Category Archives: Album Review

Album Review: Drake – Nothing Was The Same

I want to call Drake a highly emotional rapper for his distinct ability to sing while rapping at the same time.  I think he is the only rapper who can add melodic embellishments to his raps.  Born 24 October, 1986, Aubrey Drake Graham is a Canadian rapper, songwriter and occasional actor with several mixtapes before he became famous and three studio albums under his belt, one of which is Nothing Was The Same, his latest album and the subject of my Album Review today.  His first studio album, Thank Me Later (2009), is a certified platinum hit while his second album, Take Care (2011), is his most successful album to date, topping charts across the globe and spawning hits like Take Care, Headlines, Make Me Proud and The Motto, which originated the popular phrase/acronym YOLO (You Only Live Once).  Cool huh?  Anyway let’s get on with the review for his current album.

  1.  Tuscan Leather – Opening an album is very critical to every artist because it will most likely make or break the whole record.  In Nothing Was The Same, Drake opens up with an introduction, no-chorus, 6-minute interlude-like track that makes sure that his listeners are aware of his significance and the success he attained for the last years or so, being as popular as his mentor, Lil Wayne, but still remains grounded and humble.
  2. Furthest Thing – Still continuing with his examination of his success and fame, Drake does an amazing job of creating this somehow personal track, telling everyone that he is still doing what he loves to do while admitting that even with fame he is still the same human person who makes missteps when it comes to love. Nice track!
  3. Started From The Bottom – As of writing, this first single is already a certified smash hit!  This is a celebratory anthem that tells Drake’s rags-to-riches success, a song everyone can bop heads with while singing along with the main man himself.  This is by far one of his best works yet.
  4. Wu-Tang Forever – With a hypnotic piano and drum-loop in the background, this track gives an interesting sampling of Wu-Tang Clan’s “It’s Yourz,” hence the title of the song.  It’s a bit droopy for me, well mainly because of the background tinkling of the piano.
  5. Own It – With the theme of “It’s Yourz” carrying through Own It, this track starts slow then it gets better with the robotic rattles at the chorus.  This actually is a highly sexual and provocative track with lines like “Next time we f*ck | I don’t wanna f*ck | I wanna make love | Next time we talk | I don’t just wanna talk | I wanna trust.”
  6. Worst Behavior – Coming from two slow tracks, Drake bounces back as he justifies himself being on his worst behavior on this track.  I really, really like the playful, Atari-like atmosphere of the whole beat, all courtesy of DJ Dahi.
  7. From Time featuring Jhene Aiko – This track is smoking hot!  Accompanied simply by a piano and some snaps of fingers on the side and slow drum beats all around, the chemistry between Drake and R&B singer Jhene Aiko is spot on.  Drake raps that he hates money because it changes everything yet hates it when it changes relationships.
  8. Hold On, We’re Going Home – And we got a hot one tonight!  It’s yet another smash from Drake!  He really does great in what I call spit-singing in his previous records, but in this song he solely sings it and boy, his singing voice sounds so good and soothing on this fantastic, somehow throwback track.  Repeat worthy.  My favorite song of the whole album. [WATCH THE MUSIC VIDEO HERE]
  9. Connect – Drake raps about relationships and pu*sy power while saying the word swangin’.  After research I have come with the definition of swangin’: the art of switching lanes by swerving you car from side to side.  Now I get it, this track tells a slinky discussion of back and forth communication, or the lack thereof, in a rough relationship.
  10. The Language –I did not get this track, but all I heard was his platinum records and bottles of champagne while bouncing in the club.  With that, I guess this track is club-worthy.
  11. 305 To My City – With Drop Down, Drop Drop Down at the beginning, I kind of dropped my interest in this track.  305 To My City highlights Drake’s ways of getting strippers from point A to point B, probably from US borders to his hometown Ontario.
  12. Too Much featuring Sampha – The most emotional track of the whole album, Too Much tells the struggles fame has brought to Drake’s family.  Now tell me, who is Sampha and where did Drake get this guy?  He is hauntingly pleasant to the ears, not to mention a great singer!  The marriage of his vocals and Drake’s fantastic raps works big time, each complementing the other.
  13. Pound Cake / Paris Morton Music 2 featuring Jay Z– To cap off a great album, Drake teams up with rap giant Jay Z in a track about nothing being the same, hence the title of the album.  Drake proves to be a formidable rapper as he raps his way with true conviction alongside Jay Z.  He certainly ups his ante with his rapping style on this track.  The other half of the song features Paris Morton Music 2, the second part of Rick RossAston Martin Music.

Final Thoughts:  I like the way Drake did with this album, fusing old school music with new school feel.  However, Take Care was definitely the better album for me though that was a hard act to follow.  Listening to this album makes me wanna listen to Take Care again.  Having said that, I think Nothing Was The Same is still a remarkable album that solidifies Drake’s relevance in the hip-hop world.

Grab this album if you like: Drake, Jay Z, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Wu Tang Clan

Songs to be played on your Playlist: Hold On We’re Going Home, Started From The Bottom, From Time, Too Much, Furthest Thing

4.0 out of 5

Album Review: Jay Z – Magna Carta Holy Grail

Heads up, here’s a quick trivia question: do you know the REAL NAME of Jay Z (who recently dropped the hyphen in his stage name)?  Don’t Google it!  C’mon, what is your answer?

 

Anyway, Shawn Corey Carter (born December 4, 1969), or internationally known as JAY Z, is an American rapper, record producer, and entrepreneur and one of the most financially successful artists, as published by Forbes, whose net worth reach in approximately $500 million in 2012.  He has sold approximately 50 million albums worldwide, with 17 Grammy Awards under his belt.  And who would forget him being the other half of yet another worldwide superstar in music—Beyonce?  They are indeed one of the hottest and most successful power couples in the world.

 

Personally I really don’t know some of his past works but what I do know is that I loved his past two albums, The Blueprint 3 (2009) and Watch The Throne, which he collaborated with Kanye West in 2010.  Now let’s take a look at his latest album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, Jay Z’s twelfth studio album, an album where he worked with bunch of other artists panning from his wife, Beyonce, to JT.  Let’s check out the tracks:

 

  1. Holy Grail feat. Justin Timberlake – Holy smokes!  We got a hot one tonight, as what Randy Jackson would say!  What a way to start an album, this song starts off with Justin Timberlake singing his heart out on a piano solo, then shifts wonderfully into a beat where Jay Z coming in and hitting hard with his rumination about his position in the music industry.  With several references to Mike Tyson and MC Hammer, a particular verse referring to Kurt Cobain adds a little nice touch to the whole track, “I know nobody to blame, Kurt Cobain | I did it myself | And we all just entertainers | And we’re stupid and contagious | no we all just entertainers.”
  2. Picasso Baby – Such a perfect follow up to Holy Grail, this sounds like a creative loose track from one of his mixtapes.  This is certainly a cool track, heavy on the bass that basks in Jay Z’s riches and what he would do to his billion, make that, trillion dollar money.  Jay Z is on fire!
  3. Tom Ford – DOPE TRACK!  Reason? The intermittent sounds in the background that were ripped from a Nintendo game give a nostalgic and playful vibe to the whole song.  Aside from that, Jay Z delivers a witty rap phrases that spans from the world of Tumblr to F*cking hashtags and retweets.  The song ends with Beyonce whispering in the background.
  4. FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt featuring Rick Ross – From the second I heard the intro, I felt that this is going to be a great track.  And damn sure I was right.  Almost feeling like I’m being violated with the number of curses on this song, FuckWithMe… is a hard-hitting track about basically, well, I’m not quite sure!  I think Jay Z and Rick Ross tried to say that they got all the riches and bad bitches in the world? I guess I’m lost.
  5. Oceans featuring Frank Oceans – This is a powerful track that tackles black and American history during the slave trade.  Layered in masterful imagery of history, one particular line struck me, “I hope my black skin don’t dirt this white tuxedo.” As Frank Ocean effectively narrates the song wonderfully, I got lost in translation when Jay Z rapped about Oceans 11.
  6. F.U.T.W. – I kinda felt weird while listening to this track.  I think this track is another metaphor of him and Muhammad Ali, with shades on racial and other relevant political issues in between the lines.
  7. Somewhere in America – Sound gives a throwback, noir feel, with a splash of fantastic rapping coming from Jay Z.  I loved the whole production, but the last part where he added a dash of Miley twerking missed the mark for me.
  8. Crown – Production-wise and lyrics-wise, Crown is one of the better songs in the whole album.  Jay Z compares himself to a King and a God.
  9. Heaven – And it does not stop there, Heaven is another solid track, though I am a bit bothered about him giving a god-like imagery of himself, then encourages the listeners to question everything, Question religion, question it all | Question existence until them questions are solved.  Then he threw a bit of R.E.M.’s Losing My Religion in there somewhere.
  10. Versus – INTERLUDE which Jay Z lashes other rappers, telling them that they’re not on his level.
  11. Part II (On The Run) featuring Beyonce – You can never go wrong with Beyonce.  Her voice in this track gives a beautiful, almost haunting vibe to the whole track.  Such a smooth, romantic track. Repeat worthy.
  12. Beach Is Better – Another short interlude about him bragging about his money and rich lifestyle. Meh. Next.
  13. BBC – Now we’re talking.  Honestly I got a little bored and tired with all the brags and religious rants for the past few tracks, but with BBC, Jay Z goes back to being radio-friendly.  This track gives me major Blurred Lines vibe.  My favorite track of the whole album.
  14. Jay Z Blue – After a fun song in BBC, the album took an abrupt turn to somewhere dark and dreary.  Honestly I got uncomfortable listening to this track.  Maybe I was just not expecting Jay Z to rap a very personal, introspective, and honest track that tells everyone that his “Father never taught me how to be a father.”
  15. La Familia – The longest interlude in the album, I did not care much about this track, next.
  16. Nickels And Dimes – Aside from Jay Z’s amazing, authentic way of rapping smart wordplay, this song is completely listenable that brings back why you love this superstar rapper in the first place.

 

 

Final Thoughts: Nice album but stayed the safer road by getting collaborations with the people that are closer to home—his friends.  Pharrell Williams, Swizz Beatz, Nas, Rick Ross, Frank Ocean, Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, and of course Beyonce all gave Jay Z a helping hand to elevate this album to where it is supposed to be.  The album has a few hits and misses, started off great, then gradually losing spark by the end.

 

Grab this album if you like: Jay Z, Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, Kanye West

 

Song to be put on your Playlist: Holy Grail, BBC, Picasso Baby, Oceans

 

3.0 out of 5

Album Review: Imagine Dragons – Night Visions

imagine dragons night vision reviewImagine Dragons is yet another case of an Indie circuit-turned-mainstream band.  Hailing from Las Vegas, Nevada, this rock group is a seasoned band that has been actively performing since 2008.  They got their first big break when Train’s front-man Patrick Monahan fell sick days before The Bite of Las Vegas Music 2010 and Imagine Dragons were called to fill in, performing in a crowd of more than 26,000 people.  Their career catapulted though when they released their debut album Night Visions in September 2012 and since then they were deemed “The Breakthrough Band of 2013” by Billboard Magazine.  Let’s check the tracks, shall we?

  1.  RadioactiveNight Visions starts off with Radioactive, a song that sets the tone for the whole album.  The song is heavily induced of drums with an electronic feel to it, plus the piano undertones in the background add a different dimension to the song.  At first I did not like this song, but after several times listening to it, the track seems to grow on me and it’s now stuck in my head.  And Lead Singer Dan Reynolds’ vocals are outstanding!
  2. Tiptoe – It has a pretty nice hook and the tune is easy listening.  You can easily get caught with the chorus that you can sing-along while jumping up and down.  It’s a pretty cool track that leans more towards mainstream pop than indie-rock.
  3. It’s Time – I first heard of this song from this show called “Glee,” sung by Darren Criss (aka Blaine Anderson) and that’s the time when I immediately searched for the original version and was introduced to this band, and the rest, as they say, was history.  What can you not love about this track that consists of a delightful sound of a mandolin strumming along with catchy hand-clapping?
  4. Demons – This is actually my favorite song of the whole album.  An utter gem of a song and a smash hit from the guys.  It started off with Reynolds’ amazing voice that engages the listeners right off the bat and tells them to listen carefully to the lyrics of this song.  The song is about inner struggles on how to live life while battling one’s demons.
  5. On Top Of The World – This pretty much sounds like a theme song from a Disney-Pixar movie and/or a Coca-Cola commercial!  Well, actually used for The Croods, but no it’s not a Disney-Pixar movie but it’s A MOVIE, so yeah.  This is one of the more upbeat, playful tracks of the album and the catchiest at that.
  6. Amsterdam – After several upbeat, anthemic tracks, the band goes back to the Indie-rock genre.  I kinda like this song, but it seems like I have heard of this style before—like The Killers or 30 Seconds to Mars maybe?
  7. Hear Me – I thought it’s the same song from the previous one!  They are becoming and sounding more like a cover band for The Killers on this one.  I actually do love the song, but yeah, it sounds a bit too The Killers for me.
  8. Every Night – And then they are back!  Every Night sounds like a fusion of a pop-rock, love song with a country flavor.  I really did hear a bit of a country vibe from this track!  Dan Reynolds’ amazing vocals is at the forefront of this fantastic track.
  9. Bleeding Out – This song has a similar vibe to that of Radioactive, but in contrast, instead of listening to it several times to appreciate it, I got hooked to Bleeding Out on my first listen.
  10. Underdog – This track starts off with an irritating electric synthesizers or whatever you call it.  Good thing the chorus is lovely and catchy to say the least.  They are giving me a Train vibe here and there, but then again I love the positive atmosphere and energy this song exudes.
  11. Nothing Left To Say / Rocks – At the beginning I thought this is an 80’s rock anthem, and then Reynolds’ amazing vocals seeps through my headphones and it’s absolutely amazing.  I guess this track is at the top in terms of its production value.  In addition, mashing up with Rocks came as a pleasant surprise for me.  Such a grand way to end a promising album.

Final Thoughts: Overall Imagine Dragons have penned and created a powerful debut album.  Front-man Dan Reynolds’ carries the album effortlessly.  A well made album that consists of diverse, unpredictable yet enjoyable tracks, Night Visions signals that Imagine Dragons have arrived in the mainstream music industry.

Songs to be put on your Playlist: DEMONS, Radioactive, It’s Time, Underdog, Tiptoe, On Top Of The World.

Grab this album if you like: Train, The Killers, OneRepublic, Fun.

4.0 out of 5

Album Review: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – The Heist

Ben Haggerty, popularly known now for his stage name Macklemore, is a Seattle-based rapper who started his career in 2000 independently and has released a mixtape, three EP’s and two albums without any major labels accompanying him.  He has now teamed up with record producer Ryan Lewis and together they created history as the first duo to have their first two singles (Thrift Shop and Can’t Hold Us) reach number one on Billboard Hot 100.

Their debut album, The Heist, is also a huge success as it peaked at number 2 on Billboard 200.  I love both of their first two singles so let’s see if the other tracks are worth a listen.

  1.  Ten Thousand Hours – From the get go, I think that this song is DOPE.  The song tells Macklemore’s story of “making it.”  This is a pretty fun song and I just could not help myself from bopping my head to the beat.  What an explosive way to open a debut album.
  2. Can’t Hold Us feat. Ray Dalton – Of course how would you not like this song?  Although Thrift Shop came out first, I actually got more interested with this duo when I heard this song.   The combination of Macklemore’s fast-paced rapping and heart-pumping saxophone-based break plus the anthemic chorus courtesy of Ray Dalton made this song what would Mariah Carey call as a tour de force.   Ironically, Ray Dalton baritone voice elevates this epic song to greater heights.  Aside from Blurred Lines, this is my song of the Summer.
  3. Thrift Shop – This is their very first single and their very first number one.  It’s very pleasing to the ears that you can easily fall in love with this upbeat track while dancing to it.  THIS IS FCKING AWESOME!
  4. Thin Line feat. Buffalo Madonna – And the killer songs just go on and on and on!  I am loving the vibe of this album so far and we’re just four songs in!  Thin Line tells the story of a bad break-up followed by an awful break-up sex, I think.  This chorus part has been in my head for quite some time now.
  5. Same Love feat. Mary Lambert – Now things get a little emotional with this socially-relevant song about homosexuality, gay marriage, love and equality.  The hook by Mary Lambert is gut-wrenching and so heartfelt that I can literally feel her heart and soul through the music, so as Macklemore’s powerful verses.  THIS IS AN ABSOLUTE MASTERPIECE.
  6. Make The Money – Another upbeat track that will leave you raising and bouncing your hands in the air, while chanting “Make the money, don’t let the money make you | Change the game, don’t let the game change you.”  What I like about Macklemore is that, aside from his amazing rapping skills, his voice is pleasing to the ears.  Another great song, damn it.
  7. Neon Cathedral feat. Allen Stone – Right now I am so OVERWHELMED with what I have been hearing through the speakers.  Neon Cathedral is yet another fantastic track.  This song sheds light to Macklemore’s former drinking problem.  Allen Stone, although unknown, delivers an amazing vocals in the chorus that is reminiscent of the late-MJ.
  8. BomBom – With an overwhelming first part of The Heist, I think I needed a break.  And I guess Macklemore & Ryan Lewis knew what I was thinking, because BomBom is an instrumental interlude.  Even though this is without vocals, Ryan Lewis’ creativity in production shines through.
  9. White Walls feat. ScHoolboy Q & Hollis – I have no idea about the persons they are collaborating with, but weirdly enough, everything works.  After an appropriate break, we are brought back in the middle of a nice, upbeat track.  What more can I say, yet another amazing track.  After abhorring material things in Thrift Shop and Make The Money, this track is a little bit on the other side of things: being plainly materialistic (Candy-painted Cadillacs included).
  10. Jimmy Iovine feat. Ab-Soul – Yes, this song is entitled Jimmy Iovine, hilarious it may sound.  Another track about Macklemore’s success-story from the bottom to the top, Jimmy Iovine (the song!) is hitting hard on hip-hop, and it hits so hard!  At the end of this song/story, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are caught by Jimmy Iovine and offers them a shitty deal (sharing 7% of their earnings-kinda-deal) and the song ends funny.
  11. Wing$ – This song is pretty cool and cute as Macklemore talks about his very first pair of shoes and his struggles of fitting in.  As simple as it seems, what makes this track memorable is the oh-so staggering production.  INCREDIBLE.
  12. A Wake feat. Evan Roman – This track gives a bit of a throwback feel.  Macklemore is such an amazing artist as he plays his words in a witty fashion, mixing waking up with wake of that of a funeral that exemplifies Macklemore’s “waking up” from his dark past of drug and alcohol addiction.
  13. Gold feat. Eighty4 Fly – Another fun track!  The synthesizers in the background almost hypnotize you while Macklemore’s incredible rapping and Eighty4 Fly’s cool voice take the driver’s seat.  I am also feeling the Nelly-vibe in this track, not that I am complaining.
  14. Starting Over feat. Ben Bridwell – Now I get it: Macklemore is an EMO rapper!  All of his songs either reflect on his past life or to what he wants to express from his inner core.  This track tells his story of being an inspiration to others while keeping his own life intact.  “If could be an example of getting sober, then I could be an example of Starting Over.”  WOW.  REMARKABLE. (I am lost for adjectives!)
  15. Cowboy Boots – With the guitar solo in the beginning, It looks like this track is going to the country route.  Well, I guess i am right.  Aptly titled, Cowboy Boots is a rap-country-folk mash-up and with that, this is my least favorite song in the album!

Final Thoughts: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis just gained a new fan: ME!  The Heist is a perfect balance of catchy melodies, thought-provoking messages, and not to mention, hardcore rapping.   The Heist is a hip-hop masterpiece.  One of my favorite albums of the year.

Songs to be put on your Playlist: Same Love, Can’t Hold Us, Neon Cathedral, Make The Money, Wing$, Thrift Shop, Starting Over, Thin Line…damn it, put EVERYTHING except the last track I guess!

5 out of 5

Album Review: Robin Thicke – Blurred Lines

Robin Thicke, 'Blurred Lines': Track-By-Track ReviewWell I guess it’s safe to say that 2013 is Robin Thicke’s banner year for his career.  Since its release in March, his single ‘Blurred Lines’ has become a smash hit, not to mention a viral sensation due to its smoldering and rather controversial music video.  The said song hit number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on June 12 and stayed there for like, forever. Continue reading Album Review: Robin Thicke – Blurred Lines

Album Review: Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience

From the Mickey Mouse Club, to a world-renowned boy-band, to a highly successful solo career, Justin Timberlake has come a long way. After the success of his sophomore album, he decided to venture into the world of movies and his musical career took a backseat. So when Justin Timberlake announced his return to the music business via a special video blog for his fans, I just could not help but be too damn excited. I mean, it has been almost a decade (September 2006 to be exact) since he released his FutureSex/LoveSounds and now he is back in the game.

The 20/20 Experience may sound like a fusion of JT’s past two albums (Justified and FutureSex/LoveSounds) only classier and a more relaxed atmosphere that goes heavy on classic R&B.

Let’s take a look at his tracks to see if The 20/20 Experience is worth the wait.

  1. Pusher Love Girl – From the get-go, I thought that this is a soundtrack to a classic film, then suddenly the music shifts to a heavy low-down of bass-full drum beats. Pusher Love Girl is a sweet, soulful tune of a metaphor meddled on drugs, giving its listeners a sense of being addicted to the song. I, too, got addicted to this masterpiece. This definitely sets the tone of the whole album and Timberlake hits a home run with his soulful voice.
  2. Suit & Tie Feat. Jay-Z – After a home run of an entrance, the second track (and the first single off the album) delivers a more radio-friendly approach that sounds a bit like a song by Robin Thicke. Though it’s not as ambitious and catchy as SexyBack, Suit & Tie can still be considered as one of Timberlake’s finest hits.
  3. Don’t Hold The Wall – This starts off with a melodious a cappella of several JT’s, followed by an eerie Arabic tone. The whole mixture of funky tribal chants and Timbaland’s background vocals and Timberlake’s voice almost freaked me out in a weird way. However the song picks up midway with the introduction of more drumbeats and this weird track suddenly becomes a club dance hit. I think you need to listen to Don’t Hold The Wall several times to process everything.
  4. Strawberry Bubblegum – This sounds like something that you would hear at a sophisticated bar in a five-star hotel or cruise, not that I am complaining, actually I love this track! The song is just gorgeous.
  5. Tunnel Vision – This track has Timbaland written all over it. From the hip-hop beats itself, you would know that this is a Timbaland production. Having said that, Justin’s vocals and even his signature beat-boxing ability stayed at the driver seat. He is again absolutely stellar on this one.
  6. Spaceship Coupe – Finally a heartfelt ballad. But Spaceship Coupe is not just a simple ballad, it’s an intergalactic one! Haha! Anyway, JT is at his usual best here with vocals that would take your breath away. The electric guitar break adds a nice touch to the song as well.
  7. That Girl – We got a hot one tonight! This song is by far one of my favorite tracks in the album and one of Justin’s best. The track has the smoothest grooves possible that will bring you back to Motown. Repeat worthy baby.
  8. Let The Groove Get In – When Timberlake wants to give us Groove, he offers it with much gusto. This track is evocative of the late-great Michael Jackson’s earlier era. With the proper mixture of horns, syncopating percussion and harmonized vocals from the main man himself, Let The Groove Get In is a sure-fire winner.
  9. Mirrors – Assisted with Timbaland’s signature beat-box-like beats, the album’s second single is Timberlake’s proclamation of his love to his wife Jessica Biel. With a beautiful melody and wonderful lyrics, this is yet another amazing track on his album. Billboard describes this song as a more “whole” Timberlake than a heartbroken version of himself 10 years ago with Cry Me A River.
  10. Blue Ocean Floor – A very interesting way to end a glorious album. I think Justin Timberlake is trying to channel his Frank Ocean side on this one.

Final thoughts: Justin Timberlake has evolved through the years. His comeback offering may not be as strong as he possibly can (because I know he has the capability to do so), but bringing out a more mature, more soulful and heartfelt album is good enough for a fan like me. The 20/20 Experience gives a classic R&B feel, but you have to listen to the whole album multiple times in order to appreciate the other tracks. The rightful and the better “Justin” has indeed returned to his rightful throne in the Music Industry.

Songs to be put on your Playlist: Mirrors, That Girl, Pusher Love Girl, Let The Groove Get In.

Grab this album if you like: Justin Timberlake, Timbaland, Robin Thicke.

4.0 out of 5

Album Review: Ne-Yo – R.E.D.

As a fan, I personally did not like Ne-Yo’s last offering Libra Scale. I am having a hard time remembering the singles he released in that album. What I know is that Libra was more of an experiment for this slick and artistic singer-songwriter. Now after 3 years of writing and collaborating with other artists, Ne-Yo’s back for his fifth studio album R.E.D. which stands for Realizing Every Dream.

  1. The Cracks In Mr. Perfect – Right off the bat, Ne-Yo’s first track made me realize why I loved his music in the first place. His tone is oozing with icy-cool swag. In addition, we get to hear a more honest Ne-Yo in this track as he sings about him trying hard to be faithful, being irresponsible, trying to be little competitive (I say I’m not a hater / but I hate to see you shine), and spending 40k in three hours.
  2. Lazy Love – A sexy cool track about doing the deed that reminds me of his past bedroom-ready hit songs like Sexy Love and When Your Mad. Well, that’s mainly about it.
  3. Let Me Love You (Until You Learn To Love Yourself) – This song is co-written by Sia (the same person who gave you dance hits Titanium and Wild Ones) who obviously made this song one of the best dance hits of 2012. I don’t know what’s with her that makes all her collaborations click. This track is definitely on my playlist and on repeat.
  4. Miss Right – Another beautiful, solid track from Ne-Yo. I just love the R&B vibe of this album so far and this track is no exception.
  5. Jealous – Oh gosh I love this album already and we’re just five tracks in! This track started off with a synthesizing piano solo and then Ne-Yo steps in with a Said I’m Je-Jealous intro that sounded so much like Michael Jackson. The whole song is catchy that I can feel another hit song coming out from Mr. Ne-Yo.
  6. Don’t Make Em Like You Feat. Wiz Khalifa – The intro makes me too dizzy and sick, but Ne-Yo’s voice comes to the rescue at around the 00:10 mark. This track is more on the hip-hop side and you won’t be disappointed. Surprisingly, this is another catchy attack that everyone can sing-along at the “hey hey” part of the chorus and join in clapping. Rapper Wiz Khalifa elevated this song to the next level.
  7. Be The One – With all the synthesizers going on, I thought this song will burst out into dance mode halfway through. I was waiting for it and waiting for it, but it ended in mid-tempo, making me wanting so much more.
  8. Stress Reliever – This song freaks me out. An R&B ballad about taking out stress intimately. This song makes me want to grab and cuddle someone and just lay down and do some more cuddling.
  9. She Is Feat. Tim McGraw – Am I hearing this right? Ne-Yo teams up with Country superstar Tim McGraw? Interesting! Truly unexpected! I have to say this song actually works! This song is like breath of fresh air right smack in the middle of an album heavy of soul and R&B.
  10. Carry On (Her Letter To Him) – This swerves a little bit away from Ne-Yo’s genre, leaving this song a bit disconnected with the rest of the album. However, here we get to listen to his pure and amazingly beautiful voice.
  11. Forever Now – Wear your dancing shoes and off to the dance-floor! This track brings everyone back to the fun vibe of the first half of the album with Let Me Love You. Another future smash club-hit for Ne-Yo.
  12. Shut Me Down – And leave your dancing shoes on because it’s party time! Another club-ready track for our R&B star.
  13. Unconditional – And what better way to end an incredible fifth effort than to give his listeners an appealing, romantic track that tackles Ne-Yo’s vow of unconditional love. I just love the dub-step vibe of this feel-good song and of course Ne-Yo’s wonderful vocals.

Final Thoughts: A remarkable album from Ne-Yo. Though he injected and attacked different genres like dance and country, everything seems to work in his favor (unlike the latest efforts of Usher and Chris Brown). I don’t know, but everything Ne-Yo touches—with just a little flava and a whole lot of soul—turns magical.

Songs to be put on your Playlist: Let Me Love You (Until You Learn To Love Yourself), Jealous, Forever Now, Unconditional, Don’t Make Em Love You, Miss Right.

Grab this album if you like: Usher, Chris Brown, Sia, Calvin Harris, Miguel.

4.5 out of 5

Album Review: Bruno Mars – Unorthodox Jukebox

When we first heard Bruno Mars singing the chorus part of B.o.B.’s smash hit Nothin On You back in 2010, we were intrigued by his interesting voice quality and tone.  Then we got to experience his full capacity and versatility in his debut album Doo Wops and Hooligans.  With that album, I became such a huge fan or should I say a Hooligan.  I watched his concert and became a bigger fan.  I tried singing his songs that I even performed his breakout single Just the Way You Are in my brother’s wedding!

This singer-songwriter is one tremendous force to be reckoned with and has transformed from being a Hawaii native to a worldwide superstar, plus he is half-Filipino too!  Some of the critics say that vocally, he is the next Michael Jackson.  Now he has returned with his sophomore album—one of the most anticipated albums this year—Unorthodox Jukebox.  Will Bruno experience the Sophomore Jinx or will he stay as one of the most relevant singers of this generation?  Let’s take a look at the tracks:

  1. Young Girls – Bruno’s second offering kicks off with a beautifully arranged music with remnants of Doo Wops.  I really like the drum beats that sound similar with that of Grenade.
  2. Locked Out Of Heaven – Now here comes Mr. Mars!  This song is giving me the 80’s vibe and it seems like whenever I listen to this track I feel like I’m being baked or something.  His vocals are AMAZING and it pierces through every guitar strings, percussion  and synthesizers and everything in between.  One of my favorite Mars singles to date.
  3. Gorilla – And the vibe from the 80’s continues.  I guess this is an ambitious effort, and it works big time.  Oh and by the way, he sounds so much like Michael Jackson on this one.  I wonder about Bruno’s fascination to monkeys and gorillas, but with this song, I know now why.  But in this jungle you can’t run / Coz what I got for you / I promise it’s a killer / You’ll be banging on your chest / Bang Bang / Gorilla.  I. F CKIN. LOVE. THIS. SONG.  You and me, baby, making love like gorillas. Damn.
  4. Treasure – Now I know the main theme of this album.  Bruno Mars is trying to give his listeners a taste of throwback 80’s music.  Treasure is one of those groovy, ecstatic songs that you can dance with.  Put your dancing shoes and get your disco groove on with this track.  Another gem of a song.
  5. Moonshine – Listening to this track takes you to a different place, just like in the lyrics, Take us to the stars tonight / Take us to that special place.  The overall production of this track is so hypnotic that when you close your eyes you would feel you are in a different time zone.
  6. When I Was Your Man – With just a piano to accompany him, Bruno Mars lays out his heart and soul on this powerful, heartbreaking ballad.  With all the fun, retro vibe in this album, this track clearly stands out from the rest, like a bucket of cold water splashing onto your face.
  7. Natalie – Just as soon as the previous ballad died down, drum thumps and hand claps enter the arena and Mars tries to sing his heart out, bewailing about a gold-digger named Natalie.  The track is catchy that you can join the clapping and the lamenting, with a bit of head bopping on the side.
  8. Show Me – This song takes you again to a different place, but this time, to the beach!  Just like his song in Doo Wops, Liquor Store Blues, this song is Mars’ one-but-staple reggae track of the album.  This track is like another breeze of fresh, summer air.
  9. Money Make Her Smile – This is probably the most current song in the album.  It’s a blissful mix of electronic, pop, R & B and hip-hop that can make Chris Brown excited.
  10. If I Knew – Well, I did not expect for Bruno Mars to end his sophomore album with a dulcet, candy-coated, doo-wopping ballad that is too short, you would ask for more!

Final Thoughts:  An Instant Classic.  Unorthodox Jukebox is an utterly incredible effort for Bruno Mars.  I do not know if it’s better than his first album or not, but with two albums in, I think Mars has put the stamp of being significant in the Music Industry.  If you love listening to some throwback, groovy music of the 80’s, this album is definitely a great buy.

Songs to be put on your Playlist: Gorilla, Locked Out Of Heaven, When I Was Your Man, Treasure.

Grab this album if you like: Bruno Mars, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, The Smeezingtons, Mark Ronson.

4.5 out of 5

Album Review: Phillip Phillips – The World From The Side Of The Moon

ImageI admit.  I liked Phillip Phillips’ Idol audition and I saw some potential, but when live rounds began, other contestants who were clearly the better singers (like Joshua Ledet and of course THE Jessica Sanchez) emerged.  On the other hand, Phillips just cruised along the sidelines.  I was so tough and very critical on Phillips and when he won Idol I was completely devastatingly disappointed.  For me he just got lucky to have Home as his coronation song.

But when he released his album The World from the Side Of The Moon this month and I got a chance to listen to it, I became a fan and turned a complete 180.  Let’s get it on with his tracks:

  1.  Man On The Moon – From the opening strings, Phillips surfaces from the background with his signature Ohw ohw oh yeah’s that sounded like this is Dave Matthews Band’s album.  This song sets the tone for the whole album, which aligns Phillips to a country-folk, pop-rock category.
  2. Home – Phillips’ winning piece from Idol.  Obviously this song is his first big hit thus far.  Some consider this song as the song of the summer!  As far as I could remember, Phillips lamented about this track that this song “isn’t him” and wanted to have more creative control towards his debut album.  I don’t think he complains now because this song has gone 2x Platinum and has been used in the Olympics and in a movie.
  3. Gone Gone Gone – This is one of the songs Phillips did not contribute in writing.  This easy-listening love song is very uplifting and goes well with the rest of the album.  Pretty anthemic as well, I have a feeling this song will be a huge hit as well and will spawn a Glee version.
  4. Hold On – A song written solely by Phillips.  This is so much like a Dave Matthews – Mumford and Sons hybrid song.  Strings (guitars and even violins) are heard all over the place, with Phillip’s voice punches through every strum.
  5. Tell Me A Story – Phillips goes soft and sentimental this time around with this song.  A very pretty song, the strings are killing me, in a good way.
  6. Get Up Get Down – Damn I’m suddenly pumped up!  This up-tempo song brings in the goods.  Phillips finally gets away from the Dave Matthews similarities and surprises everyone with this head-thumping track.  I want to hear this LIVE!
  7. Where We Came From – Another solid track from Phillip.  This is leading more on the funky pop-rock genre.  I like it a lot.  I like it a whole lot.
  8. Drive Me – Another song co-written by Phillips, Drive Me is another song leading to the rock genre.  It shows his range as a singer, other than that, the song is just ok.
  9. Wanted Is Love – This is a very beautiful love song sung beautifully by Phillips. I can imagine this song being played in the background of some teeny-bopper shows on TV.
  10. Can’t Go Wrong – It does sound similar to Home because it’s the same group of writers Greg Holden and Drew Pearson.  Phillips also co-wrote this song.  This song is so Mumford and Sons, you would think that this is actually theirs.  Again another amazing and anthemic track.
  11. A Fool’s Dance – If the preceding song sounds like Mumford and Sons, this song sounds like Dave Matthews!  But I must say, there’s something infectious about Phillips’ songs.
  12. So Easy – I just love the song from the get-go.  Superb way to end a fantastic debut album for an American Idol.

Final Thoughts:  Aside from Carrie Underwood’s Some Hearts and David Cook’s self-titled album, I think this is one of most brilliant debut albums for an American Idol winner.  Having said that, my only criticism (and I may sound like a broken record) is that this album sounds very similar to Mumford and Sons and Dave Matthews, something that poses a great challenge to Phillip Phillips: how to stay RELEVANT.  The World from the Side of the Moon is a great jumpstart.

Songs to be put on your Playlist: Home, Gone Gone Gone, Get Up Get Down, So Easy, Where We Came From

Grab this album if you like: Mumford and Sons (duh), Dave Matthews Band (duh), .fun, John Mayer, Jason Mraz

4.0 out of 5

Album Review: Frank Ocean – channel Orange

ImageChristopher Francis Ocean or better known as Frank Ocean, is an American Singer-Songwriter who started his career as a ghost writer for artists such as Brandy, John Legend and Justin Bieber.  After years of mix tapes and writing and performing behind several A-list artists, he released his debut album channel Orange in July 2012.  He surfaced into mainstream when he wrote an open letter and on Tumblr about his attraction to same-sex.  He is one of the first major Hip-Hop/R&B artists to announce that he had fallen in love with someone of the same-sex.

Let’s stop dealing about his sexual preference.  For me Music speaks volumes and transcends to everyone regardless of race, culture, religion, and sex.  Anyway, let’s check which songs on channel Orange are the best of the bunch.

  1. Start – This is a prelude that sets the mood for the whole album.  We hear Ocean laughing and chilling in the background somehow inviting us to sit back and relax and enjoy the album.
  2. Thinkin Bout You – This is his carrier single and surely he does not disappoint new listeners.  I can say that his falsetto sounds INCREDIBLE.  When I first heard of this song on the radio I thought it’s a Drake track but when I heard the amazing falsetto I knew it’s not Drake.
  3. Fertilizer – an interesting interlude that sounds like a radio commercial about bullsh*t. Haha!
  4. Sierra Leone – The percussion sounds pretty sick and the beat is dope!  The song takes you to a different place.  It gave me Eargasm!
  5. Sweet Life – Damn I am falling in love with this album and we’re just at the beginning of it!  I just fancy this R&B/Motown vibe that takes you to a happy love cruise or something.
  6. Not Just Money – This 59-second interlude explains why money is not just money but it is everything, including happiness.
  7. Super Rich Kids Feat. Earl Sweatshirt – The previous interlude interestingly connects track 5 and this one.  Another remarkable beat that sounded familiar yet unique.
  8. Pilot Jones – The song takes off like a first-class plane!  Again Frank Ocean sounded AMAZING on this track.
  9. Crack Rock – One of the more upbeat tracks on the album, this song tackles drugs, violence, and broken homes.  It’s so cleverly written and the beat sounds great, you would not sense that this is actually a pretty dark song.
  10. Pyramids – Admittedly one of the best songs in the album!  Different astounding beats coming out of nowhere, creating an exciting fusion of pop and R&B.  To top it all off – Ocean’s remarkable vocals and lyrics.
  11. Lost – I did not see this coming.  This song gives me a European-Bruno Mars vibe.  I’m likin it, I’m likin it a whole lot!
  12. White Feat. John Mayer – The guitar sampling courtesy of John Mayer gives this interlude a very sensual tune.
  13. Monks – The percussion is in full force on this one.  I think Ocean is tackling something about casual sex with some African women with English accent, mixing with religion.  I love the syncopating beats.
  14. Bad Religion – Wow.  This is the most personal, naked, and gut-wrenching song Ocean has ever written.  The song tackles Ocean’s sexuality, “It’s a bad religion / to be in love with someone / who could never love you.”  This song is a masterpiece.
  15. Pink Matter Feat. Andre 3000 – I’m still having a hangover with the previous track when this song come seeping through my headphones.  Here he’s talking about his struggle of choosing between sensual pleasure and true love.  Another amazing track.
  16. Forrest Gump – Another unexpected track, trying to lean away from the dark and emotional tracks of the album.  This song is a very cool icebreaker.
  17. End – This postlude kind of creeps me out.  What an interesting and freaky way of closing an absolutely respectable album.

 

Final Thoughts: I am impressed.  With underwhelming offerings of some R&B artists this year (Usher’s Looking 4 Myself and Chris Brown’s Fortune), channel Orange is clearly one of the best Hip-Hop/R&B albums of 2012.

Songs to be put on your Playlist: Thinkin Bout You, Bad Religion, Pyramids, Pink Matter

 

Grab this album if you like: Drake, Trey Songz, Andre 3000,

 

4.5 out of 5