It's time for Tuesday Reviewsday our weekly new music segment. This week we're going to be talking about rock with Shirley Halperin from The Hollywood Reporter and Chris Martins from Spin Magazine.
Artist: Mac Miller
Album: Live From Space
Release Date: December 17
Songs: "S.D.S." "Youforia"
On June's Watching Movies With the Sound Off, "S.D.S" was produced by Flying Lotus, but here it comes to life thanks to Odd Future's in-house neo-soul band the Internet — heady, spangly soul-jazz for Miller's Mos Def-style rap sing-song. The album offers pleasant throwback to The Roots Come Alive, from 1999, but it's also further evidence of this 21-year-old Pittsburgh MC's striking transformation this year.
Thanks to early songs like "Kool Aid & Frozen Pizza," he's been huge with the college crowd, but written off by critics as frat fodder. But then his new album arrived and we suddenly see the names of folks like Lotus, Odd Future members Earl Sweatshirt and Tyler the Creator, and Kendrick Lamar's colleagues ScHoolboy Q and Ab-Soul. It was a record-scratch moment, so much so that SPIN's profile on the guy was called "Mac Miller Is Cool Now."
As it turns out, Mac visited Los Angeles, felt freed from his relentless work schedule, and decided to stay. Then he made a bunch of druggy, brainy, spiritual, skillful, and totally fun backpack rap. In speaking to SPIN's Jordan Sargent on his former self, even Miller said, "I would make fun of me now." Turns out he can sing too.
Album: "All Them Boys" single
Release Date: December 12
Songs: "Stop Me Cold" "All Them Boys"
A genuine Valley Girl, this 26-year-old singer/writer hails from Tarzana. At 13 she tried out for a JIVE Records girl group, but didn't make the cut. Now, she's getting the last melismatic laugh. Her song "Stop Me Cold" falls firmly into the greater #aaliyahwave movement — as I'm trying to coin — which is throwing back to '90s New Jack Swing and Y2K pop primarily. That song reminds me of "My Boo" by Ghost Town DJs.
She also gets compared to Mandy Moore, and has tweeted that she's working with N SYNC's JC Chasez on something. This year, though, LIZ has been sneaking out free singles one by one via Mad Decent, the tastemaking electronic label run by Diplo, a leader in EDM/pop writing and production.
"All Them Boys" came out last week and hews closer to the house and dance-pop of big 2013 artists like Disclosure and Rudimental. She's got a proper EP, and maybe an LP, due in 2014, and the label says the sound is closer to this.
Release Date: Dec. 12
Songs: "Pretty Hurts" "Superpower"
By now, everybody and their mother knows that Beyonce, aka Queen Bey, dropped an album on iTunes in the wee hours of Thursday night -- and it not only became an instant hit but nearly broke the internet in the process. The self-titled Beyonce is her fifth album and you can only get it that way – as an album. But for your $15.99, you also get 17 high quality videos of Bey in all her royalness – a bargain considering the many hundreds of thousands of dollars that were spent styling these elaborate shoots.
This is probably the most pop song on the album – it was co-written by Sia, who’s developed quite a reputation for herself as the go-to hookmaker – but it falls in line with the rest of the record which is that it’s mid-tempo and the ideal showcase for Beyonce’s soaring vocals. Still, 15 explicitly non-banger tracks would have a hard time at radio. Beyonce would like us to think that passion not vanity inspired this collection – and it’s a noble notion in this age where the album is slowly becoming a lost artform.
Then again, Beyonce doesn’t have anything to worry about as far as seeing profit on this album – it’s already sold more than 550,000 copies according to Billboard, and is on track to be the biggest opening week by a female artist for 2013. Which brings us to my second pick, “Superpower.” Featuring Frank Ocean and produced by Pharrell Williams, it’s almost like what those guys would have done with a 50s R&B singer. And without referencing the cold war, it is mildly political. Of course, the real superpower here is Beyonce herself who seemingly can do anything.
Album: The Music Of Nashville, Season 2, Vol. 1
Release Date: Dec. 10
Songs: "Can't Say No To You" "Share With You"
The third soundtrack to accompany the ABC hit is a really lovely compendium of where country music is at right now. After all, this is a show about the backstage and back room goings on in Nashville and the music tells the story as much as the characters and plot.
The show gets some heat for being maybe more of a soap opera than a show about music, which is their prerogative as a major broadcast network (Dallas, anyone?), but nevertheless millions are tuning in to hear songs like "Can't Say No To You."
That was sung by Hayden Panettiere and Chris Carmack (Juliette Barnes and Will) and it’s typical of the big arena-country numbers on the show — how they managed to get the words sweet tea and bullets into the same verse simply boggles the mind. But then the show also has these really sweet moments, where they may whip out an old folk tune, like they do on this soundtrack with “Wayfaring Stranger,” a song whose roots go back to the 19th century, or this little ditty sung by Lennon and Maisy Stella, who play the two young daughters of the show’s lead superstar, Rayna James (played by Connie Britton).