Saturday, May 12, 2012

Album Review: Monica "New Life"

Monica follows up her comeback album Still Standing with New Life, an album that, based on the picture painted by the label prior to its release, was supposed to be a rich, soulful effort filled with Missy Elliott-produced, Jazmine Sullivan-penned brilliance. Instead, New Life features tracks that vary both in substance & quality, due in part to her mismatch with writer/producer Rico Love.

After an unnecessary intro that features Mary J. Blige in a speaking-only role, Mo rejoins Brandy, whose voice complements hers perfectly, on the incredible "It All Belongs To Me", a highly underrated collaboration that was well worth the wait. However, without dual diva power to hide his mediocre lyrics, Rico Love's composition "Daddy's Good Girl" (that title...) falls flat, despite Mo's valiant efforts. The album makes up ground a bit with the reggae-tinged "Man Who Has Everything" before heading into "Big Mistake", a signature Monica ballad in vocal styling, though not particularly well-written by Lamb.

Substance is lacking from "Take A Chance", which includes an outstandingly lazy verse from Wale & notes that sounds almost off-key, if not terrible, from Monica. On the contrary, one of the album's highlights is found in the Polow Da Don-produced "Without You" & its intriguing structure, which leads nicely into one of Monica's career-standout songs "Until It's Gone". With the one-two-three-punch of Monica, Missy Elliott, & Jazmine Sullivan to back it up, the heartbreakingly gorgeous ballad features vocals for days!

From Jermaine Dupri, who brought us "Love All Over Me", comes the disappointing "Amazing", which precedes "Cry", another gem from Jazmine Sullivan. Lastly, Polow brings us "Time To Move On", whose subject matter bothers me as a closer to New Life... but more so because, while solid, the track is no way to follow the sweeping brilliance that has come before it (see: "Until It's Gone", "Cry"). And for sanity's sake, we're just going to ignore that ridiculous outro.

Now, my problem with New Life is certainly not Monica's vocals, because she certainly brings those. My issue lies in the fact that not only is there not enough Missy/Jazmine, but Polow doesn't bring his absolute best, JD doesn't bring his best, & Rico, who also has better material, & Monica just don't mix very well. The label may have skimped down on material similar to "Anything (To Find You)" & "Until It's Gone" after they failed to make a splash on the charts, but 1) the dissolution of J Records & Monica's move to RCA prevented proper promotion for "Until It's Gone" to occur & 2) even with the addition of her "The Boy Is Mine" collaborator, Rico's work for Monica didn't perform any better. I say all of this from a place of love because I believe Monica's voice is so strong that it deserves the best material, like bonus track "Catch Me" & the aforementioned "Anything", & despite label politics, in R&B today, when you find your musical soulmates, there's no reason to stray too far from them ("Everything To Me", anyone?!).

New Life: B-

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Bring Da Beat Back's 4th Anniversary!

As Bring Da Beat Back celebrates four years online, a new era is about to unfold. Having graduated college & moved on to the real world, life is calling & I will no longer be updating the blog on a day-to-day basis. While there are other outlets out there that provide daily news, I will continue to use BDBB to post album reviews, commentary, & whatever else I feel like when I feel the need. I truly thank each & every one of you that has visited & enjoyed my blog over the last four years, & I hope you will keep Bring Da Beat Back tucked away in your favorites to check up on every now & again!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Dawn Richard "SMFU" Video Preview

Dawn Richard has unleashed a trailer for her first solo video "SMFU (Save Me From U)" off her upcoming debut album GoldenHeart. I really hope the new year inspires people like her, Brandy, Cassie, Monica, Melanie Fiona... (need I go on?) to start making some real moves toward getting some music out!

New Jennifer Lopez "American Idol" Promo Pic

Jennifer Lopez will return to judge a second season of American Idol, the first time in four years the show's judging panel has not seen a change. As long as the crew isn't looking to completely turn the show into Nashville Star, I'm excited for the new season!


Kelly Clarkson Performs On Z100 Jingle Ball 2011

Since U Been Gone

Mr. Know It All

What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger) & My Life Would Suck Without You

Kelly Clarkson also performed last month at the 2011 Z100 Jingle Ball. Her latest album Stronger is out now!

OneRepublic "Good Life (Disney Version)" Video Premiere

OneRepublic has recreated their music video for "Good Life" off the album Waking Up with footage from Disney Parks, which has appropriately been using the band's song in their recent promotional material.

Kelly Clarkson "Live From The Troubadour"

Shortly before the release of her new album Stronger, Kelly Clarkson performed a short concert at the Troubadour that was unceremoniously uploaded to VEVO. She sounded great! Here's the setlist:

Dark Side
Mr. Know It All
Already Gone
My Life Would Suck Without You

A Night With Beyonce

Early last month, a special entitled A Night With Beyonce aired in the UK. I thought it was a rehashing of her Live At Roseland DVD like her Thanksgiving specials the last couple of years, but it turns out that it was entirely new footage! (The "I Was Here" performance from last night was from this taping.) Beyonce was having an especially good night vocally, so make sure you check it out, especially the "Countdown" performance! Hosted by everybody favorite on-air personality, The X Factor's Steve Jones, the special features Beyonce answering questions from the audience in between the following performances:

Crazy In Love
At Last
End Of Time
If I Were A Boy/You Oughta Know
Best Thing I Never Had
Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)

Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve '12 Performance Highlights

Nicki Minaj - Medley

Nicki Minaj "Super Bass"

Beyonce "I Was Here"

Nicki Minaj shut it down at Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve '12 with performances of her David Guetta collabo "Turn Me On", new single "Roman In Moscow", & biggest hit yet. Beyonce also provided the special with a pre-recorded performance from London (more on that later).

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Bring Da Beat Back's Top 10 Albums Of 2011

#1) Kelly Rowland Here I Am
Album Review

#2) Beyonce 4
Album Review

#3) Rihanna Talk That Talk
Album Review

#4) Jennifer Lopez Love?
Album Review

5) Mya K.I.S.S.
Album Review

#6) Avril Lavigne Goodbye Lullaby
Album Review

#7) Kelly Clarkson Stronger
Album Review

#8) Britney Spears Femme Fatale

#9) Angels & Airwaves Love
Album Review

#10) Mary J. Blige My Life II... The Journey Continues (Act 1)
Album Review

Billboard Update

^#1 Album #1 Single^

As Michael Buble's Christmas remains atop the Billboard 200 album chart, LMFAO take the top spot on the Hot 100 singles chart with "Sexy & I Know It", while Nicki Minaj earns her fourth top 10 hit with Big Sean on "Dance (A$$)", which jumps 12-10 this week.

See full charts HERE

(Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Album Review: Mya "K.I.S.S."

It's been too long--over eight years--since a Mya album came out in the US. Since 2003's Moodring, there was 2007's unreleased/accidentally-released-in-Japan Liberation, 2008's Japan-only (on purpose this time) Sugar & Spice (I'm only sad about missing out on the former), & the 2009 Beauty & The Streets mixtape that we did get, but she could've kept... (& why that got a CD release instead of K.I.S.S. is lost on me) but only now has a brand new studio album, K.I.S.S., been given a digital release here. Japan may have been given K.I.S.S. back in April, but Mya has rewarded our patience with several new tracks on the US version, a perfect gift in the otherwise complete R&B drought known as December 2011.

1. "K.I.S.S.": Mya explains what her 2012 motto to "keep it sexy + simple" is all about in this Chuck Harmony production. It sure is nice to have that voice back in my life! 5/5

2. "Rear View Mirror" (ft. Sean Paul): Another surprisingly quality jam from the indie artist. 5/5

3. "Take Him Out" (ft. Spice): Probably my favorite US addition, this island-flavored banger keeps the album going strong. 5/5

4. "Fabulous Life": A truly fantastic song that deserves to be a huge worldwide hit (& would've been with a major label behind it). 5/5

5. "Earthquake" (ft. Trina): Another really good uptempo. I can totally see the video for it in my head! 4.5/5

6. "Mess Up My Hair": Mya keeps up the fun pace with this one. 4.5/5

7. "Break Your Neck": Not a standout, but a good addition nonetheless. 4/5

8. "Fugitive Of Love": Mya slows it down a bit with this infectious slow jam, reminding us of her versatility. 5/5

9. "Can I": A solo version of her Trina collaboration from earlier this year, this song really shines with Mya by herself on it. 4.5/5

10. "Love Me Some You" (ft. Marques Houston): A lovely track that they sound great together on. 5/5

11. "Mr. Incredible": Her voice truly shines on this one. The chorus is a little repetitive though. 4.5/5

12. "Problem & Solution": As far as I'm concerned, this ranks up there with some of Mya's signature slow jams that we've loved for years. 5/5

13. "Love Comes, Love Goes": A very pretty, honest-to-goodness ballad, which is refreshing in 2011. 4.5/5

14. "Evolve": A good song, sure, but I've never really quite connected with it. 4/5

15. "It's My Birthday": Sorry Mya, but I hate this "song" with a fiery passion. 0/5

16. "Somebody Come Get This B*tch" (ft. Stacie & Lacie): It's hard to believe this is the same artist from three songs ago, but this is definitely a guilty pleasure. 4.5/5

17. "Love Me Some You": This solo version of track 10 is a very cool addition & nice alternative to the duet version. 5/5

What's so great about K.I.S.S. is that it's fresh while still staying consistent with the Mya that we knew & loved 10-ish years ago. It's terrific all across the board, from uptempos to midtempos to ballads. I miss "Before U Say Goodbye" from the Japanese version (&, to a lesser extent, "Runnin' Back" & "Sorry"), but the album offered up here is good enough that the omissions aren't an issue. It surprises me that Mya was able to make an album as good as K.I.S.S. independently, which has me wondering how great her music--& presence in the industry again--would be if a major label would pick her back up.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Album Review: Mary J. Blige "My Life II... The Journey Continues (Act 1)"

Mary J. Blige is back--& right on schedule--with My Life II... The Journey Continues (Act 1), the sequel to her 1994 album My Life that seems to fit right in more with her recent work.

1. "Intro": I'm not sure if this conversation with Diddy about including him in this album is a joke... because he is featured on one (albeit underrated) bonus track & that's it.

2. "Feel Inside" (ft. Nas): This song is just alright. Parts of it are in the part of her range that just isn't the best. Plus, Nicki > Nas. 3.5/5

3. "Midnight Drive" (ft. Brook Lynn): Mary's rap alter-ego helps really kick off the album with this smooth track. 4.5/5

4. "Next Level" (ft. Busta Rhymes): This is one of my favorites. It goes hard & Busta was an excellent choice. 5/5

5. "Ain't Nobody": She sounds good on this Darkchild-produced Chaka Khan cover, but unfortunately, it feels like they weren't able to modernize the song. 4/5

6. "25/8": I love the production on this song, but again, it's in that part of her range where her tone is just... 4/5

7. "Don't Mind": These next few tracks are my favorite part of the album. It's Mary doing Mary, not trying too hard, just chill music. Jerry Wonder is the man for this one! 5/5

8. "No Condition": With her signature structure & a key in her vocal sweet spot, this track has all the elements I need in an MJB song. 5/5

9. "Mr. Wrong" (ft. Drake): Drake aside, this Rico Love composition is, again, right where MJB should be. 5/5

10. "Why" (ft. Rick Ross): Between Rick Ross' multiple verses & the R&B-by-numbers chorus, this isn't one of the album's best offerings. 3.5/5

11. "Love A Woman" (ft. Beyonce): This was a great idea on paper. While I do enjoy them trading verses, the nothing-special voice that the two of them singing in unison on the chorus creates takes away from the power of the song... which isn't the strongest to begin with. 4/5

12. "Empty Prayers": Here is a powerful song for you, my favorite on the album actually. 5/5

13. "Need Someone": Another beautiful ballad. Good stuff. 5/5

14. "The Living Proof": Of course, the Underdogs-produced theme from "The Help" makes for a great closer. 5/5

My Life II... The Journey Continues (Act 1) has some great midtempos and ballads with a few hiccups in between. I wouldn't say it's one of my favorite albums from MJB, but it has some really great songs on it.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Album Review: Rihanna "Talk That Talk"

I've been fighting allowing myself to become a full-fledged fan of Rihanna ever since she released the masterpiece that is Rated R because she's not the world's most talented vocalist & even though Loud was solid, let's just say that Talk That Talk convinced me!

1. "You Da One": We got a hot one right here! Love that island flavor. 5/5

2. "Where Have You Been": Rihanna may be good at this whole urban thing, but she really has a career waiting for her as a dance artist if she so desires because this song is brilliant! 5/5

3. "We Found Love" (ft. Calvin Harris): See what I mean? Not only is this the biggest hit of her career, but it's one of her best songs ever! 5/5

4. "Talk That Talk" (ft. Jay-Z): "Whatcha say now, give it to me baby!" I cannot get this song out of my head, which, in this case, I love! Jay-Z completely phoned in his pathetic lyrics, but I won't hold that against her. 5/5

5. "Cockiness (Love It)": An instant favorite of mine. Love the attitude! 5/5

6. "Birthday Cake": She was on her way to another hit with this one at least. Everything about it is fantastic except the length. 4.5/5

7. "We All Want Love": We've arrived at the (thankfully brief) slower section of the album, which tends to be rough for Rihanna. Slow jams are certainly not her forte on Talk That Talk. This song does very little for me. 2/5

8. "Drunk On Love": A slight improvement over the previous track, but that doesn't stop me from skipping it. 2.5/5

9. "Roc Me Out": She's back in her comfort zone here, so much so that it sounds like "Rude Boy Part 2", but that's not a complaint! 5/5

10. "Watch & Learn": Yet another highlight. She's so in her element on what is definitely the best song Priscilla Renea's ever written. 5/5

11. "Farewell": This, on the other hand, is my least favorite song on the album. It's no "The Last Song"... 1.5/5

For uptempos, Talk That Talk is the go-to Rihanna album. As for the three tracks I wasn't in love with, had she replaced them with the deluxe edition bonus tracks "Red Lipstick" (work more with Chase & Status please, RiRi!), "Do Ya Thang" (a would've-been hit in the making!), & "Fool In Love (in place of "Farewell"), the album would've been *muah* perfecto! Oh, & Rihanna? Please never stop working with Ester Dean. :)

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Friday, December 30, 2011

Countdown To 2012: The Top 5 Videos Of 2011

#1) Beyonce "Run The World (Girls)"