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Friday, September 19, 2014

Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 - 25th Anniversary

"Get the point? Good, let's dance."

Just a short post today to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Janet Jackson's classic fourth album Rhythm Nation 1814, which I would consider to be one of the best albums of all time by my favorite artist of all time. It remains a very unique piece of art, and holds up very well to this day. Part of that appeal is that the album truly does not sound like anything else. Sure, it's firmly in the industrial new jack swing genre, but it manages to leap past that label with its propulsive songwriting, social awareness and intricate, inventive production. Janet, of course, wraps it all up in a bow with her fierce, charismatic-as-hell vocals and performance, as well as the considerable artistic input and songwriting she added to the mix. In fact, one of the album's best tracks--the dynamic hard rocker Black Cat--was written solely by Janet herself. Janet simply does not get her due nowadays as the legend that she is. Her music will always be a huge part of me. For years now, I've been meaning to post a "Ten Best Singles By..." list for Janet on this blog, but I just can't bring myself to rank her best songs. They're all too good. I'd kill for a remastered deluxe version of this album (hint hint) and, of course, new music. But for now, take a listen to this megamix highlighting some of the album's most enduring moments.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Team B - Wait For Me

After the success of last year's WIN reality competition that led to the debut of hugely popular K-Pop group Winner, YG Entertainment is at it again with Mix & Match, which takes the losing team from last year and... well, mixes and matches them until they're a new group to be called iKON. For now, I guess we still call them Team B, but either way, they were my favorite of the two teams on WIN and I think if they get the right songs, they could eventually be the more successful of the two teams. As part of M&M's premiere episode last week, the guys released Wait For Me. Like most YG songs, I was a little ho-hum on first listen but I quickly grew to fall in love with it. And when I say "fall in love," I am not using that phrase lightly. I literally can't stop listening to this track. It's an emotional mid-tempo pop/r&b track with a perfect melody and an excellent guitar line forming the foundation. It feels so incredibly powerful, but I think part of that is because I've watched all these guys have had to go through on their way to success. They're hungry, and you can feel that in the vocals and level of commitment. So all in all, give this a few listens until it clicks, and also watch the performance. You won't regret it (at least until a couple of these guys get kicked off the team...).

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the single here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Eden XO - Too Cool To Dance

"I don't even have to try"

I don't know how I missed this when it was released four months ago. I guess that's what music videos are for, and Eden XO released hers today, drawing my attention finally. Now, Eden XO is the new stage name of Jessie Malakouti, formerly of ace pop project Jessie & The Toyboys. I loved the music of the Toyboys and even featured it here, but if I'm honest, I'd somehow forgotten about the project. Shame on me! Too Cool To Dance is a single that brings it all back to the forefront--a big dance track that sounds like a cross between Gwen Stefani and Kylie Minogue with a modern disco beat. Jessie/Eden is a pop star that never got her due, so here's hoping this new image will reignite her music career. I'm ready for more songs and an album, pronto!

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the single here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Track-by-Track: HyunA - A Talk

I've always considered HyunA to be the troublemaker of the K-Pop world. Maybe that's just me being literal, since one of her many projects is as part of a duo actually called Trouble Maker, but beyond that there's just a swagger and anything-goes-craziness in her music that I really appreciate. A note about any K-Pop review I do: I am not a Korean speaker. I search out translations of the lyrics when it interests me, but lyrics are definitely not something I'm focusing too heavily on in these reviews.

1. A Talk - The intro to HyunA’s new album is more of a mini song than most intros, though it’s still not really long enough to warrant a score. As intros go, it’s fine but not all that memorable.

2. French Kiss - I’ve heard many say that this should have been the album’s single. I don’t agree, as it’s not as good as Red, but I do think that it sounds like it could be a second single. It’s all about that chorus, which is ridiculously catchy and fun. I’d say it’s also probably the poppiest track on the album. 8/10

3. Red - I have come to absolutely adore this song. From the attitude-filled rap, to the melodic, melancholic bridge, to the explosive, fun-as-hell chorus (transitioned from what sounds like a bonkers Tigerlily impression that’s definitely not politically correct), this is a party. The accompanying video does a great job positioning her as Korea's answer to Miley Cyrus, at least when it comes to strange party/afterparty visuals and "screw you" attitude.  10/10

4. From Where Until Where (ft. Beast’s Yo Seop) - Slowing things down to a mid-tempo, smooth r&b flavor, this is a pleasant summertime jam with some catchy synth drops in the background. Not a favorite, but not something I’d skip either. 7/10

5. Blacklist (ft. LE) - This is my second favorite track on the album. It’s a hard-hitting hip-hop track with tons of attitude and a great beat. The refrain that kicks off the song is incredibly catchy. 9/10

Album Grade: 8.5/10 Recommended

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Wolf Gang - Lay Your Love Down

"Do you hear me at all?"

Wolf Gang are the band responsible for one of my favorite singles of the year, the gorgeous and epic Black River. This is their follow-up, which was always going to suffer a bit in my eyes having to follow River. But even though it's not nearly as over the top, the guys have created a really solid indie pop track. The hook sounds instantly familiar to me, like a mix between Bastille and Florence + The Machine. I like the verses even better, with that majestic opening and drumbeat. It definitely has the feel of mainstream crossover success, which this band is well overdue for. It just needs to be featured in the right movie or TV show or something. For now, they're one of music's best kept secrets.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the single here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.