Track(s) of the Day Tuesday: KYLE iSpy (feat. Lil Yachty), LIL UZI VERT “XO TOUR Llif3”, and KHALID Location

Last week we were unable to add another installment to the Track of the Day Tuesday segment, so this week we have three songs that you need to check out!  Also, for the first time in months, a Track of the Day Tuesday post will feature exclusively hip hop artists, so this is an extremely significant week for the segment! Of course, all of the tracks mentioned will be attached below so don’t forget to give them a listen!

The first song you need to listen to today is Kyle’s “iSpy”, which is a collaboration between Kyle himself and Lil Yachty.  Kyle is a rapper who I’ve followed on and off for the last few years and it’s nice to finally see him receive mainstream attention.  With the single “iSpy” recently going Platinum (Music Canada) and being a top 5 selling track on US charts, it’s clear that Yachty and Kyle were meant to work together in a very similar way to how D.R.A.M. and Yachty were also destined to make a hit song together as well.  The track starts out with a feel good dialogue between Kyle and Lil Yachty, as the entire music video features the two rappers as cartoon characters moving through different scenarios on a fictitious beach.  It only takes a few seconds of Lil Yachty acting for any viewer to realize that the Atlanta based rapper needs to have his own cartoon show.  His dialogue, interaction with Kyle, and humorous and light hearted acting skills clearly shows that Lil Yachty has a natural talent as a cartoon voice actor, and I personally think a show about the rapper himself would be an instant classic (especially after seeing the great reaction Adult Swim’s “Mike Tyson Mysteries” has had since it’s launch).  The two rappers work together really well in this opening dialogue, as it becomes a perfect transition into Kyle’s first verse when the song opens.  Overall, this isn’t the most sophisticated or meaningful song you’ll ever hear, but it is without a doubt an extremely fun song to listen to regularly.  Yachty and Kyle’s ability to make a happy, fun song that is addictive to say the least clearly showcases what these two artists are best at.  In fact, the two of them did so well with “iSpy” that I’ve come to the conclusion that D.R.A.M, Lil Yachty, and Kyle all have to write an album together.  Not only were the three of them destined to work together, but a full length album, or even a mixtape, from these prominent artists could possibly result in one of the best hip hop albums of the year.  Needless to say, this collaboration absolutely needs to happen.

Next up is Lil Uzi Vert’s “XO TOUR Llif3”.  Lil Uzi Vert is an artist that, up until the release of this single, I had mixed opinions on.  Some of his tracks are very catchy and feature a solid song structure, but his recently released commercially successful mixtapes, like “The Perfect LUV Tape” and “Lil Uzi Vert Vs. The World”, are projects that I can only listen to for 15-20 min before I start to get annoyed with Lil Uzi Vert’s signature sound.  Not to mention that there are even some tracks that I find to be just terrible overall.  However, “XO TOUR Llif3” is nothing like anything we’ve heard from Lil Uzi Vert so far.  For starters, he’s abandoned overusing the word “Yeah”, which is a promising sign.  Also, the beat, produced by TM88, is actually one that is somber and breaks away from his traditional upbeat, EDM inspired beats.  Lastly, and what I think is the most significant aspect of this new release from Lil Uzi Vert, the lyricism heard is actually very deep, personal, and above all well written.  The song basically depicts a past relationship Lil Uzi Vert was in, how it ended poorly, and how his dependency on narcotics greatly affected his life at the time.  The lyricism is specific enough that the listener can understand what the song is generally about, yet it is still vague, allowing interpretation of the lyrics to change per person and also exemplifying Lil Uzi Vert’s progress as a lyricist himself.  His use of primarily sung vocals allows the listener to actually hear the pain in Lil Uzi Vert’s voice through verses and choruses as he discusses this troubling time in his life, which is something fans of Lil Uzi Vert haven’t heard until now.  Personally, I really enjoy how Lil Uzi Vert wrote the chorus to “XO TOUR Llif3”.  Keeping the lyricism and perspective very vague has caused different interpretations of the meaning of the chorus to surface and it has personally left me anxious to hear the true meaning to the lines heard in the track.  This is without a doubt Lil Uzi Vert’s greatest song he has ever released and I hope he has more tracks similar to “XO TOUR Llif3” coming out soon.

Lastly, I want to talk about another hip hop artist who I have found through Youtube.  Khalid is an El Paso based R&B/Hip Hop artist who recently made significant waves with his successful debut album “American Teen”.  The album is full of successful singles like “Saved” and “Coaster”, but the track you’ve probably heard by now is “Location”.  “Location” features a chill, full sounding beat that perfectly compliments Khalid’s phenomenal tone and singing.  I’m actually not too found of the lyricism heard on “Location”.  It’s not bad, but the verses could have definitely been rewritten to better explain the situation with the girl Khalid mentions throughout the song without being too straight forward.  However, this is definitely a minor suggestion as the lyrics are fine as the way they are now.  Khalid has a ton of potential and I would consider him and 6lack to be the future of modern R&B.  If you haven’t had a chance to listen to his tracks before, or if you’ve put off watching the “Location” music video after seeing it recommended on Youtube for awhile now, then you without a doubt need to give it a listen today.

Thanks again to everyone who has kept up to date with the Track of the Day Tuesday segment!  This segment is absolutely my favorite segment to write about for Erik’s Album Reviews and it’s great to see such a positive, continued response from viewers across the globe.  If you haven’t yet, check out some of our older Track of the Day Tuesday installments and let us know who you think should be featured on next week’s Track of the Day Tuesday post!

500 Word Review: Childish Gambino “Awaken, My Love!”

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“Awaken, My Love!” is completely unexpected and original, but where did the rap go? This is Glover’s first attempt at a purely R&B album and somehow “Awaken” makes it sound like he’s had plenty of practice making them. How he satisfactorily produced this ambitious album after devoting his musical career to rapping is impressive. It is impossible to deny his multiple talents. I call this album ambitious because it is uncharted territory for Gambino. Yes, he tests out his singing voice a bit on “Kauai”, but he pushes his vocals to their limit on “Awaken” making frequent use of his falsetto. Even so, Glover demonstrates his versatility and while I was constantly anticipating his rapping, his singing did not take away from the album. Straying even further from his comfort zone, this album is full of funk, soul, and psychedelia creating a new and unfamiliar sound.

When “Me and Your Momma” kicks in, I was instantly reminded of the lazy yet precise drumming and stoned guitar of King Crimson so much that it sounded like a tribute to the band. Evidence of this influence shows up in other songs like “Boogieman” and “Zombies”. The vast, trippy production works well with this style, but the ceaseless reverb definitely gets old. Themes of love, loads of clapping, chanting, and church choir style background vocals give the album a Cristian tone that is out of place in an increasingly atheist world and rap scene. The chorus of “Have Some Love” sounds like a hymn sung around the fire at a summer Jesus camp. Peace culture and drugs certainly have a history together, but I’m not so sure the album’s psychedelia goes hand in hand with its soulful characteristics.

The album is an appropriate length, but there are still a couple of songs that it could do without. “California” is clunky and breaks up the album. Its distorted vocals are too much to comfortably listen to. “The Night Me and Your Momma Met” is just unneeded dead space wedged between two already mellow songs. This album may represent uncertainty of where to focus his talents for Glover, or his understanding that he is successful enough to artistically experiment wherever he wants. The absence of even a single rap verse on “Awaken” and his experimentation on “Kauai” raise the question of whether Gambino plans on changing genres permanently. Strangely enough he doesn’t seem to be any better or worse at the R&B trade than rapping, he’ll probably have a dedicated following either way he goes as long as he doesn’t decide to take a sharp turn again.

 

Score: 7/10

 

Album Review by Zachary Norton, March 2017

“Awaken, My Love!”:

500 Word Review: The Weeknd “Starboy”

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Let’s get something out of the way: I hate The Weeknd. His whiney ass voice doesn’t work with his cool guy lyrics and it makes him sound like a twat. When I listen to his music I can’t help but imagine a 12-year-old prepubescent boy bragging about his vagina loosening abilities. His act isn’t very convincing whether it is genuine or not, and has reached a new level of annoying on “Starboy”. Fame has undoubtedly gotten to his head. The way he pronounces some words, and his offensive vibrato consistently distract from his music, but maybe it’s just because he’s Canadian. He isn’t all that original either. The Weeknd’s musical influences are easily apparent. A handful of his songs unapologetically resemble the style of his idol, Michael Jackson. Even his name is unoriginal. There was already another Canadian musical artist by the name of The Weekend in 1998. The Weeknd only adapted his stage name when copyright infringement became a worry. However, as much as I dislike this artist, it is difficult to deny that “Starboy” is a decent album.

“Starboy” doesn’t shine all the way through. There aren’t any truly bad songs, but it is certainly too long. The Weekend secured several big name features to keep things interesting, yet there are still plenty of dull moments on the album. The only feature that falls flat on its face is the one I had the highest expectations for, that of Kendrick Lamar in “Sidewalks”. His what should’ve been a solid verse is immediately derailed by the choppy line “Say, say, say” repeated five times. The end of the verse’s flow is thankfully unmolested. It looks like The Weeknd called in some favors for the production job too. “Starboy’s” production boasts a long list of contributors including Daft Punk, and it has a gorgeous crystalline sound to show for it. There are plenty of dank beats and contagious rhythms on “Starboy”. “Rockin’” pulses with energy and “A Lonely Night” has a dapper swing reminiscent of something you would find on a Michael Jackson album.

The Weeknd may admit to his affinity for the king of pop, but he has another strong likeness to a successful artist. “Six Feet Under”, “Party Monster”, and “Reminder” could be covers of Drake songs. Being compared to two influential artists would normally be a complement, but The Weeknd doesn’t seem to have a method of his own. While it leans heavily on the work of others, this album is not redundant. It does not hold up the expected clichés we have come to expect from pop music, and yes this is a pop album not R&B. Instead it breathes new and formidable life into a copy and paste genre. While he didn’t quite knock it out of the park, “Starboy” is a reminder that the Weeknd is a force in the pop genre and will be for a long time.

 

Score: 7.5/10

 

Album Review by Zachary Norton, March 2017

“Starboy’:

The Thursday Ten: 11/24/16

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After missing last week we are now back with the next installment to “The Thursday Ten”!  Like usual, the rules for “The Thursday Ten” haven’t changed and we encourage you to check out every album listed below on any of the major music streaming services.  Let us know what you think of the ratings, which albums we should do next, and don’t forget to read previous “The Thursday Tens”, like the most recent one attached below!  Here is this week’s “The Thursday Ten”:

  1. Hail The Sun – Culture Scars: 8/10
  2. Stolas – Allomaternal: 8/10
  3. The Devil Wears Prada – Transit Blues: 7/10
  4. Gallant – Ology: 9/10
  5. Sianvar – Stay Lost: 8/10
  6. Memphis May Fire – This Light I Hold: 6/10
  7. Fire From The Gods – Narrative: 7/10
  8. twenty one pilots – Heathens *single/not an album*: 5/10
  9. Rob $tone – Chill Bill *single/not an album*: 9/10
  10. Leon Bridges – Coming Home: 8/10

The previous “The Thursday Ten”:

https://eriksalbumreviews.wordpress.com/2016/11/11/the-thursday-ten-111016/

Track(s) of the Day Tuesday: GALLANT Weight In Gold and ROB $TONE Chill Bill

As we mentioned before, last week was extremely hectic for the writers at Erik’s Album Reviews, so we were unable to create new installments for our weekly segments, like Track of the Day Tuesday.  So, like we’ve done before for weeks when we were unable to post a track of the day, we have TWO tracks for this week that you should listen to!  These tracks are Gallant’s “Weight In Gold” and Rob $tone’s “Chill Bill”.  Both of these songs I actually found through commercials and I have since become a fan of these artists!

Rob $tone is an up-and-coming rap artist who released his widely successful single, “Chill Bill”, earlier this year.  The track has been featured on Spotify commercials and features one of the catchiest hooks you will hear in all of 2016.  The track has solid flow and a well put together trap beat, however the most memorable part of this song is the whistling lead part, which serves as the melody to the addictive chorus.  It is impossible to listen to the chorus once and not want to play it again and whistle the melody yourself.  The only problem I have with the song is that I think the whistling melody is over used.  If it was prominent in the verse as well, I believe that the impact the melody would have on the chorus would be even greater than it is now.  This track, however, is still an amazing start for Rob $tone and I look forward to hearing what he chooses to release next!

Gallant’s “Weight In Gold” is the other track you must listen to today.  After hearing his best selling single on a Red Bull commercial I absolutely had to check out the full song.  Gallant is a modern day R&B artist with an absolutely stunning vocal range.  Gallant’s music also incorporates a lot of electronic influence and even some sections in “Weight In Gold” feature EDM like sections.  “Weight In Gold” is an instant classic and an all around well written, extremely impressive song.  “Ology”, Gallant’s debut album, is phenomenal as well and will definitely be an album of the year contender.

I’ve posted links to both songs below for you to check out!  I also attached Gallant’s live performance on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon.  If his live performance doesn’t convince you of his unfathomable talent and musical ability, then I don’t know what will.  Both of these artists will be house hold names in the next few years and I can’t wait to see what they do with their careers next!

Rob $tone “Chill Bill”:

Gallant “Weight In Gold”:

Gallant “Weight In Gold” Live:

Update: The Weeknd Releases The Second Music Video Off Upcoming Album “Starboy”

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Earlier last week, The Weeknd released a new music video for the single “False Alarm”, one of the first two tracks to be released off his upcoming album “Starboy”.  The hip-hop/ R&B icon previously released his first single, also called “Starboy”, which was accompanied with a video as well.  “Starboy” is a more traditional style hip-hop track that resembled a sound very similar to Abel’s older material.  The video was also fairly violent but focused more on the musical content rather than the visual representation.  “False Alarm” on the other hand, sounds completely different and also features a music video that is both extremely violent and intense.  In fact, I would actually consider this video to be more like a short film rather than a music video.

The track “False Alarm” itself is something unlike the average The Weeknd song.  It is a rock based pop song that is both aggressive and, at some points, even has a goth rock inspired sound.  While the instrumental part of the song is more aggressive, the soft, high pitched vocal performance by Abel is still present.  Personally, I feel like this rock inspired song actually holds him back vocally and that his phenomenal singing is better exemplified on the more R&B sounding track “Starboy”.  I wasn’t too into “False Alarm”, but it is nice to see The Weeknd branch out from his comfort zone and experiment with a different approach to writing new tracks.  I will say, however, that this music video/short film is very entertaining and keeps you glued to the screen from the beginning of the fictitious robbery until the gory end.  I still look forward to hearing the rest of Abel’s upcoming release and hope there are more music videos like the last two to accompany it!

The video for “False Alarm is attached below along with my recent blog post reviewing the first single off “Starboy”.  Leave a comment about the upcoming The Weeknd release and be sure to check back in for more reviews, breaking news, and other music content!

“Starboy” Review:

https://eriksalbumreviews.wordpress.com/2016/10/04/500-word-review-the-weeknd-starboy/

500 Word Review: The Weeknd “Starboy”

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On September 22nd, Canadian singer and songwriter, The Weeknd, released his latest single, “Starboy (feat. Daft Punk)”.  This single is off his upcoming third studio album (also called “Starboy”), and features the iconic songwriting and sound of Electronic music titans, Daft Punk.  This collaboration shows an interesting, slightly different sound from previous notable singles from the Weeknd, without making a drastic change to the sound he is known for.

Personally, The Weeknd has always been an artist that I enjoy, but have never truly checked out as far as listening to his entire discography.  Essentially, I’ve only really heard his well-known radio singles, however what I have heard so far I’ve really enjoyed.  The Weeknd showcases a unique alternative R&B sound that is accompanied by simple yet clever lyricism and an absolutely stunning singing voice.  If Abel (The Weeknd) can continue this succession of monumental R&B/Hip-Hop releases, then I honestly believe he will become one of the most prominent and influential pop artists of this generation.

“Starboy” is a perfect example of the genre dominance seen by The Weeknd.  The track starts off with a deep electronic (almost hardstyle) sounding drum and bass intro, which accurately fits Daft Punk’s songwriting style.  From there the track constantly adds different synths, pianos, and harmonious background vocals to compliment that vocal ability of Abel.  The song as a whole sounds like a more EDM based version of “Beauty Behind The Madness”, which should not be taken as an insult at all.  I have personally seen electronic music slowly but surely become more intertwined in many genres like pop, Hip-Hop, Rap, R&B and many others and I think this progression has lead to some amazing results and is ultimately the future of these genres of music.  Things like Danny Brown’s collaboration with EDM artist, Rustie, on his track “Attak”, or pop artist Tove Lo’s constant working with EDM artists like Flume and Seven Lions, exemplify this increase in integration between electronic music and other significant genres.  “Starboy” adds to this list and does a fantastic job in representing this evolution into EDM influenced R&B.

In conclusion I give “Starboy (feat. Daft Punk)” an 8.8/10 and look forward to hearing the rest of this upcoming release.  However, I will say this track is not Abel’s best work.  I still believe that “The Hills” is his greatest work and it will take a little more experimentation with both The Weeknd’s songwriting and vocal ability in order to top this stellar track.  Check out the music video for “Starboy” below and pre-order the album set to be released on November 25th!