Thursday, May 30, 2013

Crazy Kids | Ke$ha featuring

Rating: ★★★★☆

Ke$ha had a tough battle with her most recent album. Warrior has thus far failed to garner even half of the amount of the attention that she got with her previous releases. Even the most successful single from the album, "Die Young," backfired when it was pulled from rotation late last year after the mass shooting of students and faculty at Sandy Hook Elementary. She's gone as far as hooking up with MTV to make a television documentary, on which she drank her own urine, but not even that pumped up enough buzz. Now it's time for a new single, but despite the good quality of "Crazy Kids," I don't think the tables are going to turn for this struggling pop princess.

"Crazy Kids" isn't anything different when compared to everything else released from Ke$ha. It's got her signature sing-rap style in the verses with an incredibly catchy chorus. I've like the song every since the release of Warrior, but I never really said much about it in my review of the full album.

The instrumental track for the song is similar to that of Marina and the Diamonds' "Primadonna" in the fact that the verses contain the heavy bass and excited sound that I would expect the chorus to have, while the  instrumental of the beginning of the chorus is held up by some chords strummed on a guitar and some whistling. It's very strange for me to hear a song have more climatic instrumental tracks in the verses than in the chorus repetitions, but it works well for this song.

The one thing that annoys me about "Crazy Kids" doesn't even concern the song, but rather how her record label is marketing it. The single edit that is being marketed features the always-obnoxious The solo version of the song that was originally featured on Warrior was so good, so why did she and her record label decide to add that pest to the song? Katy Perry did the same thing when she added Kanye West to "E.T." and it pisses me off; Ladies, your songs are perfect when you're singing them solo, so don't feel the need to add some trashy rapper to it just to promote your album. Sometimes these artist have to think about what would sound the best instead of what would sell the best. Honestly, Ke$ha's latest album has already commercially failed, so I don't know why her label's so concerned about sales; It might be too late to worry about sales now, and would take a small miracle to change that.

I'm kind of sad that the Warrior era has completely failed commercially, because the album really wasn't that bad. It was an average pop album, but because of a few stand-out tracks and the improvement from her previous albums, I was so close to giving it a four out of five stars rather than just three. But considering I still haven't heard the song on Top 40 radio, I really don't think that "Crazy Kids" is going to save the era unless it becomes some sort of massive sleeper hit. I really hope that "Supernatural" becomes the next single and may perhaps publicly shed some light on Warrior.

Now, please keep in mind that my review is only for the song, but while we're here, let's talk about the scary video. For the entirety of the Warrior era, Ke$ha has been trying to pull in the self-proclaimed 'outcasts' and 'freaks,' and apparently has been trying to hard, as evident as it is with this video for "Crazy Kids." First thing I noticed? The cornrows. Why? Why does she have to purpose to random crap with her hair and make herself look terrible? The cornrows don't compliment her at; however, the other hairstyle featured at the end of the video does. When Ke$ha cleans up her hair, brushes it out, and straightens it some, she looks absolutely beautiful. Why can't she do that more often?

As beautiful as she may look at the end, the plot and setting of the video are just as confusing and weird as the video for "C'mon." In this video, she's at a house party with a spaceman, two giant dogs, and some old men with giant bellies.  I'm not sure if that's the part of the video that is suppose to attract her fans, but I hope she knows that it's not working quite well. It's just getting her a lot of awkward stares and giggles.

So, to recap, I like the song. I like it a lot, but the inclusion of is irritating and unnecessary, and the video doesn't do it justice. In fact, these two things did the song more harm than they did good, which is why I'm giving my rating based on the solo version as well.  It's a great pop song and I really hope it gets the attention it deserves, but I doubt that will happen because the United States is too infatuated with Macklemore and Bruno Mars to listen to anything else.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Four Queens of Twitter

Do you have a Twitter account? Do you ever find yourself wishing that the people that you follow on Twitter a bit more eventful? Do you ever wish that those people would post half-naked selfies while high on marijuana or make posts that not even Google Translate could understand? Is your life becoming meaningless without another hilarious tweet to keep you fueled for the rest of the day? If you answered yes to any of those questions, this blog post is for you. By reading this post, you will quickly learn which celebrities to follow to get the most out of your Twitter experience.

Azealia Banks has always been quite an active member of Twitterverse. Her tweeting specialty can be defined, in Internet slang, as "throwing more shade than a palm tree." Once another artist steps on the bad side of Banks, they better be checking their Twitter feed about five minutes afterwards. She has had fights with a countless number of people, including Nicki Minaj, Kreayshawn, Angel Haze, A$AP Rocky, Rita Ora, and even two of her past managers. 

My favorite feud, though, has to be the beef between Banks and blogger Perez Hilton. In fact, I actually go to watch this feud in real time; as I refreshed my timeline, a new post from Banks was blasting Hilton. Banks started the beef after Hilton took Angel Haze's side in the Banks vs. Haze showdown. The first shots were fired when Banks posted, "This nigga perez is a roach" and "@perezhilton lol what a messy faggot you are." As the fight escalated, Banks said, "Get the fuck outta here dickbreath," as Hilton tried to quickly make up some comebacks, but Banks was on rapid fire. She later had to re-group and justify her homophobic slurs, considering she is actually bisexual. One of the most interesting fights, to say the least.

Sadly, her tweeting etiquette slightly improved after her record label asked her to hand over the password to her account. Once the password was given up, all of her past tweets were deleted from her timeline. However, she still manages to stir up a bit of trouble here and there, which always keeps the fun going, but nothing has gotten as major as her past feuds.

Amanda Bynes has become rather interesting throughout the past year. The former Nickelodeon star has been on a constant decay, and most recently has been bleaching and shaving off her hair and throwing bongs out of windows. She also decided to get her cheeks pierced and had plastic surgery, which she said was to 're-profile' her face. Besides ruining my childhood image of her, Bynes has also been showing off her new 'look' on Twitter. She's found it necessary to be topless, wear fishnets, make winky faces, and be in a bathroom mirror while taking selfies, giving the images captions like "Rawr!" and "Long hair don't care." 

That isn't the only thing you'll have to look forward to when you click the follow button on Bynes' Twitter page; you'll also see plenty of re-tweets of messages posted to her on Twitter by her small army of faithful fans, including "The media needs help, not @AmandaBynes," and "@AmandaBynes I love you amanda You are so beautiful <3 I've always been such a fan of yours #queenamanda." Inspiring, eh?

Bynes has also taken an Azealia Banks approach to dealing with people she dislikes. Most recently, she randomly lashed out against Rihanna. She tweeted, "Chris Brown beat you because you're not pretty enough," and "unlike your fugly faced self I don't do drugs! U need the intervention dog! I met your ugly face in person. U aren't pretty u know know!" Without a manager to filter her tweets, who know which Twitter user will be victimized next, but I know I'm getting my popcorn ready to watch that show.

Not only is she targeting individuals, but after her nose-job and hair transformations, Bynes has confronted every tabloid magazine that dares to put an 'old' picture of her in their publication. One of the companies targeted for using 'old' pictures of her, In Touch Magazine, also uncovered some pictures of Bynes in her apartment, smoking marijuana on a dirty mattress and getting... err... 'close' with an unidentified man. She quickly claimed that "[...] they bought fake altered photos by that ugly black man in the photo or someone who knows him!" Clearly, the woman has been on a downward spiral lately, but at least we can get some tweets that are more entertaining than cable television.

Rihanna may not capable of writing her own music, but when it comes to comebacks, she's got a talent. Almost effortlessly, she smacks down haters with one basic tweet. One of her most puplicized stunts occurred between Twitter and Instagram, when a woman posted multiple insults towards the singer on the social media sites, calling her an alcoholic and a crack addict. Rihanna promptly posted this picture, adding the caption "Can you spot 3 things that are different in these pics? Chile, it's time to privatize that account!" Ouch. I think that woman needs some ice for that burn...

While Rihanna was trying to rekindle her relationship with Chris Brown last year, a woman tweeted, "I gotta admit, I lost alot of respect for @rihanna.. Makin a song w/ the dude that beat your face off is not a good look," to which Rihanna responded, "@JuhReeV neither is your avi #clapback." I actually agree that getting back together with Chris Brown was one of the stupidest ideas Rihanna has ever had, but oh my gosh, that comeback was too good for me to pass up in this post.

Besides the comebacks, Rihanna's tweets are usually just links to pictures of her latest Instagram pictures from which ever city she happens to be in, or they're re-tweets of posts from @PiscesAreUs, an account dedicated to posting a bunch of random stuff about being a Pisces. So, apparently she thinks she's a hipster that actually believes in astrological signs. However, ignoring the excessive amount of useless Pisces trivia and constant selfies (which are far less interesting than those of Miss Bynes, may I add), will pay off in the long run, because the clapbacks the woman provides are worth it.

Cher should officially be given the Entertainer of the Year Award if there ever is some sort of Twitter awards show. The woman is so funny on Twitter, but she just doesn't know why. The most obvious reason: the way she types. With tweets like "He little children wassupn," and "F@s aqaawasAjosn@wa pi," it's a wonder that she even managed to spell her name correctly while making her Twitter account. Just imagine: if she made one small typo, Cher's official Twitter account could have been @chuFKtypoImeantCHER.

She's also used Twitter as a platform to spread her ideas on politically topics, including gun control, as well as her personal life, by saying "Brushing teeth,then, omg! NO EXCUSE 4 ME ! Pres Obama killed Bin Laden! Cher U might want 2 dial Down the passion & dial up brain 2 hand !" and "Going dentist.EVERYONE SHOULD BOYCOTT WALL MART ! They R BIGGEST SELLER OF GUNS IN U.S ! Pick Up Milk,Pick Up BULLETS. Shop TARGET.RT RT RT" Besides telling us about her oral hygiene regimens, we also now know that her colon is squeaky clean: when asked how she spent Madonna's birthday, she responded with "I got a colonic."

Speaking of Madonna, Cher has also done her fair share of shading on Twitter, including some hate towards Madonna when she tweeted, "Wtf is mdna." She claims that her insult towards Madonna was unintentional, but I still beg to differ. Recently, Cher has also picked a fight with talk show host Wendy Williams after she speculated that Cher and her son, Chaz Bono, weren't getting along because of Bono's weight problem. She then tweeted, "If Wendy Williams Doesn’t STOP LYING about Chaz & Me(We’re not Getting along,so Taking a time Out ! I’m Paying him 1K a Lb.2 Lose Weight) So He Has Made $65,000 ! I’m Going 2 Sue HER  Ample Ass & Her Network ! I Don’t Know Who The Fk They Think They R,BUT DON’T FK WITH MY SON." That, my friends, is a true clapback. 

Even with all of this shade-throwing, at least she does apologize when she does hurt someone's feelings... that is, if she can properly identify them first: "I was looking at tweets & saw that i really hurt someones feelings ! Im sorry. It was light blue background with white egg shape . Bye" 

So, there you have it. No more will you be crying yourself to sleep due to your overly-boring Twitter feeds; no more searching for hours on who to follow next; no more contemplation of deleting your Twitter account and permanently ending your online social life. With these four divas on Twitter, your life will always be filled with constant entertainment and happiness.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Secondhand Rapture | MS MR

Rating: ★★★★☆

The powers of the Internet can do wonders. Thanks to websites like YouTube and Gaga Daily, I have discovered a countless number of artists. I've discovered artists like Lana Del Rey, Marina and the Diamonds, Azealia Banks, Kimbra, and LIGHTS because of the Internet. Now, I can add the indie duo MS MR to that exclusive list.

MS MR, which is supposed to be pronounced as 'miss mister,' is a fairly new, but also fairly unknown, band that is based in New York. In fact, they are so new that their debut album, Secondhand Rapture, was just released earlier this month. Once I heard a few songs off of the album, I found it at a local record shop for only eight dollars (which was a steal considering compact disc albums are usually running between thirteen and fifteen dollars a piece now), and have been listening to it non-stop.

"Hurricane" was the first single to be lifted from Secondhand Rapture, and was the first song I ever heard by MS MR. I fell in love with the song as soon as I heard it in a YouTube commercial for this album. I would review it more in depth here, but that would be reductive because I've actually already written a full review of the song here.

The song that bares the most resemblance to a mainstream pop song is "Think of You," which includes plenty of influence from electropop music, but also pulls elements of numerous different genres to create one great song. The song's chorus makes it eligible for radio airplay; its chorus explodes with plenty "ohs," which are a typical element of almost every single successful pop song known to man, and the lyrics "I still think of you / And all the shit you put me through." I might be crazy, but those just sound like some pretty average pop song lyrics.

The second single from Secondhand Rapture is also a bit on the pop side, called "Fantasy." If given the light of day, this song could be a hit on pop radio; the hook has plenty of hand claps and drums while Plapinger repeatedly sings "How could you be what I wanna see?" The video for the song is also quite entertaining, with Plapinger donning blue hair inside a diner while cheerleaders vomit glitter and confetti across the parking lot outside. Fun, right? At least it's not as strange as the video for "Hurricane."

"Dark Doo Wop" starts out quite calmly with Plapinger providing the basis of the backing track: a constant repetition of "Da-doo-da-doo-doo-da-doo / Shoo-wop" and a snapping pattern. I love the lyrics of the pre-chorus and chorus: "If we're gonna die, bury us alive / If they're searching for us they'll find us side by side / That's my, that's my man / This world is going to burn, burn burn burn / As long as we're going down / Baby you should stick around / Baby you should stick around." I think the song is meant to signify loving a significant other throughout life and, inevitably, death.

I really didn’t find any massive problems with the songs on Secondhand Rapture. They were, for the most part, very well written and produced. Once in a while, Plapinger’s voice would purposely slide into notes, which doesn’t sound the greatest, but I only noticed this problem a few times throughout the entire album. Other than that minor detail, I really could find anything to complain about; a few of the songs at the end of the track-listing were a bit lackluster, but they didn’t drag the album down at all.

For a debut album, Secondhand Rapture was an impressive attempt. Minus the last few tracks, I rated every song on the album with a four or a five star rating on my personal Windows Media Player, which is something I haven’t been able to do since the release of Florence + The Machine’s Ceremonials and Lana Del Rey’s Paradise. Indie artists usually never get the light of day on music charts, nor do they usually get a large amount of sales, which is a shame, because more people should really become aware of what MS MR is up to. Regardless of how large or small their sales for this album turn out, the duo should be proud of their job well done, and they can satisfaction in knowing that there was at least one person out there that thoroughly enjoyed their album.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

I Love It | Icona Pop featuring Charli XCX

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Sometimes it is extraordinary how much success an artist or music group can gain from one song that just seems to hit massive success overnight. Don't believe me? Just ask Icona Pop, the Swedish duo who finally catapulted onto music charts outside of their homeland after "I Love It" sparked interest here in the United States, as well as many other countries.

"I Love It" has been lingering around charts around the world for over a year now, as it was actually first released in May of last year in parts of Europe to promote the duo's self-entitled debut album. Looking on to present day, the song has finally hit a big momentum in the United States and is being played on mainstream radio stations across the country. It peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 chart at number seven, and as of today, May 23, 2013, it is sitting at number nine on that chart.

This song is really quite a simple song; it's just the repetition of a chorus, an instrumental breakdown, and a some sort of bridge or second chorus. What set this song apart from others that use this same format, which usually get bland quickly, are the amazing instrumental track and the lyrics. I mean, if I hear somebody singing "I crashed my car into the bridge / I don't care, I love it" or "You're so damn hard to please, we gotta kill this switch / You're from the '70s, but I'm a '90s bitch" on the radio, I'm obviously going to stop flipping through the channels.

The lyrics may be interesting, but the song wouldn't even be half as successful as it is right now if it wasn't for that instrumental track. It's got a great electronic dance beat that actually strays away from the cliché David Guetta and Calvin Harris sound: the sound that most electronic artists try to mimic nowadays. The explosion of sound in the chorus is enough to an entire club bouncing with excitement and singing along. Of course, I'm not old enough to go into any clubs yet, so I can't tell you that from experience. I can, however, tell you that I have spent plenty of time dancing around and singing to this song in my house. My neighbors probably think I'm mentally insane with all of the commotion I cause while singing and dancing to a song, but they're going to have to build a bridge and get over it.

So, in actuality, is "I Love It" just a repetitive club song? Yes. Regardless, do "I Love It"? Yes, I do. Are you judging me right now for using that pun on the title of the song? Probably. Were you already judging me before this paragraph for annoying my neighbors while screaming the lyrics of this song? Once again, probably. But, do you want to know something interesting? "I don't care" what you think about me, my love for this song, or my frequent use of puns in this paragraph.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Grown Woman | Beyoncé

*I had to use a fan-made cover for this review due to the fact that the official cover has not been released yet. Once the official cover is released, I will replace the existing image.

Rating: ★★★★★

Earlier this year, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter exploded back into the music scene from her pregnancy leave, and after telling the world to "Bow Down," our bootylicious friend is finally ready to admit that she's a "Grown Woman." (I just learned today that 'bootylicious' is actually considered an adjective by the Oxford English Dictionary...)

I was not the biggest fan of "Bow Down / I Been On" when it was officially released on Knowles-Carter's SoundCloud account in March; it was a pretty bold move for Bey to proclaim herself as a queen, but the song didn't help her live up to that title. However, I still had high hopes that the rest of her upcoming album (which still doesn't have a release date, may I add), might sound just a bit better than what I had just heard. Now, with the leak of "Grown Woman" this week, I must say that my expectations have been set quite high for this new album.

The song starts with a baseline beat, consisting of some drums, bass, and some computer-generated voices that I can't really name. It's a nice sound that gets even better as Beyoncé starts to sing and some vocal instrumentation and percussion are layered over the real instruments. The sound of a screaming crowd can also be heard throughout the entire piece, but I think that may be a tag put on the song by whoever leaked it, because the screaming doesn't appear in the snippets of the song that are featured in the Queen B's Pepsi endorsements.

I like the song's instrumentation, but one of my favorite parts of the "Grown Woman" has to be the beautiful harmonies on the lines, "It ain't no fun, if a girl can't have none / You really wanna know how I got it like that / Cause I got a cute face and my booty so fat / Go girl / She got that bomb, that bomb / That girl / Can get whatever she wants / Go girl / She got that tight, that tight / Them boys / They do whatever she like."

The only problem I have with "Grown Woman" is the obnoxious person that is doing some sort of stupid wailing noise from the 3:05 mark to the 3:48 mark. I don't know who was making the noise in the song, but I want them to know that ain't nobody got time for that. He (or she) sound like a dying whale trying to do a mating call. I guess it could be worse, but the song would definitely be completely spotless without that annoying yelling halfway through.

I would embed a YouTube video or SoundCloud stream of "Grown Woman," but every time the song is posted on those sites, it is taken back down within a day or so. I'm assuming her record label isn't too happy about this leak, but they're going to have to realize that it's out there now, and pulling down YouTube and SoundCloud streams isn't going to change that.

With this song, I am officially hooked on Beyoncé once again. I'm just really hoping that this next album has the payout that I'm now expecting. If the material on Knowles-Carter's upcoming album is anything like this, I can easily say that it could be her best album to date, but I guess only time will tell.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Lana Del Ray A.K.A. Lizzy Grant | Lana Del Rey


Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Soon after Lana Del Rey debuted "Video Games" in 2011, there was plenty of speculation about the past career endeavors and life experiences of the young singer and songwriter. Inhabitants of the Internet easily pried their way into her past, finding that she once started out as a young Elizabeth Grant, trying to release material as Lana Del Ray, a small misnomer that is now frowned upon by Lana Del Rey fans around the globe.

Under the name, she released one album with 5 Points Records before getting a joint contract with Polydor and Interscope Records and changing the spelling of her name. After being signed to the new labels, Lana Del Ray A.K.A. Lizzy Grant was pulled from music download sites when Del Rey bought the rights back and ordered for the album's retraction from availability. However, being a borderline-stalker big fan of Del Rey, I tracked down the discontinued album months ago on YouTube and I'm finally ready to give it a proper review.

Upon listening to Lana Del Ray A.K.A. Lizzy Grant, (which has also been code-named Nevada by some Del Rey fans), I was surprised to find that it sounded nothing like the dreary sadcore style of Born To Die and Paradise that I originally fell in love with. Instead, this album seems much more carefree and is nearly genre-less; it has a lot of different influences and draws from alternative rock, pop, and indie. The only two songs that are even remotely close to her current sound are the opening and closing tracks of the album.

The album commences with the only single lifted from the album, "Kill Kill." This track is probably my favorite from the album. I like to think of the song as a precursor to "Dark Paradise," as the chorus repeats the same line over and over again: "I'm in love with a dying man."  "Kill Kill" has slow and calming (but not dull) sound that really isn't seen on the album again until the album's ending song. The song's conclusion includes the repeated echoes of "One, two, make it fun / Don't trust anyone," which parallel the tattoo of the words 'trust no one' on the side of her right hand.

The final song of Lana Del Ray A.K.A. Lizzy Grant should ring a bell for her current fans, whether they know about this album or not; the original version of "Yayo" sits at the end of A.K.A., while a new version was recorded for Paradise. The version of "Yayo" found on this album has its perks and downfalls, just as the new version does, but I do prefer the A.K.A. version. The two things that make this version of "Yayo" special that are missing from the Paradise edition of the song are actually quite minor (and almost unnoticeable), but they do make a difference. I adore the haunting echo of "dark night" at the end of the bridge and the instrumentation that plays from the end of the bridge to the end of the song. 

Any fan of Lana Del Rey knows that Elizabeth Grant led a rather interesting life before she became what she is today, and some of the songs of A.K.A. help explain some of her blurry past. "For K Part 2" easily points out one of Del Rey's shadiest associates: 'K'. It is assumed that 'K' was one of her past boyfriends, but rumors surrounding him are what really interest me. He's been said to be either dead or on death row for some sort of massive crime. The song is extremely boring, but at least it gives us a glimpse of 'K.'

"Brite Lites" was Del Rey's attempt at some sort of dance song, but... well... it failed. There aren't any dynamics in the vocals, the instrumental doesn't sound professional, and she just doesn't sound right on the track in general. Her voice just isn't suited from dance music; I don't know how to put it any other way. Her sultry sound belongs on tracks like "Born To Die" and "Ride," not layered over some sort of cheap dance-style instrumental that sounds like it came off a karaoke disc bought at the local Dollar General.

This album also holds plenty of songs with interesting titles, to say the least. The second track, "Queen of the Gas Station," is catchier song about, well, how much Del Rey loves the gas station. I think it might be used as a metaphor to say that she's happy with cheap things rather than more expensive things, but I'm really not sure, to be honest. I'm just taking a shot in the dark. Oh, and I can't forget "Gramma (Blue Ribbon Sparkler Trailer Heaven)." The rambling part in the parentheses is supposed to be there; I promise. Is it relevant to the song? Not at all, but don't ask questions.

Of course, these titles really should be too surprising; Del Rey once had a personal MySpace account before the release of Lana Del Ray A.K.A. Lizzy Grant on which she entitled herself the 'Sparkle Jump Rope Queen,' a line which actually comes up in the song "Little Girls (Put Me In A Movie)" on this album. They're all strange titles and names, but I think she was going through a time that some young adults do when they have absolutely no clue what they're doing with their lives; They tend to try and outrageously reinvent themselves to become content with their self-image, which usually never works. Luckily, she outgrew her sparkly jump roping days soon enough to become what she is today.

Lana Del Ray A.K.A. Lizzy Grant may have unlocked a few obscure facts of Del Rey's past, but other than that, the album doesn't serve much of a purpose. I do listen to "Kill Kill," "Queen of the Gas Station," "Mermaid Motel," and "Yayo" on a regular basis, but the rest of the songs sound like aborted demo tracks from a mediocre high school garage band. Born To Die and Paradise blow this album away in every category: the lyrics, instrumentation, and overall quality of those two albums are nearly perfect, and seem completely flawless when compared to Lana Del Ray A.K.A. Lizzy Grant. I'm not saying this album is preventing me from being a fan or anything: I'm going to continue to fan-girl over this woman for years to come, but I'm just going to try to ignore the fact that the majority of this album exists.

Hurricane | MS MR

Rating: ★★★★★

It's only been a few hours since I first heard of MS MR (pronounced: "Miss Mister"), an American duo featuring vocalist Lizzy Plapinger and producer Max Hershenow, but I think I've already fallen in love.

I discovered MS MR this morning when I saw an advertisement for their debut album, Secondhand Rapture, this morning on YouTube, featuring their single "Hurricane." Usually the advertisements on YouTube are irritating and I try to skip them as often as possible, but the song entranced me, and I had to watch the full advertisement  I actually disregarded the video I was going to watch so I could go find the full song to listen to. (Sorry Jenna Marbles, but I had to find this marvelous piece of work rather than re-watching "Cooking With Sarah Palin.")

"Hurricane" is a slower song powered by pounding drums and Plapinger's voice, which would actually fit well in mainstream pop music just as well as it does the indie music that MS MR is producing now. The hook of the song is extremely catchy. I would have never thought I would be constantly humming the vocal line of "Nights like this / I become afraid / Of the darkness in my heart / Hurricane," but here I am doing it as I type this review.

The accompanying video to "Hurricane" is strange, to say the least, but I like it. In it, Plapinger's skin is colored blue; a scrawny boy is being trained in a gym by some sort of muscular alien; a couple is transferring green slime into each other's mouths while kissing; some girl is leaking pink fluids from her scalp; Hershenow is being confront by a two ghetto kids... That was a long list of events, and they doesn't even cover it all. It's a freaky video, okay?

I really enjoyed "Hurricane," as well as the band's other released single, "Fantasy," when I heard them this morning, and I'm surprised that a simple advertisement on YouTube could easily introduce me to some new music. Fans of indie artists like Florence + The Machine and Lana Del Rey will more than likely take a liking to MS MR; I know I have. They've got a unique sound and I definitely hope that I can get my hands on a copy of Secondhand Rapture sometime soon and give the full album a review.

Monday, May 13, 2013

DEMI | Demi Lovato

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Demi Lovato's fans really got a treat this month. Lovato's album, DEMI, was slated for release tomorrow, but last week, Lovato tweeted out links to YouTube videos for each song on the album. I had been slightly looking forward to the album, so when Lovato leaked the album, I took the time to listen to the entire album.

Now, before I get into the actually music, may I please ask what is going on with the cover of this album? It's hideous. Lovatics across the web have been saying that album is so edgy and creative... Why? The girl looks like she just got done bathing in silver paint. DEMI's cover isn't special; it's just awkward. The single cover for "Heart Attack" was actually really nice; why wasn't a picture from that photo shoot used instead?

When the lead single of DEMI was released a few months ago, I instantly fell in love with it (as much as I hated to admit it). "Heart Attack" showed a lot of growth from Lovato, especially vocally, which is quite evident in each repetition of the song's chorus. I don't want to go too in-depth, because I already reviewed the song separately. You can read my review of the song here.

On the other hand, Lovato takes a break on "Neon Lights" and allows auto-tune to do some work for her. Even though there is evident use of auto-tune, I liked "Neon Lights." It's a catchy song, but instrumental gave me this giant vibe of Rihanna's "We Found Love." Obviously, "Neon Lights" is a hell of a lot better because Rihanna's song was basic and had about three lines of lyrics, but they do sound a bit similar. But again, I do like the song. It's an average, run-of-the-mill pop song of this decade.

The only collaboration to appear on DEMI is with British pop star Cher Lloyd, who is most-well known for her song "Want U Back" in the United States. However, Lloyd sings a minuscule twenty second verse in one of the weakest songs from the album, "Really Don't Care," and I feel like she was only included for that small amount of time just so Lovato's label could market the album by saying that there was a special collaboration between the two. I also noticed that the first twenty seconds or so of the song are quite reminiscent of Icona Pop's "I Love It," or at least a rather watered-down version of "I Love It."

Actually, a lot of the songs on DEMI are somewhat similar to other pop hits. I've already compared "Neon Lights" to "We Found Love" and "Really Don't Care" to "I Love It," but this next one should come as no surprise: Lovato's "Made in the U.S.A." sounds like a re-write of "Party in the U.S.A.," the song that gained Miley Cyrus a lot of radio airplay back in 2009. Two of the album's ballads also sounds familiar: "Nightingale," draws some influence from Lovato's own "Skyscraper," while the vocal lines of the verses in "Two Pieces" are close to those in Christina Perri's "A Thousand Years."

To make a long story short, DEMI is going to make Lovatics happy; they've already been littering the comments section of Lovato's YouTube videos with things like "if u dislike the songs on demi U DONT HAVE A HEART. THEY ARE BEAUTIFUL," and "demi is the best album of all time omg she deserves an oscar or grammy or vma or golden globe or something." (Yes, I have seen people on YouTube saying that Demi Lovato deserves an Oscar and a Golden Globe for DEMI. Logical? Not at all.) However, casual listeners like myself that may have been drawn towards the album by "Heart Attack" will more than likely be disappointed. There are a few highlights in the album, but the majority of the songs just fall short of my expectations.

Kiss | Carly Rae Jepsen

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Last year, Canadian singer and song-writer Carly Rae Jepsen went from being a reality show contestant to a worldwide success, in what seemed like only a few minutes. Almost overnight, "Call Me Maybe" shot across the globe, and it seemed like everybody, both young and old, was in on the craze. The album that the song was lifted from, Kiss, was released just as the summer season was coming to a close, and I just now got around to listening to it. Judge me all you want for listening to it, but Jepsen is undeniably adorable and just as I had assumed, the album is just as bubbly and cute as she is.

From what I can tell from the small amounts of research that I've done on Jepsen, Kiss actually brought up a big change in Jepsen's production styles and main demographic. She was featured on Canadian Idol and released a debut album within her home country. By the time she hit big with "Call Me Maybe," and Kiss was being prepared for a worldwide release, she went from looking like this, to looking like how she does on the album cover for Kiss. With this album, I feel like Jepsen has now set herself up to ride off of the same fame that Taylor Swift has thrived on for years: Appealing to young children and 'tweens' by dressing and acting just like them and making squeaky clean tunes that parents will happily allow their children to listen to. I would never do it myself, especially since Justin Bieber is the only male to successful use this tactic as of late, but if Jepsen and Swift can use this tactic to pay the bills, the more power to them.

By judging the song by it's title, I didn't expect the opening track, "Tiny Little Bows," to be anything that sounded remotely catchy, but I was wrong. The song takes a lot of influence from pop music of the 1980s, and it seems that Jepsen is trying to channel Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, Cindy Lauper, and (pre-Hard Candy) Madonna in the song. The song's lyrics don't really make much sense; I think she's trying to talk about love, but the lyrics end up being a big hot mess. The problem with the lyrics is that most of the original lines were ignored in the final mixing of the song, as I found out while trying to find a high quality version of "Tiny Little Bows" to listen to on YouTube. On the site, I found an acoustic rendition from Jepsen and the majority of the lyrics were different and, quite frankly, better. The acoustic cover included lyrics about Cupid and falling in love, while the final mix includes a bunch of random rubbish about New York and Paris with small fragments of the original lyrics left here and there. I'm not sure what stirred Jepsen to change the lyrics to things like "Dancing really high / And dancing really slow" and "Hey London / Call me if you think about it / Don't forget," but I really wish she would have left the original lyrics be, because they were a lot better. Regardless of the lyrical content, the song is pretty cute and I find myself humming it all the time.

As weird as it seems, I actually wasn't too keen on "Call Me Maybe" when I first heard it; it just seemed like a basic pop song. But after the second or third listen to it, that song was magically stuck in my head and wouldn't leave. By this point, I realized that I had fallen in love with the song. To be honest, I could walk around singing "Hey, I just met you / And this is crazy / But here's my number / So call me, maybe?" to myself all day and not tire of it. In actuality, there still isn't anything really special about it except for the fact that it's extremely catchy, but then again that's all that a song needs to be successful anymore. If a song's got just the right hook, it will shoot right up the charts, regardless of vocal talent or song-writing capabilities. Luckily for Jepsen, she's actually got all of that; I've watched her live performances on YouTube to find that she's actually got a very nice voice, and she writes her own lyrics. As a listener, this tells me that her emotions and thoughts were actually put into the lyrics rather than just being sung off of a piece of paper that was handed to her.

Kiss also includes Jepsen's collaboration with Owl City, "Good Time." The song was lifted as single from both Kiss and Owl City's fourth studio album, The Midsummer Station, sometime last year and met pretty big success. I've loved the song since it was first released because it's so carefree. Again, just like all of the other songs off of this album, "Good Time" isn't anything too meaningful or deep; It's just a simple, fun song with a cliche repetition of "oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh" that can be found in almost every single pop song known to man. (That doesn't really bother me, though. Even pop artists that are at the top of their game make use of this trick to fill up the empty space in their songs.) The song revealed how well the voices of Adam Young and Jepsen blend; they create a really nice sound when they're singing together in the chorus. I would actually enjoy another collaboration between the two soon considering how well "Good Time" turned out.

While listening to it in chronological order, I really enjoyed the album. But, after the seventh track of the album, it started to go stale. Songs like "Your Heart is a Muscle" and "Guitar String/Wedding Ring" were just boring. My least favorite song from Kiss also appears in the second half of the album: "Beautiful," which features Justin Bieber. The always-irritating Bieber is also listed as an executive producer of Kiss, so I'm surprised that the album turned out as well as it did, to be honest.

I like Jepsen on about the same level that I like artists like Katy Perry; she's got some really good pop tunes that I can sing along to and replay over and over again. Although her music may not have a lot of meaning, I can appreciate the fact that Jepsen's actually got the live vocal talent to back herself up. In fact, while singing live, she sounds better than about seventy-five percent of today's pop stars and she deserves more credit than she gets because of that.

Overall, I moderately enjoyed Kiss. This album definitely appeals mainly to girls that are still awaiting for their age to reach the double digits, which is why it might have under-performed when compared to the success of "Call Me Maybe," but most fans of pop music can find a song or two that they enjoy. If you're looking for some innocent and fun pop music, Kiss is right up your alley.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Music from Baz Luhrmann's Film 'The Great Gatsby' | Various Artists

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Tomorrow, The Great Gatsby hits the big screen in theaters across the United States, but last Tuesday, the soundtrack to the film was released and I had been counting down the days until its release.

What originally got me so excited for this soundtrack was the rumor that one of my favorite artists, Lana Del Rey, was working on a piece for the album. To my surprise, not only was she included, but her song was also chosen as the lead single for the soundtrack. "Young and Beautiful" was released a few weeks before the album, and I quickly took the opportunity to review it here. The song is definitely my favorite from the album; it's got the typical Lana Del Rey-type of lyrics that I fell in love with at the beginning of her career and also takes a lot of influence from her past album, Paradise, in it's production. It's beautiful song, and I would go into further detail, but I have already done so in my full review of the song.

The deluxe edition of the album that I picked up at Target also has a special version of "Young and Beautiful," which is accompanies the vocals with an orchestra rather than the original instrumental. The instrumentation in this version is actually toned down a lot, and lets Lana Del Rey's vocals ring a bit louder. The orchestra does compliment her voice, but I wish they could have mixed the orchestra to sound more prominent in some areas of the song, such as the first verse when it can barely be heard under the vocals.

Another one of my favorite artists, Florence Welch, is also featured on the album, alongside her Machine. Florence + The Machine is credited with "Over the Love," which I am just as impressed with as I was with Lana Del Rey's contribution to the album. Like how "Young & Beautiful" shares the same production values as many of the songs on Lana Del Rey's latest album, "Over the Love" sounds like it could have been used on Ceremonials. In true Florence + The Machine style, the song has really calm verses, with an explosion of Welch's powerhouse vocals appearing in the chorus, which get louder with each repetition. How she can belt out those notes like she can, I will never know, but I am completely in love with her ability to do so and still sound beautiful. Although it sounds like it could be used on Ceremonials, the song does contain a key set of lyrics that makes it clear that this song was made for this soundtrack specifically: the song manages to constantly refer back to "I can see the green light," which represents a lot in The Great Gatsby, including Jay Gatsby's yearning for Daisy Buchanan.

Beyoncé Knowles also makes an appearance on the soundtrack, as both a songwriter for Emeli Sandé's cover of "Crazy in Love" and a performer for her cover of "Back to Black," originally by Amy Winehouse. I was quite excited to hear Knowles' cover of the song because I knew she could add just as much soul to the song as Winehouse did, but then I saw who was included on the cover: André 3000. For those of you who don't know, André 3000 is an irritating rapper who is still trying to regain relevance after he quickly entered and exited the spotlight with the song "Hey Ya!" in 2003. In "Back to Black," he made a complete mess of the beginning half of the song. Thanks to him, the song that should have been one of the best songs on the album was turned into one of the worst. Beyoncé's parts were pretty good, but thanks to her collaborator, overall the song was disgraceful to the original piece.

On the other hand, Emeli Sandé's cover of Beyoncé and Jay-Z's "Crazy in Love" actually turned out well. Sandé collaborated with the Bryan Ferry Orchestra, giving the song the amazing big-band style that I was expecting from the film's soundtrack. I love how they were able to take a modern song and make it seem like it came straight from the 1920s. Sure, the song isn't something that I'm going to go jam out to or anything, but it fits the film so well that I can't help but applaud it. Although I have never heard of her before, Sandé seems to have one great voice; she really took the song as her own and spiced it up when compared to its original counterpart.

One of the songs on the album that I'm kind of on the fence about it "A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)," performed by Fergie, Q-Tip, and GoonRock. Let's be honest though, Q-Tip and Goonrock are completely irrelevant. (A bit off-topic, but who in the hell names himself 'Q-Tip'? That's just stupid.) So, let's just focus on Fergie, okay? I don't love the song, but then again I don't hate the song either. One of my problems with it is that it doesn't seem like it's going to fit in the film. I can tell by the instrumental track and the way that Fergie is styling her voice that she and her producers were trying to find a nice mixture of styles from today and when The Great Gatsby took place, but I feel like today's sounds were too prominent in the song. I would probably like the song more if it wasn't meant to fit in the soundtrack of the film.

My least favorite tracks from this album come from Jack White, The xx,, and the soundtrack's executive producer, Jay-Z. All four of the tracks are obnoxious and bring the whole soundtrack down. Roughly thirty-five percent of White's "Love is Blindness" is just White screaming the lyrics and it's irritating. Perhaps he should go back to the "Seven Nation Army" spiel, because he's actually tolerable there. Meanwhile, I do like the instrumental track of "Together" by The xx, but the singers from the band have boring and dull voices that I can't handle listening to. Finally, Jay-Z's "100$ Bill," (yes, that is the way the title is stylized, and yes, I know it looks stupid), and's "Bang Bang" are both simply intolerable. Both Jay-Z and are terrible rappers, and it still shocks me that they both still have careers.

Minus the contributions from Lana Del Rey, Florence + The Machine, Sia, and few select others, this soundtrack was kind of a let-down, but then again that may be because I had such high expectations for it. Overall, it was an average attempt, with a few amazing tracks sprinkled here and there. Do I regret running out to Target a day after its release to buy it? Of course not, because the standout tracks alone were worthy my time and money to go buy it.