Elissa’s New Album: As3ad Wa7da – Review

Remember when I told you Lebanese artists have absolutely no system for releasing albums and that Elissa actually setting a release date for her album was a good thing?

Well, I was wrong. Instead of releasing the album on June 25th, as planned, Elissa’s new album As3ad Wa7da (The Happiest One) was just released, a full week early. I believe it’s due to an early leak which is no excuse for a rush release. I doubt though that her fans are displeased.

The reason I’m reviewing this album, with it not being English music, is that I like Elissa. She is one of my favorite contemporary Lebanese singers, regardless of what some people might say about her vocal abilities. What impresses me the most about her is the fact that she is vocal about her beliefs, be it her religion or political views, in a region where that is frowned upon. I also liked the fact that her albums would usually be balanced between Egyptian and Lebanese songs, not exactly giving one dialect an upper hand over the other.

That last point changed with her newest release. The album holds 14 songs, 2 of which are covers of songs by the late Salwa el Atrib and Warda. Out of the remaining 12 songs, which constitute the new material, 3 are Lebanese songs and the rest is Egyptian. I don’t want to sound xenophobic but I would expect a little more balance from an artist who hails Lebanese nationalism as her politics of choice.

But I digress.

The quality of Elissa’s new album is average compared to her previous releases. After different album covers surfaced, the official one being the one at the top of this post, I was skeptical at what might come out of this. But it was a more or less an enjoyable listen.

Opening with the Egyptian dialect-song “Fi Ouyonak” (In Your Eyes), she caters to the people who await such a style from her: the slow, mellow romantic songs. And then as the album moves through songs, its level doesn’t die down. It remains more or less consistent, giving songs here and there that would please different parts of Elissa’s core fanbase which has been awaiting her album for more than two years now.

Te3ebt Minnak, my favorite song on the album, comes as the fifth track on the album and is as song about a relationship gone sour where the protagonist in Elissa’s song is tired from the person she’s singing to. “I wait for one sweet word from you and when I hear it, I forgot I lived less than an ordinary life with you”

Corny, perhaps. But effective. Of course, that’s my loose translation of one of the song’s lyrics.

Other interesting songs on the album are the Lebanese: Kerehtak Ana and Eghmerni. The former comes around the middle of the album while the latter follows it a song later. Kerehtak Ana is obviously about the end of the relationship while Eghmerni is the total opposite, boasting some interesting poetic nuances from writer Siham el Sha3sha3. However, both of them could have been so much better – they both needed an extra revision to bring them to their full potential, be it musically or production-wise.

Elissa’s take on Salwa el Atrib’s  “Alouli el Eid” is interesting but I’m a fan of the song to begin with while her cover of Warda’s “Lola el Malama” shows a side of her vocals that most people would have doubted otherwise. Lola el Malama is also better-delivered from Elissa than Alouli el Eid.

As3ad Wa7da could have used the touch of Marwan Khoury who delivered some of Elissa’s best songs (Betmoun comes to mind), but overall it will satisfy those who like her. However, once the initial hype sets down, one wonders is this really the best Elissa can come up with after a two year and a half wait?

Judging by her more superior previous albums, As3ad Wa7da is an album that made Elissa transiently happy and will make her fans also happy that their favorite singer delivered a new album for them to listen to. But as a casual fan, As3ad Wa7da does almost nothing for me, apart from the few songs on there that I consider as interesting. In fact, I think it lacks anything that would jump at you like her previous albums did (the previous one had Aa Bali Habibi, the one before had Betmoun). Some songs on there are also entirely dispensable that I’ve found myself completely losing interesting halfway through them.

Overall, As3ad Wa7da has the exact formula that an Elissa album would have, except the songs are not as striking: the romantic slow songs, the upbeat dancey songs and the midtempos with trance verses interspersed in them.

6/10

Listen to: Te3ebt Minnak, Kerehtak Ana, As3ad Wa7da.

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Elissa’s New Song: As3ad Wa7da

As it is with Lebanese artists, you’d have no idea they are releasing an album until the album actually drops. There’s no such thing as releasing a single ahead of an album launch in order to promote it or setting a release date way in advance.

But I like Elissa. I appreciate her candidness when it comes to many issues. Yes, her political views being one of those issues she’s honest about.

Elissa’s album, titled As3ad Wa7da, will be released on June 25th. I’ll attempt reviewing it then but no promises for that. The title song off the album was released today. Bakkir, eih?

Here it is:

A few comments.

1) When will radios learn that inserting those annoying voice overs only ruin a song for the listener? What are they trying to achieve with their annoying “Rotana exclusive” balderdash thrown every 30 seconds?

2) When will the current top female Lebanese singers actually release a Lebanese song as their first single off any album?

3) Based on the previews of the album that I’ve listened to, there are far better songs than this one. I don’t think this one is bad – just very similar to what Elissa has released before: Start off normally then insert a trance-ish beat out of nowhere, revert to normality and repeat. But I like it nonetheless.

4) I’m not getting the idea behind the album pictures that were released so far. Is she trying to go all “virgin Mary-ish” with this one? It reminds me of Harissa for some reason.

Also, what’s the point behind the following one?

Yes, that expression on your face was the same as mine when my brother emailed me this picture. Horrible covers aside, what do you think of the song?

 

Update: the official cover of the album:

Carrie Underwood Discusses Her Album “Blown Away”

With the album sitting atop the top-selling albums chart for a second week, Carrie Underwood has taken some time out of her very busy schedule to talk about the 14 songs that make up “Blown Away.” You can check out my review of the album here as well as all the lyrics for the songs here.

Some of the songs gain a different meaning. Others are still pretty-self explanatory. Overall, this is an interesting series of videos that anyone who has listened to the album, or is interested in listening to, should watch:

1 – Good Girl

2 – Blown Away

3 – Two Black Cadillacs

4 – See You Again

5 – Do You Think About Me

6 – Forever Changed

7 – Nobody Ever Told You

8 – One Way Ticket

9 – Thank God For Hometowns

10 – Good in Goodbye

11 – Leave Love Alone

12 – Cupid’s Got a Shotgun

13 – Wine After Whiskey

14 – Who Are You

Blown Away is a great album. It’s an eclectic mix of styles. You’ll find something there to suit your taste, unless you are only into trance in which case you’re out of luck. I’m a bigger fan of the slower songs on it but the uptempos are great as well. If you haven’t given it a listen, you should do so. Odds are you’ll end up buying it.

 

Blown Away (Album Review) – Carrie Underwood

At a time where artists follow a repetitive cycle in their careers of album making and touring, Carrie Underwood has decided to break the routine she found herself in and take her time in giving the music industry her fourth album: Blown Away.

Two and a half years after her latest offering, Play On, was deemed as mediocre by critics, Underwood figured the best approach for album number four was a “all bets are off.” When you’re among your generation’s best vocalists, why not seek out material that’s fitting and can only elevate your talent?

This is what Underwood does on Blown Away in droves.

Opening with the rocking Good Girl, the album doesn’t relent. It moves into the haunting Blown Away, a song about a girl seeking revenge on her abusive father which Underwood delivers breathtakingly. The album goes even darker with Two Black Cadillacs, where a wife and a mistress at the funeral of the man who betrayed them both, a song that Underwood also delivers in a chilling manner.

See You Again, originally written for Narnia’s The Dawn Treader, showcases Underwood’s nuanced vocals as she tells a very significant person that she’ll see him again despite all. Do You Think About Me is an effervescent country song about a young love that is long gone but which Underwood keenly remembers.

The album’s most personal track, Forever Changed, is an old-fashioned country song that chronicles the life of a woman as she fell in love, gave birth and is now losing her memory while her daughter achingly watches. Underwood’s very subtle, nuanced and subdued delivery of Forever Changed adds another dimension to the storytelling.

Nobody Ever Told You, a country uptempo serves as a simple empowering anthem for young girls. It’s followed by the tropical Bob Marley-esque One Way Ticket, written while Carrie Underwood, Josh Kear and Luke Laird were sipping margaritas. The laid back atmosphere of the writing session translates perfectly to song with goofy lyrics such as “tell your boss man where to stick it” and whistling delivered by Underwood herself.

Don’t let the cliché title of Thank God for Hometowns fool you. The song hits a nerve with anyone who comes from a small town anywhere around the world. The Ryan Tedder co-write on the album, Good in Goodbye, is a haunting track about meeting a former lover with whom things ended badly, feeling regret even though both are happy with their lives now. “Sometimes, yes sometimes, there’s good in goodbye.”

On the folky and repetitive Leave Love Alone, Underwood delivers a foot tapper as she repeats “I just can’t leave alone.” The country-heavy, Brad Paisley-guitar driven, Cupid’s Got A Shotgun is the album’s most redneck track. With references to guns, riffles and shotguns, Underwood is escaping love at all costs. Brad Paisley delivers a masterful guitar performance on the track.

Wine After Whiskey, a song that didn’t make Carrie’s previous album Play On, is an aching regret of a relationship that went sour, getting diluted into something that doesn’t work anymore. Who Are You, the album’s most religious track and written by Shania Twain’s former producer Mutt Lange, serves as a decent conclusion to the album and resonates with the faith Carrie has professed on many occasions.

Blown Away features a set of masterful lyrics, grouped together with chilling composition and extremely well-done production. Carrie’s voice doesn’t fight against the production as in previous albums of hers, it complements the instrumentation and serves to showcase both the songs and her delivery, which has truly matured on Blown Away. There are subtle hints, sprinkled here and there, that turn phrases and add depth and dimensions to lyrics, something Underwood had touched on but never delved in before. She plays with that on Blown Away like childsplay, showing that a good vocal performance isn’t always about reaching the stratosphere notes, something that she took time to learn.

Blown Away is a very cohesive album that’s a collection of fourteen very strong tracks, the only one of those which is reminiscent of Carrie’s previous material being Good Girl. The album spans the gamut themes-wise. It’s dark, mysterious, chilling. And it’s also fun, happy, goofy. Both sides are balanced perfectly. None seem to overtake the other, both working together to elevate the album’s level to places that Underwood hadn’t reached artistically before. Underwood is fierce on Blown Away. She’s unrelenting. She’s gut-wrenching. And she occasionally plays.

Blown Away is an album about a life: the ups and downs, the vacations, the bittersweet memories, the hardships, faith…. It is a collection that is more than worth the wait that brought it here. Carrie Underwood has managed to blow away detractors with her fourth album. Country music, prepare to be blown away by the latest offering of Underwood.

Yes, Underwood is back. To say better than ever with an album like Blown Away would be an understatement. Make sure to grab a copy on May 1st. You won’t be disappointed.

Grade: A+

You can stream the album on iTunes here. You can also check out the lyrics for all the songs here.

All the Lyrics of the album “Blown Away” by Carrie Underwood

You can find all the lyrics for Carrie Underwood’s album “Blown Away” (read my review) here:

Good Girl

Blown Away

Two Black Cadillacs

See You Again

Do You Think About Me

Forever Changed

Nobody Ever Told You

One Way Ticket

Thank God for Hometowns

Good in Goodbye

Leave Love Alone

Cupid’s Got A Shotgun

Wine After Whiskey

Who Are You

Carrie Underwood’s “Blown Away” Album Tracks Description

Many country radio personnel are already getting to listen to Carrie Underwood’s fourth studio album, Blown Away, and the reviews so far have been astounding.

From people who think the album crosses the whole gamut: from dark and intense to fun and tropical, every single reviewer is blown away by a different song. Some are calling “Wine After Whiskey” the album’s highlight. Others are saying the title track is a work of art that is beyond intense vocally, lyrically and arrangement-wise. Some have complemented the folky “Leave Love Alone.”

A new addition to Carrie Undewood’s website has a lengthy article about her upcoming album “Blown Away” in which many of the tracks are described. It’s a great read, so do that here.

And this is a brief summary of some of the tracks on the album, just to give you a taste of what awaits on May 1st.

Good Girl: We’ve all heard the song – it’s about Carrie telling the good girl about the bad boy she’s with. (Review)

Blown Away:  a swirling, atmospheric production and intense lyric about abuse and revenge. The song is about a daughter getting revenge on an alcoholic, abusive father.

Two Black Cadillacs: the story of a wife and mistress who conspire to get even with the man who betrayed them both.

See You Again: A song that was originally written for The Chronicles of Narnia about how someone who touches your heart and is always there.

Thank God for Hometowns: a song that celebrates the understated pleasures of small-town living. “Thank God for hometowns, first kisses and touchdowns….”

Cupid’s Got A Shotgun: a high-energy track, and it gets an extra kick from Brad Paisley contributing his signature guitar licks. A fun song, with a touch redneck and very country.

Forever Changed: is about a young girl meeting the love of her life, getting married and having a baby. It takes you back in time, and there is something old fashioned about it. At the end, the mom’s slipping away a little bit. It is a sad song, but it’s not meant to be a sad song. It’s about love, being forever changed, forever loved.

Good In Goodbye: co-written by Carrie, Lindsey and Ryan Tedder, is a bittersweet look at life beyond heartbreak that offers tender truth in the lines “As bad as it was/As bad as it hurt/I thank God I didn’t get what I thought I deserved.” Some reviewers called it a song with a good message.

Nobody Ever Told You: which Carrie wrote with Luke Laird and Hillary Lindsey, boasts an empowering lyric and a breezy, engaging melody. It’s about how people need to hear compliments more – how they need more people to tell them “I love you” and “you are beautiful.”

Leave Love Alone: a folky song about how despite all, you just can’t leave love alone.

Wine After Whiskey: a country lament about how everything after a certain relationship is watered down, like having wine after whiskey. (Lyrics)

One Way Ticket: A song with a tropical mood, with a Zac Brown Band feel to it.

Who Are You: contains the following lyric: Who are you? my everything.

4 (Album Review) – Beyonce

Beyonce - 4 - album cover

I have to admit. When I first heard “Run The World” my expectations for this album by Beyonce sank lower than the Dead Sea. I am not the biggest Beyonce fan but I’ve come to appreciate her as an artist and come to like a few of her songs (Halo, Sweet Dreams, If I Were A Boy, Listen, Irreplaceable…) so it was with caution that I approached listening to this album.

And it is drastically different from what I expected it to be. If the norm is for an artist to release a sample of the album’s sound with the leading single, Beyonce simply shattered that. “Run The World” has nothing to do with any other song on the album. And that’s a very, very good thing.

4 is an album full of ballads where Beyonce showcases her amazing vocals. She’s the kind of artists that’s always underestimated when it comes to her vocal chops, mostly because she caters to an audience that doesn’t really care about such things. So with 4, she shows impeccable growth in that department and she delivers the album that she wanted to make, regardless of how much it would sell or how well radio would respond to its singles.

4 is also an album that could well be the exact theme opposite of the Adele’s brilliant “21”. Where the latter was an album about sweet heartbreak, 4 is an album about falling in love. Even the heartbreak ballads on 4 are songs about how Beyonce still has love for her significant other.

The album opens with the gut-wrenching ballad “1+1”, which I reviewed earlier after Beyonce debuted it in an impeccable performance on American Idol. And if you thought that performance was great, a video of Beyonce singing the song in her dressing room for select friends and family where she was even better, showing that what you get on stage is who she is – not just a synthetically improved gimmick.

The album continues to a song titled “I Care,” a balland about Beyonce’s significant other not caring about her anymore but she can’t help it that she still cares about him. On “I Miss You,” Beyonce sings: “It hurts my pride to tell how I feel but I still need to… I miss you.” Another album highlight.

“Best Thing I Never Had” is the album’s second – and much better – single, where Beyonce declares to the person she was interested it that he doesn’t deserve her tears and she was the best thing he never had.

A change of tempo in the upward direction comes in the form of “Party”, a song that I cannot wrap my head around, mostly because it feels like sub-quality compared to the songs around it. But for those who like dancey Beyonce sound, this song is for you.

On “Rather Die Young,” another vocal-showcase ballad, Beyonce declares to her love interest that even though he smoked too much and drove too fast, he gave her a rush – made her feel like she was seventeen – and she’d rather die young than live her life without him.

“Start Over” is another album highlight where Beyonce acknowledges that the relationship reached a very rough patch, but she can’t help that she still loves the guy. And then she invites him to “start over” because they can’t let their good love die.

“Love On Top” is another declaration of love on the album where Beyonce’s love interest put her love on the top list of his priorities. How he’s the one she always calls, how his lips taste like champagne, etc…

I cannot also wrap my head around “Countdown,” another song for uptempo Beyonce fans. The song is basically a countdown from ten to one that ends with him being the one.

“End of Time” is rumored to be a strong contender for the upcoming single off 4. Many people are loving this song but I feel the album has many stronger songs but I do get the radio potential in this. And after all, you need a strong radio performance of a single to sell the album. On this song, Beyonce declares that she’ll “love you until the end of time.” The song is filled with a tribal-like rhythm.

“I Was Here” is the album’s most personal song. It is a testament of Beyonce’s achievements, what she has accomplished and what she still wants to do: “I wanna leave my footprints on the sands of time… When I leave this world, I’ll leave no regrets. Give something to remember so they won’t forget I was here, I lived, I loved. I did, I’ve done everything that I wanted…”

And the album is concluded with “Run The World (Girls),” which after the series of brilliant songs that precede it sounds like an out of place song on a much superior record. You start thinking what Beyonce was thinking when she released this song as the album’s lead single when she had much stronger songs that could have helped her sell the album more.

It’s always refreshing when a capable artist decides to deliver true artistic songs that display their talents and not just some brainless pop songs that only get you to dance. 4 is an album with many influences, the most prominent of which is an 80s RnB sound. It feels to be a natural evolutionary step for an artist who made her career by walking across genre lines. 4 is a great album that could be considered as Beyonce’s best.

Songs to download:

1+1, I Care, I Miss You, Best Thing I Never Had, I Was Here.