Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience (2013, USA) Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Suit & Tie, Don’t Hold the Wall, Strawberry Bubblegum, Tunnel Vision
I know many fans were anticipating a new album and here it finally is. “Pusher Love Girl” brings in lounge orchestra and welcoming, sophisticated tone. This eases you into this mature album and smoothly transitions to similar sound of “Suit & Tie”. I thought I would be replaying this song more than I actually ended up doing when listening to this album. It was a great track to choose to promote this album and show a new growth in Timberlake’s sound and Jay-Z’s contribution wasn’t off putting either like most rappers. When I came to “Don’t Hold the Wall”, I instantly fell in love with it more than “Suit & Tie”. No offense to the previous track, but there was something familiar yet fresh about the track. It has a seductive melody that could be reminiscent of Timbaland’s older material from the 90s. It just proves that they still have great chemistry. Only downfall is the switch up in the music toward the end of the track, which a lot of these tracks suffer from. “Strawberry Bubblegum” mixes Timberlake’s new sound and simplistic R&B sounds from back in the day of midnight love songs on the radio. Despite the title track and the chorus being a little cheesy, it still manages to keep that sophistication of the album and not sound out of place. As mentioned before with melody transitions, this song has one of those unnecessary changes. I would’ve preferred the song to have ended before the beat changed. “Tunnel Vision” is my most played track from this album. Even though it suffers with the length, the ending of the track doesn’t drastically change too much like the other songs. This is another familiar, but fresh sound with Timbaland’s contribution. It sounds like everything good from this album and Timberlake’s first album. “Spaceship Coupe” slows down the tempo and borrows heavily from Usher’s leftovers of not so good love songs. Timberlake’s voice seems strained in places and the pacing kinda drags along. “That Girl” continues to keep a vintage feel from the first two tracks. “Let the Groove In” brings the tempo up, but maintains the nostalgia of the Jackson5 era. “Mirrors” brings sophistication back to the present in another lengthy track that took me some time to appreciate. It still reminds me too much of “Cry Me a River” musically, but the chorus makes up for it. Unfortunately, the music change toward the end is unnecessary. “Blue Ocean Floor” is a bit out of place from the rest of the album. It has a slow, ambient sound to it that makes Timberlake’s voice sound unfamiliar to the ears. The whole album is a satisfying comeback. Unfortunately, it has some length issues where songs would continue on for 8 minutes with a music shift that ruins the initial groove you’re already used to. I would’ve preferred those tracks to be cut shorter and maybe offer two or three more tracks.
Christina Aguilera - Lotus (2012, USA) Rating: 2.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Your Body, Cease Fire, Around the World
I guess not many people liked Bionic. I thought it was a decent album, nothing to praise or gripe about. Anyway, we began with “Lotus Intro” which is mostly drums, some other random sounds, and Christina singing a bit randomly. “Army of Me” is a generic pseudo-power dance song that tries to deliver both vocally and musically, but falls a bit flat. Christina’s voice doesn’t quite suit the genericness of this melody. “Red Hot Kinda Love” seems like it’s trying to mix Back to Basics with the new, but seems awkward with the cutesy vocals. “Make the World Move” continues to bring back old elements from Back to Basics album, but just seems like faded recycle materials that not even the talented CeeLo Green can save. I will admit the only reason I bothered with this album was for “Your Body”. I really like this song and I’ve mentioned before that I like the music video. . It might blend in with what’s playing on the radio, but the arrangement works for Christina’s voice, especially compared to “Army of Me”. “Let There Be Love” seems more blantally like it’s trying to fit in with everything else, but it’s a fun little track despite it not complimenting Christina’s voice at all. She’s just not a dance singer. “Sing For Me” brings Christina to what she’s good at, emotional, slow paced songs that suit her vocals. “Blank Page” continues on that path of highlighting her voice with just piano in the background. Even though the previous tracks were better, but “Cease Fire” hits the mark more for my tastes. It packs a punch and doesn’t take away from Christina’s vocals. It might not have the poetic lyrics of “Blank Page”, but it’s still better than a lot of the wannabe uptempo tracks on here. “Around the World” is a total 180 from the previous track and brings out the bass and the bad girl in Christina. It seems like you should be prepared for such a track musically, but lyrically it’s a whole different subject matter and somehow I enjoy this silly track. “Circles” sounds like a track that should’ve been made during perhaps her first or second album. It’s too cutesy and high school drama. It tries to be the badass anthem with the clumsy rock sounds, but fails. We take another 180 with “Best of Me”. It brings in those power vocals and uplifting music to push Christina to the forefront. It’s a pretty song and immediately makes you forget “Circles”. “Just A Fool” brings out the strained vocals in this rock-ish ballad. “Light Up the Sky” tries to be Katy Perry’s “Fireworks”, but seems too generic and try hard for Christina. “Empty Words” is supposed to be empowering...I guess, but I’m completely zoned out by now. “Shut Up” tries to be naughty and in your face with hip-hop samples and profanity, but it just seems silly and should’ve been left off.
Three Days Grace - Transit of Venus (2012, USA) Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Chalk Outline, Give into Me, Give Me A Reason, Unbreakable Heart
For me, this band has been consist in bringing good music, so I wasn’t expecting anything less from this album. “Sign of the Times” starts off at a slow, steady pace that gradually picks up just enough to not be overwhelming. “Chalk Outline” brings in a bit of the heaviness, mostly lyrically and a little bit in the electronics and guitar. It sounds like your standard Three Days Grace song pretty much. “The High Road” begins off minimal with a little guitar and vocal, but eases into a more powerful chorus. “Operate” sounds like something borrowed from Avenged Sevenfold with a slight twist. Not complaining, just an observation. “Anonymous” is essentially a slightly slow track, then delivers the punchline in the chorus before quieting down some for the verses. “Misery Loves My Company” is a little more aggressive and in your face just enough. The melody and chorus are kinda catchy. “Give In To Me” brings my full interest back in. It has an alluring tone to it during the verses, then really keeps you during the chorus with its convincing pleads. “Happiness” is fast paced and gets the blood running, then cools down just a little during the verses. “Give Me A Reason” is a slightly slower track compared to the previous, but I enjoy the arrangement. Everything softens after the intro, then gains a little power when the chorus and bridge hits. It flows very well and I can listen to this track repeatedly. “Time That Remains” brings in the pianos and acoustics and maintains the slight slow pace set from the previous track. It’s a good, uplifting song about life. “Expectations” really comes at you and has some interesting familiar sounds hanging out in the background. This is one of those tracks that carries a lot of attitude. “Broken Glass” has an interesting stop and go melody that works with the vocals surprisingly well. “Unbreakable Heart” brings back the acoustics occasionally and a good way to end the album. It goes in a slightly unexpected direction with the music, but it transitions quite smoothly with vocals and the punch of the chorus.
miss A – Independent Women Pt. III (2012, South Korea) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks:남자 없이 잘 살아, Madness
I was a little nervous coming into this mini-album due to the title and the possibilities JYP could do with it. Surprisingly, “남자 없이 잘 살아” got to its point of being independent, empowering, and catchy. I found myself repeating and singing along to the chorus on several occasions. “Ma Style” continues to carry on a seemingly “girl power” theme to it, but it’s not as interesting. Well, it is interesting, but doesn’t quite hook you as easily. “If I Were a Boy” automatically makes me think of Beyoncé’s rendition of the same title...and I despise that song. This song is not as catchy as Beyoncé’s, sad to say. It kinda just drags along with this sad merry-go-round music. “Madness” somehow lands into one of my favorites, despite its slowness. It’s beautiful and has a great maturity about it. The added male vocals weren’t that bad either. “Time’s Up” reminds me a little of Alexandra Stan’s “Mr. Saxobeat”. It seems a bit out of place compared to the tracks, but I guess they were trying to throw in something more upbeat and dancy.
t.A.T.u - Waste Management (2009, Russia) Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: White Robe, Running Blind, Fly on the Wall, Don't Regret (Sniper Remix)
I know this album is old, but I happened to find it this year during the announcement of the duo reuniting for one performance. I didn’t know this album existed until I saw the video for “White Robe”, which happens to be the opening track to this album. I love love love this song so much! Everything just flows so perfectly. It keeps that t.A.T.u sound that they’ve carried from album to album, but add a little bit of newness to it. “You And I” sounds a bit of a rehash of “All About Us”, but it still manages to be enjoyable. “Sparks” is a bit of a hit and miss for me. It has an awkward electronic melody and the vocal arrangement is a little different from the usual. “Snowfalls” falls in the same category of awkwardness. Both of these tracks can be good with the right mood, but it seems a little experimental for the girls. “Martian Eyes” is a pure pop ballad in the girls’ native tongue. It has a simple, but out of this world sound to the melody that works with the vocals. “Little People” returns to the slightly clumsy electronic melody, but maintains its enjoyment to some extent. The vocals are a little strained in places and may sound a bit childish overall. Then we hit a pretty cool electronic instrumental track called “Waste Management”. “Running Blind” comes back with some familiar sounds from the girls that can be found in “Not Gonna Get Us”. “Fly on the Wall” has a couple vocal straining moments, but it doesn’t take away from the song too much. It’s a pretty simple track, but a nice one. “Time of the Moon” brings in a rock element to the album and a bit of a run-on vocal arrangement. It’s not bad, but definitely experimental for the duo. “Don’t Regret” seems like a continuation of “White Robe”, but a lot slower. “White Robe (Fly Dream Remix)” isn’t as good as the original. There are lots of vocal gaps and it takes away everything I love from the original version. “Running Blind (Transformer Remix)” makes the journey sound a little more epic and like this version just a little more than the original. I guess the original was too slow for me, but the slight tempo shift in “Don't Regret (Sniper Remix)” was just right for me to appreciate the song.
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