Monday, April 30, 2012

Rihanna Brings Jungle Boogie to New Music Video

"This one is just all performance. It's all about evoking emotion though your body."
-Rihanna, on her brand new music video.
Just hours ago, Rihanna came out with a music video for "Where Have You Been."

I was very pleased to see that this song is to be released as a single and hope that it becomes a summer hit. Along with "We Found Love," it's one of the only good songs from her latest album, "Talk That Talk." Coincidentally, both songs are produced by Scottish DJ and songwriter Calvin Harris. I found most of the songs from TTT to be...mediocre at best. In fact, I would have preferred for her to reissue her previous album, "Loud," with simply the two aforementioned songs as bonus tracks. Perhaps she could have called it "Louder" or something.

As for the video itself, it is largely centered around dance. The songbird herself stated that "I was never gonna shoot the video, if I couldn't do choreography." I totally agree- the song is just too dance oriented to not have plenty of it in its music video. Besides, it's been a while since she has done choreo in a music video, so it was nice to see.

The sets, costuming, and effects were well done. The overall feel was tribal, incorporated into different settings, such as the jungle and desert. The animalistic mood goes well with the movement. This is fitting, because dancing is the main focus here.
The video didn't have much in the way of a plot, but since everything else was so good, I'm willing to excuse it.

Watch it here first!

Well done, Riri.


Update: The numbers recently came in, and this video has officially broken the record for the most views within a 24 hour period. The record was previously held by Nicki Minaj's "Stupid Hoe" at 4.8 million. Rihanna has broken this with 4.93 million views for "Where Have You Been" and I think that it's well deserved. :)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Roman & Friends

The title of this post would've been a fitting title for Nicki Minaj's new album, due to its versatility and many guest appearances by other artists. I take issue with the actual title of the album, "Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded." It takes too long to say and half of it comes from a previous album. In fact, it sounds like the name of a re-release.

Love the album art! So fun and colorful.

As for the album itself, it includes rapping, singing, hip hop, pop, and even some techno. This artist certainly doesn't like to limit herself, which I can certainly agree with. Here's my review-

"Roman Holiday"- The tone of this song is both theatrical and menacing. It revolves around two of Minaj's alter egos- Martha, a proper English woman, and her rambunctious son, Roman. And I am glad to see that Roman's mother, Martha, managed to make a cameo appearance on this album. In this song, she pleads with Roman to get help and become well. Roman refuses and continues to be his vicious self. Well done, Roman.

"Come On a Cone"- This seems to be the counterpart of "Did It On'em" from Nicki's debut album, "Pink Friday." Both tracks are more laid back musically, but lyrically, declare Minaj the top female in the rap game. Also, they both implement not-so-subtle allusions to male anatomy.

"I Am Your Leader"- Nicki speaks of being the queen of rap with lyrics like "I'm a brand, bitch, I'm a brand!" Cam'ron and Rick Ross, who bring their own twist to this theme, rap verses here. Musically, it is what I like to refer to as a half catchy. Not very dance-able, but not super slow either. Just eh.

"Beez in the Trap"- This song is a snap-along slow jam, featuring fellow rapper 2 Chainz. The beginning of its chorus reminds me of Ben Folds, because of the "Bitches ain't shit" lyrics. Its music video came out recently, featuring the head Barb surrounded by barbed wire. And shout out to a booty even bigger than Nicki's!

"HOV Lane"- The metaphor of this song's chorus is pretty clever, if not repetitive. It references Jay-Z's famous song "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)" The lyrics speak of Minaj being ahead of others in the rap business. These work well together, because she has spoken in the past about how she wants to become a hip hop mogul, much like Jay-Z, which has not yet been done by a woman. Sound effects of cars whooshing by and steady, driving background music help contribute to the feeling of superiority found within this song.

"Roman Reloaded"- This quasi-title track is basically Nicki's "I'm the shit" song. If you ever had any doubts of just how high of an opinion she holds of herself, just listen to this song and the record will be set straight. Lil Wayne makes an appearance here, matching Minaj's swagger. Sound effects simulating guns can be heard while the rappers do their thing, which adds to the tough vibe of the song. This song's feel is not so much for mainstream, top 40 clubs as it is for underground, urban clubs. Think of a location similar to that of the "Beez in the Trap" music video, which can be seen above.

"Champion"- With appearances by Drake, Young Jeezy, and Nas, this song has a bit too many guests on it. Perhaps three really is company. Lyrically, it speaks of overcoming obstacles to come out on top. Nicki makes several shout outs to those in her past whom she knew in the ghettos of NYC, which is rather sweet. The background music is pretty slow, yet triumphant.

"Right by My Side"- This song is pretty similar to "Right Thru Me," from "Pink Friday." Chris Brown is featured on this track, which was a smart move on Minaj's part. Brown is well established in the music world and will help this song in its chart performance, as this is the album's current single. As the song's title might suggest, the lyrics here speak of always wanting your loved one by your side. Singing is the main focus here, but there is a rap bridge by Minaj as well. The production is pretty sleek and big, rendering this mid-tempo ballad in your face as well as vulnerable.

"Sex in the Lounge"- Bobby V provides vocals on the chorus and Lil Wayne returns with a dirty verse to act as a counterpart to the Nickster in this song. This is obviously a baby maker kinda song. To me, it feels a little bit like an album filler. I usually skip it.

"Starships"- Best song on the album! It served as the first single of the album, and I think that the record company couldn't have chosen a better one for that task. It is interesting to note that this song was not included on clean versions of the album. I'm guessing that this is because Nicki was simply not willing to alter this song in any way. Anyway, you guys already know that I love this song- the lyrics and music are pop gold. It's such a party track, which Minaj has expressly stated was meant for spring break. Well, I don't know about y'all, but...I could get down to this joint any time of year. ;)

Its music video, as promised, is very colorful and lighthearted. Set in Hawaii with many a fierce dancer, Minaj is featured as an outer space party goddess who came to earth to spread the good times. My only critique would be to include actual choreography, but the partying is still pretty fun. :)

"Pound the Alarm"- Pound the beat! Pound the bass! Rewind and pound it again! This is a really good club track. The lyrics are trashy fun. For example: "You know we gettin' hotter and hotter, sexy and hotter, let's shut it down." I especially like the part where a deep male voice (which is somewhat robotic) in the background says "Music makes me high." That is pretty much my motto in life! lol

"Whip It"- Another great club track. My favorite part of it musically is probably the drums. Shout out to my friend Mary, because she said it's her favorite song on the album. The lyrics are cute and cheeky, speaking of Nicki getting into a guy at the club. I like the whip sound effect too. Very saucy.

"Automatic"- The lyrics of this song's chorus capture perfectly the feeling of just wanting to lose yourself on a dance floor all night. This helps to give it a very anthem-like feel. I could totally see myself singing along with Nicki to this song at a concert. Also, a spoken section of the song is reminiscent of "Vogue," by Madonna. Needless to say, that is pretty awesome. Musically, this song is a winding, grinding trip to the club. It's hard, because I want all of these Euro-pop/techno, club-ready tracks in the latter middle section of the album to be singles, but that just isn't possible- it wouldn't show enough versatility. Besides, that would be too many singles from one album. Oh Well.

"Beautiful Sinner"- The lyrics of the rumbling, almost whispered rap intro here are quite similar to the previous song. In fact, when I first listened to this album, I thought that the previous song hadn't ended yet because of it. Not that this song isn't its own, because it establishes that pretty early on. The feel of this song reminds me of "Turn Me On," which Minaj sang with David Guetta and is discussed below. It's a grungier take on the club scene-type of music, which i think works pretty well. It speaks of how being "bad" can actually feel quite good.

"Marilyn Monroe"- Given this song's title, I thought that the subject matter would be entirely different than what it ended up being. Instead of "I'm hot like Marilyn Monroe," this song is saying "Fame comes with a lot of pressure." It is the most solid ballad from Minaj to date, in my opinion. Also, it showcases her voice beautifully.

"Young Forever"- A stomp clap rhythm similar to that of Queen's "We Will Rock You" is the main component of the production here. The feeling is that of being so in love with someone that you want to live forever with them in a state of eternal youth and bliss. I also enjoyed the delivery of the spoken lines toward the end of the song- honest and open, yet sweet and girlish.

"Fire Burns"- This song speaks of love in a bitter kind of way. Minaj has been betrayed by her lover and hopes that he gets his just desserts. It is pretty similar in sound to "Save Me," from "Pink Friday." I wish this song had more of a buildup; instead, it doesn't really seem to go anywhere.

"Gun Shot"- The overall feeling of this song is pop fused with reggae, and rapping and singing seem to take about equal precedence. Beanie Man makes an appearance on a verse here, helping to bring breezy island vibes. It's very hard to understand what either artist is saying, however, because both are performing in a heavy Jamaican accent.

"Stupid Hoe"- This song is a fairly obvious Lil Kim diss. I enjoy and appreciate both femcees, but it's pretty undeniable that Nicki is more relevant at this point. Besides...Kim started it! The juxtaposition of bad ass lyrics and playful background music work together to keep things interesting. The frantic visuals of its music video match the song's sound pretty well. Check it out below.

"Roman in Moscow," which was supposedly the first promotional single and "teaser" of the album, is nowhere to be found on this album. This echoes what happened to "Massive Attack" in relation to "Pink Friday." Some early fans of Nick might be disappointed by this decision, as the song's spitfire delivery of venomous lyrics and quirky background music echo her mixtape days. I can understand why it was not included- it is not quite as polished as the rest of the album. As stated in the song, it contains no bridge, hook, or third verse. At just over two and a half minutes, it doesn't quite fit with the rest of the album, which contains songs that are all around three to four and a half minutes. Still, artists often include shorter songs as interludes on albums, and I don't see why she couldn't have done the same. Perhaps it could have been included after "Roman Holiday" as well...Roman's holiday. Basically, I have mixed feelings about it.

Bonus tracks:

"Turn Me On"- This was originally from David Guetta's album, "Nothing but the Beat" and was a hit single. This French DJ can do no wrong with club music, in my opinion. I always enjoy his stuff. This song features Nicki singing (with a short rap in the bridge) of love and desire over a heavy, dance-ready beat. Its music video took a different spin on the song than expected. In a nod to steampunk, Guetta literally turns a Nicki Minaj bot on. Turn it on below.

"Va Va Voom"- As mentioned in a previous post, this song was set to be the first single off the album before the record company decided to switch it to "Starships" at the last minute. Therefore, I'm pretty surprised that this song is merely a bonus track. However, it still holds a chance of becoming a single. "Super Bass" was a single off of "Pink Friday" and it was a bonus track as well. I would be ok with this song becoming a single in the future. My favorite part about it is the title; it's very intriguing. The tone is flirty as Nicki seduces a man in a club. She raps in a softer, more feminine fashion than usual over a thumpin, bump 'n grind instrumental.

"Masquerade"- Freedom is the theme of this album, as stated by Minaj herself. This song fits that very well, with lyrics like "You can be who you want. Be who you is; never be who you aren't." Minaj compares life to a masquerade and a merry-go-round here, meaning that she feels free to be whoever she wants. She also speaks of how it is never too late to try something new and that creativity is very important. Because of all of the aforementioned, I think that this song should have been on the standard edition of the album as a mid-tempo groove track.

There is also a bonus feature, available exclusively on the iTunes explicit version of the album, that allows the listener to hear Nicki talking to Charlemagne and Safaree "SB" Samuels in a press conference. This is about 20 minutes long, but is still only part of the press conference. It was fun to be able to hear about Nicki's past, what she thinks about certain important issues, and where she wants to go in the future.

At the end of the day, Nicki Minaj is more complicated and indeed more talented than many give her credit for. She already established that on "Pink Friday" and "Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded" takes that even further. Is it a perfect album? No. But I certainly applaud Ms. Minaj for trying out so many different styles within it. Perhaps we could all learn a little from this to embrace our many different sides.


P.S.- Only two weeks after its release, this album has reached #1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart. Thass my Nickster!

Monday, April 9, 2012

There's only one queen and that's Madonna. ...bitch!

Madonna came out with her new album, entitled "MDNA" about two weeks ago. The title is pretty clever and serves as a triple entendre- music as a kind of drug, music being part of your DNA, and a pseudonym for the singer's name itself. M.I.A. suggested it, which makes total sense, given that her name follows a similar structure. Also, the cover is colorful and presented behind a visually pleasing separated glass effect. However, I prefer the body shot of the standard edition, rather than the face shot of the deluxe edition. This is because the angle of her jawline in the face shot makes her look just a little manly.

See what I mean?

Anyway, I've been listening to it a lot and decided to review it here. I'll do it track by track.

"Girl Gone Wild"- There was some controversy surrounding the title of this song. The owner of the "Girls Gone Wild" franchise got his panties in a twist because he apparently owns the rights to said phrase, whether it be plural or singular. This guy needs to get off his high horse. Anyway, this serves nicely as the opening track. It sets up the tone for the album which is essentially the lovechild of "Confessions on a Dance Floor" and "Hard Candy" in a disco-meets-hip hop kind of way. The spoken portions of the song echo back to previous songs of hers. For a fun/naughty visualization of this song, check out its music video below.

It was taken in an interesting direction. Madonna is the only female in it, which I guess makes sense. But her dancers are quite gay (check out those heels!), which I'm guessing is an allusion to the fact that gay men often call each other "girl."

"Gang Bang"- The title is a little unfitting. She never even says the word "gang" in it. It was not included on the clean versions of this album. This is because it has subject matter involving Madge shooting her lover in the head. This song doesn't quite work for me. The lyrics never quite reveal why the singer is angry enough with her lover to kill him. Also, it seems to be stuck somewhere between a mysterious sound and a dance groove.

"I'm Addicted"- I have mixed feelings about this song. On one hand, it's a great dance song. On the other hand, the lyrical content is not quite up to par, in my opinion. I mean, Madonna spends most of the song singing about how she's addicted to someone's name, rather than their love. However, I do think the phrase "MDNA" is incorporated into the background pretty cleverly.

"Turn Up the Radio"- Such a fun, light little song! It would make a perfect summer single. Never mind the fact that radio is becoming increasingly irrelevant these days, being steadily replaced by digital sales and the internet in general. In fact, the song's retro sound helps it work in this regard.

"Give Me All Your Luvin'"- This served as the first single from this album. It features a cheerleader-type chant and guest appearances from Nicki Minaj and M.I.A., who are respectively crazy and chill. The music video, below, was an obvious nod to Madonna's much-hyped Superbowl performance. It also kind of reminds me of a Target commercial, which is pretty fitting, since the background music in the verses reminded me a little of a Target commercial even before this music video came out.

Also, I thought it was a cheeky move to put all three performers in early Madonna era/Marilyn Monroe wigs. It's kind of like doing an impression of yourself. :P

"Some Girls"- This is another track that I have mixed feelings about. I guess it's catchy enough, but Madonna just sounds...weird on it. Like, not quite herself. This is probably due to her voice being altered so much. Listen to it and you'll see what I mean. Also, the chorus sounds an awful lot like Lady Gaga's "I Like It Rough."

"Superstar"- This song has really cute lyrics. And the music paired with said lyrics is nice and breezy. Ultimately, it doesn't pack too much of a whallop, but it's still an alright song.

"I Don't Give A"- The main subject matter here is just how packed Queen M's schedule is. This is accomplished fairly well through spitfire lists, even though some of the lyrics are a little weird- I'm still trying to figure out what she means when she sings "Baby Jesus on the stairs." I can relate to this song, because I'm always quite busy and it's easy to belive that this entertainer is too. Nicki Minaj makes another appearance here. Her performance here is a little too similar to that of her "Give Me All Your Luvin'" verse, but she still does pretty well.

"I'm a Sinner"- This one reminds me of Madonna's 1999 song "Beautiful Stranger," from the movie "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me." Give it a listen and you'll see what I mean: the similarities are pretty striking. Here, the singer revels in her decadence. This is nothing new, but the song is decently catchy. Watch out for the religious references as well.

"Love Spent"- Ok, first of all...what the banjo?? This song is all over the place instrumentally and does not quite know what it wants to be. Admittedly, the acoustic version (included exclusively on the iTunes pre-order) works a little better. The lyrics also work fairly well here. They speak of a lover who cares more about money than love. I'm assuming that this was written in reference to Madonna's ex-husband, director Guy Ritchie.

"Masterpiece"- This is definitely the best ballad on this album. Also, it is hands down Madonna's best vocal performance on "MDNA." The lyrics compare Madge's object of affection to a great work of art that is so beautiful that she wants to steal it from a museum. I even think it would be nice to see this song as a single at some point. It was already a radio-only single in the U.K., but I'm talking about a full blown single- worldwide release in all formats, a music video...all that jazz. It would be a nice change of pace for the serial songstress. It was already included in the credits of "W.E." By the way, this film was Madonna's directorial debut.

"Falling Free"- Boring! I'm sorry, but this song is just not exciting in the least bit to me. It's also pretty tacky sounding, what with the synthesizers, predictable vocal lines, etc. Its only saving grace is the music box section toward the end of the song, which is actually kind of pretty.

Bonus tracks:

"Beautiful Killer"- I kinda dig the vibe on this one. Its lyrics speak of a mysterious lover over a steady, driving rhythm and lighter beat. The strings and occasional whispers of the song's title help to set the mood of intriguing mystery even more. Said mystery works better here than in "Gang Bang."

"I Fucked Up"- This is another song that was not included on the clean versions of "MDNA." The song's title makes it pretty obvious as to why. It is quite possibly about Madonna's previously discussed divorce. It contains lyrics that describe how Madonna broke her lover's heart, which she ultimately deems as a mistake. This gets to be a bit ramble-y, as Madonna lists all the things that could have been. The sound of this song is kinda hollow, like there's just...something missing that I can't quite put my finger on. There are also some harmonies that could have been used here, such as adding background vocals that are lowered a third, but I'll just sing those on my own like I often do. ;)

"B-Day Song"- I had a little bit of a "WTF?" moment when I first heard this song. It's pretty weird and not very good. M.I.A.'s appearance in it does not salvage it or even add much. I suppose they had fun making it; that much is apparent. However, there is plenty of fun going on in this album. Bottom line: this one could have been left out, even as a bonus track.

"Best Friend"- Another divorce track? I'm not feeling this one too much. The lyrics are fair, but the music is just a tad too dated and not really catchy enough to dance to either.

"Give Me All Your Luvin'" (Party Rock Remix)- I already gave a review of the original mix of this song, but I want to just quickly mention this remix. M.I.A.'s verse is taken out here and is replaced by the dynamic duo LMFAO, who are famous for their club-ready music. This remix will definitely make you dance. Also, LMFAO's verses put their own spin on things, while at the same time, not taking too much away from the original feel of the song.

Long story short, "Hard Candy" is still my favorite Madonna album. I do like this one though, and I think that it is now my second favorite of hers. It's certainly not perfect, but I think that the songs are pretty solid, for the most part. Long live the queen!


Update: This album has recently reached #1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart. The queen reigns supreme~