Today marks the release of The Weeknd‘s stellar bundle package titled, Trilogy—a collection of last year’s mixtapes (House of Balloons, Thursday, & Echoes of Silence) which have been remixed and remastered to absolute perfection. With an abundance of suggestive lyrics, smooth vocals, and spacey urban tinged backbeats, there isn’t a single filler to be found. What’s more, the set is sprinkled with three new songs as well as the recently released video for “The Zone” ft. Drake.
All-in-all, The Weeknd‘s hypnotic brand of dark, modern R&B is nothing short of epic, so pick it up now or stream it HERE for free.
Earlier this week Nelly Furtado dropped her fifth studio album on the world. The set titled, The Spirit Indestructible, features lead single “Big Hoops (Bigger the Better),” and the inspirational “Spirit Indestructible,” both of which were produced by friend and collaborator Rodney “Darkchild“ Jerkins. Inspired by a period of self-discovery after the success of Latin Grammy-winning Spanish album Mi Plan, Nelly divulged that nostalgia and spirituality are the main themes of the record. “All of these songs have incredible meaning to me and were written in moments of intense personal growth,” Nelly explained. “I…found a new freedom within my voice and an overwhelming sense of excitement about making pop music.”
And while you’ve gotta respect the idea behind the record, the nostalgia and spirituality inspired themes featured on the album don’t always translate into greatness. For the most part, The Spirit Indestructible, is a spotty offering, providing much of the same taste featured on Nelly‘s 2006 release, Loose, but with far less innovation and spunk. There are a few standout tracks, however. Highlights include: “Big Hoops,” “Parking Lot,” and “Something” feat. Nas.
In other news, the Canadian songbirdcelebrated the release of The Spirit Indestructible on Tuesday by premiering the video for ”Parking Lot,” the latest single and fan favorite from the new album. Inspired by late-night hangouts with friends in her hometown of Victoria, BC, the video features a lot full of custom cars, decked-out dancers, and plenty of swagger from the inimitable singer.
Make sure to view the Ray Kay-directed clip, below!
Hot on the heels of her highly acclaimed (and far superior) EP “1991″ comes the release of Azealia Banks‘ first full length mix-tape Fantasea, which the up-and-coming Harlem-raised rapper made available for free late last week (you can download it HERE).
Originally titled “Fantastic,” “Fantasea” gathers a handful of previously released tracks from the self-proclaimed Liquorice Bitch. “Jumanji,” “Aquababe,” her Styles P collaboration “Nathan” and the Shystie-featuring “Neptune” join a plethora of other cuts like “Atlantis,” “Chips,” and the Montell Jordan sampled, “Este Noche.”
After listening to the 19-track mix-tape through and through, one thing is definitely for sure, Azealia has a flow that rivals some of greats, both past and present. However, the fact that the 21-year-old emcee is a major talent does not completely translate into greatness on the rapid-fire Fantasea. While the mix-tape does have its moments, it falls victim to an insanely spotty track-list that’s anything but cohesive. In fact, a mojority of Fantasea‘s offerings seem to lack any real musical formula and are stuffed to the brim with a dizzying array of hectic beats and mile-a-minute flows. Because of this, most of Fantasea bleeds together and is (for me at least) hard to get into.
Mix-tape highlights include: “Neptune,” “Chips,” “Runnin,’” and “Este Noche.”
Azealia‘s debut full-length, “Broke with Expensive Taste,” is currently slated for a fall release on Universal Records.
Maroon 5 have just released their fourth studio album Overexposed yesterday, June 26th. Recorded in Los Angeles over the last year with executive producer (and magic maker) Max Martin, Overexposed also features collaborations with heavy hitters Benny Blanco and Shellback (“Moves Like Jagger”) and OneRepublic‘s Ryan Tedder. Upon first listen, it’s apparent that the band has gone in a much more pop-like direction, especially since the roaring success of their Christina laden hit “Moves Like Jagger.” Gone are the days of the catchy guitar riffs and passionate subject matter found on Songs About Jane. To this I say “giddy-up,” becasue lets face it, We Heart Pop, but those who preferred their Maroon 5 with a side of lovelorn and a dash of soul might begin to throw around the familiar phrase, “sell-out.” I for one am all about the new album though, as it’s terribly fun, light on apologies, and heavy on Max Martin produced perfection.
Album highlights: “Wipe Your Eyes,” “Lucky Strike,” “One More Night,” “Daylight”
On a side note, be sure to check out the band’s video for second single “One More Night” premiered Monday on MTV. The clip features Adam Levine as a sweaty (and shirtless!) boxer s well as actress Minka Kelly as his frustrated other half.
The second studio album by American singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey, Born To Die, was released on January 27th via iTunes. Four days later it was released worldwide on Interscope, Polydor, and Stranger Records.
From the moment it hit the shelves, a flurry of mixed reviews flooded in. The Chicago Tribune’s Greg Kot cast-off the album for its “repetitive production.” BBC‘s Jaime Gill touted that the album “isn’t perfect,” while Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone stated that Del Rey‘s lyrics, with their “pop-trash perversity”, were what strengthened the album, but that her voice was “pinched and prim.” He even went as far to say that she “wasn’t ready to make an album yet.” Even more ridiculous is The Guardian’s Alexis Petridis‘, who stated that Del Rey “doesn’t have the lyrical equipment to develop a persona throughout the album.”
Well never fear dear readers; I’m here to set the record straight.
Described by Del Rey herself as “Hollywood sadcore”, Born To Die debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart and also topped the charts in Ireland that same week. Furthermore, it reached the top five in Belgium, Norway, and Poland, selling 50,000 copies on its first day of release and an additional 20,000 copies within the following 2 days, easily making it the fastest-selling album of the year. Criticized for its highly repetitive nature, the LP has far more to offer than its given credit for.
The album opens with “Born To Die”, which was the second single released on December 30th, 2011. Initially minimal in beat, its symphonic strings pull you in and compensate perfectly in melody. The title track is followed intelligently by “Off To The Races,” a track that showcases the variations in vocal mastery Del Rey has conquered, unwaveringly bouncing her voice from high to low with perfect intentional emphasis over a strong drumbeat that fades out softly into the album’s third track, “Blue Jeans.” Highly confessional, “Blue Jeans” drops lines I find myself wanting to quote appropriately–”you’re so fresh to death and sick as c-c-cancer,” and quite inappropriately, to the dismay of my current love interest–”you fit me better than my favorite sweater.” The track completely captures her own description of herself as a “gangsta’ Nancy Sinatra” and highlights her admitted Elvis Presley influence.
With the fourth track on the album, “Video Games,” it’s no mystery why it was the track that propelled the singers’ rise to online popularity. After signing to Stranger Records, “Video Games” was released in June 2011 as her debut single and quickly garnered success worldwide, reaching number one in Germany and ranking in the top-ten in Belgium, Austria, Ireland, Scotland, Switzerland, Netherlands, and the UK—just to name a few. How Pitchfork‘s Lindsay Zoladz could boldly state that Born To Die is the “album equivalent of a faked orgasm– a collection of torch songs with no fire” is completely beyond me; Del Rey admits to still crying when she sings “Video Games;” you can’t fake raw emotion, and you can’t fake dedication. “Diet Mtn. Dew” holds the spot for the fifth track on the album; hypnotic and entrancing, the lyrics loop and repeat themselves dramatically and dare you to throw on your heart-shaped sunglasses. Believe me when I say, those words will be embedded in your brain for days.
Tracks six through nine only serve to add to the picture of her persona painted throughout the entire album. “National Anthem” is an almost-rap, reminiscent of the lyrical style of Coco Rosie, followed by the addicting, although highly criticized, “Dark Paradise.” “Radio,” track number eight, is soft and lilting like a song played during a major motion picture’s end-credits and is followed finally by “Carmen,” a track which highlights Del Rey‘s incredible knack at painting highly romanticized portraits of the dark and hopeless wasteland of youth.
Track number ten, “Million Dollar Man”, is like having drug-infused sex on a hugely excessive pile of money while “Summertime Sadness” makes me want someone to “kiss me hard before (I) go” wherever it is I’m going. The final track, “This Is What Makes Us Girls,” is haunting and leaves you breathless and ready to start the whole album over again.
Lana Del Rey‘s deeply resonant vocals in conjunction with her wasted, sultry, sex appeal is what keeps me coming back for more. While I think the album’s only flaw is the shift of tone from one song to the next, each track can easily stand alone, proudly succeeding at capturing Del Rey’s beautiful inner strength and the power behind her persona.
Want more? Do yourself a favor and search for Lana Del Rey‘s exclusive bonus tracks, “Without You” and “Lolita,” which were released exclusively through Target. Also be sure to checkout “Video Games (White Lies C-Mix),” a French-released limited edition track.
Behold Steve Aoki‘s first official release as an American dance-floor mainstay: “Wonderland.”
Does it measure up to similar efforts by Armin Van Buren, David Guetta, and Hardwell? Maybe not if you’re an Electronc Dance Music (EDM) snob, but as far as the average dance loving sumartian is concerned, it’s a solid effort!
Furthermore, “Wonderland,” finds Aoki wisely veering away from his typical hard electro sound for a smoother more radio-friendly tone. The result is a dynamic mixture of pop style arrangements with progressive club sounds, again not necessarily ideal for EDM aficianados, but perfect for radio–AND sheep.
And with a laundry list of high profile collaborations (LMFAO, Rivers Cuomo, NERVO and Wynter Gordon) there’s bound to be a taste of something for, dare I say, every mainstream-loving dance-whore on the planet. Seriously though, the guest appearences alone carry enough clout to warrant any cheap-ass to finger through their wallet for the $8 it costs to download the 16 tracks via iTunes.
Following in the footsteps of David Guetta, Mr. Aoki is clearly setting himself up for radio-wave domination and “Wonderland” clearly demonstrates that he is an important part of the unstoppable DJ dance movement that is taking the nation by storm.
I’ve never been more stoked for two people to pull their heads out of the mud and decide that 3 years was long enough to shelf a project, and that it was time to carefully pull it back out, tenderly blow off the dust and bring it into the sunlight.
Wesley Miles, vocalist of Ra Ra Riot, and Rostam Batmanglij, keyboardist of Vampire Weekend, got together before either of their respective bands claimed their fame and had a beautiful baby in 2005 which they then kept hidden from the world while both of their side projects rose to stardom in the world of indie rock. How’d they keep all of that gleaming goodness contained?
In 2008, after Vampire Weekend and Ra Ra Riot released their debut albums, the two reconvened and redeemed themselves, and on July 7th 2009 their debut album LP was released on XL Recordings. Met with glowing reviews it was described as ”a joyous run through the tropes of contemporary R&B” by Prefix Magazine. However, my favorite review has to be John Meagher’s (of the Belfast Telegraph) simple yet all-encompassing description of the album: “amazing”.
From the very first track, “Orange Shirt”, all the way to the last track “Slang Tang”, the album continues to surprise and features amazing guest vocal contributions; Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend is featured on track number two (“Osaka Loop Line”) and seven (“Carby”). The fourth track “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” features Angel Deradoorian of the Dirty Projectors, which surely would have become an anthem in the gay community if not for Deradoorian singing the hook. One of the most lively tracks on the album is the 8th track, “I Want You Back”, which is quite literally the best cover of the original Jackson 5 song I have ever heard.
It’s rare for me to say it, but there isn’t a single track on the album I don’t like. “Orange Shirt”, “Osaka Loop Line”, “Swing Tree”, “Can You Discover?”, “So Insane”– all played on repeat during my daily commute at one point in time, injecting into my being a very lightness of the heart that I swear is contagious.
Sleep on the train to Tokyo, google yourself when you get home…
Who’s ready to shake their ass to some Gloria Estefan?
Chances are (based on the numbers) you have no idea that the 54 year old singer-songwriter has a smashing new album titled Miss Little Havana. The set, released on September 27th, entered the Billboard charts at No. 28 with extremely dissapointing numbers, selling just under 14,000 copies during it’s first week on the shelves. The set then dropped a staggering 101 spots the following week to No. 129, only to fall completely off the chart just a few weeks later. As of October 20th 2011 the Soundscan total for Miss Little Havana was a depressing 21,522. But don’t let the lackluster sales figures fool you, as they are no indication into what a marvelous rump shaking masterpiece the album really is.
The project, largely the brain-child of urban mega-producer Pharrell Williams, is Gloria‘s most youthful and energetic album to date. It is chalk full of deep hooks, sexy lyrics, and fun melodies. The real prize however, resides in Pharrell‘s ability to create a latin hip-hop fusion that swarms with contagious tropical percussiveness. Only second to Pharell‘s master stylings are Gloria‘s effortless commitment to the new style and her ability to come off completely uninhibited. It all manages to piece together like a flawless freestyle jam session. Honestly it’s like nothing you’ve ever heard before and is a must listen for Gloria fans new and old. I for one, have always been appreciative of Miss Estefan, but now I can say that I truly enjoy her music.
On the flip side, make sure you skip Miss Little Havana‘s first single WEPA in its entirety, because although the song reached the summit over at Billboard‘s Hot Dance Club Songs chart preceding the album’s release, it sucks major weenie. It’s very flat and unappealing to the ears. Maybe that’s what caused Miss Little Havana to die on arrival.
At any rate, the remaining 11 tracks are sensational!
And while you’re here, take the opportunity to listen to two of my favorite songs from the infectious set (below) that include the album’s namesake track as well as an offering titled Hotel Nacional. Talk about sexy, catchy, Zumba salsa-dancing-fun!
One of We Heart Pop’s most anticipated selections of the year has finally arrived and it’s everything we could have dreamed of and more!
Behold the flawless fucking masterpiece that is Nicola Roberts‘ Cinderella Eyes‘! From the crass cheerleading echoes of the insanely infectious opening track, Beat of My Drum, to the stirring performance on the set’s closing track, Sticks + Stones, there isn’t one passable selection on the entire effort! And don’t be fooled by the deliciousness of it all, because each offering is bustling with endearing confessional-type lyrics that result in a genuinely relatable experience.
Other stand-outs on the album include the Dragonette produced Lucky Day, the euphoric Say It Out Loud, and the Mika flavored crooning found on the albums’ namesake track, Cinderella Eyes. The effervescent debut also sees contributions from mega-producers Diplo and Metronomy with whom Nicola has been able to craft some of the cleverest, most forward-thinking contemporary pop music I’ve heard in a long time. Roberts primarily draws her inspiration from retro vibes, plodding synths, and her signature yet eccentric vocal stylings. Together, it acts as the perfect recipe for an amazing pop record literally free of all flaw. There is absolutely ZERO room for improvement! And yes, I fucking love Cheryl Cole and every single second of song she’s ever released, but Cinderella Eyes is definitely in a league of its own.
Do yourself a favor and click HERE to listen to a free stream of the album in its entirety! AMAZING!
Where in the world is Carmen San Diego Sasha Fierce?
On a sabbatical–that’s where.
Really though, with all alter-ego jokes aside, 4 is not the commercially successful, radio-friendly Beyonce that critics or even casual listeners will love. This time around, Queen B opts for mid-tempo power ballads where the focus is on passionate vocals, soul sessions, and themes centered on love and lovers scorned; 4 is certainly not a dance album and in truth, it lacks any real sense of “fun” that so many have come to love from a Beyonce record. In fact, the only track that pays any sort of homage to the stiletto-wearing swag that was Sasha Fierce is the worst song on the album and quite possibly of her decade long career. It’s almost as if Run The World (Girls) was a complete afterthought on an album dedicated to throwback R&B and drippy nostalgia. Not only is Girls the closing track on the album but it shares nothing in common with the 11 songs before it, making it feel sorely out of place. That being said, is 4 a terrible album? Absolutely not.
I’m not gonna lie though, upon first listen I was flat out bored around the halfway mark but after further listens, I began to appreciate 4 for what it really is–a journey towards artistic fulfillment. A vision entirely Beyonce‘s own. And through the passion conveyed on such tracks as the set’s second single The Best Thing I Never Had and the stirring Start Over, it seems she has truly taken her artistic freedom to heart. Unfortunately, as a result, there’s not a single radio friendly hit to be found on 4.
Continuing with the theme of soul-baring ballads, The Dream produced opening track, 1+1, which was debuted via an American Idol performance, is a perfect example of what 4 has to offer. It’s slow, it’s minimal and god dammit, it’s heartfelt. Beyonce practically spills her guts onto the floor while delivering one of the most inspired vocal performances of her life. But despite the high profile production credits and reeling delivery, one thing remains: the song is boring as shit! And this passionate yet yawn-inducing recipe can be found just a few too many times on 4.
Don’t get me wrong though–4 does have its much shinier moments:
I Care: A lovely but lyrically angry mid-tempo ballad indicative of the rolling R&B from the early 90′s. Beyonce exhibits beautiful rock flare in her vocal delivery, which is soulfully complemented by a stuttered drum-clap and airy atmospherica. The subject matter and emotional edge of the song makes it very relatable.
Party: Features a rare and substantial verse from the legendary Andre 3000 and is arguably the best offering on 4. It’s bright, laid-back soul food, perfect for rolling a spliff and hanging with friends.
Love On Top: Another food-for-the-soul, 70′s throwback jam sure to enduce a little two-step on the dance-floor–the kind of song that brings smiles to faces on sunny days.
End Of Time: An incredibley catchy Rihanna-esque number with blaring horns and Caribbean flare. It’s breezy and palm tree swayzee. An obvious choice for a radio single.
I Miss You: An instant favorite and by far the best ballad featured on 4. It’s meaningful without being boring. The haunting vocals and drippy drums highlight the emotional heaviness and underlying catchiness as Beyonce cries: “
I miss you, like everyday/Wanna be with you, but you’re away/I said I miss you, missing you insane/But if I got with you, could it feel the same?“
I guess in a sense I would argue that 4 is to Beyonce as My December is to Kelly Clarkson. It’s an album that upon first listen is boring, upon second listen is kind of confusing and upon every listen thereafter, you discover something special until eventually you come to realize that it is a solid piece of art. And as with Ms. Clarkson‘s December, there’s the lead single that sounds like nothing else the album has to offer, and in 4‘s case, that’s a great thing!
The bottom line: I strongly suspect that 4 will be panned by fans, radio-stations, and critics alike, but if you really take the time, you will find that 4 is a solid effort, even for Beyonce.