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Friday, October 09, 2009

Pop Blitz

Owl City - Fireflies
I don’t know what annoys me more about this song: the lame,
Poetry 101 lyrics or the needy, whiny vocals. All I know is that this song drives me crazy. I understand why people like it, but I cringe every time it’s on the radio. D-

Allison Iraheta - Friday I’ll Be Over U
Borrowing a page from Kelly Clarkson, Iraheta manages to conjure a more believable youthful energy in this post-Idol debut. In short, it’s way more fun than Clarkson. The funky guitar line certainly doesn’t hurt. A-

Jay Sean - Down
Utterly confused at how this climbed to number one in Billboard. There’s nothing overly offensive about it. It’s just not memorable at all. It’s not fast enough to dance to, though it seems to want to be a dance track. Pretty middling. C-

Britney Spears - 3
Probably my favorite Brit single since Toxic, this sounded like a hit from the first listen. Sure, her voice is processed to the point of being unrecognizable, but you can’t deny the hooks, of which there are plenty. A-

Justin Bieber - One Less Lonely Girl
The latest tween sensation’s second single is not as addictive as his first, but does improve as it moves along and certainly checks all the right boxes for this type of music. B

OneRepublic - All The Right Moves
I don’t think these guys will ever have a hit the size of Apologize again, and though this song shoots for “soaring,” it doesn’t really get off the ground. Tedder’s written better songs for others recently. C-

Alexandra Burke - Bad Boys
I’m not sure this track has gotten the credit it deserves in some circles. I, for one, was not expecting something of this quality for Burke’s debut. It’s got a quality, classic pop/r&b melody and, forgetting those Flo-Rida parts, is pretty damn flawless. A

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Track-by-Track: Blake Lewis - Heartbreak On Vinyl

Might it be the best Idol record yet? If it isn't, it's certainly up there. I was not expecting on writing a review for this album, but I'm quite taken with it... far more than I would have thought.

1. Heartbreak On Vinyl - Here, on one song, Blake makes up for everything that went wrong with the last album. At once an epic dancepop anthem, a slyly politic rant on the state of independent record stores, and a wistful story-song, this track has everything. Very impressive. 10/10

2. Binary Love - Borrowing a page from David Guetta's book, this track features an aggressive techno-dance beat (one of the best on the album) and a robotic chorus that becomes more and more addictive by the second. 10/10

3. Freak - This dance track's fantastic verses are let down somewhat by a chorus that's a bit repetitive, but it fits nicely with the previous songs and is one of the better dance tracks on the album. 9/10

4. Sad Song - The first single, and actually one of the more underwhelming uptempos on the album. The song itself is great, but the problem I think comes in the mixing. The vocals and melody don't seem to mesh with the music as well as they should. 8/10

5. Rhythm Of My Heart - A slightly poppier song, this sounds much more mainstream than other tracks, though the bucketful of hooks ensures that every piece is worth listening to. 9/10

6. Afraid - Another more mainstream, modern electro/r&b midtempo. It sounds very Timbaland although it's produced by Rodney Jerkins (one of the biggest names on the record). Good, but a little generic compared to the rest of the material. 7/10

7. Left My Baby For You - Another absolute triumph, and tied for best song on the album. In some ways it sounds similar to Black Eyed Peas' monster hit I Gotta Feeling, though it's a million times better. A feel-good, summery pop hit with a ridiculous amount of hooks, great falsetto and one hell of a beat. Essential. 10/10

8. Rebel Without A Cause - The verses here are the best part of the song. It's got a very Police/Sting feel to it, if the Police/Sting went electronic. It's an interesting track, and a real grower. 9/10

9. SuperScratchaVocalisticTurnatableLicious - A minute-long interlude that serves no purpose other than to remind us that Blake is a beatboxer. I don't grade interludes, though this one isn't overly annoying nor overly necessary.

10. Come On Be Good - I love the melody of this, especially the bridge and the chorus. It sounds like something I've heard before, though I can't put my finger on it. Another uptempo. Very good. 9/10

11. Our Rapture Of Love - The first slow track on the album, and the weaker of the two. It's still quite nice, though. Blake's vocals sound brilliant on this album, and no more so than here. 8/10

12. The Point - A more interesting (melodically and lyrically), and seemingly more personal ballad. The vocals are especially nice, as is the melody. It would have been a perfect album closer. 9/10

13. The Remedy - This has got perhaps the catchiest and poppiest bridge on the entire album. It's back to straight-up pop music here, and this would be an excellent single choice because it's impossible not to like. 10/10

14. Love Or Torture (Please Don't Stop) - Another big dance track to end the album, this one has a bit of a garage sound. It's very nice, and very catchy, though it's not my favorite uptempo on the album. 8/10

Album Grade: 8.9/10

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

"Sometimes I need somebody who can make me feel alright"

This fantastic band with an unfortunate name is absolutely taking over Norway. They have multiple songs in the top ten on itunes right now, and their (much anticipated--by me) album comes out in a few weeks. I featured their gorgeous debut single, Ambitions, earlier in the year, and wanted to highlight the next one today. Sometimes has a slightly more electronic influence to it and sounds very mid-eighties. Think Starship's Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now minus the sentimentality. Having heard samples from the album, I'm happy to say that most of the songs seem to follow this type of sound--subtle electronics with an un-kitschy 80's influence. Unfortunately I haven't gotten my hands on an mp3 of this track, so I'm linking to a very high quality youtube version. This is a massive song.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists. Preorder the album here. Follow me on twitter at nickajames)

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

"I waited for you at the record shop"

Despite loving him on Idol, I was completely underwhelmed by Blake Lewis' debut album a couple of years ago. It was just too scatter shot and unfocused for me, with far too much of a hip-hop influence. Thankfully, Blake's new album (out today) is the complete opposite. I'm actually blown away by how much better it is. With much more of an influence on melodic songwriting and fresh, electronic dance beats, the record absolutely soars. I was mildly impressed with the single, Sad Song, but now having listened to the album in full I can say that it's one of the weaker tracks. Not so with Heartbreak On Vinyl. It's easily Blake's finest song to date, an anthematic pop/dance track that is impossible to dislike. Lyrically, melodically, production-wise, it's an absolute triumph and really sets the listener up for the rest of the album (of which I Left My Baby For You is my other favorite). I hope that talent like this is able to shine through and be successful, especially after the misstep that was Audio Daydream. Listen, and I promise that you'll be a fan.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists. Buy the album here. Follow me on twitter at nickajames)

Monday, October 05, 2009

"You weren't what you advertised"

Allison Iraheta finished fourth on this year's American Idol and was easily my second favorite contestant. When I heard that she was working with Max Martin, as she did for this single, I was very happy. His brand of over-the-top catchy pop/rock is exactly what I hoped she'd release after the show. Friday I'll Be Over U, the first single, was premiered today and doesn't disappoint. It's got a very Kelly Clarkson vibe, yet feels younger. It's also got more of an electronic influence and a real funky guitar line in the verses. Allison sounds flawless as usual... way beyond her years yet totally youthful at the same time. She was definitely one of the most likable contestants the series has had, and I hope that goodwill helps launch her into stardom. This single is a great first step.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists. Preorder the album here. Follow me on twitter at nickajames)