Archive for the ‘music’ Category

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Review: B’day

September 14, 2006

beyonce.jpgAmidst reports of B’day being Beyoncé’s own Glitterish experience – how she’s overworked, and had to finish the album in two weeks – one would have expected that Beyonce’s second solo studio effort would fall short of success. These rumours of failure were compounded by the underperformance of the first single, Deja Vu, on the Billboard charts (but then again this is Beyoncé we’re talking about, so hitting only the number 4 position is considered a underperforming).

One is therefore glad to find that the reports of her falling standards have been greatly exaggerated. B’day sounds frenetic, yes – perhaps we should attribute this by the very brief period spent in the studio – but never does it sound desperate. The frenzy Beyoncé works herself into, much like the wild dancing of her cited inspiration Josephine Baker, is alluring, sexy, compelling. There are some moments of filler, but even those should make you want to ‘shake your derrière’ and ‘do the Naomi Campbell walk’. B’day sounds as if Beyoncé distilled the essence of Sasha, her stage persona, and recorded it on disc. The result is exactly what we’ve come to know and love about Beyoncé – vivacious, sassy, and so much fun.

Despite its detractors, I still insist that Deja Vu is a great single – I love how crazy she sounds there. Continuing in the trend of insanity is the second single, Ring the Alarm. In the music video Beyoncé plays a woman who ought to have a restraining order taken against her – but makes it look so totally sexy and gorgeous that it makes the guy who dumped her look dumb. And when Beyoncé says that she has adopted Josephine Baker has her dance inspiration, she really means it – the bacchanal that she singlehandedly initiated on the Fashion Rocks stage, for example.

Beyoncé lays the sex on thick – ‘I’m a be like a jolly rancher that you get from the corner store/I’m a be like a waffle cone that’s dripping down to the floor,’ she cooes coolly on Suga Mama (not exactly the most subtle stuff), followed by orders to ‘come sit on mama lap’ – but oh, when you’re this sizzling hot, who needs subtlety! You just want to sit on her lap – and see what has in store for the music video.

Which is not to say that Beyoncé’s talents all revolve around flaunting her booty. She attempts powerballad and succeeds, thanks to her amazing vocals – Resentment, where she sings of love gone wrong, is technically impressive – the Mariahesque runs, the improvisatory bit in the middle of the song, the ability to hit and sustain all the high notes. But more than just technique, Beyonce possesses an amazing ability to emote – you can hear her sing her heartbreak into song. And when she plugs the Dreamgirls movie at the end with the track Listen, you realise that you are in the presence of singing genius – her voice, unadorned by the trend of heavy production that is dominating the pop scene these days, sounds huge and commands your absolute attention.

B’day is a terribly fun album, with the requisite sets that show off Beyoncé’s immense talent. There is more to come from this talented young woman yet, and I look forward to the release of the Dreamgirls soundtrack.

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Review: Futuresex/Lovesounds

September 12, 2006

justin-tim.jpgOn the cover of his new CD, Justin Timberlake crushes a a disco ball with his Prada (Gucci? D&G?) -clad feet – is this symbolic of his attempt to break down musical barriers (the Madonnaesque disco-revival that has , for example, become quite vogue)? Or is Timberlake celebrating, as it were, a sort-of victory over dance music? Because he has. FutureSex/LoveSounds was a long time in the making, and it shows – the songs are polished to the point of slick perfection, and reflect a degree of thoughtfulness that was only nascent in his debut solo effort, Justified. This is good pop music at its very best – a sort of flippant self-aware sexiness, through attempting to disparage itself, becomes even more sexy. Timberlake is really bringing the sexy back (although one is of course wont to ask, where did the sexy go in the first place?) – no more trace of that teenybopper N*SYNCer, (almost) all evidence of the Britneylationship shaken off (although he can hardly resist leaving in one song about his ex), the JT jives, croons and warbles his way into what he has admitted is a new stage in his creative development.

Not to be missed is of course the first single SexyBack, an incredibly catchy and interesting piece in which Timberlake has the audacity to (and the talent to make good his) claim that ‘[he’s] bringing sexy back’. A great song to dance to, this song has deservedly made its way onto the top of the Billboard Hot 100. The next single, My Love, was performed along with SexyBack at the Video Music Awards, and the looks of it are that the sophomore single will do well too – it’s an extremely rhythm driven mid-tempo track that incorporates a sample of Timberlake’s quite impressive beatboxing talents.

My favorite track on the album was undoubtedly the one about drug abuse: Timberlake sings from the perspective of middle-American Rob, who ‘work[s] at his job earning 40 dollars a day’, and who ‘can’t put down the pipe’. This is memorable because it is one of the only tracks on the album that doesn’t deal with FutureSex or LoveSounds – it turns out to be particularly moving, especially due to Timberlake’s tender and sympathetic portrayal of the persona. The inclusion of the children’s choir at the end is quite brilliant.

FutureSex/LoveSounds continues in the present trend of heavyhanded overproduction that combines 80s-ish sync with R&B beats and an extremely hip-hop sensibility. Timbaland has a hand in all the album’s tracks, which is extremely evident, and works because Timberlake’s voice can frequently sound reedy and thin, especially when he sings in upper register (the vocals on My Love can sound particulary airy and fragile in parts). Exceptionally notable and notably exceptional is the closing track to the album, (Another Song) All Over Again, where Timbaland’s influence relaxes and shows us another side of JT – soulful, quiet, heartbreaking.

Timberlake’s sophomore solo effort may be overly obsessed with sex and being sexy and love (read: sex), but it does seem well-considered, confident and, most importantly, extremely sexy. A fantastic pop album – probably the best one to have come out this year, and probably the best one to come out this year.

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Like London London London

August 8, 2006

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Hang on! DON’T CLICK AWAY! That’s right. That’s Fergie of BEP fame. Posing in front of the Tower Bridge, in all her white trash glory. Observe the piercing through the right brow. Observe the tweezed-till-an-inch-of-death eyebrows. Observe the Britney-like pose. Observe the loud screamy orange jacket. Fergie baby, you are such a trashy ho.

SO WHY DO I LOVE LOVE LOVE YOUR NEW SINGLE?!

‘How come every time you come around/my London London Bridge wanna go down/Like London London London/Wanna go down/Like London London London?’