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Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

It’s usually a good rule of thumb that if one of your favorite artists has a flop album, it’s unlikely that the work is of significantly less quality than all of their other (successful) albums. Anything can lead to a flop: bad timing, bad press, bad marketing, or a combination of all three.

It’s in this spirit that I offer Christina Aguilera’s “Bionic.” The commercial failure of this album was the precursor to Christina’s Super Bowl flub, divorce, weight gain, alcoholism rumors, and mug shot, so can you can hear where it all began.

I’m sorry, but I just love this trashy, poorly-conceived, ill-timed, derivative, dated masterpiece. From the over-the-top cover art to the egotistical lyrics (the album’s closing track is titled “Vanity”), this album brought out of all Christina’s worst tendencies, including self-indulgent vocal arrangements and an uncanny knack for making a potentially catchy song complex and difficult for the listener. But I think the album is actually better than her previous effort Back to Basics, which suffered from all of the exact same problems, except it was also a 1940’s-style concept album which basically just added an additional level of un-fun.

You owe it to Xtina to give this one another listen — or more likely, a first listen. My favorite tracks are “Glam,” a sparse but masterfully sung Gaga ripoff, “Woohoo,” the raunchy Nicki Minaj collaboration that has Britney’s seal of approval and served as the album’s 2nd single, and “You Lost Me,” the album’s BoB (Big ol’ Ballad) and 3rd single.

Check out a live performance of “You Lost Me” on Letterman below. The last phrase when Christina waits a split-second after the final beat to do the ornament on “me” — well, she’s still miles better than almost everyone else out there, flop or not. In a time when the pop market is completely saturated with moderately talented females, Xtina still stands above.

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Have you heard Britney Spears’ new #1 single “Hold It Against Me“? Reviews are mixed, but there’s no doubt the song is enjoying massive chart success, and strong sales for her upcoming album Femme Fatale are sure to follow. But would it make you uncomfortable to learn that Britney has not answered a single question about the song or her new album, let alone performed her single yet?

A few years back, South Park did an episode titled “Britney’s New Look,” in which Britney Spears shoots herself in the head due to the pressures of fame. She survives the suicide attempt, but blows her entire head off. From that point forward, Britney is wheeled into the recording studio to sing, and pushed onto stage to perform, headless, for her adoring fans. As usual, South Park might have been onto something more literal than even they envisioned.

One of Britney Spears’ biggest stans (“stan” equals “stalker” + “fan”), the Prophet, wrote a wonderfully honest post where said he “can no longer support the Femme Fatale era” due to concerns over Britney’s handling and mental health. Making comparisons to Michael Jackson (remember, Britney is still legally under a receivership, meaning she has the legal rights of a minor child), the Prophet writes, “I will always love and support Britney as a person, and I’ll always love her music (which is second to none), but I don’t agree with how I think she is being handled this era, and I believe that supporting this era financially is telling ‘Team Britney’ that I endorse what they are doing, when I don’t.” Similarly, Jeff Benjamin tweeted, “This whole entire era is so sketchily done & weird how Britney is seemingly the only one NOT involved in her album. I don’t get it.” Something is really amiss. The “Hold It Against Me” video was so heavily edited that even my untrained eye picked up on the fact that “Britney” in many parts of the video wasn’t even Britney at all.

When Britney finally emerged to make her first public statement about her #1 single(!), her voice had dropped an entire octave and she seemed physically ill. Watch this promo video for Good Morning America and ask yourself, does this sound normal? More importantly, if you like her song, does it matter? Do fans have an obligation to stop buying music they like because they’s concerned about the artist’s treatment and/or wellbeing? Depending on how Britney’s scheduled performance on March 29th turns out, we as a society might need to do some serious soul-searching.

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Jennifer Hudson is one of those singers who you’d think would have tons of big hits. After all, she’s already halfway to becoming one of Tracy Jordan’s coveted EGOT’s, and everyone knows she has the vocal chops. But I’m happy Jennifer has stuck with traditional R&B instead of chasing after Rihanna-style crossover success. My absolute favorite The Prophet Blog calls Jennifer’s new single “Where You At” a “snoozefest,” but I really like it.

When I first heard the recording, I was blown away by the very end, when Jennifer holds a sustained belted high A for a full four seconds as the song fades out. I never thought she could pull it off live. I didn’t think it was studio trickery per se, but there are literally no female singers in the game today who could come close to attempting this note and I assumed she basically got lucky on one amazing take. When she completely ducked this final note on her first live performance of the single on Oprah, I was disappointed but not surprised.

But then she performed again on Ellen’s show, and went for it. And she NAILED it perfectly (the high A’s start at around 3:20 on the word “deliver”).

I’m in awe. To put this in context, Mariah Carey (who is most famous for her range) has never attempted a live high A in chest voice to my knowledge, and only tried to briefly hit a few high G’s (a full step lower) during a handful of 1993-1994 performances of “Anytime You Need a Friend.” But they sounded like crap, and she never brought them back. So major props to Jennifer for taking the risk — and succeeding.

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Adele Releases “21”

Today the amazingly talented Adele officially drops her sophomore album, “21.” While many lump Adele in with rest of the British neo-soul wave (Amy Winehouse, Duffy, etc.) this makes Adele seem faddish rather than timeless. Adele is an old soul with a vocal style rarely heard anymore — controlled, fragile, emotional, and technically brilliant. And her live performances are consistently unbelievable, with no costumes, gimmicks, or strange arrangements (I’m looking at you, Katy Perry).

I was an Adele skeptic when she beat out Jazmine Sullivan for the Best New Artist Grammy in 2009, but I’ve since been converted. She’s the real deal. I can’t wait to hear “21,” as reviews have been universally positive but I think I may be the last person on Earth to wait for legal music releases. Even her biggest fans in the U.S. may not realize how much of a sales powerhouse Adele is her native England. Adele’s “21” is the highest selling album in the UK in five years, and she’s the first artist since the Beatles in 1964 to have both two singles and two albums in the top five simultaneously after her second “21” single “Someone Like You” beat out Lady Gaga for the #1 spot. And she deserves it.

Here’s Adele with her recent Brit Awards performance of “Someone Like You.”

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