Welcome all who dare to part deux of my Favorites, Least Favorites, and Honorable Mentions of 2013 for all who dare to enter the brentmusicreviews zone! Ha… If you missed the first part (Favorites, Least Favorites, and Honorable Mentions of 2013, Part 1), you should like totally check out my favorites from 2013, ‘cause there was some awesome albums. If you’re not one for positivity and optimism, maybe you’re just checking this out because some you enjoy skepticism, criticism, and the occasional, um, cynicism. Regardless, let me remind you how I started off my previous post:
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!
Here it is!
Selena Gomez, Stars Dance
Neither of these were my cup of tea, period. will.i.am went way too stupid for my tastes while I never enjoyed the Rihanna-copycat “Come & Get It”, which drew buzz for Stars Dance. Avoid these…like the plague. Brent has spoken.
Andrea Bocelli, Passione
Let me first say that I love Andrea Bocelli and consider him to have a brilliant voice. Also, I don’t think Passione was nearly as bad as most of the albums categorized as my least favorites. BUT, it wasn’t as good as I expected nor my favorite. Sorry A.B.
Goo Goo Dolls, Magnetic
I’m going to keep this short and sweet – I think we/they are long past the/their “Iris” days… just saying.
Let me be positive for starters. I appreciated the dark nature of this particular effort… that was a bright spot, ironically. As for the material, um not so much. A perfect example is the shamefully childish “Staying Up” in which frontman Jesse Rutherford clumsily sings “Some part of me feels a little bit naked and empty / I’m stuck underneath a few dirty old blankets to comfort me”. Please!
The-Dream, IV Play
The Weeknd, Kiss Land
Let me be the first to say that I dearly love R&B. If she were are lady, I just might marry her… not in a creepy way though. I don’t even mind ti too much when the genre trends more risqué as both the emotional (romance) and physical (sex) are important facets of the content. However, both The-Dream and The Weeknd weren’t up to their usual artistry on their latest efforts and often went too left of center. The-Dream sounded uninspired and oversexed throughout IV Play while The Weeknd’s alt-R&B on the highly anticipated Kiss Land just didn’t live up to the buzz of 2012 compilation Trilogy. I found myself having to return to “Sweat It Out” (Love vs. Money) and “Wicked Games” (Trilogy).
Ron Isley, This Song Is For You
SMH. This one hurts me too. Let me first give accolades to Ron Isley and his enduring career in the music game. Him and the Isley Bros’ contributions to music are nothing short of exceptional. To this day, maybe with the exception of my boy Jaheim’s vocal runs on his recent song “Florida” (from Appreciation Day), perfectly emulating Isley’s voice is nearly impossible. While that signature voice is still afloat on This Song Is For You, the material doesn’t always do the legendary soul singer justice. Sure I’m on board for “This Song Is For You” and “Dinner and a Movie”, but otherwise the album doesn’t make me want to stop spinning classics like “Shout” or “Between The Sheets”.
Tyga, Hotel California
French Montana, Excuse My French
Rap music truly did have a good year. That said, that didn’t stop some underachievers from trying to ‘kill the vibe’. Lil Wayne was definitely not up to snuff on I Am Not A Human Being II, a poor excuse for a follow-up compared to the first installment. For Tyga, trying to recapture the success of his previous jam-packed album (featuring “Rack City” and “Faded among its hits) ended up only so-so as Hotel California was mediocre at best, even if Siri couldn’t seem to find “Molly”. As for French Montana, after the brilliantly salacious “Pop That”, you would’ve thought the MC’s debut would’ve been more notable. Wrong!
Snoop Lion, Reincarnated
Using my positivity once more, Reincarnated was a much better album than expected from Snoop Lion. That said, I would’ve much rather heard ‘Snoop Dogg’ on his West Coast swag rapping, not singing. Can I get another “Drop It Like It’s Hot” ‘Dogg’?
Lady Antebellum, Golden
Luke Bryan, Crash My Party
I’ll be the first to admit I haven’t been feeling country this year. That said, I have listened to a couple of albums that just disappointed me. Sure, I had issues with Luke Bryan’s booze fest on his earlier compilation effort Spring Break…Here To Party, but Crash My Party was just disappointing, particularly considering the exceptional numbers it posted. As for those critical darlings Lady Antebellum, personally I found Golden as exciting as watching ‘paint dry’. It wasn’t a bad album, but nor was it exciting or innovative. Hilary and Charles can still sing mind you, but still…
- Album Playlist: Favorites, Least Favorites, and Honorable Mentions of 2013, Part 1… (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Review: The Weeknd, ‘Kiss Land’ (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Review: Luke Bryan, ‘Crash My Party’ (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Review: Lil Wayne, I Am Not A Human Being II [Deluxe Edition] (brentmusicreviews.com)
It’s that time… for me to list songs that made me over the past month. 14 of ‘em baby, get ready!
You knew it would take some mega force to unseat Robin Thicke from the top spot of the Billboard Hot 100 with the ubiquitous smash “Blurred Lines”. That force came via everyone’s favorite pop star Katy Perry, who shocked with her maturity on “Roar”. Sure, Ms. Perry had a lot of fun in her jungle music video to accompany her number one single, but she goes all inspirational on us as opposed to, um, risqué. I wasn’t one hundred percent onboard at first, but it certainly tickled my fancy after a while.
2 Chainz featuring Fergie, “Netflix”
I wouldn’t call 2 Chainz the most intellectually-stimulating rapper – he goes dumb (and sometimes dumb-er) with the best. Throw in the queen of silliness in Fergie and the resulting cut “Netflix” should be a total bust. Instead, it is one of 2 Chainz’s most triumphant moments from B.O.A.T.S.II:#METIME, which also turns out to be a much better album than it should be. The best line from my perspective? “Let’s make a sex tape and put it on Netflix”. SMH.
John Legend, “All Of Me”
Love In The Future
There may never be another John Legend number as touching as his acclaimed, stripped ballad “Ordinary People” was, but “All of Me” seems to be the closest Legend has came to that Grammy-winning classic. Simplistic sporting a certain innocence about it, part of the appeal of ballad is its sheltered, chivalrous genuineness.
Tamar Braxton, “Love and War”
Love and War
Yeah, I know, I know. “Love and War” has been out for a minute… but it is still arguably the best track on Braxton’s sophomore effort. Sure, the album was kinda so-so at best, but “Love and War” would easily rise to the top of most track lists. Soulful, old-school yet contemporary enough, it’s no surprise that the ‘battling through love’ track helped propel Braxton to number two on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart.
Miley Cyrus, “Wrecking Ball”
A Miley Cyrus song on a Brent Faulkner playlist? Something must be wrong! It’s not, if you can believe it. For as much controversy as Miley Cyrus has successfully stirred up around her hyper-sexual makeover for upcoming studio album BANGERZ, “Wrecking Ball” the song is actually pretty impressive. Honestly, I was onboard from the first time I saw the video, even if I found the video itself to be…um… yeah I can’t think of the word. As for the song and the concept of the song, I’ll give it to ole girl. I’m still no fan though…
Janelle Monáe featuring Prince, “Givin’ ‘Em What They Love”
The Electric Lady
“Q.U.E.E.N.” one killer jam by all means, but Monáe’s promo single has been receiving buzz for a minute. More surprising and equally alluring is her collaboration with Prince, who definitely doesn’t lend his pipes or skills to many… The results, specifically the vocal chemistry between two left-of-center artists is nothing short of brilliant – pretty fly from my perspective.
Drake featuring Detail, “305 To My City”
Nothing Was The Same
Is it just me, or is every Drake album stacked? Nothing Was The Same has a hard act to follow compared to either Thank Me Later or Take Care, but there is still plenty of notable numbers from rap’s softest heavyweight. “305 To My City” benefits from it moodiness, grinding tempo, and honestly its ‘Drake-isms’. Hard choice between this one, “Tuscan Leather”, “Wu-Tang Forever”, or contemporary R&B number “Hold On We’re Going Home”.
Ariana Grande featuring Nathan Sykes, “Almost Is Never Enough”
I’m not one who is into boyfriend/girlfriend duets nor big youthful pop/urban duets. However, every now and again, one comes around that works splendidly. Remember a little hit called “No Air”? Exactly. Sure there is no comparison of Ariana Grande’s fine duet with The Wanted boyfriend Nathan Sykes to the gargantuan Jordin Sparks/Chris Brown duet, but it is so much better than it sounds on paper. Vocally, the chemistry is undeniable, the maturity transcendent of both stars’ age, and the songwriting ‘tried-and-true’ yet relatable. Yeah, “The Way” and “Baby I” might garner more attention, but “Almost Is Never Enough” is a definite sleeper.
Raheem DeVaughn, “Complicated”
A Place Called Love Land
Love is a complicated thing. Just imagine how complicated and complex it is in the context of A Place Called Love Land, Raheem’s DeVaughn’s slept on, exceptional fourth studio album? Basically the premise of this soulful standout is that DeVaughn is in a relationship (or something like it), but doesn’t want to label it. Therefore even if ole boy is “…kinda single” but also in love, it truly is complicated. Nothing complicated or questionable about the strength of this number though.
Kings of Leon, “Wait For Me”
Mechanical Bull was a fine new effort from Kings of Leon overall. Sure, I was looking for another “Sex on Fire”, but maybe the lovin’ has leveled off. Regardless, “Wait For Me” is a brilliant showing offering multiple interpretations (though likely referencing Caleb Followill’s demons) while ultimately delivering a plea of ‘waiting’ for the ‘lost’ to clean up his act. It’s that sort of situation where one went on the wrong pathway and is now back on the straight and narrow.
On his underrated sixth album Appreciation Day, Jaheim spends a good chunk of time discussing the opposite sex, particularly on the incredibly sensual title track. However, he breaks away from the female anatomy on the brilliant, socially conscious “Florida”, which details the infamous Trayvon Martin case. One of the most ‘trill’ songs I have heard in sometime, “Florida” strikes a soulful, chilling chord from an initial listen.
Stalley, “Coupes & Roses”
Self Made 3
Maybach Music Group’s third compilation wasn’t exactly charm. Self Made 3 seemed to lack the same spark as the 2012 compilation which was loaded with the likes of “Power Circle” and “Bury Me A G”. Still, Stalley’s “Coupes & Roses” is a standout that blends luxurious sounds, old-school, and swagger a la 2013 into a winning formula. All bow to rap’s ‘next’.
The Weeknd, “Belong To The World”
I’ll be the first to criticize The Weeknd’s follow-up to mixtape compilation Trilogy. Kiss Land feels pretty blasé for the most part, but this overproduced number has its moments. Particularly, its lyrics are quite alluring: “Ooh girl, I know I should leave you / and learn to mistreat you / cause you belong to the world / and ooh girl, I want to embrace you / domesticate you / but you belong to the world.” Who would’ve thought a song alluding to a stripper Abel Tesfaye wants to ‘domesticate’ could be fascinating?
MGMT, “Alien Days”
You wouldn’t be making an generalization if you said that MGMT’s music is getting weirder and spacier. “Alien Days” is certainly and opener that requires more than one listen to truly digest and understand what’s going through the band’s head. Opening with a child’s voice that eventually is taken of very VanWynegarden’s trippy, nonchalant voice, MGMT is characteristic of the band while continue to stretch (perhaps overstretch) the boundaries. I think it is quite possible to get high of the cut without even smoking.
- Playlist: 5 Favorite September 2013 Albums (brentmusicreviews.com)
Chart Rewind: Highlights from Last Week
(September 11, 2013)
Ariana 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
Keith 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.
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 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?
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.
- 2013 Chart Trends: 5 Underachievers and 5 Overachievers (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Chart Moves, September 11, 2013: Ariana Grande Tops (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Tamar Braxton take us through ‘Love and War’ (newdaymusicworld.wordpress.com)
- The Weeknd’s ‘Kiss Land’ Debuts at No. 2 (getmybuzzup.com)
- Will R&B Ever Recover From Sales Inconsistencies? (brentmusicreviews.com)
- “Love and War” is the #1 R&B Album! (theindustrycosign.wordpress.com)
- Chart Moves, September 4, 2013: Avenged Sevenfold Rock Their Way Back To No. 1 (brentmusicreviews.com)
The Weeknd Sticks With the Formula With Less Notable Results
The Weeknd⎪ Kiss Land ⎪ Republic⎪⎪ US Release Date: September 10, 2013
Alternative R&B generally is a fine outlet to keep the cooling genre of R&B alive. In a day and age where ‘neo-soul’ has fallen by the wayside and adult contemporary R&B can’t carry the torch alone, alt-R&B seems like the present answer to preserve respiration. Artists like Frank Ocean, Miguel, and The Weeknd have been the chief proponents of this movement. The Weeknd’s compilation effort Trilogy, showed the possibilities and the appeal of this nu-soul. On Kiss Land, The Weeknd continues in a similar vein, but not sans flaws. Kiss Land feels too spacey at times, where some extra definition and less self-indulgence might’ve boded well for The Weeknd.
“Professional” is an interesting way to start, sampling EMIKA’s “Professional Loving”. At first, The Weeknd’s reference to professionalism seems to be his newfound stardom, as highlighted lyrically throughout the intro (“…So you’re somebody now / but that’s a somebody in a nobody town / you made enough to quit a couple of years ago / but it consumes you / everywhere you go”). On the switch-up, the idea of professionalism seems to transform sexually, which isn’t unpredictable given The Weeknd’s dedication to such subject. All in all, it works, but “Professional” feels as if it could use one extra lift to truly propel it to another level.
“The Town” seems a bit more undercooked than “Professional”. Sure it’s druggy sounding and The Weeknd continues his mission (“I remember on the bathroom floor / before I went on tour / when you said we couldn’t do it again / cause you had a thing with another man…”), but even given the richness of his falsetto, he lacks the strength to deliver a truly captivating performance. He does better for himself on “Adaptation”, though it’s not without its rubs. “I lay my head on a thousand beds / it’s been a test to see how far a man / can go without himself…”, he sings reflectively on verse one. The chorus is more telling though: “But I chose the lie / I chose the life / then I realized / she might have been the one / I let it go / for a little fun / I made a trade / gave away our days / for a little fame / Now I’ll never see your face / but it’s okay I adapted anyway”. The Weeknd gets added swag points with his ad libs toward the end.
By “Love in The Sky”, The Weeknd seems to have his stuff together, delivering one of the album’s best. He’s in top-notch form when he delivers widely interpretable lines such as “There’s no one inside / but you’re free to relax / if you commit to this ride / there’s no turning back…” Sure, he could be going for high level thinking, but it seems he definitely wants you to catch his innuendo. If it’s not clear on “Love in The Sky”, it definitely is on the follow-up cut, “Belong To The World”. “I’m not a fool / I just love that you’re dead inside… I’m not a fool, I’m just lifeless too…” Okay. Most interesting is when it’s obvious The Weeknd is referring to a stripper (“Oh girl, I know I should leave you / and learn to mistreat you / cause you belong to the world / and ooh girl, I want to embrace you / domesticate you / but you belong to the world…”).
Personally, “Live For” seems like something of a wasted opportunity. The hook is simple as is the overall theme: “This the sh*t that I live for, this the sh*t that I live for / this the sh*t that I live for, with the people I’d die for…” Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’ve heard this about a bajillion times. Still, The Weeknd asserts his ‘swag’ (“I’m in my city in the summer / Camo’d out, leather booted / kissing b**ches in the club…”) while Drake steals the show (“Roll up in that thing, got h**s like Prince, but they know I’m King.” “Wanderlust” is stronger, sampling Fox the Fox (“Precious Little Diamond”). Again, it’s not perfect, but you can’t deny the humor and truth in a line like “Good girls go to heaven / and bad girls go everywhere / and tonight I will love you / and tomorrow you won’t care…” If nothing else, “Wanderlust” is the closest cut to dance to.
“Kiss Land” stands out, with The Weeknd being bold with lyrics like “You can meet me in the room where the kisses ain’t free / you gotta pay with your body” or the more overt “I can’t stand talkin’ to brand new girls / only b**ches down to f**k when you shower them ones…” Maybe most irresponsible is his references to drugs. Despite this, “Kiss Land” is a winner. “Pretty” shines as well. While it literally opens with a ‘bang’ (“Somebody telling you it was pointless for me to come back into your arms / said you f**ked another man…”), The Weeknd reins himself in with some more thoughtful lyrics. Closer “Tears in the Rain” sports solid ideas, but as with many of the cuts here, it lasts too long and feels a bit too indulgent.
How does Kiss Land stack up? Honestly, it is a bit disappointing. It’s not terrible by any means, but to say an of the cuts stand up against “Wicked Games” or “Twenty Eight” would be a stretch from my perspective. Additionally, even though The Weeknd built his career around sex, drugs, and emo R&B, a broadening wouldn’t hurt next album.
Favorites: “Love in The Sky”; “Belong To The World”; “Kiss Land”
- Review: The Weeknd Flows Nicely on ‘Kiss Land’ (abcnews.go.com)
Chart Rewind (Highlights), September 04, 2013
Avenged Sevenfold found themselves in a familiar place, no. 1, with 159,000 copies sold of Hail To The King. Hip hop had another showing, but definitely not comparable to the summer trifecta of Kanye West, J. Cole, and Mac Miller. Big Sean debuted at no. 3 with 72,000 copies of Hall of Fame while Juicy J landed right behind him at no. 4 with 64,000 copies of Stay Trippy.
By the way, what about those acts that got no love? Franz Ferdinand debuted at no. 24 with Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action. Mandisa’s latest Overcomer landed at no. 29. Goodie Mob’s comeback effort (Age Against The Machine) truly received nada, debuting at no. 30. I suppose you win some and you lose some.
Grande Leads The Charge
Ariana Grande debuts atop the Billboard Albums Chart with 138,000 copies of Yours Truly sold. For most of the week, it seemed that Grande would be dueling with a reintroduced Tamar Braxton for the number one spot. In the end, the young Mariah Carey-favoring singer/actress takes her rightful crown. Tamar Braxton debuts at no. 2 with Love & War selling 114,000 copies. For an adult contemporary R&B album, that ain’t bad at all folks. Honestly, I’m shocked that Braxton moved six figures… you just never know.
Nine Inch Nails debuts expectedly at no. 3 with 107,000 copies of Hesitation Marks sold. Unfortunately, the 107,000 copies is a far cry from Nine Inch Nails’ previous major label efforts. Still, six figures in this day and age is respectable. Maybe these new kiddos just don’t know about Trent Reznor. Sigh.
John Legend lands at no. 4 with with Love in the Future. Love in the Future sold only 68,000 copies, down from the 133,000 copies that graced his last solo effort, Evolver (2008). That said, Love in the Future did sell more than Legend’s collaborative album with The Roots, Wake Up! According to Billboard.com. For an artist with such soul and talent, it is sad that 68,000 copies was the ceiling. Better than the 55,000 copies prognosticated originally.
Jaheim doesn’t have his greatest sales week either, as Appreciation Day received little appreciation ultimately moving only 58,000 copies good for a no. 6 bow. Jaheim has never moved gargantuan numbers, but in 2006, Ghetto Classics did debut atop the Billboard 200 with 152,000 copies sold. 2007 effort The Makings of a Man just missed the top ten (it was a December release), but sold a career best 176,000 copies. Even 2010 effort Another Round had little to hold it’s head down about; it sold 112,000 copies good for a no. 3 bow. But 58,000 copies? That ain’t going nowhere.
Katy Perry Roars On
Really, what else is their to say… Katy Perry already told you we’d hear her roar. And she’s roaring at no. 1 a second week. Case closed.
Who’s Got Next?
Several new efforts materialized on Tuesday, September 10. This includes Keith Urban’s Fuse, 2 Chainz’s B.O.A.T.S. II, Janelle Monáe’s The Electric Lady, The Weeknd’s Kiss Land, Sheryl Crow’s Feels Like Home, Goldfrapp’s Tales of Us, Trombone Shorty’s Say That To Say This, Sean Kingston’s Back 2 Life, Kaskade’s Atmosphere, Earth Wind & Fire’s Now, Then & Forever, Gloria Estefan’s The Standards, and Arctic Monkey’s AM. Ones to watch? Keith Urban, 2 Chainz, Sheryl Crow, and possibly The Weeknd. Curious to see how the sales come out for these albums.
- Chart report: Ariana Grande’s ‘Yours Truly’ debuts at No. 1, Tamar Braxton and Nine Inch Nails take the silver and bronze (music-mix.ew.com)
- Ariana Grande Album Debuts At Number One In U.s. (contactmusic.com)
- Will R&B Ever Recover From Sales Inconsistencies? (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Music: TV’s Ariana Grande ‘Truly’ Hits No. 1 (variety.com)
So August 2013 has arrived…ugh! Where did summer go? SMH! Well, whether life is in a state of “earthquake weather” because you were an a-hole to your girl, or you see a hot girl and you just want to ask her out for “dinner and a movie”, well music can help you out with that. There is definitely something on this playlist for everybody. 15 Tracks to tackle August bay-bay (*speaks in Dick Vitale voice)!
Panic! At The Disco featuring Lolo, “Miss Jackson”
Single (Fueled by Ramen)
Genre: Pop / Alternative
I know, I know, I know! The Fall Out Boy / Patrick Stump comparisons won’t die down with this new pop cut courtesy of Panic! At The Disco, but who cares? Similar to the lyrics on the addicting chorus which cleverly allude to Janet Jackson’s 1986 hit “Nasty” (“Miss Jackson, Miss Jackson, Miss Jackson are you nasty….But I love her anyways”, I love this pop song anyways as well. #TeamPanic
Cornell Campbell Meets Soothsayers, “We Want to Be Free”
From album Nothing Can Stop Us (Strut)
Genre: Reggae / International
Who is Cornell Campbell? A veteran reggae artist with a killer falsetto… This meaningful number tackles the issue of slavery and being free. Yeah, maybe it’s not a jam to play for your girl- or boyfriend when you’re trying to incite the romance (catch my drift?), but it’s great for chilling on the beach… or backyard…or in the house. The music provided by Soothayers is nothing short of awesome. #FreedomMusic
Joe, “I’d Rather Have a Love”
From album DoubleBack: Evolution of R&B (Massenburg Media)
Believe it or not, R&B still lives! Sure, it’s not killing the charts anymore, but what would a date be without a good slow jam? Joe’s “I’d Rather Have Love” is a great, chill old-school adult contemporary joint. Even better, he doesn’t oversex here in the least; it’s about genuine, monogamous love. As hard as it is to believe R&B still lives, what about chilvary? Everybody claims it’s dead, right? #MonogamousLove
Matt Nathanson, “Earthquake Weather”
From album Last of the Great Pretenders (Vanguard)
Genre: Pop / Rock
“Earthquake Weather” finds Matt Nathanson doing what he does best – writing and singing a song! On this particular tune, Nathason claims that “…it feels like summer / but it’s earthquake weather…” It may feel ‘rocky’ since he’s thinking about this girl he’s apparently wronged (and ain’t nothing worse than a woman scorned!), but for us, well, it’s another great ‘summer’ jam.
Jay-Z featuring Frank Ocean, “Oceans”
From album Magna Carta…Holy Grail (Roc Nation)
Being frank, Jay-Z’s latest album Magna Carta…Holy Grail wasn’t his most ‘triumphant’ affair. Even so, “Oceans” featuring Frank Ocean is a standout moment. Frank delivers a wordy, but alluring hook dabbling in racism (slavery) and socioeconomic status: “I see elephant tusk on the boar of a sailing lady / docked on the Ivory Coast / Mercedes in a row winding down the road / I hope my black skin don’t dirt this white tuxedo / before the Basquiat show and if so / well fuck it, fuck it / Because this water drown my family / this water mixed my blood / this water tells my story / this water knows it all / go ahead and spill some champagne in the water / go ahead and watch the sun blaze / on the waves of the ocean”. Jay-Z steps up as well, specifically lyric “…Only Christopher we acknowledge is Wallace / I don’t even like Washingtons in my pocket / Black card go hard when I’m shopping…” #RealTalk
Avenged Sevenfold, “Hail to the King”
Single (Warner Bros.)
Genre: Rock / Metal
Pretty simple lyrics (“Hail to the king / hail to the one / kneel to the crown / stand in the sun / hail to the king” ), assertive vocals, jagged sounding guitars, and a stomping drum groove. What more is there to say? Don’t we all love a good metal song? I’m rocking out and hailing to the king! #MetalJam
Ace Hood, “Another Statistic”
From album Trials & Tribulations (Cash Money / Republic)
“Another Statistic” is the type of rap track that easily earns the respect of the listener. Hood speaks on the plight of black men (“Rather see me crucified, police are the crucifiers / shoot us up and dig a ditch, this ain’t nothin’ new to us…) referencing numerous examples including past Martin Luther King, Jr., Emmett Till, and Trayvon Martin. A serious and heavy as it is, the ‘real talk’ doesn’t keep it from being a sensational listen as well. #TrillRap
Ronald Isley, “Dinner and a Movie”
From album This Song Is For You (eOne)
“Dinner and a Movie” is old-school courtship at its best. Ronald Isley thinks simply here, but does so effectively: “Hello, hello girl, what’s your name? / I was thinking maybe we do dinner and a movie”. That said, I’m sure Mr. Biggs can get any woman he wants, even at 72. The rest of us… not so fortunate. #ForeverMackin
Mayer Hawthorne, “Her Favorite Song”
From album Where Does This Door Go? (Republic)
On “Her Favorite Song”, Mayer Hawthorne impresses vocally. The elements of classic soul are potent, but the cut also eschews anachronism, through tweaking the formula. 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, there are literally ‘dogs’ in a bar setting, making the reasoning behind ‘her favorite song’s therapeutic nature. #TherapeuticMuzik
Cody Simpson, “Pretty Brown Eyes”
From album Surfer’s Paradise
No I’m no big teen pop fan… I mean I’m in my twenties. That said, since I promised something for everybody, I included something for the youth in Cody Simpson’s Pretty Brown Eyes”. I mean Simpson’s vocals are thin, specifically the falsetto, but he’s all of twelve… um sixteen. But hey, that lyric “The JT song that can move that body / she dancing all night long” is sorta slick, right? If you are a tween… #TweenPop
From album Ciara (Epic)
“Sophomore” plays on school grades you might say. It sounds dumb, but actually, it’s a turn on. “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…” Yeah, that’s real hot! What’s most shocking about “Sophomore” is that Ciara doesn’t even break a sweat. She’s playful, but coupled with the excellent if somewhat subtle production, “Sophomore” packs a punch without overdoing anything. #SophomoreBaby
John Mayer, “Wildfire”
Genre: Pop / Rock
Need a reason to look forward to John Mayer’s upcoming studio album? This folksy/roots/country/pop hybrid sounds distinct from anything the pop/rock artist has released previously. Vocally, Mayer sounds clear and enthused. And that guitar solo – that’s where ole boy is at his best. #Fiery
The Weeknd, “Belong To The World”
There’s just something about that boyish tenor voice isn’t there? This particular cut is a bit busy, but it’s hard to deny The Weeknd is one of the R&B artists to watch int he future. I’m excited for his upcoming album; I’m still riding high off “Twenty Eight” and “Wicked Games” (Trilogy). #ModernSoul
Steve Grand, “All-American Boy”
Has there ever been a viral hit that was such a ‘hit’? Steve Grand’s country song with a gay love story has made a gargantuan impact, like everywhere. I’ve written about it and here I am including it in my playlist post. #ProgressiveCountry
Dawn Richard, “Meteors”
Single (Our Dawn Entertainment)
Don’t sleep on the former Danity Kane / Diddy-Dirty Money singer. BTW, Dawn Richard previously released and album called Goldenheart. “Meteors” is modern R&B epitomized, with experimentation full throttle with production and vocal tricks. #OutOfSpaceSoul
- Review: Ronald Isley, ‘This Song Is For You’ (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Panic! At The Disco Return With “Miss Jackson” and Upcoming Album (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Review: Mayer Hawthorne, ‘Where Does This Door Go’ (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Forthcoming Albums To Anticipate (August 2013 Onward) (brentmusicreviews.com)
PARTYNEXTDOOR ⎪ PARTYNEXTDOOR ⎪OVO Sound ⎪⎪ Release Date: July 2, 2013
“Girl I’m out here / getting to the money / blowin’ these hundreds / blowin’ these hundreds…” Yeah, yeah, yeah… How many times have we heard these same lyrics or a similar sentiment? A new youthful male R&B and/or hip-hop star gets the ‘come-up’ of a lifetime and brags about all the money, the newfound fame, and girls that want to do him (if they haven’t already). Basically, that is a common theme of Drake signee PARTYNEXTDOOR’s debut, self-titled mixtape. This youthful sentiment is by no means a deal-breaker, but in itself, it is a topic that seems to be retread by every new star. Regardless, PARTYNEXTDOOR ends up being a worthwhile mixtape. The production is notable throughout, BUT the perceptive listener instantly picks up on the clear similarities to Drake or The Weeknd. In the long run, who wants to be little brother? No one.
“Welcome To The Party” serves as an intro, establishing the alt-/modern R&B vibe that has come to characterize PARTYNEXTDOOR’s Canadian colleagues. The vocal processing is heavy, but itcontributes to the rapper/singer’s overall style, so it’s not a detraction.
If “Welcome to the Party” initiated the party, “Wild B*tches” fully embraces it. Obviously, PARTYNEXTDOOR’s taste in women is… something (who am I to judge?). “Shawty a kill, come straight from Atlanta / shawty a dealer, he momma’s a dancer / Poppa a pimp, cousin’s a killer…” Yeah, that’s some kind of picture painted… But when a track is as explicitly titled as this particular cut is, what do you expect? It’s raunchy mind you, but it does highlight the artist’s musical style. Basically, a little risqué, ‘loose’ fun never hurt anybody, right? Well now…
The party don’t stop after “Wild B*tches”. No brah! “Relax With Me” continues, objectifying women in the process. “Hear the clapping, that’s the instrumental / girl yo a$$, it’s so instrumental / if you gas, let me push the pedal…,” PARTYNEXTDOOR sings rather un-gentlemanlike. That’s not even the wildest the 19-year old horn-dog gets: “Lay that … out, … me on the sport car…” (I’m trying to clean it up here!). A freak he is indeed, perhaps it’s his irresponsibility that is most troubling: “I ain’t afraid to cross the line with you / I ain’t afraid to do a line with you…” Drugs, sex, and rock and roll, huh? It is successful enough, but a bit shameful and self-indulgent in the process.
“Right Now” doesn’t let up from a ‘stripper’ fixation, with PARTYNEXTDOOR bragging “I pay you in cash baby, he just pay you mind…” He also claims his superiority to those ‘lames’ (“…quit f***** with them lames right now / I could put you on some game right now) while hungry for the do (“Just let your p**** talk, don’t let this feeling fade / girl cut them b*****s off, they ain’t got sh*t to say”). Again, this is quite similar to the salaciousness of The-Dream or The Weekend. If you can get past the oversexed nature, it’s an enjoyable cut.
“Make A Mil” isn’t that much different conceptually, with more ‘cheap’ stripper lines including “My b**** educated, had her clients pay the payment…” My advice to PARTYNEXTDOOR would be to go ‘bigger’ than strip clubs. If gentlemen’s clubs are seen as ‘temporary’ excitement, why shouldn’t songs about them get the same temporary enjoyment before falling flat?
PARTYNEXTDOOR doesn’t quite leave the strip club (“Tight jeans on so she feels my…”), but he goes a bit deeper on “Break From Toronto”. “Still f***** with the same a$$ n***as / I know you want a break / I know you want a break from Toronto,” he proclaims at the close of the cut. Essentially, he’s suggesting that the girl of which he sings about has already slept with the same type of guys in her hometown of Toronto Canada. He wants her to ‘broaden her horizons’ you might say and check him out in Mississauga, Canada, often referred to as ‘Sauga’ throughout the effort. Sure, it’s far from ‘world peace’, but it’s not as shameful as “Relax With Me”.
“TBH” has the most substance of any of the cuts… and that’s truly profound based on the material showcased as of yet. “Girl it’s all over your face, there’s someone taking my place / Guess that’s something that I”m dealing with now…” Basically, his girl has found someone else that tickles her fancy and he’s the victim. This is ‘tried and true’, though it’s always captivating to hear it from the perspective of a male. More pleasant is the fact that the sex-obsessed side of PARTYNEXTDOOR dies, if only temporary, and allows from genuine, relatable emotions to come into his music. “TBH” gives the singer/MC a ‘moment’.
“Wus Good / Curious” continues an upswing, but the bridge is among the horniest of the effort: “Good lovin’ feel so numb / ride me till I’m ‘bout to *** / I see you are ‘bout to… so, oh girl, don’t be shy…” PARTYNEXTDOOR’s biggest weakness may be his brutal honesty, but this double-cut is enjoyable beyond the singer’s rather immature, youthful yearning for pleasure.
“Over Here” gives PARTYNEXTDOOR a superstar collaboration, but that’s pretty easy when it’s with your boss (Drake). It’s back to ‘blowing money fast’ for the most part, but Drake has his moments on the second verse, whether it’s “…But I was there Nas don sh*t, a couple things sit on my conscience…” or “They gave the task to a purposeful child / verse’s starts to get a little more personal now…” It’s assembled like a hit, but I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece per se. Good, but still room for growth.
Closer “Ballin’” doesn’t leave much room for the listener to formulate his/her own picture; he basically illustrates for you. He’s not the best at ‘romance’, but he has physical pleasures locked down, or so he suggests: “That’s my baby / better get you wet now / better make you sweat now…” If you don’t mind your R&B rather unemotional yet hyper-sexual, “Ballin’” should suit you.
Overall thoughts? PARTYNEXTDOOR is a solid snapshot into the artist’s potential, but there is also plenty of room to ‘step up his game’. Yes, money and sex are popular topics that effect everybody, but, it doesn’t hurt to ‘flip the script’ sometimes. The mixtape suffers from being ‘formulaic’ when compared to his contemporaries from Canada; that may be the biggest glaring issue. PARTYNEXTDOOR must make sure he crafts his own sound and opts for more than his stripper escapades as a basis for his music. Sure plenty of men enjoy the same things PARTYNEXTDOOR speaks of, but isn’t there more to him than that?
Favorites: “Wild B*tches”; “Break From Toronto”; “TBH”
- Mixtape: PARTYNEXTDOOR – PARTYNEXTDOOR [@partyOMO] (dayandadream.com)
- Partynextdoor – “Partynextdoor” (nickygeezy.com)
- Mixtape Monday: PARTYNEXTDOOR (thebsjournal.wordpress.com)
- Partynextdoor – Partynextdoor (ep) (csnowheaties.com)
- Partynextdoor-partynextdoor (ep) (coalculture.wordpress.com)
- Mixtape: PARTYNEXTDOOR – PARTYNEXTDOOR (rudeboyy.com)
- Album Stream: PARTYNEXTDOOR “PARTYNEXTDOOR” (complex.com)
Sometimes the truth is hard, but the truth is that music does not sell the way that it once did. Before this is accused to be a generalization, all styles and former blockbuster artists have waned in the amount of albums sold. Younger generations are more content with an a la carte approach in which they can select their favorite songs or the singles. Some artists have even compromised/molded their ‘artistry’ out of humongous pop hits as opposed to a cohesive album. Additionally, throw in the latest trend of online listening services (Spotify and Rdio) where a monthly subscription to stream replaces purchase of digital tracks, and you have a whole other threatening agent to physical music sales. The CD still exists, but things have cooled off - go to any big retailer and you can see this in action. But this opinion editorial is not going to tackle the entire industry, but rather a tiny sub-section – R&B music.
Running down some new videos in the urban world. Pretty self-explanatory, right?
Fantasia, “Lose To Win”
Fantasia unveils the video for her Commodores sampling single “Lose To Win.” Let me first say that I am a gargantuan fan of Fantasia’s voice – always have been. I like voices that are unique and I also understand why those voices may not tickle everyone’s fancy. That said, I was not crazy about the single (compared to a home run like “Bittersweet”), though I think she sings it - and everything else – well.
The video conveys the inspirational, truthful message of the single, yielding the expected love-gone-wrong storyline. It doesn’t influence me personally to ‘love’ the single, but it successfully complements it. You still have to be able to get past the “Nightshift” sample of course…
RaVaughn featuring Wale, “Better Be Good”
You just don’t know how in love I am with this single by newcomer RaVaughn. Catchy, well sung, and now add a music video clip! SIGH! The video clip is as fun as the feel good, sassy number itself. RaVaughn and her girls have a night out at the club, living life up. Who wouldn’t want to be good to RaVaughn? I’m just saying!
August Alsina – “I Luv This Sh*t” featuring Trinidad James
So when a new male rapper/R&B singer comes along, you almost always expect them these days to be more of a ‘bad boy’ and talk about their favorite past times: girls, smoking, money, cars, etc. August Alsina passes the test with all of those things on his new single/video clip.
This should REALLY be a song I should completely tear apart critically. The title is simple (and explicit) and should be an instant turn off. That said, “I Love This” gets a lift by thoughtful production with synthesized horns and contemporary R&B/hip-hop stylings. It’s also sort of catchy, even if it isn’t deep at all. The video matches the overt, youthful nature of the song itself, featuring smoking, grillz, swagger, an old-school ride, near-completely naked girls, and of course molly-popping Trinidad James (“All Gold Everything” MC). No wonder people “love this sh–”. If you are looking for something more intelligible, well don’t bother with this.
Marques Houston, “Speechless”
Girls have been ‘speechless’ over Marques Houston for years. On his latest single/video “Speechless”, he can’t even give jealous guys a reason to hate on him. He has a voice that seems to embody sex – particularly that piercing falsetto. And as is the trend with male R&B artists in particular (sell/sing about sex), that sums up “Speechless”. That said, you can’t deny the production work/overall sound of the record – cleverly executed. Theme/topic is still the same – Guy ogles after girl, thinks she’s a dime piece. LOL.
The Weeknd, “Twenty Eight”
(Video clip NSFW)
Okay, I’m totally into the new alternative R&B movement (Miguel, Frank
Ocean, and The Weeknd). I think that The Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye) had a great release with Trilogy (his three mix tapes combined) and has the voice of a lady killer (it’s the falsetto, upper register tenor, great tone). That said, he generally sings about girls and weed, but he does emo-youthful R&B well. This video is graphic and raw (adult themes), matching the emotion that The Weeknd sings with.
R&B had a difficult 2012. I know that those who heavily supported/continue to support the genre are probably dismayed by that initial statement. I too am dismayed, but the statement couldn’t ring truer. The issues with R&B in 2012 lie within (1) commercial viability and (2) identity crisis. Most issues within the genre fall within one of these two central issues.
Commercial issues are the most troubling R&B issue of 2012. Can you name one R&B album that was certified platinum in 2012? How many gold R&B album’s materialized from 2012? I don’t have to do major research to tell you that I don’t recall one platinum R&B album in 2012 and not many (if any) gold certified ones. That’s a serious downward trend from previous years. It is disheartening to me in particular as R&B is a genre I have supported for years and years, but seems as if it continues to cool off and has shrunken its ‘commercial’ base (I won’t throw a cheap GOP joke in here, but I thought about it).
The debut numbers for R&B efforts released in 2012 are the first signs of this commercial drop-off. You will notice that peak positions on the big chart are not the issue as many of the artists debuted solidly by that account, but it is the numbers that are troubling. Here are numbers and promo singles for notable R&B albums released in 2012:
- Estelle‘s All Of Me (released February 28, 2012), debuted at no. 28 on the Billboard 200 Chart with 15,000 copies. Previous effort, ’08s Shine peaked worse at no. 38 (nearly 15,000 copies), but benefited from hit single “American Boy”, a no. 9 hit on the Billboard Hot 100.
- Robert Glasper‘s Black Radio (released February 28, 2012), debuted at no. 15 on the Billboard 200. This could be considered a triumph for the relatively unknown jazz-pianist outside of jazz circles. Glasper is nominated in R&B categories within the 2013 Grammy nominations.
- Melanie Fiona’s The MF Life (released March 20, 2012), debuted at no. 7 on the Billboard 200 Chart with 34,000 copies sold its first week. “4 AM” arrived ahead of the effort back 2011 and went on peak at no. 81 on the Billboard Hot 100.
- Monica’s New Life (released April 9, 2012), debuted at no. 4 on the Billboard 200 Chart with 69,000 copies sold its first week. Singles “Anything (To Find you),” “It All Belongs To Me,” and “Until It’s Gone” were released ahead of New Life with none making a dint into the pop charts.
- SWV‘s independently released I Missed Us (released April 17, 2012), debuted at no. 25 on the Billboard 200 Chart with 14,000 copies solid its first week.
- Tank‘s This Is How I Feel (released May 9, 2012), debuted at no. 9 on the Billboard 200 Chart with 30,000 copies solid it’s first week. This was a marked improvement peak position-wise than 2010′s Now or Never which bowed during December of 2010 at no. 35. That said, Now or Never bowed healthier with 44,000 copies sold. Singles “Compliments” and “Next Breath” served as promos.
- Eric Benét’s The One (released June 5, 2012), debuted at no. 32 on the Billboard 200 Chart (unsure of number of copies). Singles “Real Love” and “Harriet Jones” served as promos for the effort; neither charted on the Billboard Hot 100.
- Usher’s Looking 4 Myself (released June 12, 2012), debuted at no. 1 on the Billboard 200 Chart with 128,000 copies. Singles promoting the album included “Climax” (no. 17) and “Scream” (no. 9).
- Bobby Womack, The Bravest Man in the Universe (released June 12, 2012), debuted at no. 181 on the Billboard 200 Chart. Single “Please Forgive My Heart” arrived ahead of the effort.
- R. Kelly’s Take Me Back (released June 26, 2012), debuted at no. 5 on the Billboard 200 Chart with 68,000 copies. Singles “Feelin’ Single” and “Share My Love” gained little pop traction.
- Chris Brown’s Fortune (released July 3, 2012), debuted at no. 1 on the Billboard 200 Chart with 135,000 copies. Brown had released several singles prior to the release of Fortune including “Strip” (no. 37) and “Turn Up The Music” (no. 10
- Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange (released July 17, 2012) debuted at no. 2 on the Billboard 200 Chart with 131,000 copies sold its first week. Single “Thinkin Bout You” had been around since 2011, but didn’t pick up traction to a wider audience until this year after Channel Orange had materialized.
- Elle Varner‘s debut effort Perfectly Imperfect (released August 7, 2012), debuted at no. 4 on the Billboard 200 Chart with 33,000 copies sold during its first week. Single “Refill” garnered success on the R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
- Trey Songz’s Chapter V (released August 21, 2012), debuted at no. 1 on the Billboard 200 Chart with 128,000 copies. ”Heart Attack” was the promo single ahead of Chapter V, peaking at no. 35 on the Billboard Hot 100.
- Angie Stone‘s Rich Girl (released September 18, 2012), debuted at a tepid no. 109 with only 4,000 copies sold. Previous effort ’09s Unexpected had a worse peak position (no. 133). Stone’s best debut week was was 2007′s The Art of Love & War for the revived Stax label, which bowed at no. 11 with 45,000 copies. Being fair, Stone has never had a top 10 album, but peaking in the 100s on the Billboard 200 is never triumphant.
- Miguel’s Kaleidoscope Dream (released October 2, 2012), debuted at no. 3 on the Billboard 200 Chart with 71,000 copies sold its first week. “Adorn” had began picking up traction prior to it’s release, but gained more once the effort had already peaked.
- Faith Evans led compilation R&B Divas (released October 2, 2012), a companion soundtrack to the brief television series, debuted at no. 46 with nearly 11,000 copies. Faith Evans’s popularity has been waning considerably in recent years with 2005′s The First Lady being her last notable triumph bowing at no. 2 with 157,000 copies. R&B Divas was promoted by Evans’s “Tears Of Joy”, which charted on the R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Chart but failed to chart on the Billboard Hot 100.
- Brandy, Two Eleven (released October 15, 2012), debuted at no. 3 on the Billboard 200 Chart with 65,000 copies. This marked a substantial peaking improvement from ’08s Human which peaked at a tepid no. 15. Much like Tank‘s This Is How I Feel, Two Eleven sold less copies than it’s former album upon its debut week. Human managed a healthier (not by much) 73,000 copies, which was a huge drop-off from the 129,000 copies that graced 04s Afrodisiac.
- Ne-Yo’s R.E.D. (released November 6, 2012), debuted at no. 4 on the Billboard 200 chart with 66,000 copies sold its first week. Ne-Yo had a Billboard Hot 100 hit with “Let Me Love You (Until You Learn To Love Yourself),” which peaked at no. 9.
- The Weeknd‘s Trilogy (released November 13, 2012) debuted at no. 4 on the Billboard 200 Chart with 86,000 copies sold its first week. The Weeknd is a ‘burgeoning’ artist by all means in the U.S., receiving a boost through his work on Drake‘s Take Care (“Crew Love”) and growing single ”Wicked Games”.
- Rihanna’s Unapologetic (released November 19, 2012), debuted at no. 1 on the Billboard 200 Chart with 240,000 copies sold its first week. Rihanna’s promo single “Diamonds” also topped the Billboard Hot 100 ahead of Unapologetic‘s release.
- Keyshia Cole’s Woman to Woman debuted at no. 10 on the Billboard 200 Chart with 96,000 copies. Singles “Enough of No Love” featuring Lil Wayne (no. 89) and “Trust And Believe” promoted the effort ahead of its release.
- Alicia Keys‘s Girl on Fire debuted at no. 1 on the Billboard 200 Chart with 159,000 copies sold.
After studying the numbers, notice which albums were the most successful. Rihanna’s Unapologetic leads the charge, garnering her first no. 1 album and selling the year’s healthiest R&B total of 240,000. Yes, I know, many wouldn’t categorize Rihanna as ‘legitimate’ R&B, so if we eliminate her, notice that everyone else firmly planted within the R&B genre sold no more than 159,000 copies. Guess who that was? An underperforming Alicia Keys album called Girl On Fire. Who’s next? A critically panned Chris Brown album entitled Fortune with 135,000 copies sold, down from F.A.M.E.‘s gaudier numbers. As stated previously, the numbers are down for R&B and continually cool. When top R&B artists can’t sell as if they are on autopilot (Alicia Keys, Usher, Chris Brown, Trey Songz, Ne-Yo, R.Kelly), ‘Houston, we have a problem.’
R&B’s biggest problem might be what I diagnose as an identity crisis. R&B has been cooling off and so many of its artists have turned their back on pure R&B in favor of crossing over with pop and dance trends. The biggest trend may be this new crossover with EDM (electronic dance music). There is no problems with wanting to do different experiments, but the problem is that you risk alienating your core constituency. Ask Usher and Chris Brown, who saw their numbers much more underwhelming than expected. Usher did the EDM/Pop crossover thing much better than Brown’s hedonistic version that involved references to bass lines, condoms, and “trumpet lights”, but saw a 200,000 copy drop from the sales of 2010′s Raymond v. Raymond. Ouch. Brown’s drop-off from critically acclaimed F.A.M.E. wasn’t pretty either, dropping from 270,000 to 135,000. While there are takers for both artists and albums, I speak as a fan of both (I’m not big on Brown as of late), that I prefer their previous approaches to this pop/crossover style.
Alicia Keys has even experienced some ID crisis and y’all know I hate to criticize “My Boo”. I prefer both her voice, songwriting,
and overall approach on her earliest efforts (Songs In A Minor, Diary of Alicia Keys, and even the more neo-soul moments of As I Am) to recent efforts The Element of Freedom or Girl On Fire. Her sales have reflected this identity crisis as well. Keys has tried to drive in in a more pop-oriented direction, almost completely stripping her neo-soul stylings. Girl On Fire has succeeded more with a popular single earlier than later than The Element Of Freedom, which had a bomb with promo single “Doesn’t Mean Anything” which sounded too similar to “No One”.
R. Kelly is trying to preserve classic R&B as of late, but given his salacious past, he’s not as interesting when he’s not comparing women to jeeps or urging his lady “let me stick my key in your ignition, baby!” Write Me Back has a triumphant moment in “Clipped Wings”, but face it, there’s not enough innuendo for the same singer/songwriter who bragged of “The Greatest Sex” or even as recently as messing with the “Same Girl” with Usher. And guess what? Write Me Back sold under 100,000 copies, a first for an R. Kelly album.
Others have both regained yet re-lost their steam including Monica and Brandy, both teen R&B stars from the past. Brandy may have better aimed for the ‘modern’ R&B album than her “Boy Is Mine” duet parter Mo, who basically delivered a safe album characterized by its balladry and sleepiness. Keyshia Cole had a run, but seems to be past her lucrative peak as of late.
Newcomers/Young artists Frank Ocean, Miguel, and The Weeknd all have tremendous promise, but do they have enough backing to eventually push them to RIAA certified albums? Will their alt-R&B nature force them to try to opt for more crossover means to achieve commercial success by pop standards? And what about that excellent album we slept on by Melanie Fiona with the superb “Wrong Side of a Love Song”.
What is the future of R&B? Will it still have the basic tenets of the past or will it completely trend pop? Should we make a big issue over these numbers or just see how the style fares in 2013?