Monday, July 25, 2011

Kelly Rowland - Here I Am (U.S. Deluxe Edition)

So simple, yet so beautiful. Good choice, Kelly, I really like the cover for this!
tl;dr (Too Long; Didn't Read) version—After a slight mishap with her previous album, Ms. Kelly Rowland is back in the house! Although the international version is supposed to be getting all of the dance-friendly hits, the U.S. edition of Here I Am does not disappoint. She definitely stepped her game up and the other artists out there should be on guard. It might not be my all-time favorite album of 2011, but it is a solid "Dance-Pop&B" mix, and I expect it to do well on the charts.

I must say, I am a tad irritated that some of Kelly's previous singles—specifically "Forever and a Day", "Rose Colored Glasses", and "Grown Woman"—did not make the final tracklisting for the U.S. edition. I understand that these songs did not do too well on the charts, but they still could have been included on the album. (Although from what I can tell, these songs will be included on the more dance-friendly international edition of the album later this year. I need to live in a European country, the U.S. is always getting shafted!) Which leads me to my next question—why weren't these songs successful in the first place? I honestly thought that at least one of them (most likely "Glasses") would've done a good job, but I was obviously wrong. And the fact that "Commander" was only a moderate hit in the States completely baffles me.

But I digress.

After about a year of push backs, Here I Am is, well, finally here! Despite my mini rant, I am very pleased with this album. Kelly's last effort, Ms. Kelly, was unfortunately a commercial failure, so to see her follow up with a stronger and better album makes me all happy inside!

She starts the album off with the beat-heavy "I'm Dat Chick". While not the best song on the album in my opinion, this Tricky Stewart production is so catchy and sassy that you will probably find yourself quoting some of the lyrics when you're feeling especially confident about yourself: "Why we looking good from our heads to our toes/ Who don't need a compliment, because she knows/ She don't need a mirror, she can see, see, see~". Kelly does a solid job with this album opener, and "Chick" helps to set the "Dance-Pop&B" pace for the rest of the album.

Another up-tempo track on the album worth mentioning is "Lay it on Me". This song is currently undergoing the single treatment, as it is set to be released as the second official single in the U.S. From the air horns at the beginning ('cause every song is better with some air horns!) to the featured Big Sean vocals, "On Me" is a little formulaic in its sound, but should nonetheless be a summer hit and hopefully it'll be well-received by everyone. And I am beyond ecstatic that Kelly is releasing a more up-tempo song after the R&B slow jam "Motivation", the first official U.S. single. While it's nice to see that R&B is still alive and kicking it, I need me some dance jams!

Speaking of the slower songs on the album, there are some good ones on Here I Am if that's the type of sound you prefer. "Keep it Between Us" is such a beautiful song on the album and I like it a lot. Co-penned by Ms. Kelly herself, the lyrics show a more personal side to the singer compared to the other tracks on the album: "Just a plain ol' girl, I don't need nothin'/ They say I got it all, but they don't know that all is you, is you/ So don't give your love away~". The combination of simple lyrics and Rowland's beautiful voice helps to make this song a standout on the album.

And of course the Lil Wayne-featured "Motivation" makes an appearance on the tracklisting. While I can understand why this song has been such a hit, for some reason I only find it okay at best. It's one of those songs where if I heard it playing on the radio I wouldn't necessarily change the channel; but at the same time, I don't actively look for it on my iPod. I love Lil Wayne's verse, though, and I will be quoting him a lot. ("I turn that thing into a rainforest/ Rain on my head, call that brainstorming~"? YES!!!)

"Grown Woman", here's to hoping that you and the rest of your axed sister songs will be on the international version of Here I Am. A fan can dream, right?
Other gems on the album include the Rodney Jerkins-produced "Turn it Up". I like "Darkchild" Jerkins's ability to seamlessly combine hip-hop beats with dance music (see: "Feedback" by Janet Jackson and "Telephone" by Lady Gaga), and "Turn it Up" does not disappoint in that area at all. Another standout track is the not-exactly-first-single "Commander", produced by the ever-popular David Guetta. This song is an dance-pop lover's dream, and I just love screaming the chorus at the top of my lungs! And you know I have the love the RedOne-produced "Down for Whatever". While not RedOne's most creative work, he knows how you get you bumping and shaking your butt.

The deluxe edition songs are okay if you are willing to go the extra mile, but you are not missing out on too much. "Heaven & Earth" unfortunately has "bonus track syndrome", and it really should've been a part of the main tracklisting. I do recommend getting this song at the very least, if you can. The Urban Remix for "Commander" is a bit underwhelming (especially Nelly's added vocals), but the Rebel Rock Remix for "Motivation" gives the song a necessary speed-up for those who are looking for a dance version. ("Each Other" is completely passable; don't even worry about it.)

Overall, I am really digging Here I Am! I have been waiting for this album release for some time now, and it did not disappoint at all. I am more excited about the international version of this album, however, and I have a feeling I am going to like that one more than this U.S. edition. Regardless, I definitely think you should pick this one up! I'm leaving you with the official lyric video for "Lay it on Me" and the official videos for "Commander" and "Motivation". Enjoy!

"Lay it on Me" Official Lyric Video

"Commander" Official Music Video

"Motivation" Official Music Video

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wynter Gordon - With the Music I Die (Album & EP)

Wynter Gordon brought her fierce look for this album! The colorful wing-like art compliments the black & white photo nicely. Such a beautiful cover—WORK IT, WYNTER!
tl;dr (Too Long; Didn't Read) version—With the Music I Die is amazing! My only complaint is that the U.S. should have received the full album and not just an EP. Fortunately, some of the tracks that are on the album but not on the EP can be bought as individual singles from previous releases.

Once in a while I have this habit of skipping over some artists simply because I have too many songs in my music queue, even though they would fit in perfectly with the rest of the songs on my iPod. Then out of nowhere I somehow find myself listening to one of their songs without noticing, and I give myself a slap on the forehead when I realize that this is the same artist that I passed over without reason some time ago. I actually did this to Lady Gaga, and if you know me well, then you can probably guess that I gave myself multiple forehead slaps for that mistake. Actually, I still do once in a while… (For those who do not know me well, Lady Gaga is currently my favorite artist.)

It looks like I will have to give myself another slap on the forehead, because I did the same thing to my friend, Wynter Gordon. At first I was going to skip over her newest release, With the Music I Die, since my music queue was especially long this summer. That is, until I found out that this was the same lady who released "Dirty Talk" about a year ago. I've been obsessed with this song for the longest time, but since I only heard the song in passing I had no way to identify the song—no artist name, no song title, not even a snippet of the lyrics. Yes, for the past year I would occasionally hum this song just to keep its tune in my head, in case I was lucky enough to run into it again. I was beyond excited when I finally found it, and the accompanying album! (And then of course I gave myself the slap on the forehead.)

A lot of the "missing" tracks on the EP have actually been available in the U.S. for some time now. I recommend dishing out the extra money to get them.
With the Music I Die is, simply put, pure dance-pop perfection! Every song on this album ha the potential to be a dance floor hit that could even make Kesha tremble in fear. My personal favorite is Denzal Park's Radio Edit of "Til Death". This wonderful album opener and current album single is filled with so much energy and so many catchy lines (Wearing all black like a brand new bride/ 'Til death do we party, with the music I die~) that you will keep begging for more when the song ends. Other wonderful songs, like the summer-in-Paris feeling "Buy My Love", the Latin-sounding track "Rumba" that would even make J.Lo jealous, and of course my year-old favorite "Dirty Talk", clearly show that Gordon wants to send you off to a nonstop dance party. Even the only "ballad" on the album, "Back to You", blends in well with the rest of the songs, and is so emotional that you will probably end up crying and dancing on the dance floor at the same time.

With all these good things that I have to say about the album, I also have similar good things to say about the U.S.-exclusive EP. Although the EP falters when compared to the album, on its own it makes a great addition to anyone's music player. It keeps some gems from the album, and it even has a couple of its own, like the amazing hip-hop/reggae-sounding Rock-It Scientists Remix of "Til Death" and the extended remix of "Buy My Love". Still, a lot of other gems were left off, but they can thankfully be bought as individual tracks from Gordon's previous releases in the United States. If you don't want to get all of the missing songs, I would at least recommend getting "Dirty Talk", the Famties Remix of "Right Here" (a deluxe edition track for the album), and the Denzal Park Radio Edit of "Til Death". Unfortunately, some songs are simply not available anywhere in the U.S. market, like "Drunk on Your Love", "Rumba", and "Back to You" (I really think "Back to You" would have done a great job in the United States, too…).

All in all, I love With the Music I Die, and I will be jamming to this album over and over. If you still need some convincing, you can preview both the Deluxe Edition Album and the U.S.-exclusive EP on this YouTube channel. I'm also leaving you with the music videos for the two singles, "Dirty Talk" and "Til Death". Enjoy!

Dirty Talk (Official Music Video)

Til Death (Official Music Video)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Jedward - Bad Behaviour

Because my friends talk about the Illuminati all the time (they swear it exists), I can't help but notice the "A" in "Jedward" is replaced with a triangle. Maybe that explains their bad behaviour?
I don't care what anyone says—this song is amazing.

Introducing: Jedward. These Irish twins first appeared on the UK version of The X Factor in 2009, as "John & Edward". (If you can't tell, I love The X Factor, and I can't wait for the USA series premiere later this year!) While their performances were not necessarily my favorites, there was something about their stage presence that made me want to watch video… after video… after video of their performances. Like Cher Lloyd from before, they did not win their series, but still ended up with a record deal. (Because apparently you do not have to actually win singing competitions to get a record deal nowadays—you just have to not lose.) With The X Factor over, "John & Edward" officially rebranded themselves as "Jedward", and they recorded their first single, a mash-up cover of Queen's "Under Pressure" and Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby". (Oh, yes they did!)

I first learned about Jedward a couple-ish weeks ago, when they were the subject of a worldwide trending topic on Twitter. Their new single, "Bad Behaviour" had just been released, and their fans were tweeting nonstop about their love for the song. Of course their tweets piqued my interests, so I found a link to the song's music video and started watching.

And… just… YES!

The song is so fun! It's basically these nineteen-year-old twins with carefree attitudes doing whatever they want to do ("So tell me t-tell me tell me why-why should I stop?/ If we're having fun we'll do it till we drop!"), over the type of Radio Disney-like sound that has this mysterious power to attract young and old people alike (similar to Miley Cyrus's "See You Again, or Selena Gomez & The Scene's "Naturally"). Imagine 1990s Backstreet Boys updated to sound more like Ke$ha's "Blow" (with an extra sprinkle of awesomeness), and that's what "Bad Behaviour" sounds like.

And the video captures Jedward's personality so well! From the dancing around in underwear to the ridiculous outfits, Jedward took the camp style to a whole other level. Even the small Home Alone reference was pretty over-the-top, if only because a set of twins did the gesture. The song/video combo is flawless, and Jedward did a wonderful job with this one. "Bad Behaviour" will be on repeat on my iPod, and it might even reach my Top 40 Most Played Songs playlist in the near future!

Watch the video below, and let's go party on Planet Jedward (or at least in their sweet house)!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Mohombi ft. Nicole Scherzinger - Coconut Tree

Mmm… It even smells like a Hawaiian sunrise!
I've had this review typed up for a while now, but for some reason I never published it. So—I'm going to submit it now!

I ran into this song some time ago while I was looking for some new music to add to my summer vacation playlist. What immediately got my attention was the summery feel of the single cover, complete with a coconut tree (oh, I see what you did there~!) and a motel-like building in the background. (Having Nicole Scherzinger's name on the cover also helped a little bit.) And so I decided to give "Coconut Tree" a spin to see if I like it.

And the single cover did not lie. Basically, this song is one of those summer-themed songs that are released during the summer because they are for, well, the summer. If you are looking for something deeper, you will be sorely disappointed. The generic RedOne dance-pop production with random island-themed sounds inserted here and there; the typical summer love-esque lyrics ("Under the coconut tree, you be chillin' with me/Making love to you in a [bedford?] room made of sand and sea"); the usual summertime video story line (typical getaway setting with sunny skies, a little exoticism, and some sex appeal)… Basically, "Coconut Tree" follows the summer-song formula so well that you will probably download this song with the intent to add it to your sex-on-the-beach playlist, only to forget about it for some time because it sounds so generic, and then not come back to it until months later when the summer feeling is long gone and delete the MP3 file because you can't even remember why you downloaded the song in the first place.

But what else would you expect? It's simple, playful, and carefree—it's a summer song. So at least "Coconut Tree" does its job, and does its job right.

Watch the video for the song below, and tell me what you think about it!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Cher Lloyd - Swagger Jagger

Certainly I'm not the only person who is reminded of Lily Allen's Alright, Still era when looking at this single cover?
By the way—I bought Beyoncé's 4 the day it came out!

Alright, some basic context for those who do not know seventeen-year-old Cher Lloyd. She was originally a finalist on UK's The X Factor in 2010, and although she came in fourth place, she still got herself a record deal. (And what's the point of being first on these singing competitions… ?) Now, she's currently promoting her first single, "Swagger Jagger".

And "Swagger Jagger" is one of those songs that I will be playing on repeat—but not for good reasons.

See, I like Cher Lloyd. I still remember watching her audition for The X Factor some time ago. I loved every second of it; her song choice was definitely in her comfort zone, and because of that you could sense her confidence during the performance. But more importantly, she showed the audience that she had a voice; a quirky and strong voice that, with the right track, could send Cher Lloyd to the top of the charts.

Unfortunately, I doubt her single, "Swagger Jagger", will be the track that will bring her to the top of the charts. Simply put, this song does not take full advantage of Cher's true potential. If she feels more comfortable rapping and would prefer to do that, then so be it. But after looking at a few of her X Factor performances (like this, this, and this) and comparing them to "Swagger Jagger", I truly believe that her singing capabilities are much stronger than her rapping capabilities, and I can only hope that she will take advantage of what she has. At the very least, her singing and her rapping should should be more cohesive.

Also—swagger jagger? What is this "jagger"? From what I can tell, there is no immediate relation between this phrase and Mick Jagger, unless she was "creatively" (read: poorly) trying to jump on this bandwagon that Ke$ha started with "Tik Tok". My instincts told me that I may find my answer on Urban Dictionary, but the definitions there are simply not nice, to say the least, so I'll just assume those definitions do not apply here. Maybe she just wanted to say "jacker" but wanted something that rhymed better with "swagger"? (Which I still personally find weird; it's not like "swagger jacker" would sound awkward in the song.)

Also, the video (below) doesn't improve the song in any way—it looks less like a music video and more like a three minute-long over-the-top TV commercial that's trying to be a music video. The colors were nice though.

Like I said before, this song will be played on repeat, but only because it's so annoyingly stuck in my head that I would never be able to get it out even if I tried. Kind of like Jenna Rose's "My Jeans" (which I will be reviewing at a later date). But I want to reiterate what I said earlier—I like Cher Lloyd! She definitely has the talent, and she has plenty of time to showcase that talent to the world (remember, she is only seventeen; plenty of time to establish herself). May "Swagger Jagger" just be a small misstep in her future career.

Listen to the song, and tell me what you think about it!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Beyoncé - 4 (Deluxe Edition)

No nakedness, no dead animal around her neck—why yes, this cover is much more appealing than the standard edition cover. The deluxe edition always gets the better end of the stick.
tl;dr (Too Long; Didn't Read) version—Beyoncé took some major risks with 4, and it might not rub you the right way at first (I didn't like it when I first listened to it, to be honest). But after listening to the album a few times, I must say that Beyoncé actually did a good job with this one. It's much different from her previous album, I Am… Sasha Fierce, for those looking for that type of sound, but the album stands strongly on its own two feet and is worth the listen.

Oh, Beyoncé.

When 4 first leaked I gave it a quick listen. And I will be honest, I did not like the album one bit. From the first note of "1 + 1" to the last beat of "Run the World (Girls)", the only thought that was going through my head was, "BRING BACK THE SINGLE LADIES!"

And that was the problem. I was so focus on I Am… Sasha Fierce (specifically the Sasha Fierce), that I failed to realize that I was not listening to that album; I was listening to 4, and 4 only. I can not compare it to her previous albums without listening to this album on its own first. This is especially important for an album like this, since Beyoncé spent these past couple years getting her inspiration from people and things she did not have time to check out beforehand (something she mentions in multiple interviews and even in her Target ad). This album is all about Beyoncé taking risks, and I believe people should pay attention to this as they listen to the album.

And so, after having this realization I listened to the album a few more times… and saw that this album was actually good!

There are a couple quirks, however, that still get to me. The first thing is the placement of a few songs on the album. I love the song "1 + 1", especially after watching her performance on American Idol. But honestly, unless you are really in the mood for something like this, this song will put you to sleep! I felt that it was a poor choice to make this the album opener; maybe a few slots down the track listing would have been better. Also, the placement of "Run the World (Girls)" is damn awful, no matter which edition you listen to. Simply put, this song does not fit with 4 at all. The album is too slow and mid-tempo heavy for a song like "Run the World", and this song disrupts the album's flow so much. And not just any type of disruption, either; I mean the "I was watching my TV show at the perfect volume and then the commercial afterwards was blaring like a mega horn" type of disruption. I'm surprised it even made the cut at all.

I'm sorry, but there is something about this song and the line "I bet it sucks to be you right now" that just remind me of pre-teens arguing on the playground…
Speaking of songs that made the cut, the second thing that slightly annoys me is the choice of certain songs as standard edition vs. deluxe edition-only tracks. Why why WHY was "Schoolin' Life" chosen as a deluxe edition track? This song is one of the major standouts for 4, and it surprises/saddens me to think that Beyoncé and her team thought it was not good enough for the standard edition track listing. Not only does this track help to give 4 some life (I mean, it is schoolin' itbad-dum-sshh!), but the lyrics are much more convincing than some of the other songs on the album *cough*Best Thing I Never Had*cough*. "Schoolin' Life" would have been a nice a single for 4, and it's a little unfortunate to think it will not receive the single treatment (unless she pulls a "Why Don't You Love Me?" stunt again).

But other than these small quirks, I am really impressed with this album overall. Although I think the lyrics could have been better at spots, "Best Thing I Never Had" is a catchy, radio-friendly song that reminds me of a hybrid between her "Irreplaceable" and Vanessa Carlton's "A Thousand Miles". (You can not tell me the piano in the background doesn't remind you of "A Thousand Miles"!) "I Care" should have been the album opener in my opinion; while it still captures that slow feel present in "1 + 1", this song grabs your attention with the background vocals and instruments, and they help to give Beyoncé's voice more strength (not like she needs it, but it still helps). The more up-tempo tracks on the album—"Love on Top", "Countdown", and "End of Time"—make you want to bring out some two-steps and do some bouncing here and there. These are definitely some standout tracks from the album. "I Was Here" perfectly sums up Beyoncé's career, and this should have been the final track on the standard edition instead of "Run the World". You cannot deny that for better or worse (mostly for better) Beyoncé made a heavy influence on contemporary music, and her mark will last for ages. This is exactly what she talks about in "I Was Here", and her confident vocals show that whether or not you like 4, her career will undoubtedly continue to be a success. (I mean, they do call her "Queen B" for a reason.)

Also, although I implicitly bashed this song a little in a previous review, I liked "Run the World" from its release, and I still like it now. The sample was a little sloppy, but I just can't stop dancing to it! It's a good song, okay?

I recommend that you at least give 4 a few spins. I wouldn't be surprised if you find a few gems from the album. And in an attempt to convince you a little more, I'm giving you a little sample below of two songs from 4 that Beyoncé performed at the 2011 Glastonbury Festival, "Best Thing I Never Had" and "End of Time". (This performance was also live-streamed at the BET Awards.)

So the big question is—will you buy 4 tomorrow? (I will! Well, maybe not tomorrow, but it will be bought!)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Calvin Harris ft. Kelis - Bounce

Wait, are we bouncing to the song, or are we bouncing balls, or... ?
I've been waiting for this song to get an official release for some time now! This song—Calvin Harris's new single, "Bounce"—has been getting some buzz for a while now, and for good reason. As someone who enjoyed Harris's previous singles (like "I'm Not Alone" and "Ready for the Weekend"), I had high hopes for "Bounce". Fortunately, I was not disappointed with this single one bit!

This infectious electro-house track (produced by Harris himself) makes you want to pop, lock, jam, and break the moment it starts playing. While it's a bit unfortunate that Harris doesn't provide his own voice for this song, Kelis's vocals nicely complement the vibe that the song gives off (although the nasally sound is a bit of a turn-off). "Bounce" is one of those songs where your BFF-forever gets mad at you because you had promised her before that you would follow her to the bathroom, but instead you're still gyrating on the dance floor while telling her, "Oh, just one more song!"

... Or is that just me?

Hopefully this song gets some good promotion, 'cause it definitely has the potential to be a summer hit. Give the song a quick listen, and see if you start bouncing like the people in the video by the end of it!