I have a huge problem with Britney Spears’ eighth studio album, Britney Jean, and its name is Will.i.am. The Black Eyed Peas frontman has taken over as executive producer, seemingly hijacking Brit’s emotions on half the record. The end result? An album of fillers that, despite the intimate title, is about as personal as a spot on the Home Shopping Network.
Mr. i.am’s love affair with Brit began when he produced and dueted with her on “Big Fat Bass,” the only misfire on Britney’s 2011 EDM masterpiece, Femme Fatale. The track came and went like Lindsay’s sobriety. In 2012, the duo appeared on Will’s dancefloor romp “Scream And Shout,” which went on to be a huge hit. The outcome was inevitable: Will.i.am announced that he was going to executive-produce Britney Jean, the album that marks Britney’s 15-year anniversary in the music biz. Think of the other divas that made huge comebacks after 15 years: Mariah (The Emancipation Of Mimi), Janet (All For You) and (all hail) Madonna’s game-changing musical masterpiece Ray of Light. In Britney’s case, unfortunately, the 15-year-marker does little to catapult the young singer down the musical runway, instead it furthers her growing reputation as a soulless pop bot.
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Before I start my rant on Lady Gaga’s just-released ARTPOP, I need to make one thing clear: I’m no Little Monster. Don’t get me wrong, I lived for Gaga during The Fame-era. The girl had me dreaming of disco sticks for days on end. One of my favorite earlier Gaga songs is “Fashion,” a super gay (and super under-appreciated) track from the film Confessions Of A Shopaholic. It’s hard to believe that was only five years ago. Back then, Gaga’s music felt new and had a fresh sound that had all us gay kids bluffin’ with our muffins. Then things started to go south. I was fine with the meat dress at the VMAs, but that weird egg hatch at the Grammys? Then came Born This Way, which, title track aside, was a long and exhausting production of preach-y lyrics and pranc-y beats. Throw in those weird American Horror Story-worthy faces she makes on stage and her recently announced plans to perform in space, and we have a performer who’s taking this fame-is-art-art-is-fame thing way too far. I find myself longing for the days of sick beats and poker faces and, ARTPOP is none of those. It’s simply too much art and not enough pop.
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The first time I listened to Bangerz, I didn’t like it. There was something missing that I couldn’t wrap my brain around … until I saw Miley’s solid turn as host and musical performer this weekend on Saturday Night Live. It was during her opening monologue, when she proclaimed that Hannah Montana was murdered. Suddenly, something clicked. I gave it another listen and fell in love. Bangerz is a wild ride of rock- and hip-hop-infused tunes that showcases an artist taking risks and finally coming into her own.
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Before I say anything else about Cher’s first album in more than a decade, a word about my bona fides: The very first album I bought (on vinyl, thank you) was Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves in (gulp) 1971. I was eight years old. How my parents did not have the faculty to pull me aside and say, “We have something to tell you,” I will never understand. Read more »