Beyond Andrea Bocelli and Pavarotti, it seems as though Americans are largely unaware of any other Italian music. Thank god or whoever Giorgio Moroder is back after 30 years with the aptly titled album Déjà Vu. Using a common tactic of "older artists" of late, Moroder uses the vocal talents of such established powerhouses as Kylie Minogue, Britney Spears (the American Kylie Minogue), Charli XCX and Kelis.

 Moroder's latest album

Moroder's latest album

Opening with a track that welcomes the audience with the appropriately named "4 U With Love," Moroder establishes the tone of what promises to be an exuberant record. Lending an updated feel to a 70s sound, it's almost as though "the godfather" of electronic music, disco and anything dance-oriented never left us to begin with. The second track, "Déjà Vu," featuring Sia offers Moroder's take on how the perhaps overrated singer ought to sound--which is to say like a new-fangled Diana Ross (but, of course, the sound of "Titanium" can't help but be hinted at throughout this track).

 The Sia and Moroder collaboration

The Sia and Moroder collaboration

"Diamonds" featuring Charli XCX picks up the tempo and provides one of the most dance-friendly beats of the record. XCX's distinctive voice announces, "Cut out with scissors made of starlight/Hold tight, we're sleeping with the city tonight/Lost in your spectrum and your colors/You're all bright/No, you're nothing like the others." Mixing diamond metaphors with ones that pertain to partying all night, it somehow works thanks to Moroder's glistening beats. Slowing down the pace is "Don't Let Go" featuring Mikky Ekko (best known for collaborating with Rihanna on "Stay"). A lush ballad set to Moroder's typically fast pace, the song makes for one of the most unique on Déjà Vu, particularly since it's one of the only songs with male vocals. 

 Giogio & Kylie

Giogio & Kylie

In a combination that feels as natural as chocolate and peanut butter, the pairing of Kylie Minogue and Moroder on "Right Here, Right Now" (not to be confused with the Fat Boy Slim track of the same name) is so smooth and so seamless that you wonder how it never existed before. Considering much of Moroder's musical compositions already sound like a Minogue song, the pairing is only natural. As expressed by Minogue, "Nothing ever felt as good as this/There's nowhere else but right here, right now."

 Moroder, back in the day

Moroder, back in the day

"Tempted" featuring Matthew Kona possesses the closest sound resembling funk on the album. Again possessing the 70s aural brand as only Moroder could make work in the twenty-first century, "Tempted" is freshness in music form. The repetition of "Burn for me, burn for me" indeed sounds a lot like "Burn, baby, burn it," continuing to prove that Moroder is a master of rebranding his signature sound for a modern audience. Next is the tongue-in-cheekly named "74 is the New 24," which sounds like a revamped version of the "Chase" from Midnight Express for which Moroder was most known. The only thing uttered on the track is "Hey Mr. DJ" (faintly reminiscent of the opening to Madonna's "Music"), which is really all one needs to coo in order to get what they want on the dance floor.

 Single cover for "Tom's Diner"

Single cover for "Tom's Diner"

Although this listener is not completely convinced of the goodness of a remake of Suzanne Vega's infallible "Tom's Diner," Britney Spears' dance-tinged rendering of the track can't help but be paid attention to with its lulling beats and Britney stylization. An almost completely faithful lyrical re-creation, Giorgio Moroder adds one additional line of his own: "love is the drug that makes you wanna drink." "Wildstar" featuring Foxes has the most emotion when compared to the other vocals on the album. Her detectable English accent lends a certain amount of authenticity to Déjà Vu, which is otherwise saturated with a manufactured vibe (not to say this is a bad thing).

 The maestro

The maestro

Perhaps the most curveball collaboration off the record, "Back and Forth" featuring Kelis finds the usually moody singer sounding completely unlike her usual self. The message of the song is a lot like Florence + The Machine's latest single, "What Kind of Man," lamenting the back and forth, push and pull of being in a relationship with a man who is inordinately unpredictable in love. The second to last track, "I Do This For You" featuring Marlene, a Swedish singer who has been around longer than Tove Lo, but doesn't quite have the same amount of American fame, has a controlled fast pace that Moroder doesn't reveal as prominently on other songs. Showing off his ability to cultivate the perfect sound, Moroder wields Marlene's voice as a secondary tool to his own talent. "I do this for you/I only do this for you," seems to be what Moroder is saying through Marlene.

 Ain't nobody better

Ain't nobody better

To conclude this epic comeback of a record, Moroder chooses not to employ the frills of using another au courant artist to back him. Instead "La Disco" is a mostly instrumental denouement, occasionally including Moroder's own manipulated voice. Matching "4 U With Love" in its jubilant sound, the Italian maestro of dance music couldn't have chosen a better way to put a cap on his triumphant return. 

Best Coast has obviously never been shy about which coast their loyalties lie with, and their third album, California Nights, serves to make it all the more evident. Even the release date for the record, May 5th a.k.a. Cinco de Mayo, smacks of some vague reference to the Mexicanness of California (note their record label used to be Mexican Summer). To be sure, the vehemence of both the title and the album cover defy any of its listeners not to fall in love with the Golden State (which is what mongos often refer to as the Sunshine State. No, that's Florida).

 Sun-soaked California Nights album cover

Sun-soaked California Nights album cover

The sympathetic, understanding vocals of the opening track, "Feeling Ok," show us why we keep coming back to lead singer Bethany Cosentino for more: because she gets us and knows our lovelornness inside and out. Admitting, "I know someday you'll find it where I least expect it/When I get down, I get so down/But I'll keep trying to stay this way/But I know it's love that's got me feeling okay," Cosentino expresses the fear of losing a love that makes her feel halfway decent.

"Fine Without You" offers the flip side of Cosentino's personality: the independent, jilted lover who finds herself preferring life without her former object of her affection. She goads, "I know it's hard, I know it's hard to understand/The situation's out of your hands." Free of the emotional tyranny of another, Cosentino sounds at her most self-assured on this song. 

 The duo that is Best Coast

The duo that is Best Coast

"Heaven Sent," the third track, picks up the pace while still sustaining the melancholic, angst-ridden aura of Cosentino. The accompanying video features her wearing a Lana Del Rey-esque flower garland on her head and lamenting, "When you were gone, I wasn't good/I wasn't fine/I woke up in the morning losing my mind."

 California daze

California daze

"In My Eyes" is an ardent appeal to the one Cosentino wronged as she wails, "What hurts the most is that you're gone and it hasn't even been that long/But you're in my eyes, you're in my eyes"--presumably "eyes" means, you know, like "mind's eye."

 Playing at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco

Playing at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco

"So Unaware" is the closest Best Coast is capable of getting to philosophical examination, though, of course, that examination still stems from obsession with another. Cosentino mourns, "I can't get you out of my head/I stay awake, I stay alone/And I don't even answer my phone," continuing on an existential rant by demanding, "What is life? What is love? What's the meaning of it all/Do I even care or is just that I am so unaware?" We never quite get any answers.

 Still from "Heaven Sent" 

Still from "Heaven Sent" 

The self-exploratory "When Will I Change" finds Cosentino grieving over the notion that the more time passes, the less adult she feels, singing, "The weight of the world crashes down on my shoulders/I'm a big girl now, but I don't feel much older." And again, "visions of love," to use the phrase Cosentino semi-borrows from Mariah Carey, are ultimately what seem to be driving her batty.

Unlike the Queen song of the same name, "Jealousy" is not so much about a lover being jealous of her significant other, but of the inability of the two of them to get along. Case in point: "We've been trying to get along, respect one another/And after all this time, we still fight over the small things/Why don't you like me?/What's with the jealousy?"

 Bobb Bruno and his California smile

Bobb Bruno and his California smile

The dreamy, surreal title track, "California Nights," echoes the sentiments of most Californians and beyond in terms of the inherent need to remain numb at all times (typically via weed). Though, of course, one assumes Cosentino is also speaking from a metaphorical standpoint when she says, "I stay high all the time just to get by/I climb to the sky/And my eyes, they cry/California nights make me feel so happy I could die."

 Ardency

Ardency

The beat picks up again with "Fading Fast," yet again employing the ironic musical tactic of pairing a fast tempo with morose lyrics. This time, the woe stems from the fact that: "This love will be the death of me and you'll always be a part of me/I see you when I close my eyes and I wish that I could realize/I know this love is fading past/I know that I can't change the past."

 Tormented

Tormented

"Run Through My Head" expresses a common theme in love: one person moving on while the other hasn't been able to--and yet the former party is still willing to call up the latter when he's desperate enough or in need of some quick sexual relief. Cosentino breaks it down with: "You only call me when you're all alone/And I don't know why I pick up the phone/Guess I'm lonely and you are too." Her sadness reaches a zenith when she waxes, "It's a mystery why you left/I don't know why I'm second best."

 Oozing emotion

Oozing emotion

"Sleep Won't Ever Come" is something of an homage to Green Day's "Brain Stew," though from a much softer, more feminine perspective. Like Billy Joe Armstrong, Cosentino's "eyes feel like they're gonna bleed" as she bemoans, "I've tried it all, I've tried it all/My brain just wants to fall asleep/Sleep won't ever come, sleep won't ever come to me." Searching for someone else to blame for her insomnia, she waxes, "I blame it on the moon, I blame it on my mood/I blame it on the world 'cause he can be so cruel." 

 Sentiments

Sentiments

The heady conclusion to California Nights, "Wasted Time," serves a dual purpose: 1) to tell the listener in a roundabout way, "I waited for you at the end" and 2) refer to a lover that wasted her time by noting, "I don't really mind all of this wasted time/Just wish that I had something to show for it." Indeed, what Best Coast has to show for it, once again, is an amazingly listenable album culled from heartache and California sunshine. Though one wonders where guitarist Bobb Bruno's emotions are in all of this. 

 

Usually, if a band hasn't released an album in over ten years, its likelihood for continuation is fairly slim. Especially when the two lead members of said band share a contentious rapport. Nonetheless, Britpop darlings Blur have set a new precedent with their eighth studio album, The Magic Whip.

 Cool borders

Cool borders

Recorded in May of 2013 after the band was marooned in Hong Kong for five days after a festival they were supposed to play got cancelled, the songs recorded on The Magic Whip were intended as a creative distraction, though it's clear the band was looking for a reason to collaborate again. 

 The boys of Blur

The boys of Blur

The upbeat melancholy of "Lonesome Street" has tinges of a "For Tomorrow" backbeat as Albarn assures, "If you have nobody left to rely on/I'll hold you in my arms." Its video features a Napoleon Dynamite-esque tableau as an Asian man dances alone in front of a stereo and is later joined by a woman, and, later still, more women--all living on a metaphorical Lonesome Street.

"New World Towers" is decidedly focused on the aural style of solo Damon Albarn, with very little Coxon influence other than his subtle backing vocals. Ambient and strummy, it's even more laidback than "Lonesome Street." The distinct 90s alt-rock feel of "Go Out," with its confection-loving video, is the closest to "having fun" Blur gets on the album.

The video game/anime vibes of "Ice Cream Man" create one of the most interesting sounds on the record, accented by Albarn's repetition of "something new," as though to drive home the point that that's what this song is. Continuing the Asian-inspired flair is "Thought I Was A Spaceman," with its ethereal, dance-laden beats and Albarn's otherworldly voice mumbling, and the pace picking up with some xylophone action in the middle.

Video game-friendly sounds continue on "I Broadcast," an uptempo track with jubilant lyrical poetry like "the apparitions of another night." The echoing tone of Albarn's voice lends a futuristic feel to a song with presumable reference to the current human need to showcase everything he does.

 The neon of The Magic Whip

The neon of The Magic Whip

Things slow down again on the romantic "My Terracotta Heart." The romantic element, however, seems to be in regard to the nostalgia of Blur itself with allusions like "when we were more like brothers, that was years ago." Perhaps The Magic Whip is the first step toward the closeness they once shared in their preliminary heyday. Following is "There Are Too Many of Us," which offers a none too subtle message about overpopulation and continues the trifecta of Asian-motifed videos, with Blur actually being featured in it, as an homage to their time spent recording.

 Back together

Back together

The chill, relaxed "Ghost Ship," again, seems to address Blur's past inadvertently with the lyric, "I got away for a little awhile, but then it came back much harder." Albarn, who has had numerous successful projects in the wake of Blur's demise, including Gorillaz, The Good, The Bad and The Queen and his own solo work, has never seemed to fully get over the magic of Blur. Thus, trying to put the band's music aside for so long appears to have only made it more challenging for Albarn to ignore that it's his true passion.

 Gracing covers

Gracing covers

Sounding like something out of a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack, "Pyongyang" is calm, cool and eerily collected in its execution. Persisting in self-reference, Albarn sings, "I look out the window to the island where I'm held," making an undeniable subliminal insinuation about being trapped in Hong Kong with his bandmates. 

 The darlings of the British music press

The darlings of the British music press

In spite of having yet another Asian-sounding title, "Ong Ong" possesses one of the most classicist Blur sounds. A little piano thrown in mixes up the guitar-heavy instrumentals as Albarn drones, "I wanna be with you" (still not over Frischmann, eh?). Its earnestness is beautifully contrasted against the erotic, sweltering musical backing of "Mirrorball." Coming across as far less interested vocally, Albarn lulls us into submission for the final blow to our auditory senses--unless, of course, you got the Japanese bonus track version and you still have "Y'all Doomed" to listen to.

Madonna's last album, MDNA, released in 2012, continued the pop chanteuse's penchant for dance-friendly anthems, with successful singles that included "Girl Gone Wild" and "Turn Up the Radio." Nonetheless, many fans and critics argued that the album lacked "heart." With Madonna's latest record, Rebel Heart, out March 10th (officially, though anyone who has wanted to hear it has already done so thanks to the numerous leaks), no one can accuse her of not putting Like A Prayer/Ray of Light level emotion into it.

 Channeling the Truth or Dare era in this promo photo for the album

Channeling the Truth or Dare era in this promo photo for the album

Beginning with "Living for Love," a song that's been compared to "Express Yourself" in terms of its anthemic nature, Madonna solidified her place on the dance charts with a first single that would go on to become her 44th number one on the dance floor. Being an unusual pop song for the fact that it addresses the topic of moving on after losing love as opposed to simply waxing melancholy about it (see: "I Will Always Love You," etc.), the song is a unique addition to the canon of pop staples.

"Devil Pray" follows "Living for Love" and echoes the folksy sound of "Don't Tell Me." While certain ageist parties might have trouble swallowing Madonna singing, "And we can do drugs and we can smoke weed and we can drink whiskey/Yeah we can get high and we can get stoned/And we can sniff glue and we can do E and we can drop acid/Forever be lost with no way home," the natural twang of her vocals can't help but win you over.

 Performing at the 2015 Grammys

Performing at the 2015 Grammys

The mid-pace tempo of "Ghosttown," one of the only ballad-y songs on Rebel Heart (undoubtedly to further prove that the Queen of Pop hasn't gone soft), showcases Madonna at her most supportive as she croons, "When it all falls, when it all falls down/I'll be your fire when the light goes out/When there's no one, no one else around/We'll be two souls in a ghost town." This is the most obvious choice for her "rest" song while on tour, as evidenced by her performance on the French talk show Le Grand Journal.

 Not giving a fuck, 2015

Not giving a fuck, 2015

The Rasta-infused, blatantly Diplo-produced "Unapologetic Bitch" is arguably the sassiest track on Rebel Heart, and quite possibly Madonna's entire career. While speculation continues over who M is referring to when she seethes, "I'm poppin' bottles that you can't even afford/I'm throwin' parties and you won't get in the door," one can take his pick of the youthful litter of men Madonna has dated that fit this description, including Jesus Luz, Brahim Zaibat and Timor Steffens. Whoever the vitriol is directed at, it makes for one of the best songs to dance to from the record.

 An irrepressible ferocity

An irrepressible ferocity

Kanye West continues the roster of noteworthy producers on Rebel Heart with the gritty, visceral beats of "Illuminati." Both embracing and putting the kibosh on rumors of being a member of the illuminati, Madonna sings, "The all-seeing eye is watching tonight/That's what it is, the truth and the light." Flipping the script on the perceived definition of illuminati, Madonna, in an interview with Rolling Stone, stated, "The real Illuminati were a group of scientists, artists, philosophers and writers who came about in what is referred to as the Age of Enlightenment, after the Dark Ages, when there was no writing and no art and no creativity and no spirituality, and life was really at a standstill. And right after that, everything flourished. So we had people like Shakespeare and Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo and Isaac Newton, and all these great minds and great thinkers, and they were called Illuminati." 

 Briefly coy in the Spring 2015 ad campaign for Versace

Briefly coy in the Spring 2015 ad campaign for Versace

The declarative "Bitch I'm Madonna" rivals "Unapologetic Bitch" for best dance track off Rebel Heart, with a SOPHIE-produced bassline that's perfected by backing vocals from Nicki Minaj (joining forces with Madonna again after their collaboration with M.I.A. on MDNA's "Give Me All Your Luvin'"). "Hold Tight" slows down the pace ever so slightly, with uplifting lyrics in a similar vein as "Ghosttown." Urging, "Hold tight, as long as you're by my side/Hold tight, everything's gonna be all right/I know we'll find a way, push to the limit with no end in sight," Madonna makes you feel as though you might just be able to get through your ordeal.

 Album cover for  Rebel Heart

Album cover for Rebel Heart

The most quintessential ballad, "Joan of Arc," succeeds "Hold Tight" and displays the "heart" side of Madonna as the "rebel" takes a backseat. Expressing her lament over the judgment and ire constantly thrown her way, she mourns, "Each time they write a hateful word, draggin' my soul into the dirt/I wanna die/Never admit it, but it hurts." The previously unadmitted admission gives us a glimpse into what Madonna has been dealing with for most of her career, especially what critics mockingly call her golden years.

 In Paris to promote the album

In Paris to promote the album

Madonna persists in the easy creation of anthems with "Iconic" featuring the somewhat odd and unexpected pairing of Mike Tyson and Chance the Rapper. Madonna had probably been wanting to collaborate with Tyson ever since they went on a double date with their then respective significant others to see Big Top Pee-Wee and Tyson fell asleep. Making the distinction, "I can, icon/Two letters apart," Madonna succinctly elucidates what separates those who are weak from those who are strong.

 Joan of Arc action

Joan of Arc action

The "heart" side of Madonna shines through again on another dramatic slow jam, "HeartBreakCity," in which she bears a husky voice that bemoans, "You said I was your queen/I tried to give your everything/And now you want your freedom/Now I'm in the middle of heartbreak city/'Cause I'm in the middle of a world not pretty." Again, it seems as though Madonna is addressing one of her many youthful lovers of the recent past. And, in a way, also her fans, who have abandoned her more willingly as she "grows older," though really, it's they who have become old in the worst sense of the word for being too expectant of Madonna to fit into a certain musical mold.

"Body Shop" is one of the most unanticipated offerings among the eclectic styles. As only Madonna could do, she uses the allegory of her own body as something that can be dropped off at a "mechanic's" where he "can keep it overnight." In terms of sexual metaphor, it's very well-done. And for those who are uncomfortable with 56-year-old Madonna continuing to talk about sex, well, there's another song serving as a bonus track later on that's liable to make them cringe even more. 

 On the cover of a magazine

On the cover of a magazine

Persisting in her commitment to the exploration of Catholicism on "Holy Water," Madonna, in true form, combines the sacred with the profane by assuring, "There's somethin' you gotta hit/It's sacred and immaculate/I can let you in heaven's door/I promise you it's not a sin/Find salvation deep within/We can do it here on the floor." Luckily, she's already been excommunicated. And the clincher of sinful lyrics? "Yeezus loves my pussy best."

The underground sound of the backbeat on "Inside Out" complements the earnestness of Madonna's insistence, "I wanna know what you're all about/You're beautiful when you're broken down/Let your walls crumble to the ground/Let me love you from the inside out." The theme of this song is in stark contrast to her rebellion against love on previous songs on Rebel Heart, including "Unapologetic Bitch" and "HeartBreakCity."

 No other kind of heart

No other kind of heart

The technical closer of the album (there are plenty more bonus tracks to conclude it), "Wash All Over Me," is Madonna at her most Ray of Light-era etherealness. As though acknowledging how out of touch she feels with the current musical landscape, M sings, "In a world that's changing, I'm a stranger in a strange land." Reaching the height of her poetical lyricism, she adds, "You can thread a needle with the teardrop from my eyes/It's a pure injustice to be witness to the things I see."

 Another interview in promotion of the album

Another interview in promotion of the album

Surprisingly, the first bonus track to round out Rebel Heart, "Auto-Tune Baby," has nothing to do with every pop star's favorite voice-manipulating tool, but instead being lulled to sleep by a lover, with Madonna urging, "You can rock me, rock me now/Put my head on your shoulder." Bonus track number two, "Best Night," brings out Madonna's playful, taunting side again as she references the lyrics to "Justify My Love" by inviting, "Surrender to the pleasure (wanting)/When we breathe together (waiting)/It's either now or never (for you)/This feeling will take over."

 Inhaling greatness

Inhaling greatness

The impish tone of "Veni Vidi Vici" is Madonna at her most self-referential and self-deferential. With most of the lyrics containing song titles from her prior albums, she confidently asserts (with Nas to back her up), "I came, I saw, I conquered." As mentioned earlier, Madonna gets especially raunchy on "S.E.X." Considering she literally wrote the book on it, it's no shock that she would write a song about a matter that's long been dear to her heart (and vag).

 On the red carpet at the 2015 Grammys

On the red carpet at the 2015 Grammys

In keeping with the title motifs of "Joan of Arc" and "Holy Water," "Messiah" further solidifies Madonna's devotion to the art of religion. With faint similarities to the spiritual vibe of "Spanish Eyes" from the Like A Prayer album, the sonically hypnotizing music is set against vocals that yearn, "I'll light a candle here in the dark/Making my way to your heart/I'll cast a spell that you can't undo/Till you wake up and find that you love me too." "Rebel Heart" proves Madonna will never fully recover from her repressive childhood as she sings, "I've lived my life like a masochist/Hearing my father say, 'Told you so, told you so! Why can't you be like other girls?' I said, 'Oh no, that's not me and I don't think it'll ever be.'" And to Tony Ciccone's chagrin/delight, it never was.

 Still from Interview

Still from Interview

The emotional "Beautiful Scars" finds Madonna imploring, "Just take me with all my stupid flaws/Changing me's like shooting in the dark." Her impassioned strain on this song is on the same level as other classic ballads like "Live to Tell." "Borrowed Time" is a hair on the maudlin side (think the oft forgotten "Hey You" that was released in 2007) with anti-war, pro-unity lyrics that are, if nothing else, a notch above 1986's "Love Makes the World Go Round." The second to last bonus track (mind you, there's a fuck ton of bonus tracks because this was originally slated to be a double album), "Addicted"--not to be confused with "I'm Addicted" off MDNA--could have easily passed as regular album material with its ardent exploration of being "addicted to the one that got away."

 Spent

Spent

Finally, there is "Graffiti Heart," a song title that's redundant, but it's fine. Referencing her former lover, Jean-Michel Basquiat, to make the point that graffiti artists are capable of signaling change, Madonna asks, "What do you got? Show me your Basquiat. He didn't keep it all to himself/Even with Keith out on the street/He died fighting, so you can do it as well." Apart from the grab bag of "Living for Love" remixes that also cap off the album, "Graffiti Heart" is an appropriate way to end it, as its message promotes the notion that a rebellious heart and spirit can never die, living on through art.


 




Although certain non-trend forecasting types might have sooner thought Lady Gaga would have outlasted Nicki Minaj's brand of freaky deaky, the release of the Queensian/Trinidadian's third album, The Pinkprint (yes, an overt nod to Jay-Z), unquestionably outshines her prior works, and ensures her place in the annals of hip hop innovation. 

 The new holy hip hop Bible

The new holy hip hop Bible

Opening with "All Things Go," this song sets a new and more recent precedent for Nicki Minaj: being freely emotional as she strays away from her MC-style voice. The subsequent "I Lied" continues to see Minaj on her personal tip, illuminating the way most women feel about opening their heart again after having it trampled upon as she sings, "I lied to keep you from breaking my heart." Protection through an air of impenetrability is the resonant theme throughout.

"The Crying Game" features a snake-charming sort of beat as Minaj alternates between her hard and soft personas, singing, "Welcome to the crying game where you lose your soul." Jessie Ware complements the song with her distinct brand of Britishness (possibly an influence suggested by Roman). Next up is "Get On Your Knees," which is just as empowering as you would expect it to be, with Ariana Grande backing Minaj on vocals as she sings, "Baby I'ma need you to beg for it/Get on your knees, get on your knees/Baby just get on your knees." Minaj chimes in with her usual sauciness, insisting, "I got a bow on my panties because my ass is a present."

"Feeling Myself," which already broke the internet a few days ago, combines the best of Minaj and Beyonce, a pairing you would think was too good to actually work. It's also bound to be the "getting ready" song of 2015. "Only" featuring the somewhat bizarre trifecta of Drake, Lil' Wayne and Chris Brown is the song that landed Minaj in anti-Semitic hot water earlier this year, prompting her to make an alternate video. Either one you watch, the song remains weirdly entrancing. 

"Want Some More" addresses Minaj's tumultuous relationship with the limelight, acknowledging that the more she's talked about, the more she knows they "want some more." She announces, "I'm in this bitch I'm gettin' money/One minute they hate me, then they love me." Clearly, she doesn't care either way. Following is "Four Door Aventador," one of the best songs on The Pinkprint, with its mid-tempo beat that reels you in and keeps you on the hook as Minaj finds a way to create a rhyme string that includes "Machiavelli" and "spaghetti."

"Favorite" featuring Jeremih has a certain lo-fi quality to it, in spite of it being obviously heavily produced. But it harkens back to the roots Minaj was aiming to re-create with this album as Jeremih croons, "I just wanna be your favorite." Simple vocals and beats make it one of the most organic tracks on the album. "Buy A Heart" featuring Meek Mill has a somewhat misleading title that might make one assume it's going to be a maudlin message, but this is quickly negated by Meek's query, "Anybody wanna buy a heart? 'Cause I don't use this shit anyway." Minaj adds, "Anybody, anybody, anybody wanna buy love?" It's all a reference to the interchangeability money has with these sentiments in the current epoch.

Showing love for her native Trinidad, "Trini Dem Girls" featuring Lunchmoney Lewis offers an South American-inspired beat as Minaj reverts to her "island voice," singing, "Dem island girls is da baddest/I know that you want it/I see that you watchin'/You know that I'm sexy/I hope that you're ready to come here and get it." The subsequent song is probably one you're already familiar with. And if you're a stranger to "Anaconda" at this point you either 1) never heard Sir Mix-a-Lot's version or 2) are living in among a cult that only permits the acknowledgement of flat asses. Culling the best aspects of what made Sir Mix-a-Lot's original gave us, Minaj infuses her own distinct brand into it (signature backside included). And then there's that "he toss my salad like his name was Romaine" line that changed mainstream sexuality forever.

"The Night Is Still Young" takes the musical pace up a notch, serving as something of a nod to the Black Eyed Peas' terrible "I Gotta Feeling." Declaring, "the night is still young/so are we," Minaj conjures lyrical comparison to Kesha, though the rapper makes the vibe less pop, and more dance--a genre she tends to be underrated in. Giving us more of her introspective side, "Pills n Potions" laments how easy it is to dose oneself with meds in order to numb the pain, while still stressing the importance of forgiveness toward those who are fair-weather. Minaj asserts, "they could never make me hate you" and defiantly chants, "I still love, I still love, I still love, I still love."

"Bed of Lies" further enhances Minaj's feminine aura with vocal contributions from Skylar Grey, who sings the accusatory chorus, "Do you ever think of me when you lie/Lie down in your bed of lies?" Minaj raps about being done wrong, verging on the precipice of overdosing (there's that "Pills n Potions" element again). For all its seriousness, Minaj still throws in a worthwhile pop culture reference as she notes, "This ain't how to be a player/You ain't Bill Bellamy." "Grand Piano" is a grand way to close the album (though, of course, it's not ever really the end in these bonus track-laden times). Obviously fresh from sort of heartbreak, Minaj wails, "The people are talkin'/The people are sayin' you're playing my heart like a grand piano/So play on, play on, play on." Yeah, you know it's intense when there's a violin playing Paula Abdul's "Rush" in the background. So listen with caution.

The first in the series of bonus tracks that wind down the album is "Big Daddy" featuring Meek Mill. It finds Minaj back in her true MC form, as she allows Meek Mill to go way back to demanding to be called an old term of endearment as he raps, "Yo bitch call me big daddy." "Shanghai" brings out Minaj's ball-busting persona again as she screams, "ain't fuckin' witchu bitch niggas/I'm not a regular bitch/so when they see me they jump on my dick." The self-confidence doesn't stop there as "Win Again" elucidates all the ways in which Minaj keeps winning (not to evoke images of Charlie Sheen) and that she's the "Muhammed Ali" of the rap world. Cockily stating, "I don't got good vision, but I don't see no competition," Minaj still finds time to make an insulting pop culture reference with, "I'm Meryl Streep to all these bitches/They can't do what I do."

The final bonus track is "Truffle Butter," another song featuring Drake and Lil' Wayne (guess Chris Brown couldn't make the cut twice), which offers a vivrant (to use a Q-Tip non-word) beat to conclude the album with (you may also recognize it from Cassie's "Me & U"). Proving that fame hasn't made her go soft, lyrics like, "Truffle butter on your pussy, you ain't gotta tell yo friend that eat I it in the morning," pepper the song with Minaj-grade perversity.  

Charli XCX gets straight to the point of her third album, Sucker, with the opening song of the same name by breaking down her bottom line, which is fun, liberation and vindication. The lyrics, "Head bang/Pink rocks/Gold fangs/I'm a killer now/I'm a killer now/Oh dear god, do you get me now?/Do you get me now?" make all of this abundantly clear.

 Too cool for school

Too cool for school

This motif is continued with "Break the Rules," an ardent expression of wanting to rebel as she insists, "I don't wanna go to school/I just wanna break the rules/Putting on our dancing shoes/Going to the discotheque/Getting high and getting wrecked." It's yet another indication of her youthful exuberance that one can find contagious even when they're too old to be listening to this album. 

 Looking more approachable than usual

Looking more approachable than usual

The bouncy, feel good-ness of "London Queen" features an 80s tinge with its Ramones-inspired "oy, oy" shouting mixed with the outsider perspective of: "I never thought I'd be livin' in the USA/Doin' things the American way/Livin' the dream like a London queen." Considering Ariel Pink contributed to some of the lyrics, it's no wonder there's a backbeat that pays homage to the surreal. 

 Album cover for Sucker

Album cover for Sucker

Joining the ranks of the great breakup anthems, "Breaking Up" is an empowering track that insists, "Everything was wrong with you/Breaking up was easy to do/Hate your friends and your family too." The accompanying video for "Breaking Up" shows Charli XCX moving onto the reckless phase of her post-breakup life with ease and carefreeness. 

"Gold Coins" is another anthemic track, albeit for the Paris Hilton set. Touting, "My platinum troubles are drownin' in pink champagne/Gold coins out the window/I'm spendin' like I don't care," Charli XCX lives out every poor girl's fantasy by adhering to the recently revised adage, "Girls just want to have funds."

"Boom Clap," which you may recognize as the only remotely edgy aspect of The Fault in Our Stars as it appeared on the soundtrack, features jubilant beats and vibrant vocals as Charli XCX compares the sound of her heart to the words "boom clap," not to be confused with the clap. The suggestively titled "Doing It" bears no resemblance to the LL Cool J song of the same name. Instead, it has musical overtones of late 80s Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey with its fanciful keyboard sounds in the background as Charli XCX sings, "We stayin' all night/Never so down/I think we better do it like we're doin' it now."

 Single cover for "Break the Rules"

Single cover for "Break the Rules"

"Body Of My Own" is an independent declaration of how "I don't need you/I touch myself better." Yes, it's been a long time since there was a decent song championing masturbation--it certainly wasn't Britney Spears' "Touch of My Hand." Complaining that, "You're so damn cold, you got no feelin'/I want my man hotter," Charli XCX looks to herself for sexual gratification. "Famous" opens with an addictive riff that reels you in right away. Espousing the desire to be among the crowds and the blinding lights, Charli XCX announces, "Need some neon lights/Wanna feel like I'm electrified" and then makes the somewhat cheeky analogy, "We're so shameless/Just like we're famous."

"Hanging Around" is the perfect song for anyone who has ever felt the ennui of being trapped in one place for too long, particularly adolescents feeling trapped in their sequestered bubble. Charli XCX opens the track with, "Help me out/I need escape/It's the truth I need to go." The pain and agony of being "too bored hanging around" is something that resonates across the ages.

"So Over You" only appears on the European version of the album, so why bother tormenting American listeners with a description of it? But at least you can console yourself over not being European with "Die Tonight," which has echoes of Ke$ha's "Die Young," both in theme and tone. Shouting, "Oh, I could die tonight 'cause I got the magic in my blood and I'm stayin' till the sun comes," Charli XCX owns the confidence of her youth with ease and empowerment. 

 No fucks given

No fucks given

"Caught in the Middle" tells the tale of two hearts getting "caught in the middle of love" and the desire to "press rewind" to the part where the heartbreak element wasn't a part of the fallout of love. But the ease with which we give in to the initial pleasure of love is too great to ignore, elucidated by the lyric, "We tried to turn around, but we can't stop it now."

"Need Ur Love" possesses the vibe of a 60s doo-wop song with its sugary sweet tone in spite of singing lovelorn lyrics like, "I need your love/I need it even when it hurts me." By far the greatest departure from the content of the rest of the album, this concluding track makes one hope Charli XCX will take an Amy Winehouse Back to Black approach on her next record. Though it wouldn't be the worst thing if she stuck to her current nouveau riot grrl meets pop diva style.

 

Starting out rivetingly enough with "Idle Delilah," Azealia Banks re-introduces herself to the world with the intro track on Broke With Expensive Taste, an album she's been attempting to release since fall of 2012. After getting dropped by her label, Interscope, the opportunity to get the album out into the universe finally came on November 6, with the help of entertainment production company Prospect Park.

"Gimme A Chance," the second track already finds Banks veering toward the experimental side, with musical homages to a decidedly 80s style. Alternating between an 80s and bachata vibe, it is one of the most daring songs on the record.

"Desperado" slows down the tempo a bit, with sultry saxophones to match Banks' deep, rich vocals. Though not lyrically complex, the backbeat of "Desperado" sustains it enough to make it a worthwhile addition to the album. Following is "JFK," featuring an ambient opening that lures you in right away. Likening the assassination of JFK to the assassination of "the look/Murderin' the gown/Fashion killer, the body on the ground," Banks is given a hand on this song from Theophilus London.

"212," which has obviously been well played by now, serves as the fifth track on Broke With Expensive Taste, giving Banks something of a freebie in terms of additional content. "Wallace" is Banks at her most classicist in terms of delivering pure, straight up vocals. Showcasing her trademark brand of confidence, Banks sings, "I suppose I been hot in Europe, yep/Tel Aviv, Istanbul, Seoul, London, Tokyo/Dawn is dusk to me, yep." 

Frantic and sweltering, "Heavy Metal and Reflective" is the type of fare you would expect to hear in some dark, seedy underground club in Berlin. As the second single from the album, Banks channels Nicki Minaj with lyrics like, "I'm in every city/They say hello to the head bitch." Next up is "BBD," not to be confused as the abbreviation for Bel Biv Devoe (rather, it stands for Bad Bitches Do-it), yet another song we've already heard before, circa early 2013--which is the major flaw with the entire album: we've heard it all before.

"Ice Princess" opens with a blustering wind sound effect and a sleigh bell-like musical intro, setting the tone for the dual meaning of the song, applying to Banks' icy demeanor and her icy jewelry collection--elucidated by the statement, "I'm so cold, I'm dripping icicles/I go and take your man, that nigga might miss you/Spent his whole commission on my neck and ear." "Yung Rapunxel" (another track we've heard already) offers frantic beats in the vein of Zebra Katz's "Ima Read" as Banks repeats "I wanna be free." It's easily one of the best songs on Broke With Expensive Taste, with its combination of witch hop and rock, at times sounding faintly like Lady Gaga if she wasn't so overly processed.

"Soda" features more controlled vocals from Banks, set against danceable music you would undoubtedly hear in any gay bar worth its liquor selection. Picking up where the single "1991" left off, "Chasing Time" is perhaps Banks at her most self-assured and courageous, as she makes overt reference to her former record label and the associated contention of their relationship. Keeping in stride with the theme of the record's title, "Luxury" is a lush offering that details the conflict of wanting all that's luxe and not quite being able to attain it.

"Nude Beach A Go-Go" starts to see Banks go off the rails a little bit as she attempts to sing in a genre that's out of her wheelhouse. Luckily, it's the shortest song on the album, so that you don't have to feel uncomfortable for an inordinate amount of time. The second to last track, "Miss Amor," finds Banks back in top form with a range of musical instruments that the likes of Crystal Waters would most definitely approve of. "Miss Camaraderie," the conclusion to the long-awaited debut from Banks, continues the auditory motif of "Miss Amor," though with Banks showcasing the deeper side of her voice as she paints the picture of "A night, a scene, a town, a ride with Miss Camaraderie." Does the culmination of this collection of songs prove Banks is rich in talent even if somewhat broke in bank account? Yes. But it does leave one to wonder if she can handle herself a bit more business savvily on her sophomore effort--which will hopefully contain nothing but new material instead of recycled songs from her various EPs.


Caribou goes by many names, the other most famous being Daphni, but it is under this moniker that Canadian-born Daniel Snaith is always at his best. His eighth studio album, Our Love, is a dynamic addition to his already impressive canon.

 Album cover for Our Love

Album cover for Our Love

Opening with the atmospheric "Can't Do Without You," Caribou repeats, "I can't do without you," throughout the duration, which certainly does plenty to welcome the listener. "Silver" is an ambient track with soft vocals crooning inaudibly, "I guess I don't need her/It doesn't mean I can't get over her." Following is "All I Ever Need," which features a frenetic, soulful beat that overpowers Caribou's lyrics as he laments, "I can't take it/The way you treat me wrong/It's not right girl/People treat me bad/But my next love will be the best I ever had." Clearly, Caribou is exorcising some demons with this album.

The title track, "Our Love," features a tone and beat that continues to build as the song progresses, as though wanting desperately to break out if its own shell--which it eventually does, crescendoing to an energetic melange of sounds that dares you not to get your ass on the dance floor. "Dive" echoes the trip hop genre that fell out of fashion so long ago, but is somehow effortlessly resuscitated by Caribou. Making unintelligible sounds throughout, Caribou lulls you into his submission like some sort of snake charmer.

 Caribou

Caribou

"Second Chance" features exuberant female vocals that insist, "I really wanna show you now/Nothing you could say I don't already know/I don't get the second chance, baby/Yeah, you know I'll just keep on waiting." The notion of waiting and disappointment is a prevalent one throughout Our Love, themes that are somewhat contrasted by Caribou's musical stylings. Case in point is, "Julia Brightly," which continues the tone of jubilance that pervaded "Second Chance" with more unintelligible noises against a beat that can't be ignored.

The appropriately titled "Mars" includes a flute that punctuates the entire song. Indeed, it is exactly what one would picture to be playing if you landed there. "Back Home" segues seamlessly from "Mars," building slowly with a faint volume that allows Caribou's vocals to really shine through more than they have at any other point on this album.

 Bursting with vibrancy

Bursting with vibrancy

"Love Will Set You Free" concludes Our Love with Caribou's most assured musical arrangements. It's a methodical collection of sonic bursts punctuated by the simple message: "your love will set you free." Apparently, Caribou's has, and in turn, we've all benefited.

Donald Glover a.k.a. Childish Gambino when referring to his music career, has always remained consistent with his release of surprising and unexpected albums. Although generally labeled as a writer (he got his start writing for 30 Rock) or actor (on Community and, tragically, Girls), it is Glover's musical stylings that set him apart more than any of his other talents. His new mixtape/EP, STN MTN / Kauai, proves that he's capable of even more than we thought.

 Album cover for Kauai

Album cover for Kauai

Opening with the instantly catchy "Sober," Childish Gambino lures us in with his sultry vocals and resonant lyrics, asserting, "And now that it's over, I'll never be sober." "Pop Thieves (Make It Feel Good)" acts as some sort of bizarre song lovechild of Kevin Lyttle and Rihanna with its romantic, fanciful vibe. Plus, it features Jaden Smith. The third track, "Retro (Rough)" alternates between pure hip hop and semi-ballad with its lascivious confidence as Gambino croons, "We can get there, we can do it if we try."

"The Palisades" is one of the richest songs on the EP, complemented by the vocals of Christian Rich, an N.E.R.D. protege. Expressing a somewhat cynical/aloof sentiment toward relationships, Gambino sings, "If we could be together would that make you happy? And if it wouldn't tell your girlfriend to get at me/Love don't really happen." Following is "Poke," an appropriate song for an October release when considering the lament, "Those summer days never fade away, they just stay the same in my mind."

 Performing bombastically

Performing bombastically

"Late Night in Kauai" also features Jaden Smith (clearly Gambino's new favorite). Evoking the beat poetry style, the song is nothing but bongo drums and bizarre reminiscences like, "I remember that first night you were wearing a Power Ranger t-shirt. So was I." The concluding track is also the best one. "3005 (Beach Picnic Version)" includes Minnie Mouse-pitch vocals that assure, "No matter what you say or what you do, I'll be right by your side till three thousand and five." It's the perfect way to end an EP that you didn't think could possibly get any more endearing.

"The passion in the beginning is always going to be the best part of it." So begins the brief intro track to Tove Lo's debut album, Queen of the Clouds." "The Sex" then transitions into the Rihanna-esque "My Gun," in which Tove Lo establishes her vocal strengths and predilection for dance pop. 

 The expressive nature of Tove Lo

The expressive nature of Tove Lo

"Like 'Em Young" proves that only women can get away with talking about enjoying the attraction to a less mature ilk as Tove Lo defends, "Hey girl, why you judgin' me, when your guy's turnin' 53?" The lively beat continues the effervescence set forth by the album, with Tove Lo proving she can keep up with the youngest of them. "Talking Body" slows down the pace somewhat, with a slow build that you can feel wanting to burst through, which, of course, it eventually does or it wouldn't be Swedish pop. Tove Lo sings, "Now if we're talking body, you've got the perfect one so put it on me," persisting, perhaps, in her penchant for youthful men.

 Single cover for the single, "Habits"

Single cover for the single, "Habits"

"Timebomb" again finds Tove Lo wanting to show off her more ballad-y side, but finding that she can't quite give in fully as the backbeat elevates to a crescendo while she sings, "We're not forever/You're not the one/I'm not forever/You're not the one."  "The Love (Interlude)" is five seconds of Tove Lo channeling Taylor Swift as she says, "You freak out 'cause suddenly you need this person." This transitions into "Moments," which finds her getting a little too comfortable with her whiteness as she admits,  "I grew up with a lot of green, I was safe, I was fine" and "I'm not the prettiest one you've ever seen, but I have my moments."

"The Way That I Am" (not to be confused with the similarly titled Eminem song) has a wistful opening and finds Tove Lo doing her best imitation of Katy Perry as she wails, "You can't point fingers all you want/I don't care/I love you anyway." She clinches the Russell Brand-era Perry by adding, "Falling in love and I hope that you want me the way that I am." Next up is "Got Love," carrying on her use of a tropical sounding beat as Tove Lo jubilantly announces, "We got love." It's a very Scandinavian declaration.

"Not On Drugs" begins Tove Lo's decidedly overt enjoyment of comparing being in love to being on drugs as she asserts, "Baby listen please, I'm not on drugs, I'm just in love." The comedown from this sentiment is further explored on "Habits (Stay High)." But before that, there's "The Pain (Interlude)," allowing her to transition into the aftermath of love as she states, "And then there's no good way to end things, 'cause it's ending, you know?" This leads into "Thousand Miles," her first real slow jam of the album. Her earnestness shines through in lyrics like, "Back and forth forever, is that how it's gonna be?" Naturally, as with so many songs, running or walking a thousand miles is bandied about to show how much one person can love another.

"Habits (Stay High)," easily her best song, succeeds "Thousand Miles," expressing a distinct form of pain that can only be experienced through the heartache caused by withdrawals from the one you used to love (or used to love you). "This Time Around" explores the unraveling of a relationship through the loss of interest on the part of another. Tove Lo laments, "I used to take your breath away/I used to make you laugh about anything..." The beat picks back up again, however, with "Run On Love"--though the theme of love lost goes on, with Tove Lo insisting, "We can run on love till it dies." 

For those with the bonus track version, a remix of "Habits (Stay High)" serves as the next track, with "Love Ballad" following. Antithetical to the title, this track is an upbeat announcement of all the things Tove Lo would do for the one she loves, including "Jump off a cliff/give you my last spliff." Again with the drug references, "Crave" is the second to last song on the deluxe edition of the album. Slower and more controlled, Tove Lo drones, "Cravin' I'm cravin'/I crave you." And if you're not in a k-hole by the end of this song there's one more remix of "Not On Drugs" to keep you as doped up as possible until you re-play the album. 

O Morrissey. Filled with a dichotomous blend of love and hate for people and things (but not animals). Perhaps this uncontrollable mixture of sentiments is what finally prompted him to release Autobiography—or (as the long-winded section on The Smiths lawsuits indicates) a need for more money. There are several facts that become clear in Autobiography. Chief among them is that Morrissey is the loneliest person on the planet. No one can know how impossibly imprisoned he feels by his own body—except of course the hordes of fans who seek solace for a similar problem in his music. Only Morrissey could get his autobiography to be released as a Penguin Classic

Autobiography opens with the beautifully poetic line: “My childhood is streets upon streets upon streets upon streets.” This single utterance is telling of so many occurrences that would happen in Morrissey’s future, from moving to Los Angeles to being stifled by metaphorical roadblocks aplenty. His adolescence the subject of so many of The Smiths’ best songs (including “The Headmaster Ritual” and “Jeane”), it makes sense that this is by far the richest, most enjoyable portion of the tome.

Reveling in his achievement

Although every artist has his musical hero of choice (for most, it was David Bowie), Morrissey discusses his fervor for a number of early influences, in particular Marc Bolan (who wistfully says, “Oooh no” when Morrissey asks for his autograph), Lou Reed, Patti Smith, New York Dolls (this above all) and, of course, David Bowie. The running motif of all these acts is not merely androgyny and sexual ambiguity, but songs that serve as anthems for the ostracized and socially shunned.

Alternate cover

The rehashing of how Morrissey came to meet Johnny Marr is predictably lacking (for most of what’s said about Marr tends to be unfavorable), and the buildup to The Smiths’ success is considerably reserved. What Morrissey focuses on instead is the incredible ineptitude and oversight of Rough Trade head Geoff Travis. Emphasizing the notion that Rough Trade wouldn’t even exist today had The Smiths not signed on, Morrissey laments how negligent Travis was in his handling of the band, serving as the primary cause for why The Smiths never had a Top 10 hit.

Among other love/hate relationships, Los Angeles occupies a special place in Moz's heart.

As his fame increased, Morrissey seemed to become more introverted, horrified and surprised by the masses of people in attendance at the band’s American performances and even more horrified and surprised to find that he would earn nothing from said performances. In fact, the main lesson that can be gleaned from Autobiography is that you should never sign any legal contract. Ever.

http://youtu.be/0wGzRs5URUU

And yet, as matters seemed to grow ever worse and tenser between band and management, The Smiths’ music only got better, culminating in the serene epitaph that was Strangeways, Here We Come. The retelling of how the band ultimately broke up also proves to be on the dissatisfying side, with Morrissey placing the majority of the blame on British music magazine New Musical Express for starting rumors of their breakup that prompted neither of the band members to correct them.

Rumour has it.

As Morrissey reluctantly embarked on his solo career (per the shackles of an unfulfilled record contract with EMI), he expresses the emotions of one who has lost the most valuable and meaningful person in their life to death. For The Smiths represented so much to Morrissey; it was his triumph over those who were content to tell him he should clean up medical waste for a living. During his mention of a conversation with Michael Stipe (one of many celebrity mentions in the book), Stipe notes enviously, “I wish I could go solo.” Morrissey replies that he never wanted to go solo and thought that he had at least “another thirty albums” to make with The Smiths.

The first solo album

His career tragedy is briefly marred in the early 90s. Morrissey’s scant number of romantic dalliances is one of the most evident elements in the book, with one of those relationships reportedly edited heavily in the U.S. edition of the novel. His time with photographer Jake Owen Walters comes across as one of the most enjoyable periods of his life as he illuminates, “Jake and I neither sought nor needed company other than our own for the whirlwind stretch to come…for the first time in my life the eternal ‘I’ becomes ‘we’ as, finally, I can get on with someone.”

The U.S. version of Autobiography sanitizes Morrissey's relationship with Jake Owen Walters

This brief era of happiness is mitigated by Judge John Weeks, who sides heavily and overtly with drummer Mike Joyce in his lawsuit against Morrissey for a twenty-five percent share of everything The Smiths had financially gained. In fact, this takes up a large amount of the prose as Morrissey expends all his reserves of vitriol for the man who stole his hard-earned money.

http://youtu.be/1i1Cg5hp3B8

As the book draws to its close, Morrissey grows fonder of name checking (e.g. Nancy Sinatra, Elaine Stritch and David Johansen) and the description of European cities (e.g. Rome and St. Tropez). His disdain for the incompetence of record labels is further iterated with the release of You Are the Quarry. Because of the cover art bearing the image of him toting a gun, it is edited for Wal Mart distribution and ends up remaining edited in other releases as well (iTunes)--yet another salt slick added to so many of his artistic wounds.

http://youtu.be/zavc0iUBcys

The most notable aspects of Autobiography are that there are no chapter divisions (which could be attributed to the idea that Morrissey sees life as one endless string of badness), a fondness for using Smiths lyrics in sentences, an intense hatred for the production of meat and cruelty toward animals and the utter contempt for Judge John Weeks exhibited for a considerable majority of the book. Then again, if I had lost millions of pounds to Mike Joyce (the least instrumental—in both senses of the word—member of The Smiths), I would probably express a similar amount of ire.

Morrissey, in his purest incarnation.

The conclusion of Autobiography is somewhat unsatisfying, with an abrupt ending in the year 2011 while Morrissey is still and forevermore on one of his tours. Because touring seems to be one of the few things he derives pleasure from, it is evident that Morrissey finds comfort in the love of his fans, asserting that while he has yet to find love from one person, he has found it instead from thousands. This book is his thank you for that love, that special devotion that exists only between Morrissey and Morrissey fan.

 

 

 

 

For anyone who was starting to get tired of playing “Summertime Sadness” on repeat well beyond the appropriate season, fear not. Lana Del Rey has at last confirmed the release of a sophomore album, to be titled Ultra-Violence (an A Clockwork Orange term). What that might indicate for the musical content is, at this point, arbitrary. The twenty-seven minute film, Tropico, is presumably a precursor to some of the motifs we can expect on the forthcoming record—though it’s also something of a cap on the era of Born to Die and Paradise. Del Rey herself said as much to her legion of acolytes at the Arclight premiere (it only makes sense that the piece would debut in Los Angeles). Promotional poster for Tropico

And, speaking of Los Angeles, it plays heavily into the backdrop of Tropico, serving as a metaphor for both heaven and hell. Expounding on the themes presented in “Body Electric,” “Gods and Monsters” and “Bel Air” (all of which appeared on Born to Die—The Paradise Edition), the short film is divided into four segments: Garden of Eden, Strip Club, Robbery and Farewell. Del Rey’s predilection for the cinematic has always been apparent in her videos, particularly “Ride,” in which she plays a runaway with a fondness for old men/bikers and turning the occasional trick. With Tropico, Del Rey takes her gift for the dramatic and theatrical to new heights in probing some of the most time-honored subject matters in literature and film: Sin and redemption.

Mother Mary

Opening in the Garden of Eden—or at least LDR’s version of it—we are introduced to all the characters mentioned in “Body Electric”: Elvis, Marilyn and Jesus (with John Wayne thrown in for good measure). This amalgam of pop culture icons is ironically placed in the context of an Eden: For this is all we know of an Eden in the twenty-first century: Celebrity. Still, LDR can’t resist taking a bite of the forbidden fruit, prompting her lover (played by Shaun Ross—yeah, he’s a black albino) to follow her lead. It really disappoints both Marilyn and Elvis.

http://youtu.be/Jg4-WxXvde4

As she falls from grace and into the life of a stripper, her male counterpart ends up as a thief. They both serve as a foil to one another’s depravity, even though Shaun assures, “You know it’s not going to be like this forever, right?” Lana, in her new chola/stripper persona nods and says, “I know.” It is then that the film transitions to a bachelor party (even though there’s probably no engagement to speak of) in which Lana is one of the strippers. Shaun and his band of thieves storm the house to rob every last one of the rich men there.

Another promo for Tropico

Anthony Mandler, who Del Rey previously entrusted to direct “Ride,” then cuts to a visually sweeping scene of Downtown L.A, from a vista point overlooking where Shaun, Lana and their cohorts shoot guns and revel in their debauched accomplishment. Del Rey showcases her knowledgeable side as she recites the lines from Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” for the narration over this segment of the film.

http://youtu.be/VEmC7fSSXgQ

Ultimately, as with most inherently good people who briefly give in to their bad side (you know, like Patty Hearst), Shaun and Lana veer back toward a more redemptive path. This leads to the conclusion of the film, in which “Bel Air” plays as the final song. For those who can’t see the value in or point of Tropico, I ask: When was the last time a singer provoked your thought this much? And no, Miley Cyrus does not count.