Album Reviews
by Tom Beninate
Artist: One Direction
Album:
Take Me Home
Year Released: 2012
Rating:

Like most other "boy bands" One Direction is a big record label ploy to sell lots of records to specialized young audiences. The production is big, but the songwriting is contrived and the originality is bland. This marketing form still exists because it brings in big and easy money for the labels.
Key Songs: "Live While We're Young".
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Artist: Phillip Phillips
Album:
The World From The Dark Side Of The Moon
Year Released: 2012
Rating:

Phillip Phillips' sound is clearly borrowed from the Dave Matthews camp. However, Phillips has a foot-stomping aspect versus Matthews' slightly jazzy edge. With that in mind, this is a reasonably well composed and arranged collection of tunes for the year 2012. Let us see what he releases on the next CD.
Key Songs: "Home", "Gone, Gone, Gone", "Where We Came From".
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Artist: Bruno Mars
Album:
Unorthodox Jukebox
Year Released: 2012
Rating:

Unorthodox Jukebox is a fun-filled record. The key songs are reasonably good and the rest are unique and listenable. Mars is a convincingly good pop vocalist and songwriter. He and his buddies wrote all of the tunes on this album. He is on the right track for a big career.
Key Songs: "Young Girls", "Locked Out Of Heaven", "Treasure", "When I Was Your Man".
Artist: Bruce Springsteen
Album:
Wrecking Ball
Year Released: 2012
Rating:

This is not a bad record from the "boss", but it is clearly not his best effort. You get a few "C" level "sound-alikes" from Springsteen's earlier works. The rest of the material has familiar chord progressions and arrangements that could have come from Nashville. Again, the record is listenable but certainly not what we expect from this man.
Key Songs: "Wrecking Ball".
Artist: Artic Monkeys
Album:
Am
Year Released: 2013
Rating:

The Artics Monkeys sound like a combination of light (and wannabe) Black Sabbath with David Bowie-like pop (and octave-doubled) vocals. This entire record of "B" level songs is actually very listenable. However, there are no rubber-necking tunes. Too bad.
Key Songs: "R U Mine?", "No.1 Party Anthem".
Artist: Lady Gaga
Album:
Artpop
Year Released: 2013
Rating:

Once upon a time, Lady Gaga broke through the charts with second-rate Madonna-like material. But now, Gaga is coping her "own" work and the result is Artpop. Unfortunately, this record is missing art and it's pop has fizzled. When she tries to be sincere as with "Dope", her result is strange and not believeable.
Key Songs: "Do What You Want", "Applause".
Artist: Bastille
Album:
Bad Blood
Year Released: 2013
Rating:

Bastille carved out a niche by uniquely arranging their synthe sounds with complimentary vocal arrangements. However, Dan Smith and company deployed that same technique with similar sounding verses and choruses on many of these songs. It is as though they used one song to fill out most of the album.
Key Songs: "Pompeii".
Artist: Miley Cyrus
Album:
Bangerz
Year Released: 2013
Rating:

Bangerz is Miley Cyrus' continuing effort to ditch her Hannah Montana image. She succeeds when the effort is put in to capture the emotion of a good song. She fails when she childishly attempts to impress the music world with material that is above her head and out of her genre.
Key Songs: "Adore You", "Wrecking Ball".
Artist: Blake Shelton
Album:
Based On A True Story
Year Released: 2013
Rating:

When you combine weak lyrics, (almost) no hooks, old sounds, and familiar choruses you wind up with Based On A True Story. Interestingly, this record begins with some "modern processing and producing" but quickly falls back to Blake's true country sound and past works.
Key Songs: "Boys 'Round Here", "Mine Would Be You", "Lay Low".
Artist: Beyonce
Album:
Beyonce
Year Released: 2013
Rating:

Beyonce, of course, is one of the top female vocalists. Her team of song co-writers, guests, and support is top shelf. The songs are good but could be better. Interestingly, the CD ships with a 28-page booklet with tons of photos of Beyonce but actually contains no lyrics!
Key Songs: "XO", "Super Power", "Heaven", "Blue".
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