Last night, Rihanna performed “Diamonds” on The X-Factor UK. I have to say, this song has become a favorite of mine since it first came out. I enjoy Rihanna, however I don’t necessarily take her seriously as an artist. I’m not saying all pop divas have to be the most artistic people in music, but on the flip side, when you see people like Gaga, Beyonce, Robyn who are forging a path in music and creating their own sound, as well as aesthetics surrounding that, it adds the value to this genre that I feel it needs.
With “Diamonds,” Rihanna showcases one of her most vocally confident and sonically unique songs in her 7 album career. It’s very much in the vein of Miguel, Frank Ocean and even Brandy’s new album “Two Eleven.” After I started listening, I was very curious as to how this song would be presented live. Her showing on Saturday Night Live proved that she can deliver a vocally consistent performance, which I had my doubts about. However the performance above showcased that Rihanna herself can deliver a vocally strong performance, that’s also seemingly genuinely emotive - another doubt I have. As I type this I’m listening to album #7 and I’m not hooked, I don’t love it. It sure sounds like another Rihanna album, it has songs that will be fun to dance to, and when you need that pop fix, but she has had no sonic evolution. I had hopes for that when I first heard “Diamonds,” but for the most part, it wasn’t representative of the rest of this album.
Personally, I’d love for her to take a long break, and come back with something that encapsulates the performance above, because that performance to me shows that she can be the kind of pop singer I mentioned earlier. Do I think Rihanna will become a legend in music and change the face of it? No I don’t. But I do feel that she is a force in music, which is backed by the number of singles this woman has sold.
Anywho, just my two cents surround “Unapologetic” and Rihanna’s music.
It has been a long, long time since there has been anything new from Australian pop duo The Veronicas. They are one of my favorite acts in pop music. Their last album was a much edgier, dance heavy pop album relative to their first pop/rock album, and it seems they are continuing in this direction. When it comes the pop standard in America they are right on track, I’m not certain what pop music is like in Australia, but I’m assuming it’s in the same vein as here in the States. However they add their distinctive sound and vocal chemistry that makes their music so unique. Their songwriting style is also something that separates them from the rest of the pack, and I cannot wait to hear more from their third album.
Check out the first single off their long awaited follow up to “Hook Me Up.” The song is called, “Lolita.”
Yep - an NPR article. I can’t help myself.
However, this article showcased, thanks to DJ Earworm, the sound that ruled radio this last year. The boom boom sound. Radio was filled with dance fusions of every genre - pop, “soul,” “R&B,” and more. And to be honest - I’ve become very sick of it.
Part of the reason Adele was so successful this year, aside from having one of the most honest and pure records written in the last 10 years, was she was one of few unique sounds on the radio. Every other song sounded the same this last year. It’s the David Guetta affect, which needs to stop. It happened with Timbaland a few years ago - him and Justin Timberlake made an incredible, genre bending album, and suddenly everyone wanted him on their records, and it just didn’t work as well. It seems that pop music, and other genres, have been warped into only having that boom boom sound, and no other layers. It’s people like Gaga, Beyonce, and Robyn that showcase how you can create music that makes you want to dance all damn night, and still have a unique sound that is much more intricate that what we’ve heard the last 12 months. And it’s people like Adele that bring honesty back into pop music.
In about 2 weeks, we will see one the biggest weeks of the year for music - Thanksgiving week. Everyone is itching to get in on that Black Friday love, including Gaga, Beyonce, Rihanna and many more.
However, Rihanna is the only one of those three that is release brand new material on her sixth album in six years - “Talk That Talk.” MTV.com recently posted an article (linked above) calling her new album “The best pop album of 2011.” Now don’t get me wrong, I love Rihanna from time to time, and I definitely have my guilty pleasure songs and a lot of her is on that list - but to call this album, which to be fair I haven’t heard in it’s entirety the best of the year, in my opinion is a pretty large, and relatively oblivious statement.
This year we have seen Gaga release “Born This Way” to immense critical and commercial acclaim, and it sold over 1 million copies in the first week, and even without the Amazon deal, it sold 700,000+. We have seen Beyonce release her best work to date with “4.” And last but not least, the most successful and my personal “best album of the year” with Adele’s “21.”
Like I stated earlier, Rihanna has somehow cranked out six albums in six years…she is by far, the most used piece in this machine.
It seems that MTV has clearly neglected any form of artistic growth within the pop music world that has occurred this year, especially with the three women in pop music (Gaga, Beyonce and Adele) who have completely changed the game when it comes to the quality of music that is created within the pop world. For me, these three women show that their can be art and soul within pop music, and it is not all fabricated products.
First off, many thanks to Ann Powers - the author of this article from NPR Music. I have semi neglected this blog as of late because I’ve A. been very busy and B. been taking pictures and focusing on that blog.
However, this article on the role of autobiographical story telling in pop music gave me an inspiration to write. Give this article a read - especially if you’re a fan of pop music like myself.
It got me thinking about how in depth my favorite pop stars go in their music, and what makes it real. There is a fine line for me in how much I want to know about the artist writing the music and singing the song. That is because that level of mystery creates the ability for me to relate to the music. I won’t always know what they were writing about, and that allows me to apply it to my life and create that movie moment.
However - how far do I want that to go? Do I want the artist to create a persona in order to write about certain things, or do I want them to strip everything away, and write from within and be as honest as possible. I’d say it’s a mix of both.
For instance, Taylor Swift, because of her media attention, we have an idea of what is going on in her day to day life, and her love and loss, and the rest of it that doesn’t matter to our own lives. Because of this, and other reasons, I have a hard time relating to her music. On the other hand, someone like Sara Bareilles, I don’t know what is going on in her life all of the time, and what movie star she is dating, and not knowing that allows that mystery to develop that when I listen to her songs, I can relate. On a different level, Adele has written one of the most honest and genuine albums of 2011, but there is still a smoke screen there in the sense that we don’t know this person the album is about, but we know how honest the lyrics are.
In the case of Beyonce, the persona has allowed her fan base to attach to her and her music, and relate. In the long run, they are a creation in order to do exactly this. There are songs when listening to her catalogue, that as much as I love them, I have a hard time believing that it is a life experience she has had. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the song and enjoy it immensely, it just means that my connections to Beyonce’s music verses say someone like Sara Bareilles or Adele are very different.
For me, this does remind me that pop music can, and does have substance. Now, I’m not saying that this is the case for all pop music, but it reminds me that pop music cannot be written off as useless non-art.
Here’s a fascinating article from NPR Music about a new “technique” in pop music to cross racial boundaries - “Green-Eyed Soul.” This articles main focus is Adele’s recent success with her sophomore outing, “21.”
While I was reading this, I couldn’t help but think of the Motown era, and what that did not only for music, but the historical impact it left on our society, and how it blurred the race lines. In that era, “black” music was able to cross over to the pop charts for the first time. The power that cross over had is forever engrained in the legacy of Motown. That’s what draws me to that era of music so much, and part of where my passion for music comes from - that pure and unstoppable force of music.
Give the article a look over, and hopefully it will provoke some thoughts.
Robyn’s Calling Your Girlfriend
Well - Robyn came out with a new video for her current single, “Call Your Girlfriend” and needless to say, it’s absolutely fantastic. Check this video out.
What Robyn does with music is something I hold in very high respects - she makes pure pop music, but she puts lyrical honesty and soul into these incredible dance beats. That’s not something we are seeing very much in pop music, but people like her and Gaga are doing that; they are pushing the limit of what pop can be. I’m always excited for what Robyn puts out, and this, along with all of her videos, surpasses my expectations.
Lady Gaga performs “Born This Way” in Dallas Gay Club
You can’t say she doesn’t know where she’s come from, and what’s gotten her to where she is. Last night, the reigning Princess of Pop returned to a club that helped break her career in Dallas to perform her current record breaking single - “Born This Way.” Check the video out!
Also - here’s a video of her first performing in 2008.
My respect continues to increase (didn’t think that was possible) for her as she continues her growth in this industry. Needless to say, May 23rd cannot come fast enough.