Admit it: you’re a little gay for Xtina, ain’tcha? Even if buzz from the music biz is that Lotus, her seventh studio album is more of a wilting flower. We say pish posh. Everybody just hatin’ on our girl Xtina – shame on them! Oddly, a lot of flack from the music community has been that the songs are very same-same, both across the album itself and from her previous efforts. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t, right? Yes, it’s true – Lotus is packed full of power pop songs and Xtina can and does hit those high notes with aplomb. No, this isn’t a bad thing.
Listen out for both the album’s singles so far, Your Body and Just A Fool with Blake Shelton, a pretty little down-tempo number. But there’s also Make The World Move with CeeLo Green, Army Of Me, Red Hot Kinda Love, a rocking call to arms Cease Fire, and the thump-heavy club track Let There Be Love. On the deluxe edition, there are four extra songs, of which we’d recommend Empty Words (which probably belongs on the standard edition), the hip-hop infused Shut Up and a Martin Garrix remix of Your Body – a phenomenal remix by the way.
USELESS FACT: Lotus was voted one of the best albums of 2012 by music-centric TV channel Fuse, yet it flopped in sales, holding the dubious honour of being Xtina’s lowest opening album ever.

RATING: 8 out of 10


Ke$ha would like you to believe that her second album is a huge departure from her first album, 2010’s Animal. Mmmm, nice try there Ke$ha; we ain’t fooled. Warrior is chockfull of her talk-rap singing style with plenty of electro beats layering out the pop music. And yes, sleaze. Plenty of it in the form of some fairly salacious lyrics with every swearword from ‘shit’ to ‘motherfucker’. Okay, so it’s not wildly different (whew!), although there are a few rock and techno sounds creeping in here and there. And good news for fans: it’s awesome.
We’ve all heard the first single Die Young by now. Staying with that electro-pop style are the second single C’Mon, the house-heavy Wherever You Are and techno-dance track All That Matters (The Beautiful Life). There’s also rock-ish, drum-heavy Thinking Of You, the very catchy Crazy Kids and an incredible collaboration with Iggy Pop, called Dirty Pop. We also loved the especially raunchy Gold Trans Am, which is only on the deluxe edition, and the brutally honest ballad (yes, a Ke$ha ballad) Love Into The Light where she sings “I know I’m not perfect. I know I’ve got issues.” Expect to be hearing plenty of Ke$ha on the radio and in clubs in the months to come. This album is full of gems.
USELESS FACT: Warrior’s original working title was ‘Spandex On The Distant Horizon’. Not sure if we like the final title more…

RATING: 8 out of 10


Whoa – talk about overachieving! Maybe it’s ‘cos there are five of them, but it’s only been a year since British boyband One Direction (aka 1D) took the world by storm with their debut album. Now comes the follow up, Take Me Home. (If it feels shorter to us in South Africa, that’s ‘cos album number one only hit our shores around March 2012 with album number two coming out in time to stuff a few Christmas stockings.) The fivesome stick to their winning formula of dancey pop music, with a good mix of the upbeat and slower ballads to keep fans of all ages – and sexual orientations – happy.
Now don’t be a purist; just because someone doesn’t write their own music doesn’t mean it’s not good. We can’t all be Kelly fucking Clarkson. Yes, 1D are as manufactured and mass produced as plastic egg cups, but Simon Cowell knows his stuff. These guys gel well and the 13 tracks make for awesome listening. We loved first single, the upbeat Live While We’re Young, the dancey C’mon C’mon, Kiss You and I Would, Queen-lite Rock Me, as well as ballads Last First Kiss and Little Things. What can I say? I’m romantic that way. But, truth is, you’ll probably buy the album because Harry, Liam, Niall, Zayn and Louis are cute little twinks.
USELESS FACT: Niall Horan revealed to Ryan Seacrest that the group came up with the album’s title as a collective, because of all the travelling they’ve been doing.

RATING: 7 out of 10


Ok, so I’m not a massive Alicia Keys fan. Don’t get me wrong: her Empire State Of Mind (“concrete jungles where dreams are made of”) was inspirational, uplifting and catchy. But it’s the song more than Alicia herself that I enjoyed. And then along comes her fifth album. It’s still got all the R&B/soul that fans have come to know and love from the singer, and she can still belt it out, nailing (and holding) those high notes like Christina. But what’s different this time around is that she’s gotten married (to producer Swizz Beatz) and become a mom to son Egypt; milestones which creep in here and there across the 13 tracks. In a good way.
The album’s first single was the up-tempo, powerful Girl On Fire (Inferno Version), which features Nicki Minaj rapping in the song’s opening and closing. We loved the second single Brand New Me, written by Alicia and Emeli Sandé, a slower number which gradually builds up to a girl-power-message finale. The die-hard R&B fans will find no fault with the straight-up R&B tracks like Listen To Your Heart, Fire We Make (a duet with Maxwell) and Limitedless, which have been described by some music critics as dull, run-of-the-mill and lacking fire. There’s some merit in that observation, but don’t let it put you off the album’s gems. You’ll want to listen to the very catchy New Day and midtempo, gospel-sounding Tears Always Win.
USELESS FACT: Egypt’s voice can be heard briefly at the end of When It’s All Over, chatting to his mommy. And he sounds too adorable for words!

RATING: 6 out of 10


So, by now, every homo from Middelburg to Minneapolis has heard the first single, the catchy Diamonds. And tried to shine as brightly as the song suggests you should. But what about the rest of Riri’s seventh studio album? Is it as good? Short answer: no. Diamonds is the exception to the rule on this CD. As the cover suggests, she’s not axing her sexual, in-your-face bravado in favour of a more Disneyfied, demure look or sound. Unapologetic is unashamedly raunchy, sexy and very dirty. You only need to listen to the dubstep-ish track number six, Jump, to feel that smoky club, hip-grinding sleaze. The lyrics, for example (in this case originally from Ginuwine’s 1996 track Pony), go a little something like this: “If you want it, let’s do it, ride it, my pony, my saddle is waiting, come and jump on it.”
There are plenty of other tracks worth checking out. Like the album opener Fresh Off The Runway (with its sexy fashion show DJ beats) as well as Numb, which features rap-meister Eminem, who adds the edge to an otherwise forgettable track. Especially hot is the dancey Right Now, which is a collab with David Guetta, Pour It Up (a fun one for the hip hop fans) and the big, buzzworthy track Nobody’s Business, a duet with on-off boyfriend Chris Brown, where the duo sing about how their relationship is nobody’s business but “mine and my baby”.

USELESS FACT: The album has two distinctive-sounding halves: the first half is dance and electro, while the second half harkens back to her R&B days.

RATING: 7 out of 10


The folks at Ministry Of Sound are on a roll. A trusted name for putting out great dance music, they’ve upped the ante on this new release which takes ‘summer’ and ‘chill’ and drapes the two with a Cape Town-esque feel (read: chilled). These aren’t floor-banging, head-thrashing tracks to get you on the dance floor. More chillaxed, weekend pool party vibes music. Get the drift? Actually, the lack of dubstep is refreshing. It feels like the trend in dance music to throw in as much drum & bass as possible has long worn out its welcome.
Disc one kicks it off with Pascal & Pearce’s remix of Yoav’s Beautiful Lie, followed by more South African dance in the form of the Treasure Fingers remix of Pascal & Pearce’s Disco Sun (featuring Juliet Harding) and Goodluck’s epic London Sixteen 66 (a remix from Stefano Noferini). Also worth mixing a cocktail to are Fedde le Grand’s So Much Love (the original club mix), House Republic’s Music Sounds Better With You, Black Legend’s You See The Trouble With Me (Lissat & Voltaxx mix), David Jones’s Latino-style E Samba, the always epic Avicci edit of Tom Hangs and Shermanology’s Blessed, Chris Lake’s Sundown, Ralph Good and Polina Griffith’s SOS and It’s Not Right But It’s Okay (the extended mix) from Daddy’s Groove and Little Nancy. So much fun listening!
USELESS FACT: Cape Town Sessions’ tracklisting was chosen by Just Music’s Karl Anderson and mixed by 94.7 Highveld Stereo’s Vin Deysel.

RATING: 9 out of 10

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