Tory Lanez, I Told You © Interscope

Thoughts: Tory Lanez, ‘I Told You’


★★★

Tory Lanez • I Told You • Mad Love / Interscope • Release: 8.19.16

Everyone seems to want to be the next Drake, right? Maybe, maybe not, but there are plenty of artists who emulate the rapper/singer duo these days.  The latest is Tory Lanez who just happened to born in Canada himself.  Lanez built his buzz with a platinum single by the name of “Say It” which happens to be the among the crème de la crème of his highly anticipated debut album, I Told You. 

Going into I Told You, as a music critic and music lover, the expectations for the album were high. “Say It ” was rightfully “kind of a big deal,” so surely I Told You could back it up with an album of ‘hits’.  Ultimately, while it has some terrific moments, the album also has its flaws. Lanez showcases great potential, but realizing that potential as his own distinct artist is the next step.  Also shorter tracks sans embedded interludes is another consideration.

Is I Told You bad? No.  Is it great? No.  It’s good, but there’s room for growth.  Tory Lanez is young enough and talented enough to ‘figure it out’.  The link to the detailed, track-by-track review resides below.

Tory Lanez, I Told You © Interscope

Up-and-coming rapper and singer Tory Lanez delivers an ambitious debut album with ‘I Told You’. It’s imperfect, but he showcases plenty of potential. The post… 18 more words

via Tory Lanez Delivers an Ambitious Debut With ‘I Told You’ — The Musical Hype

Photo Credit: Mad Love / Interscope 
ScHoolboy Q, Blank Face LP © Interscope

ScHoolboy Q Keeps It 100 on ‘Blank Face LP’


★★★★

ScHoolboy Q • Blank Face LP • Interscope • Release: 7.8.16

Some albums require more time…to listen to/comprehend that is.  That is the case with West Coast rapper ScHoolboy Q‘s fourth studio album, Blank Face LP.  After absorbing Blank Face LP, it’s magic unfolds to the listener.  The first time though…it can be trying, confounding, and off-putting.  All in all, this is one of the year’s better rap offerings.  Clearly, it didn’t receive the sales, debuting at no. 2 with 74,000 units, BUT, even those numbers are respectable for time where almost NOTHING sells proficiently.

What’s the general premise of Blank Face LP? Hustling, the street life, and real talk. This is very much a West Coast LP through and through.

Favorites from Blank Face LP are as follows: “Lord Have Mercy,” “THat Part,” “Groovy Tony/Eddie Kane,” “Ride Out,” “Dope Dealer,” and “JoHn Muir.” You can check out the full rundown on Blank Face LP at The Musical Hype. The link to the review resides below.

West Coast rapper Schoolboy Q delivers a dark and intriguing effort on his highly anticipated fourth album, ‘Blank Face LP.’ The post ScHoolboy Q, Blank Face LP (Review) 6 more words

via ScHoolboy Q, Blank Face LP (Review) — The Musical Hype

Photo Credit: Interscope
Maxwell, blackSUMMER'Snight © Columbia

Maxwell, ‘blackSUMMERS’night’: By The Lyrics


After making a grand comeback in 2009 with BLACKsummers’night, R&B standout Maxwell made fans wait another seven years for the second part of promised trilogy, blackSUMMERS’night.  Ultimately, the wait was well worth it as blackSUMMERS’night is exceptional.  The problem for Maxwell is that ‘coming back again after a comeback’ is difficult.  In other words, the numbers are looking sketchy for Max.

Regardless, the focus of this article is lyrics. After reviewing blackSUMMERS’night (link below), what better thing to do than examine some of the most memorable lyrics?

1. “Nevertheless, never settle for less / higher I go, I’m never quenched / even though life never goes so right / do what you feel”

“All the Ways Love Can Feel”

Commentary: The key excerpt is “do what you feel.”  The keyword has to be do as in “make it do.” The song is called “All the Ways Love Can Feel” after all, and DOing it would be one of those, right?

 2.“Forgive me for waiting so long / for taking the time to rise and destroy,”

“The Fall.”

Commentary: Listen to “The Fall” and Maxwell treats the word fall in a number of ways.  In one sense, he refers to the season (“When does the summer fall?”).  In another sense, he’s falling in love (“but only if you’re hear”).  Here specifically, he refers to his shortcomings and self-consciousness, highlighted by the word destroy.

 3. “Cupid keeps targeting me / arrows are flying, I can’t see / I just want a Michele Obama lady / to hold me down, when the world’s crazy”

“Ill”

Commentary: Maxwell is looking for just the right woman. In his eyes, she’s like Michele Obama. 

 4. “Why do I live inside of you baby / wanna be every part of you”

– “Lake By The Ocean”

Commentary:  One word: infatuation.

5. “It’s just you, just us / nobody but / love on trust, on us / nobody now / can we swim a lake by the ocean / we’ll be one like drops in slow motion”

– “Lake By The Ocean”

Commentary: Reiterating, infatuation.

6.“Maybe your love is just a big mistake / maybe our love was just a world away / if you get the courage baby / one day, someday, probably, maybe / you’ll be mine, all mine”

“Fingers Crossed”

Commentary: Someday, they’ll be a couple in love and all its glory.  That’s about the size of it.

 7. You are the object I get lost in / I am falling hostage.”

– “Hostage” 

Commentary: Again, infatuation.

 8. “Lay here closely beside me / feel my heart as it’s pounding / I can climax with reason / cause we’re grown and we own it”

– “1990X”

Commentary: Grown-folks baby-making.  Only Maxwell could make sex sound so poetic with a lyric like, I can climax with reason.

 9. “The answers don’t ever make no sense / when the questions are up to you”

– “Gods” 

 Commentary: As the saying goes, “if mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.”  In this case, Maxwell is saying that the direction of the relationship is in his lover’s hands.  She plays the “game of gods” because she controls his emotions and ultimately their relationship.

10. “You’re the God in my mind / you’re the highest high / of all kind”

“Of All Kind”

Commentary: Infatuation to the nth degree.

Many of these quotes were used in the review of the album. Please check out the track-by-track review of this album on the The Musical Hype.  Even better, support Maxwell.  blackSUMMERS’night is an album that deserves more attention – specifically more sales/streams – than its receiving.

Maxwell remains consistent on latest LP blackSUMMERS’night, while successfully tweaking his sound to embody and appeal to the times. The post Maxwell, ‘blackSUMMERS’night’ Well Worth the Wait… 6 more words

via Maxwell, ‘blackSUMMERS’night’ Well Worth the Wait — The Musical Hype

Cash Cash, Blood, Sweat & 3 Years © Big Beat : Atlantic

Cash Cash,‘Blood, Sweat & 3 Years’(Review)


Cash Cash • Blood, Sweat & 3 Years • Big Beat • Released: 6.24.16

Depth certainly isn’t the M.O. of dance/electronic music.  Depth isn’t the M.O. of Cash Cash either.  It doesn’t need to be.  The DJ/production trio have hits, and in dance music, isn’t that all that really matters? Blood, Sweat & 3 Years isn’t ‘the second coming,’ (Cash Cash aren’t Jesus or anything like that), but it has enough moments to tickle one’s fancy. Check out the full review of Blood, Sweat & 3 Years at The Musical Hype.  The link is included below.

DJ/Production trio Cash Cash’s latest LP, Blood, Sweat & 3 Years, possesses energetic and enjoyable moments as well as some less memorable moments.

via Cash Cash Instigate Dance On ‘Blood, Sweat & 3 Years’ — The Musical Hype

Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Getaway © Warner Bros

Red Hot Chili Peppers Nail It on ‘The Getaway’


Starting a new self-hosted music site called themusicalhype, which will feature reviews, evergreen, opinion pieces, etc. My review of one of my favorite bands, Red Hot Chili Pepper‘s latest album appears there.  Here is the link to read the review.  The new site is still a work-in-progress, but this post and many others already appear.

Red Hot Chili Peppers Nail It On ‘The Getaway’

Jon Bellion, The Human Condition © Capitol

Jon Bellion vs Nick Jonas: Who Has the Best Pop Album?


On Friday, June 10, 2016, a number of artists released new albums.  June 10 was sort of a big deal in the music world, even if sales for the new albums is expected to be a disappointment despite the quantity, sigh.  Two pop artists dropped their new LPs: Long Island’s Jon Bellion and former teen-pop standout, Nick Jonas.  Jon Bellion exceeds pop parameters, but we’ll ‘box him’ into pop for our purposes.  As for Jonas, pop is his wheelhouse exclusively, though his latest album has plenty of urban flair.

TWO pop albums, SO, one has to be better than the other, right? Not necessarily, but for the sake of this competitive article, YES.  Let’s break down each album and see which one of these dudes nailed it!

Let’s start with the establishment – wait, that sounds political. Nick Jonas is established in the sense that he’s been in the music industry for a while. His current sound – urban-infused – just materialized with his 2014 album, Nick Jonas.  On Nick Jonas, Jonas didn’t completely embrace his R&B chops, but he certainly does throughout the course of Last Year Was Complicated.  In effect, Last Year Was Complicated is the modern day R&B album that most R&B albums can’t successfully sell.  That doesn’t mean Jonas will have a platinum album on his hands by any means, but he is fairly well positioned to get a look.

Last Year Was Complicated is slickly produced and covers pop/urban music’s most important topic, SEX. All in all, Jonas doesn’t go overboard, but considering the fact he’s entering his 24th year, it’s unsurprising he wants to sing about it (and of course partake).  Some of Jonas’ best moments come by way of “Voodoo,” “Champagne Problems,” “Close” and “Bacon.”  On “Voodoo,” he’s trying not to be possessed by her voodoo…makes sense.  On “Champagne Problems,” they’re breaking it off, so TOAST…CHEERS.  “Close” involves “heavy petting” – catch the drift? And on “Bacon,” well, it’s delicious.  Also worth mentioning is “Chainsaw” where Jonas plans to “break the f*cking china / cause it’s just one more reminder you’re gone, you’re gone.” All in all folks, that’s modern day pop, intact with the f-word.

Let’s go to Bellion, who also uses f*ck occasionally to intensify things, though that’s neither here nor there.  Bellion’s album, The Human Condition, is a fascinating listen from start to finish.  Like Jonas, Bellion tackles sex, though “80s Films” seems to be the only song that takes it all the way.  Even so, “80s Films” goes beyond the act, truly looking back upon 80s culture in itself.  Can you say transcendence? And moving on!

Beyond the obligatory sex song that transcends copulation, there’s plenty of songs about love, breakups, lack of love, so on an so forth. Yep, Jonas did that too with the likes of “Champagne Problems” and “Chainsaw,” though arguably, Bellion “goes in” a bit more.  On “All Time Low” the love has ended, with Bellion proclaiming, “Now I’m a ghost, I call your name, you look right through me / you’re the reason I’m alone and masturbate.” Damn – but he’s honest and most people wouldn’t be THAT honest. He goes further than “trying to fix my pride / but that’s sh*t’s broken” on “All Time Low,” later proclaiming himself to be a robot on “iRobot” and waking the f*ck up on “Woke The F*ck Up” about his feelings towards her.

So, with both albums exploring heartbreak, love, and sex, where is the separation and who separates themselves the best? It’s Jon Bellion.  Beyond the overlap of the two albums, Bellion goes next-level and doesn’t merely reside in the love/sex lane.  He opens with “He Is The Same,” speaking upon his personal philosophies.  He doesn’t stop there.  “Weight of the World” and “Hand of God – Outro” dabble in spirituality.  “Morning in America” is socially conscious, focusing in on youth’s idiosyncrasies. “Fashion” is also socially conscious, aiming at materialism.

So, who has the best pop album between Nick Jonas and Jon Bellion? While Jonas may have heartthrob locked up after showing off those abs, Bellion gets the edge when it comes to album this round.  Both albums are great, but Bellion gets the edge thanks to being more transcendent, not to mention the views he offered into the process of composing and recording The Human Condition.

This article was originally published on oneopinionatedmusician.com.

 

ShirleyCaesar, Fill This House © Entertainment One

Pastor Shirley Caesar Sounds as Spiritual As Ever On ‘Fill This House’


Shirley Caesar • Fill This House • Entertainment One • Release Date: 6.3.16

Perhaps I wasn’t the kindest to gospel legend Pastor Shirley Caesar, at least in regards to her album artwork for her latest album, Fill This House.  What can I say? – I’m a sinner.  Anyways, cover art opinions to the side, Caesar’s latest album is consistent.  Honestly, does Shirley Caesar know anything but consistency after her decades in the game? The answer is NO.  While Fill This House doesn’t reinvent the wheel, WHAT IS reinventing the wheel in any genre, particularly gospel? Rhetorical to the nth degree.

Over its inspiring course, Shirley Caesar’s voice sounds terrific at 77 years of age.  It’s amazing that Caesar can still pack such a punch as the voice tends to weather, weakening with age and even more with overuse.  As mentioned in the aforementioned “meany” article, the praise for Caesar’s pipes was noted (again, it was the cover art!).

Rather than go track by track, let’s illustrate the crème de la crème. Opener “It’s Alright, It’s OK” gives Caesar a contemporary gospel sound that’s fresh, but not “brand new.” Call this fresh in the context of the state of gospel, borrowing traditional cues but adding a dash of modern flair. R&B standout Anthony Hamilton is a perfect match for Caesar on this “leaning on God” record, with the two showcasing exceptional chemistry.

The tour de force isn’t the Caesar/Hamilton duet, unbelievably – it’s the moving “Mother Emanuel.”  “Mother Emanuel” references the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church, nicknamed Mother Emanuel.  Why is the South Carolina Church significant beyond its history? It’s where the racially-driven mass shooting occurred in 2015, murdering nine parishioners including pastor (and state senator) Clementa Pinckney. It’s rare to find a gospel song that digs deeper into current events or societal issues specifically, so “Mother Emanuel” has a deeper resonance and significance.

Of course, there are more than two worthwhile moments from Fill This House, but the aforementioned two are surefire home runs from Caesar’s perspective.  Other notable numbers include the rousing  “He Won’t Fail You,” which follows up “It’s Alright, It’s OK.” Here, Caesar is backed by a choir and allows herself to “let loose” even more than the opener.  “Survive This” is as energetic and fiery as anything else, featuring another gospel standout, Hezekiah Walker.  On title track “Fill This House,” Caesar as always ‘nails’ the uplifting ballad, amplified by the spiritual choir backing her.

All in all, Caesar doesn’t miss a beat on Fill This House (not going to mention that artwork again…).  While gospel isn’t the go-to genre for innovative spirit, there are some moments where Caesar ‘goes against the grain’, whether it’s the memorial “Mother Emanuel” or the tropical-infused “Sow Righteous Seeds” (for better or worse depending on preference).  Ultimately, another winner from Pastor Caesar.

Favorites: “It’s Alright, It’s OK,” “He Won’t Fail You,” and “Mother Emanuel”

★★★½

Kygo, Cloud Nine © RCA

Kygo Delivers Enjoyable Debut With ‘Cloud Nine’


It’s safe to say that the profile of electronic music has grown over recent years. Yep, everybody loves a bass drop, not to mention the ability to groove to an electrifyingly, sick, minimalist groove – what a mouthful! Anyways, a newbie has joined the electronic music ranks – 24-year old Norwegian pianist/DJ/producer Kygo. Kygo is the next electronic star to watch, and his enjoyable debut Cloud Nine proves why.

“Intro” sets the tone for Cloud Nine, featuring clear classical music influences, with its pianistic touches and dramatic, aggressive strings. “Stole the Show” featuring Parson James follows, directing the album toward pop and electro sensibilities. Much like the intro, Kygo’s musical choices are gentler, driven more by ambiance as opposed to harder synths. Regardless, there’s still rhythmic intensity behind it as the percussiveness is a fine contrast to the gentler sounds within the production. James sings well, but the track still manages to place Kygo – or his music rather – in the spotlight.

“Fiction” featuring Tom Odell has a slightly more aggressive palette of sounds given the inclusion of guitar. It’s interesting, considering Odell sings in falsetto during the verses, giving something of an oxymoronic vibe. Like the opener, Kygo generally favors subtle sounds, once more clearly articulated during instrumental sections, breaks, and interludes. Kygo’s most dynamic moment is when he uses the piano.

“Raging” opens with driving, rhythmic guitars, but maintains its poise nonetheless. In this case, it’s Kodaline that initially builds the intensity. A nice production touch here is how this track shifts between prominences of the voice versus prominence of the music. What does that mean? At points, Kodaline are clearly the focus, while at others, Kygo makes his music the principal voice.

“Firestone,Kygo’s worldwide smash, brings on Australian pop standout, Conrad Sewell. Much like previous songs, it’s clear to see Kygo’s musicianship, given his careful thought and seamless execution instrumentally. Sewell naturally sounds compelling as well. That said, compared to “Raging” for example, “Firestone” may not be the best song on Cloud Nine, despite the success Kygo has garnered.

“Happy Birthday” gives Kygo a different look, mainly thanks to featuring R&B standout John Legend. From Legend’s perspective, it is interesting to hear one of the industry’s most soulful singers in a pop/dance capacity. While pure soul will always be Legend’s lane (he proved this on his mixed contemporary pop/R&B effort Evolver), he sounds respectable here. Kygo naturally does a nice job of giving Legend a superb backdrop to paint those pipes over.

“I’m In Love” instantly captures the listener’s attention, thanks to Irish singer/songwriter James Vincent McMorrow’s haunting vocals repeating the titular track. Musically, this is among the more enigmatic tracks. “Oasis” stands out from the first listen. Singer/songwriter Foxes proves to be the perfect match for Kygo, unsurprising considering her exceptional work with Zedd (“Clarity”). It’s safe to say that the “oasis” is overflowing.

“Not Alone,” featuring RHODES, is as consistent as everything else, sporting a feel-good vibe. After all, as RHODES sings, “you’re not alone.” It supersedes nothing but plays true to Kygo’s script. “Serious” opens mysteriously, with a fantastic, low-key groove established. Matt Corby’s lower register vocals stand out particularly, matching the mystic nature of the track. “Stay” ‘pops’ more, with Maty Noyes vocals packing a punch, not unlike Foxes’ ‘turn’ on “Oasis.”

How does the rest of Cloud Nine pan out? “Nothing Left” is “chill,” but has a weight about it considering its use of lower sounds and even guest Will Heard’s lower register. Things brighten up when Heard, much like Matt Corby earlier, ascends into his mid- and upper register. The radiant “Fragile” features Labrinth, who seems to be growing in popularity stateside (he appeared on Mike Posner’s At Night, Alone recently). Tender at times while gritty at others, “Fragile” is among the stronger moments of the album. Labrinth’s vocal grit coupled with Kygo’s knack for musical nuance make for a beautiful union.

Penultimate number “Carry Me,” featuring Julia Michaels, has a tough act to follow. Sound it is, it’s not the most memorable offering. Closer “For What It’s Worth” features Angus Stone and Julia Stone. One pro is the fact that it’s different from the majority of cuts that precede it. A con? At this point, Cloud Nine runs a bit long, even sitting just under an hour.

All in all, Cloud Nine is a well-rounded electronic album. It’s not perfect, but there’s more than enough for the listener to sink their teeth into and be satisfied. As aforementioned, even at just under an hour, a few songs could’ve been trimmed and Cloud Nine would’ve been more tightly constructed and better rounded. Even as it stands, Kygo is definitely an artist to watch.

Favorites: “Fiction,” “Raging,” “I’m In Love,” “Oasis” and “Fragile”

★★★½

Kygo • Cloud Nine • Sony • Release Date: 5.13.16

Andy Black, The Shadow Side © Republic

Whose New Album Is Better – Mike Posner Or Andy Black?


So on Monday, we dove into country headfirst and pitted two country albums released May 6, 2016, against each other. Today, May 7, 2016, we pit two unlike artists against one another – Mike Posner and Andy Black (Andy Biersack, frontman of Black Veil Brides). So the burning question is WHYYYYY? Just because – that’s why! Pop against alternative/rock/pop – LEGGO!

So let’s be fair first. Both Mike Posner (At Night, Alone.) and Andy Black (The Shadow Side) released enjoyable albums worthy of multiple spins. In their own right, both artists should be proud of the material released – “they left it all on the field.” But for the purpose of playing devil’s advocate and “making something out of nothing” (literally), here comes a pick…DRUM ROLL PLZ!

Mike Posner, At Night, Alone. © Island

The winner for best album in this absurd head-to-head goes to…Mike Posner’s At Night, Alone, by a nose – a booger if you will. Yep, it’s close AF: Posner 75, Black/Biersack 74. Posner’s album gets the nod because compared to the artist he seemed to be establishing himself to be in 2010, he’s truly matured. At Night, Alone isn’t perfect, but there’s plenty to embrace. While much of the attention has been paid upon the Seeb Remix of “I Took A Pill In Ibiza,” folks that actually listened/purchased his The Truth EP in 2015 know the original is the best.

But let’s not discount Black. Honestly, as a music journalist/critic, Black’s album came onto the radar late. On Starpulse, I publish a weekly column on notable new releases that arrive in any given week. Andy Black’s solo debut was included, but admittedly, I didn’t do much research in the “listening” department. After taking the time and hearing “We Don’t Have To Dance,” let’s say The Shadow Side became a purchasing priority on May 6, 2016.

So, just how good is the “loser” The Shadow Side? Black has a terrific voice and even on the less notable songs, his pipes always shine. The production also is a selling point, whether it’s heavy guitars for captivating synths. Black has got me on board when he asserts, “Yeah, f*ck the homecoming king” on opener “Homecoming King,” while the oxymoronic cleverness of “Break Your Halo” is, well, clever. So, Black was in it to win it.

Ultimately, as asserted earlier, this is an unfair comparison (Andy Black, please don’t take this nonsensical poppycock BS seriously). Both albums will tickle your fancies, so if you haven’t indulged in either, you’re missing out. Hopefully, both Posner and Black can see some respectable numbers with two albums that deserve to be spinning worldwide.

Cole Swindell, You Should Be Here © Warner Music Nashville

Whose New Album Is Better – Keith Urban Or Cole Swindell?


There were two highly anticipated country albums released on May 6, 2016: Keith Urban’s Ripcord and Cole Swindell’s You Should Be Here. Urban is well established in country circles, releasing his debut album back in 1997 (The Ranch). As far as Swindell is concerned, he’s the “new kid on the block” as You Should Be Here is his sophomore album.

So, with the aforementioned information considered, it’s not possible for two male country artists to release albums on the same day and there be no competition. Besides, what would life be like without healthy competition, right? Right. So, after hearing both albums, one clearly MUST trump the other! Who wins the head to head between Keith Urban and Cole Swindell?

Keith Urban, Ripcord © Capitol

Let’s just say that it’s good to be…DRUM ROLL PLEASE… KEITH URBAN. Yes, Keith Urban’s Ripcord bests Cole Swindell’s You Should Be Here. Here’s the deal. Swindell plays truer to country music on You Should Be Here, which may play better to more traditional country music listeners. Still, to call Cole Swindell a traditionalist would be a massive overstatement. Contextually, You Should Be Here is the safer album.

Those who don’t mind stretching their ears will appreciate and enjoy Keith Urban’s Ripcord better. While Urban takes lots of liberties throughout the album, it’s more exciting than Swindell’s by a mile. That’s not to write off You Should Be Here, but the album simply has one too many ballads – actually more than one – and too few times lacks that rousing “oomph” to take it to the next level. Even if Ripcord failed to rouse vocally in regards to Urban’s performance, he has brilliant, eclectic music backgrounds to make up for the slack.

When it’s all said and done, Keith Urban wins. Not only is he more experienced – he’s 48 and Swindell is 32 – he’s already defined himself as an artist and is at the stage of reinvention as opposed to ‘invention.’ Swindell still seems to be searching for his niche and distinctive personality. Save for fun songs like “Flatliner” featuring Dierks Bentley and “No Can Left Behind” and excellent ballad “You Should Be Here,” the verdict is still out on Cole Swindell artistically speaking, platinum debut album or not.