Bryson Tiller, T R A P S O U L © Bryson Tiller / RCA

Bryson Tiller, ‘T R A P S O U L’ – Review (Short Take)

Bryson Tiller, T R A P S O U L © Bryson Tiller / RCA

Kentucky Bred Bryson Tiller Shows Both Potential and Room For Improvement 

Bryson Tiller • T R A P S O U L • Bryson Tiller / RCA • Release Date: 9.25.2015 

When a fellow Kentuckian is in the spotlight (for something positive), there’s an obligation to support and rally behind that person. Bryson Tiller is from Louisville, and it’s been a while since Kentucky has been associated with an up and coming musician, particularly one that doesn’t employ pedal steel, banjos, or fiddles (no shade).   Tiller is best described as a hip-hop artist, blending R&B and rap. Tiller shows us that the “502” can deliver musical talent – Tiller’s T R A P S O U L recently landed at #11 on the Billboard 200.

So with the appropriate accolades given to Tiller, how does T R A P S O U L as an album stack up? Well…um… it’s centered on clichés honestly. Calling T R A P S O U L “tried and true” isn’t appropriate, but basically Tiller doesn’t do much to go beyond what other folks have already done more proficiently. Tiller, who has been endorsed by Drake, incorporates a similar delivery and approach, which isn’t bad, but the problem is, there’s nothing that necessarily jumps out and changes the game.

Being positive first, Tiller has a fine voice – perfectly attuned for the modern strain of R&B. This is constant even when the material is so-so. Can he rap? Yes, though sometimes the question is where is the substance and depth. He checks off singing and rapping boxes, which is at least half the battle, right? Furthermore, the backdrop – aka the production – is great. So judge T R A P S O U L as having lots working for it.

But, the big problem, once again is the material, as well as Tiller establishing his own artistic identity. After listening, very little sticks, which is something that Tiller will have to address with forthcoming albums. He does well for himself a couple of times, such as the draggy “Let Em Know,” attention-getting hit “Don’t” or the faux-apologetic “Sorry Not Sorry,” but it just doesn’t happen enough. Furthermore, a filthy mouth isn’t atonement when the material is so-so and sound/vibe will only get you so far.

Honestly, T R A P S O U L’s flaws aren’t far removed from those experienced by alt-R&B singer The Weeknd. His proper debut Kiss Land was rough around the edges, coming nowhere near experiencing the success or hits of Beauty Behind The Madness. Obviously, sophomore effort Beauty Behind The Madness was a better, more memorable offering. Could we be saying the same about album two from Tiller?

So is T R A P S O U L hit or miss? At best it’s in the middle, but T R A P S O U L does show potential, which means a lot. Is the Kentucky born and bred music journalist hating on the Kentucky bred hip-hop artist? Nope – just trying to help a brother step up his game to the next level next round!

Favorites: “Let Em Know,” “Don’t” and “Sorry”


The Weeknd, Beauty Behind The Madness © Republic

Watch YouTube Cover The Weeknd’s ‘The Hills’  

The Weeknd, Beauty Behind The Madness © Republic

The Weeknd has been covered A LOT lately on Why so much you ask? Well, he has three top 20 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, and has the top three R&B songs in the country. It’s no secret R&B has limped along in 2015, but maybe The Weeknd’s success can be a step in the right direction.

Regardless if The Weeknd is an R&B savior or not, “The Hills” is hot. It’s dark, explicit, and emotional – three characterizations that appeal to a younger artist, regardless of their stylistic preference. So, why not watch others give the hit their own spin, like we do every Friday on BMR? Here goes nothing, but first, here’s the original:

1) TheMrSoMo

Video title: The Weeknd – The Hills (Rendition) by SoMo (July 5, 2015) 

For those unfamiliar with SoMo, he released a major label album back in 2014 (SoMo) which debuted within the top 10 of the Billboard 200. On “The Hills,” he clearly has a different vocal timbre than The Weeknd, making this contrasting version quite unique. Also the production gimmicks separate this version from the original. SoMo goes for it on the bridge though, retaining the falsetto of the original.

2) lub xtpf

Video title: The Hills – The Weeknd (cover by lubxtpf) (March 26, 2015)

One word: Swag! Not only does lubxtpf have a terrific voice, he has the swagger to make his version of “The Hills” captivating. The Weeknd’s music has a stoner, mellow vibe about it, and lub xtpf does a good job of capturing that sensibility within his own version.

3) am1r music 

Video title: The Weeknd – The Hills (cover by am1r) (lyrics) (June 2, 2015)

Am1r music nails the enigmatic, poised beginning of the Hills, intensifying the energy level on the chorus. What is impressive about this particular cover is that there is never any over singing – am1r gives just the right amount. For example, even though the energy is there on the memorable lyric “When I’m f**ked up, that’s the real me,” am1r still maintains a cool about things.

4) SaraClose1

Video title: The Weeknd – The Hills (June 28, 2015)

Who said a girl can’t nail The Weeknd’s moody hit? Sara Close does a fine job tackling it, showing off her stunning, confident vocal tone. She looks so innocent too, even when she sings the boldest of lines, like the scandalously honest “I just f**ked two b**ches ‘fore I saw you.” Her best moment is arguably the bridge – the vocal really shines bright there.

5) Taylor Belle

Video title: The Hills – The Weeknd (Cover) Taylor Belle (June 26, 2015)

Sara Close isn’t the only girl tackling “The Hills” capably. Taylor Belle hold her own on her take. Notably, she cleans up the explicit portions and tailors it to herself (“I just saw two guys before I saw you”). The bridge gets a haunting treatment by her pipes.

6) Christina Rome  

Video title: The Weekend – The Hills (Christina Rome Cover) (June 18, 2015)

Let’s make it three ladies in a row – sounds good, right? So, what does Christina Rome do to separate herself from Sara and Taylor? Well, she treats her interpretation like an answer to The Weeknd’s original, which is really creative. Rome also has assertiveness and feistiness about her voice, which gives this version the appropriate attitude and bite.

7) Coastbound

Video title: The Hills – The Weeknd (Coastbound Pop-Punk cover) (June 21, 2015)

This interpretation of “The Hills” by a pop-punk band will leave you speechless. If you prefer the urban slow jam, these dudes may not appeal to you. BUT, if you love the endless possibilities of music and how creative ‘changing up a song’ can be, then you’ll be rocking right along with Coastbound. Personal thoughts before I even heard it? I knew it would work. Why? Because The Weeknd is outlandish and so is pop-punk. It’s a marriage made in heaven…or hell J

8) Shide Boss 

Video title: The Weeknd, The Hills (Shide Cover) (May 31, 2015)

This is a return to the “original” and there’s nothing wrong with that. UK singer/songwriter Shide Boss does make some alterations, mostly with the most explicit portions. He does let the f-bomb fly during the hook though. He has a great voice, with his upper register on the hook really standing out – there’s an undeniable radiance.

9) Bryson Andres

Video title: The Weeknd – The Hills violin cover (July 2, 2015)

Can you ever go wrong with an instrumental cover? That’s rhetorical. The way that Bryson Andres picks apart “The Hills” and puts it together is awesomeness exemplified. Can you say talent? How about musicianship? Play on brother! 

10) Daniel de Bourg

Video title: The Weeknd – THE HILLS (Daniel de Bourg rendition) (June 17, 2015)

If you’ve seen any other cover posts, then you’ve seen this incredibly gifted musician. There’s only so many times it can be iterated that “this dude can sing.” And there it was reiterated once again! Ultimately, if you haven’t checked out Daniel de Bourg or purchased his music, you are missing out.

Bilal, In Another Life © eOne

Bilal, In Another Life [Track By Track Review]

Bilal, In Another Life © eOne

Bilal Delivers Killer Throwback Soul Album On ‘In Another Life

Bilal • In Another Life • eOne • US Release Date: June 30, 2015 

When Bilal drops an album, you know it is FIRE. What, excuse me? Why so confident there music reviewer fellow? The confidence is because it’s true. Not everybody may be on board with Bilal’s alternative R&B/retro soul agenda, but if that’s your listening lane, it’s difficult to dislike or disrespect this man’s artistry. On In Another Life, Bilal once more shows why he’s among the best in the game, and keeping R&B alive and breathing. Here’s a track-by-track analysis of In Another Life!

“Sirens II” opens In Another Life both soulfully and enigmatically. Poetic, “Sirens II” finds Bilal playing up the mythological creatures, evidenced by lyrics like, “Can you hear them calling from the seas…Sirens have come to take you away.” The way to kick off an album – most definitely!

The intensity burgeons on “Star Now” commencing with the dramatic presence of the organ, not to mention the minor key. Bilal imparts a tale of stardom, specifically stardom arising from ‘loss’: “A virgin’s tears rode from her eyes / but all he could think about was p***y…it was made for you.” Hmm, interesting – a rite of passage of sorts from the lady’s perspective? Regardless, she’s a “Star now / you shine like a star now / your skin will glow like a star now.” Confusing a might? Yes, but another captivating performance from Bilal nonetheless, and that’s what matters the most!

“Open Up The Door” is feel-good infectiousness from the jump. It all stars with a fabulously soulful, jazzy groove that’s retro, yet not really anachronistic. The relationship is the focus of the soul tune, as both verses play up being “so close to giving up,” but ultimately coming “this far.” In addition to memorable chorus (“Every time I open up the door…Now the spring is here, I’m so happy everything is clear”), another key, thoughtful comes by way of “But when it rains we grow.” Brilliance exemplified? – Methinks!

“I Really Don’t Care” slackens the tempo, sporting a chill sensibility. Still quite soulful, “I Really Don’t Care” gets a dash of jazz on top. Bilal, or the persona he portrays, shows great exuberance in love and the pursuit of love: “Haven’t kissed this long in quite some time / Have you ever felt the love like this?” “I Don’t Really Care” is yet another winner for Bilal, even if it isn’t necessarily the crème de la crème of a extremely consistent album.

On “Pleasure Toy,” Bilal seems to be channeling Prince here – this record definitely sounds like something ‘The Purple One’ would’ve sung back in the day. The track itself has more of a hip-hop influence, and not just because of Mississippi MC Big K.R.I.T.’s guest appearance. While the hip-hop is definitely in play, the retro/alternative soul remains king. When you put those two together what you get? Hip-hop retro soul (or something like that)! Can’t leave “Pleasure Toy” without mentioning Bilal’s sick falsetto, or his scandalous lyric “Can’t get too loud, cause your baby’s in the next room.”

“Satellites” ranks among the album’s best, keeping things old school, yet incredibly hip. Bilal exhibits a magnificent vocal tone here, showcasing the cracks and nuances of his instrument, not to mention that remarkable falsetto once more. His most expressive moments come by way of the inquisitive chorus: “…Why the hell did I get you high? / I believe in this love / Why the hell did I let you? / Why the hell did I get you?” Don’t know why he did the things he did, but he definitely has one hellishly awesome song on his hands – in the most celestial way possible.

Bilal indeed sounds like a “lunatic” on the maniacal “Lunatic.” Harmonies idiomatic of jazz dominate, a defining feature of Bilal’s music. Bilal vocals are highly expressive as he embodies his inner rock star, quasi-singing at times, channeling something of an off-kilter, improvisatory approach. That was a mouthful (or sentence full), but “Lunatic” is a song with plenty to take in and deserves an unconventional summation to match its unconventional nature. Phew!

“Money Over Love” is another trip that’s literally trippy – yeah in the psychedelic sense. Excellent use of layered vocals support Bilal’s lead and build upon the intrigue of the listening experience. This particular song ‘lays back,’ almost as if it indulges into its own lushness. An electric Kendrick Lamar adds a heightened level of assertiveness on his rap verse, which ends with bold lyric, “F**k Mr. Cupid, put that vagina on me.” Even as much as Kendrick shocks, the best lyric comes by way of Bilal: “I don’t wanna love / until I can afford to love / I rock that box of credit / automatic.” Can you tweet #Classic?

On “Love Child,” Bilal’s vocal tone is incredibly raspy; it’s as raw as the lovemaking that Bilal seems to detail throughout the album. “Love Child” seems to be a reference to the both the product of love (a baby) and the lady herself, depending upon the way you interpret it. On the first verse, the love child seems to be literal: “You thought it would be fun to be a freak like me / living on the edge, she ran away from home / now daddy’s sad and blue for his love child.” The second verse, seems a bit more up in the air, at least the first part as Bilal mentions “answers”: “Baby you’re the one / the one who had all the answers / baby you’re the one / the one who has all the questions too.”

Two incredibly ambitious artists come together – must be “heaven on earth,” right? Hell yeah (sorry couldn’t resist)! Bilal and Kimbra have superb vocal chemistry on “Holding It Back,” which is as much to thank for the success of the song as is the songwriting and production itself. Two eclectic, alternative musicians were definitely meant to collaborate. It was predestined people – PREDESTINED!

Penultimate song “Spiraling” maintains the consistency and goodness that is In Another Life, even if it does supersede anything else. The high point comes near the end, where that signature, raucous Bilal growl grips the listener, just when he thinks Bilal has cooled off. Closer “Bury Me Next To You,” like most of In Another Life, has you instantly nodding your head thanks to an infectious, stirring groove. Fittingly, with death (aka the conclusion of the album), Bilal wants to be buried next to his heart.

From the depth and length of this review, you already know what the takeaway should be – this is one sensational, deep album. But if you are a follower of Bilal, you already know the sheer depth and intellectual vibe of his work. In Another Life is no different. But just maybe this is his best? JUST MAYBE… like TOTALLY. Get it B! Homerun – world champions – all of that!

Favorites: “Sirens II,” “Open Up The Door,” “Satellites,” “Money Over Love,” “Holding It Back”


Miguel in Coffee music video (RCA, YouTube)

Examining Miguel’s ‘Wildheart’ – Through The Lyrics

Miguel, Wildheart © RCA

One of contemporary R&B’s most intriguing musicians is Miguel Pimental, best known by just his first name, Miguel. After captivating critics and fans alike on his sophomore album Kaleidoscope Dream, Miguel returns with his highly anticipated third album, Wildheart. You can find a ‘traditional’ review of Wildheart by yours truly here. So that said, this is no traditional review but rather an examination of some of the album’s most intriguing lyrics and the interpretation of what those lyrics mean.

1)“Speeding through all of these red lights, fast life / dreaming a beautiful exit / we’re gonna die young” – “Abeautifulexit” (Chorus)

Interpretation: It’s a risk anytime that you drive through a red light – you could end up in a fatal accident. What Miguel is suggesting is literally “speeding through all of these red lights,” but metaphorically living on the edge and ultimately dying young because of the thrill.

2) “No fear, no shame, wildhearts can’t be broken / you’re here for a reason” – “Abeautifulexit” (Verse 2)

Interpretation: The key parts of these lyrics are “no fear, no shame.” Like the aforementioned lyric from “Abeautifulexit,” it’s all about living on the edge and enjoying life to the fullest, even if it means an early demise – “a beautiful exit.”

3) “Love me, love me for profit, I can make you go down / I can show you the money if you wanna go out” – “DEAL” (Verse 1)

Interpretation: The “profit” of which Miguel speaks of here seems to be sex.

4) “Want money? Got clout / Need b**ches, need b**ches / Give it to me” – “DEAL” (Chorus)

Interpretation: The “DEAL” is again, what’s going to go down in the bedroom. We all know what that is…

5) “I’m your pimp, I’m your pope, I’m your poster baby / Confess your sins to me while you masturbate… this is hard babe, play your part baby / Then we all get paid” – “The Valley” (Verse 1)

Interpretation: Does this really need an interpretation? Miguel is begin naughty. He’s horny, and “it’s about to go down.” Case closed.

6) “I wanna f**k like we’re filming in the valley / I wanna push and shove and paint your hills and valley / I got a red idea to expedite the ride / put it over, pull em to the side…” – “The Valley” (Chorus)

Interpretation: The second excerpted lyrics expand upon the fantasy/reference that Miguel began earlier. Call it “Hollywood” love…or lovin’…

7) “We talk street art and sarcasm / Crass humor and high fashion / peach color, moon glistens, the plot thickens…” – “Coffee” (Verse 1)

Interpretation: Miguel and his boo talk about random things, and then rather than talk, they begin to play…

8) “Wordplay, turns into gun play / And gun plays turns into pillow talk / and pillow talk turns into sweet dreams / sweet dream turn into coffee in the morning” – “Coffee” (Chorus)

Interpretation: You do realize that Miguel doesn’t mean literal “coffee,” right? “Coffee” represents the ultimate guilty pleasure – the refresher in the morning. Miguel’s coffee is not only his boo in general, but also, um, the “pleasures” they experience in the morning.

9) “It’s the smell of your hair / and it’s the way that we feel / I’ve never felt comfortable like this” – “Coffee” (Post-Chorus)

Interpretation: Miguel does a fine job of laying it out here himself…

10) “She just wanna have fun / she just want a wild n***a right now / She just wanna f**k crazy / She just wanna f**k ‘till she can’t move no more” – “NWA” (Verse 1)

Interpretation: She’s bad, he’s wild, and the mix of both will make for wild sex essentially. Any questions? – Didn’t think so.

11) “Don’t stop, I wanna ride that wave / all night, I wanna ride that wave / Look here, I’m gonna surf in it baby / I’m getting turnt in it baby / Putting work in it baby / Keep working it while I ride that wave” – “Waves” (Chorus)

Interpretation: Innuendo to the nth degree. There is no literal wave. He’s going to “ride” something, but she’s the “wave” of choice.

12) “Too proper for the black kids, too black for the Mexicans / Too square to be a hood n***a, what’s normal anyway?” – “What’s Normal Anyway” (Verse 1)

Interpretation: Miguel doesn’t fit the mold. Sure, not everyone can relate to the specific scenario Miguel offers here, but what is relatable is “not fitting” into certain characterizations. The big picture is broader than the specific one Miguel offers here.

13) “Too immoral for the Christians, but too moral for the cut-throat / too far out for the in crowd, what’s normal anyway?” – “What’s Normal Anyway” (Verse 2)

Interpretation: Basically, the same explanation goes as in #12. This time, Miguel just switches it up between “moral authority” and outright heathens. He’s a sinner, but not the chief amongst sinners…something like that.

14) “Said wow, up fame, became your religion woman / Unique as you are your faith is coming / now the walk of shame woman, it’s reputation / Cheap thrills, fake friends, coke binge, what a numb sensation…” – “Hollywood Dreams” (Verse 2)

Interpretation: You can go a lot of ways with this particular quote. If you examine this literally, this girl has become a star, hence attaining her “Hollywood Dreams.” Also literally, there are drugs involved. Metaphorically speaking, “Hollywood Fame” seems less important, as this quote/song seem to be about a relationship of excesses – sex, drugs, and general irresponsibility.

15) “I’ve got a gun, called love, let’s have some fun, baby you’re in love…” – “Destinado a morir”

Interpretation: This is not about a glock – at least not the kind those without a dirty mind are thinking about…

16) “If we should die, I hope we die together / if not, at least I’ll know just where we’ll be” – “…goingtohell” (Verse 2)

Interpretation: Ah, more of the whole “death” thing. Basically, Miguel is willing to accept that he’s going to hell, but it’ll be better since him and his boo are both sinners so they’ll go together. There’s some problems with this thinking obviously, but you can see Miguel’s thought process.

17) “I’m a slave to your flesh / Woman put me right where I belong” – “FLESH” (Chorus)

Interpretation: One word – sex.

18) “Lost summers here as we both bathe in sweet sin / Leave it to me, I’ll give you something to believe in” – “FLESH” (Verse 3)

Interpretation: What he’s giving her “to believe in” is SEX. IT’S OBVIOUS PEOPLE!!!

19) “Heart caught in a rift, cold pacific waters / keep on pulling me under, drowning in my sorrows…You say that it’s over / how could it be over? I never saw it coming…” –“Leaves” (Verse 2)

Interpretation: The relationship is down the tube, and Miguel “never saw it coming.” The sentiment here is universal to say the least.

20) “Cause when it’s time to face the sun / I know that you’re the only one” – “Face The Sun” (Verse 1)

Interpretation: He’s in love with her – not like, but genuine love. This is not sexual, but based upon a genuine, emotional connection. 

Luke James © Island

Rankings: Best R&B Albums of 2014

Teyana Taylor, VII © G.O.O.D. Ranking things is hard – understatement. So look, there were many sound R&B albums in 2014 – don’t let the abysmal sales dissuade you. That said, there were only a couple of truly great ones – led by one unopposed homerun – that sit atop the standings. Here are the 25 26 Best R&B albums of 2014…maybe.

1) D’Angelo and the Vanguard, Black Messiah 

D'Angelo and the Vanguard, Black Messiah © RCA

There was no better R&B album in 2014. It’s not even that close as D’Angelo came back in a huge way. R&B hasn’t sounded like this since…you get the idea.

Two Favorites: “1000 Deaths” & “Sugah Daddy”

2) Sam Smith, In The Lonely Hour

Sam Smith, In the Lonely Hour © Capitol

If you consider Smith’s album to be an R&B album, well, it definitely sits atop the list.

Two Favorites: “Stay With Me” & “I’m Not The Only One”


3) Mary J. Blige, The London Sessions

Mary J. Blige, The London Sessions © Capitol

London definitely gave Mary a lift. Too bad the sales didn’t give her one as well – no “Therapy” for that, unfortunately!

Two Favorites: “Therapy” & “Whole Damn Year”


4) Pharrell Williams, G I R L

Pharrell Williams, G I R L © Columbia

We “came and got it” Skateboard P, and it was G-O-O-D.

Two Favorites: “Happy” & “Gust of Wind”


5) Prince, Art Official Age

Prince, ART OFFICIAL AGE © Warner Bros Eccentricity is always a win in my book – let’s “Funknroll!”

Two Favorites: “Breakdown” & “Funknroll”

6) K. Michelle, Anybody Wanna Buy A Heart?

K. Michelle, Anybody Wanna Buy a Heart? © Atlantic

Can’t knock K. Michelle for her exceptional pipes or even her honesty here. She just wants the perfect man, and she knows “Drake Would Love” her!

Two Favorites: “Love ‘Em All” and “Maybe I Should Call”


7) Jennifer Hudson, JHUD

Jennifer Hudson, JHUD © RCA

I can’t dance, but the grooves on JHUD certainly made me want to.

Two Favorites: “It’s Your World” and “I Can’t Describe (The Way I Feel)”


8) Trey Songz, Trigga

Trey Songz, Trigga © Atlantic

I am a firm believer that Trey Songz really did invent sex. He loves to sing about it too much.

Two Favorites: “Cake” and “SmartPhones”


9) August Alsina, Benediction

August Alsina, Testimony © Def Jam

Since it’s the Benediction, let the church say, amen!

Two Favorites: “Make It Home” (featuring Jeezy) & “Benediction” (featuring Rick Ross)

10) Mali Music, Mali Is…

Mali Music, Mali Is © RCA

Underrated, I definitely “Believe” in Mali Is… There’s plenty of “Heavy Love” to be found here.

Two Favorites: “Heavy Love” & “Believe”

11) Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Give The People What They Want

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Give The People What They Want © Daptone

Give The People What They Want is just another sound traditional R&B album by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – no “Retreat” necessary here!

Two Favorites: “Retreat!” & “People Get What They Deserve”


12) Kelis, Food

Kelis, Food © Ninja Tune

A yummy, yet underrated album – love those “Jerk Ribs” especially!

Two Favorites: “Jerk Ribs” & “Floyd”

13) Ariana Grande, My Everything

Ariana Grande, My Everything © Republic

Is she purely pop or is she R&B enough to hang? My Everything is a solid album, and the urban influence is strong, so, we’ll put the “Problem” child in the middle.

Two Favorites: “Problem” and “Bang Bang” (Jessie J featuring Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj)

14) Chris Brown, X

Chris Brown, X © RCA

He definitely deserves some credit for making a respectable album following that mess named Fortune.

Two Favorites: “Add Me In” and “New Flame”

15) Marsha Ambrosius, Friends & Lovers

Marsha Ambrosius, Friends & Lovers

Friends & Lovers ranks among the most sensual albums to grace this list. Not everyday there’s a song named “69” – just saying!

Two Favorites: “69” & “Stronger”


16) Luke James, Luke James

Luke James © Island

Another quietly issued album, Luke James has been building buzz for years since “I Want You” was released.

Two Favorites: “Trouble” and “Options”


17) Aloe Blacc, Lift Your Spirit

Aloe Blacc, Lift Your Spirit © Interscope

He’s a pretty confident dude – I would be to if I were “The Man.” 

Two Favorites: “The Man” & “Love Is The Answer”


18) Toni Braxton & Babyface, Love, Marriage & Divorce

Toni Braxton & Babyface, Love Marriage & Divorce © Motown Toni and Babyface seem to cover their bases with the title itself. The album does so too.

Two Favorites: “Hurt You” & “Where Did It Go Wrong?”


19) Tinashe, Aquarius

Tinashe, Aquarius © RCA Tinashe is just “2 On” to leave off the list – she can even make a “Thug Cry!”

 Two Favorites: “2 On” & “Thug Cry”

20) Joe, Bridges

Joe, Bridges © Plaid Lover

The lack of flash or maybe just Joe’s continual consistency keeps this album lower than it should be on this list. It’s no “Dilemma” though.

Two Favorites: “Till The Rope Gives Way” & “The Rest Will Follow”

 21) Jhené Aiko, Souled Out

Jhené Aiko, Souled Out © Def Jam

One of the quietest R&B albums on this list, it is an interesting listen by all means – no worries and no “Pressure” Jhené.

Two Favorites: “Limbo Limbo Limbo” & “The Pressure”

22) Leela James, Fall For You

Leela James, Fall For You © BMG Rights Mgmt

Didn’t we all fall for Leela James this year? Fall For You was another fine addition to her discography!

Two Favorites: “Who’s Gonna Love You More” & “Say That” (featuring Anthony Hamilton)


23) Mariah Carey, Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse

Mariah Carey, Me. I Am Mariah...The Elusive Chanteuse

We all know it didn’t sell and MC has had a bad year, but the album wasn’t nearly as bad everything else – it definitely has its “Beautiful” moments.

Two Favorites: “Beautiful” & “Heavenly (No Ways Tired / Can’t Give Up Now)” 


24) Daley, Days & Nights

Daley, Days & Nights © Republic

Yeah, few people know who Daley is, but they should – this British contemporary R&B singer is legit.

Two Favorites: “Blame The World” & “Broken”


25) Ledisi, The Truth

Ledisi, The Truth © Verve 

Though not nearly as distinctive as some of her previous albums, The Truth still shows Ledisi’s craft for making a solid R&B album.

Two Favorites: “I Blame You” and “88 Boxes”


26) Teyana Taylor, VII

Teyana Taylor, VII © G.O.O.D. Quietly released, there were plenty of pros about Teyana Taylor’s debut.

Two Favorites: “Just Different” and “Request”

D'Angelo and the Vanguard, Black Messiah © RCA

Lyric Analysis: Examining Favorite Lyrical Moments From D’Angelo’s ‘Black Messiah’

D'Angelo and the Vanguard, Black Messiah © RCA

It’s no secret that I’m high…off of D’Angelo’s Black Messiah that is! No only did I speak upon its triumphant nature here at (D’Angelo’s Triumphant ‘Black Messiah’ Reenergizes R&B), I also penned a review on (Review: D’Angelo Unveils Another R&B Masterpiece With ‘Black Messiah’), praising the effort. And if that wasn’t enough, the surprise release and magnificent quality of release that was Black Messiah even made my 25 Best Albums of 2014, also written exclusively for Starpulse (it sits pretty ‘high’ too!).

Black Messiah is a breath of fresh air, period – just ask any critics – as we’ve all been going ‘gaga’ for D’Angelo. Being the analytical person that I am, picking apart Black Messiah one final time, here is one notable lyric from each of the album’s 12 tracks.   

1) “You need the comfort of my lovin’ to bring out the best in you / I wanna give you somethin’ to feed your mind”

“Ain’t That Easy” 

Commentary: This one’s all about love and that three-letter word sex. I’ll take the high road and assume that “feed your mind” isn’t a double entendre, though I wouldn’t bet on it.


2) “I was born to kill / send me over the hill / I been a witness to this game for ages / and if I stare death in face, no time to waste”

“1000 Deaths”

Commentary: There are too few socially conscious R&B songs these days, a theme of prominence throughout the 60s and 70s. “1000 Deaths” is a great one though. 


3) “All we wanted was a chance to talk / ‘stead we’ve only got outlined in chalk / feet have bled a million miles we’ve walked / revealing at the end of the day, the charade”

“The Charade”

Commentary: “The Charade” in general in an excellent extension upon “1000 Deaths.” In this specific quote, D’Angelo references suppression among oppressed peoples – they’ve been silenced rather than embraced.


4) “I fill my baby’s crib with all the sweetness daddy wants to give / and when it comes to rocking her to sleep, I’ll never tire”

“Sugah Daddy” 

Commentary: We all know that D’Angelo has a knack for singing compelling songs referencing sex. This one is among those. 


5) “When you touch me there / when you make me tingle / when our nectars mingle”

“Really Love” 

Commentary: Like “Sugah Daddy,” we know where D’Angelo’s mind is. “When our nectars mingle” has to be the most poetic way to describe… yeah I’ll leave it there.


6) “So if you’re wondering about the shape I’m in / I hope it ain’t my abdomen that you’re referring to / this is what I want you to listen to”

“Back To The Future (Part I)”

Commentary: There’s more to D’Angelo than his body, specifically back during his Voodoo, “Untitled (How Does It Feel?)” days.


7) “Perilous dissidence evening up the score / do we even know what we’re fighting for?”

“Till It’s Done (Tutu)” 

Commentary: So much is going on throughout the world – what are the wars and battles about?


8) “I know that he will try to harm you / and you can / I know that you will make it to the Promised Land”


Commentary: There is power in prayer. In order to make it to heaven, you’ve got to rise above sinfulness and traps set by the Devil.   


9) “Like the breeze that blows in June / I will steady keep you cool”

“Betray My Heart” 

Commentary: Everyone knows that June is among the hottest months of the year and the breeze if there is one is uncomfortable – hot. D’Angelo is essentially saying he will complete his lover as well as his own heart, by making her ‘comfortable’ providing the balance – “the cool.”


10) “I told you once but twice, my love / don’t lock yourself out that door”

“The Door” 

Commentary: His lover has messed up/is ruining a good thing. D’Angelo is now moving on, aka “locking The Door.”


11) “Used to get real high / now I’m just gettin’ a buzz”

“Back To The Future (Part II)”

Commentary: D’Angelo is a grown man now. He’s no longer 26 like he was when Voodoo arrived, but now he’s 40. Marijuana doesn’t have the appeal and he’s risen above it, only getting a ‘buzz’ ever so often (or something like that).


12) “I just wanna take you with me / to secret rooms in the mansions of my mind / shower you with all that you need / take my hand, I swear I’ll take my time”

“Another Life”

Commentary: Sex, sex, sex. That said, he also seems to desire the emotional connection as well.

Aretha Franklin Sings The Great Diva Classics © RCA

Aretha Franklin Is Enthusiastic and Energetic, If Flawed on ‘Sings the Great Diva Classics’

Aretha Franklin Sings The Great Diva Classics © RCA

Aretha Franklin • Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics • RCA • US Release Date: October 21, 2014

Who da queen – Aretha Franklin’s the queen! No matter what criticisms she’s given or who else comes into the music industry, Aretha Franklin’s voice and musical contributions will always justify her status as the Queen of Soul. That said, even a queen has albums that fall short of her best work. Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics is one of those. It’s by all means enthusiastic and energetic, something many questioned whether Aretha Franklin still possessed, but it’s also flawed. Is it terrible – no, ‘terrible’ is a harsh word. Is it great – NO, but it has its moments as well as its cons. 

“At Last” opens the Great Diva Classics traditionally without an excess of liberties. This generally conservative approach is a respectable way to begin the album, considering Franklin sometimes has the tendency to ‘change things up’ too much. Similarly on the third track, a cover of Gladys Knight & The Pips‘ beloved classic “Midnight Train To Georgia,” Franklin generally stays true/close to the original. The argument against such is being ‘middle of the road’, but in both these instances, neither of these songs needs to be altered.

“Rolling in the Deep (The Aretha Version)” definitely ‘shocked the world’ upon its unveiling. To some degree, the energy and passion that Franklin delivers the song with is definitely impressive and shows that Franklin still has some mad pipes on her.  On the other hand, this number suffers from an over abundance of auto tune and a very odd transition into soul staple “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” If nothing more, Franklin’s soulful nuances are a pro, but even The Queen could never outdo Adele‘s once in a lifetime classic, and that’s saying something!

“I Will Survive (The Aretha Version)” arguably is more successful than Franklin’s version of “Rolling in the Deep.” That said breaking into Destiny’s Child from Gloria Gaynor‘s disco anthem is still arguably a bit much. Franklin does only make brief reference to “Survivor” (a pro) and there is common ground.

“People” gives Franklin that big ballad that she loves and most times works in her favor.  That said, this cover of Barbra Streisand‘s Classic comes over as too slow and blasé.  Yes Franklin hits those high notes and does her signature riffs/ad libs, but it comes off lethargic. “No One” gets a tropically infused interpretation, which actually works.  That said, “No One” had a dash of tropical/reggae styling in original form, and it naturally can evolve in that direction. Even so, don’t quite call it a hit.

The inclusion of “I’m Every Woman / Respect” isn’t a surprising choice, even if prior to hearing Franklin perform it convincingly, there were questions how effectively she’d do so. The pieces are in place by all means, though you still have to question Franklin’s overindulgence in combining songs, not to mention the five-minute duration.

“Teach Me Tonight” is certainly a different sound for Franklin, but she performs the brief, American standard unquestionably well. This cut in particular is one where her gift of ad-libs is certainly appreciated. The oomph and grit definitely recall classic Aretha.  Penultimate classic “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” receives an unsurprisingly, soulful take. Any less would’ve been a let down.

“Nothing Compares2 U” receives a jazzy treatment from Franklin.  Yes it’s ambitious and definitely contrasts the famed Sinead O’Connor Classic (penned by Prince), but it also seems like too much of a stretch. “Nothing Compares 2 U” is arguably one of the greatest ballads ever performed and written, and a jazz interpretation seems to take away from the original’s classicism.

Ultimately, Sings the Great Diva Classics is a mixed bag. The glimpses of Franklin’s best days are perceptible, but so is that awful auto-tuned drench melodic line in “Rolling in the Deep.” Still, compared to Franklin’s previous independent album A Woman Falling Out Of Love, this album is more familiar with more ability to be a crowd pleaser if nothing else.

Favorites: “At Last,” “Midnight Train To Georgia,” “Teach Me Tonight”



Review – Drake Protégé PARTYNEXTDOOR Keeps it Real on ‘PARTYNEXTDOOR TWO’


A photo posted by PND (@partynextdoor) on

PARTYNEXTDOOR • PARTYNEXTDOOR TWO • OVO/Warner Bros • US Release Date: July 29, 2014

“Tryna get you wet like a Baptist.” Phew, don’t think ministers of any denomination would be too thrilled with that reference! Alas, that is how Drake protégé PARTYNEXTDOOR rolls on his OVO/Warner Bros LP, PARTYNEXTDOOR TWO. PARTYNEXTDOOR TWO could be characterized as an orgy, with the R&B artist’s main goal being scoring booty – and smoking some along the way.

Never subtle, PND is brutally honest, relaying exactly what’s on his mind, heart, and what he wishes to do with his “love below.” Given his stage name and the title of the album, it makes perfect sense the approach he takes. That said it also wouldn’t have hurt if he’d increased depth and went outside of his box/comfort zone more. Even so, PARTYNEXTDOOR TWO might edge PARTYNEXTDOOR (2013), if only by a nose.


A photo posted by PND (@partynextdoor) on

Opener “East Liberty” sports the mysterious, ‘Drake-onian’ sound, in the modern, alt-R&B vein. The verses are quite short, yet the juiciest bits of the song come via the pre-chorus and chorus sections. PND sings, “Come on baby, girl come on / you don’t want a lazy lover / just switch your model find another.” Basically, PND is trying to get this girl to leave her ‘lame-o’ and join him, a ‘real.’ It’s not a bad start, but takes another listen or more to resonate.

“SLS” resonates more readily, but additional spins don’t hurt. The resonation, however, is of carnality, not substance. “I’m with a stripper and we in the church,” PND sings on verse one, “don’t tell my damn mama where you work.” Sheesh! PND has other one-liners, involving a BIC lighter, as well as fingernails and ‘finger f-cking.’ A highlight of “SLS” is when things percolate from nonchalance into epic-ness.

“Sex On the Beach” awesomely samples Disclosure’s “Latch,” and PND truly sounds like Drake on this salacious cut. “All the sex in the ocean / all the sex on the beach / all the sex in the open / all the sex in the heat.” Basically, PND could’ve titled this one “All Sex Everything” and had the bases covered.   It lacks meaningfulness, but is a highlight. Apparently, PND wants to share: “Girl, you’re so sexy / everybody should see your body.”

On standout “Her Way,” the production is relaxed and chill, with superb drum programming. PND is confident (“Shawty said she wanna roll with the Sauga City come up…”) and has a bad girl (“…that b-tch bad, watch her blow a whole band”). It’s followed by interlude “Belong To the City,” that isn’t dissimilar from The Weeknd’s song “Belong to the World” (Kiss Land). It’s not far-fetched this references strippers: “You can’t tell these b-tches nothing / she belongs to the city.” It’s open to interpretation.

“Grown Woman” is a bit indulgent – it’s almost too focused on delivering the alt-/modern R&B sound. Like everything else, PND is focused ultimately on hooking up with her. “FWU” possesses less depth, but ends up being the better track. The letters of “FWU” are exactly what you think: ‘f-ck with you.’ It’s shallow and the production matches that shallowness with a dark, lush vibe. That said, at least the listener easily understands PND’s aim: “Go ahead, go and ask Billie Jean who’s the one.”

“Recognize” gives the album its sole guest feature, from none other than Drake. It’s a solid track, but it’s also not necessarily as good as the hype. Still, there are plenty of notable references from LeToya Luckett to Katie Couric to please.

“Options” follows; it hosted the opening quote. The grinder doesn’t change-up the messaging, as the only “option” really is PARTY himself. Lyrics like “twerkin’ her ass for me,” and “…Ride that d-ck girl, ride it like a pony” are far removed from chivalry.

A photo posted by PND (@partynextdoor) on

“Thirsty” brilliantly samples Missy Elliott’s “Ching A Ling,” sounding incredibly dirty. But PND does make a promise: “Promise to love you, and obey / and hit more than once a day.”

On penultimate joint “Bout It,” there is no contrast or variety lyrically or thematically, which makes it only so-so at best. Once again, PND talks about sexual endeavors. At the end, he’s so into this girl, he states “sex on the couch, no pull out.” Apparently, he’s let the heat of the moment compromise being careful. “Muse” atones, closing PARTYNEXTDOOR TWO solidly.

A photo posted by PND (@partynextdoor) on

Overall, PARTYNEXTDOOR TWO is a solid album. That being said, it’s also not an album with flaws and room for improvement. The ‘vibe’ of the album works better than, say the songs and arguably the subject matter. There is nothing wrong with PND thinking with his pants a little bit, but 12 songs of sex and weed is definitely on the irresponsible side. To each his own, but it would be nice to see PND stretch himself artistically.

Favorites: “SLS,” “Sex on the Beach,” “Her Way,” and “FWU” 


Photo credits: ©, © OVO/Warner Bros
Me’Shell Ndegéocello, Comet Come to Me © 10 Spot

Review: Meshell Ndegeocello, ‘Comet, Come to Me’


An underrated gem, Meshell Ndegeocello shines on Comet, Come to Me

Meshell Ndegeocello • Comet, Come to Me • Naïve • US Release Date: June 3, 2014

Sometimes it is the most underrated artist who truly captivates the listener. So many talented musicians can lay claim to the characterization of being ‘underrated’, despite possessing magnificent skills. Bassist/singer-songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello is a veteran at her eclectic craft, but definitely isn’t exactly a household name. Perhaps she should be, given her incredibly versatility, showcased to the upmost on her latest LP, Comet, Come to Me. Comet, Come to Me is an album that is expressive, strange, unique, and brilliant all in one; it is truly a special auditory experience. 13 tracks deep, Comet, Come to Me never misses the mark.

“Friends” opens Comet, Come to Me with an incredibly innovative and progressive spirit. Sure, it’s still pays its dues to soul and retains neo-soul cues and characteristics, but the listener can perceive that Ndegeocello has a willingness and fearlessness to ‘spread her wings’. The opener definitely has a cosmic nature about it, incorporating ‘extraterrestrial’ synths, poetic spoken word lyrics, and of course Ndegeocello’s anchoring bass lines.

If “Friends” is forward thinking, follow-up “Tom” is more traditional, remaining true to soul in an indie vein. The vocals are restrained but pure, much like the overall production. Even given a ‘pull back’ of sorts following the opener, the smoothness and lushness of “Tom” is incredibly desirable and enjoyable to listen to.

“Good Day Bad” definitely taps into Ndegeocello’s singer/songwriter, indie side. Honestly, while soulfulness and the hint of R&B is written throughout this track, it could easily be characterized as alternative or even folk-rock without any strings attached. The acoustic guitars and light drum groove stand tall.

Switching up styles once more, “Forget My Name” dives into a reggae-soul combination. Much like everything else up until this point, Ndegeocello continues to bring her ‘A’ game, alluring the listener with the upmost musicianship. The use of the trombone proves to be an exceptional touch where the orchestration is concerned. Lyrically, the key, reiterated lyrics are as follows: “If you love me, forget my name”. There it is!

Cosmic soundscape “And Then It Moves” adds even more enigma about the LP, definitely matching the vibe without question. It foreshadows the equally moody, mysterious title track “Comet, Come to Me” which mixes alternative R&B, reggae cues, and of course indie singer/songwriter sensibilities. Minimalist in some respects, “Comet, Come to Me” keeps the listener engaged given its nonconformity and willingness to ‘go against the grain’.

“Continuous Performance” taps directly into Ndegeocello’s rock side – the rock-oriented guitars are prominently displayed within the production. Even with ‘rock’ winning out here for the most part, Ndegeocello’s musical eclecticism still rears its head. This sense of musical restlessness mixed with a cool vocal approach is nothing short if hypnotic and welcome. “Shopping For Jazz” follows, initially finding Ndegeocello accompanied by guitars. Soon enough, her robust bass enters in, anchoring things down. Later, drums get in the mix, completing the arrangement. The pacing and use of space on this abstract number is by all means a selling point.

Highlight “Conviction” has neo-soul written all over it, though incorporates a pop/rock groove. As always vocally, Ndegeocello doesn’t ruffle many feathers or over perform the song with histrionics; she keeps things simple, organic sounding, and soulful. The quarter note violin riff is a solid touch.

“Folie A Deux” continues on with coolness, despite being moody in a minor key. Sure, Ndegeocello is emphasizing to her lover “let me go”, but her poise throughout is incredible. Instrumentally, the use of vibes adds a unique tone color. The songwriting of “Choices” is based upon key lyric “too many”, hence where the title/idea of “Choices” comes from. Essentially, Ndegeocello seems to assert there is any number of (“too many”) decisions to make in life.

Penultimate joint “Modern Times” again provides a blend of multiple styles, namely soul and subtle hint of reggae. Purity might be the best way to describe “Modern Times”.   There are few frills, but sound execution. “American Rhapsody” concludes the album solidly, once more embracing the enigmatic nature that initiated it. Much like “Friends”, “American Rhapsody” has an experimental nature about it.

Ultimately, Comet, Come to Me is a fabulous album that more listeners should be exposed to. Even with the neo-soul movement expired (or nearly expired), Ndegeocello brings plenty to the table worth hearing. Before the alternative R&B that has become R&B go-to trend today, there was Meshell Ndegeocello, and she continues to flex her creative, musical muscles.


“Friends”; “Good Day Bad”; “Comet, Come to Me”; “Conviction”; “Choices” 

Verdict: ★★★★

50 Cent, Animal Ambition - An Untamed Desire To Win © G Unit

Music Shopping List: 8 Albums To Consider Purchasing June 3, 2014

50 Cent "Noah" New York City Premiere - Arrivals Ziegfeld Theatre New York City, NY, USA 03/26/2014 © Debby Wong / PR Photos
50 Cent “Noah” New York City Premiere – Arrivals Ziegfeld Theatre New York City, NY, USA 03/26/2014 © Debby Wong / PR Photos

Perhaps the music industry was spoiled by May releases – perhaps that’s it.  The first week of June is loaded with releases, BUT only two seem like sure bets – Miranda Lambert’s Platinum and 50 Cent’s long-awaited fifth album, Animal Ambition.  The question seems to be, how much will either of these albums move?  Regardless, here’s a list of album to consider purchasing on new release Tuesday, June 3, 2014.

Miranda Lambert, Platinum © RCA Records Label Nashville

1) Miranda Lambert, Platinum (RCA Nashville)

Miranda Lambert has been able to expand her career beyond a run on Nashville Star, something winners of the show weren’t able to do.  2014 effort Platinum marks Lambert’s fifth, arriving nine years after her debut Kerosene.  The biggest attraction of Platinum – a certain duet with another country superstar, Carrie Underwood, entitled “Somethin’ Bad”.  Look for Platinum to be at the top of the album charts when it’s all said and done (or tabulated rather, LOL).

50 Cent, Animal Ambition - An Untamed Desire To Win © G Unit

2) 50 Cent, Animal Ambition: An Untamed Desire to Win (G-Unit)

Fall Out Boy put it best on their most recent album Save Rock and Roll on track “The Might Fall”.  At one point, 50 Cent was an unstoppable force in rap music, sporting a mean east-coast swagger.  Both Get Rich or Die Tryin’ and The Massacre are two of the better rap albums of the new millennium.  Somewhere along the way though, 50 Cent lost his swag.  After a five-year gap, the rapper returns with his fifth proper studio effort, Animal Ambition: An Untamed Desire to Win.   The question is, can this long awaited comeback album put 50 back on top? Time will tell.

Lucy Hale, Road Between © Hollywood

3) Lucy Hale, Road Between (Hollywood Records)

Few may remember that Lucy Hale was on the short-lived American Idol spin-off American Juniors, selected as one of the five members in the children’s group. Since her stint back when, Hale has been focused on acting. Finally, 11 years since American Juniors, Hale releases her debut country album, Road Between via Hollywood Records.  The effort is led by single “You Sound Good To Me”.

Rich Robinson, The Ceaseless Sight © The End

4) Rich Robinson, The Ceaseless Sight (The End Records)

Guitarist and songwriter Rich Robinson, from The Black Crowes (which seems to be in ‘Limbo’ you might say)releases his third solo effort, The Ceaseless Sight. The Ceaseless Sight follows up 2011 LP Through a Crooked Sun.

Matisyahu, Akeda © Elm City Music

5)Matisyahu,Akeda (Elm City) 

Akeda follows up 2012 LP Spark Seeker by the genre-bending reggae artist.  BTW, Akeda also marks ten years since his 2004 debut effort, Shake Off the Dust…Arise. 

Me’Shell Ndegéocello, Comet Come to Me © 10 Spot

6) Me’Shell Ndegéocello, Comet Come to Me (10 Spot)

Comet Come to Me arrives two years after Pour Une Âme Souveraine: A Dedication to Nina Simone.  Ndegécello continues to be quite prolific as a genre-bending artist, slated somewhere between rock, pop, and R&B.

Kelly Price, Kelly Price, Sing Pray Love Vol. 1- Sing © Entertainment One

7) Kelly Price, Sing Pray Love Vol. 1: Sing (Entertainment One)

Sing Pray Love Vol. 1: Sing features duets with Ruben Studdard (“Back 2 Love”) and Algebra Blessett (“Conversations With Her”).

Fucked Up, Glass Boys © Matador

8) Fucked Up, Glass Boys (Matador)

Glass Boys is the Toronto band’s first album in three years, following 2011 double album David Comes to Life.