There’s no denying Jessie J’s vocal talent. Following the pop star’s debut album in 2011, hit after catchy hit has skyrocketed her to the top of the charts. However, the potential cultivated by this songstress in the two years since releasing singles like ‘Domino’ and ‘Price Tag’ falls flat on her second album Alive.
Opening with ‘It’s My Party’ a carefree, pre-drinks tune mimicking other top 40 songs lacking lyrical substance, it swiftly moves into the powerful ballad ‘Thunder,’ which falls short of making an impact. From the funky 80s number ‘Daydreamin’,’ to the bass-bumping ‘Excuse My Rude (feat. Becky G),’ the album lacks a cohesive focus as it searches for a hit that will stick.
The only respite comes from the single ‘Wild’, featuring Big Sean and Dizzee Rascal, which begs the question of whether the album would have faired better with more frequent familiar collaborations. The follow up track ‘Gold’ begins as a feel good anthem, but after a three-minute build up, the climax is never fully realised.
Lacking the emotion and conviction of fellow melodic queens, Adele and Ellie Goulding, her songs simply seem like a cheesy attempt to hook listeners. From the Kanye-echoing auto tune on ‘Square One,’ to the Katy Perry-esque confidence booster ‘Sexy Lady’, Alive winds up being a faint and forgettable imitation of existing millennial pop.
In A Nutshell: Alive fails to capture Jessie J’s talents, and falls into the trap of a true sophomore slump
Keeping with his apt title as the ‘King of Mellow’, Jack Johnson has yet again succeeded in crafting an album nestled in the niches of the serene folk genre. Johnson’s infectiously laidback approach to both life and music is refreshing, though lacking in variation.
From ‘Here to Now to You’, though a departure from his brief flirtation with exploring the darker side of life, fits neatly into Johnson’s jovial back-catalogue. With its acoustically driven, almost frustratingly minimalistic melodies, this sixth release from the Hawaiian native does nothing to showcase anything new from this artist that is at risk of going stale.
Unperturbed by the evolving music scene around him, Johnson has produced a simple, embodiment of pure contentment with life. The essence of a lullaby permeates ‘Never Fade’, while ‘Radiate’ keeps the optimism afloat with a buoyant rhythm.
Lyrically, the album is steeped in self-reflection and honesty; an obvious result of the writing process occurring on Johnson’s front porch. At times, he verges on becoming overly twee and clichéd, but he is undoubtedly skilled at evoking an eerie sense of nostalgia powerful enough to elicit a moment of déjà vu.
Due to his apparent disinterest in working outside of his established wheelhouse, it’s difficult to distinguish between tracks as the album progresses. Viewed through the eyes of an optimist such as Johnson, however, this could be a conscious attempt to seamlessly sew each track into a patchwork depicting the wonderment of daily life in a delightful and succinct manner.
In A Nutshell: Aurally pleasing, but far from revolutionising the modern folk scene.
Drake, perhaps most famous for popularising the ubiquitous and never annoying phrase ‘YOLO’, seeks to continue his contributions to music and popular culture with his latest release.
In album opener ‘Tuscan Leather’, Drake enthusiastically refreshes us on his accomplishments in the business thus far and the trappings this has necessarily brought. The portentous synth intro of ‘The Language’ leads in to our rap virtuoso’s boastings about his relative success in the lucrative entertainment industry and his prowess with the opposite sex.
‘Started From the Bottom’ espouses the value of hard work and trying to make it on one’s own, as well as taking the time to mention Drake’s current financial clout as a result of having done so.
The album consists exclusively of tinkling piano or synths accompanied by drum-machine generated beats. Cynics might allege that the backing music’s uniformity throughout the album suggests it came preinstalled in software on his laptop; presumably a high-end MacBook given his comfortable financial situation.
Lyrically, Drake has an apparent fondness for two particular phrases, ‘yeah’ and the ‘n-word’. Lesser musicians might have felt pressure to limit constant repetition of these words to certain tracks. Admirably, Drake has not made such an artistic compromise.
Is this album Drake’s Sergeant Pepper? Well, yes and no.
In A Nutshell: “I have lots of money and often sleep with beautiful women and you probably don’t” (accompanied by generic drum beat and synthesiser). There, I just saved you 63 minutes.
A decade since the Followill brothers first appeared with Nashville essence and chiselled jaws, their journey thus far has been an interesting one. From the beginning, Kings Of Leon were the scruffy ruffians whom your mother disapproved of.
The dirty jeans and dirtier riffs on their debut album, Youth & Young Manhood, saw them explode onto the scene in the then pop-indulged 2003. Greasy hooks, Caleb’s strident vocals and appropriate cow bell usage from start to finish had fans in the palm of their Tennessean hands.
Since then, ‘Sex On Fire’ has been corrupted by X Factor wannabes, and the Levis have been replaced with tailored trousers. After a three year absence, ‘Mechanical Bull’ sees the quartet attempting to recapture their once magnetic energy but falling frustratingly short.
Debut single ‘Supersoaker’ makes you sit up straight. Scooping you up immediately so that you can almost hear Caleb’s smirk through his vocals. However, follow up track ‘Rock City’ lets you slip back into an awkward slump. Cheap “Woo” cries and assisted handclaps is something a cover band of dads would bang out.
Some gems are nestled in this 11 track collection, including a typical all-round Followill song called ‘Temple.’ While ‘Don’t Matter’ marks a stomping return of the Caleb-wail belter.
‘Comeback Story’ is a trudging, uninspiring number while ‘Tonight’ is an indulgent and wailing track that you find yourself relieved is finished once the final chord rings.
In A Nutshell: Unremarkable. You soon find yourself scrambling back to early albums to truly reignite your love for these Nashville bucks.