Okay, I’m thankful for plenty in my young life. One thing I’m most thankful for besides those traditional things like God, family, friends, employment, etc. is of course music. Previously, I issued a playlist of “Songs of Thanks” which featured titles that all had the words “Thank” included within them. This ten song playlist is a more ‘personal’ and merely my opinion of some songs I enjoyed. No this is not my top ten and no these are in no particular order. Yes, there are plenty of songs I left off and could’ve easily supplanted in favor of some I chose. Why didn’t I include them all? Well, that would just be incredibly time-consuming. So here’s Ten Random Songs I’m ‘Thankful For’ from 2013. Enjoy!
“This is for the girl that can get down low / the whole club wanna see you go / ay, shake, shake like you’r famous, girl / head back, lay it down like a Vegas girl…” Sigh, it’s truly something when I find myself nodding my head to some young kid’s jam. Sure, I’m not THAT much older than British pop star Conor Maynard, but I’ve got a couple of years on the recently turned 21-year old. Still, I just couldn’t resist “Vegas Girl” given the addictiveness of both the urban-styled groove and Maynard’s swag-tacular approach. Yeah, I know ‘swag-tacular’ is not even a word, but I can still wish. BTW, he’s a bit risqué too, see “Another One” from the same album (“For once I hit the spot real early / quickly spotted this beautiful girlie / she had me going damn oh la la / said she wanna pell my banana-na”).
From No Beginning, No End
If you say the words jazz or R&B, I’m usually there. José James offered the best of both worlds on his underrated, yet exceptional album No Beginning, No End which materialized in January 2013. While the majority of No Beginning, No Ending tickled my fancy, nothing did more so than the hip “Trouble”. Incredibly soulful, James bears his soul, epitomized by the refrain:
“I need someone like you to understand my heart and my soul / it’s on my mind babe, it’s always trouble, trouble, trouble / trouble, trouble, trouble / all my life lately call on me to / struggle, struggle, struggle…” I feel ya homie, I feel ya!
Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite
“We Can’t End This Way”
From Get Up!
I have a soft spot for a mix of blues and gospel music… I’m certainly the eclectic listener. Ben Harper’s collaboration with harp player Charlie Musselwhite Get Up! Was easily one of my favorite albums from 2013 and yet another underrated one. Out of all of the killer joints, the gospel-infused “We Can’t End This Way” was most relatable for me for some reason. Maybe its the gospel backing vocalist or perhaps that churchy, addictive 6/8 groove. It doesn’t hurt that my boy Ben has some serious vocal grit going on. Whatever it is, I’m thankful “We Can’t End This Way” graced my playlist in 2013.
Harry Connick, Jr.
“S’pposed To Be”
From Smokey Mary and Every Man Should Know
Harry Connick, Jr. Knew he had a good thing going with sensational gospel-blues infused number “S’pposed To Be” as he featured it on both his 2013 studio albums (Smokey Mary and Every Man Should Know). I’ll leave you with what I previously wrote about one of my favorite jazzy jams of the year:
“S’pposed To Be” is nothing short of a showstopper. Written in a distinctive southern gospel-jazz style, Connick delivers one of his more distinct cuts of his career, using a gospel choir on the chorus (“…Every road leads back to you / be with you when I’m s’pposed to be…”). Kim Burrell & Tara Alexander and the Frontline Vocal Movement guest, giving the brilliant number even more oomph. #LetTheChurchSayYes
“Strictly Reserved for You”
From Victim of Love
I adore soul music. While I know that soul music in its most pure form is a thing of the past, I also adore the retro-/neo-soul movements. Neo-soul has fallen by the wayside, but there are still some key proponents within the retro-soul movement still doing their thing. What’s more fitting than a 66-year old who’s been grinding for years just to get his chance to be doing what he should’ve been doing in his heyday? No matter though, as Charles Bradley is a true proponent of soul music. “Strictly Reserved For You” was Mr. Bradley’s electrifying promo single from an equally alluring sophomore album, Victim of Love. As you listen, you can hear the undeniable influences of the late great James Brown. Bradley’s grit is something many new-school singers couldn’t even hope to achieve.
Bangerz is both flawed and lacking in cohesion, but ‘captivating’ nonetheless…
Miley Cyrus⎪ Bangerz ⎪ RCA ⎪⎪ US Release Date: October 8, 2013
Somewhere between embracing the most irresponsible aspects of hip-hop culture and completely destroying her formerly wholesome image, Miley Cyrus has recreated herself just as she envisioned it… a cutting-edge, pop artist unafraid of shock value. As many watched in utter disbelief (and parents likely watched in horror) as Cyrus stripped the innocence of the childhood teddy bear and a foam finger as well as twerked on Beetlejuice (aka Robin Thicke) at the always raunchy VMAs, it was all a facet of her reinvention. For the most part, much to my own chagrin and her many ‘haters’, her plan has been successful. “We Can’t Stop” and “Wrecking Ball” have both been triumphant successes. How does Bangerz the album stack up? Well, it’s… something.
“Adore You” opens the album disappointingly, particularly given the electricity of Cyrus’s gargantuan promo singles. The production and overall vibe of the cut play out soundly. As for the songwriting itself, there is a clear lack of more development. Verse one in particular seems to have few too lyrics to match the slow tempo of the cut. Even the unifying chorus trends to simple: ”When you say you love me / know I love you more / and when you say you need me / I know you need me more / boy I adore you…” Sure Miley is just shy of 21 (aka still young), but this opener certainly doesn’t support her newfound, ‘grown woman’ daringness.
The should’ve been opener “We Can’t Stop” atones for a literal ‘slow start’, in all its irresponsible glory. What more is there to say that hasn’t already be stated? Mike WiLL Made It’s production is top-notch and as much as I want to hate this song, I just can’t. There’s just so many lyrics that are absurd, catchy, and memorable including “If you’re not ready to go home / can I get a ‘hell no’?” (Verse 1) or “So la-da-di-da-di, we like to party / dancing with Molly / doing whatever we want…” (Pre-Chorus). It’s a song that literally doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that “SMS (Bangerz)” packs a punch during its brief duration, but it certainly raises an eyebrow. Miley and special guest Britney Spears definitely keep it 100. Among the more notable, multiple interpretable lyrical moments comes from Cyrus’s verse: “They ask me how I keep a man, I keep a battery pack…” Well, we know the first part refers to her broken engagement, but that second part… I’m not touching it. There’s another gem in “All I need is milli’s when I got Billy on my speed dial…” Is all Billy Ray Cyrus really good for is money? To each his (or her) own. Who am I to judge?
“4X4” would normally be the sort of cut I would tar and feather because of its stupidity. And it is really dumb, mind you. But, the country-pop-rap cut is sort of hypnotizing. Maybe it’s because of Pharrell Williams’s odd-ball production or even Nelly’s midwest touting rap, but for whatever reason, it sticks with you. Still, I’m not to keen on Cyrus’s line about “driving so fast ‘bout to piss on myself…” Please girl! Have some dignity!
“My Darlin’” definitely doesn’t yield a ‘match made in heaven’ with Cyrus and autotune-loving Future. I get the concept and almost feel it, but it just falls short. Again, Cyrus can’t escape her broken engagement, evidence on verse one: “I walked through a pool of water / when I see the shadow of a broken-hearted girl / picture us walking to the altar / for better or worse.” I realize Cyrus is in pain, but when I heard that line about “a pool of water”, all I saw was Cyrus crying those tears at the beginning of the “Wrecking Ball” video. Is that cruel of me?
Speaking of “Wrecking Ball”, it arrives in the nick of time. Like “We Can’t Stop”, it is one of the very best songs of Cyrus’s career. Forget the questionable video, the song itself truly showcases Cyrus’s potential once she’s keyed in. And don’t deny it that you’ve broke out into the chorus heard ‘round the world: “I came in like a wrecking ball / I never hit so hard in love / All I wanted was to break your walls / all you ever did was break me / yeah you wreck me.” Hey, I even found myself busting into the memorable chorus in church – just don’t tell my pastor!
As Nelly Furtado sang on her Loose album “why do all good things come to an end?” Well that’s life, and that’s exactly what happens after “Wrecking Ball” finishes and “Love Money Party” is the follow-up. To say it pales in comparison would be quite the understatement, as the message of “Love Money Party” is given away by its title leaving nothing to the imagination. Maybe lyrics like “money ain’t nothing / money can’t buy you love…” offers some redemption, but ultimately the song is pretty shallow. As for Big Sean what does he bring to the table? “My girl and watch both coordinate” and “Red cup get messed up boi…” Charming.
Pharrell Williams once more saves the day with “#GETITRIGHT” which is all about S-E-X. “You’re sexy sexy / I got things I want to do to you / make me make me / make my tongue just go do-do-do…” I think I just threw up a little, but you get the point. The chorus just comes out and sums up all of Cyrus’s desires: “I been laying in this bed all night long / don’t you think it’s time to get it on / but we gotta get it right, we can’t get it wrong…” Okay… Regardless, “#GETITRIGHT” is one of the better ones.
The remainder of the album has its triumphs and misses. ”Drive” finds Miley spitting her emotions through the lyrics angrily and passionately. Promising at times, “Drive” is a bit clunky, particularly opening with the chorus prior to a somewhat odd first verse. “FU” sort of falls into the same boat. The 6/8 retro-soul, electro, modern-pop mix is truly an interesting listen, but also bizarre. Dramatic, unapologetic, and sort of undervaluing guest French Montana, Miley ‘cleverly’ initials every twentysomething’s favorite profane phrase. Genius at work (*rolls eyes). At least the chorus is kinda catchy.
“Do My Thang” is rebellious Miley’s last hoorah you might say, before she gets “so serious about it”. Here, the listener is given the horrid experience of hearing cyrus proclaim she’s “… a southern belle crazier than hell”, “Bang b*tch / you think I’m a strange b*tch / it’s bananas like a f*cking ‘rangatang b*tch”, and that “every single night and every single day / I’mma do my thing…” After her poor man’s “We Can’t Stop” thankfully dies, Miley decides to tell us about her relationship blues in both “Maybe You’re Right” and “Someone Else”. Neither cut is particularly notable, particularly compared to earlier juggernauts. Bangerz loses some steam within its final quarter.
The verdict? Bangerz is both flawed and lacking in cohesion, but is ‘captivating’ nonetheless… That’s crazy, I know, but so is this album. Somehow, I think Cyrus and company wanted a big pop album with little rhyme nor reason save for Cyrus’s broken heart. Sure, Bangerz is by no means on anyone’s ‘album of the year’ list (or at least I hope not), but it has its moments. Sometimes you have to extract those moments mind you, but there is some promise. As for some of Cyrus’s hip-hop tom foolery, well it’s just that. I’d hang up them MC shoes girl! We have a Fergie and that’s plenty.
Favorites: “We Can’t Stop”; “4X4”; “Wrecking Ball”; “#GETITRIGHT”
- Miley’s ‘Means To Ends’ Is Questionable (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Miley Cyrus Continues Her Risqué Makeover With “Wrecking Ball” (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Rant: Miley Cyrus’ VMA Performance Nothing Short of A Hot Mess (brentmusicreviews.com)
- ‘Bangerz’ Reviews: Critics Blown Away By Miley Cyrus’ ‘Titillating’ Album (hollywoodlife.com)
- More Reviews for Miley Cyrus’ Bangerz…And They’re Getting Better (eonline.com)
- Review: MILEY CYRUS: BANGERZ (natashadie.com)
- Bangerz or no Bangerz? (ohmydaniel.wordpress.com)
2 Chainz Does Dumb Surprisingly Well on B.O.A.T.S. II
2 Chainz⎪ B.O.A.T.S. II: #Me Time⎪Def Jam⎪⎪US Release Date: September 10
Let’s get one thing straight from the get-go… 2 Chainz is crazy! Like totally cray cray. Honestly, B.O.A.T.S. II: #Me Time should be a disaster (add a profanity of choice in front of ‘disaster’). Somehow though, through all of Tauheed Epps’ stupidity, he puts together a dumb, but fun rap album. Yeah, maybe there isn’t one single cut that supplants the brilliantly, naughty “Birthday Song” which I still jam out to on my iPod, but there is plenty of songs that lack substance that give the listener, um, a guilty pleasure. 2 CHAINZ!
The fun starts with “Fork”, in which 2 Chainz “…had a dream that rap wouldn’t work / woke up on the block, had to hit it with the fork / skrrr, skrrr, skrrr, skrrr, skrrr: hit it with the fork… rap don’t work, records ain’t bein’ sold…so much money on me, it won’t even fold….” Yeah something like that. What is he talking about? Good question! Well, sounds like drugs, rap albums not selling, and having more money than he’ll ever need. If that’s not enough, he elaborates on his excesses, maybe best epitomized by a lyric like “I drink red b**ches, I don’t drink Red Bulls…” Alrighty then, heck of a way to start 2 Chainz by hitting it with the fork.
On “36”, the king of dumb educates us listeners on the hook: “36 / that’s how many ounces in a brick / 36, 36, 36, 36…” So if you had no idea about the wait of drug paraphernalia, 2 Chainz has schooled you over the course of one minute and a half. Feel lifted? Then after all the drugs, the “Feds Watching”, featuring and produced by Pharrell Williams. 2 Chainz begins his first verse with bragging about material things (“Dreads hang on designer everything…”), then goes on to the strip club (“This that category 5 when I walk up in the strip club…”), and throws in some drugs for good measure (“Backing soda marketing , I’m getting it ain’t I? Obviously…”). He caps all of his higher level thinking with a simple, summative hook: “I’mma be fresh as hell if the Feds watching….” So basically, even if 2 Chainz gets caught, he’s going to be ‘fresh to death’ I’m assuming? I don’t know about all that, but the track is killer.
“Where U Been” keeps things consistently ‘materialistic’, featuring the assist from Cap.1. Simply, 2 Chainz has been balling “getting money, where the f**k you been?”. Oh and to add a little more oomph to his brashness, he throws in the ‘tasteful’ punch “bought a new crib just to f**k you in.” Seems extreme to me, but he is 2 Chainz. Oh an as for Cap.1’s contributions, perhaps the lyric “My b**ch she’s so pretty that’s my Pocahontas…” takes the cake. Next, my boy brings in Drake and Lil Wayne for the superstar collaboration “I Do It”. Simplicity remains key, particularly given 2 Chainz’s opening ‘salvo’: “Hang up on a b**ch, call it crucified”. Still, he has his moments. Drake may have the best line, when he alludes to Lil Wayne near the end of the second verse: “Man I just hear this sh*t and think about what Tunechi will tell you / he might call up Patricia, she ‘bout to call up Melissa…” Oh and in case you’re wondering, yes Lil Wayne talks about sex on his verse… shocker. The Outro is a nice contrast though.
“Used 2” keeps the absurdity alive and well, evidenced by the ridiculous hook which seems to reference recording the naughty and uploading it to youtube as looking for a baby mama… SMH. Repetition is 2 Chainz’s best friend here, or his worst enemy with the clumsy lines he chooses to repeat. He ‘redeems’ himself on the it’s-so-ridiculously-stupid-it’s-good “Netflix” which pairs him with Fergie… what a combo, phew! Where do you even start? 2 Chainz references weed, sex tapes, the paparazzi, high end fashion, and uninspired rappers all in the matter of his first verse. On her verse, Fergie lifts from “Birthday Song” (“When I die, bury me inside the liquor store…”), as well as dropping the obligatory weed reference, blowing wads of money, and “b**ches copying” her. And then there’s that hook… “I know you had the time of your life…you know I’m gettin’ money, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, Ill be countin’ this sh*t all night…” Geez Louise!
“Extra” is one that annoys me. Yeah, yeah, I know 2 Chainz is no Nas, but 2 Chainz’s pop-rap here is a bit questionable, even for him. The most shameful line from Chainz? “I just had a threesome for three weeks in a row / Last name Chainz, first name Two…” WTF? Rich Homie Quan guests on the third verse. On “U Da Realest”, Chainz states “I’m like a quarterback, hand it off / drop the work in the pot, watch it cannonball / I done seen ‘em ball, I done seen ‘em fall / rest in peace to my n***a, you da realest, dawg…” Somewhere in there there seems to be some substance… well besides what’s in that pot he references. But of course, he ruins a good moment too, like “Rest in my piece to all my n***as, they died while they was servin’ / rest in peace to all the soldiers that died in the service / I died in her…” I. Have. No. Words…that I’m going to publish here…
Then comes “Beautiful Pain”, which features Lloyd and Mase. 2 Chainz doesn’t take himself seriously, but Lloyd refines things on a fine hook (“Oh I feel so fly / came so far, but I still wanna fly…see what this beautiful pain, provide / baby look into my eyes…”) And of course, Mase keeps things classy. Overall, “Beautiful Pain” stands out. T-Pain joins the boatload of collaborators on “So We Can Live”, drenched in autotune as always. 2 Chainz has plenty of ‘interesting’ moments, whether it’s his illegal activities (“Mama don’t work, heater don’t work / Police pulled me over and said he seen weed on my shirt / I pray to the lord and ask for forgiveness / If he popped my trunk I can get a life sentence…”), playing copycat (“Simon says, monkey see money do / I wore the shirt, you wore the same shirt too…”) or being the sh*t (“appetite for destruction, and I don’t need a menu / so far ahead of y’all n***as, I can see you in my rearview…”) . There it is, I suppose.
He’s hella clumsy on “Mainstream Ratchet”, but isn’t that understandable? Proceed with caution folks! I mean, anything with the word ratchet in it… “And that’s ratchet huh? Her a$$ so big it look like she trying to walk backwards bruh…” “Black Unicorn” contrasts, opening with an lovely spoken word performance by Sunni Patterson. Chrisette Michele handles the hook as classy and nuanced as always. And as for Chainz, he’s not too shabby himself. Ol’ boy gets himself together on “Outroduction”, presenting himself much more thoughtfully and candidly. There are “two sides to a book” after all.
Classic or total bust? Neither, but B.O.A.T.S. II: #Me Time is actually a much better album than I envisioned it to be. It’s hard to call an effort with so many references to sex, drugs, and irresponsibility a masterpiece, but I’ll give it to 2 Chainz, he certainly has some highlights here. If you’re a fan of more intellectual rap though, this is not your cup of tea. But if you don’t mind going ‘stupid’ like a lot, well then, this album is your new jam.
Favorites: “36”; “Feds Watching”; “I Do It”; “Netflix”; “Beautiful Pain”
- 2 Chainz, Career Revisionist (brentmusicreviews.com)
- An Artist of Narrow Contrast: A Review of 2 Chainz, Me Time (popjones.wordpress.com)
- Writing On The Wall: 2 Chainz Upset With Def Jam Over “B.O.A.T.S II” (djsdoingwork.com)
- For the Haters: 2 Chainz ‘Where U Been’ Video (atlantablackstar.com)
- 2 Chainz Pleads ‘I Don’t Do Anything Illegal’ After Arrest The rapper says he showed police his guns during the Oklahoma snafu, saying ‘I probably let my guard down.’ (teebreezzy.wordpress.com)
- Review of 2 Chainz’s B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time (examiner.com)
- 2 Chainz: I’m Pissed At Def Jam For Undershipping My Album, Appears In New Fabolous Video (allhiphop.com)
- 2 Chainz Publishes Cookbook With Deluxe Edition Of ‘B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time’ (contactmusic.com)
- (MUSIC) 2 Chainz ~ Netflix ft Fergie (muzicupdate.wordpress.com)
- 2 Chainz – “B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time” – ALBUM REVIEW (jakobsalbumreviews.wordpress.com)
Blurred Lines Proves To Be More Than A ‘One Trick Pony’
Robin Thicke⎪ Blurred Lines ⎪ Interscope Records⎪⎪ US Release Date: July 30, 2013
Ubiquitous summer hit “Blurred Lines” rewrote the script for what could’ve been a horrid narrative for blue-eyed soul singer/songwriter Robin Thicke. The suave, falsetto-loving dude had a bad 2011 with album Love After War flopping. I was onboard… well, for some of it, like when he proclaimed “I’m An Animal”, discussed “The New Generation”, and of course the title track “Love After War”. Unfortunately, that just didn’t cut it for ole boy. However in 2013, the year of the underdog it seems (see Macklemore & Ryan Lewis), “Blurred Lines” made Robin Thicke the R&B singer that could, and he does on his sixth album, Blurred Lines. Delivering a enjoyable set of pop-soul cuts, Blurred Lines is no ‘one trick pony’. There are many tricks with the majority of those tricks being pretty awesome. Add intensifiers as desired.
“Blurred Lines” is as good now as it was when Thicke shocked the world with his NSFW video, prancing around with nude girls. It’s pretty freaking infectious, despite the critical divisiveness it has incited. It’s that gimmicky, novelty cut you should write off, but it’s really too good to do so. “I’m gon take a good girl / I know you want it / I know you want it / I know you want it / you’re a goo girl girl / can’t let it get past me / you’re far from plastic / talk about getting blasted…” Let me catch myself before it gets stuck in my head for the umpteenth time. Pharrell assists vocally while T.I. raps as well, but does it matter and do we care? Robin’s the star baby, and according to the video, he has a big…watch yo mouth!
“Take It Easy On Me” has to follow a juggernaut and that’s no simple task. Thankfully, “Take It Easy On Me” doesn’t slack, placing Thicke against a danceable, modern-pop cut that’s also soulful enough not to offend the “Lost Without U” crowd. Thicke is definitely infatuated though as he sings “I’m fascinated by your stare / I’ll rip through all your fancy clothes / I wanna shop for your underwear /I wanna do it all so cold…” as well as “Baby I get that you’re one bada$$ chick / but I’m that guy…” He’s trying hard, really hard. He keeps dancing, but also manages to be chill on “Ooo La La”. We all know Thicke has one of the smoothest, sensual falsettos out there, but it’s nice on this particular cut to hear that mid-/lower-register shine on the ad libs. Yeah Thicke croons, but he also shows he can roar when he wants to. Roar on brother, roar on.
“Ain’t No Hat 4 That” is brief and a bit tongue-in-cheek, but Thicke eats cuts like that up. It’s no “Blurred Lines”, but it has the same sort of modern, yet throwback flare. “Get In My Way” continues on stunningly, noted for its fine production work and Thicke’s clear, relaxed pipes. “Come on let’s go ain’t nobody gonna get in my way / I’m gonna make it, no matter what you say / I’m flying by you, better stay on your lane…ain’t nobody gonna get in my way” OK Robin, we got you!
Template for making a hit with credibility? Add darling Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar. Sure enough, the results are swell on “Give It 2 U”, a song I was initially like uh… Hearing it once more, specifically contextually within the album, I’m on board, for the most part. I mean it’s shallow adulation (“Hey girl / you know you’re lookin’ so damn fine / you’re lookin like you fell from the sky / you know you make a grown man cry”) as it leads to “I wanna give it to you, through the night / and make everything you fantasize come true, ooh baby…” Thicke is looking for a hookup more than anything else, but who am I to judge? Oh and that Kendrick Lamar cat, awesome as ever. Follow-up “Feel Good” most definitely does so – good enough that “I’ll give all my loving to you”. Ha! A cool feature? Thicke’s inquisitive lyrical approach on the verses, such as “If I gave you all my loving would you give it back?” Pop-soul dance cuts seem to fit Thicke well.
“Go Stupid 4 U” epitomizes its silly title. Basically, Thicke is digging so hard on this chick that she “give a boy a heart attack call the ambulance…” (Verse One). Mr. Suave is not so slick on his wordplay through lyrics “Girl I wrote a song about you / designed a little part that reminds me of your a$$…”, where the physical seems to outweigh anything more. Thankfully, Thicke gets it together on the lovely “For The Rest of My Life”, which is classic, neo-soul/blue-eyed soul Thicke at his best. “For the rest of my life you know I’m gonna be yours / for the rest of your life you know I wanna be here…” More gentlemanlike than a line about the derriere, right? Penultimate cut “Top of the World” is ‘feel-good’, though doesn’t quite match the elite cuts. “The Good Life” closes with some old-school charm, but would’ve benefited for a wee bit more development. Thicke do sang tho’ – mad ad libs bro! LOL.
Ultimately, Blurred Lines is a welcome addition to the R&B or pop collection. Thicke straddles both genres and comes out on top. Vocally he sounds incredibly polished and even manages to let loose – there’s more than poise there! Sure, he ‘goes stupid’ every now and again, but don’t all guys go stupid for girls? #Rhetorical! Blurred Lines fits in line with summer, particularly as we all wait hot and heavy in anticipation for The 20/20 Experience sequel (had to throw Justin Timberlake in here). Blue-eyed soul is having a monster year y’all!
Favorites: “Blurred Lines”; “Take It Easy On Me”; ”Give It 2 U”; “Feel Good”; “For The Rest of My Life”
- Robin Thicke On His ‘Soulful, Sexy, Fun’ New Album, ‘Blurred Lines’ (news.radio.com)
- Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” Breaks All-Time Record for Highest Radio Audience (complex.com)
- Music Exclusive: Robin Thicke “Blurred Lines” Review (onjugstreet.wordpress.com)
- Bill Clinton Sings Blurred Lines By Robin Thicke In Parody Mash-Up! Watch HERE! (perezhilton.com)
J. Cole’s Born Sinner did a rare thing by ascending to no. 1 following a bow at no. 2 two weeks prior. He did so with an unimpressive 58,000 copies, which speaks volumes of the lackadaisical album sales week. Wale fell from no. 1 to no. 2, selling 50,000 copies of The Gifted, which debuted previously with 158,000 copies sold. Kanye West continued his sales drop, as Yeezus stayed put at no. 3, selling 39,000 copies. The big news was that J. Cole overtook Kanye West in the sales battle, 439,000 to 431,000 copies. The only top ten debut came courtesy of R&B singer Joe (Thomas), whose DoubleBack: Evolution of R&B debuted at no. 6 with 31,000 copies. Ugly numbers for R&B albums continue to be a trend of 2013. SMH.
Jay-Z Rules @ No. 1
It was never disputed that Jay-Z would find himself at no. 1 with his latest solo album, Magna Carta Holy Grail. The more important question was, just how much would Jay sell? The answer, 527,000 copies! Other than Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience, Magna Carta Holy Grail is the only other album this year to sell more than 500,000 copies. How does Jay-Z’s big numbers compare to other big releases in 2013 not name JT? Daft Punk sold 339,000 copies of Random Access Memories for the third biggest sales of the year, while Kanye West sold 327,000 copies of Yeezus. But the biggest shocker is the sales difference between first weeks from Jay-Z and Kanye, which are separated by 200,000 copies! Jay-Z outperforms the expectation with little promotion while West underperforms. Jay-Z hadn’t hit 500,000+ since 2006… That means that albums American Gangster, Blueprint 3 and Watch the Throne all opened with less copies sold. And let’s not forget, Jay was already making paper with Samsung Deal that gave away a million copies of Magna Carta Holy Grail early on July 4. Paper, Paper, Paper!
Ciara Is the Runner Up; Not A Contest
Ciara receives some good new for her fifth studio effort, Ciara. No one was going give Jay-Z a run and Ciara was no different. BUT, she did debut at no. 2 with 58,000 copies sold. According to Billboard.com, Ciara’s previous album, 2010’s Basic Instinct debuted at no. 44 with a tepid 37,000 copies sold. Now if we look at 37,000 copies today, that is the ‘new normal’ for R&B efforts or slightly above the new normal in some cases. But remember y’all, 58,000 copies was enough last week to give J. Cole a no. 1 album. Maybe it’s not great numbers, but Ciara should be happy, particularly compared to contemporaries Joe, Chrisette Michele, India. Arie, and The-Dream whose latest sold in the 20-35K range.
Skylar Grey is the only other top ten debut. Don’t Look Down debuts at no. 8 with 24,000 copies. On the one hand, those are decent numbers because Skylar Grey’s entire career at this point has seemed somewhat underrated and somewhat quietly promoted. On the other hand, Grey has did so many collaborations, 24,000 copies seems like a ‘slap in the face’. I bet few people realize that Don’t Look Down has released four singles…
R.I.P. Hip Hop Trifecta
(June 26, 2013 – July 17, 2013)
It had to end sometimes. Jay-Z keeps hip hop warm in the top spot, but Ciara plays spoils this week at no. 2. J. Cole remains a top three fixture, as Born Sinner falls to no. 3 with 39,000 copies sold. That places his totals at a health 478,000 copies. Kanye West continues his toppling effect as Yeezus lands at no. 6, with 29,000 copies sold. That brings Mr. West’s totals to 460,000 copies which means that J. Cole continues to lead the bigger debuting West. As for Wale, The Gifted lands at no. 7 with 28,000 copies sold. That brings a grand total of 236,000 copies sold in three weeks (158,000 + 50,0000 + 28,000). Can Wale reach gold? Time will tell. That said, did you notice still that three urban albums rule the roost? That’s still impressive I think.
“Blurred Lines”, that über popular song from Robin Thicke featuring Pharrell and T.I. Continues to ride success, though it loses a small percentage of sales this week. Miley Cyrus seems to be making some kinda comeback with “We Can’t Stop”, which is growing. Is Miley going for a no. 1 hit (eventually)?
Who’s Got Next?
On July 16, several new albums were released including Mayer Hawthorne (Where Does This Door Go), Cody Simpson (Surfer’s Paradise), Ace Hood (Trials & Tribulations), Ronald Isley (This Song Is For You), Sara Bareilles (The Blessed Unrest), Philip H. Anselmo (Walk Through Exits Only), Courtyard Hounds (Amelita), Robert Randolph & The Family Band (Lickety Split), and George Duke (Dreamweaver). The question here is, can any of these new releases overtake a potential second week for Jay-Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail? If you go by airplay, Ace Hood seems like he has some backing with “Bugatti” being a moderate hit (no. 33 on the Billboard Hot 100). Sara Bareilles has had some previous charting success as her previous studio album Kaleidoscope Heart debuted at no. 1 with 90,000 copies sold. Single “Brave” has peaked at no. 61 as of yet. I would personally love to see my boy Mayer Hawthorne do some damage, but his previous two albums A Strange Arrangement and How Do You Do peaked at nos. 52 and 147 respectively. Ronald Isley has had plenty of success with the Isley Bros., even in recent times, but his previous solo effort, 2010’s Mr. I was anything but a hit, peaking at no. 50 on the Billboard Albums Chart.
- Chart Moves, July 10, 2013: Hip Hop Rules, Joe Top Debut (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Jay-Z’s Album Sells Gold In Its First Week (simplyphly.wordpress.com)
- Jay-Z’s ‘Magna Carta… Holy Grail’ Debuts At No. 1 (trentsetters.wordpress.com)
- Jay-Z’s Magna Carta Debuts at No. 1 on Billboard 200 (bet.com)
- Jay-Z, Ciara lead US Billboard 200 chart (digitalspy.co.uk)
Mayer Hawthorne⎪ Where Does This Door Go ⎪ Republic ⎪⎪ US Release Date: July 16, 2013
If you go by looks alone, Mayer Hawthorne looks like anything but an R&B singer, particularly a retro-soul singer; he appears to be the antithesis if anything. That, of course, is shallow and small-minded thinking, which I’m opposed to. I’m especially opposed because home boy can S-A-N-G, period. Mayer Hawthorne has a lot more soul than many of his contemporaries, no questions asked. Where too many R&B artists are trying to find their answer in breeding pop and R&B, Hawthorne looks to the past for his inspiration, and man has it made for great music. Given his knack for soul and a falsetto the ladies should be swooning over, Hawthorne’s third album Where Does This Door Go further provides evidence as to why he is an artist to watch. Yes, at times I’ve had R&B practically buried six feet under, but it’s artists like Hawthorne that still make me believe.
Let’s cut straight to the chase. Ole boy does not miscue, period. Intro “Problematization” dramatizes the aftermath of a secret hook-up, prefacing brilliant opener “Back Seat Lover”. On “Back Seat Lover”, Hawthorne is perfectly content with continuing with a secret ‘relationship’, confirmed by lyrics like “You know I’d never hit and tell” (Verse one) and “You know I won’t say a word / yeah we can keep it discreet…” (Pre-Chorus). Ultimately, Hawthorne seems to enjoy… well the sex (“If I gotta be your back seat lover / man well let’s get it on then…”). But then he also seems to ‘open the door’ to a true, balanced relationship on the bridge (“If you wanted more…I could show you the possibilities..”) In addition to its narrative prowess, the production of “Back Seat Lover” sets the tone with it’s neo-soul groove that has you addicted from start to finish.
It’s always great to have a remarkable first impression and even better when successive impressions are great. “The Innocent” is yet another great ‘impression’, both musically and lyrically. The groove buttresses things down, while a bit bass line helps to outline and reinforce a thoughtful minor harmonic progression - i, iv, VI, ii7-5 ,V7 for my theory colleagues. Hawthorne makes me fear ‘her’ on this cautionary tale, where he sings “she’s got it, and you want it / she’s got it, and you want it / she’s got it, the innocent / are never seen again…” He follows up the loss of ‘the innocent’ with “Allie Jones”, yet another well produced track. A contrast to “Back Seat Lover” or “The Innocent”, “Allie Jones” captivates, even if a shade less than its predecessors. Among notable attributes is the seriousness of the message itself: “the hope, the pain in your daughter’s eyes / the only thing keeping you alive…” (Verse two).
“The Only One” does things better, funking it up and getting the head nodding and those feet tapping. Even with a good time going down, the lyrics don’t match the enthusiasm, particularly a line like “Train goes off the track / chain reaction, latch the casket closed…” Yeah, that’s depressing. The track doesn’t necessarily feel that way regardless, aided by some hip-hop cues, vocal harmonizations, and perhaps most all, the entrance of horns. Funk continues to prevail on “Wine Glass Woman”, but so does Hawthorne’s keen perception. “Wine glass woman, wore your Christian Dior / but you shatter into pieces on the floor / Wine glass woman / see the fire your eyes / but your victory will be your own demise…” Well now. The ‘wine glass woman’ of which Hawthorne references may be in for it, but the song continues the consistency of Where Does This Door Go. No strike outs to be found.
On single “Her Favorite Song”, Mayer Hawthorne continues to impress vocally. The elements of classic soul remain potent, but the cut definitely eschews anachronism, tweaking the formula that has given Hawthorne a successful following. Mayer Hawthorne literally sings about his lady’s ‘favorite song’ soothing her: “But when she gets home, she puts her headphones on / she plays her favorite song and fades away / and when the music’s on she can do no wrong/ and she feels safe and calm and it’s ok / and she says (ba ba dum ba dee ah dum ba / ba ba dum ba dee ah dum ba…” If you watch the music video, which has ‘dogs’ in a bar setting, maybe the reason ‘her favorite song’ soothes her makes more sense… or just confuses more, LOL. Well produced, well written, and definitely another solid vocal from Hawthorne, “Her Favorite Song” is easily among the ‘cream of the crop’. And btw, make sure you check out the remixes as well!
“Ay Bass Player” serves as a foreshadowing interlude to “Crime“, which features standout MC Kendrick Lamar. “Crime” is sort of a simple, perhaps slightly ‘underdeveloped’ number, but given the simplicity of its theme (“We just wanna party / we don’t mean no harm / don’t wanna hurt nobody / we just wanna party…”), it’s also kinda understandable. As always, Hawthorne sounds polished, particularly on the vocal treatment of the titular lyric itself. Kendrick Lamar arguably ‘rules the roost’ on his rap verse, if for nothing more than inciting a necessary ‘anti-Molly’ campaign: “…Probably hit that Bob Marley, I ain’t with that Molly sh*t…” “Reach Out Richard” superbly pays ode to Hawthorne’s father, Richard, serving as atonement for the more lightweight “Crime”. Produced by a reinvigorated Pharrell Williams, “Reach Out Richard” is yet another triumph for the ‘it’ hit maker. Oh and as for Hawthorne himself, well, “the kid’s alright”.
“Corsican Rosé” continues on consistently, successfully blending contemporary R&B, hip-hop, and soul elements. The narrative isn’t new itself, but many times recycled: “I shoulda told you you’re the only one for me / how could I ever be so blind / I should have never let you find another guy / there’ll never be another time for you and me / I should’ve held on to you tight / now we’ll forever be ships passing in the night…” Catch the drift? On “Where Does The Door Go” the first time signature shift of the album takes flight in six-eight, truly heartening back to vintage soul. The use of strings help to craft a lushness about the title track while the harmonic scheme has some thoughtful, somewhat unexpected quirks. An interlude foreshadowing “Robot Love” is built in.
“Robot Love” is a feisty little cut with, well a sexed-up groove. It is a departure of sorts, which may or may not make it for every Mayer Hawthorne fan given it’s gimmicky nature. Personally, it hearkens back to Prince in one sense, and Hawthorne’s falsetto continues to stick the dagger into the competition. On the fine “The Stars Are Ours”, Hawthorne has Michael McDonald and The Doobie Brothers on his mind, emulating ther blue-eyed soul favoring pop. Closing cut “All Better” is appropriately placed and leaves the listener with a warm, fuzzy, ‘loving’ message: “Love can make me all better / love can make me alright / love can pull me together / so just make me all better tonight”. I have no doubt after listening to Where Does This Door Go, many would love to make it all better for Mayer Hawthorne, any night.
All in all, Mayer Hawthorne once more ‘does his thing’ on Where Does This Door Go. He doesn’t reinvent anything in an innovative sense, but what Hawthorne does do is make R&B, specifically that old-school sensibility ‘hot’ in 2013. Vocally, Hawthorne is a superb talent that deserves much more spotlight than he receives. Sure Robin Thicke and Justin Timberlake are doing their thing in the blue-eyed soul movement, but don’t forget or overlook Mayer Hawthorne, who easily can hold his own.
Favorites: “Back Seat Lover”; “The Innocent”; “The Only One”; “Her Favorite Song”; “Reach Out Richard”
- Mayer Hawthorne (auralxtc.wordpress.com)
- Meet Mayer Hawthorne***messymandella*** (http://messymandella.com)
- Mayer Hawthorne – Where Does This Door Go Review (sweetsoulstuff.wordpress.com)
- Mayer Hawthorne’s “Crime” feat. Kendrick Lamar (popinsomniacs.com)
- Mayer Hawthorne – ‘Crime’ ft. Kendrick Lamar (getmybuzzup.com)
- Mayer Hawthorne – “Crime” ft. Kendrick Lamar (cyphteo.wordpress.com)
- Mayer Hawthorne: Where Does This Door Go – review (guardian.co.uk)
- First Listen: Mayer Hawthorne, ‘Where Does This Door Go’ (npr.org)
- New Song: Mayer Hawthorne Featuring Kendrick Lamar, ‘Crime’ (NSFW) (buzzworthy.mtv.com)
Mac Miller⎪ Watching Movies With the Sound Off ⎪ Rostrum ⎪⎪ US Release Date: June 18, 2013
Official Website: www.macmillerofficial.com
“In kindergarten, used to put some condoms in my cubby / in case one of these hoes tryna f**k me…” Hmm, not sure how a five-year old accomplishes that, but sure. That’s Mac Miller; brash and filled with swagger from a young age, or so he claims on single “S.D.S.”. If he does nothing else, he promotes safe sex and creatively titles his sophomore album Watching Movies With the Sound Off. Miller returns, proceeding his number one debuting 2011 effort Blue Slide Park, which opened healthily with 144,000 copies. Unfortunately, the effort quickly tumbled from the penthouse and possessed its share of ‘haters’ (yep, brutally honest critics with ‘I.D.G.A.F.’ attitudes). Critically, Blue Slide Park’s received a mixed aggregate score of 58 from Metacritic.
I enjoyed Blue Slide Park, but admit I may have slightly overrated it. Regardless, Watching Movies With the Sound Off is a better, more accomplished effort. Sure, Mac isn’t having a “Party on Fifth Avenue” nor is he getting a sandwich from “Frick Park Market”, but he steps up his game lyrically and musically (stronger production). Sure, he may overindulge in references to drugs and sex, but he has more triumphant moments than not. Now “somebody do something”!