Rihanna, Talk That Talk © Def Jam

The ‘Birthday’ Album: Celebration Playlist

Katy Perry, "Birthday" © Capitol

So… two years ago, I composed a post that was titled Three Songs With The Word “Birthday” In Them To Celebrate My Birthday. Now two years later, also on my birthday, I’m celebrating with an expansion of that brief playlist. Call this the ‘Birthday’ Album – a playlist comprised of 14 songs celebrating my birthday. Some are truly great birthday songs, while others are left field and left of center. The only stipulation – all song titles had to contain the word “birthday.” A couple of songs are reprisals from the original.

1) 2 Chainz featuring Kanye West, “Birthday Song” (Based on a T.R.U. Story, 2012)

“All I want for my birthday is a big booty hoe / all I want for my birthday is a big booty hoe.” While it’s a catchy line from a hella catchy song, I can’t exactly relate with 2 Chainz’s aspirations for his birthday. Love is one thing, but 2 Chainz is clearly thinking with his pants and temporarily.


2) Katy Perry, “Birthday” (Prism, 2013)

“Boy, when you’re with me, I’ll give you a taste / Make it like your birthday everyday.” Who would deny this from Katy Perry? Offer accepted!


3) Jeremih, “Birthday Sex” (Jeremih, 2009)

“Girl you know I-I-I…just need your body to make / birthday sex / birthday sex.” So basically, Jeremih is seeking the ultimate birthday gift of sorts – at least from a young man’s perspective.

Dethklok, The Dethalbum © Williams Street

4) Dethklok, “Birthday Dethday” (The Dethalbum, 2007)

Well… the title sounded cool, yet very dark and DISTURBING. Not sure that it’s an ideal to celebrate one’s birthday. Won’t be supplanting the classic “Happy Birthday” for me at least… Lines like “Now you’re old and full of hatred / take a pill to masturbatred” or “One more year of further suffering / there’s no point of f*cking bluffing” aren’t exactly endearing… just saying!


5) Twista, “Birthday” (Category F5, 2009)

This one would definitely pair up well with 2 Chainz’s “Birthday Song” and has to be related to Jeremih’s “Birthday Sex.” Birthdays have become freaky events, apparently… This is one for the strip clubs, not a family-friendly celebration of another year of WISDOM.


6) Rihanna, “Birthday Cake” (Talk That Talk, 2011)

Speaking of freaky… Da-yum! “Come and put your name on it,” “But he wanna lick the icing off,” and “I know you want to bite this” have nothing to do with the delicious dessert that is birthday cake. This song has more in common with say Trey Songz’s “Cake” from Trigga. Ri Ri, you so nassssttttyyyy girl!


7) Kings of Leon, “Birthday” (Come Around Sundown, 2010)

Finally, something a bit cleaner! “We’re going to come together / we’re going to celebrate / we’re going to gather round / like it’s your birthday.” That’s more the spirit, after the birthday celebration became a bit too lascivious.

Stevie Wonder, Hotter Than July © Motown

8) Stevie Wonder, “Happy Birthday” (Hotter Than July, 1980)

Even more appropriate to the occasion than King of Leon’s “Birthday” is Stevie Wonder’s feel-good cut from his album Hotter Than July. You can’t go wrong with Stevie, or this innocent celebratory jam that serves as a sensational alternative to the tried-and-true standard.


9) R. Kelly, “It’s Your Birthday” (Happy People / U Saved Me, 2004)

Normally, it would be assumed that R. Kelly would turn something like a birthday into something overtly sexual. Surprisingly, Kelly reins him self in, keeping things classy. Of course, Happy People / U Saved Me was among Kelly’s most conservative releases as a whole.


10) Conway Twitty, “Happy Birthday Darlin’” (The #1 Hits Collection, 2000)

Classic, classic, classic! “Happy birthday darlin’/ I’ve no presents, no fancy cake / but I hope I’ll make you happy / with everything I take…”


11) Pleasure P, “Birthday Suit” (The Introduction of Marcus Cooper, 2009)

So, the birthday just got freaky again… thanks Pleasure P. At least you can sing like champ, LOL.


12) Selena Gomez, “Birthday” (Stars Dance, 2013)

This list is beginning to go south… Anyone who read my lovely review of Stars Dance from last year knows how I feel about ole girl – let’s leave it at that! But even as annoying as this little joint is, it is catchy…

Beach Fossils, Clash The Truth © Captured Tracks

13) Beach Fossils, “Birthday” (Clash The Truth, 2013)

Beach Fossils’ “Birthday” is definitely an interesting song – little to do with cake or ice cream though. Oh well, you win some on a ‘birthday’ playlist and you lose some. I don’t recommend supplanting this one with more traditional fare – no shade Beach Fossils.


14) Swizz Beatz featuring Chris Brown & Ludacris, “Everyday Birthday” (2012)

“Everyday is your birthday now hit the floor!” Club birthday joint – let’s get it!

Photo Credits: © Def Jam, © Capitol,  © Williams Street, © Motown, © Captured Tracks

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 3 (#50 – 26)

Panic At The Disco-PFR-010814After 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.


“Drunk In Love”

Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z

From album: Beyoncé

Well, since Beyoncé and Jay-Z are husband and wife, it’s probably fine for them to be ‘drunk’ off of each other’s love.  That said, some of the personal side of that ‘romance’ is made public on this bold track from the surprise ‘visual’ album.  It is what it is…



2 Chainz featuring Fergie

From album: B.O.A.T.S. II: #METIME


You know how fitness trainer Shaun T. says he “don’t do anything but abs”? Well 2 Chainz don’t do anything but stupid.  At least he does it like a pro.  Making a sex tape and putting it on Netflix may be genius, maybe. LOL!


“Wait For Me”

Kings of Leon

From album: Mechanical Bull

Caleb Followill explains it best: “It’s all better now, it’s all better now / wait for me, wait for me.”


“Who I Am”

Pusha T featuring 2 Chainz & Big Sean

From album: My Name Is My Name


Because Pusha T and his star-studded crew stay true to themselves, they shine on “Who I Am”.  “Woo! They said be all you can be / Woo! They said be all you can be / I just wanna buy another Rollie / I just wanna pop another band / I just wanna sell dope forever / I just wanna be who I am.” To each his own… not that I wouldn’t mind a Rollie let alone more than one!



John Mayer

From album: Paradise Valley

“Wildfire” is a folksy/roots/country/pop hybrid that sounds incredibly distinct from anything Mayer has released previously. Vocally, Mayer sounds clear and enthused, shedding with mad skill (as always) on the guitar. 


“Do I Wanna Know?”

Arctic Monkeys

From album: AM

Ah, drunken confessions of love.  Alex Turner is honest on this exceptional opener from Arctic Monkeys’ most recent effort, AM: “Crawlin’ back to you / ever thought of calling you when you’ve had a few? / ‘Cause I always do / Maybe I’m too, busy being yours to fall for somebody new…” You get the idea!


“All American Boy”

Steve Grand

Has there ever been a viral hit that was such a ‘hit’ as “All American Boy”? Steve Grand’s country song with a gay love storyline made a gargantuan impact, everywhere.  Because homosexuality and country are rarely associated with one another, “All American Boy” like “Same Love” was to hip-hop, breaks down social barriers.


“Take A Fall For Me”

James Blake featuring RZA

From album: Overgrown


At the beginning of “Take A Fall For Me”, James Blake claims that, “You can’t marry her yet…” RZA goes on later to state “I heard through the grapevine that great love, it takes time / sex shapes the body, truth shapes the mind…” So basically, this track seems to be about a relationship that is incomplete of all the necessary facets, or something along those lines.



A$AP Ferg featuring A$AP Rocky

From album: Trap Lord

Ferg and Rocky are on that “Sha-Sha-Shabba Ranks”… rings, change, gold teeth, women… Sound so appealing, doesn’t it?



Janelle Monáe featuring Miguel

From album: The Electric Lady

Sometimes, a great R&B duet doesn’t have to be oversexed or completely stripped of its romance.  “Primetime” is a perfect example of this.  The vocal chemistry between Janelle Monáe and Miguel is magnificent.


Kisses Down Low

Kelly Rowland

From album:  Talk A Good Game

Ooh Kelly, you so nasty! “I like my kisses down low / makes me arch my back / when you give it to me slow / baby just like that…” When the word ‘arch’ is used in a song, it’s rarely referencing the ‘arch’ of the foot… just sayin’!



James Blake

From album: Overgrown 

“Retrograde” finds Blake channeling his urban side superbly, accompanied initially by piano.  Blake’s initial vocal runs sounds indigenous to R&B or gospel, making “Retrograde” all the more unique. Things truly grow epic on pivotal line “Suddenly I hit,” where excitement reaches a lofty peak.


“Almost Is Never Enough”

Ariana Grande featuring Nathan Sykes

From album: Yours Truly

Duet “Almost Is Never Enough” should be incredibly sappy but it isn’t!  Grande and boyfriend Nathan Sykes (of The Wanted) sport sound vocal chemistry on this enjoyable track. A musical oxymoron of sorts, “Almost Is Never Enough”, is soulful, yet contemporary, and old school, yet fresh.


“Made Up Mind”

Tedeschi Trucks Band

From album: Made Up Mind

If one was unconvinced just how resolute Susan Tedeschi was, listening to her gritty, passionate performance on the bluesy “Made Up Mind” erases all doubts.  She can S-A-N-G!


“Without Me”

Fantasia featuring Kelly Rowland & Missy Elliott

From album: Side Effects Of You

Guys are totally in the ‘doghouse’ on this jam from Fantasia and friends, but even they can’t resist the nodding of head or the tapping of foot.




From album: Appreciation Day


Jaheim spent most of Appreciation Day ‘appreciating’ women, but he took a detour to go socially conscious on the phenomenal “Florida”, a track questioning the controversial Treyvon Martin verdict.  Sure Jaheim sounds inspired when he’s singing of pleasure, but he sounds equally, if not more powerful, singing of pain and repercussions here. 


“Ya Hey”

Vampire Weekend

From album: Modern Vampires of the City

Someone’s not been going to church lately… “Ya Hey” is a play on the word “Yahweh”, which refers to God.  Can you say blasphemous? Religious stance aside, “Ya Hey” is another creative song courtesy of everyone’s favorite vampires. They sure know how to bite!



Ace Hood featuring Future & Rick Ross

From album: Trials & Tribulations

I rarely compliment Future (I’ve been pretty critical), but “Bugatti” sports Future’s best hook of the year/perhaps ever… “I woke up in a new Bugatti!”



Daft Punk featuring Paul Williams

From Album: Random Access Memories


On the warm and beautiful track “Touch”, Paul Williams delivers a superb vocal performance against an excellent neo-disco styled backdrop. There’s not a thing wrong with that retro swag!


“Hold On, We’re Going Home”

Drake featuring Majid Jordan

From album: Nothing Was The Same

“Hold On, We’re Going Home” has nothing at all  ‘hip-hop’ about it. Despite this, this 80s-styled R&B/pop cut is nothing short of a pleasure to partake of. It’s like the most delicious dessert ever… Scrumptious!


“Miss Jackson”

Panic! At The Disco

From album: Too Weird to Live, To Rare to Die 

“Miss Jackson” (featuring Lolo) finds Panic! At The Disco front man Brendon Urie using his contemporary R&B chops, with some emo-pop swag of course! Catchy and manic, “Miss Jackson” is nothing short of pop gold.  And as “nasty” as Miss Jackson is, “…[he] love her anyway!”


All of Me

John Legend

From album: Love in the Future

The thoughtful, radiant “All Of Me” strips down to piano, vocals, and ‘robots’, with sensational results. Legend sings chivalrously: “‘Cause all of me loves all of you / love your curves and all your edges / all your perfect imperfections.” Aww!




From album: Bankrupt!

“Entertainment” is quite exhilarating, characterized by its use of oriental sounding synths and its superb, unifying chorus. “Entertainment, show them what you do with me / when everyone here knows better / what I once refused to be / is everything they long together / I’d rather be alone”, front man Thomas Mars sings enthusiastically.


“Suit & Tie”

Justin Timberlake featuring Jay-Z

From album: The 20/20 Experience 

Interpreting what it means to be “on that suit and tie sh*t”: Basically ole boy is looking like one dapper mother [shut yo mouth!] and he’s going to do any and everything he can to impress this girl.  “Let me show you a few things…”


“We No Who ‘U ‘R”

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

From album: Push The Sky Away

Well written, mysterious, and diverse from many other songs in 2013, “We No Who ‘U ‘R” is alt-singer/songwriter, alt-rock at its best. The sound is reminiscent of a 60s blue-eyed soul hit.

Be sure to check out the previously released parts with songs #100-76 and #75-51, as well as upcoming part, #25 – 1.

Album Playlist: Favorites, Least Favorites, and Honorable Mentions of 2013, Part 3…


Welcome to the final part of my Favorites, Least Favorites, and Honorable Mentions of 2013.  Here is where I housed my honorable mentions, which were many.  If you missed the previous two posts, here’s how I opened them up respectively, beginning with Favorites and ending with Least Favorites:


“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!”

Least Favorites:

“Welcome all who dare to part deux of my Favorites, Least Favorites, and Honorable Mentions of 2013 for all who dare to enter the brentmusicreviews zone! Ha… If you missed the first part (Favorites, Least Favorites, and Honorable Mentions of 2013, Part 1), you should like totally check out my favorites from 2013, ‘cause there was some awesome albums.  If you’re not one for positivity and optimism, maybe you’re just checking this out because some you enjoy skepticism, criticism, and the occasional, um, cynicism.

Onward to the honorable mentions!!!

Honorable Mentions…


tumblr_mt55ywZm6R1qayn75o1_500John Mayer, Paradise Valley

Travis Garland, Travis Garland

Ariana Grande, Yours Truly

Lorde, Pure Heroine

Conor Maynard, Contrast

There was one dominant pop album in 2013 and it was not by Justin Bieber (yep cheap shot).  Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience was sort of ‘the promised land’ of pop.  But Justin wasn’t the only album that impressed.  John Mayer has been more subtle lately, but Paradise Valley was well conceived.  Travis Garland isn’t well established yet, but he should be following EPs and his compilation effort Travis Garland.  Ariana Grande sounded angelic, particular with boyfriend Nathan Sykes (The Wanted) on “Almost Is Never Enough”.  Lorde’s sorta pop, sorta alternative mix made it a fine listen while Britain’s Justin Bieber Conor Maynard out-swag’d the “swaggy” singer easily with debut Contrast.

Traditional Pop

51lF5QOjyGL._SL500_AA280_Harry Connick, Jr. Smokey Mary 

Harry Connick, Jr. Every Man Should Know

George Benson, Inspiration – A Tribute To Nat King Cole

Michael Bublé delivered my favorite traditional pop album of 2013, but who can deny the musicianship of either Harry Connick, Jr. Or George Benson? Smokey Mary introduced the funky “S’pposed To Be” to my constant rotation playlist while Every Man Should Know added its country-tinged self-titled ballad.  As for George Benson? What more is there to say to hear a legend paying tribute to one of his own legends on tracks like “Route 66” or “Unforgettable”?


51UokMRA8lL._SL500_AA280_Kings of Leon, Mechanical Bull

Alice in Chains, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here

John Fogerty, Wrote A Song For Everyone

Rock certainly didn’t dominate 2013, but there were definitely some exceptional albums.  While Queens of the Stone Age’s …Like Clockwork and David Bowie’s The Next Day took top honors in my eyes, Kings of Leon, Alice in Chains, and John Fogerty definitely ‘did work’ too.  Kings of Leon impressed on “Supersoaker” and were humanized on the seemingly autobiographical “Wait For Me”.  Alice in Chains reminded us just how good 90s rock/metal was, particularly on title track “The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here”.  As for the legend of this trio, John Fogerty’s collaborations effort Wrote A Song For Everyone was so much better than expected, like really!


41pNHSnGAYL._SL500_AA280_Phoenix, Bankrupt!

Depeche Mode, Delta Machine

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Push the Sky Away

The National, Trouble Will Find Me

Let’s just keep this short and sweet.  Stacked, stacked, stacked!!! This category of music is always loaded, period.  An annual number one seed you might say.  Vampire Weekend were definitely the act to beat, but Phoenix, Depeche Mode, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, and The National all rocked too, as evidenced by their spot on my list.   “Entertainment” from Phoenix just made me feel happy because of its bright brilliance.  For electro-alt vets Depeche Mode, it’s the general darkness of the music that has a hypnotizing effect; they never sound old.  Nick Cave’s exceptional songwriting is undeniable, particularly on standouts like the opening “We No Who ‘U ‘R” and the infectious groove of “Finishing Jubilee Street”, which is a follow-up to “Jubilee Street”.  The National pleased with “Don’t Swallow The Cap” and “Humiliation” among others.


51v0nrvYiuL._SL500_AA280_Fantasia, Side Effects of You

Bilal, A Love Surreal

Chrisette Michele, Better

Alice Smith, She

Yeah, I know I’ve whined about R&B, but most of the time it wasn’t the quality of the albums but rather the dismal sales.  None of the above mentioned albums exactly made a huge chart impact (Fantasia did well contextually speaking), but all four were and are definitely worthy of some spins.  “Without Me” was definitely my jam from Side Effects Of You, even if it is more of a women empowerment cut… don’t judge me, it’s sick!  “Winning Hand” tickled my fancy from Bilal’s A Love Surreal, while one of Alice Smith’s best moments was actually a cover of Cee Lo’s “Fool For You”.  As for CM, “A Couple of Forevers” is among my top cuts of the year regardless of genre.  All four albums receive my humble approval.

Traditional R&B

Teena Marie, Beautiful

Aaron Neville, My True Story 

R&B isn’t getting much attention in general, so of course the veterans get the worst of it.   Teena Marie’s posthumously released final studio album is one she would’ve been incredibly proud of.  As for Aaron Neville, there is literally no one who come close to the versatile soul singer’s vocal timbre. He exceptionally covers old, old school classics on My True Story.


51M-LzDg8kL._SL500_AA280_Kanye West, Yeezus

Mac Miller, Watching Movies With The Sound Off

Tyler, The Creator, Wolf

Earl Sweatshirt, Doris

A$AP Rocky, Long. Live. A$AP

A$AP Ferg, Trap Lord

This is one lengthy list right?  There are also probably omissions and arguable omissions.   To answer the skeptics, yes I purpose excluded Jay-Z’s Magna Carta…Holy Grail off this list – it was not my favorite, least favorite, nor really an honorable mention in my eyes.  Kanye West definitely had an argument for a ‘favorite’, but I also had my own reservations with the album itself.  Mac Miller showed more maturity on Watching Movies With The Sound Off, but not without his fair share of references to his… Anyways, Odd Future releases are always captivating (Tyler, The Creator and Earl Sweatshirt), while A$AP Rocky and A$AP Ferg both impressed with their respective efforts and signature styles.  I know I’ve left off others… it was a good year for hip-hop.


51X-3igkk3L._SL500_AA280_Congo Natty, Revolution 

I’ll admit, I knew very little about Congo Natty, also known as Rebel MC.  After being given the opportunity to review Revolution, however, I was extremely impressed with the album and  Congo Natty himself.


Avishai Cohen, Duende

Gerald Clayton, Life Forum

Redtenbacher’s Funkestra, The Cooker

I absolutely adore jazz, period.  However, it is easy to ‘sleep’ on a genre which played a huge role in my musical education.  Yes, it sounds like I turned my back which seems hypocritical given my jazz piano background.   Actually much of the reason is that popular music tend to ‘shock’ and pull in so many major headlines.  It’s not fair obviously, as some of today’s greatest talents lie within the jazz realm and definitely don’t receive the attention they deserve.  Jazz may often take a backseat on this particular site, but it doesn’t in my heart in the least.  I do review it in addition to the ‘pop’ and Avishai Cohen, Gerald Clayton, and Redtenbacher’s Funkestra definitely had killer albums.  #MadRespect

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 billboard.com’s estimations.  Having the U.S.’s new no. 1 single “Royals” certainly helps the teen singer.

Playlist: September 2013 Jams To Lead Into October


It’s that time… for me to list songs that made me🙂 over the past month.  14 of ‘em baby, get ready!

Katy Perry,”Roar” 


Katy Perry-20130618-80You knew it would take some mega force to unseat Robin Thicke from the top spot of the Billboard Hot 100 with the ubiquitous smash “Blurred Lines”.  That force came via everyone’s favorite pop star Katy Perry, who shocked with her maturity on “Roar”.  Sure, Ms. Perry had a lot of fun in her jungle music video to accompany her number one single, but she goes all inspirational on us as opposed to, um, risqué.  I wasn’t one hundred percent onboard at first, but it certainly tickled my fancy after a while.

2 Chainz featuring Fergie, “Netflix”


2 Chainz-ZNV-000958I wouldn’t call 2 Chainz the most intellectually-stimulating rapper – he goes dumb (and sometimes dumb-er) with the best.  Throw in the queen of silliness in Fergie and the resulting cut “Netflix” should be a total bust.  Instead, it is one of 2 Chainz’s most triumphant moments from B.O.A.T.S.II:#METIME, which also turns out to be a much better album than it should be.  The best line from my perspective? “Let’s make a sex tape and put it on Netflix”.  SMH.

John Legend, “All Of Me”

Love In The Future 

John Legend-20130621-53There may never be another John Legend number as touching as his acclaimed, stripped ballad “Ordinary People” was, but “All of Me” seems to be the closest Legend has came to that Grammy-winning classic.  Simplistic sporting a certain innocence about it, part of the appeal of ballad is its sheltered, chivalrous genuineness.

Tamar Braxton, “Love and War”

Love and War

1174751_634685723230300_847700807_nYeah, I know, I know.  “Love and War” has been out for a minute… but it is still arguably the best track on Braxton’s sophomore effort.  Sure, the album was kinda so-so at best, but “Love and War” would easily rise to the top of most track lists.  Soulful, old-school yet contemporary enough, it’s no surprise that the ‘battling through love’ track helped propel Braxton to number two on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart.

Miley Cyrus, “Wrecking Ball”


Miley Cyrus25-20130917-26A Miley Cyrus song on a Brent Faulkner playlist? Something must be wrong! It’s not, if you can believe it.  For as much controversy as Miley Cyrus has successfully stirred up around her hyper-sexual makeover for upcoming studio album BANGERZ, “Wrecking Ball” the song is actually pretty impressive.  Honestly, I was onboard from the first time I saw the video, even if I found the video itself to be…um… yeah I can’t think of the word.  As for the song and the concept of the song, I’ll give it to ole girl.  I’m still no fan though…

Janelle Monáe featuring Prince, “Givin’ ‘Em What They Love

The Electric Lady

Janelle Monae-ZNV-001038Q.U.E.E.N.” one killer jam by all means, but Monáe’s promo single has been receiving buzz for a minute.  More surprising and equally alluring is her collaboration with Prince, who definitely doesn’t lend his pipes or skills to many…  The results, specifically the vocal chemistry between two left-of-center artists is nothing short of brilliant – pretty fly from my perspective.


Drake featuring Detail, “305 To My City

Nothing Was The Same

Drake-SIN-000189Is it just me, or is every Drake album stacked? Nothing Was The Same has a hard act to follow compared to either Thank Me Later or Take Care, but there is still plenty of notable numbers from rap’s softest heavyweight.  “305 To My City” benefits from it moodiness, grinding tempo, and honestly its ‘Drake-isms’.  Hard choice between this one, “Tuscan Leather”, “Wu-Tang Forever”, or contemporary R&B number “Hold On We’re Going Home”.


Ariana Grande featuring Nathan Sykes, “Almost Is Never Enough”

Yours Truly

Ariana Grande-MSA-011914I’m not one who is into boyfriend/girlfriend duets nor big youthful pop/urban duets.  However, every now and again, one comes around that works splendidly.  Remember a little hit called “No Air”? Exactly. Sure there is no comparison of Ariana Grande’s fine duet with The Wanted boyfriend Nathan Sykes to the gargantuan Jordin Sparks/Chris Brown duet, but it is so much better than it sounds on paper.  Vocally, the chemistry is undeniable, the maturity transcendent of both stars’ age, and the songwriting ‘tried-and-true’ yet relatable.  Yeah, “The Way” and “Baby I” might garner more attention, but “Almost Is Never Enough” is a definite sleeper.

Raheem DeVaughn, “Complicated

A Place Called Love Land

Raheem DeVaughn-PFR-009779Love is a complicated thing.  Just imagine how complicated and complex it is in the context of A  Place Called Love Land, Raheem’s DeVaughn’s slept on, exceptional fourth studio album? Basically the premise of this soulful standout is that DeVaughn is in a relationship (or something like it), but doesn’t want to label it.  Therefore even if ole boy is “…kinda single” but also in love, it truly is complicated.  Nothing complicated or questionable about the strength of this number though.


Kings of Leon, “Wait For Me

Mechanical Bull

Kings-of-Leon-bh09Mechanical Bull was a fine new effort from Kings of Leon overall.  Sure, I was looking for another “Sex on Fire”, but maybe the lovin’ has leveled off.  Regardless, “Wait For Me” is a brilliant showing offering multiple interpretations (though likely referencing Caleb Followill’s demons) while ultimately delivering a plea of ‘waiting’ for the ‘lost’ to clean up his act.  It’s that sort of situation where one went on the wrong pathway and is now back on the straight and narrow.

Jaheim, “Florida

Appreciation Day

1001626_191194147710313_1819334795_nOn his underrated sixth album Appreciation Day,  Jaheim spends a good chunk of time discussing the opposite sex, particularly on the incredibly sensual title track.  However, he breaks away from the female anatomy on the brilliant, socially conscious “Florida”, which details the infamous Trayvon Martin case.  One of the most ‘trill’ songs I have heard in sometime, “Florida” strikes a soulful, chilling chord from an initial listen.


Stalley, “Coupes & Roses”

Self Made 3

81Zuo+7lWuL._SL1425_Maybach Music Group’s third compilation wasn’t exactly charm.  Self Made 3 seemed to lack the same spark as the 2012 compilation which was loaded with the likes of “Power Circle” and “Bury Me A G”.  Still, Stalley’s “Coupes & Roses” is a standout that blends luxurious sounds, old-school, and swagger a la 2013 into a winning formula.  All bow to rap’s ‘next’.


The Weeknd, “Belong To The World”

Kiss Land

The Weeknd4-20130729-217I’ll be the first to criticize The Weeknd’s follow-up to mixtape compilation TrilogyKiss Land feels pretty blasé for the most part, but this overproduced number has its moments.  Particularly, its lyrics are quite alluring: “Ooh girl,  I know I should leave you / and learn to mistreat you / cause you belong to the world / and ooh girl, I want to embrace you / domesticate you / but you belong to the world.”  Who would’ve thought a song alluding to a stripper Abel Tesfaye wants to ‘domesticate’ could be fascinating?

MGMT, “Alien Days”


MGMT-music-f04You wouldn’t be making an generalization if you said that MGMT’s music is getting weirder and spacier.  “Alien Days” is certainly and opener that requires more than one listen to truly digest and understand what’s going through the band’s head.  Opening with a child’s voice that eventually is taken of very VanWynegarden’s trippy, nonchalant voice,  MGMT is characteristic of the band while continue to stretch (perhaps overstretch) the boundaries.  I think it is  quite possible to get high of the cut without even smoking.


Playlist: 5 Favorite September 2013 Albums

Janelle Monae-PRN-104757

September 2013 yielded a number of notable new music releases. As a blogger, music journalist and critic, I found it incredibly difficult to make the time to listen to the over abundance of music provided. That said, I am so glad for there to be an over abundance as opposed to an under-abundance. While all of the albums I listened to left me with something special and a new jam to add to my playlists on my iPod, I chose five albums that stuck with me for various reasons.  If you haven’t partaken of these, you should definitely check them out!


Kings Of Leon, Mechanical Bull

Who thought this would happen? After all the breakup rumors, everyone’s favorite southern-rock/traditional rock band return with a solid album in Mechanical Bull.  Sure the an electrifying “Sex On Fire” is missing here, but memorable cuts like “Supersoaker” or the personally-based “Wait For Me” are definitely worthwhile.



Ariana Grande, Yours Truly

Ariana Grande is THE young Mariah Carey, period. The girl can ‘sang’, evidenced throughout her brilliant pop/contemporary R&B debut Yours Truly. Flaunting an impressive upper register, not to mention her overall beautiful vocal tone, Grande sounds much more mature than her youthful twenty years of age. While “The Way” featuring Mac Miller was a huge attraction in promoting the effort, there are plenty of other delightful ‘treats’ to partake of.


Drake, Nothing Was The Same

Drake‘s latest studio album lacks a knockout punch like the ubiquitous “Over” from Thank Me Later or a banger like “HYFR” from the Grammy-winning Take Care, but like a defending national champion, Nothing Was The Same remains loaded.  Still very much a Drake album, the moody production work and even more emo-tinged lyrics continue to represent the new, modern hip hop way.  Tracks like hookless juggernaut “Tuscan Leather“, “Wu-Tang Forever“, and “305 To My City” certainly tickle my fancy.


John Legend, Love in The Future

John Legend is definitely the man, I mean I would totally like to be Legend, particularly being a pianist myself.  He sounds as if he should’ve been a recording artist in the ’60s and ’70s given his incredible soulfulness. While Love In The Future does pay ode to old-school, it is contemporary enough to keep the throwback retro-soul singer fresh. It doesn’t hurt that “All of Me” seems like Legend’s closest number to his classic “Ordinary People“. Throw in some covers and notable soul samples and Love In The Future will definitely be a mainstay within my playlist into the future!




Janelle Monáe, The Electric Lady

I was totally ready to put John Legend in the top spot for his classy, refined solo comeback effort, but Janelle Monáe totally outdoes herself on her brilliant sophomore album. Just how consistent is this album? Well, I’d call it not only the best I heard in September, but also among the best of 2013. I mean, you know this album is poppin’ if Prince is one of several notable guest artists!


Review: Kings of Leon, ‘Mechanical Bull’


On Mechanical Bull, KOL show listeners that their latest album was worth the wait. 

Kings of Leon⎪ Mechanical Bull ⎪ RCA ⎪⎪US Release Date: September 24, 2013

Kings-of-Leon-bh09For a while, it seemed that southern/traditional rock darlings Kings of Leon were toast. Done.   Rumors ran rampant that the band was splitting up.  Thankfully, Kings of Leon quieted such troublesome talk by returning with their highly anticipated new album, Mechanical Bull.  Following up mixed Fall 2010 effort Come Around Sundown, Mechanical Bull has plenty of positives throughout its 42 minute duration.  To call the effort truly innovative would be an overstatement, but it is definitely Kings of Leon among their best.  Maybe a “Use Somebody” or “Sex on Fire” is missing from the mix, but there is plenty for the audience to sink their teeth into.

Supersoaker” opens Mechanical Bull with great enthusiasm.  Caleb Followill’s vocals are incredibly soulful, easily rising above the production.  Adding to the strength of the cut, lyrically it impresses, most notably on the pre-chorus and chorus sections: “Cause I’m the supersoaker red, white / and blew ‘em all away / With the kisses unclean as the words that you say // I don’t mind sentimental girls at times / mister walk away, walk away.”  In addition to the in-your-face guitars, Jared’s bass playing anchors the production down.  “Rock City” follows up “Supersoaker” in groovy fashion, finding the quartet delivering more of their signature soulful southern rock without missing a beat.  “I got back to Rock City / that’s where she saw me / everybody’s seen her / everyone believes me,” Caleb sings on the catchy, easygoing refrain, after boasting things like “Oh baby I could shake it like a woman…” and “I found myself face-first on the floor, searching for something / but never finding something.” Captivating, “Rock City” rocks, as it should.

Kings Of Leon-20110420-115Don’t Matter” sports a driving groove (a wall of rhythm), tightly packaging its contents at under three minutes much like “Rock City”.  As the title suggests, Caleb confirms “It don’t matter to me”, period.  Numerous illustrations are mentioned lyrically, including “Such a swine lips like wine / but it don’t matter to me…”, “Like a snake I wake and I back…I could f*ck or I could fight / it don’t matter to me…”, or “You could bleed stain my seed / it don’t matter to me…” Yeah… Apparently it doesn’t matter because “It’s always the same / and I’m always the same…” Ultimately, it’s another enjoyable number.

Beautiful War” expands the duration, clocking past the five minute mark.  In addition to the expansion of duration, the tempo slows a bit, but not sans rhythmic presence.  The cut isn’t a ‘smooth ballad’ by any means, as Caleb definitely asserts his presence throughout the progressive pacing.  The main quibble is it’s length, and perhaps a bit of one dimensional thinking, as the cut relies on a minimalist harmonic progression.  “Temple” predictably accelerates the tempo, but this proves to be a smart move.  While a return to three-minute cuts fails (it stands at over four), the length is more accessible than the lovely, though longish “Beautiful War”.  As a song, “Temple” certainly isn’t bad, but nor is it valedictory.  Still, The Followill boys would “…take one in the temple / I’d take it for you…” I suppose they’ll also take criticism in regards to “Temple” falling short of the glory of say “Supersoaker”?

Kings Of Leon-20110420-114Wait For Me” arrives in the nick of time to provide atonement for any ceded momentum.  “Wait For Me” is certainly not ‘new’ Kings of Leon by any means, but well conceived, familiar territory.  Medium in speed and open to multiple interpretations, “Wait For Me” seems to be a plea to its audience to ‘wait’ and not ‘give up’ despite the past, problems, so on and so forth.     The refrain is simple, finding the band not over thinking by any means: “Wait for me, wait for me / it’s all better now, it’s all better now / wait for me, wait for me.”  “Wait For Me” stands tall alongside “Supersoaker”, the top echelon of Mechanical Bull.

Family Tree” funks things up, In a traditionalist rock and roll sense that is.  Everything definitely feels like it’s in the pocket.  The highlighting moment? The breakdown section with some good ole southern gospel sensibility. Let the church say yessssssss! “Comeback Story” is no slouch itself, featuring signature KOL cues in play.  Anchored by a pleasant, memorable chorus (“I walked a mile in your shoes / and now I’m a mile away and I’ve got your shoes…”), the “Comeback Story” is overall soundly presented.  Oh and did I mention the use of strings? Beautiful.

Kings Of Leon-20110420-116On “Tonight”, Caleb’s pipes seem incredibly drenched in nuance, particularly on recurring lyrics “It’s coming on, it’s coming on”. The impact on the refrain is large in scope, but who expects any less, right?  “Tonight” is a fine cut overall, but a bit lengthy when it’s all said and done.  Penultimate number “Coming Back Again” pushes the tempo while maintaining brevity.  The results? It receives my approval. “On The Chin” closes solidly, though isn’t necessarily a highlight per se.

How does Mechanical Bull rank? Pretty well ultimately.  It’s not perfect by any means, but it is a soundly conceived effort that should please both fans and critics alike.  Personally, I’m just glad one of my favorite bands are still a band, period.

Favorites: “Supersoaker”; “Rock City”; “Wait For Me”; “Comeback Story” 


Verdict: ✰✰✰½

Jack Johnson, From Here To Now To You © Brushfire

Chart Moves, September 25, 2013: Jack Johnson, Miley Cyrus and Drake

Jack Johnson, From Here To Now To You © Brushfire

Jack Johnson Tops Without A Hitch 

Every time there is supposed to be a slugfest for the no. 1 spot, that just fails to happen.  Again, after it was prognosticated that no. 1 was a toss up – this time between Jack Johnson and Justin Moore (seemed odd being honest), Jack Johnson did what he does – scores no. 1 albums.  From Here To Now To You opened at the penthouse with 117,000 copies.  Blah numbers right? His previous album sold more than twice as much as that, moving 243,000 copies its first week.  As for the bridesmaid Justin Moore, he debuted at no. 2 with Off The Beaten Path to respectable numbers (97,000 copies).  Hey, when you have never come near six figures, you’re doint something when you just miss by a smidgen, right?

Justin Moore, Off The Beaten Path © Valory

Besides Moore, country shined this week on the Billboard albums chart.  Chris Young can probably thank single “Aw Naw” for the no. 3 bow of A.M. With 54,000 copies.  Sure that makes for a low ceiling, but when you’re not exactly a household country name, those are some solid numbers.  Maybach Music Group (MMG) finds themselves in a familiar spot at no. 4 as Self Made 3 sells 50,000 copies.  That’s healthy for a compilation, but just not a MMG one necessarily.  The fine Self Made 2 sold 98,000 copies, nearly twice as many as this less heralded one. Avicii did well to land at no. 5 with 50,000 copies of debut TRUE sold.  However, another country brother didn’t get it done; Billy Currington found himself at no. 10 with only 26,000 copies of We Are Tonight sold.  Wonder if being charged with terroristic threatening played a role in the cool reception?

Miley, Miley, Miley

Wasn’t it just weeks ago that Robin Thicke was on top the world for like twelve weeks with “Blurred Lines”? Katy Perry knocked him down, but her plan to stay atop the roost didn’t materialize as one Miley Cyrus shut that down with a nude video for actually likable song “Wrecking Ball”.  “Wrecking Ball” has already done something that popular first single “We Can’t Stop” or even earlier career single “Party in the U.S.A.” was unable to do – landed at no. 1.  I’m not really into Miley’s shock value, but I’ll give credit where it is do.  I’m onboard with “Wrecking Ball”… the song. Congrats on another week at no. 1.

Who’s Got Next?

Some of the releases from Tuesday, September 24 should definitely put some numbers on the chart… but you just never know with the way album sales have waned.  Drake should definitely make the top truly top heavy with his highly anticipated third album Nothing Was The Same.  Then there’s that southern rock band Kings of Leon who are releasing their first album in a couple of years (Mechanical Bull).  What about the oldies? Elton John, Sting, and Cher also dropped.  What about a newbie like Icona Pop? Hopefully, these albums move units and don’t disappoint. Drake, we’re counting on you!