Monday, February 24, 2014

Beyonce- Beyonce (2013)

Why did I review the album? I didn't even know about it until my sister sent me an email about it. I promised her I would review it
Did I like it? Yes
Will I listen again? I already have… about 30 times

I don't expect any of you to like it as much as I did, but at least I could explain why I loved it. For years I stayed away from Beyoncé because I felt like she wasted her talent with a lot of songs that didn't showcase her voice, but instead relied on catchiness and hype that would ensure radio play (but I never listened to her albums so I’m not quite being fair). This one finally gave me what I have been begging for. Every time I listen I notice something new and find something else to like. I gave out 5 stars like candy. I haven't given out this many 5star ratings since Macklemore’s The Heist and The Fray's How to Save a Life. It’s an album that explores her vision and what is important to her. That’s important because the best music is created (usually) when an artist is emotionally tied to the work. If this is an indication of Beyoncé's capabilities when no one is screaming in her ear to make a certain type of song, I’ll support her because she's proven that she won’t disappoint. The album nailed her range as a vocalist, while toying with beats to keep each song fresh and original. The topics covered on the album are diverse. One song details her love for Jay, while another forces her to confront her own insecurities, to another that cites the hypocrisy in the world, and even includes a redefining of death. The albums mission is vast but it handles them masterfully. Beyoncé’s Beyoncé is my favorite album of 2013.

My Favs
3. Blue
2. Rocket
1. Heaven
Overall Rating: 93  with a Classic recommendation  

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Lorde- Pure Heroine (2013)

Why did I review this album? I was impressed with Royals, so I took a chance on the album
Did I like it? Yes
Will I listen to it again? Yes because her voice and style fascinate me. The beats are also very relaxing.

The album as a whole was a bit self-righteous. Part of the reason Royals was one of my favorite songs last year was its level of charm and wit. It was making fun of the formulaicness of mainstream music (which I agree with of course). It was almost like a middle finger to mainstream music (and a satire except it’s not written its sung) and I loved it, But as you keep listening to the rest of the album she continually feels the need to tell you how much she hates mainstream music and it started to ware on me a bit. The funny thing is I agree with her, but there's something to be said about subtlety. The reason why I enjoy conscious rappers such as Kendrick Lamar, Lupe Fiasco,J. Cole, and others is that they make their own music but they don’t try to say that they're better than you because they refuse to follow the norm. While Lorde never says I’m better than you, she makes light of mainstream music so much she essentially is saying it.
I did like this album. She has opinions about music, shares them, and doesn't apologize for it. I can respect that. Also, most artist wouldn't dare make music about the trivialities of her life, but she does and that gives the album a lot of charm. It’s a refreshing change from typical albums and a fitting considering her disdain for mainstream music.
I am attracted to and amazed by people that can do things that I can’t, and as I understand, she wrote the whole album herself which is an amazing feat.
Also, her voice fascinates me because I can't quite place where it belongs. It has elements of almost all the genres, but doesn't quite fit into any of them. Somewhat like an Adele or Amy Winehouse.
Because her voice is so unique at the very least she'll be interesting to listen to and as she grows her writing will improve and she'll probably learn a thing or two about subtlety,
A first album is supposed to introduce the artist to the audience. Through that, the audience should learn about the artist’s style. The album should leave the listener with a feeling that the artist has potential for growth in future works. This album met those requirements, so I thought it was a valiant first effort and will listen to her future work.
 My Favs
3. Still Sane
2. Team
1. Royals

Overall Rating: 73 with a recommendation to listen then decide

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Pusha T- My Name is My Name (2013)

Why did I review the album? My roommate recommended it to me
Did I like it? Yes
Will I listen again? Yes
Generally, I don’t like album about drugs because it seems like the easy route that rappers automatically return to for content. And, anyone that has ever smoked weed or dealt a small amount can use the name drug dealer and technically not have told a lie. The rappers that smoke religiously (Currency, Wiz Khalifa and others), It’s hard for me to like them because I don’t understand most of the references they allude to and I don’t understand that lifestyle (I do not smoke). But this album is the exception
I’m not sure who creates beats for Pusha T, but the beats on this album are cleverly constructed. There’s usually a beat that serves as the foundation. It usually melts into the background nicely because there is a secondary instrument that takes the forefront that is very distinguishable.  The two beats are basic which allow for his lyrics to take center stage.
This album’s backbone deals with drugs, but deviates enough to give the album variety and depth. Drugs is a common subject among rappers, but Pusha's delivery is not. Its amazing beats make the album a joy to listen to and Pusha T delivers bar after bar of genius lyrics which have double meanings in most cases.
For me, the album's crowning achievement is its ability to discuss drugs without feeling fake, to challenge without confronting, and to boast without insulting.

My Favs
3. Nostalgia
2. On the Boards
1. King Push 
Overall Rating: 86 with a recommendation to Buy

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Lady Gaga- Artpop (2013)

Why did I review the album? My sisters were making fun of me and decided to tell me what kind of music I would/would not like, so I listened to this out of spite. 
Did I like it? Yes
Will I listen again? Yes
Her songs have poppy beats but I wouldn't quite call her pop. She's one of those that are kind of hard to categorize. It’s an electronic sound that I’m a little wary of, but only because I’m not used to it. I like this album (and her) because she takes herself and her music seriously. So, even songs that are on the surface, pretty stupid, (Swine) have some magic in them and offer something to like. 
Gaga has taught me that fun in music doesn't have to be stupid. A lot of pop just does that on its own, and assumes it has to be. The only songs to break that trend recently are:
Bruno Mars- Treasure
Ariana Grande- Popular Song 

It can be done with a little effort, but who wants to try?
If I were to rate this album purely on lyrical content, innovation and variety, it would receive a score in the high 80’s, but my hatred for electronic sound drops the score and lowers the album to a listen and decide. But do not let my prejudices stop you from supporting the album, its lyrical content is superb, and sports wit only Lady Gaga can deliver. Gaga has earned a new fan. 
If you like electric pop this album is for you. It might even force you to think. 
My Favs
3. Mary Jane Holland
2. Artpop
1. Do What You Want
Overall Rating:  82 with a recommendation to Listen then decide   

Monday, February 17, 2014

Justin Timberlake- Future Sex Love Sounds (2006)

Why did I review the album? Justified impressed me, so I decided to try this one
Did I like it? Yes
Will I listen again? Yes
My experience with this album is a bit odd. The only way I can explain it is by comparing J. Cole mixtapes. I had a conversation with my sister about her favorite J.Cole album/mixtape (we are both avid J. Cole fans). I said Warm Up, but she believed Friday Night Lights is superior (I now believe FNL is better). At the time the reason why I believed that is because The Warm Up had eight 5 star songs on it and the rest of the songs were good to very good. On FNL there were only 3 five star songs but another eleven received 4 stars. So while both are great and Warm up had many that I consider all-time favorites I respect the solidity of FNL more.
So in this case Justified is FNL and FSLS is the Warm up 
                                                                                                                                                   Justified                                                                  FSLS
5 stars awarded   5                                          5 stars awarded     7
4 stars awarded   5                                          4 stars awarded     2
3 stars awarded   3                                          3 stats awarded     4

The album covers all bases. From fun songs like SexyBack and Pose to serious cuts like Until the End of Time and Lost My Way. A few features to keep the sound fresh, but hosts plenty solo efforts to remind everyone JT can entertain on his own.The subject matter varies from eternal love and betrayal to drug addiction and a search for God. There's something in here for everyone.
Overall Score: 90, with a Buy recommendation 

Justin Timberlake- Justified (2002)

Why did I review this album? I've had this album for like 6-8 months and I was tired of looking at it, so... here it goes
Did I like this album? Yes

Will I listen again? Already have

 I didn't know what to expect from this because I knew it was his first album and would be completely different from the 20/20 experience albums. 
Well... I LOVE this. I have to say though, if I had listened to this at the time it came out I may not love this album as much as I do. This album is like an in between. It has remnants of 90's R&B but it also has flashes of the new direction that music was going in the early 2000's. Since its 2014 I could actually appreciate this where I may not have in 03. That mix of R&B and early 2000's vibe give the album variety that you do not usually see in debut albums and JT executes them all very well. Also because I haven't heard most of these songs in six or seven years they essentially had the feeling of a new song, so I didn't have the antipathy that I normally do towards singles. 
If there is one thing wrong with the album, it’s the track listing. The three singles are in the first four songs. If he spread them out it would have been better because instead of having two average songs (10 & 11) you can spread it so that it doesn't make the album seem top heavy. It's not, but when you place the only two average songs next to great songs it certainty feels that way. 
For a first album he seems really comfortable with his style. Most people are still experimenting with it the first time, but he's not like that. He knows what he likes to do and is comfortable enough to tweak it and take risks with it. 
If anyone knows the reason that singles appear in the first half of albums (almost exclusively) let me know. Is it something I’m imagining or is there an actual reason?
The slower tracks may scare away some listeners, but there are enough upbeat tracks to give the album balance.
Most people say FutureSex/Love Sounds is his best album and it may be, but it’s going to be hard to top this one.

My Favs
3. Like I Love You
2. Never Again
Overall Score: 90 with a Buy recommendation

Laying Down the Groundwork

I think my first post should give a background of the subjects covered in this blog. I mainly listen to rap, hip-hop, and R&B, so that will be the main genres covered in this blog. Occasionally I listened to alternative and rock so I may review that as well.

Why do I review?
Honestly, because it’s fun, but beyond that I have trouble forming my opinion on topics.  Writing is one of the only ways I can organize thoughts in a coherent manner.

What is the format for my reviews?
A shorter overview section that gives an overall reaction to the album. For interested readers, a track by track listing will be included

My Rating System
Classic- Buy RIGHT NOW
Buy- Not quite a classic but it does something so well that it’s worth supporting
Listen then decide- I enjoyed it, but not enough to buy. That does not mean not to buy it, but listen and decide for yourself whether it’s worth supporting
Neutral- I did not like it, but did not hate it either
Not for me- The album didn't work for me

If you have a specific album that you would like me to review, leave it in the comments.

Feel free to comment. I am definitely NOT all-knowing, so if you think I'm wrong about something, discuss it with me. As long as you form your opinion in a mature manner i'll discuss it.
I may learn from you.