Critic’s Choice Awards: My Picks

Critic’s Choice Awards: My Picks

The Critic’s Choice Awards nominations have been released and here are my picks for what should win in the film categories. Check back in on Thursday, January 11, 2018, to see who won and if I was right or wrong in my predictions.

Best Picture:bigsick

  • The Big Sick
  • Call Me By Your Name
  • Darkest Hour
  • Dunkirk
  • The Florida Project
  • Get Out
  • Lady Bird
  • The Post
  • The Shape of Water
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 

Winner:

Best Actor:screen-shot-2017-07-17-at-4-30-37-pm

  • Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name
  • James Franco, The Disaster Artist
  • Jake Gyllenhaal, Stronger
  • Tom Hanks, The Post
  • Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
  • Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
  • Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Winner:

Best Actress:239293_146_news_hub_198282_677x251

  • Jessica Chastain, Molly’s Game
  • Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
  • Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
  • Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
  • Meryl Streep, The Post

Winner:

Best Supporting Actor:5. Logan

  • Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
  • Armie Hammer, Call Me By Your Name
  • Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
  • Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Patrick Stewart, Logan
  • Michael Stuhlbarg, Call Me By Your Name

Winner:

Best Supporting Actress:story_bg_image-2faac00e-29cb-4107-b7f2-fb8_9tJrB8e

  • Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
  • Hong Chau, Downsizing
  • Tiffany Haddish, Girls Trip
  • Holly Hunter, The Big Sick
  • Allison Janney, I, Tonya
  • Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
  • Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

Winner:

Best Young Actor/Actress:wonder-cur

  • McKenna Grace, Gifted
  • Dafne Keen, Logan
  • Brooklynn Pierce, The Florida Project
  • Millicent Simmonds, Wonder
  • Jacob Tremblay, Wonder

Winner:

Best Acting Ensemble:dunkirk-2017-1200-1200-675-675-crop-000000

  • Dunkirk
  • Lady Bird
  • Mudbound
  • The Post
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Winner:

Best Director:mv5bndi0nju3mtc3nf5bml5banbnxkftztgwndc5mtmymdi-_v1_

  • Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
  • Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
  • Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
  • Luda Guadagnino, Call Me By Your Name
  • Jordan Peele, Get Out
  • Steven Spielberg, The Post

Winner:

Best Animated Feature:10. The Lego Batman Movie

  • The Breadwinner
  • Coco
  • Despicable Me 3
  • The LEGO Batman Movie
  • Loving Vincent

Winner:

Best Action Movie:warofplanetofapes

  • Baby Driver
  • Logan
  • Thor: Ragnarok
  • War for the Planet of the Apes
  • Wonder Woman

Winner:

Best Comedy:769341148_5618218526001_5617890179001-vs

  • The Big Sick
  • The Disaster Artist
  • Girls Trip
  • I, Tonya
  • Lady Bird

Winner:

Best Actor in a Comedy:omyvigfmyc082ay8fv6-o

  • Steve Carell, Battle of the Sexes
  • James Franco, The Disaster Artist
  • Chris Hemsworth, Thor: Ragnarok
  • Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick
  • Adam Sandler, The Meyerowitz Stories

Winner:

Best Actress in a Comedy:lady-bird-film

  • Tiffany Haddish, Girls Trip
  • Zoe Kazan, The Big Sick
  • Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
  • Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
  • Emma Stone, Battle of the Sexes

Winner:

Best Sci-Fi/Horror Movie:it-movie-2017-pennywise-bill-skarsgard

  • Blade Runner 2049
  • Get Out
  • It
  • The Shape of Water

Winner:

Best Original Screenplay:the-post-poster-meryl-streep-tom-hanks

  • Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor, The Shape of Water
  • Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
  • Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick
  • Liz Hannah and Josh Singer, The Post
  • Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Jordan Peele, Get Out

Winner:

Best Adapted Screenplay:Mudbound - Still 4

  • James Ivory, Call Me By Your Name
  • Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, The Disaster Artist
  • Dee Rees and Virgil Williams, Mudbound
  • Aaron Sorkin, Molly’s Game
  • Jack Thorne, Steve Conrad, and Stephen Chbosky, Wonder

Winner:

Best Cinematography:zz4f1c300d

  • Roger Deakins, Blade Runner 2049
  • Hoyte van Hoytema, Dunkirk
  • Dan Lausten, The Shape of Water
  • Rachel Morrison, Mudbound
  • Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, Call Me By Your Name

Winner:

Best Production Design:ew_website_2700x1800-murderexpress

  • The Shape of Water
  • Murder on the Orient Express
  • Dunkirk
  • Blade Runner 2049
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Phantom Thread

Winner:

Best Editing:baby-driver-et00040794-14-03-2017-09-05-24

  • Michael Kahn and Sarah Broshar, The Post
  • Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos, Baby Driver
  • Lee Smith, Dunkirk
  • Joe Walker, Blade Runner 2049
  • Sidney Wolinsky, The Shape of Water

Winner:

Best Costume Design:1491990205555-1

  • Renée April, Blade Runner 2049
  • Mark Bridges, Phantom Thread
  • Jacqueline Durran, Beauty and the Beast
  • Lindy Hemming, Wonder Woman
  • Luis Sequira, The Shape of Water

Winner:

Best Hair & Makeup:landscape-1478512906-beauty-and-the-beast-movie

  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Darkest Hour
  • I, Tonya
  • The Shape of Water
  • Wonder

Winner:

Best Visual Effects:gallery-1469440016-logo-thor-ragnarok

  • Blade Runner 2049
  • Dunkirk
  • The Shape of Water
  • Thor: Ragnarok
  • War for the Planet of the Apes
  • Wonder Woman

Winner:

Best Song:miguel-rivera-4096x2304-hector-coco-animation-disney-pixar-2017-4k-8693

  • Evermore,” Beauty and the Beast
  • “Mystery of Love,” Call Me By Your Name
  • “Remember Me,” Coco
  • “Stand Up For Something,” Marshall
  • “This Is Me,” The Greatest Showman

Winner:

Best Score:the_post_dom_nor_d30_071017_204253_204322_r_comp_rgb-0

  • Alexandre Desplat, The Shape of Water
  • Johnny Greenwood, Phantom Thread
  • Dario Marianelli, Darkest Hour
  • Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer, Blade Runner 2049
  • John Williams, The Post
  • Hans Zimmer, Dunkirk

Winner:

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Godspell: A Review

Godspell: A Review

Introduction:

I had never heard of the show Godspell until it was announced as the musical my senior year. So I figured, what better way to promote my final high school musical than by reviewing the original cast recording. Written by John-Michael Tebelak and composed by Stephen Schwartz, Godspell follows the adventures of Jesus Christ and his band of misfits as they form the most enduring community in world history in the form of playing games, telling stories, and singing songs, leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus. Since there are many versions of the show, I decided I’d review the original cast album, which excludes “Tower of Babble” and “Beautiful City” (written for the film).

1. Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord

Starting with some obnoxious horns, the opener launches with some stellar vocals from David Haskell, the originator of the roles of Judas and John The Baptist. After his a capella solo, the 70s disco/gospel music kicks in and we have a full cast that gets the listener moving to the grooving disco-esqe number.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

2. Save the People

The second number features pianos and acoustic guitars, arranged in a style similar to Billy Joel. Stephen Nathan, the original Jesus, jumps into a beautiful number calling for God to “save the people” of Earth. It’s beautiful song vocally and instrumentally that is an infectious and catchy tune.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

3. Day By Day

The most popular number from the show, “Day by Day” is a slow burn. While asking for God’s aid in taking life one day at a time is a pretty topic, the song takes a bit to pick up. Once it does, it’s a pretty fun tune.

Track Rating: 7/10

Grade: B

4. Learn Your Lessons Well

An overly exuberant number about memorizing scripture and what you’re taught in Sunday school, it’s a fun tune that slides right into the show.

Track Rating: 7/10

Grade: B

5. Bless the Lord

The soft rock song is pretty solid. It moves pretty well and grooves along nicely. It speeds up and creates a real sense of fun in the show. As a stand-alone song, it’s not great, but it’s solid. Joanne Jonas’s vocals are solid.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: B+

6. All for the Best

This vaudeville-style duo between Stephen Nathan and David Haskell is the best song of the show. With its comical sense of timing and wonderful arrangements, the sixth number is truly a delight.

Track Rating: 10/10
Grade: A+

7. All Good Gifts

This acoustic, Gospel-inspired number is beautiful. Lamar Alford shines vocally. His prowess is truly unmatched. The song about being thankful for the gifts of God is really wonderful.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A

8. Light of the World

This disco pop number is the definition of infectious. It’s just a delightful blast that does a perfect job of closing the first act, utilizing dance breaks and unparalleled energy.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

9. Turn Back, O Man

This sleezy showtune is fun gives a real 20s showgirl vibe, which is what they’re going for in the show. Sonia Manzano is incredible and her performance is wonderful. It’s song that is so catchy that you’ll be singing it forever.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

10. Alas for You

This rage-filled 70s rock number is directed as a warning to hypocrites and truly exhibits the performance of Stephen Nathan and his range. It’s a wonderful tune.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

11. By My Side

This slower, more personal number lands better than “Day by Day”, but it’s still rather dull. Overall, the performances are haunting, but the lyricism falls short.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A-

12. We Beseech Thee

Jeffery Mylett and company deliver a final fun and lighthearted number for the show as the company pretends to be instruments and just jam in the Gospel-Rock blend. It explifies the fun of the show.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A+

13. On the Willows

The song performed traditionally by The Band, in other version Judas, is a tragically beautiful number carried by acoustic guitars as Judas prepares his betrayal of Jesus. While David Haskell doesn’t perform the song in the show, Steve Reinhardt leads The Band in a final tune before we reach the end of our show.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A-

14. Finale

Stephen Nathan’s acting is once again displayed as he and the company really bring the show home and fill the audience will several different emotions at once: despair at the death of Jesus, anger at the circumstances, fear of the unknown, and hope and joy for the future. It evokes such incredible feelings and closes the show in an incredible way.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

15. Day by Day (Reprise)

While our show does not perform this number, it closes out the cast album. I’m not sure contextually why the song is placed last other than to symbolize Jesus’s resurrection and epilogue the show as they’re continuing the community, but overall, it’s not a good song in the slightest. While faster paced than the original, it’s a sad reprise that doesn’t need to in the show. I can see why they replaced it with “Beautiful City,” a much superior song.

Track Rating: 1/10

Grade: F

 

Conclusion:

The album is fun and the songs are really great. It’s a show that must be experienced in person, with a cast that works for you, and you have the chance to do so Friday, November 17th – Sunday, November 19th at the East Grand Forks Senior High School Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for students. Showtimes are at 7:00pm Friday – Saturday and 2:00pm on Sunday.

Album Rating: 8/10

Grade: B+

Reputation: A Review

Reputation: A Review

Introduction:

Arguably the biggest pop star of the century, Taylor Swift’s highly-anticipated sixth studio album has finally dropped. Coming off of massive success, both critically and financially, with 2014’s 1989, all eyes are on Taylor as she looks to top her previous successes. Having been criticized for her seamless transition from country (Taylor Swift, Fearless) to pop (Speak Now, Red), she’s also been praised for it; she is one of the only artists to successfully do it. Her new album, Reputation, is set to focus on just that and deal with media persecution and celebrity feuds. Are we ready for it?

1. …Ready For It?

The opening song of the track is much more aggressive than 1989. The song is really well produced and Taylor’s vocals are really well mixed. The lyricism is solid as ever. The song about what it’s like to love Taylor, it’s presumedly written about her current boyfriend, .

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

2. End Game (ft. Ed Sheeran and Future)

The second song directly references the name and theme of the album and Taylor’s reputation. It’s a similar theme to the last song, but with a better package. Future isn’t my favorite rapper but he does a really solid job on this track. Ed Sheeran is very welcome addition and he absolutely kills it. The two are references to rumored lovers of T-Swift, despite those rumors being dispelled. This song is very well produced and written. The performances from the features actually outshine Taylor. It’s a really good song.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A

3. I Did Something Bad

Taylor is very aggressive and in-your-face, while also emulating a playful and ominous tone, dropping her first expletive in a Taylor Swift song. The lyricism is actually really good this track, with the production. Taylor’s performance is really interesting and fun to listen to. The bridge is haunting and might be the highlight of the standout lyricism of the song. 

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

4. Don’t Blame Me

The R&B and Gospel-style song is actually really well done. Her songwriting is impeccable, once again talking about losing a lover. It’s a really cool song that sounds great and features a really nice performance from Taylor. This could be my favorite from this album.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

5. Delicate

Opening with really crisp and nice vocals, this is a little more in-line with the Taylor we knew from 1989. The song about new love is really clean sounding, which is really nice to hear on a primarily aggressive album so far. However, this isn’t really any substance to the pretty, gentle sounds.

Track Rating: 7/10

Grade: A

6. Look What You Made Me Do

The striking lead single is very straight forward in its intentions. Its impressive production and standout performance make for a scary number. It’s really intense and pushes the aggressive nature of the new album to the highest heights. It’s not bad, but she’s made better songs

Track Rating: 7/10

Grade: B

7. So It Goes…

Things are slightly lighter at the outset, but it’s still not letting up fully. Things get more anthemetic. It again sounds more akin to 1989 then the rest of the album. In fact, the vocals are at their best this song. The production is pretty good. The lyricism is spotty, but it’s not bad. It’s one of the highlight tracks of the album overall.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A

8. Gorgeous

A love song that again sounds more like the Taylor we are used to. It’s a much lighter song than some of the others off of Reputation. It’s a playful song about loving someone so much that you hate them. The lyricism is excellent, with outstanding production and stellar vocals. This might be my favorite off the album.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

9. Getaway Car

The vocals are solid from the outset. The production isn’t the highlight of the album, but it’s subtle and good. The lyricism is the focus of the song and it’s great, serving as a happy encore  to what we just heard. It’s another good Taylor tune. While the song itself isn’t happy, it’s a very nice treat, with “Gorgeous”, that are reminiscint of 1989 Taylor. The performance is great and her lyricism is wonderful.
Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

10. King of My Heart

The production is good and the lyricism is solid. Her vocals are solid. This marks the third song that feels like it belongs more on 1989 than Reputation. It’s not a Taylor classic nor a bad song. It’s fine.

Track Rating: 7/10

Grade: B

11. Dancing With Our Hands Tied

The groove is new and original for Taylor. It’s actually really good. The production is more in keeping with a Calvin Harris song than a Taylor song. Her vocals and lyricism are great. It’s a close second to “Gorgeous”.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A

12. Dress

It’s a weird shift tonelly to go from dark songs to brighter songs that feel like they belong on a different album. This is a very adult song for even Taylor. While the production suggests a brighter song, it’s still mature. However, it just doesn’t fit fully with the style of the album.

Track Rating: 7/10

Grade: B

13. This Is Why We Cant’t Have Nice Things

The Katy Perry clapper is a genius song. It features her best performance of the album and some of the best lyricism. The production is great. It’s a banger with attitude. This fits with the style and tone she was going for with the first single.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

14. Call It What You Want

This one falls flat for me. While it works like an aftermath of anger following the last song, it falls flat lyric-wise, production-wise, and performance-wise.

Track Rating: 6/10

Grade: C+

15. New Year’s Day

With light pianos and gentle feel of a party that’s ended. It’s a beautiful ending for this album. It feels like it belongs on Red or Fearless. It is gorgeous vocally and lyrically, with production that brings it all home for the last song.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

Conclusion:

I think Taylor had a good idea of what she wanted the album to be initially, but she loses the emotion warranted for the kind of project she wanted to make. The first half of the album is mediocre and is filled with the fire needed to make an angry pop album. It’s aggressive and in-your-face music, which isn’t for everyone. The second half is a traditional Taylor Swift album, like 1989. It has a hard time deciding what it wants to be. There are some good songs in there, but there’s more mediocre music. Overall, this might be Taylor Swift’s worst album.

Album Rating: 7/10

Grade: B-

Phenom4Eons: A Review

FeaturedPhenom4Eons: A Review

Introduction:

This #MusicMonday gets personal. As a musician myself, I am friends with several artists of varying backgrounds. This week, I’d like to take some time to highlight a friend and collaborator of mine: MyzBeatz. Myz is a rapper based in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and works as a campus pastor at UND, heading up Chi Alpha. Along with my friends SW, C-Los, and myself, MyzBeatz makes up a rap group based out of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, Minnesota, called The Forks. Having been active since his teenage years in Apple Valley, MN, he released three projects before switching artist identities and moving to Grand Forks. His first project, Salt + Light, was released in 2013. He followed that up with a collaborative mixtape with UND artist D’Tay called Who Am I? in 2014. In 2014, he also released two singles: Take Offense and BassHeads, which featured D’Tay and Casstaway. He appeared on C-Los’s 2015 single Show N’ Tell (Remix), alongside Reschad Oliver and Empty Vessel, followed by features on Treal B’s 2016 EP Apathy and C-Los’s award winning 2016 single Together. Today I’m reviewing his 2016 album Phenom4Eons, in honor of The Forks’ newest collaboration. I will also be reviewing C-Los’s album SonRize at a later date, as well as SW’s Reminiscent. You can check out Phenom4Eons and download it for free here.

1. The Nobodys

The production is really solid. The beat comes in hard and immediately gets your head bobbing. The hook is catchy. Myz introduces himself and C-Los as he starts ripping in. His flow pattern is really impressive. He rides the beat very well. The theme for the album is set up well with this really solid intro track. The last hook he’s joined by C-Los who has a really funny bit with him.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A-

2. This City

The second song slows things down and pitches us a deeper track. The vocals on the hook are really solid. The wordplay is killer, especially with all the local in-jokes. While it grooves at a slower pace, the track is exceptional. He grooves right along with the beat and it’s very impressive.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A

3. Finding Myz

The track starts with really pretty vocals and an emotional setup. This track is very real and intense. The idea of self-identity and discovering yourself is truly exceptional. The vocals are truly spectacular. The production is really great.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

4. BassHeads (ft. Ki’Shon, Seckond Chaynce, & Casstaway)

Things get lighter and more fun with this one, as we get a fun track about his love for bass. Myz goes first and rides the beat like it’s a bike. Ki’Shon goes next and adopts a style like KB and flows pretty well with it. After an intro from C-Los, Seckond Chaynce jumps on like it’s nothing and absolutely murders it. His chopper style allows him to spit bars at a supersonic pace. Casstaway, a veteran of Myz’s records, gets on and rides the beat well. Seckon Chaynce and Myz are really the highlights of the track, along with the incredible production, but the track is a perfect jam.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

5. Ancient Glory

The hook is gorgeous! While the uncredited female vocalist remains anonymous, she sounds familiar; her vocals are absolutely knockout. The track is slower and more personal, which Myz proves is a strong point for him. While the verses don’t quite love up to the hook, the sentiment is there are and, therefore, very appreciated. While so far this one seems to be a bit of step back, it’s still a pretty tune.

Track Rating: 7/10

Grade: B+

6. No Air

The gasps for air in the intro are a nice touch. Myz’s vocals are absolutely dynamite on the track. Myz gets on and rides the beat once again. He grooves right along on the medium paced beat. The production is a standout hit, especially in the mixing. While short, it’s a sweet track.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

7. Sinking (Interlude)

The production on this interlude fits the title 100%. It’s a really well produced beat that generates emotions like sinking. It’s a nice interlude that gives a breather before we jump into the next track.

Track Rating: 7/10

Grade: A-

8. Deep Waters

The interlude before sets up this track very well. The track about being rescued from drowning in sin has some really beautiful vocals from Myz. The flow is solid too, in keeping with the slow song pattern. This track might have the best vocals of the record.

Track Rating: 7/10

Grade: A-

9. Shipwrecked

The strings and vocal samples that start of the song are beautiful. This song is an inspirational sequel to last song and absolutely outdoes the previous track. Myz absolutely kills the track and delivers some solid wordplay. He paints a really vivid picture and delivers a rap parable that is unparalleled in anything I’ve heard in CHH or otherwise. The C-Los cameos are a really nice touch too.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

10. Tapdance

The pianos and choir vocals are a really pretty way to start the next track. This one has another inspirational start to it. The tap-dancing sample is a stroke of genius. The song about purity and holding hope is a true jam. The track is a head-nodder and Myz grooves on it incredibly. The vocals are spectacular; between the female vocals and Myz’s own, it creates what could be a mix of the most real and the most pretty track. The choir vocals work like a siren song and it really creates what might be the best performance on the record.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

11. I Salute You

Sampling horns in an epic style already has me in. The beat is a jam and an absolute banger. The song serves as a thank you to the military. The C-Los cameos are a perfect fit and the song itself is a great jam. It’s an arena jam waiting for an Alerus Center audience.  The lyricism and energy are excellent and infectious.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

12. Surface (ft. Jacie J)

Now we’re slowing things down again. With a really pretty piano sample and some wonderful production, Myz brings up another real topic in living a “two-face” life. Jacie J’s vocals are strong and a perfect fit for the track. The wordplay is incredible and his performance is wonderful. The examination of the idea of denominations among the Protestant Christian faith is an incredible topic that is never explored in either mainstream music or Christian music. The song is groundbreaking and truly a treasure on this record.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

13. Six Feet Under

The faster paced track is storytelling track is absolutely aggressive and wastes no time in getting the story across. It’s a great track telling the story of the betrayal, trail, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s redemption song for the people who haven’t heard the story before and a fresh spin for those who have lost count of how many times they’ve heard it. It’s very well done and a perfect fit for the record.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

14. Tidals (ft. Abbi Grimaldi)

We flow (literally) from the last song to the newest one. The song is gentle and peaceful and serene. The synths and samples of rolling waves are a perfect blend into the production. Abbi’s vocals are a sweet fit into the track. The overall vocals are pretty. The lyricism is stellar. The story of just a daily struggle to spend time with God is a really well done topic that often gets overlooked in CHH. It’s another groundbreaking track for the record.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

15. The Depths You Go (ft. Bryce Meyer)

The flow (sorry, the puns about the songs being connected by crashing waves was too good to pass up a second time) from song to song doesn’t let up as we get another serene and peaceful song. The acoustic guitars mixed into the production are perfect. The production is excellent. Bryce’s vocals are a perfect fit for the track and work on every level. The lyricism on this one is excellent as well. Entering through the topic of the unexplored depths of the ocean, Myz creates another perfect song for the album. This is a genuinely perfect song. I wouldn’t change a single thing about it. The flow pattern, vocals, production, samples, topics, lyrics, and the vibes are all perfectly stitched together to create another hit.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

16. Phenom

We roll (there, I changed it up, happy?) right into the final song seamlessly. The production is absolutely incredible. Myz’s vocals are beautiful at the start of the track. We fade out and come back with a dripping, ticking, ominous vibe. Myz’s vocals are chilling as we enter the finale. It’s a terrifying. Myz is delivering what is a Grammy-worthy with the performance he’s delivering here. The tension builds with the production and it starts to lighten up but it’s growing into an inspirational track. Myz keeps speeding up as things brighten up. The beat creates a sense of fleeting time and the need to get to work before Jesus comes back. This final song is groundbreaking and incredible and captures the entire sense of the album in one incredibly produced song that wraps up the message in a way that deserves a Grammy. We are left in total silence for 22 seconds to reflect on what we just heard. This track is genius, masterfully performed and produced, executed in a manner that plays like an NF song at the start and ends in the most original way ever. If you weren’t a MyzBeatz fan before, you are now.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

Conclusion:

Phemom4Eons is a project that starts pretty cut and dry. It starts how you might expect a local rap album to: a fun jam that you might listen to once, that feels maybe more surface than substance. But the album is like the ocean that it bases its theme on, it has layer after layer that just keeps getting deeper and deeper the more you dive into it. The production is incredible and Myz’s performances are stellar, with some displays of lyricism and wordplay that truly left me speechless. There are ideas and themes in this project that are groundbreaking; things we always think about but never say, articulated into words. I can’t recommend this album enough.

Album Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

 

Today We Rebel: A Review

Today We Rebel: A Review

Introduction:

KB started out as a local rapper with a couple of friends in Florida. The HGA movement grew to light the world of underground Christian rap on fire. In 2009, he was scouted by Lecrae and signed to Reach Records. In 2011, he released his EP 100. In 2013, he released his debut album Weight & Glory, which includes his notable single “Church Clap,” featuring Lecrae. In 2015, he released Tommorow We Live, which exploded on the rap charts. Now comes his latest effort: Today We Rebel. Seeing as I will be seeing KB and Trip Lee on their Hometeam Tour this Wednesday, I figured today would be a great time to review the latest effort from KB on this week’s #MusicMonday.

1. DNOU

KB Jumps right into his long awaited return with no hesitation. It’s a jam that has a really cool strings and organ sample. DNOU (Don’t Nobody Own Us) is a banger than gets the audience in the right mood to go on a new journey with KB. The third single from his third studio album talks about freedom and gets us reacquainted with him by showcasing his flow style, which has greatly improved, along with his wordplay.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

2. Tempo

The first single for the album came out a full year before the album and it still kills. Starting out slow with an old folk style song sampled in the beginning, KB chucks a curveball by giving us an epic, ominous beat that he rides with precision and skill. It’s even better than the last track with a hook that boasts true talent. It’s truly an incredible rap display.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

3. Monster (feat. Aha Gazelle)

The second single is a brilliant track that is just pure fun and continues the pattern of incredible lyricism and rap power. Aha’s verse is great, with explosive lyricism. It’s my favorite song on the album so far. Every track just keeps getting better.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

4. Primetime (feat. Ty Brassel)

This one starts kind of weird but the beat is cool. Ty’s hook is different. KB’s verse is strong though, he slides right in and slingshots all around the track. He’s good, but the song as a whole is a step down from the first three tracks. The hook is reminiscent of Justin Timberlake’s SexyBack, but KB is able to transform it into a pretty good song.

Track Rating: 7/10

Grade: B+

5. Get Through (feat. Lecrae)

KB is not ashamed of his 116 clique brethren, in fact, he shows them off on his album, with three of the clique dropping in. The King of the Clique himself shows up on this one. Starting out slow, the vocals come in sleek and Gospel-esqe. Lecrae comes in and absolutely sets the tone. The beat warps to fit his flow pattern and hits the ground running. KB comes in and affirms the sheer prowess displayed by Lecrae earlier. It’s a beautiful one, with KB’s singing vocals being absolutely spectacular as the song wraps.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A

6. Art of Drifting

The track comes out very critical and aggressive as he stands accused of hating the church and not caring. This track is aggressive in its beat and production as he goes off on the idea of drifting away from God and in his relationship. This is the best production of any song on the album yet. He is painting the picture of a Christian artist who cheated on his wife. It’s an emotional song that is really beautiful and features incredible lyricism and storytelling from KB.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

7. Art of Hope

The song flows right in from the last and serves as the hopeful sequel to the last song. Really it’s just one long track that tells a great story. Where the last one ends with him standing in the ashes, this one builds and creates an intense sense of hope and uplifts the fallen. These two songs together paint the most remarkable story and creates a wonderful allegory for life that is impossible to listen to with dry eyes. KB and an uncredited woman sing “Be Thou My Vision” as the violins and choir carry us out of this emotional, two-song arc.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

8. Not Today Satan (feat. Andy Mineo)

The horn sample is absolutely epic and elevates the song. It serves as a triumphant epilogue to the emotional story we just heard. Utilizing the Magic & Bird style of rapping, KB creates a party that you must attend. Andy Mineo gets on the track as if he never left and kills it with every bar he spits. It’s an jovial tune that is positively spectacular.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

9. I Am Not the One

The barking piano and strings creates a suspenseful build into the song with an ominous tone. KB is really killing it, jumping in on the idea of racial bullying and stereotyping. He evokes what is essentially a reprise of Tempo through the production, but the song is different in subject matter. This track features some incredible displays of lyricism and wordplay. It’s an incredible track, with KB’s stellar vocals taking it home.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

10. New Portrait

After a couple fast jams, it’s time to slow things down. It’s an incredibly introspective track that explores the politics surrounding Christianity and the racial politics surround it as well. It’s a really hopeful song that asks some hard hitting questions that are answered in some way. It’s a really pretty song, with gorgeous production.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

11. Bring You War

Opening with some of these most beautiful vocals I’ve ever heard in a rap song, the song is truly inspirational and hopeful, which comes from the Gospel and Pop Vocal inspirations. It’s a song that once more explores the ideas of race and religion and the interconnectedness of those two ideas. It’s gorgeous.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

12. Sing to You (feat. Casey J)

This is a really beautiful song about praising Jesus in the hard time. The vocals is really sweet and the production is gorgeous. It’s a really peppy song for the subject matter it covers. The vocals by Casey J are stellar and very complementary of KB’s. It’s a really nice song to build up to the finale.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

13. Rebel Intro (feat. Sarah Reeves)

Besides sharing a name with the hit song from Lecrae’s 2008 Album Rebel, KB’s prefaces the finale with ominous keyboards and synthesizers. Sarah Reeves’s haunting vocals set up an exteremly chilling preface, which is serving as a rallying cry to rebel, which is fitting, considering the album is called Today We Rebel. After a haunting piece from Sarah Reeves, we transition over to the explosive finale.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

14. Rebel Rebel 88

KB’s explosive finale is the angry actions spurned from the haunting previous track. The track is explosive, but it lacks the pizzazz that was teased with the intro that prefaced it. His wordplay and verbal acrobatics are really stellar, but overall, it’s just a rather underwhelming end to what, thus far, has been an incredible effort from KB.

Track Rating: 7/10

Grade: B

Conclusion:

This album is quite possibly the best release from KB yet. Evoking every emotion from joy to depression to rage to fear to peace, and covers topics from race and religion to some of the hardest topics in the Christian faith. This is a much more free and lively album than some of the other rap releases this year. This is easily in my top three rap albums of the year and in my top ten albums of the year.

Album Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

Places: A Review

Places: A Review

Introduction

First introduced to the world on the Broadway stage, Lea Michele became musical theatre royalty with her breakthrough turn in Spring Awakening in . She was introduced to wider audiences, myself included, for her performance as Rachel Berry in the hit TV drama Glee, in which she starred from its premier in 2009 until it ended in 2015. She also starred in the short lived Scream Queens TV show. While a successful actress in her own right, her voice has always been her biggest asset. Her debut album, Louder, was released in 2014. Now her sophomore effort, Places, is out and it’s time to hear her fantastic voice once more.

1. Love is Alive

Starting the album off with a piano driven ballad is a risky move for most pop albums, but for Lea Michele this is a natural love. Her vocals are the highlight of the record as she belts out a melancholy song about still loving after loss. The pianos and strings together create a beautiful song that tugs the heart strings. The drums coming in at the end is a huge assist for the build that is a nice touch. It’s a wonderful start for an album that’s sure to feature more vocals like this.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

2. Heavy Love

An immediate tone change comes with a more pop-y song that uses the strings and drums to create a song about wanting more love from a partner. While still written in a minor key, it’s more jovial than the previous inspiration. This sounds more traditionally pop but still differentiates itself enough from the rest of the pop songs to separate itself from the rest. It’s a solid track that features really solid vocals from Michele.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A-

3. Proud

Once again utilizing pianos for another ballad, Michele sounds more hopeful in her voice and the song’s message reflects that. Her vocals are put front and center in this piece. Using strings and drums again, the build comes purely from them. It has a sort of Madonna-esqe 80s sound. It’s a really nice track for an album that’s very centered on her vocals.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

4. Believer

Immediately different from the start, a more themeatic piece emerges with synths and a chorus backing her inspirational vocals. This song blatantly separates itself by being noticeably more hopeful and inspirational, not just in lyrics or vocals, but in production. With vocals like Celeine Dion, Michele tames a track that is more pop and a more fun and hopeful song that the melancholy ones of previous. It’s her “Fight Song”.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A

5. Run to You

And now we return to the minor key pianos and morose, gray tones. The backing track may be gray, but her vocals are blue and her subject matter are a gentle purple. Telling a lover about her confidence and trust in them. Her vocals really shines through and are core-shaking. The piano and strings-based instrumental backing her reflects this really sweet love song. This song is the first of the album to feature some guitars; the electric guitars give it a rock feel and add some serious emotion to the song.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

6. Heavenly

This R&B song is a really beautiful song about falling in love. The vocals are great and the acoustic guitars help the song along very nicely. It’s a pretty song that is amazing. Her vocals are wonderful and the lyricism is heavenly, pun intended.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A

7. Anything’s Possible

The vocals and pianos together are just the beginning to what is already a very different song. A more fast-paced hopeful song about starting over is what they produce. This energetic ballad about the future is pure bliss. It truly inspires and makes the soul soar. This a Lea Michele that is more similar to “Don’t Rain on My Parade” Rachel Berry. It’s inspirational and uplifting.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

8. Getaway Car

The song starts with her trademark piano ballad start. Painting a picture of youthful friendship and is, while nostalgic, is melancholy as well. It’s a story song that is really pretty and nice. It’s pretty barebones production-wise, but that’s the best type to highlight Michele’s powerhouse vocals.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A-

9. Sentimental Memories

A more openly sentimental song, opening with nicely produced pianos, Michele’s vocals create a neat love song that sounds more pop than the previous songs. It’s not quite “Believer” level peppy, however, as it’s quite morose and melancholy in every way. The drum builds and chorus are more pop, but it’s a beautiful song about loss and heartache.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A

10. Tornado

Opening with only vocals, the piano and strings follow closely behind her as she moves faster than she has in previous pieces. Her vocals are incredibly strong on this song and tops “Believer” as her anthem song. It’s truly her “Fight Song”. It’s an uplifting anthem about perseverance and persistence that transcends the album it’s on. It’s got the best vocals of the album on this record.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

11. Hey You

The finale of her album serves more as an epilogue to the emotional climax of “Tornado”. Written in a major key for once, it’s a beautiful song about reconnection that feels a lot happier and joyful than the darker, emotional journey we travel on with Lea Michele throughout the album. The pianos and acoustic guitars pair together for this song about moving on from a relationship that was special. It’s a really pretty song that evokes tears and sad emotions with Lea’s wonderful performance. It might just be my favorite song of the album.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

Conclusion:

Lea’s vocals are some of the best of all time. Her pop vocals are intense and stir the heart strings in a ways most pop stars cannot. Unlike most pop albums, Places tells a story in a very different way. It follows an emotional experience of going through a break up and loss and emerging again with strength and hope from a dark place. The stages of grief are evident in the project that really is unprecedented in modern pop music. If she doesn’t not receive a Grammy nomination (and win) for Best Pop Vocal Album, I will be sorely disappointed. It’s a wonderful piece of music and treasured gem in a year of competitive pop music.

Album Rating: 9/10

Grade: A

Evolve: A Review

Evolve: A Review

Introduction:

Imagine Dragons exploded on the scene with their masterpiece debut Night Visions in 2013, which earned them many nominations, including Record of the Year for “Radioactive”. Their 2015 return with Smoke + Mirrors went a little more under the radar than anticipated, but featured some gems. The Vegas-rock group returns now with their latest offering Evolve.

1. I Don’t Know Why

The synth pop sound evokes a response similar to 80s glam rock. Launching with a vocally incredible first song that has some very sleek production. The vocals and production are powerful, with some bold lyricism from the Vegas band. It’s a very strong start for an album that has a legacy to uphold for the rock band.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

2. Whatever It Takes

Speaking fast, they come back hip-hop infused song that is very melodic and continues the album’s pattern of slick production and strong vocals. The performance is incredible. Imagine Dragons delivers yet another wonderful record for the album.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

3. Believer

The most popular single from the album, “Beliver” is strong vocally and in production and performance. Lyrically, it’s the best of the record potentially; it’s an arena anthem that is the highlight of the album.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

4. Walking the Wire

The brighter pop sound to the song is really fitting after the intense performance of “Believer”. It’s relieving and gives a love song that has some wonderful guitar work and lyricism. The vocals are absolutely stellar. This might be my favorite song on the album. It’s an anthem that is unparalleled this year in the rock field.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

5. Rise Up

Coming out with horns and guitars, this one sounds like it was a song forgotten to be put on the Night Visions album. It’s incredible vocally and has some incredible production. This is another arena rocker that is sure to get audiences head-bobbing. It’s a colorful song that fits the colorful theme of the album.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

6. I’ll Make It Up To You

An album that’s been just incredible so far, this next record continues it by giving a softer, gentler song that doesn’t let up on the talent. It kind of similar production-wise to “Everything You Are” by Ed Sheeran and that’s a good thing. It’s another hit for a stellar album. It’s apology song that just succeeds on all cylinders.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

7. Yesterday

Taking cues from Gospel music, they deliver another bright and poppy hit that fits right in with this stellar project. This happy toast to the past and the future is masterfully produced and expertly performed. While this is the worst song of the album, that isn’t saying it’s bad; on an album of incredible records, this one earns its spot, it’s just not my favorite of the record purely for some decisions made in its arrangement.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

8. Mouth of the River

Feeling rather tribal, this track is very deserving of its spot and absolutely fits in. The lyricism is brilliant on this track, with, once again, expert producing and masterful performance, it’s another gem on an album that’s guarenteed a Grammy nomination.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

9. Thunder

A pop studded track, it’s another wonderful single about making a comeback, directly or indirectly stating that they know Smoke + Mirrors wasn’t as good as Night Visions, but they’re making up for it with this record. And boy do they ever. The production is wonderful and the vocals fit great. It’s another great track.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

10. Start Over

Another bright, poppy masterwork, “Start Over” is the “It’s Time” of Evolve. It’s has some tropical dance infused into its production that works incredibly well. It’s another wonderful single. Serving as a great climax for the album, “Start Over” is the perfect song to send us to the end with.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

11. Dancing in the Dark

The finale of the album is a truly perfect fit that wraps up another fantastic album. With some wonderful dance infusion, the vocals are stylized very nicely to fit the production. Ending with a slower piece, it’s a nice, fitting end for what might just be the album of the year.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

Conclusion:

Imagine Dragons have returned and they have created a true masterpiece album. It’s a perfect blending of genres from rock to pop to dance to gospel. It’s a neat perfect album. The production is all around very impressive and the vocal performances are breathtaking.

Album Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+