Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Tale of Two Diamonds



Dear Marina,

Marina on her first American tour -
we loved her use of BeyoncĂ©'s diva hair fan
We are true Diamonds. We have followed your artistic journey since the very beginning, admiring you both as an artist and as a person. Minna read your first blog before it was deleted & scrambled to buy the Crown Jewels EP the day it was released. We vividly remember seeing you at Boston’s Paradise Rock Club on your first American tour. Minna drove EIGHT hours that night just to see you, and we doubt she was the only one. How many artists have fans like that? It was a performance to remember; we loved your glow-in-the-dark lipstain and pointy-shouldered Hannah Marshall velvet gown. What we appreciated most, though, were your heart-felt words in between the sets. When we screamed, you said, “And they wonder why I love American crowds.” You stated that you knew “real diamonds [were] in the audience [that night].” We will never forget when you confided in us: “I don’t typically say this, but you guys are a special bunch. Whether you’ve followed me from the beginning or just heard of me yesterday, I want to tell you that you should chase after your dreams and do what you love, as long as you’re not hurting anyone in the process. Life is too short to be unhappy. You don’t know how many people said, ‘Marina, you’ll never make it! No one will ever love you!’” Marina, those words resonated with us. We will forever carry them in our memories and consciousness.

Marina at a Dolce & Gabbana party
 celebrating Naomi Campbell's
25 years in the fashion industry
However, we feel that your special relationship with your fans is going awry. The closeness and connection evident in your words that night seem to be dripping away. As truly devoted Diamonds, this pains us greatly. In this recent webcam chat, you said you’d do anything for your fans. You’d even die for them! Yet, when a fan asked if s/he could attend your birthday party, you responded with something like, “Well, I don’t know you, so no.” Marina, what happened to doing anything for your fans? Where did that special, intimate connection go? Of course, you can’t invite everyone to your birthday, and you may have feared that thousands of fans would ask to attend, but you could have said, “the first five fans to ask for an invite get to come.” That’s how you give back to those who support you.

Your twitter has become a way for you to network with your famous friends in London and Los Angeles, as opposed to a tool through which to communicate with your fans (as it used to be). It seems as though you are more enamored with the POP star lifestyle and your glitzy pals than with your true Diamonds, who aren’t chauffeured in Mercedes and don’t get free clothes from Vivienne Westwood. You’ve always said that your stage name, Marina & the Diamonds, represented a community - yet, as you’ve shot up the POP star ladder, you’ve forgotten about those who helped get you there. You live a glamorous life, and that’s fantastic! We've always hoped for your success! But why don’t you allow the fans who helped bring it to you participate along with you? You began as a woman who detested the elitism of the music and fashion industries, yet now, you’re enabling and enforcing the hierarchy by partaking in it. Why don’t you act more democratically by sharing the trappings with your fans?

Marina (on the far right) at London fashion week
We don’t mind that you’ve died your hair blonde (you look fantastic and the character of Electra Heart fascinates us!) We’re not bothered by your contract with Max Factor. In fact, your glamor and aesthetic is part of what drew us to you and your art.  We don’t care that you’ve changed your mind about many issues; before, you spoke against certain artists using sexuality to sell records, and you talked of never performing on X Factor because they supposedly dumbed down the show for viewers. Now, you’re friends with those aforementioned artists, saying that sexually forward female POP stars are empowering, and we agree (to a degree). You now claim that you’d love to perform on X Factor, and that’s fine. Really, that’s great! We'd love to see you on the show! As people live, they learn, and they change their minds. We do it all the time! You’re not a hypocrite. You’re simply growing up. Altering your opinions is only human.

Marina looking luminous in
one of our favorite Max Factor ads
We don’t care that you’re going more POP on your second record – we’re counting down the days until its release. We think it’s great that you’re working with people like Dr. Luke and Stargate. We adore Dr. Luke and can’t wait to hear what you two have come up with. Radioactive is fantastic. A true artist changes with time, and it’s understandable that you wouldn’t want to make The Family Jewels again – that would be artistically stagnant, not progressive.  However, there’s a difference between working with a hit-maker because you love his music and working with a hit-maker because you want to be famous. You admire Madonna, and we do, too. However, while Madonna may be an iconic POP artist, she is a vile and unappreciative human being. Madonna may have more fans than you numerically, but her attitude is the reason why most of them are fans-LITE. Marina, what you don’t understand is that to your devoted fans, you are already FAR more iconic than Madonna will EVER be to hers! What you have is a human touch. This is the rarest, most invaluable gem that a POP star can possess - worth more than any sum of money, any arena stage, and any amount of fame.

As we feel the gap between Marina and her Diamonds growing... all we want to say is this: "Please don’t forget about us, Marina."

Unapologetically,

Gregory & Minna


Minna's motivational wall when she taught English abroad.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Excellent Charli XCX


Girl, we love you. Your music is amazing.

Seriously, you have to check her out. She's Charli XCX. I reckon that's not her baptismal name. I don't know what it stands for and I don't care. The three songs of hers that I've heard glisten in the moonlight. This girl is Natalia Kill's little dark POP sister, except Charli's music is more sonically and lyrically adventurous. Her words are as graphic and impactful as Florence & the Machine's.

Start by listening to Nuclear Seasons. The production is from outer-space. It's dark, atmospheric, liquidy-smooth AND danceable. The percussion sounds like a balloon blowing up with 3 breaths and then, POP! It's a standard love song, but the lyrics are twisted, which leads me to believe that the girl who wrote them is, too. All the better. We like our POP stars with a side of crazy cooky goodness. The weirder the better.

Follow with Stay Away. This is my favorite song in FOREVER. It's gritty electronica with a serious dose of soul. You can feel this chick's pain. The melody and production are perfectly paired with the lyrics, which are, once again, poetically vivid - "You choke my throat / with words of wonder / You make it hard to breathe / Your love so cold / Just like an arrow / Pierced through my skin, I bleed."

Finish off with Wires. It's like Marilyn Manson's music with a hip-hop beat. She really plays with her voice here, and it's emphasized by the hazy production.

We can't wait for your album, Ms. XCX (is that how you sign your checks?).

Unapologetically,

Gregory

That black lipstick is glossy glam

Thursday, December 29, 2011

JFF - Jessica Lea Mayfield

If  "Our Hearts Are Wrong," I Don't Want To Be Right


Looking for a love song with just a tinge of bitterness? Jessica Lea Mayfield's "Our Hearts Are Wrong" should do the trick. I first heard it on one of my favorite shows, NBC's Parenthood. (Seriously, you HAVE to watch. It's soooo good.) A week later, my lovely friend, Ms. Jocelyn Ennis, reintroduced it to me and I couldn't stop listening. After a few weeks had past, I was in the mood for this very track but couldn't remember the artist's name until yesterday, when I found her album in Barnes & Noble and decided she deserves a JFF.

When I listen to "Our Hearts Are Wrong," I feel all warm and cozy, but taste some sourness in my mouth (as you've probably realized by now, my palate is musically programmed). The track is off her second album, Tell Me, which was produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. The song was written in the simplest of ways - Jessica just pressed play and sang whatever came out of her mouth at that moment. How magical? I just love it. It's the perfect little mix of POP, folk, and country into a tiny batch of creamy batter. Plus, the lyrics have this gloriously dark element to them:

Hate has brought me upThe stairs into your houseI'll not let hate be the oneTo make me naked for you

My self-esteemIs heating up the roomYou're intimidating as all hellBut I ain't scared of you

I know how you workI am just like youNo matter what you sayOur hearts are wrongOur hearts are wrong

Love has brought me downLike love's been known to doI try to deny with all my heartThat I'm in love with you
I don't really careYou knew that's what I'd sayThe only time I miss youIs every single day

I know how you workI am just like youNo matter what you sayOur hearts are wrongOur hearts are wrong

Our hearts are wrongOur hearts are wrong

I know how you workI am just like youNo matter what you sayOur hearts are wrongOur hearts are wrong

Our hearts are wrongOur hearts are wrong


Muah! Enjoy :)

Unapologetically,

Gregory 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Why I'm Not Banking on Azealia

Photo by Richard Johnson, NME
Often artists come around in a flurry of disproportionate excitement. I want to like them. Oh, how I want to like them. In the naughty and foul-mouthed Azealia Banks, who plans on rapping her way to a singing career, the music world sees a teenager who is "challenging the conventions of hip-hop" and "moving rap forward." I see a buffoon. 

After listening to the verse “I guess that cunt gettin’ eaten” for the umpteenth time on her viral hit 212, I couldn’t help but yank at my hair & wonder why the hell is this exciting? Am I the only one who ever listened to Amanda Blank, Kid Sister, or Santigold?  Electropop star Peaches was just as explicit in her tracks - and she actually had something to say.  Amanda Blank, the Philly-reppin' multi-talented muse of my college-years, rapped on Spank Rock's tracks "my pussy's tastin' the best."  Even Pitbull, lord of the dancefloor, rapped "I'll give you a lick of this mighty tongue" back in 2004.  I hate to break it to you, but rapping about cunnilingus is not new. 

 But when Azealia Banks spits "now she wanna lick my plum in the evening/ & fit that tongue deep in" in a cute Mickey Mouse sweater and pigtails... it's supposed to rev our engines.

It is worth noting that Azealia's Harlem roots certainly work in her favor.  Since the early 20th century Harlem has carried an almost mythical musical and artistic quality.  As a result, artists who hail from Harlem are usually automatically considered textured and authentic.  The UK, Azealia's new-found homebase, is not above being believing the urban myth of the unsung Harlem superstar.

I cannot help but ask myself an uncomfortable question: are listeners truly excited by Azealia or are they enamored with the idea of a pretty, trash-talking black girl from Harlem who raps? It seems to me that the consumer world is imposing an identity on her- and Azealia, hungry for fame, is gobbling it up.  Peeling away at the layers of filth, hype and self-promotion reveals an immature teenager who used the oldest trick in the book: slamming out promiscuous lyrics to grab international attention.  Now sporting a top position on the NME Cool List & an honorable mention by the BBC Sound of 2012, Azealia will be inescapable in 2012.


There is no denying that Azealia is very gifted.  Her years as a devotee of musical theater served her voice very well.  Liquorice, her most recent release, features a combination of sung melodies and rapped verses and is very well-produced.  But even Liquorice features Azealia's favorite topic - you guessed it - oral sex ("stimulate her /take a lick up on my genital / then sit to savor").

Many music critics have readily acknowledged that Azealia is not entirely original, but claim that her youthful energy and spunk make her fresh.  They write that Azealia's gritty lyrics and promiscuous word-play make her inventive, witty, and clever.  On the contrary, I find female MCs who don’t rap about sex to be far more “inventive." And guess what?  They are probably more marketable, too.


So what is the real future of Azealia Banks?  The Telegraph UK aptly points out the hipsters who originally hyped her will probably be put off by her obvious mainstream ambitions (the girl had the nerve to laugh off the idea of releasing a free mixtape in her Pitchfork interview).  Azealia evidently never considered going the independent route. Since she wants to be a commercial chart topper, working with Paul Epworth is certainly the way to go.  But is the UK really craving a Top 40 hit by a teenager whose devilish image is brattier than that of Ke$ha and Christina Aguilera combined?

Sorry, but I am not banking on Azealia.

Unapologetically,

Minna

Friday, December 23, 2011

Lana Del Rey vs. Hipster Snobbery


Ever since Minna introduced me to Lana Del Rey (formerly Lizzy Grant), I've been trying to understand the creature that is this woman. Is she real? Is she fake? Ultimately, I've come to the conclusion that it doesn't matter (at least not to me). At first, I wasn't sure I wanted to write about her, as Minna already has, but reading "Lana Del Rey: 2012's Zero-Talent Star" by Simon Sweetman was the catalyst to my finally doing so. Simon comes off as an elitist prick, as do most hipsters (when it comes to Lana and others). I'm not going to pretend to love Lana. I don't, but I can see the good with the blech. First and foremost, she has a fantastic voice. Of course, whether a voice is good or not is subjective, but hers has a power and warm raspiness that most people, including her harshest Youtube critics, applaud with words like "She's fake and I don't like her, but you can't deny she's a talented singer."

Katy at the start of her career in 2008
He calls her the "indie-cool Katy Perry" and says that she's "just as fake" as the POPster. This immediately comes off as a holier-than-thou statement. Katy is a talented musician - she can read and write music, and has! She composed Thinking of You completely on her own with a guitar, and her voice is pretty. Yes, she sounds mediocre in arenas, but so does everyone except Celine (God love the French-Canadian chanteuse), so if that's his basis of accusation, he's already starting off on the wrong foot. Wearing bright colors while singing commercial bubblegum POP doesn't make an artist fake. S/he's only fake if his/her aesthetic and sonic styles don't reflect his/her own taste, and taste is also subjective. Katy actually likes bright colors and bubblegum POP - it was her decision to make music people could dance to at her shows after seeing a lack of movement on her first tour, which was filled with mid-tempo numbers off her first record.

Now, back to Lana. I don't mean to get sidetracked. I just can't stand when music snobs define good/bad music with their flannel half-way up their a$$. (Disclaimer: I do love me some flannel.) Speaking of snobbery, Simon calls her "the bored daughter of a millionaire; Daddy probably paid for new lips to give her a new look. He probably paid for a better producer to try to give her a better sound." Um, so what? If someone comes from a moneyed background, does that mean s/he doesn't deserve to be an artist? If someone is an aspiring singer from a wealthy family, does that automatically imply s/he is just a bored kid looking for a hobby? What a prejudiced outlook! People who come from money don't deserve flack just because they're privileged. Rich people have passions, dreams, and capacities for diligence just as much as those in lower tax brackets. Way to look for the worst in people! If Simon's daughter wanted to be a singer, and he had the means, wouldn't he help fund her album and pay for a producer to get her on the road to a record deal? Allegedly, Taylor Swift's Dad did, as did Beyonce's, and I know I would do the same for my daughter if I had one. It's called LOVE and support. If you have the dough, why not help out those you care about most?


I understand that there's a big question regarding Lana's artistic authenticity. She poses as a Florence & the Machine style singer-songwriter with a penchant for the visual arts, when it's likely that her songs were written by others and her look was assembled by label execs. This controversy only makes her more intriguing in my eyes, but I can comprehend why it bothers others. Obviously, if would-be fans suspect that a singer is falsely presenting him/herself, they'll have second thoughts about fully investing in the artist. I feel so attached to Marina & the Diamonds because her music speaks to me. I know she wrote it from her own experiences, and so I connect not only to the songs, but to her. Listening to her music makes me feel I'm not alone in my sentiments. However, if I found out that she had lied about penning the tracks, I'd feel gipped and cheated, as if someone had exploited my emotional vulnerability to make a dollar. That's not a problem for me when it comes to Lana because I don't love her songs. I only like Video Games and Blue Jeans. (While I do adore the Born to Die video, I, like Simon and many others, think the melody sounds like a severely sub-par version of Video Games.)


If Lana did not in fact compose her own material and construct her own aesthetic, then I wish she and her label would be honest about it. People would be more apt to give her a chance if she was truthful about the origin of her songs and image (not hipsters, who love their singers to write their own tracks, but everyone else). I think Lana does emotionally connect to her music, even if she hasn't had a hand in creating it. Writing one's own songs is overrated. I love Celine Dion, the songstress who stole my DIVA virginity. Celine doesn't write her own music. Still, every time I see/hear her sing, I melt, because her emotion for each track translates. Celine picks songs that she can relate to as though she had written them herself. With that said, I will never connect to Celine or her songs as deeply as I do to Marina and her tracks because Marina's experiences are the origin of her songs. However, I don't write Celine or anyone else off just because they don't make their own music. If the allegations regarding Lana are accurate, then honesty would go a long way in winning over non-hipster fans. Those people won't care who wrote the songs or that she grew up in a mansion as opposed to the trailer park she claims she's from, as long as everyone's showing their true colors. 


Nicole Atkins giving us good face in the corn fields.
WERK that beanstalk.
Back to Simon. He says that we shouldn't waste our time with Lana, and instead focus our ear buds on worthy artists, like Nicole Atkins. However, it's important to note how positive an impact Lana could have on the music industry, particularly in America. Over here, our airwaves are filled with Dr. Luke tunes. As I've said before, I love them, but there's not much beside them. No matter how manufactured Lana may or may not be, her music is far more instrumental and left-field than the electro-pop currently dominating the charts. If she succeeds here, she will open the door to mainstream exposure and success for alternative POP acts, like Ms. Atkins herself, thereby diversifying the POP landscape. This would only be a good thing. Yes, Lana looks ultra glamorous with her retro-styled hair/makeup/clothes and cosmetically enhanced lips. I feel guilty for liking it all because I believe that, as an aspiring member of POP-culture, she should help redefine beauty standards. Still, it's better to have a slight dose of freshness (i.e. her music's sonic qualities) than none at all, so I'll take what I can get. Ultimately, it will pay off in dividends for all the Simon Sweetman-endorsed-100%-real-artists hoping to penetrate the mainstream. Without the Lana Del Reys, the Nicole Atkinses of the world will slip right past those whose source of new music is commercial radio (a.k.a. the majority of people). Almost completely unnoticed, they'll land somewhere far far away, unable to find the massive success they deserve.


Unapologetically,


Gregory

That's it. I'm officially off to Urban Outfitters
to buy some American Flag clothing.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

2011 Best of Pop - Nominations and Vote!

Holler to our lovely readers!

Today, we have something fantastically exciting. Our BEST/WORST of the year choices have arrived! However, instead of doing it on our own, we've collaborated with FIVE of our favorite blogs. Each blog has a best/worst pick for every category, and each blog is displaying one category, so you must check out the other sites to see all of our nominations. Since y'all love us, and we love these blogs, we figure you might love them enough to add them to your daily reading list (there's some sort of mathematical theory about this, right? - if A=B and B=C, then A=C?) All of the blogs thought it would be fun to do an interactive end of year poll, in which every reader can name his or her best choices (unfortunately, we couldn't do one for worst)! As an FYI, the poll only displays our choices for BEST of the year, so if you want to see what we picked for 'WORST' in each category, you must visit the other blogs' sites (we've provided links below).


Anyhow, let's get started, shall we? Here at Unapologetically POP, we're displaying each blog's choice for...

Best & Worst Collaborations of 2011:

Popledge:
Whats That Music Guy:
Vertigo Shtick:
  • BEST: Rihanna ft. Britney  Spears - S&M (Remix) - There's a lot of suckage with this single, from Ester Dean's tired, tacky sex-punning lyrics to the David LaChapelle plagiarizing music video to the inescapable fact that Britney clearly needed to blow her nose on her day in the studio, to the blatant marketing ploy it was bringing Spears on in the first place when poor RiRi couldn't get the song to #1 by herself. But Britney Spears' first, unexpected "NA NA NA COME ON" will go down as one of the most viscerally thrilling moments in pop music history.
  • WORST: David Guetta ft. Flo Rida & Nicki Minaj - Where Them Girls At The melody is boring, the lyrics are conventional and dull, and Nicki Minaj name-checks Peabo Bryson. 'Nuff said. 
Wacky Crazy Music:
OMFG Music
Unapologetically POP!
  • BEST: Cher Lloyd and Mike Posner - With Your Love
  • WORST: Porcelain Black and Lil Wayne - This is What Rock N' Roll Looks Like – It’s like chewing on dirt.  Our ears are still bleeding.  Not even RedOne could save this song – too, too, TOO rough.
To view our choices in the rest of the categories, click the links below!
Unapologetically POP! Best/Worst Video
  • BEST: Katy Perry – Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.) - A neontastic ode to '80s POP culture (i.e. John Hughes movies). We love how Katy incorporates Kenny G, Debbie Gibson, Corey Feldman, Hanson, the Glee kids, and Rebecca Black – people from the all over the POP timeline.
  • WORST: Rebecca Black – Friday - You’re 14 & driving to a club? You don’t even have your driver’s permit yet.
After you've looked over the above sites, please take a few minutes to share your picks for best/worst EVERYTHING in the poll below :)

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

We're excited to see what everyone picks (because YOU, dear readers, know all!) We'll be welcoming in the New Year with some pink champagne and a post about the poll results. Cheers!

Unapologetically,

Gregory & Minna

Friday, December 16, 2011

JFF - Lucy Rose


Okay guys!  I'm gonna talk about someone a little under-the-POP-radar, but hear me out:

One of the reasons I like POP music is that is comes in a multitude of forms - it doesn't have to be a club-banger to be a beautiful song.  That said, there is always a place in POP for someone like songstress Lucy Rose.

Some of our UK readers may have heard Lucy already - indeed, a lot of people were shocked when she was not listed in the BBC Sound of 2012.  Lucy made friends singing back-up vocals for Bombay Bicycle Club & a name for herself after she released Middle of the Bed and my favorite of her songs, Scar.  Lucy's sound is fresh, nearly pastoral.  Like other bloggers, I appreciate its purity.  Middle of the Bed and Scar have been out for a few months now, but they only sink in deeper with time.  There is real texture to her music, and her voice, though sometimes meek-sounding, is purposeful & poised.

Lucy Rose deserves all the blogosphere buzz.  A lovely girl making lovely music, Lucy is a true musician hand-crafting refreshing tunes for a drive out into the country with the windows down.

Click here to download 2 free, acoustic tracks by lovely Lucy - and tell us what you think on twitter! @UnapologeticPOP

Unapologetically,

Minna

Thursday, December 15, 2011

RiRi's Sloppy Singles


Holler!

At this point, y'all know I'm a RiRi fan, but I can't help but be seriously annoyed by how terribly mismanaged her single choices and song release schedules have been since the Rated R album. I'm aware she has minimal control over what gets released (except on Rated R), but how has SOMEONE not noticed that there's a major issue?

With Rated R, Rihanna was reeling over her nasty abuse at the hands of Chris Brown and the scandal it caused, and so the album was angst-filled, dark, and actually quite good. However, just because a song is good, doesn't mean that it's a proper single. The right choice for radio release must have spark, energy, and some sort of crossover mainstream POP appeal. With this album, Rihanna likely had more control over what became a single than on any of her other records. Her label saw the Rated R project as a way to build RiRi's artistic credibility, or at least that's what they said. We all know what that means - they all didn't like the album and thought it was blech. Like I said, I enjoyed it, but Rihanna's not the type of artist that requires credibility, and her label is hyper-aware of this. She's not a true musician or songwriter. She's only gotten songwriting credits on a few tracks, and I doubt that was a difficult feat - she probably penned two words on each of those. Girlfriend is a POP songstress, which is no to say that musicianship and POP stardom are mutually exclusive (i.e. - Michael Jackson, Prince, GaGa, Katy Perry, etc.), but let's not pretend that RiRi is anything other than an enjoyable sugary confection. A few of her songs may have meaning, but her celebrity persona doesn't, so unless that meaning is rolled up into POPtastic hits, it's lost on most folks.

During the Rated R era, the Def Jam execs should have allowed RiRi one angsty, emotional song for all the hard work she put in and money she made them (and herself). Her number one choice was probably Russian Roulette, considering it was the first release from the album. After that, the only singles should have been Rude Boy, which I called as single-worthy months before it went to radio, and Te Amo, which probably wouldn't have been as big of a hit as Rude Boy, but would've charted higher and made more money than Hard or Rockstarr 101, due to it's Stargate produced synths and catchy, hummable melody. This song would have been the perfect single choice after Rude Boy slid down the charts in late spring 2010 because it SOUNDS LIKE SUMMER. Ugh, why oh why did they release it as the single everywhere but the States, where we were dealt Rockstarr 101, a song most people couldn't wait to end?

Let's move onto the next record, shall we? Loud was supposed to be RiRi's return to breazy, danceable POP, with the occasional side of West Indian spice. While Only Girl (In The World), What's My Name, and S&M were absolute knockouts, the other singles were totally wrong for radio, which is probably why you've never heard of them. Do you remember Raining Men (which was so unsuccessful, they didn't even make a video for it), Man Down, and California King Bed? No? NOT surprised. The first two tracks aren't very catchy, and while the latter is a beautiful ballad, RiRi isn't known for belting out an instrumental song - the only girl who can shoot a piano ballad to the top of the charts is Adele. Cheers (Drink To That) was a an okay track. I went from hating it to loving it to hating it, to loving it when I heard it on the radio, to hating it two weeks later. It's just not that melodic and catchy. It's like a slow, more depressing version of Katy Perry's insanely addictive Last Friday Night. No gracias. The perfect single choice would have been Complicated, a synthy, groovy, but super catchy track that sonically reminds me a lot of Katy's E.T. The success of Katy's song should have indicated that Complicated would be a hit, and it's electro-vibe would be PERFECT for remixing in the clubs. Like, hellooooo?

Now, here we are, with Rihanna's sixth album, Talk That Talk, which, like most of her records, is a hit and miss affair. Seriously, Katy Perry deserves major props for SPEARHEADING (yes, it was her decision, not the execs, which is not to say that they opposed her) to make an energetic bubblegum POP album, Teenage Dream, in which almost every track hits it out of the park (oy, did I just use a sports metaphor?). A feat like that is most definitely NOT a common occurrence. Anyhow, We Found Love is one of the greatest songs ever. The song is emotional and intimate, yet simultaneously epic, electronic, and utterly danceable. It's the new Like A Prayer (minus Madonna's commentary on race/religion), in that it's this dance-POP carnival shell filled with a warm, gooey, tear-jerker core, kind of like a chocolate covered caramel (although candy doesn't typically make me cry). NO song on this album is as good as We Found Love, which is sad, but understandable. It made me have incredibly high expectations for the album, and what could live up to it? Anyhow, when I heard that Dr. Luke would finally be working with RiRi, I thought they would produce some amazing material together. He's THE hitmaker, but RiRi's second single, You Da One, doesn't do it for me. It's almost too gritty, too hip-hoppy and islandy. Yesterday, I heard Talk That Talk featuring Jay-Z on the radio. Is someone trying to recreate Umbrella or Run This Town? It's not working - the song is decent, but it's a bit flat and lacks sugar.

It seems like a lot of producers give Rihanna material that's Caribbean-esque and hip-hoppy because she's Bajan and Black, without realizing that she is more than her race/ethnicity. She is the dance diva PREMIER - that's what she does best, but it appears as if record execs, producers, and RiRi, herself, define the POP star and her demographic very narrowly. Her Dr. Luke collabs could have opened the gates to dance-POP heaven, but instead they fall quite short.

Anyhow, there's not much we can do but choose properly from the best songs on the record. The second single should have been either Roc Me Out or Drunk on Love. Both songs are structurally quite similar, but are sung in different pitches/scales. The former is a catchy mid-tempo track, while the latter grabs you with its melody and beautiful moodiness created using a sample of the XX's Intro. The third single (insert Where Have You Been) should bring things back to an up-tempo pace. This song is a club-banger written and produced by the combined efforts of Dr. Luke and Calvin Harris. While it definitely does NOT measure up to We Found Love, it's danceable and both radio and club-friendly. The fourth single should be the song that wasn't picked for the second (so either Roc Me Out or Drunk on Love). If Island Def Jam and RiRi decide to go for one more single, We All Want Love is the perfect choice. It's kind of ballad-esque, but in a fun dancehall way. Although this track provides more proof of how pigeon-holed RiRi and her music are, it's done well. It glows, and would make for the perfect conclusion to the Talk That Talk era.

I hope that on Rihanna's next album, the people in charge will stop trying to place this girl in a box and embrace the endless possibilities of dance music. You might think that club-bangers form their own box, but there are so many types. The genre is large enough to accommodate a number of influences.

Also, one final issue. RiRi and her team MUST STOP putting out the next single while the current one is still hot. They did it on Loud by releasing What's My Name before Only Girl (In The World) peaked at #1, and have done so again by putting out You Da One while We Found Love is still all nice and steamy at #1. A little bit of air keeps a flame going; too much, and the fire's out! What are they trying to achieve? RIHANNA'S   ALREADY   SUPER   RELEVANT. Overexposing RiRi and her music WILL   ONLY   MAKE   PEOPLE   SICK   OF   HER   AND   SHORTEN   THE   LIFE   OF   THE   ALBUM. They should give the singles time to simmer and reach a full boil. Look at Katy Perry - she and her label don't put out a new single until the last one is sliding down the charts and out of the Top 5 for good. Katy is STILL working singles from an album that came out before Loud, while RiRi's already onto her next record. It's about quality, not quantity! From May 11, 2010 (the release date of California Gurls) to today, Katy has had one album with six singles, all of which have been memorable and culturally relevant. In that same time frame, Rihanna has released two albums with a combined total of nine singles, but only four (maybe five, if you include Cheers (Drink To That)) have been pop-culturally relevant.

Girlfriend (RiRi, sometimes I pretend we're POP star friends, sipping green-apple martinis in our Ray-Bans while trading stories about how we love being famous), listen up! You have GOT to sit some of your people down and TALK   THAT   TALK.  These rush-released singles reek of inadequate management. Better yet, go hire Katy's people! It seems like you two besties already share wigs, lip gloss, and private jets; why not add management to the list?

Love you, RiRi. Hope you and your team (the members with your best interests at heart - the rest deserve the boot) take our advice. Your star is one that does well when shining super bright.

Unapologetically,

Gregory

P.S. Don't forget to take a nice long nap! You must be exhausted after three years of non-stop touring and promotion. It's OKAY to take a break. We'll still be here when you're all rested up. :)