8/13 Pick of the Day: Michael Jackson's "A Place With No Name"

"A Place With No Name" is easily one of the smartest choices L.A. Reid and the rest of Epic Record executives could have made (with releasing "Chicago" also being a decent move) to continue to promote XSCAPE.

Album Review: FKA Twigs' "LP1"

FKA Twigs has finally appeared on the radar with her debut "LP1". It's surprisingly one of the year's best albums and certainly one of the best debut albums in quite a while.

Hot 50 Forecast: Bebe Rexha, Taylor Swift & Charli XCX Battle For Top Debut

With half the week already gone, it's time to take a moment to look at which stars are heating up the CDS Music Chart Hot 50 with brand new entries. I'll also cover some movers and shakers. Among the top debuts are new releases from Swift, XCX and Rexha.

Chart Highlights: Maroon 5 On Top For 8th Consecutive Week, Jessie J, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj Go Top 5

Between "Maps" and "It Was Always You", Maroon 5 scoops an 8th straight frame at #1. Meanwhile, Jessie J's collaboration with Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj reaches the top 5.

Weekly Video Recap: Rita Ora & Iggy Azalea, Ariana Grande and More + Poll

Recap of the biggest video premieres this week, plus you tell me what your favorite new video this week is in a brand new reader's poll!

Album Review: Ultraviolence Is in the Same Place With A Different Story

Lana Del Rey's most recent outing deals with subject matter oh so similar to what we saw on her major label debut, Born to Die. So what's so special about Ultraviolence? Its story.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Album Review: Maroon 5's "V" Has Hits, But Is It One Itself?

I'd pretty much consider myself a Maroon 5 guru -- I've purchased every studio album of theirs, have several CD singles, their live album and have seen them live in concert twice --, and a major fan as well, but Maroon 5's 5th disc, V, takes a little bit longer to digest. While being backed by a string of successful singles  ("Maps", "It Was Always You" and "Animals"), most other tracks included on the album don't feel like your typical Maroon 5 songs. Even with that being said, the new record isn't their worst one (I'd say that 2010's Hands All Over is narrowly their worst), and does have at least two to three more faired sized hits in addition to "Animals", "Maps" and "It Was Always You" ("Sugar" and "My Heart Is Open").

Lead single "Maps" kicks off the party in a really odd, yet friendly fashion. While previous hits by Maroon 5 seem to focus on all parts of the band (bass, drums, guitar, keyboards, and vocals), "Maps" sees lead singer Adam Levine in the driver seat, with the rest of the band being almost entirely replaced by extremely sugary, pop beats. However, as live performances will reveal, the rest of the band's members do have prominent roles sprinkled throughout the song. Regardless, "Maps" wound up at #1 on the CDS Music Chart Hot 50, a position it held for 5 consecutive weeks.

And to those of you "Maroon 5 superfans" that say "Maps" is terrible compared to songs on their prior albums (Songs About Jane, It Won't Be Soon Before Long, Hands All Over): all bands need to change in order to stay solid. You shouldn't complain that their new material sounds overly pop, because if they did stick to just their original rock sound, you'd be complaining that they haven't changed enough. You can't call yourself a fan of Maroon 5 if you criticize them for changing; its what all artists do.

While "Maps" definitely helps make V a massive success, "It Was Always You" is easily the best track on the disc, as well as one of the group's most inventive songs of their career. Not only does it toy with electronic pop elements in a way that has never been done on any Maroon 5 song, it experiments with sounds and pops that help make it extremely unique. Additionally, the vocal work and radio friendly backing beat make it one of group's stronger efforts in recent years. It also topped the CDS Music Chart Hot 50, staying for the 3 weeks directly following the reign of "Maps". In total, Maroon 5 has topped the list for 8 weeks during this album cycle (they topped for 6 during the Overexposed album cycle).

"Animals", which I struggled with enjoying upon first listen, seemed to have the most support from fans to be the album's second single (over "It Was Always You") when it dropped last weekend. It quickly reached #2 on the United States iTunes Store (behind only Taylor Swift's massively successful "Shake It Off") and held well in sales, even with the car company KIA giving out over 200,000 free downloads of the song to anyone who wanted one in the United States. Thanks to the track becoming a quick favorite (among most), it was announced on August 25th (three days after it first premiered) that the track would be serviced to United States pop radio later that day as the album's second official single. While I believe that decision to be a bit stupid (as I was much more in favor of the group releasing "It Was Always You"), the song itself is still pretty solid.

Built around a high energy, funky, bass beat, "Animals" sounds like a radio winner for the group -- even if it takes a while to warm up.

 Other highlights include "Sugar"

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Pick of the Day: Blonde Makes A Splash With "I Loved You"

CDS Picks has officially been retired and will be replaced with a daily, more in-depth look at a single song. This new feature will be dubbed the Pick of the Day.

After releasing a string of several successful singles, Blonde, a Bristol based production duo, is finally back with a brand new release titled "I Loved You". The track is the third major label single from the group, after "Foolish" and "Higher Ground", which were both released onto iTunes in early 2014. The new track was premiered exclusively on Mistajam's BBC Radio 1 show on August 28th. The track will be featured on Blonde's forthcoming 3rd studio album, due out later this year via FFRR Records.

Extensively sampling Canadian singer Tamia's 2004 single "More" (from the album of the same name), the track is essentially a deep house re-branding of the original R&B single for modern day audiences. It's a massive overhaul that'll easily appeal to the masses.

What are your thoughts on "I Loved You"? Was Tamia's 2004 single "More" used the right way in this track? Let me know below! Come back for another Pick of the Day tomorrow! Have a suggestion or like this feature? Let me know below!

Album Review: FKA twigs Shines On "LP1"

"No one else can make electropop tracks sound this graceful and dirty at the same time"

Tahliah Barnett, professionally known as FKA twigs, is known for her odd fashion sense and more importantly her odd musical style. Her work, which has been dubbed R&B/pop meets electronic, has received massive critical acclaim from nearly every mainstream critic that's heard it. But does that also mean that FKA twigs appeals to the average person? Yes and no. The average person doesn't even know a thing about her, with only 10,000 people purchasing LP1 in the United States in its first week of release, but then again, almost everyone who did buy her album has given it a positive review.

So what about FKA twigs is really appealing? She's able to produce absolutely crazy electronic songs and contribute her own vocals to the projects as well. She's really got it all the components needed to dominate the industry, something few artists have. When have you heard of a singer that produces, writes and sings on all of their tracks and is also a trained dancer? Honestly, that's impressive.

LP1 is riddled with hits, all of which spew out filthy, sex related lyrics. On the biggest standout of them all (as well as the album's lead off single), "Two Weeks", twigs shifts her vocals in and out alongside pulsing synths and extremely raunchy lyrics about how she'll be better in bed than the subject's previous lover within two weeks. FKA twigs sings: "Higher than motherf***er, dreaming of you as my lover/Flying like a streamer thinking of new ways to do each other/Pull out of the incisor give me two weeks, you won't recongnize her/Mouth open you're high".

On other highlights ("Lights On", "Pendulum" and "Video Girl"), twigs further experiments with beats inspired by the jungle, the orient, the future and much more, while delivering a vocal performance unlike any you've ever heard.

Overview: While LP1 isn't flawless (nor do its songs hold up as well individually), the 10 song project has a little bit of everything. As a collection, LP1 is one of the most straightforward efforts of the year, with lyrically coherent tracks, brilliant production and a theme that seems to stick together throughout the majority of the songs. While only one track sounds like it could even have a shot at making radio ("Two Weeks"), LP1 is one of the most consumer friendly releases in quite a while. You can literally listen to the whole 10 song set (without pauses) and be impressed again and again. FKA twigs created this work to sound like a body, focusing on all aspects, instead of making several pieces look amazing in a field of filler (like most artists do). It's easily one of my 5 favorite albums of the year and could easily become one of my top 10 favorite albums by the time the end of the year rolls around.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Pick of the Day: VÉRITÉ's "Weekend"

CDS Picks has officially been retired and will be replaced with a daily, more in-depth look at a single song. This new feature will be dubbed the Pick of the Day.

American singer VÉRITÉ has gone from little known musician to world class musician thanks to her song "Strange Enough" which got critics everywhere talking. Since the release of the song, she's developed a strong fan base and received critical and commercial acclaim for her vocal work.

After just a month of promoting "Strange Enough" (which was eventually able to reach the CDS Music Chart Hot 50's top 10), VÉRITÉ has already moved on to a brand new single. Her new release, titled "Weekend", has already generated much buzz for being both adventurous and for containing straight forward pop hooks, a notable departure from her alternatively based debut. Still, her dramatic and melancholy sound on "Weekend" will easily draw comparisons to other alternative pop artists like Florence + The Machine, and Lana Del Rey.

The indie pop sensation explained the song in a brief interview with Idolator: "Conceptually it came from a snapshot of a scenario. An old friend of mine lived on this quiet, dead end residential street with bright florescent lights. I had the image of us falling down in the stillness of the scene. From the first line, the song winds up being an ode to the nostalgia of how, despite how sick we were or how insane things get, we can take moments from the craziest times and glorify them as absolutely perfect." 

In a similar interview, the singer/songwriter elaborated further on the track: "..."Weekend" winds up sitting in a weird place for me, caught between the exhilaration of 'you could bring me to life' and the reality that we were only fooling ourselves into thinking we were alive while we distract ourselves from reality."

Listen to VÉRITÉ's "Weekend" below and download the song for free through the artist's official Facebook page.

Album Review: Ariana Grande's "My Everything" Turns On Variety... A Little Too Much?

Ariana Grande first soared onto the music scene with "The Way (feat. Mac Miller)", a catchy yet heavily sample driven rhythmic pop production. She rapidly accumulated fans by the hundreds of thousands and began working very hard on what would eventually become her first studio album, Yours Truly, which saw release in August of 2013. About 4 months later, Grande returned with a digital only Christmas inspired EP, Christmas Kisses, which received instantaneous critical acclaim. Similar critical acclaim came in April 2014 with the release of Grande's never before heard new single, "Problem (feat. Iggy Azalea)".

When "Problem" debuted on the Hot 100 with sales of 438,000 (the year's biggest debut thus far), Grande had solidified her status as a pop diva and stripped away any remaining Nickelodeon threads. She was shining and there was nothing anybody could do about it. Unfortunately for Grande, not all of My Everything really seems up to par with "Problem" and "The Way". Sure it shows more maturity and a lot more variety, but it doesn't seem to encompass one true body or theme. It's a bit too scattered. "Problem" was not a good representation of anything else on the album at all.

Relying on the strength of co-headliners like Iggy Azalea, The Weeknd, Nicki Minaj, Jessie J, and Zedd, My Everything falls a bit flat when it comes to solo performances. I mean why include "Bang Bang" if you're in the backseat the entire time? An additional slew of unneeded track samples further downgrade the quality of the album as a whole. What's the point of including a sample of Diana Ross' "I'm Coming Out" on "Break Your Heart Right Back (feat. Childish Gambino)" if its going to get hidden in the backbeat? It makes the younger generation confused and the older generation disgusted.

With that being said, there are some distinct highlights on My Everything. "One Last Time" (probably my favorite track other than the singles) blends the right amount of dance vibes and pop vibes, while supplying vocals that aren't too candy coated nor overly dull.

Among the other highlights are "Break Free (feat. Zedd)" (which was released as the album's second single), "Love Me Harder (feat. The Weeknd)" and of course "Bang Bang". Unfortunately, that short list of about 4-5 songs is composed nearly entirely of tracks that feature help from other artists, bringing several questions to mind. Most notably: Was this album rush released and filled with as many cheap collaborations as possible to distract us from the fact that Ariana hadn't actually grown that much 12 months? I'm betting on a yes.

I guess I should have known something was up when I wasn't impressed with the "Break Free" video:

"While the rest of Ariana Grande's music videos are far from perfect, the music video for "Break Free" borders on the edge of utter ridiculousness -- her worst video to date. The inspirations behind it -- original Star Trek episodes, space dominatrixes, Katy Perry's "E.T." video, Star Wars, etc. -- would normally all work together to create a strong final product, but the lack of originality and an interesting story line, combined with the fact that nearly everything in the entire video was developed on a green screen, make for a really uncomfortable and downright stupid video.

I understand that you can't actually shoot a project in space, but it feels like they spent too much time on Grande's appearance rather than the sets and plot itself. Okay, yes, she looks cute but then again when has she not?

Despite critical opinions popping up all across the internet, most of America has embraced the video for "Break Free" with open arms -- Ariantors have made sure of it. Once again, a terrible video will help propel a decent song to success. We needed another one of those."

I guess the same thing can be applied to the album. It has solid material, yet it also has some songs that sound like they were strung together randomly.

Overview: While My Everything is far from terrible, it lacks uniform and has a lazy overall structure. The over used samples and overly promoted collaborations make for an album that feels just a bit rushed. There are some notable and worthy highlights on the album ("Problem", "Break Free", "One Last Time", "Love Me Harder" and "Bang Bang"), but everything seems to lie on the shoulders of the collaborators, which is the exact opposite of what happened on her last album. Overall, the individual themes on My Everything are all pretty much clear, but when they're combined together, everything seems a lot hazier and the overall theme feels distant. There's too much going on. There's lots of pop, lots of r&b, lots of rap, lots of EDM and a lot of filler. It's solid, but at the same time its not.

Rating 71/100

Animated Social Gadget - Blogger And Wordpress Tips