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|Written by Mike Cullen|
|Wednesday, 12 January 2011 00:00|
Natasha Bedingfield -- Strip Me
I'm going to partially retract what I said about Natasha Bedingfield a few months ago in my review of her lead single "Touch" for the Strip Me album. She's not going into dance-diva mode with this album -- in fact, "Touch" is the exception to the rule here. Yes, it is a dance track, but it, along with "All I Need," is about the danciest song on the entire album.
And that actually disappoints me in a way, because Bedingfield is at risk of backing herself into a creative corner. Don't get me wrong, Strip Me is an excellent effort and probably my favourite since Unwritten, but it feels a bit samey. Natasha Bedingfield spends another dozen or so tracks on this album navel-gazing about what she wants from life, and how she struggles to achieve it. I like personal lyrics from my artists as much as the next person, but when I find the mindless, no-real-depth dance track my favourite on the album, there is possibly something wrong.
At the end of the day, despite my need for Bedingfield to break out of her mould a little, this album is a rather satisfying one. My only real gripe is the use of Kevin Rudolf's chorus from "Let it Rock" in "All I Need," giving Rudolf a 'featuring' credit; this isn't sampling, it's just plain laziness.
Girl Talk -- All Day
I was first introduced to Girl Talk a couple years ago during BluesFest here in Ottawa. This one-man turntable genius has the ability to create dance-party music to end all dance-party music. His music is kinetic, exciting, and completely mind-blowing, and he manages to do all of this without actually creating any original melodies. He samples and weaves songs from different genres into a seamless mix that will keep you moving from beginning to end.
All Day is Girl Talk's fifth full-length album, and it is literally an 80-minute non-stop megamix of mash-up goodness. It somehow manages to stitch together the likes of Black Sabbath, Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson, and old-school gangster rap that is forward-thinking in its creation, but still retro enough that you will probably recognize N.W.A.'s hit "Express Yourself" the moment it blares from your speakers.
But that's the catch -- this is not the type of album that you can simply listen to on an iPod. You have to have a stereo blasting it in all its glory, whether at a house party or if you're like me and need something loud and energetic while cleaning house (yes, I just suggested cleaning house to this album). Girl Talk has been getting some negative reviews in other media outlets for not producing his best work with this release. It doesn't matter. This may not be his best effort, but it certainly is a damn fine piece of work and a lot better than most stuff out there at the moment. Pick this one up, and tidy up that damn living room already.
Rihanna -- Loud
Rihanna won me over as a fan big time with her smash hit album, Good Girl Gone Bad. She nearly lost me as a fan with her last album, Rated-R. In her need to be a darker artist, she lost a bit of commercial credibility. The album was a flop. With Loud Rihanna finds herself somewhere between the low points and the high points. While not quite as good as Good Girl Gone Bad, it's certainly not the train wreck that Rated-R was.
Loud provides a nice balance of happy songs and darker ones, slow songs and floor-fillers, and its mixed in such a way that you find yourself not listening to the same kind of song twice. Singles "Only Girl in the World" and "What's My Name?" are obvious standout tracks on this album, but so is "Love the Way You Lie Pt. II," which features more vocals by Rihanna and only one rapped verse by Eminem, giving us completion to a lyrical story that began with Eminem's hugely popular "Love the Way You Lie" from this past summer. Marshall Mathers isn't the only person along for the ride on this album either, as Rihanna courts the likes of newcomers Nicki Minaj and Drake.
Overall, a solid effort by Rihanna and hopefully one that will cause fans and critics alike to forgive her for her last album. It is definitely worth picking up, but if you're only into a few songs grab "Only Girl," "S&M," "What's My Name," and "Love the Way You Lie Pt. II."
Robyn -- Body Talk
Robyn puts out her best work when she is given the opportunity to do what she wants to do. Thankfully, in recent years, the music industry has woken up to this fact. Robyn may not have achieved the level of, say, Madonna when it comes to the direction and ultimate distribution of her own work, but she is proving that she is no industry puppet either.
Body Talk is the third and final installment of a series of mini-albums that Robyn set out to release at the beginning of the year. She fulfilled her plan of releasing music when she felt it was ready, giving us the equivalent of one and a half standard albums' worth of material. While perhaps not the most output by a single artist in a single year, the material is certainly of the highest caliber. Body Talk features ten tracks from the previous two releases, and quite frankly it was the best of all previous material bundled with five new tracks. Altogether, it becomes a rather succinct and fulfilling 'album.'
The new material on Body Talk is a bit dancier than the previously-released material, but it all definitely fits together well. Standout tracks "Indestructible," "Call Your Girlfriend," and "Time Machine" in particular would sound great on party playlists, and I imagine will sound fantastic in live shows -- especially "Call Your Girlfriend," where Robyn sings about telling the guy who's interested in her that it's time for him to break up with his girlfriend; it's harsh, but it's the type of edgy lyrical material that Robyn has become known for in the last five years.
While the Body Talk series may not gain Robyn a million new fans nor even win her major accolades, it does prove that once in a while taking a fresh approach can gain you the right kind of attention. With new material and a new strategy for releasing music, Robyn has certainly impressed this music junkie with her output in 2010; I highly recommend that any pop-music fan pick up these three releases.
Kylie Minogue -- "Better Than Today"
This a brave release for Kylie. It's not the typical Kylie song, yet it is. It's different, it's quirky, and -- coupled with the flashy music video -- works on many levels, yet it still feels like it somehow misses the mark. If singles as a promotional tool are supposed to highlight what the album is all about, then "Better Than Today" only does half the job. The Aphrodite album has been described as euphoric dance-pop, the type of album that is meant to keep you on the dance floor. So why did Minogue's label release the least dance-floor worthy song on the album as the third single?
Sure, the song has a lot of charm and will get you moving, but "Better Than Today" is not going to fill your living room during a house party, let alone a mainstream club's dance floor, so why the sudden step back after the releases of "All the Lovers" and "Get Outta My Way"? If Kylie's record label is trying to showcase her range in musical styles they don't need to -- we know what she's capable of stylewise so just give us the goods!
Don't get me wrong, I love this song and have ever since I first heard it on her 2009 North American tour, but it would have been better left as a really great album track, in favour of the more obvious choice of "Put Your Hands Up," "Too Much," or even "Can't Beat the Feeling" for the latest single.