audio review : Bad Sister ( album ) … Roxanne Shanté

audio review : Bad Sister ( album ) ... Roxanne Shanté

Bad Sister isn’t a bad album, but it would be a lot better without all the filler, which come mostly in the form of overblown remixes. The Hip-Hop version of Live On Stage clocks in at damn-near seven minutes.

The best song is Feelin Kinda Horny, the only one not produced by Marley Marl, interestingly enough. Fatal Attraction and Knockin Hiney are also decent, though the latter includes a repeat (filler) verse.

my rating = 3 of 5

1989

video review : Israel Adesanya versus Anderson Silva at UFC 234

video review : Israel Adesanya versus Anderson Silva at UFC 234

I expected Anderson Silva, arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter in the history of The UFC, to get knocked out in the first round of this fight. Silly me. Even at 43, which is old for the sport, he’s got skills. The Spider is long past his prime; he’s slower and more tentative; but is able to hang with a top newcomer.

Israel Adesanya is, in essence, a younger version of Anderson Silva, a man he once idolized. Silva does some Matrix-style dodges in the first round and actually outstrikes Adesanya in the second, but it isn’t enough. Adesanya wins mostly by staying busier, particularly in the third, where Silva seems to fade.

my rating = 3 of 5

2019

audio review : New Amerykah : Part One [ 4th World War ] ( album ) … Erykah Badu

audio review : New Amerykah : Part One [ 4th World War ] ( album ) ... Erykah Badu

It’s still the 1970s as far as Erykah Badu is concerned and that’s fine with me. That decade produced some of the best music, at least when it comes to the sounds of the instruments. There’s just something about an old funk groove that never goes out of style. Badu has a knack for funk grooves. That’s why it’s sort of disappointing to hear her cover old songs instead of making them up on her own.

The opening bit is a note-by-note cover of a Ramp song. That shameless jack move, which hardcore fans might excuse as homage, takes away a lot of artistic credit when it comes to Badu’s originality. As does My People, based on an Eddie Kendricks chant. “My people, hold on,” she says, probably referring to politically oppressed black people as the overall theme of the album seems to suggest.

But even if you’re put off by her social ideology and annoyed by her comic spontaneity; the Kolleen bit is grating; it’s hard not to be enchanted by her overall musicality. The original songs are, to my ears, better than the covers, which says something in regard to her talent. The Healer, a tribute to J Dilla, is voodoo magic. Telephone, another lament, captures perfectly the essence of soul jazz.

my rating = 3 of 5

2008

audio review : New Amerykah : Part Two [ Return Of The Ankh ] … Erykah Badu

audio review : New Amerykah : Part Two [ Return Of The Ankh ] ... Erykah Badu

If that 4th World War is about fear, Ankh must be a metaphor for romantic love. Conceptually that’s not a good thing; “love” has long been the go-to cliché for songmakers; but few singers sound as soothing and rejuvenating as Erykah Badu when she wraps her head around a groove.

This Part Two of New Amerykah is less quirky but perhaps more soulful than Part One. The set begins 20 Feet Tall with gorgeous chords over a clicking metronome before funking up the pace for Window Seat. Other highlights include Don’t Be Long and an interlude entitled Incense.

my rating = 4 of 5

2010

audio review : New Amerykah : Part One [ 4th World War ] ( album ) … Erykah Badu

audio review : Don’t Walk Away ( song ) … Michael Jackson

“Stay with me; don’t you go nowhere,” Michael Jackson sang years ago to who he promised would always be The Lady In My Life. Promises aren’t always kept, of course, so now we have a breakup ballad.

“Don’t Walk Away,” he croons on one of his saddest songs, “Tell me what I have to do so you stay.” But there’s not anything he can do. She hasn’t felt “love” for him, or even smiled around him, in a long time.

The best part of the song comes at the final third. That’s when the bass drum finally kicks in along with some solemn background vocals for a heartbroken Michael Jackson to do his signature ad-libs to.

my rating = 4 of 5

2001

audio review : Invincible ( album ) ... Michael Jackson

audio review : Spice ( album ) … Spice Girls

audio review : Spice ( album ) ... Spice Girls

It’s a ridiculously lazy album title, but Spice is nice in a fun energetic sort of way. That’s partially because of the Girls cutesy singing voices, which are studio polished to the point of being nearly indistinguishable, but it’s mainly the songs themselves that glitter like gold rings.

These radio-ready bops pop bubble gum with well-crafted vocal melodies over sultry beats. The themes mostly have to do with superficial romance as the Girls swap bars to sing and sometimes rap directly to “you”. Yes, Spice is for boys as much as it is for girls.

my rating = 4 of 5

1996

audio review : Conversation Peace ( album ) … Stevie Wonder

audio review : Conversation Peace ( album ) ... Stevie Wonder

“The conversation is peace,” Stevie Wonder insists. He’s talking about world peace, a utopian state in which problems like poverty and war don’t exist. It’s an unrealistic fantasy. Human nature doesn’t work that way. But Stevie Wonder is a visionary, so he continues to spread benevolent messages thru music.

If you’re listening for the magic melodies of past albums, you’re in for a disappointment. These songs; meticulously produced, sometimes to the point of bloatedness; are mostly inferior. Exceptions include Robins Will Sing and Cold Chill, both of which serve as worthy additions to the Stevie Wonder song archive.

my rating = 3 of 5

1995

audio review : Everythangs Corrupt ( album ) … Ice Cube

audio review : Everythangs Corrupt ( album ) ... Ice Cube

This begins with a Donald Trump dis, which is hardly surprising. Ice Cube started his career attacking then president George Bush. The rapper, like too many people in AmeriKKKa, seems to equate rich white men with racism, foolishly unaware of the hypocrisy. When he switches focus to dollar-chasing bitches on One For The Money, he’s got a point.

I’ll give Ice Cube credit for staying true to the game. For whatever it’s worth, Everythangs Corrupt sounds like an Ice Cube album right down to the go-hard Cali beats. Some of the samples are cliché and most of the hooks are banal, but there’s no hit-hungry trend-chasing happening here. It’s just nostalgic gangsta rap music for hood heads from the 90s.

my rating = 3 of 5

2018

audio review : Angel Down ( song ) … Lady Gaga

This song is like Gypsy in that it’s not till the end that it goes from unremarkable to something special. For Gypsy it’s the final bridge and chorus section. Here it’s the following coda.

“Save that angel,” Gaga murmurs, but the music; a dreamy lullaby led by a mellotron and what sounds like a harp; is what’s enchanting. It’s a shame the whole song doesn’t sound like that.

my rating = 3 of 5

2016

audio review : Joanne ( album ) ... Lady Gaga

audio review : Caution ( album ) … Mariah Carey

audio review : Caution ( album ) ... Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey has gone full circle in the sense that this new album is, like her first few, limited to about ten songs with no reprises or interludes. That’s more or less a sign of the times but a notable mention “irregardless”, especially for listeners who can only take so much of her whispery falsetto.

8th Grade is the 8th song, appropriately enough, but it seems random to start with GTFO, the title and concept of which is suspiciously similar to Toni Braxton’s recent FOH single. The album, featuring a surprise verse by Slick Rick, is consistently decent though with no major highs nor lows.

my rating = 3 of 5

2018

audio review : Jungle Fever [ Music From The Movie ] ( album ) … Stevie Wonder

audio review : Jungle Fever [ Music From The Movie ] ( album ) ... Stevie Wonder

Songs From The Movie would be a better subtitle as Stevie Wonder not only provides the music to Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever but also the vocals. This is, in effect, a Stevie Wonder album. That it’s also presented as the official soundtrack to the movie, which it also is, undermines that fact. The singer should’ve let the director have the title track, which is the worst song anyway, and save the others for himself. A new Stevie Wonder album with no connection to a movie would make more sense, especially considering it’s been four years since his previous one.

Characters doesn’t sound this good though. From the very first song, a summer bop entitled Fun Day, Stevie Wonder parades his knack for composing wonderful vocal melodies. The not-so-obvious drawback is that the verses sometimes outshine the hooks; Queen In The Black is probably the best example; when it should be the other way around. If She Breaks Your Heart, the lead vocals of which are actually provided by Kimberly Brewer; Stevie Wonder is no homo; gets it right though. Make Sure You’re Sure, a romantic jazz ballad, is gorgeous.

my rating = 4 of 5

1991

audio review : Only Dimes ( song ) … G-Eazy + Too Short ( featuring The-Dream )

The title would be better without the word “Only”. Dimes is a perfectly suitable title for a song about the fact that you only fuck with dimes. That means The-Dream, G-Eazy and Too Short, don’t get into sexual or romantic relationships with girls who score less than a ten out of ten on the scale of beauty.

At least that’s the concept. The music is pretty too. But the chorus, performed by The-Dream, should be replaced by the one he sings just once at the end. That and a do-over of Too Short’s verse, which is flawed by an awkward edit after the twelfth bar, is all it would take to make this a good song.

my rating = 3 of 5

2018

audio review : The Pimp Tape ( album ) ... Too Short