Album Review: ‘Midnight Memories,’ One Direction

onedirectionmidnightmemories2If there is one thing One Direction is not good at, it’s taking a breather. These boys have been hitting the ground running for the past three years nonstop. The management team is so keen on not letting the ephemeral nature of boy bands hit the fellas that they are sucking every ounce of their souls out to keep them alive and relevant. But for our own selfish desires, this is quite lovely. Last year’s “Take Me Home” was such a beaming bundle of happiness and eternal youth that it left me wanting more–and more I am now receiving one short-year later.

1. Best Song Ever: 10/10

This was such a good lead track for many reasons. First, it’s just infectious and an all around good time. The track also is a good transition from the “Take Me Home” sound to the new sound of “Memories.” I love choruses that just have so much depth and dimension and this one in particular soars. Can we talk about how great the video was too?

2. Story of My Life: 9/10

“Best Song Ever” is the transition and this is the start. The sound on this album has a more mature sound, while still keeping true to who they are. There are two distinct styles that are played with: 80’s pop/rock and, what I call, the “Mumford Effect,” which is the use of country/folk elements in pop music after Mumford & Sons made it cool and mainstream. I just wrote about that exact same thing on Avril Lavigne’s new album, and there have been countless other examples of it in recent releases. Anyway, this song just reminds me of sitting next to a warm campfire all bundled up.

3. Diana: 7/10

Why Diana? That is so not a hot name anymore in 2013. Let the 80’s begin. Fun little retro pop song. Could be in an 80’s high school movie. This has grown on me a lot.

4. Midnight Memories: 7/10

From 80’s pop to 80’s rock. This song is like a mix of Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and Kiss’ “Rock N’ Roll All Night.” An ode to the crazy rockstar lifestyle they’re living. Sounds like fun. I’d join. I just honestly want to be in a boy band so much.

5. You and I: 9/10

This might be my favorite 1D ballad ever. Their voices sound so good on this. And the production is understated but powerful. This is going to be such a killer arena hit. I see the lighters now.

6. Don’t Forget Where You Belong: 6/10

Intro sounds like “Somewhere Only We Know.” They’re like…growing up. I am getting a little emotional. Even their artistry is evolving. Well, the chorus is a bit like a bad church youth group performance. I can relate to this song a lot though.

7. Strong: 6/10

This is one of those songs that just kind of sits in the middle. It’s not terrible, but it’s also not being raped on replay. Zayn’s little solo toward the end is obvi my favorite part, but that’s slightly biased 🙂

8. Happily: 8/10

Back to the country/folk sound. “We’re on fire, we’re all on fire.” I don’t ever want to grow up, and as long as I have 1D, I never will. This is so much fun. It’s like a swampy summertime jam. For some reason this sound matches them so well. The “oh, oh, oh, oh” breakdown is like amazing.

9. Right Now: 8/10

This so sounds like a One Republic song. Zayn’s voice is just growing so much. There is so much depth to it now. God help me. This is definitely an example of their sound maturing. It’s like no longer being able to play on the playground for recess. So sad, yet necessary.

10. Little Black Dress: 5/10

Fun, flirty song. Not really much else to say. It was over so fast.

11. Through the Dark: 10/10

Mumford-esque. Love. Love. Love. I think this is officially my favorite track on the album. “Oh, I would carry you over fire and water for your love.” You can’t help singing along and being happy, especially when Zayn is telling you all of the things he would do to be with you! Or, whatever bandmate you have claimed as yours.

12. Something Great: 6/10

It’s so magical. The music is so infectious. I feel like I’m in an enchanted forest with tea lights hanging from the trees and fairies whizzing around. That could just be the shrooms talking…. It’s kind of static though, the melody, and doesn’t really stray from the same note.

13. Little White Lies: 10/10

This was the first track I heard outside of the two lead singles and I was sold. Sold. SOLD. One Direction just hits such a sweet spot in my ears and heart. The chorus is great.

14. Better Than Words: 7/10

The sound is a bit eclectic. I can’t really put a finger on it. It’s really hard to dislike any 1D song because they’re so masterfully produced by dream teams so they kind of always sound good, but this is another one of those down-the-middle ones. Definitely has a good melody that is stuck in my head.

15. Why Don’t We Go There: 4/10

Sounds like Neon Trees. It doesn’t really seem to flow though. Love the bass and “ooh ooh oohs.” Probably my least favorite song on the album.

16. Does He Know?: 9/10

Straight up “Jessie’s Girl” re-make. Dancing like an absolute lunatic right now. Feel-good pop-ery. The melody is so incredibly catchy, especially in the pre-chorus. This should be a summer 2014 release.

17. Alive: 7/10

Another 80’s rock song. There is definitely a reoccurring theme on the album: be young and love. “Don’t look back, live your life.” That line toward the end when the bass kicks back in is golden.

18. Half a Heart: 6/10

It’s like the “Little Things” sequel. Their voices sound good over the gentle guitar strums, well, save for Louis. I know I’m going to catch hell for this, but I just don’t like Louis’ voice (on slow ballads); it doesn’t blend with the rest of the group. It’s so jarring because it’s so high and nasal. Anyway, it’s really sweet, but in the battle of the ballads, I prefer “You and I.”

Overall: 7/10

I am exhausted from this album. All this jamming and smiling. Worn. Out. It’s such a departure from their sound on the first two albums but this somehow feels more genuine. Gradually the label will allow them to exert more influence in what the albums sound like, but you can definitely hear the rebellious, good vibes in this album. Can’t wait for the next album, which at this pace, should be out by summer!

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Lea Michele unveils solo project

Move over Rachel Berry, there is a new star coming to town, and it’s–well, yourself! Huh?

“Glee” star Lea Michele took to her Twitter page to reveal her solo debut. The singer posted the sexy black-and-white cover art for her debut single “Cannonball,” written by acclaimed songwriter Sia Furler. The song will be the lead track from her first LP titled “LOUDER”–like Rihanna’s 2010 “Loud,” but…louder? Fans can snag the single when it is released Dec. 10 along with the album pre-order.

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I’m so curious to hear what her “sound” will be. She’s classically trained, so I think it will be hard for her to find a natural niche in the pantless and twerking circus that is female pop music. Theatrical singers tend to lack a certain depth or unique voice quality that sets them apart from just being a “good singer.” But here are a few very good starting points for her straight from the “Glee” archives:

Hot. Hot. Hot.

Typical ballad, but with a modern twist.

 

Miley Watch: Bye, bye brows

Do you remember that silly game you used to (or still do) play with your besties at a sleepover, the one where you would cover your eyebrows with your fingers and laugh at each other’s hairless foreheads? Well, Miley Cyrus is playing that game too, but like, for real.

The singer posted a selfie (Yay! It’s a word now!) today showing off her bleached brows. Check it out:

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I’m looking at it with my face half turned away because half of me is really creeped out and the other half can’t stop looking at it. Which side will win?!

Best Day Ever: ‘Midnight Memories’ leaks

onedirectionmidnightmemories“And we danced all night to the best song ever…”

This lyric could not be more accurate as millions of Directioners are in the midst of a meltdown tonight of epic proportions as the British boyband’s “Midnight Memories” trickled online earlier today. The third studio album from One Direction was due out Nov. 25, but met the inevitable fate of the digital music word: leakage. The 18-track set exhibits an evolved sound for the lads, an ’80’s pop/rock flair mixed with folky, campfire vibes. There is much to be danced to.

I was already having a great day today. I had brunch with some friends at an outdoor cafe. I got in some retail therapy. (Can I just brag that I got a rocking black peacoat, originally $100 for $35?). And best of all, it was the tree lighting at the Grove! I was amid the Christmas madness at the Grove when I got word that “Midnight Memories” leaked. My reaction:

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And after the tears dried:

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And my confused friends:

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To top it all off, after rocking out to the new One Direction material, Katy Perry goes and announces her Prism World tour.

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Katy Perry announces world tour

The light is coming. Are you ready?

Katy Perry revealed her Prismatic world tour today on her Twitter page.

The follow-up to the California Dreams tour will launch in the UK May 2014 with special guests, Icona Pop. The “Unconditional” singer has not set concrete U.S. dates yet, but continues to tease fans with promises of getting “closer to ALL of you than ever before.”

Can I just say, I called this the other day. Yes, yours truly, is like, a genius.

I know one thing that just got added to my Christmas wishlist. Santa, get ready.

Album Review: Lady Gaga, “ARTPOP”

ladygagaartpop2It’s been a while since we’ve had new creations from the Mother Monster. Twenty Madonna feuds and a disintegrating hip later, ARTPOP has arrived. Even though it was just released this week, five tracks (from my count) had already surfaced, so we all had a pretty good inclination that this album was going to be completely weird and dance happy–in a good way.

1. Aura: 8/10

Interesting intro, a kind of Middle Eastern meets country-western vibe. I like the message behind the song. The robot man breakdown is so good. Oh, hell, now there’s clapping. We all love clapping. I could see how some would find this disjointed; it’s kind of like five songs in one, but I don’t mind it…This is fun! If this is any indication for what’s to come, we’re in for one hell of a spacey, jamming concoction of Gaga-ness.

2. Venus: 3/10

If Gaga, Abba and David Bowie had a threesome and birthed a child, this would be it. I would give the child up for adoption. Next.

3. G.U.Y.: 5/10

I feel like I’m sitting in a rocket ship getting ready to blast off into something absolutely crazy and slightly terrifying, and Gaga is my flight attendant. Such good build in the pre-chorus and then it falls flat. Nice beats though. And there she goes shouting random German words again.

4. Sexxx Dreams: 7/10

OOohhhh. Dark, mysterious and sexy. Shocking given the title, right? The quasi-sequel to “So Happy I Could Die.” Good cruising song for nighttime. Approved.

5. Jewels n’ Drugs Ft. T.I., Too Short & Twista: 9/10

I don’t even know what to think going into this one. This is actually pretty tight so far. OK, OK, Gaga is a bonafide hood bitch now. This song is so dope. I’m really liking this. This is going to be a hot club jam.

6. Manicure: 8/10

Oh, Mickey you’re so fine. You’re so fine, you blow my mind. Anyone else hearing that? Or what about “This shit is bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s? An angst-y, clap-happy anthem everyone will love. This song is oodles of pop/rock fun. I thought it was called “Manicure” though? What’s this “Man-Chuh”?

7. Do What U Want Ft. R. Kelly: 10/10

I love this collaboration. Their voices mesh so well together. Is it weird I’m liking the R&B Gaga more than the pop Gaga ARTPOP? I know this wasn’t supposed to be a single, but then it took off like crazy on iTunes so Gaga just kind of went with it. This song is just much more commercial and mainstream than the rest of this very…avant garde pop-ery. One of my favorites, for sure.

8. Artpop: 4/10

Robotica. Spacey. I don’t know what it is, but sometimes there’s this weird pitch thing when she morphs her voice and it’s so discordant, as in the pre-chorus. Modern disco with some groove, but pretty underwhelming.

9. Swine: 2/10

Gross. Just the name makes me want to skip. Here we go…another club banger. Can’t wait to get down to “Swine.” Awkward. “You’re just a pig in a human body.” Well, I think we all get what this is about. I just can’t . I can’t. Ew, pigs. I refuse to be caught jamming to a pig-inspired celebration.

10. Donatella: 7/10

“And I’m a little bit of a bitch.” Mhmm. I’m liking where this is going. Actually, that’s all I like. It’s funky and witty, but not really hitting that sweet spot in my ears in parts. I know I’m going to like it though when I hear it out at clubs though, just not while walking to class. The second half is definitely better than the first half. An instant gay culture classic. Now I have to go watch “The Devil Wears Prada.” Damn you, Gaga.

11. Fashion!: 4/10

Was not expecting the piano intro. How many songs can one have about fashion, though. Seriously. A bit much. Sounds like a bad musical. Over-the-top vocals. Where are the fashion police? Arrest this!

12. Mary Jane Holland: 4/10

Hmm. I wonder what oh what this could be about. I feel like the album is just slipping away at this point. This just isn’t offering much. It’s OK at best.

13. Dope: 3/10

Eerie. Way dramatic. The only ballad thus far. Nope to Dope.

14. Gypsy: 9/10

That beat in the chorus just dropped. I’m seeing hearts and stars. It’s like an upbeat “You and I.” This song is really cute. It’s all about being in love and traveling the world, but in my head it’s from Four Seasons to Four Seasons. Still romantic-ish. Ok, well I could do without the “Finding Nemo” “MINE!” “MINE!” bit of the song–just a tad off-putting.

15. Applause: 8/10

This was such an underwhelming debut track after months off of the charts. I mean, it’s not terrible, but it’s not like a HERE I AM, BACK IN BUSINESS kinda record. Plus I have haunting memories of that drag Peter Pan from the lyric video. Legit creeps. Catchy and appealing to the masses so it was a smart choice, just was waiting for something groundbreaking. Nice way to close out the album.

Overall: 6/10

This album left me feeling kind of lost and questioning Gaga’s musical direction. Many of the tracks are heavily, heavily produced, and the vocals are overly theatrical and dramatic, for. That’s fine if that’s what she wants to do, it just doesn’t sit well with me. I miss “The Fame Monster” Gaga. It seems with each album she progressively gets farther and farther away from a sound that is appealing to me. It’s becoming so abstract that it is leaving the realm of identifiable pop music. Not that it’s bad, again, I just won’t be on this train much longer if that’s the case. However, there are some elements that I wish she would continue to explore, mostly the R&B flare; her voice suits it surprisingly well.

‘X Factor’ contestant goes H.A.M. on 80’s night

Straight up, this kid is going to be a star.

Josh Levi, 15, brought down the house on last night’s “X Factor.” The Houston native put a fresh R&B spin on Paula Abdul’s 80’s hit, “Straight Up.” After being cut from the competition in week one by the boys’ mentor, Paulina Rubio, Levi validated the judges’ decision to give him a second shot last night. Get ready to be blown away:

“Can I just say it now,” judge Kelly Rowland exclaimed, holding her finger in the air, “I’m going to go on record saying this: I think you, young man, have just arrived.”

And just to confirm it was a good performance all around, Mr. Sunshine himself, Simon Cowell, chimed in with good words:

“This is proving the point where one minute we’re watching and listening to karaoke singers, and then we’re watching and listening to a future star.”

The performance bears much resemblance to Arin Ray’s take on Estelle’s “American Boy” last year. The problem for Ray was continuing to find that sweet spot each week and eventually bowed out in tenth place. Hopefully mentor Rubio will help keep Levi’s momentum pumping.

Side note: Every time a reality singing show does “Straight Up,” it turns to gold. Anyone remember the adorable Andrew Garcia and his acoustic masterpiece from the “American Idol” Hollywood-week round?

WTF: a photo gallery

I’m constantly on the go. I don’t own a car (sad face) so I’m always interacting with way too many people for my own good. Bus trips, subway trips, walking trips–I see it all. This post is dedicated to all of the “WTF” moments I have encountered over the years.

I will take a picture of anything with my iPhone. If you look like an asshole or are failing at life miserably, Imma document it. Depending on my mood, I will try to be discrete about taking your picture, but more often then not I just point, shoot and smile with the satisfaction of my photographic achievement–at your expense.

1. Fashion trend: umbrella stand meets Egyptian flair.IMG_0379

2. One of my sister’s Christmas presents last year. My direct quote: “Who gave Calysta the Dildo night light?” My mom looked at me puzzled. “You seriously don’t see anything wrong with that?” The perfect gift for every child afraid of the dark.IMG_0708

3. Ok, so, did you steal the hat and are proud of it? Or, are we just forgetful? Could very well be a new trend, but I didn’t get the memo.IMG_0592

4. I have so many strong emotions about this. First, this is a Starbucks, not a damn living room. Second, get your nasty feet off of the table that people put their food on and work from. Third, I don’t want to hear any sass from you when I break out my Clorox wipes from my messenger bag and sanitize the premise. IMG_1371

5. Did you mean “yummy?” No need to ask what your TOEFL score was. IMG_6141

6. If you need to stop at the $0.99 store for your protection, I would advise you just stop now and rethink a few things, starting with your life choices. IMG_7037

7. My name’s Bryce, but OK. Whatever.IMG_5620

8. Our cat left this for us outside our front door. How sweet. She’s soooo cute. IMG_4297

9. Why I don’t travel with my dad more often. He pulls shit like this.

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10. And then there’s my mom, who removes snow with a Wal-Mart bag.

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11. Helen Keller is doing the mannequin displays at Kohl’s again. IMG_7555

12. This is just too much. Your wish of valeting at Ihop is now a reality. This isn’t Craft or Spago, park your damn car yourself. Also, there is only one lot out back of the restaurant, so I’m not sure what the winning advantage is here. IMG_2240

13. After a night in Vegas, I awoke to a knife on the floor. No one would claim responsibility for their late night decision not to murder the others in the room. IMG_7337

14. Aw, look at this adorable family. Yes, that is the father. Yes, that is the mother. And yes, that is their child. What did I tell you about those $0.99 condoms?IMG_5683

15. Say what you want about taking the bus, but do you get free snacks on your drive to work?IMG_7155

2013 MTV EMAs: Music sings, fashion flops

The music industry circus landed in Amsterdam today for the 2013 MTV European Music Awards, the uncanny sister to the MTV Video Music Awards.

Before the night began, the stars hit the red carpet outside the Ziggo Dome in the Dutch capital. First there was the arrival of the one and only, Miley Cyrus. The “Wrecking Ball” singer opted for a Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. dress with thigh-high patterned boots. Your obvious go to, right?

MTV EMA's 2013 - Backstage

One leading lady down, another to go: Katy Perry. The roaring pop tigress was anything but this evening. The California Gurl played it safe and old school in a grandmotherly, shimmering mint dress with 60’s housewife hair. ema_katy

Australian rapper Iggy Azalea arrived in a skimpy, black hoo-ha revealer. The proportions were all off. She has a tiny midsection and some serious leg, which the dress only dramatizes. I don’t even have to ask if there was a nip cervical slip.

MTV EMA's 2013 - Red Carpet Arrivals

While the Americans and the Aussie have let us down, perhaps a European could rescue the night? Ellie Goulding?! Nope, not happening either. So unflattering and the hair is just a drag.

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Red carpet host, Laura Whitmore was sexy and flirty with a tiered World of Warcraft dress. Not half-bad. ema_laurawhitmore

The best-dressed award goes to Tyson Beckford with arm candy Shanina Shaik. Note to other guests: this is how you dress for an awards show.

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…Unless your name is RedFoo, and your hosting the show, then you show up like this without any questions asked:

MTV EMA's 2013 - Red Carpet Arrivals

Aside from the fashion faux-pas, there was much to appease the eyes and ears once the performances started rolling. Miley Cyrus gave a very raw and elegant version of “Wrecking Ball,” which was executed to perfection. The Killers made a showing as well, debuting their new single, “Shot at the Night,” before shifting into their smash hit “Mr. Brightside” to the delight of the crowd–and me, more or less because Brandon Flowers was on my screen. “Best Female” winner Katy Perry stunned the crowd with her prismatic and colorful rendition of her new single “Unconditionally.” Perry levitated above the stage, adorned with colorful strips of fabric before–BAM–busting out into a mirrored human disco ball.

I’m just so excited it’s awards season! Next up: American Music Awards! See you then.

Album Review: Kelly Clarkson, “Wrapped In Red”

kellyclarksonwrappedinred2Pardon the late review, I made it halfway through and took a week off–pesky schoolwork. But it was almost more appropriate that I got to do it now, since I’m 100% in the Christmas spirit. Kelly was off to the holiday race very, very early with her October release, which sold 70,000 copies opening week. Let’s get festive!

1. Wrapped In Red: 5/10

“Everybody’s happy.” What a beautiful way to start off a song. Thank you, Kelly. I am happy. I don’t like the fact that it seems angsty though. Kinda kills my Christmas mood.

2. Underneath the Tree: 11/10

I have no words. Utter perfection. I don’t give out extra credit points to songs, but this deserves it. It’s the 21st century’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” Instant holiday classic. Commercial. Fun. Christmas-on-crack. Yay! This could be the only track on the album 12 times and I’d be fine with that.

3. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas: 9/10

The opening line just hits you with warmth. This is one of my favorite Christmas songs and I already have like four versions of it–make that five.

4. Run, Run Rudolph: 10/10

Yup. Quintessential Christmas track. Oh, Kelly you are amazing. American Bandstand meets Christmas glam. This is a fun one y’all!

5. Please Come Home for Christmas (Bells Will Be Ringing): 8/10

Slow, bluesy track. She’s really not holding back. Not. At. All. It’s the feisty, loud Kelly we’ve always known–well, before she kinda went country on us…

6. Every Christmas: 6/10

This sounds like a track off of “Thankful.” It has the soulful edge. And her  voice sounds like it did in 2002. Not that her voice doesn’t sound like…her voice…but, I don’t know. Just ignore what I said. It makes sense in my head.

7. Blue Christmas: 3/10

I don’t even like the original. I’m trying to give her a fair shot. It’s just too honky-tonky for me. Very vintage. I can picture her singing in a 70’s movie as a soldier and his girlfriend are dancing in a mess hall. But, I’m going to pass…next!

8. Baby It’s Cold Outside: 5/10

I like her…but Ronnie, not so much. There’s no connection here. It’s supposed to be flirty, but I don’t believe it. Where’s Michael Bublé when you need him? It’s like a creepy, old pedophile chiming in. I have the creeps.

9. Winter Dreams (Brandon’s Song): 8/10

LOL I thought she said “fucking” glass. Oh, “foggy.” This is so cute! Well now it seems kind of weird and awkwardly arranged. Oh, it’s cute again!

10. White Christmas: 9/10

Five seconds in and I’m sold. Those piano keys. I just know this is going to be good. Her voice was made for this. Such a classic and she does it justice.

11. My Favorite Things: 7/10

“Sound of Music”! As a young, little boy, I was obsessed with this film–like all other little boys 😉 This sounds like a very glitzy Broadway version. Like if Disney were to add this song to one of their outdoor concert shows, it would sound just like this.

12. 4 Carats: 6/10

A grungy Christmas song? Hm, interesting. Now it’s pepping up. Fun lyrics. Just four carats? Girl, this is Santa–20 carats please!

13. Just For Now: 5/10

I love parts of it, hate other parts. When her voice is trailing off and she has the grit, it’s golden. But I don’t like the yelling and heavy percussion. It kind of puts me not in the Christmas mood, but in more of a “My December” place.

14. Silent Night Ft. Reba & Trisha Yearwood: 5/10

The only traditional, religious song on the album. Very nice and pacifying. I just can’t stop singing the Mariah version in my head. A little safe.

15. I’ll Be Home for Christmas: 10/10

Too good. Everything you want a Christmas song to sound like. You can almost feel the fireplace listening to this. I want to snuggle up in blankets with a peppermint hot cocoa and listen to this while watching the snow fall. As you can see, I get very visual when listening to songs. I love that she shows some restraint too and has some delicate touches. Gah! Perfection.

16. Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel: 8/10

She sounds great, but why so scary, gurrrl? I feel like I’m being watched. It’s pretty at the same time though.

Overall: 7/10

I was curious to see which direction Kelly was going to go for Christmas, stylistically. And that curiosity was answered: a little bit of everything. While predominantly soulful and brassy, there is some sugary pop, country twang and vintage bandstand. It’s a unique album in that there aren’t the usual suspect songs that are getting rendered yet again; there are many new songs that were crafted for this album. I think it’s a perfect marriage: Clarkson’s husky pipes and Christmas. Now let me resume raping the replay on “Underneath the Tree” until the end of time.