Artist: Various Artists (G.O.O.D. Music)
Album: G.O.O.D. Music – Cruel Summer
Sounds Like: the House of Kanye West audio rolling into a Boring Fall (3 out of 5, worth copping the full album on sale or some of mp3s)
Reviewer: DJ Fusion
Love or Hate him, producer/MC/music label head/fashion designer/kinda sorta reality TV guest star* Kanye West has in one way or the other had a huge hand in defining the 21st century mainstream Hip-Hop scene.
Kanye’s sonic landscapes have provided hits for people with bars & those with less natural mic skill rhyming or singing than Mitt Romney. He’s grown definitely grown as an MC over the past decade, in some cases, almost equaling is “Big Brother” Jay-Z.
Then on the business end after forming G.O.O.D. Music, it seemed that pretty diverse powerhouse of talent was in the house, with artists like Common, Q-Tip, Kid Cudi, Big Sean, Cyphi the Prynce, Mos Def, Pusha T, Jon Legend and more on deck.
Kanye’s creativity might not make the best albums for some rap listeners, but he’s usually never really completely mediocre or unfocused with his output.
Until this delayed first G.O.O.D. Music compilation that is.
“Cruel Summer” drops at the right season, because this feels like the fall of him trying to push the boundaries of himself and his label to new heights based off of their current position in the music hierarchy.
This is the album ‘Ye has become laz-‘Ye. Instead of trying to keep up and bypass the Joneses of Hip-Hop on the 12 track collection, he’s decided to cruise control with the Carters, mellow out with MMG and engage in mad talk of his Young Cash Money.
Besides the kind of weird, almost New Wave feeling “Creepers” by Kid Cudi and the John Legend & Teyana Taylor’s R&B ballad “Bliss”, all the G.O.O.D. Music cats are doing on most of the album is sheer bragging. This would be fine if they gave any amount of damns about at least finding a different way to talk about clothing labels of the day, heauxs and bank balances.
It’s frustrating to hear cats who all know they can do better**** just slacking off on what should be the “don’t f*** with us” clarion call for their crew.
With a fourth of the album being singles already in the iBlogosphere since the beginning of the year (“Cold”, “New God Flow” sans Ghostface Killah’s great closing verse on this album, “I Don’t Like RMX”**), there’s not much on “Cruel Summer” that sticks out hard that separates them from any other modern rap label release full of guest stars*** and production styles (which granted are pretty solid & not too bad at all by folks like illMind, Hit-Boy, Kanye West, Hudson Mohawke and more on the boards) besides the club banger “Clique”.
And there are some songs that are just straight up a sign of drugs & booze in the studio in sheer WTF-ery and disjointedness, like the “we’re trying to be deep, but no” “Sin City”. :/
“Cruel Summer” has pulled an iPhone 5 on the Hip-Hop audience.
It’s foundation was kind of groundbreaking and revolutionary with it’s “f*** you, I’m here to change the game” style by hanging with the cool kids after a ton of work and making the average person feel like they’re a part of the rise. Now, after a few insignificant tweaks and changes, G.O.O.D. Music still expects you to love ‘em & blindly give ‘em money to look at them on stage sneering behind the velvet rope while lip-syncing soullessly.
Perfectionist Kanye is gone with this album, leaving his listeners with ordinary tunes that range from ok to crap. More white noise in the sea of mainstream Hip-Hop with an occasional wave of cool that sticks out to give folks hope. “Cruel Summer” is just like everything else that has dropped lately from the major rap crews. Unfortunate.
* Kanye Kardashian, word up.
** Now getting more press – not the good kind – due to Chief Keef’s multiple rounds of just sad real life foolery & iCoonery
*** including folks like R. Kelly & Marsha Ambrosius being horribly wasted on plug-and-play hooks, DJ Khaled doing DJ Khaled screaming, 2 Chainz having more charisma on his “Mercy” verse than his entire album plus Raekwon and Ghostface Killah saving the songs they’re on w/Wu-Tang Clan vibes
**** C’mon Common, your verse on “The Morning”, that’s it?! Word?
Personal Favorite Tracks: Clique feat. Kanye West, Big Sean & Jay-Z, New God Flow feat. Kanye West, Pusha T & Ghostface Killah
Music Video: Kanye West feat. Big Sean & Jay-Z – Clique
Album: The Truth About Love
Genre: iPod on Shuffle
Sounds like: The kind of reality show I’d actually watch
When it comes to Pink’s new album The Truth About Love there are three things that you need to consider:
1. Her record company blew up.
Between the success of 2008’s Funhouse (and a Greatest Hits Collection a year later) and the upcoming release of her latest album, RCA Music Group dissolved Jive Records (including Arista and J Records) – effectively moving all of the artists who were formerly on those labels to RCA.
On the surface, this shouldn’t be that big of a deal. Pink is a huge moneymaker, and has been one long enough that she should theoretically be above the influence of any new corporate executive telling her how to sell more records. After all, Pink’s at her best when she’s able to color outside the lines and be herself.
But one of the first things you notice about her sixth studio album The Truth About Love is the overabundance of guest stars and producers on the track listing. Honestly, the idea of an Eminem and Pink team-up sounds like something created in a corporate conference room specifically for the purpose of doing a guest spot on American Idol or The Voice – and it colors your impression of the album a little bit.
Other collaborations work better (Lilly Allen and Fun lead singer Nate Ruess provide a nice counterpoint for P!nk’s voice in their appearances), but the fact that they’re around in the first place on a Pink album eventually feels like a distraction.
Love it or hate it — Pink’s unapologetic oversharing is the driving energy of her music – not only in their popularity but in justifying the way she jumps from style to style. If she’s singing a man-bashing party anthem then she’s rock and roll, and if she’s getting her party on she gets more pop sounding, and her ballads tend to lean closer to pop country.
If there’s ever been such a thing as a crossover pop diva — Pink is it.
So when you add such a diversity of popular guest stars in a room that’s already crowded with the many facets of Pink’s musical personality, the songs run the risk of feeling cluttered. In the end it’s never enough to rob the energy of the work as a whole, but in re-listening to it over the course of a couple of days what I found myself doing more often than not was skipping the collaboration tracks altogether.
2. She had a baby and went back to her husband.
I’ve always thought of Pink as sort of the white girl Jill Scott. Not so much in terms of vocal talent or range — but in the fact that the real star of each of their albums are the stories they tell.
The weaker Jill Scott albums have always been the ones where she’s trying to write hit singles instead of being painfully honest about her never-ending search for real love.
Pink on the other hand sings about a world where being a bad bitch is always better than being a stupid girl – until the sun comes up and you’ve hitched your wagon to some guy who isn’t really worth all the drama.
And much like Jill Scott, if something happens in her life that plays havoc with her emotions it’s going to find its way into her lyrics. Her entire last album seemed to be about how much of a jerk her husband was — and even if it was TMI, much like Jill it’s that realness that gives it substance.
So there was legitimate concern among fans when the news started to break that she was trying to fix her marriage to that same jerk and that she was taking time off to be a mom to her first baby that The Truth About Love might be all about diapers and therapy. Even worse, the possibility existed that Pink might put out a collection of generic party anthems and bad bitch songs that maintained her star appeal and character, but didn’t reflect the person she’d become now that she was a mom. Fans might not really want to hear her more matronly side, but they’d always prefer her to be honest.
Luckily, The Truth About Love’s best moments are its defiant ones. Whether motherhood or stable marriage has enriched her life or not, Pink still has plenty of opinions about never compromising her attitude or douchebag guys.
Her dirty humor and masterful way of making IDGAF sound poppy and mainstream shine through the high points of songs like “Walk of Shame” and especially on her ode to casual sex “Slut Like You” that reminds men who really makes the decisions when a one night stand happens (“Wham, Bam, Thank you man!”).
But perhaps more importantly, there are honest moments on here about her marriage and making a home life work. Songs like “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)” and “True Love” feature Pink calling her husband an asshole and telling him he’s full of shit (but she still loves him). At other points on the disc she laments late night attempts at whiskey dick, piles of dirty laundry, and loving someone despite smelly armpits — the kinds of things so many real marriages have to endure.
She might be happier at home, but that doesn’t mean that everything’s suddenly Katy Perry Fireworks and Beyonce love songs. Love means work, and keeping your marriage together sometimes means you’re stuck with that same cheating bum you were about to leave a few years ago. Pink walks these aisles with particular strength and power, and damn if she doesn’t make it more fun than you’d expect.
Pop audiences in America are finicky, and they constantly move on to new things. But Pink’s appeal spreads far beyond our shores (she’s HUGE in Australia), which normally affords her more freedom to not have to follow trends in pop music or try to keep up with the joneses. You won’t find any half-assed dubstep dance tracks on this album (thank god) and if anyone had the balls to even suggest that Pink needed to write an answer to “Call Me Maybe” she apparently told them to shove it.
But between her last album and this one, Adele happened.
In a lot of ways Adele re-wrote the book for what we expect from a pop ballad these days, and the effect seems to have spread to the softer moments on The Truth About Love. While her voice is as emotive and strong as ever, the production and delivery of the albums more somber moments feel over-polished in an all-too-familiar way. Pink works best when she cuts her emotions open and spills them out everywhere, but ballads like “Beam Me Up” and especially “The Great Escape” feel reigned in and sappy compared to the fun stuff.
The Truth About Love might not be Pink’s best album — but it’s a fun ride and perhaps more importantly speaks its truths without apology. It feels almost like a reality show with all the blatant talk of love and sex and struggle, but it’s never cloying or attention seeking the way so many of those shows tend to be. This is just the way these people are — so let’s see for the kid’s sake if they can hold it together.
It’s definitely worth a listen — See what you think:
Blow Me (One Last Kiss)
Slut Like You