Category Archives: music

Side-by-Side: Justin Bieber’s ‘Boyfriend’ & Justin Timberlake’s ‘Like I Love You’

As I’m writing this, I just realized both their names are Justin. That was totally a coincidence, to be clear. I don’t troll around looking for similar videos from artists with the same first name.

Since I have to stay up on my teen popular culture (I’ll say it’s because I just started doing social media for a teen magazine and want to work in the teen market, but I may secretly enjoy teen culture.), I watched Justin Bieber’s new video for “Boyfriend” Thursday night. I’m going to ignore the fact that the intro made me think my computer couldn’t handle all the teen idol gushing off of the Biebs and turned off, when it was actually just some sort of editing effect. Aside from the fact that the girl in video looks extremely uncomfortable (Was Selena on set or something?) and isn’t into him at all, I was instantly reminded of Justin Timberlake’s first solo music video for “Like I Love You.” J.T. chose a lead in the video who could at least pretend to find him attractive and wasn’t always looking off camera (I swear Selena must have been on the set.), but the whole let’s-dance-in-a-crowded-parking-lot-while-we-try-to-pick-up-a-girl scene took me back a while. They also both do a lot of foot movements and wiggle their shoulders, which I guess is supposed to be sexy. Honestly, it just makes me think they’re shaking a mosquito off or something.

Of course, Justin Bieber’s is exclusively in a parking lot, as he stars into the dead eyes of his lady love. (Sorry, but I just can’t get over how long he made us wait just to see some girl who acts like he had bad breath or something.) J.T. branches out a bit, using some sort of stage and dancing around in leather pants. And can we please not ignore Timberlake’s crotchet hat and the fact that he’s wearing 7-11 shirt at a 7-11! Why did we allow celebrities to dress like this and say nothing? Past fashion critics, you should’ve done better.

I don’t know what you think, but it seems to me that Bieber is using some past inspiration. With J.T.’s track record, it’s a good move. I just wish Mr. Timberlake would do something musical again. Why do we let Jessica Biel stick around if she’s not even encouraging him to get back in the studio? Jess, you have the power to put an end to his hiatus!

Did I mention I like both of these songs? Because I do. Watch and listen, guys. And let me know if there are any other parking lot pick-up videos from pseudo R&B/Pop artists that I should be aware of.

“Boyfriend” by Justin Bieber

“Like I Love You” by Justin Timberlake

Update [5.4.12 at 9:36 p.m.]: MTV Style compared this video to N*Sync’s “Girlfriend” and I definitely see the similarity there, too.

“Girlfriend” by N*Sync

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“Best Thing I Never Had” Music Video

Beyoncé’s video for “Best Thing I Never Had,” the second (third if you count “1+1,” which was her second single before she changed her mind) single from her “4” album premiered on her website and VEVO tonight.

Everybody has to do the wedding video. It’s an unwritten requirement for female artists. Think about it: Mariah Carey in “We Belong Together”; Katy Perry in “Hot N Cold”; Pink in “I Don’t Believe You”; Madonna in “Like a Virgin.” I could keep going. At least she made it down the aisle, which really isn’t the norm for wedding videos.

The video was missing all the sass everyone wanted, but she pulled off the happy vibe well. There’s just not much to it. It’s a good video, but I’m nothing really stood out. I think she set the bar really high with all the dance moves and the story line for “Who Run the World (Girls)” and going the simple route after that wasn’t expected.

With any other artist, the video would have gone unnoticed, but Beyoncé has this charm that makes it easy for her to pull off almost anything.

She pulled it off with smiles worthy of a toothpaste ad (I really need to see her dentist), white lingerie that’s somehow sexy and modest at the same time and a wedding dress that’s to die for. Ten points to anyone who can tell me who the wedding dress designer is. I have an inkling of who the designer may be, but I’m too savvy with wedding dress fashion. [UPDATE: My best friend did some research and found out the wedding dress is Baracci Beverly Hills and the reception dress is Vera Wang. Thank God for friends who love high-end wedding dresses.]

Some of my Twitter friends (tweeps, as I call them) and I want her to do the same thing she did with “B’Day” and make a music video for every song. Pretty please, King B?

Check out the video for “Best Thing I Never Had” below:

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Beyonce “4” Review | What Happens When A Singer is Fearless?

I bought Beyoncé’s deluxe edition of “4” from Target on Wednesday and about halfway through, I had to stop the CD. (Yes, I resorted to dinosaur technology, but I couldn’t wait until I got home and it’s now on my iPod) Not out of frustration or because I didn’t like it. I was just overwhelmed by how good it was; how different it was from anything I’ve heard in years, possibly since Lauryn Hill’s album. Just like “Miseducation” it was a fearlessly recorded album with little or no regard for things like “radio-friendly” tracks. Lauryn’s songs were played on the radio, but they were vastly different from all the crap being played before and after her singles (Have you really listened to those background vocals? That attention to composition was incredible) and it was obvious when she recorded them radio play wasn’t really on her mind–just making music. Beyoncé, a 16-time Grammy winner, brings that same veracity for the craft and catharsis of performance to her latest album, which is expected to be the #1 album in 14 countries without even getting a top 10 spot on Billboard.

I understand why critics have touted the concept, while shying away from actually saying if it’s good or not because nothing out there sounds anything like it. The sound on the previous three albums was one popularized by Beyoncé, but it had a generic quality that was beneath her talents. But that’s what people would rather hear because they’re used to it. Don’t get me wrong, I loved those albums, but I always knew she was holding back. Sometime during her year off, which can be seen in the mini-documentary “Year of 4,” she realized the same.

The sounds in “4” samples heavily from the 1970s and the 1980s, but doesn’t completely rip off the time periods by taking a modern twist. The track “Party” makes you want to get in a time machine and go back to the 80s when house parties were almost on the same level as a hip club and everything seemed a little more laid back. There are showy ballads, like “1+1,” “I Was Here” and “Start Over.” As opposed to her last album, which was full of anthemic dance tracks, this one only has a couple (and they’re not really dance tracks), namely “Love on Top,” “Party” and “Schoolin’ Life” (a bonus track on the deluxe edition).

This isn’t a complete deviation from the Beyoncé we’ve seen in the past. She’s still got her gritty-southern gangster side in “Countdown” (Me and my boo in/my boo coupe riding”), her vulnerable side in “I Miss You” (“I still need you/why is that?”), her sassy side rears its head in “I Care” (“I know you don’t care too much/but I care”) and her sexy side (“I’ll give it all away/just don’t tell nobody tomorrow”). But she’s doing it without worrying so much about how others want her music to be and focusing solely on what she wants it to be.

I wouldn’t call the album perfect. Some of the lyrics don’t flow too well and a few of the beats are all over the place, but with such a great voice, she can pull it off where others would have failed.

Just like Rihanna needed “Rated R” as a way to transition into the next phase in her life, Beyoncé needed this album. But it came off way better than Rihanna’s, serving more as a beacon of light for any artist who’s been afraid to make their own musical path. It seems that Beyoncé needed this album to show the world she could really made a mark doing something other than making you dance at the club or helping you get over a break-up. Like she croons in her ballad “I Was Here”: “I just want them to know/that I gave my all, did my best.”

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‘Marvin’s Room’ Covers | The Room is Getting Crowded

Drake released “Marvin’s Room” in the beginning of June, a somber track from his “Take Care” album that’s set to drop in October. It’s not Drake’s best work by any means, but I do love the premise of a drunken phone call to an ex-girlfriend. The random rapping that interrupts his “singing” is pretty jarring and doesn’t really fit the mood of the song. The music video is pretty low key (and low budget), but it does the job. It’s not a bad song, but any Drake fan will agree he can do way better. Nonetheless, a bunch of artists put their own spin on the song.

JoJo’s cover, subtitled “Can’t Do Better,” was the first I listened to and it’s still the best I’ve heard so far. She strayed the least from the original premise of the song and lyrically she turned it into more of an anthem for girls who find out their ex-boyfriend is dating someone else before they’ve even had a chance to really get over him. Best line: “She’s not crazy like me/I bet you like that.” She added a lot of anger and sass to the song (I’ma send a sexy picture/to remind you what you’ve given up), giving it the extra push it needed for me, and a few other Drake fans I know, to bring ourselves to admit it’s better than his version. This also gives JoJo’s image a lot of maturity, which I think she was hoping for with a new album expected soon. She really set the bar and a line from her version pretty much explains how I feel about every other cover I’ve heard: “I’m the best so you can’t do better.”

Teyana released a cover around the same time as JoJo and she also released a video today. The song is mediocre, to say the least. Teyana seems content to dance around the line of celebrity as more of a socialite than an actual artist, but she does have a beautiful voice. Lyrically, the song wasn’t up to par, mostly because it wasn’t focused. Her feelings are all over the place, which portrays the reality of someone in that situation, but in a song it’s best to stick with one or two emotions than choosing all of them. Also, I think when you sing “Wife-beater and my panties on” in a song, you’re aiming it at a male audience, but you can’t keep their attention when the song they thought was about sex turns into emotional vomit. I did like her homage to Lauryn Hill’s “Ex Factor” at the end of the song and I wish she’d used the song as a model for her own. The video was just as confusing emotionally and visually. It’s basically a love letter to Teyana’s abs and her hair. I’m still confused about why Omarion was even necessary.

Chris Brown was the latest superstar to put out his spin on the track. The only reason he released the song was to put out some vulgar lyrics and remind us all that we’re haters if we don’t like him. Chris, I’ll just have to keep hating because it was garbage and you could have done way better. I know I seem to dislike Chris Brown, but he really just frustrates me because I’ve been waiting to be wrong about him being a complete jerk, but he keeps proving me right.

I was hoping some unknown YouTube sensation would stand above the rest or at least be better than Teyana’s, but I haven’t found one yet.

Check out the original song by Drake and the covers I mentioned below. Are there any good covers out there besides JoJo’s I should listen to? Am I being too harsh on Teyana and Chris?

Look out for a review of Beyonce’s “4” really soon!

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Britney Premieres Video for “Hold It Against Me”

I’m not exactly a huge Britney fan, but her tunes are pretty catchy, so it’s not unusual for me to listen to them on the radio, but I think I only have one of her songs on my iPod. When I heard that her new song was releasing about a month ago, I listened to it the day it came out and it was exactly what I expected–a pop beat made for a night at the club with mediocre vocals. Typical Britney. At least she was consistent.

This video was jarring. There are so many things I don’t understand. Why is she in some strange Willy Wonka-like tunnel with cameras all around her? Why does it seem like she doesn’t know what to do with her hands when she’s in the tunnel? Why is she fighting a double of herself? What is even the concept of this video? Don’t even get me started on all the hands poking out of her dress.

My most important question: where is all the dancing? Britney’s choreographer, Brian Friedman, told MTV’s “The Seven” that this was going to be a dance video. He said as the video got closer and closer, they’d be hurting their backs. What little dancing I saw looked like it wasn’t even executed well by Britney, but the editing made it very hard to tell. The focus seemed to be more on key moves we’ve all seen (the dramatic arm in the face also in “I’m a Slave 4 U”) and her face. If this is what back-breaking rehearsal looks like, I’d hate to see what it looked like when they were just taking it easy.

It wasn’t really a bad video, but it was trying so hard to be artistic. Britney’s barely even an artist, so the thought that she’s artistic is a little laughable.

It’s not like this little review will even matter, though, Britney will always underperform and people will always buy her albums. It’s the way of the world.

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Music & the Triple-Word Repetition

Katy Perry is infamous for the use of three-word repetition on her new album "Teenage Dream."

Is it me or are artists and songwriters just getting lazy? The Grammy nominations made me sick because most of the nominees wrote lazy albums. The verses are usually mediocre, filled with ranting instead of depth, and the choruses commit the deadliest sin of song writing–the triple (sometimes quadruple) word repetition.

The problem with the repetition is that it doesn’t add anything relevant to the song and often makes no sense. It’s a ploy to take up space because the artist and/or songwriter doesn’t have enough talent to write a song full of meaningful words. This repetition is even happening to good songs with meaningful lyrics, but they just don’t care enough to find a way to make a chorus. I call it laziness, but they probably call it music.

Let me give you examples:

“Make ’em go ‘Oh, oh, oh!'” – from “Firework” by Katy Perry

“You made me wanna say bye bye, say bye bye, say bye bye to her” -from “Deuces” by Chris Brown

“I could really use a wish right now (wish right now, wish right now)” -from “Airplanes” by B.O.B ft. Hayley Williams

You know what the biggest problem is about these examples? They’re all Grammy-nominated songs (“Firework” isn’t individually nominated, but the album it’s on is nominated for Album of the Year). The people who recognize greatness in music seem to be on  board with this lazy way of doing things.

Listeners usually don’t know what artists are saying most of the time (just look at Soulja Boy’s career; although, he hasn’t been doing too well lately), so I doubt many people have even noticed. Until we all come together and actually LISTEN to the songs, then artists are just going to put out whatever crap they feel like selling to the masses.

And the masses will buy it.

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Blame Kelly Rowland for Usher’s New Dance-Inspired Sound

Kelly Rowland, Solange and Usher chat it up at the Marlies Dekkers' Paris fashion show. (Image courtesy LIFE)

Finally, we have someone to point a finger at for Usher’s horrendous songs on his latest album Raymond v. Raymond. Only Usher fans who are critically in denial would say the album was good. The standout single on it is Hey Daddy, which makes you pine for the days when Usher was a contemporary R&B star. Now it’s easier to just refer to him as the guy who discovered Justin Bieber. Who do we have to blame for this switch from contemporary R&B to a generic dance sound? Kelly Rowland.

According to an article, Kelly says she encouraged Usher to follow in her footsteps and do dance-floor friendly songs after he said he liked one of her tracks. She also says she was one of the first artists to experiment with the genre two years ago, after leaving Destiny’s Child, and her peers weren’t sure if it would work at the time. News flash: it didn’t. Sure, Kelly’s won two Grammys (one for best sung/rap collaboration with Nelly on “Dilemma), but her albums don’t exactly fly off the shelves. All of her dance-floor singles sound the same.

If you’re a true artist, you can create your own sound in the genre, like Ne-Yo. When I first heard Raymond v. Raymond it seemed to me that Usher was trying to copy Ne-Yo a bit, but only works if you create the sound. When you just use generic beats and songs you didn’t write, it sounds cheesy.

For his next album, I think Usher should listen to his fans and go back to the sound he used for Confessions. Is it me or was every single on that record great? I bet he didn’t take any advice from Kelly Rowland on that one.

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Nicki Minaj Gets ‘Bossed Up’

Rolling Stone Magazine dubbed Nicki Minaj "The New Queen of Hip Hop"

Last week, Nicki Minaj’s MTV Documentary, entitled “My Time Now,” premiered and fans all over sat in front of the TV to get to know the hip hop artist a little better. Personally, I was watching “Real Housewives of Atlanta,” but I flipped to the documentary on commercial breaks. After RHOA went off, I went to MTV.com and watched the entire documentary.

Nicki has lived through a lot of struggles, like being raised by her grandmother in Trinidad while her parents made a life for them in the U.S., having a crack-addicted father and a string of bad jobs. Now, it’s her time and she’s taking it seriously.

I liked Nicki before, but after seeing this episode, I started to like her even more. She’s not just an artist, she’s a businesswoman. She’s not stupid like Lil’ Kim (her Black Friday diss was awful; my mom was listening to it with me and she fell asleep a minute into the song) because she knows her time won’t last forever. I think that’s were a lot of artists mess up. They think we’ll always love them, but people are fickle with music.

My favorite part of the documentary was when she discussed the double standard between women and men. Although at the end of the rant, she asked them not to run it because she thought it made her look stupid, I’m glad they did. She made some really great points and looked anything but stupid.

Here’s the clip where she discusses being a “bitch” v. “bossed up”:

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Is Nicki Minaj Trying Too Hard?

Nicki Minaj rocks a fabulous dress and green hair during an appearance on BET's 106 & Park in April of this year. The rapper debuted her video for "Massive Attack."

I saw a tweet on Twitter the other day from a radio host that said Nicki Minaj was trying too hard. I’d rather not name names because I’ve had a celebrity get an attitude with me before over my opinion, which is pretty ridiculous. I’m personally not interested in becoming famous, especially not for a Twitter war with a celebrity, so I’ll stay mum about who it was.

This host had a point: you really cannot turn on the radio without hearing one of her songs or a collaboration she has done with someone. But shouldn’t new artists be trying hard? Isn’t that the point in saying you want to be a success in any profession?

I don’t think she’s too trying hard, I think she’s putting in the effort she’s supposed to. You don’t usually become a success by sitting around and watching TV all day, especially if you want to be a female rapper.

It’s only because she’s worked so hard in the past that she’s gotten the opportunity to do so many collaborations. Before Lil’ Wayne went to jail (and I’m pretty sure it’ll happen again now that he’s out), he was doing a lot of collaborations, too. Drake also does a lot of collaborations. Eminem was in the same boat during the first peak in his career (I’d venture to say he’s starting a second peak now that he’s back). Lady Gaga hasn’t really done many collaborations on the records of other artists, but when she first started, she was eveyrwhere, too.

A lot of people seem to think Young Money’s success is a fluke. It’s really a product of hard work and creativity. All three of the front-runners of Young Money right now (Lil’ Wayne, Drake and Nicki Minaj) are all some of the hardest workers in the business. They don’t take breaks. I saw Drake in concert a couple of months ago and he talked about taking a break to record more music, which really isn’t the long, Caribbean vacations a lot of artists take after they’ve had their round of first-album fame.

It’d be lazy of her to step back now, especially with her first album releasing on Nov. 22nd. She got this much fame with mixtapes and collaborations, so why would she slow down when we are finally getting the chance to hear songs that reflect  her? Just because she’s so diverse and so original, that doesn’t mean she should just sit back and wait for the world to embrace her.

I think Nicki’s doing exactly what she should be–working hard for what she wants.

To celebrate her hard work, I’ve put some of my favorite songs/collaboration of Nicki Minaj’s.

Right Thru Me (if you’re wondering who the hot guy is in the video, find out here)

Your Love

Up Out My Face by Mariah Carey ft. Nicki Minaj

My Chick Bad by Ludacris ft. Nicki Minaj

Bottoms Up by Trey Songz Ft. Nicki Minaj (I reviewed a Trey Songz performance and you can see what I thought here.)

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Rihanna Re-Invents Herself–Again

Rihanna at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards

Some female singers are better at re-invention than others.

Bad attempts include Britney Spears circa “Blackout” and whatever Christina Aguilera is doing now. Instead of going down that road to Rihanna seems to inching toward joining the ranks of the queens of re-invention, Madonna and Janet Jackson (even they have had their bad re-invention moments, though).

Rihanna started as the “good girl,” serenading us with SOS and We Ride from her first album A Girl Like Me.  She moved onto the Good Girl Gone Bad album and phase with edgier hits like Umbrella and Rehab. Next, she went “good girl gone bad gone gangsta” with her post-Chris Brown album, Rated R, with songs like Hard and G4L (if you haven’t heard G4L, it’s a must-listen song).

The first two albums seemed to be more about her image than Rihanna herself, which happens with young artists a lot. Her last album was more of a reflection of where she was in life. After her very public break-up with Chris Brown, she wasn’t singing about being in love; that’s not where her mind was. The running theme on that album seemed to her taking control of her life and letting everyone know just because she was beaten physically and emotionally by her ex-boyfriend, that didn’t mean she was weak. A few of the songs even captured weak moments that people face when they are in love. When the album came out last year, I actually reviewed it for a publication I wrote for at the time.

If I had to give her name for this phase in her music, which coincides with her soon-to-be-released album Loud, I’d say it was: “good girl gone bad gone woman.” From what I’ve heard of the tracks, Rihanna has really come into her own as a woman. I’d no longer call her a girl. Her first two singles have been about relationships, but they are done in a mature way. Well, mature for a young woman (remember, she’s only 22). They’re fun, upbeat and reflective of how much better her life seems, as opposed to what was happening during her last album. I’m counting on some really good ballads, as well, including Love The Way You Lie (Part II) with Eminem. The first version of that song is one of the most productively honest songs the two have done about their past relationships (Eminem’s marriage was not exactly the stuff from Leave It To Beaver). I also heard a song she did with Nicki Minaj called Raining Men, which is nothing like the original song of the same title, but is an amazing song in its own right.

As she continues down this path to more honesty in her music, I’m hoping Rihanna will go to the next level by picking up a pen and writing a few tracks herself. She’s done some co-writing on her past albums, but I’m hoping she will do a little more of it on her own. I’ve looked up writers for the songs on this next album and it’s looking like she didn’t do any songwriting for it. Surprisingly, Ne-Yo, who has written hits for her like Unfaithful and Take A Bow, did not contribute any songwriting either.

If you’re embarrassingly behind on your music, you can watch the videos to her first two singles below.


Only Girl (In The World
)

What’s My Name ft. Drake

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