Tag Archives: Album Review

Album Review: Natalia Kills – Perfectionist

Many artists have attempted to follow in the dildo-heeled footsteps of Lady Gaga, and thus far, all have limped embarrassingly off into obscurity (we may forgive, Sabrina Washington, but we most certainly do NOT forget).

Enter stage left, Natalia Kills, the latest young pretender to Gaga’s crown, who on paper at least, appears to have enough credentials to challenge pop’s monstrous matriarch.

Having been signed by will.i.am and placed with Gaga’s former label, Cherrytree Records, Kills has since gone on to work with a string of Gaga collaborators, including Akon, Laurieann Gibson and the dubiously monikered über-producer ‘Cherry Cherry Boom Boom‘.

At first glance there’s a lot to dislike about Natalia Kills. Bradford born and bred, she’s somehow developed a pseudo-American accent that even Joss Stone would be proud of. To compound things even further, Kills has produced a series of overbearingly noirish, art-house videos that seem horribly contrived when you realise she was once a star of your mum’s favourite radio play, The Archers.

And so we arrive at Natalia Kills’ debut release, Perfectionist, an album which is saturated with the dark, over-stylised sheen of her wearying stage persona, and yet somehow manages to be pretty enjoyable nonetheless.

Break You Hard provides one of the album’s early highlights, an aggressive mid-tempo number peppered with the sounds of breaking glass and electric guitar. Dodgy spoken interludes aside, Love Is a Suicide and Superficial offer plenty of electro-ear candy with an assortment of bleeps and distorted vocals which are oh so de rigeur these days.

Mirrors is Kills’ most blatant Gaga impersonation, combining the familiar electro-pop sound of Just Dance with the sexually aggressive lyrics of Rihanna’s S&M. It’s the sort of song you could imagine going down well at a Lambrini-fuelled Anne Summer’s party.

Things take a more interesting turn with Zombie, which mixes up tribal beats with a haunting femmebot vocal, while Free sees Kills momentarily cast aside her oblique demeanour to provide the album’s most unashamedly pop moment.

Unfortunately Perfectionist runs out of steam a little early, with later tracks, Broke, Heaven and If I was God failing to make much of an impression on these ears at least. Which is a shame really, because the rest of the album is really rather good!

So will Natalia Kills manage to topple Lady Gaga from her mermaid wheelchair? I very much doubt it. But if you can overlook her excruciatingly editorial posturing and occasional dalliances into copycat territory, you might just discover an artist capable of delivering reasonably worthwhile pop fodder.

Pop Specs rating:

Album Review: Lady Gaga – Born This Way

Unless you’ve been in a cultural coma for the past three months, you’ll know that Lady Gaga‘s relentlessly hyped album, Born This Way is released on Monday (cue two billion ‘little monsters’ collectively jizzing their pants).

Unfortunately, you’re also likely to have already heard most of what the album has to offer, thanks to a tsunami of spoilers which have included catwalk shows, pre-release downloads, full album streams and a particularly dubious tie-in with, er… Farmville.

So with all sense of release-day excitement completely obliterated (well done marketing types), what’s the album actually like?

PRETTY FUCKING AMAZING.

At the risk of sounding like one of Gaga’s paw waving fanatics, almost every track on Born This Way is roughly seven and a half times more interesting than anything heard on her debut album, The Fame (which was by no-means rubbish).

A dance album at heart, Born This Way is dripping with flamboyant excess, incorporating an eclectic and often baffling mix of influences. Expect to hear some amazingly 80′s saxophone, a raved-up mariachi band, a smattering of Gregorian chanting and even a cameo from Mr Anita Dobson.

Remarkably, it all comes together in a cohesive and brilliantly unique way, creating an album stuffed with potential hits that are all unmistakably Gaga. And yes, those bat-shit crazy, pseudo-European accents are BACK!

Early singles, Born This Way and Judas are Lady Gaga at her most traditional and serve as a great introduction to the album. However it’s surprise hit, The Edge of Glory which manages to pack the bigger punch, and is perhaps more representative of her evolved sound.

Government Hooker is a deliciously theatrical slice of electro sleaze, that would definitely be my stripper music if I were to ever become an actual stripper. While Schiße is a balls to the wall techno belter that will have you clamouring to book the next available budget flight to Berlin.

After a slow start, Marry The Night erupts into a euphoric chorus that’s matched only by Hair in its celebratory sense of gay abandon. You and I is the album’s one obligatory piano rock number, that’s thankfully much better here than previously performed by that ghastly girl on American Idol.

Are there any weak tracks? No, not really. Bad Kids and Highway Unicorn don’t connect with me as instantly as the rest of the album. But they’re far from rubbish, and hardcore little monsters are bound to love them unreservedly.

So despite the questionable artwork and her recent dalliances with prosthetic horns, Lady Gaga has managed to produce her strongest body of work to date. An epic album which will undoubtably sell by the bucketload and cement her position as pop’s most fascinating figurehead.

Pop Specs rating:

Album Review: Sophie Ellis-Bextor – Make A Scene

It’s a sad but true fact, that no one really seems to like Sophie Ellis-Bextor and her satellite dish face anymore.

I’ve always thought of her as a something of a British institution, right up there with Marmite, wet weekends and teenage pregnancy. But the public’s interest in Sophie appears to have wained in recent years, with her last five singles failing to even reach the top ten.

Which is a shame really, because her forthcoming album, Make A Scene
is really, rather good!

I’m actually surprised how much I like it, as during some recent TV appearances, Sophie’s been spouting off about having ‘discovered trance music’ – which is somewhat alarming to say the least!

Add to this, her collaboration with Dutch trance-meister, Armin van Whatshisface and the obligatory Ibiza Uncovered-esque music video and it was starting to look like Sophie was in the throws of a music mid-life-crisis, circa 1998.

But I needn’t have worried, because although Make A Scene is Sophie’s most dance-orientated album to date, it’s most definitely NOT a trance album (thank god). And while the Gagas of the world are striving to reinvent themselves every other minute, Sophie has remained staunchly true to her origins, delivering an album of impeccably pronounced pop music.

The likes of Freemasons, Richard X and Calvin Harris keep the tempo pleasingly high throughout most of the album, with only the two closing tracks taking a more subdued (but not unwelcome) turn.

Early favourites from the album include: Magic, which deftly counters its galloping, electro beat with a soaring, breathy chorus. And Homewrecker, in which Sophie’s trademark icy delivery is perfectly suited to the song’s cautionary lyrics.

So will Make A Scene manage to win over Sophie’s detractors and reinstate her back into the top ten? Probably not. But for those of us able to look beyond her unusually wide face, it’s most certainly a fantastic album from Britain’s plummiest pop star.

Pop Specs rating:

Album Review: Britney Spears – Femme Fatale

For me, the apex of Britney’s career to date is Blackout, an album that should have been a complete train wreck, but defied all expectation by basically being brilliant. Recorded during her notorious meltdown, it somehow managed to rise above the horrendous artwork, dreadful videos and cheap wigs to give us Britney at her dark and sleazy best.

One year and a parental intervention later, Britney released Circus, which wasn’t exactly a bad album, but didn’t embody the same sense of bleary-eyed sluttyness that excited me about Blackout. Even vaguely provocative tracks like Phonography and If You Seek Amy seemed a bit weird and contrived when you knew she was actually under the conservatorship of her dad!

So is her latest opus, Femme Fatale a return to form? ALMOST!

Lead singles Hold It Against Me and Till The World Ends firmly establish the sound which is maintained throughout the rest of the album. This is Euro dance-pop, polished to within an inch of its life with an added smattering of dubstep wobble.

Sounds awful doesn’t it? But to Britney’s credit, she pretty much pulls it off!

The album has already been described by many as a ‘club record’, which might be overstating it a little (no amyl nitrates were inhaled during the course of this review). But make no mistake, this is most certainly an album to which you’ll be shimmying around your local Yate’s (*shudder*) whilst clutching an oversized glass of rosé.

Standouts tracks include: I Wanna Go, which borrows an exaggerated vocal inflection from The Pussycat Dolls, and shares the bounce-around-your-bedroom giddiness of Till The World Ends. And Big Fat Bass, a song which will initially irritate your tits off, until you surrender to its cheese-ball charms and realise it’s actually quite good fun.

The album does include a few stinkers however… naff lyrics and and an over-reliance on whizz-popping sound effects make How I Roll fall flat, and Trouble For Me and Trip To Your Heart fail to really make an impression beyond their dated dance leanings.

Closing track, Criminal is something of an odditynot just for its deft use of a flute – but it’s the closest you’ll get to hearing Britney’s ‘natural’ voice (which isn’t rubbish to be fair). The rest of the album is firmly anchored in robot vocal territory, which is no bad thing as far as I’m concerned.

So has Femme Fatale replaced Blackout as my favourite Britney album? No, but it came dangerously close! And let’s be honest, it’s reassuring to know that Britney doesn’t need to be completely off her nut to produce a quality album.

Pop Specs rating:

Album Review: Nicole Scherzinger – Killer Love

Ok, let’s keep this short and sweet. Nicole Scherziwatsit released her new album today. It’s called Killer Love, and it’s basically not very good. In fact it was something of a chore just getting through all 14 tracks (sometimes less is most definitely more, Nicole).

Song titles such as: Wet, Desperate and Club Banger Nation *cringe* don’t inspire much confidence, and rightly so. They are bad, bad songs. The album’s one saving grace is first single, Poison which I’d comfortably give a four star rating on my iTunes. The rest, is basically bilge.

On a happier note, I do think Nicole was BRILLIANT during her brief stint on last year’s X Factor. Remember when she went a bit mental during Diva Fever’s dreadful rendition of Proud Mary? You don’t see Cheryl Cole throwing caution to the wind like that (unless she’s breaking wind of course).

Apparently Nicole is still in the running for a place on American X Factor’s coveted judging panel, but faces stiff competition from the likes of Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Katy Perry, Coleen Nolan, Marge Simpson, Nanny Pat and several hundred other likely contenders.

So I’m keeping my fingers and toes tightly crossed that Simon sees sense and gives Nicole the job. At least that way she’ll be far too busy to put out any more crap like this.

Pop Specs rating:

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