Christina Aguilera – Lotus

Christina Aguilera – Lotus (2012)

Album cover

 

When BIONIC came out a few years ago, I thought she was done. I thought perhaps it was time for her to take some years off, take a nap and come back out as a big Adult Contemporary artist when she was forty. I understand wanting to take complete control over your album, but make sure you don’t veer too far from what helped you become a star. It doesn’t work as often as artists think.

I get what she was trying to do with the whole LOTUS thing, but I think other more clever titles could have been garnered from some lyrics within a song. (Side note: I always found it fun to find the title of albums within songs themselves instead of the obvious. I think people should bring that back.) Whoever sequenced this album was wise. There are some real gems throughout this listen, and they aren’t all packed together. The listener can easily listen through the entire album, and, if they don’t, they will skip through and stop every other song or so. Getting to the end is worth it in my opinion.

My brief, and unimportant, thoughts on the tracks:

Lotus Intro – I’m not sure there is much need for intro tracks these days, especially where the album is not particularly themed. But, I’ll accept this one.
Army of Me – This song shows Christina added a little “Fighter” to a mid-tempo, radio-friendly tune. There isn’t much surprise to this song, but it satisfies.
Red Hot Kinda Love – This track feels like a combo of her BACK TO BASICS and BIONIC album. Take the tiny good parts from each and smash them into a little throw away filler song. No need to skip this one, but I don’t really feel a radio hit.
Make the World Move – We all knew this track was coming once the judges were announced for The Voice. This track features CeeLo Green and gives a little homage to the STRIPPED album. Something about CeeLo’s voice makes every song sound the same.

Your Body – I really wish they had kept the obnoxiously vulgar version on the album. However, after hearing this song four million times, it really has a good feel to it. Since Christina is all about sexing it up, this was a wise choice to show off her big voice and sing about doing it all night long. And by doing it, I mean “All I wanna do, is love your body” — however, “love” used to be the f-word.
Side note: As I am going through the front half of this album, I am noticing that many of the songs feel the same – dance, pop, written for radio. Weird.

Let There Be Love – There is a chance that this one should be released for the club charts. Its perfect for that scene and the drunk people go crazy!

Sing for Me – This. is. where. it. gets. good. This is the first ballad on the album. The ballads are where she hits the home runs, at least for me. I feel like so many people can relate to this song. She sings about her passion – singing. We can all take a page from this song and just find something we love and pour ourselves into it. In addition, she sounds great and really doesn’t over-sing in this one. 3:00 mark – perfection.

Blank Page – I think this ballad is going to get some attention. To me, the arrangement and production feels a bit cliche, but, it has a strong message. I picture this song being a theme song for some people going through some stuff. “I am a blank page, waiting for life to start.”

Cease Fire – I can do without this one. It belongs on Rihanna’s last album.
Around the World – Urban Christina tries to bring a little Caribbean and hip hop flavor to her album. Zzzzz.

Circles – One of the two funny tracks on this album. I will continue to listen to this one and laugh, “Spin around in circles on my middle middle finger”. Done. Thank you Christina. Ha.

Best of Me – This is a nice mid-tempo track that has a good build in the song. Add in some marching band drums and you can feel the desperation of these lyrics. “You’ll never get the best of me, no you won’t”

Just a Fool – Love that she took the chance to add a country artist to her album. This mid-tempo ballad features Blake Shelton, who, at first, sounds a bit out of place, until it all blends together into some awesomeness. Country radio, embrace this please. Maybe we can get another pop-crossover hit like “Don’t You Wanna Stay” by Kelly Clarkson and Jason Aldean.

Light Up the Sky – Can someone tell me what the beginning of this song sounds like? I can’t tell, but I do think that the chorus sounds like it could be a part of a Maroon 5 song. I should check to see who produced this track.

Empty Words – This could also be called, “Ode to my Haters”. Love it. Stand up strong and sing this one proud – everyone. “Go ahead and say the things you gotta say, its only empty words a million miles away”

Shut up – Love this one. It is another laughing track – can’t really take it seriously, but that won’t stop me from listening. “Shut up, just shut the f&*k up. Shut up, just shut the f&$k up”. HA

Throughout this album, I sense desperation in her voice. It almost feels that she is trying to convince us that we should take her back. If this is a hint of what is to come, then welcome back Christina. I applaud this effort – so much more than BACK TO BASICS and BIONIC – so much.

If I was giving a score, I would put this album at 8/10 because some of the gems make up for some of the filler.

Sam Smith – In the Lonely Hour

Dare I say that we are about to witness the domination of the music industry by the male Adele? In 2012, the world was semi-introduced to this male-Adele as a featured vocal on “Latch” by Disclosure. Then he was a featured vocal on “La La La” by Naughty Boy in 2013. As with many other featured vocals, we don’t notice the voice until much later – when the artist has kicked the pavement, played the role of a musical hooker and paid the first installment of dues.

So, who am I talking about? Sam Smith – you should all know the UK-born Sam Smith. Despite previous commercial single releases on other artists’ tracks, I would imagine that most American’s were introduced to Sam Smith via his outstanding performances on SNL earlier in 2014. He was virtually unknown in the states and got the spot on SNL performing “Stay With Me” and “Lay Me Down” – two of his strongest songs.

On June 17, 2014, the US gets the pleasure of owning the entire “In the Lonely Hour” debut album by the outstanding Sam Smith. I’m telling you – this one will get the handful of Grammy nominations, including Best New Artist. If the Recording Academy is smart (and no other amazing artists come out with a great album), Sam will sweep his categories.

Sam Smith – In the Lonely Hour

How do I choose the songs that I recommend to you first when this album is so, so, so well done. It is clear that there was a little bit of a let down relationship happening in Sam Smith’s life, but the thing is, there is beauty in his despair. Not because its fun to see people suffering, but instead the vulnerability in his delivery of the lyrics draws in the listener. So many people have felt the way these songs make us feel – it is about connection, emotion, life – however disappointing it may be.

Track List:

  1. Money On My Mind
  2. Good Thing
  3. Stay With Me
  4. Leave Your Lover
  5. I’m Not The Only One
  6. I’ve Told You Now
  7. Like I Can
  8. Life Support
  9. Not in That Way
  10. Lay Me Down
  11. Restart
  12. Latch (Acoustic)
  13. La La La (Naughty Boy feat. Sam Smith)
  14. Make it To Me

So now you get to hear my thoughts on the songs on the album – Lucky you!

If you were only going to listen to 5 songs on this album, here are the ones you NEED to listen to:

“Stay With Me” – This is the real first single by Sam Smith and holy cow, this is the one to lead with. The emotion in this song is so relatable for people that have been in relationships. The longing nature of his voice is haunting and it isn’t surprising that they are covering it on The Voice, asking Mary J Blige to record a duet, etc. This is a great first step, Mr. Smith – Bravo.

“Lay Me Down” – So, continuing on the longing-feeling train, “Lay Me Down” is one for those people who just want someone to lay beside them. But the trick here is that someone has left them already and moved on. Sam sings

Can I lay by your side, next to you, 

And make sure you’re alright? 

I’ll take care of you. 

And I don’t wanna be here if I can’t be with you tonight”

I think we have all been there and that’s why this will be that song you play when you think you are over someone and that damned night hits you like a ton a bricks and you just want to cry and pick up the phone. Here’s the solution – listen to “Lay Me Down,” don’t pick up the phone.

“Not in That Way” – I think this song might be my very favorite one on the album, or perhaps the one that I can relate to the most. This song is about being afraid to tell someone how you feel about them, because you know, deep down inside, that they do not (and will not ever) feel the same way.

“You’d say, I’m sorry, Believe me,  I Love You, but not in that way.”

Just rip out my heart, will ya?

“Leave Your Lover” – Enter desperation. All I hear is “Please, I’m sorry, Please. Just one more chance. I swear I’ll change” etc. But yet, there is something so great about the delivery in this song. Sounds like some of the others, but I don’t care. I love it.

“Leave your lover, leave him for me”

“Like I Can” – Oh, hello confidence (or delusion). Either one you choose, this is a good song to sing when you know you are on the road to acceptance on the breakup. Or, if you are ready to try and convince someone to take you back.

“Why are you looking down all the wrong roads
When mine is the heart and the soul that is sore
There may be lovers who hold out their hands but
He’ll never love you like I can, can, can
He’ll never love you like I can, can “

I’m not sure what I’m saying here besides listen to the entire album and watch the Grammy’s next February to see if I was right. Don’t make bets against me, cause I’m usually right.

Buy “In The Lonely Hour” on iTunes

“Stay With Me” Video:

“Leave Your Lover” Video:

“Stay With Me (duet with Mary J Blige)” Video:

Cher Lloyd – Sorry I’m Late

So, every once and awhile you (mostly me) find a really great pop CD. We’re talking POP music here and it doesn’t always work. Sometimes the lyrics are barely below the surface and sometimes they have too many metaphors, and sometimes…

Sometimes they are just perfect. For me, Cher Lloyd’s album “Sorry I’m Late” is the best pop album of 2014. Unfortunately, I think there aren’t enough people that know about Cher Lloyd to make a big dent in the charts and what not. But, does that hurt me? Well, kinda – if there is no success, there is a smaller chance of another album. Now, since I don’t know everyone or everything (yeah, I said it), I could be totally wrong about the fame thing. As I wrote that, I just checked that “Sorry I’m Late” hit #12 on the Billboard 200 for its first week. Not bad, Cher Lloyd, not bad. But people, seriously, listen to this pop gem.

I liked her first album “Sticks and Stones” and could jam out secretly to the pop infectiousness of her British pop rap and light singing. But on “Sorry I’m Late” and off the heels of her duet with Demi Lovato, Cher gives us some ballads, some singing, some cursing and some all-out good times. This is one of those albums that I can listen to all (okay, almost all) of the songs without feeling the need to click “NEXT.” In today’s day and age, that is something to take note of!

Track list:

  1. Just Be Mine
  2. Bind Your Love
  3. I Wish (featuring T.I.)
  4. Sirens
  5. Dirty Love
  6. Human
  7. Sweet Despair
  8. Killin’ It
  9. Goodnight
  10. M.F.P.O.T.Y
  11. Alone With Me

Where do I start with this one? How do I start? I guess I will spare you my thoughts on every song on the album and jump right to the ones that I could play over and over again and not really have much shame in it. That is, unless I pull up next to you at the traffic light – then I may pretend I’m listening to “Turn Down for What?”

Alright, if you want to start this album out right, listen to the first single, “Sirens.” This is the perfect way to introduce Cher Lloyd’s voice. There is emotion in this song, but more exciting is the power in the voice that we weren’t terribly sure about on the first album. This is apparently a song about… actually, I don’t really know. Basically she sounds like there is some desperation in the fact that someone just needs to lay there beside her until the Sirens are calling. Whatever the heck it is, I like listening to it. So take that. Infectious pop #1.

Then, once you have heard that voice, listen to “M.F.P.O.T.Y.” and jam the F out. Yes, the F out. Once you listen to this song, you will see the relevance of this statement. This is a song that just cracks me the hell up and has me rushing to hit “repeat” because, why not? It is in this song that we get to hear Cher Lloyd’s awesome and really cute accent. Gimme more, please. Thanks. So go have yourself a little party listening to this song.

My other go to songs are “Alone With Me,” “Human,” “Just Be Mine,” and “Killin’ It.” Clearly there is a theme here on this album about the mix between her over the top confidence in her awesomeness as a human being and selfishness of having someone with her and only her combined with her vulnerability and recognition of faults of being simply human. Perhaps this pop album is a little bi-polar, but thats what I enjoy.

“Alone With Me” starts out sounding a bit like Nicki Minaj’s “Starships” but then adds its own flare to make a cute little pop song. Its backing beat could be sped up a little for a club mix. No surprises there if it happens.

“Human” shows a little vulnerability with a heavy bass beat. This song is interesting because it’s not the best vocal – shaky and such – but something about the production sucks me in.

“Just Be Mine” and “Killin’ It” have phrasing that make it hard to sing along in the chorus, but I’ll be damned if I don’t try. Let me know if you fare better than me.

I realize I’ve completely lost my man card with this post, but get over it. Sometimes we all need a little pop music in our lives and for the beginning of 2014, this one is it.

BUY “Sorry I’m Late” on iTunes.

“Sirens” by Cher Lloyd

Todd Carey – Nintendo [Single]

Remember Nintendo? Yeah, the real, legit Nintendo, not the fancy stuff of 2014. Remember when you had the gun controller for Duck Hunt and you held said gun controller against the television to shoot the ducks (and sometimes that jumping dog). Remember when it didn’t work, but we couldn’t quite understand why it didn’t because video games were a new thing and we were stupid? I mean, we were young and video games were so archaic. Ah, nostalgia.

So, enter Todd Carey – singer and songwriter currently residing in good ol’ NYC. Capitalizing on nostalgia, Todd released “Nintendo” in April 2014 as the first single from his upcoming album, “Future Throwback.” I’ll be upset if he changes the name, cause then I’ll have to update this post or it’ll look like I’m lying.

Side note: I came across Todd Carey‘s music in 2007-2008 when he released an album called “Watching Waiting” online. I think what intrigued me about this was the way he chose to distribute this album – it was the first time I had encountered a “Pay What You Want” campaign. I remember thinking, well, I’m not really sure how to do this. Do I pay nothing and feel like a jerk? Do I pay a normal price and then feel like maybe I shouldn’t have? What do I do? So I just paid a normal price and spread the word. The songs were well-written pop songs – some catchier than others. As I was packing up to leave Boston for Florida, I noticed that Todd had a show two days after I was gone. I missed out on that one, but being the weirdo that I am, I would randomly respond to newsletters just commenting on random stuff, or typos (my favorite). Cool factor: Todd is a musician/artist that responds to and tries to make a connection with every fan. 

This connection was most evident when Todd came to play Orlando for the first time with his friend and The Voice finalist (?), Tony Lucca. So, I’m waiting in line (I think with free tickets -sorry Todd) and who do I see sneaking around the corner to check out the line? Backbooth with Todd Carey and Ana ReinaTodd and Tony. But here’s the kicker, when I called him out on the sneak attack, he actually said “You’re Matt, right?” Mind blown. Great show that night.

He came back to Orlando for a small show and I was able to hang for a bit (see photo to left with my friend Ana). I think there is something to be said about the connection with fans. I can’t speak for him, but I would imagine it makes the whole process (painful) more enjoyable somehow.

Back to “Nintendo,” the first single off Todd’s upcoming album, “Future Throwback” on Blaster Records. This is the song that, if you were born in the late 70s or early 80s, he hits on all the things we love to remember. Sleep over parties? Atari? Shoes with the pumps? Captain Crunch? Ring Pops? Battleship?

I drew this quickly for the Nintendo release. I told you that I ventured into Digital art for the last year!

I drew this quickly for the Nintendo release. I told you that I ventured into Digital art for the last year!

Even though we are missing Teddy Ruxpin, I will forgive him since it must have been too hard to get that rhyme in there. Oh, and how can we forget the Speak and Spell – or as Dane Cook calls it “the speak like the devil”?

I do have to point out that Todd (hopefully accidentally) put in a reference of incest in the song – He-Man and She-Ra were siblings and not love interests (at least not depicted in the cartoons). However, to be fair, they didn’t know for awhile either since she was kidnapped or something as a baby. So lets just have fun and ignore that part. Right, Todd?

The song is an upbeat jam and starts and ends with official Nintendo sounds. So infectious, that for a period of time it was my morning wake up call. Having experienced his concerts in person and through Stageit.com I can attest that he has some pretty darn devoted female fans (must be nice). So I’m thinking the sexual innuendos in this song get the girls going a little crazy. If you didn’t notice them, continue on enjoying the song in a different way. The rest of us are singing it anyway.

Speaking of his fans, Todd Carey’s fans help elevate his song “Nintendo” to the top of Billboard’s new Twitter Chart. Congrats Todd.

So there’s that, check out Todd Carey’s new single “Nintendo” on iTunes. This should hold you over before the new album of new tunes comes out. If it doesn’t come soon, you can all attack him, not me.

“Nintendo” video by Todd Carey

Colbie Caillat – Gypsy Heart Side A EP

Well friends, it has been a long damn time since I visited my blog site. I know I pay for the domain and I know that I still love music and pop culture and the like, but I’m not sure why I have completely disappeared from the world of writing about my random likes. I did take a year to explore some digital art – I learned a few things, sold a few prints and illustrated a few children’s books. If interested, check out www.facebook.com/eMJayDigitalArt for more information about the art.

For now, lets talk about a new release by Ms. Colbie Caillat. The other day, she released a surprise EP called “Gypsy Heart Side A.”

I think we all had a sneaking suspicion that something was coming.

My clues:

  1. Random live song clips on Instagram
  2. Comments such as “surprise tomorrow. :)” posted on FB.

I didn’t have to pretend that I was Encyclopedia Brown or anything to decipher the clues, but I am excited nonetheless. If you recall, I wrote about my “interactions” with Colbie before she was big and famous on my blog post, “The Colbie Caillat Experience.”

I’ve always liked her songs and her CDs, so their won’t be any surprise to the following reaction to her EP, “Gypsy Heart Side A.”

Track listing:

  1. Live it Up
  2. Blaze
  3. If You Love Me Let Me Go
  4. Try
  5. Never Gonna Let You Down

Let me start out by saying that she was smart – Colbie knows how to write, perform and possibly produce radio-friendly songs. Whoever chooses the songs to promote has an easy time. That being said, I’m curious as to why they chose “Try” as the first single. I mean, I get it – speak to the girls about confidence and staying true, but my ears are telling me their could be other songs to promote first.

My favorite track is the mid-tempo ballad, “If You Love Me Let Me Go.” I guess I am a sucker for songs that emote; songs that make me feel something other than the need to dance and/or change the song as quick as I can. This song has a positive vibe with lyrics of semi-hope. There is a struggle of a partner that is not fully present in “her” life – one that seems to come and go when “he” pleases. She’s the torn girl who cannot say no. This has always baffled me, why humans have such a need to give a second, third, eighteenth chance to people that tear them down. We all tend to have a little glutton for punishment within us. Just break free, people – break free.

The first single, “Try,” tugs at the heart strings of any (girl, most likely) that feels the need to be something more than they are. The song speaks to those people (girls) about not needing to smatter on the makeup, buy the expensive shoes, sleep around (I added that), etc. Colbie just says, get up and be – “you don’t have to try.” This is a solid song, and I get it and like it, but I think it wouldn’t be the very highest in my rank for this EP of five songs.

Speaking of standing up – the final song on the EP is “Never Gonna Let You Down” and it’s an uptempo jam about being there for someone. “I will make you laugh if you ever feel like crying…” seems to be the big theme in this one. It has a wicked drum loop beat in it that can be a little toe tapping influencer. Add in the hand claps and the tambourine and I’m full out having a “Steve Martin on the porch in The Jerk” moment. I highly recommend this one if you need a feel good song to send to a friend – or for yourself (if you think Colbie Caillat is your friend).

So far in her career, Colbie Caillat has stuck to her words. She’s “Never Gonna Let You Down” and in this case, “you” is referring to me.

BUY “Gypsy Heart Side A EP” on iTunes for like $4 bucks.

Official Lyric Video for “Try”

Chris Mann – Roads

I am loving this album. A ton.

 

Chris Mann – Roads (2012)

Fans of NBC’s “The Voice”, Josh Groban, and good singing, listen up – Chris Mann released his debut album this week. I’m gonna go ahead and say that you need to get this album or at least check out a few tracks.

Having said that, I am not sure that this will have a widespread success and/or chart very high, but – welcome to the digital age of over-saturation in the music scene. There is no way, despite any talent or dedication, that people can compete with Taylor Swift’s 1.2 million copies in one week. At least not these days.

However, I think Chris’ album provides something refreshing. Yes, there are many covers on this album, but his new take on the songs provides the listener with a sense of new beginnings. In particular, the track “Roads” speaks to those of us still finding our way in this life. If you are lost, this is a good track to refresh your outlook on things.

“Blower’s Daughter” is an explosive version of the Damien Rice original. Despite having Christina over-sing at the end of the track, I think Chris brings something bigger to this haunting tune. Hopefully this is released as his second single. If his management was smart, they would drop this right before Christina’s new album “Lotus” drops in November.

Chris covers “Need You Now” by Lady Antebellum with a desperation that is completely different than the original. “My Way” was rewritten for Chris — creating hope for a better future versus looking back on how things could have been. “Always on My Mind” builds to an dynamite ending and the pop-classical Chris brings this Willy Nelson hit to a new place.

Closing out this album is a new version of “Vida la Vida” by Coldplay. It may just be me, but it sounds like the orchestration was based off the Piano Guys cover. I wonder how Chris Martin and the band feel about Mann’s explosively powerful debut album ender. I’d be jealous.

I can listen to this album from beginning to end. For me, that is a big feat.

I say “BRAVO” Mr. Mann – 9/10

01. Roads
02. Need You Now
03. Cuore
04. Blower’s Daughter (feat. Christina Aguilera)
05. My Way
06. Unless You Mean It
07. Always On My Mind
08. On a Night Like This
09. Ave Maria
10. Falling
11. Viva La Vida

Whitney Houston ft R Kelly – “I Look To You”

I campi di Aprile

Giovanni Orlando via Compfight

Apparently (and not shockingly) a new Whitney Houston greatest hits album will be released. All of the tracks are going to be remastered and a new duet of an old solo song will be included. That duet is “I Look to You” with R. Kelly. Years ago, R. Kelly wrong this song for Whitney and I believe he sang it at her funeral service, so it only seems fitting to include it in this release.

However, this cut makes me sad. In the song you can hear the struggle that Whitney had just trying to sing. If only she had let someone step in and help her out, perhaps she would have had that career back and still be around to enjoy it.

As he always does on ballads, R. Kelly sounds great and really makes this duet work as much as possible.

With sadness, I will download this single.

Whitney Houston ft R Kelly I Look To You – YouTube.

A Quote for Learners

paranoia katiew via Compfight

As I was listening to a friend complain about all the homework and papers that she had to complete this semester, I went on my usual rant about how education should be just that. Degrees should not be handed out like a record of participation. Degrees should be earned and the only way to earn a degree is to assure that you are learning the most that you can. Learning does not mean memorizing information and regurgitating it for a test or an essay, but instead being able to critically think about a situation and apply different solutions or options based on the provided information.

I also spend time talking about the need to prepare oneself for a future career. Graduating does not guarantee someone a career or a job. However, if a student takes the time to look at different options available post graduation and focuses learning on those options, they are more inclined to be exactly what the companies are looking for.

So, I will leave you with the quote that I came up with during that conversation. Folks, you heard it here first.

“Work to learn so that you can learn to work”

 

Thoughts? How do you feel about higher education these days?