The last time I reviewed one of Britney's albums
, I wasn't the kindest. Let's see if I'm feeling more benevolent almost three years later...and since I like using Brit-Brit as a guinea pig for different ways of doing my album reviews, I'm gonna try to go track-by-track for her eighth album, so here it goes!Britney Jean
's opening track, "Alien
", got my attention, if for nothing else, its lyrics. Even with an enjoyable, but basic dance beat, the story of what it feels like when you think you're the oddball among other people manages to shine through. Parts of the lead single, "Work B****
", specifically the first verse, lists things that one has to work their a** off to attain if one want them bad enough (this is why I included it in the 'Real Talk Moments' on this album; she was talking about some expensive s***, yo!!)...this track is no "Glamorous
" or "Pop Life
", by ANY stretch of the imagination, but for this generation of music stealers....uh, I mean, music 'buyers', it works (I loathe the beat; I almost didn't listen to the song because of it, but I'm somewhat glad I did).
As some point, everyone (even GUYS) gets jealous when they're out with their significant other. Some handle it by letting it go....others get all passive-aggressive and speak in riddles to you OR they 'mark their territory' by dousing you in their scent like Britney does on "Perfume
". AND WHY THE HELL NOT!? It gets the point across to both the unsuspecting S.O. AND the innocent bystander that you wanna scare off that this person is YOURS and you WILL cut a b****/mofo, if it comes to that! Now, about track four, "It Should Be Easy
" that features will.i.am...I was already thrown off by the fact that Britney doesn't sound like herself on 98% of Britney Jean
and this song takes the cake! Not only does the omnipresent EDM sound flood the beat, but it and Auto-Tune drown out what little voice she does have!
Speaking of saturation, "Tik Tik Boom
" was over-sexed in an unbelievable way, which was one of my main beefs about her last release, Femme Fatale
. I was shocked that she out-sexed T.I., who was the best part of this mess, considering he has a hell of a history of rapping about how he's loved the ladies (check out his discography some time). "Body Ache" and "Til It's Gone" literally had the same drum pattern and I can't deal with that kind of laziness too much longer in the music industry, but I digress. Similar to "Tik Tik Boom" and "Body Ache", I felt like I was in an Atari game that I didn't wanna be in with "Passenger", although it's a slightly toned down digital sound than the former.
Britney has her not-so-little sister Jamie Lynn on the only Hip-Hop-ish track, "Chillin' With You
"...you can repeat this song just because it's comical to hear Brit and Jamie say "I'm chillin'" over and over again when they sound like they NEVER utter that phrase in REAL LIFE, it's hilariously cute! Best part that surprised me for some reason is that....Jamie STILL sounds better than Britney! Sub-par singers/rappers/actors CANNOT afford to have people who are more ANYTHING than them because it ultimately illuminates their lacklusterness, even if that other person is blood-related; in fact, that actually make it worse! As the ladies on Got2BReal
would say, "that's not shade, that's a revelation!"
The irony with the last track of the standard edition of Britney Jean
and the first song on the deluxe version is that, even though the music to both "Don't Cry
" and "Brightest Morning Star
" are more pleasing to my ears than most of the rest of the album, they're too forgetable...think "background music realness", if you will. "Hold On Tite
" almost fell into that category, but the drum beat kept my attention, making the song sound grander than it actually is....hopefully that makes sense once you hear it. In a lovely turn of events, the final, non-remix song of the bonus tracks, "Now That I've Found You
", was pretty enjoyable...oddly enough, the splash of country on the EDM made it more than tolerable. I won't say I loved it, but I wouldn't NOT repeat it at least once and the lyrics were not that contrite either.
As with most of Britney's discography post-In The Zone
, I wouldn't recommend this album for anyone's serious music collection, but it wouldn't be as shameful to have as her 2011 effort; something else to note, it's bad when the bonus tracks are better than the standard version's TEN songs overall...and I'll just leave it at that.Play on repeat
", "Chillin' With You
"Skip & save yourself some time
: "It Should Be Easy
" (the song's crap and I loathe will.i.am...it didn't have a chance *Kanye shrug*),"Tik Tik Boom", "Body Ache
"; *"Perfume (The Dreaming Mix)
" just because it's pointless Real Talk moment(s)
: "Alien", "Work B****", "Perfume"Listenable Status (based on # of tracks): 4 1/2 out of 10 (w/bonus tracks, 7 1/2 out of 13...you can make it 8 1/2 to include the 'Dreaming Mix' of "Perfume", but why though?)
Now that it seems as though he has gotten his personal struggles under control, Slim Shady is BACK! Eminen has said that naming this album The Marshall Mathers LP 2, as well as him bringing on legendary producer Rick Rubin, were for a nostalgic feel and that’s exactly what it sounds like. This is what I’d call the ‘New Manifestation of Old Eminem’: he sounds as hungry (and or angry) as he was when he first started, with some of his rhymes’ subject matter straight out of his old journals (“Legacy” & “Brainless”), BUT he’s very much in the present. The beats still bang thanks to the added rock sound, but they are stripped down, reminiscent of old school Hip-Hop, thanks to Rubin. Even though the idea of Em on one of his productions sounds like a good idea, it’s just ok to me…just because it seems like Dr. Dre brings out the best in him more than anyone else – like Janet Jackson is at her best with Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, point blank, PERIOD. He dropped most of those questionable punchlines from Recovery; don’t get me wrong, they were cool…some were even funny, but they just wasn’t his style…they weren’t NEARLY as complex as the s*** he was on during the first Marshall Mathers LP or The Eminem Show eras!
He brings back the ghost of ”Stan“ by way of the little brother Em brushed off on the album opener, “Bad Guy”…too damn creative! With this sequel, I’m just glad Lil Bro isn’t as violent as Stan was…BUT it was slick darker this time around because of the last couple of minutes when Em raps from his own point of view again and his voice sounds possessed. Semi-sidenote: even though he is signed to Shady Records, it seems like Eminem is also a fan of fellow white MC, Yelawolf, seeing as how he ALMOST borrows his sound on the second verse of ”Bad Guy“ and the bonus tracks “Desperation” & “Wicked Ways” (the latter’s beat sounds like a song Yela would do); he also mentions on the track, “So Far…”, that some misguided fans said that he sounds BETTER than Em...nah, not quite!
Later into MMLP2, Eminem shows why he’s nicknamed ‘Fire Marshall’ on the single “Rap God”…HOLY S***! He really shows it throughout the album, but on this single, he used at least THREE different flows, good AND bad, and made them ALL effing insane! He borrowed is Kanye’s deity complex for the title, Hotstylz (I had to look his irrelevant name up, I’m not THAT good! lol)‘s flow from his horrible no-hit “Looking A** Boy” and some damn J.J. FAD, too?! Are you serious?! When he talks about other artists & random people, like Asher Roth (“A**hole”), Lamar & Khloe, Kevin Federline (“Berzerk”), it’s not an entire song dedicated to talking s*** like on his classic tracks “My Name Is” and “Without Me”…they’re sprinkled throughout the album. I can also appreciate that Em has enough awareness about himself that he knows that he’s a rapping contraction, the biggest being that he ‘hates all women’ except his daughters (“A**hole” & “Rap God”).
I’m glad that they are only four guests (six if you have the deluxe edition, which I highly suggest you get) on MMLP2, and it’s even better that they’re on the latter half of the album; it’s not like he has ever had a laundry list of featured artists anyway…which further proves that he’s one of the Top 3 MCs alive, IMO, but I digress. He doesn’t need them! Hell, he even says “I’m going back to what made me famous” on the aptly titled, “A**hole”. Overall, you can listen to this album from start to finish AT LEAST TWICE & make sure you got all the punchlines and stories that make you do the scrunchy face (you know…that stank face you make when something is just so damn good), THEN decide which tracks to keep in heavy rotation and as usual, the handy dandy rating for The Marshall Mathers LP 2 is below to help in that process. ENJOY!
Play On Repeat: “Bad Guy”, “A**hole”, “Rap God”, “The Monster”, “Evil Twin”, *“Wicked Ways”
Skip & Save SomeTime: there aren’t any tracks that flat out suck…the whole album is worth at least ONE full listen before you start skipping to your favorites
Real Talk Moment(s): “Survival”, “Legacy”, “Stronger Than I Was”, “Headlights”, *“Beautiful Pain”
Listening status (based on the # of tracks): 13/15 (not including the skit); 17.5/20 for the deluxe edition (again, not including the skit)
Drake is bringing his fans, old and new, back to as close to his mixtape era as he is willing to go. There is a lot more rapping on his third album, Nothing Was The Same, which has been a constant complaint among male fans (clearly they forget that all that singing has gotten them laid since Thank Me Later, but I digress). The beats are still as melodic and lush as many of the tracks on Take Care, yet they are harder than they have been on his first two albums. Drake also sounds more confident and pretty much got rid of that growly, raspy thing he was doing with his voice for the longest. As with his previous albums, NWTS serves as a continuation of him navigating his professional life & not-so-private life through fame, including the addition of a couple more exes that shoulda-coulda-woulda been Mrs. Graham ('Courtney from Hooters on Peachtree'), his rollercoaster relationship with his father on "From Time", and extended family members acting brand new on him because he's DRAKE now ("Too Much").
He has even seemed to realize that he doesn't need a feature from his 'brother', Lil' Wayne, to make a good album (it's not like his features made a difference one way or another on either of Drizzy's previous records, but again, I digress); in lieu of Wayne's absence is an even more unnecessary outro appearance on "The Language" by Birdman, as well as Big Sean and 2 Chainz on the bonus track, "All Me". Even though I appreciate the other features from lesser known, but nonetheless talented artists like Jhene Aiko ("From Time"), Sampha ("Too Much" & bonus track "The Motion"), Majid Jordan ("Hold On, We're Goin Home") & Detail ("305 To My City") more, as a fan, I'm STILL waiting on a verse from former or current members of Little Brother and Slum Village or for Drake to rap on another J Dilla instumental. Along with his bringing back one of his original lyrical influences (Jay Z on "Pound Cake") and changing up beats within the same song (like Justin Timberlake did on The 20/20 Experience), I am once again pleased with his progression to Nothing Was The Same.
Play on repeat: "Tuscan Leather", "Worst Behaviour" (that interpolation of Ma$e's verse on "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems" on that beat?! FIRE!), "Pretty"
Skip & save yourself some time: "Started From The Bottom” (I have a love/hate thing for this track...never LOVED it, but it got overplayed and remixed AND meme'd before I could ALMOST LIKE it....it got a half a point), *"All Me” (The beat is wack to me and based on good chunk of Drake's discography, he has better bragging/boasting songs! iCant with 2 Chainz/Tity Boi...I just can't. I wanna like Big Sean, but he keeps making songs like this (I did like his line about his girlfriend, Naya Rivera, but thataboutit!).)
Real Talk moment(s): "Too Much", "From Time", "Paris Morton Music 2"
Listenable Status (based on # of tracks): 14 out of 16
The official debut album of The Weeknd, begins with the very cinematic track “Professional” and sets a dark, haunting tone throughout Kiss Land. Even though the idea of young Abel Tesfaye’s music being ‘dark’ is not new, as evident on his Trilogy compilation album, he makes newly found fame and all its trappings (and it taking a major toll on your personal life) feel like a NC17-rated episode of Are You Afraid Of The Dark or some sort of scary movie (all the way to what faintly sounds like a sample Vincent Price’s laugh from Michael Jackson’s song “Thriller” on “Belong To The World”)! The screams mixed with the stories of during and after show antics throughout the title track, as well as the album as a whole, make being famous and on tour seem like a twisted funhouse and naming the album something so candy-coated as ‘Kiss Land’ all the more ironic.
The Weeknd’s vocals seem to have grown SLIGHTLY, as they don’t sound as nasally in comparison to his three previous mixtapes (a.k.a.Trilogy), and his storytelling style of songwriting has somewhat been expanded as well, which are both very good things. I do, however, wish he wasn’t still so foeful…and high…ALL THE TIME! For better or worse, that’s either why you love or hate him. He’s “dark and twisty”, yet his music makes for an awesome ambient soundtrack for some sexual liaisons. What a conundrum, right? So if you take how Kanye West’s Yeezus was trying to sound (but with a much more tangible structure), mix it with a more dangerous version of Drake’s take on coping with the good and bad of fame on Thank Me Later, add a sprinkle of some mid-late 80s R&B (Rene & Angela and Lisa Fisher, specifically), one too many dalliances with the ‘Dirty Dianas’ of the world, and dollop or two of Tales From The Crypt, you have The Weeknd’s Kiss Land in its sexy-scary glory.
Play on repeat: "Love In The Sky", "Belong To The World", "Pretty"
Skip & save yourself some time: the bonus tracks because they sonically do not belong with the rest of the album; "Wanderlust (remix)” (I like the lyrics, the music is cool enough…just not together) and "Odd Look” (it ALMOST sounds like it fits with other Kiss Land tracks, but it's not 'dark' enough, IMO)
Real Talk moment(s): "Professional", "Adaptation", "Tears InThe Rain"
Listenable Status (based on # of tracks): 10.5 out of 12
Well…I tried REALLY HARD to listen to the full mixtape WITHOUT judgment (or twitching) and attempt to give my peoples a middle-of-the-road review on Trinidad Jame$’s 10 PC Mild
. Only because it’s not the kind of rap music I choose to support or listen to on purpose, with the obvious exception of this here review, I’ll keep it very simple (just as Trinidad’s music seems to be)…
If you like or ‘love’ (or condone on a regular basis from others) the following:
- Gold all in your chains or ‘rangs’
- Basic b****es/Side chicks/Popcorn h*es
- Being a ni**[er]
- Being a 'real n***a' (which is so ironic, don't ya think?)
- Money (in amounts that you probably don’t have or will never have)
- Going to clubs
- Going to clubs and ‘starting s***’
- Going to clubs to watch other people start s***
- Going to clubs to watch b****es and or hoes shake their a**es
- Drinking large amounts of alcohol
- General ratchet behavior
- If you think ‘being real’ is sounding ignorant when you probably have a command of the English language, but choose not to use it regularly
- If you think ‘being real’ is acting (hell, maybe you’re NOT acting!) like ratchet and or childish behavior is cool or appropriate
- If you don’t know what the word Appropriate means
- Repetitive lines/lyrics
- ALMOST saying something with meaning, then surrounding said statement with bulls***
- Nauseously obvious repetitive drum patterns that ‘sound hard as f***’ in your trunk
- Jerome from the 90s sitcom Martin
Then, in the words of August Alsina, you will “Luv This S***
”.Play on repeat
: o_O the only song I could really see myself listening to again outside of this review is “Hip$ter $trip Club
” because every other beat is the SAME DAMN THING and this track was a breath of fresh air!; Childish Gambino’s verse at the end of “Ea$tside
” (1) I still don’t know why Gambino is on a Trinidad Jame$ song and 2) I hate that I had to wade through that entire song just to hear the only verse I was 95% sure I’d like from first listen)Skip & save yourself some time
: damn near the WHOLE mixtape, but I’m being nice, so I won’t say that… *side-eye*Real Talk moment(s)
: "Bino$ vs. Bree$" (I actually laughed at the end of this LOOOOOONG a** skit)
I’m not giving 10 PC Mild
a numeric rating…my mind and ears are still in the musical ICU. OAN, it was somewhat amusing that he named his album after a wing meal (personally, I prefer BBQ or lemon pepper wings, but I digress).
Fans of Robin Thicke have followed his musical revolution through multiple genre changes (the good and the WTF), lyrical excellence (from beautiful love songs to critically analyzing of life and relationships in general), and a handful of danceable borderline throwaways (and even then, you don’t skip them!). This time around with his sixth album, Blurred Lines, he mostly wants to make us to move our bodies. If you have enjoyed Robin’s subtle nods to legends like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder throughout his career, then you will probably love the “Got To Give It Up”-tease of his first number one single, “Blurred Lines”, and the “Do I Do” vibe on “Ain’t No Hat 4 That”, respectively.
Occasionally, it even sounds like he and that other blue-eyed R&B/pop fellow have traded musical styles on their 2013 releases, especially on Justin’s “Suit & Tie” (people initially thought it was Mr Thicke…admit it, so did you!) and Robin’s “Feel Good” & “For the Rest of My Life” (both tracks could have easily been on Future Sex/Love Sounds & The 20/20 Experience, respectively!). The latter tells some of story of how Robin & his wife, actress Paula Patton, first got together and the ups & downs that almost broke them up during their teens (these two have been together since they were about 15 or 16...how friggin sweet is that?!).
As long as you can get down with Robin’s latest take on funk, R&B and soul, mixed with a little bit of EDM, pop and Hip-Hop (a la T.I., Kendrick Lamar & 2 Chainz (YAY, no Lil’ Wayne! But why 2 Chainz?!)) and want to imagine being on Soul Train back in its heyday, you have a nice handle on the whole blurred lines theme of this album. Once we get off his dance floor, I wonder what mood he’ll set for us next?
[Get the regular deluxe edition of Blurred Lines...find out why below]
Play on repeat: title track (I tried to avoid it at the beginning, but it will get you too. And you will love it.), "Ooh La La", "Get In My Way", *"Pressure"
Skip & save yourself some time: *"Give It 2 U" (remix)...unless you simply can't live without another 2 Chainz verse; if you're into random a** remixes to perfectly good songs, knock yourself out with the two bonus tracks on the Target deluxe edition of the album; otherwise, feel free to save your money and just get the regular deluxe edition
Real Talk moment(s): "4 The Rest Of My Life", "Top Of The World", "The Good Life"
Listenable Status (based on # of tracks): 12.5 out of 13 (not counting the remixes…bcuz it would make my rating lower than the album deserves, otherwise it would be 12.5 out of 16)
"It's way darker this time" sums up J. Cole's sophomore release, Born Sinner. Because his debut, Cole World: The Sideline Story, being a surprise hit, he was able to have even more freedom the second time around. As a result, this album is almost entirely produced by Cole (with the exceptions of the interludes, "Mo Money" & "Ain't That Some S***", and bonus track, "Sparks Will Fly"), which is more akin to what his original fanbase expects. Cole discusses his deviation off the formula started on his mixtapes on the last eight bars of the opening track, "Villuminati", as well as "Let Nas Down", where he laments about receiving word that the Queensbridge MC was not pleased with the radio singles from Cole World.
Cole continues the narrative of fighting the constant human struggle between good and evil, with the added trappings that come with newly found fame and fortune ("Trouble", "Rich N***az" and "Chaining Day"). His exceptional storytelling is showcased on the lead single, "Power Trip", "Runaway" & "She Knows", all of which are about relationships and the latter two speak specifically of the internal tug-of-war people, (men more so than women, it seems), have when choosing to be faithful or not to their lovers. The album's second single is "Crooked Smile" featuring TLC, one of the happier moments on Born Sinner; its overall sentiment is clearly inspired by Tupac's "Keep Your Head Up". Speaking of Cole's influences, he sampled OutKast's "The Art of Storytellin'" on "Land of the Snakes", and the A Tribe Called Quest classic "Electric Relaxation" for "Forbidden Fruit". Kendrick Lamar guests on the track where he explains why the album's release date was pushed up a week. "Ima drop the album same day as Kanye/just to show the boy's a man now like Wanya". (and that he did! He sold almost 100,000 more copies of Born Sinner in its first week than Cole World in the same time frame - 218,000 < 297,000 - CONGRATULATIONS, young Simba!)
The deluxe edition of Born Sinner includes part three of the Truly Yours EP trilogy. It contains songs Cole knew wouldn't be on the standard edition of the album (parts one and two sound like raw cuts of songs, but are stellar offerings, nonetheless). Standout tracks from Truly Yours 3 are "Miss America", "New York Times" (with 50 Cent on the hook!) and "Sparks Will Fly".
Play on repeat: "Villuminati", "Power Trip", "Crooked Smile", *"Sparks Will Fly"
Skip & save yourself some time: n/a...all the tracks are worth a listen, some more often than others
Real Talk moment(s): "Land Of The Snakes", "Mo Money (interlude)", "Runaway", "She Knows", "Let Nas Down", title track, *"New YorK Times"
Listenable Status (based on # of tracks): 16.5 out of 19 (12 out of 14 for Born Sinner/4.5 out of 5 for Truly Yours 3 EP)
If you have followed Kelly Rowland's post-Destiny's Child career, you've seen how rocky it has been, to say the least. On her solo debut, Simply Deep, she sonically went the Pop-R&B and rock route and had some great lyrics (at least two songs, including the title track, were written by a very mature, 18 year-old Solange!) and earned her a Grammy for her first (and should've been ONLY) duet with Nelly, "Dilemma". Sophomore album, Ms. Kelly, was much more contemporary R&B and, in this reviewer's opinion, would have made her a solo star had the promotion & single selection been better. Then there was Here I Am......the incorrectly named record that had way too much EDM influence and oversexed 'love' songs in one place.
Now Kelly gives us her fourth album, Talk A Good Game. It blends all of the good elements from each of her previous efforts with her musical influences in a way that FINALLY makes sense! Over half of the record's lyrics tell stories as she did on Simply Deep (the confessional "Dirty Laundry" and break-up anthems "Gone", featuring Wiz Khalifa & bonus track "Number 1"); some tales had more shallow in subject matter than others (like "Stand In Front Of Me"). Kelly also reminds the audience of her vocal range ("You Changed"), and how she can sing on almost any kind of music, as evident on her debut and on Ms. Kelly. She even manages to appease her dance music fans with Talk A Good Game's opening track, "Freak" and "I Remember", as well as the fair weather, singles-only, fan base she acquired off Here I Am (if you liked the Lil' Wayne assisted "Motivation", you probably love lead single, "Kisses Down Low" and will enjoy bonus track "Sky Walker", featuring raunchy 'Love King' The-Dream).
When she is singing through the rafters on "Gone", "You Changed" & "Put Your Name On It", it's very reminiscent of her number one inspiration, the late Whitney Houston. Subtle nods to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" & "The Lady In My Life" can be heard on two of the album's more risque tracks, "Freak" & "Put Your Name On It", respectively. On "Gone", if you listen carefully, Kelly somewhat sings the intro to the tune of Stevie Wonder's classic, "As"; the song also gets most of its chorus from Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi". And any self-professed 'Bees' out there can faintly hear an interpolation of Beyoncé's "Me, Myself and I" on the semi-Destiny's Child reunion track, "You Changed" (keep in mind, Kelly recently said it is NOT a reunion record...but as a DC fan, it's awesome to have them all on one song again anyway :-D).
All in all, Talk A Good Game is well worth PURCHASING the Target deluxe edition (which includes the Pharrell featured "Feet To The Fire" and "Love Me Till I Die") or the regular deluxe edition IN STORES OR ONLINE! Kelly got it all the way right this time and as long as she builds on this blueprint of an album, all half-baked musical indiscretions of the past can be forgiven.
Play on repeat: "Kisses Down Low", "Down On Love"
Skip & save yourself some time: "Stand In Front Of Me" (it was cute...but not enough for repeated listening) & "Street Life" (again, it's a cute song, yet borderline obnoxious)
Real Talk moment(s): "Gone", the title track,"Dirty Laundry", "You Changed", "Red Wine"
Listenable Status (based on # of tracks): 15 out of 17
Fans of Kanye West since The College Dropout will more than likely loathe Yeezus on first listen and not buy it (or throw it away/sell it/delete it if they already made their purchase). If you enjoyed the strange brilliance of his last album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, you may like, or at least tolerate, this one. No matter which group of people applies to you, listen to Yeezus at least twice*: once, so you know what to expect & so your ears can adjust to the abrasive, yet very simplistic (in comparision to Kanye's previous records) beats, and a second time to pay attention to the lyrics, part political, part sexual, a few clever lines, but all Kanye......version 2013.
With that being said, Kanye's sixth album is definitely an acquired taste; however, ain't nobody got time to learn to like this damn album! Overall, Yeezus sounds like he just put something together, created controversy surrounding it, and somehow managed to release this menagerie within days of his media attention-whoring companion giving birth to their horribly named daughter (whether that was a mere coincidence remains to be seen, but it would be a direct & hypocritical slap in the face of the topics he discussed in "New Slaves", one of the few semi-high points on Yeezus).
The album got a 5/10 because 1) I was being generous; his themes may be the same, but he gave zero f***s about being his usually lyrical self; and 2) the beats are horrendous, as though he literally took one of North's toys and pressed all the buttons at once, mixed it with a couple of samples (for old time's sake...on "Blood On The Leaves" & "Bound 2"), and rapped over it ............10 TIMES!
LISTEN AT YOUR OWN RISK!
*a third time may be in order just to know for sure that this is a hot flaming mess or yet another addition to his erratic genius.
With a three-year hiatus between records that included a lot of touring, random but excellent collaborations (Rick Ross' "Aston Martin Music") and a couple of mixtapes (2010's Love Thy Brother and 2012's Audrey Hepburn: An Audio-Visual Presentation), not to mention, a new Grace Jones-meets-will.i.am hairstyle, Chrisette Michele has been keeping busy, to say the least!
It's almost as if Let Freedom Reign never happened on her fourth album, Better. This time around, the aptly titled release takes the things that made people fall in love with the Jazz-influenced singer from I Am, and nicely marries them with the more mainstream sensibilities of Epiphany, without alienating her fan base, making it a more suitable follow-up to the latter. As with her most recent mixtape, Chrisette's voice sounds stronger than ever and well rested (Let Freedom Reign seemed rushed, coming only a year after Epiphany; there wasn't a big enough break between albums AND touring for her to sing at her best, and WAAAY too much Chuck Harmony!). She has also gotten back to working with more than one producer, an idea that can be quite the gamble for an artist, yet works well with her writing, especially on "Love Won't Leave Me Out", the title track, and "Be In Love"; they are reminiscent of various tracks on her debut album.
Not to stray from her recent penchant for the unexpected guest spot, the first single, "Charades", one of four carryovers from Audrey Hepburn..., features rapper 2Chainz. The other songs, that also have the album's only guests, include enigmatic soul singer Bilal on "Can The Cool Be Loved?", as well as frequent collaborator Wale ("Rich Hipster"), and newcomer Nello Luchi on bonus track, "Love In The Afternoon". Even though the album barely clocks in at an hour (if you get the deluxe edition, that I highly suggest you buy), Chrisette's visual and musical style puts her in a new comfort zone, which is an ever-evolving process for any true artist, and she is only getting Better.
Play on repeat: "Let Me Win", "Get Me Through The Night", *"Ten Foot Stilettos", *"Love In The Afternoon"
Skip & save yourself some time: N/A; thankfully none to report this go-round!
Real Talk moment(s): "Supa","Better", "Snow", "Visual Love", "Charades"
Listenable Status (based on # of tracks): 14.5 out of 17 (not including the three interludes)