Tag Archive | Music

Ariana Grande – My Everything (Album Review)

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”

Intro:

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:

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.

Break Free:

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:

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

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?

– Raheem

Advertisements

Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence (Album Review)

It’s been two years since Lana Del Rey released her successful début album Born To Die and became a household name within the music industry. She released a few EP’s to keep our appetite but now she’s back with a brand new record aptly titled Ultraviolence. Will this album sound as haunting and classic as its predecessor?

Cruel World

Cruel World instantly makes me feel as if I’m in a Clint Eastwood film with the reverb on the guitars and the country/rock feel. It’s definitely similar to her earlier work such as Ride. The song is about having to leave a wild lover because you know he’s a cheater and can’t be tamed. The lyrics are quite beautiful and paint a film I could imagine Jennifer Lawrence playing the main role in. I especially like the last quarter when it gradually slows in tempo as if it’s a live performance. Overall it’s a nice track and a great opener as it represents the album theme.

Ultraviolence

Ultraviolence is very haunting as it describes a woman in an abusive relationship from a man that tells her she’s poison but at the same time tells her he loves her. It’s always uneasy when a topic like domestic abuse is raised in a song as people can easily slam the song for glorifying violence. But I think Lana Del Rey does a great job at representing a victim of battered woman syndrome. This is when they think their abusive lover truly loves them and they don’t mean to be abusive. Ultraviolence’s composition is reminiscent of her successful single Summertime Sadness as they both offer beautiful catchy choruses. Overall, this song is definitely a stand-out on the album.

Shades Of Cool

This is the point where I notice the themes of women in a relationship with suave dudes that cannot be tamed and they’re the damsel in distress. It very much coincides with the 50’s style that Lana Del Rey emits, back when women were brought up to get married and have kids and had no say in the matter as they weren’t deemed as equal. Lana Del Rey’s vocals have become more powerful since the last album as she croons over the chorus of this song effortlessly. I do wonder if anyone can really relate to this type of song and makes me question if it matches her demographic? This album is a lot grittier than the last and features slightly less commercial compositions swapping catchy hooks for moody electric guitars. Overall, it’s a nice chilled out track.

Brooklyn Baby

This song is about a couple that people don’t think match, but the couple themselves think that their opposites are what attracts them so much more and they don’t care about people’s perceptions. I’ve now started to notice that most of these songs feature the same formula where they repeat the same sentence from verse one to verse two and repeat the last chorus twice at the end. However, you can’t deny the lyrics are great. For example “They judge me like a picture book, by the colours, like they forgot to read” is poignant and relatable. Yet again this style is similar to Ride but sonically more interesting.

West Coast

When I first heard this single I said to myself “She didn’t pick the most radio friendly song as a lead single.” But after listening to the album, this is the closest to radio friendly! I wasn’t sure I liked it at first as the pace kept swaying from mid-tempo to down-tempo making the song sound dreary. But it kind of works after a few listens and you start to find yourself humming “down on the west coast, they’ve got a saying”. I’m not 100 percent sure what the song is about, but it’s not too different from the previous themes of being in love with a really cool guy (preferably whilst on the West Coast). I love the synth towards the end, it sounds like it belongs in a Hip Hop song but it works on this alternative track. (I actually think the synth originated from West Coast Hip Hop such as Snoop Dogg which is very smart)

Sad Girl

The lyrics are definitely one of the highlights of the album as she talks about being the mistress on the side. The mistress tries to make out as if she’s fine being the side chick and just because it may not “appeal to fools like you” does not mean it’s wrong. But deep down she’s unhappy as he has his main woman by his side, whereas she is not allowed to be seen around him in public. It’s very depressing but an interesting topic to discuss. The lyrics remind me of Aaliyah’s ‘I Can Be’ from her album Aaliyah.

Pretty When You Cry

OK, who did Lana Del Rey wrong? There is definitely a trend here with males being represented as pigs and treating their other half’s like a second priority to drugs and partying. It’s a very heart-rending song of a woman knowing her man is worthless yet she still sticks around. It’s suggested it’s because when she does cry and talks of her unhappiness he makes it all better and says you’re so pretty when you cry and thus the cycle ensues. This song is probably relatable for a lot of people. Overall, it’s a great listen.

Money Power Glory

This song confuses me as it talks about being interested in becoming rich and powerful and waiting to drain her partner of his riches and his power. However in the first verse it suggests they can’t afford to move due to how they’re living? Maybe they’re rich but spending the money on drugs and aren’t saving enough to move? It’s the first track where the woman has a plan to use the guy as a second priority. However, I’m unsure if anyone can turn this track on and say “This is my song!” as it glorifies gold –diggers. Overall it’s OK but doesn’t strike me as much as the previous tracks. At this rate I’m somewhat ready for a mid-tempo track to wake me up.

**** My Way To The Top

My wish was well received as the album picks up pace with **** My Way To The Top. This song is as the title explains, sleeping your way to the top. It’s a jarring song which you wouldn’t expect someone to sing about. I almost wonder if this is a diss track towards someone within the industry as she mocks them. The chorus is one of the catchiest chorus’ on the album due to the repetitive expletive but overall it’s an interesting track that makes me ponder how it came to be created.

Old Money

Old Money features violins that remind me of National Anthem. This also sounds like it could be a soundtrack for Maleficent even though Lana Del Rey already lent her vocals for the soundtrack. It’s a beautiful track which sounds as if it stems from Lana Del Rey’s personal life. It could be interpreted as although she’s changed from her small town girl beginnings she’ll still keep in contact with her old friends but she worries that if she does become famous will you still love her for how you knew her personally and not because she’s a celebrity. It also discusses how although she was brought up in a wealthy family with a loving father and a glamorous mother she always felt alone “for reasons unknown to me”. Overall, the lyrics are interesting to ponder.

The Other Woman

This track is basically a shortened version of Sad Girl. It almost romanticizes a secret relationship for the first half of the song but soon the reality of being the other woman is a lonesome life. I was going to say they could have just cut this song and kept Sad Girl but it’s a beautiful tragedy song and definitely sounds like it was recorded decades ago as it’s so short and sweet.

West Coast (Radio Mix)

This version is a lot more upbeat than the original version and gets rid of the change in pace which keeps the energy of the song. I prefer this version but it does seem different to the rest of the album which lacks kicks and an uptempo vibe.

Black Beauty

This song is about how her lover is negative and doesn’t notice the beauty around him no matter how hard she tries to show him and please him. It’s an OK song and it’s understandable that it’s a bonus track. Overall, the topic is a little sparse and doesn’t really grip you as much as it should. It’s just a little too slow and dreary and could have been cut down by a minute.

Guns and Roses

This song from what I can tell is about a guy that was the best she ever had but she wasn’t the marrying type so let him go. It’s OK but alike to Black Beauty it doesn’t strike as hard as the other songs on the album which is probably why it was made as a bonus track. Overall it’s OK but I could have done without it.

Florida Kilos

This track immediately sounds different to the rest of the album as it lacks any reverb echo on the guitars which makes you pay attention. It’s basically the soundtrack for Breaking Bad as she discusses how she and her lover create drugs and they don’t care if they get caught because they’ll be together. It’s reminiscent of Blue Jeans lyrically but this song is surprisingly a stand-out for the album. It definitely has the catchiest chorus from the entire album and the production is sonically interesting. I don’t think it should have been a bonus track since it has single potential in comparison to the other tracks on the album. Overall, it’s a great track.

Overall

Overall, Ultraviolence is an album that is beautiful if you’re into meaningful lyrics that detract from the typical generic instances that Pop tends to discuss at any given moment. It delves into domestic abuse, depression, being the other woman and much more. It isn’t the most cheery album of the year but that shouldn’t take anything away from its quality. Another highlight of the album is Lana Del Rey’s improved vocals. She sounds more confident in her ad-libs and glides across the album like a ghost. Some of the best tracks on the album are Ultraviolence which luckily is a single, Florida Kilos and Sad Girl. A lowlight of the album is the lack of diversity within the production of the tracks. It’s understandable that Lana Del Rey has an ongoing theme, but that doesn’t mean the producers can’t switch it up a bit. It sometimes feels as if you can’t tell that a new song has started because they all feature the same instruments. Songs on Born To Die on the other hand had the same themes yet they all stood out equally. I also think it lacks a few uptempo/midtempo tracks to keep the general audience interested, it reaches a point where you check the track-list to see how many other songs are left. Not because you don’t like the songs, but because they’re quite slow. Overall, I would say this album is worth buying on iTunes (including the deluxe version). I know some people either love Lana Del Rey or they feel indifferent to her, but if you’re a fan of creative lyrics you’ll enjoy this album. It doesn’t have concrete hit singles like Born To Die but it’s an experience listening to this album and makes you feel relaxed. I definitely think this is a great effort for a sophomore album, it’s not as radio friendly but it sounds true to Lana Del Rey’s style and it’s great to see that she didn’t let the fame commercialize her work. I look forward to what she has next.

Rating:  Buy it on iTunes

Highlights: Ultraviolence, Florida Kilos, Sad Girl, West Coast, Cruel World, Brooklyn Baby, The song-writing, Lana Del Rey’s vocals.

Lowlights: The production could have been more diverse; singles aren’t as strong as the first album.

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?

Tune in next week as I review Ed Sheeran’s sophomore album “Multiply”

Jennifer Lopez – A.K.A (Album Review)

 

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.

First Love

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.

Never Satisfied

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.

Emotions

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!

So Good

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

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.

Same Girl

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.

Overall

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.

Highlights:

Tens, Let It Be Me, Troubeaux, Booty

Lowlights:

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

Mariah Carey – Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse (Album Review)

 

Intro

So after a 5 year hiatus from music after the critically acclaimed yet underrated Memoirs of An Imperfect Angel, Mariah finally returns with an album and the most undecided lead singles of all time. The journey towards this album’s release was not an easy one. With a connect 4 flop featuring Triumphant, #Beautiful, Art Of Letting Go and You’re Mine (Eternal). In addition to this, her singing was nowhere up to par with her usual performances she’s known for. She’s been caught lip syncing and when she did sing live she either forgot the lyrics or sung off key. People were ready to count Mariah out after the bad promotion but now the album is here, is it really as bad as expected?

 

Cry

Cry is a great opening for the album; it has an old school Gospel feel which brings nostalgia of the Emancipation of Mimi album. Moreover, within a few seconds I thought to myself “Mariah Carey is definitely back” surprisingly with powerful vocals as she effortlessly powerhouses over the instrumental. This is something we haven’t heard from Mariah in a while since normally she uses her whisper sultry vocals which led to some people believing she’d truly lost her powerful voice. Overall, it’s a really good emotional track that deals with regret over leaving a loved one. If you’re going through a breakup you’ll love this track…or hate how much you can relate.

Faded

Faded is produced by Mike Will Made It which is probably why I immediately loved the beat, he’s produced many hit songs in the past two years (Body Party, 21, We Can’t Stop).  Faded is somewhat of a part two to cry but it sounds modern in comparison to Cry’s classic feel. It’s also reminiscent of Emancipation of Mimi due to the cow bells within the instrumental. The chorus isn’t as catchy as you’d like it to be and halfway through you realise the beat doesn’t really lead up to an awesome ending. It stays at the same plateau but in retrospect leaves Mariah Carey to croon on the beat like a boat to water and deliver brilliant vocals and somewhat of a random ending.

Dedicated (Feat Nas)

Yet again the production of this track is very good and has a reminiscent old school vibe. Drake could have easily been on this track but I’m pleasantly surprised it’s Nas that made the feature. My only issue is that although his rap is good, it’s too short to have any relevance. I’m not really sure what this song is about either. it feels as if it was made as a personal joke that we’re not a part of? Maybe it’s a song for Nick Cannon? It also sounds similar to Brandy’s Almost Doesn’t Count and Ashanti’s Unfoolish song. Overall, it’s a nice chill track.

#Beautiful (Miguel)

I didn’t really care for this track when it first came out, but it’s a nice summer track. It sounds more within Miguel’s comfort zone than Mariah’s but she holds her own in his style. Mariah Carey should have released the album after this single instead of delaying it even further since #Beautiful achieved moderate success. #Beautiful also sounds like a slowed down version of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper in terms of its melody. This song could have been more successful if she promoted it more and didn’t waste time on an unneeded #Beautiful remix which stopped promotion due to breaking her arm on the set of the music video.

Thirsty

Thirsty is a club banger which sounds similar to N—s In Paris by Jay-Z and Kanye West. It was unexpected that Mariah would create a song like this but it works. The harmonies are smooth like butter yet the beat is sharp like a knife and they work together brilliantly. It’s also one of Carey’s most catchy tunes she’s done in years, maybe since ‘It’s Like That’ which makes it more enjoyable and fun as she steals one of the most used slang terms of the year. This track is a standout track because it’s different to the rest of the albums sound which is quite laid back and 90’s whereas this is current with a Mariah twist.

Make It Look Good

It’s a nice typical song about being infatuated with someone. However, I do feel like the topics discussed in this album have already been covered in previous albums in a better fashion. The harmonica really works and is an attempt to make the song more memorable. This track sounds like a reject track from Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel. That’s not necessarily an insult but nor is it a compliment.

You’re Mine (Eternal)

I wasn’t too sure why this was a single, It’s a good album song and her vocals are great when she goes from her chest to whistle register note towards the end. However, it’s no We Belong Together, the beat falls flat and the song isn’t catchy. It doesn’t connect with the listener as much as it should but overall it’s an OK relaxing song and reminds me of 2005 music.

 You Don’t Know What To Do (Feat Wale)

This is a standout track from the album, the beginning sounds reminiscent to Somebody Else’s Guy by Jocelyn Brown but once you listen to it, you can imagine yourself relaxing on a boat in Barcelona with a full glass of lemonade. Wale talks over the song a bit too much to the point where you can’t hear Mariah in some parts. In certain songs where a rapper is featured you begin to think Mariah should ditch rappers, she doesn’t need them and they don’t add much to the songs. I don’t understand her obsession with them. This track should have definitely been a lead single choice. Yet again, this track makes you want to get up and dance which not many Mariah songs in the past have done (aside from It’s Like That).  This song has the most energy on the album.

Supernatural

What is the fascination with putting babies in the studio? But it’s a nice song which I’m sure a lot of people especially mums will be able to relate to.  The key change isn’t smooth and I’m unsure why it was needed. It also has hints towards Emancipation of Mimi and sends you back to 2005. Overall, it’s a nice track but doesn’t make you feel any strong feelings towards it.

Meteorite

This track has a 70’s vibe and is rather uptempo and danceable which is really unexpected. Lyrically, this is one of the worst tracks on the album but it can be forgiven due to its uniqueness. This song gives hints to a new style by Carey but she doesn’t own it as much as she should. Maybe she should have done a whole album with a 70’s throwback disco sound. That could have been iconic and trendsetting.

Camouflage

It’s similar to Cry but it’s beautiful. I love her gospel tracks and when she sings powerfully. The synopsis of the song is basically trying to move on from a broken relationship even though it’s tough so you hide your true feelings. This brings me back to the 90’s again. The lyrics are really descriptive in this song and the production is laid back to let her harmonies take the spotlight. I don’t understand why she isn’t performing like this. This is one of the highlights of the album vocally and emotionally.

Money (Feat. Fabolous)

I like the meaning of this song as it describes how money is of no importance if I can’t see the person I love. It’s somewhat catchy and is overall a feel good track. It’s also the first rap feature which is relevant. The only criticism is the questionable title.

 One More Try

Originally by George Michael, it sounds similar to Sinead O Connor’s Nothing Compares To You but it’s a good cover. Ironically, the best lyrics on the album belong to a song from which she covered. Mariah is definitely more comfortable with ballads than her dance tracks but that’s of no surprise since they’re the reason she’s a legend. The song is about asking the person they love ‘if you want to be my first love then promise you won’t leave because that’s not what I want to learn from love’ which is a poignant topic for a song.

Heavenly

Sounds like it could be a soundtrack song for Freedom Writers or The Help. It’s nice, but next to the other gospel tracks on the album this one could be scrapped from the album. But it’s still a nice inspirational track.

It’s A Wrap (Feat. Mary J Blige)

I loved this song on Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel. However, Mary J Blige sounds like she’s singing the lyrics from a prompter. In addition to this, some of the transitions are awkward since Mariah couldn’t be bothered to re-record the track.

Betcha Gon Know (Feat. R Kelly)

This track was one of the best opening songs I had ever heard originally from Memoirs.  However, I don’t think R Kelly needed to be on this song and yet again the transition wasn’t that smooth. The original was perfect and didn’t need to be redone.

The Art Of Letting Go

How this was almost a single I do not know. I think it makes sense to be a bonus track. Her vocals are good and the lyrics are quite smart. The ending definitely is a good climatic vocal performance and makes me think this song should have been the outro for the album.

Overall

It’s a good album but it’s not on Emancipation Of Mimi’s status which was a fantastic album with great single selections. But if you’re a Mariah fan it’s a definite buy. If you have Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel, don’t bother getting the deluxe version since the remixes aren’t worth it. If you’re a fan of R&B/Soul I think you’ll enjoy it. I’m not sure the songs are strong enough to become classics, but it’s a good album to listen and chill to. She almost comes at us with a new sound with the 70’s throwbacks but then delves back in to what she knows. It’s also as if she feels as if she needs to keep collaborating with rappers for some reason when she doesn’t. Ditch them! Unfortunately I think the bad single choices may have tarnished the album as a whole and will be the reason this album goes undiscovered. It does have hints of old Mariah and even songs that could have been recorded for Emancipation of Mimi but something is missing and it leaves you feeling as if this was almost there but not quite. Whatever it is, I hope Mariah finds it with her next album and gives us stellar live performances like she used to.

 

Rating: It’s worth purchasing on iTunes (But just get the standard version)

Highlights:

Cry, Camouflage, Thirsty, You Don’t Know What To Do

Lowlights:

Buying the deluxe version! The extra tracks aren’t worth it. The features didn’t add anything to the originals. Heavenly should have been swapped with Art Of Letting Go.