Average User Score: 7.8Jul 13, 2013Chasing pavements inevitably leads someone somewhere, and in the case of twenty-three year-old Adele it’s taken her to a place everyone’s beenChasing pavements inevitably leads someone somewhere, and in the case of twenty-three year-old Adele it’s taken her to a place everyone’s been to: the alley of broken hearts. Inspired by a devastating break-up the singer’s sophomore record, 21, weaves music and lyrics in such a precise way that the heartache becomes almost vicarious to the listener. Like most songs on her debut album, tracks on 21 are produced in a simple and basic manner to allow the vocals to shine through; only this time the album doesn’t sound as optimistic and trend-influenced as 19, which was released months after the enormous success of fellow British singer Amy Winehouse.
21 doesn’t remind the listener of any other record because, on first listen, the album is too relatable; the brain leaves no space for recollection but for one’s own struggles with love. The (slightly overproduced) mid-tempo “Set Fire to the Rain” sets a battlefield for contradictory emotions and captures the album’s main essence: an exploration of masochistic self-conflicts while attempting to move on from destructive relationships. Partially retrospective (“My hands, they were strong /But my knees were far too weak /To stand in your arms /Without falling to your feet”), the song oscillates between piano-driven verses filled with hope for reconciliation and a lushly-arranged, self-liberating chorus with belting raspy vocals.
21’s first single, “Rolling in the Deep,” kicks off with a throbbing, threatening beat as Adele marches away from this draining romance. A fusion of epic pop hooks, blues’y rhythms and gospel clap this revenge anthem disavows any chances for ‘making up.’ On “Turning Tables,” an acoustic tune where the piano and strings contribute to the narrative just as much as the evocative lyrics and raw soulful vocals, the singer confirms her final decision (“It’s time to say goodbye to turning tables”).
Despite the rage portrayed by the invading, aggressive beats and intense vocals in the first few tracks the record’s last song, the piano-and-vocal somber ballad “Someone Like You,” expresses hope for outgrowing the pain. Sounding more vulnerable than ever, Adele travels to the future where she’s forgiven her former lover to say a final bittersweet goodbye.… Expand
Average User Score: 8.3Jul 13, 2013This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Already critically acclaimed as her most cohesive body of work, Talk a Good Game stands out in Kelly Rowland’s discography as a record that doesn’t just exist as a shelter for discrete tracks; it was rather created to be a home to some very personal and connected stories, experiences, and emotions. The name of the game is love, and each song defines a rule about how love should and should not feel. Melodies and lyrics unite to re-create different stages of Rowland’s relationships, and her vehement vocals precisely capture the essence of emotions and lessons she does not want to forget.
Penned by The-Dream, the controversial tell-it-all second single, “Dirty Laundry,” is the most vivid example of the boundaries that have been pushed on this album. Revealing past moments of jealousy towards Beyonce, along with an abusive relationship that caused the tension between the former Destiny’s Child bandmates shortly after the “Survivor” era, the song gets more and more intense as it progresses, showcasing a stirring build-up culminated by the lines “He turned me against my syster I missed ya.” Immediately after “Laundry,” Kelly has chosen to place her collaboration with Beyonce and Michelle, “You Changed.” Many have compared the song to Destiny’s Child’s song, “Girl,” and the song indeed is a sequel to the Destiny Fulfilled single. Defined by beautiful harmonies and cathartic lyrics, the song closes the chapter that both “Girl” and “Dirty Laundry” had started. And make no mistake, the song is truly a Kelly Rowland track that features Mrs. Carter and Ms. Williams.
The Wiz Khalifa-assisted “Gone,” puts a more playful and sassy spin on the break-up situation. A snapping beat produced by Harmony Samuels and the catchy sample of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” (also on Janet Jackson’s “Got ‘Til It’s Gone”) make this song the most logical choice for next single. Another stand-out track on Talk a Good Game is the title track, produced by T-Minus. Delivering her exhortative lines, Rowland sets the most fundamental rule of the game, “why do things the hard way when you can just be honest?”
Don’t think that Rowland has neglected her naughty side; sexuality is part of the palette on this album as well. The album opener, “Freak,” along with the first single, “Kisses Down Low,” and the collaboration with The-Dream, “Sky Walker,” all touch on the subject of exploring your sexuality to the fullest and sharing your dirtiest desires with your partner. “Walker” even gets as far and provocative as suggesting that a man might “need a main girl that you like a side chick.”
The second half of the record is dedicated to love’s positive outcomes and true romance. An anthem for ultimate surrender, the Samuels-produced “Put Your Name On It,” showcases the most powerful vocal performance on the album. “Stand In Front of Me,” a 50′s doo-wop inspired ode to romance and chivalry, will surely bring out some sort of visual of a dancing couple in your mind; perfect for a wedding song.
There is one last stand-out track that is sort of off-topic, addressing the social issues around the street culture and strives for self-improvement the gravelly Pharrell-penned “Street Life.” It could be the horns combined with the accelerating drums, but parts of that song remind me of Beyonce’s “Countdown.”
Overall, Kelly Rowland delivered her least-commercial, but most solid record to date. Will there be a huge hit coming out of this album? Probably not. But chances are that it will be remembered more than her previous releases.… Expand