Katy Perry: ‘PRISM’ Album Review

“PRISM” is Katy Perry’s fourth album, featuring her already popular singles “Roar” and “Dark Horse.”

The album begins with “Roar,” a poppy and catchy song that reminds listeners of several others of Perry’s past songs. The lyrics represent yet another tale of breaking free and letting her voice be heard, a theme that is very overdone in popular music.

The video, however, is more entertaining and corresponds with Katy’s signature style when she embodies a tiger’s strength and dons a cheetah print bikini top and bottoms seemingly made from grass and plants.

Next, “Legendary Lovers” features interesting lyrics such as “Under a silver moon, tropical temperature
I feel my lotus bloom, come closer. 
I want your energy, I want your aura.
You are my destiny, my mantra,” but the hook feels rushed and throws off the flow of the song.

However, Perry overcomes this small issue when tribal sounding drums pick up and background vocals contribute a unique sound to a song that is pretty typical of Perry otherwise.

“Birthday” is the newest song that will be added to everyone’s birthday party playlists. It’s an up-tempo song about everything birthday celebration related put into flirty Katy lyrics. It’s surprising that no one has made a song like this before. Props to Katy.

“Walking On Air” is surely the next song to be played repeatedly on all the radio stations and promises to become old quickly by its repetitive lyrics. It repeats “Tonight, tonight, tonight, I’m walking on air, tonight, tonight, tonight, I’m walking on air” and features an 80s themed beat and background vocals.

“Unconditionally” is a seemingly heartfelt love song and shows listeners a side of Perry people haven’t seen since before her split with Russell Brand.

“Dark Horse” is one of the best songs on “PRISM” because not only does Perry feature a trap music song on her album but she also adds rapper Juicy J on it. With trap becoming more popular, Katy was smart as an artist to adopt it right at its beginning.

The beat doesn’t sound like anything done recently in pop but more so resembles a rap beat and she sings flawlessly over it. Juicy J’s verse is not his best work but ends strong with “Her love is like a drug, I was trying to hit it and quit it but Lil Mama so dope I messed around and got addicted.”

“This Is How We Do” is a feel good song good for listening to in the car with the top down. It seems like this would have worked better as a summer release with party anthem lyrics like “This is how we do, yeah, chilling, laid back. 
Straight stunting yeah we do it like that. 
This is how we do, do, do, do, do. 
This is how we do.”

At one point when the song seems ready to end, Katy says, “Bring the beat back” and it doesn’t work well with the song. Listeners will wish it had just faded out instead of listening to Katy’s fake MC talk.

“International Smile” talks about a girl with “Flowers in her hair, she don’t care
. Peach pink lips, yeah, everybody stares. 
You think you’ve seen her in a magazine, 
it’s like she walked right out of your dreams.” The entire song basically describes a Hollywood “It-Girl” and will remind listeners of Perry’s “California Gurls.”

“Ghost” is a song with a mellow dance beat about losing someone close. Perry sings, “When I look back never would have known that you could be so cold, like a stranger vanish like a vapor. There’s just an echo where your heart used to be.” The dance beat seems to trivialize the emotional lyrics and it ends up being confusing about her intended meaning.

“Love Me,” conveys a much-needed message about the importance of loving ourselves. Many young women can probably relate to her lyrics like “Sometimes I wish my skin was a costume
that I could just unzip, and strip, 
but who I am is who I’m meant to be.” She follows through with a very genuine denunciation of insecurities and second-guessing.

“This Moment” is another good reminder for most people. Perry advises listeners to live in the moment and “don’t let the clock tell you what to do” and “don’t miss and blink.” In a workaholic culture revolving around time, this is an important message that may be missed through the typical pop song sound.

“Double Rainbow” is a love song that speaks about how people are unique like double rainbows. She sings “They say one man’s trash is another girl’s treasure.
So if it’s up to me, I’m going to keep you forever

’cause I understand you, we see eye to eye
like a double rainbow in the sky.” Although all of these songs are typical Katy Perry songs and impossible to imagine them belonging to any other artist, most of them don’t show any progression or change to her work.

“By The Grace Of God” is the most honest, sincere song of Katy’s career, once again reminiscing a breakup. She sings “By the grace of God 
(There was no other way), 
I picked myself back up 
(I knew I had to stay), 
I put one foot in front of the other and I
 looked in the mirror and decided to stay,
 wasn’t going to let love take me out that way.” In this song, listeners see the part of Perry that is learning and growing as a person from her experiences in love.

“Spiritual” is a song about spirits, spells, and charms where Perry sings, “This is spiritual, under your spell. Phenomenal, the way you make me feel. like an angel, oh, at blow, like a feather, you make me float.” It resembles several songs that have been done before and leaves listeners disappointed.

“It Takes Two” describes how there are two sides to every story. Listeners notice once again Perry seems to be growing up and taking blame for half of a breakup. She admits to not being completely innocent and even apologizes to someone.

“Choose Your Battles” is a fairly mellow song about choosing battles in a relationship and Perry says, “I’m not fighting anymore.” It is another song that doesn’t differ enough from her usual style to leave any type of impression on listeners.

Overall, the album includes many more catchy songs that are sure to become popular but Perry lacks progression as an artist. Although most of the lyrics are her usual sugar-coated pop lyrics, there are a few times she delves deep into her personal life and that is definitely something listeners want to see more of.

Additionally, she hasn’t tried many new things here, but listeners should commend “Dark Horse” as a step outside her musical boundaries and it turned out to be a big success. Hopefully on Perry’s next album listeners will see more of these changes and less of insubstantial songs like “Walking On Air.”

 

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Danny Brown Gets Personal on New Album

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There aren’t many rappers whose favorite band is Arcade Fire, who record songs with Insane Clown Posse, or who flirt incessantly with Kathy Griffin, but Danny Brown is that rapper. As a 32-year-old rapper Brown told The Guardian, the title Old is not referring to his age but actually to the fact that he’s been around so long in the rap game, and like the song “Side A” says, older fans want “that old Danny Brown” back.

The “old Danny Brown” first surfaced as a member of the group Reser’vor Dogs in the mid-2000s before releasing his mixtape, Detroit State of Mind, and going on to record The Hybrid and XXX. With Old, Brown brings a new spirit and style to rap using increasingly alternative beats and samples that make it a strong candidate for multiple listens while simultaneously setting a higher standard for hip-hop from here on out.

Brown hails from Detroit, the city that has produced venerated lyricists such as Eminem and Royce Da 5’9”. But Brown isn’t nearly as serious as his Motor City contemporaries. He can most commonly be seen posing for photos with his tongue out and showing off his missing tooth — and as wild as his appearance might be, his lyrics and delivery match up to the hype.

Side A of the album gives fans “that old Danny Brown” and features a deep look into his past in Detroit where he witnessed a lot of violence, drug use and eventually began selling drugs. On “25 Bucks,” Brown spits impressively intricate rhymes about trying to make a few dollars. This track features beats and vocals from Canadian electro-pop act Purity Ring, who previously featured Brown on a remix of their song “Belispeak II.”

Specifically on “Torture,” he paints a picture of a memory in Detroit and depicts his desensitization to violence in a lower, downcast voice than what listeners are used to. He says, he “was like f-cking 7-years old / When I first seen a fiend try to light a rock off the stove.” In “Gremlins,” Brown recalls hustling becoming repetitive and how “school becomes a free meal / street becomes a cheap thrill.”

He gets personal on the first half of the album, even mentioning a daughter, referring to the child his high school girlfriend had with someone else but Brown took in as his own. He even laments not being able to spend as much time with her as he’d like. It is at this point that listeners see a true evolution of Brown as an artist.

Side B of the album marks the extreme change in mood on Old where he switches from reminiscing and delves into the party scene and drug culture with songs such as “Dip,”  “Smokin & Drinkin” and “Kush Coma.”

On these songs, he has fun with his sound and skips the unusually low voice for his distinctive high-pitched, sometimes shrill voice. “Dip” features an electronic beat that samples Freak Nasty’s 1996 “Da’ Dip.” The song refers explicitly to the use of MDMA, which Brown has been an active supporter of since its recent transition into rap culture. It is arguably the most hyped-up song on the album with Brown saying, “Off a half a gram of Molly / We about to go party and I don’t know what I’m doing” throughout.

Side B continues to keep the party going with many highlights such as “Break It (Go),” for which Brown recruited Scottish producer Rustie. Together, they create a trap song sure to be seen as twerk-worthy by his massive amount of female fans. “Kush Coma” features A$AP Rocky in an explicit portrayal of marijuana use that seems to glorify the substance but carries a more serious undertone about the two sides to a lifestyle of partying when Brown says, “All these drugs up in me / It’s a miracle I ain’t mirror Kurt” (referring to Kurt Cobain).

Brown’s characteristic voice and eccentric and explicit lyrics made his last album, XXX, an immediate hit. Those qualities certainly reappear on Old, but it carries a more sophisticated and polished sound. While he featured some expected collaborations on Old, such as Ab-Soul and Freddie Gibbs, he also introduced some surprising choices of artists such as Purity Ring and British pop star Charli XCX. Brown’s eclectic range of lyrical subjects mixed with his use of obscure producers such as Paul White, Rustie and Detroit producer SKYWLKR, who infuse techno and U.K. grime sounds into the album create an unprecedented style of hip hop production.

The album concludes with “Float On,” a slower, dreamy track on which Brown talks about it still continuing to be a struggle at the end of the day to cope with everything he’s seen and deal with the stress of writing raps for a growing audience. He raps, “You can never understand all the pressure I’m against / Getting high thinking how to make it better than your last sh-t,” conveying some of the stresses and anxiety that come with success in hip-hop fame.

The track provides the perfect closure for an album that’s one part painful memories and one part a look into a drugged-out lifestyle to ultimately focus deeper on Danny Brown as a human being. As the track comes to a close, Brown talks about his fear of fading away under rap’s continuously changing landscape and burning out from drug use. Brown’s proposed solution is simply to stay more focused on his craft. The result of that focus is Old, an album that easily marks the pinnacle of Brown’s career to date.

Published at: http://dailytrojan.com/2013/10/01/danny-brown-gets-personal-on-new-album/#sthash.DvKR0aJd.dpuf

Sleigh Bells ‘Bitter Rivals’ Disappoints

Layered guitars? Sassy vocals? Must be the new Sleigh Bells album. (Photo via Wikimedia)

Sleigh Bells consists of Alexis Krauss (vocalist) and Derek Miller (guitarist/producer) who formed in New York. The band combines pop and loud, grungy guitar rhythms. Today marks the release of their third album, “Bitter Rivals.”

“Bitter Rivals” begins with the single also titled “Bitter Rivals” and it begins slow with snapping fingers in the background before the heavy guitars Sleigh Bells are known for drop and Alexis Krauss battles the sound with her voice. Her voice is usually barely heard over the music but the vocals are raised in this track.

“You are my bitter rival and I need you for survival” she sings for the chorus with only finger-snapping in the background, and it is a nice change in contrast to the loudness of the rest of the song.

“Sugarcane” pushes back the vocals once again and reminds listeners very clearly of many songs from their last album “Reign of Terror.” It’s very typical of their style and nothing really makes it stand out.

“Minnie” has an extremely loud chorus that repeats, “God save you, I’m a demon heartbreaker, not a loser. Minnie, real hard. Minnie, real hard.” The song’s rhythm is so catchy that listeners won’t even care that the lyrics don’t seem to make sense.

“Sing Like A Wire” sounds very different from the rest so far because it starts out very quickly and includes riffs not used in all the songs. At points, Krauss is almost whispering “Sing like a wire” before the music picks up and she begins to shout over it. The listener won’t lose interest after multiple listens.

“Young Legends” is more pop influenced and at times almost resembles a few older Britney Spears’ songs while talking about how “Young legends die all the time,” something which has often been true in music history.

“Tiger Kit” has the most interesting lyrics on the album. Krauss sings “You’re gonna jump, like a detour, in front of all of these people. Oh, how sorry life is, like a Hollywood sequel.” However, there isn’t anything significant about it that they haven’t done before and it’s a song listeners will likely skip over on their first listen of the album.

“You Don’t Get Me Twice” talks about a search for the American Dream and has parts where Krauss’ voice is high-pitched and shrill in the background, which doesn’t add anything to the song but serves as a kind of distraction. It seemed like an attempt just to switch up their sound but doesn’t work well for them.

“To Hell With You” turns a trip to hell into a dreamy, romantic getaway with this more pop-influenced, ethereal song saying “I’ll go to hell with you, here’s the proof.”

“24” is another slower, dreamy song whose true value comes through in the instrumentals between verses. It seems as though the song would be better off without the vocals in this case.

“Love Sick” is the only song on the album that stands out against Sleigh Bells’ typical sound. It seems to tap into both the styles of the Spice Girls mixed with Charli XCX for an airy, slow pop song.

Although it does include some of the heavy guitar riffs they are downplayed in the chorus and the majority of the song carries a peaceful tone.

Overall, “Bitter Rivals” is exactly what Sleigh Bells’ fans already know and love but it lacks a catchy new single like past hits  “Rill Rill” and “Comeback Kid.”

In “Reign of Terror,” they downplayed the guitars and upped the vocals since their first album “Treats” was uniquely heavy with guitars and Krauss was normally at almost a whisper. In “Bitter Rivals,” it seems as though the members of the band themselves are confused about where their sound is going next so it makes for a disappointing listen.

Rock The Bells Rap Music Festival Rocks The San Manuel Amphitheater

Danny Brown during his set at Rock the Bells

Danny Brown during his set at Rock the Bells

Rock the Bells is a 2-day annual rap music festival that was held in San Bernardino at the San Manuel Amphitheater this year September 7& 8 and featured over 50 performers.

The first day I arrived somewhat late but managed to catch Chief Keef’s performance when he began his set at least 20 minutes later than scheduled. He performed his hits such as “I Don’t Like”, “Understand Me”, and “Hate Bein’ Sober.” Although he brought out many other members of GBE (Glory Boyz Entertainment, his label), the crowd did not seem very hyped and it was a shortened and disappointing set since he began late.

Next I went to Currensy on the Hip Hop Dx stage and chilled out to some mellow rap, however the crowd was much more into the performance than at Chief Keef. He performed the ever popular “Jet Life” and “Chasin’ Papers” among others.

While waiting for Black Hippy to begin, I walked around to the other stages to discover something new. The Fool’s Gold stage featured Chase & Status whom I had surprisingly never heard of but whom have many celebrity fans such as Pharrell Williams and Rihanna. They are a rising electronic music duo from the UK however the crowd was so small that it seemed silly for the MC to be consistently trying to hype up the disappointing turnout but the music was very entertaining to listen and dance to.

Next on the Fool’s Gold stage, A-Trak came out and continued the fun for those wanting to dance as he is another DJ but from Canada. He is also the owner of the record label Fool’s Gold.  Personally I enjoyed this performance more since he incorporated more rap music into his mix whereas Chase & Status was more strictly electronic music.

Finally it was time for Black Hippy, which features rappers Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, Kendrick Lamar, and Schoolboy Q. For Ab-Soul’s “Terrorist Threats”, Danny Brown made a guest appearance. Then Schoolboy Q came on and did “Yay Yay”, “Hands on the Wheel”, and my personal favorite “There He Go” along a few others. Q joked about the crowd getting too excited over the fact that Kendrick is next and that he gets all the attention. When Kendrick came out, he only did a few of his popular songs leaving out “Poetic Justice” among others. Most complaints I heard were that people wished Kendrick had done more songs but since he was not a solo headliner the time was shared with the fellow Black Hippy rappers.

The crowd for Kid Cudi was massive due to both his popularity and the fact that there was only one other show going on simultaneously. His stage setup was a very intricate mountain-like installment that I believe was supposed to represent another planet. The small screens around the stage often showed stars so there was a kind of celestial space concept going on. The only thing I didn’t enjoy about his set was that at the very beginning he laid down a set of rules.

Rule No. 1: No pictures or video of Kid Cudi’s performance allowed.

Rule No. 2: No throwing things onto the stage.

Rule No. 3: No pushing and shoving.

Rule No. 4: Keep partying alive.

However I really enjoyed ending the fun but exhausting day with a mellow act like his.

Day 2

Arriving a few hours earlier than the first day, I made my first appearance at the stage for Danny Brown. Even showing up a half an hour early could not get me front row for one of my favorite rappers but I dealt with second. Since I’ve seen him live two other times in 2013 I knew to expect many of the songs off his upcoming album Old which meant the crowd was about to get crazy and that it did. The entire crowd almost was jumping and singing the words to the annoyance of some stuck in the middle of it all. It got even wilder when he jumped offstage to walk right up to the middle of the fence and everyone tried to get to him. Overall I thought the performance was fantastic and full of energy. It was definitely my favorite performance.

Next we recovered from the craziness at the Dizzy Wright set. He had had an autograph signing at the LRG Clothing booth earlier in the day which was very cool because usually if you want to meet one of your favorite performers you are forced to buy the $399 VIP weekend pass.

Then it was time for Trinidad James, the rapper known for his popular song “All Gold Everything.” Although I didn’t really dig his live performance, he kept the crowd interested by saying he may give away a pair of shoes at the end of his set. He posted on Instagram that he was thinking about giving away his pairs of Nike Penny 5 “Volt”, Nike Air Max 1 “Germany Camo” and the Nike LeBron 11 “Gamma Blue.” However, I’m not sure if this happened but I do know he took off whatever shoes he had worn during the performance and was holding them up in the air right before I headed over to the next stage.

Next I went to see my personal favorite A$AP Rocky when he performed with A$AP Mob on the Rock the Bells stage. Although basically only those who buy VIP tickets can actually see the performers, there were big television screens and extreme volume so that the large audience could enjoy the set. A$AP Rocky performed a few of his songs solo to start off the set. The first was “Long Live A$AP” from his new album. He then brought out A$AP Ferg for both “Work” and “Shabba Ranks.” He then continued to bring out the fellow members of the A$AP Mob such as A$AP Twelvy and A$AP Nast but I went to catch the end of E-40 and Too Short.

When I arrived at E-40, Danny Brown made an appearance for his verse on “All My N****s” one of their newer songs. However most of the songs such as “U and Dat” and “Snap Yo Fingers” took me back in time to my middle school years when I first heard all of these songs.

Juicy J kept the crowd extremely entertained by promising to bring some females up on the stage yet this didn’t happen until near the end of his set when he performed “Bandz A Make Her Dance” and he only had one girl onstage for about 45 seconds to a minute (but this may have been due to the fact that she seemed more than a little under the influence). He performed newer songs as well such as “Show Out” and some off his new album Stay Trippy such as “Bounce” and “Scholarship.” For “Scholarship,” A$AP Rocky made an appearance for his verse and Juicy J claimed after the song that he had no idea that was going to happen and said “That’s hip-hop.”

Finally, the Wu-Tang Clan closed out the weekend with an hour and fifteen minute long set. At the first Rock the Bells ever festival Wu-Tang Clan performed here shortly before Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s death so in honor of the 10th year anniversary of Rock the Bells this year featured the Wu-Tang Clan with a hologram performance featuring Ol’ Dirty Bastard. It was strange because Raekwon and Ghostface Killah never showed up but the rest of the members carried on with the show and performed some of their classics such as “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta F*** Wit.” However after some time, the sound began to cut out and there was a full 10 minutes of no music. Method Man tried relentlessly to keep the crowd entertained and when the music started again told everyone to forget it ever happened. On top of that, there were also technical issues getting the hologram to work and it was easy to see that the wait was irritating for both the performers and the audience. However, it was awesome to end the weekend with some old school rap that continues to be influential to up and coming rappers.

Published at http://www.neontommy.com/news/2013/09/rock-bells-2-day-rap-music-festival-rocks-san-manuel-amphitheater

American Milkshake Indie Film Review

Life is defined by the events and obstacles human beings face. How people approach these experiences depends on their maturity and will lead them down a path to either their dreams or their demise. American Milkshake explores these themes as it follows the story of Jolie Jolson (Tyler Ross), a teenager in 1990’s DC with dreams of playing basketball in the NBA. Once he makes his school’s varsity team, his life changes forever. As his past and present begin to clash, Jolie struggles with his personal identity and has to decide what kind of person he wants to be going into college.

Initially it seemed as though Ross’ narration didn’t effectively convey the angst of the character of Jolie but as the film progressed and the audience was allowed to see deeper into his mind, we were shown that he does not show much emotion even in the face of a serious problem.

For example, when confronted by his cheerleader girlfriend Christine about the issue of her unexpected pregnancy, he not only seems indifferent to her crying but also responds with an inconsiderate “Can’t we talk about this after the game? The team really needs me right now.”

At this point in the film, it is more than obvious that Jolie’s selfishness and devotion to his dreams are getting in the way of his personal relationships. In fact, the turning point of this became apparent with a scene in a movie theater. The camera panned across the row to show Jolie with another girl whom he was dating and a basketball in between the seats of Jolie and his best friend, Haroon (Eshan Bay) who was not on the basketball team. It is symbolically showing the distance increasing between Jolie and Haroon, which continues to grow throughout the film.

The set design was kept very basic which increased the audience’s interest on the characters. Although the film moved at a somewhat slow pace, it worked because Jolie was surrounded by a variety of different personalities, all which meshed well with his own.

The acting was very realistic and captured the audience’s attention but I was most impressed with the work of Shareeka Epps (Henrietta). She plays a pregnant teenager who begins failing class on purpose and catches Jolie’s interest through her rebellious nature. She puts on such a tough face throughout the film that adds interest to her character and makes you want to learn more about her. Epps has previously starred beside Ryan Gosling, Emma Roberts, Sam Rockwell, and Rooney Mara.

Not only did this film deal with the struggles of growing up but it also addressed the issues of racism and abortion. The issue of race was sometimes even addressed in comedic ways such as when Jolie makes the team and says “At last I was practically black” and while he’s screaming of excitement in the hallway, an African American student walks past and jokes about “the white people here…” to his friend.

The film really connects with its audience as most people have experienced a time where they have not fit into a group growing up and had to take a good look at themselves before figuring out the next step in life. Here I found myself rooting for Jolie, even looking past his selfishness and ignorance in hopes he would get to one day live his dream because he is imperfect and therefore human but overall a good guy.

American Milkshake, the first feature film of directors, Mariko Munro and David Andalman  is a Sundance Film Festival movie that will open in select cities and will be available on VOD Friday, September 6, 2013.