Get ready, set, review!

Skyfall ♪ Adele
For this is the end; I’ve drowned and dreamt this moment.
Good news! Big things continue to happen for pop star, Adele. On top of having a little girl or boy on the way with boyfriend, Simon, and managing to stay out of the public eye/tabloids (especially after all her tremendous success with 21, the year prior), the singer has snagged the pristine honour of composing the theme song for the forthcoming 22nd James Bond aka 007 film, entitled “Skyfall”. This project has been speculated for more than a year, and after the Grammy winning songwriter told NRJ Magazine that she would have a new single out at the end of the year, but not from her 3rd album, it became pretty clear what was going on. Enlisting longtime friend and producer, Adele got Paul Epworth to help her out, producing and co-writing the nearly five minute epic. Her sultry vocals can be heard atop a minor chord progression as she declares, “This is the end; hold your breath and count to ten. Feel the Earth move and then, hear my heart burst again.” Even a minute or so in, Skyfall presents itself as a truly majestic ballad and unlike anything Adele has ever released in her young career. It really holds its own among the other Bond themes.
The British vocal powerhouse is without a doubt, a natural born Bond theme girl with a definite flair for melodrama… It’s only part of what makes her music so addictive to the listener. The best thing about Skyfall is that it takes Bond themes back to basics. Gone are the attempts to create something “modern” and “edgy”. Back is a proper vintage ballad complete with a full 77-piece orchestra, recorded at London’s Abbey Road studios and some of the singer’s own vintage style added into the mix. Adele knows exactly how to pace herself, delivering her vocal with understatement and restraint, but gradually powering up as the drums, strings and horns kick into high gear. “Feel the earth move and then hear my heart burst again,” she sings over a noirish melody, before being backed by an echoing choir on the chorus. Adele’s Skyfall foretells good things for this winter’s blockbuster-to-be. After all, it’s not a re-imagining, or a musical departure even, but simply a righting of the ship. The song is big, bold, seductive, and moody. It likely won’t have much of a life outside the Bond universe, but that’s okay, because it’s still damn good.
Overall Rating: 4/5

Begin Again ♪ Taylor Swift
And for the first time, what’s past is past.
For those who weren’t exactly fans of Taylor Swift’s most recent hit single, We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together (or WANEGBT, for short), then prepare yourself for a truly refreshing breath of fresh air in the form of “Begin Again”, the follow-up off of the singer’s forthcoming fourth studio album, Red. The song finds Swift going back to her country roots a little bit, re-incorporating banjo and some fiddle into its instrumentation, which thankfully does not get lost in the rest of the production… All the while showing off Taylor’s brilliant song writing capabilities. The track, four minutes in length, is about having gone through a rough break-up with someone, and being able to get back up, dust yourself, before going on that first date with someone brand new. “Take a deep breath in the mirror, he didn’t like it when I wore high heels, but I do. Turn the lock and put my headphones on, he always said he didn’t get this song, but I do (I do),” she begins, letting the listener know that her ex-boyfriend had a way of making her feel insecure on more than one occasion.
Thankfully by the end of the first verse, she meets this great guy who is incredibly nice and caring, making Taylor realize that maybe love is worth giving another shot. On the chorus, she sings, “You throw your head back laughing like a little kid, I think it’s strange that you think I’m funny, ‘cause he never did. I’ve been spending the last eight months, thinking all love ever does is, break and burn, and end. But on a Wednesday, in a cafe, I watched it begin again.” Boasting an acoustic, mellow but engaging melody, Begin Again is a country tune that is story driven and lyrically great. On one level, it tells the tale of young love, but the characters will also be familiar to those who are past the age of 20, 30, even 40 years old. Heartbreak doesn’t feel much different when your hair is graying. At the far end, Swift’s lyrics will remind anyone in an abusive relationship (verbal, emotional or physical) that true, pure and reciprocated love exists. All in all, this song is Taylor in her element and hopefully we’ll hear more of this maturity on the new record.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Live While We’re Young ♪ One Direction
And girl, you and I, we’re about to make some memories tonight.
You can thank Rami Yacoub, Carl Falk, and Savan Kotecha for the creation of the newest single (among others like What Makes You Beautiful & One Thing) by British boy band, One Direction. And yes, the opening riffs take cues from The Clash’s ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’, let’s just get that out of the way right now. Given the group’s exponential popularity increase in the past 8 or 9 months, the quintet are certainly taking advantage of their paramount success and preparing the release of their forthcoming sophomore record, Take Me Home, with “Live While We’re Young” acting as its toe tapping lead single. It seems kind of soon to be getting new music from the boys, after their debut dropped in March, but I guess they have their eyes on bigger, better things. The little wink and nod of sexual inneundos that have been weaved into the lyrics have not gone un-noticed. One Direction’s core fanbase may be pre-teen girls, but they’re definitely pushing something more mature. “Hey girl I’m waiting on ya, I’m waiting on ya; c’mon and let me sneak you out. Let’s have a celebration, a celebration, the windows up, the music down,” sings Liam Payne as he opens the tune.
Live While We’re Young is the song where we find Zayn Malik’s vocals playing a more predominant role throughout. “And if we get together, yeah, get together. Don’t let the pictures leave your phone,” teases Malik on the second verse.  When both the song and music video leaked a couple days ago, I couldn’t wait for this ear worm of a track to be up on iTunes! It’s so undeniably catchy, with this energetic, yet feel-good vibe to it. The chorus is a prime example. It is explosive with layers of "Whoa-oa-oa" vocals as the five-some chant with unadulterated pride: “Let’s go crazy, crazy, crazy til we seen the sun. I know we only met, but let’s pretend it’s love and never, never, never stop for anyone. Tonight let’s get some, and live while we’re young.” If you ask me, the boys did an excellent job of returning with the perfect introduction to their much anticipated second album. It’s a little different from what we’ve heard from them before, but it’s relentlessly effective and there’s no way you can tell me that it’s anything but suited to top the charts. I mean, when you’re the world’s current biggest boy band, you can’t do much wrong.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Locked Out of Heaven ♪ Bruno Mars
Yeah, your sex takes me to paradise.
Ever since the beginning, I feel like I’ve had an ongoing love/hate relationship with Bruno Mars. I blame the radio for making songs like: Just The Way You Are, Grenade, The Lazy Song, Marry You (even It Will Rain) irritatingly addictive. And at this point, the singer has become a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. With a sophomore album that has been in the works for the past couple of months now, it’s shaping up to be a dynamic one at that. “Locked Out of Heaven” serves as the very first single, and boy, does it pack a sonic punch! Produced by a handful of talented hit-makers, including the Smeezingtons, Mark Ronson, and Jeff Bhasker, it appears that all the hype wasn’t in vain. The almost four minute tune kinda sounds like a bit of Maroon 5 with some influence from The Police, but with the glossy Motown vibe and local percussion that proves it’s distinctive Bruno Mars material. The song is kicked off with a groove, shimmy and brief countdown as Mars gets into the first verse. “Never had much faith in love or miracles, never wanna put my heart on the line. But swimming in your water is something spiritual, I’m born again every time I spend the night.”
The Grammy award winning singer/songwriter sings the chorus over top a funky guitar and drum kicks, utilizing his upper registers more than ever. “‘Cause you make me feel like, like I’ve been locked out of heaven. For too long, for too long.” The lyrics have an interesting twist. The title kinda makes you think that this song is about a relationship gone awry. However, it is really about a relationship that is just so good that Bruno Mars feels like he has been “locked out of heaven” for a long long time while waiting for a relationship like this. On the second verse, he declares, “You bring me to my knees, you make me testify. You can make a sinner change his ways.” Now, it’s been proven since 2009 that Bruno Mars knows how to get to the emotional core of a situation through song lyrics, with his previous hit singles being prime examples of this. All in all, LOOH is a well-written track that rises above the ordinary material sometimes clogging pop radio airwaves. It really sounds like the kind of music that Bruno has always wanted to create, and probably should have since the beginning, because it’s damn good. I can surely admit that much.  
Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Diamonds ♪ Rihanna
You’re a shooting star I see, a vision of ecstasy.
As Rihanna would probably say on Twitter… #phuckyobreak, because here she is once again, like clockwork, debuting new music for the masses. Earlier today, on the Elvis Duran and the Morning show, “Diamonds” was premiered as the lead single off of the singer’s upcoming seventh album, which currently remains untitled. Her rapid release schedule is certainly showing signs of inconsistency, as songs are beginning to sound even more rushed and incomplete than We Found Love (despite all of its success). A catchy hook is fleshed out of the track with throwaway lyrics and repetition that tends to wear thin, fast. Written by Sia and songwriting duo, StarGate (who also produced this track with Benny Blanco), Diamonds is a mid-tempo pop ballad utilizing drums, an 80s back beat and heavy synths. “Find light in the beautiful sea, I choose to be happy. You and I, you and I, we’re like diamonds in the sky,” proclaims Rihanna during the opening verse, her full-throated vocals stretching the sound of the recording in a more timeless pop direction. The track steers in the opposite direction of the singer’s more upbeat, clubbier efforts, and showcases a rarely-seen side of the pop star. RiRi sounds all grown up!
Not just from a sonic standpoint, but lyrically as well. With the abundance of raunchy content that was present on the last album (even before then), Diamonds seems pretty subdued… even for Rihanna. But I have to commend her for trying to switch things up. It’s a step forward from all of the unhealthy relationships that were heard in Rihanna’s previous material. And as she previously described, it’s “happy, hippy, hopeful”. She sings in this robotic cadence throughout, letting you really hear her accent, which I quite enjoy. On the second verse, she sings, “I knew we’d become one right away, oh, right away. At first sight I left the energy of sun rays, I saw the life inside your eyes.” There’s something about this record that leads me to believe that Rihanna’s recently deceased grandmother Dolly might be of partial inspiration. That would be cute, but all in all, I think Diamonds is a grower and stands a good chance of becoming another top 10 hit for the pop star, with enough promotion and a good enough music video. Unfortunately, the song never truly shines as brightly as the diamonds she sings of. I don’t want to cast this next album aside, but there’s a part of me that just isn’t all that excited.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5

Ride ♪ Lana Del Rey
I’m tired of driving ‘til I see stars in my eyes.
"I’m tired of feeling like I’m fucking crazy," proclaims Lana Del Rey on the first official single from her Paradise edition re-release of successful album, Born To Die. Lana and Justin Parker (who helped pen almost every other song on the singer’s debut) join forces once again, producing a dark and dreamy pop ballad, spanning nearly five minutes in length entitled "Ride". The song opens with an audible inhalation of breath, before Del Rey’s deep, husky vocals come into earshot. "I’ve been out on that open road; you can be my full time daddy, white and gold." On this track, Lana sings about what she knows best: loneliness, partial daddy issues, as well as alcohol consumption. And the fact that she already has a signature after only one LP, is pretty damn impressive in this industry. With Ride, she manages to adhere to her trademark sound, layering it with plenty of sadness as she tells her story, almost akin to that of a dramatic independent film. Despite being tired of singing the blues, the hypnotic song is a blissful rumination on escape as Del Rey confesses, "Dying young and I’m playing hard; that’s the way my father made his life an art."
Del Rey has always ruled the realm far outside of the standard pop box, but Ride definitely takes her to a completely different place altogether. The song itself boasts an expansive sound-scape that allows for the singer’s voice to shine. Production-wise, it’s warm and distant all at once. She gets poetic and pensive with the lyrics, but it’s that smoky smooth, yet sultry melody that’s utterly rapturous. The ‘Video Games’ songstress sets off along the dusty trail to find some peace of mind. “I hear the birds on the summer breeze, I drive fast, I am alone in the night. Been trying hard not to get into the trouble, but I’ve got a war in my mind.” Overall, it’s ethereal and majestic, and feels even more massive than anything she’s ever recorded. As she goes on, Lana grows more despondent, eventually leading to a near breakdown during the bridge. But if there’s any profound moment, it’s within the final flourish of the chorus: “I just ride,” she concludes simply and repeatedly up until the end. As the strings soar, and the voices in the background blend together, and Lana’s voice carries upward–it’s all so heavenly. Just absolute perfection. Paradise is shaping up to be a promising record.
Overall Rating: 4/5

Die Young ♪ Ke$ha
Wild childs, lookin’ good, livin’ hard just like we should.
"I hear your heart beat to the beat of the drums. Oh what a shame that you came here with someone, so while you’re here in my arms, let’s make the most of the night like we’re gonna die young," declares Ke$ha over acoustic guitars and beating percussion on the lead single from her upcoming second full-length album, Warrior. Yet another feel-good party tune added to the young pop star’s repertoire. The song was originally previewed using a viral video clip featuring Ke$ha randomly bursting into song while riding a subway in Tokyo, to the chagrin of passengers aboard, as expected. Unfortunately with "Die Young", I feel like she played things a little too safe, sticking to her usual shtick, which is fine and dandy, but really only goes as far to inject a slight contemporary pop/rock/alternative flavour, courtesy of Nate Ruess (front man of the group fun.), who appears as a co-writer on the track, alongside Dr. Luke and company. The singer’s vocals and relentless commitment to living life to the fullest on the dance floor is enough to overshadow the tiny flaws and successfully resonate with her extensive fan base/Animals.
The song, three minutes and thirty-three seconds in length, has been described as “old hippie rock” by Benny Blanco. The more interesting bits of Die Young feature ’80s-sounding, New Wave-y synth riffs that would make The Cars proud, as well as glam rock drum beats. On the pre-chorus, she sings: “Looking for some trouble tonight, take my hand, I’ll show you the wild, side. Like it’s the last night of our lives, we’ll keep dancing until we die.” On top of her signature half-sung, half rapped delivery, Ke$ha makes sure her cheeky songwriting is still intact; made apparent with the line, “that magic in your pants, it’s making me blush (for sure)”. Around the 2:45 mark when the hook is amplified with a wall of backing vocals that chant the lyrics, surrounded by hand claps. It really makes you wanna dance and is the best part of the song, in my opinion. However, maybe Ke$ha’s label (RCA) thinks her fans want a gentle introduction to the new sound. Maybe Die Young is just the comforting appetizer before the surprising main course. With comparisons to a number of musicians looming over the track, I can only hope that rest of the album is better than what we’ve been given so far.
Overall Rating: 4/5

The Truth About Love ♪ P!nk
Why do we fall in love so easy? Even when it’s not right?
Since the release of her 2008 break-up record, Funhouse, there have been a few significant changes in the life of P!nk. Two, in particular; Her relationship with her previously estranged/moto-cross racer husband, Carey Hart, has since been reconciled. Over a year later, the singer gave birth to her first born child, Willow Sage. We can be thankful that motherhood has done nothing but add an important dimension to the singer’s music, keeping her tough as nails attitude very much intact. And on the singer’s seventh studio album (first in four years), she is tackling the recent events in her life, spinning them into songs, in an attempt to break down “The Truth About Love”. The album deals exactly with what the name suggests: just how hard it is to make love stay. Sometimes P!nk can be comical about it, cracking jokes, but there’s also moments when she’s passionate and heartbreaking. But above all else, she’s honest. The woman sure has a hand for writing! And so do her friends! The star has recruited Billy Mann, Max Martin, Butch Walker, Dan Wilson (co-penned Adele’s hit, ‘Someone Like You’) and more to help further tell her 13-song story. Lead single “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)”, already a top ten Hot 100 hit, is possibly the most representative of the album’s overall spirit (playful, narrative, and occasionally foul-mouthed).
"There’s this whole techno takeover going on right now that just does my head in, and I knew I didn’t want to do that. I’d rather dance around and sing goofy songs." The musical direction of this album reaches for more depth than we’ve ever heard from P!nk in the past. She’s best known for party anthems or mid-tempo ballads about love gone awry, but here she stretches into more musical avenues and they fit her just fine. Opener, "Are We All We Are" is essentially a rebel rouser and a fantastic start to the album. It is a rap/rock sounding empowerment tune that gladly picks up right where 2010 hit, ‘Raise Your Glass’ left off. "We are the people that you’ll never get the best of, not forget the rest of. Just sing it loud until the kids will sing it right back," declares the singer on the hook. "Try" is a hand clap heavy ode to taking risks with love, no matter the consequences. It pairs well with the rest of P!nk’s catalog, with a melody reminiscent to Whataya Want From Me. But then there’s "Slut Like You", seven songs into the set, a bad ass anthem that should appeal to the young Ke$ha contingent. Within the first 10 seconds, the singer can be heard declaring, "I’m not a slut, I just love love," before emitting a boisterous laugh. Now, P!nk is not one to hide her intentions. She calls things exactly as she sees/feels it, and rightly so. It is easily one of the funniest post-feminist approaches to how men can be players, but women can’t. On the title track, she really hunkers down, discovering the many little truths about love, and finding out they aren’t as pretty as they may have first seemed. Swooping to end things on a truly uplifting note is "The Great Escape"; Technically, it is addressed to a friend of the star who contemplated suicide, but it can also be a song for anyone who has ever faced a rough patch in their life. And God knows we all have. "I’m the king of the great escape, you’re not gonna watch me checkin’ out of this place. You’re not gonna lose me, ‘cause the passion and pain, are gonna keep us alive someday."
Now, this is a rarity for a typical record released by the singer, but TTAL, opens its track listing to three impressive collaborations. First up on the list is Nate Ruess, lead singer of fun., on the track “Just Give Me A Reason”. It is a little jarring hearing P!nk’s raw vocals up against Ruess’ auto-tune, but ultimately, doesn’t take the emotion out of the ballad whatsoever. “True Love” follows right after with its big chorus, welcome cameo from Lily Rose Cooper (née Allen) and brilliant production by Greg Kurstin. “You’re an asshole, but I love you. And you make me so mad I ask myself, why I’m still here or where could I go; You’re the only love I’ve ever known.” But it is Detriot rapper, Eminem that comes as the most surprising, if not the biggest feature of the three. He shows up on “Here Comes The Weekend” to return the favour for Pink’s appearance on ‘Won’t Back Down’, spitting a verse where he takes a jab at Diddy and Ciroc. The track is a natural club banger with a chunky, looped beat and plenty of sonic effects. Thankfully, these collaboration don’t overshadow the singer and the rest of her music. A major part of P!nk’s mass appeal over the last decade has been the fact that she is so down-to-earth and open in not just her career, but as a person. Her considerable pop chops put her up there with Rihanna, Beyonce and Katy Perry, but she is the furthest thing from a pop diva. She’s more of a misfit, if anything. And The Truth About is definitely going to help secure her place in this industry. 
Are We All We Are: 4/5
Blow Me (One Last Kiss): 4.5/5
Try: 4.5/5
Just Give Me A Reason: 4.5/5
True Love: 4.5/5
How Come You’re Not Here?: 5/5
Slut Like You: 4.5/5
The Truth About Love: 4/5
Beam Me Up: 4/5
Walk of Shame:
Here Comes The Weekend: 4/5
Where Did The Beat Go?: 5/5
The Great Escape: 4/5
Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Pick Three: Where Did The Beat Go, How Come You’re Not Here, True Love

Kiss ♪ Carly Rae Jepsen
I’m sick with love, sick like a disease. Don’t call me up, just so I can please you.
It is amazing just how quickly Carly Rae Jepsen has blown up in the past year. Sure, she certainly owes a great deal of her current success to fellow Canadian and mentor, Justin Bieber, who helped give her some major exposure when he showed interest in a song we all know now as “Call Me Maybe”. That one song really paved the way for Carly, eventually granting her a record deal from not only Interscope, but Bieber’s label, Schoolboy Records. Up until this point, Jepsen has only really proved that she can release some overtly catchy pop singles (see: “Curiosity” and “Good Time”, a summer collaboration with Owl City’s Adam Young), but what about an entire album full of consistent, enjoyable material? Her EP, which debuted earlier in the year, was merely a brief taste test of what was to come from “Kiss”, the singer’s first full-length studio album to be debuted outside of Canada (and internationally), showcasing the sound of an artist relentlessly trying to prove her staying power in this ever-changing music industry. Luckily for her, every track on the record is pure sonic cotton candy; sweet and every bit as irresistible.
The majority of songs on Kiss (Jepsen co-wrote 11 out of twelve) fall into the disco-pop and dance-pop genres, drawing inspiration from The Cars, Madonna, and Robyn. The album also features a wide variety of producers including the likes of: Dallas Austin, Toby Gad, Max Martin and Marianas Trench lead singer, Josh Ramsay. An interpolation of Sam Cooke’s ‘Cupid’ kicks off the opener, “Tiny Little Bows” (and not the hair or wrapping paper variety either) with all of its electronic touches. “I wish we could we holding hands,” sighs Carly Rae over top the shiny production. I must admit, it’s a pretty fun song to start the 40 minute set with. The singer’s favourite track from the LP and second single, “This Kiss” soon follows, and I can definitely see why the singer has an attachment. The synth-heavy song is a great complement to her slight rasp, coming off as undeniable as the lips she’s dreaming about. Fast forward to “Curiosity” which has been given a complete make-over, since being first released this past February on an extended play of the same name. To be honest, I don’t know that I completely like it that much, but just like everything else here on Kiss, it is catchy enough that I think I can make an exception for the changes. Sixth track in, is where she redeemed herself with my personal favourite, “More Than A Memory”, a tune about missed opportunities, in the same vein as Katy Perry’s ‘The One That Got Away’. Carly Rae commands the dance floor with standard romantic troupes in “Hurt So Good”, whizzing and humming with aplomb. “When you walk into the room, I can’t speak and I can’t move. You don’t see me, but you should, why you gotta make it hurt so good?” demands the singer on the three minute track. Unfortunately, it is at this point that things begin to get on the repetitive side, and start blending together.
From the four remaining songs, two in particular, manage to stand out above the rest… Mostly because they are the only ballads included on the record. Despite being compared to One Direction’s ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ for its lyrical content, “Beautiful” is actually Carly Rae Jepsen’s acoustic love duet with none other than Justin Bieber. Jepsen’s vocals get to take center stage alongside a simple arrangement and Bieber’s harmonies. It’s sweet, but nothing extraordinary. The line ‘what makes you so beautiful is you don’t know beautiful you are, to me’ still kinda bugs me, to be honest. On the other hand, there’s the closer, “Your Heart Is A Muscle” with its hushed emotion and arena-ready drums. It doesn’t try to hit the listener over the head with its sugary center, instead synthesizing Carly’s most appealing qualities into a calm love letter, and that’s something I can appreciate. All in all, Carly Rae Jepsen is in no shape or form an one hit wonder (a little overrated, if anything). In fact, she has been around for a couple years now (competing on Canadian Idol in 2007 & debuting her first CD, Tug of War the next year), but if you ask me, she still has a lot of work to do if she wants to stay relevant and not fade into the background.
Tiny Little Bows: 4/5
This Kiss: 4.5/5
Call Me Maybe: 5/5
Curiosity: 3.5/5
Good Time: 4.5/5
More Than A Memory: 5/5
Turn Me Up: 4/5
Hurt So Good: 4.5/5
Beautiful: 3.5/5
Tonight I’m Getting Over You: 4.5/5
Guitar String/Wedding Ring: 4/5
Heart Is A Muscle: 4.5/5
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Pick Three: More Than A Memory, Call Me Maybe, This Kiss

Your Body ♪ Christina Aguilera
I don’t care what you’re heard; I am a freak, I’m disturbed.
Never have I ever been more excited to unofficially welcome Christina Aguilera back to the pop charts. I’m pretty sure we all remember how well Christina’s previous album, Bionic, went over, and it’s about time she returned to properly redeem herself. That powerhouse voice of hers is finally being put to good use. Almost a month ago, the demo version of “Your Body” leaked to the inter webs, but it wasn’t until this past Wednesday that the songstress confirmed the song to be the lead single off of her forthcoming seventh studio album, Lotus, making its debut on iTunes earlier today. Now, X-Tina does not need all the studio trickery used to enhance a weak voice, and definitely none of the auto-tune. She does fine all on her own, utilizing her God-given gift to deliver sexy, sultry lyrics (written by Max Martin & Shellback), especially on the hook which gets right to the point. “All I wanna do is love your body. Tonight’s your lucky night, I know you want it.” In the explicit version, a certain four letter curse word beginning with ‘f’, is used in replace of love. I’m sure you can guess which one… Yeah, that one.
Four minutes in length and boasting a R&B sound with an electronic-pop fusion, Your Body finds X-Tina headed out to the club/bar with a definite game plan in mind: finding someone to help her get over an old flame. An one night stand, if you will. “I came here tonight, to get shit out of my mind, I’m gonna take what I find (uh oh, yeah).” A mash of synthesizers and stuttering drums can be heard as Aguilera gets down to business, cooing on the bridge, “Don’t even tell me your name, all I need to know is whose place, and let’s get to walking…” Lyrically, it’s sexy without being uncomfortably explicit, and the slight trashy edge really helps to keep the song from being bland. I mean, it wouldn’t really be a Christina Aguilera lead single without some level of shock value or use of the double entendre. Just look at Dirrty and Not Myself Tonight. Overall, it’s not a masterpiece by any measure, but it’s definitely the kind of song that manages to capture your attention right away, whether it’s through the melody or the lyrics. It sounds like Aguilera is back on track and I’m more than eager to hear what she has cooking for this new album.
Overall Rating: 4/5

This Kiss ♪ Carly Rae Jepsen
You know you’re just my type, and your eyes are lock and key, to my heart.
You can label her an ‘one hit wonder’ all you want/please/like, but you really can’t deny the fact that Call Me Maybe was one of the biggest songs of this past summer. It was literally everywhere it could possibly be, burrowing itself in your mind, whether you wanted it to be there or not. Everyone from Katy Perry to Justin Bieber was singing the catchy tune. And now, with only a week until Kiss, Carly Rae Jepsen has just announced the lead single from her upcoming debut international release. “This Kiss” is a song co-written & co-produced by LMFAO’s very own, RedFoo, believe it or not. It is about running into a guy at a club and becoming completely enamoured with him, in a similar vein as the song’s uber popular predecessor. From the get-go, you pick up on the song’s funky, dance pop vibe. “I went out last night, I’m going out tonight again, anything to capture your attention (your attention),” croons Jepsen before she declares, “We’re taking it way too far, but I don’t want it to end.”
Also forget the fact that summer is slowly, but surely turning into fall, Carly isn’t letting that stop her from creating even more frothy, infectious pop anthems that have a way of getting stuck in your head… For a very long period of time. But it’s that super fun chorus that gets the party going. If that doesn’t get you hooked on this record, the insistent synths in the instrumentation surely will. “This kiss, is something I can’t resist, your lips are undeniable. This kiss, is something I can’t risk, your heart is unreliable. Something so sentimental, you make so detrimental. And I wish it didn’t feel like this, ‘cause I don’t wanna miss this kiss.” Nearly four minutes in length, This Kiss just screams 80s pop and I have to say, I’m 100% here for it. It manages to capture this universal feeling of infatuation and seal it into a toe-tapping tune. Not only is it light and fun, but of course, incredibly addictive… As is most of the singer’s recent discography.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Clique (feat. Big Sean & Jay-Z) ♪ Kanye West
Bow on our arrival - the un-American idols.
"Ain’t nobody fucking with my clique, clique, clique, clique, clique. Ain’t nobody fresher than my motherfucking clique, clique, clique, clique, clique," declares Big Sean on the hook of the brand new track of the same name, featuring two other major rap heavyweights, Jay-Z and Kanye West. "Clique" is yet another single pulled from the forthcoming compilation album by West’s very own record label, G.O.O.D. Music entitled Cruel Summer (to be released in less than two weeks). Boasting a plodding back beat provided by producer Hit-Boy, the nearly five minute song features haunting keyboards, crackling snare, and above all else, dope lyrics. Big Sean does the honours of kicking things off with his creative verse and signature ad-libbing (e.g. ‘woah’, ‘oh God’, ‘B.I.G.’, ‘swerve’): "You know 2 Chainz? Scrr! I’m pulling up in that Bruce Wayne, but I’m the fucking villain, man, they kneeling when I’m walking in the building. Freaky women I be feeling from the bank accounts I’m filling."
Hova comes in around the 1:44 mark and spits with the flow of a true veteran. He wastes no time stating the obvious and reminding listeners why exactly he is one of the greatest around. “Turn that 62 to 125, 125 to a 250, 250 to a half a milli, ain’t nothin’ nobody can do with me. Now who with me? ¡Vámonos! Call me Hov or Jefe. Translation: I’m the shit. Least that what my neck say, least that what my check say,” before declaring at the end, “It’s the dream team meets the supreme team, and all our eyes green and only means one thing: you ain’t fuckin’ with my clique.” Last but definitely not least comes Yeezy. As per usual, he spits some clever lyrics, referencing girlfriend, Kim Kardashian and her infamous past (“my girl a superstar all from a home movie”), as well as the death of his mother, Donda. “Pass the refreshment, a cool cool beverage. Everything I do need a news crew present. Steve-O, swerve homie, watch out for the waves. I’m way too black to burn from sunrays.” A bold statement, but that’s Kanye West for ya. You really can’t go wrong with these track, as well as its predecessors (Mercy, Cold, New God Flow). Cruel Summer is looking to be a very promising album.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5

For Baltimore ♪ All Time Low
Just do it for the memory, do it for Baltimore.
Is it just me, or does the intro to the recently released All Time Low record sound just a tad Green Day-ish to you? Coincidence perhaps? I digress; because the song in question is some of the best material the quartet has come out with in a long while. Premiering/streaming exclusively on a couple days prior, “For Baltimore”, is yet another sonic teaser from ATL’s forthcoming fall record, Don’t Panic. For Baltimore is just this massive tune which talks about life, wishing Thursdays would last forever and of course, love. Love for someone special you may know, but also for the city of Baltimore (the group’s hometown). The track starts off with lead singer, Alex Gaskarth’s vocals being softly delivered alongside the strum of a guitar. “Mayday situation overload; I’m restless, obsessed with your future. And all my worries, they don’t bother you. Collected, you render me useless. But I carry on,” Alex proclaims before the rest of the instrumentation charges in.
Lyrically, the tune deals with a guy who is trying to tell the girl he’s enamored with, how much better life in the city, and in general, is when they are in one another’s company. You can tell that some serious thought was pumped into this song during the writing process. All Time Low perfectly captured the spirit of desperation at times, and musically, they’ve finally taken three steps in the right direction. Alex’s vocals are pretty on point, with no signs of auto-tune present (compared to the last record). The guitars are stronger than ever, and that’s never a bad thing. “I bet you never thought you would fall, again. So much for keeping this, just friends. Shut up and kiss me now. And we carry on.” Fans of All Time Low’s earlier work are likely to be delighted by how energetic the band sound, but it’s clear their direction on the last album was not a one time thing, ‘cause there is still a lot of pop in this rock. And at the end of the day, there’s nothing wrong with being proud of where you’re from.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5

We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together ♪ Taylor Swift
I used to think that we were forever ever, and I used to say never say never…
Just a disclaimer to all those Taylor Swift fans who are desperate for the songstress to return to her country music beginnings, you might want to quit while you’re ahead, because her latest single offering is really anything but. In fact, it’s a poppy break-up anthem with plenty of sass. “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” acts as the very first taste of Swift’s much anticipated upcoming fall record, Red. Written alongside hit makers, Max Martin & Shellback and opening with an acoustic guitar riff, Taylor tells the story of being in this frustrating on/off relationship with someone, and having enough. First, he wants “space” after being apart for awhile, but then all of a sudden he’s back again, promising to change and slowly roping you back in. It’s like this vicious, never ending cycle. “I say ‘I hate you’, we break up, you call me, I love you,” sings Taylor on the opening verse. The hook is what really brings this record to life. It’s fun and so infectious that you can’t help but stomp your feet and bob your head to. When Taylor declares, “we, are never ever ever, getting back together,” it’s with such charm and certainty.
Now, keep this in mind. WANEGBT is in no way one of Taylor’s better pieces of songwriting material, by any stretch of imagination. But, the song, just over three minutes in length, is without a doubt, perfectly suited for pop radio. It has the potential to do extremely well. The romantic narratives from past singles like Mine & Love Story are absent for the time being. Instead, there’s a sardonic sneer present in Swift’s vocals as the singer has a monologue with herself and then a brief dialogue with her loser ex-boyfriend as she brushes him off for good, advising him to “find some peace of mind in an indie record that’s much cooler than mine.” You can almost feel the eye roll through the headphones/speakers. Kinda makes you wonder what guy pissed her off this time… All in all, this is a new and different direction for Taylor. At the end of the day, there are going to be people against the song, as well as people like me, who thoroughly enjoy it. I mean, how could you possibly deny something as catchy as this? It’s definitely going to give Call Me Maybe a run for its money.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Puzzle Pieces (feat. Colbie Caillat) ♪ Justin Young
Lying here and I can’t sleep, I’m just listening to you breathe.
In my opinion, there’s nothing more adorable than a couple who can come together and create some truly beautiful music together. In this case, Justin Young and Colbie Caillat collaborated on a record titled “Puzzle Pieces” for the former’s upcoming independent album. Young was (and still is) Caillat’s guitar player, before they eventually started dating a few years back, and this song has been a work in progress between the two musicians for awhile now. “When we started it, Colbie & I were both kind of shy and even though we were on tour together, we preferred to write via email. Now we have a comfort level that made recording the song and shooting the video more fun and relaxed.” The video in question premiered two months ago this past June; showcasing the couple being cute and displaying a ton of chemistry. But in the song, there are two people in a relationship that is changing over time, and they just want to get back to the way they once were.
In the first verse, Justin sings: “We used to sleep just like a set of spoons, now it’s like I’m in the other room. I’m a fork and you’re a knife.” Backed strictly by acoustic guitars, the gentle strumming throughout makes for a simple, yet pleasing mellow experience for the listener. Sugary sweet goodness at its finest. Colbie joins in around the 1:10 mark with her stunning vocals. Justin just may be as biased as I am, naming Caillat as one of his favourite voices in this industry. D’awww! Definite boyfriend brownie points there. On the final chorus, the two share lines, harmonizing and singing in unison: “I don’t want to fight, I just want a life, of love like we used to live. I don’t want to quit, baby I just want to fit, back together like two puzzle pieces.” Justin Young is an amazing talent, and although I’m just getting the chance to hear his material as of late, I still believe that he deserves some recognition for this beautiful music he’s making. After all, he has the perfect muse to work off of.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
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