ADAM LAMBERT – THE ORIGINAL HIGH
They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and perhaps there should a similar saying for the music industry: don’t judge an album by its first single. In the case of Adam Lambert’s third and already critically-acclaimed album, the first single, Ghost Town, is a perfect litmus test to his evolved sound. Judge away… because, frankly, how could you not like the upbeat, dancey Ghost Town with its emotion-soaked lyrics?
Lambert’s music has been all over the place (something he was accused of on his 2012 second album, Trespassing – unjustly so), but perhaps he’s just a man of many influences. From glam rock, to power-pop ballads and now, with The Original High, he’s tapping into the massive trend of commercially-made dance music. It’s a near-perfect evolution – faithful fans will stick around for the ride and this should bring in new fans too. It’s full of the bold, brassy, heartfelt and glam-tinged tunes Glamberts have come to love.
All 11 tracks deserve repeat listening but we especially recommend Ghost Town (obvz!), The Original High, Another Lonely Night, Evil In The Night, Rumors with Tove Lo, and the rocking Lucy with Queen’s Brian May.
DID YOU KNOW? The Original High is executive produced by Max Martin and Shellback, who co-wrote and produced Adam’s insta-hits Whataya Want From Me and If I Had You.
RATING: 9 out of 10
ALASKA THUNDERFUCK 5000 – ANUS
Of all the queens to pass through RuPaul’s Drag Race, Alaska’s probably the closest we’ve got to dragdom’s Lady Gaga – and I don’t mean the Tony Bennett-duetting, Artpop-flopping Gaga of late. Oh no darling, I’m talking the trendsetting, meat-dress-wearing, everyone’s-talking-about Gaga. Alaska, right now, is that girl.
Post-Drag Race life has been very kind to Alaska – she’s got a successful début album out with some songs that are pretty iconic to dragdom and her catchphrases are now part and parcel of the drag lexicon. Even the great RuPaul has added Alaska’s signature sayings “Hiiiiiiii” and “Byeeeeeeeeee” to the show. No other former queen’s cracked that honour!
But enough about Miss 49th State (as she was known on the show); let’s talk about Alaska’s music. Anus, which is, of course, available on iTunes, was preceded by two singles – the equally fun, catchy and bold Nails (as in “If you’re not wearing nails you’re not doing drag”) and Your Makeup Is Terrible. And if you thought from listening to these two tracks that Alaska can’t sing and has to rely on a more talky/’make jokes’ style with dance music overlays to make music, you’re dead wrong.
The rest of Anus has a little of that, especially in the fabulously tongue-in-cheek This Is My Hair and Hieeee but girl’s got pipes and can carry a tune. Listen to Beard, plus hip hop track Gimme All Your Money with Laganja Estranga, Everything Tonight and The Shade Of It All with Willam and Courtney Act. We also loved the dancey Best Night Ever and the pop campness of Pussy.
DID YOU KNOW? The album’s liner notes come with all the lyrics. Which is important for all of us who want to sing along. Or lipsynch to the music…
RATING: 8 out of 10
MARIAH CAREY – #1 TO INFINITY
If you had any doubts that Mariah’s a music icon (plus a gay icon), consider this: she’s been around long enough, released enough tracks and had enough chart-topping singles to be releasing her third compilation album. THIRD! That’s a milestone few artists ever get to achieve. But this is more than just a pick-and-mix playlist of Mariah’s best of the best – there’s also a new track.
Okay fans, hush up now y’all: it’s only one new song but I’ll bet your entire collection of Mariah Carey posters and other memorabilia that you’ll love it. Infinity, which has been added to the set-list of her Vegas showcase, is classic R&B Mariah at her best, highlighting her massive vocal range and ability to hit the high notes. It’s up to you to decide if the lyrics, about emancipation and breaking free, are about her recent divorce…
The album’s 18 other songs are the megahits you already know and love. It doesn’t have everything but hey, maybe a sequel’s in the works. So what’s on it? Hero, Heartbreaker, Endless Love, One Sweet Day, I’ll Be There, Vision Of Love, Love Takes Time and Touch My Body, amongst other number ones.
DID YOU KNOW? SA’s got the European release, which differs from the US/Canadian one where tracks like Someday, I Don’t Wanna Cry and Thank God I Found You have been dropped in favour of Without You, Endless Love and Against All Odds.
RATING: 10 out of 10 (if you’re a Mariah fan)
PITCH PERFECT 2 SOUNDTRACK – VARIOUS ARTISTS
There’s not much camper than a capella singing thanks to the box-office smash-hit success of Pitch Perfect and its recent sequel Pitch Perfect 2. Whether you’re a Gleek in mourning or a fan of musicals, this is a soundtrack to add to your collection – it’s fun, upbeat and best of all, has ALL the numbers from the movie.
It kicks off with a capella commentators, the aca-awesome Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins, doing Universal Fanfare, which is worth downloading for a new ringtone, and runs all the way through to Bumper’s The Voice audition at the end of the movie.
In between, you’re treated to some brilliant a capella vocal stylings, like The Treblemakers covering Mika’s funky Lollipop, The Barden Bellas Lincoln Centre performance (the one when Fat Amy accidentally shows her va-jay), to the epic 5-team Riff Off between the Bellas, Treblemakers, Das Sound Machine, Tone Hangers and Green Bay Packers, plus the hilarious love song We Belong with Rebel Wilson and Adam Devine. There’s also the Bellas at their best with their Back To Basics mash-up, which starts with Bette Midler’s Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, all the songs from the World Championships and original track Flashlight. If you loved the movie, re-live the music magic!
DID YOU KNOW? Pitch Perfect 2 set a record – it’s the highest-grossing music comedy film in America, out-grossing School Of Rock. A threequel is planned for 2017.
RATING: 7 out of 10
OWL CITY – MOBILE ORCHESTRA
It’s six years since Adam Young, aka electronica act Owl City, hit global fame with Fireflies and not a lot’s changed – Owl City’s still churning out songs that are unashamedly upbeat, candy-coated and sugary sweet. But the bubblegum’s starting to lose its flavour. Mobile Orchestra is Owl City’s fifth studio album and feels like a gimmick that’s overstayed its welcome, long after the DJs left the dancefloor. It’s not that there’s anything actually wrong with the music – for the most part, it’s the same sound that we know. The problem is that you listen to the 10 tracks and can’t help thinking: “But I’ve heard this all before.”
This is best listened to in dribs and drabs, not just pressing play and wading through all the ‘syrup’. And when you do that some stand-outs emerge, like Verge with Aloe Blacc and the retro-awesome Unbelievable, which features 90s one-hit-wonders Hanson and talks about a bygone decade. If you like country music, you’ll probably enjoy Back Home with Jake Owen (although you may wonder what it’s doing on a synthpop/dance album) or the duet You’re Not Alone with Britt Nicole which is a song about God and Young’s strong Christian faith. Definitely not everyone’s cup of tea…
DID YOU KNOW? The album title and artwork come from Young’s approach to making music: via a laptop with software and programmes which can create the sounds of multiple instruments in an orchestra. Hence ‘Mobile Orchestra’. He calls it a “pun”.
RATING: 5 out of 10
BRANDON FLOWERS – THE DESIRED EFFECT
Who the hell broke Brandon Flowers’s heart? No really – who would do such a thing to this fine specimen of a muso? Well, whoever she was, Flowers can thank her for being the muse that inspired his hit second solo album. The Desired Effect is a pop/rock album full of songs about unrequited love, but unlike Adele or Sam Smith, this is no broken-heart lament. Somehow, it’s more joyful, with an upbeat 80s feel across the too-short 10 tracks, which are filled with easy-on-the-ear melodies. The Crossfire singer (from his first solo album Flamingo in 2011) is also the lead singer of The Killers, but his two music projects are poles apart.
Brandon, who also co-writes the tunes, is clearly inspired by the Pet Shop Boys, David Bowie and early U2 material. And while the lyrics may stick to the theme of love, there’s enough variety in the melodies and his voice to make this one of those rare albums where all the tracks are worth listening to. We’ve had it on repeat, but if you want the stand-outs, there’s first single Can’t Deny My Love, opening track Dreams Come True, I Still Want You, I Can Change, Lonely Town and Diggin’ Up The Heart.
DID YOU KNOW? Unrequited Love may have inspired the songwriting here, but Brandon’s married with three kids.
RATING: 7 out of 10