Lil Wayne / Rebirth / Universal
There’s something about Lil Wayne’s video for “Prom Queen” that just looks right to a rock and roll fan. Weezy is telling the story of unrequited love for a beautiful girl that’s the topic of so many rock songs, and he’s doing it onstage alongside Korn, which also helps. But it doesn’t sound right. Perhaps it’s the obnoxious use of auto-tune that pours like a maple syrup rainstorm on every second song on the album..no..that’s exactly what it is. Lil Wayne set out to make to a debut rock album, and while he might have had great ambitions, in general, the greatest rock albums have featured dynamic singers delivering dynamic lyrics and faking it with auto-tune just doesn’t cut it.
“But wait” some might say, their fingers pointed towards the heavens, “it only takes listening to a funky track like “American Star” to realize that he’s emulating funk icons like Bootsy Collins and George Clinton, who did sometimes make liberal use of voice modulation”. Well, not withstanding that one funked out track, Weezy’s rock debut suffers from a case of two many cooks spoiling the broth. Parliament albums followed the artistic vision of George Clinton alone, Sly & the Family Stone albums were produced by Sly himself – their best albums didn’t feature ten producers, each with their own egos and motivations. “Drop The World (feat. Eminem)” shows Wayne still has what it takes to make it in the hip hop game (even though it sounds a lot like an un-ironic version of Andy Samberg’s “Threw it on the Ground”), so hopefully his Tha Carter IV, expected later this year, will win over his critics once more, after losing many of them with this stillborn effort.
Download: “American Star”
Nick Jonas & The Administration / Who I Am / Universal
Apparently Nick Jonas, a.k.a. the talented one that’s going to leave his brothers behind in a year or two, modeled his new backing band of veteran session musicians after The Boss’s E Street Band. Well, it should come as no surprise that Jonas is no Springsteen. At least, not yet. Still, he does – yes, I’ll say it – a damn good job belting out some made-to-order roots, soul and rock songs. While he might need to see a few more years – and haul through a few hundred packs of cigarettes – before he sounds like Bruce, on Who I Am, he does make a few believable passes at Andrew McMahon, John Mayer, Justin Timberlake and even Michael Jackson. Now, they are somewhat juvenile passes, and they lay somewhere on the line between homage and knock-off, but Jonas comes out looking crystal clean with a nice mix of ballads and rock songs.
Download: “Rose Garden”, “Olive And An Arrow”
Never Shout Never / What Is Love? / Warner
On his “full-length” debut What is Love?, Christofer Drew, the 18-year-old fellow behind Never Shout Never, wants to let you know that “everything you do is super duper cute”. Living the same story recently lived by Owl City’s Adam Young and Bo “I’m Bo Yo” Bice, Drew was an internet sensation before the release of his first album. And though he has released a number of EPs in the past two years, with this barely-20-minute effort he still has yet to release a proper album. On the positively mini What is Love?, Drew specializes in writing abrupt pop nuggets, possibly accommodating for the shortened attention span of those born since 1990. Just a heads up, when your main demographic suffers from chronically short attention spans, writing brief forgettable pop songs may not be a sound business strategy.
Meaghan Smith / The Cricket’s Orchestra / Warner
One thing fans of Bethesda Studios’ Fallout 3 usually won’t cop to liking about the immersive video game is the soundtrack full of sentimental 30’s and 40’s pop found on the in-game radio station “Galaxy News Radio”. But it’s undeniable that those tunes give an air of refinement, and downright classiness to that post-apocalyptic world. I only mention that as a launch pad to describing the classic sound channeled by London, Ontario native Meaghan Smith on The Cricket’s Orchestra. Harps, pianos, a stand up bass and percussion sometimes limited to finger snaps comprise the majority of the instrumental accompaniment alongside the time capsule that is Smith’s voice. For a touch of the modern, DJ Kid Koala contemporizes “A Little Love” by throwing in some scratches in between verses over a subtly plucked melody. The Cricket’s Orchestra harks back to a time before electric instruments when heartbreak was no less of a powerful muse.
Download: “Heartbroken”, “A Little Love”