Beyoncé, Lemonade © Parkwood Entertainment

Beyoncé, ‘Lemonade’: By The Lyrics


Beyoncé shocked the world by dropping her sixth album Lemonade on April 23, 2016. Besides shocking by merely releasing a new album, the content on Lemonade is also shocking, showing Beyoncé’s more personal side and offering in some respects a ‘different look’ for Queen Bey. Yours truly was onboard. But why not analyze Lemonade ever further – let’s examine the lyrics!!! 

1) “You can taste the dishonesty / it’s all over your breath as you pass it off so cavalier / but even that’s a test / constantly aware of it all” – “Pray You Catch Me”

Commentary: Beyoncé sees he’s lying through his teeth… The question is, is “he” Jay-Z?

2) “Can’t you see there’s no other man above you? / What a wicked way to treat the girl that loves you / hold up, they don’t love you like I love you / oh, down, they don’t love you like I love you” – “Hold Up”

Commentary: Beyoncé loves her boo, presumably Jay-Z if you’re being speculative. But whoever the man is in “Hold Up,” she’s angry because he did her wrong while to her, “he’s the world.”

3) “Going through your call list / I don’t wanna lose my pride, but I’mma f*ck me up a b**ch” – “Hold Up”  

Commentary: This needs translation – Queen Bey made herself clear.

4) “What’s worse, lookin’ jealous or crazy? / Jealous or crazy? / Or like being walked all over lately, walked all over lately / I’d rather be crazy” – “Hold Up”

Commentary: Beyoncé’s pride is important. Either way, she feels that she’s compromising it, but feels it’s better to show her “crazy” side as opposed to jealousy. Why? “They don’t love you like I love you.” If you watch Lemonade the visual, you see Beyoncé acting crazy, breaking things with her baseball bat.

5) “Who the f*ck do you think I is? / You ain’t married to no average b**ch boy / you can watch my fat ass twist boy / as I bounce to the next dick boy” – “Don’t Hurt Yourself”

 Commentary: Doesn’t he know that she’s the Queen? She doesn’t have to stand for his BS – there’s “plenty of other fish in the sea” that would love to hook up with her. She’s right about that! 

6) “Blindly in love, I f*cks with you / ‘til I realize, I’m just too much for you” – “Don’t Hurt Yourself”

Commentary: Beyoncé didn’t see her man’s faults initially, hence why she embraced him and, hooked up with him if you take the f-bomb literally. But after he cheated, she realized she’s the better person aka too good for him.

7) “Hey baby, who the f*ck do you think I is? / I smell that fragrance on your Louis knit boy / Just give my fat ass a big kiss boy / tonight I’m f*cking up all your shit boy” – “Don’t Hurt Yourself” 

Commentary: Beyoncé smells the mistress’ perfume on Jay-Z – I mean her boo’s high fashion clothing. She’s got something for him, and it’s not making love…

8) “Uh, this is your final warning / you know I give you life / if you try this shit again / you gon’ lose your wife” – “Don’t Hurt Yourself” 

Commentary: Beyoncé is going to forgive him, but not forget. If he cheats again, she’s out.

9) “He trying to roll me up, I ain’t picking up / headed to the club, I ain’t thinking ‘bout you / me and my ladies sip my D’usse cup / I don’t give a f*ck, chucking my deuces up” – “Sorry”

Commentary: Even though Beyoncé is forgiving him, she’s about to have a girl’s night out to recuperate from his BS. 

10) “Middle fingers up, put them hands high / wave it in his face, tell him, boy, bye” – “Sorry”

Commentary: In Shakespearean times, this would be the equivalent of “I bite my thumb at you.” In 2016, it means f#$% you.

11) “Six inch heels, she walked in the club like nobody’s business / god damn, she murdered everybody and I was her witness” – “6 Inch” 

Commentary: This woman was confident – fierceness exemplified. 

12) “She stack her money, money everywhere she goes / she got that Sake, her Yamazaki straight from Tokyo / Oh baby you know, she got them commas and them decimals / she don’t gotta give it up cause she professional” – “6 Inch” 

Commentary: This woman is on the grind, working hard for her money.

13) “She too smart to crave material things / she pushing herself day and night / she grinds from Monday to Friday / works from Friday to Sunday…” – “6 Inch”

Commentary: Again, hard workingwoman trying to make ends meet. 

14) “With his gun, with his head held high / he told me not to cry / Oh, my daddy said shoot / Oh, my daddy said shoot” – “Daddy Lessons” 

Commentary: Since this is a country song, the “gun” thing could be taken literally. But ultimately, the gun references are metaphorical, particularly when it comes to Beyoncé or the character that she portrays seeking success. 

15) “Ten times out of nine, I know you’re lying / but nine times out of ten, I know you’re trying / so I’m trying to be fair / and you’re trying to be there and to care” – “Love Drought” 

Commentary: After the cheating, Beyoncé and her man are trying to heal.

16) “Cause you, you, you, you, and me could move a mountain / you, you, you, you, and me could calm a war down…/…you and me could stop this love drought” – “Love Drought” 

Commentary: Beyoncé and Hov, they make a mean couple… 

17) “Dishes smashed out my counter from our last encounter / pictures snatched out the frame / b**ch, I scratched out your name and your face / what is it about you that I can’t erase, baby?” – “Sandcastles”

Commentary: Yeah, Beyoncé is still pissed… 

18) “Tryna rain, tryna rain on the thunder / tell the storm I’m new / I’mma walk, I’mma march on the regular / painting white flags blue / Lord forgive me, I’ve been running / running blind in truth / I’mma rain, I’mma rain on this bitter love / tell the sweet I’m new” – “Freedom”

Commentary: Beyoncé has a new outlook – nothing can stop her from reclaiming her shine! 

19) “I break chains all by myself / won’t let my freedom rot in hell / Hey! I’mma keep running / Cause a winner don’t quit on themselves” – “Freedom” 

Commentary: See the commentary for #18.

20) “Our love was stronger than your pride / beyond your darkness, I’m your light…/Baptize your tears and dry your eyes” – “All Night” 

Commentary: Beyoncé makes him a better man – she’s his world and the one who truly loves him.

21) “Y’all haters corny with that Illuminati mess / Paparazzi, catch my fly, and my cocky flesh / I’m so reckless when I rock my Givenchy dress / I’m so possessive so I rock his Roc necklaces” – “Formation”

Commentary: Yeah, the Illuminati thing is corny and it’s always associated with Beyoncé and Jay Z. Here, she’s definitely onboard with Jay, considering she states, “I’m so possessive so I rock his Roc necklaces.”

K. Michelle, More Issues Than Vogue © Atlantic

K. Michelle’s ‘More Issues Than Vogue’ By The Lyrics


K. Michelle, More Issues Than Vogue © Atlantic

It is safe to say that R&B singer K. Michelle has no filter. NONE! Her third studio album, More Issues Than Vogue continues her risqué approach to R&B. What better way to analyze More Issues Than Vogue than by the lyrics?

1) “Who the f*ck / told y’all hoes to open up? / Cut – that’s enough! / I’m comin’ straight from the gut…” – “Mindful”

Commentary: Well, it’s safe to say that K. Michelle isn’t hurting for confidence or brashness here. Hmm, best be “mindful” of messing with her… 

2) “You keep sayin’ you the illest b*tch / but I still feel like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill” – “Mindful”

Commentary: Hey, you can’t go wrong with a Quentin Tarantino film, let alone Kill Bill – it’s a classic!

3) “Come and show me some love / got that booty sitting right / I make it clap got them booty cheeks looking like they getting into a fight” – “Got Em Like”

Commentary: Hmm, one of the reasons why K. Michelle’s “got ‘em like damn” apparently…just saying!

4) “Oh, I got my own sh*t, don’t want your money / nope, I drop a hundred bands like it’s easy money” – “Ain’t You”

Commentary: K. Michelle isn’t worried about money – she just wants him.

5) “Only one I be giving game to / these dudes mad cause they really ain’t you” – “Ain’t You”

Commentary: See the commentary on #4.

6) “If you think I want you, not a little bit / if you think I need you, not a little bit / I finally moved on I’m over it / if you think I need you, not” – “Not A Little Bit” 

Commentary: K. Michelle has moved on – she don’t want you anymore!

7) “Makes us insane, no one’s to blame / that’s how I know you’re the one / it’s crazy, amazing / we f*cked it up / If it ain’t love, I don’t know what is” – “If It Ain’t” 

Commentary: Basically, K. Michelle is saying that love is a crazy trip. It can be amazing or messed up.

8) “Tell me why do we, why do we, why do we / make the bed / when we know we gonna mess it up again?” – “Make The Bed” 

Commentary: Freaky. “It’s goin’ down!”

9) “Baby, please excuse my behavior / but can I get back the f*cks that I gave you?” – “Nightstand”

 Commentary: Gotta love double entendre. Has the f-bomb ever been better utilized?

10) “Oh these men / they sho’ be getting around / wifing all of these b*tches around town / but I can’t play fool / they don’t know nothin’, ‘bout nothin’, ‘bout love” – “These Men”

Commentary: From K. Michelle’s perspective, the men are all dogs. Beware of her wrath!

11) “If all I got is the love I was promised / I’m good, even if it’s all I got / if all I got is the touch of your body / I’m good, even if it’s all I got” – “All I Got”

Commentary: All she wants is his love – it’s all she needs.

12) “Tell me how to find somebody / who gon’ be on time on time / it’s too late for you and I / Thank God I left you right on time, on time” – “Time” 

Commentary: Much like “All I Got,” K. Michelle seems to have landed her Prince Charming.

13) “I got rich people problems / only way to solve ‘em / keep on getting’ rich / richer and richer…” – “Rich” 

Commentary: K. Michelle may have issues as a famous/rich person, but she definitely wants to keep getting that paper.

14) “I’m angry so many nights, as I lay by your side, and you / sleep like a baby, oh you sleep like a baby” – “Sleep Like A Baby”

Commentary: She’s mad while he’s content and “sleeping like a baby” – pretty self-explanatory stuff.

David Bowie, Blackstar © Columbia

25 Chart Takeaways: David Bowie’s First No. 1 Album  


 

David Bowie, Blackstar © Columbia

The world lost a musical visionary in David Bowie. On the Billboard 200, specifically the “number one spot” Bowie’s legacy lives on with his first ever chart topper. As bittersweet as that takeaway is, there are 24 more takeaways to go with it!

1) David Bowie posthumously scores his first #1 album with Blackstar, which is a fantastic album to say the least.   Bowie’s previous high on the Billboard 200 came just one album previously, as The Next Day landed in the runner-up spot.

2) Adele’s reign atop the Billboard 200 ended at seven consecutive weeks as 25 slips to #2 in its eighth charting week. The question on everybody’s mind: is Adele done? Probably not and the numbers confirm such.

3) Who’s been trailing Adele consistently? Justin Bieber, and he continues to sit one spot behind her on the charts. Purpose falls from runner-up to third place inline with 25’s slippage from first to second. Purpose like 25 remains impactful in the numbers department.

4) Blackstar isn’t the only Bowie album in the top 10 following his death. Best Of Bowie completely reenters the Billboard 200 at a new charting high – #4.

5) Bryson Tiller’s TRAPSOUL continues to rise, spending its third week in the top 10 of the Billboard 200. TRAPSOUL rises from #9 to #8 in its 16th week overall.

6) G-Eazy reenters the top 10 of the chart as When It’s Dark Out rises from #13 to #9 six weeks in.

7) One Direction drops out of the top 10 for the first time. Made In The A.M. falls from #6 to #12.

8) J. Cole sees his 2014 Forest Hills Drive improve 15 spots from #31 to #16 in its 58th week on the chart.

9) Rachel Platten’s Wildfire slips 13 spots from #5 to #18 in its second week on the BB200.

10) David Bowie’s The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars just misses the top 20 at #21. This marks the set’s highest peak position and the third Bowie album on the Billboard 200 this week.

11) The ChainsmokersBouquet EP moves up 10 spots from #41 to #31.

12) Hamilton: An American Musical rises seven spots from #40 to #33 in its 16th week on the charts.

13) The soundtrack to Straight Outta Compton quietly enters onto the Billboard 200 at #39. The film itself was available for purchase this week beginning Tuesday (January 19).

14) Michael Jackson’s Number Ones reenter the charts at #49.

15) Definitely not “Rose Gold” for Pentatonix this week as their self-title album slips 15 spots from #35 to #50. Ouch!

16) Mike Stud’s These Days debuts rather unremarkably at #58. That said it wasn’t highly promoted either so…

17) Jeremih’s Late Nights: The Album rises 15 spots from #75 to #60.

18) Rhiannon Giddens sees her album Tomorrow Is My Turn reenter the charts at #83. Tomorrow Is My Turn only spends its second week on the BB200 with this reentry.

19) Rick RossBlack Market continues to free-fall. The set slips 21 spots from #74 to #95 in only six weeks on the charts.

20) Old Dominion’s debut album Meat And Candy improves from #120 to #100 in its 10th week on the charts.

21) Ty Dolla $ign sees a slight improvement in his chart stock – Free TC jumps 11 spots from #117 to #106.

22) R. Kelly continues to sell tepidly. The Buffet drops from #88 to #116 in week five. This is by far Kelly’s poorest selling album.

23) Walk The Moon’s Talking Is Hard drops 60 spots from #89 to #149 in week 56 on the charts.

24) August Alsina’s This Thing Called Life slips 42 spots from #111 to #153 in only 5 short weeks on the chart.

25) Grizfolk’s Waking Up The Giants debuts quietly in the lower quarter of the chart at #163.

 

Fantasia, No Time For It © RCA

Fantasia Returns, Has “No Time For It”


Fantasia, No Time For It © RCA

Fantasia • No Time For It – Single • RCA • Release Date: 1.7.16

After a three-year hiatus (Side Effects of You, 2013), 31-year old R&B standout Fantasia returns with her new single, “No Time For It.” The best way to describe “No Time For It” is that it’s feisty. This can be inferred from the title, but the song itself backs up what the title suggests. What exactly doesn’t Fantasia have “no time for?”

“And if they’re bring up problems / there’s not time for it.” Basically, Fantasia is giving a big ole fat middle finger to the haters – she doesn’t care what they’ve got to say. She goes on to sing on the chorus, “You wanna tell me how it is / but there’s no time for it…and the hate don’t really matter, nah / there’s no time for it.” Essentially, Fantasia confirms the old “haters gonna hate” sentiment that has played out numerous times across numerous genres.

So, how does “No Time For It” stack up? It’s good, but certainly not elite. Fantasia has released some terrific songs, including her sole Grammy-winner, “Bittersweet.” “No Time For It” doesn’t come close to the soulfulness and overall exceptionalness of “Bittersweet.” For a comparison point, “No Time For It” is arguably on or close to the level of “Lose To Win” (Side Effects Of You) that was a good single, but again, not great or transcendent per se.

Examining Fantasia songs that served as singles, which ones in addition to “Bittersweet” are the best? “I Believe” certainly ranks at the top, scoring Fantasia her sole number one after being victorious on American Idol third season. That said, it would be single “Free Yourself” from Free Yourself (2004) that would earn Fantasia her first set of Grammy nominations. “Truth Is” would perform the best on the pop charts, though “I Believe” and “Free Yourself” are better songs.

“Hood Boy” was a terrific single from Fantasia (2006), but was a total flop at radio. Fantasia made up for it with “When I See U,” which became a minor pop hit and performed exceptionally on the R&B circuit. Both of these trump “No Time For It” as well as “Lose To Win.”

On Back To Me in addition to “Bittersweet,” “I’m Doin’ Me” and “Collard Greens & Cornbread” were released as singles. Neither trumps “Bittersweet” (little does), but both singles are well rounded. Arguably, the Marvin Gaye-sampling “Collard Greens & Cornbread” is a bit more distinct thanks to its unorthodox title and Fantasia embracing her big personality. Better than “No Time For It”? Probably.

So is this post a statement on how underwhelming “No Time For It” is? No, it’s a solid single, but what it’s not is ‘brand new’ or transcendent to throw that word around again. Whenever album five drops for Fantasia, given the track record of R&B as of late, she’ll likely have an uphill battle. Is “No Time For It” strong enough to turn the tides or stop the bleeding commercially? NO.   She’ll always be a personal favorite who has soul for days, years, and a lifetime, but most people probably will have “no time for” this single and possibly the upcoming album. That’s where R&B stands currently, sad as it is.

To Summarize…

PROS: Fantasia can still S-A-N-G, no questions asked

CONS: This won’t win Fantasia new fans/keep her relevant in big scheme of things (aka commercial sales)

★★★

 

 

 

 

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

Revisiting Bryson Tiller’s ‘TRAPSOUL’ – Was It Undervalued?


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

Bryson Tiller • TRAPSOUL • Bryson Tiller / RCA • Release Date: 9.25.15

You can’t rewrite history – what’s happened has already happened. BUT, you can evolve on certain opinions and etc. Perhaps that’s the case with yours truly and Louisville, Kentucky singer/rapper Bryson Tiller. Back in October 2015, I wrote a short take on Tiller’s debut album, TRAPSOUL and in the spirit of the Meryl Streep film Doubt, well, “I had my doubts” about Tiller artistically.

Ultimately, TRAPSOUL earned a below average rating from me, receiving the ★★½ out of ★★★★★ rating. Even with this rating, your boy felt bad:

At best it’s in the middle, but TRAPSOUL 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!

Harsh? Judgmental? A Hater? Maybe, but at the time, TRAPSOUL just wasn’t doing it for me. Now, “Exchange” is a song that is among my most played on my iPod where before it wasn’t even one of my favorites from TRAPSOUL. Was I in a bad mood when listening to TRAPSOUL initially? Maybe, or maybe what’s happened is taking a second-look – giving an album a second chance. How dramatically was the second look of TRAPSOUL for yours truly? Mr. Tiller, your fellow Kentuckian has supported you, via iTunes with his Christmas iTunes gift card.

So is the point of this to apologize to Tiller, his fans, and suddenly make myself as a critic vulnerable? No – critics aren’t what you call the apologetic type. The point is that music critics as well as everyday music listeners and lovers evolve. The case of TRAPSOUL is that I enjoy the album now after spending some time analyzing and not going for the initial snapshot that we sometimes make when reviewing an album or making an evaluative judgment.

Cee Lo Green, Heart Blanche © Atlantic

Here’s another example, where it works in the adverse direction for the artist. When reviewing and listening to CeeLo Green’s Heart Blanche, I was onboard with the soulful musician’s latest album, so much so that Green got a ★★★★ rating. Looking at others’ reviews, they were much less enthusiastic, with some even hating it with a passion. While I don’t hate Heart Blanche, post-review, it is an album that I overrated, maybe as much as a star. Again, it’s not revisionism as that review rating stands, but if the album were to be reexamined, CeeLo might not be as lucky.

But back to Bryson Tiller… while TRAPSOUL still wouldn’t make my best of 2015 albums list per se, I undervalued it. So instead of ★★ ½, that rating is at least bumped up to ★★★, maybe ★★★½ – WAIT! – That might be pushing it J.

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

★★½ ★★★, maybe more

 

 

Disclosure, Caracal © Island

Best of the Rest: 50 Songs That Just Missed The ’40 Best Songs Of 2015′


Troye Sivan, Blue Neighbourhood © Capitol

Recently, yours truly submitted his picks for the 40 Best Songs of 2015. With flexibility to limit or expand the number of selected songs, I chose 40, an expansion from my mid-year list. Still, choosing just 40 left out any number of great songs because the music industry is very song-based these days. So with the go-to list appearing on Starpulse.com, here’s my list of the best of the rest (in no particular order). Likely, there’s a miss or two – or 20 here too!

1) Drake & Future, “Diamonds Dancing” (What A Time To Be Alive)

2) Björk, “Lionsong” (Vulnicura)

3) Future, “I Serve The Base” (DS2)

4) OMI, “Cheerleader” (Me 4 U)

5) Justin Bieber, “What Do You Mean?” (Purpose)

6) Wale featuring Usher, “The Matrimony” (The Album About Nothing)

7) Ludacris, “Beast Mode” (Ludaversal)

8) Marilyn Manson, “Killing Strangers” (The Pale Emperor)

9) Madonna featuring Nicki Minaj, “Bitch I’m Madonna” (Rebel Heart)

10) Kelly Clarkson, “Heartbeat Song” (Piece By Piece)

11) Adele, “When We Were Young” (25)

12) Rick Ross, “Ghostwriter” (Black Market)

13) August Alsina featuring Anthony Hamilton & Jadakiss, “Job” (This Thing Called Life) 

 14) Lyfe Jennings, “#Hashtag” (Tree of Lyfe)

15) Jazmine Sullivan, “Let It Burn” (Reality Show)

16) One Direction, “Drag Me Down” (Made in the A.M.)

17) Snoop Dogg featuring Pharrell Williams & Stevie Wonder, “California Roll” (Bush)

18) Drake & Future, “I’m the Plug” (What A Time To Be Alive)

19) Maroon 5, “This Summer’s Gonna Hurt” (V Deluxe)

20) Adele, “River Lea” (25)

21) Mac Miller, “100 Grandkids” (GO:OD AM)

22) James Bay, “Let It Go” (Chaos and the Calm)

23) George Ezra, “Budapest” (Wanted On Voyage)

24) Twenty One Pilots, “Tear In My Heart” (Blurryface)

25) Fetty Wap featuring Monty, “Jugg” (Fetty Wap)

26) Demi Lovato, “Confident” (Confident)

27) The Weeknd, “Tell Your Friends” (Beauty Behind The Madness)

28) The Weeknd, “In the Night” (Beauty Behind The Madness)

29) Silentó, “What Me (Whip / Nae Nae)”

30) R. City featuring Adam Levine, “Locked Away” (What Dreams Are Made Of)

31) Major Lazer & DJ Snake featuring MØ, “Lean On” (Peace Is The Mission)

32) Luke Bryan, “Strip It Down” (Kill the Lights)

33) Selena Gomez featuring A$AP Rocky, “Good For You” (Revival)

34) A$AP Rocky featuring Rod Stewart, Miguel & Mark Ronson, “Everyday” (AT. LONG. LAST. A$AP)

35) Carrie Underwood, “Smoke Break” (Storyteller)

36) Lil Dicky featuring Snoop Dogg, “Professional Rapper” (Professional Rapper)

37) Ty Dolla $ign featuring Future & Rae Sremmurd, “Blasé” (Free TC)

38) Pentatonix, “Can’t Sleep Love” (Pentatonix)

39) Nick Jonas, “Levels” (Nick Jonas X2)

40) Monica featuring Lil Wayne, “Just Right For Me” (Code Red)

41) Chris Stapleton, “Might As Well Get Stoned” (Traveller)

42) Troye Sivan, “Talk Me Down” (Blue Neighbourhood)

43) Fall Out Boy, “The Kids Aren’t Alright” (American Beauty/American Psycho)

44) Leon Bridges, “Coming Home” (Coming Home)

45) 5 Seconds of Summer, “She’s Kinda Hot” (Sounds Good Feels Good)

46) Melanie Martinez, “Carousel” (Cry Baby)

47) Lana Del Ray, “High By The Beach” (Honeymoon)

48) Disclosure featuring Sam Smith, “Omen” (Caracal)

49) Disclosure featuring Gregory Porter, “Holding On” (Caracal)

50) The Neighbourhood, “R.I.P. 2 My Youth” (Wiped Out!)

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”

★★★½

Ty Dolla $ign, Free TC © Atlantic

Ty Dolla $ign Delivers Compelling Debut Album With ‘Free TC’


Ty Dolla $ign, Free TC © Atlantic

Ty Dolla $ign • Free TC • Atlantic • Release Date: 11.13.2015

What’s the best way to stylistically categorize Ty Dolla $ign? Ultimately, the Los Angeles bred musician is a blend of R&B singer and rapper. This balance is reflected on Ty’s full-length debut album, Free TC. Why is the effort entitled Free TC? It references the musician’s incarcerated brother TC, who happens to appear in a couple of instances on the album. All in all, there are lots of pros that bode well for Ty Dolla $ign over the course of Free TC; it’s a better than expected album.

“LA” is as creative as an opener you’ll find on any R&B album – definitely not your typical R&B song. Ultimately, this Cali proud joint is the first indication that Free TC is unlike other albums released in 2015, and that’s just fine. Follow up “Saved” featuring Bay Area rap vet E-40 keeps the momentum rolling without a hitch over a typical, yet brilliant DJ Mustard production. Among the catchiest moments of Free TC, Ty proclaims these strippers/groupies/girls he’s formerly ‘been with’ are “tryna get saved, she wanna get saved, I ain’t gonna save her.” In other words, they want what he can give them because he’s ‘came up’ (“Pull up in exotic, I see a little b*tch jockin’”).

“Straight Up” is ‘straight up’ old school and there’s no shame in it. Featuring Jagged Edge in a minimal role, there’s something magnetic and appealing about this slick, poised, slow jam. Arguably, there are more innovative numbers, but it’s hard not to be sucked in, just like the “feelings” Ty urges not to “catch”: “I’mma tell you straight up / do yourself a favor / them feelings, don’t catch those / feelings don’t catch those.” Equally alluring is the Babyface assisted “Solid” with its prominent acoustic guitar, funky anchoring bass line, and raspy, swagger-laden vox from Ty. “Solid” definitely sounds like the Lyfe Jennings school of R&B, which is a good thing.

“Horse In the Stable” is another track that does a fine job of embodying the classic sensibilities of R&B, but is firmly planted in 2015. So who are these horses in a stable which Ty references? Women – all kinds of women – willing to ‘be with’ Ty, period. Basically, he says it best: “I snap my fingers they be on me just like that.” Keeping it sexually driven, “Know Ya” follows, featuring Trey Songz of all folks. Basically, Ty laments the fact that his other chick left before he got to know here because she saw him with his other chick. In other words, this is some R. Kelly bleep at its best.

Give Ty some credit on “Credit” featuring Sevyn Streeter: “No I stopped talking to them b*tches / I did everything you asked me and more.” Here, Ty seems to be taking this girl seriously as opposed to his doggish behavior on “Horses In the Stable” or “Know Ya.” To add to this genuine sentiment, Ty also “never smoked weed in your mama house / unless you sparked that shit, she was out of town.”

“Miracle/Wherever” clocks in at over 8 minutes – an ambitious length to say the least. It features Ty’s incarcerated brother TC, who appears in interludes/skits built into Free TC, as well as D-Loc. Despite its length, the two-part song is quality, street-smart fare like everything else. Add in the fact it’s soulful and lush and another winning listen is in store for the listener. “Guard Down” featuring Kanye West and Puff Daddy is also satisfying listen, produced by standout Hit-Boy. While it does feature two heavyweights, it’s mostly Ty.

“Sitting Pretty” (featuring Wiz Khalifa) is shallow (“That ass she walkin’ round with is sitting pretty”), but it’s not unexpected per se. “When I See Ya” swaps Wiz Khalifa for Fetty Wap, but the result is still a sexually-charged song. “When I See Ya” may have the edge in the battle of shallow songs, with excellent, slinky-sounding production and a pleasant melody delivered with rhythmic hip-hop swagger. “Blasé” featuring everybody’s favorite duo Rae Sremmurd (they’ve even grown on yours truly since penning this review) is hypnotizing…for some reason. Not “blasé” in the least, particularly with memorable lines like “And my b*tch cold, she a centerfold / put her on a stand, and she never told.” Swag?

The close of Free TC isn’t as electrifying as some of the earliest triumphs, but still worthwhile. If nothing more, the production shines on both “Only Right” (featuring YG, Joe Moses & TeeCee4800) and “Bring It Out Of Me.” On “Actress,” R. Kelly appears, right in his element, singing salacious lines like “She remind me of a pornstar the way she put it on me.” Also, where would “Actress” be without Kelly’s contributions on “damn she good, damn, damn she good?” “Finale” concludes Free TC – surprise right?

As previously stated, Free TC has ample pros. Ty Dolla $ign shows great versatility, switching from singing and rapping – oscillating between soulfulness and unapologetic brashness. Flexibility definitely makes Ty marketable to R&B and hip-hop fans alike. The biggest con of Free TC…it’s 73 minutes long. Is it quality? Yes, but some cutbacks wouldn’t have been lamented. Still, Ty gets it right on Free TC.

Favorites: “LA” featuring Kendrick Lamar, Brandy & James Fauntleroy, “Saved” featuring E-40, “Straight Up” featuring Jagged Edge, “Solid” featuring Babyface, “When I See You” featuring Fetty Wap and “Blasé” featuring Rae Sremmurd

★★★★

Justin Bieber, Purpose © Def Jam

Justin Bieber Grows Up On ‘Purpose’ (Album Review)  


Justin Bieber, Purpose © Def Jam

Justin Bieber • Purpose • Def Jam • Release Date: November 13, 2015

“I put my all into your hands / here’s my soul to keep / I let you in whit all that I can / you’re not hard to reach.” Wait a minute – hold the bleep up – is this the same Justin Bieber that was peeing in a mop bucket and proclaimed “F**k Clinton?” The answer is a resounding ‘yes, it’s the same Bieber.’ On his fourth studio album Purpose, Bieber shows both artistic and personal maturity, which is definitely a good luck for the trouble pop heartthrob. Does Purpose exemplify perfection? No, but it is the ‘right’ album at the ‘right’ time for Bieber, who has had a decent year – save for the whole overexposure depending upon who you ask.

Moving on, Purpose has its moments. “Mark My Words” initiates enigmatically, with nebulousness and a lack of percussive anchor. If nothing more, “Mark My Words” is an attention-getter, featuring exceptional production and well-rounded vocals from Bieber. “I’ll Show You” is more stable with a rhythmic identity, though initially the mysterious vibe carries over. The best way to describe the sound is ‘Drake-onian’ in reference to Drake’s emo hip-hop/contemporary R&B style. Autobiographically driven, Bieber acknowledge his faults, singing, “Cause life’s not easy, I’m not made out of steel / don’t forget that I’m human…” …The best way to characterize Bieber’s show and tell? – REDEMPTION.

“What Do You Mean?” has long established itself as a force in pop music. While the sound pop song has be overhyped somewhat, denying its solidness would be an understatement. Vocally, Bieber sings with ease, never forcing things or over singing. While it’s not particularly rousing, it’s not surprising it reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100. “Sorry” fell short of the glory of the top spot, but debuting in the runner-up spot is nonetheless impressive. Arguably, “Sorry” is the stronger record, again finding Bieber in apologetic mode. “You know I tried but I don’t do too well with apologies,” he sings at one point, later adding “I know you know that I made those mistakes maybe once or twice / by once or twice I mean maybe a couple a hundred times.” He made none with “Sorry,” so kudos.

Following the one-two punch of “What Do You Mean?” and “Sorry,” things cool somewhat. “Love Yourself” is good, but doesn’t set itself apart from the crème de la crème. Still, Bieber deserves credit for the singer/songwriter vibe – or maybe it’s co-writers Benjamin Levin and Ed Sheeran. “Cause if you like the way you look so much / oh baby you should go love yourself,” he asserts on the chorus. “Love Yourself” is followed by more three more sensual numbers.

It’s not unusual for a 21-year old to reference sex, so the red-blooded Bieber gets a pass in that department. That said, maybe the libido is overwrought with three consecutive physically driven numbers in “Company,” “No Pressure,” and “No Sense.” On “Company,” Bieber embraces hooking-up, better known as one night stands where the door is closed on emotions. It’s shallow, particularly the innuendo supreme of “It ain’t about the complications / I’m all about elevation/ we can keep it goin’ up,” but it’s also no deal breaker.

The two songs following it are a bit more questionable, not just based upon their horniness, but the lackadaisical collaborations. Big Sean graces his third Justin Bieber song, but his cameo on “No Pressure” doesn’t supersede that of “As Long As You Love Me,” clumsy “hallelujah” line and all. The six-eight groove and touch of acoustic guitar is a pro, but Sean’s most notable line is his Empire reference: “Oh you know I eat the cookie like I’m Lucious.” Bieber isn’t off the hook either, as he cites R&B’s most lascivious personality R. Kelly: “Put my key in the ignition / don’t rush it girl, just stretch it out for me.” Biebz, exactly what is she stretching out there buddy?

Closing out the trio is “No Sense,” featuring rap newbie Travi$ Scott. Much like Scott’s debut album Rodeo, his performance is off-putting. Again, Bieber gets it in: “It don’t make no sense, ‘less I’m doing it with you.” O…K… “The Feeling” gives Purpose its best vocal collaboration, bringing in pop newbie Halsey. While “The Feeling” may not be on the level of “What Do You Mean?” or “Sorry” necessarily, it’s among better moments.

Maturity is the modus operandi of “Life Is Worth Living,” one of many moments that find Bieber showing personal progression. Piano-driven, it may not impress his younger fans because of its poise, but a more mature audience that wrote off Bieber will at least give the pop star a second look. “Where Are Ü Now” completes the trio of the best of Purpose, all issues prior to the album. Sure deadmau5 may have his issues with Diplo & Skrillex’s infectious electro-pop joint, but it’s hard to deny it as one of 2015’s more memorable tunes. It’s not a songwriter’s song, but neither is it intended to be.

“Children” and “Purpose” showcase grown-up Bieber once more. “Children” is arguably less far-fetched, given up-tempo, ‘makes you wanna step’ groove. Still, the selflessness is a far cry from the selfishness and growing pains exhibited by Bieber. “Purpose” shouldn’t be considered as much of a stretch either considering Bieber released an inspirational song called “Pray” years back, but on “Purpose,” Bieber sounds like he’s taken a greater leap of faith. Is it legit? That’s between Bieber and the Most High, but it’s certainly a respectable way to close the standard edition of the album.

Is the deluxe edition worth the extra bucks? Depends on where your fandom lies. The two best songs are “Been You,” which could’ve made the standard edition, and six-eight contemporary R&B joint “Trust.” The draw on paper will be the Nas feature, “We Are,” but it’s different to say the least. Bieber sounds solid, but Nas’ rhymes and style don’t exactly suit this type of track. “Get Used To Me” and “All In It” don’t particularly stand out.

Ultimately, how does Bieber do three years later? He returns to the game…get ready for it… respectably. Purpose isn’t a homerun, but it’s good enough to restore Bieber to pop glory. No, it doesn’t mean that all is forgiven, redemption or not, but Bieber can get back to doing what he should’ve been in three years of excess – making music. Give him credit.

Favorites: “What Do You Mean?” “Sorry,” “Life Is Worth Living,” “Were Are Ü Now,” “Purpose”; “Been You” (Deluxe Edition)

★★★½    

Jaheim © Warner Bros / Wea

One Favorite Song From Each Jaheim Album (Playlist)


Jaheim © Warner Bros / Wea

Jaheim is clearly one of R&B’s underrated musicians. The man can sing (understatement), sounding like a mix between Teddy Pendergrass and Luther Vandross. Throughout his underrated career, Jaheim has played a balancing act between playing to the streets and to the grown and sexy/adult R&B crowd. While that’s a “thin line” to balance, overall, Ja has been successful. Here is one favorite song from each of his six studio albums. BTW, make sure to check out Ja’s soulful 2015 single, “Back In My Arms.” 

1) “Could It Be” (Ghetto Love, 2001)

This was a no-brainer. This was Ja’s breakout hit. No more explanation need – “Could It Be” that any other song was selected from Ghetto Love. No, though “Just in Case” was considered but ultimately no competition.

2) “Diamond In Da Ruff” (Still Ghetto, 2002)

Still Ghetto was a great album – better than Ghetto Love. This could’ve easily been the uplifting “Fabulous” or another underrated gem, “Backtight.” Ultimately, the pick is the soulfully contemporary “Diamond In Da Ruff,” which finds Ja in good voice as always.

3) “The Chosen One” (Ghetto Classics, 2006)

Has “I Choose You” ever been sampled better? Well that arguable considering it’s an oft-sampled soul classic, but Jaheim does work with the sample, which fuels “The Chosen One.” As he has throughout his career, Ja balances the past and the present well.

4) “Everytime I Think About You” (Ghetto Classics, 2006)

Okay, okay, so the song picked from Ghetto Classics ended up being a tie. Basically, “The Chosen One” and “Everytime I Think About You” are so similar that it’s hard to pick against the other. This is Jaheim firmly planted in his lane, talking some trash while keeping it vintage. “EITAY” is one of his best songs easily.

5) “She Ain’t You” (The Makings Of A Man, 2007)

What? He chose WHAT song from The Makings Of A Man? Yes, the pick is “She Ain’t You.” Let’s just say that at the time Jaheim’s fourth album arrived, this particular song made yours truly think about a girl… Just saying. This could’ve been “Life Of A Thug” or “Never” – probably should’ve been “Never” – but it is what its. The power of love…

6) “Ain’t Leaving Without You” (Another Round, 2010)

This, like “Could It Be” was a no-brainer. This was the best and sole hit from Another Round. Don’t get it twisted – Another Round was another terrific album from Ja – but “Ain’t Leaving Without You” actually had a bit of radio success. Old school was still alive and well on this jam and there’s nothing wrong with that!

7) “Florida” (Appreciation Day, 2013)

Another left of center pick. Yes, there was “Age Ain’t A Factor,” but “Florida” trumps it. This is a socially conscious record and unlike anything else Jaheim has released in his career.