NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION

Okay, I know this is a Pop Culture blog so I’m going to keep this New Year’s resolution related to pop culture. I’ve compiled a list of things I’m going to attempt my hardest to avoid. Here it goes:

  1. Minimise my use of file sharing websites: We’re all guilty of it, but I’ve created a habit of downloading or watching albums or TV shows before I actually decide to purchase them. I want to appreciate the work and art that they’ve created much more than just saying “I watch them all the time” or “I listen to that album all the time” and actually purchase it, because if I’m enjoying their work and its content, why shouldn’t I pay for their work?
  2. Be less hateful towards artists: Fandoms. I’m in a fandom myself, and I have been since I’ve joined Twitter in 2009. I’ve been part of Beyonce’s fandom for nearly 5 years and throughout that I’ve sent such abusive tweets to fans of other musicians and the musicians themselves, causing them to block or report me. I want to retire from these immature acts as I have recently turned 18, and I’m off to university. I want to start fresh, mature, and be less hateful, because at the end of the day, they’re still successful and giving them any dose of attention just generates more publicity for them, which goes against what you’re bashing them for in the first place.
  3. Appreciate: This is going to link with fandoms but I want to appreciate the works of more of these musicians as they have different styles and musical inspirations.

This list was very short but as I said these are my pop culture resolutions, my personal list is much longer. 

BEYONCÉ’S SURPRISE RELEASE OF HER SELF-TITLED 5TH ALBUM

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QUEEN of R&B, Beyoncé, shocked the UK when she released her self-titled 5th album, with no prior warning or promotion. Beyoncé’s surprise album, BEYONCÉ, is X-rated, sensuous and thoughtful, says Neil McCormick, putting Beyoncé’s vocal gifts put the rest of 2013’s pop stars in the shade. The self proclaimed “visual album”, features 14 original tracks as well as 17 videos, a video for each track and extras, such as a new video for Pepsi’s promo single, “Grown Woman”, a revamped version, featuring her long time friend, and band mate, Kelly Rowland, and her mother, Tina Knowles. The album also has features from husband Jay Z, rapper Drake, Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, Frank Ocean, who has also written Beyoncé’s “I Miss You” and her one year old child, Blue Ivy.

Below is a run down of my opinions on each track, as well as stills from her music videos.

PRETTY HURTS: Bey begins with an inspirational song, basically stating how the only thing that she aspires for in life is to be happy. This song is an amazing empowering song for the insecure, and for those who feel as if they’re not good enough. The supporting video is very emotional, and is definitely one of her best and most personal video of her career, covering topics such as body image and creating a discussion on the amount of pressure girls are put under regarding the idea of “perfection”.

HAUNTED: Starts with a younger Beyonce accepting an award, thanking her parents and, of course, her beloved H-town. In the track, she talks about hating record labels and how this album won’t sell. Only time will tell if her prophecy comes true, as predictions are coming in at the fact that BEYONCÉ is expected to sell 200k+ copies within just 4 days. The unexpected dance beat in the middle of the song is a welcome surprise and caught myself dancing along the beat while reviewing the song.

DRUNK IN LOVE (FEAT. JAY Z): What a difference 10 years make! In 2003, Bey and Jay were “Crazy in Love,” but now it appears as though they’ve gotten a bit more grown and sexy on this track. Personally, I’m a bigger fan of the former, however, it’s probably due to the fact that I’ve become accustomed to the beats and moves of “Crazy In Love”, that I expected something up tempo from their collaboration.

BLOW: This Timbaland-produced track has a groovy sound that’s easy to listen and dance to. It’s also a little risque with the refrain “I want you to turn that cherry out.” May be provocative to come from some artists, Bey manages to keep it classy.

NO ANGEL: More groove than actual song, this is another sexy slow jam, with a stripped-back hip-hop beat and a vocal flipping sensuously between breathy falsetto and deep come-on. “Tell me do you wanna ride?” She’s not going to win awards for lyrical subtlety.

PARTITION: This album is full of sexual desire, and “Partition” doesn’t disappoint. This one makes for a fun going-out-with-the-girls pre-game song. An electro-throbbing track with a Rihanna-style Caribbean hip-hop flavour, it builds into a slinky club groove with Beyoncé supplicating herself before her apparently uninterested husband: “Take all of me, I just wanna be the girl you like.” What happened to the Independent Woman? “I sneezed on the beat and the beat got sicker.” Yes, that just happened.

JEALOUS: “I cooked this meal for you naked, so where the hell you at?” Beyoncé’s latest batch of songs leaves even less to the imagination than her saucy videos. A slow, distorted, echoing sound builds without quite achieving lift off, yet there is something impressively dramatic about the restraint she maintains in a song of emotional tension. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned…especially if that woman is Beyonce. Say hello to “If I Were A Boy” 2.0.

ROCKET: Warning: This song is only for the grown and sexy. If you’re looking for a “special song” to surprise your significant other with a “special performance,” here you go. “Let me sit this ass on you”. Oh well, if you insist. Another slow jam sex song accompanied by shots of Beyoncé writhing on a bed. Timbaland and Justin Timberlake are credited as co-writers on this and several tracks – perhaps deemed superfluous to Timberlake’s own comeback earlier this year. Not much of a song but a very naughty video. At this point in the album, I’m personally a little over hearing about Bey’s sex life.

MINE (FEAT. DRAKE): An intriguing song about delayed gratification, it starts as a piano ballad, adds a speedy hip-hop beat and keeps threatening to burst into a monster groove without ever quite exploding. Sex goes on the backburner in a lyric dealing quite explicitly with post-maternity relationship problems: “I’m not feeling myself since the baby, are we gonna even make it?” An oddly structured yet compelling track, with a satisfying contribution from Drake. The few guests on Beyoncé’s album are very well chosen. This track is quintessential emo Drizzy with a bit of Bey mixed in, which actually works in a weird sort of way.

XO: After all the sexed-up slow jams and spaced-out ambient beats this comes as a sugary relief, a straight-up pop anthem written with serial hitmaker Ryan Tedder. Even the video has a happy innocence, with Beyoncé and her girls running loose in a fairground. I can see this crowd-participation song making a good encore at the Mrs. Carter World Tour, which has been extended into 2014, in case you missed the memo.

***FLAWLESS (FEAT. CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHE): Punchy off-beat hip-hop blast. Not quite sure how Beyoncé squares her aggressive “Bow down b—-es” hook with the feminist empowerment speech of Nigerian author Adichie, but it’s pleasingly weird. Think “Run the World (Girls)” on steroids.

SUPERPOWER (FEAT. FRANK OCEAN): Ocean penned “I Miss You” on Bey’s album, so it’s only right that the two collaborate on her latest release. A stand-out track, as might be expected from collaborators Frank Ocean and Pharell Williams. With a doo wop vocal undercurrent, string washes and orchestral drum rolls, the backing is like listening to an unusually restrained Phil Spector production through a digital future prism. Like most of the songs on the album it never quite takes off, as if restraint was the watchword.  I’m really digging this simplistic love song.

HEAVEN: This is just speculation, but after watching Beyonce’s HBO documentary earlier this year I can’t help but wonder if this song is in honor of the baby she lost to a miscarriage? With lyrics such as “heaven couldn’t wait for you/so go on, go home” this is definitely the most sentimental track on the album. It’s the album’s only straight ballad with simple piano chords and a tearjerking vocal about the death of a loved one. Despite the gospel hints, Beyoncé keeps it tight and close rather than big and blousy.

BLUE (FEAT. BLUE IVY): Opens, like several other tracks, on simple piano chords, and gradually develops into something groovier. There’s a lovely transition to the beat with Beyoncé’s voice high and sweet, almost fragile in its exposure, that sounds just right on a song about parental love. Toddler Blue Ivy makes one of those cutesy guest appearances that will either make you go “aww”, or make you throw up.

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Overall, this has instantly grown on me, and has become my favourite release from Beyoncé, and would give this album  9/10 VS faces.

REBECCA BLACK’S “SATURDAY”: REVIEW

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“OH MY GOD, I LOVE THIS SONG” is the first thing you hear from the song, and to be honest, it’s a decent teen-pop song. The amount of dislikes on the video is probably only due to the fact that she is, Rebecca Black. The song is catchy and fun, and features a lot of her fellow youtube friends, in particular O2L’s Ricky Dillion and Connor Franta. The song’s lyrics and video makes a lot of references regarding her last internet viral hit, ‘Friday’, such as “gotta have my bowl” which is cleverly punned in the video (image above).

I give the song and video 4/5 VS faces.

BEYONCÉ ANNOUNCES THE SECOND LEG OF HER EUROPEAN TOUR FOR MRS. CARTER WORLD TOUR

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Beyoncé’s has added a further 15 dates to the Mrs. Carter World Tour. The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour now has 122 dates, making it Beyoncé’s longest world tour to date.

The full tour dates and location are listed below:
FEBRUARY 20, 2014 – Glasgow, United Kingdom
FEBRUARY 23, 2014 – Birmingham, United Kingdom
FEBRUARY 25, 2014 – Manchester, United Kingdom
FEBRUARY 28, 2014 – London, United Kingdom
MARCH 1, 2014 – London, United Kingdom
MARCH 2, 2014 – London, United Kingdom
MARCH 4, 2014 – London, United Kingdom
MARCH 8, 2014 – Dublin, Ireland
MARCH 9, 2014 – Dublin, Ireland
MARCH 11, 2014 – Dublin, Ireland
MARCH 15, 2014 – Cologne, Germany
MARCH 18, 2014 – Amsterdam, Holland
MARCH 20, 2014 – Antwerp, Belgium
MARCH 24, 2014 – Barcelona, Spain
MARCH 26, 2014 – Lisbon, Portugal

Further information regarding sales dates will be provided soon.

ARTPOP: SONG BY SONG REVIEW

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AURA: It’s a perfect introduction to the album and is definitely a great representation of this era’s sound. The instrumentals, which echoes “Americano”, from her 2011 effort “Born This Way” and also reminscent to Islamic musical cultre, and lyrics support the movie “Machete Kills” very well, as this is used to promote it (she also makes a cameo in the film).  This is club friendly and could easily get you moving on the dance floor. The work of Zedd is evident with the use of EDM throughout the song. Overall, this is a good dance track that is electrifying and liberating.
VENUS: This is her least radio-friendly track on the album, in my opinion. The arrangements of the vocals and instrumentals is over produced and is just too much happening in one song. And as hard as she tries to summon the gods and planets that seem to fill the music of Venus, it’s not impressing me at all. However, it is a nice effort for a dance track and in no doubt will get you on the dance floor, it’s just not single nor radio friendly.
G.U.Y: This song is so captivating and definitely makes you want to be that G.U.Y. She covers the topics of sexuality, gender roles and equality with instrumentals throwing you back to ‘The Fame” era. I love how she plays with the current world with the reference of “Re-Tweeting” her sexual desires.
SEXXX DREAMS: The name is suggestive, the song is erotic, seductive and the orgasmic sounds that echoes throughout the song definitely makes you feel sexy. It has a similar message to her own song “So Happy I Could Die” in terms of sexual imagery. At the “I can’t believe I’m telling you this…”, Gaga makes her audience gasp for air, for a further erotic dance ’til the duration of the song.
JEWELS N’ DRUG FT. T.I, TOO SHORT & TWISTA: Along with “Venus”, I’m not feeling this song, at all. Maybe it’s because I’ve never been used to Gaga in a hip-hop/trap genre, but the song overall isn’t appealing to me.
MANICURE: The claps in the very beginning relives the “Artpop” esque sound from the previous track, and could potentially be a successful single. The clap-along beats reminds me of the British duo The Ting Tings’ “That’s not my Name”.
DO WHAT U WANT FT. R. KELLY: Their collaboration is so unexpected and when I first heard about their collaboration, I was a bit weary of whether or not I’ll like the outcome of the song. But gladly, it proved me wrong and it exceeded my expectations, the high belters of Gaga amazingly compliments each other along with the synth instrumentals. R. Kelly’s verse was just as good and challenges both their vocals. This is a great slap in the face to Gaga’s critics and “haters” who have slated Gaga the past year, for her weight gain, drug abus, injuries etc. The song replacing “Venus” as Gaga’s second single is probably her best decision for this era so far.
ARTPOP: WEAK. This was a weak representation of the Artpop era. I expected another great dance track with exciting vocals and lyrics but the arrangement of the song in general seem to be reminiscent of an 80s track. 
SWINE: Similar to “Venus”, the track is over produced. Too much was happening at one time, and generally gives me a headache. 
DONATELLA: Here, Gaga seems to just be boasting about her riches and body. And gives an ambiguous message about Donatella Versace. However, this is great promotion as Gaga is working with Versace for several of their clothing.
FASHION!: Gaga also plays with the Fashion world, however, making this track more ear freindly, claiming she’s “feeling good and looking fine”. The album’s quality seems to be deteriorating as we come closer to the end.
MARY JANE HOLLAND: Gaga finds dabbling in a sea of squelchy rhythms, which eventually pull back and float over the admission, “I know that Mom and Dad think I’m a mess/But it’s all right, because I am rich as piss.” The track would have fitted better in “Born This Way”, and serves as not an stand out track, but more of an out of place track.
DOPE: “Dope” is her rawest song in the album, with her croaking vocals, and piano instrumentals. However, the ballad is perhaps the most underwhelming track on thge album when surrounded by heavy dance tracks and creative production and doesn’t give life to the album as a whole.
GYPSY: Gaga winks in the chorus of this sing-along, which draws from the classic rock palette of her “Born This Way” album and only gets more cocksure as it races toward the end. Gaga’s vocals on the track are reminiscent of her song “Marry The Night,” with the singer declaring, “I don’t want to be alone forever, but I can be tonight.” The song serves as a story of sorts for life as a performer for Gaga, who travels the world over in order to perform in front of her legion of fans.
APPLAUSE: The album’s lead single serves as an appropriate bookend to the “Artpop” tale. Released in the summer, the song’s catchy, clap-along chorus and odd verses encapsulate everything Gaga attempts to convey on “Artpop,” combining all aspects of art and music in one final note — one that, indeed, deserves applause.

Overall, I give the album 7/10 VS faces.