Fifth tune from 'Red' rock out
- Critic's Rating A-
- Readers' Rating n/a
The R&B superstar also talks about her '5-minute freak outs'
The last time Brandy reached No. 3 on the Billboard R&B chart was in early 2002 with “What About Us,” George Bush was president, the Winter Olympics were held in Salt Lake City and NASA sent Odyssey to probe Mars’ surface.
It has been a lean chart time for the R&B singer since then, so much so that Brandy wondered if she still had a career in music, but this month the answer came back a resounding “yes.”
“Put It Down,” a a sultry stomp featuring Chris Brown, reached No. 3 on Billboard’s R&B chart earlier this month. The track is from Brandy’s album, “Two Eleven,” out today.
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Practice your reading skills
Now that lyric videos are a necessarily intermediary step between when an artist releases a new single and the “official video,” some artists are using them as a chance to make a video that is much more than simply slapping words up on a screen as a placeholder.
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Country superstar hits all the right marks on new set
- Critic's Rating B+
- Readers' Rating B
Other than Taylor Swift and Lady Antebellum, Jason Aldean is the biggest star country music has produced in the last few years. Unlike Swift and Lady A, he has not crossed over into pop, so the first time many folks heard his name may have been when he got caught a few weeks ago canoodling with someone he shouldn’t have been canoodling with.
If the broader name recognition (regardless of how ignominiously it came about) causes potential new fans to check out his music, then “Night Train” is a good place to come in on. Out today, “Night Train,” which is almost certain to top the charts next week, continues the story started on 2010’s “My Kinda Party,” one of the top-selling albums that year for all genres and a Grammy nominee for best country album.
The 15-track “Night Train,” Aldean’s fifth album, doesn’t necessarily advance Aldean’s artistry beyond “Party,” but that’s because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The songs here are uniformly punchy, catchy, well-played and well-sung in Aldean’s slightly nasally, sturdy vocals. Country radio still sells albums and Aldean easily has five singles here, including first single, the invitingly breezy “Take A Little Ride,” which already topped Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart.
Aldean embraces the usual country tropes about life in a small town —its virtues and its claustrophobia— and cars In “Night Train.” The title track serves up that one of the few escapes from daily life includes going to listen to the train roll through town with his lover. They get to the look-out spot in their truck, of course. On “Talk,” the time for chat is over: “I don’t want to waste that moon and the heat on the hood of this Ford.”
Most of the songs here are mid-tempo, and the album could definitely use a little more variety in that regard, but mid-tempo is Aldean’s sweet spot, especially when it comes to loves lost and found. On both “When She Says Baby” and “Staring At The Sun,” he extols the virtues of coming home from a long, hard day to the woman he can’t forget. Sure single, “I Don’t Do Lonely Well,” conjures up the pain that heartache brings in those moments when he has have nothing else to distract him from the hurt that still coats him.
Aldean hit it big on the last album with “Dirt Road Anthem,” which featured him rapping. He’s comfortable enough to return to that trick, speaking much of the lyrics on “The Only Way I Know.” He’s joined by his buddies Luke Bryan and Eric Church on the anthem to going “full throttle” 24/7.
Aldean wrote none of the songs on “Night Train,” but at this juncture in his career, he is going to get the absolute pick of the litter when it comes to Music City songwriters pitching him their Grade A material. He also knows what works for him and what his male fans want (songs to raise hell by) and what his female fans want (songs to romance by) and he sings each style with equal conviction. There’s nothing here that sounds inauthentic.
While undeniably country, Aldean grew up on rock, and screeching guitar solos rise out of almost every song. They’re a bit cliche and overdone at times, but the songs will undoubtedly benefit from the rock treatment when he cranks them up on the road, especially on “Wheels Rollin’,” a meaty tour anthem that combines Bob Seger’s “Turn The Page” with Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead Or Alive.”
That’s not to say everything here works. “Black Tears” is a song about an exotic dancer and her sob story that goes nowhere. “1994” is a very silly, though very catchy, song about longing to turn the clock back and contains a major shout out to Joe Diffie, who scored a number of hits in the mid-‘90s. The “Hey Joe, c’mon and teach us how to Diffie,” line will either make you laugh or drive you crazy, as will the “Joe, Joe, Joe Diffie” chant. The novelty song sounds something much more akin to a tune Big & Rich would do, but Aldean’s earned the right to be goof if he wants to. And Joe Diffie owes him a big old thank you.
“Night Track” seldom slips off the tracks. It’s a sure-wheeled, confident album from a superstar with a very firm grasp of what works for him. It may not be adventurous, but it’s more than enough to keep his millions of fans eager to hop aboard.
Did your favorite song make the list?
Kelly Clarkson’s “Greatest Hits—Chapter 1” doesn’t hit streets for another month, but today we get the track listing and cover art. The artwork, which is a little cheesy, ties in with the “Chapter 1” theme and looks like a book cover.
The story goes back to the beginning, including “A Moment Like This,” Clarkson’s first single after winning the first edition of “American Idol” in 2002, and extends through Clarkson’s fifth studio album, 2011’s “Stronger.” In addition to popular tunes, such as “Miss Independent,” “Because of You,” “Breakaway” and “Since U Been Gone,” the set also includes new track “Catch My Breath.”
"Greatest Hits – Chapter One" Track listing
1 Since U Been Gone
2 My Life Would Suck Without You
3 Miss Independent
4 Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)
5 Behind These Hazel Eyes
6 Because Of You
7 Never Again
8 Already Gone
9 Mr. Know It All
11 Don’t You Wanna Stay (with Jason Aldean)
12 Walk Away
13 Catch My Breath
14 People Like Us
15 Don’t Rush (featuring Vince Gill)
16 A Moment Like This
17 I’ll Be Home For Christmas
Grainy footage takes you back to the '70s
- Critic's Rating B-
- Readers' Rating n/a
In his clip for new single, “Locked Out Of Heaven,” Bruno Mars brings the party down to earth.
The intentionally grainy clip, has a great ‘70s soul feel, as Mars performs in small, crowded club where everyone’s sweat is mingling together and you can’t tell where your body ends and the next person’s begins. It’s hot as hell, but everyone is jumping and jiving and loving every minute.
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Vets Led Zeppelin and Rolling Stones make the cut too
1. Taylor Swift: Billboard rejiggers its genre singles charts to incorporate download sales and streaming, along side radio play. The move catapults Swift to the top two slots on the Hot Country Songs chart. The loser? Carrie Underwood, whose song “Blown Away” gets blown out of the potential top spot by Swift.
2. Ke$ha: The “Tik Tok” singer is writing her memoirs, which will be illustrated. Does the book come with a box of crayons?
3. Yekaterina Samutsevich: The Pussy Riot member is freed from prison. One down, two to go.
4. One Direction: Not only is the boy band the first U.K. band to ever debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with its first release, now they hold the record for the highest bow on Billboard’s Hot 100 by a U.K. group as “Live While We’re Young” comes on at No. 3. Is it me or is that just crazy?
5. Rolling Stones: The veteran rockers show they still have it 50 years down the line with new single, “Doom & Gloom.”
6. Aerosmith: Steven Tyler causes a few tremors when he says the group will consider self-releasing future projects “IF THE BAND STAYS TOGETHER.” Huh? These guys will never, ever be done with each other.
7. Drake: He gets paid $3 million in royalties from Pandora. That’s a nice chunk of change, even though we're sure he'll find some reason to moan about it.
8. Mumford & Sons: They handily stay No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for a second straight week, smacking down fellow British band Muse.
9. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis: Seattle rapper Macklemore and producer Lewis will be a secret no more as their new set, “The Heist,” will be the highest debut next week over such legends as Kiss and Barbra Streisand.
10. Led Zeppelin: The group reunites, but only for a screening of “Celebration,” the film of their 2007 concert. And no, they still aren’t reuniting again. Don’t be a schmuck.
Kiss, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, MGK and Barbra Streisand all debut
It’s another busy week on the Billboard 200 as seven titles are poised to bow in the Top 10 next week.
None of the septet of debuts will prove strong enough to knock Mumford & Sons’ “Babel” out of the pinnacle. The title is projected to sell up to 110,000 copies, according to Hits Daily Double, for its third week at the top.
After “Babel” comes four new titles, including two from legendary veterans: Rapper and DJ combo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s debut album, “The Heist,” will bow at No. 2, besting rockers KISS, whose new set “Monster” will come in at No. 3 with sales of up to 70,000. Bad Boy rapper MGK (aka Machine Gun Kelly) comes in at No. 5 with “Lace Up.” Barbra Streisand lands at No. 5 with “Release Me,” a collection of 11 previously unreleased tunes.
Pink’s former No. 1, “The Truth About Love” is at No. 6, but then we return to more debuts. Coheed & Cambria’s “Afterman: Ascension” comes in at No. 6. Duking it out for No. 7 are four albums, including two more debuts: newcomers All Time Low’s “Don’t Panic” and British singer/songwriter Ellie Goulding’s “Halcyon” are in dead heats with returning albums “Kaleidoscope Dream” from Miguel and “The 2nd Law” from Muse. Each title is on target to sell between 30,000 and 35,000 copies.
The 'American Idol' champ reveals details about his next album
When Scotty McCreery entered a Nashville studio to record his first holiday set, “Christmas With Scotty McCreery,” any dreams of a white Christmas were solely in his head.
“We recorded it in a heat wave,” says McCreery, who tweeted a photo of himself this summer in the studio with a furry Santa Claus hat perched on his head. “It was 105 in Nashville. I was singing the songs in shorts and flip-flops.” But he and his crew tried to create a festive mood. “We had a Christmas tree in the studio, Christmas lights on the mike stand. My tour manager brought in Christmas cookies and cupcakes.”
For the Oct. 16 release, which includes traditional holiday standards as well as two originals, the 2011 “American Idol” champ “knew we had to get creative” on these oft-recorded songs. “The main thing we talked about together with the band was we wanted to be different, not just to be different, but to be creative and different in a good way. Put a stamp on these songs.”
The biggest surprise to his casual fans may be the way he channels Elvis Presley on his version of “Santa Claus Is Back In Town.” He brings a Presley-like swagger to “Jingle Bells,” but he reserves his full lip-quivering, hip-shaking imitation for “Santa Claus,” even throwing in a bit of Presley’s classic cover of “C.C. Rider” in for good measure.
“I was an Elvis freak. That’s all I listened to growing up,” he says. I wasn’t listening to the Backstreet Boys,” he says. “It just got ingrained in me to where it would come out in my songs.”
The track wasn’t originally intended for the album. “We did that in one take. The drummer [plays] in a huge Elvis production that tours across the country,” McCreery recalls. “He broke into ‘C.C. Rider.’ It wasn’t planned at all. We thought we’d cut it and not put it on the album. We were high-fiving and laughing and we decided to put it on the album.”
When told that the sultry take may make his fans see a new, sexy side of him, the 19-year old reverts back to his shy self and just replied. “Dadgum.”
McCreery has been singing another of the album’s tracks, “O Holy Night,” since he was in elementary school. “I was singing it much higher then,” he laughs. “It really was difficult. As a kid, I didn’t know anything about the technical side. It was for the children’s choir.”
He included the song as a nod to his grandmother and to his first public performance of the song when he was in 4th or 5th grade. “My grandma is tough to impress. I’d sing at a competition and she’d tell me ‘ That wasn’t so good.’ When I got done, my grandma said, ‘That was beautiful.’ My mom was videotaping, so she was concentrating on that. Coming from my grandma, that meant a lot. We were thinking about her when we recorded it and the memories that we had that night.”
The album’s two originals struck the right chord with McCreery the first time he heard them. One of them seemed destined to end up in his hands.
“The week before ‘Christmas In Heaven’ got sent to me, I was writing a song called ‘Christmas In Heaven’ about my grandfather. He passed away a few years ago. It had some of the same lyrical ideas. It wasn’t a week later that my choir director was at a conference and told some folks who she is and that she knew me. They said, ‘I have the perfect song.’ It gave me chills. It was a God thing. No question is was going on the album.”
The second original tune, “Christmas Is Coming Around Again” deals with a couple with children going through a divorce, who reunite after the Christmas spirit hits them. “That’s about the message,” McCreery says. “There might be a family out there hurting and maybe this can help them.”
McCreery is already collecting tunes for his next studio album, which he hopes to release in Spring 2013. He’s writing for the album with two top Nashville songwriters, Ashley Gorley and Kelley Lovelace. “My songwriting craft isn’t perfect yet,” he says. “Hopefully it can get there.”
In the meantime, he is half-way done with his first semester at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, just down the road from his hometown of Garner. He takes classes a few days a week and then is out on the road opening for Brad Paisley on the weekends.
College has been a blast so far, he says. “I’ve loving every second of it. As far as people freaking out” when they see him, he notes, “it hasn’t been that way at all. Maybe they’d want a handshake or a ‘hey.’ I wore my cap pulled down the first couple of days, but after a few days, I didn’t even worry about the hat and sunglasses any more.”
Is he a fan of 'Waterworld?'
- Critic's Rating B-
- Readers' Rating A-