Showing posts with label latin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label latin. Show all posts

Sunday, December 8, 2019

video review: 'romance' by camila cabello

Yeah, before I get to Fen I might as well talk about this - stay tuned!

album review: 'romance' by camila cabello

The popularity of Camila Cabello seems to have to do with everything except the music itself.

And that's a loaded statement, but let's run through it: the widely-publicized split from Fifth Harmony, a well-managed Instagram glam presence when a lot of mainstream pop acts don't really play that game conventionally, and the increasingly cringe-worthy back-and-forth she has with Shawn Mendes with seems to be trying a little too hard to be believable or likable. And in the 2019 mainstream pop market, that might be enough to stand out... even as I can't help but see a faint whiff of similar marketing that Jennifer Lopez used over fifteen years ago in the early 2000s.

And like that era of J.Lo, Camila Cabello's music is bad and riding way more on a faint approximation of style than vocal talent or quality. By far the worst vocalist from Fifth Harmony thanks to her breathy, chewy delivery and weak shrillness, her debut Camila was an exercise in amateurish production that provided more texture than her by-the-numbers forgettable material deserved. And like J.Lo ahead of her, her popularity translating to success lives and dies on the hits, and when you look at her solo output that's not a sterling record. Yes, 'Senorita' was massive, but let's be real: swap out Camila for Becky G or Karol G and doesn't the song get immediately better, maybe because the song is more reliant on brand and marketing? Because when Camila has been required to carry hits by herself, 'Shameless' was a flop because it was a flagrant attempt to co-opt the darker pop edge, and even with the benefit of the crossover Latin market 'Liar' has underperformed. So to hear that her label was dumping this album in early December - I mean, it's not January like last time, but to me that screams like Epic and Syco - the latter of which, I should remind you, is run by Simon Cowell - dumping a turd that doesn't even have a 'Havana' for crossover, especially given the messy recording process that was Camila in 2018. So yeah, this likely wasn't any good - what did we get?

Sunday, April 22, 2018

video review: 'liberty' by lindi ortega

So I have to admit, I'm a little surprised to realize that Lindi Ortega wound up blocking me on Twitter... shame, I thought this album was pretty damn good and she may never see it.

Anyway, next up is some more country (albeit of a slightly different stripe), so stay tuned!

album review: 'liberty' by lindi ortega

So I've talked before about narrative-driven concept records in country music, and while you'd think they'd be more common given the genre's penchant for telling stories... look, I can barely say that with a straight face anymore, especially in the checklist-driven mainstream scene. But even outside of that, for a country artist to take a real risk and build a coherent, multi-part narrative over an entire project... that requires a level of ambition, forethought, and oftentimes budget that can be daunting for any act, especially in the indie scene.

But that wasn't going to stop Lindi Ortega this time. After she broke out in 2012 with the excellent Cigarettes & Truckstops that won her a ton of justifiable critical acclaim, most of which carried into her 2013 follow-up Tin Star, I had the feeling that she was on the cusp of really taking at least the indie scene by storm, if not more. And yet while I mostly liked 2015's Faded Gloryville, it was also clear that her vintage, rockabilly-infused country lane was starting to lose its luster in the face of an increasingly oversaturated scene and songs that just didn't rise to her best... and beyond all of that, there's just not a lot of money in that brand of indie country, and Nashville is an expensive city. So she left it altogether, came back to Canada, and set out to make her most ambitious project to date, putting aside the rockabilly tones for something grander and rougher, pulling on spaghetti western bombast like that of Ennio Morricone for the gritty melodrama to come. Three acts, fifteen tracks, with songs in Spanish and English blending mariachi with her smoky blend of noir and country rock, I've been wanting to cover this for weeks... and now that it's up the schedule, let's dig in: what did we get on Liberty?

Sunday, December 3, 2017

movie review: 'coco'

This one is a pretty straightforward review - remarkably easy to talk about it too - but man, it's a good one.

But it's not the only thing dropping tonight - stay tuned!

Friday, October 20, 2017

video review: 'el dorado' by shakira

So considering the record dropped months ago, I'm a little astounded how well this video has done... heh, guess there really was some demand.

Anyway, next up is something new, stay tuned!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

album review: 'el dorado' by shakira

Well, this is awkward, and I think an explanation is owed why I'm covering this months after it was released, because given how many times I've said I'm a Shakira fan, you'd think I'd be on top of this...

And yet I've been pretty reticent about reviewing this record and here's why: I don't speak Spanish. I know maybe a few words, I can maybe follow the general gist of it if I try, but I have a hard enough understanding French, and I'm Canadian! And thus when I discovered that Shakira's newest record has only a few English songs on it, I didn't have the same interest, because one of the reasons I like Shakira's songwriting is that her phrasing of English feels distinct and a little offkilter in a cool way. If I wasn't going to get that - and given that I was generally underwhelmed by the lead-off singles - I didn't have the same interest. And it's not even that I'm averse to covering music in a different language - I've covered black metal that's not in English, although you could definitely make the argument that lyrics are generally peripheral when it comes to that genre in comparison with pop. But as I've said in the past, I connect best to music when I can follow or understand the arc of the songs, and I was concerned about that with El Dorado, especially considering Shakira herself admitted uncertainty and writer's block going into it. So yeah, this might be a fairly short review, but my Patrons did laboriously vote to get it to the top of my schedule, so okay, how did it go?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

video review: 'the navigator' by hurray for the riff raff

Yes, I'm way too late to talk about this, but still, I'm happy it got up the schedule because it was most certainly worth it.

And yet, in something more timely... well, I'm excited. Stay tuned!

album review: 'the navigator' by hurray for the riff raff

I always feel a little at a loss when talking about Hurray For The Riff Raff. The main project of Puerto Rican-American Alynda Segarra, I was first asked to cover her way back in 2014, and after an extended delay I finally got to dig into the back catalog and their debut on ATO Small Town Heroes, which I may have miscategorized as a major label instead of just being one of the larger indie labels. But to some extent it wasn't an unfair categorization - before Small Town Heroes there was a much more ragged and disheveled character to the production that I found powerfully organic and really charming, the sort of rougher tones that felt potent and authentic in the best possible way, something that the smoother, cleaner pickups didn't quite flatter. And what got frustrating is that it wasn't the ballads that suffered, but the more upbeat songs with greater rollick - which of course wasn't a terrible thing, as the restraint allowed the really strong songwriting to shine through, but it also meant that many of my fonder memories of Small Town Heroes are slower and more melancholic rather than of the real edge Segarra could bring.

And yet that looked to be changing in a big way on The Navigator, an album that has won Hurray For The Riff Raff real critical acclaim for venturing back to the roots - and when I say that I mean Segarra's Puerto Rican roots on a full-fledged two part concept album, both in the sound and writing. Which yes, is a bold step for a record barely over forty minutes, but that could reflect a level of rough tightness that I missed from before she signed with ATO. And when I heard this record was digging more deeply into the social themes that colored 'The Body Electric' and 'Small Town Heroes', I was all the more intrigued... but just like last time, I'm late to the punch with this one. But given that I'm the only person who has ever reviewed this group on YouTube, what did we find on The Navigator?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

video review: 'it's album time' by todd terje (RETRO REVIEW)

Man, this record was a lot of unexpected fun. Definitely highly recommended, if you haven't checked it out already - and considering it came out about eight months ago, you don't have any excuses.

Okay, tomorrow is episode 3 of Billboard BREAKDOWN, so stay tuned!

album review: 'it's album time' by todd terje (RETRO REVIEW)

One of the biggest criticisms of 2014 in music as a whole is that it's been a bit of a boring year. Not in that things haven't happened or great albums haven't been released - I've got lists that are bursting at the seams of great songs and albums you'll be seeing very soon - but that there haven't been truly 'classic' records dropped or songs/events that really lit the world on fire. It's one of the reasons why there hasn't been a lot of critical consensus in terms of album picks on the year-end lists that have already been released - a few recurring names, but not a lot in common at the top.

And there is something to this argument. With few exceptions, music both in the underground and mainstream has seemed more reserved and less willing to shock or be in your face in comparison with last year, where there was a lot of that. Coupled with stagnation on the pop charts, it's led to a year where not a lot has seemed to have happened, and with rare exception, the top albums are a little more subdued, not as immediately quantifiable as outright awesome. And once again, with only a few exceptions, I can agree with that.

But discussing why this is the case is a little trickier. Some of it might just be burnout - too much of Kanye screaming and Miley's ass in our face might have just exhausted people and led them to be more accepting of quieter, potentially even less interesting material. As such, I've been wary of checking out the long-awaited debut album from Todd Terje all year. He's a Norwegian DJ who's been around in the electronic and disco scene for almost ten years, with a reputation for making what he himself has described as 'good, danceable elevator music'. In other words, it wasn't exactly a record that was screaming for attention - but, given some of the critical acclaim it has received, I was curious enough to check it out? So, is it really 'album time'?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

video review: 'globalization' by pitbull

Man, this was a welcome shift.

Okay, I might tackle one of the albums I missed way earlier this year... stay tuned!

album review: 'globalization' by pitbull

I'm a little surprised I haven't done a full-length review of any of Pitbull's albums, or really given an opinion on him besides just in passing. Let's change that, shall we?

So, Pitbull. Miami-based rapper, started off in the southern crunk scene of the mid-2000s, he really hit it big during the club boom of the late-2000s, able to transition his limited wordplay with just enough charisma to take on the role of the club VIP. And for a while, Pitbull's continued success was mystifying to me, because not only was he racking up a respectable number of hits, he was also simultaneously restarting the careers of Latin stars like Enrique Iglesias, Jennifer Lopez, and even Marc Anthony. And that's not counting hits he got with T-Pain, Chris Brown, Christina Aguliera, Usher, Ne-Yo, Ke$ha, the list goes on! Pitbull was like The Game of pop and EDM-flavoured hip-hop, the majority of his hits were on collaborations. And yet his lyrical content was so thin and interchangeable between track to track that it was baffling that he had managed to stick around even despite the complete implosion of the club boom.

Well here's the funny thing - I've actually been to a Pitbull show when he was on tour with Ke$ha - surprise surprise, he's actually pretty good live despite the majority of his collaborators not being with him - and I noticed something about his audience: they were usually older or European. And then his chart longevity started making a little more sense. Say what you will about Pitbull, but he does have charisma and a unique presence, and since he's so thoroughly entrenched in his own lane and is thoroughly bilingual, and one of his most distinctive lyrical traits is his love of travel, it makes sense he'd attract that kind of audience, who likely wouldn't be as fickle as a younger, more trend-following fanbase.

So okay, I get why he's stuck around, but does that make his material any good? Well for me, he's hit-and-miss, as he doesn't really compose album statements beyond heaps of radio-ready singles. So with that in mind, I figured it could be interesting to check out his newest record titled Globalization. What did we get?

Monday, June 23, 2014

video review: 'a.k.a.' by jennifer lopez

Ugh, this was a dud. Guarantee that it'll be forgotten by the end of the year.

Next up... either Ed Sheeran or Tiesto. We'll see, so stay tuned!

album review: 'a.k.a.' by jennifer lopez

It kind of amazes me that it's been over fifteen years since Jennifer Lopez released her first album. It definitely amazes me that this is her eighth studio album over the course of the past fifteen years, and that people are actually requested that I cover this album in some way.

It amazes me because I, for the life of me, do not understand the continued appeal of Jennifer Lopez outside of the Hispanic demographic, or even inside it. J.Lo began her career in TV and movies before jumping into the oversaturated pop diva scene of the late 90s, and for a few years she was very successful. However, looking back on that material, I can say that it's not exactly good. She never had the pipes of a Christina Aguilera or the creative songwriting of Shakira, instead riding the Latin trend of the time before transitioning into R&B and giving The LOX a legitimate charting hit. It didn't help matters that songs like 'I'm Real' and 'Jenny From The Block' tried to coast by on assertion of 'realness' and down-to-earth authenticity that plainly didn't reflect her multi-millionaire lifestyle and tabloid fixture romances. Eventually, hip-hop got dirtier and Jennifer Lopez's material got milder, which lead to her mid-period albums not catching on and her to star in a succession of terribly forgettable romantic comedies after the hilarious catastrophe that was Gigli.

And yet in 2011, thanks to the rise of Pitbull, Jennifer Lopez's music career suddenly got a second wind and began to ride a second smaller Latin wave that saw Enrique Iglesias and even Marc Anthony briefly return to the charts. And look, the hits that J.Lo charted in this wave of dance pop weren't bad, but at the same time, we weren't exactly short on pop divas making club songs, and with Rihanna, Ke$ha, Beyonce, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Pink, Britney Spears, and even Christina Aguilera, what unique elements did Jennifer Lopez bring to the table?

And thus, I was planning on skipping this Jennifer Lopez album. I mean, while Pitbull's career has somehow held steam despite his consistently awful lyrics, the club boom is over, and somehow I didn't get the feeling J.Lo was going to be hopping on the EDM trend, so I had no idea what to expect, especially consider twenty-six different producers worked on this record. So, what did we get?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

video review: 'shakira' by shakira

Damn, I wish this album was better. Eh, it happens.

Next up... yes, I'll will be covering 'Pinata' by Madlib & Freddie Gibbs, but I need a little more time to truly process it, so it'll probably be Jerrod Niemann next. Stay tuned!

album review: 'shakira' by shakira

Oh, I've been looking forward to this review since the beginning of the year.

See, if we were to go back twelve years to 2002 and look at my list of my top 10 best hit songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart... well, the first one would be Eminem's 'Lose Yourself' and the second would be 'Where Were You', Alan Jackson's heartbreaking song about 9/11 and really the best song not written by Bruce Springsteen about that tragedy, but the third on my list would 'Whenever, Wherever' by Shakira, an artist of which I've been a fan since she's crossed over to English radio in the early 2000s. And looking back on her massively successful career, I don't feel any shame whatsoever in saying that Shakira is the sort of pop star I really do enjoy. Not only is she the main writer of a lot of her own music - and a pretty good one at that - she's also the sort of pop star who can blend genres effectively, has a distinctive voice and sound, and also has buckets of raw charisma. She works along a similar line of alpha female sexuality that Beyonce does, but I've always thought Shakira has more emotional range and always seemed to be having more fun as a pop singer.

Plus, she's weird - and I mean that as a compliment. Between the odd assortment of instrumentation she routinely uses and her frequently bizarre lyrical choices, I'm always a little perplexed whenever I cover a Shakira album, because while she might tackle conventional pop subject matter, she's going to do it in her way, and damn everyone else. And yet, she's been quiet for a while, because after she released She-Wolf in 2009 and Sale el Sol in 2010 in Spanish, she took some time off, half to have a baby, half to work as a coach on The Voice, and half because she changed labels to RCA Records. On the one hand, I'm happy to see a new record from Shakira... but on the other hand, there are significantly more names in the writing credits than I'd usually like to see on a Shakira album, plus some collaborators that don't leave me that enthused, including Rihanna and country artist Blake Shelton of all people, who seems to make it his job to collaborate with everyone who shows up on The Voice with him. So, how is this new self-titled album from Shakira?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

video review: 'sex and love' by enrique iglesias

Well, that was easier than I expected it would be.

Next up... ugh, Foster The People. Hold on, folks, this won't be pretty.

album review: 'sex and love' by enrique iglesias

So back in the 90s after grunge fizzled out all too early, pop music went through something of an identity crisis in terms of what music would chart. Pop punk, swing dance, the ska revival, Europop, boy bands, nu metal, post-grunge, adult alternative, and all manner of other genres competing for cultural dominance. It was a swirling mess of confusion that led to all manner of one-hit wonders and acts that would fizzle out dramatically in the early 2000s after 9/11 when the charts got a whole lot darker and angrier.

And one of those crazes of the time was the Latin revival, and leading the charge was Enrique Iglesias. Son of Julio Iglesias, one of the most famous and successful Latin music acts of all time, Enrique broke into English radio after two well-received Spanish albums thanks to the recommendations of Gerardo (the mugging asshole who sang 'Rico Suave'). And for a brief few years, Enrique Iglesias' fusion of Latin romance and high-energy dance tracks were a pretty potent force on the pop charts. And I'll admit, I bought into it: the production had flavour, Enrique's sincerity and passion overcame some of the questionable lyrics, and the man did have some real charisma. The man has made some killer songs that I enjoy to this day, and I won't apologize for it.

But the pop charts have always been fickle, and a few years later, Enrique Iglesias' career on English radio seemed to sputter out. His 2007 album went nowhere even though he was experimenting with a darker style, and even critics who had supported him in the past weren't exactly fond of it. So in 2010, he continued his reinvention from the smooth Latin lover into more of the club VIP, and thanks to collaborations with the other reinvented Latin artist Pitbull (people forget he used to make crunk music), he managed to leap back into the spotlight. This time, however, I wasn't onboard - the love-struck sincerity seemed less genuine now, and coupled with lyrics that were worse than ever in songs like 'Tonight (I'm Loving You)' or 'I Like It' or 'Dirty Dancer', and an abundance of sterile modern production and that sucked away his humanity, I was just about done with Enrique Iglesias.

So to be honest, I wasn't looking forward to covering this new album Sex and Love. Every step towards a rougher club/dance sound had made his music get worse, and considering initial buzz on this album was that it was sleazier than ever, I expected the worst. So what did I get?