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Miguel: Adorn Remix- Song of the Week

Last week, Miguel released his 2nd CD, Kaleidoscope Dream to a strong sales week of over 50,000 copies. It’s the follow-up to his nearly 2-year-old debut album, All I Want Is You. You may have heard “Adorn” as far back as February as the first track on 1 of 3 “Art Dealer Chic” EPs. All of those EP tracks are featured on Kaleidoscope Dream, with a few new songs as well. But “Adorn” made so much noise that it was chosen as the lead single for the CD. I must admit I didn’t care for the song as much, until one day I gave it a chance and heard the whole thing. It has since really grown on me and I like the simple production on here. Plus, the Wiz Khalifa feature on this version makes it even better. In the background, Wiz Khalifa says “That boy can sing.” Miguel is no R & B ballad king, but it’s a sure thing he’ll gain an even bigger following with this one.

What do you think of the song?

*Check out my thoughts on the Kaleidoscope Dream CD at the end of my video for today’s earlier blog, “T-Boz Finds A New TLC”*

The Great American Cruel Summer (CD Review)

In the last couple of weeks, we have witnessed the release of two of Hip Hop’s most anticipated CDs this year. Kanye West Presents G.O.O.D. Music’s Cruel Summer and Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor II…The Great American Rap Album Part I sold 200,000 copies and 100,000 copies in their first week’s respectively. But do the record sales reflect the quality of each CD? Does Cruel Summer have too many guest appearances to make it a solid CD? Is Lupe Fiasco too conscious for fans and maybe going over their heads?

Check out the video for the full review on what I thought about each CD. Cruel Summer vs. Food & Liquor II…which one is better?

P!nk Tells The Truth About Love

Right about now, Pink should be ready to get the party started all over again as her new CD, The Truth About Love is projected to sell in excess of 225,000 copies, making it the #1 album in the country. This is no surprise considering the runaway success of her catchy, clever first single, “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)”. The question is did settling down and motherhood weaken Pink’s fuel? The answer is a resounding no. On a few of The Truth About Love’s tracks, Pink finds herself in somewhat unchartered territory when it comes to raunchiness. True, the CD’s first single follows the same vein (that’s so addictive by the way) of hits like “U+Ur Hand” and “Raise Your Glass”, but she takes it even further this go round with “Slut Like You”. She boldly sings “I’m gonna let you know the truth/ I’m a slut like you/ Sitting with my friends/And we’re picking/Who we might let in”. Talk about turning the tables. “Walk of Shame” is another hilarious track that details her account of getting back home from the morning after, praying no one sees her in the process.

But before some of the one night stands and heart breaks, Pink opens the CD with an inspirational and slightly spiritual high energy declaration, “Are We All We Are”.  Never being one to have many guest features on her projects, there are a few here. The most notable guest is Eminem, who enlisted Pink on his Recovery CD with “Won’t Back Down”. That song is still in heavy rotation on my iPod one of the best rap and song collaborations I’ve heard recently. This time, he stops by for a short rap on “Here Comes The Weekend”. It’s a heavy Rock, Hip Hop, thick bass line celebration of well….the weekend. But who really cares what the song is about, as long as they are both on it? The Truth About Love doesn’t have much middle ground. One minute she’s a late night party girl who gets all the guys and the next, she’s hanging by a thread of a relationship. Sometimes, she swings a little too hard towards the latter. “Just Give Me A Reason” featuring Nate Ruess is a love song that’s about as cute as a dull toothache. Not one to stay down long, Pink pulls it together quickly.

Honestly, “Just Give Me A Reason” is the only major speed bump on an otherwise smooth ride. Then there’s the voice. Pink actually started her career as an R & B singer and has since embraced more of a Rock inspired image. I must admit, I like Pink better now than back then. But he just can’t shake the soul that’s naturally in her. On the CD’s chilling closer, “The Great Escape” she reminds us that she can do acrobatic flips and blow kisses, but she also has a flawless voice. She would be short-changing herself to not make this track a single. Plus, she’s quite an amazing songwriter as she sings “Everyone you know/Is trying to smooth it over/Everyone needs a floor they can fall through”. The truth is that Pink left behind the conceptual genius that she created on her last CD, Funhouse.  As outstanding of a project that The Truth About Love is, it’s not cohesive. But therein lies the genius. As the CD’s title track so eloquently sums up, love isn’t all predictable, cohesive, joyous or depressing.  Pink, raise your glass to a job well done.

***I bought the deluxe version, but didn’t mention those songs here. It’s well worth the extra couple of dollars though. All of the bonus tracks (4 included) are really good***

Elle Varner’s Perfect Imperfections

I’ve been waiting on the release of Elle Varner’s debut album, Perfectly Imperfect for a while now (released on 8/7)For some reason, it wasn’t available at Target, but I did buy it on iTunes. Check out my review of the song of the week below, “Stop the Clock” from her CD. Make sure to check out the video too to get the full review and my thoughts on Perfectly Imperfect. I will definitely say that CD is worth the buy though if you like R & B music. She’s expected to make a #10 debut on the Billboard Top 200 Albums Chart this week (roughly 30,000 copies sold). Check it out and see for yourself what the hype is about.

Song of the Week: Stop The Clock (from Perfectly Imperfect)

This song has a 1990s feel to it and I’m hoping she eventually releases this one as a single. It’s an interesting twist to a common situation. Girl gets cheated on. Stays up and waits for guy to come home. Tells herself she will never go through this again. The production here has a thumping bass line and her voice is really strong and may remind you of Alicia Keys. The song starts off with Elle Varner being embarrassed about her current situation and feeling silly. But as the song progresses, she is fully aware of what’s going on as the chorus screams “I’ve been praying for a little bit of light/ Listening for your love all night/With nothing but the sound of the wrist watch/Stop the clock”. Complete with slow dragging horns and catchy layered music, this song is a sure win for Elle Varner and a great addition to her CD. Just a thought, if she ever does a remix, I could really hear Big Boi from OutKast on here.

What do you think of the song? Is it a hit or miss?

Nas Says Goodbye and Lives The Good Life

When I first heard that Nas was releasing a new CD a few months ago, I didn’t really know what to expect. He’s always been one of my favorite rappers, but not necessarily someone I would listen to every day (weird how that works, huh?). Then I heard the single “Daughters” and really liked the great message against the gritty production. But I was still a little skeptical. This past Tuesday, July 17, 2012, I decided to go out on a whim and purchase the CD. I will start by saying Life Is Good is well worth the buy.

The CD opens with the track “No Introduction”. The production here is dramatic and even sounds eerily similar to the production on the Kirk Franklin song, “Don’t Cry” from his Rebirth….CD. His lyrics here are sharp as ever and he proves why he still has so many loyal fans after all these years. The steam continues to drive throughout “Queens Story”, a street opus where Nas raps “I never claimed to be the toughest/The I’m to blame for a few faces reconstructed” and sets the tone for the ironically addictive “Accident Murderers, featuring Rick Ross.

Producers Salaam Remi and No I.D. crafted most of the tracks on Life Is Good. I think this was a great match and Nas’s lyrics are complemented well here. In my opinion, No I.D. and Salaam Remi are 2 very underrated producers. Six songs in, Nas still goes strong and teams up with Mary J. Blige on the feel good, throwback “Reach Out”. I could easily hear this on the radio as a single from the CD. Speaking of collaborations, perhaps the most surprising collaboration on Life Is Good comes from Amy Winehouse. Their song, “Cherry Wine” will surely gain even more crossover appeal for Nas. It has a mellow groove that speaks about finding the type of woman who Nas really wants. “Bye Baby” is a shoe in for a single, and in a sense is the B side to “Cherry Wine”. The song samples the R & B classic, “Goodbye Love” by Guy. In just 3 minutes and 59 seconds, Nas gives a full and detailed account of his love for ex-wife, Kelis, their wedding day, wild nights on the town, infidelity, the birth of their son, and their bitter divorce.

If real hip hop is what you’ve been missing, you should definitely check out Life Is Good. Even though we’re only half way through 2012, I’m sure this will be in my top 5 Hip Hop CDs of the year. There are some great songs on the deluxe edition too, so make sure you go and pick it up!

Emeli Sande’s Version of Events

If Adele and Chrisette Michele were to have a love child, it would come out sounding just like Scottish singer Emeli Sande. Ironically, her full birth name is actually Adele Emeli Sande. However, at just 25 years old, Emeli proves she can hold her on….and hold it extremely well. And it was probably a smart move to drop her first name to not get constant comparisons between the two. This Scottish singer is not quite R & B, but not quite soul, pop, rock or funk either. She’s an eclectic mix of all of the above.

Lately, I’ve really been interested in finding some new music that has a fresh sound and not so overly produced. Whatever happened to people with just raw talent? Don’t get me wrong there is room for the pop/techno tinged songs at times (Rihanna, Usher, etc), but sometimes you just want to hear some good music with no frills.  I’ve been hearing positive things here and there about Emeli Sande for the past few months, but I had never heard her music. So when I was browsing through iTunes, I found her CD listed and decided to preview some of the tracks. After enjoying all of the first 5 tracks I previewed, I decided to purchase Our Version of Events. There’s a certain maturity to her voice that is unexpected from someone only 25 years old.

On “Clown” (my favorite track on the CD), she sings over practically no music, except for a piano. I can’t quite tell if she’s talking about a romantic relationship or not, but she’s speaking about willingly playing the fool and being laughed at. I think a lot of people will be able to relate to this track, since we’ve all played the fool to someone or something in our life.  “Maybe” is another track about giving love one last try or letting go. It’s raw honesty is familiar, yet original. I love this song too and this is another one of my favorites. I could see this and “Clown” being radio singles. “Breaking the Law” is a very interesting track lyrically that states “I’ll never stop/Breaking the law for you/I’ll never stop/Helping to pull you through”. It’s rebellious and pure all in the same breath.

I have a feeling Emeli Sande will be around for quite a long time. The UK is already loving her (Our Version of Events has already reached #1 there) and soon the US will be too. But besides writing her own songs, Emeli Sande is an accomplished songwriter as well for other artists including Leona Lewis and Susan Boyle. You should check out her CD if you haven’t already. You won’t be disappointed.