I was 5-years-old when The Wall came out in 1979. Of course, I was far too young to grasp any of the deeply adult themes of loneliness, alienation and distrust of institutional power that dominate Pink Floyd‘s masterwork, but that didn’t stop my fellow first graders and I from chanting “We don’t need no education!” and “Hey, teacher, leave us kids alone!” while we walked to elementary school in the mornings. Some musical statements are just universal in that regard, I suppose. Yet, for whatever reason, I was never much of a Floyd fan growing up. Sure, I was familiar with a great deal of their catalog —if you grew up in the 70s or 80s had access to a car and FM radio, how could you not be?— but for whatever reason, my musical attention during my formative years was drawn primarily towards hip-hop and more accessible, distinctly American classic rock staples (Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger, Eddie Money).
I bring up this confession (of sorts) because I went into Saturday night’s Roger Waters presents The Wall: Live concert at Yankee Stadium without a deep level of knowledge about either the album or the production. I purchased The Wall on iTunes just last week, and only had time to give it one end-to-end listen (which just so happened to be my first time doing so) before hopping on the 4 Train from my home in Brooklyn and making the trek up to 161st Street in the heart of the Bronx. Aside from cursory glances at a few reviews of recent dates on the stadium leg of this particular tour, I went into the evening with an open mind, fully prepared to be blown away. Well, suffice to say, that mission was accomplished. Quite literally, in fact.
Believe —Justin Bieber‘s second full-length album, which is out today on Island Records— is a bid bid by a teen star aiming for continued relevance. Will the kids still love him? Can the adults love him, too? Will this be an acceptable substitute for another Justin Timberlake album that will probably never arrive? The critics, all too old to be count themselves as Beliebers, are split:
“Bieber has had to go through cultural puberty and actual puberty — a tough gauntlet by any measure. Luckily, his instincts (or at least the instincts of the small republic of people employed to steer the USS Bieber) are strong, and Believe works surprisingly well as a reinvention and a reintroduction. It’s the rare album that tries to be everything to everyone and largely succeeds.” – Kyle Anderson’s B+ review for Entertainment Weekly
“I let down my hair…and got in touch with my inner tween. And then a funny thing happened: I kind of fell in love. Which is pretty much the point of the whole album.” — Melissa Locker’s review for Time
“Bieber seems to be staking a place in pop history. There’s the Timberlake nod of ‘Hey Senorita’ on ‘Take You,’ a Prince homage (“We all party like it’s 3012 tonight”) plus a shout-out to Beyoncé’s beginnings with the words: ‘You can be my Destiny’s Child’. The blissfully descending melisma of a five-syllabled ‘die’ in ‘Die in Your Arms’ sounds like a forgotten Jackson 5 gem. In fact, the track samples Michael Jackson’s ‘We’ve Got a Good Thing Going’ and bonus track ‘Maria’ is another MJ-esque treat – a paternity-protesting song to file right next to ‘Billie Jean.’” — Hermione Hoby’s 4-star review for The Observer
After six years in record label limbo or hiding or love and hearbreak or anywhere but the spotlight, Fiona Apple has returned. Her much-anticipated fourth album, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, is out today, and it has critics pretty universally in awe. Here are some of the nice things they’re saying:
“The stories do say something about obsession and control, and are indicative of how exacting an artist she is. After four albums in sixteen years, Apple has racked up maybe five bad songs, total. “Idler Wheel” is less crammed with detail than her last record, Extraordinary Machine, but it has the same effect: once heard, a song lodges in the mind, melodies take root, and words loop of their own accord. It is an astonishing album. ” – Sasha Frere- Jones’ review for The New Yorker
“This is the most distilled Fiona Apple album yet … It’s an old-school approach, though it rises well above mere sepia Instagrams. Instead of being far-off and dreamy, her throwback moves are the opposite– intrusive, corporeal. This is not background music. It demands attention. ‘Look at! Look at! Look at! Look at me!’” – Ryan Dombal’s 9.0 review for Pitchfork
In the moments before Rita Ora took the stage at S.O.B.’s in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan last night, there was a palpable buzz in the air. The packed-to-capacity club had just patiently waited through a middling set from former OFWGKTA member Casey Veggies, and people were buzzing with anticipatory glee for a few reasons. Of course, people were excited to see the artist that is being described as “the new Rihanna” make her New York City debut, but we heard more than a few people in our immediate vicinity wonder aloud whether or not her mentor, one Mr. Sean “Jay-Z” Carter, would be making an appearance at the tiny club where artists like Kanye West, John Legend and Erykah Badu caught some of their first big breaks. Well, spoiler alert, Hova did not make an appearance, but by the end of Rita Ora’s 35 minute(ish) set, no one seemed to care.
Ora bounded onto the stage just a few minutes after 10 p.m. wearing an orange knit hat, a blue jacket, a white midriff-revealing crop top and black tights. Her outfit was colorful and playful, much like Ora’s personality, with a dash of Stefani-esque sexiness thrown in (that is to say, she’s an undeniable beauty that projects a certain wholesomeness). She led off with a song that we had not heard before, but one that contained the line “It’s the kind of beat that will make your face melt.” Normally, we associate the concept of facemelting to metal riffs, but in this particular case, her description of the roaring synths was entirely appropriate. Considering this was her first showcase in NYC, we expected to see a hint of nervousness from her when she first hit the stage, but that never came to fruition. Instead, she commanded the stage like a veteran rock star, prowling from side to side, even occasionally indulging in a bit of headbanging.
Madonna‘s 12th studio album, MDNA, just came out today and it’s already the #1 selling album in the iTunes Store. The critical consensus on the record, however, is decidedly mixed. We’re excited to give it a few spins after work tonight and decide for ourselves, but in the interim, here’s a taste of what some of our favorite music publications and critics have to say about Madge’s new jawn. (We already know what Deadmau5 thinks!)
“MDNA is a collection of thoroughly pumping pop tunes, some of which are slices of sheer brilliance. Not only does Madonna take us to the club with MDNA, she exhausts us, drains us, and confides in us.”—Keith Caulfield’s review for Billboard
“Madonna’s in a rapturous state of mind in 2012, and in more ways than one: A bulk of her latest album, an incredible, varied collection of pounding club cuts, bloody revenge odes and swinging, psychedelic ’60?s-tinged anthems, seems to be tripping out on acid–or, more accurately, ecstasy … MDNA is an incredible, explosively defiant record, but also [one that contains] unexpectedly raw, introspective balladry, all of which showcasing far more vulnerability than one might have concluded from the album’s two lead singles.”—Bradley Stern’s review for MuuMuse
“In fact, much of MDNA has more the flip zip of a disc by Katy Perry or Ke$ha than something by a woman who may be older than both their mothers … So many good tracks crowd the disc, in fact, that even the four extras on the deluxe version rate as must-owns.”—Jim Farber’s 5-star review for the New York Daily News
“Madge spends nearly half the album insisting that this is the Best Party Ever … So it’s surprising that Madonna is at her best on the love songs. The W.E. ballad ”Masterpiece” (which won her a Golden Globe in January) begins with Spanish guitar and a finger-snap rhythm — a refreshing break from the relentless bass throbbing.”—Melissa Maerz’s B- review for Entertainment Weekly
It’s here — Lana Del Rey‘s Born To Die, the album that has been discussed almost as much as her “controversial” persona. While digital sales are telling one story — Born To Die took #1 and #2 positions on the US iTunes charts this morning and holds the #1 spot in 11 other countries (UK, France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal and Switzerland) — the critical reception to the album has been less than warm. While a few have praised Lana Del Rey as the dichotomous ingenue / bad girl who is bringing desperately needed direction and ideas back to music, many have fortified attacks on her image by surmising that her music is even less challenging or interesting than her aesthetic portrayal. And the rest are just sort of a bit… “meh,” finding Born To Die neither offensive nor completely worthy of the attention it’s garnered. We’ve clipped together some quotes from the flood of Born To Die reviews that have littered the Internet this week…
“If you ask me, I reckon the girl doesn’t know whether she wants to be a classic Hollywood glamourpuss or a modern pop star, so she’s doing both at once. Nothing wrong with that here, songs all cinematic, like a warped Casablanca channeling the Rat Pack via Do The Right Thing. More interesting than a lot of starlets by far, and more confident. Whatever she ends up being, she seems fun, this Lana Del Rey. A lot more fun than you’d think to look at her.” [Drowned In Sound]
“I like the album better with each listen—the more time I spend in its company, the more I feel as though I’m approaching it on something like its own terms.” [Slate]
“For all of its coos about love and devotion, it’s the album equivalent of a faked orgasm– a collection of torch songs with no fire.” [Pitchfork]
Look, we know we’ve got DIVAS fever, and we know we’ve been gushing relentlessly about VH1 DIVAS Celebrates Soul (airing tonight on VH1 at 9 p.m. ET/PT), but that’s because it’s all just so good. Obviously, we can see where we might be a little bit biased, and why you might not entirely believe our unabashedly praising the show, but you don’t need to take our word for it. It turns out everyone is talking about DIVAS, so here’s what some of the most prolific industry people and news mediums had to say about DIVAS (hint: there’s a lot of love in the quotes below!)…
“In a section dedicated to Chicago, Mavis Staples, Chaka Khan and Erykah Badu turned in an ecstatic version of Staples’ “I’ll Take You There” that played out like a master class in vocal control, Staples doling out rich, low notes until the song’s closing moments, where she slyly quoted both Badu’s “Tyrone” and Khan’s “I’m Every Woman.” During a segment centered on the music of Chicago, Badu and Khan performed “Ain’t Nobody” as a series of escalating peaks, each vocalist goading the other with a series of increasingly stunning melismatic runs before ending the song in a sustained, emotional embrace.” [Rolling Stone]
“This VH1 Divas show is 1 of da best shows I’ve seen all year after only 2 performances!!!” [Common, via Twitter]
Seemingly every time anyone discusses Lana Del Rey, questions about her quote-unquote “authenticity” are evoked. This sentiment was, above all else, dominating the pre- and post-show conversation at tonight’s sold-out show at New York City’s Bowery Ballroom (including the two dudes we overheard huddled up, sniffing something in a comically loud fashion, in a men’s bathroom stall after the concert had wrapped).
If you’re not already familiar with the artist known as Lana Del Rey, you soon will be. This 25-year-old siren exploded into the public consciousness this summer when she self-released her debut single, “Video Games,” to YouTube (garnering some 9 million views along the way). Cooler-than-thou hipster blogs initially praised her work, but quickly turned their backs on the self-described “gangster Nancy Sinatra” when it was discovered that she initially released an album under her real name, Lizzy Grant, before fully formulating the Lana Del Rey character. It’s not as if Grant/Del Rey’s calculated transition was unprecedented; everyone from Robert Zimmerman (better known as Bob Dylan) to Stefani Germanotta (aka Lady Gaga) has done something similar in the name of “art.” However, in this age of information overload, the rabid, scoop-hungry blogosphere has recognized that they can rack up more page views by deriding this young singer’s work than they can by taking a wait and see approach.
After months worth of fervent Internet discourse and a hype-generating European tour, Lana Del Rey finally took the stage in her self-appointed hometown of New York City earlier this evening in what she clearly felt was a put-up or shut-up performance. “It’s good to be home,” she told the Bowery Ballroom audience as she strode on stage to the bold entrance music of Bernard Herrmann‘s iconic score from Psycho. After a couple uncomfortable moments of “f***in technical difficulties” (her words), she quickly launched into “Without You,” a song which contains lyrics that arguably define her ethos: “I think I found God in the flashbulbs of your pretty cameras.”
Even though Young Jeezy is gearing up to release his fourth solo album?later this year, his show last night at Highline Ballroom in New York was dedicated to his first. Commemorating Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101′s sixth anniversary, the rapper who reps Atlanta looked both svelte and hungry while performing alongside a full band in the hot, filled to the brim venue. For those in attendance, however, it was a welcomed experience, especially once the star-studded guests began spilling out on stage.
First to show his face was Jay-Z, making a supportive cameo to spit his verse from the debut album’s third single, “Go Crazy,” making the crowd do just that. Kanye was next up to bat, joining Jeezy for their 2008 collabo, “Put On,” followed soon after by UGK legend Bun B who helped perform TM101 track “Trap or Die.” Next to hit the stage was Brooklyn rapper Fabolous, who, after performing “Flexin’” from Jeezy’s recent Real Is Back mixtape, also delivered radio favorite “You Be Killin’ Em” to the already-spoiled audience. And to cap off the laundry list of appearances, Jeezy then brought out the entire L.O.X. to perform a medley of their strongest tracks, again forcing the crowd to lose their minds.
While Jeezy’s recruits may be the impressive lynchpin in the show’s dossier, it’s absolutely worth mentioning that his fans were thoroughly content with solo performances from just the man himself. As each song dropped, the audience recognized it instantly, and the room would soon be filled with audible word-for-word rapping accompaniment. Not just some people either, it was pretty much everyone; something you don’t see at every rap show. And considering Jeezy announced that his new album, Thug Motivation 103, will be hitting stores on September 30th, I’m sure he’d appreciate it if every person rapping along to his lyrics in that room actually BUYS it.
For fans of the disgraced pop princess, tomorrow’s a special day: VH1 will be streaming the new Britney Spears record, in its entirety. So what’s the word back on what you can expect? A bevy of experts have already weighed in. And the news will disappoint all you haters out there: If you believe the critics, Blackout is actually supposed to be pretty good. How do you think it will compare to her previous work?
“She may no longer dance with flair, lip-sync on cue, keep her dress down, or even be judged a suitable mom, but Britney Spears can still turn up on some slammin’ new songs. The much-whispered-about, oft-giggled-over Blackout album, the singer’s first in four years, contains flashes of the zippy pop and propulsive dance beats Brit fans treasure, despite the singer’s, shall we say, distracting activities of the last year.” – The New York Daily News
“This album is going to be #1!!! Everyone needs to back the hell off. Her family wouldn?t have nothing if it weren?t for her. Even Mr. Federline he has what he has because of her. She has made everyone lives better. She?s young and just living her life (and yes the way she wants ). I?m so excited, can?t wait for the 30th!!! YOU GO GIRL!!” – Ashley, a rather intense fan of Britney Spears, in a post at VH1.com