Now that the Bruno Mars and Wiz Khalifa albums are out (and Big Boi, too, though his chart presence is not exactly commanding at this point), we can say that the year is truly at an end. There’s still one record I’m hoping will make the chart, though, Kacey Musgraves’s “Merry Go Round”. It’s been number one on Bubbling Under for two weeks, and if it wasn’t for The Voice might have made the leap by now. Here’s hoping. It would make a good finish to the year.
Tamar Braxton—“Love And War”
The production is so weird that it almost makes “Love and War” worth listening to more than once. Huge drums here, lush strings there, a lot of heavy dynamic shifts and soul flourishes. Braxton sings well, too. Not much of a song, though (the mixed metaphors in the lyrics don’t help), and I expect Braxton’s career as a reality star has more to do with it’s appearance than anything else.
Bruno Mars—“When I Was Your Man”
There are a lot of good songs and great moments on Mars’s new album, Unorthodox Jukebox, and “When I Was Your Man” is one of them. The pleasures are largely technical, though. Mars’s command of different styles is impressive, but there’s an airlessness to the music—it’s too perfect, too carefully constructed. There’s isn’t a false moment on “When I Was Your Man”—the lyrics are surprisingly sharp and honest (no one writes enough about Mars’s lyrical skills; he’s one of the best around right now), and Mars sings it beautifully, with phrasing that nods toward both Smokey Robinson and Sam Cooke. But somehow it doesn’t connect as strongly as it should. Mars knows his stuff back to front, but he hasn’t learned how to make it sound natural. He’s too much of a pro. Give him time, though. He’s just getting started.
Each successive single from Overexposed has been more tolerable than the last, but that only means Maroon 5 been moving towards mediocrity, not that they’re any better. The only thing about “Daylight” that stands out is Adam Levine’s stilted delivery on the first verse. He sounds like he’s doing an Owl City impersonation. I doubt that was his intention, but whatever the case it does draw you into the record. Too bad there’s nothing to keep you there.
Terry McDermott—“I Want To Know What Love Is”
The Lumineers—“Stubborn Love”
What makes The Lumineers so terrible isn’t their jumping on the Mumford & Sons bandwagon; they would be terrible all on their own, without the support of a trend. The music is, indeed, Mumfordish: skeletal songs beefed up with lots of tempo and dynamic hocus-pocus. But the lyrics are the real kicker. “When we were young, oh oh, we did enough/When it got cold, ooh ooh, we bundled up”. What could those lines possibly mean, and what possible connection do they have to each other? Then there’s this: “The opposite of love’s indifference”. No it isn’t. Indifference is the absence of both love and hate. It means you don’t care about something either way (it originally meant you weren’t biased between two outcomes or sides, but the meaning has changed over the years, until it’s become roughly synonymous with “disinterested”). Example: “I am not indifferent to ‘Stubborn Love’. I hate it.”
Wiz Khalifa featuring Akon—“Let It Go”
I’m not sure what’s most depressing about this record: Akon’s latest attempt at a comeback, or Khalifa’s willingness to provide him a boost. Khalifa’s own career is only two albums old, and he hasn’t had a huge hit since “Black and Yellow” (he hasn’t had a track as good, either). This starts with a banal string arrangement (I keep mistaking it for one of the tracks from The Voice on my playlist), a mediocre hook from Akon, and Khalifa making dumb jokes and laughing at them himself. It then progresses into a self-reliance rap you’ve heard many many many times before. This will do nothing to revive Akon’s career, and it may not help Khalifa’s either.
Nicholas David—“Somewhere Over the Rainbow”
Is this the new rap sincerity? And if it is how much can we trust it when it’s lathered in electronic vocal effects? The beat is good, but I’m unsure about the effects, which make Future sound as if he’s sobbing, or on the edge of a nervous breakdown, throughout the track. Now that he appears to have found the perfect woman he was searching for on “Turn On the Lights”, why does he sound as broken down as he did before? Future is putting out a lot of interesting music, but it doesn’t always work. This time he’s overdoing it.