The 100 Best Songs of 2013: Complete!


Juicy J-WBU-019355

After a year filled with numerous albums and even more songs, choosing 100 of the best is an incredibly difficult task.  Like with the best albums of 2013, there will be surprises as well as snubs.  Sometimes the snubs are oversights while at other items there are just so many notable songs that some just get lost in the mix.  Regardless, here are 100 songs I found to be notable in 2013.

100

“I Luv This Sh*t”

August Alsina featuring Trinidad James

From album: Downtown: Life Under the Gun

August Alsina has one foul mouth on him, but his real talk mixed with the slower, horn-accentuated production is a match made in heaven, if a blasphemous one (see the hook).

99

“Cabaret”

Alice Smith

From album: She

According to highly underrated alt-R&B musician Alice Smith, Hollywood isn’t very kind: “I see no reason for chasing / in Hollywood, got to lose my patience / want this life to be a cabaret…” Hollywood may not be for the ‘faint of heart’, but “Cabaret” it self is brilliant.

98

“Every Man Should Know”

Harry Connick, Jr.

From album: Every Man Should Know

Sometimes the simplest, and most important life lessons to become a gentleman are best conveyed through song, preferably a mix between traditional pop, jazz, and country.

97

“Sophomore”

Ciara

From album: Ciara

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Judging by this track, Ciara is far from being a ‘freshman’… definitely. “I ain’t no amateur / baby I know how to handle ya / If you ready for this ride, get your saddle up / I need a boy with some stamina…”

 96

“Golden Salvation (Jesus Piece)”

Wale

From album: The Gifted

We expect nothing less than Wale’s clever wordplay between “piece” and “peace”, particularly on an album titled The Gifted.  Specifically, Wale informs us that too many people don’t want to hear about Jesus or his ‘peaceful’, Christian approach; they’re more concerned about the bling-bling (aka Jesus piece).

95

“Holy Grail”

Jay-Z featuring Justin Timberlake

From album: Magna Carta…Holy Grail

Magna Carta…Holy Grail certainly left plenty to be desired, but few can deny that Jay-Z is one of the kings – all hail, “Holy Grail”!

94

“Unf**kwittable”

Kid Cudi

From album: Indicud 

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Basically, Cudi is saying you can’t mess with him… he’s unbreakable… or something like that.

93

“Let Us Move On”

Dido featuring Kendrick Lamar

From album: Girl Who Got Away

Even English singer/songwriter Dido had to get Kendrick Lamar on the track… can’t blame her.  “Let Us Move On” is arguably the best moment from an underrated album nobody bought.   Well, I bought it to be fair.

92

“Vegas Girl”

Conor Maynard

From album: Contrast

The video is a trip…‘course the song is too.  Conor may still have some ‘schmaltz’ about him, but he also has some swag.  Swag on brother – swag on!

91

“Pusher Lover Girl”

Justin Timberlake

From album: The 20/20 Experience

Love and sex have been compared and likened to everything at this point (thanks R. Kelly).  JT decides to make his lady like a drug dealer, only she deals love instead of say cocaine.  What’s shocking is that this album opener works triumphantly.

90

“Clappers”

Wale featuring Juicy J Nicki Minaj

From album: The Gifted

What does one learn from the ‘cellulite anthem’ “Clappers”? That “Shawty got a big ole butt…OH YEAHHHHHH!!!”

89

“Heart Attack”

Demi Lovato

From album: Demi 

I’m not going to front, I’ve been listening to Demi put her “defenses up” all summer…  I don’t think she could really survive the number of heart attacks she’d receive at the hands of my playlist on repeat though…

88

“The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here”

Alice In Chains

From album: The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here

While the Bible doesn’t mention dinosaurs (at least that I can remember off the top of my head), I’m not so sure Satan created them… Regardless, this title track from Alice In Chains’ most recent album was among the best hard rock performances of the year, potential misconceptions and all.

87

“While I’m Alive”

STRFKR

From album: Miracle Mile

While I’m Alive” sports an irresistible, danceable groove; Electronic cues further sweeten things while the soulful guitar is the ‘cherry on top’.  Well written, the theme of “While I’m Alive” is getting past the past, broken relationships, and living ‘while I’m alive.’

86

“Bandz A Make Her Dance

Juicy J featuring 2 Chainz Lil Wayne

From album: Stay Trippy

Everyone needs a good stripper anthem in his (or her) lives, right? On the raunchy “Bandz A Make Her Dance”, Juicy J spits: “Bands a make her dance, bands a maker her dance / All these chicks poppin’ p***y, I’m just poppin’ bands…”

85

“Body Party”

Ciara

From album: Ciara

Just when ‘the art of making love’ was getting boring… Ciara’s here to spice things up!

84

“Her Favorite Song”

Mayer Hawthorne

From album: Where Does This Door Go

Yeah, the accompanying music video is weird, even if the ‘dogs’ are meant to represent guys that are dogs (in theory), but the song is brilliant.  “But when she gets home, she puts her headphones on / she plays her favorite song and fades away…” I do the same thing… well not quite in the same context though…

83

“Brave”

Sara Bareilles

From album: The Blessed Unrest

Here’s the gist of the song: STAND UP AND BE A MAN!!!  $%^!

82

“Trojans”

Atlas Genius

From album: When It Was Now

I promise this song is not about a popular brand of condoms or making love… really:  “Take a picture you could never recreate / write a song / make a note / for the lump that sits inside your throat…” I promise!

81

Forbidden Fruit

J. Cole featuring Kendrick Lamar

From album: Born Sinner

I know, I know – I somehow missed this gem on my “50 Best Rap Songs”, but the atonement is on this broader list.  The one-two punch of J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar is nothing short of fire, period.

80

“Love Me”

Lil Wayne featuring Future Drake

From Album: I Am Not A Human Being II

“Love Me” may have been a shallow as everything else was on I Am Not A Human Being II, but at least it was enjoyably shallow.  “Long as my b*****s love me / I can give a f**k ‘bout no hater…”

 79

“Angel”

Depeche Mode

From album: Delta Machine

Sure, this track is titled “Angel”, but it surely must be representing a dark angel… Mysterious, chilling, and ‘bothered’, “Angel” finds Depeche Mode doing what they do best.

78

“Nosetalgia”

Pusha T featuring Kendrick Lamar

From album: My Name Is My Name

The rap IQ on “Nosetalgia” is off the charts, particularly with Kendrick Lamar collaborating with Pusha.   Pusha T proclaims himself the “Black Ferris Bueller, cutting school with his jewels on…what I sell for pain in the hood, I’m a doctor…” while Kendrick Lamar’s slaughtering verse is capped off with “Go figure mother f**ker, every verse is a brick.” True.

77

“Ain’t It Fun”

Paramore

From album: Paramore 

Ain’t It Fun” may be Paramore’s best track EVER.  Driven by a funky groove, the band goes ‘big’ with a gargantuan bass line, full-force punk-laden guitars, and gospel vocals.  ‘ain’t it fun’? – Definitely!

76

“Pop That”

French Montana featuring Rick Ross, Drake & Lil Wayne

From album: Excuse My French

The raunchiest track from French Montana’s debut album is the best.  It’s all about popping… and I’ll leave it at that!

Continue reading “The 100 Best Songs of 2013: Complete!”

The 100 Best Songs of 2013: Part 4 (#25 – 1)


Lady Gaga-20131031-66After a year filled with numerous albums and even more songs, choosing 100 of the best is an incredibly difficult task.  Like with the best albums of 2013, there will be surprises as well as snubs.  Sometimes the snubs are oversights while at other items there are just so many notable songs that some just get lost in the mix.  Regardless, here are 100 songs I found to be notable in 2013.

25

“Started From The Bottom”

Drake
From album: Nothing Was The Same

Once more, the hook sums it up best: “Started from the bottom now we’re here / started from the bottom now my whole team f**kin’ here…”

24

“Diane Young

Vampire Weekend

From album: Modern Vampires of the City 

‘Dying young’ in it self is a drag, man, but “Diane Young” and its bubbly sound, quick tempo, and sharp-as-a-tack wordplay is a blast! “Baby, baby, baby, baby, right on time!”

23

“Q.U.E.E.N.”

Janelle Monáe featuring Erykah Badu

From album: The Electric Lady 

Catchy, ‘real talk’, soulful, contemporary, and laden with swagger, “Q.U.E.E.N.” proves to be one of the best songs of 2013, regardless of genre. “Am I a freak for dancing around?” Of course not! Monáe even throws some rhymes in there, further showing her incredible artistic versatility and restlessness. Dance on Janelle – dance on!

22

“Who Do We Think We Are?”

John Legend featuring Rick Ross

From album: Love In the Future

Legend impresses lyrically on the soulful, throwback “Who Do We Think We Are?”  Filled with widely interpretable lyrics including “We love, we love, we love the stars / we could fall so hard…”, Legend seems to reference any number of things including stardom, living up life, and/or literally getting high.  Rick Ross balls hard on his assist: “She gets Chanel / Ski trips to Vail / only the highest grade like trees that I inhale”.

21

“Two Fingers”

Jake Bugg

From album: Jake Bugg

From Jake Bugg’s perspective, life hasn’t been easy – Clifton (England) had its issues, though he’s getting moving forward from a rough past.  On this brilliantly penned, retro singer/songwriter cut, Bugg has to “…drink to remember, I smoke to forget…”, and eventually “…hold(s) two fingers up to yesterday / light a cigarette smoke it all away / I got out, I got out, I’m alive, but I’m here to stay.”

20

“F**kin’ Problems”

A$AP Rocky featuring 2 Chainz, Drake & Kendrick Lamar

From album: Long. Live. A$AP

Basically, even though adding an f-bomb technically intensifies problems rather than solving them, the relief of letting the obscenity slip psychologically makes things feel both calmer and better… something like that! LOL! The f-bombs are here for the taking.

19

“Wrecking Ball”

Miley Cyrus

From album: Bangerz

Thank goodness there was more to “Wrecking Ball” than the atrocious video where Miley Cyrus rides the wrecking ball in the nude.  Miley’s shock value seems to be part of her ‘new Miley’ thing, but “Wrecking Ball” it self stands tall without any extra attention-seeking gimmicks.  The refrain alone is shimmering pop at its best.

18

“Black Skinhead”

Kanye West

From Album: Yeezus

“Black Skinhead” was one of the most unapologetic tracks of the year – no questions asked.  Among my favorite lyrics:  I’m aware I’m a wolf, soon as the moon hit / I’m aware I’m a king, back out the tomb b***h!” There it is!

17

“Power Trip”

J. Cole featuring Miguel

From album: Born Sinner 

All about love or a play on double meanings – you decide on the year’s smoothest rap track that’s got Cole “up all night, all I’m singing is love songs…” Face it – you can’t go wrong when you got Miguel on the track! He’s a beast…a sensual one at least.

16

Eminem

“Rap God

from album: The Marshall Mathers LP 2

Eminem confirms whom the real “Rap God” is as he ‘wipes his butt’ with the competition (not as frankly as he might put it, but I’m trying to ‘be good’ here).  No one is exempt – well maybe except for Kendrick Lamar.

15

“Mirrors”

Justin Timberlake

From album: The 20/20 Experience 

On standout track “Mirrors”, Timberlake graces his audience with an eight-minute juggernaut that straddles the lines between pop and urban music.  His falsetto is sweet as syrup, the vocal harmonies superb, with the strings of The Benjamin Wright Orchestra providing the ‘cherry on top.’  The chorus is among the very best moments: “Cause I don’t wanna lose you now / I’m lookin’ right at the other half of me / the vacancy that sat in my heart / is a space that now you hold …”

14

Miley Cyrus

“We Can’t Stop”

From album: Bangerz 

You know, the sad thing is that when Ms. Cyrus told us she “won’t stop,” well, she told the absolute truth.  Who would’ve thought that referencing twerking and popping mollies would only be the beginning? “It’s our party we can do what we want!” Indeed Miley, indeed.

BTW, what about a little parody fun?

13

“Reflektor”

Arcade Fire

From album: Reflektor

“Reflektor” definitely didn’t represent the expected direction many thought that Grammy-winning collective Arcade Fire would take, given its percussive, danceable groove. The cut dances tastefully though, eschewing today’s EDM cues in favor of a mix of neo-disco and traditional Arcade Fire characteristics.  The songwriting is accessible, with the chorus being irresistibly catchy and simple.

12

“Obvious Bicycle”

Vampire Weekend

From album: Modern Vampires of the City

“Obvious Bicycle” is arguably the most beautiful song from Vampire Weekend’s discography at this point.  Highlights of the mysterious opener include Ezra Koenig’s effortless falsetto, which is ripe as ever on the chorus. “Obvious Bicycle” is nothing short of warm and hypnotizing.

11

“A Couple of Forevers”

Chrisette Michele

From album: Better

Chrisette Michele returns the ‘passion’ and ‘romance’ to R&B with this breathtaking, thoughtful ballad.  “Just a couple of forevers / a couple of forevers / I’m the only one, you’re the only one / together ‘til never…” I’ll be your ‘forever’ CM.

10

“Same Love”

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert

From album: The Heist

This hip-hop anthem embracing tolerance and equality for same-sex relationships was quite a risky, courageous move.  More than just merely breaking barriers, “Same Love” is a brilliant song.

9

“Blood On The Leaves”

Kanye West

From album: Yeezus

Blood On The Leaves” is the crowning achievement from Yeezus. Constructed around a Nina Simone sample (“Strange Fruit”), thoughtful piano, and some awesome biting brass, “Blood On the Leaves” shines like a beacon.

8

“If I Had A Tail”

Queens of the Stone Age

From album: …Like Clockwork

Characterized by a killer driving groove, a classic rock-worthy anthemic chorus, and standout songwriting, “If I Had A Tail” yet another gift that keeps on giving.  “If I had a tail / I’d own the night / if I had a tail / I’d swat the flies.”

7

“We Can’t End This Way”

Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite

From album: Get Up! 

Soulful, gritty, and organic, this blues-gospel number is truly a gem.  The backing gospel choir truly puts the cherry on top.  After all, “we can’t end this way!”

6

Do What U Want

Lady Gaga featuring R. Kelly

From album: ARTPOP 

Taken at its most literal (aka sexually), “Do What U Want” is a good song.  When examined figuratively (empowerment, non-shallow things), it’s just plain awesome.  If there was ever a question of Lady Gaga’s vocal abilities, she squashes them deader than a doornail here.

5

Roar

Katy Perry

From album: PRISM 

The lyrics say it all:  “I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter / dancing through the fire / cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar…” You better “roar” Katy!!!

4

“God Is Dead?”

Black Sabbath

From Album: 13 

Atheists and Christians alike can appreciate this hard-rocking joint… well to an extent (at least the question mark is in place).  To Ozzy’s credit, later on in the track he states, “I don’t believe that God is dead…” Still, the communion (sacrament) seems compromised when Ozzy states “The blood runs free / the rain turns red / give me the wine / you keep the bread…” Oh well.

3

Blurred Lines

Robin Thicke featuring T.I. & Pharrell Williams

From Album: Blurred Lines

Even after multiple controversies surrounding “Blurred Lines” (misogyny and potential ‘artistic theft’), Robin Thicke’s career is thankful for the gift that just kept on giving. You can’t deny how catchy it is, or how slick ole boy’s falsetto is.

2

“Royals

Lorde

From album: Pure Heroine 

Now this teen has real swag… Justin Bieber, take notes!  “And we’ll never be royals / it don’t run in our blood / that kind of lux just ain’t for us / we crave a different kind of buzz…”

1

“Get Lucky

Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams

From album: Random Access Memories

The groovy, sexy “Get Lucky” only makes the act of ‘making love’ even more enticing.  Pharrell sings it best on the golden hook: “She’s up all night to the sun / I’m up all night to get some / she’s up all night for good fun / I’m up all night to get lucky…” Yeah boy!

Be sure to check out the previously released parts with songs #100-76, #75-51, and #50 – 26.

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.

Review: Lady Gaga, ‘ARTPOP’


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Gaga remains ‘eccentric’, goes über-risqué on Artpop 

Lady Gaga⎪ ARTPOP ⎪ Interscope ⎪⎪ US Release Date: November 11, 2013

Lady Gaga-20131031-66Lady Gaga can be likened to CBS’s reality television show Big Brother in one regard in particular: “expect the unexpected”.  Just when you think the pop/dance artist has topped her eccentricities and set that bar to almost unreachable heights, she once more shocks, making one’s mouth fall agape.  2013 effort ARTPOP is as much an eye-/ear-opener as her previous efforts, sporting those signature Gaga cues, but also incorporating some timbral contrasts and infusing more ‘stank’.  That stank? Amplified sex, drugs, and electronica.  Even though Gaga still goes for shock value, it doesn’t necessarily mean that ARTPOP truly one-ups her strongest material.

Opener “Aura” is the first hint that Gaga has landed…on some other planet.  ‘All over the place’, yet slickly produced, “Aura” definitely makes a statement.  The first statement is just plumb cray cray: “I killed my former and / left her in the trunk on highway 10 / put the knife under the hood / if you find it, send it straight to Hollywood…” WTF? Later, the lushly, full-fledged voiced chorus definitely seems to be playing into double meanings – one meaning being literal and the other more metaphorical: “Do you wanna see me naked, lover? / do you wanna peak underneath the cover? / do you wanna see the girl who lives behind the aura, behind the aura…” To answer that question, I’m not sure… LOL.

Lady Gaga-20131030-4On “Venus”, at least Lady Gaga admits she’s not from planet earth.  Well, she doesn’t really, but perhaps she should as it is one strange, if intriguing number.  Essentially, the song is one of many centered upon many people’s favorite three-letter word – sex.  Even though Lady Gaga certainly has some kind of way with words, after listing the planets during the bridge section, she especially highlights Uranus: “…Ur-anus! / Don’t you know my ass is famous?” There are also other references to sex, notably during verse two when she sings “Have an oyster, baby / it’s Aphrod-i-sy / act sleazy / Venus…”.  The point? Oysters are supposed to be an aphrodisiac, or so I’ve heard.  And being named “Venus”, she’s not really talking about the planet… Read into that how you wish.

G.U.Y.” is a definitely standout, continuing on the quirkiness that Gaga has laid on heavy here… no pun intended.  The intro is bizarre: “Greetings, Himeros / God of sexual desire, son of Aphrodite / lay back, and feast as this audio guides you through new and exciting positions.”  Even so, Gaga does let you know where she’s going with this.  The first verse says it all: “I wanna be the girl under you (oh yeah) / I wanna be your G.U.Y.”  So she wants her man to hold her down and make good love. That’s actually very human of Lady G.  On the lustfully bold “Sexxx Dreams”, we learn even more about Lady Gaga’s fantasies.  She’s honest on the  chorus: “Last night / damn, you were in my sex dreams / doing really nasty things…making love in my sex dreams…” Relatable lyrically? I guess so, but the Gaga-ness definitely makes it a bit awk-ward.

Lady Gaga-20131112-117On “Jewels & Drugs”, Lady Gaga goes gangsta, or at least it sounds that way.  “Jewels & Drugs” brings an all star hip-hop cast including T.I. (verse one), Too Short (verse three), and the ultra-agile Twista (verse four).  As a record, it definitely provides alluring ear-candy, matching the slickness of any hip-hop record.  As a song, well, it’s filled with widely interpretable lyrics, particularly when Gaga sings “Don’t want your jewels, I want your drugs / don’t want your money, want your love…” It’s not the ‘love’ part, but the ‘drugs’.  Is she referring to ‘drugs’ metaphorically or literally? Probably both. “I admit that my habit is expensive / and you may find it, quite offensive,” she sings on her sole verse, “… but I won’t die at the hands of another.”  “Jewels & Drugs” is… um something.  Seems like it belongs elsewhere…

MANiCURE” rocks, literally finding  Gaga asserting herself here against a rocking beat.  That said, Gaga isn’t studying a manicure, but she wants her ‘man to cure her’ of her horniness.  Verse two epitomizes this sentiment: “Touch me, in the dark / Put your hands all over my body parts / throw me, on the bed / squeeze, tease, and please do what I said!”  There it is.  Single “Do What U Want” is much more electrifying, arguably the valedictorian of ARTPOP. Who would’ve ever envisioned a duet between Lady Gaga and R. Kelly of all people?  That said, it works perfectly, particularly given the sexually charged themes of ARTPOP.   What’s more alluring here is the fact that for once Gaga doesn’t seem to be as literal here.  The wider message seems to be one of empowerment and inner beauty as evidenced by the hella catchy chorus: “You can’t have my heart and / you won’t use my mind but / do what you want with my body… you can’t stop my voice, ‘cause / you don’t own my life but / do what you want with my body.”

Lady Gaga-20131025-101Title track “ARTPOP” is one of many production treats on ARTPOP (produced by Paul “DJ White Shadow” Blair and Gaga).  It’s also pretty attractive record overall, with a sense of mysteriousness about it.  The point of the song? Well it’s obvious isn’t it? She wants to create ‘art’ and ‘pop’ music.  If you want to get all technical, she there are skeptics who wouldn’t consider pop, particularly modern pop, to be ‘art’.  In some cases, skeptics are ‘on point’.  However, anything Gaga seems to do seems to be captivating and “ARTPOP” is no different.  It’s not Beethoven, but it is ARTPOP.

On “Swine”, Lady Gaga is doing some hardcore name-calling:  “I know, I know, I know, I know you want me / you’re just a pig inside a human body / squealer, squealer, squeal out, you’re so disgusting!” This manic number may not be a preeminent feature like say “Do What U Want”, but it is Lady Gaga being Lady Gaga and she does that well.  And she’s pissed!

Donatella” (named after Donatella Versace) is centered around a motto of self-confidence and affluence: “I am so fab, check out / I’m blonde, I’m skinny / I’m rich, and I’m a little bit of a b*tch.”  With this theme of ‘being-the-shhh’ basically, the attitude is conveyed not only lyrically but instrumentally through Zedd’s production work (Gaga also produces).  Keeping in line with fashion and affluence, “Fashion” is in company.  If nothing more, the somewhat predictable Gaga cut is superbly produced by Gaga, Giorgio Tuinfort, will.i.am, and David Guetta.  Vocally, as always, Gaga impresses.

lady gagag-20131024-94Mary Jane Holland” wasn’t necessarily one of my ‘go to’ songs, but the bridge is definitely a highlight, particularly when Gaga states “I know that Mom and Dad think I’m a mess / but it’s alright, because / I am rich as piss / When I ignite the flames and put you in my mouth / the grass heats up my insides and my brunette starts to sprout…” See why it stands out? “Dope” was introduced prior to the release of ARTPOP and is the slowest track of the set.  While that could be a bad thing, it’s not because it finds Gaga pouring out her heart, something that the faster dance cuts don’t always do nearly as effectively.  Confessional by all means, Gaga draws the listener in with such lyrical moments such as “I promise this / drink is my last one / I know I f*cked up again / because I lost my only friend / God forgive my sins…” or even the grit she puts into repetitive chorus lyric “I need you more than dope”.  It may not be another “Speechless” but it’s one of my personal favorites.

Penultimate cut “Gypsy” begins slower, but the tempo and intensity picks up, contrasting the more emotionally-driven “Dope”.  Don’t let the quick danceable nature fool you though – Gaga still shows the power and rawness of her pipes. Oh and by the way, she alludes to Born This Way’s “Lady Gaga-20131113-58Schieße”. “Applause” is an appropriate closer, and stands out more in the context of ARTPOP than it did as a single.  It is still trumped by more intriguing listens (and ‘sex’), but it was smart choice to have a relatively successful single by Gaga standards conclude.

So how does ARTPOP fare? Well it’s a big pop/dance album, so that always seems to signify a mixed-bag that is all over the place.  Some of ARTPOP shine brightly while others are just less impressive.  This particularly Gaga album won’t necessarily give any of her previous albums a ‘run for their money’ as one can’t envision the same level of success for this set’s singles.  That isn’t to knock the records, but there is not another “Bad Romance” or “Poker Face” here.  Still, it’s enjoyable and very much done Gaga’s way.

Favorites:  

“G.U.Y.”; “Do What U Want”; “Artpop”; “Dope”; “Applause”

http://rd.io/x/QUKSLiJnqqA/

Verdict: ✰✰✰½

Thoughts: Lady Gaga featuring R. Kelly, “Do What U Want”


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Gaga strikes gold on ARTPOP’s second single “Do What U Want” 

Lady Gaga (featuring R. Kelly)⎪ “Do What U Want” ⎪Streamline / Interscope ⎪⎪ US Release Date: October 21, 2013

Lady Gaga-20131025-101I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t applauding too much over Lady Gaga’s first single “Applause” from her upcoming studio album ARTPOP due November 11.  It was merely ‘good’ in my opinion, but just didn’t stack up to juggernauts like “Poker Face”, “Bad Romance” or her numerous hit singles.  Believe me, I wanted to be ‘gaga’ for Gaga, but “Applause” just wasn’t enough.  But fear not fellow Gaga super fans – second single “Do What U Want” easily atones for any un-Gaga-ness that made “Applause” too safe.  This ladies and gentlemen is the single that we’ve been waiting for and can once more crown Lady Gaga and guest R. Kelly (shocker!) as the “Gaga of them all”… or something like that!

So many things are irresistibly delicious about “Do What U Want”.  First and foremost is that Gaga is among her most assertive I have ever heard her vocally.  As I was listening and evaluating the single on rdio.com, I couldn’t help but notice people making comparisons to Christina Aguilera.  I’d agree that Gaga’s grit and powerhouse vocals on this particular cut show her transcending dance-pop in itself, a sub-genre not known for top-notch vocals.  Is Lady Gaga Xtina? Of course not and in the regard of ‘lumping’ them as one and the same, that is unfair, but what is an accurate description is that Gaga definitely stepped her game up vocally.

R Kelly-ADB-029687So is “Do What U Want” really just a shallow sex-oriented pop cut? It can be interpreted that way given the suggestive lyrics such as “So do what you want / want with my body…”, but there is a deeper message.  If one pays closer attention to all the lyrics, it is best interpreted as a ‘double meaning’, maybe even ‘triple meaning’ depending on how one’s mind tends to wander.  Eschewing the simple sexual read, Gaga is suggesting that she’s more than just the ‘body’ that the media seems to be focused on.  She’s hence suggesting the media are ‘shallow’ because that’s all their focused on.  Because of this particular assertion, she suggests that the media and skeptics can do whatever they want with her ‘body’.  Maybe the sexual interpretations are more thrilling, but seems a stretch for Gaga to merely be objectifying herself in man’s eyes for sexual play.

lady gagag-20131024-94Going back to vocals and such – Yes I know, there’ll be that group that says that she had to considering that R. Kelly is definitely no subtle vocalist, even when he’s his most salacious and outrageous.  Honestly, who would’ve ever saw this duet coming? It’s odd enough and unique enough to work.  Surprisingly, the vocal chemistry and respective solo performances by both stars are electrifying.   Gaga is at her most memorable on verse one when she states “I, I stand up, and then I’m OK / but then you print some sh*t that makes me wanna scream…” as well as her powerful bridge (“Sometimes I’m scared I suppose / if you ever let me go / I would fall apart / if you break my heart / so just take my body / and don’t stop the party.”  Kelly stands out on the second verse (“Early mornings, longer nights / Tom Ford, private flights / crazy schedule, fast life / I wouldn’t trade it in, cause it’s our life…”) but definitely creates a stir at the end of his pre-chorus (“…yeah we taking these haters and roughing ‘em up / and we lay in the club like we don’t give a f*ck”).  Who would’ve thought it would be a match made in heaven?

As suggested, this song transcends its suggestiveness.  If that was the read many folks were adapting, the chorus definitely disproves such a hypothesis: “You can’t have my heart, and / you won’t use my mind but / do what you want (with my body) / do what you want (with my body) / you can’t stop my voice, cause / you don’t own my life but / do what you want (with my body)…” My take? Genius Gaga, bloody genius!

Verdict: ✰✰✰✰