Thursday, November 25, 2010

Nicki Minaj
Pink Friday [2010]
Standard edition: 3.5/5
Deluxe edition: 4/5

Pink Friday offers something for everybody. Its accessible to hip hop fans and people who may not typically follow rap music . Nicki promised to showcase many sides of her personality on her debut album, and she's certainly delivered on that promise.
The standard 13 track edition of Pink Friday isn't full of club bangers. Instead of just throwing together a "hood rat" album, Nicki has taken a more mid temp approach to the style of music she's used on the record. This may be a negative for people who were wanting a more heavier sound throughout the debut, but there are still some great hooks and nicely produced tracks throughout most of the track listing regardless. The album is surprisingly more melodic than i expected, and lyrically it's a very personal record. Musically, it also crosses the lines between hip hop and pop, giving her songs their own distinct flair. Nicki doesn't seem like she wants to be pigeon holed as an artist, and her varied taste in music which she's spoken openly about is evident in her output.


I'm The Best 3.5/5
This track is quintessential Nicki from start to finish. It's bubbly and upbeat without being cheesy, a perfect reflection of her personality. It's a good opener for the album because the lyrics address her climb to the top from her old skool days to now. It's also a nice indicator for listeners as to what type of album they're in for [which isn't your traditional rap album].

Roman's Revenge 5/5
The production on this song is insane, the music is heavy and chaotic, and the raps are angry and loud. The energy in the track is enough to make the walls of your house shake. The song features Eminem who appears as his alter ego, 'Slim Shady'. He battles it out along with Nicki's gay alter ego, 'Roman Zolonski'. They throw rhymes at each other perfectly, and the song only gets weirder and more entertaining during the last minute of the track when Nicki channels Roman's Mother, 'Martha', who warns Roman of the trouble he's causing in her heavy British accent. It's an incredible song that showcases Nicki's snappy lyrics nicely, as well as having the most unique production out of all the songs on the album.

Did It On'em 4/5
Dis be street, dis be hood, the most ghetto song on the album. It features a very slow, grinding, heavy bass line with Nicki's vulgar rapping on top of it. The lyrics are also fucking hilarious. This reminds me a lot of old skool mix tape Nicki.

Right Thru Me 4/5
It's got a great hook, and it's very romantic sounding.

Fly 4/5
This features one of the best choruses on the album. The song has potential hit single written all over it, it'd sound perfect on radio. I really like it, it's very pretty. The chorus is sung by Rihanna.

Save Me 5/5
Nicki sings on this instead of rapping, and her voice sounds quiet nice on record when trying to hit a few higher notes. What makes the song though is the music, it's a nice really pretty drum and base, down tempo instrumentation that flows nicely.

Moment 4 Life 4/5
This song has really grown on me over time. It's got a great mid-tempo beat and Drake's rap fits nicely in with Nicki's parts. It's an obvious single and perfect for radio.

Check It Out 3/5
I hated it when i first heard it, but it's since warmed up to me, but only a little. I'll always have a love/hate relationship with this song. Parts of it i like, other parts i can't stand. I need to be in the mood for it, but it can be catchy at the right time. It's the sample that drives me nuts on this, it's just so shit sounding. I do like the second half of the song though when the beat breaks down a lot more and it gets funkier. Could i do without it? yes, but i don't mind that it's there. is featured on this.

Blazin' 4/5 should take some notes from this song, this is how you use a sample perfectly. I really love the synths in this, the production is really strong. The song has a strong anthem vibe to it, love how vast it sounds, and the build up to the chorus is perfect. Kanye West raps on this.

Here I Am 5/5
I really love this song. The heavy synths throughout the verses, and the loud motorbike revving sound effect after each chorus sounds really fucking cool. It's dark and grimey, i only wish it was longer. It's my second favourite song from the album.

Dear Old Nicki 3/5
It's one of the weaker tracks on the album, mostly because the production is a bit generic and dull. I don't mind it being on the record, but i find it slows down the last section of the album a bit too much. Lyrically it's fantastic, i love how it's written in letter format and she makes some great personal references in it. It's cute, but very forgettable.

Your Love 4/5
The first #1 rap single by a female MC in years!.....great song, well written, very catchy, very simple.

Last Chance 2.5/5

Probably the weakest track on the album for me. It's certainly catchy, and i can see how others may like it, but it's a bit too sickely sweet for my taste. It's listenable, but i would have gone with one of the bonus tracks as the closer for the album, preferably 'Catch Me'. Natasha Beningifled is featured on this.

Super Bass [Deluxe bonus] 4/5

This could have fit nicely onto the standard edition of Pink Friday. The music during the verses and Nicki''s quicker than usual raps are a nice build up to a very upbeat and catchy chorus. A good summer track.

Blow Ya Mind [Deluxe bonus] 4/5
Similar to Did It Oném, this reminds me a lot of old skool Nicki. I love the mix of the guitar in the chorus and heavy bass of the verses. It's a heavy sounding track, it would sound great live and loud.

Muny [Deluxe bonus] 4/5
Another bonus track that should have made the standard tracklisting. It has the same sort of hook that gets stuck in your head like Beyonce's "Single Ladies"did.

Wave Ya Hands [Best Buy Deluxe only bonus] 4/5
I like the simplistic approach to the music in this. It has a nice anthem sort of vibe to it, like something she'd sing to a massive crowd of fans.

Catch Me [Best Buy Deluxe only bonus] 5/5
It's amazing that a song as good as this was left off the standard release of the album, especially considering the few questionable songs Nicki opted to use instead of it. This is my favourite song from the record, the blasts of electronic effects after each chorus and the endless hypnotic drumming beat throughout the instrumentation is perfect. I fucking love this song.

Girls Falls Like Dominoes [iTunes only bonus] 3.5/5
The sample in this is a bit too heavy, the chorus should have been taken back a notch and worked Nicki's vocals into it more. Either way though, this is very catchy and the lyrics are funny.

The first half of Pink Friday is stronger than the second half. It opens up nicely with some heavy club songs and good ballads. The middle section of the record consists of mostly mid-tempo type tracks, so a couple of more dancier tunes would have helped the album flow a little easier towards the end of the track listing. Still, it's real flaws are far and few between, with peoples reactions to the album being based more on what type of rap they prefer listening to, rather than the actual production of the songs, which in my opinion for the most part is very nicely done.

It's the deluxe edition of the album that livens up the record nicely though, with a big chunk of club tracks extending out the track listing into a more varied play list. Any slight short comings from the standard edition are ironed out nicely once you get a better mix of slower and faster songs. A few of the bonus tracks could have replaced a few of the standard album songs, but i can listen to both versions of the album and be content with both.

Pink Friday is a good way to welcome Nicki to the music industry as a viable artist with versatility. She isn't just a blow up doll with big tits, she can be quiet introspective and is capable of writing some great lyrics. As an entire project [combining all the songs from each edition], it's an enjoyable listen with her stamp firmly punched into the music. The album will definitely draw in an eclectic mix of fans, which is what will help her career in the long run.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Loud [2010]

For her first few albums, Rihanna was very much a throw away pop princess. There's nothing wrong with that, i am a Britney fan after all, but Rihanna never seemed to really click with me and i never thought all that much about her outside of a few decent songs here and there. Once Rated R arrived in 2009, she finally delivered something worth my while and i fell in love with the album.
Loud follows a very similar pattern to Rated R. It's more cohesive when compared to her first few albums, it's fairly mid-tempo heavy with only a couple "club bangha" tracks, and it also offers a big serving of synths and electric guitar. In a way, Loud is the perfect sister album to Rated R. Rated R is the darker more urban sounding first half, Loud is the slightly lighter more dance/rock lite second part.


S&M 4/5
It sounds like the album could use a little intro to start things off, but it doesn't have one, it just goes straight into track #1. Not that i mind, the opening song is really hot. It's made for the clubs, and reminds me of a darker, sexier 'Only Girl'. It sounds like a good single, but i'm not sure how well the lyrics will go down on the radio.

What's My Name? 5/5
I absolutely love this song to death. The track is one complete hook from start to finish, the melody, the arrangement, it's perfect. This song features Drake.

Cheers [Drink To That] 3.5/5
This track samples Avril Lavigne's "I'm With You", i'm not sure if the song needed it really, the rest of the track without it sounds perfectly fine. It's a grower.

Fading 4/5
It's filler, but good filler. The electronic lite music and the chorus are very pretty.

Only Girl [In The World] 5/5
I know it's an odd word to describe a euro dance song, but this is really gorgeous. The chorus is so massive and epic, the video featuring Rihanna shouting off the mountain tops and jumping through the air is a perfect visual to go along with the vibe of this track. It's so vast and grand sounding, i love it.
California King Bed 3.5/5
I didn't like this when i first heard it, the verses are weak and it's my least favourite track on the album. It's grown on me over time though and i enjoy it now, the chorus is nicely sung. This is a big favourite among others listeners.

Man Down 5/5
The most interesting song vocally and production wise on the album. The chorus gets stuck in your head something crazy, and the Caribbean vibe of the music fits Rihanna's voice perfectly.

Raining Men 4/5
It comes across as filler, but it's good filler. I love the heavy low synths that come in during the chorus. It's the most ghetto track on the album. Queen of Rap, Nicki Minaj is featured on this.

Complicated 4/5
Some people think California King Bed is "THE" ballad off the album, but this is the one i prefer personally. I love how she sings the chorus.
Skin 5/5
Heavy synths, sexy vocals, slow pumping beat, it's the "G4L" off the album, but better. The song is really great from the start, but turns amazing once the electric guitar comes blasting in during the last section of the song. Gives me chills. My favourite track from the album and my favourite Rihanna song ever.

Love The Way You Like [Part II] 4/5
This is much better than the version Eminem released, and it's been given a soft rock make over that really suits Rihanna's voice. The chorus on this is one of the best ones i've ever heard on a pop song. This features a quick Eminem rap, not needed, but i still like him on it.


As great as Loud is, the album title is very misleading. There is nothing Loud about the record, it's a fairly low key sounding collection of songs, and the lead single [Only Girl] really shouldn't be used as a way to showcase what the entire album is like. If you're expecting Good Girl Gone Bad part 2, you'll be very disappointed. As i said before, Loud follows the same pattern as Rated R, so if her last album wasn't really your thing, then this will most likely bore you to tears. If you're like me though, and prefer Rihanna doing more melodic slower music with a few faster tracks thrown in, then you'll love Loud.

Rihanna continues to grow as an artist, and after a second offering from her that i've fallen in love with, i'm officially keeping her on my radar. Rated R is still a big favourite of mine, and i honestly didn't think she'd be able to top it, but she has with Loud. I think this album is perfect, and it's the best pop album of the year for me.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Social Network 4.5/5
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake.
Directed by: David Fincher.

A story about the founders of the social networking website, Facebook.

Who would have guessed a movie about Facebook would have turned out to be so controversial?
I was unaware of the back story behind how Facebook was created. I knew a few lawsuits had come up over the last few years against it's creator, but i didn't really pay all that much attention to them. After seeing The Social Network, it's almost unbelievable to me how over the top and ridiculous the entire history behind something like Facebook is. All this time i assumed Facebook was the result of one geeky Harvard student [Mark Zuckerberg] who just got lucky by creating a website that happened to go viral across the world. That is partly true, but there's a lot more mud slinging and backstabbing that went along behind closed doors during the process of Facebook hitting the internet big time.

How much of this movie is true is something we may never be 100% sure about. The movie is based upon a book which contains the stories of the people who sued Zuckerberg over the ideas he apparently stole from them. The cases themselves were real, and the people did get massive amounts of money from the lawsuits, so in that sense they were payed their dues FOR A REASON. What does get mentioned a lot in other reviews about this film however, is how accurate the portrayal of Zuckerberg actually is. He is no doubt a genius, but is he the conniving lying snake they show to the audience in The Social Network?..............Zuckerberg doesn't seem to think so from what he's said in interviews regarding the movie. How accurate he may be in the film doesn't really matter though, because the films storyline is based around an actual case anyway, so the stories authenticity is as up in the air as it would have been in court in real life during the trials anyway.
The only part of the story that really made me question just how much the filmakers knew about Zuckerberg, was the inclusion of a girlfriend who breaks up with him during the first scene of the film. She pretty much becomes the reason why the website was created in the first place, and pops up a couple times during the story as an obvious strong link between Zuckerberg and some of the decisions his character makes. There's also an interesting scene at the end of the film, which is one of only a few hints at Zuckerberg having any sort of heart at all throughout the story. In an interview only a few days ago, Zuckerberg denies having anything to do with a girl who influenced his decisions in making the website. Whether or not that's true, it was still an interesting part of the story, and it broke things up nicely.

The film features a fairly low key cast, but they all do incredibly well with the material they are given. Jesse Eisenberg plays Facebook creator, Mark Zuckerberg perfectly. It's his endless smart ass banter that keeps a lot of very heavy dialog filled scenes flowing easily. He was definitely the standout. Justin Timberlake played Napster creator, Sean Parker surprisingly well. I wasn't sure if he'd fit the part, but i think he did. He had some great moments. In fact, if that is how Sean Parker really is? i'd be fucking scared of ever doing business with the guy. What a hideous person. There were twins in the film who did great with their roles as members of the trio who gave Zuckerberg the idea to create Facebook that did a fantastic job as well, but i can't seem to find any trace of them online. I did learn however that they weren't actually twins at all, but one guy who's face was digitally pasted onto a second person, haha. Nice subtle effect.
I've heard a few complaints about the lack of strong female characters in the movie. I'm not really sure if it needed any to be honest, and i don't see why it's even an issue. Maybe there isn't a prominent female character in the story because there wasn't one involved in the real life case to begin with? least that's how i saw it.

Aside from a really engaging story and perfect casting, the movies strong point is most definitely the script. I wouldn't be surprised if it's awarded an Oscar next year at the Academy Awards. Aaron Sorkin did an AMAZING job with the dialog. There are times when you are so immersed in the scenes because of how they're written. I loved it.
David Fincher as usual shot the film beautifully, and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross created a very cool soundtrack.

It's amazing that someone so socially incapable like Zuckerberg managed to create the biggest online social network in the whole world. Then again, maybe it being online is what made him so perfect at being the person to bring something like that to life. If he's as awkward, blog obsessed and techno geeky as the film depicts him, then he well and truly deserves to sit in his CEO chair at Facebook head office.
It's hard to like Zuckerberg, and it's even more hard to like Sean Parker. Their intelligence unfortunately has a dark side, and with a great idea between friends, comes a lot of arrogance and self importance that leads to a lot of shockingly bad actions within personal relationships.
I can't help but laugh at the irony of it all though, a group of people coming together to create a social website that connects everyone together, yet they themselves seem barely capable of doing that in real life. It's just bizarre, and it pushes the point of maybe having a good helping of REAL social interaction OUTSIDE, instead of just in front of your computer day in and day out.

As much as i enjoyed Inception, it failed to live up to the hype for me. The Social Network however does. I was nearly turned off by how much i was hearing about it, but i forced myself to check it out and i'm glad i did. It was one of the best films of the year.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Blu-ray review: THE EXORCIST

Film: After years and years of waiting for The Exorcist to hit Blu-ray, it's FINALLY getting the treatment it deserves for fans.
Both the extended cut [also known as 'The Version You've Never Seen'] and the original 1973 cut are featured in this Blu-ray set. Fans have always de
bated over which version is better. Personally, even though the original cut of the film is brilliant, and does have a more darker ending [which i prefer], the extended features some nice added scenes and effects, most notably the epic spider walk scene which has become such a favourite among viewers over the years, it's hard to imagine such a bizarre and creepy scene not in the film, so i'll go with the extended cut as my personal favourite.

The film is presented in 1080p High Def, and it looks fantastic. You can see marks on faces that you haven't seen before, and the AMAZING sound design in the film will no doubt sound great with a good pair of surround speakers [which i sadly don't have, tear].

Packing: It comes packaged in Warner's very nicely made [and popular] hard cover booklet Blu-ray style sets. The cover features a slight foil finish, so the front image is a bit metallic and shimmers all pretty. Each disc sits behind the front and back cover, with the middle section of the packaging consisting of a cool 38 page booklet featuring images and footnotes about the movie and the cast. There's also a separate letter from the director about the Blu-ray release.

Special Features:

Disc 1:

Extended Director's Cut [2000 Version]
There's a commentary by Director William Friedkin on this version that i haven't heard because it apparently covers all of what is found in the special features anyway. I'll give it a listen at some point though i'm sure. All features on this disc are in HD as well. The major features are....

- Raising Hell: Filming The Exorcist [30 min approx]
This is the first of 3 newly made documentaries about the filming of the film. There's lots of new behind the scenes footage in this. You'll get a lot of Linda on set and a good look into how a few of the effects were created. It's amazing to see how it was all done with NO computer effects.

- The Exorcist Locations: Georgetown Then and Now [8 min approx]
A good short doco about the locations the movie was filmed in. There's some cool comparisons of Georgetown now and then which are fun to see. Did you know the beginning scene of the movie was actually filmed in Iraq!?........every weird looking person in that opening shot were just street people.

- Faces of Evil: The Different Versions of The Exorcist [10 min approx]
Both the director and writer of The Exorcist speak passionately about what they like and don't like between both versions. Interesting hearing their thoughts on it.

Disc 2:

Original Theatrical Cut [1973 Version]
As well as the features i talk about below, there's also 2 commentaries for this version, one by the Director and another by Producer/Screenwriter. There is a story board and concept art gallery, as well as a video introduction by William Friedkin and rough footage of the original ending. The film itself is featured in HD, but the special features aren't on this disc.

- The Fear of God: The Making of The Exorcist [78 min approx]
A pretty cool feature length doco that first aired back when The Exorcist was re-released to cinemas in 2000. It's more distinctive than the other features on disc 1, and even though there is a guy hosting it, he isn't annoying and we don't see a lot of him. Less backstage footage than disc 1, but more cast stories and interviews.

- Interview Gallery: The Original Cut, The Final Reckoning and Stairway To Heaven [9 min approx]
A bit of this is featured in The Fear of God, this is more of it. Mostly for die-hard fans who want to hear some more personal thoughts from the Director and Writer. I liked it.

Overall: As a complete package, it's a very nicely put together, and the fancy book casing adds that little extra something to make it more special. It's great to finally have a worthy release for the film, it took fucking long enough.

Film: 5/5
Special features: 4/5
Blu-ray overall: 5/5