Carrie Underwood’s Album Blown Away Available For Streaming on iTunes April 24th

After Carrie’s fan club announced an online listening party for members at 9 pm CT on Tuesday April 24th, a high ranking spokesperson for Arista Nashville confirmed to me that the album will be available for streaming on iTunes for everyone on April 24th, akin to the streaming option made available for The Fray as well as Coldplay’s latest albums.

My review, as well as the lyrics for all the songs on the album, will be published immediately after I get to listen to the album. You can check out my review of the lead single Good Girl here and the lyrics for Wine After Whiskey here, a song I correctly predicted would be on Blown Away.

Until then, here are the Blown Away-related news that we know for certain.

– The album is darker, evolutionary for Carrie and spans the gamut of styles. You can check out the track descriptions here.

– The second single is the title track Blown Away, as I confirmed here. The first line off Blown Away was also published by yours truly here.

This might be the reason music retailers haven’t released snippets of the album and why they didn’t do a promo singles release schedule (iTunes countdown). The wait has been cut down by one week. April 24th, here we go.

Mac OS X Lion – Overview

Mac OS X Lion has just been released and these are my thoughts of the new Mac operating system that I’ve been using for a couple of weeks now.

Installing Lion is a very easy task. You just run the installer that you download, input your administrator password and the OS automatically installs. Of course, it’s always advisable to back up your data beforehand since you never know what might go wrong but most probably nothing will.

Once the installation is done, you’ll be taken to a newly designed welcome screen where you enter your password and access your desktop.

The first thing Lion welcomes you with is an introduction its new way of scrolling. However, Apple has decided to set the scrolling to “natural,” which, like the iPad, is actually the reverse of what you’re used to: scrolling up takes you down and vice versa. However, unlike the iPad, your Mac does not have a touch screen making the scrolling as set by Apple not “natural” at all. So I went to system preferences and changed it.

OS X Lion boasts many addition and tweaks that are truly great. But I think there are five which can be considered as the highlight of this update: Resume, Mission Control, Airdrop, Full Screen and Launchpad.

1 – Resume:

Have you ever shut down your laptop and regretted it because you didn’t have something saved? Well, with OS X Lion, you don’t need to worry about that anymore. Whenever you turn on your mac after shutting it down, you will be presented with the exact same state you left your mac in prior to shut down. Did you have iTunes, Twitter, Firefox and iPhoto running? They’d still be running and open to the tabs you were browsing, the tweets you were seeing and the songs you were selecting.

I’m the type of people who don’t like to turn off their laptops simply because I find the time it takes for them to boot and start launching my apps too long. With OS X Lion, I boot my Macbook Pro and before I know it, it’s as if I never turned it off. That is truly this update’s highlight. Sure, it’s not the most dazzling addition but in the long run, it’s the most useful one.

You can opt out of it before shutting down. But why would you?

2 – Mission Control:

The negative thing about mission control is that it takes time to get accustomed with the new finger gestures. I had my mac set up for four-finger gestures: up removed all windows from my desktop, down took me to expose. With OS X Lion, the four-finger gestures are removed entirely and replaced with three-finger gestures.

Going up with three fingers + thumb launches Mission Control.

Don’t mind my Harry Potter wallpaper. The movie is simply epic after all.

What Mission Control does is show you all of the windows and apps you’re working with, allowing you to organize them.

You can drag for example your internet browser and make a new desktop out of it.

This new desktop can now be accessed via a two-finger swipe to the left (or right, depending on where you are).

Mission Control is highly useful when you want to relieve yourself of clutter. Whenever you find yourself overwhelmed with windows, simply drag a few of them into new desktops and go to those desktops to finish your work. When you’re done, hover your cursor over the new desktops and you’ll be able to close them.

3 – Airdrop:

Ever wanted to share something with someone and you were out of a flash drive or any way to send it over to them? Well, if you’re on the same Wi-Fi network, OS X Lion has the solution in the form of Airdrop.

Found in all the windows of “Finder” on the side, airdrop allows you to share that file with any Mac in the vicinity.

4 – Full Screen:

This update also boasts the ability to go full screen in many apps: iTunes, iPhoto, Garageband, etc…. Whenever you go full screen with an app, you can use a three-finger scroll sideways to switch between all full-screen apps running. I have yet to fully use this capacity, simply because I don’t feel like it’s really needed. What’s the point of looking at iTunes (or any other app) full screen?

Moreover, a simple click on the escape button wouldn’t take you out of full screen mode. You have to hover your mouse to the top of the page in order for a blue box with two reduction arrows to appear. Clicking on that takes you back to normal screen mode.

Interestingly, going full screen in Quicktime automatically transfers you to a new desktop so you can keep the movie you’re watching at full screen when you need to pause it to work with other things. However, I still don’t get how to make Quicktime work as my media player after connecting my Macbook Pro via HDMI to my TV so I’ve resorted to VLC instead.

5 – Launchpad:

Out of the new additions I have chosen to discuss in this overview, I’m the most disappointed by Launchpad. Why? Because it’s practically useless. A three-finger squeeze launches launchpad from which you can launch any app.

As you can see, it has been built in a way very similar to how apps are presented on an iPad’s screen. Even folders are the same. But I’m used to launching an app simply by clicking on my “Applications” folder in the dock and clicking for the app. With Launchpad, it’s one extra step for me to do that.

Installing any app will from the Mac App Store will appear as a “download bar” underneath the Launchpad icon, similar to what happens on an iOS device.

Launchpad is basically the most obvious of bringing iOS to OS X. But it pales in comparison to the other additions in OS X Lion.

OS X Lion has many other tweaks that are not discussed here. Preview has its interface changed, as well as the Mail app, which now allows threaded conversations as well as flagging emails in various degrees of importance. You can no longer change the size of icons and folders automatically rearrange to limit empty spaces between contents.

Is OS X Lion a must-have update? I’m inclined to say it’s no. But I personally advise everyone to update because soon enough Apple will start to iron out the kinks. OS X is a very, very strong operating system that will stay a market leader for long. Windows has a lot of catching up to do and even though OS X Lion is not a giant leap forward, it opened up even more grounds on Windows. After all, by combining elements from Mac OS X with iOS, although far from perfect, has taken the user’s mac experience to a whole new level. Mac OS X Lion gives you the feeling that you are working with a futuristic device, even though for example my Macbook Pro is almost 2 years old.

Apple is known not to release a product unless they’re sure it’s the best they can offer at the moment. Sure, they’ve had missteps. But OS X Lion is not one of them. And for $29.99 and the ability to install it on any mac computer you own, it sure is a bargain. So should you buy it? Hell yes. It offers enough for $29.99 to make the must-have update question I asked earlier somewhat irrelevant.

iPhone 4 Goes To Space

Old news for some but still awesome news nonetheless.

As part of its last mission to space, US space shuttle Atlantis took with it two iPhone 4’s, loaded with apps to allow the astronauts to undergo several experiments.

One of the apps in question is called Spacelab for iOS, which you can download from the iTunes store here. It will allow the astronauts to take pictures of Earth and estimate latitudes, do calibrations using the iPhone’s gyroscope and accelerometer which were proven to function with high accuracy in space. The sensory calibrations along with the pictures taken will allow the aircraft to locate itself, in addition to extensive data collection.

Interestingly, the iPhone 4’s gyroscope and accelerometer are both being considered to replace more expensive equipment because of their high-accuracy function in zero gravity.

After all experiments take place, the iPhones will be returned to have their data collected and analyzed.

Talk about multi-use, right?

Hair (Single Review) – Lady Gaga

As a follow up to her Edge Of Glory iTunes promotional release and leading up to her album release next Monday, Lady Gaga has released a new song off her album, titled “Hair”. However, unlike Edge Of Glory, I don’t see pop radio jumping on this one and having it labeled as her next single, after Judas failed to do well on radio.

Produced by RedOne, the person responsible for Poker Face, this is basically a song that brings back Lady Gaga to her dance music self. However, and I don’t want to sound like a broken record with this, is it really as good as her previous dance-music songs? Is this as good as Just Dance and Poker Face?

The answer is a succint no.

The message behind the lyrics is quite simple. Girls can definitely relate more to the comparison she draws in the song but she’s basically inviting people to be as free as their hair, which I’m assuming is when your hair flies in the air, not caring the direction it goes in.

Now, the message itself is empowering: be whatever you want, don’t care about what other people think, etc… and it fits with the “Born This Way” brand she’s been trying to sell with this album. However, I just felt the whole comparison of freedom to hair, although it gets the message across, to be simply ridiculous. Wasn’t there something else she could compare having a free opinion to?

Moreover, I do not really feel the beat of the song. I think it takes away from the lyrics, regardless of how corny those lyrics might be. Lady Gaga even sounds a little drowned out at some points. And I believe the track was overproduced at certain points, especially with the overuse of beats and auto-tune.

The strength of “Hair” is that it’s a relatable song. We’ve all been through events where we wanted to make our decisions freely and had people breathing down our necks to go one way or another. “Hair” fails, however, in being more than a song getting this message across. And there are plenty of songs out there that have a similar theme. So you’d expect that, when you want to rehash a topic, to make your work stand out and offer new things to the table. The Edge Of Glory had great lyrics and an awesome saxophone breakdown. This, however, doesn’t have anything that could make me want to play it willfully. I just hope the album has better songs where Lady Gaga doesn’t want to “lots of friends inviting her to their parties”.

Listen to Hair here:

Edge Of Glory (Single Review) – Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga has been what you would call pretentious in her “Born This Way” era so far. In what way? well, she calls people to embrace who they are and yet, her image is fake, her covers are filled with prosthetic additions to her face  that make you cringe and her songs are anything but a simple manifestation of artistry.

More often than not, she writes songs that serve as a vehicle for her shock value entertainment, follows them up with a video that has nothing to do with the song, extends the video to about ten minutes and people go gaga over it. And it has been working for her except Judas isn’t doing as well as they thought it would, especially on pop radio.

Now, as part of an iTunes countdown to her album, Lady Gaga has released Edge Of Glory. I have mixed feelings about this. While I like the departure from the “religiously-controversial” and “born this way” themes to much less controversial stuff (such as love), I feel the song is simply deja vu.

Has Lady Gaga lost her touch? This is a song that doesn’t rely on techno music and electronic beats as much as it relies on simple pop music and it’s simply not as strong a tune that you would expect from someone who has given the masses hit after hit, some of which are quite good quality-wise.

Now, I’m not the best person to consider when it comes to Lady Gaga. I have yet to immediately get hooked on her songs. They usually get “stuck” so to speak due to radio overplaying them. But that’s not to say that “Edge Of Glory” isn’t catchy. After all, Lady Gaga knows how to write a crafty hook. And I especially like how the saxophone goes into play there. But I think when Lady Gaga tackles the issue of love for the first time in a single, I thought it would be more like this song (Captivated) before she went all gaga:

Regardless of what I think, her fans will eat this up. Watch it become #1 on iTunes in a few hours and debut high atop the Billboard Hot 100 next week. But selling truckloads of singles isn’t always a sign of quality. And I think Lady Gaga has become too indulgent.

Listen to Edge Of Glory here:

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