Justin Bieber, Believe © Island

Quickie: Three Sound Pieces of Advice For Your Comeback, Justin Bieber


Justin Bieber, Believe © Island

In a recent Billboard article, Jason Lipshutz laid out a compelling list of considerations that Justin Bieber should make, given the ‘belief’ that the embattled artist will make a comeback in 2015. Through and through, the author makes thoughtful points that the ever-rebellious pop singer is sure to ignore. That said, after reading the list, my mind and pen erupted with considerations for JB. While NOT making a return might be the top of the list for most, and there is honestly little reason to “Belieb” in Biebz, to quote Bobby Brown (of all people), “Don’t Be Cruel.”

1) Keep You Clothes On 

Yes, Justin Bieber has become jacked. A lot of people are, Nick Jonas, and a lot of people aren’t – won’t name any names there. Yes, sex appeal can do wonders, but in a musical economy where there are plenty of good-looking folks selling poorly, being a shirtless, tatted tool definitely doesn’t guarantee career longevity, or even a respectable first-week of sales. Please refrain from showing off the CKs anymore – please!

Yes, I get it. Girls do like eye-candy. But, sometimes the sweetest candy ruins your teeth. Justin Bieber may be considered ‘hot’, but he’s definitely ice cold in persona and being ab-tastic won’t fix that. To quote the Honorable Judge Judith Scheindlin, “Beauty fades, dumb is forever.” So keep your clothes on JB – don’t need to see the abs or them undies!

2) Don’t Look Back – To Past Hits

At this point, Bieber’s bubblegum days are long gone – let’s all give thanks right now! He’s in his 21st year and singing about his first dance or some dumb, catchy song about his baby would be ill advised. Yes, Believe had a great blueprint for Bieber in 2012, but in 2015, a copycat of that album certainly won’t do much for Bieber. Beiber and company need to move forward. That doesn’t meant that he doesn’t consider the formulas that benefitted him in the past, but relying on them without fresher approaches is probably a flop waiting to happen.

3) Scale Back The Bad Boy 

Bieber is loathed, period. Sure, he has fans – the Beliebers – who have stayed loyal after every idiotic move that he’s made, but if Bieber wants to win over new Beliebers, he has to rid of his newfound polarizing, hyper rebellious persona. It’s too much and not a good look – not for anybody. So even if the material eschews his sweet, cutesy past, Bieber’s fresh sound shouldn’t be an emulation of Chris Brown, or the more misogynistic side of pop and contemporary R&B.

Should Justin Bieber consider the topic of sex in his new music? Well, actually, sex worked superbly on his “PYD” from his Journals. That said, and semi-hating on Chris Brown once more, Bieber definitely shouldn’t mention his sexual experiences, condoms, or go all-in by referring to the act using the f-bomb. If he tackles sex, which is a common topic in mature styles of music as an adult, he has to do so classily. Being a gentlemen and showing maturity would definitely be in JB’s best interests.

Photo Credits: © Island, instagram / justinbieber
Justin Bieber, Journals © Island

Review: Justin Bieber, ‘Journals’


Justin Bieber, Journals © Island
Journals steps in the right direction stylistically, isn’t without flaws. 
Justin Bieber • Journals • Island • US Release Date: December 23, 2013

For a brief time via iTunes (beginning December 23), Justin Bieber has compiled his Music Mondays releases into one digital album, Journals.  Over the past two months, I’ve reviewed the previously issued singles from Journals and have added the newly added five to the arsenal.  Overall, I’ve found Journals as an album to be a mixed bag.  There are some surprisingly bright spots, but there are also some equally unimpressive ones.  Here’s a song-by-song examination of Bieber’s Journals… barf – err… yeah. 

Here goes nothing…

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

1) “Heartbreaker”

Slow jam “Heartbreaker” definitely seems like another step towards a more mature sound, regardless of what one opines of the single.  The production and vibe are among the strongest points.  Additionally, the use of backing vocals and vocal dubs throughout accentuate the cut, so props there.  The chorus is simple, but effective ultimately: “Don’t tell me you’re my heartbreaker / hey girl my heart is breakin’…” Among cons, while Bieber’s vocals are maturing, he completely there yet. The grinding tempo does show his potential, but also exposes flaws. Ultimately, “Heartbreaker” isn’t innovative, but shows potential.

2) “All That Matters”

If “Heartbreaker” wasn’t evidence enough, it’s clear that Justin Bieber wants to be a contemporary R&B artist. “All That Matters” is much more urban-leaning compared to JB’s previous work.  Positively, I like the sound and vibe of this cut, perhaps even more than “Heartbreaker”. That said, this cut could use some a bit more variation to keep it interesting; it feels a bit too comfortable.  The hip-hop cues are there vocally for the Biebz  (rhythmic vocals), but it trends too similarly to “Heartbreaker”. Bieber sounds much better rounded vocally compared to “Heartbreaker”.  Ultimately, it’s pleasant.

3)  “Hold Tight”

“Hold Tight” is less satisfying than the opening duo.  While the slick urban production and vocal ad-libs/runs appeal, the cut kind of sits, coming over as static.  Sure, the sound has a Drake quality going for it, but at this point, Bieber needs something truly different and quicker in pace.  This cut just drags on too long; NOT feelin’ this one as much JB. 

4) “Recovery”

“Recovery” serves as atonement for the lackluster “Hold Tight”.  “Recovery” may be the most interesting of the opening quartet, keeping in line with adult contemporary R&B sensibilities.  Bieber continues to sound more ‘mature’ vocally. Despite deserved praise and strides in artistic maturity, “Recovery” may still be a bit too slow ultimately despite having a solid groove anchoring it.

5) “Bad Day”

“Bad Day”, like the opening quartet, has its pros and cons.  Overall, the pros do outweigh the cons. The contemporary R&B styling suits Bieber appealing more than say “Beauty and a Beat” did.  Vocally, his vocal runs have progressed, and contextually speaking, he appears to be singing from the heart.

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

 

The cons include continual vocal development, despite expanding his bag of tricks. His falsetto comes off on the thin side, particularly towards the end where hitting a ‘home run’ should be the desired product.  Lyrically, the songwriting could also stand a facelift. At two-and-a-half minutes, “Bad Day” is a bit brief, but not a total deal breaker.

6) “All Bad”

If nothing else, “All Bad”, like most of the Journals singles, has excellent production working in its favor.   Moody contemporary/alt-R&B cues are in play. The song itself isn’t the most exciting track, but does showcase a more personal side of the pop star compared to less emotional pop records.  Part of the skepticism towards Journals is its self-indulgence, even if such is expected from a diary. As Bieber sings, sometimes one wonders if he has truly taken ownership for his actions, given his bad behavior throughout 2013.  Even as he defends himself on lines like “Perfect – ain’t saying that I am / proven, at least I’ve proven that I give a damn,” you wonder if JB really gets it. Ultimately, “All Bad” isn’t really “all bad”, though a  songwriting upgrade would’ve been nice.

7) “PYD” featuring R. Kelly

PYD”, which stands for “put you down,” is by far Bieber’s best track on Journals as well as his most sexual.  Bieber doesn’t restrict himself to bubblegum pop, instead, opting to “do it right” to his boo.  While Bieber likely plans to be an emotional anchor as well, he’s definitely going to “get it in” regardless. R. Kelly’s guest appearance wipes away doubts as the sex-savvy R&B vet is “…your dope man in the bedroom / you can make me your drug babe.”

Overall, the results are impressive.  The production is mysterious, epitomizing that alt-soul sound that is currently trendy.  Moodiness and sensuality certainly contrast Bieber’s past.  Even his falsetto sounds a bit better… maybe it’s the inspiration from that good… let me stop right there. 

8) “Roller Coaster”

Roller Coaster” brings some funkiness to JB.  Sure, the chorus still finds a moody Bieber at work, but at least it’s somewhat memorable.  Bieber is still sulking, big time: “Where did they go? / Nights like this don’t happen anymore / I need to know / is it me? And did I lose control?” On the pre-chorus, Bieber sings “Wish I had the key to your heart / people come and go / baby, they don’t know / what we had before / before it fell before our eyes.”  On the second verse, ole boy is “just happy there’s no more fights no more / but it’s nights like this that I never ever missed you more…” Basically, he’s just not over Selena Gomez. Regardless of Bieber’s love woes,  “Roller Coaster” is enjoyable. 

9) “Change Me”

“Girl I’m ready if you’re ready now / oh, as I’m ever gonna be / if you’re with it then I’m with it now / to accept all responsibility…I don’t wanna be the same…” Justin Bieber delivers a thoughtful, mostly piano-accompanied ballad on “Change Me”.   Lacking the sensuality of his pivotal “PYD” and the funkiness of “Rollercoaster”, Bieber is incredibly heartbroken.

Justin Bieber © Universal Music Group
Justin Bieber © Universal Music Group

 

The tempo is slow, matching the drag of Bieber’s own emotions.  A definite pro about “Change Me” is that Bieber shows, perhaps for the first time, his willingness to ‘bend’ within the relationship.  While this newfound maturity has been overdue, “Change Me” doesn’t quite possess the same swagger of his two previous offerings.  Still, for once you feel the ‘bad boy’ is backing up his desire to be a man with more masculine, grown music to match.

10) “Confident” featuring Chance the Rapper 

“Confident” shakes off any remnants that might’ve remained from pubescent Bieber.  An assist from up-and-comer Chance the Rapper keeps things ‘one hunna’ as they say. How confident is “Confident”? Well, let’s say the self-esteem and self-efficacy are top-notch for sure.  Bieber isn’t referring to his own swagger, but rather the hottie’s confidence he’s digging on.  Throughout, Bieber’s hormones are going wild, evidenced by lyrics like “Then she started dancing, sexual romancing / nasty but she fancy, lipstick on my satin sheets / what’s your nationality / I wonder if there’s more of you…”

Bieber may not say it, but he definitely wants to “do it”. Chance the Rapper does the ‘dirty work’ for Bieber: “She the first mate wanna rock the boat / she never forget to ride like a bicycle.” “Confident”, hence, sounds like an ‘eye-freak’ track if I ever heard one.  Everybody else has been ‘doing it’ for years… 

The Newbies… 

After building some momentum with a stretch of above-average songs beginning with “PYD”, well ole boy drops down a notch or two with the closing stretch of Journals

11) “One Life”

On “One Life”, Bieber sounds incredibly dedicated (“Hopefully you’ll give me a chance / all I want is love and romance / I wanna give it all, give it all to you “), signaling a true growth in maturity. He emotionally delivers the chorus: “I wanna dream what you dream / go where you’re going / I only have one life / and I only wanna live it with you.”  Sure, it’s kind of sappy and ‘been there, done that’, but the mood is nice.  Word on the street is that Drake co-wrote this one.  As far as the overall song, it’s not bad, but nor is it new territory.

12) “Backpack” featuring Lil Wayne 

“Backpack” is just weird… that’s about all that can be said.  Where “PYD” built respect for the pop star, “Backpack” nearly eliminates it in a matter of minutes.  The concept may have good intentions, but it just doesn’t work, at all.  “Don’t try to find your spaceship / it might be out there waiting / stay in my backpack forever / stay in my backpack forever,” Bieber sings on the oddball hook.  Lil Wayne does little to enhance things, only confounding this track that was “made all wrong from the start”.  SMH. 

13) “What’s Hatnin’” featuring Future

There are few pros to be found on the clumsy “What’s Hatnin’”.  Why is “What’s Hatnin’” so horrid? Basically, it plays upon modern clichés and recycles a song that the urban world has heard one too many times.  I’ve come to the realization that anytime Future graces a track it’s probably going to be a disaster (save for say “Bugatti”).  The one redeeming facet of this cut is the production.  The song is abysmal – thumbs way down.

14) “Swap It Out”

After the absolutely shameful throwaway “What’s Hatnin’”, things can only look up for Journals right? Overall, yes. “Swap It Out” isn’t the ‘second coming’ (what is though?), but it definitely shows improvement.   It is easily one of the better-produced records, sounding more legit than some of the others.  That said, if you compare it to “PYD”, it’s not quite as good.   Of the five newbies though, it’s the most consistent and enjoyable. 

15) “Memphis” featuring Big Sean 

JB closes a disappointing closing stretch of Journals with “Memphis”, which to its credit, contrasts every other track that precedes it.  The production is a bright spot, but also the song itself is semi-enjoyable.  The pro is that if nothing else, it seems Bieber and company has the right idea.  Still, this doesn’t feel like a home run.  Big Sean’s verse isn’t nearly as memorable as “As Long As You Love Me” in which he claimed his girl was his “hallelujah.”  ‘Sending up those timbers’ everyday Big Sean?

Justin Bieber performs live at the MGM Grand Garden Arena as part of his 2013 'Believe Tour' Las Vegas 06/28/2013 © WENN
Justin Bieber performs live at the MGM Grand Garden Arena as part of his 2013 ‘Believe Tour’ Las Vegas 06/28/2013 © WENN

 

Ultimately, Journals is a step in the right direction stylistically for Bieber.  The execution is at times merely so-so, which takes away from some of the strides the Canadian pop star has made.  Still, he gets it right on a couple of occasions here, but don’t call Journals a masterpiece – it’s not.

Favorites: “Recovery”; “PYD” featuring R. Kelly; “Roller Coaster”; “Confident” featuring Chance The Rapper

★★★

Photo Credits:  © WENN, © Universal Music Group

Justin Bieber Enjoys a “Confident” Lady on Music Monday’s Latest


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Justin Bieber • “Confident” – Single • Island • US Release Date: December 9, 2013 

Justin Bieber-20131021-45Justin Biebers’ Music Mondays is the gift that keeps on giving to Beliebers, pop-cultural buffs, and music journalists alike.  I mean, I thought Kanye West had something good going with Good Fridays back-when, but my boy Biebz just keeps on surprising and outperforming expectations.  The blogosphere goes ape-sh*t with each new excerpt from JB’s ‘journals’.  Speaking of those journals, it was recently reported on billboard.com the Justin Bieber will be packaging his Music Mondays releases temporarily as an iTunes only set called Journals beginning on December 16th, 2013.  Basically, the teen-pop star is rolling in the dough, and will likely continue to roll with the singles growing more mature.  His latest track, “Confident”, definitely shakes off any remnants that might’ve remained from “Baby” or dare I say “One Time”.  Chance the Rapper matches his collaboration with R. Kelly (“PYD”), definitely ‘keepin’ it one hunna’.

Justin Bieber2-20131021-53So how confident is “Confident”? Well, let’s say the self-esteem and self-efficacy are top-notch for sure.  Bieber isn’t referring to his own confidence or swagger (for once), but rather the hot lady’s confidence that he’s got his eye on.  Throughout, Bieber’s hormones are going crazy evidenced by lyrical moments such as  “Then she started dancing, sexual romancing / nasty but she fancy, lipstick on my satin sheets / what’s your nationality / I wonder if there’s more of you” or the later “She said it’s her first time / I think she might have lied…I’m addicted, something like an addict / got me twisted, but I still gotta have it…” Sure, Bieber doesn’t come right out and say it in R. Kelly fashion, but like “PYD”, the suggestiveness is steered more towards sex than not, a clear change of pace in Bieber’s career.

Serving as the confirmation to the newfound adult themes is Chance the Rapper, who basically does the ‘dirty work’ for Bieber lyrically on his guest verse.  “She the first mate wanna rock the boat / she never forget to ride like a bicycle,” certainly would’ve received some flack had Bieber delivered such suggestive slang.  Even so, “Confident” seems like an eye-freak sort of a track if I ever heard one.  Ultimately, I’m pretty confident that Bieber’s artistic direction is on an upswing – yep, I really just said that.

Verdict: ★★★½

Justin Bieber Keeps Music Mondays On an Upswing with “Roller Coaster”


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Justin Bieber⎪ “Roller Coaster”Single⎪ Island ⎪⎪ US Release Date: November 25, 2013

Justin Bieber-20131021-45Is it just me, or did “PYD” possibly light a fire under Justin Bieber’s saggy pants? LOL (I couldn’t resist). For the second week in a row, Bieber impresses with his Music Mondays offering.  That should evoke mouths falling agape, really. Sure my new fave jam “PYD” is one hella tough act to follow, but “Roller Coaster” is nothing too shabby by any means.  The first ‘groovy’ selection from Music Mondays, “Roller Coaster” brings some funkiness to JB, or should I say ‘swag’.  I mean, you actually want to move your body a little to this one folks.  Sure, the chorus still finds a moody Bieber at work, but at least it’s memorable:  “Roller coaster, roller coaster / spinning all around and around for a while baby / roller coaster, roller coaster / for a minute we were up, but the next we were falling down…” There it is – the ‘sad’ and the ‘glad’ all in one.

Justin Bieber2-20131017-110That sentiment of sad and glad is present throughout the verses as well; Bieber is still sulking, big time.  “Where did they go? / Nights like this don’t happen anymore / I need to know / is it me? And did I lose control?” (Rhetorical JB, rhetorical).  On the pre-chorus, Bieber states “Wish I had the key to your heart / people come and go / baby, they don’t know / what we had before / before it fell before our eyes.”  And on the second verse, ole boy is “just happy there’s no more fights no more / but it’s nights like this that I never ever missed you more…” Basically, he’s not over Selena Gomez.

Not that we get pleasure out of a pained Bieber (though some of us do), the past two Music Mondays tracks have certainly made me strip some of my criticism of the pop singer.  No, I still would rather not be privy to his shirtless-ness or the excessive flashing of the waistband of the boxers, but I do approve of “PYD” and “Roller coaster”.  I’ll still roll with “PYD” FTW, but I’m onboard with “Roller Coaster” as well.

Verdict: ✰✰✰✰

Sound Advice For Five Teen-Pop Acts


One Direction-20131104-79

I, the Brent Faulkner,  love my teen-pop acts, even if often times I’m critical and skeptical of them.  Maybe it’s fair and then again maybe it’s not and I’m just a ‘hater’, but nothing fuels my pen more than writing about the young-uns and their musical endeavors or lack there of.  Sometimes those endeavors are strong while other times they are questionable.  Regardless, who better than me to provide sound advice to further elevate the games of five of the hotter teen acts? No one, that’s rhetorical!

1

Austin Mahone

Austin Mahone-JOG-001451Dude, release the album already! “What About Love” caught fire where none of the rest of your singles ignited.  I would’ve dropped an EP like it was a hot potato and garnered even more buzz than your getting.  Yeah, I know girls are already swooning and will continue to swoon whenever the album finally drops, but still, you want your base to expand even beyond the teen-pop circles so you be making hella bread.  Ya dig?

2

Cody Simpson

Cody Simpson-PFR-010439My advice to you Mr. Simpson would be to find your true musical identity – and yes, I have some opinions on that as well.  On the Coast to Coast EP, I personally enjoyed the more urban-pop cuts like the opener “Good As It Gets” and follow-up “Crazy But True” while you could keep “iYiYi” featuring Flo Rida.  Then on your latest album Surfer’s Paradise part of the time you want to be a schmaltzy teen-pop star (“Pretty Brown Eyes”),  Jack Johnson or Jason Mraz (“Summertime of Our Lives”), or hang out with frat-rapper Asher Roth (“Imma Be Cool”).  I see where the folk-pop things comes from, but I’m thinking a whole album of folk-pop at age 16 will likely never make you a “royal”, at least among tween girls.

3

Lorde

Lorde-20130618-171I wouldn’t even give you the stylistic label of ‘teen-pop’ star, but you are a teen and you sing pop (along with alternative).  But anyways, Lorde, keep doing your thing.  Pure Heroine isn’t perfect, but it’s definitely one of the more intriguing, fresh albums of 2013 by my estimations.  I mean, I know you seem to be concerned about being a “royal” and all, but why? You’re gettin’ paper!

4

Justin Bieber 

Justin Bieber2-20131021-53I think that asking you to wear a shirt and pull up your saggy pants is a lost battle, so I concede… At least for right now.  However JB, you finally show me some true “swag” on your grown-up single “PYD”. No, I’m not advocating that teens should be singing about sensual things, but Justin Bieber is 19, no longer that 15 year old singing “One Time”.  It is rare that I pay you a compliment Biebz (it still makes me want to barf, just a little), but the vibe of “PYD” might be something you might want to exploit on your upcoming album.  I know you’ve gotta be mindful of those tween girls and still be a role model… *cough, cough*, but we don’t need another “Beauty and a Beat”, “like never, ever” in Taylor Swift’s words.  Also, let’s avoid another “Lolly” (Ali Maejor).  That was done like so five-years ago  (Lil Wayne, “Lollipop” from Tha Carter III).

5

One Direction

One Direction-JTM-065121Yeah,  y’all are about done with those teen years – yes Harry Styles I’m talkin’ to you – but your fans are much younger.  After listening to latest album Midnight Memories, perhaps you’ve grown up a bit too fast.  No, I’m not referring to Zayn Malik being engaged, but the folk-pop, old-school rock sentiments throughout the album eliminated some of the ‘fun’.  No, I wasn’t wowed by “What Makes You Beautiful” or “Live While We’re Young”, but I know many young girls were.  They’ll still be wowed regardless, thanks to your looks and ample merchandise, but can’t you balance the schmaltz and trying that serious artistry thing?  Have you let Jake Bugg get to you?

Jhené Aiko, Sail Out

10 Memorable Tracks from November


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

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

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

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

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

 

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

3) Justin Bieber featuring R. Kelly, PYD

Justin Bieber, PYD

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

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

Jhené Aiko, Sail Out

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

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

Celine Dion, Loved Me Back To Life

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

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

Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP2

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

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

Jake Miller, Us Against Them

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

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

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

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

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

Jake Bugg, Shangri La

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

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

10) Lady Gaga, Dope” (ARTPOP)

Lady Gaga, ARTPOP

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

Bieber Strikes Gold on Surprising “PYD”


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Justin Bieber featuring R. Kelly⎪ “PYD” ⎪ Island ⎪⎪ US Release Date: November 18, 2013

Yep, I can’t believe the title myself.  Have I lost my mind? Nope, just read on…

Justin Bieber-20131021-45Well, Justin Bieber’s thrilling Music Mondays grows its most enthralling with an acronym… “PYD”.  What does this “PYD” mean exactly? It means “Put you down.”  As Usher would sing, “OMG.” Bieber definitely is not restricting himself to bubblegum savvy pop like “One Time” or  “Baby” anymore. Basically, Justin Bieber is going to “do it right” to his boo meaning that three-letter word that Bieber has eschewed but you know is on his mind (and every other red-blooded kid/man his age).  Is there anything wrong with it? While it should be worthy of scrutiny what he wants to “do”, it goes with the territory of being young and natural lustful.  Lust may be a sin, but who hasn’t committed it? Don’t lie now.

R Kelly-PRN-105066Don’t get me wrong my most hardcore Beliebers, I’m sure Bieber plans to “do right by her” by providing the emotional aspects of the relationship. But y’all know he’s definitely going to “get it in” physically.  I mean, he is “put[ting] you down” after all.  And if there was any doubt of this, having R. Kelly guest on your track should erase any doubts.  I mean, few are more sex-savvy than R. Kelly himself.   I mean, do you think Kells is merely talking a bout an innocent kiss when he states “On the roof, balcony, we don’t care who sees / girl I’mma put you down, all the way down, down, down…” More obvious is when Kelly proclaims himself “…your dope man in the bedroom / you can make me your drug babe.”

Justin Bieber2-20131021-53So, how do I, perhaps Bieber’s most ‘hard to please’ critic feel about “PYD”? As shocking as it may be, this may be my favorite cut I’ve heard in the Music Mondays series.  The production is mysterious and epitomizes that alt-soul sound that is currently trendy.  Moody, sensual, and certainly a contrasts to Bieber’s past, it’s hard to knock what Bieber is going for here.  Even the falsetto sounds a bit better… maybe it’s the inspiration from… yeah, better stop right there.

Verdict: ✰✰✰✰