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Sunday, January 25, 2009

808's & Heartbreak - Kanye West

(((Rating: 4)))

Bangers: Heartless, Amazing, See U In My Nightmares

I will be honest and say that Graduation was the first Kanye album I have bought. I'm not ashamed to say it may not be the last while I teeter on the edge of buying his most current album, 808's & Heartbreak. When Kanye first introduced us to Love Lockdown, we knew he had taken a different route from the tenatively titled album, Good Ass Job. Nevertheless, this album was received with closed fist and open hands just the same. You will either hate a Kanye album or love it. Here goes my review....

Say You Will - Kanye is dramatic and simple here as we hear a skeleton-like drum and simple synth and what sounds like voices in the background. Kanye says some of the most interesting things like, "When I grab your neck, I touch your soul. Take off your kewl, then lose control." He then let's the beat ride out until the end with the choir like voices...."don't say you will, unless you will".

Welcome to Heartbreak - I love how this song builds with heavy drum and a piano. Kanye speaks on how he only has the material things to brag about where his friends are finding happiness in family. "And my head keeps spinnin, can't keep having these visions, I gotta get with it..." Very good song.

Heartless - This has to be the catchiest, upbeat heartbreak song out right now. Once again we hear the 808's and Kanye raps about how he lost his soul to a woman so heartless. Definitely repeatable.

Amazing - Kanye uses his auto-tune and vocoder here as he sing/raps over drums and other synths. Jeezy is also a welcome feature on here, as he is on most songs. "I'm amazing, yea I'm all that. If I aint on my grind, then what u call that?" Repeatable.

Love Lockdown - I didn't like this song when it was aired and I still don't like it. Although, I will not overlook Kanye's ability to introduce a new sound and flair in music. He literally uses a simple duh duh duh doom 808 beat, piano, and animal effects throughout the song. Not a fav.

Paranoid - Seems Kanye started off playing on this song and it turned into something good enough to put on the album. The song is comprised mainly of synths. He tells his girl, "baybay don't be so paranoid, you worry bout the wrong thangs...". Very fun song overall.

RoboCop - The strings in the song are pretty interesting. Makes me envision a fun scene in a movie with the robotic sound effects and all. He also states here, how his girl is acting like a robocop.

Street Lights - This may be the most awkwardly dramatic song on the album. "I know my destination, I'm just not there..." My sentiments exactly.

Bad News - This is another simple kickdrum beat. Skippable. "I just heard some real bad news..."

See You In My Nightmare - My favorite song on the album! Lil Wayne's voice mixes perfectly with the eery synths and drums. Kanye then chimes in with his most arrogantly vulnerable voice, "Tell errbody DAT ya know...that I don't love you no mo". This song is perfectly haunting as the strings compliment the ending. "And that's one thing DAT ya know..." Perfect!

Coldest Winter - This song is very somber as Kanye speaks on his mothers death. "Goodbye my friend, will I ever love again. Memories made in the coldest winter." Damn. The music definitely completes his mood with hard hitting drum and melancholy synths.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Evolution of Robin Thicke - Robin Thicke

(((Rating: 5)))

Bangers: Every song is exceptional in it's own right.

Robin Thicke, simply known as Thicke previously on his debut album A Beautiful World, changed up his style and delivered a classic and gorgeous album. While this review is late, I still wanted to give props to a very talented artist. On this album he delivers stellar vocals, arrangements, and harmonies. He also plays the guitar and piano on alot of the songs as well as wrote most if not all of them. A true artist indeed.

Got 2 Be Down - This song starts with such a Marvin Gaye-esque feel to it and Faith's voice is more than welcomed on this track. Robin sings in a mid range tone and a falsetto as he sings, "I got 2 be down....we gotta get it together"! Definitely a lovely opener.

Complicated - "I wish I could change..." The live bass and piano and cymbal taps compliments Robin voice sweetly as he sings until the beat finally drops in. Very nice jazzy melody as the instruments work well with another.

Would That Make U Love Me - We hear Robin's many tones hear as he begs the question, "Would that make you love me?" The beat is extremely simplistic with the primary instruments being a guitar, nice 1,2 beat and synths throughout the song and also what seems to be an organ.

Lost Without U - This had to be one of Robin's biggest hits and understandably so. The song come in with a hand drum and very relaxed guitar riffs and snaps with a random triangle hit. He sings to his wife, "tell me how you love me more and how you think I'm sexy baby..."! This one is surely for the couple. Wonderful song. :)

Ask Myself - Nice claps. Guitar riff. Heavy bass. "I gotta ask myself what's it gon' be baby..." Very nice dance or driving song.

All Night Long - This song makes me feel, especially with Lil' Wayne's appearance, that it wad intended for the club. While not a bad song, it lacks. Not entirely skippable but surely not a favorite.

Everything I Can't Have - Very big band and spanish-ish. Very different. We hear bass, trumpets, drums, piano, sambas, and other instruments. Very interesting song.

Teach U A Lesson - Very mellow and calm song. Robin sings to his lover, "U've been a bad girl, Someone's gonna have to teach ya..." I would say this is surely a calm seduction. :) One of my favs.

I Need love - While someone strums an electric guitar, we get a glimpse of Robins seductiveness as his voice goes from high to low to lower and high again and he then croons, "Settle down love for a minute..." This is definitely a cutty song as Robin says, "I can do better than make love to you, better than make you say my name...please, please, please..." A truly beautiful song as the it continues into the reprise and we hear more or Robin's gorgeous harmonies and musical melodies with the piano. One of the best songs on the album.

Wanna Love U Girl - When I first heard this song, something was off to me and maybe because I wasn't used to this Robin. Although, slowly but surely this has become a definite banger to me. "oh, oh , oh oh oh..." lol

Can U Believe - Robin plays the piano beautifully here as he is accompanied by a simple drum beat and vocal harmonies. He sings and asks, "When your down at the bottom can you believe in love...when all that you've got is God?" Incredible lyrics and Robin gives us amazing vocals once again as the song hits the bridge and he sings, "If nobody's watching, you will never know..."! Also we hear a very aggressive electric guitar riff. Awesome song.

Shooter - While Lil' Wayne doesn't massacre the song, I prefer Robin original version from his previous album A Beautiful World.

Cocaine - The heavy beat and guitar and Robin's falsetto makes this song really thump as it should as he croons about his environment. This song sounds a little vintage as well.

2 the Sky - This is an eerily touching song as Robin sings with depletion as he asks the questions that we all ask in life. "Will I be rich?" But he reminds us readily, the only truth is in the sky referring to God. The song takes a very dramatic turn as he an electric guitar falls in and Robin yells out, "Take me, take the sky." Then as in an almost reprise style again, Robin hits with a lovely piano solo and croons, "when you ask yourself, why me, why not me, when ur down on ur knees, just look to the sky"! Amen Robin! Preach! OUTSTANDING vocals, harmonies, musical melodies....stellar!

Lonely World - Melodramatic and piano-driven. Reminiscent of Michael Jackson.

Angels - Simply Robin and his piano as he sings in a beautiful falsetto about his angels. :) Wonderful closer to an outstanding album.

Here I Stand - Usher

(((Rating: 4)))

Bangers: Here I Stand, Love in this Club, Trading Places, Love You Gently & Before I Met You

Usher has been one of my favorite artists since I was about 10. I remember seeing him perform with Janet Jackson and R. Kelly on tour and having his posters plastered on my walls. He has been on the scene since he was 13 and he debuted his album Here I Stand in May 2008 for our listening pleasures. In my musical opinion, this was one of his most slept on and mature albums thus far. So I will provide a review of the album.

Intro - The intro seems as though he is taking his first step into REAL manhood and maturity. As he speaks of his loneliness and then finding love, it makes the listener really want to take the journey with him. To hear the full song, google "Forever Young".

Love In This Club - The garage band Polow Da Don produced track is certainly good material for a 1st single and Usher spared no expense in giving us the "sexy". Young Jeezy is featured here and is quite welcomed with his rugged but smooth rap lyrics and persona. "If we close our eyes, it could just be me and you..."! Definitely a banger that I still listen to!

This Aint Sex - "All ladies report to the dance floor..." This song possesses true Usher charm and maturity as he makes the listener sway, snap fingers and raise an arm or two! The snap back beat makes for good dancing and Usher croons and slides over the beat easily.

Trading Places - This song is definitely on the cutty list for me. From the animalistic drum beat, to the skeleton piano keys, and Ushers voice caressing each verse seductively, this song proves that he hasn't gone anywhere and doesn't plan on leaving soon. It is sure to make you bop your head and call your lover. "Now put it on me baby till I say oooh wee..."....yesss! The guitar towards the end is undeniably the climax instrument of choice.

Moving Mountains - While not a favorite of mine, I cannot deny the vulnerability in Usher's voice as he pleads for a love lost. "I know sorry just wouldn't do it, my heart is obliterated, I'm tryna travel through it..." The songs strong synths, piano cascades, and drums make for a very dramatic song.

What's Your Name - Heavy synths and hard-hitting beats make this one also a very danceable track. Usher says throughout the entire song about finding out someones name. Will.I.Am is also featured as both producer and artist. The bridge has to be a fav as the beat speeds up and becomes a more trance/fantasy song.

Prayer For You (Interlude) - This is the most touching song on his album by far as we hear the song start with Cinco (his son) cooing into the mic. He sings in a lullaby-ish way to his song but in fact it's a prayer. The harp and piano and light synths compliment Ushers voice nicely.

Something Special - This song honestly puts me in the mind of Robin Thicke's second album. The acoustic guitar and Usher's voice mesh well together as he speaks on his love and asking for patience. "I think we've got something special..." Nice track but not a favorite.

Love You Gently - This is definitely for the lovemakers as the beat drops slowly and dramaticly into the song and Usher sings in his trademarked falsetto. "Light as a feather but hard as a rock." If this one doesn't set the mood, something is wrong. Repeatable and cutty list material.

Best Thing - Honestly, while this isn't a bad track, it does come off a bit dated with the looped beat and piano. Jay-Z's verse is sub-par at best on this track. Skippable.

Before I Met You - This is another one of my favorites based on lyrical content alone. Usher sings, "I was a hustla and a player girl (before I met you)..." over a semi-dramatic heavy beat and synths. Very good song especially for the transformed players and those looking towards changing. :)

His Mistakes - This song is unfortunately a bit forgettable although extremely laid back. Usher sings about reminding a lover of a past pain and speaks on not being accountable for 'his mistakes'. While not a fav, it's not too skippable either.

Appetite - This has the be the most honest account of Usher's experience with another woman since he was married. He sings aggressively, "Tempted I must confess, but I better not make a mess, better give my girl my best, get my BS under arrest..."! :)

What's A Man to Do - Acoustic guitars and a nice relaxing beat accompanies Usher on his journey as he sings to his woman how his heart is in 2 different places. Whats a man to do? lol.

Lifetime - This beat is definitely a zone-out and drive type of song. He basically sings about how he will be around for a lifetime. Wonderful song. Repeatable. "Some only come in your life for a season..."

Here I Stand - This is one of the most beautiful songs I have heard in a long time. The simplistic live kick drum and piano give the feel of an old classic song. Lyrics like, "I know it's gets hard when I'm moving in and out of state, but I promised my heart for you I would save" and "you're the blessing I never thought I would get, and to the Lord I humbly bow my head"-prove just how serious Usher is about his growth and maturity in love and music. This is a song I'm sure I will hear at weddings. Absolutely a beautiful song and Usher's voice is pure and amazing in the chorus..."Forever yours, Here I Stand..."!

Overall, this album is a very good and solid album and based off Here I Stand alone...he gets an A + from me! :) Go buy it!

Friday, January 2, 2009

I Am...Sasha Fierce - Beyonce

(((Rating: 3)))

Bangers: Disappear, Broken-Hearted Girl, Smash Into You, Video Phone & Ego

Beyonce has been running the airwaves , magazine covers, commercials and music blogs since she stepped on the scene. Now with her latest album, she is back again...but I beg the question: Is it for better or worse this time?

If I Were A Boy - However annoying it may be to keep hearing the song, I cannot deny its catchy-ness and Beyonce's vocal vulnerability here. Nice track and good 1st single material.

Halo - Synths. Drama. Drums. Piano melodies. Strings. Hand claps. Very nice song that was originally intended for Leona Lewis (bore queen). Beyonce handles this one very well. Although single is written all over it. "I can feel ur halo, halo, halo..." !!!

Disappear - "If I begged and if I cried, would it change this guy tonight..." Beautiful words and piano melody as Beyonce truly pleads for another chance with the love of her life. "I try to reach you, I can almost feel you, you're nearly disappear". I often repeat this one. Very lullaby-ish.

Broken-Hearted Girl - Lovely piano and strings. Begins slowly and going into the second verse speeds up just a little with a nice thumping drum beat. I bop by head everytime to this one as she pleads, " I don't wanna play the broken-hearted girl." Repeatable.

Ave Maria - Acoustic guitar and piano laced track as Beyonce sings vulnerably once again. While her voice is absolutely beautiful, the track is skippable.

Smash Into You - This song grew on me and is now, undeniably my favorite. Starts off with acoustic guitars and a simple kick-drum while the piano slowly eases into the track. "And I'm soaked in your love....and me and you belong." Beyonce comes with vocals and notes we haven't heard previously! Awesome song!

Satellites - A lullaby that will truly put you to sleep. Skippable.

Single Ladies - Beyonce comes with another dance hit. While it isn't a fav of mine, I find myself getting caught up and dancing to this one and singing the catchy hook. "If ya like it, then ya shoulda put a ring on it..." Uh uh!

Radio - Euro-synths and pop beats. A little catchy but not a favorite in the least bit. She sings about how she fell in love with the radio.

Diva - "Nah Nah Nah, Diva is a female version of the hustla..." She clearly claims her spot on this track although the beat is recycled from Lil Wayne's "A Milli".

Sweet Dreams - Euro-pop. Nice dance track but definitely skippable.

Video Phone - "Dem hustlas keep on talkin..." I have to say the beat is hot and she has undeniable swag in this song. This song makes me dance every single time I hear it. Enjoyable!

Hello - Heavy piano and drums. I love the lyrics and the fast-paced way Beyonce sings the song. "You had me at heee-lloooww..." I think we have all felt this way before.

Ego - Horns. Organ and a piano. Then the beat thumps in and Beyonce sings with a boss-swag as she says, "I walk like this cause I can back it up..." "He gotta big ego..." ! On repeat! :)

Scared of Lonely - Nice catchy beat and lyrics and synths throughout the track. Not a fav but not skippable.

Overall, this album isn't bad at all and to be honest it got more plays than Brandys highly-anticipated comeback album. Beyonce surprised me this time around after the disappointment that was B'Day.

Jennifer Hudson - Jennifer Hudson

(((Rating: 3)))

Bangers: Spotlight, If This Isn't Love, We Gon' Fight

Jennifer Hudson made waves in the world of entertainment first being booted from American Idol then landing a role in Dream Girls and winning her first Oscar. She also released an album that I felt would be underwhelming but surprisingly had some good songs. Let me review it! ...

Spotlight - "Whoo, whoo..." If you haven't heard this in a club or on the radio, you are living under a rock. This isn't a fav of mine but enjoyable nonetheless with its piano melody and thumping beat. Good single choice! :)

If This Isn't Love - A slowed thumping beat and piano melody but Jennifer sings this one well too. Easily one of my favs as she sings, "If this isn't love, then tell me what it is..."! I hear this will be the 2nd single and also a great choice! :)

Pocketbook - Instantly recognizable as Timbaland beatboxes and breathes heavily making most of the beat. Jen sings effortlessly over the catchy beat, "dont make me hit you with my pocketbook...". A head-bobber! Luda comes in with his trademarked vocal style.

Giving Myself - Power Ballad. While nicely sang, it is also easily skippable.

What's Wrong (Go Away) - Vocoder/auto-tune and T-Pain. Why? While these seem to be ingredients made for a disaster the song isn't that bad. Nice heavy beat and synths but the lyrics are a little off.

My Heart - Nice piano melody plays in back of heavy drums. Jen sings nicely but this track is a not a standout honestly.

You Pulled Me Through - Power ballad.

I'm His Only Woman - A 2008 "Woman 2 Woman". This song is pretty entertaining but a scream-fest between the powerhouse vocals of Jennifer and Fantasia. I love Fantasia's ad-libs and runs on this song.

Can't Stop the Rain - Nice mellow track. Jen sings this one with ease also. Nice kick drums. Skippable lol.

We Gon' Fight - "Hands up..." When I say Jen sings the shit out of this song, she sings the shit out of it! Very dramatic drum roll type beat. She sings, "Like gangstas we gon' strap up for this warrrrr..." Yes! LOL. Definitely a fav of mine! "holla if ya hear me..."

Invisible - Starts slow and if you stick around until the hook, the songs speeds up and is quite enjoyable actually. "I'm invisible for the last time...."

And I'm Telling U - I hate this song actually. Nevertheless, she does it justice.

Overall, very solid album and nice produced.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Different Me - Keyshia Cole

(((Rating: 3)))

Bangers: Intro & Outro, Please Don't Stop, Erotic, Oh-Oh, Yeah-Yeah, Thought U Should Know

This album has been on repeat for me along with Musiq and Anthony Hamilton. On Keyshia's first album we heard her rugged struggle with a street type of love. Then on "Just Like You" we heard a more polished but yet rugged and real Keyshia. Now we hear, "A Different Me" and she is definitely coming with bangers, dance tracks and a very polished and more mature Keyshia. Keep it up! :)

A Different Me (Intro) - Pure hotness and Keyshia lets us know that this time around we are seeing a different her. She sings, "I would like to introduce a sexier side of me." Hey... lol.

Make Me Over - She borrows from Tina Turner on this one as she sings she wants to be made over on a jazzy, rnb-ish track produced by Polow Da Don and Ron Fair. A very good rendition for 2008/2009. Definitely a track to make you move.

Please Don't Stop - "Please don't stopppp..." An instant favorite for me and any other freestyle dancers out there. Very upbeat and instant mood lifter! Towards the end Keyshia intro's her sexier side by slowing the track down. Good record overall! :)

Erotic - Starts in a very erotic way. The beat is a laid-back dance number that is sure to make you want to hip roll or something close. Keyshia sings very seductively here as we hear dramatic strings and a hypnotizing beat.

You Complete Me - Keyshia speaks on love on this and while the track has its slap-back type beats and synthesizers and EP Piano, it's not a favorite. I often skip this one. :(

No Other - Spanish guitar. Snaps. Nice dance track. Although skippable especially the rap part.

Oh-Oh, Yeah-Yeah - Can I say that this track starts off an instant banger? Well, it does. Keyshia sings, "Did you know that I meant what I said when I told you I love you, loved you...", over looped strings and heavy drums. Nas comes in flawlessly on the track as well. My favorite.

Playa Cardz Right - Snaps. Piano. Mellow beat. Tupac. Although this is a very nice song, it shouldn't have been a first single. Easily a jam as well.

Brand New - The music and words put me in the mind of Janet Jackson as Keyshia asks a man to let her show him something "Brand New". She asks, "Whats on your mind?" Very mellow.

Trust - Dialogue ensues between Monica, who is featured, and Keyshia about a man's trust. Very nice duet although quite simple in lyrics and it is very apparent that Monica owns this song like it's hers! :)

Thought U Should Know - Produced by Tank. So automatically I knew this would be a nice song because he writes very well. Keyshia sings over mellow synths and kick drums. Nice lounge music.

This Is Us - Definitely an acoustic pop ballad. Not a favorite but I can definitely respect the route she goes with this song because it would get airplay on pop stations.

Where This Love Could End Up - Up. up. up. Up....A nice laid-back song. The music is definitely catchy!

Beautiful Music - First thing that came to my is another damn hustle song for Detroit. LOL! Very danceable song. I wouldn't necessarily say skip this one but I wouldn't turn to it either.

Outro - As hot as the intro! She sings, "Thank you for hanging with the sexier side of me..." Nice outro! :)

Overall, this is a very well-produced album, as every track was extremely detailed and Ron Fair surely took his time with most of them. Would I buy it? Yes I have! :)