Monday, March 14, 2011

Britney Spears
Femme Fatale: Deluxe Edition [2011]

I'll admit, this is the first Britney album i've heard that has taken me a good while to absorb. Her work is usually a lot more instant for me, and even though a lot of the album was great on first play, there was a good portion of it that i had to take my time with. Of course there's nothing wrong with that, getting to know a record over a period of time and slowly having songs unravel is a great way to discover an album, it was just an odd change of pace for me as a Britney fan.

1 > Till The World Ends 5/5
This is the best opener she's ever had. The song builds and builds into a beautifully vast dance song with a blistering euphoric chorus that blasts it's way right into your ear drums. I only wish it was longer, the chorus is so big, it should have been repeated at the end.

2 > Hold It Against Me 4/5
This took a while to really grow on me, and even though it feels slightly less than what it could have been for a lead single to a new album, i've come to really enjoy it.

3 > Inside Out 5/5
It's been years since Brit has released a slow track as a single, this song is the perfect opportunity to do so. This track isn't only the best song on the album, but one of the best songs of her entire career. The slow pumping bass line is really sexy, and the lyrics are cleverly written, they reference a couple lines from her old songs.

4 > I Wanna Go 4/5
I really liked the build up of bass line from the first chorus to the second chorus. I can't say it's one of my favourites, but it's nicely produced and i can see why people really love it.

5 > How I Roll 3/5
I really hated this when i first heard it, i was shocked that Bloodshy would produce such a tuneless mess. Over time it has grown on me though. When in the right mood, i can live with hearing it, but i do think it's the weakest song on the album. Don't take my word for it though, everyone seems to adore it.

6 > [Drop Dead] Beautiful 3.5/5
Britney's vocals on this sound great, i love the conviction behind her voice. An unknown rapper named, Sabi is featured on this, no idea why, her 20 second rap is pointless. Great outro though.

7 > Seal It With A Kiss 3.5/5
This could have easily come off Kylie's 'Aphrodite' album. It's a cute upbeat track with a hot dubstep dance break during the middle 8. Filler, but decent filler.

8 > Big Fat Bass 5/5
Will.i.Am's involvement in this seems to have really turned some people off this song. I can understand why, he has produced some awful dance music over the last couple years, but to his credit, he has given us a few decent ones as well. Personally, i think this is one of the strongest songs on the album. I love the mix of the piano melody with the dance beat.

9 > Trouble For Me 4.5/5
Best pre-chorus on the album? i think so!. The beat in this is amazing.

10 > Trip To Your Heart 5/5
It's like Heaven On Earth 2.0, except about 1o times better. The dreamy Ibiza production on the song is gorgeous, and the repetitive beat is really catchy. The way the beat stops and then kicks in again during the middle 8 is perfection, that's the best part of the entire album.

11 > Gasoline 4/5
It took a while to grow on me, but i really enjoy it now. It's got a hot beat and i love the music breakdown during the bridge.

12 > Criminal 4/5
One of the most unique tracks she's sung. The guitar with Britney's melodic vocals sounds great, her voice also seems a bit less processed on this song. It's nice to hear her actually sing.

13 > Up 'n' Down' 3.5/5
Another Kylie-esque dance track, the chorus can be a little annoying, but it's nicely produced overall.

14 > He About To Lose Me 4/5
Criminal is certainly the best choice as the main albums mid tempo ballad, but this track is just as good quality wise. Great mellow summer beach song.

15 > Selfish 5/5

One of the best bonus tracks she's ever had, and my second favourite song from the album. The hook in this is insanely catchy and the beat is really sexy. It should have been on the album.

16 > Don't Keep Me Wating 3/5

As a stand alone song, i like it. As a song on this album though, it doesn't make any sense. The entire album is electronic/dance, and then this track randomly pops up as a pop rock Kelly Clarkson reject. Surely she could have added something that suited the rest of the tracklisting a little better?. Oh well, i guess i can't deny she's pretty versatile genre wise.

How does Femme Fatale fair against her other albums? well essentially Femme Fatale is Circus 2.0, except a lot more slicker and less dated sounding. There have been some reviewers comparing Femme to Blackout, but i really don't understand why. They aren't similar at all in style or tone outside of some very minor similarities. Fatale shares more of the bubblier pop qualities of Circus than it does with the much darker and sexier Blackout.
I think Fatale completes Britney's essential album trilogy along with Blackout and In The Zone. Which one comes in at #1 changes depending on my mood, so for now i'll just say they're all her best albums for different reasons, with Femme Fatale having the slightly more appealing complete package between the 3 of them.

Fatale is great because it mixes Britney's usual sound with some really fresh production. Every song [even the weaker ones] all focus in on strong hooks and a familiar vibe that binds the tracklisting together making it her most cohesive album since Blackout. Every song makes sense, and it's less muddled with too many styles [like Circus]. It doesn't feel like a compilation, but a proper body of work with a beginning and an end.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Jessie J
Who You Are [2011]

Jessie has been building her profile for a good year now with YouTube videos and writing credits [she wrote Party In The U.S.A for Miley]. It was a smart move because she got to really showcase her vocal ability and create a good reputation for herself before launching herself into the music scene. Her debut album offers a mixed bag, some of it great, some of it not so great, but there's a lot of potential and versatility that shows she can pull out something incredible if she does it right.

The main problem with Who We Are is that it suffers from way too much dull filler. There's no denying that the vocal ability from Jessie is impressive, in fact, she's got the best voice i've heard in years, but it can get lost in hook-less ballad production. There are a couple of nice slower tracks on the album, like Big White Room, which may be a little over long, but it's got a nice quiet flow to it, and the addition of the live audience give it a bit of extra life. The albums only true high point when it comes to ballads however is the title track. It's a gorgeous song that builds and builds into a beautiful melody and really showcases Jessie's vocals. These are the only two ballads that do anything for me, the rest just aren't catchy enough, and are bogged down with messages about being yourself and staying strong [Stand Up] , which is great and all, but it only adds more to the already pedestrian production. There's no LIFE in them.

When the album does get good though, it gets VERY good. Her debut single 'Do It Like A Dude' is the best track on the album, Jessie can bring a lot of attitude to her music and it fits in perfectly with this song. Her second single, 'Price Tag', is a lot more upbeat, but has a great hook and is a nice intro to the rest of the album. 'Nobody's Perfect' reminds me a lot of American r&b, something that Mary J. Blige or Keiysha Cole would sing. So do other upbeat tracks like, 'Rainbow', 'Who's Laughing Now' and 'Abracadabra'. Those are the types of songs she shines the most on.
She even goes a little old skool Motown on 'Momma Knows Best', which has a very similar vibe to her track that was featured on the Easy A soundtrack, 'Sexy Silk'. A bit more of this sort of type of style would have elevated the album a lot more in my opinion.

As a debut effort, there's a lot to like on Who We Are. There are some boring ballads, a bit of outdated production and a lack of attitude that brings it down a few points, but the good out weights the bad, and there's more than enough on the album to enjoy. I don't think it's a blistering debut, but it's a nice introduction.