Monthly Archives: December 2012

Sound ‘Round: Rihanna / Kesha

Shamelessly shameless. Rihanna – Unapologetic (Def Jam)rihanna - unapolageticHer seventh album in as many years is her worst because it recycles the same themes she’s been signing about since her notorious incident involving on-again-off-again BF Chris Brown, only they’re done in a lazier, less interesting way. Cliche EDM and dubstep riffs struggle for breathing room against limp-dick ballads, sterile dance numbers and routine radio jingles. But aside from the lackluster music, it’s her tolerance of the man who put her in the hospital which is most appalling. “What’s love without tragedy?” she sings in an obvious nod to the viscous attack she endured at the hands of Brown. Things become even more stupefying on “Nobody’s Business” where the man in question makes a cameo and apes Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel.” “Ain’t nobody’s business but mine and my baby,” he grunts. Sorry buddy. Turns out your felony conviction is part of this thing called the “public record.” As is this terrible piece of hackwork Rihanna’s PR people call an album. GRADE: D+

Key Tracks: N/A

Kesha – Warrior (Kemosabe/RCA)

kesha - warriorBelieve it or not, I’m fine with an entire album of binge drinking, debauchery and one night stands (Exile On Main St. much?). She’s 25 years old and simply a reflection of the club saturated world in which multitudes of other 25 year olds dwell. But while I recognized her place and function in the giant pop machine, her excessive use of auto-tune and bratty brand of sorority rap left me turned off and irritated. This second full length album features the same content and stylistic faults of her 2010 debut, but is easier on the ears thanks to a shrinking reliance on pitch correction and a stronger use of melody. Those looking for another hard hitting club anthem in the same vein as “Tik Tok” or “We R Who We R” will be hard pressed to find anything quite as potent, but she shows an ability to venture out of her comfort zone on the fluffy “Wherever You Are,” where she thinks beyond the morning after, and contemplates keeping her new boy toy around. Good for her. She’s no longer LMFAO’s third wheel, but rather Katy Perry’s redneck cousin. Quite the improvement. GRADE: C

Key Track: Wherever You Are” / “Wonderland


Sound ‘Round: Elvis Presley / The Beach Boys

Nat King Who?

Elvis Presley – Elvis’ Christmas Album (RCA, 1957)

elvis presley christmasThe King laid claim to the sales throne of Christmas albums with this effort in part because — simply put — he was The King. Yet another reason is because he covered all of his bases. Side one, featuring the iconic sway of “Blue Christmas,” and a handful of standards (including a take on “White Christmas” composer Irving Berllin found to be too black) gave kids a fresh set of classics they could claim for themselves in opposition to Bing Crosby and their uncool Bing-Crosby-approving parents. The Leiber and Stoller penned “Santa Claus is Back in Town” rattles and howls as well as “Houndog” ever did, and the sentimental calm of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” belongs on the same compilation with Crosby and Nat Cole. Side two is a product of  the times and economics. Comprised of four hymns from his Peace in the Valley EP released earlier in the year, and two Christ-centric Christmas songs (“O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “Silent Night”) this is a mesh of the commercialism and conservatism which permeated much of Eisenhower America.  And while the holiday tunes are peppy and fun thanks to Presley’s vocal hiccups, I keep coming back to those hymns, which benefit from the Mississippian’s sincere take on classics even older than the ones which mention Saint Nick.  GRADE: A

Key Tracks: (There’ll Be) Peace In the Valley (For Me)” / “Blue Christmas” / “Silent Night

The Beach Boys – The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album (Capitol, 1965)

Beach Boys ChristmasThis follows the same template as Elvis’ album; jingles up front, carols in the back. But where Elvis’ gospel songs were the gems, its vice versa for Brian Wilson and company, who relish in their own vocal arrangements on the Wilson-penned originals “Little Saint Nick,” and “The Man With All the Toys.” Those looking for a complete surf rock Christmas will be disappointed, as virtually the entire back end of the album is dripping with syrupy strings and lavish production that’s almost too Gershwin-esque for its own good.  The big band arrangement of “Santa Claus is Coming To Town” is more suited for Sinatra, while the sappiness of “White Christmas” makes its 2:30 run time seem like an eternity. However, they find a nice compromise between pop and their cornball ways on “Frosty the Snowman,” where one can almost hear Randy Newman picking up a few good ideas. GRADE: B+ 

Key Tracks:Little Saint Nick” / “Frosty the Snowman” / “The Man With All the Toys