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>So I don’t feel like I can start a blog, and not do a quick recap of the 2009 releases. Because for one a lot of them I may be mentioning in future blogs because they are that good… and also because there haven’t been many noteworthy releases this year. (Actually, you should keep in mind i haven’t had internet at the house for that long now… I probably do need to catch up.)

so i guess i’ll just get started.

The R&B Releases:

The first album that was released this year that i was really excited about was The-Dream’s sophomore album “Love vs Money”. And it’s still my favourite of the year. Much like his debut “Love(Me all summer)/Hate(Me all winter)” was last year. This sophomore album isn’t drastically different from the first, but he actually manages to make it work. Much like Jagged Edge or T.I. or even Mariah Carey, he seems to follow the same winning format and it Wins again. Basically because he makes a slight improvement over the last album, “Mr. Yeah” becomes the 2009 version of his first hit “Shawty is the Shit”, The title track (both Parts 1 & 2) become the sequel to “Nikki”, “Walking on the Moon” completely laps “Fast Car” as the Prince inspired club single from this album. There are a few spots where he goes in a totally new direction however, mainly the two song Opus in the middle of the album “Fancy” and “Right Side of my Brain”. The former being a very ambient track that turns into (at the very end) a Hip Hop Bass Banger that leads seamlessly into the very out there “Brain” which has one of the most addictive hooks on the album. The albums first single “Rockin that Shit” seems a little familiar to his most popular (and most borrowed from — see Jamie Foxx “Blame It”) single “I Luv Your Girl”, but the barely there hook also reminds you of the aforementioned “Shawty is the Shit” so combined they sound fresh. Same with “Kelly’s 12 Play” which takes the best of his “baby-makers” on his last album and blends it with lyrics pretty much everybody of our generation can understand, trying to find that perfect Soundtrack for the bedroom (and I don’t really agree, but ALOT of people will vouch that R. Kelly‘s “12 Play” is That album). In conclusion =P this is a very solid album. All of the songs may not be 5 star rated, but played all together this album will definitely see life throughout the year.

It’s become pretty obvious that since Rihanna’s “Umbrella” exploded in 2007, The-Dream and producer Tricky Stewart (writer and producer of the #1 smash) have been a ubiquitous feature on several of the R&B and Pop albums released since. And that’s going into this new year as well, and their three productions on Ciara‘s third album “Fantasy Ride” (released Tuesday May 5th) mark some of the highlights on a very surprisingly good outing from Miss Ci-Ci. Though The-Dream does have a killer single with Mariah Carey on his own album (that albums second single “My Love“), he may have an even better duet with Ciara on her albums “Lovers Thing” which is a perfect mesh of the 80’s R&B and Today’s repetitive, “Eh Eh” influenced R&B. Even better still is another 80’s inspired slow jam “Keep Dancing on Me”. And our own “Radio Killa” also had a hand in producing Ciara and Ludacris‘ re-pairing “High Price” a very addictive and Hard urban cut. Those are undoubtedly a few of the highlights of “Fantasy Ride” , however Ciara also works well with some different sounds namely the Dance music genre. In what should have been the albums first single, Ciara duets with the now infamous Chris Brown on what couldn’t be described as anything other than a BANGER “Turntables” which is an undeniable dance cut that I hope we get a video for at some point. Rodney Jerkins contributes the superior “Pucker Up” (maybe my favorite song on the album) with great results. Unfortunately, this album is more of a Producers album than it is Ciara’s album. On her previous outing “The Evolution”, Ciara managed to let her voice and her style shine through the upbeat dance tracks. This album she is a little buried under the production. And another thing that’s a bit unfortunate is the fact that her label picked two of the most boring songs off the album (the Young Jeezy featured “Never Ever” and the Timberlake assisted “Love Sex Magic”) and chose to release them as the first and second singles, which might have the majority of people uninterested in what might be the best R&B/Dance album to be released this year.

Now almost the complete opposite is Keri Hilson , a new artist that actually released a bunch of great singles, making alot of people interested in her debut album “In A Perfect World” which ended up being very lackluster. Now it’s no secret that the music industry basically falls in the hands of the Star Writers and Producers of today. An artist alone seemingly can’t get people to buy an album (unless your T.I., Beyonce or Lil Wayne), but who produced it and who is featured on an album seems to be more important. Given that fact, Keri should have had an amazing album. She’s been working her way up in the industry since at least 2006 when she was featured on at least 4 of the tracks from Diddy‘s “Press Play” album. She was featured on a bunch of tracks on Timbaland‘s “Shock Value” including the #1 Hit “The Way I Are“. She has been featured on loads of rappers albums (Nas, Lloyd Banks, Rich Boy), and she was prominently featured in Usher‘s #1 hit video “Love in this Club”. She should have had the pick of the litter to come with a memorable debut. Even on the albums intro track she name drops Super producers Polow Da Don and Timbaland, and we know she works very closely with Danja. So why does her album suck?
A simple answer would be: she’s nothing special. Polow, Timbaland, Danja and even Akon breathe life into alot of the tracks and about half of the album is very good, but most of those standout tracks feature someone else or the track drowns her completely out. Standouts on this album are “Turnin Me On” (great Polow Production, Killer Weezy verse), “Knock You Down” (featuring both Ne-Yo and Kanye), “Return the Favour” (with Timbaland), “Get Your Money Up” (featuring Keyshia Cole and Trina), and “Change Me” (a duet with Akon). While the low points seem to all come from when she is by herself. Though “Energy” (one of the many false-start singles released in 2008) is an amazing song and “How Does it Feel” doesn’t completely suck, pretty much every other song suffers from sounding too much like every other R&B song out there, and she sounds like every other R&B artist. It seems Keri, and this album, is like one of those big blockbuster Summer movies. Where you spend so much on visual effects so you know that’s going to sell the movie, but don’t bother to spend time on a good script or actors. Keri knew she had the best of the best for production, but it seems like she didn’t take the time to make Herself (her voice and personality) more of a standout.

While we’re on disappointing R&B releases, let’s talk about Day26. These “Making the Band” Characters finally released their sophomore album “Forever in a Day” after what might be their best season on the hit MTV reality show. Now this album may not be terrible, it’s far from their self titled debut which had them basically taking the place of 112 and Jagged Edge with nice harmonies and upbeat love songs. This album sounds more like just a R&B radio hodge podge. None of it is terrible, but none of it is really good enough to remember. It’s really not even good enough to devote space on my blog to, so i’ll just leave it at that. Just stick with the singles and the tracks you heard them record on the show(“Stadium Music” “Imma Put it On Her” “So Good”), and than pray that we get a DVD of their most heated season.

The Pop Releases:

There has been alot of predictable and forgettable releases on the Pop side as well. Chris Cornell, of Soundgarden and Audioslave fame, released his third solo album this year. The album “Scream” is a collaboration with my favourite “Used to be Good” Producer Timbaland. Don’t get me wrong, Timbaland is a talented individual but in the past 4 years he hasn’t contributed anything that would be mistaken for innovative or original. And unfortunately this album doesn’t change that. While listening to the album, which is also not terrible, I got the feeling I was listening to retreads of his productions for Bjork, Duran Duran and Madonna. Additionally Chris’ voice seems to not really fit the darker-dance tracks Timbaland provides on this album. They both do their best to make it work though, and that’s fairly evident which is why this album isn’t a totally stinker. In fact, it’s really not bad and it might grow on me. Parts of it are really fun. Some parts just seem a little odd.

Kelly Clarkson, America’s first “Idol”, comes back on the Rock-Light scene with her fourth album “All I Ever Wanted”, which in my opinion, is the most paint-by-numbers Pop album released so far this year. Being that her last album “My December” flopped, it seems like her label was taking no chances. They wanted to construct the perfect Pop/Rock album with all the usual players. For instance, Katy Perry and Max Martin. Katy owned this Rock-Light/Pop market last year with a trio of hit singles produced by Martin… and just when she was fading off Pink delivered a smash hit with her Martin produced “So What”. So of course Clarkson has Martin producing her first single “My Life would suck with You”, and actually taking two unreleased Katy Perry songs for her own (the second single “I Do Not Hook Up” and “Long Shot”). Clarkson also works with Ryan Tedder, who produced and wrote Leona Lewis‘ Monster single “Bleeding Love”, as well as his own “Apologize” with his group OneRepublic. They actually collaborate on most of the albums stand outs “Impossible” and “Save You”. The rest of the album is made up of many lackluster, same sounding songs. The real (and really the Only) standout here is the uptempo Rocker “If I Can’t Have You” which basically shits on the rest of the album. “Cry” is also a nice change within the album because it sounds more country than anything else. (I want to add, Kelly’s big hit singles from 2005 “Since u been gone” and “Behind these Hazel Eyes” were also produced by Max Martin, and actually gave him a bit of a comeback. I just didn’t want it to seem like I was saying Kelly stole Max Martin from anybody.)

Moving on to something new and surprising let’s talk about Chester French. This duo made one of their first appearances on Common‘s “Universal Mind Control” album on one of it’s best songs. And shortly after released a mixtape with Clinton Sparks on their website. All to help build up for their debut release “Love the Future”. Now on the mixtape (“Jacques Jams Vol. 1”) Sparks actually describes them as The Beatles meets Outkast, but don’t get too excited they really aren’t That good. They ARE good though, I’d say it’s more of a mash up between Weezer, N.E.R.D., Beck and maybe a small slice of the Beatles. Their sound is really cool though, they are on the StarTrak label which isn’t very surprising. Though the duo (Maxwell Drummey and D.A. Wallach) produced the entire album on their own, they obviously have a big influence in their label heads Pharrell and Chad. In fact, this album does what those guys were never able to do. Chester French made a better N.E.R.D. album than N.E.R.D. did. In the end it’s a really Fun, catchy, experimental Rock/Hip Hop album that works surprisingly well. “C’Mon (On My Own)” “The Jimmy Choos” “Bebe Buell” are the more upbeat, radio friendly singles while “Not over You” “She Loves Everybody” “Beneath the Veil” and “Sleep” are some excellent tracks that really show their Neptunes influence. And as good as “Love the Future” is, I happen to feel like their mixtape “Jacques Jams, Vol. 1: Endurance” is even better. It actually uses the late 90’s Hip Hop technique of weaving a storyline with the interludes which begin with “Starting a Band” to “Realizing Being a Nerd is Cool” to “Becoming a Douchebag” to “Regaining Your Hard On”, and the interludes are hilarious. This mixtape is also filled with great featured guests from Kardinall Offishall & N.O.R.E. (“No Parents Allowed”), Lady Gaga, Pharrell, Jermaine Dupri, Talib Kweli, Solange Knowles, Diddy, and Jadakiss. But the best two songs come from a collaboration with Janelle Monae titled “Nerd Girl” and the sequel “I’m Sorry“, where he tells his “Nerd Girl” he’s “Sorry” because he got too famous for her. Get into Chester French, I don’t predict that they’ll have any monster singles from “Love the Future” but who knows, they have potential.

Now Last, but definitely not least is my favourite artist Prince. Who released his Target-only “LOtUSFLOW3R” album which is three discs. However you’re only going to need one of those discs. The first disc is actually not even Prince but his “protegee” Brea Valentina (titled “Elixer”). And, yeah I haven’t listened to that. The second disc, “LOtUSFLOW3R”, sounds like Prince trying to time travel into the mid-60’s Psychedelic era and definitely serving up his own Jimi Hendrix style guitar playing. Not a terrible album, well yeah it is. There are only about 3 songs that save this portion of the set. However once you pop in the third disc “MPLSoUND” , listening to the other two will all be worth it. This album is PRINCE, good 1982 sounding Prince. At just 9 tracks, this is a great Prince album. You got some great slow burners like “Ur Gonna C Me” and “Here”, while you get some really hot uptempo club hits (the best he’s done in decades… seriously) in the albums Highlights “Chocolate Box” and “Valentina”. Two songs that could easily get him back onto Mainstream Pop radio (“Chocolate Box” with a verse from Q-Tip, actually gives the best Black Eyed Peasradio hit a run for it’s money). I haven’t really expected much from Prince since the 90’s, and he’s released some fair albums over the years. This one (well “MPLSoUND”) shocked the hell out of me, because I never thought Prince could get back to the greatness of the “1999” Era. He obviously does not surpass that classic album, but he gets as close as he’s been in a very long time.

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