Wow! I think we all can agree the state of pop music has never been better--especially after last night's MTV Music Video Awards!
I usually don't watch those sort of things--generally, I'm out partying with society's upper crust--but due to a pesky fluke, I managed to catch a few glimpses and, happily, was reassured all was right with the world!
Most notably, the fact that Britney Spears was finally awarded all she's been artistically due over the years was especially heartwarming--like many, I too feel 2008 represents her peak year as an artist! Additionally, in the Best New Artist category, the strong showing of superstars Tokio Hotel over piddling newcomers Miley Cyrus, Jordin Sparks, Katy Perry, and Taylor Swift--I mean, who's even heard of them?--proved once and for all that true talent will always win out!
In all, anyone who thinks today's pop music scene isn't on the up-and-up is going to have to deal with me first! If I'm not around, leave a message and I'll call back!
Metallica: Death Magnetic (Warner) Word is that this new Metallica album is their best since The Black Album, but I never even knew Prince was a fan! It's hard not to admire these guys for sticking to their guns: It's true, magnetic tape has historically had problems with aging, and sometimes older archived material has to literally be baked in an oven to be fully recovered! Digital really is the only way! But the big question, of course, is does this album rock? Does it roll? Does it carry on the band's fabulous dignity with style, grace, and wit? To which, I'm proud to announce: 1)Yes, 2)A series of parallelograms, 3)But Leo Sayer had better hair! Buy it this Friday, when it officially goes on sale!
Jessica Simpson: Do You Know (Columbia Nashville) It's time I confessed: I'm not just a fan of Jessica Simpson's wonderful voice--man, can she coo!--but I'm also starting to feel that she's...how can I put this?...somewhat attractive as well! As a result, I'm biased! I think this album is great! My favorite part is probably the cover--though the picture on the back of the CD is pretty great as well! If you're like me, you'll nab this CD as quickly as possible, put it on, look at the cover, pull out the checkbook, and start paying bills! Maybe you'll even listen to it, though if you're a real country fan--and who isn't?--you may find yourself hankering for more traditional fare like Sara Evans or Carrie Underwood! After all, being swayed by looks can get you in trouble!
LL Cool J: Exit 13 (Def Jam) Everybody has their own favorite memories when it comes to encountering an icon, and I must confess in the case of Mr. Cool J--an affable fellow by any standard--my own involves interviewing both him and teen star Joey Lawrence in the mid-'90s simultaneously, for a popular magazine, and hearing them both attest to the effect music has had on their lives! Furthermore, his role as Sherman "Preacher" Dudley in the 1999 film Deep Blue Sea was similarly memorable! His new record is great--though, to be candid, I suspect devoting an entire album to his favorite parts of the New Jersey Turnpike may in some ways be artistically limiting! Oh well!
Gym Class Heroes: The Quilt (Decaydance/Fueled By Ramen) You've got to give the Gym Class Heroes credit for conspicuously casting their lot with the legacy of Hall & Oates' Daryl Hall--he is cool, and an entire generation doesn't quite get that--and the man himself makes an appearance here along with Busta Rhymes and cool Brit singer Estelle, so, so far so good! Furthermore, where many of today's biggest rockers make a show of their overall manliness--discussing their sexual prowess, their rough-and-tumble disregard for those less fortunate, etc.--the Heroes have instead decided to devote their brand new album to a lovely quilt made by their lead vocalist's grandmother! Highlights of the album include tracks "Catch Me If You Can," "Cookie Jar" and "Home," and frankly, only the lack of their long-awaited cover of Dan Hill's "Sometimes When We Touch" makes this less than a five-star album! I'd suggest buying this and some peanut brittle and enjoying a brisk tea!
Kardinal Offishall: Not 4 Sale (Geffen) By no means a newcomer, Kardinal Offishall has a hit on his hands with "Dangerous," featuring Akon, and is looking to "bust wide open," as some would have it! However, there's been a serious tactical blunder! In the same manner that '60s radical Abbie Hoffman caused retail consternation with his infamous tome Steal This Book, the man's apparently arbitrary titling of his new album--Not 4 Sale--will confuse many of today's best and brightest record store employees, and perhaps hinder this fab disc's overall sales impact! And though I'm not sure, I suspect the Pope will get on his case about that spelling error! Heck!
Natalie Cole: Still Unforgettable (Rhino) Cole once made headlines by recording a duet with her late father Nat "King" Cole, so why not do it again just for kicks? It might sell! Sort of a continuation of her hit album Unforgettable--intriguingly titled Still Unforgettable--this disc features another duet with her famous pop--"Walkin' My Baby Back Home"--and features album art that is in many ways reminiscent of its predecessor! Filled to the brim with classy pop standards, the disc will likely sell to fans of the first album--unless, God forbid, they see it in stores, pick it up, wonder if they have it already, and--perhaps sadly--note: "I forget!"
Civet: Hell Hath No Fury (Hellcat/Epitath) Any guy in his right mind who picks up this album is going to look at its cover and say, "Boy, would I like to eat at that restaurant!" Wittily described as "Four tattooed girls turned on by Motorhead," these babes-gone-bad rock like they mean it! Though a careful listening may lead some to wonder whether these chickaroos are really as tough as they let on: Fury, of course, was the equine star of a much-watched '50s television show, and gals who like horses, of course, have hearts of gold and are closet romantics! One thing's for sure: you wouldn't want to order a mojito from this bunch!
Various Artists: From The Capitol Vaults vinyl reissues (Capitol) The vinyl comeback has been much-heralded--most vocally from people who never endured the joys of 1)buying the ubiquitous crappy pressings that filled most record stores during the '70s and '80s and 2)then trying to return them. But when the pressings are deliberately designed to be high quality, 180-gram, virgin discs--hey, those nutty audiophiles may have a point! Capitol's unleashed a big batch of A+ level product--including catalog by Radiohead, Coldplay, the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, Brian Wilson's new That Lucky Old Sun, R.E.M.s Document, and the Steve Miller Band's Greatest Hits 1974-78--and they look and sound great! Plus they're big! Easy to hold in your hands! Hard to rip on your computer! What say we just forget about the last few decades--that whole CD thing, our troubled economy, the upcoming presidential election--and groove on the sonic purity that these marvelous discs uniformly offer! Hey, I'm streaming one right now!
Tricky: Knowle West Boy (Domino) He was once the cat's pajamas, but the brutal world of music criticism pitted him against arch-rival Goldie once too often and the world wasn't prepared for two superheroes with extraordinary musical taste! The man's first album since 2003's Vulnerable, this disc is marvelously listenable, and purportedly deals with the man's earliest days in his Brixton neighborhood--when, like Goldie, he'd heard that Snow White was looking for an eighth dwarf and opportunity beckoned!