My Top 20 Albums List: The Gift That Keeps On Giving (#'s 10-6)Aug 18, 2003 Write an essay on this topic.
The Bottom Line And we're heading down the homestretch...the torture is almost over!
Well, well. We meet again, random Epinionator. I knew you couldn't resist me. No one can. (slight pause) Alright the last two sentences were pure BS but you have to admit I was convincing. Sort of.
Anyway, before I dig myself a hole even deeper, I'll get to my introduction. You didn't think this was the intro, did you? So, here are my next favorite albums. Not as dramatic as an American Idol episode but it suits me just fine. No out-of-tune reviews over here, man.
Christina Aguilera Stripped, 4.62 stars
release date: October 29th, 2002
record label: RCA Records
producer(s): Scott Storch, Linda Perry, Glen Ballard, Rockwilder and Alicia Keys, among others.
synopsis: This record is one of the most provocative and controversial albums released in the part year or two. Why do I say that? Former squeaky clean pop tart sexes image and music up considerable amount. Former pop tart makes record on other side of spectrum to avoid scrutiny but ends up getting more. Priceless story, I must say. Note to self: phone Danielle Steele for possible pitch meeting. This record, while not owning a specific identity (unless you count record with no identity), offers up a taste of everything the too-talented-for-her-own-good 20 something has in her tool chest of musical repertoire. While some may consider the album's whopping 20 tracks as overkill, I am genuinely happy about the fact that she didn't make a short and half hearted record. Christina definitely went all out and you can tell in her more passionate vocals, more personal lyrics and the stunning variety present. Per usual, the tracks where she shines the most are the ballads. The jazz inspired old school r&b piano track Walk Away, the ubiquitous Beautiful, the chick flick ready road song Cruz and the neo soul Loving Me 4 Me are the tracks where she showcases her marvelous range and old soul without guest spots (Lil Kim in her current single, the female empowerement anthem Can't Hold Us Down), overbearing instruments (the kickin' Fighter) or stupid lyrics (the Argentinian retro rock track Make Over) getting in the way. Her weakest genre is definitely hip hop. On the now infamous Dirrty, the casual sex anthem Get Mine, Get Yours and the aforementioned Can't Hold Us Down, XTina (her nickname) does a good job but tends to lose focus on her voice and doesn't do as good of a job vocally. These are still good tracks but not as good as they could've been. She definitely doesn't need any of the guest spots because the tracks hold up without them. She has enough presence to carry a record by herself. Lyrically this record is mindblowingly intimate and introspective into all aspects of her life. She covers most bases in her writing; family issues (the so-agonizing-I'd-have-a-good-cry-with-her-about-this I'm Ok), inspirational personal anthems (the overlong but still great Keep On Singin' My Song and the lifting Soar) and social issues (Can't Hold Us Down) as well as her thoughts on fame and celebrity (Make Over and Loving Me 4 Me). She is still searching for an identity but with this record she has plenty to choose from.
link to her site: http://www.christina-a.com
highlights: Walk Away, Keep On Singin' My Song and Beautiful
lowlight: Make Over
Pink Missundaztood, 4.644 stars
release date: November 20th, 2001
record label: Arista Records
producer(s): Linda Perry, Dallas Austin, Damon Elliot, Scott Storch and Richie Supa, among others.
synopsis: This album is to Pink's career as Stripped is to Christina's. Wow, musical analogies. How fun. Um...yeah. Pink dropped her thugged out r&b diva image in favor of a more rocker girl persona and music to match. Vocally Pink (real name being Alicia Moore) lost the overproduced vibe and went down way deep for some of these tracks. Her voice has some real grit (Misery) and a retrospective quality to it that's rather fascinating. She doesn't have a range but her belting (two different things, my lovelies) is angst-y and phenomenally powerful. You'll hear this most in Just Like A Pill. She definitely sings from the heart (the heartbreaking Family Portrait) and since most of these lyrics are extremely personal, her voice reaches stratospheric levels. You hear elements of pain, anger and vulnerability that you don't come within miles of on her good-but-not-great debut. Perry definitely brings out some inner demons Pink has/d and uses them to create a powerful record. Lyrically this record can be viewed as depressing with its account of divorce (Family Portrait), her relationships with her family (the nearly funny My Vietnam) and her own demons (Lonely Girl and Eventually). But if you want a different view of the seemingly invincible rock-star-in-a-pop-star's-body this is a record you'll love. Its lack of pretention and lack of a sheltered vocalist is very nice to see, seeing as most pop stars tend to not touch on a lot of their own issues which is honestly a shame. Even the hip hop-y tracks (Respect, the title track) have above average lyrics. Her rebellious nature shows up several times (18 Wheeler with its profanity laced hook) but she doesn't abuse it. Everything on the album just flows well with nothing sounding really forced. The album as a whole doesn't have a formula to which it sticks to. She does, however, do more rock tracks than anything but managed to work in other styles. Her strongest track is the blues-y, gin soaked duet with Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. Its the track where Pink's rock chic persona gets to fly without being too overbearing. The chemistry with veteran Tyler is enchanting and drips soul, heart and a real musical intelligence. The other tracks that aren't really 'rocker grrl' are the lighthearted title track, the semi-irritating first single Get The Party Started and the girl power anthem Respect which adds touches of humor to the album. Overall this album is a testament of this girl's talent. Buy it, if you haven't already.
link to her site: http://www.pinkspage.com
highlights: Misery, 18 Wheeler and My Vietnam
lowlights: Get The Party Started
Mandy Moore Mandy Moore, 4.653 stars
release date: June 19th, 2001
record label: Epic Records
producer(s): Emilio Estefan, Phillip Aaron, Todd Chapman, James Renald and Matthew Hager among others.
synopsis: Mandy Moore has always been the most underrated and least successful of the four then-blonde females to emerge in the era of teen pop's resurgence. She's always been looked at as everyone's little sister and has been written off due to her so-sugary-I-got-a-toothache debut and rehash of a second album. But this album (along with the short brunette 'do she now sports) has lifted her up as the most critically praised of the four. This album can be described as organic with a pop ringe. Its overall lack of production and more thought out lyrics both make this album as high as it is on my list. This albnum brings together more guitars and strings into her music which is also new. On her previous works, she never had any live instrumentation that didn't go through the synth before it was recorded. It has some mixed results, though. Most are great (the Jewel-esque When I Talk to you, the breezy It Only Took A Minute) but has one real snoozer (the Diane Warren penned From Loving You). Moore includes more midtempos and ballads on this album and it ends up that they're the best tracks. Songs like the touching Cry, the heartfelt and wise 17 and the surprisingly adult Crush all are some of her best material to date. She gets more vocal complements; her naturally soft and uber girly voice gets raised a level by the music that backs her. On songs like Saturate Me and One Sided Love she can get swallowed in the track instead of commanding it. The middle eastern influence on this album is very surprising. On the highly underrated first single In My Pocket and the sassy One Sided Love you get these powerful hooks and bolf musicianship that seems to come from left field. She infuses a lot of attitude (Yo Yo), confidence (Split Chick, the oddest track on the album) and a vulnerability (17) that is only matched/surpassed by Christina's Stripped (well, out of the four ladies who'll forever be associated, that is). Her range has gotten better but she's never going to be the Kelly Clarkson/Christina Aguilera type of vocalist. But at least she's doing music where she can show off her melodious and sweet voice. I'm sure on her new record she's going to be that much better. Lyrically this album shows an undeniable evolution in the teenager (she's only 19, FYI) that makes me feel like a proud papa. Her love songs aren't the "oh boy, I love you so much and hope we're together forever" persuasion- anymore. She takes different viewpoints (well, her songwriters do. she only co-wrote one song on this record and her next record is all covers) as opposed to repeating herself 12 times. Songs like Crush and You Remind Me will surprise you in their maturity, down-to-earth emotions and vulnerable albeit strong nature. If you have heard her previous 1.5 records (does anyone even count I Wanna Be With You as a whole record?), you'll be very surprised at her sound. Trust me. I'ma fan of all her music and I was more than pleasantly surprised. Oh yeah, buy her record on October 21st. The sista has to eat, you know?
link to her site: http://www.mandymoore.com (the message boarders are very nice, might I add)
highlights: 17, Saturate Me and It Only Took A Minute
lowlights: Split Chick and From Loving You
Jill Scott Who Is Jill Scott? Words And Sounds Volume One, 4.656 stars
release date: July 18th, 2000
record label: Hidden Beach Recordings
producer(s): Darren Henson, Andre Harris, Keith Pelzer, Jeff Townes, Vidal David and Carvin Haggins among others.
synopsis: Ah, another essential r&b album. I'm not reaching that far for records, am I? I couldn't show my face around the Epinions Music Forum without putting this masterpiece on my list. Jill encompasses everything that I love about music. She writes intelligent and humor filled lyrics (Exclusively, Gettin' In The Way), has the voice and presence of a veteran (He Loves Me) and is hard not to be mesmerized by. She combines spoken word with her lush, big mama voice and personable attitude to form an amazing, classic record. First, we'll start with her lyrics. She writes a good variety of lyrics but each song has a little bit of Jill in it. They all have her wit, depth and sense of reality. Her love songs are all phenomenal but one rings louder than the rest. The piano fronted slowly crescendoing ballad of true love, He Loves Me (Lyzel In E Flat). Its lovestruck vocals are very endearing when they mesh with the string filled beat. It has a very endearing quality to it that makes it a better song than it seems. Other lyrical highlights include the semi-explicit spoken word Exclusively (This mornin' my man exclusively introduced me/ To some good extra lovin'/ He was lickin' and suckin' on every thang just the way he should), the laidback A Long Walk (You're here/ I'm pleased/ I really dig your company/ Your style. your smile, your peace mentality) and the self explanatory Love Rain (Met him on a Thursday/ Sunny afternoon, cumulus clouds, 84 degress, He was brown, deep/ Said he wanted to talk about my misson/ Listen to my past lives (word?)). Her vocals are breathtaking, as I said. They're playful, sassy, passionate and just real down-to-earth. Her spoken word is also choice with her personality peeking through a bit more. On Love Rain she recounts meeting her than fiance (now her hubby). On the...er...dripping Honey Molasses she talks to a guy after a night of passion and he hasn't called yet. The album as a whole is very, very relaxed. Those of us who have ADD (well, I don't have ADD. I kind of do, though.) will have to take this in more than one sitting. Its got a nice flow to it with each song fitting together to create a calm and serene albeit amazing and phe-nomenal (sorry Paula Abdul) record. Buy it.
link to her site: http://www.whoisjillscott.com
highlights: He Loves Me, Gettin' In The Way and Love Rain
lowlight: The Way
Mariah Carey Greatest Hits, 4.66 stars
release date: December 4th, 2001
record label: Columbia Records
producer(s): Rhett Lawrence, Walter Afansieff, Ric Wake, Narada Michael Walden, David Cole, Robert Clivilles, Dave Hall, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Babyface and Jermaine Dupri, among others.
synopsis: And what would my album list be without some Mariah Carey? I couldn't decide which album to put so I just put a combination of all of them minus Glitter and Charmbracelet. There's no new tracks but honestly that doesn't matter to me especially because I lack a few of her albums. This 2 disc chrnoicle of the curvy diva's illustrious career is a must for any fan of hers. For those who haven't bought every single album, this is a good way to play catch up. For those diehards, its a good way to add to your Mariah collection and to avoid changing CDs. Mariah's best material comes from the more slowed down disc one which ranges from one of my all time favorite songs Vision Of Love to the summer-y Fantasy. It covers a time when Mariah was...well...covered and her music was more-or-less controlled by that dirty ol' pervert, the "devilish" Tommy Mottolla. Disc one has mostly adult contemporary love songs with only a few straying (the inspirational autobiographical Make It Happen and the sweet and uplifting Anytime You Need A Friend) from that. Mariah's vocals are amazing, of course. The entire first disc features some primo range and d-r-a-m-a. On the driving Emotions and the moving I'll Be There, she reaches heavenly heights only your pooches will comprehend. She's clear, precise and has some of the best expression and personality to it that you'll find. Disc one contains zero whisper-y tones and Mariah at her peak. Disc two features barely audible whispers and no showcases of her range. Mariah was never known for her lyrical complexity but what many fail to recognize is that she writes all of her own songs as well as composes them. Whitney doesn't do it, Janet doesn't do it and Madonna doesn't do it. Her best lyrics occur on the already mentioned Make It Happen and Anytime You Need A Friend as well as the less-than-stellar cover of Endless Love featuring Luther Vandross. She definitely takes you away with her lyrics that lighten your mood. Disc two is far less successful, in all facets. Although it features two of my all time favorite Mariah songs (the retro Forever and the romantic Underneath The Stars), it's far less consistent. Her mammoth duet with Boyz II Men One Sweet Day, the guilty pleasure Thank God I Found You and the cover-tribute to Brenda K. Starr (the woman who gave Mariah her start) I Still Believe are also some of the good stuff on this urban pop laced disc. But what kills it is the stiff and generic should-have-been-classic When You Believe, the irritating Sweetheart and the boring-as-heck remix to a great song All I Want For Christmas Is You. Those three songs aren't up to Mariah's standard. Overall, a great album from a great artist.
link to her site: http:.//www.mariahcarey.com
highlights: Underneath The Stars, Forever, Vision Of Love, Someday and Without You
lowlights: When You Believe, Sweetheart and the All I Want For Christmas Remix
Three down, one to go. If you're still reading these, many thank you's. Feel free to comment. I always enjoy reading what the adoring masses have to say. Next up, THE FINAL FIVE! (evil mad scientist laugh)
|Read all comments (7)|Write your own comment|