RIHANNA – TALK THAT TALK
Just who is Rihanna? On her latest album, her sixth by the way, she unleashes a variety of different personalities. One minute she’s singing plaintively about wanting to find true love on We All Want Love (“we all wanna be warm when it’s cold”) and the next there’re hardcore lyrics about doing the horizontal cha-cha on Cockiness (“Suck my cockiness, lick my persuasion” and “I love it when you eat it”). It’s the inconsistency of the lyrics that’s a little jarring. But truth is most of RiRi’s millions of fans couldn’t give a continental whether she’s bipolar or just a big ol’ slut who’s sometimes pretending to be the vulnerable victim; they want sexy, R&B-infused pop tunes.
The good news is that Rihanna seems mostly over the Chris Brown ‘bad break-up’ phase. She’s less dark and macabre and much more upbeat. The bad news is Talk That Talk isn’t nearly as good as her 2010 album Loud. It’ll probably do well purely because her fans love her and will support her tunes no matter what. But of the 11 tracks only three really stick out. We recommend Birthday Cake, the cute and bubbly You Da One (recently confirmed as the album’s second single) and of course the main single off the album, We Found Love featuring dance guru Calvin Harris.
USELESS FACT: The music video for We Found Love was directed by Melina Matsoukas, who also directed Whitney Houston’s Million Dollar Bill, Beyonce’s Diva and Lady Gaga’s Just Dance.
RATING: 6 out of 10
ADELE – LIVE AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL (DVD/BLU-RAY)
Forget Mary; there’s just something about Adele. From her almost-evil laugh and self-deprecating sense of humour, to her bouffant hair (drag queens take note!), her incredibly powerful and unique-sounding voice and the way she interacts with her audience all the way through her Live At The Royal Hall concert, it’s clear we’re dealing with a master at work. She invites you into her world, interacting through all 17 songs by sharing jokes, personal insights into her song writing process, her heartbreak, her friends, even her love of Dolly Parton. As a result Adele comes across as very accessible, very human and like a pal you know and love.
She belts, croons and hits the high notes with older songs like Hometown Glory and Chasing Pavements, as well as the new stuff – Set Fire To The Rain, Turning Tables, If It Hadn’t Been For Love, Rumour Has It, Someone Like You and of course, the big finale Rolling In The Deep. All the songs are expertly sung except – sadly – Rolling In The Deep. This was recorded just before her vocal chord surgery and she appears to run out of steam at the end. She more than makes up for it though with the other songs, plus a behind-the-scenes doccie which opens with her on the morning of the concert, makeup-free and with her hair in curlers (again, drag queens take note!), plus the editing here is world class and I loved it when during Take It All, she suddenly stops, says “that was a shit note” and starts again. Who does that? Oh, and one final thing: If you’re a sucker for romance and wanna woo that special someone, play them Lovesong. It’s very swoonable. And spoonable too, come to think of it.
USELESS FACT: As part of the launch Adele Live At The Royal Albert Hall was screened in cinemas in 26 countries around the world, including South Africa.
RATING: 9 out of 10
LADY GAGA – BORN THIS WAY: THE REMIX
How do you improve on perfection? You don’t. But in the world of music you call in the experts, take what you already have and repackage it for fans who’re eager for more, more, more. No one does that better than Lady Gaga who seems incapable of slowing down and shows no sign of burn-out. As a huge fan of the way-out singer I keep waiting for the axe to fall, for her to slip up and release a truly crap offering. Is this remix disc, featuring 13 remixes from Born This Way, that clunker? Yes and no.
Some of the remixes are pretty good actually, like Goldfrapp’s dreamy, surreal remix of Judas (finally, someone found a way to get me to like Judas!), plus the Guena LG Club remix of ScheiÃŸe, Foster The People’s remix of The Edge Of Glory and Gregori Klosman’s interpretation of Americano. But it all feels just that little bit forced. Like a commercial exploit that will probably suck in enough of Gaga’s ‘Little Monsters’ to make this a commercial success with not enough merit to warrant an actual CD. Case in point: there’s a track called Black Jesus, Amen Fashion (Michael Woods remix). Sounds potentially Gagaesque and filled with promise, right? Noooooope! It’s just her saying those phrases set to crappy dance music. My advice? Stick to the original or wait till her next album. This one’s probably for the serious doef doef fans only.
USELESS FACT: The album hasn’t been a commercial or chart success. It has however done well in Japan, selling over 12 000 copies in its first week of release and debuting at #14 on the Japanese album chart. Sayonara suckers!
RATING: 5 out of 10
FLORENCE AND THE MACHINE – CEREMONIALS
Take a dash of Kate Bush, chuck in some Tori Amos, throw in a pinch of Adele and a hint of Regina Spektor, add some baroque-like choir voices in the background and voila! You have Ceremonials, Florence And The Machine’s follow-up to their critically-acclaimed debut album Lungs. Their second album is heavy on the deep lyrics, light on the cheesy pop, but there’s an added etherealness, partially because almost all of the 12 tracks are infused with the rich harmonies of a choir. It sounds angelic, gospel-ish but without the ‘praise the Lords’ and people being spontaneously healed.
The best explanation comes from Florence herself, who describes it as ‘chamber soul’ – part soul music, part chamber pop. There’s also an interesting hint of malice under all the breezy lyrics. You’ve probably heard What The Water Gave Me and Only If For A Night but we’d recommend just about all of the tracks, especially Shake It Out, Lover To Lover (quite a romantic little number that one!), No Light, No Light and Heartlines. It’s deep stuff, probably best avoided by twinks on poppers.
USELESS FACT: Sixteen songs were recorded and considered for the album but in the end only 12 are on the standard edition. There is a deluxe edition which has a second disc of three new tracks, some demos and acoustic versions.
RATING: 9 out of 10
AMY WINEHOUSE – LIONESS: HIDDEN TREASURES
Warning: This is not Amy’s third studio album. If you’re looking for an album of new music from the late pop/soul icon, this is not it. If you can get your head around that, then you might find this isn’t the most disappointing CD you’ll ever buy. But only barely… So if it’s not new music, what is it? The 12 tracks are a motley collection of different versions or takes on previous Amy songs, cover versions and some new material. The problem with the dearly departed Miss Winehouse is that if the