When you think about it, it wasn’t all that surprising that Gary Numan has toured with Trent Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails, most recently during the summer of 2013. First of all, both men have a fondness for kohl and dark eyeliner. Secondly, their musical styles have a chilly, manufactured, atmospheric similarities. Third, both men take personal and creative eccentricity to new and exciting levels.
Not entirely abandoning the Brian Wilson influence, and kissing everything with Flaming Lips-style flair, Dale Earnhardt Jr. revs up the EDM (electronic dance music) effects on the aptly titled The Speed of Things (WB). Restarting their engines and driving in the electro lane, DEJJ leaves others in its dust on dazzling dance tracks such as “Run,” “Mesopotamia,” “War Zone,” and, of course, “If You Didn’t See Me (Then You Weren’t On The Dancefloor).” Speed kills!
For someone with a track record as a sexual predator, you’d think R. Kelly would find something else to sing about on his new album Black Panties (RCA). But, as you might conjecture from the title, the sexually obsessed R&B legend seems to have only one thing on his mind. Black Panties is so explicit, a parental advisory simply isn’t sufficient. Black Panties ought to come with an Oraquick home HIV testing kit, a Gardisil patch, a cum rag, and step-by-step instructions on how to take a Silkwood shower.
Obvious as a boner in silk boxers, Kelly doesn’t mince words. But he’s so busy pushing the erotic envelope that he forgot to write memorable and distinctive melodies to accompany the lascivious lyrics. There are a couple exceptions, including “Crazy Sex” (a showcase for Kelly’s sense of humor) and the bragging broadcast of “My Story” (featuring 2Chainz). If Kelly is looking for enlightening topics for future releases, he might want to consider protecting a woman’s right to choose, the benefits of higher education and homophobia in the Black church.
Shortly before Tears For Fears’s massive commercial breakthrough with their second album in 1985 and not too far into the 1980s (1983, to be precise), the UK synth duo released its debut album The Hurting. Now available in a two-disc deluxe edition, The Hurting (Mercury / UMe) was an auspicious debut in its own right. Singles such as “Pale Shelter,” “Change,” and especially “Mad World” (which has taken on a life of its own), made a powerful impression on listeners due to a combination of the painful subject matter (surviving difficult childhoods) and being remarkably catchy pop songs. On the whole, the album still sounds fresh 30 years later, and the second disc of bonus material (including B-sides, remixes, extended and instrumental versions) makes for a pleasant addition to the existing work. Highly recommended.
Oh, Walt Disney, what have you done? From beyond the grave you’ve unleashed a new breed of demented divas, with Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears leading the pack. Britney’s inexplicable music career is summed up in 32 tracks on the double disc The Essential Britney Spears (RCA/Legacy), although the word “essential” anywhere near Spears’ name should raise some eyebrows. With the aid of some of the worst, Swedish songwriters since Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, Spears soared to the top of the charts and into the hearts of confused adolescent girls with suggestive tunes including “…Baby One More Time,” “Oops!... I Did It Again” and “Stronger,” to name a few. Britney teamed up with her fairy grandmother Madonna on the pointless “Me Against the Music” and was at her most autobiographical on “Toxic.” Britney went out of her way to reinvent herself as more of an urban act in later years, exemplified by “Gimme More,” “Womanizer,” “If You Seek Amy” (get it?), and “Hold It Against Me,” but she’ll always be Disney’s trailer park princess.
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