Category Archives: 2003

John Mayer – Heavier Things

John Mayer
Heavier Things
September 9, 2003
Aware RecordsColumbia RecordsSME
062/100
John Mayer - Heavier Things
1. Clarity // 2. Bigger Than My Body // 3. Something’s Missing // 4. New Deep // 5. Come Back to Bed // 6. Home Life // 7. Split Screen Sadness // 8. Daughters // 9. Only Heart // 10. Wheel

Singer-songwriter John Mayer’s first full length album Room For Squares sold milions of copies and unexpectedly so. Who knew women of all ages have a soft spot for a guitar-strummy pretty boy velvettily crooning his little heart out about his feelings regarding the fairer sex and his aspirations? (Please don’t answer that in the comment section, that was a rhetorical question.)
Yes Room For Squares was aimed at the heart of the white middle aged housewife demographic adult contemporary radio, and it was incredibly dull. But it still served a purpose in being the perfect soundtrack to an hour or so spent in a Starbucks by members the then-budding hipster community. And if you paid attention to it and managed to stay awake doing so, you would discover that Mayer was a pretty good songwriter with attention to detail and has some pretty good observation skills.
I would give you a example of where Squares offers these qualities here but I cannot remember a single song off Squares beyond Your Body Is a Wonderland, which isn’t a very good example of what is good about John Mayer, despite being his signature song, well until Daughters was released as a single, which also isn’t showing Mayer’s best side, but I digress.

Heavier Things isn’t a grand departure from Squares or anything, but it does sound different enough in that the sound is beefed up justlittle bit. This upgrades Mayer’s music from the sort of adult contemporary radio music you don’t really notice being on to the sort of adult contemporary radio music that gets stuck in your head. In short Heavier Things‘ producer, Jack Joseph Puig, did something to Mayer’s music Room For Squares‘ producer, John Alagia couldn’t; make it memorable at times. Those times are the album-opener Clarity, the next song Bigger Than My Body and Come Back to Bed.
Oh and Daughters is memorable too, although it’s debatable whether it’s positive or negative for that particular song.

Clarity is relaxing and uplifting at the same time and has Mayer’s corduroy croon slide into smooth falsetto on the hook. This combined with the soulful instrumentation makes for something much richer than anything off his debut.
Bigger Than My Body is where the album really picks up steam and ups the tempo. It is unfortunate that Mayer never really comes back to it because this type of faster song (relatively speaking off course, this is still Mayer so the song is still going to be chilled enough to not disrupt a dinnertable conversation) fits him like a glove. Unfortunately the album hits snooze shortly after and never really manages to wake up on time.
On Come Back to Bed however this drowsiness is actually a good thing. On it Mayer pleads to his better half to rejoin him after she got out of the sack because of something he did or didn’t say (What exactly he did wrong he hasn’t figured out himself yet.) It’s gracious, sexy, hooky, bluesy and soulful and would’ve been a big hit if Aware Records/ Columbia had released it as a single.

Then there’s Daughters which has an inescapable hook and could be considered a Hallmark card set to wax or aural dreck leaving a slime trail depending what side of the fence you’re on. This reviewer hates it with every fiber of his body. Contained within it are all those things some wish real boyfriends knew and said, as well as sexism aimed both at women and men in several instances. It may be a well written contemporary pop-classic and all but bleh, this trifle is nauseating.

All of the other songs are alright, nothing more, nothing less. They sound more interesting than the filler off his last album but not by a wide margin. But, in combination with the stand-out songs, they sound good enough to call Heavier Things a fairly big improvement over his first album.

Best tracks
Clarity
Bigger Than My Body
Come Back to Bed
Daughters

Recommendations
Pick this one up. It’s an alright enough record for lazy sundays. Do buy a used copy though if you can find one. This album isn’t necessarily worth a lot of money.

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Nelly – Da Derrty Versions: The Reinvention

Nelly
Da Derrty Versions: The Reinvention
November 25, 2003
Derrty EntertainmentUMG
058/100
Nelly - Da Derrty Versions the Reinvention
1. Intro // 2. Country Grammar [Jay E Remix] (feat. E-40) // 3. Iz U // 4. E.I. [David Banner remix] // 5. Ride With Me [Jay E Remix] (feat. City Spud) // 6. Batter Up [Jay E Remix] (feat. Murphy Lee, Chocolate Tai, King Jacob, Prentiss Church & Jung Tru) // 7. If // 8. Hot In Herre [Basement Beats Remix] // 9. Dilemma [Jermaine Dupri Remix] (feat. Ali & Kelly Rowland) // 10. King’s Highway // 11. Groovin’ Tonight (St. Lunatics feat. Brian McKnight) // 12. Air Force Ones [David Banner Remix] (feat. David Banner & 8ball) // 13. Work It [Scott Storch Remix] (feat. Justin Timberlake) // 14. #1 [Remix] (feat. Postaboy & Clipse) // 15. Pimp Juice [Jay E Remix] (feat. Ron Isley) // 16. Tip Drill [Remix] (E.I.) (St. Lunatics)

Back when people still bought cds remix-albums were an easy way for record labels of juicing any particular artist’s fanbase for some cash whenever that artist didn’t have a proper album to promote. Da Derrty Versions: The Reinvention is such an album, bridging the gap between Nelly’s 2002 blockbuster Nellyville and his 2004 double whammy Sweat and Suit. On this album you will find amended versions of hit songs from Nellyville and his debut Country Grammar of varying quality, all tied together by Nelly commenting on his ‘creative process’ in a sort of fake interview type of setting brought to us in skits. Did you know E-40 invented slang? Yeah, me neither…

On to the content: Everything labeled a ‘Jay E Remix’, which is is the absolute majority of the songs, can be automatically dismissed as a remix. Not because the beats suck, Jay E is a terrific producer and arguably half of the reason of Nelly’s success, but rather because the guy produced most of the original incarnations of these songs which were mostly not broke and therefore not in need of fixing.
Apparently he agreed with that assessment because the changes to his instrumentals are minimal to nonexistent. All that’s really added are newly recorded guest appearances which vary from entertaining enough such as the Ron Isley-featuring version of Pimp Juice and the Clipse on #1, to meh such as the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it E-40 verse on Country Grammar, to godawful such as the new version of Batter Up which replaces B-team weedcarriers with Z-team weedcarriers. But the fact that Jay doesn’t go rampant creatively with altering his own shit might actually be for the better because the one time Jay E does actually change something substantial about a song the result is a version of Ride With Me that poorly attempts to fit the original hook into the melody of John Mayer’s No Such Thing for no other reason than that Nelly likes John and wanted to pay ‘tribute’ to him, which is very questionable reasoning at best. Nelly could‘ve called the guy up for a collabo and Mayer would probably have said yes, and that might’ve made for an entertaining collabo if Nelly’s later collabo with Tim McGraw Over and Over is any indication. In stead we’re left with this stupid shit that also does a terrible job at incorporating City Spud’s not-that-great-to-begin-with verse off the original version.
The remix of Hot In Herre which is credited to ‘Basemenent Beats’, a production team consisting of Jay E, Koko and Wally Beaming (and City Spud who is m.i.a. here because of a ten year prison stint) is pretty fucking awesome with what sounds like a recreation of the Neptunes’ bleepy, bloopy original beat with live instrumentation. I guess he did have something to ad here because he didn’t have a hand in creating the original instrumental.

Mississippi rapper and producer David Banner remixes E.I. into something much more scandalously entertaining than the original, although there wasn’t much need to tack on a second version of this remix on the end of the album with his boys from the St. Lunatics featuring but substituting verses with catchphrases (This version does however work really well as a floor-filler at parties, so perhaps it is the Nelly-solo version that is the redundant track out of the two.) His rock version of Air Force Ones however a fairly lame deal, which is a shame because new guest verses by himself and southern legend 8ball are a lot better than what the ‘Tics had come up with for the original.

Jermaine Dupri’s new version of Dilemma exposes the song for having been very reliant for its effect on its sappy original production as this stripped down version sounds dry and superficial. Scott Storch transforms Work It into an altogether more slinky affair that probably would’ve sounded better if Nelly hadn’t decided to re-record his vocals after popping a shitload of ritalin. It is what it is and it is mystifying.

That leaves a three original songs. Iz U is a pretty cool trunk-rattler that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Nellyville, that goes for Kings Highway and the Neptunes-produced If as well. Perhaps he was cleaning out the vaults or something. Anyway these songs are probably the only real reason for owners of Country Grammar and Nellyville to pick up The Reinvention.
In 2003 that might’ve cut it as an incentive for purchasing this album. In 2014 however you can just buy the individual songs off iTunes or Amazon and you’ll have all the added value of this album to Nelly’s catalogue for a lot less money than you would spend on the entire disc. That’s not to say Da Derrty Versions sounds bad. It’s a fairly decent Nelly-playlist, and with the exception of Air Force Ones and Ride With Me these remixes don’t actually sound any worse than they do in their original versions. Props for culling the only good song Groovin’ Tonight off that godawful St. Lunatics album, even if it was only to get incarcerated Lunatic City Spud some commisary (That would also explain why Spud is on that strange and shitty Ride With Me-John Mayer mashup). But if you’re a fan of Nelly’s you could probably make a much better Nelly-playlist yourself with the technology being available and manageable to everyone and their grandmother, making The Reinvention a dinosaur from a bygone era.

Best tracks
Iz U
If
Hot In Herre [Basement Beats Remix]
King’s Highway
Groovin’ Tonight
Pimp Juice [Jay E Remix]

Recommendations
Buy the above tracks off iTunes or Amazon, or pick this out of the used CD bin you find it for under six dollars.


Murphy Lee – Da Skoolboy Presents Murphy’s Law

Murphy Lee
Da Skool Boy Presents Murphy’s Law
September 23, 2003
Derrty EntertainmentUMG
065/100
Murphy Lee - Murphy's Law
1. Be Myself [Intro] // 2. Don’t Blow It (feat. City Spud) // 3. Hold Up (feat. Nelly) // 4. Grandpa Gametight // 5. Luv Me Baby (feat. Jazzy Pha & Sleepy Brown) // 6. Murphy’s Law [Interlude] (performed by Darius Bradford & St. Louis Slim) // 7. Cool With It (feat. St. Lunatics) // 8. This Goes Out (feat. Nelly, Roscoe, Cardan, Lil Jon & Lil Wayne) // 9. What Da Hook Gon’ Be (feat. Jermaine Dupri) // 10. So X-Treme (feat. King Jacob & Jung Tru) // 11. How Many Kids You Got [Interlude] (performed by Darius Bradford & St. Louis Slim) // 12. I Better Go (feat. Avery Storm) // 13. Red Hot Riplets (feat. St. Lunatics) // 14. Regular Guy (feat. Seven) // 15. Gods Don’t Chill (feat. King Jacob & Jung Tru) // 16. Murphy Lee (feat. Zee) // 17. Head From a Midget [Interlude] (performed by Darius Bradford & St. Louis Slim) // 18. Shake Ya Tailfeather (Nelly, Diddy & Murphy Lee) // 19. Same Ol’ Dirty (feat. Toya)

Taking about the common rapper’s habit of landing all their homies from the hood a record deal as soon as they’ve sold a couple of records: it certainly has lead to a lot of mediocre to shitty albums being recorded and released. It’s almost as though for every entertaining Jay-Z record being released to the public a waste of time, money and plastic and aluminum hard drive space by Memphis Bleek gets to see the light of day.
Some times however a weed carrier has some actual skill behind the microphone and gets to become a cool supporting character in story of his more famous friend’s career. Such is the case with Nelly’s homeboy Murphy Lee(a.k.a. Da Skoolboy because he was the youngest out of the St. Lunatics posse), the second out of Nelly’s St. Lunatics posse with a solo career (third if you count Nelly himself) whose debut Murphy’s Law hit shelves in late 2003.

Although I can’t recall him so much as appearing on Country Grammar or Free City his guest verses on Ali’s moderate hit Boughetto and the remix of State Property’s Roc the Mic that appeared on Nellyville were pretty cool. However it wasn’t until the song Shake Ya Tailfeather off the Bad Boys II soundtrack dropped in the summer of ’03 that anyone in the public actually started wonderng who he was. The song was mostly Nelly’s, but also had a verse by P. Daddy (Because the soundtrack was released on Bad Boy Records and because that way Nelly wouldn’t have to pay for the video.) The final verse was Murphy’s though and arguably he stole the show, referencing Dragonball Z , Marvin Gaye and Voltron while talking about weed and pussy. That turned out a fantastic career move because Shake Ya Tailfeather hit worldwide charts like a brick and won a grammy for ‘best rap song by a duo or a group’ in 2004. It is this sort of success that gets the label heads to ‘see the potential’ and spend a little extra on beats and guest appearances when an album release is imminent, which was good for him since guest verses and hooks by Sleepy Brown and a littler Lil Wayne (amended by as a myriad of lesser-knowns), as well as assists by Jazze Pha, Jermaine Dupri, Mannie Fresh and Lil Jon are a definite asset when recording a party rap record like Murphy’s Law (That title was a given, wasn’t it?)

The album did go platinum, but that’s quite likely only because it had Shake Ya Tailfeather on it. I don’t recall ever hearing anything else of this being played on any radio or music video channels. Oh well, I’m sure Murphy Lee isn’t complaining.

His on-record persona is that of a nouveau riche street rascal that is just as likeable as his similar but more famous homie Nelly. Besides their boughetto similarities there are differences too, Murphy Lee is a much mellower dude. Nelly is the type of dude to slap the listener around the dancefloor with his success. Murphy seems to preoccupied with entertaining himself behind the mic for such posturing. Off course he brags himself through this album the way any commercial sub-gangsta rapper would in ’03, but he doesn’t land a sweaty, poon fest of a club banger like Hot In Herre or Work It or a thug utopia like Nellyville anwhere (except on Shake Ya Tailfeather which is the former, but it’s more of a Nelly song anyway). In stead he offers up a milder variety of midwestern party rap. Murphy’s Law is heavy on the poppy R&B cuts, midtempo Southern/ Midwestern party rap and it even has a smooth elevator jazz number in Cool With It.
Highlights include the album opener Don’t Blow It featuring incarcarated ‘tics member City Spud, the rowdy, Nelly assisted Mannie Fresh-produced banger Hold Up, Jazze Pha’s feverish come on-number Luv Me Baby, the uncharactaristically smooth St. Lunatics posse cut Cool With It, the reminiscent I Better Go featuring Avery Storm, the requisite ‘the money hasn’t changed me’ song Same Ol’ Dirty and off course the classic hit single Shake Ya Tailfeather.

Unfortunately the album has it’s fair share of clunkers too. The smooth seduction number Grandpa Gametight never gets to seductive because of its inexplicable, silly concept. As does What the Hook Gon’ BeThis Goes Out might as well be called Nationwide Weedcarriers ’03 what with (Kurupt’s little brother) Roscoe, Cardan (formerly of Ma$e’s group Harlem World) and a pre-stardom Lil Wayne appearing alongside Murphy Lee, Nelly and Lil  Jonathan. Murphy Lee is a silly sex rap with a female singer yelling out our hosts name to the tune of Marvin Gaye’s Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) and you can imagine how hard that shit falls flat on its face.

The remainder of the songs lands somewhere in between of good and bad right in the middle of meh. Nelly and Murphy Lee would’ve done well to leave a fair share of these songs on the cutting room floor as they weigh down Murphy’s Law significantly. But this has been the case with every St. Lunatics release so far so that was to be expected. As it is this is still a rather entertaining but flawed album by a very likeable rapper who knows his limitations, doesn’t try too hard and appears to only be out to entertain both himself and the listener. Kind of like how Country Grammar and Nellyville were. And if you enjoyed those albums Murphy’s Law is definitely for you.

Best tracks
Don’t Blow It
Hold Up
Luv Me Baby
Cool With It
I Better Go
Shake Ya Tailfeather
Same Ol’ Dirty

Recommendations
Pick up a used copy. Or a new one even as long as you’re not hideously overcharged for it.


Ja Rule – 7 Series Sampler: Pain Is Love

Ja Rule
7 Series Sampler: Pain Is Love
May 20, 2003
Murder Inc. RecordsDef Jam RecordingsUMG
065/100
Ja Rule - 7 Series Sampler
1. Always On Time (feat. Ashanti) // 2.  Down Ass Bitch (feat. Charlie Baltimore) // 3. Never Again // 4. Lost Little Girl // 5. Pain Is Love // 6.  I’m Real [Murder Remix] (feat. Jennifer Lopez) // 7.  Livin’ It Up (feat. Case)

Back in 2003 internet music bootlegging was just starting to become a thing (anyone remember Napster or Limewire?) and so, in an effort to seduce people who would otherwise steal music from the web, Def Jam Recordings came with a radical solution: the EP.

A little more thought was put into it than that, by re-releasing an album without all the filler they could sell it for cheaper and because  it contained mostly the hits no skipping was required by the listener (The first generation of iPods had just come out, so not everyone knew how to make a playlist yet.)

Ja Rule was still a popular artist by then, so he was an obvious candidate, and because Def Jam didn’t want the EP to eat away the sales of Jeffrey’s latest album The Last Temptation they decided to go for the album he had released before that one; Pain Is Love, which had sold millions of copies and had completely fulfilled its chart-potential by then anyway, it was a no pain, no gain thing.

So they trimmed Ja Rule’s Pain Is Love from most of it’s non-singles until only seven tracks were left in such a way they didn’t have to cut Caddilac Tah, Black Child, Boo & Gotti, Jodie Mack, Missy Elliott and 2pac any aditional cheques, added nothing, rearranged them and put the resulting disc in record stores worldwide.

This would seem like some typical record company bullshit, which off course it was. But it just so happens that Pain Is Love had about six tracks on it that could either be considered a good song or a hit single (with about two of them being both). So with that in mind one has to give Def Jam kudo’s for including not only the the radio hits (although the person in charge of compiling this disc would have had to have been pretty fucking stupid to fail to do that right.) but also the best non-single, the existentialist mental breakdown that is Never Again.

It has to be said though that may have been a fortunate accident in selection, because this EP also contains the two very worst songs of the original album.

Nobody ever wanted to hear Jeffrey do social commentary, even those that did buy his self-absorbed sensitive thug persona (and all of his albums) back in the early naughties, so what the hell is Lost Little Girl doing here?
Pain Is Love‘s faux-philosophical pity me, martyr-lyrics and a typically unfortunately brassy hook and glossy beat go a long way in showing why these days Ja Rule is mostly a punchline.

As for the hits; Always on Time is still classic pop-thug/ R&B genius, Livin’ It Up is still jiggy, wide-eyed dancefloor fun, I’m Real [Remix] still has Jenny from da Block coming off as real a Barbie doll and it still has Jeffrey coming across as a jackass hollering at sluts with a bottle of K-Y, but I’m pretty sure that said sluts still like this song, so that’s a thing. And Down Ass Bitch still has some singing on it so bad it makes you wish they used autotune as freely back then, as they do now.

Also it would’ve been very sympathetic if Def Jam would’ve included the hit version of Ja’s Put It On Me featuring Lil’ Mo off the soundtrack to the Fast and the Furious, considering there is no Ja album, studio or compilation, that has the version that anyone gives a shit about on it.

Still this is probably the most Jeffrey any casual listener will ever need, so if you absolutely must have a legal hard copy of Always On Time this is the way to go.

Best tracks
Always on Time
Livin’ It Up
Never Again

Recommendations
Since you can probably pick this up for the price of a second hand single, because this probably has the least shitty songs of any of his abums, bar his debut Venni Vetti Vecci, and because this has arguably the two best songs of his career you can pick this up. Just don’t expect miracles from a Ja Rule album.


Thicke – A Beautiful World

Thicke

A Beautiful World

15-4-2003

Nu Amerika/ Interscope/ Universal Music Group

Robin Thicke is a singer-songwriter who’s usually filed under R&B. Before and since he decided that if Justin Timberlake could have a successful solo-career as a blue eyed soul artist than he could too, goddamnit, he helped pen songs for among others Christina Aguilera, Mary J. Blige and Usher and even a would-be hit for Michael Jackson (The Jacko song he co-wrote with adult-contemporary shtickmaster Walter Afanasieff is called Fall Again and was supposed to be featured on his 2001 album Invincible but wasn’t finished for reasons unknown to me. In 2004 a demo however was released on a MJ boxset while a less significant R&B singer from Canada named Glen Lewis recorded his version of the song and released it on the soundtrack of the Jennifer Lopez film Maid in Manhattan in 2002. If you’d like to hear Thick’s interpretation of this song. Go listen to Kenny G’s version, although off course it does off course feature the superative of cheesy sax, but that’s Kenny’s bread and butter.) Armed with these credentials and a voice that sounds like Mr. Thicke is JT’s long lost brother who shared a larynx with him at birth, he and co-producer Pro J got it cracking in the studio after André Harrell signed him to his Nu Amerika subsidiary of Insterscope. He then slabbed an artfully nude picture of his beautiul girlfriend, now wife, Paula Patton, on the album cover, just because he could. Today I will listen to that album which was actually a re-release of his 2002 album Cherry Blue Skies with a few extra songs and a different sequencing. Why Cherry Blue Skies was released, then deleted from the catalog and then re-released with a different title I don’t know. Maybe someone at Interscope Records/ Nu Amerika realized Cherries actually aren’t blue. It certainly didn’t help the album sell any copies and for my money seems like a pretty pointless move. What I do know is that Pharrell signed him to his Star Trak label a few years after this puppy tanked and left him mostly alone in the studio to craft his 2006 sophomore The Evolution of Robin Thicke. I think he made this decision mostly based on listening to A Beautiful World and that’s why I’m curious about it. Also, this was by no means a bad business move on Pharrell’s part because since signing with his label Robin had been a pretty successful artist.

1. Shooter

One difference between Justin and Thicke is that Thicke on occasion actually has a somewhat original musical idea while Justin exclusively does updates of his idols Michael Jackson and Prince while coasting along on his producers Timbaland and Pharrel’s hipness. Shooter doesn’t sound like anything in 2003’s contemporary R&B. Its hiphop influences are confined to the occasional scratching and… violent lyrics. Anyway, the guitars and keys used make this decisively retro-sounding and the build-up ending in the climactic sounds of actual gunfire give this a cinematic edge. Thicke’s vocal sounds stoned out of its mind throughout which adds to the surreal feel of it all. His distorted vocal during the breakdown sounds a lot more animated which creates a nice contrast. Shooter is interesting, fresh and a rather enjoyable affair. Thicke apparently liked the song so much he reprised it on his sophomore album The Evolution of Robin Thicke released on Pharrell’s Star Trak label in 2006. In an effort not to piss off one of the four people who had listened to A Beautiful World (those people apparently being Lil Wayne, Pharrell Williams, Chad Hugo and me) he asked the most en vogue rapper of the moment, Lil Wayne to add some raps where there were vocal voids in the song. No wait that’s wrong. Weezy apparently jacked Shooter wholesale for his Tha Carter II album, Thicke’s vocals included, only to add some meh verses and some ad-libs that detracted from the overall equation. With that version becoming far more popular than the original Thicke had little choice but to put it on his sophomore. Still, the solo version included on A Beautiful World is much  more compact and pleasant to listen to.

2. A Beautiful World

The sparse use of an electronic piano and little else help highlight the simple beauty of Thicke’s falsetto in a spacy, Prince-ly way. Now if it weren’t for those clunky pretentious bullshit lyrics this would be rather enjoyable.

3. Suga Mama

Songs about the opposite sex are abundant but never redundant because people will always give a fuck. (No pun intended) The instrumental is groovy enough in a Neptunes produced track taken from Justified manner. The vocal however, while technically being pretty decent, sounds so much like the purple one (especially during the falsetto bit) that this comes off as wholly unoriginal. Alas, Thicke can get lost in imitation as much as Justin. And no this does not contradict my statements made about Shooter because those comments were ment to be applied to that song only.

4. Flowers in Bloom

Spacy, scratchy sound effects, a simple guitar line mixed into the background so effectively you can barely hear it and a bit too much Justin-ishness for my taste. On a strictly musical level this doesn’t make me want to give up on listening to A Beautiful World and use it as a Frisbee in stead but it is not very exciting.

5. When I Get You Alone

The first single off A Beautiful World and the only one to chart as far as I know. Walter Murphy and his Big Apple Band discofied Ludwig von Beethoven’s 1808 Fifth Symphony and labeled it A Fifth of Beethoven, which was included on the Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack in ’77. Producer Ty Fyffe sampled that track for young rapper A+’s 1997 hit Enjoy Yourself and here Thicke jacks that instrumental wholesale to land his dorky lyrics in a stuttery delivery on. (I mean… “Baby girl, you’re the shit. That makes you my equivalent.” The fuck?) That line, delivered without any sense of irony whatsoever, could make even R. Kelly blush. This was the first single and as far as I know the only one that got any airplay anywhere. The fact that this wasn’t a hit in the English-speaking world doesn’t surprise me one bit. Although songs with even nerdier come-ons have made their way to the charts (like anything Katy Perry has done. Ever.)

6. The Stupid Things

I’ll give Thicke this much credit. His imitations of soul and sincerity are soulful and sincere. Even on this boring-as-fuck adult contemporary R&B-ballad.

7. I’m a Be Alright

This tries to be the indie-rock-tinged funky party song and isn’t too annoying for what it is. The song’s positive message would help this go down if the lyrics were more comprehensible. I think I heard Thicke’s slightly distorted vocal sing something about pouring champagne over himself which is a stupid thing to do. If you’re going to pour bubbly over anyone it’d better be the hottie with the black lingerie underneath the white outfit…  Anyway it’s highly likely he never said that shit in the first place. Can’t tell what he did say… Moving on.

8. Brand New Jones

The second and last single. Except for that he shouldn’t have waited until right before the fade-out before letting the horns to kick in this song isn’t half bad. The music is p-funky. The stuttery singing complete with Jacko-esque vocal tics is appropriately and adequately performed and the lyrics, unless you hear “some like to get peed on” rather than “some like to keep heat on” like some jackass commenting on this song’s youtube video did (although it wasn’t that far-fetched), aren’t too corny or R. Kelly ridiculous. Well played sir!

9. Vengas Conmigo

The mandatory gimmicky Latin-styled track of which every artist in the early 2000s included a version on their respective albums because they thought that’d give them some much needed appeal to the worldwide Hispanic community and make them sound extremely exotic to white people. This doesn’t suck or sound that out-of-place on A Beautiful World is an achievement of sorts. Still not that good a song though.

10. Flex

More blatant Prince imitating going on here. This time it’s his funk-rockier side that gets jacked.

11. Make a Baby

This reminded me of the Beatles because if it’s overly simple poppiness but since I haven’t heard a lot of the Beatles’ catalog I couldn’t tell you what period or what song this is similar to. Also there may be another artist who might make for a better comparison. Fuckit. I don’t care… I’m more of a Stones guy anyway. The hook is pretty awful but otherwise this won’t piss anoybody off.

12. She’s Gangsta

No, Thicke does not give busting rhymes a try. In stead we get another Prince rip-off  that sounds like Justin Timberlake is singing it in the vein of Flex.

13. Lazy Bones

More funkish, indie rock stuff. This style seems to suit Thicke well enough even if it is not my cup of tea.

14. Cherry Blue Skies

I fucking hate these social commentary songs. Honestly, why do these little pop stars insist on trying to change the world through their music? Even when Michael Jackson does that it pisses me off… But if I pay no asttention to the lyrics I suppose this one gets a pass.

Best songs
Shooter, Brand New Jones

Conclusions
Thicke’s A Beautiful World is too an gimmicky album by someone who isn’t a gimmicky artist per se. That he has a talent for making music cannot be denied, even by a cynical asshole such as myself. He has a nice singing voice, although one that’s very much reminiscent of Justin Timberlake’s and a falsetto that at one point sounds identical to Prince’s which is both an achievement of some kind and something that prevents the songs on which he uses it from really taking off. On here he also shares with JT a tendency to write horrible corny lyrics. Really awful would be poetry that will give you nightmares. The best example of which would be When I Get You Alone’s second verse. Still, the fact that Thicke produced the entirety of this fucker with partner in crime Pro J, and doesn’t do half bad a job imitating earlier generations of soul singers (mostly Prince) is admirable. As is the fact that there’s only one song on here that sounds a lot like the Neptunes’ take on mr. Nelson Rogers, which was the flavor of the month at the time. All Thicke needs in my opinion is some original ideas and he’ll probably make some thoroughly enjoyable music. I don’t see him making a timeless classic ever but that’s not necessarily a problem. And who knows? Maybe he’ll prove me wrong. A Beautiful World doesn’t contain anything cacophonic (I’ve always thought there’s no better word for shitty sounding than cacophonic!) so that’s nice. And I definitely will get at The Evolution of Robin Thicke in the near future.

Recommendations

If you see this album in the discount section for a few bucks, euro’s or rubles, by all means go for it. You’ll get two songs that are quite excellent and lots of filler that’ll make for some fun, funky, light background music which won’t impair your conversation with that cutie on the hypothetical house party where you could be playing this. You should not however sit down and pay close attention to A Beautiful World as I did because it just isn’t that kind of album. Beautiful World won’t raise your blood pressure too much unless you look for thought-through, well written lyrics and originality in music specifically. But don’t go spend large sums of money on this because it’s not worth it.

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Amy Winehouse – Frank

Amy Winehouse

Frank

Island Records/ Universal Music Group

20-10-2003

"Amy. Frank"

If you compare Amy Winehouse’s two studio albums released while she was still alive (I predict the music industry 2pacing the shit out of miss Winehouse’s unreleased material, until every scrap is released in one way or another) you will notice a few differences between the Amy of her 2003 debut Frank and the one of her 2006 sophomore Back in Black. There’s no bee-hive, no tats and a few pounds of body mass more. If you ask me she looks a lot better on Frank’s cover. Intelligent readers will also notice in the two sentences preceding this one that I only got to a superficial comparison. That is correct because I have never heard either album in its entirety before I started writing this review. In fact I never cared much for Amy until she passed away in late July this year and I started a music review site and needed something that would generate a lot of hits. Sounds saddening? Oh well, at least I’m not some Winehouse fanatic ranting about how she was the greatest soul singer of our time. And might as well have been for all I know. Let’s get into it!

*presses play*

1a. Intro

I really don’t dig this intro. Is she mocking the jazz genre here? Is she actually attempting to really make a pretentious album intro? What’s the motherfucking point!? Well, at least it is short.

1b Stronger than Me

Now this leaves little doubt what its intentions are. It’s making a mockery of her effeminate boyfriend. While I really enjoyed Salaam Remi’s jazz-hop infused instrumental and while Amy’s singing is technically proficient, this cannot hold a candle to Lily Allen’s similarly themed Not Big. Still, this is a hell of a lot better than Katy Perry’s Ur So Gay, but that’s not really any sort of accomplishment now, is it? Anyway, this song was a successful single, was nominated for a Ivor Novello award and received tons of critical acclaim. So while I didn’t go bonkers over it I am clearly in the minority here.

2a. You Send Me Flying

This is a pretty good song and it was released as an airplay-only single in the UK. Although it is anything but an original idea to wait half a song before letting the drums kick in it is used to great effect and the hook is some pretty terrific stuff. Well played ma’am. Also, the instrumental sounds nothing like what Remi might’ve given NaS which is a testament to his versatility behind the boards, although it’s not hard to imagine Lauryn Hill & Wyclef over it.

2b. Cherry

Tacked onto the rear end of this track is a hidden track with a rather corny idea behind it. Luckily there is the skip button, ladies and gentlemen.

3. Know You Now

I found this one to be boring as fuck both musically and conceptually. Sorry, That’s all I got.

4. Fuck Me Pumps

Hmmm… Dissing unnamed people for being only famous for their rambunctious social life. Hell, the comment I would make were she still alive is both way too mean to throw onto the interweb this soon after her unfortunate passing, too easy, not completely accurate and musically irrelevant. Anyway I read online other music critics found this to be very witty and entertaining and such but I respectfully disagree. This was released as a single.

5. I Heard Love Is Blind

Whereas this is those things and more to me. Telling a lover that you really weren’t cheating on him when you were fucking someone else because you were thinking about him the whole time. That’s hilarious. The music itself not being half bad also helps matters considerably

6. Moody’s Mood For Love (Leo Ticks)

Apparently this a cover of some sort of jazz-standard. I really enjoyed the jazz-hop with an extremely mild reggae twist-beat of this song, provided by Salaam Remi, and Amy sings sex songs as well as love songs, it seems. The most memorable moment of this track to me is when she sings “You can blow now if you want to. I’m through.” at the very end. I think I’m getting why people think she was special. I can’t think of any female artist that could be so straightforward without making it awkward in one way or another, but here you have it.

7. (There Is No) Greater Love

Short and sweet.

8. In My Bed

Beat-jacking NaS!? Well, it works a lot better than I might have thought it would if someone described this song to me. And she does have the producer of the original song on board. Still, I’d listen to Made You Look before this anytime.

9. Take the Box

So far what separates miss Winehouse from similar artists is her sincerity and no-shit songwriting. While I’m still not as in awe as when I first listened to Lily Allen I am starting to like her. This is kind of bittersweet as I know I haven’t got anything to look forward to from her in the future, except for her sophomore album Back In Black which I’ve never heard in it’s entirety (although technically as of the writing of this sentence I still haven’t heard Frank in it’s entirety either). Anyway, she is winning me over.

10. October Song

Pleasant. Nothing more, nothing less.

11. What Is It About Men?

Something about liking bad boys and Amy’s destructive side. I didn’t really feel this one but then this one is probably more for the ladies than for me.

12. Help Yourself

Upbeat and jazzy from the very first second. Still, can’t say I like to be preached to by this woman who clearly did nothing of the kind she tells the listener to do. Not a musical argument either, I know.

13a. Amy Amy Amy

Another one about bad boys and Amy’s destructive side. Still this one is pretty good. Mostly because it’s funny rather than preachy or (ha!) whiny. Good way to cap off this album.

13b. Outro

Only the first 4 minutes and something of thrack 13’s thirteen minutes consists of the song Amy Amy Amy. After a short instrumental reprise of Stronger than Me we get a hidden song. It’s okay, a lot better than the Jazz Intro of this album but not great. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was Amy Winehouse’s Frank.

Oh, wait! There’s another hidden song. This second one is pretty good, upbeat and fun. Although it seems to be about buying alcoholic drinks at the store. Well, at least Amy seems happy and inspired singing about booze. #Bittersweet.

In conclusion:

Because of all the hype surrounding Amy, her black voice in a white person, her erratic public appearances, her promise of leaving a young corpse and her delivering on that promise it’s hard to listen to Frank objectively. Still, this is a genre- and epoch-defining album and while it is far from perfect it is for the most part a thoroughly enjoyable listen. Winehouse has a nice warm singing voice reminiscent of Lauryn Hill and the idea of an English jazz/soul singer collaborating with american hiphop producer Salaam Remi is a fresh one. Also, while Amy doesn’t rap anywhere on this album her lyrical straightforwardness has a hiphop edge to it. Basically this is effortless genre crossing. While there’s consistently enough jazzy hiphop being made there’s little hiphop-infused jazz around as far as I know. This would be the only example I know as a matter of fact and. It is an innovation and a lasting one I hope. Frank bridges a gap. While some songs miss the mark, most songs on here are pretty good and promise a really good follow-up. Whether or not Amy delivered on that promise before she died will be analyzed in due time , right here on Straight from the Crates.

Best songs:

You Send Me Flying, I Heard Love Is Blind, Moody’s Mood For Love (Leo Ticks), There Is No Greater Love, Take the Box, Amy Amy Amy + Outro

Recommendations

If you find this in the discount section of your local record store or fo’ cheap on sites like amazon you should pick this up. This album isn’t half bad. Just don’t expect to hear the new Billie Holiday or some shit like that because you won’t. Best soul singer of our generation? Maybe… But if she were, and I don’t believe she is, that would say as much about the state of the genre as it says about the artist.

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