Showing posts with label natalia kills. Show all posts
Showing posts with label natalia kills. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

video review: 'trouble' by natalia kills

Jesus, I'm exhausted - lot of reviews in a short time, and I'm not even done yet. Ariana Grande still waits in the wings, and I'm more than aware that this is only the first wave in September. 

Either way, here's the review of the new album from Natalia Kills, complete with a bit of a rant on trends within record labels and an examination of how this album compares with one of my favourite albums from last year (and long time readers of this blog should know exactly which one that is). 

In any case, I need food and sleep. Next review comes tomorrow.

album review: 'trouble' by natalia kills

If I were able to disregard certain artists just by looking at their record label, it would save me a lot of time.

I should explain. While you typically have your huge record labels - Universal, Warner, and Sony - you also have your smaller labels that are dedicated to putting out a specific style and format of music, and can sometimes even be headed up by the lead artist on the label, or were even founded by said artist (Dr. Dre in the case of Aftermath, for example). And with this rough categorization and the knowledge that certain producers work across multiple artists on the same label, you can detect trends that crop up in the music of artists signed to these labels, and if you dislike those trends, you have an easy target to blame.

And recently, the label Cherrytree Records has come up in my line of fire more than once. This is the record label who put out LMFAO and the Far East Movement, and they handle the distribution of La Roux, Robyn, Ellie Goulding, and bizarrely Marianas Trench in the United States (Marianas Trench should really be on Fuelled By Ramen by now). They also gathered considerable fame for putting out Lady Gaga's first two albums, The Fame and The Fame Monster.  They pride themselves as being a label for up-and-coming artists and for promoting what they call 'alternative pop'. Okay, noble goals to be sure, and I can get behind that, particularly if they're promoting a more baroque or riskier style in their pop music.

The problem with Cherrytree Records is that their producers are seldom ever up to the task of matching their artists' creative ambitions, which can lead to glossy instrumentation that approaches interesting material, but lacks the skills behind the production board to truly elevate it beyond shallow, occasionally disposable pop music (obviously there are exceptions to every rule). And when your artists have no desire but to make the shallowest and most vacant of material, or they lack the talent to make anything greater (looking at you, LMFAO and Far East Movement), you end up with a label with a reputation for superficial flash but little underneath.

But let me be fair here. There's nothing wrong with shallow party music if it's executed well, and so far this year, Cherrytree did deliver with Colette Carr's Skitszo (an album that, much to my surprise, has remained pretty solid for me throughout the year), and thus, I was at least a little interested when I heard about the sophomore album from Natalia Kills. So, out of curiosity, I checked out her first album Perfectionist, to see what she was like, and...

Well, she's pretty good but if I'm looking for the classic example of an artist who is handicapped by the production weaknesses of her label, Natalia Kills would be a prime example. She has a pretty good voice and some interesting lyrics that actually put a bit of meat in her claims to be inspired by Kate Bush, but her attempts at a gothic darkwave sound on that album fall flat no matter how hard she tries, mostly because the sound feels distinctly derivative of and/or sampled from older darkwave and industrial acts like Sisters of Mercy, Depeche Mode, and especially Nine Inch Nails with a hint of the same gloss Lady Gaga's material was splashed with on The Fame Monster. I have the feeling that if Natalia Kills were given the producers behind Charli XCX's True Romance, she might have a better chance of realizing her vision - but at the same time, the other unfortunate thing she shares in common with Charli XCX is self-obsession. Natalia Kills has said she's a perfectionist and the album revolves around said desires, but at the end of the day, most of those desires appear to be for wealth and fame (with love discarded by the wayside), and none of it is made to sound all that exciting or attractive or all that interesting.  Yeah, she's a good lyricist and she's got some interesting ideas where to take said lyrics (some which raised serious questions, 'Acid Annie' in particular), but she hasn't quite sold me on why I should really care one way or the other. Now all of that being said, she's a much better lyricist that I expected and occasionally had a few songs ('Not In Love' and especially 'Broke' stood out for me on Perfectionist) that I found genuinely engaging, so there's definitely potential here if pointed in the right direction.

So, on that note, does Natalia Kills manage to make me care on her reportedly darker follow-up, Trouble? Normally, darker sophomore albums are the death knell of young artists' careers, but given that Natalia Kills was already heading in a darker direction, will she break the cycle?