Nick Jonas, Nick Jonas © Island

Playlist: 11 Songs About Teachers…

Being a teacher is hard work. I know that first hand, being a full-time music educator.  It’s a rewarding profession, but not without its challenges.  So, being the creative, thoughtful individual I am, I wanted to assemble a playlist for all of the teachers of the world.  I did assemble a playlist, but not all of the songs on 11 Awesome or Not-So-Awesome Songs About Teachers are necessarily appropriate contextually to the profession, nor do they praise teachers… Oops!

My favorite song from 11 Awesome or Not-So-Awesome Songs About Teachers is no. 10.  Want to know what artist/song was no. 10? I’M NOT TELLING! You’ll have to read and see which song tickled this educator’s fancy – it’s a gem!

Teachers have one of the most important and toughest professions, This awesome playlist pays ode to teachers – well – some of the songs…

via 11 Awesome or Not-So-Awesome Songs About Teachers — The Musical Hype

Kanye West, The Life Of Pablo © G.O.O.D./Def Jam

Albums That Are ‘On’ and Albums That Are ‘Off’ Two Months Into 2016

Kanye West, The Life Of Pablo © G.O.O.D./Def Jam

After two-months (and a week in March), we’ve had some ferocious new albums in 2016 as well as some that aren’t nearly as beastly. To help you sort out the brilliance from the BS, here’s a brief list of albums that are ON…FIRE that is and albums that are OFF…this needs no explanation.

Albums That Are On…FIRE that is!

1) David Bowie, Blackstar (Columbia) David Bowie, Blackstar © Columbia


So, how does Blackstar stack up? It’s a confusingly brilliant work of art. Despite being confusing and difficult to follow due to Bowie’s ambitiousness (or extraterrestrial nature), the artistry experience by the listener here is a rarity in contemporary music where innovativeness doesn’t run rampant. Bowie easily bests 2013 comeback album The Next Day as Blackstar reminds us why Bowie was so beloved in his heyday – his experimental spirit. Is it too early to proclaim it among the best of 2016?

Favorites: “Blackstar,” “‘Tis a Pity She Was a Whore,” “Lazarus” and “ “Sue (Or In A Season of Crime)”


(Excerpted from David Bowie Leaves The Music World A Classic Gem With Final Album ‘Blackstar’)

2) Panic! At The Disco, Death of a Bachelor (Fueled By Ramen)

 Panic! At The Disco, Death Of A Bachelor © Fueled By Ramen


All in all, Death of a Bachelor is a fantastic album. Brendon Urie continues to show himself as one of the industry’s most eclectic musicians with a penchant for experimentation. Sure, there are times that Panic could lower the dynamic level, Urie could better control his beastly instrument, or one fewer instrument could be used, but more often than not, Death of A Bachelor rocks without a hitch.

Favorites: “Victorious,” “Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time,” “Hallelujah,” “Death of A Bachelor” and “Impossible Year”


(Excerpted from Panic! At The Disco’s ‘Death of a Bachelor’ Is Eccentrically Brilliant)

3) Anderson .Paak, Malibu (Steel Wool / OBE)

Anderson .Paak, Malibu © Steel Wool/Obe


All in all, Malibu makes for a rich listening experience – the potential is “through the roof.” Anderson Paak clearly shows himself to be force to reckoned with and hopefully Malibu isn’t just a critical breakthrough, but also a commercial breakthrough. Even if it fails to sell, Anderson Paak is clearly an artist on the rise – don’t sleep on him!

Favorites: “The Bird,” “Heart Don’t Stand a Chance,” “The Season / Carry Me,” “Put Me Thru,” “Your Prime” and “Come Down”


(Excerpted from Anderson Paak’s Latest Album ‘Malibu’ Shows He’s Clearly An Artist On The Rise)

4) Rihanna, Anti (Roc Nation)

Rihanna, Anti © Roc Nation (1)


Ultimately, ANTI is different from Rihanna’s previous seven studio releases, but that’s not totally a bad thing. There’s a lack of radio-ready hits which may ultimately stifle commercial endurance, but particularly for dedicated fans, they should enjoy the experiments and change of pace with ANTI. Some will and some want, but ANTI is worth the time, particularly if you give it a chance – a couple of listens to settle in.

Favorites: “Kiss It Better,” “Desperado,” “Same Ol’ Mistakes,” “Love on the Brain”


(Excerpted from Review: Rihanna Switches Things Up On ‘Anti’)

5) Elton John, Wonderful Crazy Night (Mercury) Elton John, Wonderful Crazy Night © Mercury


Overall, Wonderful Crazy Night is a fine new album by Elton John. Veterans don’t have anything to prove when they release new albums. That’s the case with Elton John on Wonderful Crazy Night, who doesn’t reinvent the wheel or himself, but flexes his prodigious musical muscles once more. A winner? You bet! 

Favorites: “Wonderful Crazy Night,” “In The Name of You,” “Claw Hammer,” “A Good Heart”


(Excerpted from Elton John Expands His Legacy On ‘Wonderful Crazy Night’)

6) BJ The Chicago Kid, In My Mind (Motown)

BJ The Chicago Kid, In My Mind © Motown


Ultimately, BJ the Chicago Kid shines on In My Mind. Ever restless, he doesn’t just stick to one subgenre of R&B but rather embraces a little bit of everything. Soulful and eclectic musically, “the Chicago Kid” delivers without question, and more up and coming R&B artists could take a page out of his book.

Favorites: “Church,” “Love Inside,” “The Resume,” “Jeremiah/World Needs More Love,” “New Cupid,” and “Turnin’ Me On”


(Excerpted from BJ The Chicago Kid Delivers Captivating Debut Album With ‘In My Mind’)

Honorable Mentions: Hands Like Houses, Dissonants (Rise); Kanye West, The Life Of Pablo (Def Jam); Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, This Unruly Mess I’ve Made (Macklemore); The 1975, I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It (Interscope)

Albums that are OFF…this needs no explanation

1) Ricky Dillon, Gold (EGR Music Group)
Ricky Dillon, GOLD © EGR Music Group


Ultimately, GOLD is an album one genuinely wants to like, particularly given its star, but is arguably bogged down by its flaws. It has moments, but even those ‘moments’ aren’t transcendent. Give Dillon credit for taking the leap into the cutthroat music industry and sharing his art if nothing more; he definitely shouldn’t stop pursuing his dream. Unfortunately, GOLD aims for the stars but falls short of the glory.

Favorites: “Don’t Wanna Fall in Love,” “Problematic” and “Steal The Show”


(Excerpted from Ricky Dillon Aims High, Falls Short on ‘Gold’) 

2) Charlie Puth, Nine Track Mind (Atlantic)

 Charlie Puth, Nine Track Mind © Atlantic


So ultimately, its hard not to like Charlie Puth – he seems like a nice guy who’s definitely living his dream. But based upon Nine Track Mind, he’s gonna need more substance and less fluff next-go-round. Yes, there’s some scrumptiousness to be enjoyed, but there’s also some “eh” moments. Shouldn’t “Marvin Gaye” have warned us in the first place? (Brent Music Reviews)

(Excerpted from Charlie Puth’s Artistry Is A Work In Progress (Quick Thoughts))

How does Nine Track Mind fare? Eh. It’s not terrible, but neither is it profound or particularly great. At best it’s average, but even if being “average” is a considered a “bad thing,” one thing Puth always shows is potential. It’s clear he’s a polished, well-rounded musician, but he needs to work on his artistry. Furthermore, as reiterated throughout, Puth needs to kicks things into the next gear. Better, more memorable material and more risky, dynamic performances would definitely help. (Starpulse)

Favorites: “One Call Away,” “We Don’t Talk Anymore,” “Suffer” and “Some Type of Love”


(Excerpted from Charlie Puth Shows Potential, Lacks Oomph On ‘Nine Track Mind’)

3) Tank, Sex Love & Pain II (Atlantic)

Tank, Sex Love & Pain II © Atlantic


How does Sex, Love & Pain II stack up? Average at best. Reiterating for the umpteenth, Tank sounds fantastic vocally. The problem is the material – it just isn’t always a perfect fit. Yes, Tank can sing about sex and be that clubby R&B artist who thrives off of swag if he wishes, but does it really suit him or elevate his artistry or showcase his abilities? No. Tank’s best when he lays off being risqué and let’s his amazing pipes make the ladies swoon (and dudes jealous).

Favorites: “You Don’t Know,” “Better For You” and “Already in Love”


(Excerpted from Tank Is Too Reliant On Trendiness On ‘Sex Love & Pain II’) 

4) Wiz Khalifa, Khalifa (Atlantic)

Wiz Khalifa, Khalifa © Atlantic


All in all, Khalifa is average at best. At this point, the feeling is that Wiz Khalifa has ran through his best materials, best lines, and ultimately has shown all his cards. Khalifa isn’t bad, but nor is it profound. Courting new fans with Khalifa should be difficult, as it seems that the MC doesn’t have much freshness to offer aside from the same old weed references. 

Favorites: “Celebrate,” “Elevated,” “Bake Sale” and “Call Waiting”    


(Excerpted from Wiz Khalifa Doesn’t Switch Things Up On Sixth Album ‘Khalifa’)

Future, EVOL © Atlantic

25 Chart Takeaways: Future Scores Third No. 1 Album

Future, EVOL © Atlantic

Expectedly, Future tops the Billboard 200 Chart AGAIN.   Future wasn’t the only artist dropping a new album this week – but he certainly smoked the competition! 25 chart takeaways, let’s go!

1) Future scores his third consecutive no. 1 album with EVOL. What a time to be alive it is indeed for Future.

2) Adele slipped to no. 3 last week but rebounds to the runner-up spot this week. 25 has yet to leave the top 3 of the Billboard 200.

3) Rihanna’s ANTI slips from no. 1 to no. 3 in week three. ANTI initially debuted at no. 27 before ascending to no. 1 last week.

4) Coldplay’s A Head Full Of Dreams ascends 12 spots from no. 16 to no. 4 following their Super Bowl halftime show.

Wiz Khalifa, Khalifa © Atlantic

5) Wiz Khalifa’s Khalifa opens modestly at no. 6 with his worst numbers yet.

6) Now 57 debuts at no. 7, relatively low for a Now That’s What I Call Music compilation effort.

7) Elton John’s Wonderful Crazy Night debuts respectably at no. 8.

8) Kevin Gates sees his Islah slip from no. 2 to no. 10 in week two.

Charlie Puth, Nine Track Mind © Atlantic

9) Charlie Puth’s Nine Track Mind drops 15 spots from no. 6 to no. 21.

10) Young Thug’s I’m Up debuts at no. 22.

11) Sia takes a big tumble this week to the tune of 23 spots! This Is Acting free falls from no. 4 to no. 27. Ouch!

12) Charles Kelley’s The Driver debuts modestly at no. 35, certainly not Lady Antebellum caliber numbers.

13) Lucinda WilliamsThe Ghosts of Highway 20 enters right behind Kelley’s album at no. 36.

David Bowie, Blackstar © Columbia

14) David Bowie’s Blackstar slips 27 spots from no. 17 to no. 42 (five weeks in)

15) Rachel Platten’s Wildifre drops 12 spots from no. 40 to no. 52 in its sixth week on the BB200.

16) Boosie BadAzz’s Out My Feelings In My Past debuts quietly at no. 57.

17) Majid Jordan’s self-titled debut bows at no. 69.


18) Megadeth’s Dystopia slides from no. 30 to no. 79 in only its third week on the charts!

19) SWV’s Still debuts very modestly at no. 80. SWV’s last album performed better.

20) Mike Posner’s EP The Truth reaches a new peak at no. 89. This marks the EP’s third week on the charts.

21) Tedeschi Trucks Band tumble big time as Let Me Get By nosedives from no. 15 to no. 96.

Tori Kelly, Unbreakable Smile © Capitol

22) Tori Kelly’s Unbreakable Smile drops 60 spots from no. 42 to no. 102 in week 25 on the charts.

23) Three weeks in, Tank’s Sex Love & Pain II is a huge bomb. This week, it fell 51 spots from no. 55 to no. 106.

24) FREE FALL ALERT! Dream Theater’s The Astonishing drops 115 spots from no. 11 to no. 126!

25) Nothing But Thieves’ self-titled effort limps onto the charts at no. 130.

Scissor Sisters, Scissor Sisters © Umvd

‘Scissor Sisters’ Shines 10 Years Later

"Scissor Sisters -Fuji Rock Festival, Japan-31July2010" by Tokyo JapanTimes from Tokyo, Japan - Scissor SistersUploaded by Snowmanradio. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -,_Japan-31July2010.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Scissor_Sisters_-Fuji_Rock_Festival,_Japan-31July2010.jpg

10 years ago, Scissor Sisters debuted with their debut pop/rock album, Scissor Sisters. The name of the band itself is incredibly risqué; ‘scissor sisters’ is slang for a lesbian sexual position. Given the flamboyance as well as the gargantuan amount of energy and enthusiasm exhibited throughout the band’s music, the band name seems to fit. The colorful collective is led by Jake Shears.

Throughout their 13-year career, The New York band has released four albums: Scissor Sisters, Ta-Dah, Night Work, and Magic Hour. The longest gap between albums came between Ta-Dah (2006) and Night Work (2010). Celebrating the band’s 10th anniversary of their debut, what better way than ranking their discography?


4) Magic Hour (2012)

Scissor Sisters, The Magic Hour © Casablanca

Honestly, the separation between three out of four of Scissor Sisters’ albums is minimal. That said, that separation grows a bit greater when it comes to the band’s latest and arguably least memorable album, Magic Hour. The album isn’t bad (at all), but after the exceptional Night Work that arrived two-years previously, Magic Hour had hard shoes to fill. The best tracks – the sensational John Legend co-write “Baby Come Home” and the irresistible “Let’s Have a Kiki.”

3) Ta-Dah (2006)

Scissor Sisters, Ta-Dah © Universal

Following up one of the best albums of 2004 isn’t easy. Ta-Dah definitely didn’t supersede Scissor Sisters. Even so, it was a solid and enjoyable album filled with notable tracks, led by high-flying “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’.” Ta-Dah also featured standouts in “She’s My Man,” “I Can’t Decide,” and “Land of a Thousand Words.” “Land of A Thousand Words” notably rivals the work of Elton John.

2) Night Work (2010)

Scissor Sisters, Night Work © DowntownThe album that comes closest to giving Scissor Sisters a run for its money is Scissor Sisters’ third album, Night Work. Night Work doesn’t win that battle obviously, but it was a stacked, fun album by all means. Standouts include “Whole New Way,” “Fire With Fire,” “Any Which Way,” and personal favorite, “Harder You Get.”

With a title like Night Work, it’s a safe bet that Jake Shears and company aren’t playing around. On “Whole New Way,” Shears sings, “I see smoke upon the water, said the sailor to the daughter / well I think I need a rubber tonight.” Later on “Harder You Get,” Shears proclaims, “Hell is my heaven / a loaded weapon / don’t point that thing at me unless you plan to shoot.” If that doesn’t scream sex, what does?


1) Scissor Sisters (2004)

Scissor Sisters © Umvd Labels


Unsurprising, Scissor Sisters is the band’s best, most consistent, and most important album. This was the album that put them on the map and remains the album to beat. Despite the rest of their discography being strong, none of it eclipses this seminal masterpiece. Elton John’s fingerprints sound as if they are all over this album, even if the legendary singer/songwriter is nowhere involved in this product.

Highlights from Scissor Sisters include opener “Laura,” hella catchy single “Take Your Mama,” an electrified cover of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb,” ballad “Mary,” “Tits on the Radio,” and the rocking “Music is the Victim.” Basically, the album is filled with magnificent lyrics and moments. Face it, on what other album would you hear lyrics “You can’t see tits on the radio / I’ll give you five fingers for a one man show…” Nowhere is the answer.


Unapologetic, bold, and ripe, Scissor Sisters is definitely one of the masterpieces of the new millennium. Now, 10 years later, Scissor Sisters still stands the test of time.

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.


“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).



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.


“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.




From album: Ciara

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…”


“Golden Salvation (Jesus Piece)”


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).


“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”!



Kid Cudi

From album: Indicud

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


“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.


“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!


“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.



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!!!”


“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…


“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.


“While I’m Alive”


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.’


“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…”


“Body Party”


From album: Ciara

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


“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…



Sara Bareilles

From album: The Blessed Unrest

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



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!


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.


“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…”



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.



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.


“Ain’t It Fun”


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!


“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 2 (#75 – 51)

Mac Miller-PFR-010521

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.



R. Kelly

From album: Black Panties

Oreos everywhere has been violated… enough said.


“Work B**ch”

Britney Spears

From album: Britney Jean

To Britney done told y’all – you better get to work! “Work B**ch” is the best song from a lackadaisical Britney Jean.




From album: Beyoncé

Examine the entire song or even excerpted lyrics and you’ll understand why it graced this list:  “Can you lick my skittles / that’s the sweetest in the middle…” Couple that with R. Kelly’s “Cookie” and something is definitely going down in the bedroom…


“For The Rest of My Life”

Robin Thicke

From album: Blurred Lines

Well, at least Robin Thicke followed up “Blurred Lines” with a lovely ballad with some substance.  Still won’t get the skeptics off his back about “Blurred Lines” though, LOL.



Arcade Fire

From album: Reflektor

Front man Win Butler has a message for you young guys – don’t be so selfish about sex/endeavors when it comes to your girlfriend(s)!


“Winning Hand”


From album: A Love Surreal

The lyrics speak for them self:  “Baby, you’re a winning hand / a game change, I’m on the roll.”  I want a winning hand… Hehe.


“Here’s To Never Growing Up”

Avril Lavigne

From album: Avril Lavigne

In case you’re wondering, Avril hasn’t grown up any.  If anything, she’s prolonged her carefree youth with curse words.  Cheers to eternal youth!


“Love and War”

Tamar Braxton

From album: Love and War

Another instance where the lyrics speak for them self:  “We stay on the front lines / Yeah but we’re still here after the bomb drops / we go so hard we lose control / the fire starts then we explode / when the smoke clears we dry our tears / only in love and war.”


“The Way”

Ariana Grande featuring Mac Miller

From album: Yours Truly

Basically, young Mariah is at work, and she gets the assist from Easy Mac.  Did I mention Grande sounds angelic?  And ole boy keeps it clean…no ‘birdcalls’.


“Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)”

Arcade Fire

From album: Reflektor

A tragic story given Eurydice’s death and Orpheus’ infatuation with his late lover (Greek mythology),  “Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)” finds AF front man Win Butler singing “I know you can see / things that we can’t see / but when I say I love you / your silence covers me…” Ultimately, “Awful Sound” matches the ‘all over the map’ nature of its parent album.


“New Slaves”

Kanye West

From album: Yeezus 

Ever controversial, Kanye West manages to resurrect the horrid past of African-Americans, particularly playing up past shortcomings and present stereotypes (“Y’all throwing contracts at me / y’all know that n***as can’t read…”). Even so, agile and edgy rhymes make “New Slaves” worthwhile.



José James

From album: No Beginning, No End

Jazz and soul music create a beautiful union on the signature cut from José James’ superb album No Beginning, No End.


“Wild For The Night”

A$AP Rocky featuring Skrillex

From album: Long. Live. A$AP

A$AP is partying hard, and he’s bringing an unlikely buddy in Skrillex with him. What more can be said – clubs are bumping!



Mac Miller

From album: Watching Movies With The Sound Off

Based on some of Mac Miller’s lyrics, the goose bumps he be giving his girl are serious, cause when he dies he “bet she f**k my hologram…” He’s confident in his, err – he’s confident, we’ll leave it at that!


“I Need”


From album: Three Kings

This song has been my ringtone for minute, really! TGT absolutely slaughter the chorus: “Now I know / it ain’t ever worth your heart / and it ain’t ever worth your tears / and it ain’t ever worth those scars that might not heal / I need, I need, I need (you)…” Hey, us guys sometimes need that masculine R&B perspective, even when it’s sensitive!


“Where Are We Now?”

David Bowie

From album: The Next Day

Sometimes it is simplicity that carries a great deal of weight: “Where are we now, where are we now? The moment you know, you know, you know…” Bowie slays this ballad, no questions asked.


“You Lust”

The Flaming Lips

From album: The Terror

Three words:  “LUST TO SUCCED!”


“Holy Ghost”

Mavis Staples

From album: One True Vine

“Holy Ghost” – a cover from band Low – finds Staples commanding and soulful atop folksy production work.  While she’s reserved, Staples still packs a punch, particularly when her 74-year old voice cracks with expression.


“Don’t Swallow the Cap”

The National

From album: Trouble Will Find Me

The National’s “Don’t Swallow the Cap” shines, despite its pessimism (“…I have faith but don’t believe it / it’s not there enough to leave it…”). Sporting exceptional songwriting as well as a solid arrangement/production, characterized by keyboards, haunting strings, and pummeling drums, “Don’t Swallow the Cap” is arguably the valedictory track from Trouble Will Find Me.


“Take This Dirty Water”

Elton John

From album: The Diving Board

On brilliant track “Take This Dirty Water”, Elton John combines facets of gospel, blues, and rock.  Incredibly soulful and feel-good, “Take This Dirty Water” is easily one of Elton John’s most distinct and best songs in years.


“Bound 2”

Kanye West featuring Charlie Wilson

From album: Yeezus

“Bound 2” bucked the trend of most of Yeezus; it sounded more like West’s classic material with soulful sample intact.


“Strictly Reserved For You”

Charles Bradley

From album: Victim of Love

Every bit of Charles’ love – well, it’s “strictly reserved for you.” Aww, the feeling of feeling loved.



Lady Gaga

From album: ARTPOP 

Didn’t you know you’re worth more than a dime bag any day in Lady Gaga’s eyes? “I need you more than dope.”



R. Kelly

From album: Black Panties

When it comes to R. Kelly, well, everything seems to revolve around a three-letter word.  Here, the salacious 46-year old R&B singer/songwriter is a “sex genius”, supposedly.



Tyler, The Creator

From album: Wolf

As written previously, Tyler, The Creator is the “cowboy on [his] own trip”; he holds his own destiny. Be sure to check out the previously released first part with songs #100-76, as well as upcoming parts #50 – 26, and #25 – 1.

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The 50 (+1) Best Albums of 2013

Kanye West-20131126-42

Ranking the very best albums of any year is incredibly difficult; there are always misses.  2013 was filled with some triumphant musical moments, though not all of their parent albums were necessarily ‘worthy’ of being considered the best of the year. Because of various factors, this list has its surprises and like any album reviewed, its triumphs and flaws.  One thing’s for sure – the top ten to fifteen albums are pretty close to the cream of the crop from my perspective.  Here are the 50 (+1) best albums of 2013!


Vampire Weekend

Modern Vampires of the City


51Tqebc+IZL._SL500_AA280_The Ivy Leaguers outdo themselves on this eclectic, alt-rock tour de force. Stacked from start to finish, Ezra Koenig and company deliver sharp wordplay and highly liberal thinking.

Recommended Spins: “Obvious Bicycle”; “Unbelievers”; “Diane Young”; “Finger Back”; “Worship You”; “Ya Hey”

Seals The Deal:  “Obvious Bicycle”


Kanye West


Def Jam

51xNTn2L83L._SL500_AA280_Give credit to Mr. West where credit is due – previously Yeezus probably wouldn’t have landed in the top five, let alone the top two.  But as with certain wines and cheeses (Swiss namely), there is an aging process to provide a delicious and satisfying taste.  The same could be said of West über-ambitious Yeezus – or something similar that is!

Recommended Spins: “Black Skinhead”; “I Am A God”; “New Slaves”; “Blood on the Leaves”; “Bound 2” featuring Charlie Wilson

Seals The Deal: “Blood on the Leaves” 


Janelle Monae

The Electric Lady

Bad Boy

51q3xK+M7zL._SL500_AA280_Don’t put the fork in R&B music just yet – Janelle Monae delivers the year’s most intriguing R&B album that brilliantly encompasses numerous styles and keeps things both classic and progressive. One of a kind, all should bow down to JM.

Recommended Spins: “Give Them What They Love” featuring Prince; “Q.U.E.E.N.” featuring Erykah Badu; “Primetime” featuring Miguel; “Dance Apocalyptic”; “Dorothy Dandridge Eyes”

Seals The Deal: “Prime Time” featuring Miguel


Daft Punk

Random Access Memories


41FJb1q2VyL._SL500_AA280_The best, and arguably most exciting electronic album of 2013, is shockingly less futuristic compared to its colleagues, drawing back to old-school pop, disco, and soul. Throwback it is, Random Access Memories is one of the year’s finest albums regardless of genre, and stands a solid shot of winning the Grammy for album of the year.

Recommended Spins: “Give Life Back to Music”; “Giorgio By Moroder”; “Lose Yourself to Dance” featuring Pharrell Williams; “Touch” featuring Paul Williams; “Get Lucky” featuring Pharrell Williams; “Fragments of Time”

Seals The Deal: “Get Lucky” featuring Pharrell Williams


John Legend

Love in the Future


41o5xUIKO+L._SL500_AA280_John Legend redeems himself big time on his fourth studio album Love in the Future following a somewhat disappointing effort in 2008’s Evolver.  While there are some more contemporary ideas here, Love in the Future is more about Legend flexing his soulful muscles, a niche he perfectly fits.

Recommended Spins: “In The Beginning”; “Who Do We Think You Are?” featuring Rick Ross; “Made To Love”; “All of Me”; “Stay The Night”; “Tomorrow”

Seals The Deal: “Who Do We Think We Are?” featuring Rick Ross 


Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite

Get Up!


51dp0nxPTmL._SL500_AA280_Blues albums rarely rack up huge accolades on a ‘big stage’, but Get Up! is that incredibly worthy exception.  Soulful and consistent through and through, Get Up! Easily ranks highly among the year’s gems.

Recommended Spins: “We Can’t End This Way”; “I Ride At Dawn”; “Get Up”

Seals The Deal: “We Can’t End This Way”


Black Sabbath



510gRIX6xfL._SL500_AA280_More than just the agnostics, atheists, and secularists will be pleasantly surprised with Black Sabbath’s most important album in years. Why is album 13 so important? It reunites the whole Black Sabbath crew (save for the drummer) for the first time 35 years!  Dark and foreboding, yet ‘sinfully’ appealing, 13 is quite the epic heavy-/black-metal album.

Recommended Spins: “End of The Beginning”; “God Is Dead?”; “Zeitgeist”;  “Live Forever”; “Dear Father”

Seals The Deal: “God Is Dead?”



Nothing Was The Same


41E34dng69L._SL500_AA280_Drake didn’t necessarily ‘step his game up’ on Nothing Was The Same – he just continued to flex his emo-/ alt-rap muscles like the pro that he is.  NTWS is filled with gems, all completely different from one another.  One thing’s for sure, he may have “Started On The Bottom”, but Drake is on top of the game by all means.

Recommended Spins: “Tuscan Leather”; “Started From The Bottom”; “Wu-Tang Forever”; “From Time”; “Hold On, We’re Going Home”; “305 To My City” featuring Detail

Seals The Deal: “Wu-Tang Forever” 





31-q26oFwyL._SL500_AA280_Beyoncé shocked the world with her surprise fifth studio album, Beyoncé.  Even so, that’s not the reason ‘Yoncé makes this list.  Ultimately, the R&B chanteuse delivers a sharp, risqué fifth effort that separates itself from the rest of her discography and many of the other releases from 2013.  Both shocking and alluring, Bey does her thang.

Recommended Spins: “Pretty Hurts”; “Haunted”; “Drunk in Love” featuring Jay-Z;  “Blow”; “Rocket”

Seals The Deal: “Drunk in Love” featuring Jay-Z


Arcade Fire



51wzw69ySAL._SL500_AA280_Few might’ve expected for Arcade Fire to follow-up their album of the year winning effort The Suburbs with an album like Reflektor  (I didn’t).  However, as all-over-the-place as Reflektor is, there are plenty of moments for alt-rock fans to cheer about.  Danceable, conceptual, and ultimately incredibly unique, Reflektor cracks the top ten best of the year, easily.

Recommended Spins: “Reflektor”; “We Exist”; “Here Comes the Night Time”;  “Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)”; “It’s Never Over (Hey Orpheus)”; “Porno”

Seals The Deal: “Reflektor”

Continue reading “The 50 (+1) Best Albums of 2013”

Album Playlist: Favorites, Least Favorites, and Honorable Mentions of 2013, Part 1…


As I look over my 2013 playlist from my iPod, I realize I have listened to numerous albums this year.  In fact, the amount of music that my ears have consumed and my pen has analyzed is pretty scary…and I still missed lots of albums! SMH! Some were special, some made me cringe, and some fell somewhere in between the two extremes.  As difficult as it was, as of October 7, 2013, I have compiled a list housing my favorites, least favorites, and honorable mentions.  I’m almost certain I’ve slighted someone and I’m sure there will be continual revisions, but for now, here’s what you should’ve spun, what you should’ve avoided like the plague, and those that were strongly consideration for favorites. Enjoy!



51zyslCFevL._SL500_AA280_Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience 

Elton John, The Diving Board

My two favorite pop albums couldn’t be more different.  One’s a more singer/songwriter and rock-oriented effort (John) while the other balances urban and pop (Timberlake).  Two different extremes of the spectrum perhaps, both yield sound rewards.

Traditional Pop 

Michael Bublé, To Be Loved 

Bublé possesses one of the best voices in recent times by my estimations.

Electronic / Dance

41FJb1q2VyL._SL500_AA280_Daft Punk, Random Access Memories

James Blake, Overgrown

Daft Punk’s effort was the commercial triumph of the two, delivering the ubiquitous, tastefully risqué “Get Lucky”.  Blake’s brilliant Overgrown shouldn’t be written off by any means, easily showing a huge amount of growth since his debut James Blake.


41HOLOY507L._SL500_AA280_Queens of the Stone Age, …Like Clockwork

David Bowie, The Next Day

So we’ve got a legend who returns after a lengthy hiatus and an underrated band who somehow made their way to the number one spot on the Billboard Albums chart.  Awesome.  Both albums are among the year’s top regardless of genre.


510gRIX6xfL._SL500_AA280_Black Sabbath, 13

While atheism itself doesn’t personally appeal to me, Black Sabbath’s 13 is nothing short of brilliant, regardless of its numerous lyrical allusions to atheism and skepticism towards any religion.



51Tqebc+IZL._SL500_AA280_Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City 

The Flaming Lips, The Terror 

The alternative music category is always stacked with gems, perhaps because this represents the ‘future’ of music with more experimental, less commercialized ideas.  Both Vampire Weekend and The Flaming Lips outdo themselves on their respective albums, no questions asked.


41o5xUIKO+L._SL500_AA280_Janelle Monáe, The Electric Lady

John Legend, Love in the Future

R&B may be suffering commercially, but critically, there are still some unquestionable triumphs.   Janelle Monáe epitomizes the future of the genre, mixing the best cues from the past and incredible creativity that clear thinks forward.  Legend on the other hand is more classic, but as impressive as the results are on Love in the Future, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Traditional R&B

51fqkurDW+L._SL500_AA280_Charles Bradley, Victim of Love

Mavis Staples, One True Vine

Haven’t heard these? Please take the time.  Soul at its best in 2013.



41E34dng69L._SL500_AA280_J. Cole, Born Sinner

Drake, Nothing Was The Same

No Kanye? He has an argument for both being here and not being here.  Honestly, choosing a favorite rap effort is a difficult choice this year as I felt the field has been wide open.  J. Cole definitely came up while Drake was a consistent and moody as ever.  Others could’ve easily landed here as well… the genre has had a good year.


Logic, Young Sinatra: Welcome To Forever

He’s got next, period.


61C7Cg69MKL._SL500_AA280_Cornell Campbell/Soothsayers, Nothing Can Stop Us 

The Courtney John Project, Future

Reggae is underrated, but it shouldn’t be at the hands of veteran Cornell Campbell or innovative collective The Courtney John Project.  Sure we’re going gaga over Justin Timberlake, Daft Punk, and Robin Thicke, but we should also be talking about both these exceptional albums.


51dLxmUchfL._SL500_AA280_Alan Jackson,  Precious Memories II 

I’ll admit, I’ve indeed slept on country some in 2013.  Shame on me, I apologize.  But, I do think that it is strange that from among the few country albums I partook, my choice for the best was a sequel, just saying.  For me, I just couldn’t say that either Luke Bryan, Lady Antebellum, or The Band Perry had my favorite album… Can’t speak on Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Justin Moore, etc. I’ll do better next year.


Shirley Caesar, Good God 

It is a gospel legend… that’s enough said…


41-PUo3AtUL._SL500_AA280_Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite, Get Up!
Tedeschi Trucks Band, Made Up Mind

Talk about two underrated albums! Both are sensational and deciding between the two was incredibly difficult.  That’s why I “made up my mind” and selected both.



5192VzEOazL._SX300_José James, No Beginning, No End

Jaimeo Brown, Transcendence 

José James could’ve landed in the R&B category, but we all know that jazz is a huge part of his artistry, right? No Beginning, No End is a terrific album that I hope the Grammy voters don’t shun.  Jaimeo Brown offers quite a creative, modern-jazz album that is incredibly eclectic, including elements of Indian music and spirituals.

Make sure you check out part 2 (Least Favorites), coming soon!!!

Review: Elton John, ‘The Diving Board’


Elton John Doesn’t Miss A Beat on His Latest 

Elton John⎪The Diving Board ⎪ Capitol ⎪⎪ US Release Date: September 24, 2013

Elton John-DGG-041244When I hear the name Elton John, one of the first words that comes to mind is legend (piano too, but we’ll stick with legend for our purposes).  Elton John was certainly a gargantuan presence in pop and rock music back in the day. That might be an understatement within itself.   Sure, his days of being a commercial fixture are long past, but where many new artists lack musical longevity, John will always remain musically relevant.   That’s part of the reason why his first solo album in seven years, The Diving Board, is kind of a big deal.  Sure, there is no “Candle in the Wind” or  “Philadelphia Freedom” on this oft stripped set, but there are plenty of well written, worthwhile additions to John’s juggernaut-like collection.  Hey when Elton and Bernie get together – musically and lyrically – it’s always a good thing.

The Diving Board opens superbly with the stripped “Oceans Away”, which finds John accompanied solely by his piano playing.  Sure the number is an understated way to begin a ‘comeback’ of sorts, but don’t let the setting sway you away.  “Ocean Away” is prudent,  definitely packing more punch than expected.  And ode to the previous generation, John urges for the embracement of their consummate wisdom: “I hung with the old folks / in the hope that I’d get wise / I was trying to bridge the gap / between the great divide.”  The understated opener is proceeded by the more overt “Oscar Wilde Gets Out”, a fascinating narrative-driven number based upon the 19th century writer.  It may not necessarily appeal to all, particularly those unfamiliar with Wilde, but it has some truly notable moments.  The prized lyric? “Looking back on the cold bleak winter / looking back on those long dark days / felt like the head of John the Baptist / in the arms of Salome.”

Elton John2-20120717-28A Town Called Jubilee” infuses some funkiness into The Diving Board, propelled not only by an initial groove, but also John’s bluesy piano lines.  John gets to further flex his pianistic muscles during an instrumental section.  But more than John’s keyboard skills shine, so does his voice as well as the backing vocal support he receives during the standout chorus (“Come on little sister get up offa my knee / gonna settle down someday / in a town called Jubilee…”).  “The Ballad of Blind Tom” follows the epic number with less ‘hooky’ though still compelling results.  If nothing more, John’s piano skills always incite ear-catching moments.  This is especially true of the recurrent interludes.  “Dream #1” provides an intimate, piano only moment.

After the pianistic moment, “My Quicksand” captivates through its darker, more mysterious vibe.  John may not sound incredibly optimistic here (“My quicksand / let me introduce you / to my final stand / I went to Paris once / I thought I had a plan / I woke up with an accent / I wound up in quicksand…”), but the sprinkles of jazz lighten things up during the instrumental interlude.   Yeah, maybe he’s morose, but at least it’s impressively conveyed, right? “Can’t Stay Alone Tonight” provides more hope, though the lyrical bridge is still heavy stuff: “Bruised in this cold war of words / we’ve come undone two loose ends alone / possessed by the curse you’ve endured / the spell that I cast couldn’t make you come home.” Well, it’s in a major key with a gospel-country element.  Oh and Raphael Saadiq plays bass.

Any track titled “Voyeur” can only have an edge to it.  “Voyeur” certainly lives true to its title, as John sings “…the solitary eyes I’ve been looking through / committed to connecting the old ways to the new.” There it is.  “Voyeur” would never be a ‘commercial’ single given chordal progression quirks and an unapologetic singer/songwriter feel, but that wouldn’t be the intended approach anyways. “Home Again” appeals more, accentuated by the use of horns, keyboards, and bowed (arco) bass.  Strong songwriting and the expected commanding vocal performance by Elton John certainly doesn’t hurt.

Elton John-LMK-051125As good as “Home Again”, “Take This Dirty Water” steals the show, with Elton John combining facets of gospel, blues, and rock.  Incredibly soulful and feel-good, “Take This Dirty Water” just might be the album’s crown jewel.  “Dream #2” precedes “The New Fever Waltz”, which is indeed a waltz and doesn’t miss a beat.  “Mexican Vacation (Kids in the Candlelight)” gives “Take This Dirty Water” a run for its money, again calling upon gospel as a chief influence and some more bass accompaniment courtesy of Saadiq.  “Dream #3” finally delivers the entirety of the “Dream”, this time finding John receiving an assist from bass and drums. Title track “The Diving Board” closes solidly, if a bit too slow and prolonged.  It’s a cut with good intentions, but doesn’t dare supersede  stacked numbers like “Oceans Away” or “Take This Dirty Water”.

Ultimately, The Diving Board is an incredibly well done Elton John album.  It supersedes nothing from John’s discography, but it neither needs to or really should.  John has already shared with us his greatest contributions to music… he has nothing more to prove.  The Diving Board is John on autopilot, doing what he does best.  They say you can’t teach and old dog new tricks.  In John’s case, why would you want or need to?

Favorites: “Oceans Away”; “A Town Called Jubilee”; “Home Again”; “Take This Dirty Water”; “Mexican Vacation (Kids in the Candlelight)”

Verdict: ✰✰✰✰


Chart Moves, October 2, 2013: Drake 3Peats


Drake’s 3Peat on the Billboard Albums Chart

Unsurprisingly, Drake lands atop the Billboard 200 Album Charts with his third solo album, Nothing Was The SameNothing Was The Same sold a career-best 658,000 copies, trumping the 631,000 copies that Take Care sold in 2011.  Ultimately, Drake’s latest sold just a tad below prognostications, but easily took honors as top hip-hop debut of the year and the second-best debut overall behind Justin Timberlake’s juggernaut, The 20/20 Experience.  Drake, dude, “you the f**king best”.

…More Debuts This Week…

51UokMRA8lL._SL500_AA280_The best he may be, Drake is only the start of a debut-heavy top ten.  Kings of Leon play bridesmaid with Mechanical Bull, which sold 110,000 copies.  That’s down from the debut of 2010 effort Come Around Sundown, but stronger than the band’s breakthrough effort Only By The Night, which was their fourth album.  Cher and Elton John apparently don’t miss a beat, even at 67 and 66 years of age respectively.  Cher’s anticipated CElton John-LMK-051125loser to the Truth, her first new album in 11 years, bows at no. 3 with 63,000 copies.  As for Elton John, The Diving Board arrives at no. 4 with 47,000 copies sold.  He impacted the chart last with Leon Russell on the fine The Union in 2010 (no. 3, 80,000 copies).

Guess what, there were more debuts! Dream Theater’s Dream Theater moves 34,000 copies at no. 7.  Krewella moves 27,000 copies of Get Wet, good for a no. 8 bow.  Metallica is the final top 10 bow as Metallica: Through the Never ends up at no. 9 with 26,000 copies.

Who’s Got Next

51C5yP6ZOqL._SL500_AA280_I’ll keep it simple… Justin Timberlake. The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2 should debut at no. 1.  The only spoils? Timberlake underperforms and Drake over performs after a brilliant debut.  Other releases arriving? Lorde’s Pure Heroine, Tyler Farr’s Redneck Crazy, Joan Jett & The BlackheartsUnvarnished, Steven Curtis Chapman’s The Glorious Unfolding, K-Ci & JoJo’s My Brothers Keeper.  Lorde should be the other biggie in addition to Timberlake according to’s estimations.  Having the U.S.’s new no. 1 single “Royals” certainly helps the teen singer.