“Work” by Rihanna featuring Drake | Well, all right, this is a lazy post. Today I camp to a hotel for a big event for the next couple of days – that explains the lack of thought in the past few weeks. So consider this thing on autopilot until Friday, at least. I have reviews pre-written for this occasion alone. Now, to be like Mamamoo. [NB]
Tomorrow, the dream of many a music fan will be realized: Coldplay is performing in Manila. Well, the dream of many a music fan with enough money to fork out. Others will have to settle for a marathon of their music, crying over clandestine videos, proclaiming “post-concert depression” like the rest. Even others would just shrug. And then there’s me, doing this list, a token mention of what is an inescapable reality for many months. Coldplay’s got many hits, but some of their songs would fall under the cracks because they’re just such juggernauts. So, my list of five underrated Coldplay songs – according to me, at least. You will have a different list. Or you’ll be crying.
Inevitably one compares Anti, Rihanna’s long-gestating, long-overdue album, to Beyoncé Knowles’ surprise self-titled effort over two years ago. Seemingly built to stake some hipster R&B ground and impress the music press – although the many delays surrounding its release, dating back as far as 2013, certainly has gotten them talking – Anti has some bright spots, but feels occasionally random and occasionally unfinished. She tries a bunch of new things here, to mixed results. Tracks like “Kiss It Better” and album closer “Close To You” revels in its minimal approach, resulting in genuinely beautiful songs. Others, like “Woo” and the decidedly random Tame Impala cover “Same Ol’ Mistakes” – she just sings over a minus one of the original, essentially – somehow work. But then some things don’t work at all, for different reasons: “Higher” was a lot of yelping, and “Yeah, I Said It” just ended without any satisfaction. So, yeah, this album stuttered to the finish line, and suddenly, it’s out. You wonder if it could have benefited from a bit more polish, or if we would have been too impatient to wait any longer. Beyoncé’s stealth release of a very shiny record hiked expectations on this front, too. It’s a tough position Rihanna put all of us in. Maybe we just take what we get? [NB] | 3/5
“I’m A Slave 4 U” by Britney Spears | I’d be a hypocrite if I insist that pop nowadays is overtly sexual as opposed to the past. There’s always been sexual references in music from the time of the Beatles: if we’re talking about the period I’m focusing on this week, it’d be Britney Spears sweating around to impossible dance moves on “I’m A Slave 4 U” or wearing an almost sheer onesie on the Grammy-winning (yes) “Toxic”. Christina Aguilera, another pop princess of the late-90s, went raunchy with Stripped, and notably with “Dirrty” and that hormone-inducing outfit. But I sometimes wonder whether the current pop crop would have lasting careers like them both. Okay, that’s not exactly spot-on – Britney went on a downward spiral, after all – but will most of today’s pop artists end up being footnotes? Sure, Katy Perry and Rihanna – two more artists playing with their sexuality, in different ways – are doing well. (Does Taylor Swift fall under that category, too?) But the likes of Ke$ha, or the rest of the turbo-pop ilk littering the charts nowadays – what about them? Will they give way to the guitar-led stuff from the Lumineers or Phillip Phillips, or to the ballads of Adele? Not everybody can be Beyoncé, after all. (Thanks to Ale for the recommendation – and to Edsel, for indirectly causing that recommendation. Have things I should hear? Drop me a line here.)
“Dilemma” by Nelly featuring Kelly Rowland | If you’ve been reading this blog for a while now, you’d probably guess I’m not really into hip-hop. For some reason it’s more unlistenable now, though. Sure, there are still some good things coming out, but if you listen to pop radio all you hear is, well, Pitbull derivatives. Or Flo Rida derivatives. Or Chris Brown. Back then – and yes, I know, I’m sounding like a pedant – you had Eminem. Oh, how I actually miss Eminem. He swore, he was controversial, but there’s some thought in what he’s saying. “Lose Yourself” and “Stan” are still favorites. You had more melodic stuff like this one (thanks to Joann for suggesting this when I asked around on Twitter) – as a kid I always wondered what the deal was with that piece of tape on Nelly’s face. Or maybe R. Kelly’s “Ignition” remix. Wasn’t that sexual? Is it because I grew up and understood these things more? Now that I do, I don’t want to hear them being sung, with increasing degrees of innuendo. Or maybe it’s because now that I understand it more, I tend to put meanings to things. (Rihanna implores to “come into me” on “Umbrella”, whatever that means.) Certainly miles away from the moment when I heard a song off the 8 Mile soundtrack that was peppered with “motherfucker”. Or, as always, I am not seeing clearly. (Tomorrow: if you’re not into pop or hip-hop, you probably had a guitar. Have things I should hear? Drop me a line here.)