Thursday, December 10, 2015

Album Review: Troye Sivan - Blue Neighbourhood

The debut album from YouTube star Troye Sivan features collaborations with Betty Who and Broods, and was preceded by the single Wild and an eponymous EP.

WILD: The lyric "cause when you look like that / I never ever wanted to be so bad" is so understated. It's simple, and though Sivan's delivery is stone cold, the desire is cutting. It's bouncy, sleek and simply enjoyable.

FOOLS: Here Sivan sounds emotionally constipated here; he just lacks the natural skills of a singer, and has to rely on blatantly teenage lyrics and smooth synths to make his point. Fools is perfectly adequate, with no terribly egregious qualities, but nothing worth remembering.

EASE (f/Broods): The first verse is perfectly teenage. The lyrics are so sweet in the chorus, but Troye sounds so distant, and even pained as opposed to comforting. Again, the production is doing most of the work here.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Album Review: Adele - 25

After largely disappearing from the public eye from the past three years, the (arguably) biggest star of the millennium is back. Coming off the unfathomable success of Adele's sophomore album "21" - 30 million albums, 3 #1 hits, over half a dozen Grammy's - 25 is tearing records down on its own. 

21 was largely pulled by four fantastic songs: The epic "Rolling in the Deep," the masterful "Someone Like You," the dramatic "Set Fire to the Rain" and the underrated magnum opus "Turning Tables." The rest of the album was largely uneventful, but the four aforementioned tracks were so damn good that it didn't matter. 25 doesn't have a blatant standout group of songs; while lead single "Hello" largely triumphs over its neighbors in a similar manner to Rolling in the Deep, no song is bold enough to warrant any comparisons to the Big Four of 21.

What is perhaps 25's biggest fault is that it feels ironically rushed. After four years, one would think that 25 would be fully developed in every foreseeable direction. Yet the tracklisting is on Beyoncé's "4" level of horrendous: "Hello" is the only understandable choice as it's a clear album opener, but the terrifyingly poppy "Send My Love (To Your New Lover)" as track number 2 while songs like "Love in the Dark" and "All I Ask" are stuffed in the albums latter half? A clear mistake on the part of team Adele.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Album Review: Ellie Goulding - Delirium

When people listen to UK songstress Ellie Goulding, people are generally divided on what they hear: they either hear her folk and indie influences as her sonic center and others hear her Electronica roots, and push her into the larger category of Pop. With "Delirium," the difference is not apparent at all, Delirium is blatant Electro-Pop.

From the swirling guitars of On My Mind, to the Urban tinged Don't Need Nobody, Delirium delivers mid and up-tempos track after track, never stopping for a ballad like her previous albums have (the last half of "Halcyon" or The Writer on "Lights"). The result is an album that to its modern audience will scream Taylor Swift's "1989," while to it's broader and older audience, it will sound completely millennial. 

The main difference between Delirium and previous pure-pop offerings this past year from Carly Rae Jepsen and Taylor Swift, is that there is there is no breathing room. From the moment Aftertaste hits its stride, the audience is locked in for a roller coaster ride of strict tempos. While most artists would struggle to keep up with this pace, Goulding does so with the expertise of a near-pro, only stumbling on the forgettable and rather lifeless We Can't Move to This and Holding on For Life. Midtempo power ballads like the mega-hit Love Me Like You Do and Army offer some release - and standout amongst an album of bangers - but don't offer enough to quench the hunger for ballads like Halcyon Days' I Know You Care and How Long Will I Love You. This is perhaps Delirium's biggest fault, that it lacks lyrical and sonic beauty that can be found on Goulding's prior works.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Single Review: Ariana Grande - Focus

After unleashing one of the best singles of 2014 with "Problem," Ariana Grande has returned before the clock runs out on 2015, with Focus. Another saxophone laden "belty" track, "Focus" is irrefutably a Grande sounding work, carrying all the elements one has come to expect of Grande - except for sixth octave falsettos.

The first point of interest: the chorus. The funky "Focus on me / F-f-focus on me" will definitely polarize some, but it's also bound to inspire dorky car rides and terribly orchestrated vines across the globe. It's somewhere between Uptown Funk and Problem's level of energy, bursting through wind instruments and hand claps creating a transcendent aura of entertainment.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Album Review: Demi Lovato - Confident

The past two years for Demi Lovato have been a rollercoaster ride. After the release of her fourth studio album Demi, Lovato preceded to fulfill another season on the short-lived X Factor USA, embarked on two world tours, endured the deaths of her father and dog Buddy, worked her body to a point where she finally felt 'confident' enough to show it off entirely, and worked her voice into the ground before she built it back up better than ever before. There's no doubt about it: vocally, Confident is Lovato's most demanding, spanning four octaves and distancing herself even more from her peers Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez, and perhaps even Ariana Grande.

Running through (overdone) melismas in Mr. Hughes, stretching her voice up to a four second long G#5(!) in Stone Cold, and even experimenting in the whistle register in Wildfire, Lovato has continued to show herself as a talented vocalist. Her stamina in-studio is remarkable, and her phrasing on ballads like the choir-backed Father is light years beyond anyone in her demographic. That being said, her voice does pick up on an annoying nasally and awkwardly placed vocal quality in the middle register - in addition to an often unorthodox vibrato - and she seems even more driven to resolve to the tonic with each of her final-chorus-ad-libs than ever before, which can become polarizing. With Lovato, less is more at this point, as seen in the spectacular and sexy aforementioned "Wildfire."

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Album Review: Selena Gomez - Revival

Selena Gomez's fifth studio album Revival functions as a line break between two phases of Gomez's career: no longer is she a Disney starlet, nor Justin Bieber's on again and off again, she is her own woman, as seen in her boldly stated cover art. However, perhaps she could've waited to make a better album for the occasion.

Revival finds itself up to bat where it is constantly batting either strikes or home runs with few in betweens. Flip flopping between the strikes: the forgettable "Camouflage" and misplaced "Body Heat;" and the home runs: the infectious and delectable "Hands to Myself" and effective "Sober." Unfortunately the home runs find themselves drowned out by a barrage of mid-tempo strikes, leaving Revival in need of resuscitation by track nine (the aforementioned Camouflage).

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Single Review: Ellie Goulding - On My Mind

On My Mind marks a new chapter for the UK's Pop Princess, after a plethora of soundtrack singles - including the worldwide mega-hit Love Me Like You Do - Ellie Goulding has returned with unrestricted, free flowing Pop music.

"Mind" starts off with a syncopated guitar riff that echoes that of Nico and Vinz's Am I Wrong from earlier in the year. Once the production kicks in, this comparison loses footing, as an electronic-rock sound that Goulding has previously touched upon with live renditions of Burn snakes its way through intricate coos of "Why I got you on my mind." Embracing some of 2015s new found minimalism, the song is somewhat bare: there's no pounding of synths like Figure 8, and even the downbeat is hidden at points.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Album Review: Miley Cyrus - Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz

Miley Cyrus more or less surprised millions of international viewers last night at the VMAs, announcing that her new album was available for free on Soundcloud.  This act of going against the norm, and allowing everyone with basic internet access to listen to her work speaks to Cyrus's public persona and the music herself: she truly doesn't give a f**k.

The album is a collection of psychedelic stoner anthems and dedications to her array of deceased pets. These two fields of experience in her life can be related to how Miley uses drugs - particularly pot, a drug she professes her love for in the opener Dooo It! - to cope with the pain of her deceased animals, like her dog Floyd and her pet blowfish Pablow, and her life as a superstar. Across the board are distant vocals, raw and forward lyrics, and generally minimal production.

Cyrus is notorious for being very open about everything: her sex life, her drug use and her personal experiences and relationships. Her act is the act of vulnerability, when she's 90% naked on shows like the VMAs and in daily life, she is exposing her vulnerabilities and allowing her audience to pick her apart. She subjects herself to body shaming, slut shaming, and just plain rudeness in her public appearances, but now she's allowing her music to be picked apart by anyone with this free album. She is putting her humanity out on the table, regardless of how people may respond to it. She is doing everything for herself, and for those who choose to enjoy and embrace it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Vocal Range and Profile: Jessie J

Vocal Range: C#3 - Bb5 - C6 (Eb7)
Vocal Fach: Light-Lyric Soprano (3 octaves)
Vocal Rating: A-List

Positives: A very fluid voice with an underestimated rock edge. Great fluidity, capable of singing incredibly long and complicated melismas with ease. She is able to utilize this ornament in all areas of her voice. She has explored the whistle register with exclamations, occasionally glissing into the 7th octave.

The lower register while the weakest part of the range, can have a slow vibrato applied to it. The mid-range gains healthy resonance, and it where the voice sounds its healthiest, accompanied by Jessie's lightning fast diction and rhythm. The upper chest voice maintains this piercing quality, though it noticeably thins above E5 and Jessie slides into a mixed voice.

Negatives: Notes above E5 can become shrill and thin, and are often squeezed, making them unpleasant to the ear while low notes (below F3) lack resonance and are breathy. Jessie also lacks restraint, struggling not to rely on melismas to impress. Her vibrato and its speed can also be polarizing (often being too fast).

Her 7th octave glissandos aren't being counted because they're not being sung in a key, and there's no accuracy or pitch control for those notes.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Vocal Range and Profile: Brendon Urie (Panic! At The Disco)

Vocal Range: D2 - C5 - C6 [C7]
Vocal Type: Lyric Tenor (4 octaves)
Vocal Rating: A

Wide vocal range. Clean cut voice that pierces through heavy instrumentation. The lower register is solid and dark and is accessed without lowering the larynx, while his middle voice gains a bright quality. A great, incredibly bright mixed voice allows for an extensive and resonant belting range (See This is Gospel). His voice can soar into the sixth octave often with no strain.  Easy, appealing rolling vibrato.

The voice sounds limited rock stylings. The demanding nature of his songs and smoking can sometimes cause his voice to sound tired. The falsetto above G5 is hit or miss, with some notes having resonance and others sounding pinched and tired.

D2 - C7

Friday, June 26, 2015

Track by Track Review: Tori Kelly - Unbreakable Smile

Singer-songwriter and Capitol Records recording artist Tori Kelly has finally released her long awaited debut LP. Gaining traction from Vine and YouTube clips - as well as collaborations with acapella group Pentatonix - have given her enough traction for a budding career after somehow missing the Top 24 of American Idol years ago in season nine.

Where I Belong: An awkward, uneventful way to launch the album. Moments where it begins to shine are awkwardly shifted and diverted. 4/10

Unbreakable Smile: The first full length track is an uplifting Natasha Bedingfield style mid-tempo. "God made me sexy / Who cares if only I know?" is the most clever lyric, but also one of the few decent ones. Tori definitely doesn't care, and neither will the listener. 5.5/10

Nobody Love: The Max-Martin produced, summery, moderate hit Nobody Love sets a much more suitable pace for the album, even if it is somewhat of a Problem-copy cat with its large verse-slim chorus format. 9/10

Expensive: Another up-tempo is very appreciated. Essentially a sassy Uptown Funk with gospel undertones, what more could Kelly need? 9.5/10

Should've Been Us: A fiery Kelly has emerged (another appreciated Kelly varient). The chorus is filled with high wails and head bobbing syncopations. The rasp on "both know?" To die for (even if it is strained a bit). 8.5/10

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Track by Track Review: Carly Rae Jepsen - Emotion

Carly Rae Jepsen (IE "that Call Me Maybe girl") has released her second mainstream Pop album: Emotion.  After almost 3 years of working, "Emotion" enters the world with every track being written by Jepsen, as well writers like Sia making an appearance.  Preceded by the lead single I Really Like You which has moved about 1,000,000 copies worldwide, "Emotion" is ready to capture the attention of pop-fanatics.

Run Away With Me: It's unlikely to turn into a hit, but it's still the best pop song of the year, as well as the song that puts I Really Like You to shame. If anyone could do it, it would be Carly. 10/10

Emotion: A groovy, guitar driven track that shows some production restraint, something unlike past Carly works. The biggest and most genius part of the song? The hook being taken not by Carly's vocal, but by a lone electric guitar. That being said, it's still pulled off remarkably well. 9.5/10

I Really Like You: Should've been the song of the summer. Light, fun, ridiculously catchy, Carly just waltzes over the drum beats and synths like a true pro. All of that makes the couplet "Who gave you eyes like that? Said you could keep them?" over-lookable. 10/10

Gimme Love: A stripped back, sultry ballad. A pleading Carly groans over a lone guitar riff before growing into a chorus of backing vocals. Simple, but effective. Likely a track most will pass over. 8/10

All That: And the lights in the club are dimmed for this (shockingly) slow song. "Show me if you want me, if I'm all that" sounds strangely seductive yet heartbreaking, an effective combination. It drags on a bit too long, but if you give this song a chance to hold your attention, it's worth it. 8/10

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Track by Track Review: Florence + The Machine - How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

After an unfortunately long hiatus, Florence + The Machine returns with their third LP, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. What does the mainstream's most promising act give us this time? Take a look (and a listen).

Ship To Wreck - A fantastic start to the album, straight from Lungs. The pace and energy make for the realization that Florence + The Machine, one of the must talented and original groups of the century, is back. 9.5/10

What Kind of Man - The lead single and Ceremonials-esque track starts out with a haunting harmony before kicking into an electric guitar swing. Florence sounds as confident as ever, creating an unbelievably catchy chorus. 9/10

How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful - It starts off tame, much like its preceding track, but it soon blossoms to fully represent the vast sky with soaring imperial trumpets. Another appreciated euphoric track. 9/10

Queen of Peace - Florence gains a full-hearted accusatory tone for the first time this album. However, it doesn't have the same gusto and the first three tracks, and feels strangely like filler. 7.5/10

Various Storms and Saints - Calm, haunting and carefully crafted. The back harmonies perfectly match storms and saints, however that may be possible. A fascinating combination of imagery that Florence manages to execute flawlessly. 9/10

Delilah - "I'm dancing with Delilah and the vision is mine," Florence croons over a fast 4/4 beat before a breakdown cuts in the energy into 2/4. This track is constantly breaking and accelerating, making it all the more exhilarating. 9.5/10

Long and Lost - This solemn funeral procession is well placed, though it does feel more like an interlude at points. This whole album so far has played like a movie, Beyoncé and Florence should get together to talk about a visual album for HBHBHB. 8/10

Caught - The middle of the album has slowed down, there's no trumpets, no massive drums, it's all very... Quaint. 7.5/10

Third Eye - Florence delivers sermon-like lyrics here, over hand claps, background doo-wops and pulsing drums, almost as a little brother to Ceremonials' "Heartlines." "I am the same / I'm trying to change," is the most potent refrain so far.  9/10

St. Jude - The flow of St. Jude with it's hollow production led by a lonely synth and oboe is the eye of the hurricane for this album. It's okay,good even, but it doesn't bring anything new to the table. At the same time however, "St. Jude" is subtly charming. 7/10

Mother - Florence abandons all of her signature instruments for a guitar and maraca driven rock track. She's begging for her mother at the end of an emotional night, but without its length, Mother would be another non-event for the album. 7/10

Hiding - Though an upbeat track, Hiding feels slightly creepy, an under appreciated version of Florence (see Seven Devils or Howl). This commanding track deserves the attention that it receives. 8/10

Make Up Your Mind - An interesting choice for an album closer. Most of her contemporaries would opt for a ballad or somber track to end on, but Florence fits this song neatly between the chaos and peace of the album. The end is somewhat abrupt, but the message is clear, make up your ****ing mind. 8.5/10

Where How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful should stumble, it merely wobbles. It's an album filled with rock solid production and lyrics, and safe vocal performances from Welch. A strong contender for album of the year halfway in.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Live Review: Britney Spears and Iggy Azalea - Pretty Girls @ Billboard Music Awards

Britney Spears and Iggy Azalea, for better or worse, debuted a live performance of Pretty Girls this evening, and it was to say the least, an expectedly underwhelming performance.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Vocal Range and Profile: Harry Styles (One Direction)

Vocal Range: A2 - A4 - Eb5 
Vocal Type: Baritone (2 octaves, 4 notes)
Vocal Rating: B-List

Positives: A darker voice than most of his band mates. A moderately heavy voice coupled with distinctive vocal styling which comes with vocal drives and a slight edge. Usually opts for a soft head voice as opposed to a lighter falsetto. In contrast, Styles has a dark and husky lower register down to B2. Good rolling vibrato.

Negatives: Most belts are tense and pushed. Signs of damage and subpar technique show in belts starting at F#4. The lower register loses considerable resonance below D3.

B2 - A4 - Eb5 (An A2 is found in "Over Again")

If you have any questions or additions comment below!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Single and Music Video Review: Rihanna - American Oxygen

Rihanna has long been accused by YouTube commenters as being one of the leading figures in the stereotype that pop stars are generic label-directed puppets. With the American Oxygen, Rihanna has finally spoken up, and seamlessly and effortlessly delivered the most artistically genuine piece of work she has ever made. Not only does she look beautiful, but she made a beautiful statement and body of work.

The Stay hitmaker takes shots at American society and how it proclaims greatness atop a history of destruction and oppression. With scenes from the death of Martin Luther King Jr., to 9/11, the Occupy Wall Street protests and Hurricane Katrina, Rihanna shows the despair and cruelties that are swept under the rug for the advancements of patriotism. As a non-American herself, her view as an outsider that has become a staple of American pop culture makes her points seem even more valid.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Vocal Range and Profile: Zayn Malik (Formerly of One Direction)

Vocal Range: G2 - Eb5 - A5
Vocal Type: Lyric Tenor (3 octaves)
Vocal Rating: A-List

Positives: A voice that has distinctive tone and texture that can separate him from his (former) band members. A smokey texture is present throughout the voice, especially in the middle register. Good phrasing shows greater knowledge of musical ideas and phrase's context within songs. Able to execute melisma quickly, demonstrating control of his passagio. Good dynamic diversity as well.

His lower register though easily the weakest part of his range, is well supported, sounding dark and healthy down to Bb2. His mid-register gains a smokier texture as he ascends, brightening significantly, and showing off his vocal colors more so than other areas. His upper chest voice has been developing a more even mix, showing openness up to B4. Malik can stay in the Tenor tessitura consistently, showing off his incredible ease (Pillowtalk).

A beautiful falsetto with the ability to seamlessly transition from chest to head voice (see You and I). A light vibrato can be heard in this register as well. Malik can project in this register excellently without strain (BeFour and She). 

Negatives: Upper chest notes can sound tense as his mixed voice hasn't fully developed yet, struggling more with closed syllables. His throat and jaw have shown extreme tension while singing. Most notes lack vibrato, or the vibrato is very subtle. His diction has also been unpolished and awkward. Melismas may not be clear.


G2 - C5 - G#5

Do you have anything you would like to add? Anything you disagree with? Add a comment below!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Vocal Range and Profile: Kiesza

Vocal Range: E3 - A5 - F#6
Vocal Rating: B-
Vocal Type: Light Lyric Soprano (3 Octaves)
Recommended Listenings: No Enemiesz, Hideaway

Positives: Great connection between all ranges of the voice, creating great ease throughout ever register. A great mixed voice allows her to reach up to G#5 without any hints of strain, while the head voice is flawlessly connected to her chest voice and can ascend to F#6 without issue. The head voice is light and feminine. The lower register though under utilized and not extensive, does not seem to illustrate any technical issues. Solid breath control allows to her to perform dance routines and still hit G5's and G#5's without the pitch suffering (see Hideaway and No Enemiesz live). Good dynamic control (What is Love)

Negatives: A strange twang to her voice becomes apparent in some chest notes which can sound like tension, and vibrato isn't utilized very often.

G3 - G#5 - F#6
An E3 can be found in her performance of Take Me To Church in Berlin.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Vocal Range and Profile: Sia

Vocal Range: Bb2 - F#5 - C6 [Bb6]
Vocal Type: Light-Lyric Soprano [3 Octaves and 1 note]
Vocal Rating: C

Positives: Instantly identifiable voice, with a fast vibrato and original rasp contributing to this. Able to sing complex melisma with great agility (see the head voice riff in Elastic Heart). Her low notes are not hit by lowing the larynx and have a dark quality to them, though they are easily the weakest part of her range. The mid-range is strong, as well as chest voice notes up to C5. Her head voice is sweet and feminine. Her phrasing and tone are original and instantly identifiable.

Proficient with legato phrases. Her voice is able to adapt to different genres in the pop field, such as disco, pop/rock and EDM. Able to execute growls without strain.

Negatives: Upper chest voice belts (those past Eb5 usually) are horribly strained and pinched, and are never mixed, leading to cracks. Her voice cracks, though they appeal to some, show signs of vocal damage either due to substance abuse, poor vocal technique, or both. She also utilizes vocal fry very often, though this could also be seen as an emotive positive.

Her vocal range on 1000 Forms of Fear, Bb2-Bb6

Notable mention to oziroxxmisoxx on YouTube for a strong write-up on Sia's voice.

Track By Track Review: Madonna - Rebel Heart

Madonna's 13th studio album, Rebel Heart has arrived. How does it stack up compared to the rest of her discography? Let's take a look.

Living For Love - The opening number lays down the groundwork, but doesn't seem to life the album up very high. 6/10

Devil Pray - Typical Madge, pulling in some expected Christian references. The sleek chorus is an instant highlight, but the energy gets sucked out by a lonely acoustic guitar. 7.5/10

Ghosttown - "You're all that I can trust / Everyone ran away" Madonna croons on track No.3. Madonna sounds like she believes the song, to some extent. Like the first two songs, Ghosttown feels a bit factory pressed, with the stipulation that they're all missing something production-wise. 6/10

Unapologetic Bitch - Madonna tosses out the sleek and lackluster pop production for some reggae influence. This sounds far more genuine than the preceding tracks, which for Madonna might be a blessing or curse being the most genuine as a "bitch." Unfortunately, the song is still a bore. 5/10

Illuminati - "Everybody in this party's shining like illuminati," along with the very direct name addressing - Beyoncé, Steve Jobs, Obama and Gaga for starts - help construct the first truly effective Rebel Heart track. The production is dark, Madge's delivery is stone cold, and Illuminati ultimately steals the show. Madonna actually sounds engaged. 8.5/10

Bitch I'm Madonna (feat. Nicki Minaj) - The secondy 'bitchy' track shows off more of what Madonna does best - sound current. The trap sounds and the cries of "go hard or go home" paired up with Nicki Minaj's strong verse present Rebel Heart with a potential hit. 8/10

Hold Tight - The horns in the 2 previous tracks are scrapped for this pulsing drum track. It could be a bit bigger with the production, but Rebel Heart seems to feel more comfortable in minimalism. 7.5/10

Joan of Arc - Rebel Heart's trap onslaught is halted by the guitar strumming Joan of Arc. The verses seem laughable at first but once Madonna sings "I don't wanna talk about it right now," you're hit with a feeling of "oh shit, she's serious." The metaphor, production and feelings are strong, but the lyrics and delivery simply aren't. Joan of Arc finishes having accomplished most, but not all of its goals. 7/10

Iconic (feat. Chance the Rapper and Mike Tyson) - Rebel Heart has moved back to the party room. The gritty and pulsing synths of Iconic are addictive. 9/10

HeartBreak City - After going to the 3AM night club Iconic, HeartBreak City is the last place someone would want to go. But here we are. This is simply the wrong place to put a ballad. 4.5/10

Body Shop - .... What? Such a bizarre transition and sound compared to the rest of the album. 2/10

Holy Water - Its pulsing and demanding, sexual and holy: a zeitgeist for the album. That being said, the production just isn't strong enough to leave a lasting impression, besides the Vogue interjection. 4/10

Inside Out - The minimalist production actually works here, with the production and lyrics working together to create a dark and sleek deep cut. 8/10

Wash All Over Me - And the credits roll with Wash All Over Me. The chorus is at least nice, but the verses sound like a funeral procession, not a good way to close an album. 4/10

Rebel Heart is rebellious, it fights against ageism and the sexual boundaries of society, but this is something Madonna has been doing for years. 13 albums in, Heart fails to add something truly new to Madonna's discography in its message. Its production is more trap and somewhat more minimalist than Madge's previous works, but Rebel Heart can't stand up against Madonna's magnum opuses. That being said, Rebel Heart isn't bad, it just isn't great enough to compete against the precedent Madonna has set for herself, and the pop stars since her arrival. Rebel Heart has moments of strength but overall, it is just far too inconsistent to be any better than "good."

Overall: 6.5/10

Friday, February 27, 2015

Track by Track Review: Kelly Clarkson - Piece by Piece

Clarkson's 7th studio album has hit the web in all of its glory - or is it shame?

Heartbeat Song: Clarkson and her promotional team have both admitted that Heartbeat Song was birthed in order to re-introduce Clarkson to pop radio after Catch My Breath, but even then "Heartbeat" is a big disappointment. Solid verses, but the chorus and bridge are abysmal. This single had to be stuck on the album, but an opening position is deceitful as to what the rest of the album has to offer. 3/10

Invincible: A soaring power ballad, albeit, with bland lyrics. The album is quickly back on track. 8/10

Someone: A melody that sounds strikingly similar to this Kesha song. It's an uneventful song, but it still feels worthy enough to be on the album. It's somber enough to attract some fans. 6.5/10

Take You High: A sea of synths propel Clarkson to her most legitimate EDM sound yet. Crescendoing drums in the pre-chorus lead to disconnected syllables flying high above synths and accented down beats. Unfortunately though, it feels slightly unfinished. 7.5/10

Piece By Piece: Piece By Piece definitely deserves to name Clarkson's 7th studio album. Beautiful sentiment, harmonies and phrasing along with a strong drum line create a powerful Because of You sibling. Clarkson takes stabs at her father while praising her husband's love towards herself and her daughter. Clarkson sounds proud and restored and heartbroken all at once. It's a fascinating track that commands the attention of the listener. One of the highlights of Clarkson's songwriting career. 10/10

Monday, February 23, 2015

Live Review: Lady Gaga at the 87th Academy Awards

Lady Gaga. You insanely talented woman. I will not belittle you by saying that you should have been doing this since 2008, because you changed the pop landscape for decades to come, and pushed artistic boundaries and stood by your work in good times and bad. Throughout your career, you have seen ups and more recently your downs. However, you just send the pendulum back on an upward sing.

First off, what a voice. This was your best vocal performance, period, hands down. The six months of vocal training have been showing not only in this performance, but in your work with Tony Bennett and your live performances since. The vibrato: magnificent and effortless. The placement: semi-operatic, excellent and strain free. The texture, the timbre: lush. When we look back at videos from 2009 up to even 2013, we see some characteristics that have been erased. You have answered your critics, and you have politely smacked them in the face.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Live Review: All 23 Grammy Performances in One Word (Maybe Two)

The 57th Grammy Awards aired last night, showing off a respectable 23 performances from legends and newcomers alike. If you missed the show, let Critic of Music give you the run down.

AC/DC: Why?

Ariana Grande: Cute (& pitchy).

Tom Jones and Jessie J: Why?

Miranda Lambert: Fiery.

Kanye West: Disappointing.

Madonna: Well (then).

Ed Sheeran: Blissful.

Electric Light Orchestra: Forgettable.

Adam Levine and Gwen Stefani: Yawn.

Hozier and Annie Lennox: Holy (wow).

Pharrell: Mess.

Katy Perry: Stunning.

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga: Classy.

Usher: Good.

Eric Church: Why?

Brandy Clark and Dwight Yoakam: Yawn.

Rihanna, Kanye West and Paul McCartney: Refreshing.

Sam Smith and Mary J. Blige: Eh.

Juanes: Catchy.

Sia: Tired.

Beck and Chris Martin: Eh.

Beyoncé: Vibrato.

John Legend and Common: Powerful.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Live Review: Katy Perry - Pepsi Super Bowl XLIX Halftime Show

The most viewed spectacle of the year: the Super Bowl halftime show. The star: Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson, better known as Katy Perry. Her twelve and a half minute set featured six of her Billboard No.1 singles, two other stars, and a shooting star. But was the show any good?

Trotting out on to the field atop a silver tiger, Katy glided over her worldwide smash Roar. However, it instantly became apparent that this was not a typical live showing from Perry. She was in tune. The problem however was the metallic quality in her voice, which shows the use of vocal processing. Perry was using a pre-recorded vocal. Not as sinful as using the studio version, and even less sinful since she somewhat admitted she wouldn't be singing entirely live, but still worth a slap on the wrist.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Single Review: Ellie Goulding - Love Me Like You Do

Is Ellie Goulding the new "it" girl of soundtracks? Goulding has been featured on the Twilight, Hunger Games, Divergent and now 50 Shades of Grey soundtracks, some pretty respectable films (that also have/will have sequels for more music opportunities). It's clear to see why she's landing so many gigs, she's fantastic at this kind of stuff.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Can Idina Menzel Sing Let it Go Live?

Idina Menzel had the privilege of singing one of the biggest songs of the year on the 2nd biggest album of the year. However, it may have turned out to be a curse. Menzel clearly struggled with her performance on New Year's Eve, and at her performance at the Academy Awards in February. This is not a one time thing, it is evident of a real problem.

Now we all know that it was cold in New York that night (snow can be seen falling all around her), but while this would be an excuse in most cases - at least Beyoncé would think so - Idina also butchered her performance in an air conditioned theater in February. Both performances were screechy and pitchy, and it's hard to give her a pass for either performance. Yes one performance was stressful on the vocal chords themselves and the other on nerves, but audiences don't care. In this business, you make it work, or you fail. It's a tough rule, but a Broadway icon like Idina should know and understand that by now, and simply make things work.

The real problem here is a strange one, Idina is not mixing her head and chest voices at all. She's simply screaming and screeching in every performance, hoping that pushing a lung's worth of air forward will sustain her higher notes. This is not good technique, and very strange for a Broadway performer since mixing is almost a requirement for musical singers.

All of that being said, Idina has had decent performances of the song IE her Jimmy Fallon performance, though lowered a key and still showing some fatal vocal practices. Idina has some things to work on and consider for the future, including hitting more than 75% of her notes.