Monday, May 30, 2011

Hiatus

It's half-term! I'm taking a little break from music and blogging. Do not expect any posts, maybe my personal chart every Thursday. See you in June!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Album Review: Lady Gaga - Born This Way (4.5/5)


So the wait is finally over. The much, much, much anticipated full-length sophomore album Born This Way from American pop singer Lady Gaga is finally here. The album arrives at the height of Gaga's popularity, which has been on an extreme uphill rise since her debut 3 years ago, and on course has sculpted Gaga as a cultural icon. Gaga's debut album The Fame and its accompanying EP The Fame Monster have been two of the most sought-after pop albums in recent times--combined sales tallying over 15 million copies worldwide, and remains in most charts around the world still. Not too shabby for a debut--the last time I can re-call a female pop singer making such an impact was Britney Spears, 11 years ago at the pinnacle of her career or perhaps Madonna in the '80s.

If you needed any evidence of the stellar year Gaga has had so far, the proof is in the pudding. Lead single "Born This Way" became an instant smash, breaking a handful of records in doing so, including becoming the fastest selling digital single ever, as well as acquiring the most spins within a week on top 40 radio. So with the statistics out of the way, does Born This Way actually live up to its hype? Well, the sound on The Fame and The Fame Monster were top-notch RedOne assisted catchy dance-pop, so it only makes sense that on here the Gaga attempts to push the boundaries a lot further. The production here is dynamic, energetic and grand with deeper lyrical bearing.

Haunting piano chords and seeping disquieting synths open "Marry the Night" before segueing into a fiery synth charged pop production--layers of rich throbbing electronic undertones and pounding bass lines--gradually a build up to it's frenetic climax, to which is greeted with twangy guitar chords which become buried beneath a maniacal wall of progressive beats, soundscapes and chilling synths. Dark freewheeling dramatic '80s influenced electro-pop--it introduces the theme nicely as well as being an invigorating opening to the album.

It's pain-stakingly clear that Gaga aspires to be the voice for the underdog--no other song carries the message better than title track "Born This Way" an epic, thundering electro-pop tune, which rightfully opens with the uplifting lyric, "It doesn't matter if you love him or Capital HIM." It's supposedly inspired by Madonna's "Express Yourself," which it saw minor criticism for--so what if it was? It's a classic and inspiration always come from somewhere. I wasn't that big on this before, but it's grown on me a lot.

The operatic opening of "Government Hooker" is particularly entertaining as it merges into the almost Robyn influenced, 80s studded, trickling kinetic electronic beats, with bursts of static synths and distorted bass. "Put your hands on me John F. Kennedy, I'll make you squeal baby, as long you pay me," Gaga exclaims on the bridge--I'm sure the message behind the song is more than just about a hooker that works for the government. It's apparently about Marylin Monroe's with affair John F. Kennedy. Next up is current single "Judas" a religiously charged number, with its clobbering matelic beats and rippling electronic synths re-calling "Bad Romance," only not as stimulating. Reglious agenda aside, it's just a fun slice of pop with a catchy chorus to boot--nothing anyone should have been offended by. There's way more serious things out there to be offened by such as the existence of Rebecca Black's "Friday."

The jaunty, Spanish influenced pop of "Americano" sort of picks up where "Alejandro" left off. I love the merging of spanish guitars, kinetic hand claps and the hammering electronic backdrop. It's indigenous chanting on the chorus sounds like the most unrestricted fun she has on here. She aptly injects a little Spanish into the mix too. Another song she goes transatlantic on is "Scheiße" (German for 'shit') which flaunts its German acapella opening before dissolving into an oncoming barrage of pounding electronic beats and synths. It's shares the same sassy, feminist flair as some of Madonna's earlier work, I can't cite a particular track. "Vogue" maybe? The melodic auara in the chorus is fantastic. It highlights a nice contrast to the more bricky beats of the verses.

"Bloody Mary," another track trailing from religious influences, is a heavy-footed mid-tempo, still pretty heavy on the electronic beats. It reminds a lot of "Paparazzi." It's noticeably less frenetic than the tracks before. It opens and closes with enchanting atmospheric violins which Gaga sings angelically in falsetto over. Chugging electronic guitars begin "Bad Kids" as a static Gaga preaches. I'm not a fan of this one--the production is a little uneven and doesn't really go anywhere. Better is "Electronic Chapel" which also heavily utilizes the electronic guitar before evaporating into an '80s drenched synth-pop production--monopolising keyboards, pounding bass lines intact.

"Highway Unicorn (Road to Love)" is an apt anthemic number, boasting that influencial semblance, espcially on the chorus ("we can be strong, we can be strong, follow that unicorn on the road to love") similar to "Born This Way" but the production here is way more climatic. It sounds a little Bowie influenced too--an inspiration Gaga has cited many times before. "Heavy Metal Lover" is quite interesting. Gaga opens with sexual imagery ("I want your whisky mouth over my blonde south") complimenting the gritty, sawing electronic beats and synth nicely.

Towards the end we find "Yoü and I." To the album what "Speechless" was to The Fame Monster and what "Brown Eyes" was to The Fame. It's an ode to soulful, '70s influenced rock. It's fantastic--Gaga delivers an awesome vocal performance too. If I had any gripe with the album it would be that some tracks are annoyingly similar, such as "Hair" and "The Edge of Glory" which both utilize hollowing soundscapes, horns cultivating that '90s dance-pop aura. They're both great tracks though, particularly "Glory," which is actually my favorite track on here.

So in answer to whether Born This Way lives up to its hype: It definitely does. It's nothing short of a thrilling pop record. The ultimate pop album? Not in so many words. But it definitely has all the ingredients: It's invigorating, exciting, consistent, cohesive, masterfully over-the-top all with an underlining authentic inspirational message. It's everything Gaga stands for. 'Weird' is now the new cool and showcases why she is the best of the best when it comes to high-quality, top-notch, masterful pop. It's definitely one of the best pop albums of the year so far.

Best: The Edge of Glory, Born This Way, Marry the Night, Yoü and I, Scheiße, Judas, Government Hooker, Bloody Mary, Heavy Metal Lover

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Personal Airplay, May 19, 2011

Billboard Hot 100, 28th May, 2011

1. Rolling in the Deep - Adele

No change at the top as Adele clocks in a second week at #1 with "Rolling in the Deep". Last week it became the first single from a female British singer since Leona Lewis' "Bleeding Love" to score a US #1. This week the single becomes the first solo female British single since Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" to hold the top spot for a second consecutive week. Still going strong digitally,"Deep" also continues to race up the airplay charts--its this weeks airplay gainer this week.

3. The Edge of Glory - Lady Gaga

The latest from Lady Gaga's forthcoming second album Born This Way, "The Edge of Glory" makes a quite an impressive debut at #3--her highest debut since lead single "Born This Way" debuted at #1 earlier this year and makes up for the relative under performance of second single "Judas" which arrived at #10 (and tumbles 8 spots down to #27 this week). It's even doing better on radio, becoming the fastest rising single on top 40 right now. It's her 9th top 10. The single arrives a week before the release of Born This Way which is predicted to sell between 450k and 750k, probably a million isn't out of the question.

4. Give Me Everything - Pitbull feat. Ne-Yo, AfroJack & Nayer

Cuban rapper Pitbull rises 4 spots up to #4, scoring the rappers 2nd top 5.

20. Party Rock Anthem - LMFAO feat. Lauren Bennett & GoonRock

This has spent 4 weeks atop the UK singles chart, however it's taken awhile to catch on in the states. LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem" climbs 4 spots up to #20 scoring the duo's first top 20.

Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums

I've decided to make my way through Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums list in an attempt to broaden my taste in music. Starting from the bottom--#500 Eurythmics' Touch all the way up to #1 The Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club (which I already own, but don't listen to much) I down own a handful of the albums on there already. I probably won't like the majority of the lst, but willing to give everything a fair listen.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Singles Reviews


The Edge of Glory - Lady Gaga (4.5/5)
Superhero - Simon Curtis (4/5)
Love Love - Take That (4/5)
Motivation - Kelly Rowland feat. Lil Wayne (3.5/5)
Dirty Dancer - Enrique Iglasias (3/5)
I Am Woman - Jordn Sparks (3/5)
Bass Down Low - Dev feat. The Cataracs (2.5/5)

Click below to read full reviews

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Album Reviews: Fleet Foxes and The Decemberists

Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues (4/5). Seattle folk band Fleet Foxes' eponymous debut was an enduring and eclectic mix of old fashioned but contemporary folkish pop, so it only makes sense that the sound on its follow-up begins to venture into more left-field territories. The distinctive subtly in their sound, wrapped in enchanting backdrop atmospherics and fibrous harmonies and of course the obligatory soft acoustic guitar melodies is spine-tingling--instantly demonstrated on opening track "Montezuma." Other songs such as "Bedouin Dress" clock in more on the sweet, swooning harmonies, indulging in layers of different guitaric patterns and prominent drum backing, whereas others such as "Battery Kinzie" are darker--drumming up an element of haunt as the disquieting drums and guitar chords cave in. "The Shrine / An Argument" further showcasing the diverse in sound. The minimalist guitar-fiddling approach for the first half of the song, in which also highlights a distinct toughness in Robin Pecknold's vocal, before the composition becomes grander for the second half; heavier drums backing and boisterous guitar patterns. Helplessness Blues is an enjoyable album, clocking on sensitivity, diversity and all around a folkishly eclectic set similar to their debut but a little more out there. Best: Montezuma, Battery Kinzie, Bedouin Dress, The Shrine / An Argument, Helplessness Blues, Sim Sala Bim.

The Decemberists - The King is Dead (4/5). Similar to Fleet Foxes, American indie folk band The Decemberists build their sound around acoustic guitars and have a distinct folkish aura too. However they're slightly more country-tinged and shed a discrete authentic rock vibe which spearheads the record's consistency--from the mid-tempo folkish-twang of "Don't Carry It All," and "Calamity Song" to the slower acoustic guitar melodies of "Rise to Me" and "January Hymn." The best song on here is "This is Why We Fight" (which has topped my personal chart for 5 weeks now) featuring awesome guitar patterns, layers of dabbling guitar work. The chorus is awesome too--probably the catchiest on here. My only gripe would be the lack of diversity in sound, which isn't really that big of a deal considering most country/folk albums to tend to have similar sounding songs--it's all about the lyrics--which highlights my major flaw as a reviewer; I never know what they're talking about. Best: This is Why We Fight, Rise to Me, Don't Carry it All, January Hymn, Dear Avery.

Friday, May 13, 2011

British Girls atop the American Charts


So this week on the Hot 100, Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" rises up a notch up to #1, earning the singer her first American chart-topper as well as making her eighth British female singer to score a US #1 (and only the second to occupy both the singles and albums chart simultaneously after Susan Boyle). It's an incredible achievement that highlights--without sounding hypocritical--that a genuine soulful vocal, meaningful lyrics and non-computer generated instruments still has its place atop of the charts and can still rise above the electro-pop norm.

Here's a run down of the British female singers who have topped the chart before (there was a couple artists I wasn't sure whether or not to include, such as Olivia Newton-John, I wasn't sure if she was British or Australian and Eurythmics):

Petula Clark - Downtown (1964, 2 weeks)

So, the first British singer to score an American #1 was Petula Clark. She released quite a lot of singles between 1949 and 1953, however her first charting single was a cover of french singer Rudi Revil's "Le petit cordonnnier" which translates into "The Little Shoemaker" in English, which peaked at #7 in the UK in 1954. In America, her first charting single came further down the line--a decade later--In 1964, "Downtown" the lead single from her second album of the same reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100. I'm not familiar with Clark's original, the song was given new life in 1984 by country icon Dolly Parton and again in 2006 for Children in Need by Spice Girl Emma Bunton--none of which fared as well as the original--Parton's stalled at #80 US, while Bunton's fared a little better in the UK peaking at #3 scoring her third top 3 single.



Petula Clark- My Love (1966, 2 weeks)

As well as being the first British female singer to score a US #1, she is also the only one to land more than 1 at the top. Her second was this sweet lovelorn pop of "My Love" (I presume) the lead single from her fifth album of the same name. In the UK, it was her first top 5 hit since "Downtown." I don't think this ranks amongst her most remembered work, "Downtown" gets played quite a bit on the Vintage music channels in the UK.



Lulu - To Sir, with Love (1967, 5 weeks)

The following year, Scottish (or Glaswegian) singer Lulu scored her first American chart-topper with "To Sir, with Love," the theme for her second starring movie role of the same name and was also featured on the accompanying soundtrack. Oddly, it was never released in the UK--although it appeared as B-Side to her single "Let's Pretend" which peaked at #11.



Sheena Easton - 9 to 5 (1981, 2 weeks)

Scottish singer Sheena Easton became the first British female of the '80s to land an American #1. Her second single "9 to 5" or "Morning Train (9 to 5)" from her debut album Take My Time spent two weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100.



Bonnie Tyler - Total Eclipse of the Heart (1983, 4 weeks)

What an awesome slice of grand '80s balladry! Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler's power ballad "Total Eclipse of the Heart" not only landed the singer her first US #1 but also became her first single to top the UK singles chart too. It was lifted from her fifth album Faster Than the Speed of Light, her most successful album to date and this remains her signature number. Sensational video too!



Kim Wilde - You Keep Me Hangin' On (1987, 1 week)

Kim Wilde's cover of The Supreme's "You Keep Me Hangin' On" was her biggest hit in America, topping the Hot 100 for a week--in fact it was her only single to enter the top 40, follow-up charting singles "Say You Really Want Me" and "You Came" didn't make the top 40 but were moderate hits in the UK.



Spice Girls - Wannabe (1996, 4 weeks)

British pop sensation the Spice Girls' debut single "Wannabe" was an instant smash, raising the five-piece onto the world's pedestal, becoming the one of the best-selling girl bands of all time. The single went to #1 in nearly every country around the world. In America the single stayed at #1 for 4 weeks, unfortunately they never quite matched its success, although follow-up singles "Say You'll Be There" and "2 Become 1" were top 3 hits and "Too Much" which came later, earned the group a fourth top 10.



Leona Lewis - Bleeding Love (2008, 4 weeks)

X Factor winner Leona Lewis' dive into American success was a remarkable achievement even more so considering up and until this point no British female singer (or female group) had scored a #1 in the US since the Spice Girls. Her debut single "Bleeding Love" remained at #1 for 4 non-consecutive weeks--after its first two weeks it was displaced by Mariah Carey's "Touch My Body" then again by Lil Wayne's "Lollipop" following its rise back to the top the previous week.

Britney lines up "I Wanna Go"

The third single from Britney Spears' latest album Femme Fatale is "I Wanna Go," an upbeat, frothy dance-pop number, which I said my review, exuded a joyous arua that reminded me of Kylie Minogue's "Get Outta My Way," although I'm pretty sure this is about masturbation. Check it out below:

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lady Gaga "The Edge of Glory"

Another single that deserves a post is definitely the latest from Lady Gaga. "The Edge of Glory," released yesterday, is the best of all 3 singles from Gaga's forthcoming sophomore album Born This Way so far. It has that classic '90s dance-pop feel to it, of course with a modern twist. It's fantastic! There's no doubt the upcoming set is going to be a killer pop record. Check it out below:

Edit: It's a promotional song, not a single.

Skream "Where You Should Be"

British dub-step producer Skream's new single "Where You Should Be" is a stunner; a dark, synth-drenched, almost psychedelic number with piercing soulful undertones (what I love about it most). It's lifted from his second album Out of the Box released last year. The sounds reminds of a lot of Delphic's Acolyte. Check it out below:

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Singles Reviews


I Need a Dollar - Aloe Blacc (4.5/5)
Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.) - Katy Perry (4/5)
Good Life - OneRepublic (4/5)
Man Down - Rihanna (3.5/5)
Nodbody's Perfect - Jessie J (3.5/5)
Run the World (Girls) - Beyonce (3/5)
Im Into You - Jennifer Lopez Featuring Lil Wayne (3/5)
The Story of Us - Taylor Swift (3/5)
Where Them Girls At - David Guetta Featuring Nicki Minaj & Flo Rida (2/5)

Click below to read full reviews

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Billboard Hot 100, May 17, 2011

Not particularly interesting this week...

1. E.T. - Katy Perry (feat. Kanye West)
2. Rolling in the Deep - Adele

Katy Perry's "E.T." extends its chart reign to 5 weeks, only one week short of matching Lady Gaga's run of 6 weeks with "Born This Way," the longest stay at #1 so far this year. The single sold 300,300 this week, a measly 300 copies over Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" which also sold 300k and remains bulleted at #2. Currently, "Deep" is the fastest gaining song on Radio--it gained 77 million in audience impressions last week (and is up to 84 million this week) making it it this week's airplay gainer. While Perry continues to dominate Radio with "E.T." surely, in the on-coming weeks, a week at #1 is possible for Adele?

3. Till the World Ends - Britney Spears (feat. Ke$ha & Nicki Minaj)

Britney's "Till the World Ends" returns to the top 10, climbing 8 spots up to #3 landing Spears her 8th top 5 single and earning a new peak (and third single to peak at #3). It's also the first time the singer has scored 3 top 5's in the same year, following ("Hold it Against Me" and "S&M (Remix)" with Rihanna). Of course it's surge into the top 5 is spearheaded by its accompanying remix featuring pop heavy-weight Ke$ha and rapper Nicki Minaj which accounted for over 60% of "World's" combined sales. This is Nicki Minaj's first top 5 (if you don't count "BedRock" with Young Money and Lloyd) and Ke$ha's fourth (if you don't count Flo Rida's "Right Round"). It's this weeks digital gainer.

13. Give Me Everything - Pitbull (feat. Ne-Yo, AfroJack & Nayer)

Pitbull climbs 6 spots up to #13 with "Give Me Everything" the second single from his fifth album Planet Pit (misleading title for those with understandable armpit fetishes).

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Personal Airplay, May 5, 2011

TW LW Title - Artist
1.... 1.... This Is Why We Fight - The Decemberists (4 weeks @ #1)
2.... 2.... E.T. - Katy Perry
3.... 5.... The Lazy Song - Bruno Mars
4.... 6.... Howlin' For You - The Black Keys
5.... 9.... Till the World Ends - Britney Spears
6.... 8.... Young Blood - The Naked and Famous
7.... 3.... L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N. - Noah & The Whale
8.... 12.. Party Rock Anthem - LMFAO Featuring Lauren Bennett & GoonRock
9... 16... Broken Record - Katy B
10.. 4.... The Whilhelm Scream - James Blake (2 weeks @ #1)