Single Review: Sumera – Wolf

sumera

Sumera is ready for a big breakthrough with exciting new single ‘Wolf’
Sometimes I come across these artists who are exceptionally good, but do not get enough recognition yet. Sumera is one of these musicians, but probably not for long. The singer rose to fame in the Netherlands when she partcipated in X Factor, but after this, she decided to go her own way and released her debut EP Stop Heart independently. Now, two years later, she is back with new material. This week, she premiered the video for the exciting new single, called ‘Wolf’.

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Single Review: Jessie Ware – Say You Love Me

Jessie Ware Say You Love Me cover

Jessie Ware releases inner soul diva on new single

Jessie Ware is quite busy promoting the upcoming release of her sophomore album called Tough Love. Last week, she officially released the amazing first single with the same title, which premiered two months ago. In the meantime she released the hypnotic buzz single ‘Share It all’ and now it is time for the premiere of the official second single ‘Say You Love Me’, on which she once again tries quite a few new things.

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Single Review: Sia – Big Girls Cry

Sia Big Girls Cry

Sia continues promotion for new album with promo single ‘Big Girls Cry’

Sia is busy promoting the upcoming release of her new studio album 1000 Forms Of Fear. The singer, who focused a bit more on composing for and collaborating with other artists recently, is ready to take over the world again as a pop star herself. A few months ago she launched the single ‘Chandelier’, which is absolutely one of the best songs of the year so far. The track is still generating buzz and growing when it comes to airplay and sales in the US, with the help of a few eye catching tv performances. Now that the release of the album is only a week away, she decided to put the track ‘Big Girls Cry’ online, and once again it is pretty amazing.

What made ‘Chandelier’ such a brilliant song, is the endless row of great hooks that make up the structure of the song. The lyrics are great and powerful and the vulnerability in Sia’s voice during the vocally challenging parts tops it all off perfectly. She went on to release ‘Eye of the Needle’ as next promo single. This more down tempo and emotionally moving song sounds like a typical Sia track but at the same time showed another side to this album than ‘Chandelier’. ‘Big Girls Cry’ sits comfortably somewhere in between these tracks with a gorgeous and captivating chorus, not as huge and in your face as ‘Chandelier’, but a bit more poppy and instant than ‘Eye of the Needle’.

Sia dit reign it in a bit more vocally this time around which is good in terms of variety. This does not make the chorus any less great and atmospheric. The track is very instant and the transition from the verses towards the chorus where she sings ‘I’m at home, on my own, check my phone, nothing though, act busy, order in, pay TV, it’s agony’, works brilliantly and is an emotional and honest moment lyrically. The standard of the tracks released so far of this album, including the thrilling ‘Elastic Heart’ from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack is so incredibly high, that I am already pretty sure, 1000 Forms Of Fear will be one of my favourite records of this year.

Single Review: Jessie Ware – Tough Love

Jessie Ware Tough Love Single Cover Art

New Jessie Ware single is sexy summer breeze

Jessie Ware was one of the most exciting new talents in pop when she released her debut album Devotion late 2012. She managed to distinguish herself from everyone else out there with her smooth mix of soulful vocals, electronic productions and some big pop choruses. The record proved to be a grower in terms of success and eventually gave Jessie the opportunity to tour internationally. After a re-release the singer took a break to work on her much anticipated new album, expected to be released later this year. Ware just started promoting the upcoming release of her sophomore effort with the premiere of outstanding new single ‘Tough Love’.

The great thing about this single is that it manages to do, exactly what it should be doing: it still has got Jessie’s signature sound all over it, but at the same time she spices things up by trying new things. Vocally for example, the singer takes a whole different approach on this track. Like she explained in an interview with Pitchfork, she has gained the confidence to show more of herself vocally. Although her debut Devotion is a classy quality record with beautiful vocals, in live shows she showed that she is even capable of much more when it comes to her incredibly strong and versatile voice. On ‘Tough Love’ she proves this by singing the whole track in a quite high register of her voice, which sounds refreshing and surprisingly sexy. This whole sexy vibe is not only in her vocals, but also in the smooth and understated production of the song.

The lyrics of ‘Tough Love’ are actually quite personal and emotional, dealing with missing one another in a long distance relationship. Ware’s choice for a stripped back production with all kinds of subtle sound effects, only adds to the beautiful message of the song. Her repitition of the words ‘That’s called tough love’ and ‘You’ll have me crying out, crying out for more’ is almost magical and provides a great hook to this melodically stunning piece of electronic soul. Let’s just agree that this is the smooth, sensual, sexy and warm summer breeze we were all longing for.

Album Review: Jennifer Lopez – A.K.A.

Jennifer Lopez A.K.A. cover AKA

Jennifer Lopez celebrates 15 years in music with album A.K.A.

It is hard to believe that it is already 15 years ago that Jennifer Lopez had her first wordwide hit with her debut single ‘If You Had My Love’. She released her first album On The 6 in 1999 and as is known, she had a whole bunch of hit singles and albums after this. To be honest however, her more recent output, with the exception of smash hit ‘On The Floor’, did not really impress chartswise. Still she is often seen as a big name in pop music and she is ready to try and take over the world again with full promotion for new album A.K.A..

A.K.A. is the 8th studio album by Lopez. Her previous record, Love?, was released in 2011 and was not one of her most successful ones. Judging by first single ‘First Love’, Jennifer returned to the pop sound with a twist of R&B that proved to be successful on a hit like ‘Get Right’. It is actually a great track with a big, proper pop chorus, that most of her recent work lacked. The song made me excited for this album, so I have to admit it is a bit disappointing to find out it actually is the best and only real pop anthem on the album. Although it is definitely not one of her stronger records yet, this does not mean the first single is the only song worth listening.

The title track that opens the album for example, is catchy, has the right attitude and if you look past the distracting noises in the intro, the song has a fine production as well. It quite accurately sets the tone for the rest of the record which is pop with a lot of influences from hiphop and R&B. On the first track, she invited T.I. for an inescapable rap and she collaborates with a handful of other rappers as well. Iggy Azalea spices up the track ‘Acting Like That’ that is a bit bland without her part and French Montana is not able to make the awfully annoying ‘I Luh Ya Papi’ any better. Of course Pitbull is on the record as well, with a completely ridiculous song called ‘Booty’. The thing is, their first two singles together, ‘On The Floor’ and ‘Dance Again’, were great tracks, but everything they did together after that, from ‘Live It Up’ to that Fifa World Cup song, is just dreadful.

Although most of the raps do not add anything substantial, Lopez also falls short to impress without them. ‘Never Satisfied’ is a decent midtempo pop track but never really takes off or distinguishes itself from everything that is out there at the moment. ‘Emotions’ is actually a pretty good ballad, but I can not help but feel it would have worked better with a stronger and more versatile vocalist. ‘Worry No More’ would have been one of the better moments of the album if it wasn’t for the enormous load of autotune they put onto Jenny’s vocals, which ruins the track for me. Luckily, there are some things here that are worth the wait.

Jennifer brings back a light tropical feel on the beautiful ballad ‘Let It Be Me’. The track feels like a warm, but refreshing summer breeze that stylistaclly reminds of her first two albums. Vocally, Lopez sounds mature and the lyrics are meaningful and heartfelt. When hearing this song, one would wish she would have gone with a little more stripped down approach instead of all the noisy hiphop productions. Bonus track ‘Expertease’ (with lyrics and backing vocals from Sia) is also a decent mid tempo pop song with a memorable chorus. On the last track, ‘Same Girl’, Lopez once again tries to convince us she still is ‘Jenny from the block’ and while this might be true, she is not the successful Jenny that scored hit after hit in the early 2000’s anymore and this album will definitely not bring those glory days back.

Worth a listen: First Love, A.K.A., Let It Be Me, Expertease, Same Girl.

Album Review: Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence

Lana Del Rey Ultraviolence cover art

Lana Del Rey strikes again with outstanding sophomore record

In retrospect, the campaign of Lana Del Rey’s debut album Born To Die was a huge success. She managed to sell around 12 million copies worldwide and singles like the remix of ‘Summertime Sadness’ and The Great Gatsby soundtrack ‘Young & Beautiful’ helped her gain more and more fans. This all made the expectations for the release of her sophomore record Ultraviolence, go through the roof. It is hard to answer the question if this album really lives up to the expectations as it is quite different to Born To Die in quite a lot of aspects. In any way, Lana Del Rey, surprises, stays true to herself and delivers another outstanding record.

Lana Del Rey made her comeback a few months ago when she released the refreshing and brilliant ‘West Coast’, the first single from Ultraviolence. It became apparent that her sound switched to somewhat more of a band sound with less hiphop beats and cinematic strings. The striking but smart tempo changes in the song showed she follows her own path and does not produce songs that sound like immediate hits. This trend continued on Lana’s Nancy Sinatra moment ‘Shades of Cool’, but still everything about them felt like it fitted Lana. We see this trend happening within the whole album. If you expect a Born To Die part two, you might get disappointed. The new record is less poppy, does hardly feature any hiphop beats, the choruses are often not as catchy and infectious as the likes of ‘Blue Jeans’, ‘Radio’ or ‘National Anthem’ and it is all a little less glamorous. The only track that somehow delivers the strings and beats of Born To Die, is the title track ‘Ultraviolence’, that is build up from a lot of hooks. Then what do we get on the new album? An even darker sound, more guitars, a vocally stronger and more confident Del Rey and a whole bunch of different, but still very strong songs.

The album opens with the epic more than 6 minutes long track ‘Cruel World’ and the darker, alternative guitar sound is immediately hearable. The second thing that becomes apparent, is that her lyricism did not change at all. ‘Cruel World’, as well as a lot of the other songs, still deal with the bad guy lover and she once again puts her ‘red party dress’ on in the chorus (although there is no ‘dancing/grinding in the pale moonlight’ involved this time). But who cares if her music repeats itself thematically when it still brings us great melodies like in the chorus and verses of ‘Sad Girl’, packed in a fresh and somewhat more alternative style, that Del Rey seems to wear with a lot more confidence than before.

On the irrestibly strong ‘Fucked My Way Up To The Top’, Del Rey shows off her sassy and playful side as she seems to make fun of all the stories that claimed that she did not rise to success in the music industry in an ‘authentic’ way. We also hear this playfulness in the cheeky ‘Brooklyn Baby’, absolutely one of the highlights of the record. Del Rey has never sounded happier before than in these lyrics about her boyfriend who is in a band, her rare jazz collection and being cooler than her man. Other than this sassiness, she also treats us with enough sadcore, for example in ‘Pretty When You Cry’ and the gorgeous ‘Old Money’, that defenitely has one of the best hooks and most heartbreaking choruses she ever made. The ‘But if you send for me you know I’ll come, and if you call for me you know I’ll run’, are devastatingly beautiful.

It is not only Del Rey who shines on this record, also producer Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys) impresses with incredibly layered productions. The dark and raw sound give the tracks and extra emotional dimension without making the gorgeous melodies drown in too much noise. If I have to be completely honest, I would say that Born To Die had more stand out tracks on it, but Ultraviolence works very well as a cohesive body of work. Del Rey absolutely delivered with reinventing herself sonically but still delivering a quality album with some really impressive songs on it.

Must listens: Brooklyn Baby, Old Money, Sad Girl, Fucked My Way Up To The Top, Ultraviolence (and of course single West Coast).

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Album Recensie: Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence

Lana Del Rey slaat weer toe met ijzersterk tweede album

Achteraf gezien was de campagne rond het debuutalbum van Lana Del Rey, Born To Die, een doorslaand succes. Ze verkocht maar liefst 12 miljoen exemplaren wereldwijd en hits als de remix van ‘Summertime Sadness’ en The Great Gatsby soundtrack ‘Young & Beautiful’ zorgden ervoor dat haar fanbase zich flink uitbreidde. Hierdoor ontstonden er hoge verwachtingen voor het tweede album van de zangeres, getiteld Ultraviolence. Of ze deze verwachtingen ook bij iedereen zal waarmaken is af te wachten, want de nieuwe plaat is op veel fronten niet te vergelijken met voorganger Born To Die. Hoe je het ook wendt of keert, Del Rey verrast, blijft trouw aan haar eigen visie en levert weer een collectie uitstekende songs af.

Lana Del Rey kwam een paar maanden geleden terug met het verfrissende en briljante ‘West Coast’, de eerste single van de nieuwe plaat. Meteen werd duidelijk dat ze een andere richting in was geslagen met een band sound in plaats van de hiphop beats en dramatische strijkers van haar eerdere werk. De opvallende tempowijzigingen lieten zien dat Del Rey niet op makkelijke radiohits jaagt, maar haar eigen pad volgt. Dit was ook hoorbaar op haar Nancy Sinatra Moment, ‘Shades Of Cool’, dat als promosingle werd gelanceerd. Hoewel haar stijl veranderde, voelde alles nog wel aan als typisch Lana Del Rey en dat geldt eigenlijk voor het gehele album. Als je een Born To Die deel 2 verwacht kan je teleurgesteld worden, want de hiphop beats zijn weg, de refreinen zijn minder pakkend op het eerste gehoor dan bijvoorbeeld ‘Blue Jeans’, ‘National Anthem’ en ‘Radio’, het album is minder poppy en ook wat minder glamoureus. De enige song die de beats en strijkers van deze stijl levert, is titeltrack ‘Ultraviolence’, dat een indrukwekkende verzameling pakkende melodieën is. Maar hoe klinkt de rest dan wel? Nog duisterder, meer gebouwd op gitaren, een vocaal sterkere en zelfverzekerdere Del Rey en een grote verzameling onderscheidende, maar nog steeds zeer sterke liedjes.

Het album begint met het meer dan 6 minuten lange ‘Cruel World’, waarop de donkerdere, alternatieve geluiden direct goed te horen zijn. Wat als tweede opvalt, is dat haar teksten eigenlijk maar weinig zijn mee veranderd. Ze zingt namelijk nog steeds over haar aantrekkelijke, maar o zo slechte vriendjes en het rode feestjurkje wat ze regelmatig aan en uittrekt (dansen in ‘the pale moonlight’ ontbreekt echter dit keer). Maar wat maakt het eigenlijk uit als ze zich qua thema’s misschien wat herhaalt, als de melodieën, zoals de refreinen en coupletten van het heerlijke ‘Sad Girl’, die nu verpakt worden in een frisse, maar ietwat rauwere stijl die Lana met meer zelfvertrouwen draagt, nog steeds zo goed zijn?

Op het onweerstaanbaar sterke ‘Fucked My Way Up To The Top’ laat ze zich van een meer speelse en uitdagende kant horen, met een dikke knipoog naar alle verhalen die de ronde deden dat Del Rey niet op een ‘authentieke’ manier zou zijn doorgebroken. Deze ondeugende kant horen we ook terug op het minstens zo speelse ‘Brooklyn Baby’, dat absoluut één van de hoogtepunten van het album is. Del Rey klonk nog niet eerder zo zorgeloos en vrolijk terwijl ze zingt over haar vriend in een band, haar ‘rare jazz collection’ en het feit dat ze cooler is dan haar geliefde. Naast deze pakkende blijheid, worden we ook weer getrakteerd op een flinke dosis ‘sadcore’ op bijvoorbeeld ‘Pretty When You Cry’ en het prachtige ‘Old Money’, dat zeker één van de mooiste melodieën en meest ontroerende refreinen uit haar carrière heeft. Als ze zingt, ‘But if you send for me you know I’ll come, and if you call for me you know I’ll run’, staat het kippenvel al snel op zijn armen.

Het is overigens niet alleen Del Rey die straalt op dit album, maar ook producer Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys) maakt indruk met zijn veelal gelaagde producties. Hij weet de tracks met een donkere en ruwe sound een extra emotionele dimensie mee te geven, zonder de mooie melodieën gelijk in teveel lawaai te laten verdrinken. Als ik heel eerlijk moet zijn, zou ik zeggen dat Born To Die meer liedjes had die er bovenuit staken in kwaliteit, maar tegelijkertijd is Ultraviolence echt een degelijk en passend geheel geworden. Del Rey heeft zichzelf opnieuw uitgevonden en levert wederom een sterk album vol prachtige liedjes af.

Dit moet je gehoord hebben: Brooklyn Baby, Old Money, Sad Girl, Fucked My Way Up To The Top, Ultraviolence (en natuurlijk single West Coast).

Single Review: Mapei – Change

Mapei Change cover

Mapei releases highly anticipated follow-up single

The American born and Stockholm raised singer Mapei made waves on the internet in October when she released the exquisite single ‘Don’t Wait’. Over the past few months the song kept growing in popularity, and now, more than seven months later, she is ready to release the next single from her forthcoming debut album. On tuesday she launched the song ‘Change’. If you expect a ‘Don’t Wait’ part 2, you might be disappointed. If you expect a great pop track, you are in for a treat.

Mapei Change pic

Mapei used to operate as a rapper in the Swedish underground scene, but received international recognition with the release of ‘Don’t Wait’, which shows the girl can sing as well. Lots of people expected great things from her, including me, as I put her in my list of most promising artists for this year. ‘Change’ is the first new material we hear from her since the release of this successful single and although it is hard to compare the two, she definitely does not disappoint. ‘Change’ is a great pop track with a strong and powerful chorus that show off Mapei’s raspy vocals perfectly.

‘Don’t Wait’ impressed with its laidback vibe, absolutely excellent production and subtle but irrestibly catchy melody and chorus. Although ‘Change’ can not yet match the brilliance of its predecessor, it still is a great track that shows a whole different side to Mapei as an artist. The track and especially the chorus, are a lot more ‘in your face’, which works with her distinctive vocals as well. Once again, the production with the rolling drums is very much on point. While ‘Don’t Wait’ had some influences from R&B, ‘Change’ is more of a straightforward pop record, but still her past in hiphop is recognizable in both tracks. Her personal mark is all over both of the tracks and makes me all the more excited for her debut album Hey Hey, that will be released in September.