Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Live Review: Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show

Last week, Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande performed for the Victoria's Secret Fashion show, and yesterday we got to see these performances for the first time. Taylor rolled out Blank Space and (1989's best track) Style, while Ariana Grande took the liberty to do a 5 minute long greatest hits medley. How did they fare?

Taylor's performance notably benefitted from two things: playback and voice processing. Over the past week it's obvious that some voice processing was used on her voice, creating an ever so slightly noticeable metallic twang to her voice. The playback also undoubtedly helped her stay on pitch and cover her voice at points, like Blank Space's chorus. She also had some throaty strain on some of the higher portions that signaled distress. That being said, one can't deny that what Taylor doesn't bring to the table in vocals, she makes up for with performing. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Single Review: Selena Gomez - The Heart Wants What It Wants

Congratulations Selena, you've done something that many artists strive to do and fail to do time and time again. You finally made music for yourself, free of following the trends, free of trying to appeal to others; you made music that is for you and your healing. You've made a real artistic leap from Stars Dance and the general public should greatly appreciate that.

Stars Dance was a mess. Sure Come and Get It oozed sleek dubstep pop, but the rest of the album didn't have much to say. It felt like a label head was watching over her shoulder the entire time she was working on it to make something for the label and not for herself. However, The Heart Wants What It Wants is different, it's incredibly open, and offers new insight into one of the world's most infamous couples, it's quite the risk.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Track By Track Review: Taylor Swift - 1989

Taylor Swift's fifth album and first fully pop record was co produced by hitmaker Max Martin and is gunning for a platinum debut week. But is it worth the hype?

Welcome to New York: A lovely album opener, built on a sea of flashing synths. Swift wasn't kidding when she said 1989 was straight pop, and by New York's path, it seems to be the right move. A-

Blank Space: Passive aggressive shots at her detractors - "they'll tell you I'm insane" - play over a Lorde's Tennis Court inspired beat. A qucik mood change from the predecessor, but a welcome one. Some single potential lies around here. A-

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Album Review: Tove Lo - Queen of the Clouds

Tove Lo's debut album is dripping with vulnerability and honesty. The now infamous Habits (Stay High),  serves a catalyst for the rest of the album. The album is focused with pinpoint accuracy divided into three sections: sex, love and pain. Each song on the album fits into a section, making the entire album instantly cohesive. It's a tactic that makes the album function as a larger piece of art, rather than singles thrown together like groceries in a Walmart bag like Tove Lo's other pop contemporaries.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Live Review: Ariana Grande @ SNL (Saturday Night Live)

Amidst a handful of rumors that Ari has been displaying questionable bratty behavior, Ariana Grande took the stage at SNL, and would hopefully prove that her talent justified some demands. The results are mixed.

Ariana has been widely hailed as the new Mariah, but last night's performance was anything but on that level. It wasn't terrible - certainly Taylor Swift or Katy Perry would consider this one of their stronger nights - but Ariana wasn't nailing it by any means. It was rocky, at least Break Free was. Her ballad rendition of Break Free was overrun with, well runs, and the uptempo version was breathy and lacked projection. And that F5 started out fine, but it went uncomfortably flat at the end when she tried to put vibrato on it. Again, it wasn't awful, it just wasn't something you would expect from the vocal powerhouse, especially given how impressive her studio vocals were. And of course, the awkward pairing of cat ears and boots that went past her knees reappeared.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Does Demi Lovato Need to Give Her Voice a Break (Oh yeah, yeah, yeah)?

Pardon the pun, but does Demi need to give herself and her voice some rest? The past year and a half have been taking a toll on her vocally, from pitchy performances, to tonsils being removed and straight up unhealthy cracking, Demetria seems to have a real problem on her hands. She may be, yes, losing her voice.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Single Review: Taylor Swift - Shake It Off

Someone as skilled and respected as Taylor shouldn't have an excuse for making a single this bland.

Nothing about Shake It Off is that interesting. The horn line sounds too close to All of the Lights, a comparison and battle that Swift was bound to lose. The inspirational message that directly pertains to Taylor is cute, but pales to other inspirational anthems Firework or Born This Way. Even the spoken bridge comes far too short of matching Swift's last (phenomenal) lead single We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together. Shake It Off explores a different sound for Taylor with its use of wind instruments, but it comes off as following the trend set forth by Jason DeRulo and Ariana Grande earlier this year. In short, Shake It Off just doesn't bring anything new to the table.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Single Review: Azealia Banks - Heavy Metal and Reflective

   Seriously? This is so badly produced I laughed. Who on earth let this not remain just a demo to be locked away for all eternity?

   This is just such a complete and utter mess. From the artwork, to Azealia's monotone robot voice, I found myself edging closer and closer to opening up my 4th floor window and just flinging myself out. Azealia just recently left Interscope records on her own accord, but I think Interscope is the real winner here. They managed to get away from the apparently talentless hot mess that is Ms. Banks. She may think that they don't deserve her because she may think she has talent, but they don't deserve to be burdened with her.

Single Review: Jessie J, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj - Bang Bang

    What a shame that such a high profile collaboration that offers so much potential is wasted on such a disposable track.

    Jessie J enlisted rising star Ariana Grande and certified crossover Nicki Minaj to deliver some impressive bodies of individual work to a lackluster track. The chorus is weak and almost undefinable, the verses fail to compliment stellar vocals from J and Grande and Nicki is left fending for herself spitting out solid verses to a sparse production.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Album Review: La Roux - Trouble In Paradise

If this is "trouble in paradise," then someone needs to make Elly Jackson's paradise even worse. If a little trouble gives us an album this great, then we should see how much more La Roux has to offer.

La Roux's breakup album - the breakup between lead singer Elly Jackson and producer Ben Langmaid - strolls through the avenues of troubled bliss. Jackson doesn't sound as convicted as Hayley Williams did on Paramore's parallel breakup album last year, but Jackson manages to twist her and Langmaid's relationship into several perspectives. Elly gets on her knees for the slow burner Let Me Down Gently, while taking jabs in the seven-minute epic Silent Partner.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Live Review: Kiesza Pulls out All the Stops for Hideaway @ Letterman

As Kiesza begins her ascent up the Billboard charts, Kiesza gave her all on Letterman last night. Working the stage probably more than anyone before her, Kiesza delievered a rousing performance that left Letterman himself ecstatic.

Giving a throwback to the New York shot video, Kiesza enlisted the help of several dancers and a fire hydrant to help her with this performance. The one shot video now has a cousin in a one shot performance. Doing a pretty rigorous dance routine, Kiesza managed to keep her breaths steady - and though there were a couple flat notes - she kept her energy level up until the very end.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Vocal Range and Profile: Tori Kelly

Vocal Range: C#3 - A5 - B6
Vocal Type: Light-Lyric Soprano, untrained Coloratura (3 Octaves, and 5 notes)
Vocal Rating: B
Recommended Listenings: Pretty Young Thing (PYT), Nobody Love, Thinking of You

Positives: Incredible melismatic prowess, being able to ascend and descend into any area of her voice with ease. Her runs have a pearl like clarity, with each note clearly defined. The lower register maintains clarity down to D3, with C#3's being noticeably less resonant (regardless, her ability to even hit a C#3 is something to be proud of). The midrange is bright and piercing, with no strain present, allowing her to hold notes for extended periods without fatigue. Her mid-upper belts maintain a piercing quality to a lesser degree. The head voice is soft and sweet, as is her whistle register. A quick, jaw free vibrato covers her voice outside of her lower register. Overall a unique instrument with excellent musicianship and decent technique.

Negatives: She utilizes her melismas very often, which can be irritable to some. Kelly also tends to close off her throat past Eb5, causing some belts to sound choked and thin. This seems to have improved recently (see the bridge of Nobody Love). 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Single Review: La Roux - Let Me Down Gently

It's been 5 years since La Roux came out with their eponymous debut album. Now, Let Me Down Gently has graced the internet, with a digital release of May 13th. Did La Roux make a real comeback, or is it a bit underwhelming?

First off, this is no Bulletproof. It's no In For the Kill. It's not the typical dance-pop that we saw on their debut. This is much more tame in terms of tempo. The duo has adopted some drums to accompany some of lead singer Elly Jackson's less piercing vocal performances. The song starts out very dry and dare I say boring; there's an excruciating period where you wait for some monumental synths to take you away. When the synths come in, it's just enough to be satisfying, but you're also left wanting a tad more.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Kelly Clarkson's 5 Most Beautiful Performances (Live and in Studio)

In honor of the Pop-Rock queens birthday earlier this week, it only seems fitting to put together her Top 5 most beautiful and epic performances, live and in studio. Buckle your seat belts and grab some tissues, it's going to be a wild ride.

5.  Because of You
You probably expected this to be No.1 right? Though it's Kelly's biggest hit WW and one of her few smash ballads, Because of You isn't her best. But that doesn't mean it's not beautiful. Though the lyrics could be viewed as cliché, the fact that the song captures Clarkson's most pure and unfiltered thoughts from when she was 15 and going through her parents divorce makes the track even more potent. She's not screaming for attention, she's wailing for things to change. It's raw and very real, making her all the more relatable.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Music Video Review: Avril Lavigne - Hello Kitty

Well. Congratulations Avril. You've managed to give the public one of the most desperate "Cry for attention" music videos ever. This makes Not Myself Tonight look like the Do What U Want video (IE, like it never happened). The track is almost as pitiful as Avril Lavigne's sales and the video will do nothing to help that. At all.

First off the track is pitiful with it's horribly disguised sexual innuendos and cutsie metaphor for something just… Odd.. Sorry Avril but the kitty you're talking about ain't that pretty. Poor breakdown post chorus, poor lyrics, poor vocals, poor production. The video is equally as racist as the "Kawaii" track, as Avril tries to envelop herself in Japanese culture, and once more, she fails.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Music Video Review: 5 Seconds of Summer (5SOS): She Looks So Perfect

I have a brain full of thoughts and an infinite number of characters to express them. Lets begin shall we?

First Thought: Pretty teenage boys. What a shock. One can't hold their looks against them, but one can at least hope for a decent song to back the typical boy band looks with the video. That request barely goes fulfilled; the song is decent at best, and one can rattle off at least a dozen names that could pull off this song better (if they wanted to dare touch this toxic piece of teenage power pop).

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Music Video Review: Lady Gaga - G.U.Y. (And Others)

It only took how many months after Applause, 6, 7? 7 months after the lead singles video, we get a new visual from Lady Gaga, and she made up for the time missed. What she gave the world was a 7 minute (11 minute including the credits) video that chronicles the ARTPOP era ths far. What superstar has commented on a current era of their music with a video from the era? It's quite the tactic.

The video starts off with men in suits fighting and punching each other while dollar bills fly through the air. This quite obviously symbolizes those in the music business that have used her for money, and they only run away once she is broken down and of no more use. As they leave, the camera pans down, while ARTPOP plays and we see Gaga laying face down in the grass, complete with wings and a fire nearby. She stands up, revealing an arrow that has pierced through her heart. The Gaga phoenix has been resurrected. She stumbles her way to the Hearst Castle, and collapses in front of it. Two men in black pick her up and carry her inside, with Gaga being held up in a cross like formation (already a religious reference!).

Monday, March 3, 2014

Live Review: P!nk - Over The Rainbow @ The 86th Academy Awards

Time and time again, P!nk has proven herself to be the most consistent and phenomenal awards show performer since… well ever. But her performance last night did not give the same 'WOW' factor as her past performances of Glitter in the Air and Try.

Now don't get upset, her performance was still good, maybe great, but when we're talking about P!nk, good doesn't cut it. If this was the Grammy's, it would've been forgettable, but because she only had to face Indina Menzel (who slaughtered Let It Go by rushing through it and belted a god awful final note), the performance stood out. Nothing was truly exceptional, but vice versa nothing was terrible. It was solid, which is boring.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Track By Track Album Review: Lea Michele - Louder

Lea Michele's debut album already has far more battle wounds to it than almost any other album imaginable. Her boyfriend, Corey Monteith passed away this past July, and the album's tracks already bare the scars Lea had to endure.

Cannonball: The album's drum lead lead single plays it very safe, it's in the same ballpark as Roar in terms of empowerment and sound. Except Cannonball doesn't offer any powerful roaring notes, something one would expect from Glee's powerhouse vocalist. While Lea sounds liberated, the song doesn't do anything to further that emotion. B-

On My Way: The 2nd title track doesn't bare any real correlation to Monteith ("I should stay away from you tonight"), and doesn't sound like it either. The production packs a lot into the 3 and a half minute track, Wrecking Ball's scarce synth plucks, drums, acoustic and electric guitars, and loaded with synths in the chorus. It seems very Top 40 ready, and is a great listen, but it's hard to picture someone like Demi Lovato not singing this song and being much more effective with it. B+

Burn With You: I've been ignoring most of the lyrics for the previous tracks because I believed they would get better, but this song brings mixed results lyrically. Lea first states "Even angels have their demons," which is an over done lyrical line. But then she proclaims: "But I don't wanna go to heaven / If you're going to hell / I will burn with you," which is pretty daring lyrically (and thematically). Is this song about Monteith? Does she believe he's going to Hell? One has to appreciate the risk she took here, but also slightly confused or concerned with it as well. B

Monday, February 24, 2014

Live Review: Christina Grimmie WRECKS Any Competition @ The Voice

Christina Grimmie has already been a regular on the site (1)(2), but she will soon become a regular on The Voice, and more than likely win. With her cover of Wrecking Ball, Christina mercilessly devastated her competition, showing she does have The Voice.

Christina has showed drastic, drastic improvement with this performance, showing off a gorgeous head voice, vocal agility, and 2 octaves with insane mixing power in just 90 seconds of vocal destruction. She stormed the stage from side to side, working the stage, her voice, and the audience. She's light years ahead of any competition at the moment, also being easily the most famous contestant ever on the show. With over 2,000,000 Facebook likes and YouTube subscribers, and over 375,000 Twitter followers, she already has a massive support system to push her to the top of the pack.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Live Review: Ellie Goulding - Burn @ The 2014 Brit Awards

Ellie Goulding graced the stage at the 2014 Brit Awards just hours ago, in one of her very scarce awards show performances. Did she deliver? The short answer: sort-of.

If you were to divide the performance up between her acoustic I Need Your Love and her intense drum filled Burn, then you would be given two great performances. However, when you try to do both and put a lackluster and awkward transition with no context between them, you're left bored for a few seconds, and thrown about. For a few seconds, it felt like a good time to take a bathroom break. And it's a shame, because those few seconds really did kill what became an incredible performance.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Live Review: Bruno Mars - Super Bowl XLVIII Halftime Show

It's that time of the year, time for one superstar performer to be in charge of entraining hundreds of millions of people across the globe for 12 minutes. Last year, the task fell to Beyoncé. This year, Bruno Mars was put in charge. With such a tough act to follow, did he live up to the expectations set before him? Let's find out.

Starting off with a choir of young children belting out his featured part on Billionaire (that belted out some glorious soprano notes), Bruno appeared in the center of the crowd on the field with just a drum set. The choir was a good choice, along with the epic prepare refrain, but the drumming? That hardly kept anyone's attention for 4.7 seconds. He was good, but it just wasn't flashy or epic.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

56th Grammy Award Predictions (2014)

The biggest awards show and night in music will return tomorrow evening on CBS. With millions across the globe watching to see who will win, the pressure is on for the academy to deliver deserving awards and stellar performances.

Best New Artist
James Blake (0/10)
Kendrick Lamar (3/10)
Ed Sheeran (0/10)
Kacey Musgraves (4/10)
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (3/10)

Best New Artist has a history of being unpredictable, namely Esperanza Spalding's win a few years ago over Florence + The Machine and Justin Bieber. This year, don't expect Ed Sheeran or James Blake to pull an upset, it seems far more likely that tomorrow night, a non-pop artist will emerge victorious. Kendrick is the front runner to take home Album of the Year and received massive critical acclaim with his debut, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis were hard to stop last year with Thrift Monster, and Kacey Musgraves emerged as Country's saving grace. Kacey is going to garner the support of Country voters in their entirety, which will greatly benefit her. Rap voters will be split between Kendrick and Macklemore, and pop voters will probably even out the field. It'll be a tight race between these 3 contenders, but I'll bet on Kacey.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Single Review: Shakira Feat. Rihanna - Can't Remember to Forget You

After nearly a month of dormancy, Critic of Music is back with first post of 2014. And what a way to start the year with two of the biggest pop stars on the planet, Shakira and Rihanna collaborating on Can’t Remember to Forget You.

Where Can’t Remember tries to be different, it gets scared, and concedes to typical pop-rock radio fodder. The Caribbean-Latin vibe in the verses is something that we’ve seen from Shakira very often, but Rihanna tends to keep that sound hidden deep in her albums (bar the overshadowed single You Da One). But the chorus quickly comes out at you like a fireball of misplaced guitars and synths, with Shakira’s “oh’s” only growing more irritating as the song progresses. Rihanna somewhat mimics her diction, but takes more liberty with the rhythm in the chorus.