing!) / We wasn’t supposed to make it past 25 / joke’s on you, we still alive / throw your hands up in the sky and yell: We don’t care what people say.” Kids, indeed literally sing the hook, fitting in line with the highly structure narrative/concept of the album. In addition to the memorable, ‘f**k you’ mentality of the hook, West gives specific examples throughout the verses of the ‘hard-knock’ life and black culture. Filled with notable lyrics, among my favorite lines is from verse two, as West raps that “The drug game bulimic, it’s hard to get weight / a n***a’s money is homo, it’s hart to get straight / but we gon’ keep bakin’ til the day we get cake / and ‘we don’t care what people say’”. Unapologetic, West begins the game ferociously.
Unsurprisingly, the professor is unhappy with West’s song choice, opening interlude “Graduation Day” with “What in the f**k was that Kanye!” The professor goes off on a rant that is as comical as it is offensive. A then little known John Legend concludes the interlude, referencing different ambitions compared to what others might have. Even though it is Legend who performs this interlude, he is essentially speaking from West’s perspective. West, a college dropout, chose a different path (music) as opposed to staying in school (the traditional route).
Popular single “All Falls Down” proceeds, featuring Syleena Johnson channeling her inner Lauryn Hill (Hill’s “Mystery of Iniquity” is interpolated here). The hook is incredibly simple, yet was one of the most memorable of 2004, being mindful the original appeared in 2002. “Oh when it all, it all falls down / I’m telling you all, it all falls down,” sings a soulful, raspy Johnson. West is on autopilot, delivering honest and hilarious rhymes. Among the best of those is from the first verse: “But she won’t drop out, her parents will look at her funny / now, tell me that ain’t insecure / the concept of school seems so secure / sophomore, three years, ain’t picked a career / she like, f**k it, I’ll just stay down here and do hair.” The acoustic guitar-driven production and brilliant conception makes “All Falls Down” just another vital reason why The College Dropout is one of music’s modern masterpieces.
Following an interlude entitled “Fly Away” (literally the church tune “I’ll Fly Away”), the brilliant “Spaceship” takes off. “I’ve been workin’ this graveshift and I ain’t made sh*t / I wish I could buy me a spaceship and fly past the sky,” West sings on the memorable hook. A song much like “We Don’t Care” depicting the hardships of, “Spaceship” finds West getting the assist from Consequence and GLC. All three MCs paint a gloomy, though honest picture that’s as vivid as a book. Over a thoughtful sample of Marvin Gaye’s “Distant Lover”, “Spaceship” was as consistent as the singles from The College Dropout, despite receiving less buzz. Even though “Spaceship” is pessimistic, Kanye West definitely feels entitled to his newfound success: “Lock yourself in a room doing five beats a day for three summers…I deserve to do these numbers”. Indeed Mr. West, indeed.
The crowning achievement for The College Dropout was one of the most unique records of 2004, “Jesus Walks”. Thoughtful, yet not quite ‘sanctified’ in a religious sense, “Jesus Walks” was a pivotal part of West’s career. The fact that West associated Jesus and rap – two unlike things – was shocking. Still, Wests makes numerous relevant points throughout, some of which could easily be supported biblically – well with modern interpretation that is. West’s most memorable series of rhymes reside in his second verse: “We rappers is role models; we rap, we don’t think / I ain’t here to argue about his facial features / or here to convert atheists into believers / I’m just trying to say the way school need teachers / the way Kathie Lee needed Regis that’s the way I need Jesus.” Amen…I think. Still, I don’t think too many clergymen will take too kindly the line “we eat pieces of sh*t like you for breakfast…” Just saying!
More ‘important’ songs overshadow “Never Let Me Down”, but it’s still high quality work. This is an early collaboration where West works with his ‘big brother’ Jay-Z, as well as poet J. Ivy. Continuing the practice of sampling (Michael Bolton’s “The Power of Love”), “Never Let Me Down” rolls right along with little to quibble about. Similarly, “Get Em High” is another solid track overshadowed by better ones. Notable aside from guests in Talib Kweli and Common is the fact that sampling isn’t employed… shocker. As always, West’s rhymes are entertaining, though West raps about his ambitions on the first verse: “My teacher said I’s a loser, I told her why don’t you kill me / I give a f**k if you fail me, I’m gonna follow / my heart, and if you follow charts / or the plaques or the stacks / you ain’t gotta guess who’s back, you see.” There it is. Oh and in regards to the hook, West can’t resist the opportunity to play the double meanings game (i.e. high on weed, hands in the air). Remember, he don’t care!
After “passing the dro” on “Get Em High”, “The New Workout Plan” was a later single released from The College Dropout. “The New Workout Plan” definitely has little to do with exercise… it’s all about sex. West’s hook says it all: “It’s been a week without me / and she feel week without me / she wanna talk it out but / ain’t nothing to talk about / unless she’s talking about freaking out / then maybe we can work it out.” Of course, even before that, the first verse states West’s intentions: “one and two and three and four get them sit ups right and / tuck your tummy tight and do your crunches like this / give head, stop breathe, get up, check your weave / don’t drop the blunt and disrespect the weed…” I guess West is allotted one track with less depth.
Keeping with he sensual vibes, “Slow Jamz” – a former number one hit – remains as great as it was ten years ago. “Slow Jamz” is reprised on The College Dropout; it originally appeared on Twista’s Kamikaze. Jamie Foxx’s hook is as effective and memorable as ever: “She said she want some Marvin Gaye / some Luther Vandross / a little Anita / Will definitely set this party off right.” Hearing Twista at his artistic peak on the third verse – sigh – “Those were the days!”
Ludacris comes along for the ride on “Breathe in Breathe Out”, delivering the catchy hook over a killer loop. “Yeah, breathe in, breathe out / if ya iced up, pulla ya sleeves out / push a big truck, pull ya keys out / girls go wild and pull ya deez out…” The hook is typical Ludacris for sure. While “Breathe in Breathe Out” is as consistent as anything else, I prefer “School Spirit” and its Aretha Franklin sample “Spirit in the Dark” (from 1970 album of the same title). As soulful as “School Spirit” is with the sample itself, Tony Williams’ backing vocals add even more sweetness. A skit both precedes and follows “School Spirit”.
“Two Words” follows the final skit of the effort, “Lil Jimmy Skit”. Like many of the non-singles, “Two Words” could actually go ‘toe to toe’ with the most notable, hyped cuts. It doesn’t hurt having help from the likes of Mos Def and Freeway, not to mention The Harlem Boys Choir. Each MC begins their respective verse with the titular lyric, which is a nice unifying touch. The Harlem Boys Choir truly enhances the hook, offering a legato passage (“Throw your hands up high / ‘til they reach the sky”) underneath West’s brasher rhymes (“Now throw ya hands up hustlers / busters, boosters, hoes / everybody, f**k that / still nowhere to go, still nowhere to go…”).
“Through The Wire”, perhaps West’s most personal single, still sounds as relevant ten years later as it did in 2004. The intro sums it up best: “…They can’t stop me from rapping, can they… I spit it through the wire…” The story behind the song was West’s horrific auto accident, which he was fortunate to recover from. Fittingly, “Through The Wire” samples Chaka Khan’s classic, “Through the Fire”. “Family Business” is nothing flashy, but is both sound and soulful. A track like “Family Business” will always register near the bottom of the hierarchy, but still epitomizes West’s total artistry. Juggernaut “Last Call” receives appropriate placement, given its length and how it sums up the album and West himself. “Last Call” details West’s ascent and ‘come-up’. It’s a cut that the listener is less likely to spin, but it does give insight into West.
Ten years later, The College Dropout remains a rap masterpiece. Scratch that – it’s a masterpiece. The College Dropout is one of those pivotally important albums of recent times. Sure, it is hard to find certified classics in the new millennium, but this particular effort is definitely a candidate. Consistent, creative, and certainly a contrast to other hip-hop albums out at the time, The College Dropout and Kanye West were trailblazers, ushering in the new movement of hip-hop. Even now, it’s remarkable how exceptionally well this album is assembled.
“All Falls Down”; “Jesus Walks”; “Spaceship”; “Slow Jamz”; “Two Words”; “Through The Wire”
The 56th Annual Grammy Awards Broadcast takes place on Sunday, January 26th. Previously, following the announcements of the nominations, I made predictions in regards to who I thought would walk out with statues. After sitting on it a while, it is time to make one last set of predictions before Sunday’s broadcast. Here goes nothing! Picks are in bold.
First things first, let’s recap my BIG FOUR predictions:
Album of the Year (AOTY): Random Access Memories, Daft Punk
Song of the Year (SOTY): “Royals”, Lorde
Best New Artist (BNA): Kendrick Lamar
Best Pop Solo Performance:
“When I Was Your Man”, Bruno Mars
“Roar”, Katy Perry
“Mirrors”, Justin Timberlake
This category is notable because often, a couple of the record/song of the year nominees are found in this category. Here, “Royals” (ROTY and SOTY) and “Roar” (SOTY) are the ‘culprits’. Logically, don’t bet against those two, no matter how good Sara B., Justin, or Bruno was sounding! My money is on “Royals”.
Best Pop Duo / Group Performance
“Just Give Me A Reason”, Pink featuring Nate Ruess
“Stay”, Rihanna featuring Mikky Ekko
“Blurred Lines”, Robin Thicke featuring T.I. & Pharrell
“Suit & Tie”, Justin Timberlake & Jay-Z
The pop categories in general play a huge role in the biggest awards given out at the Grammys. There are three huge performances here that simply can’t be ignored: “Get Lucky” (ROTY), “Just Give Me A Reason” (SOTY), and “Blurred Lines” (ROTY). My gut tells me that Pharrell Williams is going to win one these, likely with Daft Punk.
Best Pop Vocal Album:
Pure Heroine, Lorde
Unorthodox Jukebox, Bruno Mars
Blurred Lines, Robin Thicke
The 20/20 Experience – The Complete Experience, Justin Timberlake
Sticking with a previous pick, Justin Timberlake has to be honored, right? If not him, doesn’t Bruno Mars have to win something?
Best Rock Performance
“The Stars (Are Out Tonight)”, David Bowie (The Next Day)
“Radioactive”, Imagine Dragons (Night Visions)
“Kashmir”, Led Zeppelin (Celebration Day)
“My God Is The Sun”, Queens of the Stone Age (…Like Clockwork)
“I’m Shakin’”, Jack White
If one big gun were to lose in a smaller category, it would be Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive”. However, can the voters really snub such a gargantuan rock record (also nominated for ROTY), even with veterans on the list? I don’t think so.
Best Rock Album
The Next Day, David Bowie
Mechanical Bull, Kings of Leon
Celebration Day, Led Zeppelin
…Like Clockwork, Queens of the Stone Age
Psychedelic Pill, Neil Young With Crazy Horse
Rock didn’t receive a representative album of the year nomination this year, so this category perhaps is a bit more ‘wide open’. Three albums stand out in my eyes: 13, The Next Day, and …Like Clockwork. David Bowie’s comeback might’ve been the big narrative, had Black Sabbath not legitimately reunited (meaning Ozzy Osbourne on vocals). Any of the five could win here, but I’ll put my money on Black Sabbath.
Best R&B Album
Girl On Fire, Alicia Keys
Love in the Future, John Legend
Better, Chrisette Michele
Three Kings, TGT
I love you Alicia Keys, but I’ll give the edge to John Legend here.
Best Rap Performance
“Tom Ford”, Jay-Z (Magna Carta…Holy Grail)
“Swimming Pools (Drank)”, Kendrick Lamar (Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City)
“Thrift Shop”, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Even though Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are nominated for AOTY, this category feels more wide open given the superb choices. I still think “Thrift Shop” may be too big to ignore, but “Started From The Bottom” definitely was notable. Kendrick’s “Drank” is no slouch either.
Best Rap / Sung Collaboration:
“Part II (On The Run)”, Jay-Z featuring Beyoncé (Magna Carta…Holy Grail)
“Holy Grail”, Jay-Z featuring Justin Timberlake (Magna Carta…Holy Grail)
“Now or Never”, Kendrick Lamar featuring Mary J. Blige (Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City)
“Remember You”, Wiz Khalifa featuring The Weeknd (O.N.I.F.C.)
Another category I am torn on, sigh. “Power Trip” stands out as does “Holy Grail.” That said, the more and more I hear “Now or Never”, it is incredibly difficult to deny. Mary J. Blige is a Grammy darling too…
Best Rap Album:
Magna Carta…Holy Grail, Jay-Z
Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, Kendrick Lamar
The Heist, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Yeezus, Kanye West
Here’s the thing. Kanye West has never lost when he’s been nominated for Best Rap Album as a solo artist (The College Dropout, Late Registration, Graduation, and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy). However, if Kendrick Lamar wins no other award, and if he’s competing head-to-head with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis all evening, I give him the edge here. Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City is the best album in this category.
Best Country Album:
Two Lanes of Freedom, Tim McGraw
Same Trailer Different Park, Kacey Musgraves
Based On A True Story, Blake Shelton
Red, Taylor Swift
The Grammy darling goes home with the award this time around (Swift lost to Lady Antebellum in this category previously for Speak Now).
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.
“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…
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!
“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.”
“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!
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.
“Do I Wanna Know?”
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!
“All American Boy”
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.
“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.
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?
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.
“Kisses Down Low”
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’!
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.
“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.
“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!
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.
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.
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!
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!”
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!
“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!
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!”
“All of Me”
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!
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.
“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…”
“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.