WILL.I.AM � #WILLPOWER
Prepare for an electro dubstep onslaught from the person who’s now the most famous Black Eyed Pea (sorry Fergie! Will’s swiped your crown and left you in obscurity…). #willpower is will.i.am’s fourth solo album and may well end up being his most successful � despite his blatant disregard for punctuation rules. I mean really… hashtags in album titles… #whodoesthat. There are 15 songs on the album � most are hip hop-meets-dance collaborations but he does go solo on a few tracks, like Hello, which isn’t one of the four official singles (so far…).
The big buzzworthy track is of course the Britney Spears duet/dancefloor pleaser Scream & Shout (“rocking with will.i.am and Britney bitch!”) and This is Love with Eva Simons. Dubstep fans should specifically tune in for Getting’ Dumb which features fellow Pea apl.de.ap as well as 2NE1 on rapping duty. We also recommend the singles #thatPOWER with Justin Bieber and the catchy, can’t-stop-humming-it Fall Down which features Miley Cyrus. The Chris Brown collab Let’s Go and Nicole Scherzinger duet Far Away From Home are also not half bad.
USELESS FACT: #willpower was originally titled Black Einstein and was supposed to come out at the end of 2011 but was delayed…repeatedly.
RATING: 6 out of 10
CARO EMERALD � THE SHOCKING MISS EMERALD
If sexy, smouldering female vocalists are your schtick, then Dutch singer Caro Emerald is the chick to stick with. The Shocking Miss Emerald is her second album and her breakthrough effort too � it went to the top of the UK album’s chart. So what’s it like? A little Doris Day, but sexy…a touch of Bette Midler’s tongue-in-cheek, but jazzier. Think soundtrack to an old 50s Hollywood black and white romance with Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart, but more modern. It’s a touch of old-world charm, very catchy and easy to tap feet along to, with plenty of whimsy but it somehow doesn’t sound old-school or out-of-date.
Pretty much every single one of the 13 tracks stand out (you can skip the 39-second opening intro). Drag queens will wanna lip-synch to this album, especially Coming Back As A Man and the first single Tangled Up. Things get very Great Gatsby/roaring 20s on the delightful Completely and Black Valentine, which could have doubled up as a James Bond 007 theme tune if it had been released two decades ago. There’s also the cute, camp Pack Up the Louie (which is about her love for Louie Vuitton) and Liquid Lunch, which has now been confirmed as the second single.
USELESS FACT: Caro’s first album Deleted Scenes From The Cutting Room Floor spent a ridic 104 weeks on the official Dutch album charts. And it didn’t fall off naturally or due to apathy – instead, it had to be taken off thanks to an odd Dutch rule that says that no album can spend more than two years on the charts.
RATING: 9 out of 10
ONE REPUBLIC � NATIVE
If will.i.am is the king of the hip hop/electro beat but skimps on the quality songwriting, then One Republic would be the antidote to computer-generated, processed music. Extending the analogy, listening to One Republic is like tucking into yummy homemade lasagna rather than a microwave meal (which is still delish but not as fulfilling). The US-based pop-rock group, who hit the big time with the single Apologize (“It’s too late to”) in 2006, are back with a brilliant third album. Ryan Tedder, the genius behind Leona Lewis’s breakout hit Bleeding Love, is once again both songwriter and lead singer and I swear by the old gods and new, the man deserves more Grammys. Native has that often-elusive great mix of memorable lyrics AND solid musicianship.
Sure, One Republic’s been called predictable but this isn’t necessarily a criticism. In fact, it’s safe to say the band doesn’t sound as if it’s in need of some fine-tuning and a new sound. They’ve found their formula and they’re sticking to it, which is great news for fans. The catchy pop-rock comes highly recommended on tracks like If I Lose Myself, Counting Stars, Burning Bridges and, the first single, Feel Again. Something I Need and What You Wanted also stand out from the 12 tracks on the standard edition. If you want more, opt for the deluxe release which has two additional tracks and three acoustic versions.
USELESS FACT: Fancy the unusual album cover? It’s based on the premise that each of the band members are so very different from each other. In essence, a different animal (Ryan Tedder’s the fox etc). Artsy fartsy right?
RATING: 8 out of 10
DEMI LOVATO � DEMI
Any doubt that Demi Lovato doesn’t belong as a judge on The X-Factor USA should be nipped in the bud with Demi, her fourth album. The just-dropped album should also do wonders to counteract her former Disney princess persona. She’s all grown up here, confident and sexy, but not in a Britney Spears-loses-her-innocence kinda way. In fact, Demi (who looks eerily like that other famous Demi, Demi Moore, dontchathink?) doesn’t shy away from her much-publicised mental issues, addiction and self-harming habits. We say, good for you girl. You hit us with your girlpower pop songs. And boy does she ever!
Thematically, it’s the Demi you know and love � lots of pop with the obligatory dance beats that seem all-important in selling music these days. There’s actually so much here that could be flooding your radio, that it’s hard to pick what to listen to. It’s almost like Demi’s made the album with a point to prove: she CAN make hit singles. You’ll no doubt have already heard Made In The USA and the very electro Heart Attack but there’s more to check out, like Really Don’t Care (which also features Cher Lloyd), Neon Lights, Two Pieces and Fire Starter.
USELESS FACT: Demi juggled X-Factor appearances with working on the album.
RATING: 7 out of 10
FALL OUT BOY � SAVE ROCK AND ROLL
Okay, nobody panic! Yes, Fall Out Boy isn’t your obvious choice for a gay-enough-to-be-reviewed album. But between lead singer Patrick Stump and bassist/vocalist Pete Wentz’s all-round cuteness and the fact that their brand of punk-rock/pop/alternative rock (not as schizo as it sounds, I swear!) is actually quite easy on the ear means Save Rock And Roll is definitely worth delving into. It’s their fifth album and their first in a long time after 2008’s semi-flop Folie � Deux. Big news for the fans, huge hype too, but you know the big brass at the music label believe it’ll do well when there’s a tour being planned.
They’ve gone for a bit more of a commercial sound and the super-fans may notice the absence of long-time producer Neal Avron, but hey, nothing wrong with revamping and refreshing. While the sound’s more mainstream there are still underground tones too, as you’ll hear on first single My Songs Know What You Did In the dark (Light Em Up) and the opening track The Phoenix. Definitely listen out for the collaborations on the album: The Mighty Fall with Big Sean, Rat A Tat with Kurt Cobain’s cray-cray widow Courtney Love (who sticks it to Brit by opening the song with “It’s Courtney bitch”) and, what may be the most unlikely collab in musicdom’s history since Freddie Mercury sang with Pavarotti, the title track Save Rock And Roll is sung with Elton John. Yes, really. And it’s actually quite good. Don’t platz ok!
USELESS FACT: In 2006, rather rude pics of Pete Wentz holding his substantial manhood were leaked. A year later he said in an interview that he’d kissed other men. He went on to marry and then divorce Ashlee Simpson.
RATING: 7 out of 10
LADY ANTEBELLUM � GOLDEN
Yeeeeeeeehaw! Well, cowboys and cowgirls, this one’s for all of y’all. Lady Antebellum, the reigning kings (and queen) of country ballads, are back for their fourth go-round, Golden. Expect the usual mix of guitar-twanging, strong and emotive lyrics, and loads of songs about love, some upbeat and some slower mainstream country music. Hilary Scott and Charles Kelley on vocals are sublime together and their voices harmonise perfectly. As country goes, if you like it easygoing and less so-depressed-you’d-collapse anguished, then this is the album for you.
Of the 12 tracks, we rather fancied just over half of them. The first single Downtown is great, as is the follow-up Goodbye Town (what is with these guys and towns I ask ya??). Enjoy the slower ballads, All For Love, title track Golden, and It Ain’t Pretty, which is a mournful, Taylor Swift-esque lament to lost love. It’s perfectly offset by the cute and catchy Better Off Now (That You’re Gone), Generation Away (my fave track on the album) and Better Man. Sure, it’s no Need You Now, which will probably always remain their biggest hit, but there’s lots to like here.
USELESS FACT: Not too long ago, Universal Music bought out record label EMI. Golden is the first former EMI title to be rebranded under the Universal umbrella (ella ella hey hey…)
RATING: 6 out of 10