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Review: The Divine Feminine

divine-feminine-cover
via 4umf

The Divine Feminine (2016)

Mac Miller

Rap / Hip-Hop

REMember / Warner Bros.


Remember the days when Mac Miller was just “Easy Mac with the cheesy raps”?  Yep, he was the dude in the Pitt basketball jersey sitting on his bed in what might be the most cringe-inducing mixtape cover out there.  He was immature with a little too much braggadocio.  Fortunately, Mac started to find his footing and started to mature over the years through releases like Best Day Ever, Blue Slide Park, and most recently GO:OD AM.  Each of these releases, whether they were mixtapes or studio albums, had a different theme but they all had one thing in common.  They were all stepping stones to where Mac is now in terms of his maturity.  With the release of his fourth studio album, The Divine Feminine, we receive a Mac that is way more mature and maybe way more complex than ever before.  It’s a unique album that demonstrates just how far the Pittsburgh rapper has come since his Taylor Allderdice days where he was slinging mixtapes in hopes of making it big.

divine-feminine-1
via Urban Islandz

First let’s begin with what makes Mac’s fourth go-around so unique in the current climate of Rap…it’s an album entirely focused on “love.”  Yeah, every single song explores the idea of love and relationships.  That’s not something you really see in today’s rap industry.  Rappers are always quick to brag about their money and their women, but Mac takes a softer and more sentimental approach with his latest project.  Look no further than the album’s premiere single, “Dang!” featuring the talented Anderson .Paak.  Mac straight up says it himself in his rhymes…he needs to find his softer and more sensitive side, something that goes against the grain of orthodox hip-hop.

There’s a lot of steamy material within the concise 10 song LP.  “Stay” is an intimate plea to Mac’s girl, begging her to stay the night.  The song’s laced with some great jazz instrumentals; an abundance of trumpets and saxophone that will make anyone snap their fingers.  There’s also “Skin,” which is the closest thing you’ll find to a sex-ready song.  Mac himself mutters, “So finally I made a f***ing song,” over a beat so smooth and sensual that it’s sure to fog up your windows.  Let’s not forget about Mac’s collaboration with Ariana Grande, “My Favorite Part,” that might as well be the announcement of the two’s relationship.  It’s a genuine song that wonderfully displays the two’s mutual feelings for each other in a passionate way.  What a couple.

divine-feminine-2
via Puna

Another thing to note is Mac Miller’s complexity that he brings to his lyrics.  Mac Miller isn’t new to exploring complex themes.  Just look at projects like Watching Movies with the Sound Off and Faces.  That same brand of intricacy makes its way onto the album on songs like “Cinderella” and “Planet God Damn,” which features a wonderful sounding hook from Njomza.  Despite this fact, there are still some immature lyrics that poke their way through some of the material that at times mucks up the final product.  Lines like “I just eat p***y, other people need food” made me shake my head.  C’mon Mac, there’s no room for juvenile remarks on such a complex album as this.  Hey, I guess everyone still has room to mature right?

Whether you like it or not, there’s also a lot of singing on the part of Mac Miller.  To be honest, I’m still not entirely sold on Mac’s singing voice, which made me a little worried going into the album for the first time.  He’s experimented with it in the past, and to be fair, he has improved as time’s progressed.  There are some songs on the album where his singing works really well, and other times where it sits at mediocrity.  In the end, I think I am more sold on Mac’s voice then I ever was before.  That’s a compliment that you can take to the bank.

divine-feminine-3
via Hype Trak

There’s a bevy of collaborators on the album, besides the ones I’ve mentioned already.  Bilal lends his voice to the outro for “Congratulations,” a song that floats on cloud-high piano melodies and mellow jazz.  Kendrick Lamar lends his ability to the album’s final track, “God Is Fair, Sexy Nasty,” an interestingly titled cut full of passion and lyricism.  Instead of rapping a verse, Kendrick harmonizes with Mac and acts as a supplement to the record, which works extremely well.  As a big Kendrick fan I was hoping to hear a beefy verse, but I can’t really complain with his contribution to the song.  The one feature that didn’t work too well was Cee-Lo Green, who’s featured on the simply-titled track “We.”  It’s a solid song with a goes-down-easy hook, but Cee-Lo Green just felt like an afterthought.  He didn’t really add much to the track and felt tacked on.

I have to give major props to Mac Miller for dedicating an entire album to the complex concept of love.  That sounds like a terrifying endeavor, an idea that could go horribly wrong if not handled with care and expertise.  Fortunately, Mac dives into the topic with complexity and maturity that makes The Divine Feminine a stand-out.  The album also has some of the best production I have heard from a Mac Miller project.  It’s almost worth releasing an instrumental mix of the record.  Although the album’s not completely perfect, it’s still prime Mac, a rapper who has come a long way since his days as Easy Mac with the cheesy raps.  (God…what an awful name for a rapper…)

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Review: Big Sean’s Dark Sky Paradise

via Hip Hop DX
via Hip Hop DX

Dark Sky Paradise (2015)

Big Sean

Rap / Hip-Hop

Label: G.O.O.D. Music & Def Jam


Let’s take a moment and look at what has been happening in rapper Big Sean’s life the past couple of years.  His sophomore album Hall of Fame proved to be a sophomore flop, he had a pretty public break-up with now ex-girlfriend Naya Rivera, found a new (and even more public) girlfriend in Ariana Grande, and he recently signed to Jay Z’s Roc Nation label.  That’s a lot of fuel for a big fire.  With Dark Sky Paradise, Big Sean’s third studio album, he manages to kindle those flames to produce his best album yet.

If you want a summary of the things Big Sean reflects on his introspective album, all you have to do is refer to the opening track “Dark Sky (Skyscrapers).”  Big Sean keeps it raw and goes into the sorts of themes that are scattered all over the album, including the girls he has been with, the successes he has had, and some of the mistakes and struggles he has had to deal with along the way.

via juice.de
via juice.de

With a title like Dark Sky Paradise, you would think that Big Sean would follow the apparent progression from his struggles of his past to the paradise that he’s a part of now, but this is not the case necessarily.  It seems like a missed opportunity to me, but it’s hard to argue with how an artist decides to order their tracks.

The album has a really strong start with some pretty heavy beats.  “Blessings” and “All Your Fault”, which feature Drake and Kanye West respectively, go into the successes that Big Sean has had, and how he is literally “blessed” to be at his level.  Both Big Sean and Kanye West go bar for bar on the last verse of “All Your Fault”, which was probably one of my favorite moments on the album.

via xclusiveszone.net
via xclusiveszone.net

These songs then lead to the massive commercial hit “I Don’t Fuck With You”; a song that can be possibly linked to Sean’s relationship with Naya Rivera.  At the surface level, there doesn’t seem to be too much depth to the song.  However, E-40 lends a great verse with his signature style and Big Sean once again gets introspective with the last verse, which he later revealed that he wrote with Naya Rivera on his mind.  The song also contains some good production from DJ Mustard which makes it a heavy-hitting banger.

It was at this point that the album started to trail off a bit for me.  “Play No Games”, featuring Chris Brown and Ty Dolla $ign, and “Paradise” both were average songs that didn’t really do it for me.  However, I can’t deny that the sound of “Paradise” was probably one of the best sounds on the album.  “Win Some, Lose Some”, the first duet with Jhene Aiko, and “Stay Down” were not that special either.

via themostrequested.tv
via themostrequested.tv

It was Big Sean’s second duet with Jhene Aiko, “I Know”, that was one of the highlights on the album.  The two trade verses on a track about the struggles that someone in a rough relationship is going through.  The two both offer their support in a sexy and soulful duet.  “One Man Can Change the World” was another soulful track that dived into the subject of Big Sean’s grandmother, who recently passed away.  She was the “father figure” of sorts during his childhood, and he owed a lot too her, which he talks about on the track.  Sean also brings on Kanye West and John Legend, who were both fitting features on the track of tribute to Sean’s grandmother.

Although there were a couple of missteps along the way, Big Sean hit hard with Dark Sky Paradise.  It’s a cool experience to see the rapper go through his life and the problems he has had to put up with, and then reflect on how they have impacted his life.  There’s some moments on the album where he talks about what it would be like to “lose it all.”  It’s a good reflective question to ask yourself once in a while, but with an album like this, it’s hard to see Big Sean really “losing it all.”  He has picked himself back up from the disaster that was Hall of Fame and has moved on to his Dark Sky Paradise.

dark sky paradise score

The Grammys 2015: Wrap-Up

grammysIf you watched the Grammys last night, you probably heard the phrase “Grammy Moment” over and over again.  It was the main theme of the night.  “So and so is going to make a Grammy moment.”  “Don’t miss the Grammy moment, coming up next!”  The 57th Annual Grammy Awards took place last night, and there were indeed a lot of moments…some more memorable then others.

Right off the bat, the award for Best New Artist, which was presented by Taylor Swift, was given to Sam Smith.  This surprised me a lot, considering the fact that Iggy Azalea was in the category as well.  (Although I really wouldn’t call her “new”)  This was the start of two new trends for the night.  Iggy, who was nominated for four awards, took home a big zero.  On the other hand, Sam Smith cleaned house with a grand total of four Grammy’s, including Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Pop Vocal Album, in addition to his New Artist award.  This was a big night for the emotional Sam Smith, who accepted the awards with a lot of gratitude.

grammys sam smith

Other notable award winners included Beck for Album of the Year for Morning Phase.  This was by far my biggest surprise.  Beck had a pretty successful and critically acclaimed album, but I didn’t think there was that much buzz around his album, especially compared to the other nominees in the category.  Kanye West must have thought the same thing, as he almost performed “I ’ma Let You Finish” Part 2.  Luckily, he refrained from interrupting Beck, but it was still one of my favorite moments from the night.  Others didn’t find it funny, calling Kanye a jerk.  This is true in a sense, but I don’t think Kanye did anything wrong last night…besides his later comments about Beck and his win.  Anyway…

Other award winners include Pharrell Williams for Best Pop Solo Performance for his song “Happy” and Beyonce for Best R&B Performance for her song “Drunk In Love” with her hubby Jay Z.  One surprising omission from the show was the absence of the Hip-Hop and Rap awards being presented live.  All of the awards for these categories were announced before the live show…for reasons I can’t really explain.  Either way, Eminem won Best Rap Album for The Marshal Mathers LP2 and Kendrick Lamar won Best Rap Performance for “I”.  There were a lot more awards that were left out of the picture during the live show, with only nine awards being given out at the big show.  The awards were three hours long and only nine were actually given out?  That only means one thing…performances.

grammys beck

So how were the performances?

Well, there were so much that host LL Cool J had to skip his normal comedic (that term used lightly) monologue in order to make room for the plethora of artists that made the stage.  This year there were twenty three performances, kicked off by the rock legends AC/DC with “Rock or Bust” and “Highway to Hell.”  It was a strong start to the show, and it probably had a lot of people confused as to why they were even up there.  Then things started to go downhill…

grammys acdc

We got some love songs from Ariana Grande and the duo of Jessie J and Tom Jones.  The two performances were alright, but they were nothing special.  We then got a rather forgettable performance from Miranda Lambert who sung “Little Red Wagon.”  Surprising to most, Kanye West picked things up a bit with his minimalist act of “Only One.”  It was then Madonna who gave a weird and often times uncomfortable performance of “Living for Love.”

There was then a long string of unmemorable performances that just didn’t make an impression on me.  Pharrell Williams however, gave a cinematic and epic performance of “Happy”, debuting a new elevator boy hat.  I hope the tradition continues every year.  Katy Perry, after a talk about domestic violence, gave a somber, yet dazzling performance of “By the Grace of God”, which was one of the standouts of the night.  One of the other standouts was the much anticipated performance of “FourFiveSeconds” by the trio of Sir Paul McCartney, Rihanna, and Kanye West.  It was an upbeat live showing of a song that just doesn’t get old.  They three had fun with it.

grammys four five seconds

The show closed with two final performances from Beyonce and John Legend, featuring rapper Common.  Beyonce performed an angelic version of “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.”  It was a powerful performance that further cemented Beyonce’s status of dominance in music.  As an encore of sorts, John Legend and Common performed the Oscar nominated “Glory” from the Oscar recognized Selma.  It was another epic performance, complete with instrumentals and a full choir.  The Grammys started strong and ended strong…but had a ton of rough patches in between held up by the occasional memorable performance.

The Grammys weren’t what I thought they were going to be this year.  They were kind of a let down.  Yes, some very talented musicians took home there well deserved awards, but I kind of wished there were more awards, instead of the performances that were just thrown in there to fatten up the runtime.  Half of the performances could have been cut out, leaving room for more awards and what ever else they could have come up with.  It was a big night for music, no doubt…but it could have been bigger.

grammys beyonce


Here were some of the winners from the night…

Record of the Year

Sam Smith – “Stay With Me”

Song of the Year

Sam Smith – “Stay With Me” [Darkchild Version]

Album of the Year

Beck – “Morning Phase”

Best New Artist

Sam Smith

Best Pop Solo Performance

Pharrell Williams – “Happy”

Best Pop Vocal Album

Sam Smith – “In The Lonely Hour”

Best Rock Album

Beck – “Morning Phase”

Best Rap Album

Eminem – “The Marshal Mathers LP2”

Best Country Album

Miranda Lambert – “Platinum”

Best R&B Performance

Beyonce ft. Jay Z – “Drunk In Love”

grammys happy


Now, what about my predictions?  Well…here’s how I did…

Record of the Year

I predicted… “Shake If Off” by Taylor Swift

Actual winner: “Stay With Me” by Sam Smith

Album of the Year

I predicted… In The Lonely Hour by Sam Smith

Actual winner: Morning Phase by Beck

Song of the Year

I predicted… “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift

Actual winner: “Stay With Me” [Darkchild Version] by Sam Smith

Best New Artist

I predicted… Iggy Azalea

Actual winner: Sam Smith

Best Pop Vocal Album

I predicted… Prism by Katy Perry

Actual winner: In The Lonely Hour by Sam Smith

Best Dance/Electronic Album

I predicted… While (1>2) by Deadmau5

Actual winner: Syro by Aphex Twin

Best R&B Performance

I predicted… “Drunk In Love” by Beyonce feat. Jay Z

Actual winner: “Drunk In Love” by Beyonce feat. Jay Z

Best Urban Contemporary Album

I predicted… Beyonce by Beyonce

Actual winner: Beyonce by Beyonce

Best Rap Song

I predicted… “I” by Kendrick Lamar

Actual winner: “I” by Kendrick Lamar

Best Rap Album

I predicted… The Marshal Mathers LP2 by Eminem

Actual winner: The Marshal Mathers LP2 by Eminem

grammys taylor swift

Basically, I didn’t do so well.  I knew Sam Smith was going to win some awards, but I wasn’t expecting him to take the show.  I also expected Taylor Swift to take his place with the top song categories.  Obviously that didn’t pan out.  As for the Rap categories, I did alright.  I also did a good job with predicting Beyonce to win big as well.  I could have done better, but I went with the popular route.  I should have known better…

2014 Album of the Year

It’s been a pretty good year for music.  I would have to argue that last year was probably better in terms of releases, but 2014 started to get much stronger as the year went on, especially as it was coming to a close.  There were some great albums (many that made it to the top of the list) that came out pretty late into the year.  I should  preface this by saying that my musical tastes lie in the hip-hop and pop realm.  With that being said, there were some great albums that came out, but I just wasn’t in to them.  Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran had a great year (thus their Grammy nominations).

Now, here are my top ten albums that came out this year…

10. While (1<2) – Deadmau5

2014 album of the year whileDeadmau5 has always been an innovator when it comes to electronic music.  All you have to do is follow him on social media to figure that out.  While (1<2) is no different when it comes to innovation.  There is a wide range of sounds on this one and I couldn’t stop myself from tapping to the beat on pretty much all of them.  If you are an electronic music fan, you should definitely give one of the best electronic albums of the year a listen…but I probably didn’t have to tell you that.


9. Mastermind – Rick Ross

2014 album of the year mastermindIt’s been a busy year for Rick Ross, the only artist on this list to release to albums in one year.  His second album, Hood Billionaire, was a little iffy and could have used a little more time, but I’m here to talk about his superior album of the two, Mastermind.  The album contained hits like “War Ready” featuring Jeezy and “Vein” featuring The Weeknd.  Not to mention Rick Ross teamed up with Jay Z with the song “The Devil Is A Lie”, which received a lot of critical praise.  Rick Ross is a powerhouse, and Mastermind displayed this fact brilliantly.


8. Broke With Expensive Taste – Azealia Banks

2014 album of the year brokeThis was an album that flew quietly under a lot of people’s radars.  After a long wait, Azealia Banks released Broke With Expensive Taste to quite a lot of critical praise.  Azealia Banks isn’t really a household name, but she deserves to be.  The album contained a lot of different and unique sounds that made it different from the rest.  With songs like “Chasing Time” and “Desperado”, I couldn’t get the album out of my head.  This album was probably my surprise of the year.  I wasn’t expecting much from it, but it delivered.


7. My Everything – Ariana Grande

2014 album of the year everythingAriana Grande has had a big year, and part of it was because of her latest release My Everything.  It’s hard to argue with the talent that the young singer has.  Her vocal range is enormous and it’s possible that she could become the next Mariah Carey.  The album contained hits like the summer sensation “Problem”, the energetic “Break Free” and the deep, yet sensual “Love Me Harder” featuring the talented The Weeknd.  There is a tone of great songs on the album, making it one of my top pop albums of the year.  (Sorry Taylor Swift)


6. The Pinkprint – Nicki Minaj

2014 album of the year pinkprintNicki Minaj is slowly turning into a feminine hip-hop powerhouse.  She also had a fantastic year, topped by the release of The Pinkprint, which features the strongest Nicki Minaj yet.  The album contains so many different genres, all in one complete package.  There’s some rap that hearkens back to her earlier days, pop, and even some R&B.  Some of my favorites included “Pills N Potions”, “The Crying Game”, “Only”, “Feeling Myself”, and “The Night Is Still Young.”  Any Nicki Minaj fan should find something that they like on the album.


5. The Inevitable End – Royksopp

2014 album of the year inevitable endThis is another album that people might not have heard about when it was released back in November.  The Norwegian electronic duo Royksopp put out The Inevitable End with the plan to stop making music.  They might be taking a break, or they might be done for good.  Either way, I thought that the album was a fitting conclusion to their career.  You could tell that there was a sad tone throughout the album, but it also had some warm feelings as well.  They also collaborated with pop star Robyn for songs like “Do It Again” and “Monument”.  The album also ended with the simply titled “Thank You”, which was a strong finish.


4. The New Classic – Iggy Azalea

2014 album of the year new classicIggy Azalea took the hip-hop world by the horns.  Her first album The New Classic, contained a plethora of hits that propelled her to the top of her game.  “Work”, “Change Your Life”, “Fancy” and “Black Widow” were all songs that put her in the spotlight of the hip-hop industry.  She has also faced equal amounts of backlash and attacks from fellow rappers, but I thought that she has handled herself pretty well despite the things she has gone through.  The album was a strong first impression, and I can only imagine the type of hits she will come out with in the coming years.


3. Shady XV – Eminem & Shady Records

2014 album of the year shadyThe king of controversy is back again with the aptly named Shady XV.  Eminem has built his record label Shady Records into a formidalbe empire in the hip-hop industry.  The album came in two parts, the first being some of the new stuff from the record label, including songs like Eminem’s “Guts Over Fear” and the Detroit fight songs “Detroit Vs Everybody”.  The second part of the album went back in time, reviewing some of the classics that have come from the label.  There was a ton of stuff featured in the package, and it was hard to be disapointed with the final product.  Eminem continues to be one of the best rappers out there.


2. Blacc Hollywood – Wiz Khalifa

2014 album of the year hollywoodWiz Khalifa has had a tough year due to his break-up with long time wife Amber Rose.  However, when Wiz Khalifa goes and looks back on his year, Blacc Hollywood will probably make everything okay.  Wiz’s fifth studio album was supported to the top of the hip-hop charts with songs like “We Dem Boyz”, “KK”, and the pleasant sounding “Staying Out All Night.”  There was a lot more depth to the album than Wiz’s previous projects, making it just a joy to listen to.  Some people didn’t like it as much, but I thought there was a ton to like about the album.


1. 2014 Forest Hills Drive by J. Cole

2014 album of the year jcole

Finally, we have the recently released 2014 Forest Hills Drive, the third studio album by rapper J. Cole.  In my review, I stated that the album was more than just an album, but instead, a story.  J. Cole took us on a journey through his life, beginning in is childhood years and went till the current day J. Cole.  He had some revelations throughout the album and decided to act upon those revelations by the end.  It was amazing to see the progression of the rapper from being young, reckless, and famous to being the wise and talented artist that he is today.  J. Cole isn’t the household rapper that he should be.  If you are a fan of hip-hop at all, make sure to give his latest piece of work a listen, you wont regret it.  It’s fitting that the album has “2014” in it’s name, because it was by far my favorite of the year.

Review: The Pinkprint

the pinkprint coverThe Pinkprint (2014)

Nicki Minaj

Rap / Hip-Hop

Young Money / Cash Money / Republic Records


A lot of people have been proclaiming Nicki Minaj as one of the “queens” of the rap and pop industry.  It’s hard to deny the fact, given the amount of successes she has had this year.  She’s hosted award shows, released one of the songs of the summer, and continues to do more and more.  The Pinkprint, her third studio album, is going to be her closer for the year, her “pinkprint” on the year, per say.

the pinkprint 2

One of the things I enjoy most about the album is her trip back to her mixtape roots as a primarily rap artist.  Before she was known for her “dance-pop” sound, she was an up-and-coming rapper from the Young Money label.  On The Prinkprint, she leaves that “dance-pop” sound from Pink Friday and brings back her older sounds.

The album starts off with a pretty emotional track from Nicki, which is not to characteristic of the singer.  “All Things Go” is an open door to her love life, her family, as well as her abortion that she had to go through.  The song is then followed with “I Lied” and “The Crying Game”, which both showcase the vocal talent of Nicki as well as her emotional side.  At this point, I thought I was listening to a deep and emotional R&B album…until the next songs started to ramp up the energy.

“Get On Your Knees” featuring Ariana Grande was energetic, but nothing really special.  The song was then followed by “Feeling Myself”, which was actually one of my favorite songs from the album.  It features verses from both Nicki and Beyonce, who both come off as cocky, which is no surprise given the position they have in pop culture as of late.

2014 iHeartRadio Music Festival - Night 1 - Show

Other stand-out songs include “Only”, which was the banger featuring verses from Drake and Lil Wayne, and a hook by Chris Brown.  The thing that makes this song stand out is the things that the Young Money founders set straight on the track.  We also have “Trini Dem Girls”, which features a little help from Lunchmoney Lewis.  The song is probably one of the cooler sounding songs on the album, giving tribute to Nicki’s Trinidadian roots.

“The Night Is Still Young” is a pop-infused song which provides a lot of vivacity to the album.  “Pills N Potions”, one of the first singles that was released from the album, is another one of my favorites.  It’s a soft-spoken, yet powerful song that features a mesmerizing hook.

Your probably wondering why I’ve made it this far talking about The Pinkprint without mentioning “Anaconda”, arguably her most popular song of the album.  Even though it is her most popular song, doesn’t mean it’s her best.  In fact, it’s probably far from her best.  The overtly sexual nature of the song will probably put most off, and the song gets pretty old when you listen to it a couple of times.  The Sir-Mix-A-Lot sample was probably the coolest part about the song, and that’s about it.

the pinkprint 3

The album closes with the deeply emotional “Grand Piano”, where Nicki delves into a man who has lied to her, “playing her heart like a grand piano.”  It’s a fitting end to an album that begun in a similar way; a deep venture into her once private situations that she was dealing with.  She doesn’t have anything to hide anymore.

The Pinkprint remarkably shows off the vocal variety that Nicki Minaj has when it comes to her music.  The album features a mix of emotional ballads, lyrical rap prowess, club bangers, and “poppy” radio hits.  It’s all there in Nicki’s arsenal.  There is still part of me that wishes she would just pick one style and run with it though.

This album was probably my favorite Nicki Minaj album.  However, this might not be the same for everybody.  She got popular with her dance-pop sound and not too much of that sound is present on the album.  If you are wondering whether you should get the album, it probably just depends on what type of Nicki you are into.  Although, there is a bit of everything on the album.

 

2015 Grammy Awards Predictions

The lists are out and the nominees have been announced!  There looks to be a lot of tough races in some of the categories.  It’s going to be interesting once it all goes down on February 8th.  Now, it’s time for me to make my semi-educational guesses as to who will take home the big awards…

RECORD OF THE YEARgrammy 2014 1

-“Fancy” by Iggy Azalea feat. Charlie XCX

-“Chandelier” by Sia

-“Stay With Me” (Darkchild Version) by Sam Smith

-“Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift (WINNER)

-“All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor

This was one of the tougher categories to choose.  The favorites are probably “Fancy”, “Shake It Off”, and “All About That Bass”.  However, I think Taylor Swift will be the lucky lady that takes home the award.

ALBUM OF THE YEARgrammy 2014 2

Morning Phase by Beck

Beyonce by Beyonce

by Ed Sheeran

In The Lonely Hour by Sam Smith  (WINNER)

Girl by Pharrell Williams

This was probably the toughest category for me to choose.  All of the albums that were nominated have an extremely likely chance of getting the award, however I thought that Sam Smith had a hell of a year and his album might sit well with the board of judges.   I guess we will have to wait and see.

SONG OF THE YEAR

-“All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor

-“Chandelier” by Sia

-“Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift  (WINNER)

-“Stay With Me” (Darkchild Version) by Sam Smith

-“Take Me To Church” by Hozier

“Shake It Off” was the song that got in your head every time you listened to it, no matter if you liked Taylor Swift or not.  It’s a catchy tune that served as one of the standout tracks on her album 1989.  I am going to go ahead and say that the award will be in Taylor Swift’s hands by the end of the night.

BEST NEW ARTISTgrammy 2014 3

-Iggy Azalea  (WINNER)

-Bastille

-Brandy Clark

-Haim

-Sam Smith

Iggy Azalea has had a busy year.  She’s been on many hit singles and she has put out a hit album as well.  She also has come under a ton of fire from some of her hip-hop superiors.  Don’t forget about her night at the American Music Awards as well, where she took home all the awards for the hip-hop category.  She has handled herself really well through all of this, and that is why I think she is the best new artist of the year.  However, Sam Smith would make a good choice as well.

And now for some of the other categories that interest me…

BEST POP VOCAL ALBUMgrammy 2014 4

Ghost Stories by Coldplay

Bangerz by Miley Cyrus

My Everything by Ariana Grande

Prism by Katy Perry  (WINNER)

by Ed Sheeran

In The Lonely Hour by Sam Smith

BEST DANCE/ELECTRONIC ALBUMgrammy 2014 5

Syro by Aphex Twin

While (1>2) by Deadmau5  (WINNER)

Nabuma Rubberband by Little Dragon

Do It Again by Royksopp & Robyn

Damage Control by Mat Zo

BEST R&B PERFORMANCEgrammy 2014 6

-“Drunk In Love” by Beyonce feat. Jay Z  (WINNER)

-“New Flame” by Chris Brown feat. Usher & Rick Ross

-“It’s Your World” by Jennifer Hudson feat. R. Kelly

-“Like This” by Ledisi

-“Good Kisser” by Usher

BEST URBAN CONTEMPORARY ALBUMgrammy 2014 7

Sail Out by Jhene Aiko

Beyonce by Beyonce  (WINNER)

X by Chris Brown

Mali Is… by Mali Music

Girl by Pharrell Williams

BEST RAP SONGgrammy 2014 8

-“Anaconda” by Nicki Minaj

-“Bound 2” by Kanye West

-“I” by Kendrick Lamar  (WINNER)

-“We Dem Boyz” by Wiz Khalifa

-“0 to 100/The Catch Up” by Drake

BEST RAP ALBUM??????????????????????????????????

The New Classic by Iggy Azalea

Because The Internet by Childish Gambino

-Nobody’s Smiling by Common

The Marshall Mathers LP2 by Eminem  (WINNER)

Oxymoron by Schoolboy Q

Blacc Hollywood by Wiz Khalifa

*Side Note: This category should be interesting given all of the controversy and words that have been exchanged between Iggy and Eminem.

With that, my predictions have been made for the big categories as well as the categories that interest me the most.  Now we will have to wait till February 8th to see whether or not I was right about these choices, or a complete idiot.  Probably the latter, but I like to think that I am better than that.

 

 

It’s Time for the United State of Pop 2014

It’s that time of year again!  We are a little under a month away from the conclusion of 2014.  It’s the time of the year when we reflect back on what a year it has been.  We analyze what was good about the year, as well as some of the rough patches that we want to forget.  We also look back at all the memories that the year brought us, the memories that we won’t want to forget.

Or, if your DJ Earworm, you drop the hottest remix of the year…

united state of pop 2014 2

Every year, DJ Earworm is the mastermind behind the United State of Pop, an annual mash-up of the top songs of the year.  It blends chart-topping hits that we couldn’t get out of our heads into one song that we will get stuck in our head yet again.  This year he entitled the remix “Do What You Wanna Do” and the mash-up is pretty great.

It features a wide range of artists, including the likes of Iggy Azalea, Taylor Swift, Sam Smith, Katy Perry, Meghan Trainor, Pharrell Williams, Maroon 5, Jason Derulo, YG, Ariana Grande, Lil Jon, and much more.

united state of pop 2014 1

This year’s remix was interesting, because it blended the soft and smooth sounds of Sam Smith with sounds as chaotic as Lil Jon’s “Turn Down For What”.  As hard of a task as that sounds, DJ Earworm did a remarkable job, once again, at capturing the year in music.  It’s has a slower tempo, but that is because of the decline of EDM music in the top 25, as referenced by DJ Earworm himself.  It serves as a brilliant time capsule that we can go back to year after year.

Or, if you want to watch the music video mash-up, which is equally as great…

Finally, here is the full track list of songs that are featured in the remix:

A Great Big World – “Say Something” (feat. Christina Aguilera)

Ariana Grande – “Problem” (feat. Iggy Azalea)

Bastille – “Pompeii”

Dj Snake & Lil Jon – “Turn Down For What”

Hozier – “Take Me To Church”

Idina Menzel – “Let It Go”

Iggy Azeala – “Fancy” (feat. Charlie XCX)

Iggy Azeala – “Black Widow” (feat. Rita Ora)

Jason Derulo – “Talk Dirty” (feat. 2 Chainz)

Jeremiah – “Don’t Tell Em'” (feat. YG)

Jessie J – “Bang Bang” (feat. Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj)

John Legend – “All of Me”

Katy Perry – “Dark Horse” (feat. Juicy J)

Lorde – “Team”

Magic! – “Rude”

Maroon 5 – “Animals”

Meghan Trainor – “All About That Bass”

Nico & Vinz – “Am I Wrong”

One Direction – “Story of my Life”

Passenger – “Let Her Go”

Pharrell Williams – “Happy”

Pitbull – “Timber” (feat. Kesha)

Sam Smith – “Stay With Me”

Taylor Swift – “Shake It Off”

Tove Lo – “Habits”

The 2014 American Music Awards – Recap

The 2014 American Music Awards have come and gone, and it was certainly an action packed show.  The night was hosted by everybody’s favorite, Pitbull.  I guess hosting award shows is what Pitbull does now, because he seems to do a lot of it.  He did an alright job, but his opening monologue was hit-and-miss and some of his jokes just came off plain creepy.  (Yeah, I am looking right at that “Booty” joke)

Fan choice award shows, especially fan choice music award shows, tend to make me grumble.  It’s when one band gets a massive following to stand behind them and vote them to the top of every category that they are nominated for.  Yes, this may speak to an artist’s talent, but this always isn’t the case.  Sometimes a band can get a massive following do to their looks, for example.  A massive fan-base is not always proportionate to an artist’s talent.

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With that being said, it was One Direction that took home the most awards of the night at the Nokia Theater in L.A., including the big one; Artist of the Year.  For Artist of the Year, the band was up against the likes of Iggy Azalea, Luke Bryan, Beyonce, and Katy Perry.  All four of those artists, in my opinion, probably deserved the award the most.  But since there was no committee voting for the awards, it was the fans that had the final say.

Iggy Azalea was also a big winner last night, wrapping up all of the awards for the hip-hop category.  There is some interesting commentary that can be had about this as well, given the recent controversy between Eminem and Iggy.  If you haven’t heard already, Eminem released a snippet of the song “Vegas” of his newest album that contained lyrics about physical harm and rape directed at both Nicki Minaj and Iggy Azalea.  Iggy ended up getting back at Eminem by calling him an “old man” and speaking her thoughts on Twitter.  Both Nicki Minaj and Iggy Azalea were at the awards last night, and it was Iggy that got the last laugh.  She was facing both Drake and Eminem for the two hip hop categories, and she came out on top for both of them.

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In her speeches, she name checked Eminem (in the lightest way possible) saying that because she got the award, she knew she was heading in the right direction.  These two awards were the first two AMAs she has ever received.  Her mentor T.I., who seemed to have picked up the role of peacemaker in light of all of Iggy’s harassment, was right by her side during the acceptance.  It was a big night for her.

Other notable awards included Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist, which went to Sam Smith.  The Favorite Rock/Alternative Artist award went to Imagine Dragons, who has been having a pretty big year.  The Favorite Country Album award went to Brantley Gilbert for his third studio album Just As I Am.  Taylor Swift also won big, being the recipient of the Dick Clark Award for Excellence.

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But anyway, the American Music Awards, in my opinion, are about the performances and the moments that come along with them.

Taylor Swift kicked off the show with a bang, performing her newest hit “Blank Space.”  She transformed the stage into a black-and-white striped mansion and danced all throughout the halls with her army of back-up dancers.  It was quite a spectacle and a great way to kick off the show.

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There were a lot of acts that involved first time live performances of a lot of songs.  Imagine Dragons sung their newest hit “I Bet My Life” with an energetic and sentimental performance.  We also saw Lil Wayne later in the show debuting his new song of the Carter V, “Start A Fire”, with Christina Milian.  We also got a performance by Sam Smith and A$ap Rocky, who performed “I’m Not The Only One”.

The most fun performance of the night probably came from Jessie J, Ariana Grande, and Nicki Minaj who performed the hit “Bang Bang.”  I always like when they play this song live because it’s easy to see how much fan the trio have with the song.  You can tell that they never get tired of it.  Fergie also had a colorful and exotic performance of “L.A. Love” with DJ Mustard and YG.  There were some massive set-pieces and a lot going on onstage.  It’s was a performance that evidenced that Fergie is still relevant in today’s music sphere.

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Ariana Grande gave a brilliant acoustic performance of her songs “Problem” and “Break Free”, which really showcased the true talent of the young artist.  Her performance was finally topped off with a rendition of her newest song “Love Me Harder”, which featured the vocal magic of The Weeknd.  Those two on stage together was a pretty awesome showing.  We also got “emotional performance of the night” from Selena Gomez, who sung her deeply intimate “The Heart Wants What It Wants.”

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There were a bunch of other performances, some lackluster and others completely fine.  The most intriguing performance was Garth Brooks, who came live from North Carolina and performed the song “People Loving People” to a large arena crowd.  We also had Iggy Azalea and Charlie XCX, who both gave performances of their songs “Boom Clap” and “Fancy”.   Iggy Azalea went back on stage with Jennifer Lopez at the end to close out the show with “Booty.”  The performance was not big enough to close out the show, but it did deliver on the promise of high levels of booty.

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Like I said before, there was a lot going on during last nights festivities.  I may not have agreed with most of the winners, but I knew I wasn’t going to before the show even started.  However, there was a lot of great performances that made up for it.  Pitbull should also stop hosting awards shows.  That is all.

The full list of winners can be found below:

Artist of the Year: One Direction

New Artist of the Year: 5 Seconds of Summer

Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist: Sam Smith

Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist: Katy Perry

Favorite Pop/Rock Band/Duo/Group: One Direction

Favorite Pop/Rock Album: Midnight Memories by One Direction

Favorite Country Male Artist: Luke Bryan

Favorite Country Female Artist: Carrie Underwood

Favorite Country Duo or Group: Florida Georgia Line

Favorite Country Album: Just As I Am by Brantley Gilbert

Favorite Rap/Hip-hop Artist: Iggy Azalea

Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Album: The New Classic by Iggy Azalea

Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist: John Legend

Favorite Soul/R&B Female Artist: Beyonce

Favorite Soul/R&B Album: Beyonce by Beyonce

Favorite Alternative Artist: Imagine Dragons

Favorite Adult Contemporary Artist: Katy Perry

Favorite Latin Artist: Enrique Inglesias

Favorite Contemporary Inspirational Artist: Casting Crowns

Favorite EDM Artist: Calvin Harris

Single of the Year: “Dark Horse” by Katy Perry, featuring Juicy J

Top Soundtrack: Frozen

Dick Clark Award for Excellence: Taylor Swift

Review: Sweet Talker

sweet talker coverSweet Talker (2014)

Jessie J

R&B / Pop / Soul

Label: Lava / Rebublic


Jessie J’s music career has always been intriguing to me.  It just seems like not that much people are talking about her.  She has the ability to make pretty big hits.  Her single’s “Domino” and “Price Tag” did very well and she even wrote Miley Cyrus’s hit “Party in the USA.”  So like I said, the ability is there, but where is her star power?

With the British singer’s recent release of Sweet Talker, Jessie J’s third studio album, it seems as if her star power will reach a maximum.

The album starts out with a bang (no pun intended) with four of my favorite songs off her release.  She starts off with the energetic “Ain’t Been Done” and then moves to the even faster “Burnin’ Up” with 2 Chainz.  We then have the title track “Sweet Talker”, in which Jessie J gives a strong performance.  Lastly, “Bang Bang” is probably my favorite track off the album.  When it was released as a single, it was a bona fide summer hit, featuring the likes of Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj.  The track also warranted a VMA performance that was truly something else.

However, the rest of the album did not stand out as much as the first four hits.  Jessie J started to slow it down with sweet sounding melodies, which started to run together towards the end.  There wasn’t too much variety as the album started to come to a close, but Jessie J still managed to make them entertaining to listen to, with her powerful and melodic voice.

She almost reminds me of a hybrid between Beyonce and P!nk.  She has a wide vocal range and a booming voice, with some pop, hip-hop, and r&b influences.  She doesn’t have the name recognition of those two artists, but she still has a voice that can be singled out of a crowd.

Sweet Talker could be considered A+ material if there was only some variety towards the latter part of the album.  However, Sweet Talker is still a strong release from the brit. Her single “Bang Bang” propelled her into the US spotlight, now it’s up to her what she does with it.

Hopefully she provides us with more impressive chart-topping hits.

 

Live from New York, It’s Saturday Night Live…Season 40

Yes, that’s right, Saturday Night Live has returned for it’s 40th season tonight.  It has been a while since season 39, but that hasn’t meant that it has been a quiet off season for SNL.  In fact, it has been pretty busy.

There have been some notable departures from the cast.  Wheelan, Milhiser, and Wells have all moved on from the show.  Mike O’brien has also left the cast, but only to go back to the writer’s room for good.  As for the people joining the show, Michael Che and Pete Davidson are the two new incomers.  Michael Che is now one of the co-anchors for the Weekend Update and Pete Davidson, interestingly, is the fourth youngest person to ever be on SNL, as well as the fourth person in SNL history to be on the show and not be of legal drinking age.  I found that pretty intriguing.  It is also rumored that this might be Kenan Thompson last season on the show.  It’s a shame because he has been one of  my favorite cast members.  However, this only means that he will probably have more screen time as the season goes on.

chris pratt and kate mckinnon

Tonight’s episode featured Chris Pratt, the actor of Parks and Recreation fame, as well as Guardians of the Galaxy.  The musical guest was pop singer Ariana Grande.  So how well did the first show go?  Well…

The show started off with a bang.  Some good ol’ jokes against the NFL.  This was expected given the crappy situation the league has gotten itself into.  It featured Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharoah as Ray Lewis and Shannon Sharpe respectively.  Pharoah, with his spot-on impressions, stole the skit with his on-point impersonation of Sharpe.  It was a good start to the show.

snl nfl

We then heard the voice of Darrell Hammond, who  is the new announcer for the show, taking over for Don Pardo, who passed away on August 18th.  Don Pardo was the longtime announcer for SNL with his signature voice to start the show.   It sounded different and it will take a couple of times for my ears to get used to it, but it seems that he will be a pretty good fit for the job.

Chris Pratt’s monologue showcased  a very “pumped” Pratt.  He cracked some jokes at all of his weight changes, which was expected.  He also performed a “folkish” sounding song about himself.  During the song,  Anna Faris also made an appearance.  He mentioned their childbirth, which produced a beautiful baby.  It wasn’t the best monologue I have seen on the show, but it was still entertaining nonetheless.

snl he men

There was a skit that featured a boy that wished his toys would come alive for his birthday.  He blew the candles and then his wish came true.  Out of the blue, Chris Pratt and Taram Killam, who were playing action figures appeared.  They’re introduction to the human world was quite amusing.  We also saw Ariana Grande who played “the other sister”.   As you would expect, this got the biggest reaction from the audience.

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Later in the episode, we saw more of the NFL, and more specifically the Ravens and the Panthers.  The skit ran through the two teams and their players, as well as the crimes that they committed.  There was child abuse, domestic violence, and more for everyone!  They also announced that there was a Chris Brown halftime performance and a special tribute to Pacman Jones.  It probably could be considered a Key and Peele rip-off of their famous “College Bowl” sketches.  I’m sure Roger Goodell, if he was watching, thought all of this was hilarious.  I know I couldn’t help but laugh.

 

snl weekend update

We saw the first Weekend Update of the season, with Michael Che and Colin Jost.  The update featured cracks at Apple’s iCloud, Derek Jeter, and the NFL.  I personally liked it better when there was just one person running the table, but Jost and Che seem to work pretty well together.  The update’s funniest moment featured “Leslie Jones”,  a woman who has had a pretty awful experience with men. This Weekend Update is a pretty good sign for the future of the desk.  It had a lot of good laughs, and ended with a musical number about Barack Obama, and how “things are going to get better.”

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Pete Davidson, who was featured during the Weekend Update as the “resident young person” seems like he is going to a pretty good addition to the company.  I am interested to see more of this kid in future episodes.  Aidy Bryant had a lot of screen time on the show, which is not a surprise.  She is humorous and provides a lot of memorable moments.  She started coming into her own last season, and I hope to see more of her this season.

One thing that I couldn’t help but notice was the lack of Chris Pratt.  He had some funny moments, but he wasn’t a knockout punch.  He is naturally a funny guy, but it seemed like the  actors around him stole the spotlights.  Perhaps it was an issue with the material he was given.  I applaud him for the effort that he gave all of his parts though.  He did a pretty good job with what he had.

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Ariana Grande’s performances were pretty good.  When it comes to live performances, it seems that she knows what she is doing.  Her first performance was an acoustic version of her hit song “Break Free”.  It was an intimate performance, which then  transformed into a very high-energy performance.  They’re seemed to be more lip syncing then actual singing, but hey, she was dancing so give her a break.  Her second performance was of “Love Me Harder”, which was also spot on.  It features The Weeknd, who joined Ariana on the stage for the song.

Judging by the buzz that was circling during the show, it seemed that the show received a lot of negative feedback.  I have to agree that there were no standout “knockout sketches” but I still thought it was a good show overall.  I laughed numerous times throughout.  So, that’s all that count’s right?