Jhené Aiko, Sail Out

10 Memorable Tracks from November

Justin Bieber performs live in concert as part of his 'Believe Tour' at the Jos Miguel Agrelot Coliseum Carolina 10/20/2013 © WENN

Need ten jams to spin? Here’s my list of ten of November 2013’s hottest joints!

1)  Lady Gaga featuring R. Kelly, Do What U Want” (ARTPOP)

Lady Gaga seen leaving her hotel carrying a large seashell umbrella in London London 10/31/2013 © Palace Lee, PacificCoastNewsApplause” may have been a bust of sorts, but Gaga got herself together with the help of one of R&B’s most salacious presences, R. Kelly.  Playing on words, “Do What U Want” accomplishes Gaga’s love for double meanings.  If examined sexually, Gaga presents herself as, well easy.  But when examined less pervertedly, Gaga is suggesting she is more than her body and could care less how you scrutinize it, etc.

2) Bun B featuring Pimp C, Lil Boosie & Big KRIT, “Cake”  (Trill O.G.: The Epilogue)


Bun B probably isn’t most of the present generation’s ‘go to’ MC, but the veteran UGK MC is nothing short of a beast.  Here, his late, great partner Pimp C delivers a masterful hook, while Bun is joined by Lil Boosie and Mississippi underrated MC Big KRIT.  KRIT also handles the production work, which seems like the perfect match for the 42-year old Bun B. My favorite catch line, “Them thighs come with that shake / b**ch in yo mind, ho I got cake.”

3) Justin Bieber featuring R. Kelly, PYD

Justin Bieber, PYD

R. Kelly may just be R&B’s most popular commodity again as Justin Bieber taps him for arguably his best Music Mondays release to date, “PYD” (“Put You Down”).  Previously, the Biebz has been whining about heartbreak and Selena Gomez namely, but on “PYD” he wants to get… well, down. No more of the G- and PG-rated Bieber where “damn” is as far as he’ll step from his teen-pop roots… he’s ready to step it up a notch.  And if we didn’t understand his intentions, him and Kelly repeatedly iterate the acronym throughout (“P-Y-D, P-Y-D”)

4) Jhene Aiko featuring Vince Staples, Vapors”  (Sail Out – EP)

Jhené Aiko, Sail Out

From the first track “Vapors”, one knows that  Jhene Aiko’s EP Sail Out is something special.  Playing doubly as a weed-smoking joint as well as a yearning for an ex- who was good in bed, “Vapors” is both brilliant and highly representative of the newfound alternative R&B movement.  “Can you hit it again?” never sound more telling from Aiko’s cool, calm, and collected vocal perspective.

5) Celine Dion, Water And A Flame” (Loved Me Back To Life)

Celine Dion, Loved Me Back To Life

Celine Dion’s latest album has plenty of strong songs that tickled my fancy, with the Daniel Merriweather cover “Water And A Flame” amongst ‘em.  The original is little known as Merriweather isn’t a big name in the United States.  Regardless, if Merriweather never receives his deserved recognition, at least one of the greatest pop singers provides a stirring rendition here.

6) Eminem, “Rap God”, (The Marshall Mathers LP 2)

Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP2

What more is there to say, Eminem delivered the hottest rap track of the year this side of Kanye West’s “Blood On the Leaves” and Kendrick Lamar’s epic rap verse on Big Sean’s “Control”.  If I’d been Big Sean, I would’ve fought to have gotten “Control” on Hall of Fame, even if it meant delaying it (it’s sold abysmally anyways).  But this is Eminem’s moment and quite an electrifying moment it is indeed.

7)  Jake Miller, “Homeless” (Us Against Them)

Jake Miller, Us Against Them

Homeless” is among the cream of the crop from Jake Miller’s debut album Us Against Them.  Vocally, Miller sounds solid as he sings plaintively on the chorus: “Here I stand in the cold / I try to knock as you change the locks / now I’m all alone / where am I supposed to go / if you are where my home is, I guess that makes me homeless.”  The serious vibe of the sung vocals is matched by Miller’s more agile, rhythmic rapped vocals. While  it’s a ‘bummer’ as far as its overall tone, it is at least a standout ‘bummer’.

8) Mariah Carey, “The Art of Letting Go” 

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

Mimi’s latest single, “The Art of Letting Go”, finds one of R&B’s preeminent divas doing what she does best, BALLADS.  Whether she’s singing in her lower register or ascending to her upper register with every bit of her emotion, Carey compels the listener and makes us think of our own moments when we’ve struggled to let go.  “The Art of Letting Go” is filled with exceptional, memorable, and prudent lyrical moments including “Evidently your words were merely lies / reverberating in my ears / and the echo won’t subside / there’s a deep deep loss of hope…” from verse two.  The bridge confirms that “Baby letting go, baby letting go / ain’t easy…”

9) Jake Bugg, “A Song About Love” (Shangri La)

Jake Bugg, Shangri La

Recently I reviewed Jake Bugg’s sophomore effort, Shangri La.  While I had mixed feelings, I certainly had rave reviews for one particular standout in “A Song About Love”:

“Is that all you wanted? Songs about love? / Is that want you hoped you would find / when it’s burning inside / but a song about love’s not enough.” Poetic by all means, “A Song About Love” seems to be the most complete performance of the album.  The metric shifting “A Song About Love” certainly offers the incredible nuance and an overall unique selection  Where many of Bugg’s songs seem quite simple, “A Song About Love” definitely steps up the game.

10) Lady Gaga, Dope” (ARTPOP)

Lady Gaga, ARTPOP

Another Lady Gaga track really? Yep.  “Dope” is completely different from “Do What U Want”.  Sure, it sounds as if it shouldn’t be a substantive track, but Gaga’s intents are quite notable, more so than some of ARTPOP’s ‘looser’ cuts. On the sole ballad from the album, Gaga opens herself up to vulnerability, suggesting that despite her past screw-ups with substances, she needs her man “more than dope”.  Sure she’s literal and dope doesn’t lend itself to the greatest heart-warming moment ever, but her personalized touch truly shines here.

The 2013 Fourth Quarter Music Releases Underwhelm…


John Legend-20130621-532013 has produced many notable albums overall.  Among the many triumphs include an alternative juggernaut (Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of the City), a soulful return (John Legend’s, Love in the Future), an atheistic Brit-metal reunion (Black Sabbath’s 13),  and an electronic thriller (Daft Punk’s, Random Access Memories).  Those aforementioned titles are just some of the sound efforts that thrilled us in 2013.  That said, it is usually the fourth quarter (October through December) in which the record companies roll out those unstoppable commercial blockbusters.  Some arrive in September as well, though the first week sales totals tend to ascend to loftier heights during the month of October.   The problem for fourth quarter  releases in 2013 is that there seem to be fewer of these sure-fire blockbusters or worse yet, the expected blockbusters are flops.

51C5yP6ZOqL._SL500_AA280_In October, the ‘big-time’ releases included Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2 (released off-cycle on September 30), Miley Cyrus’s Bangerz, Pearl Jam’s Lightening Bolt, Katy Perry’s PRISM, and Arcade Fire’s Reflektor.  That’s not a bad list in the least with all of these albums debuting at no. 1.  The numbers for these releases were superb contextually given album sales in recent times.  That said, it wouldn’t be until Eminem’s November 5th release of The Marshall Mathers LP 2 that sales would move past that 500,000 threshold.  In fact, the top release of the October collective of albums was Timberlake’s second album, which sold 350,000.   That paled in comparison to the near million that The 20/20 Experience sold just earlier in the year. The smallest of the no. 1 bows impacting the charts came from Arcade Fire’s Reflektor with 140,000 copies sold.  140,000 copies are solid numbers, especially for an alternative rock band, but those numbers can’t dig music sales out of their recession.

Celine Dion-AES-096439On a related note, what’s been more troubling when analyzing chart numbers has been the top-heaviness of the chart usually with only the ‘star’ album.  This week, Eminem gave the charts nearly 800,000 copies boost, BUT the week’s second bestseller, Celine Dion’s Loved Me Back to Life, sold <100,000 copies (77,000 to be exact).  If fourth quarter sales continue at this tepid rate, particularly with former bigger names like Celine Dion and Avril Lavigne underperforming, the fourth quarter certainly won’t make up for the sales issues of 2013; The effect of  an 800,000K blockbuster wouldn’t be sufficient.

81LFx7SM8AL._SL1400_The best bets left to impact the charts in a big way seem few and far between.  The biggest impacters are likely Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP (November 14), One Direction’s Midnight Memories (November 25) and Britney SpearsBritney Jean (December 3).  Lady Gaga’s numbers are quite underwhelming based on early prognostications; she may sell 260,000 copies.  As for One Direction, big numbers wouldn’t be shocking, particularly considering Take Me Home debuted at no. 1 last year with over 500K, but how much will Midnight Memories move, particularly given a younger demographic? Can they match or exceed their former numbers?  Britney Spears certainly can have a huge week, but has she cooled off since her heyday?  What I’m basically saying is, the fourth quarter seems a couple of releases short of a definitive hit.

41E34dng69L._SL500_AA280_The other problem or a question with the fourth quarter is, will their be that Christmas album that puts the music industry on its back to infuse some charting numbers? There have been holiday albums released by Mary J. Blige, Kelly Clarkson, Susan Boyle, and The Robertsons (of Duck Dynasty).  Will any of these become that hot selling commodity leading into Christmas? The best bets would be Clarkson or Duck Dynasty as Susan Boyle and Blige haven’t made much of an impact as of yet.   Also what about this albums lingering in or around the top ten such as Drake’s Nothing Was the Same, Katy Perry’s Prism, Miley Cyrus’ Bangerz, or surprise Lorde’s Pure Heroine. Can any of these gain a second wind and salvage the fourth quarter glory?

As stated earlier, personally, I feel this year’s fourth quarter feels a piece or two short.  Time will tell if this is the case of course.


Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2 Debuts Big


Eminem unsurprisingly debuts at the penthouse with The Marshall Mathers LP 2. And yes, the numbers are gargantuan.  While Eminem was unable to beat the 968,000 copies that Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience, he did sell 792,000 copies.  The former second-largest debut of 2013 was Drake’s Nothing Was The Same (658,000 copies), which now settles for third-largest debut.  Eminem is the biggest news, but not the sole news on the Albums chart this week.

61F+u7vUrlLCeline Dion’s Loved Me Back To Life debuts at no. 2, selling 77,000 copies.  Those numbers are  nothing to ‘write home about’.  Sure, they aren’t ‘vintage’ Dion numbers, but more troubling again is that only one album sold more than 100,000 copies.  Avril Lavigne also had an unimpressive week as Avril Lavigne sold a tepid 44,000 copies.  As troubling? 44,000 copies was good enough for a no. 5 debut.  Oh, and some a cappella group named Pentatonix closes out the top 10 with PTX: Vol. II.  Go figure.

51xD76Q4S7LHoldovers:  The Robersons’ Duck the Halls: A Roberson Family Christmas (no. 3); Katy Perry’s Prism (no. 4); Kelly Clarkson’s Wrapped in Red (no. 6), Drake’s Nothing Was The Same (no. 7), and Lorde’s Pure Heroine (no. 8).  Speaking of Lorde, since you asked, a certain song entitled “Royals” is still no. 1.

Who’s Got Next? Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP  should be a lock.  However, according to Billboard prognostications, ARTPOP is only expected to move about 260,000 copies.  How far off is that from Born This Way, oh A LOT! Born This Way sold 1.1 million… Otherwise, well, it seems to be a so-so week as far as releases.

Review: Celine Dion, ‘Loved Me Back To Life’


Canadian pop powerhouse Celine Dion has ‘still got it’

Celine Dion⎪ Loved Me Back To Life ⎪ Columbia ⎪⎪ US Release Date: November 5, 2013

Celine Dion-AES-096435Years ago, the name Celine Dion carried incredible weight.  For comparison, it’s kinda like in basketball when analysts call a player ‘automatic’; Dion used to be an automatic commercial juggernaut, period.  Instead of shooting free throws, all she did was sell albums – lots and lots of albums.  The key point is that she ‘used to’.  Like some many of the ‘veterans’ who have past their musical career primes,  Celine Dion’s ‘relevance’ in the new pop worlds is very minimal compared to her heyday.  After an incredible seven-year absence following her last English effort , 2007’s Taking Chances, the Canadian pop singer returns with Loved Me Back to Life.  While Love Me Back To Life lacks the anticipation and bombast of previous Dion albums, one thing it doesn’t lack is those powerhouse, prodigious pipes.

The first time I listened to title track “Love Me Back to Life”, I thought it was a bit ‘clunky’, though filled will energy.  After a second listen, I truly fell in love with it.  Dion showcases off her gifts,  sounding still pure and as powerful as ever.   The cut straddles pop and R&B stylistically, appealing to the ‘best of the both worlds’.  While the slickly produced cut does sport syncopated, gargantuan, hip-hop sensible drums, it certainly doesn’t compromise nor truly makeover Dion artistically.  “Somebody Loves Me” follows elegantly, sounding like an oxymoron of sorts.  While the production is refined, Dion isn’t afraid to go full-throated superstar, particularly during the choruses and the bridge.  Vocally, Dion makes the lyrics meaningful, particularly lines like “If you wanna fight, bite your tongue / before you explode / but don’t let this get out of control / you don’t want me to leave you alone…” (verse one).  Not as profound as the title track perhaps, “Somebody Loves Me” is still worthy of ‘the love’.

Celine Dion-AES-096439

Incredible” is more profound, finding Dion blending fantastically with duet partner/songwriter Ne-Yo.  Optimistic, uplifting, and bright, the duet reminds us of a simpler time in music, where vulgarities and overt sexuality weren’t king.  The chorus simply states “…Incredible / incredible / let’s make them remember / we were remember / simply incredible.” The feel good track is just that, incredible.  It’s follow-up “Water and A Flame”, a relatively obscure Daniel Merriweather cover originally serving as a duet between Merriweather and  Adele, is easily the set’s best non-original.  As extraordinarily beautiful as the original duet version is, Celine Dion makes her interpretation equally alluring.  The top-notch recreated production doesn’t hurt Dion’s cause either, only serving as further inspiration for a nuanced vocal performance.  Dion sounds incredibly comfortable within the retro-soul setting.  Among her best moments? Those signature soaring vocals during the chorus.

Breakaway” continues to find Dion flexing those vocal muscles, even if it doesn’t reach the same high watermark of the previous duo.  “Save Your Soul” comes close if it doesn’t match the aforementioned intensity, crossing somewhere between contemporary pop and contemporary R&B.  The funky edge about “Save Your Soul” makes it a worthwhile listen, as does compelling lyrics such as “How could I, keep believing every word you’re sayin’ / wrapped up in every kiss you’ve poisoned / I could swear I never saw the sin…” Dion follows one standout with another on “Didn’t Know Love”, which certainly doesn’t reinvent the wheel in regards to its theme, but makes love once more excellent inspiration for a song.  “It’s a blessing, it’s a curse,” Dion sings on the second verse. “You know you’ve found it when it hurts.”  As impressive as Dion’s grit and resolve is throughout Loved Me Back to Life, it is also welcome to hear the diva’s restraint, which occurs here before she gains that ‘second wind’ you might say.

Celine Dion-PRN-102195Thank You” sounds very much like a Shaffer Smith (Ne-Yo) composition.  It suits Celine, though it’s not among my top five cuts.  “Thank You” is at its best when it finally percolates towards the end.  “Overjoyed” pairs Celine Dion with Stevie Wonder, fittingly since “Overjoyed” is one of the soul artists many classics.  The recreated production is incredibly lush and thoughtfully conceived, highlighting the unique cues of the original.   While the duet and cover are enjoyable, it doesn’t quite achieve the same lofty level as “Water and a Flame.”   After saying “thank you”,  Dion is “Thankful” on track ten.  “But I’m thankful to be here / thankful to feel clear / thankful my prayers have been answered…,” Dion sings on the chorus.  Judging by the lyrics, “Thankful” is nothing innovative, but the emotion and relatable nature of the cut is in full effect.  That emotion is fully realized by the end with the emergence of the gospel choir – I’d been waiting for the choir the entire album personally.

Celine Dion2-20121127-37The final three cuts don’t shine like the best, but continue to find Dion in superb voice.  “At Seventeen” is another cover (Janis Ian), but comes off a bit of bore, particularly comparative to other covers.  “Always Be Your Girl” has the pieces in place, notably a key modulation, but is a bit predictable ultimately.  “Unfinished Songs”, written by Diane Warren, closes the effort with surprising energy (and quick tempo), but doesn’t match the ‘goods’ of say the title track. Win some, lose some.

How does Love Me Back To Life stack up?  For the most part, extremely well.  Through and through, this is an enjoyable album and certainly one where Dion can hang her head up high without reservation.  As far as artistry, Celine Dion is still ‘on her game’ and her voice sounds like she’s taken good care of it.  Whether or not Love Me Back to Life is big enough to be career comeback or whether or not ‘Celine Dion’ can be a household name once more, I’d say that that  ship has sailed.  Fans should enjoy it though, and perhaps that’s what matters the most at this point in the 45-year old’s career.


“Loved Me Back To Life”; “Incredible”; “Water and a Flame”; “Save Your Soul”; “Didn’t Know Love”


Verdict: ✰✰✰½

Arcade Fire Launch at No. 1 With Reflektor


Arcade-Fire-mr01Arcade Fire return to a familiar place, the number one spot on the Billboard Album Charts.  The Montreal band’s most recent album, Reflektor moves a respectable 140,000 copies.  Compared to 2010 effort The Suburbs, the most recent figure is just slightly less (The Suburbs moved 156,000 copies).  Arcade Fire knocks Katie Perry off of her perch, sending PRISM to settle for no. 2 selling 92,000 copies.  According to billboard.com, Perry had a solid second week considering how much huge debuts tend to wane in sales.  That said, what is more noticeable to me is that only one album sells over 100,000 copies.  It’s November y’all… shouldn’t we be seeing multiple albums at least reaching that 100K threshold?

51+FjDqGtcLOther albums debuted in the top ten, though no bigger than ReflektorKelly Clarkson’s first Christmas effort Wrapped in Red moved 70,000 copies, good for a no. 3 bow.  Not far behind numerically was Robertsons’ Duck the Halls: A Robertson Family Christmas, which sold 69,000 copies at no. 4.  Honestly, I wasn’t even aware of the Duck Dynasty release, so those numbers are exceptional contextually.  Then again, I’ve also never seen Duck Dynasty.  Oh well.

Country doesn’t have a great week from a numbers perspective otherwise (with the Duck Dynasty compilation being considered ‘country’). Newbie Thomas Rhett and tried-and-true vet Toby Keith land at nos. 6 and 7 with 36,000 and 35,000 copies sold respectively. Yuck! Remember those days where Toby Keith used to be one of country’s preeminent artists? Then again, the dude is 52… Don’t believe it when they say “age ain’t nothin’ but a number!”  Linkin Park’s remixed compilation effort bows at no. 10 with 33,000 copies sold.  Compare that to new country studio efforts and we know that something is amiss… just saying!

Holdovers: Katy Perry (@ no. 2); Drake (@ no. 5); Lorde (@ no. 8);  Miley Cyrus (@ no. 9)

91C6DnbKH1L._SL1500_Eminem’s single “The Monster” makes a big splash, but can’t dethrone queen Lorde’s “Royals” on the Billboard Hot 100 throne.  According to billboard, that makes six weeks.  So after two brief stints with “Roar” and “Wrecking Ball” crowning the chart, Lorde has made it her queendom.  All hail!

Who’s Got Next? Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2, no questions asked.  It’s already being prognosticated by Billboard between 700- and 750,000.  Among other albums released next week are Avril Lavigne’s Avril LavigneCeline Dion’s Loved Me Back to LifeThe Wanted’s Word of Mouth,  and Jake Miller’s Us Against Them.