LANA DEL RAY – BORN TO DIE
Lana is the next big thing in pop. Well, technically she’s not so much Britney pop as indie pop with hints of alternative sounds, chamber music and what the music junkies call ‘sadcore’ (I had to look it up too. Basically it’s alternative rock with morose lyrics). The American singer/songwriter cites Kurt Cobain, Britney Spears and Elvis as influences, refers to herself as a ‘gangsta Nancy Sintra’ and sounds a lot like Florence + The Machine. On Born To Die, her second album, she breezes through 12 songs, all chockfull of heartfelt lyrics, deep sentiments and poignant thoughts on love and life. The two buzzworthy singles so far are Video Games and the title track but we lapped up every single track, especially Off To The Races, Diet Mountain Dew and National Anthem. A word of warning: this is no doef doef club music. You need to pay attention to the lyrics (they’re worth it, trust me). It’s not easy listening, but it is ‘worth it’ listening.
USELESS FACT: Lana, real name Elizabeth Woolridge Grant, has just been signed to the prestigious NEXT Model Management agency. Yup, she can sing and she’s darn purdy too.
RATING: 8 out of 10
DIE ANTWOORD – TEN$ION
They might look cool on the cover of the latest Rolling Stone magazine and sure their new single I Fink U Freeky is playing a lot on 5FM, even on The David Letterman Show in the States, but frankly I just don’t get Die Antwoord. To paraphrase the song’s chorus, “I fink they’re freaky and they make my blood clot…” – yup, that about sums up my feelings on Die Antwoord and their latest album. From start to finish, the 13 songs are aggressive, overdone, unoriginal and loud – just plain loud. It’s constant swearing, yelling and in-your-face anger that all adds up to very uncomfortable listening. And I’m no prude. Swearing doesn’t bother me. Wall to wall swearing for the sake of being ‘controversial’ however does bother me. It’s almost like Die Antwoord have lost focus since changing records label (they split from Interscope after their first successful album to start their own label) and have become a victim of their own bizarre, ridiculous stage personalities. You could liken it to Lady Gaga (also a persona) having run out of ideas, crashed and burned. The difference is Gaga can sing.
USELESS FACT: Well someone likes the music. God knows why. I Fink U Freeky is, at time of writing, #143 on the Billboard 200 chart. Go figure!
RATING: 2 out of 10. Only because the chorus of I Funk U Freeky is so catchy. Everything else is just noise.
GOTYE – MAKING MIRRORS
You may not know the name Gotye (yet) but you’ve probably heard his breakthrough single Somebody That I Used To Know, sometimes referred to as The Ba Ba Black Sheep song because it samples the nursery rhyme tune. Penny dropped yet? The song is everywhere at the moment with Sasha Martinengo dubbing it ‘the most requested song in South Africa’. So who is Gotye? Wouter De Backer, that’s who. Born in Bruges and raised in Melbourne, Gotye’s third album has put him on the map thanks to the massive worldwide chart success of Somebody that I Used To Know, which also features the haunting strains of Kimbra doing the female bits. The big question now is will Gotye go down as a one-hit number. Probably not, but don’t expect the same sound on the rest of Making Mirrors. It’s fairly alternative, experimental even. Definitely rock, but also a bit pop. But with lots of instruments you don’t normally hear on a pop/rock album. The lyrics are also deep and meaningful, but not off-puttingly so. All in all, I loved it (even the few way-out tracks), and also recommend Easy Way Out and Eyes Wide Open.
USELESS FACT: Somebody That I Used To Know isn’t about one specific bad breakup, Gotye says, adding that it’s about an “amalgam of different feelings.”
RATING: 7 out of 10
MICHAEL JACKSON – IMMORTAL
Dead pop stars don’t lie (down, that is). Michael Jackson’s back. Well, his name is at any rate, thanks to massive, multimillion dollar deals between his estate, record labels and the clever dicks at Cirque du Soleil. Immortal is not an album of original work, instead it’s both a soundtrack and a remix album. Here’s the dealio: Cirque du Soleil have a MJ-themed show. This is the soundtrack, a mixture of mash-ups and what are billed as remixes but which are barely tampered with so let’s call them more re-mastered songs. The deluxe edition (recommend if you’re a fan) has two discs of 27 tracks and the listening experience saw me see-sawing between loving the mash-ups and tut-tutting over the sell-out exploitation of MJ’s amazing music legacy. That said, sift through to find the gems, like the versions of Man In The Mirror, They Don’t Care About Us and the Immortal Megamix: Can You Feel It/Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough/Billie Jean/Black Or White – an impressive mash-up to titillate the fans.
USELESS FACT: A MJ-themed Cirque du Soleil show isn’t an original idea. They’ve done the same thing with The Beatles and Elvis’ catalogues too. What’s next one wonders…Britney?
RATING: 5 out of 10
TAIO CRUZ – TY.O
Electropop hasn’t been this cool since LMFAO were so sexy and they knew it. Taio Cruz’s third album is a burst of pop/meets/R&B-meets-dance energy from start to finish. There were originally going to be 17 tracks but some were leaked onto the internet causing Cruz to have a hissyfit and yank everything that leaked off the album. Our loss! It opens with the super catchy first single Hangover featuring Flo Rida doing his rap thing. You’ll also want to listen out for the second single called Troublemaker which was the album’s working title until Taio decided he’d had enough of people mispronouncing his name and decided to go with the phonetic spelling. TY.O, geddit? Okay, I’m making him sound like a petulant man-diva, and maybe he is, but this guy can sing. And he writes his own tunes, owns a record label and produced a lot of the tracks himself. You’ll also want to check out Shotcaller, There She Goes with Pitbull on vocals, Tattoo and one of my favourite dance tracks Little Bad Girl, a collaboration with David Guetta and Ludacris. Pretty much every song rocks! Definitely one for partying to.
USELESS FACT: Jacob Taio Cruz was born in London to a Nigerian father and a Brazilian mother.
RATING: 9 out of 10
VARIOUS ARTISTS – 2012 GRAMMY NOMINEES
The Grammys may have come and gone but the obligatory compilation album is still out there, available to buy. For a ceremony that hands out 78 awards across a huge variety of music genres, it’s probably no easy task picking just 22 songs to go on the official Grammy album. But they’ve done it, sticking of course to music’s Big Five: pop, rock, hip hop, country and R&B. It kicks off with 2011’s biggest artist Adele and her monster hit Rolling In The Deep (good choice!) and winds down with the Tony Bennett/Amy Winehouse duet Body And Soul. In-between are all the big names you’d expect (Bruno Mars, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Maroon 5, Christina Aguilera, Foster The People, Coldplay, Lady Antebellum, Rihanna and Drake) and some you wouldn’t, like Mumford & Sons with their very cool track The Cave, The Black Keys doing Dearest and a country duet from Kelly Clarkson (nogal!) and Jason Aldean called Don’t You Wanna Stay. Middle America and country music…go figure! My only criticism: where’s the dance music Grammy people? Sure the winner of the Best Dance/Electronica Recording, Skrillex with Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites, is on but what about Robyn, Avicii, David Guetta…?
USELESS FACT: While Kanye ‘I’m A Let You Finish’ West got the most nominations (seven in total), Adele won the most awards on the night, a grand total of six which also happens to be every award she was nominated for. Them’s good odds!
RATING: 7 out of 10