Tuesday, December 20, 2016

PEARL JAM AND TUPAC SHAKUR LEAD 2017 ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME CLASS

By: Connor Glowacki

Image result for pearl jam     The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame announced Dec. 20 that six acts would be inducted into its 2017 class. The five acts who were inducted on their first try include rock bands Pearl Jam, Journey and Electric Light Orchestra, singer-songwriter Joan Baez, and west coast rapper Tupac Shakur. English rock band Yes will join the five acts as they were inducted after being nominated for the third time.

     I think Pearl Jam, Electric Light Orchestra and, eventually, Yes, were locks due to these acts being pioneers among their peers in the various genres of progressive rock, art rock, grunge, and alternative.
     I think Journey deserved to get into because they had so many great hit songs and albums that stand up fairly well to this day, but it was a slight surprise only because they seemed to be endlessly mocked by a lot of rock purists throughout their career. Even though this was Journey's first nomination, they were snubbed several times when they were eligible for nomination.

    The 75-year-old Baez continues to be one of the more prolific folk songwriters in the history of music as her catalog has stretched into five decades! Now while I think Shakur is one of the greatest rappers and lyricists of all time, I've tended to question the idea of rappers being allowed into the rock and roll hall of fame. Could you make a connection to the two genres? Sure, but they are still different genres at the end of the day. That being said, it's cool seeing Shakur make it in almost two decades after his death.

As always, there continue to be notable acts getting snubbed from induction into the hall of fame. Disco-funk band Chic got snubbed after being the nominated for the 11th time! Other acts that were nominated, but not inducted include bands Jane's Addiction, Depeche Mode, Bad Brains and The Cars, singers Chaka Khan and Janet Jackson, and German electronic music group Kraftwerk.

The 32nd annual Rock Hall induction ceremony will take place April 7 in Brooklyn.

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Did the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame committee get it right this year with their picks?

And who should be admitted next?

Share your opinion and leave a comment below or let me know on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

LOUIS TOMLINSON AND STEVE AOKI - "JUST HOLD ON" (SONG REVIEW)

By: Connor Glowacki

Image result for louis tomlinson just hold on    Witnessing the solo careers of the members of English boy band One Direction is fascinating to me because we are watching their career trajectories in present time. It's like if we were able to do early projections on how members of NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys would do in their solo careers after their groups' own hiatuses.
     After Zayn Malik released his R&B-laced debut album 'Mind Of Mine' in March, which received favorable reviews and included a number one hit in 'Pillowtalk', and Niall Horan released his folky debut single 'This Town' in September; Louis Tomlinson became the third One Direction member to release solo music with his debut single 'Just Hold On', a collaboration with electronic dee-jay Steve Aoki.

     This is a surprise to me because Tomlinson had long been considered the least talented vocalist in One Direction and it seemed he was headed toward a behind-the-scenes career. Also, I didn't think he would release music before Harry Styles, who was thought of as the 'star' of the boy band.
(Although to Styles' credit, he's featured in Christopher Nolan's film 'Dunkirk', which is expected to come out in 2017 and that may align more properly with a solo release.)

     But how is Louis Tomlinson's 'Just Hold On'? Did he surprise me by making a great song?

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     Well, Tomlinson went for the uplifting electronic dance number to start his solo career and it does resonate because his mother unfortunately passed away just a few days ago at 42-years-old. 'Just Hold On' is a song about  pushing through adversities with mentions of death sprinkled throughout. I'll give Tomlinson credit for writing the lyrics because it couldn't have been easy with the knowledge that his mother was dying. No one should have to go through that kind of pain and my prayers are with the entire family during this time.

     I like the lyrics in the pre-chorus and chorus, but the line,  'The sun goes down and it comes back up. The world it turns no matter what', doesn't quite align with the sentiment and themes of the song. And while the second verse successfully dealt with the idea of a person facing death and deciding if they would want to be remembered as a fighter instead of giving up, the first verse uses the cliches of looking up at the stars and standing on the edge without either ideas relating to the main idea of the song. Lyrically, 'Just Hold On' is uneven.

     Production-wise, 'Just Hold On' does build a swell in the chorus that has a decent enough electronic drop, but it feels limp and kind of bland. I get that kind of production can work with a song of this nature, but I wish it had more of a punch and grit to it that I had seen Aoki do before, in regards to his collaborations with Fall Out Boy and Linkin Park. Aoki made a song with emotional lyrics sound happier so it could provide a more uplifting moment. Uplifting moments are better than melancholic affiars for partygoers at EDM festivals, after all.

     I actually think Tomlinson does a solid job vocally on this song. Even though the vocals are slightly processed, which can happen in EDM songs, you still feel the emotion in his voice and the production plays to his vocal strengths rather than his weakness of having a more limited range than some of his One Direction counterparts.

RECAP:

     Overall, 'Just Hold On' IS a decent song that is a shift for Tomlinson in terms of the music genre. But it could've been better.
   
     I wholeheartedly appreciate the sentiment and the thoughts he must've felt in his mind when writing this song for his mother. That being said, the lyrics and production with 'Just Hold On' are bland and would sound like any other EDM song in the last few years. Plenty of EDM songs have deep meanings, but they also have sharper songwriting. I think these things may hold 'Just Hold On' back from being a hit song that has legitimate staying power.

     But Tomlinson could succeed because of his ability to write and collaborate on catchy pop songs. He was the member of One Direction who was most involved in the songwriting on their later albums  and shows on 'Just Hold On' that he can handle a dark theme but also allow it to feel relatable to the masses.  Zayn had a number one hit and Horan's 'This Town' has so far peaked at #25 on the Billboard Hot 100. I don't know how well this song will do for Tomlinson, but his ability to write songs will continue to be a strength for his music career.

RATING: 2.5 Out Of 5 (**1/2)

Let me know what you think about this song by leaving a comment below or on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.



Tuesday, December 13, 2016

2017 GRAMMY NOMINATIONS BREAKDOWN

 By: Connor Glowacki

Image result for grammy awards     The nominations for the 2017 Grammy Awards, airing on Feb. 12, were announced recently and there are plenty of surprises. Let's take a look at some of the major categories and do some early predicting to see who may come away with the coveted awards.

Remember: These are just my opinions. It's okay if we don't agree!

Note: Besides the all-around awards near the top, the only genre based awards I'm including in this post are rock/alternative, country and rap. I understand that there are plenty of other genres that I could mention, but the length of this post would increase dramatically. Enjoy!

ALBUM OF THE YEAR:

"25" by Adele
"Lemonade" by Beyonce
"Views" by Drake
Image result for adele vs beyonce"Purpose" by Justin Bieber
"A Sailor's Guide To Earth" by Sturgill Simpson

     Adele and Beyonce are the non-surprises of the group, considering they released two of the biggest and most successful albums in the past year. It's also nice that both of these albums are quite good, even great in Beyonce's case.
     The fact that Simpson's latest foray into alternative americana was nominated is a win for the genre of country music. He is one of the most adventurous musicians in both country music and regular mainstream music right now. It's great to see hard work and talent pay off.
     I am surprised to see Drake and Justin Bieber's albums nominated for this award. Yes, both were extremely sucessful commercially selling almost two million copies each in the U.S. But 'Views' is arguably Drake's worst, least consistent and most repetitive album in his career. 'Purpose' may be Bieber's best output, but it frankly shouldn't have been in this category over the likes of 'Coloring Book' by Chance The Rapper or 'Blackstar' by David Bowie. Hell, if we're talking about pop-centric albums, I would have gladly put in 'Dangerous Woman' by Ariana Grande, 'Anti' by Rihanna or the latest album from british-rock band The 1975.

Who Should Win?

     I really hope either Beyonce or Sturgill Simpson end up winning the main award. Beyonce's genre-bending and honest 'Lemonade' and Simpson's adventurous 'Sailor' were both high-quality marks that were set in 2016 and the world of music would benefit to either one of them winning.

Who Will Win? 

     Beyonce has a great chance because she is Beyonce and she released a great album. Simpson is in the running because he is the true outsider of the group. But Adele's '25' has sold over 20 million copies worldwide and an an almost 10 million copies domestically. Some say she has single-handedly kept the music industry from going underwater. The fact that '25' was a good album and sold as well as it has makes Adele, at the very least, a slight favorite to win Album of the Year.


SONG OF THE YEAR:

"Hello" by Adele -- written by Adele and Greg Kurstin
Image result for mike posner"Formation" by Beyonce -- written by Khalif Brown, Asheton Hogan, Beyonce, and Mitchell Williams.
"Love Yourself" by Justin Bieber -- written by Justin Bieber, Benjamin Levin and Ed Sheeran.
"7 Years" by Lukas Graham -- written by Lukas Forchammer, Stefan Forrest, Morten Pilegaard, and Morten Ristorp.
"I Took A Pill In Ibiza" by Mike Posner -- written by Mike Posner.

     All of these songs were top-10 hits in 2016 and all have left some kind of a mark in the pop, mainstream conscience. 'Formation' and its video sparked imagery of the Black Panthers movement. 'Love Yourself' is a bitter send-off of an ex. '7 Years' tries, but tremendously fails, at sparking a nolstagia for life and when we were younger. 'I Took A Pill In Ibiza' is a raw and authentic look into Posner's downfall from the time he had a top-10 hit in 'Cooler Than Me' in 2010. And finally, 'Hello' was not only song about trying to make amends with an ex, but a statement to the music industry that Adele had returned.

Who Should Win?

     'Formation' is kind of scattered and clunky. The lyrics and the static production don't come together as well as the rest of the songs from 'Lemonade'. I started hating '7 Years' the more I heard of it because of the self-obsessed, shallow and arrogant lyrics matched with a theme and dull production that turned out much better years ago with Five For Fighting's '100 Years'. Between the remaining choices, Posner would win in a just world.
     The lyrics for 'I Took A Pill In Ibiza' are gripping and transport into the man's psyche as he fell into obscurity after his initial success in 2010. But I think more people, including myself, think the lyrics work much better with the electonic remix by Seeb that propelled the song into being a Top-5 hit this year than the barebone accompaniments he originally had.
     Still, I'd be happy to see 'I Took A Pill In Ibiza' come away with the award. (I'd also be fine with 'Hello' and even 'Love Yourself' winning instead.)

Who Will Win?

     'Hello' will probably win and I'm happy about it. It's not the best song she has ever released. But it was a powerful and emotive song that truly connected and captured the hearts of millions of people around the world. Outside of Adele, I think 'Love Yourself' and possibly 'Formation' truly have the best chances to pull off an upset.


BEST NEW ARTIST

*Anderson .Paak
*The Chainsmokers
*Chance The Rapper
Image result for chance the rapper*Kelsea Ballerini
*Maren Morris

Who Should Win? 

      The only nominee in this category that should be a considered a new artist is conuntry singer Maren Morris. Everybody else has released music well before 2016 and some including rappers Anderson .Paak and Chance The Rapper released their real debut music back in 2012 and 2013. That being said, one of these three deserve to win. Just don't give this award to The Chainsmokers and have their egos be further inflated.

Who Will Win? 

Morris has more criticial cred than fellow country starlet Ballerini, which should give her the edge and Chance The Rapper to me has a better chance than .Paak. It will probably go to either Chance or Morris, but again PLEASE NOT THE CHAINSMOKERS!


BEST ROCK ALBUM

"California" by Blink-182
Image result for rock music"Tell Me I'm Pretty" by Cage The Elephant
"Magma" by Gojira
"Death Of A Bachelor" by Panic! At The Disco
"Weezer (The White Album)" by Weezer

   
     I've got to be honest. I'm a little disappointed by the rock category this year. Weezer and Panic! At The Disco? The records are decent enough, but how much did their label, Fueled By Ramen, pay for these nominations. 'California' by Blink-182 was a a decent comeback for the pop-punk act, but is it really the best rock album of the past year? And Cage The Elephant's latest album reamins easily the worst album of their discography. I don't know much about 'Magma' by French heavy metal band Gojira, but at least it has some life and originality to it.

Who Should Win?

I would go with 'Magma' by Gojira. 'The White Album' by Weezer would probably be my second choice if I had to pick.

Who Will Win? 

The Grammys are crazy. Remember Jethro Rull won for best metal album in 1989? I can't see a clear favorite so my guess would be Weezer.


BEST ROCK SONG

"Blackstar" by David Bowie
"My Name Is Human" by Highly Suspect
"Hardwired" by Metallica
"Burn The Witch" by Radiohead
"Heathens" by Twenty One Pilots

     This is a solid group of rock songs, all bringing different edges to the genre in their own ways. Bowie's 10-minute title track is haunting with its lyrics on death surrounded by experimental jazz-rock instrumentation. 'Burn The Witch' by Radiohead has an instinctive groove that builds up into a wonderful swell like a great Radiohead song does. Metallica brings out the intensity in their return back to the mainstream this year. Meanwhile, 'Heathens' was a huge hit this year for Twenty One Pilots and American rock band Highly Suspect is becoming one of the more exciting young rock bands in recent years.

Who Should Win?

     I'm fine with pretty much any of these songs taking home the award, but I personally think Bowie's opus 'Blackstar' is the best of the group because of the innovative and experimental nature of the track that worked to perfection and created a haunting imagery even before his death in January.

Who Will Win?

     Any of the songs in this category have a chance to pull off the win here, but Bowie, Radiohead and Metallica have all seen previous successes at the Grammys before.  It'll come down to those three and among them it will come down to Bowie and Radiohead. I think Bowie will the Grammy posthumously.


BEST COUNTRY ALBUM
Image result for country music
"Big Day In A Small Town" by Brandy Clark
"Ripcord" by Keith Urban
"Full Circle" by Loretta Lynn
"Hero" by Maren Morris
"A Sailor's Guide To Earth" by Sturgill Simpson

   
     Loretta Lynn is a veteran in the country music scene and Sturgill Simpson and Brandy Clark are the current cult, independent heroes who are poised to break through into Nashville and country music row.
     'Hero' by upstart Maren Morris had a great lead single in the song 'My Church' that had elements of country, rock and gospel that made it infectious and inspiring. But her debut album 'Hero' left me feeling disappointed with the greater amount of pop sounds on the record compared to the expected country instrumentation.
     As for 'Ripcord' by Keith Urban, I have no clue why this was nominated. This was one of the most disappointing albums released by a mainstream country star in the last year or two...it must be the Nashville connections.

Who Should Win?

     Simpson, Clark and Lynn all provide great storytelling and push the sounds of country further on their latest releases. I hope it comes down to Simpson and Clark. Both of their albums are complete quality.

Who Will Win?

     The fact that Simpson's 'Sailor' is also nominated for Album of the Year, it has to mean it's the favorite in this category and I think it has a great chance to win here. But watch out for Clark and Morris. I think they could end up surprising here and winning.


BEST COUNTRY SONG

"Blue Ain't Your Color" by Keith Urban
"My Church" by Maren Morris
"Vice" by Miranda Lambert
"Die A Happy Man" by Thomas Rhett
"Humble and Kind" by Tim McGraw

     An interesting thing is happening in mainstream country music. For the past year or so, we have begun to notice a trend where more songs on the radio are featuring traditional instrumentation and lyrics with more depth. Mainstream country is coming back around to a more traditional mainstream sound from the bro-country that populated the airwaves earlier in the decade.
     Most of the songs in this category reflect the change. 'Humble And Kind' and 'My Church' goes a little deeper than the standard country radio song. 'Vice' goes deeper with lyrical imagery and a sound that leans towards more of the alternative Americana instrumentation that has grown popular in East Nashville in recent years. Even 'Die A Happy Man' and 'Blue Ain't Your Color' have some bluesy/acoursitc arrangements that felt slightly more organic and authentic.
     Overall, a pretty decent category of nominees.

Who Should Win?

     'Humble And Kind', 'Vice' or 'My Church'. All are excellent songs that have helped turn the corner for country radio in 2016. These songs represent a change for the better in country music.

Who Will Win?

     One of those three will win and my pick would be for '

BEST RAP ALBUM

Image result for rap music"Coloring Book" by Chance The Rapper
"And The Anonymous Nobody" by De La Soul
"Major Key" by DJ Khaled
"Views" by Drake
"Blank Face LP" by Schoolboy Q
"The Life Of Pablo" by Kanye West

     2016 was an interesting year for hip hop. There were albums released that were able to uplift and inspire the masses, albums that failed to deliver on unprecedented hype and albums that were a complete scattershot mess. And it goes to show you that 2016 wasn't kind commercially for rappers that made waves just a few years ago (Macklemore, Wiz Khalifa, 2 Chainz), but saw the re-emergence of acts from decades ago (A Tribe Called Quest)
     Today's hip-hop A-Listers, Drake and Kanye West, released possibly the two biggest albums in the genre in 2016, but both ended up being extremely disappointing listens. 'Views' showcased Drake using the exact same lyrical and production format that he has used now throughout his entire career and West's 'Pablo' was so scattershot that the album ended up being edited and re-released several times after its initial February release date.
     Chance The Rapper was successful at melding gospel into his rap album 'Coloring Book', De La Soul incorporated great, funk music for their album 'And The Anonymous Nobody', Schoolboy Q may have put out his best effort yet with 'Blank Face LP', and somehow DJ Khaled put together his best posse-cut compilation of his career with 'Major Key', which went to the top of the Billboard charts.

Who Should Win?

     Chance The Rapper with 'Coloring Book' was, in my opinion, the best hip-hop album of 2016. Hoping for Chance, but would equally pleased in De La Soul or Schoolboy Q pulling off an upset.

Who Will Win?

     Typically, the most commercially successful album wins this category so Drake's 'Views' probably has the best chance. But 'Coloring Book' has a great chance to win it this year too. Although can you imagine the inflated ego that DJ Khaled would possess if 'Major Key' pulls off a stunning upset and wins?

BEST RAP SONG

"No Problem" by Chance The Rapper featuring Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz
"Hotline Bling"by Drake
"All The Way Up" by Fat Joe and Remy Ma featuring French Montana and Infared
"Famous" by Kanye West featuring Rihanna
"Ultralight Beam" by Kanye West featuring Chance The Rapper, Kelly Price, Kirk Franklin, and The-Dream

     Unlike the album category, the best rap song category is pretty weak for 2016. 'Famous' was only notable because of the supposed Taylor Swift controversy regarding the song and 'Ultralight Beam' got its praise due to Chance The Rapper's guest verse on the track. 'All The Way Up' was okay, but it's nothing memorable, let alone significant enough to win an award.
     Meanwhile, 'No Problem' was the most successful charting song from Chance's 'Coloring Book' and 'Hotline Bling' was a smash throughout late 2015 and early 2016. That being said, I feel like there could've been some better songs placed in this category.

Who Should Win?

     If we're just looking at the category of songs that we have been provided by the Grammys committee members that be, the winner should be 'Hotline Bling'. Yes, it's not a rap song. But the success of the song in mainstream culture and its catchiness should put it over the top of 'No Problem'. And I'm surprised to be saying this.
     Is 'Hotline Bling' a great song? Nope. But it's catchy and the most memorable of this year's category.

Who Will Win?

     'Hotline Bling'. But 'Ultralight Beam' could be a dark horse in this category.

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Let me know your thoughts on the nominations below or let me know on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.