After two-months (and a week in March), we’ve had some ferocious new albums in 2016 as well as some that aren’t nearly as beastly. To help you sort out the brilliance from the BS, here’s a brief list of albums that are ON…FIRE that is and albums that are OFF…this needs no explanation.
Albums That Are On…FIRE that is!
1) David Bowie, Blackstar (Columbia)
So, how does Blackstar stack up? It’s a confusingly brilliant work of art. Despite being confusing and difficult to follow due to Bowie’s ambitiousness (or extraterrestrial nature), the artistry experience by the listener here is a rarity in contemporary music where innovativeness doesn’t run rampant. Bowie easily bests 2013 comeback album The Next Day as Blackstar reminds us why Bowie was so beloved in his heyday – his experimental spirit. Is it too early to proclaim it among the best of 2016?
Favorites: “Blackstar,” “‘Tis a Pity She Was a Whore,” “Lazarus” and “ “Sue (Or In A Season of Crime)”
2) Panic! At The Disco, Death of a Bachelor (Fueled By Ramen)
All in all, Death of a Bachelor is a fantastic album. Brendon Urie continues to show himself as one of the industry’s most eclectic musicians with a penchant for experimentation. Sure, there are times that Panic could lower the dynamic level, Urie could better control his beastly instrument, or one fewer instrument could be used, but more often than not, Death of A Bachelor rocks without a hitch.
Favorites: “Victorious,” “Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time,” “Hallelujah,” “Death of A Bachelor” and “Impossible Year”
3) Anderson .Paak, Malibu (Steel Wool / OBE)
All in all, Malibu makes for a rich listening experience – the potential is “through the roof.” Anderson Paak clearly shows himself to be force to reckoned with and hopefully Malibu isn’t just a critical breakthrough, but also a commercial breakthrough. Even if it fails to sell, Anderson Paak is clearly an artist on the rise – don’t sleep on him!
Favorites: “The Bird,” “Heart Don’t Stand a Chance,” “The Season / Carry Me,” “Put Me Thru,” “Your Prime” and “Come Down”
4) Rihanna, Anti (Roc Nation)
Ultimately, ANTI is different from Rihanna’s previous seven studio releases, but that’s not totally a bad thing. There’s a lack of radio-ready hits which may ultimately stifle commercial endurance, but particularly for dedicated fans, they should enjoy the experiments and change of pace with ANTI. Some will and some want, but ANTI is worth the time, particularly if you give it a chance – a couple of listens to settle in.
Favorites: “Kiss It Better,” “Desperado,” “Same Ol’ Mistakes,” “Love on the Brain”
(Excerpted from Review: Rihanna Switches Things Up On ‘Anti’)
5) Elton John, Wonderful Crazy Night (Mercury)
Overall, Wonderful Crazy Night is a fine new album by Elton John. Veterans don’t have anything to prove when they release new albums. That’s the case with Elton John on Wonderful Crazy Night, who doesn’t reinvent the wheel or himself, but flexes his prodigious musical muscles once more. A winner? You bet!
Favorites: “Wonderful Crazy Night,” “In The Name of You,” “Claw Hammer,” “A Good Heart”
(Excerpted from Elton John Expands His Legacy On ‘Wonderful Crazy Night’)
6) BJ The Chicago Kid, In My Mind (Motown)
Ultimately, BJ the Chicago Kid shines on In My Mind. Ever restless, he doesn’t just stick to one subgenre of R&B but rather embraces a little bit of everything. Soulful and eclectic musically, “the Chicago Kid” delivers without question, and more up and coming R&B artists could take a page out of his book.
Favorites: “Church,” “Love Inside,” “The Resume,” “Jeremiah/World Needs More Love,” “New Cupid,” and “Turnin’ Me On”
Honorable Mentions: Hands Like Houses, Dissonants (Rise); Kanye West, The Life Of Pablo (Def Jam); Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, This Unruly Mess I’ve Made (Macklemore); The 1975, I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It (Interscope)
Albums that are OFF…this needs no explanation
1) Ricky Dillon, Gold (EGR Music Group)
Ultimately, GOLD is an album one genuinely wants to like, particularly given its star, but is arguably bogged down by its flaws. It has moments, but even those ‘moments’ aren’t transcendent. Give Dillon credit for taking the leap into the cutthroat music industry and sharing his art if nothing more; he definitely shouldn’t stop pursuing his dream. Unfortunately, GOLD aims for the stars but falls short of the glory.
Favorites: “Don’t Wanna Fall in Love,” “Problematic” and “Steal The Show”
(Excerpted from Ricky Dillon Aims High, Falls Short on ‘Gold’)
2) Charlie Puth, Nine Track Mind (Atlantic)
So ultimately, its hard not to like Charlie Puth – he seems like a nice guy who’s definitely living his dream. But based upon Nine Track Mind, he’s gonna need more substance and less fluff next-go-round. Yes, there’s some scrumptiousness to be enjoyed, but there’s also some “eh” moments. Shouldn’t “Marvin Gaye” have warned us in the first place? (Brent Music Reviews)
(Excerpted from Charlie Puth’s Artistry Is A Work In Progress (Quick Thoughts))
How does Nine Track Mind fare? Eh. It’s not terrible, but neither is it profound or particularly great. At best it’s average, but even if being “average” is a considered a “bad thing,” one thing Puth always shows is potential. It’s clear he’s a polished, well-rounded musician, but he needs to work on his artistry. Furthermore, as reiterated throughout, Puth needs to kicks things into the next gear. Better, more memorable material and more risky, dynamic performances would definitely help. (Starpulse)
Favorites: “One Call Away,” “We Don’t Talk Anymore,” “Suffer” and “Some Type of Love”
(Excerpted from Charlie Puth Shows Potential, Lacks Oomph On ‘Nine Track Mind’)
3) Tank, Sex Love & Pain II (Atlantic)
How does Sex, Love & Pain II stack up? Average at best. Reiterating for the umpteenth, Tank sounds fantastic vocally. The problem is the material – it just isn’t always a perfect fit. Yes, Tank can sing about sex and be that clubby R&B artist who thrives off of swag if he wishes, but does it really suit him or elevate his artistry or showcase his abilities? No. Tank’s best when he lays off being risqué and let’s his amazing pipes make the ladies swoon (and dudes jealous).
Favorites: “You Don’t Know,” “Better For You” and “Already in Love”
(Excerpted from Tank Is Too Reliant On Trendiness On ‘Sex Love & Pain II’)
4) Wiz Khalifa, Khalifa (Atlantic)
All in all, Khalifa is average at best. At this point, the feeling is that Wiz Khalifa has ran through his best materials, best lines, and ultimately has shown all his cards. Khalifa isn’t bad, but nor is it profound. Courting new fans with Khalifa should be difficult, as it seems that the MC doesn’t have much freshness to offer aside from the same old weed references.
Favorites: “Celebrate,” “Elevated,” “Bake Sale” and “Call Waiting”
(Excerpted from Wiz Khalifa Doesn’t Switch Things Up On Sixth Album ‘Khalifa’)