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 
Drake, Views © Cash Money

Drake, ‘Views’: By The Lyrics

Drake helped to make April 2016 sweeter by releasing his fourth proper studio album Views. While Views wasn’t ‘monumental’ in regards to its themes or overall content, as always, it’s very much a Drake album. What better way to examine Views than a commentary on Drake’s deep lyrics? Leggo!!! 

1) “All of my ‘let’s just be friends’ are friends I don’t have anymore / How do you not check on me when things go wrong / Guess I should’ve tried to keep my family closer / much closer / all of my ‘let’s just be friends’ are friends I don’t have anymore / guess that’s what they say you need family for / cause I can’t depend on you anymore” – “Keep The Family Close”

Commentary: Basically, a girl doesn’t supplant family or close friends, at least a girl that’s not dedicated.

2) “And I turn the six upside down, it’s a nine now” – “9”

Commentary: First of all, unless you’re living under a rock, you realize that the “6” is Toronto. Throughout his career, Drake has made a huge deal about the “6.” Since he’s “king” in Toronto, he’s figuratively “turned it upside down.:

3) “All these hand outs, man it’s getting outta hand / I’mma start telling n***as ‘get it how they can’ / I got it right now so I’m everybody’s friends / if I ever lose I bet we never speak again” – “9”

Commentary: Drake is making bank – he’s one of music’s hottest stars. Now he has “friends” who are shallow that won’t to share his wealth. He knows that if he does fall from his perch, those friends will turn their backs on him.

4) “On some DMX shit / I group DM my exes / I told ‘em they belong to me, that goes on forever” – “U With Me?”

 Commentary: Drake is literally “on some DMX shit” on “U With Me?” which samples two DMX songs, most notably “Where My B*tches At?” As far as the last part of the lyric, Drake doesn’t forget his exes.

5) “I try with you / there’s more to life than sleeping in / and getting high with you / I had to let go of us to show myself what I could do / and that didn’t sit right with you “ – “Feel No Ways”

 Commentary: There’s more to life than taking drugs and hooking up.

6) “Done / look what I’ve done in my life / I had to count it and count it again / to make sure the money was right / they love to talk / me, I’m just done in the hype…” – “Hype”

Commentary: Drake is tired of people expecting “the world” from him essentially. When he “blew up” he really “blew up.” In some regards, while Genius intelligently points out that the “I had to count it and count it again” line may reference Cash Money’s troubles as of late, it also seems to references just how big Drake is as well. 

7) “Feel like the difference between us really startin’ to show / I’m lookin’ at they first week numbers like what are those / I mean you boys not even coming close” – “Weston Road Flows”

Commentary: Drake BIG, other rappers NOT big.

8) “Why do I settle for women that force me to pick up the pieces? / Why do I want an independent woman to feel like she needs me? / I lost my way” – “Redemption”

Commentary: Girl troubles. Typical Drake.

9) “You hit me like ‘I know you’re there with someone else’ / that pussy knows me better than I know myself / On my way from the studio so get undressed / let’s do the things that we say on text / I want to get straight to the climax…” – “Faithful”

Commentary: “Sex in the kitchen, over by the stove…” 

10) “Did it, did it, did it by myself, by myself, dog / Blew up and I’m in the city still, I’m still here, dog” – “Still Here”

Commentary: Drake is Toronto’s big thing. He’s “kind of a big deal.” 

11) “Right, my yiy just changed / you just buzzed the front gate / I thank God you came” – “Controlla” 

Commentary: While the part about the front gate is probably literal, the way that it is written also makes for perfect innuendo…  Continue reading “Drake, ‘Views’: By The Lyrics”

Simple Plan, Taking One For The Team © Atlantic

Simple Plan Shines On Comeback Album ‘Taking One For The Team’

Simple Plan, Taking One For The Team © Atlantic

Once upon a time, Canadian pop-punk band Simple Plan were “kind of a big deal.” That said, those days of Pierre Bouvier and company being “hot stuff” have waned, sad as that may be. But punks grow old and musical tastes change, so it’s not surprising that a new Simple Plan album is no longer epic. Still, the collective’s first new album in five years, Taking One For The Team, is a welcome, enjoyable effort. Sure it probably won’t sell, but Simple Plan definitely “does their thing” on Taking One For The Team.

“Opinion Overload” sounds as if Simple Plan haven’t missed a beat – not since the quietly issued Get Your Heart On! but since the glory days. Need to know the best, most energetic way to kick off an album? “Opinion Overload” is it. “Boom” doesn’t lose any momentum, but it doesn’t best “Opinion Overload” either.

“Kiss Me Like Nobody’s Watching” on the other hand ranks among the most intriguing moments of Taking One For The Team. Again it takes you back as Bouvier emphatically belts, “I don’t care what people might think / I got your name in permanent ink / ‘cause baby this ship ain’t never gonna sink!” Simple Plan get two assist on “Farewell” and “Singing In The Rain” from Jordan Pundik and R. City respectively. “Farewell” is unapologetic pop-punk at it punkiest (is that even a word) while “Singing In the Rain” incorporates a dash of tropical flavor.

“Farewell” and “Singing In the Rain” flow well, but “Everything Sucks” is the “cat’s meow.” It’s the “one” of a “one-two punch” including “I Refuse” which is sure to have you feel like a rebellious teenager with your fist in the air belting the anthemtic, quick-paced chorus.   Follow that grandness up with a Nelly feature, “I Don’t Wanna Go To Bed.” Yep – it’s just TOO much fun over the course of three tracks.

“Nostalgic” fits right into the bright, sunny vibe of Taking One For The Team, keeping the tempo “up.” “Perfectly Perfect” on the other hand contrasts, slackening the pace and opting for more serious fare. While it’s hard to take Simple Plan too seriously, even as their past their youthful prime, the song is effective. The second coming? – No, but effective.

“I Don’t Wanna Be Sad” is more captivating, thanks to its quicker pace and soulful production cues. Face it, Simple Plan are best when the energy is at a fever pitch. “P.S. I Hate You” is the perfect follow-up in the spirit of pop-punk! Penultimate cut “Problem Child” once more slows things down, taking an air of seriousness as Bouvier touchingly sings, “I don’t know why / always found a way to make you cry / I never meant to be your problem child / your problem child.” “I Dream About You” closes on the slower side of things, but the results are successful as it’s a beautiful, surprising duet with Juliet Simms.  

Ultimately, Taking One For The Team is a well-rounded album that should appeal to Simple Plan fans and newcomers who take the time to listen. Is this an album likely to make Simple Plan “hot” again? No. But to reiterate for the umpteenth time, this is a solid, enjoyable listen through and through.

Favorites: “Opinion Overload,”“Kiss Me Like Nobody’s Watching,”“Everything Sucks,”“I Refuse,” “I Don’t Wanna Be Sad” and “I Dream About You”


Simple Plan • Taking One For The Team • Atlantic • Release Date: 2.19.16




Grimes, Art Angels © 4AD

Grimes Incites a WTF Reaction on ‘Art Angels,’ Which Makes It Brilliant

Grimes, Art Angels © 4AD 

Grimes • Art Angels • 4AD • Release Date: 11.6.15

Sometimes the measure of a great album is one that makes you ask (or exclaim), “WTF is going on!” That’s sort of the case with GrimesArt Angels, an album that made numerous Best of 2015 year-end lists, including landing seventh on the Metacritic list compiled by highest aggregate score. Being bombarded with albums in the fourth quarter as a music critic/journalist, missing an album – particularly one that isn’t mainstream – is easy to do. However, after hearing all the buzz surrounding Art Angels, and the fact that it made so many year-end lists and missed mine, I had to check it out.

As aforementioned, Art Angels is confusing, yet brilliant (confusingly brilliant!). While it doesn’t threaten Kendrick Lamar for top honors as the album to beat, it’s definitely captivating and ranks among the best albums of 2015. This is a perfect example where being nonconformist and abandoning tried-and-true script are beneficial.

“Laughing And Not Being Normal” is the first indication that Art Angels is some kind of trip – perhaps a hellish one. The music is intense and foreboding. When the vocals enter in, they are ghostly, in Grimes’ upper register. Once they exit, the music again has this creepy, off-kilter vibe.

Thankfully, “California” is brighter musically, though the major-key and pessimistic lyrics seem oxymoronic. The hook is a perfect example of this: “California / you only like me when you think I’m looking sad / California / I didn’t think you’d end up treating me so bad.” BTW, it’s totally NOT about Cali.

The trip continues on arguably the album’s biggest WTF – make that WTFF moment – “Scream.” “Scream” features Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes, who raps in Mandarin Chinese. Somehow, this odd song has a hypnotic effect and is among the crème de la crème. Go figure.

Even with the great enigmatic nature of “Scream,” it’s great to hear English once more on “Flesh Without Blood” which also is more ‘down to earth.’ Keep in mind that down to earth in reference to Grimes is a slightly different down to earth compared to everybody else. “Flesh Without Blood” will still leave you confused.

“Belly of the Beat” continues the endearing quality that Art Angels has despite being so different. “Belly of the Beat” has this vibe about it that sucks the listener in, even when the lyrics are heard more as breathy sounds as opposed to distinctive lyrics. The ambience is equally important as the lyrics in effect.

“Kill V. Maim” is among the most ambitious, manic songs from Art Angels, evidenced by the changing inflections and sounds of Grimes’ voice. The pre-chorus and chorus are the highlight: “B-E-H-A-V-E / arrest us / Italiana mobster / looking so precious…I don’t behave, I don’t behave.”

“Artangels” is brighter than “Kill V. Maim,” established in a major key and featuring optimistic lyrics in reference to Montréal, Canada: “Oh Montréal don’t break my heart / I think I love you.” Interestingly, Grimes’ least favorite song from Art Angels is “Easily,” which to the listener’s ears might be the most accessible. “Easily” has a dash of urban flair going for it – probably attributable to the fact this song depicts an ended relationship. “Easily, I’m the sweetest damn thing you ever saw,” Grimes sings on the catchy chorus, continuing, “Easily, suddenly, you don’t know me at all / easily, three years later and now you wanna call.”

“Pin” is busy, characterized by its driving rhythm and loud dynamic level. “REALiti” is as groovy as everything else, so much so that it’s danceable. The demo version appears at the end of Art Angels (physical CD only). “World Princess, Pt. II” serves as follow up to “World Princess,” a track appearing on her 2010 album, Halfaxa. How does it stack up? A-OK! 

“Venus Fly” is the final record of Art Angels that ranks among the ‘best of the best.’ Featuring fellow eclectic artist Janelle Monáe, it’s nothing short of a fascinating listen with swagger and fierceness galore. The chorus ‘takes the cake’: “Hey, what about me? / Oh, why you looking at me?” Grimes’ voice is breathy, yet splendid on the brief “Life in the Vivid Dream.” Depending on the version of the album “Butterfly” serves as the penultimate or closing track.

All in all, Art Angels easily ranks among the best albums of 2015. Yeah, maybe it incites a “WTF” reaction upon its first couple of listens, but the more times one spins it, the more magical it is. Grimes has truly assembled a terrific album by all means.

Favorites: “California,” “Scream,” “Flesh Without Blood,” “Belly of the Beat” and “Venus Fly”


Alessia Cara, Know It All © Def Jam

Alessia Cara Shines On Debut Album ‘Know-It-All’

Alessia Cara, Know It All © Def Jam

Alessia Cara • Know-It-All • Def Jam • Release Date: 11.13.15

Ah, there’s nothing like fresh blood… not in a vampire sort of way of course. No family, friends and fiends, there’s nothing like fresh blood in the music industry, particularly in pop and R&B circles. 19-year old Canadian newbie Alessia Cara clearly represents the new guard and aspires to be the ‘next big thing’ on her full-length debut, Know-It-All. Is Cara the second coming – you know the answer to that BTW. While she may not revolutionize or flip the game, she’s definitely a welcome new presence, which she successfully showcases on album number one.

Things start off exceptionally with the memorable, relatable “Seventeen” in which Cara sings, “I was too young to understand what it means / I couldn’t wait ‘til I could be seventeen / I thought he lied when he said take my time to dream/ Now I wish I could freeze the time at seventeen.” Basically, it’s the old eager to grow up then wishing for time to freeze/slow down.

“Seventeen” is a stand out itself, but it definitely can’t supplant “Here,” likely the reason Know-It-All scored a top-ten debut. Isaac Hayes has been sampled numerous times quite effectively, but once more the magic of his artistry  shines through “Here,” an honest, confessional anthem about feeling out of place socially, specifically at a party in this instance. “Excuse me if I seem a little unimpressed with this,” she sings on the second verse, continuing, “An antisocial pessimist, but usually I don’t mess with this…but honestly I’d rather be/ somewhere with my people / we can kick it and just listen to / some music with a message…” Hard to top that…

“Outlaws” retains the soulfulness of “Here,” arguably amplifying it with its throwback touches. It doesn’t dare step on the toes of outgoing greatness, but definitely maintains the sentiment that Cara is an artist to take seriously. “I’m Yours” similarly keeps things on-point, aided by its relatively spry pace, sound vocals, and catchy songwriting, particularly the chorus.

“Four Pink Walls” gives Know-It-All another highlight drenched in authenticity. Why so authentic? It’s real talk about Cara achieving her dreams: “Then the universe aligned / with what I had in mind / who know there was a life / behind those four pink walls?” More artists would benefit from speaking upon their experiences. This is phenomenal for a musician as young as Cara.

Honesty and authenticity continue to be the M.O. on “Wild Things,” where Cara tells folks, “Find me where the wild things are…don’t mind us.” Preceding the key lyrics of the chorus, Cara shows her feistiness and carefree attitude about being different: “No mistakin’, we make our breaks, if you don’t like our 808s / then leave us alone, cause we don’t need your policies / we have no apologies for being…” GO ON GIRL!!!

“Stone” slackens the pace timely, showcasing the sheer beauty and expressiveness of Cara’s youthful pipes. Young she may be, but she sounds incredibly experienced by all means. “Overdose” picks up the tempo, driven by incredibly rhythmic drums.

Penultimate record “Stars” isn’t the most thrilling song of Know-It-All, but like everything else relatable – yearning for a relationship that you feel could be great. Often it’s that sense of having “stars in your eyes” and in this case, Cara thinks her and her potential lover “could be stars.” Closer “Scars To Your Beautiful” is uplifting; “You should know you’re beautiful just the way you are / and you don’t have to change a thing / the world could change its heart.”

If ten tracks of Cara isn’t enough, the deluxe version expands the tracklist by three songs – “Here – 2:00 AM Version,” “River of Tears,” and “My Song.” Regardless which version tickles your fancy, Know-It-All is a well-rounded, enjoyable album by all means. It’s not perfection exemplified, but there’s plenty to love about the album and Cara herself. Three cheers for Alessia Cara everyone!

Favorites: “Seventeen,” “Here,” “Four Pink Walls,” and “Wild Things”


The Weeknd "Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey)" Screen Shot (Republic)

Is The Weeknd Poised For Breakout Success?

The Weeknd "Earned it (Fifty Shades of Grey)" music video screen shot (Republic)
The Weeknd “Earned it (Fifty Shades of Grey)” music video screen shot (Republic)

As of yet, 2015 seems to be The Weeknd’s year. Honestly, the R&B industry should be praying that it is indeed the year of Abel Tesfaye, as the genre hasn’t had its finest moments this year. All indications suggests that The Weeknd may be his most relevant within the bigger picture of the music industry thanks to that little hit from the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack, “Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey).” Face it folks, even if you’re not familiar/into the BSDM world that is Fifty Shades of Grey, The Weeknd’s song has earned every ounce of praise that it is/has received.

The Weeknd "Earned it (Fifty Shades of Grey)" music video screen shot (Republic)
The Weeknd “Earned it (Fifty Shades of Grey)” music video screen shot (Republic)

The Weeknd smartly is reaching for the stars while his profile is elevated. It’s not as if he hasn’t had success previously – fellow R&B artists would die to have his debut numbers – but it just doesn’t feel that The Weeknd has quite sealed the deal. As good as records like “Wicked Games,” “Twenty Eight,” and “Belong To The World” are, The Weeknd hasn’t quite achieved mainstream success. That is an incredibly tall task for R&B artists these days, but The Weeknd seems to have a legit shot and he shouldn’t squander it with crap.

The Weeknd needs to deliver a “finisher.” No, his new album doesn’t necessarily have to be a masterpiece, but he needs to put all the pieces together soundly. 2013 LP Kiss Land had it moments, but it didn’t have mainstream appeal nor a breakthrough single. His mixtape compilation Trilogy had more success in the single department with the aforementioned “Wicked Games.” So his proper sophomore album needs to have ‘hits’ that are going to solidify his ranks. “Earned It” has initiated the breakthrough, now it’s the Weeknd’s job to capitalize.

The Weeknd screen shot from "The Hills" music video (Republic)
The Weeknd screen shot from “The Hills” music video (Republic)

So far, The Weeknd is off to a splendid start beyond his “Earned It” fame. “The Hills” is familiar territory for The Weeknd. That isn’t to say it isn’t ‘new’ or isn’t ‘hot’ (it is), but we’ve heard The Weeknd talk about his rebellious, sexual side and that’s exactly what he does here. That said should The Weeknd change his formula on “The Hills?” The answer is a resounding NO because “The Hills” is well produced, dramatic, and vocally, The Weeknd sounds like a boss. As good as “The Hills” is, the single with the most potential just might be “Can’t Feel My Face.”


The subject matter of “Can’t Feel My Face” is familiar territory for The Weeknd as well – drugs. Still, this is the single that could gain the most traction because of its pop-oriented nature. The first thought that comes in mind when you hear “Can’t Feel My Face” is Michael Jackson. That isn’t to say that The Weeknd is the reincarnation of MJ or that that’s even his artistic lane. What it is saying is that the pop sensibility of this joint has great potential to open The Weeknd to mainstream success beyond the R&B audience. Look at how well retro tracks have performed as of late – Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” and Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” (featuring Bruno Mars) being prime examples.

So, can The Weeknd breakthrough? – Hopefully this is his time. This guy’s rooting for him – he’s got a fantastic instrument on him.

Drake, 0 To 100 / The Catch Up © Cash Money

Thoughts On Drake’s “0 to 100 / The Catch Up”

Drake, 0 To 100 / The Catch Up © Cash Money

Drake’s latest track has its moments, not without flaws 
drake • “0 To 100 / the catch up” • cash money

Anytime a new single drops from Drake, it’s big news. The World Wide Web has been abuzz with the news of Drizzy dropping “0 to 100/ The Catch Up”. Remember when a little joint by the name of “Started At The Bottom” dropped via Soundcloud? Eventually, that single peaked at number six on the Billboard Hot 100, ending up one of the bigger hits of 2013.

That said, this guy (me) wasn’t impressed when “Started At The Bottom” dropped. Even though I’m onboard for the most part today, it still falls short of the glory of better Drake tracks. “0 to 100/ The Catch Up” is ambitious to an extent, yet in some respects, feels like glorified braggadocio over six minutes. Don’t call it an epic fail, nor call it a masterpiece, as “0 to 100/The Catch Up” is…well it is something.

Summer Jam 2014 Met Life Stadium New Jersey 06/01/2014 © Alex Mateo, /
Summer Jam 2014 Met Life Stadium New Jersey 06/01/2014 © Alex Mateo, /

On “0 to 100”, Drake essentially states he can ‘bring the heat’ quickly – so quick in fact that you won’t know what hit you. Essentially on the first part of the two-part song, Drake is flexing, bragging confidently about his success. “They be on that rap to pay the bill sh*t / and I don’t feel that sh*t, not even a little bit… my actions been louder than my words n***a,” spits the MC with conviction within the opening lines of the verse. He doesn’t end his assertive, biting flow there though.

He asserts “Oh Lord, I’m the rookie and the vet / shoutout to the b-tches out here holdin’ down the set,” a clever play on word, namely with bitch (a female dog) and the veterinarian. Still, even for the untouchable Drake, you have to question some of the rhymes, like the predictable punch when Drake claims “I should probably sign to Hit-Boy cause I got all the hits, boy” or the cliché, super pop cultural reference to Forrest Gump (“Ugh, I run this sh*t, they like ‘Go Forrest / Run Forrest, go Forrest”).

After a lengthy verse – which is combination of what seems to be minimally two verses, the hook finally materializes: “I go 0 to 100, n***a, real quick / real quick, whole squad on that real sh*t…” Even with Drake’s elaborations throughout his verse, there is a sense listening to the hook that Drake really isn’t saying much or offering much new. Mostly, there are plenty of iterations of sh*t, n***a – you get the idea.

Part two, “The Catch Up” is ‘softer’ you might say – more of the moody Drake listeners have grown accustomed to. Don’t get it twisted – Drizzy is still cocky and confident, but he also seems a bit self-conscious: “Imagine how I feel to watch another n***a at the top / you know that if it wasn’t you, you would be dissin’ you, dawg…” The mix between self-confidence and self-consciousness continues, whether it’s the self-conscious “Maybe I keep movin’ forward and they’re just stagnant…” or the extremely confident “Cause if I run in the game in these, man the seams are splittin’ / no pun intended but they’re smellin’ defeat in the air / headed where nobody took it, who meetin’ me there?” Even by the end of Drake’s verse (prior to the James Blake outro), Drake keeps things open-ended: “Cause I’m only 27 and I’m only gettin’ better / If I haven’t passed you yet, watch me catch up now, for real”.

Ultimately, “0 to 100” is all about Drizzy being thinking, knowing, and questioning his elite rap status. He knows the criticism is jealousy because he considers himself to be among the best MCs, and he continues to evolve and grow stronger with time and experience. Is it a winning track – umm…not quite. The concept makes sense, but whether a six-minute track was required to illustrate that point is up for grabs. Sort of Drake’s attempt at ‘god status’, it certainly falls short of the epic “Rap God” (Eminem) and is much lengthier than Kanye West’s “I Am A God”. That said, “0 to 100/The Catch Up” has its moments. Still, don’t label it as Drake’s best – he’s done better.


Photo Credits: © Cash Money, © Alex Mateo, /
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.

Review: The Weeknd, ‘Kiss Land’


The Weeknd Sticks With the Formula With Less Notable Results

The Weeknd⎪ Kiss Land ⎪ Republic⎪⎪ US Release Date: September 10, 2013

The Weeknd2-20130729-219Alternative 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.

The Weeknd-20130729-218By “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.

The Weeknd3-20130729-216“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 The Weeknd4-20130729-217Rain” 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”

Verdict: ✰✰✰

PartyNextDoor, PartyNextDoor © OVO


PartyNextDoor, PartyNextDoor © OVO

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**kin with them lames right now / I could put you on some game right now) while hungry for the do (“Just let your p***y talk, don’t let this feeling fade / girl cut them b*tches 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*tch 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”