Download, Listen, Discard
Dan Brombach | Friday, November 30, 2012
Taylor Swift’s newest album may carry the label of “country,” but if this blatant pop effort can pass as country music, then Nicholas Cage can call himself a groundbreaking actor and I can start telling people I play defensive line for the New York Giants.
For example, “I Knew You Were Trouble” is the typical catchy, sassy, borderline-angsty track Taylor Swift fans have come to enjoy, but its use of dubstep shows the true extent to which “Red” is actually a pop album. “22,” Swift’s song about living it up and enjoying youth, could have been pulled straight from a Katy Perry album, and will no doubt find its way to the top of the charts soon enough.
Not to harp on this subject much longer, but you certainly wouldn’t see an artist like Kenny Chesney do a collaboration with Skrillex. Drop the act, Taylor, you’ve gone pop.
Acknowledging this reality, “Red” is still a highly enjoyable, download-worthy album. My favorite tracks, “Red” and “All Too Well,” are classic Swift “love lost” songs, but without the whiny, passive-aggressive edge that annoyed me early in her career. Swift seems to be maturing in her perspective on relationships, emphasizing the good times and lessons learned rather than the fighting and dysfunction.
The notable exception would be “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” a party-ready track telling the story of an on-again-off-again relationship.
By diversifying her sound and subject matter, Swift has expanded substantially into the pop realm. Whether this fact makes you happy, or makes you want to leap off the top of Stepan Center, be prepared to hear “Red” for months to come.
Some may know Phillip Phillips from his victory on the 11th season of “American Idol,” but my first exposure to this talented singer/songwriter came watching last year’s summer Olympics. Phillips’ hit song “Home,” which weaves together soft vocals with the folksy, boot stomping sound of Mumford and Sons, served as the unofficial song of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team, and quickly became one of my favorite tracks of the summer.
Why was I watching women’s gymnastics? For the same reason every young male across the country tuned in: the beauty… of the sport. Yeah, that’s it.
None of the tracks on Phillips’ new release “The World from the Side of the Moon” can rival “Home,” but that doesn’t mean the album isn’t worth a solid listen.
My other favorite song, “Man on the Moon,” is a light, jazzy track laced with Phillips’ skillful acoustic guitar playing. In both “Man on the Moon” and “Get Up Get Down,” Phillips’s throaty voice, carefree vibe and suggestive lyrics actually make him sound shockingly like Dave Matthews.
Overall, “The World from the Side of the Moon” is nothing revolutionary, but its lighthearted sound and themes of life, love and self-discovery make the album an enjoyable listening experience.
Kid Rock rose to fame as the king of trashy, generic hillbilly rock, and his new album “Rebel Soul” has done nothing to steer him from this course. The album also did nothing to alleviate my moderate to severe hatred of his music.
Many of the songs on “Rebel Soul,” including the eloquently named “3 CATT Boogie” or “Cocaine and Gin,” sound like something they would play in the bathroom of a Famous Dave’s restaurant, riling up yokels as they pick spare ribs out of their assorted-colored teeth.
I was also slightly disconcerted by the song “Let’s Ride,” a so-called battle hymn for troops stationed in the Middle East, and its accompanying music video. The song tells troops to pick up their guns and “let their conscience be their guide,” accompanied by images of tanks juxtaposed with Muslim women in traditional garb. There’s a line between being patriotic and being culturally insensitive, and I’d suggest Kid Rock let this song fade out before visiting the Middle East anytime soon.
Kid Rock’s ode to his home of Detroit in the aptly named “Detroit, Michigan” contributes to the album’s spectacularly underwhelming nature. I don’t have anything against Detroit, but I do have something against bad music.
Maybe my impression was irreversibly damaged by the fact that, upon typing “Detroit, Michigan” into YouTube in an attempt to find the song, the first result was “Detroit, Michigan ghetto.”
Overall, “Rebel Soul” is the definition of white-bread hick rock. Unless that kind of music floats your boat, or I guess I should say floats your tractor, steer clear of this album.