Top 10: Albums of 2014

Another end of year, another chance to make best-of lists. I don’t even care if anyone reads them, it’s more of a personal hobby that goes nowhere–hey, if it makes me feel like a hot shot music critic (far from), what the hell? This is also not a statement as to “these are the absolute best of the year”–they’re my favorite albums. If I want to put One Direction ahead of some obscure indie pop standout, guess what? I will. It’s all about what kept me coming back for more. I think the Mona Lisa is great, but would I want that creepy woman lingering in my house? Hell to the no.

10. In the Lonely Hour / Sam Smith

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I can relate to this album in more ways than one, which should actually make me rather depressed and bitter…but thankfully emotional eating exists. His voice is just too good to not be on any list.

9. LP1 / FKA Twigs

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I don’t know where she came from, but Tahliah Barnett is the shit. My ears are forever grateful for these angelic-hypnotic- futuristic, slow night jams. Unlike Meghan Trainor, FKA Twigs is actually from England. (I went around for 4 months under the assumption Meghan Trainor was English.)

8. Queen of the Clouds / Tove Lo

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I’ll admit it: I do not like “Habits (Stay High).” But I will tell you: there are plenty more gems to be unearthed on this post-breakup album. Brooding, high-energy pop will keep you danc-y and, um, frisky. The best part about the set is her candid and millennial-appropriate lyrics: “I’m not the prettiest you’ve ever seen, but I have my moments.”

7. Where It All Began / Dan + Shay

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First, Dan + Shay are just über adorable. This whole album is like a ray of morning sunshine and it fills me with happiness. I’ve never been prone to country music but somewhere in the past 6 months I fell in some moonshine and I can’t get out. I just want to cuddle with them on some beach and eat gummy worms.

6. My Everything / Ariana Grande

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2014 was all about Ms. Ariana Grande. Who knew that pink-haired weirdo I used to watch on Nickelodeon with my younger sister would sneak her way on to my iPod as a sultry tigress. I’ve never thoroughly enjoyed singing along to unrecognizable lyrics more until this came into my life. It’s retro, it’s sexy, it’s cool, it’s EVERYTHING. Ha…Ha…get it? I digress.

5. 1989 / Taylor Swift

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For anyone who knows me well, they know how significant this is: a Taylor Swift album in any kind of association with my name. Yes, while I was not the biggest T-Swift fan for years, I have always been fair to say, “Good music is good music.” Well, Starbucks lovers (don’t argue with me on this one), James Dean eyes and rabbit holes made for some pretty killer jams. I love this new approach to music. I think it suits her well and I hope she sticks to it. Now I will never feel alone when sitting in my bed with tear-stained cheeks holding a butcher’s knife.

4. Four / One Direction

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You knew it was coming. One Direction will forever give me life and I don’t care what musical merits you care about, they make me happy and act a fool and I’m completely okay with that. Their musicianship has matured though, to be fair. Four is not as folky as Midnight Memories, or as pop-y as Take Me Home…it’s…weird, but still good. If another “Tarzan” movie ever happens, “Ready to Run” HAS to be the theme song.

3. x / Ed Sheeran

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Lawd, help me. This guy kills me. So simple, so unadorned, yet full of feels and life. I rarely like to be in a rainy day kinda mood, but I will for this album. I could do without the more urban tracks like “Sing,” but the other offerings are pure gold. If anyone can find the words like Ed Sheeran can, we would all be married and living happily ever after. A man, his guitar and a splash of insane musical wizardry makes this a must-have.

2. Aquarius / Tinashe

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Just turn the lights out, throw this album on and cruise through the night–you won’t regret it. Tin-ash/Tin-ash-ay/Whatever gave us such a refreshing debut effort, opting to show her airy, raspy vocal prowess over ratchet bangers. At times I get these vague Aaliyah vibes, which is probably why I’m so drawn to her style.

1. Montevallo / Sam Hunt

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If this is the future of country music, I. AM. DOWN. Sam Hunt is like the Drake of country, if that makes any sense. It’s a completely unique sound that had me hooked from the first time I heard “Break Up In A Small Town,” where Sam semi-raps his way into a booming chorus. His voice is also pure sex, not going to lie, especially on “Speakers,” which feels like “our” song for me and my non-existent lover. There are also some pop country tracks which are just as infectious. Bravo. Bravo, Sam. Marry me, please?

Fall Survival Guide

It. Is. FALL.

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Fall is my absolute favorite season of all–you know, out of the whopping four we have. Since I was too busy immersing myself in as many autumn-worthy activities since the official launch of the best season ever, I wasn’t able to inform you all on what you need to know to live happily in fall. Fall. Fall. Fall. Also, I feel fall doesn’t really start until October 1st, which was historically my favorite month until I moved to LA and the state of California burned and stomped all over October’s autumn spirit.

1. Craft your fall playlist

Country is a must. Even if you don’t like Country music, too bad. It’s fall-chic and you’ll love it. Stereotypical imagery of corn stalks, tractors, wagons, buggies, bonfires, and fields help enhance your seasonal experience. Fall is also a time for acoustic pop or simple, guitar-favored songs. Here’s a fall playlist starter kit:

  • “Get Out Of This Town” / Carrie Underwood
  • “We Owned The Night” / Lady Antebellum
  • “Stop Standing There” / Avril Lavigne
  • “Irreplaceable” / Beyonce
  • “This Is How We Roll” / Florida Georgia Line Ft. Luke Bryan
  • “Through The Dark” / One Direction
  • “Fast Car” / Tracy Chapman
  • “Love Story” / Taylor Swift
  • “Nothing” / The Script
  • “Don’t Forget To Remember Me” / Carrie Underwood
  • “It’s Okay” / Coin
  • “Scarecrow” / Alex & Sierra
  • “With You” / Chris Brown
  • “The One That Got Away” / Katy Perry
  • “Leave the Night On” / Sam Hunt
  • “The Night Before (Life Goes On)” / Carrie Underwood
  • “Red” / Taylor Swift
  • “Last Goodbye” / Kesha

2. Buy (and wear) a shit load of flannels with khakis and boots.

It’s the essential fall wardrobe. Wear the flannels. Tie them around your waist (because that’s a thing now). Put on your killer Timbalands or other choice of boot. DON’T: Buy a cowboy hat. No. That’s too much. If you wear these things, you will feel great about how fall-y you look and others will wish they feel like you do. You: 1. Them: 0.

3. Be Martha Stewart.

I don’t mean insider trading, either. I’m talking about turning pumpkins into chandeliers. If you don’t already have a warm, neutral color palette in your home, get one. You need to have a cozy and modern style that can be upgraded with seasonal flare and return to a respectable and fashionable normal. You feel me? Time to start adding the yellows, oranges, browns and reds to that canvas and make it feel like the goddamn Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade just came barreling through your home. I was just in Pier One and I can say there were some good finds–I literally gasped when I entered. P.S. Don’t forget fake leaves if you live in the stupid desert climate like me and don’t have them.

4. If it doesn’t have pumpkin or pumpkin spice, you can’t eat it.

By Christmas, you should have an orange glow. The carotene should be pumping through your veins like Amanda Bynes on a highway. There are enough pumpkin products on the market now to support your well-being for the next 2 months without dying. Put pumpkin puree in your pancake batter. PSLs or pumpkin chai will start your day. Roast pumpkin and butternut squash for a salad. They even have pumpkin spice Oreos for your late-night sweet fix. Bake pumpkin seeds for a mid-day snack. I don’t want to hear it. You can do wonders with a pumpkin–WONDERS!

5. Be one with nature.

I don’t go outdoors unless…well…well that’s besides the point. Point is, there are so many things to do in fall! Here are a few mandatory events:

  1. Pumpkin Patch. No one wants to go to a chain grocery store and get a pumpkin when you can go to a PUMPKIN PATCH. There’s cider, hay stacks, face painting and well-dressed fall-lites. It’s the place to be.
  2. Apple picking. This is like level-3 outdoor intensity, so make sure you’re fit. This choice includes walking outside–possibly on an incline, uneven terrain, insects, ungodly sites of insect-infested apples, and more. They also tend to happen near very quaint, All-American towns which is awesome. If you’re in the L.A. area, I suggest Julian, CA.
  3. Corn mazes. Aw, hell. This shit is my jam. This is strictly a nighttime activity. Take all your friends, take your PSLs, take your flannels, take your fall playlist and have fun getting lost! Torture has never been so much fun. But the haunted ones, fuck that shit. That’s a no.

With my astute, fall wisdom, you should be able to successfully make it through the next two months. If you need to discuss some awesome fall thing that I don’t know (highly unlikely), hit me up on Twitter @BryceChristian. Happy Fall!

2014 BBMAs Top Male Artist Finalists Lead By Example

Click: 2014 BBMAs Top Male Artist Finalists Lead By Example

My article I wrote today for the 2014 Billboard Music Awards. Share! Share! Share! Love ya.

Top 10: My favorite albums

 I have found the process of ranking albums particularly difficult because, you know, my life is so hard and this is the apex of my concerns at the moment. There are two ways of looking at an album: it produced a lot of songs I like vs it’s a coherent, focused piece of work. I eventually put emphasis more on albums which were more focused around a certain sound rather than a clusterfuck of catchy tunes. So without further ado, here are my top ten albums (not that you care, but I like lists so I’m going to post it anyway):

10. Teenage Dream / Katy Perry / 2010

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This little bundle of sugary pop confectionary damn near gave me diabetes in the fall of 2010. A “dream” is an apt title for this album because it’s so all over the place that no other title would rationalize the A.D.D. on display: peacocks, melting popsicles, aliens, break-ups, fireworks, sad faces, happy faces, etc. But for a diverse album, it sure did give us some solid hits.

Pick three: “Teenage Dream” / “Hummingbird Heartbeat” / “Part of Me”

9. Closer / Josh Groban / 2003

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Can classical music be mainstream? Yes. Josh Groban made us all a little classier and worldly with this 5x-platinum sophomore release. Italian, French, Spanish, English–You name it, it’s sung. “Closer” is just such a beautiful album and Groban’s voice is like super dope and can make the hairs on your neck do the Harlem Shake. It’s a great publicity tool for Rosetta Stone too.

Pick three: “All’improvviso Amore” / “Si Volvieras A Mi” / “Remember When It Rained”

8. Confessions / Usher / 2004

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One word: YEAH! Not only was THE song of the first decade of the millennium on this album, but it was also the birth of Ur-sher, baby. Soulful R&B and Usher’s falsetto just play so well together. From dancing on table tops to dropping panties in a blink of an eye: that is the magic of “Confessions,” along with some relationship faux-pas. If only everyone could sound so sexy and amazing for being a lowly, cheating douchebag.

Pick three: “Yeah” / “Can U Handle It” / “Burn”

7. Own the Night / Lady Antebellum / 2011

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I can just smell the cornfields already. Lady Antebellum does such an amazing job at making country music that has cross-market appeal. This album in particular is so soothing and easy-going. It makes me want to bust out a flannel shirt and sit on a porch swing from dusk to dawn in the middle of October. My descriptions are very specific. So weird to think I saw them open for Carrie Underwood once and was like “Another song? Can they just get off–like, now?” How times have changed.

Pick three: “We Owned the Night” / “Dancin’ Away With My Heart” / “Wanted You More”

6. 4 / Beyonce / 2011

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This is perhaps the funniest selection on this list. I vividly remember throwing an epic tantrum after sampling this originally. I. Was. Piiiiissed. “This album is horrible. Who does she think she is now? This ain’t 1960. Who killed Sasha Fierce? Where she at?” And then time passed and mended all of my Beyonce wounds. I can now appreciate the restraint and artistic direction she went with this, it just took some time. I like to go hard to Bey and this was not affording me the chance. “4” is just so unique and a breath of fresh air amid the dance-music revolution that was happening all around it.

Pick three: “Run the World (Girls)” / “End of Time” / “Love on Top”

5. Aaliyah / Aaliyah / 2001

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Too many thoughts to write down. I think it’s a known fact–my feelings toward Aaliyah. One of the best ever. The production on this album in conjunction with her smooth chops just slays everything. She pushed the boundaries of soul into the future on this album and it makes for such a cool vibe. Mad swag alert.

Pick three: “Rock the Boat” / “I Care 4 U” / “We Need A Resolution”

4. Hybrid Theory / Linkin Park / 2000

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Whodathunk that hip-hop and rock would sound good together for the duration of an entire LP? Linkin Park burst onto the scene in 2000 with this epic debut, pushing the boundaries of musical labels. The sound was different from anything I had heard before and I remember my dad (rock lover) playing this all summer long until the point that I even put my Spice Girls on hold to listen to it instead. It also reminds me of the time when 11-year-old me would listen to “In the End” with a heavy heart because I thought I had AIDS and was going to die. Medical hypochondria set in very early for me, clearly.

Pick three: “In the End” / “Papercut” / “With You”

3. Heal / Loreen / 2013

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I have always stood by my claim that no one does pop music better than the Swedes. This album confirms that. But it’s more than just pop; there are shades of R&B and dance interwoven throughout. I have a “thing” for chill, night songs that have dance/trance elements incorporated and this album gave me a big, fat American-restaurant serving of that. It’s just so freaking cool. I also just happen to be obsessed with Loreen, which you can read all about in my #Addicted post dedicated to her. It’s dark, brooding and magical–like Harry Potter, sexed up with a strobe light.

Pick three: “Euphoria” / “Do We Even Matter” / “Crying Out Your Name”

2. Goodbye Lullaby / Avril Lavigne / 2011

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I adore this album. Like “We Own the Night,” it’s just an effortless album to listen to. The tracks are all coherent and incredibly cute. And like “4,”this was not one of Avril’s best-selling albums by a long shot. All of the angst and screaming was stripped away and there she was, introspective and sad–I enjoyed it. It’s like Adele, I like you being miserable, because you make good music for my ears. Just a tad selfish?

Pick three: “I Love You” / “Stop Standing There” / “What the Hell”

1. Daydream / Mariah Carey / 1995

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Nothing can ever or will ever top this album. I don’t know what it is about it–it’s just an untouchable. I mean, there is the fact that this album produced three MONSTER hits–“Always Be My Baby” being my favorite song of all-time. Mariah’s voice on this album though is just in a class of its own. I also feel like this album was the perfect blending of her pop beginnings and eventual R&B persuasion, which helped push it seven-times platinum in the US (her second best, after her eponymous debut album). I have always longed for her to abandon her routine, Jermaine Dupri R&B productions and revert back to this spirited and lively period in her music, but apparently she likes the declining trend in her record sales. This album is best for sitting out on a summer’s night atop the cool grass gazing up at the stars. Try it. I can’t anymore in L.A. because a) there is no more grass and b) air pollution has killed stargazing abilities.

Pick three: “Always Be My Baby” / “Fantasy” / “One Sweet Day”

Album Review: “Avril Lavigne”

avrillavigne2Aren’t we all ecstatic Avril is releasing new music?! I know I am. She’s always one of those artists that just slips through the cracks, but then you hear any of her songs and you’re reminded how much you absolutely love her. Her fifth album was always going to be a tall order, for me, because “Goodbye Lullaby” is not only my favorite release from Lavigne, but perhaps one of my favorite albums ever. Let’s take a look!

1. Rock n Roll: 10/10

Yep. She’s still the mother effin’ princess of pop/rock. I love the vintage sounding rock and roll track with a killer pop hook. I feel so badass walking around LA listening to this–putting my middle fingers up in a salute to “Let ’em know we’re still rock n roll.” It’s all about doing what you want and being that loud, obnoxious person you wish to be–or are. And then when I pass through Silver Lake I turn it up really loud and yell out the “hipster bullshit” line. Whatchu gonna do? Write a sarcastic, passive-aggressive Reddit post and send it to me? BRING it.

2. Here’s to Never Growing Up: 8/10

I love, love, love this song. One of my altar egos is Peter Pan, because I am a child on the inside and I have always said I refuse to grow up. And then this song is released. It’s just finally nice to sing along to an anthemic song that is more age-appropriate than One Direction–not that there is anything wrong with that. I just imagine sitting in a dodgy bar while everyone chinks their beers and shouts along at the top of their lungs. And then we go outside and dance around a bonfire.

3. 17: 9/10

Lyrically, it’s very Taylor Swift. Even when the song started, I thought, this seem so T-Swift. Maybe it’s because she has “23” AND a “17.” And then there’s Miley’s “23”…and Adele’s “19” and “21.” What is going on?! Anyway, the chorus hits and it’s that feisty Avril we met in the “Complicated” days. She is just a catchy melodic pop genius, like Ms. Katy Perry.

4. Bitchin’ Summer: 9/10

Very country-feeling opening. I’m feeling “Sweet Home Alabama” busting out at any moment. Ooooh the pre-chorus is sucking me in. Why is this album a November release? This is clearly a summer album–this record and all of the tracks thus far. And now she’s half-rapping. Interesting. Wasn’t expecting that. This song is so pleasant! I’ve never felt so endeared that someone is picking me up at the liquor store. Aw.

5. Let Me Go Ft. Chad Kroeger: 8/10

This just reminded me how odd it is that they are married. Would’ve never picked this couple–ever. Slowing things down on this one. Funny, it sounds like a Nickelback song. Like exactly like a Nickelback song. Their voices complement each other very well. It’s good! Typical rock love song. Don’t let her go, Chad! Um, really loving this piano solo at the end…

6. Give You What You Like: 6/10

Keeping on with the subdued mood. “Please wrap your drunken arms around me. And I’ll let you call me yours tonight. Slightly broken is just what I need.” This feels really…dirty. Something stylistically is ringing “Teeth” by Gaga. So basically this is the aftermath to my PG vision of “Never Growing Up.” Now we’ve moved to the drunken love making in a dark corner. Not a fan of the chorus and the falsetto. I wish it would stay grittier and dirtier.

7. Bad Girl Ft. Marilyn Manson: 7/10

I’m already scared. Hold me. His voice. Angsty. Avril is a badass. I feel like if the devil were a singer, he would sound exactly like Marilyn Manson. It’s definitely a song to rock out to. It’s like a demonic and edgier version of Blondie’s “Call Me.” It’s the type of song that plays in a dark room lit only by red lights, if you know what I mean.

8. Hello Kitty: 5/10

It was only a matter of time before her Japan obsession came to life. I like the “Come, come kitty, kitty” bits but the electronic follow-up is…I don’t know. Not feeling it. This song is a hot mess. It’s like fifty songs and EDM beats wrapped into one with random Japanese words. Is it a tribute to the chaotic and hot messery that is the world’s largest city, Tokyo? Because then I get it, I guess. There are parts I love, and parts I hate. I’m left slightly confused by what just happened. Wait, I think I like it. Well, not really.

9. You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet: 6/10

Back to bubblegum pop-rock. “If you’re loving this, just give me one more kiss, cuz you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” It’s cute. Nothing mind-blowing.

10. Sippin’ on Sunshine: 10/10

This song is adorable! Again, WHY is this coming out in November?–I’m so lost. The verses sound like Jay-Z’s “Hard Knock Life.” And then the chorus is so relaxing and feel-good. I can close my eyes and see the beach and the sun shining. This is one of my favs.

11. Hello Heartache: 7/10

It has a folky, swampy feel. “I was stupid to think that I could stay… It’s not the end, but it’s not the same.” The break down with the “La la la la la las” is perfection. I really hope people understand my stream of consciousness style of writing.

12. Falling Fast: 10/10

Super cute. It sounds like a “Goodbye Lullaby” track, which is an automatic download for me. Very warm and comforting. Lyrics are striking very close to home in recent memory. “If seeing is believing, I already know.”

13. Hush Hush: 8/10

Ending with a ballad. Really pretty. Love the contrasting vibes of the piano and percussion.

Overall: 8/10

Avril is just killing it. It’s a bit of a weird direction for her; you can almost see the immediate influence Mr. Kroeger is having on her artistry. The album has shades of vintage rock n roll, but also some country/folky-twang. I’m still calling this the “Mumford Effect.” It happened to Kesha (“Die Young,” “Last Goodbye”), Avicii (“Wake Me Up”), One Direction (“Story of My Life”),  and more that I can’t think of. There are all of these bluesy, let’s play around a campfire vibes and I’m loving it. It’s good to see Avril back in a good place, mentally, and it’s reflecting back in the old sassy, upbeat Avril of yesteryear. Yes, I just used the word yesteryear in 2013. Deal with it. And what is up with the album artwork? It is so misrepresentative of the message on the inside. I was waiting for the doom and gloom of “Take Me Away” meets vulnerable and sweet “Goodbye Lullaby.” There was none on both accounts, in fact, probably the most upbeat album…ever?

Taylor Swift is writing sweet fiction in new single

T-Swift fans have new music to celebrate.

Yesterday, the studio version of “Sweeter than Fiction” surfaced on Youtube. The song is hella ’80’s. And then at some point it morphs into a “Lizzy McGuire Movie-esque theme song. I was never really a Swifter until “Red” was released, mainly because she evolved past butterflies, rainbows, teardrops and Ford pickup trucks. But this song seems to be taking a step back from the more mature sounds of “Red”–keyowrd: more. However, It has now played for the third time while writing this and I’m bobbing my head and humming along. FML. Swift: 1, Bryce: 0.

P.S. I feel this song should have been given to Carly Rae Jepsen….