How does the Destiny Child's member's latest hold up?
On “Talk A Good Game,” Kelly Rowland has a lot more than talking on her mind. The ex-Destiny’s Child member focuses on her R&B side on the new set, her first since 2011’s “Here I Am.” The songs range from salutes to sex to her admission that she is jealous of her buddy/ Destiny’s Child mate Beyonce in a strikingly confessional tune. Though a few of the songs sound too similar, overall, it’s a striking showcase for Rowland’s voice.
We take you track-by-track through “Talk,” which is out today.
1. “Freak”: Rowland gets her freak on with this hand-clapping, synthetic track celebrating the fact that “everybody’s somebody’s freak.” She wants to be yours. Is someone seriously going to say no? The song, produced by Nate “Danja” Hills, is as sexy as a robotic track can be.
2. “Kisses Down Low”: The seksi time continues with this ode to oral sex. It’s graphic enough that she’s giving instruction (“a little more to the left”). Produced by Mike Will Make It, the song is bolstered by a very deep-voiced man echoing some of the lyrics. The sexually explicit will either turn you on or be just too much.
3. “Gone” featuring Wiz Khalifa: Built around Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi,” this sassy, break-up song is Rowland’s version of “Irreplaceable.” She gave him her heart, but he let it slip through his fingers and he’s going to be sorry in this mid-tempo, Harmony Samuels-produced track that has attitude to spare. Wiz Khalifa plays the boy who thinks she only wants to break up to make up. It’s a nice counterpoint and his giggle is infectious.
4. “Talk A Good Game” featuring Kevin Cossom: The title track is a mid-tempo shuffler, produced by T-Minus, lamenting why love has to be so hard. A gun-shy Rowland doesn’t think she can “take another broken promise,” so before she gives her heart away again (remember, she’s getting over the heartbreak from the dude in “Gone”), she needs to know her next boy can be honest.
5. “Down On Love”: She’s working a theme here as “Gone,” “Talk” and “Down” all deal with men who had disappointed her. The sleek, well-produced tune set to a military beat show’s off Rowland’s vulnerable vocals as she professes she’s been down on love lately after another 5 a.m. call from her loser boyfriend has left her brokenhearted. The song subtly samples The Whispers’ “Rock Steady.”
6. “Dirty Laudry”: The track that everyone is talking about from “Talk.” In The-Dream-produced slow dirge-like jam, Rowland confesses to her jealousy of Beyonce post- Destiny’s Child, but that’s not the only revelation. She tells of an abusive relationship in a world-weary tone. And it sounds like Beyonce came to the rescue. “When my sister was on stage killing it like a mother/I was enraged.... Bitter/Sweet, I was up/she was down....Meanwhile this snake putting his hands on me...” It’s compelling and exhausting to listen to at the same time. There’s nothing else on the album that matches the vulnerable admissions here.
7. “You Changed” “Ladies, y’all want to do it again?” Beyonce asks in a sultry tone on this track that reunites Bey, Rowland and Michel’le Williams. The layered, mid-tempo groove is another “I’ve left you behind” tune, telling a guy to scram. It’s Beyonce’s song and the two others merely provide adornment, but’s nice to hear the three of them together again.
8. “I Remember”: This mid-tempo shuffler, propelled by a thumping beat, cries out for a dance remix, by her buddy David Guetta if not someone else. In the track that showcases her voice to the best effect, she looks back at a relationship gone bad. With its layered vocals and sly, relentless beat, it’s one of the album’s strongest tunes.
9. “Red Wine”: Another groove-driven track that relies more on atmospheric production and feel than a strong song. Rowland’s vocals float above the ethereal beats.
10. “This Is Love”: A slow-downed gauzy dance track, prefaced by an organ, finds Rowland finally giving in to love again “Don’t wake me/I must be dreaming,” she sings in the stutter beat song. The album’s most unreservedly romantic tune.
11. “Street Life” featuring Pusha T: Pharrell-produced tune, reminiscent of “In da Club” and Destiny Child’s “ Jumpin’, Jumpin”,” the track has an urban, swaying feel and an edge provided by Pusha T’s rap about a dope dealer. Sounds unlike anything else on the album.
12. “Stand In Front Of Me”: Another slow jam about keeping your man satisfied. This one’s sweeter than it is explicit, but Rowland and Pharrell, who produced the track, hit all the right notes. She could be talking about a proposal when she sings about “getting down on bended knee.”
Who else is in the top 5?
Rihanna has passed Justin Bieber as the most-viewed artist on YouTube. Don’t worry Psy fans, we’re sure he’ll pass both of them with his next video.
In the wee hours of June 18, according to Billboard, Rihanna’s 77 videos on her official channel overtook Justin Bieber’s 79 official clips by a score of 3.784 billion for Rihanna to 3.782 billion for Bieber. Yes, that’s billion. Rounding out the top 5 are Psy (3.1 billion views), Eminem (2.4 billion) and Lady Gaga (2.25 billion).
Billboard chalks Rihanna’s victory up to her larger subscriber base: she has 8.37 million YouTube subscribers, while Bieber has 3.7 million.
Beliebers, don’t despair: Bieber remains the most followed person on Twitter (person, not just musical artist), with more than 40 million followers.
Dirty laundry can kill you
Rapper also set for a handful of North American summer dates
M.I.A. is back in action, and how, on “Bring the Noize,” the first single from her forthcoming album, “Matangi.”
With a machine-gun rat-a-tat beat, the relentless, rapid-fire tune takes on one of her favorite topics: banks and other corporate raiders: “It’s not me or you/it’s the f**king banks/Bring the noize when we run up on them.” The assault continues until the last third when the percussion drops out and she softly sings. It’s a striking tune.
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Is it about Katy Perry?
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The lyric video for his new single, “Paper Doll,” features Prancercise creator and viral video sensation Joanna Rohrback, introducing the video: “By now you know the foremost Prancercise, but what about a prance to romance to,” she somewhat awkwardly asks.*
She then gracefully Prancercises to the song as the lyrics scroll across. The video is filmed primarily in a single shot (we caught only one edit once Rohrback starts doing her thing), so we can get full advantage of Rohrback’s graceful, fluid movements as she prancercises through a suburban neighborhood getting her Prancecise on. She also, quite honestly, is getting quite the work out in, especially as she imitates the angel wings in the lyrics.
But what about the song? It’s a lovely, stripped down, lilting ballad, the kind of which we’ve been hearing from Mayer ever since “Wonderland.” This time, he’s not bedding the girl, he’s romancing her and trying to woo her back after after she’s gotten spooked. “You’re like 22 girls in one, and none of them know what they’re running from," he sings. He throws in lots of colors: black, gold, blue, mint green, moroccan red —as he runs through fashions made specifically for a seasons as a metaphor for her running away. It’s hardly a song of girl empowerment to compare a girl to a “little paper doll,” but not everything has to be an anthem.
The coda is a little too reminiscent of “Mockingbird,” but that may have been intentional. The bigger question is if the song is about Mayer's off-and-on-again girlfriend, Katy Perry, who told Vogue that she is "still madly in love" with Mayer in a July cover story. (Interestingly, Rolling Stone speculates that the song is about Mayer's ex, Taylor Swift, because of the use of the color red, her current album title and the number 22, which is her age and also a song title on her current album).
Mayer pairs once again with Don Was, who produced the fine “Born and Raised,” for “Paper Doll,” the first single from Mayer’s forthcoming album, “Paradise Valley.” Here, as is often Was’s trademark, the production is spare, with nothing extraneous added in. Both Mayer's vocal and guitar sound warm in inviting.
Mayer starts his first full tour in three years, following his vocal issues, July 6 in Milwaukee (following a July 4 appearance at 4th of July festival in Philadelphia). For full list of tour dates, go here.
Fresh off Bonnaroo gig, Johnson plans to hit the road again in September
Fresh off his headlining gig at Bonnaroo, where he stepped in for Mumford & Sons, Jack Johnson has announced a fall tour.
If he weren’t already the good guy after filling infor M&S, who dropped out due to Ted Dwane’s emergency surgery, Johnson will earn even more karma points with the tour because he is donating 100% of the profits to charity (as he has since 2008).
The outing, which is in support of his sixth studio album, “From Here To Now To You,” out Sept. 17, starts in Europe Sept. 5 and kicks off the U.S. portion Sept. 22 in Canton, Mass.
Proceeds from the tour will go to 75 community groups that focus on sustainable local food systems and plastic-free initiatives.
Johnson released the album’s first single, “I Got You,” a few weeks ago.
From Here To Now To You tour:
September 5 Cologne, Germany E-Werk
September 6 Munich, Germany Circus Krone
September 7 Amsterdam, Holland Heineken Music Hall
September 8 London, UK Hyde Park - BBC Radio 2 in the Park
September 11 Manchester, UK Lowery Theatre
September 12 Birmingham , UK Symphony Hall
September 14 Paris, France Olympia
September 16 London, UK Roundhouse Theatre - iTunes Festival
September 22 Canton, MA Life is good Festival
September 25 Washington, DC Constitution Hall
September 26 Upper Darby, PA Tower Theatre
September 28 Toronto, Canada Massey Hall **
September 29 Akron, OH EJ Thomas Performing Arts Hall
October 1 Atlanta, GA Fox Theatre
October 2 Nashville, TN Ryman Auditorium
October 3 Durham, NC Durham Performing Arts Center
October 5 Indianapolis, IN Murat Theatre
October 6 Chicago, IL Chicago Theatre **
October 7 Minneapolis, MN State Theatre
October 9 Denver, CO Paramount Theatre
October 12 Oakland, CA Fox Theatre
October 14 Vancouver, BC Orpheum Theatre
October 15 Seattle, WA Paramount Theatre
October 16 Portland, OR The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
October 18 San Diego, CA Balboa Theatre
October 19 Los Angeles, CA Orpheum Theatre
October 20 Santa Barbara, CA Arlington Theatre
He has plenty of questions, but not many answers
While much, if not all, of the focus on June 18 album releases has been on Kanye West’s “Yeezus,” fellow rapper J Cole is nipping at his heels like a eager, overly-confident puppy. Cole deliberately moved the release of his sophomore set, “Born Sinner,” up a week to compete directly with “Yeezus.”
“Yeezus” will win the sales battle, but Cole may win the war. “Born Sinner,” produced largely by Cole with some help from No I.D., Elite and others, solidifies Cole’s impressive wordplay and rap skills. While he may not have as much of import to say as he thinks he does, Cole certainly has a way with a story: here they often tie in with with biblical references, whether its original sin, the promised land, or crucifixion (though, thankfully, he doesn’t have quite the level of messianic complex as West).
His lyrics, as full of braggadocio as they can be, are also full of questions for which there are often no answers. “Born Sinners”’ tunes deal with conflict after conflict, whether it’s the war between genders (all too often, Cole resorts to denigrating women), race relations, his sudden rise in money and the accompanying power, or just the endless noise in his own head.
“Cole World: The Sideline Story,” Cole’s 2011 debut studio album (following a series of mixtapes) entered the Billboard 200 at No. 1. As the Jay-Z protege displayed, he had a keen sense of rhyming and delivery, if a bit deadpan, sort of like Drake.
Cole anchors “Born Sinner,” but there are plenty of guests that nicely counterpoint his flat vocals, such as Miguel on “Power Trip.” (Is there any song that Miguel doesn’t make better?)
On “Power Trip,” the woman keeps him up all night. Females continue to vex him throughout the album. On “Forbidden Fruit,” featuring Kendrick Lamar, Cole raps about “apple juice falling from her lips,” in an extrapolation of Eve tempting Adam with an apple in the Garden of Eden. (In the song, he also addresses deciding to “jump out the same day at Kanye, and shouts out to Maroon 5’s Adam Levine, even if he does mispronounce his last name).
The conflicted relationship with women continues: On “Crooked Smile,” which features TLC, he is all about empowering women, telling them to be happy with their natural beauty, before expanding “Crooked Smile” into a treatise about race. “If my skin pale, would I sell like Eminem or Adele,” he asks over a loping, easy-going melody.
That’s not the only place he takes on the white/black divide. “Chaining Day” has tough lyrics about the lessons he’s learned so far over a chant of “I need you to love me, love me, love,” while early in the song he questions the different reactions between blacks and whites and what constitutes enslavement.
On “Mo Money Trouble,” he raps over an ethereal, floating melody, “Money control ni**as, white men control money,” before the song gives way to a heavier beat base. He realizes that the money and supposed wealth he has accrued is illusory compared to the true magnates, almost all of whom are white.
When he’s not trying to figure out if women are saints or whores or tackling race relations, he alternately praising and slapping down his elders. In addition to taking on West, he sings about his heartache of realizing he let down one of his heroes, Nas, on “Let Nas Down.” “Long Live the idols, may they never be your rivals/Pac was like Jesus,” he sings in the beginning of the song over a jazzy saxophone bed. The song is a near literal telling of how much he admired Nas, and how devastated he is when he found out that Nas was let down by his music (particularly, a song called “Work Out”). He compares himself to Jesus, taking the fall. “For the greater good, I walk among the evil...I went to Hell and resurrected.”
Cole, like West, masterminds his own records from constructing most of the beats to writing the songs and there’s genuine talent there. There are germs of innovation that show he has plenty of room to grow as his inchoate talent continues to develop.
On “Born Sinner,” he’s smartly created an album that examines what happens when your dreams come true both money and fame wise and you’ve gotten yourself a little dirty in the process. Is redemption possible or even desirable or do you wait until you fall further. Stay tuned.
Also, what's the latest on her Vegas residency?
Why his pact could help save the music industry
Jay-Z has partnered with Samsung to give away 1 million copies of his new album, “Magna Carta Holy Grail.”
The rapper announced the deal during a 3-minute commercial that aired during Sunday (June 16) night’s NBA game between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs.
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The Beatles and Robin Thicke also make the list
1. The Replacements: Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson will play their first shows together in 22 years this summer. Pleased to meet me, indeed.
2. Kanye West: The week before the release of “Yeezus,” he makes news in a New York Times profile as he compares himself to Steve Jobs. Look for the iWest coming to a store near you.
3. Cyndi Lauper: She becomes (incredibly) the first female composer to win a Tony for best musical, “Kinky Boots.” Girls just want to have fun.
4. The Beatles: Apple Corps, the Fab Four’s business arm, inks a deal with Universal’s Bravado for merchandising. It turns out love isn’t all you need. You also need a snug Baby Tee.
5. Apple: Apple bows its long-anticipated iTunes Radio internet radio service. Too little too late or is the timing just right?
6. Fleetwood Mac: They become the first act to ink a deal directly with Clear Channel for performance royalties from airplay on their “Extended Play” EP. Predict a landslide of acts to follow.
7. Queens of the Stone Age: The rockers totally rule the charts as new album “... Like Clockwork,” not only becomes the group’s first No. 1 on the Billboard 200, but receives universally strong reviews.
8. Robin Thicke: He scores the first No. 1 Hot 100 hit of his 10-year career with “Blurred Lines.” We’re sure the topless models in the video had nothing to do with the song’s success.
9. Pandora: BMI and ASCAP go gunning for the streaming music service in both the media and the courts demanding that it pay songwriters a fair and equitable royalty rate after Pandora craftily buys a small terrestrial radio station in an effort to lower its payments.
10. Bonnaroo: The Manchester, Tenn. festival holds another successful run, despite losing headliners Mumford & Sons (due to Ted Dwane’s scary blood clot) and Earl Sweatshirt to pneumonia. Jack Johnson steps in for M&S and DIIV for Sweatshirt.