Friday, April 26, 2013

Just Give Me A Reason | P!nk featuring Nate Ruess

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

P!nk has been quite a popular woman this year. Her singles, "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)" and "Try," from her latest album, The Truth About Love, both met massive success, and now "Just Give Me a Reason" is getting the same treatment, but I'm not too happy about the success of this particular song.

I gave The Truth About Love a pretty nice review, but I didn't mention this song to keep the review from going south. "Just Give Me a Reason" was one of my least favorites from the album, but I wouldn't say I hated it. But now, the constant airplay on the radio turned my neutrality into hatred.

Part of my dislike for the song might also come from the fact that if features fun. front-man Nate Ruess, who I also used to like before the radio ruined him, too. To be honest, if I hear "Some Nights" or "We Are Young" one more time while flipping through radio stations in my car, I might deliberately crash myself into a wall. This being said, his inclusion to the song is just awful and makes me dislike the song even more, because I can only imagine his voice singing "Some nights I stay up cashing in my bad luck / Some nights I call it a draw." The same thing happened to me with Train and the song, "Hey, Soul Sister," and now Patrick Monahan's voice is almost like a knife stabbing me in the ear.

I still haven't mentioned that "Just Give Me a Reason" is really just boring. It's just this slow, repetitive song that seems to go on forever. In fact, I'm really surprised it even hit it big on pop radio, which is usually dominated by more up-beat songs. There's nothing wrong vocally on P!nk's end, because she's as strong as ever in that department, but just because her vocals are strong doesn't make it a good song.

I really want to stress that this song hasn't completely ruined P!nk for me. Funhouse is still one of my favorite albums of all time, and I love the majority of The Truth About Love, but this song just irritated me to the point that I just had to review it. I would really love to see "True Love" or "Slut Like You" rise up, if another single is lifted from The Truth About Love, because I don't want this album's era to end on such a bad note for me.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Heart Attack | Demi Lovato

Rating: ★★★★☆

After spending the majority of last year riding off of the success of her previous album and being a judge on The X Factor, Demi Lovato is back in full swing with promotion for her upcoming album, DEMI, and has recently release the lead single to the album, "Heart Attack."

I had never been a giant fan of Lovato. In middle school, my choir director forced to watch Camp Rock, which originally steered me away from her. Her role as Mitchie, the stupid girl that randomly ended up at a summer camp and got to sing with the Jonas Brothers, was extremely obnoxious and gave me a horrible view on Lovato.

She then continued her Disney stardom with a faux-sketch comedy show called Sonny with a Chance, which was just as terrible as Camp Rock was. Then came the breakdown. I'm still not entirely sure what happened, but I'm pretty sure she punched a girl and had an addiction to drugs or alcohol. This whole thing put her in the same light as Britney Spears was when she was going through her Blackout days of shaving her head and doing drugs.

However, after she got out of rehab and decided to finally distance herself from the infamous Disney spotlight, she actually became interesting. I wasn't a giant fan of "Skyscraper," her first released single after all of this drama, but it was an improvement. The following single, on the other hand, was quite catchy. "Give Your Heart A Break" had just the right hook and was an alright song.

Following up from "Give Your Heart A Break," "Heart Attack" is the most impressive release from Lovato yet, especially in terms of the vocals. Her vocals have really grown since the last time I heard them, and she can really belt out. The final repetitions of 'heart att-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ack' in each chorus show just how much she's grown as a recording artist. She screams those words out effortlessly and they sound great.

When looking at the song as a whole, it's a pretty strong pop song. It's nothing extremely special, but it's surprising superior to a lot of the other stuff on Top 40 radio stations right now. Of course, just about anything is better than Britney Spears talking in an obviously-fake British accent over a crappy, repetitive instrumental or some random nobody rapping about thrift shopping.

"Heart Attack" is really impressive, especially coming from Lovato, who I couldn't see as anything more as a Dinsey star up until this point. I might even take some interest in her next album if the rest of it is going to sound like this, because I have genuinely enjoyed this song.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Young and Beautiful | Lana Del Rey

Rating: ★★★★★

After over a month of patiently waiting for parts of the soundtrack to The Great Gatsby to leak, I've finally got the song that was at the top of my list: Lana Del Rey's "Young and Beautiful."

As always, I learned the song leaked through the meltdowns on Gaga Daily, so I hurried over to Tumblr to listen to it.

The production style of "Young and Beautiful" doesn't stray away from that of Born To Die and Paradise. It screams the influence from Rick Nowels, who helped produce much of the material on both of Lana's albums. Some people may complain about the style, but the classical-orchestra-meets-modern-beats sound has really become Lana Del Rey's trademark, and it really fits her voice, so I'm not complaining. It's not like the style is overused by a lot of other artists, so let her be.

The song's production reminds me a lot of that of "Body Electric" in the way that the choruses of the song feature massive climaxes instrumentally. The verses are relatively quiet but then each time the chorus arrives, the instrumental track explodes into this loud, overpowering sound and I love it!

The lyrics of "Young and Beautiful" are perhaps some of Lana's most heartfelt, as she pleads that her lover still be attracted to after she grows old, as well into the afterlife. I only found one line of the lyrics that I don't like: "I’ve seen the world done it all / Had my cake, now." ...Your cake? Lana, how did this line make the final cut? All of the other lyrics are beautiful, as usual, but that one line is just too odd for me to handle.

This actually isn't the only version of "Young and Beautiful" that is going to be released, either. The deluxe edition of Music from Baz Luhrmann's Film The Great Gatsby will include a version of the song with the instrumental being strictly-orchestral. I assume it won't have the same wow-factor that the original version has, but it will be interesting to hear.

I can't wait to hear the full soundtrack to The Great Gatsby, especially after how impressed I was with the lead single from it. I've heard leaked snippets of some of the other songs, and I can already say that I'm impressed with many of them, including "Over The Love" by Florence + The Machine and Emeli Sandé's cover of "Crazy in Love" in a big band style.

To be honest, I think I'm more excited about the soundtrack of The Great Gatsby than I am for the actual movie, but I will be going to see it when it comes out. I guess if the movie ends up being terrible (which I doubt it will be,) at least it'll have some great music to listen to.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Come & Get It | Selena Gomez

Rating:  ★★★★★

After long streak of radio airplay with "Love You Like A Love Song," Selena Gomez is back with another song that is sure meet great success, but this time has dropped 'The Scene' and decided to venture out on a solo career.

"Come & Get It" completely caught me off guard, to be honest. I'd been on vacation all week before the release and just as I got home, this song pretty much exploded in my face when I logged onto the Internet for the first time in a few days.

I've never been a massive fan of Gomez. I loved "Love You Like A Love Song," and I own When The Sun Goes Down, but I've always been a casual fan. However, for some reason, "Come & Get It" made me fan-girl over Gomez. The sound is just so unique, especially for an artist that is trying to please a pop music audience.

To say the least, I'm very impressed with the song. I always enjoy when an artist goes outside their element, and Gomez definitely did that with "Come & Get It." The song pulls strong influences from dubstep, electronic dance, and Bollywood production styles, and this combination, which sounds quite odd and unheard of, works extremely well. The traditional Indian Bollywood instruments and male backing vocals fit perfectly with the modern electronic instruments used in the song.

Many artists have dabbled with dubstep recently, including Ellie Goulding and Taylor Swift, and I am completely loving it. Dubstep on its own really isn't the best sounding, but when it is paired with influences of pop music and a great artist singing over it, it gets so much better. The marriage of dubstep and pop has to be one of the happiest marriages in the music industry. This song takes this bond to a new extreme, by adding the Bollywood influences to the mix, making an even better blend of styles.

After the release of the song, Gomez has been going to different television shows and appearances to perform the song, as every artist with new work out usually does. However, she has been receiving massive amounts of hate from people all over YouTube for her live renditions of "Come & Get It" and I just don't understand why. (Of course, I shouldn't even bring up this problem because most of her hate is coming from YouTube users with names like "JustinBieber4Ever" and "~BeibsGirl~," so a lot of the hate is probably coming from Bieber fans that are mad at her for breaking up with the eight year old that thinks he's a gangster.)

I've watched all of the live performances to this song, and I can say that they aren't as bad as people make them out to be. Are they completely perfect? No, but they are far from terrible. I think a lot of Gomez's problem while singing this song live is just out of nervousness. The majority of the notes are there, with only a few of them being noticeably flat. The real problem lays in her volume; viewers can tell that she's nervous, and so she backs way off on the volume, making her look really timid, and the constant hate from people is not helping. Gomez is doing a pretty average job on live performance, and I've got her back in the argument. Sure, she could work on few things, but at least she's got the guts to actually sing live instead of lip-syncing, unlike a lot of the pop stars out there nowadays (I'm looking at you, Britney). 

Yes, I gave "Come & Get It" five stars. Why, you may ask? Because it sounds different; it's a song that should do great on the charts, but doesn't sound like everything else on the charts. Gomez is the best star to rise from Disney Channel fame, and I'm glad to see her release such great material, and I will picking up her new album when it does drop later this year.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Fantasea | Azealia Banks

Rating: ★★★★☆

You know, as much as I love Azealia Banks, you'd think that I would have already heard most of her mixtape, Fantasea, but I actually just found a download link to it a few days ago and listened to it. It really wasn't my biggest priority to listen to it before, but after I heard her perform "Jumanji" and "Esta Noche" while watching the live stream of the Ultra Music Festival, I knew I had to track it down somewhere. Beforehand, I had only head a few songs off of it that I wasn't so impressed with, but now that I've heard the entirety of Fantasea, I'm actually really glad I decided to listen to it.

Just like Banks' 1991, I was again very impressed with the mixtape's instrumentation. The girl knows how to pick the right producers. I know most of the instrumentals to the songs from 1991 were actually sampled from other artists, but only eight tracks from Fantasea sample from other artists (according to Wikipedia). The other eleven are solely from Banks and her producers, and I must say, I am thoroughly impressed with their work. I was actually quite afraid that those great beats from 1991 wouldn't carry over in Banks' work when it came to producing her own work rather than sampling other songs, but Fantasea, as well as her latest release, "Yung Rapunxel," killed that fear.

One of my favorite tracks is "Jumanji," which is really different and unique when compared to the rest of Banks' discography. The track contains a lot of instrumentation with a steel drum, giving it a really cool, tropical feeling. Another one of the highlights from the album, "Esta Noche," also carries this tropical theme, but it sounds a bit more seductive. They both are great, and really show the full potential of the Fantasea mixtape.

Although Fantasea was a mixtape and no monetary gain would be made by Banks even if it was promoted and publicized, she went forward with a music video for "Atlantis" regardless, which acted as pseudo-single for the mixtape. The video more than likely didn't have a huge budget, and by the looks of it, most it was probably shot in a couple of hours in front of a green screen. Adding the cheap computer graphics and animations probably took a lot longer than the video shoot with Banks. I like the song; I wouldn't consider it a highlight from the album, but it's an alright track. However, the less-than-satisfactory video for the song could steer a few people away from listening to the entire song, sadly.

Banks has been impressive since her debut. I still cannot believe how much success she has gained in such a short amount of time, and a lot of her success has been from her ability to pull in fans from so many different genres of music. Although Banks is supposed to be technically specified as a hip-hop artist, she truly has got a mix of rap, house, and electronic dance music. It's great how she's been able to draw in listeners from indie, pop, hip-hop, and house ends of the spectrum, and has really played into how successful she's become. I know that I really got into her because of her great electronic beats, and my love for her rapping came soon afterwards.

Today, she's actually one of the only rappers I have ever taken a liking to. Currently, the only competitors that Banks has in terms of female rap artists are Nicki Minaj, (or as my friends and I have dubbed her, 'Icki Garbaj'), and Iggy Azeala, neither of which are half as talented as Banks is. Minaj is just obnoxious beyond belief and Azeala is technically still massively irrelevant.  Other notable female rappers, such as Missy Elliot and Queen Latifah were good back in the day, but they're now past their prime and aren't making the biggest attempts to return.

In terms of male rappers, Eminem knew what he was doing for a while, up until recently when he has gotten constant airplay with songs like "Love The Way You Lie," and has really been selling out from there. I like his older stuff, such as "The Real Slim Shady," but when it comes to his newer material, I've only liked "We Made You" and "Beautiful." Everything else has just gotten old. Other male rappers, like Kanye West, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Lil Wayne, and Jay-Z, are completely obnoxious. Honestly, I think I was rather shoot myself in the foot than listen to a Lil Wayne song in full.

Hence, with all of the competition placed some levels below her on the totem pole, Banks has my vote as best rap artist as of right now. She's got the great beats, the shocking lyrics, and the attitude to back it all up. While listening to Banks' music and reading over some of her interviews and Twitter comments, I can tell that this girl knows what she wants in life, and she will destroy whoever gets in her way. I like that. In fact, I like that a lot, because it reminds a lot of myself. No matter what happens, she's going to continue to make some great music for years to come, and I don't think we'll ever see the last of her. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Here's To Never Growing Up | Avril Lavigne

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Avril Lavigne has been hard at work for the past two years preparing for a new album release, and the lead single has finally surfaced. "Here's To Never Growing Up" was released yesterday, after weeks of promotions and Twitter hash-tag trends sent out by Lavigne herself. Overall, the song has met pretty positive reviews, while I can only give it a lukewarm response overall.

Before I say anything negative, I must say that this song has got a killer chorus. The chorus is infectious, and has already gotten stuck in my head plenty of times, so at least the song has that going for it. Plus, overall, it's a really feel-good song. "Here's To Never Growing Up" has the same effect on me as most of Katy Perry and Taylor Swift's discography does: it just makes me feel happy inside. Sure, it's nothing innovative or groundbreaking, but it just makes me feel carefree and 

The chorus may be amazing, but the verses are completely the opposite. They're boring and monotonous, and I find myself wishing for the chorus to be pop back up so I can start singing along with Lavigne again. I wish I could describe the verses in deeper detail, but I really can't; they're repetitive and just simply boring.

And what is the purpose of the autotune? Lavigne pulled the same stunt that Cher did over a decade ago with the release of "Believe" by using autotune to add a little spice to the song, but in turn making her perfectly fine voice sound a bit like a robot. Avril, you've got a great voice; don't try and cover it up with autotune! It isn't extremely irritating and doesn't really kill the potential of the song, but I do want to know why Lavigne thought she needed to use the effect in the song.

Although I liked her last release, Goodbye Lullaby, I've always felt that the album was an attempt by Lavigne to try to regain some fans after she completely split her following with The Best Damn Thing, and "Here's To Never Growing Up" fits in the same category as Goodbye Lullaby. She's got the lyrics that appeal to the punks and misfits that she used to aim for with Let Go and Under My Skin, while it has the pop sound that The Best Damn Thing used to pull in a new set of listeners.

I'm really not sure how to process the modern day version of Lavigne. On one hand, she definitely has become what she set out to destroy in the first place. She used to act like the little badass rocker that hated everybody, and then somehow suddenly switched into the queen of faux-punk rockers and found an obsession with pink and bleach blonde hair. However, she's still turning out halfway decent music, and that's really all I care about as a casual listener to an artist. If Lavigne was my favorite artist and pulled a stunt like she did with The Best Damn Thing, I would have boycotted her to be completely honest, but as a casual listener, I really don't care.

"Here's To Never Growing Up" was originally sitting at a three-and-a-half star rating from me, but I like to round up or down to a whole number. If it was a bit more innovative and the verses were beefed up to fit the excitement of the choruses in the song, I would have no problem giving the song four out of five stars, but that just isn't the case. But overall, it was a solid attempt from Lavigne, and I will gladly be checking out her upcoming fifth studio album when it drops later this year.