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Posts Tagged ‘review’

B.o.B ft Andre 3000, Play The Guitar

B.o.B sent shockwaves through 2011 with both his tracks “Airplanes” and “Nothin’ On You”, and it looks like he may be closing out the year with another chart topper–“Play The Guitar” featuring Andre 3000.

The track itself incorporates a very catchy guitar riff, scratch beat and steady drum track. Upon listening, it seems as if a hook is missing and instead the “hook” is a loop of B.o.B saying, “play the guitar”.

It works, but it seems a bit lacking–especially when B.o.B usually has supplied very “hook-centric” tracks in the past.

The instrumental though is right on–it’s part funk, rock and reggae, and the aforementioned “play the guitar” hook really does vibe well with the overall composition of the track.

B.o.B opens up the song with a pretty strong verse but Andre 3000 certainly steals the show with his elaborate verses and unique rhyming style.

Nonetheless the track will serve as a great tune to hear on the radio on your morning commute–or even a track to plug in while you’re going for a nice jog

However, if anything, this song just makes me anticipate an Outkast reunion because Andre 3000 delivers his section with grace and over all perfection.

Give it a spin and tell us whatcha think!

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Maya Angelou disappointed in Common’s lyrics on his new album.

While the whole world is buzzing over Common’s new release The Dreamer, The Believer, collaborator and poetry legend Maya Angelou isn’t too happy with the result. Angelou, who recites a poem on the track The Dreamer, wags her finger at Common and is disappointed in his word choice on the track.

She tells the NY Post:

“I had no idea that Common was using the piece we had done together on [a track] in which he also used the ‘N’ word numerous times. I’m surprised and disappointed. I don’t know why he chose to do that. I had never heard him use that [word] before. I admired him so because he wasn’t singing the line of least resistance.”

Common was quick to reply with:

“I told her what ‘The Dreamer’ was about and what I wanted to get across to people. I wanted young people to hear this and feel like they could really accomplish their dreams.”

It seems to me that Common used the term, but not in a harmful way. He intended the track to be a meaningful piece for young people, and may have tried to connect to young folks by using some of the lingo that comes with the territory.

Nonetheless, they both remain two poetic masters and both contributed to a fantastic album.

You be the judge and check out the album that dropped December 20th!

Childish Gambino, The Resurgence of The Triple Threat.

Back in the good ole’ days (I speak as if I was alive then) we saw artists who were referred to as a “triple threat”, singer, dancer and actor. When contemplating this title one may conjure up thoughts of Ole’ Blue Eyes Frank Sinatra, Dancing Legend Fred Astaire, The Candy Man Sammy Davis Jr. and plenty more.

As culture has evolved, there seems to be barriers between the three. The norm now seems to be if you’re an actor–stick to acting, and if you’re a singer–stick to singing.

This could very well be due to the attempts of the triple threat gone wrong.

A short list:

Steven Seagal plays the blues.

Mariah Carey trying to act.

Bruce Willis trying to sing.

Eddie Murphy singin’ with MJ.

 

It’s a bit disheartening that these folks kinda screwed it up for the rest of ’em. Now when an actor puts out an album it’s usually dismissed fairly quickly, or when a singer puts out a movie–people can’t wait to bash it. This common mindset generally means that when a great actor is also a great musician–people are a bit hesitant about it.

Though, if they’re good enough, that hesitation will surely take a backseat, and it instantly does with Donald Glover’s musical project Childish Gambino.

I’ve written about Childish Gambino before and praised his recent EP. Not only is he rather hilarious, his hip-hop albums are definetly a testament to his multi-talented stature. Glover brings the passionate story telling flavor that’s often missed with the over produced and under written rap we hear on the radio today.

Glovers new track Bonfire, off his soon to be released album, Camp, gives us a small glimpse of whats to come.

The sample alone is terribly catchy. It combines sirens, a vocal chorus and an electric guitar that gives the track a sense of urgency. This urgency is only amplified with Glovers unique and rhythmic rapping style. His voice itself is a mix of singing/rapping/singing. His delivery seems flawless and is delivered smooth.

The song itself, Bonfire, speaks of burning up the competition, however, the song also speaks of the fire that’s burning inside of Glover.

Glover generally uses a theme of overcoming in his music as well as destroying barriers. This song is no different as Glover raps about breaking down barriers of black and white music, and being respected for his rapping skills despite being a well known actor, too. Though this theme is important to him, I can see this become an over used topic. For instance, the only time I hear anyone hating on him for being a rapper/actor is when he raps about it. Hopefully he starts to weed this topic out.

However, everything from the mixing to the tempo on this track is dead on. Bonfire gives his fans a taste of whats to come as we wait for the November 15th drop date.

Donald Glover AKA Childish Gambino is our generations take on the infamous triple threat. Comedian, Actor, Rapper.

Review: Frank Ocean, Thinking About You

Everyone is trying to stand out these days.

Every artist searches for a niche’–something that can make them stand out from the rest. Usually this isn’t a bad thing, but unfortunately artists can get so caught up in their “gimmick” that the focus takes away from their talent.

That being said, it’s very refreshing when an artists just lays down a track that eliminates the fluff–a track where they can just show off their raw skills. No need for crazy auto-tuning or a catch phrase–just performing and showing off their artistic prowess.

I think Frank Oceans new track, Thinking About You, is the perfect combination of talent and simplicity.

Ocean has been taking the industry by storm in the past year and is popping up seemingly everywhere. He has had a guest spot on the Jay-Z and Kanye collaboration, Watch The Throne, he has graced the cover of Fader magazine and will be one of the headlining acts at Voodoo Music Festival in his hometown of New Orleans, LA. His success is definitely well deserved, and his new track certainly tells us why.

In Thinking About You, Ocean is singing to a girl and asking if she thinks of him, because he has been thinking of her–for what seems like forever. Very simple story line, but the emotion held in the track is just so smooth.

The track incorporates a very spacey and mellow back beat–this space is ample room for Ocean to tell a great story about possible unrequited love, heart ache and confusion.

His beautiful falsetto echoes throughout the track “or do you not think so far ahead, because I’ve been thinking that forever” are hauntingly beautiful and really makes the track what it is–simple, raw and powerful.

I dig the track because, as stated before, the focus is on Oceans voice and the storyline. The beat combined with the lyrics create an emotion as well as a story, it’s a wonderful combination that shows off Oceans impressive vocal range. Ocean certainly knows how to use his vocals as an instrument.

This is R&B at it’s finest, but I wouldn’t even label it as R&B. The song combines dashes of soul and pieces of hip hop to just make something that’s beyond labels–just a damn good song.
Check it out!

Wale, Bad Girls Club ft. J. Cole

 

It’s been a minute since we heard from Wale. The last we heard from him he was free styling over a Kriss Kross track, but he hasn’t put out any new Summer singles or releases. Wale’s silence has left fans anticipating new material more than ever–especially after his recent success with hits like Chillin’, 90210, Pretty Girls and his notable guest spot on No Hands. 

Just two days ago, Wale released the new track, Bad Girls Club featuring J. Cole.

The song is not likely to be related to the TV show with the same name, but it touches on similar topics–strong women and an excessive partying lifestyle.

The track opens up with J. Cole singing–something seldom heard from Cole but I’m not mad at it. J. Cole showing off his vocal ability could be beneficial to his career and his guest spot only adds hype to Cole’s upcoming new material.

I also appreciate a vocal chorus in a hip-hop song. It seems to be a lost addition these days and Cole’s hook seems to be reminiscent of the late Nate Dogg, who was notorious for his vocals on rap tracks. It’s is also just plain catchy and effective:

She’s a star if I ever seen one / A perfect 10, and Lord knows that I need one / So now I’m under pressure, I want it bad / She got something I never had / I see her lookin’ at me.” Throughout the song, he commands, “Bad bitches, get low right now.”

The hook then leads us into a drum and keys filled beat where Wale flows with his signature style. Wale raps, “I’m just tryin’ to get you comfortable / And it’s amazing what some liquor and a blunt will do.”

Cole and Wale show great chemistry and have impressive one liners throughout the track,

“I blow trees like a hurricane.”  and “If looks kill, then you’re murdering,” “I get paper like a mailbox, but girl you got me open,” just to name a few.

Sure the track might not touch on social and gender issues like Wale did with 90210, or discuss the struggles of overcoming poverty like Cole did in I Get Up. Instead, it’s a fun song that’s intended for radio and club play, a song that’s supposed to get your foot tapping and head noddin’.

Most of all, the track speaks loads to the diversity encompassed in both Wale and Cole’s work. Both encompass the ability to rap about the heavy stuff but they can also release the upbeat stuff, and pull it off just as nicely.

Check out the track, and keep your ears open for more Wale and Cole material coming at you this summer!

Image Source: Hip Hop Music Dot Com

Tribute or Theft?: A Look Into Popular Music Sound A Likes.

Every artist seems to “steal” or “borrow” a little bit of their work.

I mean, it’s hard not to when music is so vast and intricate–everyone is influenced by everyone else–artists take bits and pieces of what they witness and mold it to make it into their own.

However, this isn’t always the case. Their seems to be a fine line between homage’ and just down right theft. That fine line has always interested me.

When thinking on this, topics such as sampling come to mind–a technique mainly used in hip hop where the vocals are unique but the instrumental is taken from an entirely different song.

This technique can be done well, such as the case with Kanye West, whose samples contain his own signature touch such as pitched and sped vocals and it can also be done poorly –such as the case with Vanilla Ice which we’ll touch on later in this article.

So what makes a song unique? And where is that line between copyright infringement and tribute? In this article we will look at some of the better known “sound alikes” out there today.

George Harrison vs. The Chiffons

The Chiffons, a du wop group from the 1960’s, released one of their more popular songs, He’s So Fine, in 1963. The track climbed the charts and stayed on the Billboard Top 100 four consecutive weeks. The all girl group who went head to head with acts such as The Supremes held their water during that era and met much success throughout the 60’s.

Seven years later, George Harrison was emerging back on to the music scene fresh from his journey into Krishna Consciousness (Hare Krishna!).

Upon his return, Harrison released the album All Things Must Pass and one of the most notable songs on the album was a track entitled My Sweet Lord, a love song dedicated to Sri Krishna, whom Harrison was a strong devotee.

Though something occurred that shook things up for “the quiet one”of the fab four. The Chiffons Label, Bright Tunes Music, noticed a striking similarity in My Sweet Lord, and that  similarity was that it was almost the complete same song as He’s So Fine!

This dispute led to a lengthy law suit that lasted over 10 years, where Harrison had one of the most memorable defenses to date used in a copyright case: Subconscious infringement.

Harrison’s legal team claimed that Harrison did not intentionally steal the song–and the striking similarities actually came from Harrison hearing the track and then subsequently forgetting that he had heard it. The tune was stored in his subconscious so when he wrote My Sweet Lord he thought it was his original work –but his “creativity” was actually just a subconscious rendering of He’s So Fine that he had heard a decade ago.

Although it sounds trippy, it’s an interesting argument that’s also been reported in other cases too. I remember taking a fiction course a few years ago and my teacher told stories of how new writers would bring in stories that would contain bits and pieces that were very similar to published novels that they have read. He claimed that this was natural and that sometimes your brain will trick you into thinking you’re writing something new when you’re really just reaching into your memory. He urged us to be careful that we aren’t falling into that trap. The same trap Harrison claimed to have fell into.

However, when all was said in done–Harrison lost the case but ended up buying the rights to He’s So Fine which cost him $587,000.

This is one of my favorite cases for a few reasons.

I find the argument of subconcious infringement fascinating and it speaks multitudes about how our minds work–but also–both songs are great in their own right. My Sweet Lord contains beautiful lyrics, a guitar riff from Eric Clapton and a beautiful choral style backing vocal. He’s So Fine is also a great tune, one that is the epitome of du-wop music that reigned supreme in the 1960’s.

Above are the two tracks meshed together so you can hear them played over one another. The similarities are unreal and they match perfectly! The “hallelujah” of Harrison lines up perfectly with the “doo lang da lang” of The Chiffons. It’s a very eye well..ear.. opening. Take a listen.

Years later John Lennon also weighed in on the case, stating his doubt for the “subconscious infringment argument”, but whatever the case, I am very glad that both of these musicians penned such great pieces.

“He must have known, you know. He’s smarter than that. It’s irrelevant, actually—only on a monetary level does it matter. He could have changed a couple of bars in that song and nobody could ever have touched him, but he just let it go and paid the price. Maybe he thought God would just sort of let him off.” -John Lennon, 1980 interview with Playboy Magazine, speaking on Harrison’s subconscious infringement defense.

Fergie vs. JJ Fad

When the track Fergalicious came out in 2006, most listeners were too busy trying to decipher the cryptic messages found within the song (we still aren’t sure what exactly fergalicious means) than to actually notice that the song was a blatant rip off of 80’s rap group JJ Fad and their track Super Sonic.

Fergie and The Black Eyed Peas didn’t mean to claim any authorship and used the track as a sample–but no royalties were ever given to the authors of Super Sonic. The unpaid royalties led to a lawsuit, from what I believe, has yet to go to court.

The Arabian Prince, author of the song, NWA producer and apparent royal bad ass, has claimed that Fergie’s label has denied payment on numerous occasions.

Once listening to the song the “fine line” we spoke about earlier comes back up. If you listen to the track not much is changed at all–even the rhythm of the lyrics are the exact same. (listen above!)

Usually when one samples a song they at least add their own flavor to it–and in this case her flavor was repeating the word “fergalicious” over and over again. Which unfortunately isn’t even enough be entertaining as it is legal.

Though, I must admit the song was a great sample to use. J.J Fad (Just Jammin’ Fresh And Def) was an all girl group whose style opened doors for groups such as Salt n Peppa and early TLC.

Super Sonic was a throwback to the days of Sugar Hill Gang and other old school rap greats. The song incorporates a laid back groove with a slow styled rap vocal. I can see the appeal in sampling this classic track–but I just think more could have came out of it if  if the lyrics weren’t a blatant knock off.

Vanilla Ice vs. Queen

We all have done it.

We turn on the radio and hear the signature bass line and for a few bars we aren’t sure if Queen’s Under Pressure or Vanilla Ice’s Ice Ice Baby is about to play.

This is also a textbook case of copyright infringement.

To prove infringment the alleged infringer must have had two things:

1) Access to the work that’s claimed to be copied.

2) The tracks must contain substantial similarity.

That knowledge alone made Vanilla Ice somewhat of a laughing stock when he gave interviews regarding his hit Ice, Ice, Baby.

Ice claimed that he did not owe Queen and David Bowie any money for sampling their legendary song, Under Pressure, because he added a “chh”.

Yes, a “chh”. The “chh” he is reffering to is one solitary cymbal hit–one instance of a closed hi hat in the track. He believes that this one closed hi-hat  added to every 16 bars is enough for him to not have to pay royalties. The one hi-hat doesn’t make it substantial any more.

If this is how copyright law works than everyone get ready for my debut album containing songs such as: Hit The Road, Murphy, Somewhere Under Or Around The Vicinity Of The Rainbow, the funk inspired I Feel Okay, and of course the sure fire hit Purple Fog.

Though, of course, this isn’t how copyright works and Vanilla Ice ended up paying Queen for the sample and started listing the late Queen frontman, Freddie Mercury, as the composer.

He also went on to state that the infamous “chh” quote was him trying to be humorous–but something about him makes me doubts that.

Granted, both songs have a strong legacy. Under Pressure is considered to be one of the best collaborations of all time–combining the legendary David Bowie with the equally  legendary Freddie Mercury. While Ice, Ice, Baby–although not as prestigious, was the first hip hop song to cross over into the pop charts and is one of the more memorable songs of the last 20 years.

I couldn’t find how much Queen was paid and if they even asked for money–or if it was done out of respect by Ice. I would assume the Queen catalog would be huge money for the rights–hundreds of thousands.

If Vanilla Ice did have to pay big bucks to sample the Queen catalog–it would explain why he was last seen on D-List shows such as The Surreal Life and Dancing On Ice.

Too harsh?

Nonetheless, I’ve included an interesting mash up of the two tracks to show the similarities. It was actually kind of cool piecing them together and it’s a fun listen, if anything.

Chuck Berry vs. The Beach Boys

Chuck Berry was one of the innovators of early rock and roll music. His guitar playing combined elements of shout blues, jazz and gospel–a style that would ultimately turn into rock and roll. Berry has inspired everyone from the Beatles to Angus Young of AC/DC.. and apparently Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys, too.

In 1958 Berry released a track entitled Sweet Little Sixteen. The song is about a young lady, referred to only as sweet little sixteen, and how men from all over the world want to come and dance with her.

Men from Boston, Pittsburgh P.A., in the heart of Texas, to the ‘frisco Bay..and so forth.

A few years later, in 1963, The Beach Boys came out with a song entitled Surfin’ USA. The song was about some guys that loved to surf. They loved to surf all over the country. They loved to surf in Del Mar, Manhattan, the Doheny Way, they loved to surf in Huntington, Californi-a, and just all over the place.

Yes, even the content of the songs were taken from one another. I mean, Pittsburgh, P.A … Californi-A. It’s like they weren’t even trying to be crafty at this point. Brian Wilson, writer of the song, claimed that the song wasn’t “stolen” but “inspired by”. Although it was “inspired by” Berry, Wilson claimed and wanted sole authorship.

Behind Wilsons back, his father and manager Murry Wilson, actually went and claimed Berry as the copyright owner without ever telling Wilson.

For 25 years Berry received authorship while Wilson did not–this caused a huge controversy, and now they are both listed as composers for the tune.

However, I feel as if it was blatant infringement even down to the use of listing off cities, and this may have been the motive behind Murry Wilson not wanting his son to receive royalties for the track.

Listen to them side by side above!

As I mentioned in the beginning of this article there seems to be numerous trends in the industry that can easily overlap when it comes to song writing–though sometimes it can a tribute –but other times it can just appear to be straight up theft. You be the judge.

Thank you for your views!

Wu-Lyf, Heavy Pop

When I need inspiration–whether it’s writing, studying, or you name it–I always enjoyed ambient guitar driven music. Rock instrumental tracks that some would deem “post rock”. A genre typically lyric-less that utilizes your generic rock band set up yet harnesses the composition of an orchestra–crescendos, build ups, break downs–always wonderfully done and very unique.

There were times where I wondered what a modern rock group would sound like if they incorporated vocals into this orchestral rock vibe. If the group kept the spaced out instruments–the slow ambient rhythms, but just incorporated vocals in way that didn’t take away from the beautifully arranged instruments.

Still wondering?

Try Wu-Lyf’s new track Heavy Pop. 

Wu-Lyf is an enigmatic band from Manchester, England that formed in 2008. It’s hard to classify a genre for the group but whatever you want to call it–it’s good. The group’s tracks can be anything from more vocal driven, to more instrumental driven, to the perfect combination of both.

The above track, Heavy Pop, is their final track from their debut album, Go Tell Fire To The Mountain. 

A demo of the song surfaced in 2009, but in early Summer of 2011 the full version was released that incorporates a riveting piano introduction that builds into an explosion of raspy throat filled vocals. (Not metal throaty, but like a sensitive Tom Waits throaty. Yes strange analogy!)

The constant guitar riff also creates a beautiful “space” with in the track. This “space” compliments and brings out the passionate vocals and subtleties found within.

Check out the track above!