First of all, I have to apologise for my recent disappearance from my blog! I’ve been meaning to return for a while but things have been pretty hectic lately, I came back from a holiday in Dubai which scuppered my schedule and then as soon as I got back I was a finalist in a competition with 4Music to be their music reviewer which took up a lot of my time! (I came third) but now that’s all over I can finally resume my blog with the hotly anticipated sophomore album by Ariana Grande, so let’s begin shall we?
Hot off the heels from Grande’s debut number one hit album “Yours Truly” Ariana Grande is quick to take advantage of her success and follow up with a second album whilst the kettle is still hot! She’s said to have changed up her style from her bluesy pop songs to her straight up ballads to give us more of a mainstream crossover whilst still remaining true to her R&B fans. Will she be able to juggle both? Let’s get to the first track from “ My Everything”
So the intro is a short piano led blues track which is supposed to set the mood for the album. It reminds me of her previous work on “Yours Truly” which leaves me intrigued. In fact it reminds me of Honeymoon Avenue which is coincidentally the first track on “Yours Truly”. Otherwise, it’s a nice intro and sets up a nice atmosphere.
Problem (Feat Iggy Azalea):
When I first heard “Problem” I completely loved it, it brought Ariana Grande to the main front and her management were smart to capitalise on the saxophone trend happening in music. The chorus is catchy and the overall song presents strength as she shows her independence and leaves her good for nothing boyfriend. However, I have noticed the whisper hook makes the song lose energy, especially after the “Head in the clouds” pre-hook. Iggy Azalea’s rap is pretty good as well, a little short, but it was a smart choice to include her since both artists are arguably the most successful females of the year. Overall, this song is a great club song and just a great song to jam to.
One Last Time:
“One Last Time” is the first dance number on the album. I’m a little annoyed that I saw a comment on YouTube asking whether the lyric is “I know I should have farted at least I’m being honest” when the actual lyric is “I know I have should have fought it, at least I’m being honest.” So now I can longer listen to that lyric properly! This brings to question whether Ariana has sorted out her enunciation of words which seemed to be a bit of a problem from her first album. The track is about being with her lover at least one last time before he leaves since she broke his heart. It’s a pretty standard setup for a dance track but at least the lyrics make sense. Overall, this is a decent dance track that isn’t bad but it doesn’t make me want to get up on the dance floor.
Why Try is a fast paced pop ballad which deals with a problematic relationship that has its issues, but that’s what Ariana loves about it. I can’t help but think this track sounds like a leftover song from Rihanna’s ‘Talk That Talk’ album. I mean it’s not bad at all but it’s easily dispensable and I can’t see it fighting to be a single any time soon. I guess if you can relate with the lyrics you’ll appreciate it more.
I’m not really sure what this song is about, the verses sound as if her and a guy like each other but are too afraid to admit it, but in the chorus it sounds as if this guy is actually her boyfriend who’s no good and she’s no longer under his spell *cue independent woman*. Not only that, but when I make these reviews I like to read the lyrics as I listen to the song and Ariana Grande really does pronounce her words weirdly, unless the lyric website has it wrong. When I first heard this track before the album, I didn’t like it. I found it to be too generic and a step back for Ariana Grande. I was surprised because Zedd who produced the track made some great singles last year but Break Free didn’t stand out. It then made me fear that the album would be completely Pop and we’d lose her R&B groove. But a few weeks later, the song has grown on me, mostly because the hook is catchy and I could imagine enjoying it in the club. It’s still not the best dance track in the world and will probably be forgotten within a few months. It’s like fast food music, it’s not great but it’ll do because I can’t be bothered to cook something spectacular.
Best Mistake (Feat Big Sean):
I heard this song first as a promo single and it immediately made me regain faith in the album not succumbing to its pop singles. The production is dark and mysterious and immediately made me pay attention. I didn’t really notice Ariana’s lyrics due to her enunciation yet again. I know some people can look past it but I could only guess what the song was about when it got to the chorus. It’s basically about being fed up with an on and off relationship which could possibly be related to Ariana Grande’s own private life with her ex Jai Brooks. I like Big Sean as an addition to the song, it suits his style and he tells the other half’s side of the story with a few smart lyrics “I wish that you were happy I guess that’s the one thing I should be providing Ain’t no number twos, we both ones of ones and we the oddest Couple only humans ‘cept you, you a goddess”. Overall, I like this track and it reassures me that Ariana Grande hasn’t completely shed her R&B style.
Be My Baby (Feat Cashmere Cat):
Be My Baby instantly struck a chord with me, the production is fire and Ariana Grande handles herself well on the track. It sounds like a hybrid of her previous singles “Right There” and “The Way” and normally I would frown at an artist rehashing the same formula but this works. In fact, since it features no irrelevant rapper it gets a nod from me. The song explains that if you want to be Ariana Grande’s lover you’ve gotta get with her friends, wait wrong song! If you want to be Grande’s lover you need to treat her right and then she’ll be on you all night long. This is the first track on the album that shows Ariana Grande’s maturity as she talks a little more about intimacy and sex but not in a bold manner. As much as I love the production it could have done with a little more bass but overall this song is one of the highlights.
Break Your Heart Right Back (Feat Childish Gambino):
So I had to ask my friend if this song was about one of Ariana Grande’s boyfriend’s being secretly gay (as if the ‘Coming out’ sample wasn’t obvious enough!). I mean I loved the song before but I love the song even more now! It’s refreshing to hear a song like this which is tongue and cheek but also sad, it handles it very well. The production is amazing and Childish Gambino’s rap is hilarious as he spells out gay “Yes I’m a G, from the A, and they ask why”. I was fearful of the sample at first since it’s been in many iconic singles before but it works so well. This for me is also another highlight for the album and should be a single with a funny video!
Love Me Harder (Feat The Weeknd)
When I heard that Ariana Grande had collaborated with The Weeknd I was very surprised. That’s because his music is very adulterated in comparison to Ariana Grande’s bubblegum pop reputation. His verse on the track is a bit risqué in my opinion seeing as Grande’s fans are quite young but overall this is a surprisingly great collaboration that I’m sure no one asked for. It’s as if this is what Lady Gaga wanted from her R Kelly collaboration but didn’t quite nail with “Do What U Want”. The song talks about her boyfriend having to try harder if he wants to keep her. Overall, I think this could be a great single in the future as it would resonate with pop and R&B fans.
Just A Little Bit Of Your Heart:
I was surprised when I heard Harry Styles from One Direction wrote this song but I can actually imagine him singing this. Lyrically it deals with Grande not knowing how to approach her cheating boyfriend because she doesn’t want to leave him because she loves him. The chorus at the end brings it all together and it’s a nice listen. The production is very laid back with a piano taking the helm for most of the song. Overall, it’s a nice song to chill to.
Hands On Me (Feat A$ap Ferg)
I know that technically Ariana Grande is legal and she’s a young adult, but she seems so innocent to be singing about being a “little thing but I like that long”. I hope this doesn’t become a single with a music video for her own sake because I can’t see her pulling off the sexy Rihanna thing. Other than that, this track is really catchy, the production is full of life and gets you dancing. I have no idea who A$ap Ferg is either but he acts as a good hype man for the song. My favourite part of the song is the “it’s your birthday” part at 1:57 where the beat starts to remind of Will I Am’s ‘Feeling Myself’ featuring Miley Cyrus. Overall this is a great party tune.
My Everything sounds like what the intro was transitioning to. It’s another piano driven track with honest lyrics saying how after a failed relationship it’s only now she realises how much he meant to her. You can’t help but think this song is about her ex in real life. This song is definitely for whoever that person is.
Bang Bang (Feat Jessie J, Nicki Minaj) (Bonus Track)
I’ll be honest, as much as people love this track, I am simply not a fan, but let me explain. I dislike how there isn’t an intro to begin with, Jessie J is known for being a bit of a belter and I don’t mind that, but the song literally starts at the top, and ends at the top. It doesn’t really climb to a climatic chorus like most good songs do. By the time it does get to the last chorus Jessie J literally sounds like she’s screaming since she can’t sing any higher. The production lacks melody leaving the verses a little boring and the lyrics are OK with their mediocre metaphors but are not exactly memorable. I feel as if the highlight of the track is Nicki Minaj, her flow is great and the lyrics are pretty sassy and she brings it all together in the end. Ariana does her thing on the song, but she doesn’t leave a mark like Nicki Minaj does. She could have been replaced by Christina Aguilera and no one would say know the difference. So for me, this song is a pass, but it’s been a hit on the charts and on the radio so I’m obviously the minority. If you like this song, be sure to get the deluxe edition!
Only 1 (Bonus Track)
Only 1 is about being in a relationship with someone so hot and loving that they must be cheating! It seems Ariana Grande isn’t used to having a problem free relationship so has to create a problem herself! But all jokes aside, this song is OK. It sounds like a less single worthy version of “Baby I” and is probably why it was made a bonus track. But it’s a nice track.
You Don’t Know (Bonus Track)
You Don’t Know takes me back to the early noughties R&B sound. The harmonies displayed remind me of old school Brandy and the beat reminds me of R&B Jennifer Lopez. The song is about people claiming they know who Ariana Grande is through the media when really they don’t. It’s a great song and I actually think it shouldn’t be a bonus track but an official track as it’s one of my favourites and is a great way to end the album.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed “My Everything” it has it’s string of hit pop songs but it also keeps the R&B vibe I was hoping for. Ariana Grande’s vocals are pretty much flawless on the album as she harmonises and delivers strong vocals when needed. The features all deliver a great job too and none of them sounded like they were just shoved in there for a hit. The same goes for production, although some of it is a bit “heard this before” there are productions that shine such as “Break Your Heart Right Back”. Some of the negatives would be that Grande really needs to work on her enunciation of words. I honestly don’t know if I would have understood half the lyrics without looking for them through a website and it can take you out of the song as you try and understand what she says. Another criticism would be the dance tracks that don’t hit as much as you want them to. The pop songs are fine but Break Free and One Last Time could have been a bit more creative and stood out more. Maybe if she collaborated with Calvin Harris instead she could have secured a great club banger that would last the ages. But as a result, I think this is a solid sophomore album for Ariana Grande and I’d buy it on iTunes. My Everything has a big lead single and if she places her future single choices correctly she’ll have plenty more chart successes. I’ll definitely be interested to see what she comes up with next!
Rating: It’s worth purchasing on iTunes
Highlights: Break Your Heart Right Back, Be My Baby, Love Me Harder
Lowlights: Ariana Grande’s lack of enunciation, One Last Time, generic dance tracks
Let me know what you thought of the album in the comments below! Did you love it, hate it or somewhere in between?
Also, let me know what album I should review in the future?
So after a short break whilst on the American Idol panel, Jennifer Lopez returns with a new album boasting that she is still the same girl from the block that we once knew and loved. She’s said in recent interviews that this album will feature more R&B than her previous albums which were mostly produced by Red One and has enlisted the help of some rappers aside from Pitbull such as French Montana, Iggy Azalea and even Nas. This is a risky move from J-Lo since dance hits such as On The Floor and Follow The Leader put her back on the map. So will this album be able to deliver the nostalgia of some of her arguably most iconic singles from the start of her career? Let’s hope so.
A.K.A (Feat T.I)
A few seconds into this track you begin to think that J-Lo lied to you when she said she’d take it back to R&B since the synthesiser within the track is dance. In addition to this, the first lyric states that “this is not the same girl you knew” which is a complete contradiction to the Same Girl promotion. It’s a good intro for the album because the tempo is not too fast nor too slow which is a good representation of the album as a whole. Jennifer Lopez also sings confidently that she’s “switching up her style” presumably from EDM to R&B/Pop. The lyrics are a little generic and simple and make you feel as if the song could have been cut down to one minute thirty seconds literally just as an intro. Overall, it’s a good listen.
This song is made for the summer radio however it does sound a little bit dated. It’s not the catchiest song and lacks an identity to separate J-Lo from any other artist on the radio. It’s understandable why they’d make this a first single due to its radio friendly sound but it doesn’t make her stand out in anyway and doesn’t make me believe she’s the same girl she spoke about. The song is basically about wishing the person she’s currently in love with was the first person to come into her life so she wouldn’t have had to have so many failed romances. Overall, it’s listenable but rather disposable.
This song is an unexpected ballad. The problem here is that a ballad normally features either a great vocalist or great lyrics. Never Satisfied is unfortunately distant from both. This is because the lyrics are very cliché and have been used in almost every generic ballad. “One taste is never enough… I’m thinking about your sweet love all of the time” these lyrics don’t make J-Lo or the track stand out in any way. Overall, this song doesn’t hit as much as it should because there’s been better songs about needing somebody. Nevertheless, it’s probably the first track on the album that represents a different style.
I Luh Ya Papi (Feat French Montana)
On a first listen, this song can come across as quite uninspiring and monotonous. But the hook is rather catchy and it’s surprising that it didn’t perform better in the charts since it’s not much different to other songs in the mainstream. The verses are what makes the song uninteresting, yet again the lyrics aren’t captivating as she talks about how hot she is and how hot the guy she’s pursuing is. There isn’t enough memorable lyrics for the general listener to sing along which means the song is only good for 30 seconds. French Montana’s rap isn’t catchy or memorable and adds nothing to the track. I Luh Ya Papi shouldn’t have been picked as the first single since there isn’t enough energy to keep you entertained. The beat is also a letdown as it doesn’t climate to anything. Overall, this track is forgettable.
Acting Like That (Feat Iggy Azalea)
When I saw she had a track with Iggy Azalea I wondered why it wasn’t immediately the first single since Azalea is on fire right now. But the reason is because the song is sonically dull. It’s as if Lopez decided to drop the dance instrumentals for a R&B/Pop sound but kept the same dance lyrics and vocal tendencies you’d hear on a dance track making it repetitive and lacklustre. Iggy’s rap fails to even rhyme and sounds like a forced feature where you can tell the artists didn’t even meet for a drink beforehand. It’s a shame since her latest collaboration with Ariana Grande was very good. On top of that, the song doesn’t have a decisive ending leaving you feeling underwhelmed. After listening to the song a couple of times, it grows on you within the hook leaving the song not a complete failure.
You can tell Jennifer Lopez doesn’t sing this song effortlessly. It’s unusual for J-Lo to sing out of her comfort zone vocally but lyrically this is one of the best songs on the album. It may even be the most personal whereas other songs leave you unsure whether they are related to J-Lo’s personal life at all. The production is stripped backed so you can hear the vulnerability in her voice. A gripe with this song is that the melody of which she sings doesn’t match the beat making it sound awkward. The hook “Someone took my emotions” is quite catchy and you might find yourself singing it in public like the person writing this review. Overall, a decent track!
This song sounds like a part two to Emotions as she’s not fazed by the hate she’s received from her last relationship. Yet again this sounds more personal and believable for J-Lo and although the song isn’t necessarily gripping it’s not bad. Yet again, I think the production is lacking and fails to stand out. Weirdly enough, the beat sounds reminiscent of a GTAV soundtrack that I can’t quite put my finger on.
Let It Be Me
Let It Be Me sounds like old school J-Lo with the Spanish guitar at the beginning. The lyrics are also an improvement from the previous tracks. The quiet, mysterious production leaves you intrigued. It’s a little cheesy as it sounds similar to a lullaby but it’s still enrapturing. This song is a soft ballad about letting it be known that she’s the one you love. This song is one of the few where J-Lo’s vocals don’t sound too thin and suit the song perfectly. Overall, it’s a good track to chill to.
Worry No More (Feat Rick Ross)
The production is similar to the other songs on A.K.A but sonically it’s more interesting. I feel as if these songs were made for rappers since they lack melody which makes it hard for J-Lo’s vocals to resonate properly. Rick Ross suits this song perfectly and could easily pass as his own as he almost steals the show. Otherwise, the lyrics are unexciting leaving the instrumental as the highlight of the track.
Booty (Feat Pitbull)
The opening to Booty sounds very similar to Goin In when the kicks start. It’s certainly up-tempo but a slightly darker version of dance. I wouldn’t say this is different from her last album. You can immediately tell this is the best single for the album. It’s got a catchy hook and features the predispositions of a general dance song. Lopez’s monotone vocals work well with the beat as they sync together perfectly. You can tell she feels more comfortable with up-tempo music as she confidently handles the beat. Pitbull is one of Lopez’s long time collaborators that no one asked for. I personally feel as if Ciara would have been a great feature on this track. Imagine the music video choreography? It would really work for both of them and I don’t remember the last time Lopez collaborated with someone that wasn’t a rapper. Pitbull’s rap is stereotypical of him as it doesn’t add much to the song and could easily be edited out. It’s not as good as On The Floor but it’s better than her previous dance singles she’s released of late.
Tens (feat jack Mizrahi)
This song is interesting even if Mizrahi’s voice sounds like an 80’s action figure. This is a very sassy track and sounds very much inspired by Lady Gaga’s Born This Way and Britney Spears’ Work Bitch. It really works for J-Lo since she’s such a fashion icon and has been known to be a diva, I could see this as a third single. This song could be even bigger if she collaborated with Lady Gaga for a full on vogue session. Overall, the song is enjoyable and a different style that works.
Troubeaux (Feat Nas)
This track works melodically in comparison to other tracks on A.K.A. Troubeaux could easily pass as a song from an old school Jennifer Lopez album and is the closest to R&B/Hip Hop on the album. Nas’ rap is good and takes me back to their previous collaboration on “I’m gonna be alright”. Overall, it’s a great track.
Expertease reminds me of First Love but it sounds a little more interesting. It suffers the same fate as First Love where this song could be given to anyone (like Nicole Scherzinger) as it lacks an identity. It doesn’t really show Jennifer Lopez in a unique way but it’s a nice track to chill to.
Unfortunately Same Girl sounds rather dated as if it were released in 2007. You can tell Chris Brown helped with the track since it sounds similar to Champion. Luckily it was just a bonus track and not a single like it was first rumoured. Overall this song isn’t really relatable to anyone. It sounds like it could be on a soundtrack for a Step Up film on a montage scene.
A.K.A doesn’t necessarily bring back the old Jennifer Lopez we knew and loved it. It does have hints of the old school R&B/Latin tracks that she used to produce with songs like Let It Be Me and Troubeaux but overall it sounds like a watered down version of the dance music she’s released. It’s almost as if it’s a transition album from dance to pop with R&B influences but it hasn’t quite reached its destination yet which leaves the album sounding somewhat unsparingly mediocre. This is because the lyrics are similar to what you’d hear on a dance track but it’s coincided with minimal pop/R&B production leaving you with nothing to hold on to that you actually like. Some tracks do stand out however, such as Let It Be Me, Booty and Tens are all different in their own way. The sassiness of Tens works so well within J-Lo’s favour and I’m amazed she hasn’t ventured into that territory before as it doesn’t require much singing but some catchy hooks which Jennifer Lopez is very good at. Booty is no departure from her previous album and it seems as if Jennifer Lopez’s vocals are a lot more comfortable on a dance production than an R&B instrumental that leaves her vulnerable. The more interesting tracks are bonus tracks which are an amazing oversight since Nas was the best feature on the album and Expertease and Tens had single potential. Overall, it’s hard to place this album, because half of the songs are OK (provided you listen to the deluxe version) and half of them are forgettable. I would say it’s Ok but it lacks replay-ability. It doesn’t have any tracks that will have you playing it for a whole year and in comparison to her older albums it’s not a cohesive album. If you are going to purchase this album I would definitely recommend you make the most of your money and buy the deluxe version since the majority of the best tracks are featured as bonuses. Otherwise, I don’t know if this is the right direction Jennifer Lopez should go. The best tracks are the dance tracks where her vocals are most comfortable. Her R&B attempts just aren’t believable and I wonder if J-Lo can really relate to them herself. I hope Jennifer Lopez looks at this album as a work in progress and takes her time to perfect the next album.
Tens, Let It Be Me, Troubeaux, Booty
Acting Like That, Never Satisfied, Best songs were bonus tracks
Rating: Lacks replay-ability
Tune in next Saturday as I review Lana Del Rey’s “Ultraviolence” album