Author: kaylubd

I am a writer who loves music. Both have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I love revisiting some of my favorite albums, but I also look for new opportunities to find new music, also. Besides music and writing I also like video games (one of my favorites is Saint's Row the Third) and reading.

Worst Album of 2017

Beautiful Trauma – Pink

As an avid Pink fan, this choice kind of hurts. When she announced her return to music, I was so excited. I’ve always loved Pink for her aggressive, I don’t give a shit attitude and empowering songs. I looked forward to an album full of upbeat, fun songs mixed with a few ballads. Unfortunately, I didn’t get that with Beautiful Trauma.

This album bored me. So many of the songs are slow. Admittedly, I’m not the biggest fan of ballads, but I don’t hate them. Slow songs give listeners a break from the fast numbers. Pink’s ballads are normally beautiful, sometimes even haunting. Tracks like “Try” and “Glitter in the Air” still give me chills, but when there’s a solid block of them I find myself getting bored. I need the fast songs to pick me back up. This is the big problem with this album. There were way too many slow songs and very few of them are notable. They just sound like any generic pop song currently on the radio.

While listening I kept waiting for the energetic, fun tunes to kick in. The closest I got was the title track. Not even the song with Eminem could save it. And that was a big disappointment. I love “Here Comes the Weekend,” but “Revenge” is just okay. Eminem’s verse isn’t even one of his best; it’s lazy and lame. The only thing I liked about the record was Pink’s voice. We get to hear how much her vocals have improved over the years and she sounds gorgeous. But there isn’t much beyond that.

For a Pink album, it’s surprisingly tame. Because of her don’t give a fuck nature, she usually has a good chunk of songs that represent this. Her songs are normally biting and clever with a somewhat cynical sense of humor. This vibe is almost completely missing here. We get a few times in tracks like “Revenge,” but otherwise the songs are pretty generic. While I can admire her showing a different side of herself, it just doesn’t feel like a Pink album to me. The album is forgettable, generic, and isn’t as fun as her past work. While her other albums are empowering, this one is just dull.

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Notable Releases of 2017

2017 is almost over and it’s time to look back at the music, both good and bad. Before we get to best and worst, I wanted to look back at some albums that left the biggest impressions on me. This is based on what I sought out and listened to this year, so my list will most likely be different from yours.

Album I Enjoyed Way More Than I Thought I Would:

Dreamcar – Dreamcar

When it was revealed that the members of No Doubt who aren’t Gwen Stefani and Davey Havock were working together I was intrigued and confused. What kind of music would they make together? Turns out 80s new wave. While I wasn’t impressed with the first single, when I listened to Dreamcar it took me by surprise how much fun it was. It’s not a great album and it doesn’t give us anything we haven’t heard before, but some of the songs are irresistible. Tracks like “After I Confessed,” “All the Dead Girls,” and “Do Nothing” are so catchy you can’t help but sing and dance along. The album is a blatant homage to the 80s, but at least the band had fun with it. The energy and spirit are so infectious. It seems like Havok put more effort into recording this LP than he did for AFI. Dreamcar doesn’t do anything new, but it’s great for letting loose and having fun.

Album I Had Low Expectations For But Fucking Loved:

Heaven Upside Down – Marilyn Manson

When Marilyn Manson announced Say10 last year, I was ecstatic. His last two efforts were solid and I couldn’t wait to hear what he had in store for us next. But with a big delay and a lead single that left me unimpressed, my expectations began to shrink. Every time he mentioned how the album goes back to the days of Antichrist Superstar I rolled my eyes. We heard this before with High End of Low and that album is pretty bad. I didn’t think I’d like Heaven Upside Down, but man, I fucking love it.

This is hardcore, aggressive, brutal Manson that scared us back in 1996. The songs are violent and dark in the best ways possible. And for once, he was actually right. The album does have traces of Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals, but it never feels like he’s ripping himself off. He just manages to recapture the feeling of those albums.

After hearing the single “We Know Where You Fucking Live” I was worried he was trying too hard to be edgy. Luckily, this isn’t the case (at least not with every song). Instead, he sounds genuine, like he has a fire lit under him once again. This is classic Manson and the music grabs you by the throat waiting to rip out your lungs until it’s over. Heaven Upside Down is a stellar album that reminds me why I became a fan in the first place. This is the finest album Manson’s later career and proves he’s still has a lot to say.

Disappointing Album of 2017:

AFI (The Blood Album) – AFI

AFI was one of the few releases I was pumped for when the year kicked off. Not only did their cryptic teasing get me excited, but I loved what I heard with singles like “White Offerings” and “Snow Cats.” These songs felt like a return to form and I couldn’t wait to hear the new album. But once I finally got my hands on it, it was a letdown. Most of the songs aren’t exciting or memorable. Tracks like “Still a Stranger,” “Hidden Knives,” and “So Beneath You” aren’t awful. But there’s very little about them that grabs you like great AFI songs are supposed to do. Everything I love about AFI, like their charm, melancholy, and their in your face nature are missing from this album. Even almost a year later I struggle to remember these songs aside from the singles.

For me, it has nothing to do with their new, lighter sound. I actually don’t mind it. While I do miss the days of Sing the Sorrow, I like that they constantly evolve and experiment with new sounds. But this album just didn’t do it for me. Rather than being something that sticks with you, it’s a pretty unremarkable experience. These are just decent generic rock songs and we expect better from AFI at this point. Unfortunately, it’s some of their weakest material in years making for an album that’s tolerable, yet kind of dull. While I don’t mind listening to the album, it’s just overwhelmingly okay and since I was so excited to hear what AFI had in store after Burials, it was the album that disappointed me the most this year.

Underrated Release of 2017:

<shutdown.exe> – 3Teeth

This is the result if Ministry and Nine Inch Nails had a baby. 3Teeth take you back to the old days of industrial metal that’s brutal, violent, and just a bit scary. Not for the faint of heart.

If you want to know which album is on my shit list this year, check back later this week when I reveal what my worst album of 2017 is.

Playlist: Throwback Christmas Performances

Despite what department stores tried to tell you two months ago, the Christmas season is finally here! Break out the eggnog, prepare the wrapping paper, and put up the tree. It’s time to get excited about the holidays and everything that comes with it, maybe except the family arguments. To help you get in the mood, let’s take a look at some throwback Christmas performances. Just try not to succumb to nostalgia overload.

“Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” – Nsync

The baggy khakis. The frosted tips. Justin’s ramen noodle hair. It must be Nsync in the 90s! The boys perform “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” on the Kathie Lee Show to a crowd that politely claps along. It’s one of their earlier appearances since Lee holds a mini Q+A session to learn more about them. The boys revealing such titillating details like how old they are, what they fight about, and how they’re all “like brothers.” And if Justin’s hair wasn’t distracting enough, check out his gold “Nsync” chain. The whole thing is goofy, a little awkward, but a classic for Nsync fangirls. The boys also performed the song at the Disney parade, but it’s hard to get into the holiday spirit with little Christmas paraphernalia around. Also, apparently they had their own holiday special. Why am I just finding out about this now?

“Oi to the World” – No Doubt

If you’re not feeling Gwen Stefani’s latest holiday album, then check out this performance from 1997 instead. During their set at Live to Erase MS, the band pulls out this Vandals cover and it really makes you miss old school Stefani. She wiggles around without care, doing her weird dance in chunky shoes and flowing skirt. This song is perfect if you need a healthy dose of Ska this holiday season. Unfortunately, the video ends before the band finishes the song, but it still manages to get you fired up for the holidays. When watching this, you can’t help but think about how Stefani is now and how her younger self may not be a fan of the glamour pop star she is now.

“All I Want For Christmas Is You” – Mariah Carey

It’s not Christmas unless you hear this song a million times before you put up the tree. But no matter how many times you hear it, you can’t deny how damn good it is. What makes this performance so enjoyable is this is Mariah at her peak. She sounds great, looks great, and looks like she’s having fun on stage. As you would expect, she struts out in a revealing Santa outfit before being carried off by her band of merry men. There’s not much to it, but it reminds you why Mariah is considered one of the greats, something that’s easy to forget in recent years. Let’s try to forget her New Year’s fiasco from last year.

“Funky, Funky Christmas” – New Kids on the Block

I feel like I talk about this song every year, but I can’t get over how bad this performance is. It’s so bad, I absolutely love it!

“Christmas In Hollis” – Run DMC

If you grew up in the 90s, this performance should send you into nostalgia overload. You have Run DMC, 90s Nickelodeon, Kenan and Kel all in one video. It’s almost too much to handle! The group performs what is probably the best Christmas song ever. Even though the kids are clearly excited (because producers told them to be) they don’t understand the magnitude of seeing Run DMC, rap legends. Can you imagine being that young and seeing Run DMC? Thinking about it, the show had some killer performances: TLC, Nas, Dru Hill, and even the Spice Girls.

“Let It Snow” – Boyz 2 Men

In the 90s, Boyz 2 Men could do no wrong. Their soulful harmonies and impressive vocal range made all of their songs a hit including this now Christmas classic. It’s hard to tell, but judging from quick glimpses of what looks like Kel Mitchell, this appears to be another clip from All That. Though Brian McKnight, who provides backing vocals, is missing from this performance the guys have no trouble holding their own. And this is good ol’ days of the group when Michael McCary was still around. While this live performance is great, many may prefer their performance of the track on Fresh Prince of Bel Air. I mean that episode was pretty good.

“Il Est Ne Le Divin Enfant” – Siouxsie and the Banshees

The Banshees buck tradition and perform a French Christmas tune for this performance. While Siouxsie Sioux looks like she’s having a good time the others just aren’t having it. Robert Smith in particular uncomfortably holds his cymbals either waiting for his cue or desperately needing a bathroom break. Or the most likely scenario, high out of his mind. Since I’m a huge Cure fan, Smith is such a distraction. I’m always intrigued when the camera pans to him.Still, Sioux sounds beautiful while singing this tune and it’s a cool alternative Christmas track if you’re already sick of the old standbys.

“Santa Baby” – Eartha Kitt

While I grew up with the Madonna version, I have to give credit to the vixen who made it popular, Eartha Kitt. In this live performance, Kitt shows she’s not afraid to let out the claws as she states “I used to have a lot of fun with this song, then Madonna sang it.” Whereas Madonna’s version is overly cutesy, as if Betty Boop were performing it, Kitt’s version is sultry. You can practically hear her purring through the lyrics coming off as quite the seductress. She shifts gears near the end sounding and looking a bit frightening. She’s kind of scary, yet sexy. If I were Santa, I’d make sure to get her everything on her Christmas list.

“Merry Christmas, Baby” -Hanson

Hanson’s Snowed In is another 90’s holiday classic with this being one of the best songs from the LP. While Hanson and the choir deliver a great performance, the crowd is pretty stale. It’s awkward seeing the camera shift between Taylor Hanson bobbing along to the music and the crowd just sitting there, most of them not even swaying to the music. You can tell there are a few Hanson fans in the crowd trying their best not to scream and cry. But it seems like everyone else isn’t really sure if they should be enjoying it or not. And in case you didn’t know, the Hanson brothers just released a new holiday album. Gotta say I’m pretty excited to hear it.

“This Gift” – 98 Degrees

I wasn’t the biggest 98 Degrees fan, but I absolutely loved this song when it first came out. During this performance at Disney’s holiday parade, they’re practically drowned out by all the screaming from the crowd. There are tons of fangirls, but it’s funny to see some boys in the crowd enjoying the band. It’s standard boy band fare: oversized cargo pants, awful sweaters, and lots of hair gel. I know the part where Jeff kneels at the front of the stage and sings to one lucky fan is supposed to be sweet, but it comes off as creepy for some reason. And similar to Hanson, 98 Degrees also released a new Christmas album. Does this mean Nsync is next? We can only hope.

“Christmas Time” – Christina Aguilera

Switching things up X-Tina gives up a festive, dance-infused song to get you in the Christmas spirit. Recorded around the time of her peak, she sounds excellent here and never misses a beat while dancing. Am I the only one who forgot she used to dance? But the best part of the performance has to be when Lil’ Bow Wow comes out. Yes, Bow Wow is featured here. Talk about a throwback performance. Even though the song isn’t as well remembered as other holiday classics, it’s a fun, upbeat way to get excited about the holidays. And it’s probably the best track from My Kind of Christmas. Seriously, that album is pretty bad.

“This Christmas” – Nsync, Shawn Colvin, Tatyana Ali

And how about another Nsync performance because why not? Let’s take a moment to appreciate Justin raising the roof at the end.

What are some of your favorite holiday performances? Let me know in the comments!

Heaven Upside Down – Marilyn Manson

 

Release Year: 2017

Rating: 8.5/10

When Marilyn Manson announced his new album Say10 last year, I was pretty excited. His last albums were great and I was itching to hear new music from him. But when the album didn’t show up on Valentine’s Day I slowly grew disinterested. My expectations got lower after hearing the first two singles. But once I got my hands on Heaven Upside Down, I found myself faced with the old Manson that scared and fascinated me as a teen. While there are some definite nods to some of his greatest albums it doesn’t feel like a rehash of what he’s already done. Rather it’s biting, violent, brutal, and mean just how we like it.

The album opens with the banger “Revelation #12.” If you thought Manson was washed up this song makes you think differently. The music is hard-hitting and gritty while the guitar riff snarls and growls. Manson sounds brutal as he screams “We’ll paint the town red/with the blood of the tourists.” It sounds like the old angry Manson that grabbed us by our throats in the 90s. It’s a killer way to kick off the album and lays down the groundwork for what comes next.

“Tattooed in Reverse” has to be my favorite song from the album. The way it starts with a pounding march and how Manson comes out the gate swinging with “So fuck your bible and your babel” is so badass. It has this undeniable swagger to it as if Manson already knows the song is a hit. The music crushes you with its heavy sound and intense atmosphere. It’s a stellar track with Manson displaying his unapologetic nature and biting commentary.

Say10” caught me off guard with the muted opening beat – it sounds like something from a hip-hop song, but it works. Manson’s sinister growl and the music sets up this dangerous lurking vibe. Everything explodes during the hook with Manson screaming “You say God/I say Say10” with dirty riffs that are both brutal and sexy. Though the title isn’t as clever as Manson hopes it is, it’s a standout song. It has the same fire as his best work and holds you in its grasp.

In press interviews, Manson said one of the central pieces of the LP was “Saturnalia” and I can see why. It is a beast of a song. It starts with an eerie “This is Saturnalia” mumbled backwards followed by the thick grooving bass line. The music rumbles building up to a bigger sound in the first couple of minutes. It’s actually reminiscent of something like “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” with the dark music and slow build up. Even the riff during the verse is similar. The way everything creeps along, how the music hits you during the hook, and Manson’s singing makes it sound dangerous, yet alluring. Clocking in over seven minutes, the song never grows dull. There are so many elements and layers and different sounds happening it always keeps you on edge. It’s the highlight of the album and one of his strongest songs in years.

I didn’t really like lead single “We Know Where You Fucking Live” when I first heard it. While it’s brash and perfectly fits in with the aggressive, violent tone of the album, it feels like Manson trying too hard to be shocking. It grows on you after a while and there is the clever lyric “So what’s a nice place like this, doing round people like us,” but it’s far from the best song on the album. Same goes for “Kill4Me.” Taking a departure from the intense sound of the rest of the record, this one has an electropop beat that’s upbeat and kind of catchy. Again, not a terrible song, but it’s one of the weakest the album has to offer. These songs don’t have that same drive and punch of the others. They’re easy to gloss over when listening to the LP.

The songs that close out the album aren’t all that memorable either. “Blood Honey” plays out like an eerie Gothic ballad that still manages to be intense. Compared to the other tracks, it doesn’t grab your attention all that much. Some of the imagery is great like “dripping blood honey” and Manson sounds properly creepy when singing, but it doesn’t hit you the same way as the others. What does stand out is the dark tone matching the violent atmosphere of the album.

The title track switches up the mood with lighter, more rock-oriented. It’s not as heavy or brutal as the other songs. It’s not bad, but isn’t all that memorable and sounds pretty generic. Closing track “Threats of Romance” returns to the aggressive sound, yet has this downtrodden bluesy tone to it. He sounds like he’s bearing his soul in a dirty blues club as he sings “Things that are pretty/are always kept behind glass/someone like me can’t make it last.” As he talks about crumbling relationships it becomes clear this seems like an oddly personal song for the rocker. It ends with him shouting “I like you damaged” not holding anything back and lets out one last bloodcurdling scream before the album ends.

Heaven Upside Down is another great Marilyn Manson album that was well worth the wait. It really took me by surprise with just how good it is. While there are moments where it sounds like he’s being shocking for the sake of it, the rest of his commentary is as biting and damning as ever. There are a lot of moments that harken back to Antichrist Superstar or Mechanical Animals, but it doesn’t sound like he’s repeating himself. It’s classic Manson where he seethes at the world and ripples with anger. And even though not every song is notable, there isn’t one I would call bad. Personally, I enjoyed this more than The Pale Emperor. This album is more in your face, aggressive, and kick ass than the last record. And it shows Manson still has it in him.

 

Playlist: Throwback Macy’s Day Parade Performances

It may be hard to remember with commercials constantly shoving Christmas in your face, but Thanksgiving is coming up. That means good food, football, and spending time with people you don’t care about for most of the year. It also means the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. While it’s not one of my favorite holiday traditions, me and my family do watch it every year at least to check out the cool floats. But along with balloons and too much broadway there are “performances.” And man, are some of them awkward. So before you gorge yourself on turkey and dressing, let’s take a look at some throwback performances from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Rick Astley (2008)

You know the moment when a meme dies? Like when your parents start saying “Damn Daniel!” or Toyota plays John Cena’s music in their latest commercial. It’s not funny; it’s just sad whenever anyone uses it. The Macy’s 2008 Thanksgiving Parade is when Rickrolling died. Organizers of the parade decided to rickroll everyone watching by having Rick Astley come out and “sing” “Never Gonna Give You Up” with the dead-eyed cast of Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends surrounding him. There’s nothing wrong with the performance, but it hits a low when Cheese yells “I like Rickrolling!” Like when your parents start liking the same things as you, Rickrolling was officially uncool. But the meme never died if you ask current advertisers.

Backstreet Boys (1997)

The Backstreet Boys mime their hit “As Long as You Love Me” during the 1997 edition of the parade. It’s pretty straightforward, but the thing you notice is how the three most popular members are front and center. So where are Kevin and Howie? Way in the back separated from the other guys. They don’t even get much camera time. There’s only one shot of them before it’s back to Nick, Brian, and AJ. Though the former BSB fangirl in me did beam how adorable Nick (aka the best member) looks in his winter coat.

Nsync (1998)

I’m pretty sure I watched this performance when it first aired back in 1998. There’s nothing notable about it. The boys lipsynch perfectly fine. Though JC is clearly the star. It doesn’t matter that he’s not actually singing, he’s still doing all the head nods and moving clearly enjoying the spotlight. Justin does some weird wiggle behind JC, Lance is off to the side smiling and politely wiggling and Chris and Joey are just kind of standing there. It’s not amazing, but it’s a fun throwback if you’re a former Nsync fangirl. On another note, am I the only one who thinks the announcer saying “the females love them” is creepy?

KISS (2014)

Something about KISS at the Macy’s parade is kind of weird. Coming from a band who has licensed their name on everything from caskets to board games, it shouldn’t be a surprise. Still, it catches you off guard. The bright colorful balloons don’t gel with KISS’ style. But it is funny to see Finn and Jake floating behind Paul Stanley as he tries his hardest to look like a badass. It doesn’t help that they don’t look excited to be there and don’t do a very good job at lipsynching. It’s kind of painful to watch. Also, with a band like KISS couldn’t they give them a better float? They just got a weird plexiglass stage.

Kanye West (2010)

Having Kanye West perform at the parade seems like an odd choice. You don’t think a controversial rapper like West would be asked to appear at a family-friendly event. The network even censored “hell” from his song. It’s just weird to see him there; you’d think he’d believe he was too good to show up. Though his performance was fine, other videos show he was not a favorite at the parade. One clip shows West being booed from the crowd. Maybe that’s why he hasn’t been back since.

98 Degrees (1998)

Watching this performance makes me question how we fangirls ever thought stuff like this was okay. Seeing Nick Lachey continually pout and lick his lips to the camera is cringy. But back in the day, it would make fangirls swoon. Everything about it now is cheesy: the matching outfits, the khakis, the stupid coats, and hairstyle hardened by too much gel. Why did we ever find this attractive?

O-Town (2001)

O-Town never really had the chance to be the next boy band to take the world by storm. But I was a loyal fan, which is why it’s strange that I don’t remember this performance. The band at least acts like they care and actually move around while “singing.” If there’s anything weird about this it’s the song. “We Fit Together” has not so subtle lyrics like “I wanna go all night/ain’t no stopping/til the breaking of the dawn” and “I wanna go/knock knock/our bodies to the beat.” Seems like a very inappropriate song for a televised event that’s supposed to be family friendly.

Baha Men (2002)

There was actually a time when the Baha Men were so popular they were invited to perform at the Thanksgiving parade. And to my disappointment, they don’t even perform “Who Let The Dogs Out?” Yes, the song is stupid and terrible, but it’s the only one people know. You can imagine everyone at home was waiting to hear the song and see them go wild on the float. Instead, we get a lame cover of “Crocodile Rock.” Sadly, this was probably the highlight of their career.

Simple Plan (2003)

Yes, Simple Plan brought their whiny rock to the Thanksgiving Parade in 2003, which was probably the peak of their fame. This is another questionable song choice. The first line of the song features the phrase “I’m a dick,” which the network picked up on and censored. But with all the songs the band had at that point, you’d think they’d ask them to play something else. Also, it’s hard not to cringe while watching Pierre Bouvier trying to be edgy with giant M&Ms looming behind him.

The Lawrence Brothers (1995)

At the peak of his popularity, Joey Lawrence attempted a singing career. And yes, it was bad. This didn’t stop him from roping in his brothers to sing with him at the 1995 Macy’s Day Parade. While Joey looks confident and is putting his heart into lipsynching, the other two couldn’t give a shit. It’s clear on their faces. Matthew looks pained as if he knows he has no business singing. Andrew just looks bored with his chin resting on the float bar. They don’t sound awful; it’s just so unexpected. People must’ve liked because they were invited back multiple times.

Barney (1998)

I included this because I somehow still know all the words to this song even though I haven’t heard it in almost 20 years. This is why I can’t math properly!

New Kids on the Block (1989)

The New Kids or NKOTB if you’re cool, perform this sappy song and don’t do the best job at it. Jordan takes the spotlight, but it’s weird to see him laugh and smile when he sings about kids not having enough to eat. Before that, you can see Donnie say something to him as if they’re not supposed to be performing right now. And at one point Jordan just gives up lipsynching and starts waving. You can barely see the others, though I do like how Joey decided to dress like a 50s mob boss. And for some reason, Donnie starts holding a baseball cap for the rest of the performance. At the end, the music fades out and turns into screams – it was the peak of New Kids mania after all.

Which one of these throwback performances was your favorite? Let me know in the comments!