Thursday, May 29, 2014

Michael Jackson- Xscape (2014)

Why did I review the album?  MJ is my favorite artist
Did I like it? Yes
Will I listen again? Yes, I’ll replay this one for years
This album is the most intriguing one I’ve listened to in a while. The regular version has 8 tracks produced mainly by Timberland (there are others, but he is the headlining producer). The deluxe version features the original version of the song plus an additional version of Love Never Felt So Good featuring Justin Timberlake.
 The reason that I like this album has nothing to do with music. Forgive the example, but it bears relevance. I once read a book by Brandon Sanderson. He released the book for free on his website, Along with the final edition of the book he also allowed readers to download several drafts that led to the final edition.  Through releasing several copies of the book in its various stages of drafting, the reader gets a process of writing a book. Although not completely the same (because Timberland is not MJ) we are offered the same opportunity with this album. I see the first tracks as covers of the originals (technically they are reworked) performed by MJ. We are given a chance to see how different artist would attack the same content which is fun. Additionally we are exposed to the idea that the sound of music changes over time. The MJ songs were recorded anywhere from 89-03 while the standard edition ranges from 13-14. How much of the changes were based off Timberlands own feel with music and how much did the time of recording affect the overall product? I don’t think we’ll ever find out exactly, but it was fun to ponder these ideas while listening.
For me, classic albums need to have at least two tracks that transcend time, or speak to issues of the time period. This album doesn’t quite have that. It’s missing the Thriller, Man in the Mirror, You are Not Alone, and songs of that ilk. If I were generous, I could say that Do You Know Where Your Children Are and Slave to the Rhythm fit the requirements, but I think I’d be giving the songs a BIT too much credit. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the album and recommend it 
My Favs
3. Loving You
2.  A Place With No Name
1. Xscape
Overall Rating: 87 with a recommendation to Buy

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Big K.R.I.T. - The Vent

I’ve known about Big K.R.I.T. for a while because he’s featured on tracks for artist that I like, but this is the first time I’ve listened to an exclusively K.R.I.T. track.
I’m glad I chose this song to listen to because it was worth every second of my time. Part of the reason I hadn’t looked into his music before is that I thought he was a stereotypical rapper (he may still be, but I’ll hold off judgment until I listen to more of his work). The important thing is that he isn’t during this track.
The beat is a perfect fit for this track because it’s simple, but still manages to add to the atmosphere his lyrics create. Its simple beat also forced me to listen to the lyrics which is good because that is the selling point of this song.
I love this song because it lets go of the pretense that many rappers use in song and displays a thoughtful K.R.I.T. That works to the songs advantage because it humanizes K.R.I.T. and makes you believe that he is truthfully pondering the situations he discusses in the song. So whether he is angry, sad, or lost in the song, the audience empathizes with him
Normally a song this deep earns a 5 star rating, but this one doesn’t. A few of the lines felt a bit forced as though he was trying to make the lyrics deep (i.e.  I’ve never seen a star in a red rug, if I want to see a star I just look above). There is one other instance of this in the song. So, I couldn’t give it a 5, but I HIGHLY recommend it. 4.5/5

What is he doing now?

He is working on his second studio album Cadillactica that will be released sometime in 2014. He has released the first single for the album which is called Mt. Olympus. Production for the album will include Jim Jonsin, Rico Love, and DJ Toomp.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Top 5 Albums I Can’t Wait to Hear in 2014

5. Kanye West– The title hasn’t been announced yet. Although I do not always like his music, I can honestly say that he never sells out. He makes whatever he feels like making and doesn’t apologize for it. Of all the artist I’ve listened to, he’s the one that experiments the most, and at the very least makes his music intriguing.
Album Title: Unknown
Release Date: He wanted to release it this summer, but since there isn’t a single out yet I doubt it’ll happen.

4. Mariah Carey- A moment of full disclosure: I have not listened to a Mariah Carey album since the Emancipation of Mimi. That said, Emancipation of Mimi is one of my favorite albums. The feature list is impressive as well. Supposedly, Wale, Nas, Fabulous and Miguel will make an appearance on the album. Add a naturally beautiful voice, and it’s obvious why this album is on the list  
Album Title: Me. I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse
Release Date: May 23, 2014

3. Adele-  I am fascinated by Adele. Her voice has an old school quality, is very distinct, but doesn’t quite fit into a single genre. She takes years between albums, but the payoff is always worth it.
Album Title: 25? (She sent a tweet that alludes this might be the title, but it’s not confirmed yet)
Release Date: Late this year, but an exact date is unknown

2. Wale- Wale is one of my favorite rappers because he has the best flow of any rapper I’ve heard in the last ten years. The only other rapper that comes close is Kendrick Lamar. Wale has kept details about the album close to the vest. I do know that J. Cole is going to make an appearance (the only “new” rapper I like more than Wale). Wale said he made The Gifted to appease himself, however, he has stated that The Album About Nothing is an album for the fans. What does that mean? I have no idea, but I’m excited to hear it.
Album Title: The Album About Nothing
Release Date: Fall 2014

1. JoJo- You all probably saw this coming. I’m in LOVE with this woman. It’s been eight years since her last LP (for label reasons). She’s been released from her old label and aggressively creating content for her new album. She plans to have the first single released this summer. JoJo’s worked with Pharrell Williams and B.oB so far. In an interview JoJo talked about her vision for the album. “This album is going to be raw… powerful, honest, impolite, incorrect. It has to be a combination of the last few years. Iwant it to speak to a wide range of people, but make it feel like I’m speaking to them personally. I want it to be an experience… I want it to be the soundtrack to their life.”  
She has lofty goals for the album, but that only makes the anticipation worse.
Album Title: Unknown
Release Date: Late 2014

So I've given you my list. What albums are you looking forward to? Did any of my entries make your list?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

August Alsina- Testimony (2014)

Why did I review the album? Found out about him during a trip to Atlanta and decided to give him a try
Did I like it? Yes
Will I listen again? To some tracks

He’s credited as a singer, but to be honest, I do not think he can sing. He sounds like Chris Brown at times, but Brown is a far better singer.
So, why do I like this album? The content is very appealing. It’s more personal than I expected. He opens up and truthfully gives us the account of his life. He’s made poor decision, but (for the most part) doesn’t make excuses for it.
Even as he talked about his past with drugs I never felt he was using it to exploit, it feels as though he gives an honest account of his experience.
I’m impressed with Alsina and will listen to his work in the future.
My Favs
3. Make it Home
2. Testimony  
1. Benediction
Overall Rating: 70 with a recommendation to listen then decide

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Schoolboy Q- Oxymoron (2014)

Why did I review the album? It was recommended to me
Did I like it? I did enjoy the sound, but overall not really
Will I listen again?  Probably Not
To be fair, I don’t think this album ever had a chance of impressing me. Schoolboy Q’s delivery is too wild for me. I’m not sure why he does it. Perhaps he does it to differentiate himself from the other rappers out west and carve a niche for himself. Whatever the reason, I found it distracting at best and extremely annoying at points.
I will give props to the sound. They were all different, but still managed to keep the chill vibe that I’ve come to expect from west coast music. The sound was the best part of the album. There were some 90's influenced beats as well as conventional modern beats
Maybe I’m missing something, but the professional reviewers were giving this album 8 and 9 stars but I can’t imagine why. It’s not a bad album, but 8 and 9 star albums are reserved for my all time favorites.   Someone that liked the album more than I should explain the magic behind it because it clearly flew over my head.
My Favs
3. Man of the Year
2. Studio
1. Prescription-Oxymoron
Overall Rating: 60 with a neutral recommendation

Justin Timberlake- 20/20 Experience Pt. 2 (2013)

Why did I review the album?  We all know about my JT obsession
Did I like it? Yes
Will I listen again?  To some tracks
After six years and two albums of Timberland influenced beats, I was hoping for JT to move in another direction. Not that his current style is bad, but he’s proven that he can make great music when collaborating with Timberland. So I wanted him to move to the next chapter in his career. This album is less Timberland influenced than anything he’s done in a while. It’s still there, especially in the beginning, but JT definitely distanced himself from Timberland more than usual. I’m curious how far he drift from Timberland in his next project.
This album is very much a timeline though JT career. There are some flashes of Justified (You Got it On & Pair of Wings) and something that might have found itself on FSLS (Cabaret). But there are hints at some new twists he might try in the future (Take Back the Night & Only When I Walk Away).

My Favs
3. Amnesia
2. Take Back the Night
1. You Got it On
Overall Rating: 75 with a recommendation to listen then decide