Sunday, March 09, 2014

FRESH OUT THE BOX: Pharrell, Ashanti, Iggy, Charli, Chromeo & Erik

L to R: Ashanti, Erik Hassle, Iggy Azalea (feat. Charli XCX), Pharrell Williams
Another week gone and it was most notable for a handful of new album/EP releases that were full of surprise gems. Here's a list of tunes to add to your music player of choice.

ASHANTI - "Braveheart" 
"Lose them battles, win the war..."
Yep, Ashanti is still around and addresses the haters in her fifth effort, BraveHeart. I began listening not really knowing what to expect and I'm not afraid to say she's got some great tunes on her new disc. There's a level of maturity and sophistication that she's reaching toward in BraveHeart and it's worthy of applause. A few of the tracks took me that 90's R&B Haven where songs were more than just songs, they were stories. That is the mentality present here -- of telling stories of internal strength and the will to overcome. "Scars" and "3 Words" come to immediate mind in that context. Dancy, synthy "Count" would be a dependable upcoming single (and considering it was produced by Detail, who recently also did Beyonce's "Drunk In Love", it might be a safe bet that it will be). But my favorite is the opener "Braveheart", simply because it sets the tone for this "new" Ashanti. I can dig it.

IGGY AZALEA - "Fancy (feat. CHARLI XCX)"
"I'm so fancy / Can't you taste this gold?..."
The late 80's/early 90's revival continues to be solidified (Clueless!) and as is Iggy's place as the new Female MC to Be. I keep dreaming of a modern day "Ladies Night" as the groundswell of strong, smart, sassy women continues to grow and spin out good 'uns. Iggy enlists the help of the new cool girl fave, Charli XCX, to sing the hook -- yet another example of Charli's attachment to fab ventures (Icona Pop, Marina & The Diamonds). Perhaps this will be the song to really get her on the mainstream radar here in the US. 

CHROMEO - "Jealous (I Ain't With It)"
"I get jealous / But I'm too cool to admit it..."
This synthy, shiny revival pop shows no sign of slowing. In the vein of PharrellDaft Punk and Justin Timberlake, Chromeo come roaring out of their relative left-field with their latest single, "Jealous (I Ain't With It)", positively bursting with potential mass appeal. The hook is as singable as it gets, the modern day "Jessie's Girl". To me, this has spring/summer hit written all over it.

ELLIE GOULDING - "Beating Heart"
"I'll be leaving in the morning / Come the white wine bitter sunlight..."
Let's hand it to Ellie. "Beating Heart" is a soundtrack single from the new upcoming teen adventure film series Divergent. That fact aside, the song does what many soundtrack singles fail to do -- it sounds like a movie credits mid-tempo without losing Ellie's identity as an artist. It feels connected to this new project (centered around an alternative reality future of the United States) and yet still feels like a forgotten piece from Halcyon

ERIK HASSLE - "Pathetic"
"The trouble is / The second I tasted your lips / It's all over / You got my heart in a twist..."
Yet another artist to perpetuate the positive stereotype that Swedes make the best Pop Music (it's a stereotype because it's true, guys). Erik Hassle unleashed his Somebody's Party EP this week in the US and it's a doozy. It's good from front to back and every song stands well on its own. Much of the EP prides itself of the Europop drum-and-bass meets soulful vocal delivery trend that's currently all the rage, especially among male performers (Sam Smith, John Newman) but while others lean a bit more on the emotional, Somebody's Party is still very inherently pop. "Pathetic" with its flickers of controlled falsetto shines the brightest to me in terms of a mainstream breakthrough. Fingers crossed.

PHARRELL WILLIAMS - "Lost Queen(/Freq)" 
"I'd rather be a Freq / Than not be Uniq / Individuality makes life better..."
Honestly, it really is not hyperbole when you keep hearing over and over how fantastic Pharrell's G I R L album is. P is setting the bar high. When you look at the album's liner notes, it reads like a Who's Who in audio masterpiece making. "Happy" will go down in history for its sheer, unabashed positivity. Funky "Hunter" really grooves, following a similar lyrical feel as "Blurred Lines" minus the creepy. "Come Get It Bae", which features an uncredited Miley Cyrus on the hook, continues this Patented Pharrell Pheel (get it?) -- falsetto vocal, handclappy, minimalist with guitar licks a-go-go. "Gust of Wind" has a full string arrangement, continuing the Daft Punk collab identity established with "Get Lucky". "Lost Queen" is actually two songs in one with a "hidden" cut called "Freq" rearing its head around the 4:23 mark following several seconds of waves crashing (if you don't know about the ASMR phenomenon -- read up) and is my current fave. JoJo supplies backing vocal for "Freq". I can listen to the entire disc with no glossing over tracks, over and over again on repeat. We all know how much of a rarity that is. Vibrations of love is right. This one is a no-brainer -- go pick it up if you haven't already.

1 comment:

Lilly said...

i premiered the music video for "Fancy", and i love how they did a clueless tribute because it IS not only one of the best movies of our time, but it also ended up being a major trendsetter and launched the careers of some huge stars.

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