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Friday, November 06, 2009

Track-by-Track: Alexandra Burke - Overcome

Reality show albums are always a crap shoot. You never know whether the powers-that-be will treat them like actual, viable records or just throw a bunch of covers and rejects at the artist. On X-Factor, Alexandra Burke had talent and personality to spare, but did they give her a good album?

1. Bad Boys - By far the best track on the album, and the unquestionable single, this has a classic, mature melody. I feel like this could have been released in the heyday of Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston and been successful. Also, the beat is great, especially in that huge chorus. 10/10

2. Good Night Good Morning - An unnecessary duet with Ne-Yo (especially this early in the album), it's an instant comedown from the last song, with a repetitive chorus and repeated declarations that "this beat is amazing." It's really not. 5/10

3. The Silence - The first big ballad (of very few, thankfully), this is just a little too overwrought to be effective. Sure, Alexandra sounds great. That husky voice is in full display. But the song is too dramatic without really earning it. 7/10

4. All Night Long - My second favorite track, this is unquestionably a RedOne production, but has its own sound that really compliments Alexandra. Again, it's a flashback to the 80's and artists like Lionel Ritchie. The chorus is fantastic. 10/10

5. Bury Me (6 Feet Under) - This one has an odd sound. It's an uptempo, old-school soul track that doesn't really mesh well with what's come before. But, on its own this is quite good. Not sure if it really fits Alexandra, though. 8/10

6. Broken Heels - Another strong RedOne production, this is an excellent dance track with fun lyrics and a great beat. Definite single choice, here. This is the sound she should really stick to. 9/10

7. Dumb - The last really strong track on the album, this closes out the RedOne phase. It's got an interesting stop/start rhythm that explodes into a euphoric chorus. Why didn't RedOne just produce the entire album? 9/10

8. Overcome - Another big ballad, and it's nothing special. It sounds like a Whitney Houston or Jordin Sparks song, and I'm not necessarily meaning that as a compliment. It's meant to be inspirational, but I walk away from it feeling very little. 5/10

9. Gotta Go - I honestly never remember that this is even on the album. It's incredibly bland--too fast to be a ballad but much too slow to dance to. It's utterly forgettable. 3/10

10. You Broke My Heart - Taking the Duffy/Winehouse/Pixie route, this comes off sounding more try-hard than anything else. This retro sound has been done to death, and Alexandra brings nothing new to the table. It's a nice sounding track, but feels very copycat. 6/10

11. Nothing But The Girl - Back to dance music, which suits Alexandra much better than the past tracks have. This is the clubbiest track on the album, produced by the Freemasons, and I wish it had a stronger melody. Still, it sticks out easily as the highlight of the second half of the album. 8/10

12. They Don't Know - Another ballad that I scarcely remember after hearing it. It's better than Overcome, and there are some pretty harmonies, but I'd expect more from an album closer. 6/10

13. Hallelujah - I won't even review this one. It's not fair to Alexandra. The X-Factor winning song is tacked on as a bonus track. It's not much of a bonus for anyone.

Album Grade: 7.2/10

Thursday, November 05, 2009

"I imagine us together"

Consider this a call to arms to get Dannii Minogue to release a new album. Cheryl Cole's stint as a judge on X-Factor is doing wonders for her solo career, so why doesn't Dannii release a new single and perform it on the show too? Granted, people seem to like Cheryl better on the show (not my personal opinion), but she should still take advantage of the exposure. Her musical output is already far more interesting than any of the girls she's mentoring will ever be. No Romeo is a recently leaked demo and, if it's any indication of the quality of music she's working on now, then we have even more evidence that she's due for a comeback. The song's verses are stronger than the chorus--total bubblegum pop reminiscent of one of her best singles, I Begin To Wonder. For an unreleased track, this is very strong. Stronger than a lot of Kylie's recent stuff, actually.

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

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Track-by-Track: Robbie Williams - Reality Killed The Video Star

I liked Robbie Williams' last "experimental" electro album, Rudebox, though I've found that it hasn't aged particularly well. The thing is, it doesn't feel like he's really been away long enough for a "comeback," though if any album could be considered as such, it's Reality Killed the Video Star.

1. Morning Sun - A gentle--but quite beautiful--opening to the record, this was supposedly written in the aftermath of Michael Jackson's death. It's reprised at the end of the album as well. Not sure if it's one of the strongest tracks, or one that sticks out amongst his back catalogue, but it's still gorgeous. 8/10

2. Bodies - The big "comeback" single, this was a total grower for me. It meshes the more experimental aspects of his newer work with the more anthematic, melodic songwriting of his past. The strings in this are particularly stirring. It compares pretty favorably to his earlier singles. 10/10

3. You Know Me - This, I hear, is the next single. Good choice. It's unlike anything he's done before, yet sounds so much like him. I love the throwback doo-wop feel and the chorus is ridiculously catchy. 10/10

4. Blasphemy - Out of all of the tracks on the record, this sounds the most like old-school Robbie Williams. It should, too, since it was co-written by longtime collaborator Guy Chambers. The Chambers/Williams combo is the stuff of legends, and soars on this gentle, quiet ballad. 10/10

5. Do You Mind - Continuing the hot streak that makes up the first half of the album, this uptempo rocker features a glam beat and a throwaway chorus that is catchier than it should be. It's Williams-by-the-numbers, for sure, but fans have missed it. 9/10

6. Last Days Of Disco - Back to the Rudebox sound here, and it's probably the most successful of the more experimental "dance" tracks on the album. The melody is gorgeous and the vocals are so smooth and subtle. This could be a big hit for him. 10/10

7. Somewhere - I can't really give this a score, since it's basically an interlude, but I adore it. It cuts the album in half perfectly with its stabbing strings and dark, glammed-up sound.

8. Decepticon - The big ballad of the album, this has a strange, almost underwater quality to its sound. It unfolds slowly into an interesting experiment, but it's not a real standout for me. 8/10

9. Starstruck - A midtempo r&b/disco hybrid, this has been a favorite of many listeners, but isn't quite connecting with me. It sounds a lot like George Michael, but I prefer Robbie's vocals on rockier tracks. This is smoothed out too much that it sounds a little dull around the edges. 7/10

10. Difficult For Weirdos - The sonic brother to Last Days Of Disco, it's the weaker of the two, but still a strong offering that'll satisfy the fans of Williams' dancier side. It sounds a lot like the Pet Shop Boys. 8/10

11. Superblind - Another big ballad, with a sound that mixes Bowie-glam and Brit-rock. It never amounts to much, but it's a pretty way to close the album. In fact, it should have been the close of the album. 7/10

12. Won't Do That - This feels like it's tacked onto the album and doesn't belong there. It's fine (and even kinda funky), but defines the word "filler." Should have been a b-side. 6/10

13. Morning Sun (Reprise) - sounds like what it is.

Album Grade: 8.5/10

Monday, November 02, 2009

"What do you dream of when you sleep with me?"

Although it seems to have gone unnoticed by many, Space Cowboy's duet with German glam group Cinema Bizarre, I Came 2 Party, has been one of my favorite singles of the year. I've even come to enjoy Space Cowboy's erm... unique vocals. Because of this, I decided to check out his new album. It is RedOne produced, after all. Most of it veers between middling to alright, but I found that this track really stuck out to me. No guest vocalists on this one, but his voice isn't as irritating as it can be and the melody and production is top notch. It's exactly what dance rock should sound like. The verses, in particular, are excellent. It's got that punchy 80's sound that I'm absolutely in love with. Another victory for Cherrytree Records.

(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)