JUSTIN BIEBER – BELIEVE
I’ve found the cure for Bieber Fever: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. It’s that simple! Rather than mock, tease, poke fun at and generally avoid all things Bieber I’ve decided to embrace the concept of the Biebs, as so many of you twink-lovers have done before me. I’ll be the first to admit that it was easy hating on the Beeb when he had floppy hair and a girl’s voice. Two albums and two and a half years after his stellar My World debut, Beebs is all grown up (18 to be precise) and sporting a more mature approach on his third album, Believe.
But enough about me, let’s talk about Justin. There are 13 tracks on Believe and pretty much all of them are great. If you like R&B that is. Sure, it’s pop/R&B and there’s plenty dance in there too, but overall, it’s an R&B album. Bieber is the full package; good looks, clever collaborations on a few tracks and with the vocal chops to match. He belts it out in spectacularly strong style on Thought Of You, Catching Feelings, All Around The World with Ludacris, Beauty And A Beat with Nicki Minaj, and the catchy first two singles, Boyfriend and As Long As You Love Me with Big Sean. Reluctantly, I’m forced to admit publicly that JB is actually quite cool. For adults too. Not just tweeny-boppers.
USELESS FACT: Bieber collaborated with Lil Wayne on a track called Backpack (very schoolboy, right?) which didn’t make the album’s final cut but will be on the deluxe edition.
RATING: 8.5 out of 10
CHERYL COLE – A MILLION LIGHTS
Your husband cheats on you, you go through a messy divorce, you’re hit with a near-fatal bout of malaria AND you get fired from The X-Factor: there’s enough bad juju there to create at least three Adele-like masterpieces. But Adele’s fellow Brit, Cheryl Cole, forgoes big vocals, pathos, sadness, accusations and relate-ability in favour of paint-by-numbers pop on her third studio album. The singer, most famous in SA for her hits Fight For This Love and Parachute, sticks to a ‘we’ve-heard-this-all-before’ formula for A Million Lights. The 12 tracks are mainstream pop, infused with dabs of R&B and, everyone’s current favourite genre, dance. Cheryl even flirts momentarily with dubstep on Girl In The Mirror, and not very effectively either.
Where she does get it right is on the opening track Under The Sun, the Calvin Harris-produced first single Call My Name, title track A Million Lights and the two duets/collabs – Craziest Thing featuring Black Eyes Pea will.i.am and Screw You with Wretch 32. The good songs are just above better than average but there are too many so-so numbers here and the album lacks direction, maybe because there are just too many producers and writers who lent their talents to A Million Lights. Other than Calvin Harris and will.i.am, the album also enjoyed the benefits of Taio Cruz, Lana Del Rey, Jim Beanz (who’s worked with Britney, Whitney, Shakira, Jennifer Hudson and Chris Brown) and Alex da Kid (Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Eminem, Alesha Dixon). A case of ‘too many cooks’ perhaps?
USELESS FACT: For the superfans, Universal music announced a ‘super fan deluxe’ edition of the album, with nine extra bonus tracks, postcards and a special edition box. In addition, the first 50 sold would include a signed copy of the disc. Like I said, for the superfans.
RATING: 6 out of 10
CHRIS BROWN – FORTUNE
Chris Brown is a man with a plan: get R&B back into the clubs. It’s a lofty, ambitious and extremely arrogant goal. Does Chrissy really think he alone can bring R&B’s dancefloor sexy back? Apparently so (Americans! Not lacking in self-confidence are they?), although he’s roped in a few pals like Big Sean, Wiz Khalifa, Nas, Kevin McCall, Sevyn and Sabrina Antoinette to help with the vocals.
So is it any good? Chrissy doesn’t reinvent the wheel but he does try really hard. All for nought sadly. Let’s face it, what’s to reinvent? We’ve all heard R&B/dance before and even though Chrissy goes all out on the album’s 14 tracks, it’s a hot mess overall. Some of the tracks are very commercially-viable and club-friendly, like Turn Up The Music, which has done pretty well on radio. It’s also by far the album’s most memorable song and its best offering too, although Sweet Love and Strip do stand out. But overall Fortune seems rushed and erratic, lilting between ballady R&B, thumping dance with titillating lyrics thrown in one song, while being sexless the next. Best enjoyed in small doses.
USELESS FACT: In a weird case of sloppy seconds, producer William Orbit took all the best tracks that he made for Madonna’s MDNA but didn’t make the final cut and included them on Fortune. Which says a lot don’t it?
INTERESTING FACT: Australian music journalist Chloe Papas gave Fortune “no stars ever” because of Chris’ violence against Rihanna and urged people to take a stand against his actions by refusing to buy the album. Something to think about…
RATING: 5 out of 10
F**K ME I’M FAMOUS: IBIZA MIX 2012 – CATHY & DAVID GUETTA
“F**k me I’m famous” is a David Guetta thing. Kind of like a slogan or a catchphrase. But it’s also the name of a series of dance compilation albums that the French DJ has been putting out since 2003, along with his gorgeous wife Cathy. So, just to clarify, it’s not a new Guetta album; it’s Guetta + wifey’s names on a dance album. That said, Guetta features plenty on the Ibiz Mix 2012 version, which contains 15 tracks (he has had a hand – literally – in four of those).
Before going commercial (some say sell-out, we say not true) with hits like Sexy Chick, Memories, Titanium and When Love Takes Over, Guetta was a fairly unknown house music DJ that very few peeps outside of France had ever heard of. The F**k me I’m Famous series harkens back to his roots and features mostly deep house tracks (no words kiddies, ok?) with the occasional remix of a more radio-friendly dance track chucked in for fun, like the epic, dubstep-irrific Michael Calfan remix of Guetta and Nicki Minaj’s Turn Me On and Wild One Two with Jack Beat, Guetta (again!), Nicky Romero and Sia. But for the househeads, there’s plenty to go on like Otto Knows from Million Voices and Avicii’s Silhouettes. Thumping good fun!
USELESS FACT: David and Cathy Guetta, a socialite and night club manager, have two kids, Tim Elvis Eric and Angie.
RATING: 7.5 out of 10
LADYHAWKE – ANXIETY
Now here’s something a little different – Ladyhawke (real name: Phillipa Brown; shame, no wonder she changed it!) has a penchant for wearing boys’ undies under her low-slung jeans. Boy’s jeans, not girls’ jeans. She digs hoodies and says she feels more “of an individual in menswear.” And, as far as we know, she doesn’t bat for our team. Well not that we can tell in her music anyway, which is lively and sexy. Musically, Anxiety, her second album, is ballsy rock, filled with nimble guitar work (her own, by the way). It’s pretty indie-sounding, with hints of pop and punk, but mostly it’s just good old-fashioned toe-tapping rock. Think David Bowie, 90s-era U2, Blur and Nirvana, all mashed up into one delicious 10-track experience, plus a bonus track so don’t switch off the CD player after track 10.
Ladyhawke (named after the 1985 fantasy flick starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Matthew Broderick) says the album is a cross between “60s and 90s guitar music.” Which is exactly what you’ll hear on tracks like Girl Like Me, Blue Eyes and the two singles Sunday Drive and Black White & Blue. It’s deep and at times a little dark, but not wrist-slittingly so. Anxiety is the perfect antidote to the current clutter of dance music, which can be a little overwhelming at times. I adored every single track!
USELESS FACT: Phillipa was in a coma and nearly died when she was 10 after contracting rare disease Erysipeloid, a disease that’s common in seagulls but hardly ever affects humans.
RATING: 9 out of 10
USHER – LOOKING 4 MYSELF
Like Chris Brown, Usher is suffering from a serious case of ‘bloody enormous, gigantic ego’ on his 7th album. Allow me to clarify. He says he’s developed a new genre of music (imagine that! Must be like discovering a brand-new colour!) which he terms revolutionary pop. Now allow me to clear something up – it ain’t pop and it sure as Shirley Temple ain’t revolutionary. What it is is a conglomeration of pop, R&B, hip hop, dance, and soul. Feeling a little schizo? You might when listening to Looking 4 Myself all the way through. My advice? Don’t! The experimental sidestep from one track to the next can be jarring so rather let the tracks stand alone as you pore over them.
If you like dance you’ll enjoy the album’s stand-out electropop/hip hop tracks and if you like your music slower, more R&B, you’ll enjoy those tracks too. Problem is together they don’t work. There are just too many sudden genre changes as you flick through the 14 tracks. There are some gems, like the first three singles Scream, Climax (noticing any themes by the way?) and Lemme See but you’ll also want to listen out for the thumping opening track Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, Twisted with Pharrell, the R&B standout title track Looking 4 Myself with Luke Steel and Euphoria.
USELESS FACT: Rumours did the rounds that Usher was going to call the album “The Shanetance”. The gossip grew to such an extent that Usher took to Twitter denying it, saying he “wasn’t feeling” that name at all. One can see why!
RATING: 6.5 out of 10