It’s a pity Kylie Minogue publicly said in an interview that she will never do a similarly styled Impossible Princess album again. It would’ve been perfect, at this point in her career, to make one, because most of her younger fans would not be familiar with the work she did in this album. This was released way back in 1997 – and even I, who was already musically active at that time, didn’t quite notice the album, mainly because it wasn’t pushed hard enough by her record company here in the Philippines. Though the songs in the album are not the usual Kylie Minogue songs that one is accustomed to listening to, especially that her output these past two decades have largely been dance-inspired albums, another one of this type of this album late in her career, would definitely get her fans talking – and hopefully see her from another perspective. Yes, her Golden album was in itself a very personal album, it wasn’t as adventurous as this one. For this album, it was like Kylie Minogue said to her production team – “Fuck it, let’s do something different, something I’ve never done before, vocally, something that I don’t usually do, something that would make my fans do a double take – when they hear the songs from this album on the radio”. Incidentally, Kylie Minogue, had songwriting credits in almost all the songs in this album, produced some of the tracks and worked with different producers whose previous work verged more on rock, trip hop and electronic music – and the results are quite evident in the songs from this album. Yes, the dance influence is still there – I don’t think you can totally eradicate that from any Kylie Minogue album – but the tracks have veered away from it – and it is one of those rare instances that you can hear her in a rock-inspired ditty.
Tony Fabe Jr.
Collected by ”@tonyfabelous”
Written by “@tonyfabelous”
Rihanna’s Anti Is Strong in Vocal Work But Like Most of Her Albums, Lack the Cohesion That Makes An Album A Great One
When I heard Rihanna’s “Work”, I was quite excited to hear the album that went with it. It was already her eighth studio offering, and at that point in her career, Rihanna was and still is considered one of the top female artists of all time. However, I admit I was a bit disappointed with her album Anti. I checked the writing and producing credits of most of the songs here and it showed a high level of involvement from Rihanna herself. I daresay though that even with more involvement from her side, she cannot still properly articulate the direction that her record wants to take. So, although the album has some great standalone tracks, the end product is like most of her albums, a hodgepodge of different musical styles, some of them interesting, some of them, you wonder, why there got approved in the first place. Anyway, Anti was still a successful album, producing three more US top 10 hits including another #1 song for her in “Work”. Also, I did enjoy her vocals this time, as she was trying different ways of showing off the songs she chose for this album. So, although my sonic journey through her album has its peaks and valleys, I still get great satisfaction from her vocals – which I think, is still her greatest asset. If only she finds THAT producer who can help her coalesce her targeted themes and musical tastes, because I know she can do it, being successful in the business for more than a decade now. I heard her next album is veering back to reggae. That would be an interesting album to check as she goes back to her roots. For now, I will talk about the songs I enjoyed here in Anti.
“We teach girls to shrink themselves / To make themselves smaller / We say to girls / "You can have ambition / But not too much / You should aim to be successful / But not too successful /” Otherwise you will threaten the man". I want to begin my narrative for Beyoncé’s self-titled album with these powerful words from Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, as featured in Beyoncé’s song “Flawless”. She says more towards the end of the song but I will reserve that for later. I am thankful that celebrities like Beyoncé use their celebrity clout to espouse advocacies that moves the human race forward, in this case, giving importance to the ambition of little girls – who – in most countries (many in Asia, actually), are swept aside due to societal pressures like marriage and child-rearing. The singer is a prime example of what a strong, smart, talented, black woman can do – she may be American – but she can also represent African women and all other black women around the world who have to play second fiddle to the patriarchy entrenched in their societies. I personally advocate education for girls because they are going to be the mothers of the future – and we all know that weak mothers may result in weakened families and unguided children indulging in drugs, crime, and other illicit activities. This album is a gem – probably her strongest work ever. I thought Beyoncé had already reached her peak with “Single Ladies” and “Love on Top”, but here – she just stretches her musical imagination to the limits – and produces mini-operettas in most of the songs – in some form of free-flowing music and verse – something which she hasn’t done before – and is not commonly done by most artists – since the songs would not be radio-friendly and might turn off many of her fans. I admit, I too did not enjoy the album immediately. It took me about three months of continuous listening before I felt that incredible spark of joy towards this album! It did help that I was continuously dancing to some of the songs in this album – “Partition”, “Mine”, and “Drunk in Love”, since they were big favorites of my dance teachers. It was like we were doing interpretative dance. I loved dancing to those songs and the choreography envisioned by my dance teachers were the most creative work I have ever danced to in my whole life as an amateur hip hop dancer LOL. That is why this album is very important to me since it taught me the importance of self-expression, of getting out of my core self, of setting my imagination free!
I grew up in a generation where when we liked a particular song of an artist, we buy his or her or their band’s whole album. We were ‘trained’ to actually buy the album – and it does help since I get to know the artist more and if he or she or they are worth following as a fan. I am saying this because I just discovered that I actually bought three of Drake’s albums – Thank Me Later, Scorpion, and this one I am reviewing now, Views. I wouldn’t really say I am a Drake fan but seeing that I have three of his CDs just means I was really into him! Well, that is true when it comes to the looks department, because, Drake does look good than most of his contemporaries. He’s like the rapper you wouldn’t be afraid to introduce to your mother. That part can certainly help any up-and-coming artist. But more than that, Drake had the ability to create a few catchy songs per album – which in reality, is what he actually needs theoretically, for these albums to sell in the millions. For Scorpion, he had “Nice For What”, “God’s Plan”, and “In My Feelings” which all went to #1 in the US charts, with the latter, spawning a viral video that was mimicked the world over. In Thank Me Later, he had “Find Your Love”, which went to #5 in the US charts. I guess for Views, I bought the album because of “Hotline Bling” and “One Dance”, which were radio staples here in Manila, but were also songs that we danced to in my dance classes in the gym. So even if I was not familiar with his other songs in his albums, at least I knew his hits, and those were enough for me to buy his albums.
For someone who writes and sings her own songs, Taylor Swift’s second album, Fearless aptly describes her approach to songwriting. Only barely 18 years old when she was writing songs for this album, one can see that even at a young age, she already has that keen sense and intuition needed by a successful songwriter. She understands fully the current structure of songwriting, knowing how the verses tell the story, and then swiftly bringing everything into a crescendo through a catchy chorus. She wrote all the 13 songs in this album, sharing co-writing credits in six of them. She also produced this album along with Nathan Chapman. When this album came out, there was a dearth of female representation in country music, least of all – a very young female performer – so her entrance into the country scene was really a breath of fresh air in a milieu dominated by adult male singers in their 30s and 40s. I am also not surprised why she named this album Fearless because she tackles subject matters which younger females are drawn to and she does not hold back in telling their stories, including her own. Much later, Taylor would gain a reputation of writing about her ex-boyfriends and guys she dated, much to the chagrin of those poor fellows. Some of them retaliate through song, the others prefer to be gentlemanly about it and just keep their mouths shut. Even this early in her career, Taylor is already naming names. She’s not subtle at all in “Hey Stephen” and names a girl called Abigail in “Fifteen”. In this album, Taylor Swift is still an ingenue but with a sharp wit and a keen eye for observing her generation’s love affairs. She will do more damage soon but for now, her songs seem to be extensions of her own personal diary – and her stories are interwoven into this Fearless compilation.
I listened to Avril Lavigne’s Goodbye Lullaby again this week, and although it’s not the first go-to Avril Lavigne album I’d choose, I realized, as I was listening to it, that it was the most even album she had ever made (this was her fourth studio album). With even, I mean, even though the songs in it did not become big #1 songs, they were pretty likeable, and these are songs I can sing along to when I’m driving or just joyriding. No wonder, I have great memories of her Black Star Tour show here in Manila, because most of the songs she sang there, came from this album! When I was listening to this album, I had faint recollections of singing along with them – and since the song “Black Star” was here – I realized that this was the album that had those songs! Chart-wise, this album only had one US top 20 hit for Avril, in “What The Hell”, which peaked at #11 – a far cry from her other albums which produced either a #1 song, or multiple top 10 songs. Nevertheless, personally, I love this album more than her other releases because I think at this stage in her career, Avril was able to get it together – to put all her best ideas from her past albums and re-apply it here with more confidence and maturity. The first five songs are great, beginning with “Black Star” through “What The Hell” and “Smile”. But the fun doesn’t end there, as Avril continues to make good music from the sixth song to the last song in the album – the song she gave to the Alice in Wonderland movie soundtrack (aptly entitled “Alice”).
Just like Janelle Monáe, I got to know Cher as an actress first in the 80s, before learning later that she was already a chart-topping artist in the 60s and 70s. In 1983, she gained worldwide acclaim when her movie Silkwood gave her her first Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress. Then in 1985, I saw her in Mask, where she won Best Actress in the Cannes Film Festival. Finally, she won the Oscar Best Actress award for Moonstruck in 1988. That was also the time that she decided to record again with her self-titled album in 1987. In 1989, she released this album Heart of Stone, and I was really surprised to learn that it was already her 19th album! Amazing! I thought at that time that it was just maybe her 3rd or 4th album, but 19th, wow, that meant she had a really long career in music, something which I discovered much later on. Actors who sing, and singers who act are dime a dozen in Hollywood, but Cher is exemplary because she was able to juggle all of that, including a long career on television as well – and reach the peak in all those mediums. This album was particularly important because it gave her three more top 10 songs in the US – an achievement really, considering that her first recording was way back in 1965. So to get four top 10 hits from an album 24 years into your musical career is an incredible achievement. This album also showed me the racy side of Cher because in the video for “If I Could Turn Back Time” she wore this very revealing dress – as she sang the song in what looked like an aircraft carrier –with all these male soldiers singing along with her. I don’t know why she continued to dress that way when she was already a respectable actress by that time! Oh well, I think that Cher was just being herself.
Trust Shakira to come up with something sexual yet coming from somewhere strange and erotic. She Wolf is the eighth studio album of the Colombian singer and it came in the heels of her successful Oral Fixation Vol. 1 and 2 double album. I guess because those albums were heavily Latin-flavored, she decided to veer away from her Latin roots a little bit in this album. It’s still there of course. It would be impossible to take out Latin music from a Shakira album. What I mean is, in this album, through the help of The Neptunes production team, she decides to experiment and add other sounds into her core production and I actually like what I hear. Some of the songs work, some, not quite, but as a whole effort, it shows her willingness to evolve and make her music more palatable to a bigger non-Latin America market. By doing so though, she may alienate her core Latin American audience but also gets herself more exposure and traction in areas in the world that listen to contemporary pop or EDM music. The album is a composite of songs where R&B mixes with Latin music so one can hear different interesting instruments in it. What is in there though is Shakira’s smoldering vocals as she navigates each song in her trademark sensual way. Once again, in the album I have, there are three Spanish songs, two of them, the Spanish versions of the songs in English – and – I have pointed this out before, the Spanish versions are much better – as translations often lose some of the nuance of the song. Nevertheless, Shakira straddles both worlds comfortably and anyway, it’s only those who can speak both Spanish AND English who can notice the missing nuances. Otherwise, dance away to this album and your hips will continue to shake from this Shakira offering.
Well, there are country-sounding songs in this magnificent album of Kacey Musgraves called aptly Golden Hour. But, like many artists nowadays, their compunction to strictly follow the tenets of the genres they have been assigned to, are not followed at all and these artists simply do as they please. Sometimes, they bend those genres the way they want – infusing whoever influenced them in making their album - so don’t be surprised if I say some of her songs sounds like pop music. In her interviews for this album, Kacey mentioned her influences for this album to be Sade, Imogen Heap, the Bee Gees, Selena and the band Tame Impala. When I read it, I said “Oh, ok, why am I not surprised?” Anyhow, just like the verdict of the Recording Academy who has given this album the coveted Grammy award for 2019 Album of the Year, I daresay, I agree wholeheartedly with their decision (although I did say in an earlier narrative that I voted for Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer). This is simply, a beautiful album – if that simple adjective can encompass all the beauty and the lightness and the positivity and the sonic trip I took while listening to this gem. I was actually sitting in a café in a normally busy street right smack in the university belt of my home city. Since it was a Sunday morning, traffic was sparse and it took some time for that part of the city to wake up, being it a Sunday and all. As soon as I put my earphones and played this album, it was as if the hairs on my body started to stand like I was electrified! But this was not a rock album or a hard rock album for that matter. I think it was the smooth music (Sade), the harmonious vocals (Bee Gees), the interesting sonic-scape she created (Tame Impala), the youthful bounce of her supposedly country twanged music (Selena), and the intimate songwriting style (Imogen Heap) she has consistently been using since album #1 (this is album #3). If you noticed, I put where I think the influencers she mentioned in her previous interviews have influenced her – in what aspect. At least, that gives me a clearer understanding of her vision for this album.
Collected by ”@tonyfabelous”
Collected by ”@tonyfabelous”
Collected by ”@tonyfabelous”
Collected by ”@tonyfabelous”
Collected by ”@tonyfabelous”
Collected by ”@tonyfabelous”
Huge music geek. Thank God for music. Saved my life in many ways.