Ticking the right box
My issue with musical genres is that there is too much borders within each, the most free genre seems to be pop and that's the most looked down upon, yet to me pop isn't what pop used to be (an extremely cheesy number) its a slice of music by a musician that may exist or reside in a specific realm of music that makes a popular sounding airplay friendly track. For example Jay Z or Kanye both are considered rappers but create music that is intended for the radio and radio beyond the urban channels so therefore they are intentionally creating sounds to be played to the mainstream and to become popular of course they have their album as a platform to put more experimental genre pushing or genre pleasing music and they're far from Flo Rida.
The problem with residing in a musical genre is that the limitations are then placed upon you, rap or hip hop is still largely dominated by black males and once females enter the game there is a sudden whiff of collaborate or compete. Recently we've seen such incidents in the case of Azelia Banks who's fired shots at everyone from Lil Kim to Angel Haze to Iggy Azelea. Nicki Minaj is a prime example of limitations, conflicted with her music and sound wanting to please yet wanting to sell, so much so that her album was like a civil war. Identities were created in order for her to create songs and hip pop sounds like Super Bass and Starships with the latter going onto sell 7 million, (a stat and feat not many can achieve), in which she can forever boast about (another trait of rap) yet it also seemed she wanted to remain or seem to remain a rapper, a hip hop musician with rhymes, flows and lyrics perfected and well crafted but when you look at her last album and put it aside someone like Kanye it seems a sloppy conflicted mess. Yet Nicki has still pushed boundaries and has allowed for rapping to be seen and appreciated by many who would usually have given it a pass and she still has records out there that others can accept although her hip hop fans are less accepting than her pop fans, but her pop fans or pop presence has allowed her to sell in the quantities she has sold.
Hip Hop was about rising from the streets, ex drug dealers, gangsters, criminals, convicts, gang wars and those doing it living/lived it and telling the tale. We saw the dark result of battles when actions spoke louder than words resulting in two of its greatest pioneers Tupac & Biggie being gunned down and killed cutting their legacy and lives short. Since those days Hip Hop and its artists have cleaned up. You may have come from the street but success is the best way of showing that. Up rose brand names and artists that were more than music, music was their main platform but a platform to use as an opportunity allowing big names power to create record labels, perfumes, clothing brands, opening restaurants, creating headphones etc.
In the process breaking walls down and pushing rap into another place beyond music. Hip hop may have been the voice of the underground but it can be seen over ground with its stars now starring in commercials and designing for fine french high fashion brands such as Louis Vuitton, Nicki has even gone on to grace magazine covers like Elle a feat that would have never happened in the 90's.
Its not only hip hop that has the purist crying out, it was also 'Indie' 'Grime' 'Garage' with all the talk of signing and selling out by wanting to make the music their art and craft heard by a wider range of people. Of course the industry neglected many trying to commercialize them and then creating their own clones of the sound and with certain aspects of genres seen as the enemy of the state (the government shutting down So Solid) there were legitimate reasons in some circumstances to be upset.
My whole thing is to not allow a musicians genre to detract you from their output and to remain open eyed, the best music comes from those who defy or can't be classified or those who seem to be doing and saying something new by respecting and remaining in the genre they work in.
My favourite musicians personally are Florence who's otherworldly artistic old world instruments brought to and into a contemporary setting was mind blowing for me at the time and then there is M.I.A who's lo fi yet global sound with banging beats and political lyrics and creative intent is different from many yet not too alienating' another landmark for me is MGMT
who's written three songs (Time to pretend, Kids, Electric Feel) I'll forever love set among other songs that stick to the psychedelic label that's been stuck on them and don't really move me. Kanye is also major to my musical tastes he digs and discovers the old and the new sampling classics or forgotten classics and discovering talent across the board promoting and giving them a chance and that is also what I feel Rihanna does. Rihanna has helped push producers from Chase & Status, Calvin Harris, Mike Will Made it and Labrinth all respected in their fields of music yet not globally acknowledged, she uses her platform to create something not new but interesting without stepping out the box too much yet her box is wide from ballads like Stay to dancehall influences like Man Down or Rude boy stomping EDM like WFL which is the thing a pop musician can take from here and there and not be shunned. I also have a lot of respect for Dizzee Rascal who has helped propel the urban industry he created a classic and moved on working with Calvin Harris years before anyone and adopting dance and extremely poppy sounds yet unashamedly so.
My point is we are in a post modern culture where labels and genres shouldn't deter us from listening or understanding a song or musician each genre has something and says something it may appeal to a certain demograph but there's lesson to be learned from it all. Of course there are acts who take and take with no integrity like say Miley Cyrus inspired so much by something that she's lost her stamp or pop puppets like Rita Ora that are basically nothing but market research, a compilation of writers and producers of note working with her to try and make her of note yet there's also many interesting acts on the scene already, bubbling up and still underground that if you seek you shall find.I love music as an art form and appreciates what everyone brings to it from Taylor Swift to Wynter Gordon or Arctic Monkeys to the Klaxon's.
Kanye West- Yeezus
Complicated is the creative and complicated is Mr.West its hard to tell if the serious act is an act or he simply acts serious, none the less music is something in which he invests his energy and time and something in which he is passionate and therefore serious about.
Yeezus slides into the position of the fifth Album prior to its predecessor was 808 & Heartbreaks created after significant spiritual loses, losing his mother and fiancee singing and crooning with the aid of machines his most to the bone and raw. Tracks delving into his feelings and thoughts yet with the aid of auto tune detracting it from being delivered with full raw emotion adding a layer to his deliveries, a veil of sorts ' here I am yet here I'm not'. Then came My Beautiful Dark twisted fantasy which was about love lost after Amber Rose and also the excess of consumer culture yet now he's become a father and dating Kim he no longer is conflicted about love and so he turns to what every other western world black individual is conflicted about, their place in society.
Beats lead here stomping loud and dark and then he cuts to another part more delicate and softer than what was before keeping the narrative of the song and calming at the same time, West is known for his samples from past and present helping to present and craft his future, he's also known for his features and this album isn't short of them. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was a return to form he had loved and lost again yet was able to distance himself and create not just a film but a layered album as he did with All of the lights features without the featured being truly heard texturing the song with vocals from world class musicians that said this or that yet unable distinguish who said what and where that there is power.
Yeezus is an evolution from MBDTF but not in grander sense its more minimal and each track fades into one another as every singular track is multi-layered composed and constructed in a sense and complicated manner that Kanye does effortlessly well one in which others could easily fail, MBDTF is an easier listen more radio friendly here there's not many cuts that easily fit into and onto the current radio soundscape which is what makes the album so intriguing its different yet also does so without alienating sounds new but not too foreign
It's an intriguing body of work a strong one that slides into the mastery of Kanye's discography with ease, it shows his evolution and confidence and why Kanye West is in a different lane from others.
at word electronic music seems to have plagued and infected the billboard and Top 40, a beast which has savaged for years now with the Will I am's & Guetta's creating sounds as hollow as the crown and throne that they oversee the musical landscape with.
Daft Punk- Random Access Memories-review
Enter the return Daft Punk pioneers of electronics before it became cool or normal with their return they had a choice do what they did before or do something different. Observers to what's going on instead of fitting in where they fitted before they've crafted an album that in order to move forward they've gone back.
In going back it's not to the nineties or some Ibiza hang over its back to the 70's and 80's disco and they seem to have hit the nail on the head with 'Get Lucky' the Pharell assisted track spending three weeks at number one in the UK. Saying that it's one of the most commercial songs on the album with simple song structure of a chorus and lyrics and radio friendly. The other songs are a lot more playful yet doesn't mean they're lacking in substance or style.
Those buying off the back of the first track maybe misled there is another Pharell track but its not of the same caliber in fact it's more in tune with the other tracks on the album, for Daft Punk fan's this is a sure evolution one i'm sure most will like for new comers its likely to divide
XX - Co-exist
Angels is a pretty Ballard & Sunset is ghostly and spacey and te lyrics seem to come from real experiences this time round and can easily be related to, Romy & Oliver's vocals are more confident as is the production more sharp and less raw but its just sad that no song grabs your attention or comes out of the comfort zone.
I really wanted to like this album but after four listens and trys none of the tracks seem to stand out and no progression has been made, it's far from bad yet not a ground breaking sophomore effort either, I would rather this have been their first and XX their second.
The group have found a formula that works great for them and sets them apart from other bands yet I hope on the third album at least there is room for experimentation to try other sounds, it's interesting to watch the group grow from indie unknowns to stars in their own right gracing covers of magazines ( Dazed, Arena Homme, Clash, Fantastic Man etc) yet not sell out and go down the pure pop route.
Rita Ora- Ora
The name Rita Ora has drifted around for years popping up on Craig David tracks and appearing in Drake videos and eventually and most promisingly signed by Jay Z a few years back. Most music enthusiasts have been waiting to hear her sound. Her first full song was to provide guest vocals on DJ Fresh's Hot right now which leaped to number one and then came the Drake penned & Nneka sampled R.I.P featuring Tinie Tempah and afterwards the US single ' Party & Bullshuit' which failed to garner much attention in America so was released over here and again came the commercial acclaim with every song Ora touches thus far becoming a UK number one.
It all seemed so promising although none of her number ones have been outstandingly unique and with all the talk of big time producers and talent from Diplo, Will I am, J Cole, Sia, The Dream & Ester Dean among others what Ora seems to be is a half baked product there is talent in her voice but where is Rita. There is claims that this young singer is also a songwriter yet the albums credits only credits her with three co-writes.
Highlights include the Diplo produced Facemelt which sounds fresh and gets Ora's British edge across talking about clubbing and popping e-pills yet is cut short and serves only as an intro if only there was other tracks akin to this. Roc the Life is another track that glitters its paired down yet the studio version fails to capture the true essence as her live performances does, none the less its still a sweet track both an ode to being young and slowly becoming famous, Been Lying is pretty self analysis an uptempo ballard of sort as is Shine Ya Light the most rock pop sounding song on the album.
The worse singles seem to appear when Ora work s with the biggest names, Fall in Love is repetitive and dull with lazy vocals and production its a shame that Will I am couldn't pull out something a little better, whilst The Sia penned track Radioactive is a club anthem that says nothing new and fades into most of the other tracks out there at present
For a debut artist there seems to be a lack of originality, all the tracks that are good are far from great and in order for her to become a bonafide pop star needs a bit more development The Diplo tracks are the most interesting and it would be good to see her steer in this direction as I really want to like what Ora does but it seems being signed to Roc Nation has been both a gift and curse with high expectations across the board that could possibly to high, yet it has allowed her access to the best talents within the industry and press coverage across the best print media and on prime time TV slots but its a sad case of more style than substance. All Britishness has been white washed from her sound in an attempt to make her more global or American sounding a prime example is 'Party & Bullshit', The UK has embraced her and there is still time for a stronger US push with Radioactive being the perfect candidate single to help Ora blend in.
They can sing, they can dance, they look good and have had a string of successful hits including five number ones, as much as you would like to like JLS there is a key ingredient missing from them and that is good songs and possibly good producers.
3 albums in and their sound is the same as when they debuted as is their lyrics. There hasn't been much of a progression here and that is where the boys seem to falter. The fact is there was much talks of possible collaborators such as Rihanna & Bruno Mars and all there is Dev. At the end of the day critical success hardly matters as there fans will flock to buy this and send them rocketing up the charts but if there is any hopes of cracking other markets and bigger countries a step up is needed.
Possibly a perfect album for a fan base dying to hear new music but sadly for others there is nothing new here.
Cher Lloyd- Sticks & Stones
Cher Lloyd caused a stir on last years X-Factor blowing many a way with Keri Hilson get your swag on making it to the live round & dividing many who just couldn't seem to like or get her although she gave a few interesting and memorable performances when she stripped it down took away the rapping such as Shakespeare's Sisters'stay' and the same could be said with this Album when she lets others rap and herself sing those are the tracks that remain the strongest.
There is no denying that Cher can sing and it is that she does best at just 18 she shows she has the talent & co-writing much of the album it seems she knows pretty much what she wants & is in control of her image & sound.
The album is aimed at a young audience yet remarkably it seems older than Jessie J's output with influences from dubstep sprinkled all the way through, the best track has to be Dub on the track where Cher is joined by the likes of Mic Righteous, Dot Rotten & Ghetts with Superhero one of her best vocals on the album.
Its an interesting debut that moves Cher into a different league than just another manufactured x-factor reject
Dub On The Track
THE WANTED- BATTLEGROUND
The Wanted burst onto the scene and filled what was really missing within the UK, a good boyband (apart from JLS). Now with the albeit younger One Direction, The Wanted prove they still have their place within the market. With several hits two number one singles and a even larger profile and boots to fill it seems the band succeeds growing and moving forward with their style and sound.
Battleground's debut single 'Glad you came' topped the chart and was an amazingly catchy piece of brit pop and the boys most dance floor friendly track to date and also on the album, Although Weekend speed-ed up wouldn't be out of place in a club yet is far from a contender to Glad you came. It has its ballads strongest being Warzone & Last To Know proving that the boys are all talented and in more ways then one stepping up to the plate and with some members co-writing tracks.
Favorite tracks include
Glad you came,
Last To Know,