1+1 (Single Review) – Beyonce

After the horrid Run The World, Beyonce has unveiled another song off her upcoming album “4”. The song was performed live on the finale of American Idol in what could be described as an emotional performance where Beyonce gave her all to get across the song titled “1+1”.

Don’t let the urban-styled title fool you. This is not a song about math, nor is it about dancing or anything with street-cred. It’s about love, as simple as that. Beyonce’s vocals, though somewhat harsh (as in too overpowered) at some points of the song, are very good, as she usually is on ballads (Halo, If I Were A Boy, Listen are three impeccable songs that come to mind).

Beyonce starts: I don’t much know much about algebra, but I know 1+1 equals two and it’s me and you. That’s all we got when the world is through… because we got nothing but love. It is an interesting approach to the subject matter, to say the least. She later draws a resemblance with guns as well to get her point across before going into deep calls to “make love to [her]”.

Moreover, the song has basic instrumentation: they’re not very complicated, compared to other songs currently released, which leaves more focus on the lyrics and Beyonce to masterfully deliver the song.

1+1 is a song that is confusing to judge. Why so? because as a song in itself, it holds its own. It does its job of delivering the message clearly (and I do mean that literally, Beyonce’s pronunciation is somewhat impeccable) and it shows a different sound that Beyonce is definitely trying to introduce this era. But does it work as her follow-up single, as revealed by Ryan Seacrest on American Idol, to Run The World? Definitely not.

Beyonce is going way off mainstream with her releases so far and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, Adele’s Rolling In The Deep is also not really mainstream and it’s currently the biggest song in the US. So an artist can go on the radio wild-side, so to speak, with good enough material. This is not good enough material. It’s good, but not that good.

And since Beyonce needed a radio-friendly single to help salvage what’s rest of her attempt to have a successful album launch, 1+1 fails at presenting her with a better launch pad for her upcoming work. Moreover, 1+1 does not feel very structured as a song. It’s very hard to see yourself finding this song “catchy” enough, even for a ballad, for you to sing to.

I hope Ryan Seacrest misspoke when he said this is Beyonce’s next single. It’s a good song that should be left where it belongs: as an album cut, on an album that is shaping up to be a huge let-down, both musically and from a marketing perspective, after a great era: I Am Sasha Fierce.

This Is Country Music (Album Review) – Brad Paisley

Brad Paisley is not one of the leading figures in country music for no reason. He has always pushed the envelope of the genre with his music, introducing issues that were usually not discussed in song and making the umbrella of the country music genre even wider, engulfing more themes.

On his last album, “American Saturday Night”, Brad dealt with social issues we all live through but don’t really consider, such as looking at the younger generation and seeing all of the advances they have and we lacked (the song in question is Welcome To The Future).

He doesn’t stray far from that in This Is Country Music, an album that starts with the song of the same name where Brad says country music is the only genre where the word “cancer” is mentioned in a song and goes on into a segue of country music classics (Stand By Your Man, Take Me Home Country Roads, etc…)

On Old Alabama, Brad tells the story of a date with a girl whose idea of a perfect date is not one that involves high-end meals but a simple drive around in a truck listening to Alabama. It’s the song for everyone whose woman is not a high-maintenance gal. The country band Alabama is featured on it.

A Man Don’t Have To Die is a haunting song about the hardships in life and is probably one of the album’s highlights. It starts by describing a priest telling people that hell exists. Brad then comes in to say that we don’t need the priest to tell us this because some of us go things in life that make our life a living hell: when you get fired, when you find out you’re all alone in life, etc… “you don’t have to die to go to hell”.

Camouflage is a smart song, which would have fitted nicely with Brad’s previous album, saying how camouflage is Brad’s favorite color: makes you fit in where you can’t, makes you irresistible for a redneck girl…

And the comes Remind Me, the duet with Carrie Underwood. To say this song is brilliant would be an understatement. It is about a couple rekindling their romance and it is just perfect. You’d expect a song with such a theme to be sadder somehow but it confuses you by being a mid-tempo power ballad. The lyrics are top notch, even the repetition of the words “remind me” don’t come off as grating because it blends very well in the overall body of work. Brad holds his own next to the soaring vocals of Carrie Underwood, making for another – if not the – album highlight. You can check out my full Remind Me review here.

On Working On A Tan, Brad describes a girl soaking in the sun, doing exactly what the title says. Meanwhile, the boys are at the gym working out, wanting to go to the beach just because she’s there working on a tan, with everyone’s tongues hanging out but she doesn’t give a damn.

Love Her Like She’s Leaving is another ballad, featuring Don Henley, that starts with a couple’s wedding and how he’ll never forget how the bride’s uncle told him to “love her like she’s leaving, like it’s all gonna end if he don’t”. Definitely another album highlight, an absolutely brilliant song.

One Of Those Lives is the story of one of those days where you think everything’s going wrong: you rush out and there’s traffic, get chewed by the boss. And then you receive a phone call that your friend’s little boy had a cancer relapse only realizing that while you had one of those days, the boy has had one of those lives. If you don’t feel compassion when you hear this, you need to listen again. An amazing ballad.

On Toothbrush, Brad paints a family portrait that all starts with a toothbrush: it all starts with a toothbursh, a splash of after-shave before leaving for a first date… long kiss goodnight… ultimately leading to a marriage and some kids. Brad sings that everything starts as a little thing, needing room to grow. It all starts with a toothbrush.

Be The Lake is the dirty joke song Brad loves to have on every album. On his previous album, American Saturday Night, it was Water (Daytona beach on spring break/ Eighteen girls up on stage/ White t-shirts about to sprayed with water). On Be The Lake, the girl is swimming and Brad is wishing he could be the lake that she’s swimming in.

Eastwood is a song featuring the directing/acting legend Clint Eastwood. It starts off by Brad’s little boy asking: “hey, what about western?” to which Clint replies: “You want western? Well, this is western!” before pure western music, taken out of a cowboy movie, starts playing. Eastwood is mostly an instrumental track, with Brad, a very strong guitarist, bringing it while Clint Eastwood whistles in the background. It ends by Brad telling Clint: “good job,” the latter replying: “thanks Brad, now I’ve tried everything.”

New Favorite Memory is about a couple going through many scenarios, each time ending with the man telling the woman to stop so he could let it sink it, his favorite memory of her. It is a ballad about a tender love that holds nothing back.

Don’t Drink The Water is a conversation between two guys (the other one being country star Blake Shelton) about going down to Mexico for a vacation. They have some sweet ladies that are more than glad to meet you – but don’t dare to drink the water there.

I Do Now is a song about a man regretting the mistakes he did with his wife. How he’d give anything to go back in time somehow so he wouldn’t break her heart and the vows he made to her and tell her, right in the moment he said I do, that “I do now”.

The last song on the album, Life’s Railway To Heaven, is more on the Christian-side of things where Brad, along with Sheryl Crow and Carl Jackson sing, to a prominent banjo and fiddle background, “blessed the savior that will guide us till we reach that blissful shore, where the angels wait to join us in God’s praise forevermore”.

Brad Paisley, one of country music’s superstars, has the bar set very high for him whenever he wants to release anything. And he hits the bar and more with his eighth album, This Is Country Music. The album serves as a book, each song being a chapter. It’s very cohesive and entertaining. Some said the album could do without a few tracks. But when you look at the collective work that this album presents, you can’t but feel that is is complete as is. How so? When you listen to the album’s first single, many themes are brought up, saying that country music tackles all of these issues. The album serves as a way to tackle the issues that the first single presents. Many have said it is not Brad’s best single – and I agree. But it serves its purpose of being introductory to an album that shows what is country music.

What’s great about this album is that it is real without being pretentious. It doesn’t set out to be the best album ever made, even for Brad’s fans, and it doesn’t include songs that you need to over-analyze to understand. It’s an album about life, freedom, marriage, love, as simple as it may be.

Brad’s fans will love this. Those who are apprehensive will find themselves tapping their toes to some of the songs but everyone will find a song to which they can relate because, at the end of the day, this is country music and it tells the story of your life.

Born This Way (Album Review) – Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga’s much anticipated sophomore release (or third album if you count The Fame Monster as her second) will be released on Monday, May 23rd.

The album opens up with “Marry The Night”, a song about Lady Gaga’s love for her native New York. Fusing electronic beats with interesting lyrics about belonging, her vocals are not drowned out and the production is quite good on this, especially after the bridge.

“Marry The Night” is a decent album opener, followed by her mega-hit “Born This Way”. And while I believe the song itself was driven more by hype than quality (It has become Lady Gaga’s biggest hit but I don’t think it’s her best song), it sets the tone for the message Lady Gaga wants to get across with this album: embrace who you are, regardless of who that might be.

“Born This Way” is followed by “Government Hooker”, arguably one of the most hyped about tracks of the album. Starting off with a very interesting beat, Government Hooker has a brilliant line on the bridge: “put your hands on me John F. Kennedy.” But is this the monster song of the album? No. It is not something I can find myself repeating on end although I can definitely see it being played at some night clubs courtesy of its stunning beat.

And then comes “Judas”, probably the most controversial song on the album. Discussing the struggle between love and sin with a religious twist, “Judas” was the album’s second single but failed to become a mega-hit on pop radio, even though it follows the “Bad Romance” style closely. What “Judas” and “Government Hooker” have in common is their similarity is their euro-pop roots.

“Americano” is a song that fuses latin beats. It is the “Alejandro” of the album, but unlike “Alejandro”, “Americano” doesn’t pack an extra-punch that would make it a viable radio single. “Americano” is a song about a lesbian romance in L.A. This is followed by “Hair”, a song that I feel belongs on the album of a much younger artist than Lady Gaga. The lyrics on it are corny and sometimes ridiculous. Some are saying this is her song for the tween audience, but I think it could have been so much better. For my full review of Hair, go here.

“Schiße” is a track incorporating German lyrics that I don’t understand. The beat is interesting, however. “Bloody Mary” is another song with religious inferences but it is a very interesting song. Do not be fooled by the song starting off with music reminiscent of Broadway musicals, the beat that comes later on is as grinding as the other songs on the album.

“Bad Kids” is the anthem to anyone who hasn’t grown out of misbehaving. It is her homage to the NYC Club Kids era. “Highway Unicorn” is a song about driving down on the highway in a convertible, another song about freedom and being born to be wild.

“Heavy Metal Lover” is Lady Gaga’s take on fetishes and it is more hardcore than Rihanna’s S&M. While I’m definitely not in this song’s target audience (the genre referenced in the title isn’t something I normally listen to as well), some people will like it. Different strokes, I guess. The song has, however, very cool vocalizations in the background.

“Electric Chapel” is an over the top song, driven by electronic beats where she tells the guy not to be a “holy fool”, a lyric also used in “Judas”, and meet her at the electric chapel. The song, like the many songs before it, also incorporates elements from 1980s music, albeit fusing them with sci-fi elements that lack in other songs.

“You and I” is the first track off the album that people heard when it was performed live last year. This is a piano-driven ballad with electronic beats as well, making for a rather unique sound. The album concludes with Lady Gaga’s current single, “The Edge of Glory”, about being on the edge of something great, be it love, life… the lyrics to this are good, as well as a brilliant saxophone breakdown. However, as I said before, I would have liked it to be slower.

“Born This Way” is an album that can’t be separated from hype because hype existed before the album was even conceived. Prior to its release, Lady Gaga had declared that this album would be the “greatest album of the decade”. I’m sorry, Lady Gaga. While this is a good album, it is not a classic that will go down in the books as the best album of the 2010s. Sure, it is different from most of the mainstream music currently being played, but it doesn’t stray far from that. After all, there isn’t a song on this that doesn’t have an electric beat, even the one that was labeled as a ballad.

So overall, horrible cover and Madonna-comparisons aside, this is an album that holds its own in a music climate where doing so isn’t enough. Yes, it will sell millions of copies and bring in millions for Lady Gaga and her label, but will it be enough to take award-gold? Some award shows will honor it. Others won’t. This is will be far from a clean sweep. But kudos for Lady Gaga on making a record expressing what she believes in, regardless of how radio-friendly it may sound (and on most songs, it actually is radio friendly). However, will this the coveted Album Of The Year at the Grammys? I’m going with no.