Monday, April 30, 2012

Ryan Tedderbear

Ryan Tedder is one Teddy Bear that I'd love to cuddle with during my nightly six to eight hours of shut-eye. However, I don't know if his strict Christian upbringing would allow for such male to male bedtime magic.

Kelly Clarkson!
Anyhow, the whole point of this post was to talk about his music, so let's start, shall we? Ever since his production of Bleeding Love, I've loved Ryan's music. His signature bum-ba-da-bum-bum beat got to me every time, and his lush backings provided the perfect accompaniment. With that said, at some point within the last two years, many, myself included, began noticing a lack of growth in his artistry. He seemed to use the same exact beat in every single song, to the point where his beats became less of a signature and more of a gimmick (although, quite a good one) employed by a one trick thick-thighed stallion. Even Kelly Clarkson (the Queen of honesty in the corrupt mess that is the music industry) fell out with Tedder, fairly alleging that he recycled the beat from Beyoncé's angelic Halo for her track, Already Gone. Of course, Ryan disputed her claim. Still, I side with Kelly. Just take a listen to both tracks! They sound so similar, but Beyoncé's features a synthy soundscape, while Kelly's is a bit more rock'n'roll.

Thankfully, Ryan has begun to change it up a bit. Interestingly, there's no sense of consistency; sometimes he resorts back to his old beat pattern (i.e. Gavin Degraw's Not Over You), while other times, he really stretches his artistic boundaries, experimenting in a multitude of genres. Just take a listen to the bluesy Motown fare that is Adele's Rumor Has It, an absolute masterpiece; the retro rocker that is Gavin Degraw's Sweeter; and the danceilicious club banger that is Kat McPhee's Touch Me, as featured on the TV show, Smash (aka the talented Debra Messing's ill-fated hope for a career resurgence). In all three songs, we see Ryan creating new beat sequences and working in musical styles he's never touched before (myself included). He himself has stated that there are certain artists who are able to get the best out of producers, and whatever it is in these three that inspires him, we hope that he keeps receiving it.

Clearly, this man has great creative potential, so I can't quite understand why he doesn't tap it (or me? Tedderbear, you there?). Does he feel safer repeating a proven formula? If so, he shouldn't feel so secure in his ways; with each repetition, his work slips further down the charts. In an NPR interview, Ryan admitted that the music he enjoys is completely unlike the material he creates. That music is far more classic. As of late, though, Ryan seems to be incorporating elements of his personal taste into his output. With the current success of indie/alternative in the POP mainstream, we have faith that this creatively-fueled production will pay off in spades. He's even asked 2012's Grammy-winning Producer of the Year, Paul Epworth (Adele's Rolling in the Deep, Florence & the Machine's 2nd album, Ceremonials), to lend a hand in the making of OneRepublic's next album. This only further emphasizes Ryan's appreciation for fresh, experimental sounds. As much as we've enjoyed the sugar POP of Dr. Luke, we sense more passion in Ryan's best work. It seems like Ryan really enjoys the craft of making music, regardless of genre, while Luke only becomes more of a hit-factory with the passing of time. This is quite a shame, since the Doc has produced some of the best (and worst) music we've heard in the past five to ten years. We're crossing our fingers that our Ryan Tedderbear doesn't meet the same fate.


Mr. Tedderbear's Dream Lover (Hey, Mariah!)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Foster the People's new music video :: Our new pick-me-up

Sometimes when you need a pick-me-up, something falls right in your lap.  Today, our "tiramisu" was viewing the brilliant new music video for Houdini by Foster the People. The premise? When the band members die in a tragic onstage accident, the big boys in tailored suits (an obvious 'music industry professionals' reference) are left with no choice but to resurrect them... & transform them in robo-performers (with some pretty slick boy band dance moves). Word on the street is that this will be their next single.  Goodie.

Watch the clip for Houdini below.  You'll laugh.  You'll cry.  You'll dance.  You'll smile.

Say what you want about the "faceless" guitar band, but this is clearly pretty excellent.  Rarely do I get the kind of warm fuzzies inside as when an indie band tops the charts... & still retains their essential pluck & personality.  We heart Foster the People.



The Future of Our Favorite "Featured" Ladies

As spring blooms so do the careers of three lovely ladies - that's right, our girls Kimbra, Janelle, and Neon Hitch are doing FANTASTICALLY! Here at Unapologetically POP, we are positively thrilled with what these three unique songstresses are bringing to POP music; but it is not only the ladies' singular sounds that have propelled them to front & center - it is also the power of a little something called "the feature" - Janelle on Fun.'s We Are Young (which just spent 6 weeks at #1 in the US) & Kimbra on Gotye's Somebody That I Used To Know (which peaked at #1 this week) & Neon on Gym Class Heroes' Ass Back Home.

We wrote about Kimbra's pending international breakthrough a few months ago, & now, it looks like our leading lady is finding millions more fans. Daily. Like, for real for real.  Since we last wrote about her, Kimbra has toured with Gotye, played SXSW, & released an electro POP converse add.  Now she's preparing for an upcoming tour with fellow unlikely POP sensation Foster the People, in addition to writing with Mark Foster & John Legend! She's also added a handful of songs to the American release of her album, Vows, including songs with (STOP THE PRESS) - GREG KURSTIN, our favorite producer who basically gives us musical wet dreams.  Speaking of wet dreams, watch the three-way collaboration between Kimbra, A-Trak, & Mark Foster below.  Unfortunately, it is a non-sexual collaboration. 

Janelle herself is gearing up for an exhaustive tour. Some have questioned the purpose of Janelle's feature on Fun.'s #1 hit; however, having heard We Are Young live, we can attest that Janelle's vocals, albeit brief, truly carry the bridge.  Singing "na na na" along with the melody just does not satisfy the way Janelle does. She brings a softness to a song that is loud and brash, providing the perfect counterbalance to Nate Ruess' Freddy Mercury shriek. Rumor has it that her second album will soon be released, and as much as we love Janelle for her alternative sound, we hope she's able to maximize her emotional honesty by surrounding it with some sugary POP melodies. We want this talented lady to capitalize on all of this well-deserved attention!

Finally, our girl Neon Hitch has entered POP consciousness through her feature on Gym Class Heroes' A$$ Back Home. In fact, we think her hook is the best part of the song - it's sweet with a sad sizzle, just how we like it! The release of the song is perfectly timed, as Neon will soon be releasing her debut album, Beg, Borrow, & Steal, produced with a wide array of people from Benny Blanco (her partner in crime and Dr. Luke's former protege) to Imogen Heap. We can't wait to hear what she brings to the table. She's such a unique woman! We hope she taps into that individuality when it comes time for her to differentiate herself from Ke$ha, Katy, and RiRi. Those of you looking for your fix of Hitch should check out her first single, F.U. Betta. As much as we enjoy the song, we know she can do betta, and we can't wait to hear it.

Exactly how much power has the feature slot provided? Measuring this is probably too mathematically complex for us POP bloggers, but we do know that the feature slot has certainly propelled these shimmering chanteuses into the POP public's eye (remember how many features Nicki Minaj performed before her solo album?).  Moreover, with the changing landscape of music (genre mixing and a return to alternative sounds - see the success of Fun., Gotye, etc.) Kimbra and Janelle have as much of a chance of breaking into the mainstream as the uber-commercial (but super-awesome) Neon.  For our favorite "featured" ladies, it is only up from here!


Gregory & Minna

JFF - Noisettes, "Winner"

Yay! The Noisettes are back with a new single.  It's a Winner.  No, really.  That's what it's called. 
What do you think? Does this track have you excited for their third studio album?



Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Let's Talk About Glambert

It's time for me to say a few words about Adam Lambert as the release date for his second studio album draws nearer.  It's clear to everyone, fans and non-fans, that Adam Lambert is not only a superhuman singer, but a genuinely good man.  Adam has always supported philanthropic causes near and dear to his heart, whether it be involvement in LGBTQ activism or raising money for clean drinking water.  Outspoken, high-spirited, courageous & daring, Adam Lambert stands far apart from other POP acts who lack temerity & personality.  Guided by his gift & a true moral compass, Adam delivers passionate & provocative performances other singers could only dream of.  Yet, Adam is consistently under-appreciated. Why? 

There is, of course, a deeply-entrenched social bias against openly gay male performance artists, especially flamboyant ones.  Gregory wrote about this extensively last November.  Adam has valiantly battled prejudice since the very beginning of his career - not to mention carrying the burden of being the first openly gay mainstream POP artist.  But the other factor limiting his career is less clear cut: Adam Lambert's music.

I mean it kindheartedly when I say that so far, I am concerned about Trespassing.  The first 2 singles just don't sound like winners.  Sure, they are graceful love songs that exhibit Adam's heavenly vocals (hot damn can he hit notes!), but ultimately, they falter.  Though it premiered at #76 on the Hot 100 with virtually no promotion, Better Than I Know Myself appears stagnant.  Now we have Never Close Our Eyes, which is a fun but ultimately unexceptional track.  It sounds like Dr. Luke put in a C+ effort while Adam, of course, put in 350%.  And, as much as Never Close Our Eyes sounds current, I don't think it's realistic to expect a high position on the charts (I do, however, expect good things from Cuckoo if it is the third single, which hopefully, it is).

But Adam Lambert is a first-rate performer working with the best in the business, shouldn't he be #1? Yes, he absolutely should!  But is Trespassing going to get him there?  As much as I want it to, I have my doubts.  Although working with Dr. Luke provides Adam's songs with a modern, glossy finish, part of the end result is that his songs sound tragically generic.  Generic?  Yes, unfortunately, I said generic.  I know, how in the world can the Broadway-experienced Adam Lambert make a generic song?  This question continues to baffle me.

Watch Adam perform Cuckoo, one of the most exciting upcoming tracks off of Trespassing, below.

However, after much thought & many conversations with Gregory, I have a few suspicions - the most important one being that I suspect Adam's team factors in the great risk of trying to make a POP star out of a Broadway talent - namely, they fear making an album that sounds like Adam Lambert: The Musical.  To avoid this, Adam's producers compress his powerful voice into a robo-POP format that just does not fit his singular talents.  Moreover, most of his singles as lyrically limited to dramatic love songs that lack boldness or grit (this is one of the main reasons why I would have preferred Trespassing or Cuckoo as the next single, they are the kind of gutsy POP-rock jams that only Adam could do justice).

What are the alternatives?  Well, for one, I would prefer that Adam worked with different people.  Writing a song with, say, Greg Kurstin, is a great idea.  After all, Kelly Clarkson worked with Greg in part because of his ability to let her vocals carry the song without over-processing them.  Give Adam a GUTSY song!  Likewise, working with Ryan Tedder could produce a raucous, beat-heavy song that adds a bluesy atmosphere & compliments Adams vocals (wouldn't his cover of Rumour Has It be epic?).  Or even better, Adam should work with Liam Howe, who gave us the brilliant & unconventional Mowgli's Road.  Adam should be making stomping, rock 'n roll tinged, operatic POP, instead of music that is shmalzy, over-saturated, & conventional.  No Bruno Mars-penned tracks are needed, & the less Dr. Luke, the better. We can't keep giving Adam formulaic POP when he clearly has so much more to offer.

My strongest evidence is the 2009 track Time For Miracles, written for the blockbuster film 2012.  Poignant & timeless, in Time For Miracles Adam is free of the electroPOP song structure that suffocates his sound.  Sure, electroPOP sounds good on Adam, and at certain times, even great.  But does it do justice to all that he can deliver? 

I firmly believe in a long-standing, trail-blazing future career for Adam, especially as POP music leans more & more towards rock 'n roll.  But when will he be front & center like he deserves?  Some might say "well, look, he already has a Grammy for Best Male POP Vocal Performance," to which I say: why stop there? Why shouldn't Adam receive both popular praise and critical acclaim?  Furthermore, why can't he make an album that sounds current but doesn't limit his sound?

I don't have all the answers, though I wish that I did.  I do know, however, that the millions of loving Glamberts will never let Adam drift from view, however peripheral.  Thank goodness.



Monday, April 23, 2012

BIG Week For POP

Cover of Santigold's 2nd album, Master Of My Make Believe
I don't EVER remember this much POP going on in ONE single week, nor do I EVER remember feeling as EXCITED!!!

This week...

TWO albums are released!
1. Rufus Wainwright's 7th studio release, Out Of The Game, is an ode to '60s and '70s POP that's been produced by Mark Ronson, the man behind Amy Winehouse's masterpiece of an album, Back to Black. Stream the whole record, or select songs, for free, this week on NPR Music's website. 
2. Santigold's 2nd studio release, Master Of My Make Believe, is meant to be an inspirational album encouraging others to create their own realities instead of abiding by society's predetermined constructs. The record was produced by such masters as John Hill (Shakira's She Wolf & Waka Waka) and Greg Kurstin (Kelly Clarkson's Stronger and Lily Allen's 2nd album, It's Not Me, It's You). Stream the whole record, or select songs, for free, this week on NPR Music's website.

TWO singles are released!
1. Fiona Apple's long awaited return has come with the release of her first official single, Every Single Night, from her forthcoming 4th studio album, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do. Stream the song for free on Fiona's Soundcloud page. 
2. Little Boot's 2nd single, Every Night I Say A Prayer, from her forthcoming (as of yet, untitled) 2nd album is out NOW! Stream the track for free on Little Boots' Soundcloud page. 
...Is it just me, or is it actually a tad freakish (in the BEST WAY) that both songs have very similar titles?

ONE video is released (although we in American cannot yet see it!)
1. Sam Sparro, the man behind 2008's slick POP gem, Black & Gold, has released the viddy for his new track, I Wish I Never Met You, off of his soon-to-be released 2nd album, Return to Paradise. I hope this record brings him much success (even though I've yet to hear it). As I've said before, it's about time the world makes room for a flamboyantly GAY POP star/songwriter (especially one who's written and produced for other flamboyantly gay POP stars, including Adam Lambert).

And last, but certainly NOT least...

ONE song is FINALLY been released to mainstream American Radio!
1. Ellie Goulding's Lights will now be played nationwide on Cumulus Radio Stations (New York's Z100, Boston's Kiss108, etc.). We can all thank Martin Kierszenbaum, the head of Interscope's Cherry Tree Records, which distributes Miss Goulding's music Stateside. He got La Roux's Bulletproof to #8 on the Billboard Hot 100, so I really shouldn't be surprised, but I am, and more importantly, I'm super duper excited! Minna & I remember listening to Under The Sheets two years ago during our senior year of college. Oh how far our indie electronica princess has come. Congrats, Ellie!

Anything we're missing? Let us know, lovers. xoxo



JFF - Rebecca Ferguson, "Glitter & Gold" (Cahill Remix)

Wow. Just wow. This is the kind of magic that made Ellie Goulding's album so heavenly.

According to our sources Rebecca Ferguson is the next British export to the States.  Bring. It On.  We really hope this remix makes it onto the US release of her debut album, Heaven. All bow to the Liverpudlian dance remix of Glitter & Gold, below.



Saturday, April 21, 2012

JFF - Cover Drive, Sparks

I didn't really know what to make of Cover Drive when I first heard Twilight, but now that I've heard their next single, Sparks, I'm prepared to predict a successful road for these newcomers.  On a dancefloor dominated by Rihanna & Pitbull, the way is paved for this N-Dubz-y, R&B-meets-electroPOP foursome.  They'd sound absolutely great working with RedOne... either way, bring on that Bajan Style.  POP approval is no longer pending: it's granted.



Friday, April 20, 2012

The Singles Roundup - 4/20


Chris Brown -
Sweet Love
When a Chris Brown song opens with "baby, let's get naked / just so we can make / sweet love," and flows into "you start screaming when I go downtown," one has cause for concern. Sweet Love smells of pulling "a Banks," and by that we mean emulating the entertainment industry's new shock-value goddess / musical messiah, Azealia. Unfortunately, Chris's attempt at sounding sexy ends up somewhere between profane & just plain icky. You should know betta.

The good news: Timbaland is back with some dirty-dirty-bass-bass-bass. The bad news: Break Ya Back is choppy at best. The song's finer moments feature Dev, whose swagger shines over Timbaland's incoherent mumble-rap. In the long run it's alright though, because Dev assures us "I'm gonna be around for a little while / ya feel me?"

Adam's voice has never sounded whinier. We don't even remember the song, honestly.

Cheryl Cole - Call My Name
This is a disappointing track - not because Cheryl Cole does not deliver, which she does (as much as Cheryl can) - but because Calvin put in barely a passing effort. For Cheryl, it's a radio-ready, dancefloor-friendly comeback, but for Calvin, it's a bit of a red flag. Don't go Dr. Luke on us Calvin! We're not interested in Rihanna's sloppy seconds (although, to be fair, Call My Name sounds more like In My Arms than We Found Love). Either way, Cheryl is on her way back. Prepare.
Note from Gregory: I'm SO over this! Beyonce did Say My Name, Rihanna did What's My Name, & now Call My Name? RE-DUC-TIVE.


Gregory & Minna

JFF - Blondfire, Hide & Seek

Introducing one of my new favorite indie POP acts: brother-and-sister duo Blondfire.  On my radar for a little while, Bruce & Erica Driscoll have officially blown me away with their latest single, Hide & Seek, a melodic POP song that brings me back to the earlier days (daze) of shoegaze. It's definitely an addition to my May playlist.  Listen to the dreamy track below. 
Hide & Seek by Blondfire 


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Is Carly Rae Jepsen Your New Favorite POP Star?

Do you LOVE her yet?

Unless you live under a rock (or worse... disconnected from virtual reality) chances are you have heard Call Me Maybe by overnight sensation Carly Rae Jepsen [and by overnight, we mean it.  This girl makes Lana Del Rey's popularity seem delayed].  Hailing from British Columbia, Canada, Carly Rae Jepsen already has a musical career under her belt - not only did she place third on the fifth season of Canadian Idol, she has toured her home country & released an album, entitled Tug of War, in 2008.  But a lot has changed in the four years since she her first release, namely, Carly Rae has gone global.  Acquiring an appetite for POP music after "falling in love" with the likes of Robyn & Kimbra (I mean, who can blame her), the singer-songwriter decided to venture down a new avenue: POP music.  The result? The year's biggest earworm to date: the sickeningly cute, undeniably infectious & fresh Call Me Maybe. As noted by critics, Call Me Maybe evokes memories of the early days of Britney Spears & Christina Aguilera (especially Come On Over, in my opinion). But how did this squeaky-clean 26 year-old manage to win us over so quickly?  

There are the obvious answers: Carly Rae's youthful charms, the widespread celebrity endorsement, the "Justin Bieber protegee" tag-line.  But there is something hidden beneath the surface about Carly Rae's massive breakthrough single.  Much like Selena Gomez's Love You Like a Love Song, Call Me Maybe's brilliance stems from its ability to bridge the teen POP audience & the Euro-heavy adult dancefloor.  Yes, it sounds a lot like a Disney song, but it's not. Lest we forget, Carly Rae is an experienced 26 year old songwriter on our hands, and although under the same management as Biebs, she is far more akin to artists like Taylor Swift & Ellie Goulding. With her fame on the rise, & her ability to tap into both tween-age & adult fanbases, could Carly Rae become our newest folk-POP star?  

It is, of course, too early to tell. But the buzz behind Call Me Maybe does not bespeak "one-hit-wonder."



Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Best of POP Parody

What do they have in common?
Thought you were sick of We Are Young?  Fancied you'd had enough LMFAO already?  THINK AGAIN, because with chart-topping success comes the best inevitable aftermath - the PARODIES. (I mean really, how many California Gurls spinoffs did you watch on youtube in 2010

Here are the two best POP parodies floating around the internet right now.  The first is my personal favorite: I'm Peeta & I Know It, a spoof that finds LMFAO rapping about everyone's favorite Hunger Games hunk.  The second clip is an amusing take on Fun.'s number 1 hit... from the perspective of some very cynical, middle-aged comics.  Watch below... especially if you're at work.

My friends are all over these on Facebook. Make sure to share 'em with yours!



Monday, April 16, 2012

Stand Behind The Music

Now is a time when a number of our favorite artists from the last few years are about to release their sophomore efforts. With all this comes a great deal of nerves, aspiration, hope, fear, and the like. However, I find it a bit shameful when certain artists, whose debuts made such an impact on their niche audiences, renounce their first albums. In doing so, these singers cause fans to doubt the connection felt with music they believed to be relatable.

Who am I talking about? Paloma Faith and Marina Diamandis. As much as I admire these two women, and anticipate their follow-ups, I feel as though they've hung me out to dry. Both spent two years or so promoting debuts they claimed were personal statements, and we, as fans, believed them, because how can songs about the inner-most depths of depression (I Am Not A Robot, Numb) or our desperate need for companionship (Stone Cold Sober) be anything but? However, their recent claims that their works were not true representations have caused their audiences to question their faith in any songwriter's honesty. Is it even worth emotionally investing in anybody's music anymore?

Now, I understand if someone debuts as a squeaky clean pop star, and then, with the release of his/her second album, testifies to having no control over his/her previous output. For example, when Christina Aguilera released Stripped, she admitted feeling pigeon-holed as the perfect blonde, bubblegum POP star, and we, as fans, weren't surprised. It wasn't as if she ever postured as a genuine artist (aside from emphasizing her vocal prowess) from 1999 until 2000. If anything, the only shock we felt resulted from the fact that she actually conquered the driver's seat with her second album, unlike most of her peers at the time (Britney, N'Sync, Backstreet Boys, etc.). We had never heavily invested in her songs before the release of Stripped, because there was never anything overly personal within them. Christina had never claimed to pen the lyrics on her self-titled debut, so we didn't expect any Fiona Apple-like musical proclamations from that record.

However, Paloma and Marina were never packaged as such. When they came out, they both had distinct images that were artistically driven, and their sounds and lyrics were utterly unique. They were signed and advertised as artists who wrote their own material. Due to such marketing tactics, audiences looking for something a bit more personal than Rihanna's Take A Bow had something, and someone, to latch onto. It seems as though these two women are now rebelling without reason. Yes, maybe Paloma didn't have final approval over the production/mixes of her debut's tracks, but who would expect her to? The fact that her album, Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful, sounded at all cinematic, as per her request, should have been satisfying enough. A record company will not give new artists 100% autonomy - this is a business, after all, and people's livelihoods are on the line. Be grateful that, as a new signee, you had any degree of authority. Furthermore, don't renounce your music, particularly when your severely personal lyrics drew in a unique crowd of fans searching for something more than the readily available Cheryl Cole experience.

Marina seems even more desperate to erase her old self, claiming that her new (generic) love-lorn material is far more personal than her old songs on The Family Jewels. I don't believe this for a second. Tracks like The Outsider and Girls don't write themselves. They're clearly motivated by a sense of isolation and spite, respectively, and as such, are quite personal. This makes it all the more confusing as to why Marina is so aggressively battling her early material. It's as if she's trying to prove to herself that she's worthy of more than just an indie crown. However, in doing so, she's losing a fiercely loyal fan base that was drawn to the personal nature of her music. Very few artists (i.e. Fiona Apple, Bright Eyes) achieve this sort of intense devotion resulting from the creation of purely confessional music.

VV Brown has done it best. Sometime this summer, she will be releasing her second album, Lollipops and Politics. Earlier this year, we posted the album preview, and it sounds fantastic. Featuring a combination of instrumentals, synths, and social commentary, this album seems to be quite a bit better than her last record, Traveling Like The Light. However, VV says that she will always stand behind the indie-POP of her debut, stating that no matter where her life takes her/how her music evolves, that first album will always be a true representation of who she was. This is the mature way to grow as an artist, because it provides VV with the space to change while also honoring the fans who found (and continue to find) a sense of solace in the deeply personal sound and lyrics of her debut.

As Minna puts it, "to thine own self be true." It is possible to progress artistically without disowning one's prior work. Such renouncement is not only juvenile in the sense of "If I close my eyes and pretend not to see it, it doesn't exist," but it is also incredibly disrespectful to the fans who have been there from the start. I wholeheartedly believe that the minute an artist caters his/her work to his/her fans' preferences, s/he compromises his/her artistic integrity. However, recognizing and appreciating one's fan base does not require any compromise. It doesn't require any semblance of artistic stagnation; all it necessitates is the validation of material that holds immense sentimental value in fans' eyes, minds, and hearts. Music is so over-run with fakery. Therefore, why taint the truth simply as a means of getting ahead and/or breaking into the mainstream? Such is the act of a sell-out. 



Saturday, April 7, 2012


Fun (period) made me think of the Janet (period) album, only Miss Jackson If You're Nasty's Most Successful record...

Any correlation? Probably not, but it's fun to imagine one exists.



Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Long-Awaited MDNA Review!

After some repeat listening, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is not Madonna’s best work. It’s very mixed. It’s as though she’s trying to satisfy everyone, including herself. The “rub up against me and make me cum” tracks seem to be catered to the Rihanna crowd, but feel very unnatural. Though she's often used a sexual aesthetic and is the undisputed Queen of sexual liberation, Madonna has always possessed a degree of class, empowerment, and poetry, which is missing on tracks like Birthday Song and I Don’t Give A, in which Nicki Minaj shines while Madonna…well, doesn’t. Give Me All Your Luvin’ is simply annoying, and wears on the ear. Instead of tapping into Madonna’s beautifully deep vocals, Martin Solveig highlights her annoyingly shrill upper register, and the stupid lyrics don’t help matters. Furthermore, I find song titles like Gang Bang a bit frightening. Isn’t Madonna the POP star who spearheaded female empowerment? There is nothing empowering about this track's title. It’s a failed attempt at trying to sound cute and kitschy whilst trivializing sexual violence. In these songs, it seems like Madonna’s putting on an act. It doesn’t ring true. She's always been an excellent lyricist, but on such tunes, her poetry seems to be lacking.

Fortunately, Madonna’s true colors shine on songs like Superstar, Love Spent, Masterpiece (which is a bit cheesy – “If you were the Mona Lisa, you’d be hanging in the Louvre” - but sometimes that’s what you get when you pour your heart out), Falling Free, and Best Friend. William Orbit, best known for his work on Madonna’s Ray of Light and Music albums, produced all of these tracks with the exception of the last one, which was assembled by the Benassi cousins and The Demolition Crew. These songs have a degree of purity because, on them, Madonna reveals her scars. It’s this sort of honest and dark beauty, wrapped in electro-POP, that connected with fans on the Ray of Light and Confessions on a Dance Floor albums, the latter of which is my favorite Madonna record. When Madonna opens her heart (#punintended), she becomes relatable. Maybe we don’t (YET) have enough money to be millionaire sugar mommas ourselves, but the sentiment of a broken heart is universal, especially when Madonna communicates it. As I said before, connectable, poetic lyricism is one of Madonna’s greatest, and most underrated, gifts.

In regard to production, Orbit rules and Solveig drulez. The Benassi cousins are somewhere in the middle. Their work on Girl Gone Wild is underwhelming. It’s definitely under-produced, which is surprising, considering they’ve done such brilliant work for Kelis (Brave) and Chris Brown (Beautiful People). William Orbit’s production glistens and sounds so fresh, experimental and catchy. It seems as though Solveig was aiming for the same result, but his beats lack any semblance of heart or warmth, and so they sound extremely grating.

Now, let’s get to the visuals, shall we? The Gimme All Your Luvin video was juvenile. I don’t care if that was Madonna’s ironic intention, because it comes across as stupid, especially when compared to her multitude of gorgeous, iconic videos. As many others have stated, the Girl Gone Wild video was reminiscent of GaGa’s Alejandro piece, with men dancing in heels. If Madonna is going to copy something, then this is the thing to copy. However, I do wish she was a bit more progressive. Let’s have some BEARS dancing in heels. I want men of all different shapes and sizes. Madonna has battled sexism, but why should she stop there? She’s in the perfect position to redefine beauty standards and battle our society’s notions of age. Sometimes, it seems as though Madonna’s locked away the riot girl within, but there’s still so much left to do, and who better to do it than Madonna, one of the first stars to package politics with POP? While Madonna is in fighting condition, putting on better stage shows than her younger peers, it seems as though a part of her retired eons ago. This is a loss deeply felt on the part of those who benefited from her work.