‘Commander’ Kelly Rowland

Rating: A-

Kelly Rowland has not been shown much love by the US music market. Neither one of her albums made a huge impact and her only top 10 hit, ‘Dilemma’, was not even her song as a lead artist. Last year Kelly saw massive success with her dance anthem ‘When Love Takes Over’, which was number 1 in literally every country than the US. The US market is the toughest to crack, which is why it is harder for international acts to achieve success here rather than a US artist to achieve success in Europe. Kelly is looking to change her luck in the US with her third album being released in September.

With the success of ‘When Love Takes Over’ it was a safe bet for Kelly to team up with David Guetta to producer he new single as well. ‘Commander’ is the epitome of a pop-dance song. The beat really is perfectly done by Guetta with a strong build up in the verses leading to the chorus. The beat in the chorus is strong, giving the song the epic feel that it calls for. This is Guettas best production lately, because of its strong pop influence. As a techno producer before he hit the pop scene, Guetta is really the only person out there who knows how to make real dance music. If anyone knows how to create a dance anthem it is he.

Songwriter Rico Love wrote the song, which was another great choice due to his work as writer (‘Sweet Dream’, ‘Love Like This’). Love is normally an R&B writer, so adding his R&B flare to the song allowed it to offer something that other dance songs don’t. I wouldn’t argue that the song is heavily influenced by R&B, but I will say that Guetta and Love created a nice fusion of the two genres. The song as shows what a good songwriter Love is because the chorus of the song is pure pop. Songwriters should be able to explore other genres if they want to have a legitimate status as a writer.

The best part of the song though is Rowland, who shows off the range of her voice. I think she has found her calling as a Pop artist rather than R&B. Rowland has a great voice to begin with, but she has never shown off her true vocal strength with her R&B songs. Pun intended, she really commands the song and has a really connection with both the lyrics and the beat. The only problem I have with the song is the auto-tune that used on her voice in the verses. There is no reason that she needs it considering she sings so well, but I think it was just done for the effect.

With I song this good there is no reason why she shouldn’t have a number hit on her hands. The real problem lies with the radio stations in America. The song will be number 1 all over Europe; there no questioning that, but its time that America starts showing love to a good artist. Only time will tell how well the song will do. The song didn’t hit the top 100 on itunes yet, which is not a good sign. Rowland is in America now promoting the song so hopefully she will gain enough support for the song to get the attention that it deserves.

‘Got Your Back’ T.I. feat. Keri Hilson

Rating: B-

After a year of being in Jail and two years since his last album, rapper T.I. is now ready to hit the music scene again with his new album ‘King Uncaged’ on August 17. He released the buzz single ‘I’m Back’ a few weeks ago, which received minor radio-play from the R&B stations. With all of the drama surrounding his social life, the album is highly anticipated and is expected to explore some of the social and personal lesson he has learned the past year. ‘Got Your Back’ is the first official single to be released, featuring songstress Keri Hilson.

T.I was thrust to superstardom after his last album, ‘Paper Trail’, helmed two number 1’s singles on the Billboard Hot 100. ‘Got Your Back’ follows a similar formula that ‘Whatever You Like’ followed back in 2008; sing-along raps with a pop chorus. Jim Jonsin, a frequent collaborator with T.I, produced the song. Normally Jonsin creates great beats (look at ‘Sweet Dreams’ or ‘Lollipop’), but this song almost sounds like a nursery rhyme. The synth lead melody line it too distracting and over powers Keri’s voice. There is nothing that is hip-hop about this beat, which is a shame because the song is showing signs of T.I. selling out.

I really do blame T.I. for turning hip-hop into pop. Even though he claims that he is still a rapper, this song does not prove that. His rapping is more like singing, and with such a weird beat the song just songs catered for Top 40 radio. When looking back at his older music like ‘Bring Em Out’, it’s a shame that such a good rapper turned so commercial. It’s easy for a rapper to be commercial without selling out (i.e. Jay-Z, Kanye West), but T.I. is blatantly making music just to receive a hit, leaving his true rapping talent behind. Keri Hilson is the songs saving grace. She works her voice really well in the song, using her high register for most of the song. I will say that I think they are a good pairing, but the song could have been much better since they have each proven themselves to be quite creative musically.

That being said I am sure the song will be a hit. The songs construction is quite common with a rapper doing the verses and a female singer singing the chorus, so there is no new territory being covered here, but it has always worked. Still, there is no way that the song will hit number 1 on any chart. It’s catchy enough to reach around number 6 or 7 on the Billboard Hot 100, but I would be surprised if it got any higher since is it so unoriginal. I am just disappointed that after all T.I. has gone through he decided to release this as his first musical statement. Hopefully there will be some musical growth on this album, and we wont see ‘Paper Trail’ 2.0.

‘Beautiful Monster’ Ne-Yo

Rating: D-

Successful songwriter and solo artist Ne-Yo is returning this year with his fourth album ‘Libra Scale’ in September. His last album, ‘Year of the Gentlemen’, was highly successful spawning off two top singles and receiving a Grammy nomination for album of the year. Coming off such an album means that the expectations for Ne-Yo’s new music is quite high. ‘Libra Scale’ is a concept album, which will feature a DVD that visualizes the story the albums tells.

‘Beautiful Monster’ is the first single to be lifted from the album. This has to be one of the worst songs I have heard in a while. The song was co-produced by Stargate-who produced almost everyone of his singles-and Sandy V, a new French producer. Having the same producer for a majority of your songs gets boring, and the production of this song is not too impressive. Clearly Ne-Yo is running with this new dance crazy that has taken over pop music, but it’s done poorly. The heavy synths in the chorus sound corny, and don’t have the ability to excite the listener. Stargate should take some tip from David Guetta, who knows how to perfectly blend pop and dance music in an exciting way. The song just sounds lazy to me. The build-up of the beat was boring and unnecessary. It is not only the beat that ruins the song though; it is the melody and lack of energy.

Normally Ne-Yo can write pretty catchy songs (‘Closer’, ‘Miss Independent’) but ‘Beautiful Monster’ fails to stick. The bridge is only two lines long leading to him singing, “I don’t mind” 40 times. Rather than build up to a grand final chorus the bridge becomes more and more annoying drawing the listener away from the song. Nothing about the song sounds original. The whole subject matter has been done before, and the chorus is not catchy enough to cause a second listen. The vocals in the song draw heavily from Micheal Jackson, especially in the end of the chorus were he belts out “I don’t mind-I don’t-I dont mind”. Even with the Micheal influence, the vocals still sound annoying. He sounds very nasal is the chorus, and overall dull. I am not convinced that he feels the song, which is odd considering her wrote it. How can you expect the audience to relate to the song if you do not sound convincing singing it?

The review may sound harsh, but I really can’t remember s song that has been this boring in a long time. I feel like Ne-Yo was not even trying, and putting this song out first is not a step in the right direction. Hopefully the next single will be able to get things going, but this song has made me uninterested in ‘Libra Scale’. I know that Ne-Yo can write a good song; I am just baffled why he wrote such a bad one for himself.

Billboard Album Chart Update

1. ‘Glee: The Music, VOL.3’ Glee
2. ‘Exile on Main Street’ Rolling Stones
3. ‘Brothers’ Black Keys
4. ‘My World 2.0’ Justin Bieber
5. ‘Distant Relatives’ Nas & Damian Marley
6. ‘Need You Now’ Lady Antebellum
7. ‘Infinite Arms’ Band of Horses
8. ‘Raymond vs. Raymond’ Usher
9. ‘Iron Man 2 Soundtrack’ AC/DC
10. ‘This is Happening’ LCD Soundsystem
There seriously is no stopping the power of Glee on the Billboard Charts. Glee, once again, tops the Billboard 200. Considering that the albums consist of cover songs only, it is pretty impressive that they are able to be number 1. Glee is similar to High School Musical in the fact that all of its releases do well on itunes, thus reflecting well on the charts. They may not receive radio play, but the fan base is large enough to sustain them. Personally, I do not like when a soundtrack is number 1 on the Billboard 200 because I think it is a waste of a spot, especially if the album consists of cover songs. That being said I will move on to the rest of the chart and not go on a tangent.

The Rolling Stones return to the top 10 with the reissue of their album ‘Exile on Main Street’ which was released in 1972. It is encouraging to see that a band that has been around for many years so continues to sell well. The mark of a good band is their ability to sell past their prime. I do think that the album has the potential to fall out of the top 10 next week since first week sales are generally stronger, but there is not way to be sure this early in the new sales week. The Black Keys have a strong debut at number 3, which is much higher than there last album, which had a peak of 14. Justin Bieber falls from 1-4 this week, but it is not all bad news as the album did see a 2% increase in sales.

`Nas and Damien Marley’s joint album ‘Distant Relatives’ debuts at 5, making this the tenth top 10 debut for Nas. Lady Antebellum has yet to fall out of the top 10 since January. Most albums struggle to keep in the top 10 for three weeks, so a major congratulations to Lady Antebellum. Every year there is one country act that is able to sell well consistently and there is no arguing that this is Lady Antebellum year. Usher is also seeing a consistency in his albums sales, mainly due to his single ‘OMG’. The album has also been floating around the top 10 since its debut in March. This is a huge change from his last album ‘Here I Stand’ which fell off the chart only a few months after its release.

Just as I said last week the decline in albums sales continues on week after week. Justin Bieber is the only person in the top 50 to see and increase in sales, and since it is only a 2% increase I would say that this is not a good sign for the industry. We are turning into a singles only market, which is why many albums are not as good as they use to be. The real success comes from the singles these


Hey Everyone,
I’m insanely busy with work this week, but I promise I will get back to posting on tuesday!!!! Sorry but school/work has to come first!

‘Your Love’- Nicki Minaj

Rating: C+/B-

Nicki Minaj has made quite the name for herself this past year and a half. She has been featured in countless songs and her mixtape, ‘Beam Me Up Scotty’, was one of the most well received mixtapes of 2009. After her first single ‘Massive Attack’ failed to impact the charts, she just announced that her second single would be ‘Your Love’. The un-mastered version of the song was leaked early this year. The song was chosen because of the positive audience response of the leaked version online. I guess that there is nothing wrong with listening to your audience though because Monica did that with her latest single, and she hit number 1. The beat for ‘Your Love’ samples the Annie Lennox hit ‘No More I Love You’s’. In all honesty the beat is basically the exact same thing with some extra bells and snaps added. Minaj shows off a new side, which has not been seen before. I can’t decide if it’s a good thing or not. Normally Nicki is heard screaming on different songs about being Freddy Kruger or her lost curry chicken. Her random lyrics and lovable voices made her famous. ‘Your Love’ shows us a Nicki who is singing about real emotions and situations. The first problem with the song is the excessive auto-tune. As time goes on I find auto-tune becoming more of a problem. Literally anyone can become famous now since auto-tune is replacing real singing talent. This is a conversation for a different thread though. Nicki should not have to use auto-tune because it takes away from the song. The “your love” hook sounds too distorted and messy because of the auto-tune. The rapping in the song is good because of the low tone of voice she uses. I feel like this song is supposed to reveal all the different sides of her character that we have not been exposed too. The song is extremely mainstream with a euro-pop sound, so I would not be surprised if the song is a big hit on the pop stations. So far the song has peaked at 53 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Chart and 22 on the Rap Chart. I cannot decide a rating on the song because as much as I am annoyed by the auto-tune the songs ability to stick cannot be denied. The hook is so annoying that it is catchy, and many times that leads to success (look at anything by Ke$ha). Minaj does need a hit to lead up to the release of her debut album. Since she has been featured on so many songs so she does not want to be known as a feature artist only. By creating a successful debut album she will be able to gain the respect that every artist yearns for. I’m hoping that the third single will better than this. I have not lost faith in Nicki, but I am saddened that this song was chosen as a single. Still, I hope it does well so we can move on and see what she has lined up next!.

Producer Shout Out- Polow Da Don

The second installment of Producer Shout Out features Polow Da Don, one of the biggest producers in the industry right now. After some failed attempts to become a rap artist, Polow began making beats in 2001. His production debut was in 2005 with the song ‘Party Starter’ by Will Smith. The song was moderately successful, and gave Polow enough of a name to score a top 10 hit, ‘Pimpin’ All Over the World’, with Ludacris. 2006 was a breakout year for Polow. ‘London Bridge’ by Fergie was the third official single of Polows career to be released and his first number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. With a number 1 single so early in his career, Polow was able to sky rocket to the top by being one of the most sought out producers by some of the biggest artist. In 2006 he produced the ‘Buttons’ by the Pussycat Dolls and ‘Runaway Love’ by Ludacris, both of which were top 5 hits. Ciara’s number 1 R&B song, ‘Promise’, was also Polow produced. Things only continued to get bigger in the next few years with him producing two more number 1’s on the Billboard Top 100 (‘Glamorous’ by Fergie and ‘Love in this Club’ by Usher) as well as numerous top 10 R&B songs. Most recently Polow can be heard on Christina Aguilera’s new single ‘Not Myself Tonight’. Although the actual song is not good, the production by itself great. He has worked with the likes of Mary J. Blige, Nas, Keri Hilson, Mario, 50 Cent, Robin Thicke, Chris Brown and Kelly Rowland. Generally Polow produces song with a hip-hop feel, but he has been known to add some euro-pop sounds in his recent beats. His songs are lead by very heavy bass and deep hip-hop drums, which give his R&B songs crossover potential to both pop and rap stations. Polow is know for leaving his mark on his beats by adding himself yelling “1,2,3,4” (as heard in Chris Brown’s song ‘Forever’). His ability to cross an artist over radio stations gives him more credibility. Fergie, for example, was able to be a success on the R&B/Hip-Hop stations even though she is labeled as a pop artist. Recently, Polow has teamed up with songwriter Ester Dean, who has been seeing a lot of success as one of the writers of Rihanna’s worldwide number 1 hit ‘Rude Boy’. The two have been writing and producing songs such as ‘Lil Freak’ by Usher, which is currently number 8 on the Hip-Hop/R&B chart. One of Polows best qualities is the chemistry that he is able to have with the artist that he works with. Many artists have stated that the creative process they experienced with Polow is one of the best that they had endured. Most notably the chemistry between Polow and Ciara can be seen in all the songs that they do together. Polow is able to bring out the true voice that Ciara has. He makes her sound like a powerhouse singer, even though her voice is a little weak. It has been exciting for me to watch Polows rise to fame, since I remember when ‘Party Starter’ came out. With Polow working on many new albums, including the sophomore album from Keri Hilson, we should be expecting some big songs from Polow in late 2010.

Billboard Singles Chart Update

This was another big debut week for the Billboard Top 100. Even with her high digital sales Katy Perry was not able to take the top spot; she has to settle for number 2. ‘California Gurls’ (her spelling, not mine) is the 14th track to debut at number 2 on the Billboard Top 100. This is pretty impressive for Perry whose sophomore album, ‘Teenage Dream’, is due out this August. I am still amazing that a song this bad debuted so high. I may review it later this week. Usher’s song ‘OMG’ returns to number 1 after a one-week absence. The song is also the greatest airplay gainer this week on the Radio Chart. Last weeks number 1, ‘Not Afraid’, falls from 1-6. This is a pretty steep drop for Eminem, but I doubt that it will reflect his album sales in anyway. B.O.B. continues to climb with ‘Airplanes’ hitting its new peak of number 3. The song also climbed 7 spots on the Radio Chart to number 13. Lady Gaga scores her seventh top ten single in only 17 months. ‘Alejandro’ move 11-8 on the Billboard Top 100. Drake also scored another top 20 hit with his song ‘Find Your Love’. The song gained major radio play this week, moving from 55-26 on the Radio Chart, and reached a new peak of 20. Elsewhere, Alicia Keys is still number 1 on the Hip-Hop/R&B chat. There is not much movement on this chart, but Ciara makes a huge jump from 52-35 with her single ‘Ride’. This is a good sign for the song, which will hopefully result in strong sales for her new album ‘Basic Instinct’. ‘Nothin’ On You’ is still the number 1 song on the Radio Chart. With the summer months quickly approaching the coveted title of “summer song” is itching to be filled. This means there will be a surge of major singles trying to become the next “summer song”. Katy Perry has a good chance of receiving the title, but I am hoping that’s not the case. I know that there is a summer smash is out there, I can feel it!

Billboard Album Chart Update

1. ‘My World 2.0’ Justin Bieber
2. ‘High Violet’ The National
3. ‘Need You Now’ Lady Antebellum
4. ‘Iron Man 2 Soundtrack’ AC/DC
5. ‘Raymond v. Raymond’ Usher
6. ‘Charice’ Charice
7. ‘Sea Of Cowards’ The Dead Weather
8. ‘The Oracle’ Godsmack
9. ‘Live At The Troubadour’ Carole King & James Taylor
10. ‘The Powerless Rise’ As I Lay Dying
Justin Bieber returns to the top spot this week with sales of 60,000. This is his fourth week at number 1, although they have not been consecutive. These numbers are extremely low for the number 1 album in the country and this is further proof of how illegal downloading continues to destroy the music industry. The other albums in the top 10 also saw declines in their sales, even though they moved up on the chart. For example, AC/DC had a 12% decline in sales but they moved up 4 spots. Out of the entire top 50 Rihanna is the only artist to see an increase in sales with her album ‘Rated R’ seeing a 7% sales increase moving up 12 spots to number 34. This is good for her because as I said last week her album was declining at a rapid rate, and this small increase is showing a glimmer of hope for the albums future. The National’s new album ‘High Violet’ debuts at number 2. This is there highest debut that they have had in their five album career thus far. Including ‘High Violet’ four albums have debuted in the top 10 this week. New artist Charice debuts at 6, which is pretty impressive since she barley has any radio support yet. Its nice to see that other genres of music debuting in the top ten such as alternative band The Dead Weather and metal band As I Lay Dying. I am sad looking at the chart this week though because normally the slow sales occur in the beginning months of the year. To see such slow sales in the beginning of the summer means that the industry could be heading to an all time low. Hopefully the summer sales will be bigger as there are big name artist debuting new albums. It just sad that year after year sales of the industry becoming lower. The only positive sales in the industry are the singles, which I will report on tomorrow.

It’s Official!

I started the blog on May 4th and today on May 18th I received my 1000th hit. Thats in less than 20 days. I cant explain how happy I am and I hope that this continues! Even with the irregularity of my post this past weekend the hits were consistent. A huge thank you to everyone who reads the blog on a regular basis and if this is your first time you should stick around! I know the in the scheme of things 1000 hits is very little, but for a tiny blog for a nobody in Chicago I’d say this is pretty great. I do not know 1000 people, so i know hits are coming from those of you I don’t know as well. Lets keep this up. Who knows, I could have 2000 before June. At this rate I do not think anything is impossible. Thanks guys! Follow me on the blog/twitter and start to comment the post!

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