Entertainment :: Music

Dig These Discs :: Charice, Semi Precious Weapons, Rihanna, Kelis, Clay Aiken

by Padraic Maroney
Contributor
Monday Jul 19, 2010
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Whether it’s returning to their roots, debuting a new style or just debuting in general, music allows artists to play around with their music to keep things fresh. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. Rihanna released a darker album, but returns to dance music with a remixed version. Clay Aiken and Kelis try their hand at new genres with varied results, while Internet sensation Charice debuts for U.S albums with some bubble gum pop.


Charice - Charice

Charice, the 18-year-old YouTube sensation, is set to appear on Glee in the fall, and has already had her first rumor spread across the Internet--you heard the one about her using Botox right?

So with the praise and hype from appearances on Oprah and "David Foster and Friends," as well as being asked to perform with Celine Dion at Madison Square Garden, does the young singer have what it takes to be a pop princess?

Well, the answer is kind of murky. Or as the Magic 8 Ball used to put it, answer unclear, try again later. Charice definitely has the vocal ability on her self-titled U.S. debut to carry her and live up to the hype. But the music that she is working with is could be song by anyone.

In fact, "Nobody’s Singin’ to Me" sounds mysteriously like it is a cribbed version of David Archuleta’s debut song "Crush." Coincidentally, the producer of "Crush" also worked on this album, co-writing "In This Song."

Charice is able to break out and show a little bit of personality on "In Love So Deep." But it happens so rarely on this album that the mostly bland material drags her down.


Semi Precious Weapons - You Love You

The follow up to the similarly-titled debut We Love You, You Love You, is the sophomore effort from buzz-worthy band Semi-Precious Weapons. With their second album, the band comes baring a certain cache, as Lady Gaga serves as one of the executive producers, as does Perez Hilton.

Much of the album’s first half comes across as little more than naughty noise. "Statues of Ourselves" marks a turning point: it’s there that the album becomes more fun and bouncy.

The trend continues with "Sticky with Champagne." But it’s not all just a party for the band: they show a softer side on "Leave Your Pretty to Me," and that glimpse makes you yearn for a little more variety in to balance the album.

This is unabashed rock ’n’ roll without any apologies. The band is playing and saying what they want, and they don’t care what anyone else has to say. Semi Precious Weapons makes sure to learn from predecessors’ mistakes and shows a versatility that will keep them from being a one trick pony.


Rihanna - Rated R Remixed

Rihanna has had many club and dance hits over the last few years. But following her tumultuous year, her latest release Rated R was markedly different. With the departure in music to a harder, darker tone, Rated R hasn’t seen as many singles leaving a lasting mark on audiences.

With the remixed version of the album, the Barbados native is turning her attention to the dance floor again. Turning songs like first single "Russian Roulette" into a viable dance track might seem like a bad idea at first blush, but The Chew Fu Black Russian Fix remix breathes new life into the song, making it something entirely different.

These aren’t merely some unknown beat makers throwing something behind the songs so that the record company can make a quick buck. Sure, the album was made as a way to bring in money, but unlike a lot of remixes these appear to have some kind of thought behind them.

Example: on both "Rude Boy" and "Hard," Chew Fu has tailored the dance beats to actually fit instead of placing a generic backing to the songs.


Kelis - Flesh Tone

Kelis, who most known for letting everyone know about her "Milkshake," returns with the new album Flesh Tone. The album doesn’t offer any "Milkshake" type hits, but the former wife of rapper Nas does keep the energy going the whole time. Many of the songs end up running right into each other with the help of nicely done segues.

"Flesh Tone" is a departure for the Harlem raised singer, with her venturing into the pop and electronic arena. "Brave" is a anthemic song about coming back better than ever with the main refain being, "I was super cool, now I am super strong."

To help the singer transition into her new genre, Kelis has enlisted the help of David Guetta, Will.i.am and famed DJ Benny Benassi. With the collection of superproducers, the singer is able to make sure her cultivated identity is able to shine through despite the changes that are taking place.

The strength of this, Kelis’ fifth album, is the arrangements. Her vocals and lyrics are weak and repetitive, but the backing arrangement will keep you from getting bored. It also helps that there are only nine songs, which makes it fairly easy to sit through this ride.


Clay Aiken - Tried and True

Clay Aiken has stepped into the genre that everyone knew he would eventually end up in, and would most likely excel in. A funny thing happened on his way to easy listening standards land--he doesn’t do anything with them.

As many a contestant on "American Idol" has been reprimanded for doing, Aiken doesn’t make the songs his own. While the songs are pleasant enough, they just kind of hang there like the mock sexual tension between Ryan Seacrest and Simon Cowell on AI.

Tried and True is like sitting through a low-rent cabaret without the interludes. Perhaps this is his audition tape for a show in Vegas, but in order to obtain one he first needs to shows some energy, rather than this lazy set of standards and oldies, in which he turns a song like "Suspicious Minds" from a toe-tapper into a ho-hum tune that never fully climaxes.

With a collection that includes classics like "Unchained Melody," "You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me," "Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You," and "Mack the Knife," Aiken misses an opportunity to reinvigorate the songs.

It’s correct to say that many of these songs have been tried and true, but this crooner’s version of them cannot be approved.


by Charice, Semi Precious Weapons, Rihanna, Kelis, Clay Aiken

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