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 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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Are We Ready for the End of Harry Potter?

Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) in the first installment of "Harry Potter the Deathly Hallows"

I’m not prone to tears, but I cried when I read the last page of the seventh Harry Potter Book. I’d been reading those books for a decade and now they were over. It wasn’t too sad. There were still films left to be released, so my mind was put at ease.

Tomorrow is the penultimate moment of a huge chapter in millions of lives. We all secretly waited for an owl to bring us a letter of acceptance to Hogwarts (don’t deny it!). Train stations took on a new sense of mystery, as children searched for people walking through walls that lead to platform 9¾. Even bricks became things of intrigue that could lead us to the Wizarding World.

At an age when most of us are starting to lose our imagination in favor of reality, J.K. Rowling let us hold on to a piece of it every time we went to a midnight book release party and curled up with our books, refusing to stop for anything besides food that our mother’s forced us to eat as our nose stayed glued to the action-packed pages. There was magic in those books (and I’m not just talking about the wizardry).

Reading them from ages 10 to 19 was a way to keep the little semblance I had left of my childhood. So many adults lose the ability to believe in magic; to believe in the impossible. I don’t really think, there’s a Wizarding World, but I do think that there are people like Harry, Ron and Hermione who will give up normalcy to follow their destiny; who will put others before themselves. I believe young people can really make a difference if they are willing to do whatever it takes (2008 Election, anyone?) to force change, even if others won’t believe in you. If there weren’t, this world would be an even worse place.

Next summer, when the credits roll on the last film and our childhoods really end, will we be ready to face the possibility of a world where we may no longer be reminded to believe in the impossible?

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Matt LeBlanc Returns to TV

Just when you’d gotten over the bad taste in your mouth that was caused by bad fall premieres (Anyone catch an episode of Undercovers before they pulled the plug?), it’s time for winter premieres. I’ve heard some whispers around the water cooler about the fall season, which will be packed with remakes and shows based on archetypes instead of actually creating complex characters (The critic in me is excited, but the TV-watcher side is sad.), which is the downfall of network television. So, I’m looking to winter for some shows that may be able to give me a little satisfaction before the remake invasion.

Enter, Episodes. The return of Matt LeBlanc, aka Joey from Friends and from the short-lived sitcom named after the same character. Episodes has the quality of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm by portraying a well-known person in the entertainment industry who is playing a version of himself. Basically, Matt LeBlanc is playing Matt LeBlanc. I’m not fond of the narrator in the trailer because it makes it sound a little outdated. (It actually reminds me of the trailer for Breakfast at Tiffany’s). But the show looks promising. I like the idea of British actors and American actors together, but it’s probably going to be a challenge if they plan on meshing the two genres of humor because they’re so different. Comedy usually doesn’t travel well across the Atlantic.

Could this be the return of Matt LeBlanc? Or, more importantly, the catch phrase, “How you doing?”

The show premieres in January of next year.

Be sure to check out what to expect from other television shows next year courtesy of New York Magazine. (I’m obsessed with them.) Of course, I will be putting in my two cents on some of them after they premiere.

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Lil’ Sammie, Is That You?

Prince Sammie

A screenshot of Sammie from his video for the single "Round 2." If you don't want to read this exhaustively long post, you can see the music video and at the bottom.

At the risk of angering a person who may lash at me because they have Google alerts set up to their name or search for mentions of themselves on Twitter (it’s actually happened before!), I have to write this .

Last night, a tweep (that’s Twitter friend, for those of you who were confused) of mine sent an complimentary message to someone named Prince Sammie. My first thought was maybe he was someone I went to school with, but then I realized he was a singer, so I clicked on his website and I hit the motherload.

The first thing that popped up on the website was a raunchy music video for a song called Round 2. I spent the whole time laughing at the video. It’s a slightly pornographic version of Trey Songz’s video for I Invented Sex, but it doesn’t have the charm that comes from flirting with raunchy but staying in the realm of sexy. This was pure raunchiness. There’s actual nudity in it! Not just a little peek of a nipple or something like that. The girl in the video isn’t wearing a shirt, there are parts where she’s not wearing underwear and there are even a couple of parts were they’re in actual sexual positions with no clothes on. Uh, gross.

This video pops up on his website (NSFW), so there’s no telling how many children have had their sexual education requirements met by this video.

At this point, I still didn’t know this was Lil’ Sammie. I didn’t know this was the kid whose song I Like It was always on in my bedroom when it came out. He did have a brief return to the mainstream last year with a collaboration on Soulja Boy’s Kiss Me Thru The Phone, but I’m not much of a Soulja Boy fan, so probably only heard the song once and I don’t even think I’ve ever heard it in its entirety. If I had, I would’ve knowingly stumbled across Prince Sammie, as he is now called, a year ago.

There’s nothing really wrong with Sammie himself. His voice is better than it was in the past (and it was really good then, too). He’s definitely been working on his body, which is a must for just about every male R&B star to succeed. He also has tatoos, which ladies love. He’s the total package, in those respects. I also read a couple of reports that he’s now signed with Interscope Records and releasing new music next year.

I watched his three music videos, which were all directed by Ryan Kristoffer of Ryan Kristoffer Films. Who is Ryan Kristoffer Films, you ask? According to the website, it’s one guy (Ryan Kristoffer, I assume) who does music videos for artists on a small budget and will be making short films soon. He’s not a bad director, but obviously an amateur one. Kristoffer does do a good job with what he has, if the music videos on his site are any indication. He could have a bright future.

Back to Sammie.

His songs are horrible. They’re repetitive and there are a few silent moments with no lyrics. That’s my pet peeve with music because I think if you don’t have enough to say, then don’t write the song. He had a speech at the end of his song B Word that had me in tears laughing. The song is about a woman he loves, but she acts like a “b-word” sometimes (please tell me you’re laughing now). He’s so serious about it that it’s just ridiculous. It’s the most somber of all the videos and the most hilarious. The third song I watched the video for, Pretty Girl Anthem is just as repetitive. The video was shot at a pool party full of girls eagerly trying to be the next big video vixen. Instead of focusing on prettiness, it really focuses more on sexiness, but most men don’t know the difference.  The worst part is that these bad lyrics are sung amazingly.

Did I mention all of the videos look like they were recorded at his house (or, worse, his mother’s house)?

In the spirit of fairness, at least he’s working. He’s very talented and I’m sure when his new music comes out and he can do videos with music label quality equipment and casting, it will all work out better. Right now, it’s just not helping his cause with people like me who haven’t been die-hard fans in his absence.

I don’t want to say anymore because I’m excited to see what you have to say! Please comment and tell me what you think. Am I being too harsh on the former child-singing sensation or am I being too nice?

Here are three of his videos. Just a warning, Round 2 is not safe to view at work.

Round 2 (NSFW)

Pretty Girl Anthem

B Word

My Life Is Twilight? Seriously?

A screenshot of a post from the My Life Is Twilight website.

I’m a fan of the Twilight books. The movies are a sad excuse for an adaptation (the lustful nature of the last one drove me insane), but I see them because my friends drag me out of tradition. Some people taking it too far, especially teenage girls, by making the series their whole lives. Every teenage girl obsessed with it right now will probably develop some brand of necrophilia because their imagination and reality intertwine when it comes to hot undead guys.

An example of going overboard is It’s just like FMyLife or MyLifeIsAverage. People are allowed to post moments from their lives that coincide with a particular theme. This one was just out of left field. No one’s really posted on it much in the past month, so I’m hoping the fad has ended.

I am just flabbergasted that people really bought into this. I cannot imagine spending my days relating things in my life to Twilight. I don’t walk in dark alleys hoping to meet a member of the Volturi or befriend pale guys with the hope at they are secretly undead. My life is definitely not Twilight. I don’t know about you guys, but I personally, don’t want want to live in a world where I can be drained of my blood by pyscho killers or be turned into an immortal abomination against the living. This world is scary enough without the extra dangers.

If you’re looking for a little more Twilight in your life, you may like it. But there are much better (and more sane) ways to waste your time.

Facebook Revolutionizes Messaging

I used to think Disney secretly owned the world, but now I think Facebook is not-so-slowly taking it from them. Their new messaging system is revolutionary.

At first, the thought of getting a Facebook e-mail address seemed stupid. But when I watched the above video, I took back every thought I ever had about it being a dumb idea. It’s a much smarter idea than traditional e-mail. One of the most important things you need to think about when making any content is your audience and Facebook took everyone into consideration, even people who aren’t in their core demographic but who are important to their demographic (your grandmother who doesn’t have a computer, much less a Facebook) into consideration.

I think it’s time for the so-called techy people to stop idolizing Steve Jobs and his black shirt and to start looking up to the guys at Facebook. They’re making people like Jobs and Bill Gates look like they never worked a day in their lives.

Watch the video for more information and read the article on to see how to upgrade your Facebook messaging.

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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An Early Christmas Gift

When I’m not blogging here, doing my self-esteem blog, working on things for school, being a managing editor for my school magazine or at my awesome job at the news wire, I’m a features director.

Actually, it’s more like I’m a features director while I do those other things because I spend a lot of time working on things for JAYE. I love working for the magazine and it’s some of the most fun I’ve had in college. We’re geared toward college women and recent graduates, so I get to pull experiences from my life when I’m looking for story ideas.

Our features department is constantly improving and it’s my mission to make it the best it can be (I’m like the Army). I want all of readers to really feel like they’ve learned something from the feature stories and I want our writers to grow as journalists. As an editor, I’m growing all the time. Mostly with help from our amazing editor-in-chief.

Our December issue is our best yet. I love it to pieces (especially the glittery shoes on pg. 45; I’ve put them on my Las Vegas vacation wish list). In honor of World AIDS Day, it’s our sex issue. We have a story on safe-sex teaching v. abstinence education in schools, the best birth control methods for your lifestyle and a story on charities working to fight the AIDS epidemic.

Check it out and tell me what you think:

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