Saturday, November 30, 2013

REVIEW: Britney Spears, Britney Jean

It's been two years since the reigning princess of pop, Britney Spears, has released a studio album. And, now, she's on her eighth, Britney Jean, with a high profile Las Vegas residency to start days after its worldwide release. After fifteen years in the business, did the mother of two deliver? Maybe not in the way you'd expect.

The album kicks off with the William Orbit collaboration, "Alien."  Britney coos, "There was a time when I was one of a kind," perhaps suggesting a stronger Britney who hasn't had to live in the aftermath of 2007. The spacey studio tricks blimp in and out of Britney's cold distant lyrics, which despite other reviews suggesting their banal quality, are quite stunning.

In fact, Britney receives writing credit on every single song on Britney Jean including the bonus tracks featured on the deluxe version. While some reviewers have questioned the merit of such, I highly doubt Britney is the type of artist to steal credit where no credit is deserved or is so hard-up for publishing royalties. Vegas, hello!

"Perfume" permeates much like In the Zone's "Everytime." Although I do suggest listening to the "Dreaming Mix," as the version comes on much too strong for such a delicate scent. In terms of Britney ballads though I'd have to turn to "Don't Cry." For the first time since post-Blackout, Britney utilizes her vulnerable and sometimes fragile vocals-- something the bonus tracks for Femme Fatale only flirted with. 

It isn't until midway into the album that fans are treated with club-thumping bangers. Unlike the dance music on Femme Fatale, though, these songs are bereft of their shiny pop plastic that has been so fitted with Britney. "Work Bitch" almost seems like child's play to the EDM fabulosity she came up with. Then again not even the most bedazzled queen can out-gay that anthem-- not since Judy Garland stepped into her first pair of ruby reds has queendom really been claimed. re-robo's Britney on "It Should Be Easy," which while very Britney, perhaps resembles something much too Black Eyed Peas for diehard fans. "Tik Tik Boom" saunters on with some rather brilliant vocal phrasing intercut with staccoto "tik tik boom"'s. The juxtaposition can be disjointing, but Britney brings it home per usual. 

"Body Ache" is probably the single most exciting song on the album. It's sum six years late as I saw this song as a natural progression from Blackout. It's a taste of that Euro EDM that's been spilling over from underground dance music. It's just a hop, skip, and jump away from an indie-dance track-- which I'd be forever grateful for! 

The dance break in Britney Jean ends with "Til It's Gone," a sort of kiss off to naysayers and doubters. It's got the kind of ferocity that "Piece of Me" roared, but the rawness that "Gimme More" purred.  I'm not saying it's about the paparazzi, Jason Trawick, or anything really, but the lyrics resonate from something deeper.  The magic really happens in the last minute and half or so where Britney adds some kickass adlibs and the production and Britney become so in-sync.

Then there are songs like "Passenger" helmed by Diplo and Katy Perry, which should garner a listen just from those names alone! "I want you to take the wheel" Britney belts begging the question: what's she singing about? Is it about her fans? her new beau? to her conservitor father? Amigiouty has always been Britney's best friend, and she's really muddling the water here.

So, what does this all mean for Britney's discography? Does Britney Jean burn hot like past favorites like Blackout or In the Zone or, the album that started it all, ...Baby One More Time? Only time will tell. Like her previous self-titled album, Britney, we're dealing with a transitional Britney. As she forays into Vegas for an unprecedented residency, we're dealing with all new rules. Does Vegas make her more accessible to fans to reignite that performer who refused to settle for average music videos, who donned a snake on live television, or who crafted one the best albums in modern pop history? Or is this simply an excuse to chill with her boys and family to ultimately retire her dancing shoes for good-- a timely phrophesy suggested by "Don't Cry." I can't say for sure, but Britney Jean surely poses open-ended questions. I don't think even she knows the answers to, but I'm willing to "jump with no net." Because to be a Britney fan is to expect the unexpected even if it's exactly what you expected. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

PREMIERE: One Direction, Story Of My Life

Well, damn it all!  Just when I'd written off One Direction as one for the teeny-boppers and perverts-elite, they've gone and stole my heart.  Already on their third studio album, One Direction has released the second single, "Story Of My Life," from the upcoming LP, and it might be their best effort as of late!

The single is just great!  Unlike previous ballads, this one, for me, actually makes sense lyrically, melodically, and, even, visually!  This music video made me melt.  I'm talking a felt a stirrin' in my loins for all five guys-- Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson, Zayn Malik, and Niall Horan.  And, while during the genesis of The Wanted vs. One Direction debate, I'd all but placed my chips high for The Wanted.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  Musically and visually they're maturing faster than it took Anne Hathaway to take her top off.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

LISTEN: Aiden, Satisfy Me

Well, this is interesting!  X Factor UK alum during its seventh season (One Direction, Cher Lloyd), Aiden Gimshaw, has dropped his last name and is now sporting some rather edgy new duds.  In celebration of his new persona, Aiden will released a self-titled EP by this month's end.  He's already given us a taste with "The Way We Are," but now we've been given yet another spoonful, "Satisfy Me."

It's an updated 80s Boy George meets Hurts mixed with some Pet Shop Boys.  I think.  If I'm being honest with myself, this is the first of Aiden's music that I've actually given an ear to, and I love it!  I love that, at times, the music overpowers the vocals, but it's done in a way that it sounds completely intentional.  It's abstract-- fabulous!  The Thaddaeus Tribbett rap is a bit disjointed, but I can deal with it.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

LISTEN: Kelly Clarkson, Underneath the Tree

Is it Christmas already?  It is for Kelly Clarkson!  The American Idol champ comes to us Wrapped in Red and "Underneath the Tree"!  I'm not one for too many original Christmas songs, but Kelly certainly delivers!  I mean, did anyone have a doubt?  It's a holiday classic already!  Break out the mistletoe and deck the halls!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

LISTEN: Lady GaGa, Do What U Want (feat. R Kelly)

I think I can say with confidence that if there's one collaboration that I didn't see coming: it's Lady GaGa and R Kelly.  Having said that, it all makes perfect sense.  In true GaGa fashion, she's still releasing music weeks and weeks ahead of the release of her third full album, Artpop.  This time fans are treated with R&B jam, "Do What U Want."

Hours leading up the release, GaGa went on a Twitter rant relating past and current and future tabloid headlines to lyrics from the song.  And as I scrolled through my feed, the eyerolls got so furious that I got motion sickness.  But, I digress.  The song is actually quite good-- fucking good actually.  Pop and R&B having always walked parallel-- although not many would agree.  But, for me, that's how it is!  And, I LOVE when pop songs actually prove me right!

GaGa sounds superb on it, and R Kelly has a fabulous feature.  There's really nothing wrong with this song.  It's a shoulder roll, sing in my car, and chill out song.  Who doesn't like that?

Friday, October 18, 2013

PREMIERE: Bonnie McKee, Sleepwalker

"American Girl" and songwriter to the stars, Bonnie McKee, is really coming for pop music in a huge way!  She's trying to break out as a solo artist, and to be honest, she should!  With songs like "Sleepwalker," I'd be hard-pressed to give that to any other artists but myself!  Having said that, it does sound like a McKee original.

The music video is rad!  It's perfect for the fright fest that is October, and it's fun to see an excited and exuberant Bonnie!  Lyrically the song is quite dark yet fun.  That's hard to do.  I don't know!  While I can see Bonnie really hitting her solo act out of the park, and I can also see it falling on deaf ears.  It all remains to be seen!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

PREMIERE: Avril Lavigne, Let Me Go (feat. Chad Kroeger)

We've all been quick to forget Canadian rockstar, Avril Lavigne, has an upcoming release at the beginning of November, but she hasn't!  She's released another stellar song, "Let Me Go," with husband Chad Kroeger, and it's stunning!  Between "Here's to Never Growing Up" and "Rock 'N Roll" and now this, Avril Lavigne is shaping up to be quite an album!

It's been awhile since an Avril song has stirred up feelings that her old music conjured up, but "Let Me Go" finally reminds me why I loved her in the first place!  The music video is quite somber and dark, but it complements the song.  And as for Avril, she looks magical!  I love seeing classic beauty looks and shots from her.  She wears maturity well.