Sunday, February 19, 2012

Album Review: Lana Del Rey and Emeli Sande

Lana Del Rey - Born to Die (4/5). It's a double edged sword having an unearthly amount of hype surrounding an artist before the release of their debut album. With only predeceasing singles as an indicator to the sound of the forthcoming album and expectations rocket high, it's no wonder the artist in question always seem to falter at the first hurdle, even if the material isn't necessarily bad, but within the context of the "hype" does feels rather underwhelming. American singer/song-writer Lana Del Rey's debut single "Video Games" a dark, whimsical ballad encompassing a vintage aura certainly sparked an intrigue, earning itself a positive reception among critics was a breath of fresh air within the midst of electro-pop and Adele. The prominent atmosphere with the album is very somber, disquieting and downbeat--she rarely lets up. "Born to Die," "Dark Paradise," "Video Games," "Radio" and personal favorite "Million Dollar Man" are some of the standout "downers" of the album--almost encompassing the reality detachment of Florence + The Machine without the intrigue. When Lana does let loose, the results are a little uneven, the guitar-driven, drum-backed and string laden "Off to the Races" and the celebratory, hollowing orchestration drenched "National Anthem" are quirky and good fun however "Blue Jeans" which harbours more prominent guitars and is a little too dreary and depressing despite the lovelorn lyrics. This is a decent album--it could have been a stronger set, a little more cohesive but there are some highlights. Best: Born to Die, Million Dollar Man, Video Games, Radio, National Anthem, Off to the Races

Emeli Sande - Our Version of Events (4/5). After the brilliant drum and bass, trip-hop influenced debut single "Heaven," and her fantastic hook on Professor Green's hit "Read All About It," British singer Emeli Sande's debut album has definitely been heavily anticipated. With Our Version of Events, her sound is trimmed from a satisfying mix of pop, soul and R&B tied together with some acoustic influences. The dramatic piano pop of "My Kind of Love" showcases the bold dynamic of Sande's vocal, particularly on its blustery chorus which sounds awesome on top of the subtle drum beats. However, she also illustrates some vocal subtly on "Mountains" (a track that apparently written by Sande for X Factor winner Leona Lewis). It's fantastic, a softening production--lovely acoustic guitar, percussion and poignant piano keys. She matches both sutly, boldness and heartfelt emotion on the dramatic balladry of "Clown."There are some that hit bum notes, such as the underwhelming vocal performance of "Piano," a downbeat number backed with strings, drums and acoustic guitars but seems to resonate on one note throughout. The jaunty piano-strung pop of "Next to Me" is a clear highlight. The album ends on a subtle note with the melodic, politcal pop of "Hope." Similar to Born to Die, this could have been a stronger set--there seems to an equal balance of tracks that hit the nail on the end ones that hit with a thud, however Die I feel they're more likely to grow on me. Best: Heaven, Next to Me, Clwon, Mountains, My Kind of Love, Hope, Lifetime

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Single Reviews

I know it's been rather quiet on here lately, but I'm planning on getting back to blogging reguarly sometime in March when I finally get my laptop fixed--for now here's some reviews for some new singles:

Part of Me - Katy Perry (3.5/5). Taken as the lead single from the forthcoming re-release from Katy Perry's 2nd studio album Teenage Dream, "Part of Me" is pretty sub-standard pop from the hitmaker--heavy underpinning beat, synths and guitars probably cutting from the same vein as "Teenage Dream," so nothing particuarly new--maybe bar the bitter lyrics. It's looking to make quite a big splash on the Hot 100 next week--predicted to open in the top 3 with the biggest first week sales since Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" around the same time last year.

Bad Girls - M.I.A. (4.5/5). Hot on the heels of her recent collab with Madonna, M.I.A. releases "Bad Girls," of what I assume is the lead single from the British rapper's forthcoming fourth album. I always assumed only pretentious music snobs liked M.I.A, but after spinning this a few times, it's grown on me quite a lot. I admire the exotic, Indian-drenched theme pinned under inconsistent drum beats. Bar "Paper Planes" and perhaps this track, I'm never going to understand why M.I.A. is so critically acclaimed but I'm wlling to learn.

Gimme All Your Luvin - Madonna, Nicki Minaj & M.I.A. (3.5/5). Madonna's comback single didn't reach the heights of say "Hung Up" or "4 Minutes." Unlike those numbers, Madonna seems to go back to basics with this--stripped down to catchy poppy beats with an underliningdistorted guitar--it reminds a little of something pulled out of 2000's Music--with Nicki Minaj roped in for a younger appeal. It's not great but not awful either.

Starships - Nicki Minaj (3/5). After "Stupid Hoe" hit a bum note, Nicki Minaj's new single seems like more a saftey net. While this has received a great reception--currently in the top 10 in the UK--this is way more pop than I like my Nicki Minaj.

Personal Airplay, February 16, 2012

Friday, January 20, 2012

Billboard Hot 100, January 28, 2012

1 (1) We Found Love - Rihanna Featuring Calvin Harris
2 (4) Set Fire to the Rain - Adele

Rihanna extends her reign at #1 with "We Found Love" featuring Calvin Harris to an astonishing 10 weeks, making Rihanna one of 11 female singers to have occupied the top spot for 11 weeks or more. Her feat follows Mariah Carey's "One Sweet Day" (16) and "We Belong Together" (14), Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" (14), Brandy and Monica's "The Boy Is Mine" (13) Faith Evan's feature on P. Diddy's "I'll Be Missing You" (11), Toni Braxton's "Un Break My Heart" (11) and Debby Boone's "You Light Up My Life," Olivia Newton-John's "Physical," Ashanti's "Foolish," Beyonce's "Irreplaceable" with 10.

Rihanna's 10th week at #1 keeps Adele's "Set Fire to the Rain" at bay, which climbs 2 spots up to #2, scoring the soulful British songstress her third top 3 single. However, in bigger news, over on the Billboard 200, Adele's record-shattering 21 becomes the longest running #1 album since the 1997 Titanic soundtrack album, match its 16 week stay. It's only one of five albums to clock in at least 16 weeks at the top since SoundScan began tracking album sales in 1991, following Whitney Houston's The Bodyguard soundtrack (20 weeks), Garth Brookes' Rope In the Wind and Billy Ray Cyrus' Some Gave All (17 weeks). 21 sold 104k this week--it's 33rd week of selling over 100k, making it the first album to shift over 100k every week for 30 weeks since Usher's Confessions.

21 also breaks the record for the most week spent at #1 by a British album, besting The Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Pink Floyd's The Wall which topped the albums chart for 15 weeks each.

The race is on between "We Found Love" and "Set Fire to the Rain" to see who claims the top spot next week. On iTunes "Love" is currently #6, while "Rain" is at #2 and over on Mediabase, Rihanna is currently bulletless at #2, while Adele is gainly quite rapidly up #5 from #8--It's this weeks airplay gainer.

8 (23) Rack City - Tyga
9 (11) Young, Wild & Free - Snoop Dogg & Wiz Khalifa Featuring Bruno Mars
10 (25) Turn Me On - David Guetta Featuring Nicki Minaj

The bottom few entries is dominated by hip-hop acts. Fueled by heavy digtial dsales American rapper and Young Money protege Tyga climbs 15 spots up to #8 with "Rack City" scoring his first solo top 10. Snoop Dogg's latest single "Young Wild & Free" climbs 2 spots up to #9, scoring the American rapper his 14th top 10 single. This is Wiz Khalifa's third top 10 and Bruno Mars' eighth. French DJ, David Guetta and American rapper Nicki Minaj's "Turn Me On," climbs 15 spots up to #10, scoring Guetta his fourth top 10 and Minah her sixth.

21 (58) What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger) - Kelly Clarkson

This week's digital gainer is Kelly Clarkson's awkwardly titled new single "What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)" which climbs 37 spots up to #21, scoring her 13th top 40 single. It looks certain to surpass the #20 peak of "I Don't Hook Up" the 2nd single from All I Ever Wanted.

33 (57) Ass Back Home - Gym Class Heroes Featuring Neon Hitch

American band Gym Class Heroes' latest single "Ass Back Home" climbs 24 spots up to #33, scoring them their third top 40 single following "Stereo Hearts" and "Cupid's Chuckhold" (or the "Take a Look My Girlfiend" song). This is British singer/songwriter Neon Hitch's first top 40 single.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Personal Airplay, January 19, 2012

Jessie J scores her 2nd #1, see discography after the jump:

Do It Like a Dude
Price Tag
Nobody's Perfect
Who's Laughing Now
Who You Are

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Emeli Sandè 'Our Version of Events' Preview

The sampler for British newcomer Emeli Sandè's upcoming debut album Our Version of Events, due 13 February has been released. Here's a quick rundown:

1. Heaven. The slick, hollowing trip-hop inspired lead single, lined with prominent drum patterns that everyone should be familiar with now.

2. My Kind of Love. This is a little Alicia Keys. Again, very hollowing but a little less frenetic in the drum front, adopting a more soulful and laid-back tempo in comparison to "Heaven."

3. Where I Sleep. Verging into more bluesy R&B tinged territory--all rather downbeat.

4. Mountains. This was apparently meat for Leona Lewis but was taken back to include on this album. It's another downbeat number--softening beats, soaring orchestration and whimsically atmospheric.

5. Clown. Unfortunately not a Mariah Carey cover. This is the first piano ballad wrapped up nicely with Sandè's bold and soulful vocal.

6. Daddy. The second single. It's similar to "Heaven" in many respect--particularly its drum heavy frame and hollowing backdrop.

7. Maybe. This is the most downbeat track on the albums first half--layering very soft pondering beats and strings. Not quite as captivating as the previous tracks but still quite nice.

8. Suitcase. Sandè gets a little Motown on here, quite nicely juxtaposed against the soft beats, guitar picking and strings.

9. Breaking the Law. Lovely acoustic guitar ballad.

10. Next to Me. This sounds like it would make a perfect third single. Very fulfilling production, melodically charged almost like Adele doing real uptempo.

11. River. This sounds a little underwhelming--not distinctive melody from what I can tell but perhaps it has more to offer in its entirety.

12. Lifetime. Quirky production--scattering drum patterns lined with piano keys and Sandè's beautiful falsetto.

13. Hope. I can't wait to here this on in particular in full. It sounds awesome. Very nice melody that isn't buried beneath the drum beats and hollowing atmospherics.

From what I can hear, this is going to be a good if not great debut album from the British singer. I can't to here it in full. Check out the sampler below:

Friday, January 13, 2012

Alexandra Burke "Elephant"

She's back! Alexandra Burke returns with her new single "Elephant" featuring and produced by Swedish Producer Erick Morillo, the lead single from her forthcoming sophomore album. What do you think? Drenched with auto-tune, it's a nice slice of electro-pop. It's a little euphoric sporting pounding synths, kinetic claps etc encompassing the ingredients to front that now classic European inspired dance-floor filler sound. Check it out below:

Billboard Hot 100, January 21, 2012

1. We Found Love - Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris

After a two week absence from the top spot, Rihanna's "We Found Love" climbs back to the top spot to extend its run at the top to 9 weeks--tied with Ke$ha's "Tik Tok" as the longest-running #1 single since the Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling" reigned for 14 weeks.

4. Set Fire to the Rain - Adele

Adele's "Set Fire to the Rain" climbs four spots up to #4 this week, scoring her third top 5 single following "Rolling In the Deep" and "Someone Like You." It's also this week's airplay gainer; up to #8 over on the Radio songs tally, pushing 74 million in audience impresions.

8. I Won't Give Up - Jason Mraz

American singer/songwriter Jason Mraz's (or "just a dude in a hat" as Family Guy like to refer) new single "I Won't Give Up" the lead single for his forthcoming fourth studio album debuts at a pretty impressive #8, scoring the singer's 2nd top 10 single, following "I'm Yours," which peaked at #6 in 2008. The single sold nearly 230k this week.

25. Turn Me On - David Guetta feat. Nicki Minaj

David Guetta's "Turn Me On" featuring Nicki Minaj is this week's digital gainer, it climbs a hefty 26 spots up to #25, scoring the French DJ his fifth top 40 single and Minaj her 16th.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Single Reviews

"Born to Die" - Lana Del Rey (4.5/5). Fantastic new single from American singer Lana Del Rey. Tranquil in its subtlety--soft pondering beats, lovelorn atmospheric strings stapled to the backdrop. I'm heavily anticipating her debut album.

"Domino" - Jessie J
(4/5). She may have delivered the subconsciously familiar pop of "Price Tag," but until this glitzy, feel-good Katy Perry inspired pop, Jessie J had yet to tread the shallow depths mainstream waters. From "Do It a Like a Dude" through to "Who You Are" there had been something vaguely ungeneric about her sound. But still, who can argue with a slice of mindless feel-good pop. It's shaping up to be a big hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

"Mama Do the Hump" - Rizzle Kicks (4/5). This is a shameless piece of fun hip-hop. Of course the old-school bluesy faux-sample is the tracks main attraction. It's not as good as "Down with the Trumpets" but I still like it a lot.

"Hot Right Now" - DJ Fresh (featuring Rita Ora). (4/5). DJ Fresh took over the summer when he landed his first #1 with the summery dub-step infuenced "Louder" and now he's back with this follow-up, which isn't as good but still cuts greatly from that summer-doped feel good vibe.

"Bright Lights" - Tinchy Stryder (featuring Pixie Lott). (4/5). Boastful hip-hop/pop undercut with scattering beats, piano chords and orchestration. It's quite nice.

"Kiss the Stars" - Pixie Lott (3.5/5). Following the flop of British singer Pixie Lott's sophomore effort Young Foolish Happy and its second single "What Do You Take Me For?," her whole project needed a saving grace and apparently this is it--the ditsy, harmless pop of "Kiss the Stars" almost identical to her last #1 "All About Tonight." It's already shaping up to be a big hit, already in the top 50 on iTunes before its release and video premier.

"Want U Back" - Cher Lloyd (3.5/5). A decent but not great Cher Lloyd single. Her attempt at quirky is a little cringe-worthy but the song itself isn't bad. The single version features American X Factor contestant Astro.

"T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever)" - (featuring Jennifer Lopez and Mick Jagger). (2.5/5). This sounds like the course of "progression" that the Black Eyed Peas would have taken if they had followed up 2010's The Beginning, as it's just as underwhelming as everything on that album--including the terrible lyrics ("I'mma go hard like a motherfucking boner"). This isn't a 2 cause I rather enjoy the song's frenetic second half, with the accelerating beats, underpinning electronic guitars and synths. The addition of Mick Jagger is a little strange though.

"Troublemaker" - Taio Cruz (2.5/5). Ever since British pop singer Taio Cruz landed the worldwide smash "Break Your Heart," he found a sound--that distinctive synth-drenched dancefloor filler--and stuck with it annoyingly closely, therefore it's not surprise that "Troublemaker" lacks any differentiation from his last few singles, particularly "Higher" and "Dirty Picture." How many times can you make the same song again?

Michael Kiwanuka "Home Again"

North London soul singer Michael Kiwanuka tops this year's BBC Sounds poll--the first male to top the list since Mika in 2007. The subtlety of his soulful sound is reminiscent to American acoustic/soul singer Amos Lee. His debut single "Home Again" showcases Kiwanuka's subtle old fashioned melodic sensibilities, a soft acoustic guitar guitar layered over alleviating percussion, strings and drumming. It's currently #15 on iTunes.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Alexandra Burke's "Elephant" Premiere's Tonight!

The new single from pop singer Alexandra Burke, "Elephant" featuring Swedish producer Erick Morillo (the guy behind "I Like to Move It Move It") the lead single from her forthcoming sophomore album debuts on Pete Tongs Radio 1 show tonight at 11pm. The single follows an almost one and a half year break since Burke's last single "The Silence."

Update: It was the Erick Morillo remix. Sounds pretty good so far, looking forward for the single mix to debut next week. Check out the remix sample below:

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Personal Airplay, January 5, 2012

Bruno Mars scores his third #1 on my chart--check out his discography after the jump.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Brit Award Nominees Predictions

The nominees for the Brit Awards are announced next week, here's my prediction for frontrunner's for Mastercard British Album, Best British Single and Best International Album.

For Mastercard British Album, I'm expecting the frontrunner's to be Adele's 21 and Coldplay's Mylo Xyloto: In terms of sales and critical acclaim, both were pretty big last year (although "big" in Adele's case is a huge understatement). I'm also expecting nods for Jessie J's Who You Are and Ed Sheeran's +, which in terms of hit-spawning were huge. Perhaps, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds could see a nod too. I'm on the fence about Olly Murs--I don't think he's ever been a Brit Award favorite but the success of his sophomore album In Case You Didn't Know was certainly commendable, making him the first X Factor act to significantly outsell their debut album.

I'm not expecting to see JLS or One Direction, because within all the hype (mainly from their legions of deluded fan-girls) both were critical flops and haven't delivered the sales to match the aforementioned.

For International Album, Lady Gaga's Born This Way, Bruno Mars' Doo-Wops & Hooligans and Foo Fighter's Wasting Light seem like shoo-ins. Perhaps, Beyonce could see a nomination for 4, but I doubt it, taking into consideration that it wasn't nearly as big as 2008's I Am... Sasha Fierce and that wasn't nominated (albeit that year the category was unusually rock dominated). Maybe, there could be another surprise indie win, following Arcade Fire's victory last year--in that case perhaps Foster the People's Torches could see a nod.

I'm not expecting Rihanna's Talk That Talk to be nominated.

The nods for Best British Single seem pretty obvious. They should go something like--"Rolling In the Deep" and "Someone Like You" Adele, "Price Tag" Jessie J featuring B.o.B, "The A Team" Ed Sheeran, "Changed the Way You Kiss Me" Example. Perhaps "What Makes You Beautiful" One Direction, "All About Tonight" Pixie Lott, "Lego House" Ed Sheeran or something by JLS.