Showing posts with label pharrell. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pharrell. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - june 2, 2018

This was a weird week. A pretty busy one, to be sure, and some things did turn out as I had predicted, but overall... it's not often you can say that our new arrivals span between k-pop, Lil Baby, Kevin Gates, and the Backstreet Boys - yeah, we'll be getting to that one, I did not see that coming at all! And that's very telling of the Hot 100 right now: there doesn't seem to be any one musical movement that's driving the pop culture conversation with any sustainability, and we're ripe to see everything blow apart.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - september 16, 2017 (VIDEO)

This week took entirely too long to edit... and it sucked. Go figure.

Next up, LCD Soundsystem momentarily, so stay tuned...

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - september 16, 2017

Because this is what I want to deal with on my first few days back from vacation, a double album bomb from records that I had no reason to expect were anything close to good or interesting, just goddamn perfect. And of course there is more news than that, but at this point, if I want to keep this episode at a sane length for the twenty new arrivals we have, we're going to have to keep this moving...

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - july 8, 2017 (VIDEO)

Well, this was interesting enough of a week... not exactly a great one, but still kind of fascinating how it split down the middle between solid to great songs and absolute shit.

Anyway, think I'm about ready for Algiers, and after that... well, we'll see, so stay tuned!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - july 8, 2017

In retrospect, maybe I expected way too much from the American public. Granted, I think I've been saying that for most of the past two years, but in this case it's particularly - and for the most part confined to the United States, I should. Because when I made the prediction that Lorde topping the sales charts with Melodrama on the Billboard 200 album charts meant that she'd have something that'd cross over... well, even despite the lack of an obvious pop single, it's not like anything on Pure Heroine was an easy crossover either. And yet, not a single new song from Lorde on the Hot 100, and only one on the Bubbling Under charts - for perspective, Canada had four, and do I even need to say the catchphrase anymore before I decide to get it printed on merch?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - november 28, 2015 (VIDEO)

To quote one of my favourite comedy groups, we had some... well, we had some times. Yeah, that's it. Times.

But for real, thank you all for sticking around for the first year of this series! It was a lot of work, but I honestly think it was worth it. I've got some ideas how I might want to switch it up in the new year, but we'll see how things percolate out. Until then, I've got Bieber and a few country records, then I can finally dive into some of those black metal albums I've been dying to tackle, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - november 28, 2015

And now we're here - one year of Billboard BREAKDOWN is completed. Over the past fifty-plus episodes I've covered all the eccentricities of the Billboard Hot 100 charts, and it has been an eventful year! Between a switch in release scheduling, the chart-spanning weeks for artists too big to fail, and especially in the last quarter of this year the dominance of Canadian artists at the top that has tested my running thesis that the Canadian charts are always better. And I'll admit it's been a real learning experience for me too. Billboard BREAKDOWN has done a lot to define my channel, and though there have been many, many late nights where I swore up and down that after one year I'd be done with this, I'm going to leave that decision up to you. If you guys want me to continue with Billboard BREAKDOWN or revise the format at all, please let me know in the comments, I'm always grateful for your feedback and your support, especially as it's been the most consistent draw across my entire year.

Monday, March 3, 2014

video review: 'g i r l' by pharrell williams

Well, this happened. Can't imagine the controversy that'll come with this one...

On another note, it's taking me a lot longer than I'd like to get through St. Vincent's material, half because I'm enjoying it as much as I am, but also half because this week will probably kill me in terms of the amount of material I need to get through, plus keep my full-time job and a semi-functioning social life. Strap in folks, this might get wild.

album review: 'g i r l' by pharrell

It's always a little worrying when producers step out from behind the sound board and try to make hits of their own.

And I know that sounds terrible, but it circles back to the fact that it's extremely rare that a genuinely gifted producer will be a smash performer, and vice-versa, because while there is some overlap in their skill sets, it's incredibly rare to find someone who can handle both effectively. In modern years, the one that immediately leaps to my mind is Timbaland, who worked with Justin Timberlake and even had a few hits of his own throughout the mid-2000s, songs that might not have been amazing but Timbaland's unique baritone and some decent charisma gave the songs some staying power. But even with that, I'd have a hard time calling his material as a frontman amazing because there was something of a calculated element to his presentation. It was a little stiff, a little awkward, something you never saw in his beats, and that lack of comfort does show in front of a microphone. Then again, when compared to, the other beat-making producer who stepped out from behind the mic and and showed nothing but disinterest for the idea of recording lyrics that made sense and sounded anything close good, Timbaland holds up pretty well.

Now to his credit, the artist we're going to be talking about today has never really seemed to have this problem. Pharrell Williams may have started his career in the same era as Timbaland as a member of The Neptunes with Chad Hugo, making slick R&B and hip-hop jams, but his career got a major boost thanks to 'Get Lucky' and 'Blurred Lines' doing so well last year. That, plus his many production credits, some solid live performances, and that ubiquitous hat have led him to drop his second solo album. And from the early buzz, it became apparent that Pharrell wants to be a star all on his own this time, as his newest record was reported to be a feminist borderline-concept album celebrating the place of women in society. Let me repeat that: an album with strong feminist themes, written in the wake of the controversy over 'Blurred Lines', controversy that I will go on record saying was overblown even though that song did contain seriously questionable elements, written by a man.

...well, you might as well hot-link Jezebel and your local MRA forum, because I'm bound to offend somebody in this review, so before I inevitably shoot myself in the foot, how's the album?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

the top ten best hit songs of 2013 - video

So this turned out as well as I expected. List 2/4 done, stay tuned for more!

the top ten best hit songs of 2013

Here's a fun fact about me - as much as I nitpick and criticize and say all manner of things people don't want to hear about the music they love, I've got my own fair share of popular music that I cherish, appreciate, or outright love. Sometimes, quality rises to the top, and while none of this particular list will show up on my upcoming list of the best songs of this year, I still think they're worth mentioning if only to reinforce some vague sense of populism that I have. But really, it's nice to point out that some mainstream music gets popular because it's good, and sometimes pop or country or mainstream hip-hop can be just as good as the most underground of indie hits.

Now the rules are as before: the songs have to debut on the Billboard Hot 100 year-end chart this year - so as good as 'Die Young' by Ke$ha or 'Some Nights' by fun. are, I can't exactly mention them again on this list after they made my list last year. And on that note, don't expect any sort of coherent theme to these picks. While my year-end worst list had an abundance of terribly vapid luxury rap (especially near the top), on a year as varied and confused as the 2013 chart would indicate, my choices might surprise you. And fair warning: you won't agree with the majority of this list.

So let's get started with some Honourable Mentions, shall we?

Monday, July 29, 2013

album review: 'blurred lines' by robin thicke

For those of you who haven't been following the charts this year, let me provide a bit of commentary discussing the bizarre trends sprouting up on the Billboard Hot 100. While the year started slow (with the early months dominated by either the Harlem Shake, 'Thrift Shop', or a series of piano-driven ballads), a new trend began to coalesce as the summer began, a trend spurred by the release of a critically acclaimed album courtesy of one of the best electronica groups in the country, an album I may have already reviewed.

The song was 'Get Lucky', the band was Daft Punk, the album was Random Accessed Memories, and the music was a blend of funk and disco, two genres that many considered dead at the end of the 70s. And yet here they were, making a comeback unlike anything we'd seen. And while I had been saying the 70s had been making a comeback since earlier this year, it was nice to see the charts reflect some of that. And really, the stylistic flourishes that represented that decade were popping up all over the chart, from the chanting and 'righteous cause' bombast from Macklemore to the slick R&B touches with Justin Timberlake. Hell, Snoop Lion dropped an album that was basically an attempt at resurrecting politically-charged reggae! And with the exception of 'When I Was Your Man', both of Bruno Mars' charting singles were basically 70s throwbacks and they were easily on par with the best of his material!

But really, the song that had to rise to the top was 'Get Lucky'. Not only was it a scintillating and enthralling blend of disco and funk modernized, it had a real playful elegance in the lyrics that vaulted it above the average disco track. In my mind, it still is in hot contention for my list of the best songs of the year, and it might just rise to the top.

Unfortunately, it's been blocked from the #1 slot by another pseudo disco track that apparently jumped out of nowhere, also starring Pharrell, a song that very quickly drew some controversy for some rather overtly sexual lyrics. And it's this song - the title track from the album we're going to talk about today - that has blocked Daft Punk for over five weeks, and it's courtesy of an artist who I thought went out of business a good six years ago.

So let's talk about this artist, shall we? Robin Thicke is a guy you're all forgiven for forgetting, because outside of one single Glee did infinitely better, he honestly hasn't done much that I immediately remembered. Granted, I give him a bit more credit going back through his discography, but I've never been able to like his music all that much, and after listening through his albums, I think I know why. 

For starters, unlike many R&B crooners, Robin Thicke does have a fair amount of vocal personality, and his falsetto range is incredibly impressive (see, Julian Casablancas, this is how you do it). And I'll give him this, when he wants to make a song that sounds incredibly sexual, he has the slick sophistication and class to make it work. However, there's something about his delivery that doesn't quite click with me, namely that I never quite buy that he's entirely emotionally invested in his material. In comparison to, say, Usher, who throws everything and the kitchen sink into his love songs, Robin Thicke is a bit more laid-back, and that kind of puts me off a bit. On top of that, too often his lyrics can be a little too jokey and silly, and while there is a certain degree of self-awareness, it can sometimes undercut or confuse the emotional current of the song.

Now granted, I'll admit right now that R&B isn't my strong suit when it comes to genres (one of the reasons I didn't review Ciara's Body Party, outside of no interest and the general consensus being rather mixed on it). It's not that I can't recognize good R&B, but more that I have a much smaller tolerance for it in comparison to, say, country music. Most of this comes from the lyrics, in that too often the subject matter behind them seems a bit thin or the lyrics feel underwritten. But then again, that might be an area where Robin Thicke's goofier side might be an asset - he might not make an incredibly intelligent or moving R&B album, but I bet he could still make an interesting one.

So, how does his new album Blurred Lines fare?

Youtube review after the jump

Monday, June 10, 2013

album review: 'the wack album' by the lonely island

As I've mentioned in a previous review, I don't tend to like reviewing comedy albums, and this is mostly rooted in two factors. For starters, everyone has different tastes in comedy, and I've long ago accepted I have differing tastes in comparison to the general population. Thus, if I'm going to be judging a comedy album (and since, I'll stress, my reviews are my undiluted opinions and thus are framed through my contextual vision), I feel that my review might be misleading, even if I explain my point of view in advance.

But even if I did lay all my cards on the table ahead of time, I'm still not sure I'd be a good comedy album reviewer, mostly because my knowledge of comedy is - at least in my point of view - somewhat limited. I don't tend to consider myself funny, I understand the fundamentals of setting up a joke but really have difficulty grasping some of the subtleties, and I haven't seen a lot of the comedy gold standards. Sure, I'm trying to catch up, but in comparison with my knowledge of music (I can play an instrument and sing, I can read sheet music, I've done a bit of production work, I have an in-depth knowledge of the charts, and I listen to a grotesque amount of material), I don't think I'm at a level where I can speak to comedy with the same expertise.

So why am I reviewing the new Lonely Island album, an act formed by three SNL actors that is fairly explicitly a comedy act? Well, here's the funny thing: I have a hard time dismissing them as a purely comedic exercise. Or to put it another way, like with Weird Al, I actually will give them credit as musical artists. That's something I don't often say about comedy acts, or even comedians attempting to be musicians (in case you all forgot, Eddie Murphy had a semi-successful singing career).

Now some of you are probably asking why I give The Lonely Island a pass here, particularly when you break the act down to its disparate elements, they really only have one main joke: taking the shallow conceits and style of modern hip-hop and rap and talking about sillier material, with the joke being that it's inherently funny to see a trio of white goofballs behaving like hardcore gangstas. Now there's more in the details, but The Lonely Island have structured a great deal of their career off of this joke, and for the most part, it has held up. And I do not mean to dismiss the talent or the ingenuity of The Lonely Island at all here - while they occasionally go for the gross-out humour more than I prefer, they still have great comic timing and a wide variety of subjects they tackle well. It also helps that unlike former SNL acts of the past - namely the Blues Brothers featuring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd - The Lonely Island aren't trying to be taken as 'serious' musicians or demanding respect from the musical community.

But here's the thing - in a bizarre twist that could only be explained by the changing trends in hip-hop and rap, The Lonely Island got respect from the musical community, and the incredible plethora of high-profile guest stars they continue to recruit for their work speaks to it. And while part of it likely comes from the fact that some pop stars wanted to jump on the bandwagon after Justin Timberlake and take the piss out of their own material, the major point is that in the shallow and increasingly ridiculous pop and rap landscape of the late 2000s, The Lonely Island fit in astoundingly well. Songs like 'Jizz In My Pants', 'I'm On A Boat', 'Jack Sparrow', 'Dick In A Box', 'I Just Had Sex', and many more did surprisingly well on the pop charts because their lyrical content wasn't that far removed from the pop scene as it was. And coupled with the fact that Andy Samberg and the rest of his crew knew how to write decent hooks, it's not entirely surprising why The Lonely Island did as well as they did. Hell, I'd argue on the musical front they managed to beat a fair number of the 'legit' artists that were putting out material during the club boom, with the most immediate comparison point being LMFAO (with their one joke from 'Sexy And I Know It' being 'Heheheh, butts'). 

But now it's 2013, and the hip-hop/rap world has changed a bit. The wave of darker, more serious-sounding PBR&B isn't as easy to parody. Well, that's not quite true, but I'd argue that serious, more conscientious rap is a little tougher to make silly jokes about than the avalanche of ridiculous club music. And there's also the legitimate concern that The Lonely Island, by attempting to sound like the darker, bleaker rap might lose some of their lightweight and fun personality. So, can they pull it off?