P!NK – THE TRUTH ABOUT LOVE
Praise the gods – Pink is back with her sixth album and her first showcase of new material in four achingly long, barren years. Oh sure there was that Greatest Hits album two years ago but not since 2008’s Funhouse have Pink fans had so much juicy new material to dive into. The Truth About Love is a wondrous, ballsy tour de force of pop/rock expertly blended with upbeat, dancey vibes and with lyrics loaded with Pink’s signature gutsy, take-no-prisoners attitude. Becoming a mom hasn’t softened Pink much. She’s still got spunk-loads of chutzpah and more ‘tude than a bratty teenager.
The album’s first single Blow Me (One Last Kiss) is all over radio, even making it to the coveted #1 spot on the 5FM Top 40 chart. And fans should brace themselves for plenty more radio play in the months to come. The album’s second single Try isn’t as catchy as Blow Me but it’s enough of a solid ra-ra girl-power anthem to entice. Some of the album’s other delights include Are We All We Are, with its delicious chorus; the ballsy Slut Like Me, which is sure to become a gay anthem, the dancey My Signature Move and love lament Just Give Me A Reason which features fun.’s singer Nate Ruess. Also recommended are the cutesy True Love with Lily Allen which pairs the two love cynics for a glorious pop/rock shout-out and the head-boppingly cool Here Comes The Weekend, which features Eminem, a surprising choice; but infusing his hip hop stylings with Pink’s bolshiness works.
USELESS FACT: Blow Me (One Last Kiss) almost ended up being called ‘Let’s Throw In The Towel’. Thank goodness Pink came up with something catchier.
RATING: 9 out of 10
ARNO CARSTENS – ATARI GALA
Once the demigod of South African rock, a rock-god against which all others were (and often still are) measured, Arno Carstens has lately been reduced to moaning in the press about his perceived lack of street cred and cool. From complaining to Rolling Stone magazine about being labelled as AC (adult contemporary – often used derogatively) to whingeing about the fact that 5FM won’t playlist his music, it’s clear things have changed for the singer/songwriter.
Let’s be clear about this: the album IS adult contemporary, no matter how many times Arno says otherwise. In PR terms, a huge opportunity has been missed here. Arno and his publicity peeps should come out, guns a-blazing, saying he’s back with a fourth solo album with a grown-up and yes, dammnit adult contemporary, sound. Arno, if you’re reading this, ditch the whining (it makes you seem childish) and focus on the fact that after decades in the biz you’ve evolved.
Now to the music. Atari Guru (by the way, what’s up with the title? Makes no sense to me!) contains 12 rock songs that are mostly mid- to down-tempo. If you’re looking for ra-ra rock anthems, move on. Arno’s signature growly voice and deep, often moving lyrics are there too, but I would only recommend the first half of the album, especially the lead single Two Dogs, the catchy Battlescars Galactica and No Ordinary Hero. After track five, things start to sound dreary and the same-same. It’s not his finest effort by a long shot but there are one or two standout tracks.
USELESS FACT: Arno has released ten studio albums in his epic career, five as the lead singer of Springbok Nude Girls, one as half of electronica project Bhelltower and four as a solo artist.
RATING: 5 out of 10
ALEXANDRA BURKE – HEARTBREAK ON HOLD
Who knew there was such a thing as electro-R&B?! The mind boggles… but it exists, larger than life on British singer Alexandra Burke’s second album. If the name rings a bell that’s because she’s the fifth person to win X-Factor UK and had a massive hit with Bad Boys off her 2009 debut album Overcome. Now, the singer’s back, has a new record label and a whole new sound – she keeps the R&B (it is after all what she excels at) but adds a steady, thumping electro, house beat over it. The combination makes for songs that are not just upbeat, they’re ready-made club anthems.
Burke herself has said the new album is loaded with sexiness, insisting, “It’s got to be sexy. So I’m going to get a lot fiercer and sexier. We’re just getting down and dirty.” And she ain’t kidding. The first single Elephant is a thumpingly cool party-starter and features Erick Morillo, the dude behind the uber-catchy Reel 2 Real hit I Like To Move It. If you like where Alexandra is going you’ll also want to listen to the title track Heartbreak On Hold, as well as Let It Go (the second single), This Love Will Survive, Fire and Between The Sheets.
USELESS FACT: Alexandra comes from good music stock. Her mom was lead singer of the R&B/soul act Soul II Soul which had a huge hit in 1989 with Back to Life (However Do You Want Me).
RATING: 7.5 out of 10
JOSS STONE – THE SOUL SESSIONS VOL. 2
Like the late, great Amy Winehouse, Joss Stone proves that white girls can sing soul music – and extremely well too. She may be a pretty blonde thing but Joss Stone’s got the voice of a sultry black soul diva and it’s easy to compare her to Jennifer Hudson or Aretha Franklin. Now the Brit is back with her sixth album, a sequel to her 2004 debut The Soul Sessions. But don’t think this is a full-on return to her roots. Joss might stick to the same concept for Soul Sessions Vol. 2 (cover versions of sexy, laid-back soul songs) but where Vol 1 stuck to the 60s and 70s, Vol 2 isn’t so decade specific.
Joss has a tendency to over-sing on some of the tracks. She’s got impressive vocal chops but occasionally gets carried away, to the point of shrieking. Luckily, this rarely happens and like the little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead, when she’s good she’s really, really good. If you’re a soul fan you’ll want to jump straight to Cecil and Linda Womack’s 1988 hit Teardrops. Also worth a listen are Stoned Out Of My Mind, While You’re Out Looking For Sugar, I Got The… and Pillow Talk. It’s 11 tracks of smooth listening – just like a good soul album should be!
USELESS FACT: Joss’ earnings are estimated at around Â£10 million, making her the fifth richest British musician under 30.
RATING: 7 out of 10
LINKIN PARK – LIVING THINGS
With the US rock band heading to SA shores in November, Linkin Park fever is building. And with their fifth studio album the band is getting more hype than ever. Fans of the rockers as well as music critics alike have hailed Living Things as their best album ever (not being a huge fan, I cannot compare…). Okay don’t flay me – I know their alternative rock sound is hardly friendly on one’s delicate gay ears, what with all the rapping and sometimes singing- sometimes shouting vocals from vocalists Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda, but the songs are good, mostly up-tempo and balls-to-the-wall fun. There are many tracks that’ll stick in your brain and have you humming along.
If you can get past the fact that Living Things is about as far from pop as Ozzy Osbourne biting a bat’s head off, then listen out for the big buzzworthy song off the album, its first single, the rock anthem Burn It Down which will probably have all the metal-heads moshing come the concerts in Cape Town and Joburg on 7 and 10 November. We also recommend opening track Lost In The Echo, In My Remains, Castle Of Glass and Victimized. Rock out with your you-know-what out…
USELESS FACT: Linkin Park must’ve learned a trick or two from Adele in terms of taking their music to the people. Mike Shinoda says they chose the title Living Things because the album is more about people, personal interactions and is far more personal than their previous albums. Alrighty then!
RATING: 7 out of 10
ROBBIE RIVERA – DANCE OR DIE: THE ALBUM
Robbie Rivera is no David Guetta or Calvin Harris, but if you’re a fan of music that thumps then this is the dance album for you! The concept is similar to what Guetta and Harris do – Puerto Rican-born Robbie mixes the beats while a string of guest artists (in this case no-name brands that you’ve probably never heard of) do the vocals. Okay, so he’s not collaborating with big names but this dude has serious house-head cred. He was listed at #95 on DJ Magazine’s Top 100 DJs in the world poll and has released 19 EP and five albums.
Dance Or Die is his latest album and it bang from start to finish. Most of the 13 tracks have accompanying vocal artists with a small handful of music-only tracks so you can shake what your mamma gave you. If you like your dance less commercial and more house-heavy, this one’s definitely a party starter, especially on tracks like In The Morning with Wynter Gordon and, my personal favourite on the album, the shamelessly cheesy Dance Your Ass Off which features Mr Eyez on vocals. Let the good times roll!
USELESS FACT: Want more Robbie? He’s got his own radio show called Juicy which can be heard on Sirius XM Radio in the United States and Canada, Radio FG, Contact FM and Fun Radio. Happy Googling…
RATING: 7 out of 10