Friday, December 23, 2005

The Worst Albums of 2005

Before I get into the list, anyone who is smart probably has stopped watching Saturday Night Live after the Sandler, Myers, Rock era ended, yet for some reason I still turned but last week I was treated to the funniest sketch since the S/M/R era featuring Chris Parnell and newbie Andy Samburg. If you know what I’m talking about iTunes and NBC have given us a Christmas present in the form of the sketch for free download. If you haven’t seen it, I won’t go into it that much it as it will slightly ruin the hilarity, but watch out for the line "You can call us Aaron Burr by the way we're dropping Hamiltions." You definitely want to download it. Unfortunately iTunes doesn’t have a feature where you can link to videos but if you click on any of my iTunes links and go to the store’s main page, it’s will rotate on one of the top ads. So go ahead and download it, it’s free and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

And before I get into the best of coming after Christmas, I first want to start with those albums that you should all avoid. I would like to note that this list was compiled from albums that I reviewed this year and may not truly represent the worst of the worst, just those that I was willing to listen to. I’m sure albums released this year by Madonna, Korn, or the dude from Creed were even worst than most of the albums on the list, but I couldn’t bring myself to give them a listen. If there were any albums you absolutely hated in the past year feel free to leave them in the comment section. For those that are interested to check these albums on the list out, the link on the album goes directly to iTunes (and you can use it to get to the SNL skit too) while the links in the parentheses go to my original reviews.

1. A Little More Personal (Raw) – Lindsay Lohan (You Turned Something So Good So Bad)
2. The Real Thing – Bo Bice (Is He All the Things You Tried to Change Me Into)
3. I Am Me – Ashlee Simpson (Hey How Long Till You Face What’s Going On)
4. Switch – INXS (It Ain’t Pretty After the Show)
5. A Bigger Bang – The Rolling Stones (I Think I Made the Biggest Mistake of My Life)
6. Get Rich or Die Trying Soundtrack (The Top Is So Much Better Than the Bottom, Yet More Boring)
7. All the Right Reasons – Nickelback (I Guess it Wasn’t Really Right)
8. Almost Honest – Josh Kelley (Hard Times Happen)
9. Mr. A-Z – Jason Mraz (It Takes a Thought to Make a Sound)
10. Tommyland: The Ride – Tommy Lee (I’d Rather Play You on My TV)
11. Somebody’s Miracle – Liz Phair (Do You Really Know Me at All)
12. TP.3 Reloaded – R. Kelly (I Hope Y’all Got Yo Playa Cards)
13. Unpredictable – Jamie Foxx (Things Have Come So Mundane)
14. Oh No – OK Go (Who’s House Are You Haunting Tonight)

15. Seventeen Days – 3 Doors Down (If I Get Boring Would You Still Call Me Superman)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Things Have Become So Mundane

Unpredictable - Jamie Foxx

Musical history is littered with no hit wonders of actors who tried to sing like and . Even those who manage to score a hit or two like still lack any credibility from critics or true music fans. But the preconceived notions of actor turned musician shouldn’t be hung upon because unlike the dude from and the like, Foxx is a classically trained pianist who even landed a scholarship because of it. Also his appearances on the two albums were surprisingly good. So with that said, Foxx’s new release, Unpredictable, could possibly not be just another vanity record like any Dogstar record.

Unpredictable if fact isn’t even Foxx’s first music album as he put out a little heard album in the early 90’s. Unfortunately the new album would fit in the time period because many of the songs on this album would fit well in the era when R&B songs like Do Me, Freak Me, and Knockin da Boots ruled the charts. Many songs on the album are littered with sophomoric lyrics like, “Do you want to get high, you want to get fired up, you want to get sexed, you want to get tied up?” (Do What It Do). Personally I’ll pass. Then there’s “I know you’re used to dinner and a movie, why not be my dinner while making a movie” (Unpredictable). I guess they can name that movie Booty Call II. Then there is Three Little Words where Foxx ends every line in the song by singing “sex.” I have a feeling those three little words really don’t have anything to do with love.

What is most disappointing is that even though he’s a skilled pianist who easily learned all the parts for his role as , there is very little piano on the album and Foxx instead primary sings over aggravated hip hop beats. And even the litany of credible artist can’t save these songs. shows up on the trite duet Love Changes that Mary wisely didn’t include on her album that was also released this week (see my review - Anybody Who's Ever Loved You Know Just What I Feel). Then Kanye gives an uninspired verse on Extravaganza while , , , also lend sophomoric raps to go along with the songs they are on.

The album starts to get better near the end with the appearance of on U Still Got It (Interlude). That is followed by a glimpse of what the album should have been with Heaven where Foxx is on the piano with little accompaniment singing a love song in vein of . The album is capped off with the emotional Wish U Were Here, a touching song about the Grandmother who raised him. Sadly these songs were too little too late to save the album.

Song to Download – Heaven

Unpredictable gets a Terror Alert Level: Guarded [BLUE] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Can You Still Have Any Famous Last Words if You're Somebody Nobody Knows

29 - Ryan Adams

is the most prolific artist of the decade releasing nine albums so far including two earlier this year. Now he’s back with his third and presumable last of 2005 and the first this year without his backing band The Cardinals, 29. With the band taking this album off, 29 is more sparse and reminiscing of old time country albums that evoke cowboys sitting around a campfire with an acoustic guitar telling tales.

Even though most of the album has that campfire feel to it, 29 starts off with its most rugged track that shares the name of the album which sounds like it would best be performed behind a chain link fence in a southern bar. The later on the album there is The Sadness that sounds influenced by old time mariachi band but without the horn section.

What have always drawn me to Ryan Adams though are his sad songs and there is no shortage here. For those who enjoy their sadness accompanied with an acoustic guitar instead check out Strawberry Wine and Night Birds. While those who prefer a piano there is Blue Skies Blue and Elizabeth, You Were Made to Play the Part where your heart will break when he sings the line, “I'm not strong enough to let you go.” And his storytelling as a whole has improved most notably on Carolina Rain a song about the hardships some people have faced throughout their lives.

Song to Download - Elizabeth, You Were Made to Play the Part

29 gets a Terror Alert Level: High [ORANGE] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Anybody Who's Ever Loved You Know Just What I Feel

The Breakthrough - Mary J Blige

Long before every R&B artist was infusing hip-hop elements into their songs, there was Mary J. Blige who created a new genre onto itself. But unlike her imitators, Blige has something they don’t, soul. While they relay too heavily on the hip-hop the reason Blige has stayed on top is that she finds the right balance between that and soul. Mix that all together with the heartbreak that seem to seep into most of her songs and you have a recipe that’s worthy of a first ballot into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Even though Blige declared No More Drama on her last album, luckily for us the listener, there is still enough to fill her latest album, The Breakthrough. The drama of finding, and keeping, a good man are at the center of Enough Cryin’, Baggage and Father in You. And the music doesn’t falter when she migrates into more traditional love songs such as No One Will Do, About You, and Can’t Get Enough.

Very rarely does the hip-hop beats drag down the album except on the bongos on Ain’t Really Love overpower the song. But Mary does sample both old school and new school tracks. As for new school, Mary builds MJB da MVP around 50 Cent’s chorus from Hate it or Love It. Then on Gonna Breakthrough Blige sings overtop KRS-One’s Step Into a World (Rapture’s Delight).

Then instead of settling for sampling, or even bringing in studio musicians, she gets U2 to make an appearance on the cover of their classic One from Achtung Baby. They even brought along a choir which helps convert the song into a gospel song much like they did on I Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For on Rattle and Hum. Mary even outshines Bono, who trade verses, and hits the line “Love is a temple, love is a higher law” like she finally found what she’s looking for. That passion carries over to her new song like Be Without You and I Found My Everything, a duet with Raphael Saadiq of Tony! Toni! Toné! fame.

Song to Download – One

The Breakthrough gets a Terror Alert Level: High [ORANGE] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Best Free Songs of 2005

Every Tuesday, iTunes releases a couple of free songs some of which sometimes are forgettable but most of them are worth the download with a few that have even landed on some of my Mix-Tapes. Here is a list of the best songs that were available for free sometime during 2005 but are actually worth buying:

1. Telescope Eyes – Eisley
2. Me Plus One - Annie
3. Gotta Get Up from Here (Radio Edit) - Ellie Lawson
4. Club Foot - Kasabian
5. Son's Gonna Rise - Citizen Cope & Santana
6. Back to Me - Kathleen Edwards
7. Stars and Boulevards - Augustana
8. L-L-Love - Astaire
9. Empty Room - Marjorie Fair
10. Be the Girl - Aslyn
11. Over My Head (Cable Car) - The Fray
12. Gravity - Embrace
13. Who We Are - Hope Partlow
14. Bad Day - Daniel Powter
15. Till I Get to You (Radio Edit) - Nikka Costa
16. When the President Talks to God - Bright Eyes
17. Every Ship Must Sail Away - Blue Merle
18. Stand On Your Seat (Lord-Alge Mix Short) - Chris Glover
19. Come Touch Me - Bobby Valentino
20. She Said (Radio Edit) - Brie Larson
21. Let Go (LP Version) - BarlowGirl
22. Banjo Boy - Ryan Shupe & The Rubberband
23. When the Music's Not Forgotten - Deadman
24. Walking With a Ghost - Tegan and Sara
25. 15 Beers Ago - Deaf Pedestrians

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Any Guy Can Sweep Any Girl Off Her Feet


You would think with a week until Christmas, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation would be the perfect movie last night, or even Scrooged another holiday favorite of mine. Yet somehow I got conned into watching Hitch instead. How festive, but anyways. The film follows the artist formally known as the (sadly D.J. Jazzy Jeff is nowhere to be found) around as the mystical Date Doctor as he helps the hapless men of New York land the girl of their dreams because as Hitch says, “Any guy can sweep any girl off her feet, he just needs the right broom.”

His latest client also stands to be his biggest triumph as a goofy account Albert, played by hires Hitch to help catch the eye of the socialite, Allegra Cole, who is a client at his firm. But with about ten other accountants on her case, it’s hard for Albert to stick out. Granted whenever Allegra’s name was brought up I couldn’t help wondering how much the filmmakers were getting paid from pharmaceutical industry.

But Hitch’s greatest success could be in trouble when he meets a jaded woman that he tries to woo who just so happens to have a gossip column that regularly focuses on Allegra’s dating life. But since this is a romantic comedy, hilarity ensues instead, or at least tries too. The movie tries a little too hard at the physical which is fine when James is on screen, but when it’s left up to the Fresh Prince and as the gossip maven, it sometimes fall flat.

Overall it was a decent movie with a couple good laughs even though most of the movie, much like every romantic comedy, was extremely predictable. There were also a few scenes that didn’t really need to be in the movie like Hitch’s flashback to his dorkier college days or the scene with movie killer . As for the extras on the DVD, there were a couple of run of the mil featurettes and boring deleted scenes that were rightfully left on the cutting room floor along with your typical gag reel. Also there was a video for 2005’s summer anthem, Amerie’s 1 Thing which will undoubtably show up on my Best Songs of 2005 that will be showing up next week.

Hitch gets a Terror Alert Level: Elevated [YELLOW] on my Terror Alert Scale.