CHART UPDATE: Billboard Hot 100 (week ending 3/9/12)
In more not shocking news, top 40 music in America continues its downward spiral into shitdom and Internet memes as Baauer’s “Harlem Shake” spends its second week at number one.
Much thanks to the inclusion of video streaming data to Billboard’s algorithm, “Harlem Shake” rocketed to number one last week and spends its second week at the summit, ahead of Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop.”
“Harlem Shake” and “Thrift Shop” are both clearly great songs and are only marginally bettered by artists such as LMFAO and Flo Rida. Baauer should win a Grammy for his clever use of appropriation.
Bruno Mars, the new King of Pop, rises five spots to number three with “When I Was Your Man,” a song which is not annoying at all.
Meanwhile, relatively unknown artist Taylor Swift enjoys success with her new single “I Knew You Were Trouble,” which I haven’t even heard on the radio!
Thankfully, Britney Spears and Rihanna save the day at numbers five and seven respectively.
1. (1) Baauer: ‘Harlem Shake’
2. (2) Macklemore and Ryan Lewis: ‘Thrift Shop’
3. (8) Bruno Mars: ‘When I Was Your Man’
4. (5) Taylor Swift: ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’
5. (4) will.i.am ft. Britney Spears: ‘Scream & Shout’
6. (10) Drake: ‘Started From the Bottom’
7. (3) Rihanna: ‘Stay’
8. (9) Justin Timberlake ft. Jay-Z: ‘Suit & Tie’
9. (7) Bruno Mars: ‘Locked Out of Heaven’
10. (19) Lil Wayne ft. Drake & Future: ‘Love Me’
COVER ART: Rihanna, “Pour It Up” & “Stay”
INFAMEWETRUST’s ALBUMS of the YEAR (10-1)
10. Bat for Lashes, The Haunted Man
After a three-year weight, Natasha Khan – better known as Bat for Lashes – finally released her third album The Haunted Man. The songs are a little more stripped back, and a little more electronic, but just as captivating as her first two albums. Khan even works with Lana Del Rey collaborator on the haunting lead single “Laura.” Bat for Lashes also puts on a pretty incredible show – I was lucky enough to see Khan bring the album to life in Madrid this past November.
Top tracks: “Lilies,” “Laura,” “Winter Field,” “Deep Sea Diver”
Another long-awaited follow-up album, The xx released their second album towards the tail-end of the summer. Coexist maintains the same minimal, evocative atmosphere as the band’s debut, turning up the club influences slightly with the album’s beats. But Coexist is not the soundtrack to a night out. It’s a stained and clouded album, a soundtrack to early morning comedowns.
Top tracks: “Angels,” “Chained,” “Fiction,” “Reunion,” “Swept Away”
While a good portion of the population has Taylor Swift as the butt of their jokes, her fourth album Red has already sold 3 million copies in its two months of release. With simplistic acoustic numbers, Swift shows that she’s matured into a brilliant songwriter, and with a Dr. Luke produced stormer like “I Knew You Were Trouble,” she shows that she could just as easily be a pop princess.
Top tracks: “State of Grace,” “Red,” “Sad Beautiful Tragic,” “Begin Again”
Maybe Frank Ocean isn’t the savior of R&B that the media makes him out to be, and maybe his album has received extra attention due to Frank Ocean coming out as bisexual this summer, but Channel Orange is still a remarkable album. It’s not like anything better is nominated for a Grammy this year after all. The imagery in his lyrics compliments the beats so well. Andre 3000’s guest verse on “Pink Matter” is the best part of the album.
Top tracks: “Thinkin Bout You,” “Super Rich Kids,” “Pyramids,” “Bad Religion,” “Pink Matter”
After trying to be an R&B starlet with 3 Words and releasing the awfully patchy Messy Little Raindrops, Cheryl Cole released her best album yet in 2012, cementing her status as Girls Aloud’s breakout solo star. While the hype surrounding her has died since her stint on The X Factor, Cole still scored a number one hit with “Call My Name,” produced by man of the moment Calvin Harris. The album is sleek and modern, a great British pop album embellished with flourishes of EDM.
Top tracks: “Call My Name,” “Girl in the Mirror,” “Screw You,” “Ghetto Baby,” “Telescope”
I’m not saying that MDNA is Madonna’s best album, but I’m not saying that it’s a bad album. MDNA is a return to form for the Queen of Pop after 2008’s Hard Candy. While “Turn Up the Radio” may be dismal, Martin Solveig proved his worth with the infectious lead single “Give Me All Your Luvin’” and the Guy Ritchie diss “I Don’t Give A.” Alle and Benny Benassi direct the album to the dancefloor with club bangers “Girl Gone Wild” and “I’m Addicted.” The savior of the album has to be William Orbit, who reunites with Madonna after a decade apart. “Love Spent” is an album highlight, while “Gang Bang” may in fact be a career highlight.
Top tracks: “Gang Bang,” “I’m Addicted,” “Some Girls,” “Love Spent,” “Falling Free”
Sticking to her tried-and-true formula of knocking out a new album every year, Rihanna released her seventh(!) studio album Unapologetic towards the end of 2012. Instead of putting out a dance hit like “We Found Love” or “Where Have You Been,” Rihanna put out the more classic-sounding “Diamonds” as the album’s lead single. In fact, the album’s loudest moments are two tracks produced by David Guetta. The first half of the album features a more urban sound, echoing Rihanna’s Instagram feed, while the second half of the album recalls the wounded balladry of 2009’s Rated R. Unapologetic became Rihanna’s first number one album in the U.S., at last, and it’s easy to see why.
Top tracks: “Diamonds,” “Pour It Up,” “Jump,” “What Now,” “Stay,” “Get It Over With”
In order to justify exploring a more mainstream, pop sound, Marina and the Diamonds developed a strange alter ego Electra Heart – a blonde Barbie, a bubblegum bitch, a homewrecker, a prima donna, a teen idle. Regardless of her motives, it worked. Electra Heart is one of the best pop albums of the year, despite the pretense behind it. “Primadonna” is Dr. Luke’s best production in years, while “Homewrecker” is the kind of quirky pop that makes Popjustice readers go mad. Even though the lyrics pander to the Tumblr generation – “oh god, I’m gonna die alone,” Marina sings on “Teen Idle” – Electra Heart is compelling, enticing, and only a little ironic.
Top tracks: “Primadonna,” “Homewrecker,” “Starring Role,” “Power & Control,” “Teen Idle”
2. Lana Del Rey, Paradise
Not content with becoming the year’s most-talked about artist with her major label debut Born to Die, Lana Del Rey gave us more to talk about with her 9-track EP Paradise (available packaged with Born to Die or as a singular entity). Paradise follows the same recipe for success as its predecessor; however, here, Lana is a little drowsier, a little more haunting, a little more wounded. Lana is less heartbroken, less Lolita, and instead a rawer, more sexual being. On “Gods and Monsters,” she boldly states, “In the land of gods and monsters, I was an angel / Looking to get fucked hard.”
Top tracks: “Ride,” “American,” “Gods and Monsters,” “Bel Air” (the whole thing really)
1. Lana Del Rey, Born to Die
Back to the start. Despite cries of “talentless” and “manufactured,” Lana Del Rey showed critics why she was so talked about with her major label debut Born to Die. A spruce of melodrama, a healthy dosage of American dream, and a winning marriage of cinematic orchestra and hip-hop beats created one of the most compelling debut albums in years. From the lovelorn lyrics of the title track, “Video Games” and “Dark Paradise” to the sexualized teenage rebellion of “Lolita,” “Carmen,” and “This Is What Makes Us Girls,” Lana truly produced a perfect album. Not to get ahead of myself, but if it’s not already one of my favorite albums of all-time, it’s my favorite album of 2012.
Top tracks: Where to begin? “Born to Die,” “Off to the Races,” “Video Games,” “Dark Paradise,” “Summertime Sadness”
REVIEW: Rihanna, “Unapologetic”
As Rihanna enters the seventh year of her career, Barbados’ finest export releases her seventh studio album — for comparison, Britney Spears just released her seventh studio album last year. Rihanna is one of the most prolific artists of recent times, which has drawn criticism, but then Rihanna is the one with twelve U.S. number one singles – the same amount as Madonna and the Supremes.
Like any other celebrity, Rihanna’s success hasn’t come without an invasive media and tabloid headlines. She was infamously the victim of domestic violence in 2009 when Chris Brown assaulted her. Rihanna’s latest album follows numerous reports of her rekindled romance with Brown. He appears here on the disco-tinged duet “Nobody’s Business,” whose chorus contains the lyric, “Ain’t nobody’s business but mine and my baby’s.”
Almost every reporter has focused on Rihanna’s duet with the perpetrator of her assault, or pondered what the album’s lyrics mean in terms of the singer’s love life, effectively ignoring the music. The truth is, Rihanna’s personal life aside, Unapologetic is Rihanna’s fourth solid album in as many years.
Rihanna remains current but still takes risks. There are no colossal dance hits like “Only Girl (in the World),” “We Found Love” or “Where Have You Been.” The most dance floor friendly tracks on the album are the two David Guetta produced numbers — “Phresh Out the Runway,” which sounds like a Ciara song (no shade to Rih), and “Right Now.” While “Right Now” will likely be a hit single down the line, it’s hardly the most pleasing track on the album.
Combining the sexually-charged swagger of 2011’s Talk That Talk with the bruised balladry of 2009’s Rated R, the album splits itself equally between hip-hop and dubstep-influenced #YOLO anthems reminiscent of Drake and emotive ballads which feature Rihanna’s best vocal performances to date.
The aural ecstasy of “Numb,” which features an admittedly lame rap from Eminem, and the boastful prowess of “Pour It Up” are probably Rihanna’s most urban solo tracks to date, reflecting her questionable Twitter and Instagram presence. “Money on my mind / All I see is dollar signs,” Rihanna brags on the latter.
“Loveeeee Song” — yes, that many E’s — is a sensual, slow burning number featuring vocals from rapper Future. The Ginuwine-sampling “Jump” is Unapologetic’s best uptempo offering, carefully maintaining a balance between the album’s urban sound and Rihanna’s pop sensibilities.
The second half of the album shares more in common with the Sia-penned lead single “Diamonds,” already a worldwide chart topper. “Stay,” which features vocals from up-and-coming singer-songwriter Mikky Ekko and a songwriting credit from Lana Del Rey collaborator Justin Parker, is perhaps Rihanna’s strongest ballad to date.
Album highlight “What Now” explores the emptiness and apathy of a woman too broken and numb to love. With its swelling chorus, “What Now” and final track “Lost in Paradise” tread the line between actual ballad and crying-on-the-dancefloor chants. Rihanna skillfully combines two tracks into one with the stellar “Love without Tragedy / Mother Mary,” which alongside the reggae “No Love Allowed,” reflects her Bajan roots.
One of the album’s finest moments comes towards the end with the dreaminess of “Get It Over With,” a chilled-out song with marijuana references for days. Rihanna urges her lover to stop “thundering” and “just fucking rain” so that they can enjoy themselves and “roll up and go again.”
The lyrics may pander to tabloids, but for the first time since 2009’s Rated R, Rihanna sounds like she feels what she’s singing. At the end of the day, toxic relationships and headlines aside, Unapologetic is another consistent, welcomed offering from Rihanna. It recently became her first number one album in the United States, and rightfully so. See you again next year, Miss Fenty.
RATING: 3.5 / 5
Top tracks: Diamonds, Jump, What Now, Stay, Get It Over With
NEWS: Rihanna confirms next single
Everyone’s favourite Bajan export Rihanna has confirmed that the second single taken from her seventh studio album Unapologetic will be “Stay.”
The ballad, co-written by Justin Parker (Lana Del Rey), was performed on Saturday Night Live last month. The track features vocals from Mikky Ekko.
The song has already charted at number 58 in Canada and number 102 in the United Kingdom due to strong digital download sales.
“Stay” will follow “Diamonds,” which became Rihanna’s twelfth number one single in the United States, tying her as artist with the fifth-most number ones.
Rihanna recently topped charts worldwide with Unapologetic, earning her first number one album on the United States’ Billboard 200 chart.
VIDEO: Rihanna, “Diamonds”