HAIZ

haizI will admit I was a bit wary when I heard that Academy Award nominee Hailee Steinfeld was signed to Republic Records.  I pride myself on trying not to be a music snob, which means I either reserve no judgment on someone’s music or I give them a fair chance (i.e. I listen to their music before deciding whether or not they’re a good artist).  In my life I’ve seen people cast off really good artists just because of the perception they had of them.  For instance, I’ve had friends who vowed to hate Adele because she was “mainstream.”  Really?  You’re going to not even listen to her music because a mass group of people like her?  At least listen to her albums before you judge.  I mean, I don’t think I’ve met someone who listened to an Adele album and didn’t like it.

Anyway…I digress.

My point, I wasn’t intending on listening to HAIZ, Steinfeld’s debut EP.  I wasn’t going to judge Steinfeld’s musical ability, I was going to abstain from having any opinion.  But, as luck would have it, I got a free copy yesterday from work and had nothing to listen to on the way home, so I figured to give her a shot.  Since then, I listened to the four song EP probably ten times, most of them were actually for fun.

My overall critique of the EP is that it’s not bad.  It’s an intriguing start to what might be a decent debut album, but I’m not entirely sure we get a frame of reference of who Steinfeld is as an artist from these few limited songs.  Specifically, the EP is comprised of songs all very similar in tempo and tone: they’re all upbeat dance pop songs.  There really isn’t a shining moment where we get a sense that Steinfeld is singing her truths or letting us into her musical world.  Granted she has a nice voice, but it’s kind of hidden with the loud synths and reverb.


Her lead single featured on the EP, “Love Myself,” has a nice beat to dance/exercise to, but it’s rather an awkward song.  At first when you listen to it and don’t think too hard about it, it sounds like an empowering message of loving oneself in regards to self-esteem and confidence.  But if you actually take a moment and really listen to the words she sings, it just makes you cringe.  I mean, out of all the topics you could choose to write about, why in the world would you choose something as awkward as that.  If you don’t understand what I’m talking about, google it because you’ll find some pretty clear articles that explain what she’s singing about.

Moreover, I think her song “Rock Bottom” has a great potential to be her next single.  It has a powerful chorus that will unfortunately get stuck in your head (you’ve been warned), but it does feel radio friendly to me.  Check it out below:

If there was one Pitch Perfect alum who would leave the movies and make an album, I was hoping it would be Rebel Wilson.  I’m putting it out there: she should make a rap album entitled “Rebellion.”  Regardless, HAIZ is not the worst thing I’ve listened to this year, and I actually ended up buying it because upbeat dance/pop songs like these are good to bike to.

25 and Loving It

After four long years, we were finally grace with Adele’s new album, 25.  Adele has said that she was at first afraid that she would not be able to follow up her last album, 21, which was an enormous success and broke so many records (including being the first album since the advent of the internet and illegal downloading to be certified diamond (selling over ten million copies)).  This in addition to some personal issues probably caused the delay.  But it was worth the wait.

After finding peace with the fact that 25 may not live up to 21, Adele has said that writing became fun again like it did when she was writing her first album, 19.  Her album certainly shows her focusing on herself, her truths, and writing what she was experiencing: the transition into adulthood.  The album has a sense of yearning for simpler times but also a sense of acceptance towards the past.  The greatest growth Adele has made in these four years is that in 21 she was blaming a lot of her heartache on her ex-lover (who probably was to blame), but 25 shows Adele accepting that while he may be a jerk, she needs to move on with her life.  That she is in control.  (By the way, I have no idea if the same guy inspired both albums, I’m speaking in general of love: that when she was younger, she would blame love but now that she is older, she accepts it).

I don’t think Adele has anything to worry about in regards to 25 not living up to 21.  The album alone has been sitting in the iTunes top one or two spot for the month it was on preorder (an unusual feat) and is on track to sell well over a million copies in its first week (per Billboard).  Even still, her vocal work (which was already phenomenal) has seemed to grow as well.  Her voice seems to have grown warmer, slightly deeper and even more emotive, it such a thing was possible.

My favorite song after a quick listen through was definitely “Send My Love (to Your New Lover).”  The song, co-written with Max Martin and Shellback – the two masterminds behind some of Taylor Swift’s recent hits like “Shake it Off,” “Blank Space,” and “Bad Blood” and a ton of other hits (look up Max Martin’s writing/producing credits on Wikipedia, it’s literally every hit song since the ’90s…he’s a genius) – is quite upbeat for Adele.  It’s faster paced than we’re used to, but it’s amazing.  It starts off with this fantastic rhythmic guitar and drum beat.  The chorus is particularly infectious with the way she sings “lover” in the line “send my love to your new lover.”  It’s so un-Adele but it’s fantastic.  It’s not Adele trying to be someone she’s not, it’s her showing us a new side of herself.

“Send My Love (to Your New Lover)” was apparently supposed to be the lead single but Adele felt that “Hello” was a better representation of her album as a whole – she didn’t want people to think the whole album was entirely upbeat like “Send My Love (to Your New Lover),” which it isn’t.  Regardless, “Send My Love (to Your New Lover)” should be a future single, as well as “When We Were Young” (which I think will be her next single), “Water Under the Bridge,” and “Remedy.”  The entire album is really full of glorious hits and I can’t see 25 not coming close or even surpassing 21.

UPDATE: 25 sold 3.378 million copies in it's first week on sale, which shattered the record of most albums sold in the U.S. in it's first week.  NSync sold 2.416 million copies in one week in 2000.  25 even went on to sell over a million copies in it's second, which I believe is the only album to do that. As of December 24th, 25 has sold 7.13 million copies.  That's in one month of sale!

Prankster

I found this video clip where Jennifer Lawrence pranks her interviewer with the help of Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, and a fan.  At first I thought it was quite entertaining because the interviewer was originally planning on pranking Jennifer Lawrence but she got him back.

However,  I started watching it again and, not to ruin it, I started wondering how it was not all staged.  I mean, these two guys (I must admit, I’m not familiar with their work) claim to be YouTube pranksters and they’re posting a video of them getting pranked.  So, how could they film a prank on themselves without them knowing?  What’s more, when she storms out at the end, she has to take out her earpiece that Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth were using to communicate with her.  If the interviewer really didn’t know she was pranking him, wouldn’t he wonder why she was wearing an earpiece?

I guess the moral of the story is not to read into things and just enjoy a comical video.

Caracal

I recently got a copy of Disclosure’s new album Caracal, and naturally one of the first songs I listened to was “Magnets,” a song cowritten and sung by Lorde.  Being a huge Lorde fan and waiting rather impatiently for her follow up to Pure Heroine, I needed any jolt of new Lorde music.

“Magnets” instantly became one of my new favorite songs after listening to it one time.  It has a great dance beat and Lorde’s vocals are on point.  It’s one of those songs that you can’t help but dance a little when you hear it.  And then you’re sad when it’s over.  Thereby you put it on repeat.  It should be their next single.

My first instinct was that I liked the song only because Lorde sang and cowrote it.  But then I just started listening to other songs and realized that it’s a pretty fantastic album.  The beats and rhythms alone are incredible, but then you add the many collaborations (which include artists like The Weeknd, Sam Smith, Lorde, Miguel, and others) and it shows the Lawrence brothers (who make up Disclosure) are quite talented in the area of making catchy electric-dance music.

Cam’s “Burning House.”

Occasionally I will poke around iTunes to see what music is out there.  Sometimes I will scroll through the top 100 songs and listen to the previews.  Every now and then I will stumble across a new artist and instantly become obsessed with the song.  This just happened with the song “Burning House” by newcomer Cam.

I’ve seen the song on the top songs chart for a while now, but I finally decided to listen to it and I instantly could feel the heartstrings within me being pulled by the beauty of the song.  So I quickly googled it to hear the whole song and stumbled across this live version and I was struck by how unreal and beautiful her voice is.  It was within the first five seconds of hearing the song that I went back to iTunes and bought the song.

The mixture of Cam’s vocals and the acoustic guitar makes the song so fragile and raw, which amplifies the heartbreak within the song.  My only criticism of the song (if there had to be one) is that the background vocals slightly take away from the song; they were rather unnecessary in my opinion.  For instance, if you listen to the first part of the first chorus in the studio version (below, about 1:03-1:09), it leaves out the background vocals and it gives Cam more room to shine and stun with her vocal work.  I also think they somewhat cover the warmth of the strings and fill a space that doesn’t need to be filled.  Listen back at Sugarland’s hit song “Stay.”   It featured just an acoustic guitar and Jennifer Nettles’ striking voice (there may have been an organ in there or something along those lines, but it was very subtle) and it made the song incredibly powerful.  The same principle should’ve been applied here to make this gorgeous song even more beautiful.

But like I say, I think this is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard this year.  It just has this rawness to it that really makes you feel something and connect with Cam.  If I were a Grammy voter – and I’ve long since thought I should be, but I don’t “qualify” – I’d definitely nominate this song for Best Country Song and Best Country Solo Performance.  I can’t promise or even predict that this will happen because Cam is so new to the music scene, but I’ll be very happy if it does happen.