Saturday, 21 November 2009

Adam Lambert: For Your Entertainment **Review**


Here he is, for our entertainment. Adam Lambert rose like Phoenix from the ashes of American Idol. Wow, second sentence of Adam Lambert's review and I already managed to sneak in the title of Kris Allen's bonus song. I'm sure the other part of Kradam won't mind, tho. ;o)

Adam Lambert. I didn't fall for his voice or singing ability (although I respect both) or his sex-appeal (which for me is kind of non-existent), it was his personality..."edgy with a smile" attitude, his ariculate manner of speaking. It happened when I saw his Idolatory interview with Michael Slezak for EW. Can't decide if it was the moment he defended/explained his version of Ring of Fire (which, btw, is still my fave AI performance of Adam's.....Adam should thank Clay Aiken for pointing it to me in his blog lol) or if it was the moment he explained where he got his outfit for his number with Kiss. Anyway, after this interview I knew I wanted to get to know and like this guy.

Adam's music faves include Muse, David Bowie... (both of whom he very well covered on the AI tour this summer); on the other hand he also likes Queen and Lady GaGa...that's why I was slightly worried what would his brilliant album combining rock, pop, dance, glam, electronic and-what-have-you sound like in the end. I tried to keep my hopes real down so I wouldn't be disappointed.

So, after hearing the stream of the whole thing a couple of times over he past week, am I disappointed?

Not really.

I didn't think a song that didn't make it on P!nk's album would actually be good. I was also surprised to like a Lady GaGa song. I like her visual stuff but her music...not really. I listened to a snippet of one song and didn't hear anything special but when I heard the whole thing I fell in love. (as Michael Slezak wrote in his Kris Allen review: can’t judge a song by its leak.) I was really nervous about Muse giving their beautiful, brilliant demo to Adam and when I heard the final version I was more than just relieved.

On the other hand, there are songs that just annoy me and songs that I don't care about at all.

For Your Entertainment is such a mix of popular music genres that almost anyone will find their "thing" on it but it also means that unless you are a Glambert and really into your man, you probably won't really LOVE the *whole* album.

Or at least that's the way it is with me.

I won't get too deep into what I don't like about the album, I wanna really share my thoughts on the good stuff but let me just say this: the album gets better when it gets full-on crazy or out-of-this-world. The music, that is; I'm not talking about the cover. It HAS grown on me but I still wish the cover of For Your Entertainment single would be the cover of the album. But I digress.
There are not-so-original and slightly yawn pop moments: the title single (tried really hard but I just don't enjoy it) or Strut. The former sounds like a Britney reject, the latter like one of Rihanna's songs. Nothing against these ladies but I don't dig their musical style (Rihanna's latest single being an exeption).
The song that annoys me is Sleepwalker. This, of course, is a very subjective feeling. I'm not saying it's not a good song. I like it up until we get to the chorus - and the guitar later on doesn't help at all. Or the fact that it sounds too much like other Ryan Tedder co-written songs. Kill meh.
Aftermath is sadly kind of too ordinary to be on an Adam Lambert album (tho *cough* co-written by the man himslef). It's not bad, just ordinary and the only thing that makes it not TOO ordinary is Adam's delivery and voice.

Songs that make my little heart relieved and happy?

Music Again. I could do without the guitar solo (sorry, Justin) but can't remeber what other song's snippet made me sing "You make me wanna listen to music again." for like the past month. So Yeah. A-
Then here we have the songs that I really like a lot but when I heard their snippets I wasn't that taken: Whataya Want From Me and Fever. The first one has the P!nk/Max Martin sound to it, it could be a huge radio hit. The latter song is just so fun to listen to...I seem to like Lady GaGa's songs when performed by someone else... (preferably Christopher Walken). In the verses Adam sounds like he just had a stroke and it's just SO good. lol
I mentioned being pleasantly surprised by Adam's version of Muse's Soaked. Not only it's as good as the demo, the final polished production didn't take away anything from the beauty of this song. Thank you, producer, whoever you are.
Another pleasant suprise would be Linda Perry's A Loaded Smile. The snippet of this song didn't sound anything special but I'm blown away by the whole song. Linda, I love you. I also really like the production on this song. So well done, has this out-of-this-world sound to it.
The closing track - Broken Open - has a similar feel to it. This one's gonna have to grow on me, tho. I'm willing to give it a chance, I think it deserves it.

My last mention: Pick U Up. Tho I hate the "U" in the title (call me old fashioned) the song...just...works. It's not the most original song and it does remind me of Cher for some reason but the verses aren't dull or annoying, the chorus is an old-school torch song melody in its core and the bridge is just simply *in Kara DioGuardi voice* GOOD. After listening to the album a few times this song wins so far.

Final verdict:

Is For Your Entertainment a good pop album worth an international music star? - Yes.

Is this the most original thing in the last 20 years? - No.

Will people who liked Adam the Rocker like it? - If they like modern pop music, they might. ;o)

Is this album flawless? - By far not.

Should we judge it by the first single? - Please, don't.

For Your Entertainment isn't exctly my kind of pop. I like my pop smart, funny & weird: Lily Allen, Pet Shop Boys, Robbie Williams, Mika... What do I know, maybe I'll find some hidden jokes in it as time will go by. But what I hear is by far not bad. Fans of Lady GaGa or P!nk could totally enjoy it. Sonically I'd go as far and say if you enjoy P!nk (I do!), you could like this album quite a lot.

FV

Monday, 16 November 2009

Kris Allen - Kris Allen *Introduction and Review*



Mysterious are the ways of God.

This time last year my only experience with Reality TV Shows and singing competitions were the first Czech Pop Idol (or Superstar as we called it here) - a competition that gave us Czechs a beautiful person with an equaly beautiful voice & an artist with a pretty stable career ever since: Aneta Langerova; and the first season of the Czech X Factor which was so much more fun and MUCH less drama-filled than the British original. I didn't watch any of those religiously but hey, I like music and I try not to be too snobish about it, so I WAS interested in them.

I always got the impression that the British and American Idols and X Factors produced pop stars (pretty boys and girls and occasionally belters like Leona Lewis) who really weren't my cuppa - musically - at all. To be honest, I never spent much time thinking about who the US/UK reality TV singing competitions produced until this spring when I first read the name Adam Lambert.

At first I wasn't really that smitten: his version of Mad World didn't seem to be that special to me. Eventually I grew to like this "edgy with a smile" siren of a rocker (tho his vocal style really isn't my thing*) and found myself tangled into the world of the 8th season of American Idol and in which I found TONS of talent (#signmattgiraud).

As the ignorants usually do I was one of the many who called the US of A homophobic because it wasn't Adam who eventually won this year's Idol, it was this little guy with an ordinary name: Kris Allen. When I got to know what Kris was about : musically (great musical taste, vocal and musical ability) and personality-wise (huble, quiet, wicked sense of humour), I couldn't have been more wrong. Because guess what? I would have voted for "the pocket-sized idol" too!

How could I NOT like someone who loves The Beatles and cites Paul McCartney among his dream collaborators? I know, people talk a lot of things to make themselves look good but Kris knows his shit. Liking his song choices on Idol, his versions of songs by Michael Jackson, Kanye West, Glen Hansard and our very own Marketa Irglova (the two of them LOVED him) - as well as The Beatles themselves was one thing but hearing his own singer-songwriter-y stuff he independently released before Idol (Brand New Shoes) made me really take notice.

This guy might not be the next Michael Jackson (one of his other heroes), the next biggest superstar - he'll leave this to Adam Lambert (if A. really has the talent & balls) but he totally is an artist worth a listen.

Kris Allen, the album, sadly doesn't have enough Kris-written songs. Kris's own stuff is pretty good but I understand it probably doesn't have enough comercial potential, as you have to grow to like those songs and appreciate their sometimes unique melodies. Luckily, all of the songs eventually appearing on the album reflect very well what Kris is about - and Kris's voice and soul add enough to the songs for the album not to sound like a collection hastily thrown together & released to cash in on the 15 minutes - which I understand is often the case with AI finalists' albums.

There isn't a bad song on the album, there are some that suffer from the production, tho: Is It Over is good in its acoustic parts, similarly Lifetime would stand out had it been more in the acoustic style, Before We Come Undone - a very good song with hit potential on its own is unnecessarily poppy.
Songs that stand out for me personally: apart from the first single Live Like We're Dying, it's the perky Alright With Me, heart-piercing Bring It Back and even more heart-piercing closing track I Need To Know which is reminiscen of Damien Rice's work.
The only song written by Kris Allen alone - Red Guitar deserves not only a special mention, it deserves its own sentence: original, fresh, melancholic and upbeat at the same time; with a guitar hook worth dying for.
The songs I haven't mentioned above are all mostly great...I've no complaints - exept for the What The Fucking Fuck bonus of the whole album: a version of Heartless which makes me wanna find the producer and kill him.

What I hear in Kris's work in general is the potential to be the contender of the likes of David Gray.

No, Kris Allen didn't come to this planet from another galaxy, he is very much human...OK, maybe a bit dancer too, but mostly human ;o) - and that is his strongest weapon. He is real, not in any way manufactured - and a real talent.
What I wish from/for him in the future: more albums (at least) as good as this one - and an acoustic live album would be brilliant, too.

Gonna wish upon a star. :o)

FV

If you're interested in my song-by-song review - or rather my notes to each of the songs -, take a few deep breaths and read below.

- - - - -

Live Like We're Dying: the first single written by the Irish band called The Script. A catchy, yet not annoying little song which for me was love at first listen and since I bought it I've listened to it for over 80 times according to my last.fm profile (overall no. 5). Says a lot. http://www.last.fm/user/FantasticVoyage

Before We Come Undone: is a very good song that somehow sounds better live. Not sure if the poppy production was necessary because the song itself is pretty "accesible", I would have liked the rockier edge the live version possessed way way better.
Kris's main appeal to me is the rawness and vulnerbility, the soul he gives into his singing, in that respect he reminds me of the Irish and Scottish singer-songwriters like Damien Rice, Glen Hansard or Tommy Reilly. His live performances have it, his first album has it: carefull with the production!

Can't Stay Away: Now, tis better, the production, that is. Funkier, edgier. Should be a single.

The Truth: slows the album down for a while until it gets to the chorus which slightly reminds me of Snow Patrol or early Coldplay – yet with Kris singing this it surprisingly all works for me. Belt on, little busker.

Written All Over My Face: another song written by (and produced) The Script. Another hit. Tho I have to say I prefer the live version of this to the version on the album...kida sounds like it was produced by a robot (guess it's the drums, really). I have no idea why it works with Live Like We're Dying but not as well with this song.

Bring It Back: sounds like the old Kris Allen, only with a bigger budget. The chorus seriously tears my heart in two a little. I suspect if someone else sang this song I would just scoff but because it's Kris, I hear – and feel – it coming from *a deep place* (as in heart, not the other deep place).

Red Guitar: the only song on the whole album that was written solely by Kris himself. A song that pretty well shows what I love about his songwriting: he doesn't take the melody on the expected way. I can't understand why on earth Kris had to fight for this one to even be on the album. For me personally it's a stand-out song. Very refreshing. Plus it's got a brilliant guitar riff.

Is It Over: we finally get Kris with just his acoustic guitar, if only for 36 seconds. This song is gonna take some getting used to. Not bad at all but I've noticed it getting a few notches better when it's just Kris and the guitar; the song gets a little lost in the production.

Let It Rain: love the piano on it. You can totally tell the song was co-written and co-produced by a Scandinavian. It reminds me of a-ha and its members' solo stuff a little.

Alright With Me: when I heard the snippet of this song I had to replay it again and again. I just can't help myself but love it. It makes my soul dance and actually, can't wait to shake my butt to this one as well. :o) A genuinely happy song that isn't stupid.....we need more of those. x

Lifetime: poker face, huh? A solid pop-rock song, quite good production. I find myself liking the lyrics. Again, the song gets better when it's quieter. Can I have a live album of Kris and just him and his guitar or piano as the next Kris Allen project, please?

I Need To Know: another song that prompted repeated snippet listening – and the only song from this album I could NOT wait to listen to in its entirety and therefore headed to YouTube the minute the album „leaked“. Reminds me of Damien Rice. The main instrument in it is the piano. The song is beautiful. And Kris's singing...well, the way I like him best.

If only the album ended there. Children, don't listen to the bonus! Seriously, I warn you. Some dickhead decided that even tho we all fell in love with just Kris and his guitar performing Heartless , the best thing to produce this song would be the Kanye-meets-Ryan Tedder way. Wrong.
It's not that bad but it's *this small* next to the acoustic version. Shame, shame, shame.

- - - - -

(* definition of "my thing" in this instance: Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed, Johnny Cash, Iggy Pop)

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Reality Killed the Video Star, Robbie Williams **Review**


"Trevor Horn saved Robbie Williams." That's what many people (probably including Robbie himself) think about Robbie's new album. I'm one of the select few who actually pretty much liked Rudebox and I do think it was a much better album than Intensive Care. Reality Killed the Video Star just follows in the getting-better-since-I-broke-up-with-Guy-Chambers path. Robbie lost its footing after he and Guy parted ways but he's managed to find himself again. Artistically as well as in his private life (I sincerely hope so).

Trevor Horn...is an adorable genius, responsible for producing albums of some of my favourite artists: Pet Shop Boys (Introspective, Fundamental) and Marc Almond (Tenement Symphony). I love Trevor, his production is OK with me. He's never been very cutting-edge, the songs he produces are full of strings and sparkling stardust (yeah, that's what I hear there), he makes your soul dance and maybe ache a little but he won't ever go and stab. Intelligent, over-the-top production that's exciting enough to make you really listen.

There's nothing very new happening on Reality Killed the Video Star (a blatant pun on Trevor's own hit "Video Killed the Radio Star" with The Buggles): Trevor creates his usual sound and Robbie lends his voice and his lyrics (tho less biting this time and not all of them are his).

I'm not quite sure if I hear it on the album but when Robbie sings live these days, there's some kind of new vulnerability to his singing, which I love. I was really lucky to hear some of the new songs live at the Electric Proms gig. The live versions had something this album lacks: the aformentioned vulnerability, the passion and riskiness of life, some kind of spark.

BUT I'm SO not saying I don't like the album!!!


There are no fillers - which is something that probably only happened to Robbie's Greatest hits before. ;o)

It opens and closes with one song: "Morning Sun" a catchy enough song for you to have it stuck in your head and not really mind. And what could be more pleasing to this Beatlemaniac than a huge Walrus refference? :o)

"Bodies" is a grower. I liked it right at first listen but couldn't imagine for it to be a huge hit...which it totally became. Jesus didn't die for you. What are you on? also gives you a good example of why Robbie's never been huge in the US of A. :o)

"You Know Me" is a Christmassy post-break-up song. A pretty solid poppy affair that could easily replace Last Christmas (please, do!) and that isn't ashamed of what it is. Orchestra pop rulez!

And after this jingly little song we get to something that can be only described as a FGS - fucking genius song. A Williams-Chambers leftover composition called "Blasphemy".
Can't decide what's the best component of this brilliance: the melody, the production (Trevor and Ann Dudley at their best!) or the lyrics? At the Electric Proms Robbie joked about how clever the bast for me/blasphemy was, putting himslef down as usual. the truth is it IS clever and the lyrivcs as a whole totally cut deep into one's heart. Especially if you are a oversensitive little bugger as me.
And I can't behave
No, it's not the heathen in me
it's just that I've been bleeding lately, internally.


I definitelly don't mind "Do You Mind?", it's "A Place to Crash" Take Two and I completely enjoy listening to it. I predict this is gonna be that kind of song I'm gonna be dancing along and singing along to in my bathroom after a long long day.

Do you like Pet Shop Boys? Well, Robbie does - and with Trevor producing you can be sure you're gonna get some of the PetSound as well. "Last Days of Disco" is one of the Pet Shop Heavies (no songwriting credits there, just a bit of thieving)... the kind of song you start listening to with a mild interest and by the end of it you just freaking love it. Oh, want a Robbie quote? Don't call it a comeback. Wink. Wink.

"Somewhere" is SO Paul McCartney-Beatle-esque. Or you could just say that it's a piece that would fit into a good pre-Webber musical. It's short and prepares you well for "Deceptacon".....this word apparently describes a woman who appears attractive but is actually ugly. The "stepping on eggshels" bit has been hauting me ever since I first heard it...an interesting harmony...the best part? A big soaring chorus that includes the word "Britain". Get your poppy ready.

Ready, steady, go! "Starstruck" was love on first listen. I have to say I enjoed the live version of this song a wee bit more but if I break into a George Michael Dance, I'm sure everything will be fine. Quote? You laugh at us we’re different - And we laugh ‘cause you’re all the same.

Pet Shop Song Number Two is actually called "Difficult For Weirdos" and its lyrics are...priceless.
Guess the gender, unless you’d rather
He is a lesbian, but that’s OK

I choose to take this song as a loving mockery of Lady GaGa. I don't think it was written with her in mind BUT it just reminds me of her. If I wanted to make fun of her, I'd write lyrics like those.

"Superblind" has a slow, average start but when it gets to the chorus, you understand why it got to be included on this album. It's a fine one.
I’m the genius behind me; maybe I shouldn’t have said it. reminds me of poor Topher of Dollhouse. :o)

"Won't Do That" is a love song written for Robbie's missus Ayda. Apparently, according to Robbie it's the first love song he's ever written. Q Magazine begged to differ giving example like "She's The One" and "Angels". Well, I never really took "Angels" for a love song. Didn't really cross my mind...and "She's The One" (which is a song I'm allergic to) wasn't, in fact, written by Robbie. "Won't Do That" isn't a ballad at all, it's a happy love song full of life. Yay for Robbie & Ayda, I say! :o)


Reality Killed the Video Star probably is a new Robbie of sorts. One that's more mature and seems content with where he is who he is and at the moment. Being Robbie Williams is only a part-time job, thank God.


FV


The morning brings a mystery
The evening makes it history
Who am I to rate the morning sun

Monday, 9 November 2009

Jamie Cullum - The Pursuit **Review**



Well, review... I'd say a random collection of thoughts, more like.

I won't get my deluxe edition of Jamie Cullum's new album until next week but thanks to internet I was able to give it a listen over the weekend and on the first few listens my verdict is: SO GOOOOOD! :o)

It's been exciting to follow Jamie's work on this album via Twitter. I still remember the excitement of the almost-finalized product, back then still without a fancy artwork. Just a plain CD titled "It Nearly Killed Me..." (Cute, much?)

Jamie is a unique artist: he keeps on surprising me, yet he never really deviates from his previous direction. I remember being surprised at hearing "London Skies" off Catching Tales for the first time. Was surprised how pop it sounded (hello, Guy Chambers!, hello, guitar!)... The Pursuit again gave me a few surprises like that (Music Is Through, for instance) - I don't really know anyone else who combines jazz, pop, r'n'b and dance quite as well.

The Pursuit starts off with a Cole Porter oldie "Just One of Those Things". If you want to make me love you, go and sing a Cole Porter song. lol I have to admit, I don't love Jamie's version as much as Diana Krall's version but then, the bar might be too high for a guy who's about as *tall* as me. ;o)
"I'm All Over It" is a hit to my ears. It's the kind of song that made me sing along to the chorus right when I first listened to it.
"Wheels" is fresh, exciting and with a slightly different production it could easily find its way to Kris Allen's or Tommy Reilly's albums. The album doesn't really slow down until "If I Ruled The World" starts. And boy, what a beautiful slowing down it is! Jamie's always been good at cover versions (if you can really call them that in his instance). Not really knowing this song before (shame on me!), I wouldn't have known it wasn't Jamie's own; it easily could be a cousin of "Oh God".
The album picks up its previous pace with "You and Me Are Gone", which is easily described as a clap-along, basically. :o) And a dance-along.
Ready for some sexy dancing now? Good, because Jamie's cover of Rihanna's "Don't Stop The Music" will make you do just that. And maybe more (gosh, am I ovulating?). Anyway, not in a million years would I think this wasn't Jamie's own song. I hadn't heard the Rihanna version until yesterday - and to be honest I admire Jamie for finding such a beauty in that pretty crappy pop song. From what I heard of Rihanna's version, seems to me he basically created some of the melody anyway and added a LOT more sexy to it. ;o)
Now we get to "Love Ain't Gonna Let You Down" - the first real love song Jamie's ever written (according to his own words). Too bad it wasn't written for me, because boy, it's great.
"Mixtape" is a song that convinced me to make a playlist one of these days. :o) I used to put together mixtapes and "mixtape" CD's. This song is the kind of pop song that gets me going. Sorry Xenomania and your prefabricated pop, that doesn't get me going at all. (OK there ARE *kinda-sorta* exeptions.)
This is what a Jamie Cullum mixtape looks like:

And can I just say I ADORE the last minute of the song? Brilliant, makes my soul dance. x
"I Think, I Love" This is probably the only nap moment for me. The lyrics are good, but the music puts me to sleep. Had it been on Quiet Nights, would fit in perfectly (not to say I don't like that album!).
The trip-hop (?) of "We Run Things" will wake up anyone who might have a little snooze during the previous song. If you like latin rhythms, strange electronic sounds AND jazz in one, this is the song for you. It's quite catchy, too.
What comes next is 100% loveliness. I already stated that if you wanna meke me love you, you should sing a Cole Porter song (preferably sing it well :o) ) but if you wanna make me FUCKING love you, you should sing a jazzy version of a song from one of my fave musicals: Sweeney Todd, that is. "Not While I'm Around" is a beautiful song - and those of you who have seen the film version might even understand why I tear up internally a little whenever I hear it. :o)
Stephen Sondheim is a genius...I'm not sure if you really can screw up any of his songs. But if you can take them out of their context and make them even better and just as haunting, you win my heart. x
The album ends on a high note - "Music Is Through": a full-on dance song that combines jazz and whatever you call that particular brand of electronic music. On first listen I went "wha?" and then turned into something like this:

"Music Is Through" is a very well titled charming affair...it lasts 7:07 minutes but when it's through - and the ending comes as a small surprise as well - you're left wanting more.

The Pursuit will make you dance, will make you a little melancholic, will make you sing along but most importantly it won't leave you feeling like you've been made fun of. And that should mean something. ;o)

FV