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Reviewed by: Andrew Rivkin, June 15, 2012.
While Andrew Rivkin is not a huge fan of the pop-sensation’s music, as a fellow Canadian he feels that it is worth while to support Justin Bieber’s music and provide a review of his latest album. The 18-year old pop star has come a long way from his roots in the small town of Stratford, Ontario. Andrew Rivkin notes that Bieber showcases a newfound maturity on “Believe” that was not seen on his previous album ”My World 2.0“. Overall, “Believe” sinks into the listener’s brain by riding the dance music phenomenon and offering some whizz-bang production alongside Bieber’s sticky-sweet singing voice. Andrew Rivkin notes that the lyrics are unfussy and at times too complacent in their rhymes, but the music powers the weaker moments through unnoticed. This is a pop record, and even if the flashes of poetic brilliance aren’t there, the hooks very much are.
Andrew Rivkin breaks down some of the more notable songs on “Believe”:
All Around the World (featuring Ludacris) – Bieber takes his fans around the world on the opening track that also features a killer verse from American hip hop/rap artist Ludacris. Andrew Rivkin notes that the two previously collaborated on Bieber’s most successful song “Baby” off of his debut album.
Boyfriend – One swaggy single to rule them all: Justin softly offers fondue recommendations and Buzz Lightyear metaphors on top of Mike Posner’s loopy production. What shouldn’t be one of the year’s strongest singles most certainly is.
As Long As You Love Me (featuring Big Sean) – A massive yet somehow intimate dance track, with the drums almost reaching hair metal levels in their vibrations. Although Big Sean’s verse probably isn’t necessary, Andrew Rivkin notes that it continues Bieber’s theme of mixing hip hop/rap and pop together.
Right Here (featuring Drake) – Two Canadian superstars on one song; Andrew Rivkin could not be happier. Featuring production by Hit-Boy (Ni**as In Paris), this collaboration has success written all over it!
Andrew Rivkin encourages all Bieber fans to support the artist and purchase his album iTunes when it is released next Tuesday.
Reviewed by: Andrew Rivkin, June 15, 2012.
R&B superstar Usher Terry Raymond IV, who performs under the mononym Usher, is back with the followup to his 2010 album “Raymond v. Raymond“. Having listened to all of Usher’s albums, Andrew Rivkin waited in anticipation for the release of the artists seventh full-length album entitled “Looking 4 Myself“. On his latest release, Usher provides his fans with exactly what they want with music ranging from Motown R&B to Dubstep. Andrew Rivkin notes that the album has the warm, organic feel of R&B as well as the pulsating low-end and shimmering keyboard flourishes of electronic dance music (EDM).
Andrew Rivkin recalls going to Toronto Raptors basketball games and hearing one of Usher’s most popular songs entitled “Yeah!” featuring fellow recording artists Lil Jon and Ludacris. The song always got Rivkin excited for the game. On “Looking 4 Myself” Usher seemlessly combines his signature sound with a newer more popular sound to create something never heard before.
Andrew Rivkin breaks down some of the more notable songs on “Looking 4 Myself”:
Scream – The albums second single, produced by Max Martin and Shellback is a straight-up dance record. Andrew Rivkin compares it to Usher’s 2010 hit entitled “DJ Got Us Falling in Love“, but ten times better!
Climax – The lead single off the album, is a lightly synthesized heartbreak song that focuses on the singer’s anguish over a failed relationship, backed by smoldering production courtesy of Diplo.
Lemme See (featuring Rick Ross) – Usher brings along the ‘biggest boss’ for the third single off the albm. Andrew Rivkin notes that the seductive, mid-tempo “Lemme See” captures signature staples from everyone involved: Jim Jonsin’s synth-heavy production, Usher’s crooning and Rick Ross’ luxurious rhymes.
Euphoria – Usher closes the album on an up note with this paralyzing Swedish House Mafia-produced track. “Euphoria” leaves listeners with a feeling that reflects the song’s uplifting title.
Andrew Rivkin recommends everyone to go and purchase Usher’s latest album on iTunes.
Reviewed by: Andrew Rivkin, May 14, 2012.
Reviewed by: Andrew Rivkin, April 29, 2012.
With a Top 5 hit on the Hot 100, millions of YouTube views and screaming American fans to match them, The Wanted is off to a great start. While Andrew Rivkin does not entirely enjoy their music, he can clearly see the massive following and success that the boy band has created for themselves. The British-Irish boy band consists of Max George, Siva Kaneswaran, Jay McGuiness, Tom Parker and Nathan Sykes. Andrew Rivkin notes that their debut single, “All Time Low“, released in July 2010, reached number one on the charts in the United Kingdom.
The bands real success came with the second single, “Glad You Came“, off of their second studio album Battleground as well as on their recently released EP. The massive hit has received double platinum certification in the United States. Andrew Rivkin praises the band, whenever he hears their hit single on the radio while driving the streets of Toronto.
Andrew Rivkin breaks down some of the notable songs on The Wanted EP, the band’s first release in Canada and the United States:
Glad You Came - The Wanted’s stateside smash is light on thoughtful lyrics and heavy on sun-stroked sounds and body-moving refrains –and rightly so. Andrew Rivkin notes that the song is as potent on its 10th listen as it was the first time.
Chasing The Sun - A one hundred percent dance floor scorcher, with the club scene depicted as an endless paradise. The hook here isn’t as immediate as “Glad You Came’s,” but Andrew Rivkin could see it becoming a smash hit in its own right.
All Time Low - One of The Wanted’s biggest (and earliest) overseas hits still serves as a mission statement, and demonstrates the quintet’s chemistry by giving all five ample room to shine.
The EP provides the listener an overview of the bands songs that they have released over the past couple years. Although The Wanted’s sound is not on Andrew Rivkin’s preferred list, he appreciates the growth of the band which is clearly evident on “The Wanted EP”
The Extend-Play album is available for purchase on iTunes
Reviewed by: Andrew Rivkin, April 29, 2012.
Train, the california based rock-pop band, recently released their sixth full-length album, California 37, which Andrew Rivkin appreciates. The band currently comprises a core trio of Patrick Monahan (vocals), Jimmy Stafford (guitar, vocals) and Scott Underwood (drums, percussion). The band achieved mainstream success with the release of their debut album, Train, which was released in 1998 accompanied by their hit “Meet Virginia“. Their second album garnered international attention and brought the band massive popularity. Andrew Rivkin notes that their fast rise to success was primarily the result of their massive hit “Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)” off of the bands second studio album in 2002. The song was an international hit and won two Grammy Awards.
Their third studio album, My Private Nation, released in 2003, continued the band’s success, and was certified platinum in the United States with the hit “Calling All Angels“. The band released their fourth album, For Me, It’s You in 2006. Despite a generally positive reception from critics including Andrew Rivkin, the album was commercially unsuccessful. The bands fifth studio album Save Me, San Francisco was a commercial success with three massive hits and has been certified Gold.
Andrew Rivkin breaks down some of the tracks off of California 37:
This’ll Be My Year – Train offers a counterpart to Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire”, one of Andrew Rivkin’s favourite songs, with an upbeat tune that name-checks a few dozen cultural touchstones from 1985-2012, from Live Aid to the present day.
Drive By - Monahan and Espionage team up on “California 37′s” first single, which features a reggae-style guitar cadence and a 4/4 percussive thump with a slight ethnic flavor. Andrew Rivkin classifies this song as an upbeat anthem for the summer.
Feels Good at First - Built from a gentle, acoustic guitar pattern, this love song finds Monahan celebrating the freshness of a new love and promising that “around your finger I’ll be a string.” Andrew Rivkin notes that the flute and chorus vocal harmonies give the tune a sweet, wistful quality that expresses renewal with just a hint of wariness.
The album is available for purchase on iTunes
Reviewed by: Andrew Rivkin, March 27, 2012.
The New Jersey native is back with his 17th full-length album. Andrew Rivkin notes that ”Wrecking Ball“, finds the artist exploring familiar working class territory, but with a vigor and fearlessness not seen since 2002′s equally-inspired “The Rising.” Produced by Springsteen with Ron Aniello, the characters that populate most of the album’s 11 tracks are generally having a pretty tough go of it, to say the least.
There is a pervasive element of desperation in “Wrecking Ball,” but nobody here is giving up. A message which Rivkin can relate to in his various business ventures. ”Hold tight to your anger,” Springsteen snarls on the title cut. The characters here seek self-respect and purpose, and they maintain their pride if not always their identity. Bankers and other vaguely-defined power brokers draw ire, and the tender ballad “Jack Of All Trades” becomes decidedly less tender as the song draws to a close, with the singer expressing an unnerving willingness to “shoot the bastards on sight.”
This is Springsteen with his work boots on, and the music on “Wrecking Ball” follows suit, alternating between loud, percussive, subdued dirges, with detours in a wide range of directions. The sound blends contemporary production with familiar Springsteen-esque guitars and drums, while varied influences including gospel, blues, country and even rap surface throughout, often in unexpected ways.
Andrew Rivkin provides a detailed analysis of the single’s off of the album:
We Take Care of Our Own - The lead-off single that Springsteen debuted with vitality at the Grammys is a pounding, patriotic rocker. It serves as the album’s moral compass and seems a likely cut to open shows on the upcoming tour.
Rocky Ground – The second single off of the album is musically ambitious and completely captivating. Thematically, the song fits perfectly with the tone of the album. But, with its inspired vocal arrangement, gospel underpinnings and Michelle Moore rap, it is unlike anything Springsteen has done before.
Reviewed by: Andrew Rivkin, December 22nd 2011.
Andrew Rivkin might not be the number one fan of rap music, but he still listens to some of the genre’s greats like Jay-Z, Kanye West and Young Jeezy. Rivkin recalls that the last time Young Jeezy put out an album — in 2008, when he released “The Recession” — Barack Obama had yet to be elected, and the actual recession was only starting to take hold on the U.S. economy. Jeezy put both of those top-line news stories to good use on “The Recession,” an underrated departure from his “Thug Motivation” series that saw the Atlanta superstar lament the lack of jobs in the U.S. before toasting Obama’s imminent election on the stellar single, “My President.”
“Thug Motivation 103: Hustlerz Ambition” hit the shelves earlier this week after months of non-starter singles and album delays. “TM103″ finds Jeezy clearly reinvigorated, and ready to redefine the hard-hitting sound that he rode to prominence in 2005. The album features a strong mix of solo cuts (“Nothing,” “What I Do (Just Like That”) and guest stars (Jay-Z and Andre 3000 on “I Do,” Jill Scott on “Trapped”) that’s reminiscent of Jeezy’s debut, “Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101.” Yet the rapper has subtly improved his wordplay and expanded his thematic reach, while sticking to his specialties of inspiring the masses and flipping off detractors. “I betcha feel like the whole world hatin’ on you/But what’s the holdup? The whole world waiting on you,” Jeezy tells himself on “F.A.M.E.,” the album’s best cut.
Andrew Rivkin breaks-down a few of the albums standout tracks:
OJ featuring Fabolous & Jadakiss - The song, a play on O.J. Simpsons acquittal, finds Young Jeezy rapping alongside two of New Yorks finest rappers.
Leave You Alone featuring Ne-Yo – Young Jeezy had radio-play in-mind when he crafted this song with R&B artist Ne-Yo.
F.A.M.E. featuring T.I. – The lead single off of TM103 is a clear hit record that features upfront introspection from two Atlanta heavyweights.
Reviewed by: Andrew Rivkin, December 22nd 2011.
Given the success that frontman Travie McCoy had on his own last year with his pop-reggae smash “Billionaire,” Gym Class Heroes might’ve been expected to pursue a similarly lightweight vibe on “The Papercut Chronicles II,” the New York alt-rap combo’s first album since 2008′s “The Quilt.” Yet following a computer-voice intro that links the new record to its 2005 namesake, the first track here is a thudding rap-rock blast called “Martyrial Girl$,” in which McCoy yowls, Fred Durst-style, “I never felt so alone in a room full of people!” Indeed, much of the curiously aggressive “Chronicles” sounds designed to notify fair-weather McCoy fans of the MC’s roots on the Vans Warped tour. Unfortunately, that’s an exercise that seems more satisfying for him than for us. The band fares better in a handful of frothier cuts, including “Life Goes On,” with Danish electro-pop singer Oh Land, and lead single “Stereo Hearts,” featuring Maroon 5′s Adam Levine. In those moments the Heroes remind that before “Billionaire” they had their own top 40 hit with “Cupid’s Chokehold.”
Stereo Hearts – Gym Class Heroes featuring Adam Levine
Support Travie McCoy and the Gym Class Heroes by purchasing the album on iTunes.
Reviewed by: Andrew Rivkin, November 18th 2011.
It is with great pride that Andrew Rivkin reviews Drake‘s sophomore studio album, “Take Care“. It is uncommon to find successful Canadian hip hop artists, but Drake takes Canada on his back. The 25-year-old Toronto native took his time and care to craft a project that best showcases his life behind the lens. On his second studio album, Drake keeps a familiar production style with his long-time friend and collaborator Noah “40″ Shebib crafting most of the beats on the album.
Being a fan of super-producer Just Blaze who has a long-standing association with rapper Jay-Z, Andrew Rivkin’s favourite track on the album is “Lord Knows” which features a verse from Miami rapper Rick Ross. The Just Blaze production offers a nice contrast from the simple beats of Shebib. With a church choir in the background combined with a bass heavy beat, Just Blaze produces a beat that won’t be soon forgotten.
The tracklist for Take Care features far less collobartions as his previous album Thank Me Later. Andrew Rivkin notices the contrast between the two albums and agrees that the artists latest masterpiece offers a deeper look into the artists life and has a more ‘personal’ feeling than Thank Me Later.
Andrew Rivkin discusses his favourite tracks on the album below:
Lord Knows (featuring Rick Ross) - With a grand opening by Just Blaze, Drake boasts. Listen closely and you’ll hear Ross introduce the rappers’ upcoming mixtape, “Y.O.L.O.” You Only Live Once!
Headlines – The lead single for the album, finds the rapper ruminating on the ups and downs of being a celebrity. Boi-1da, the producer of the track, provides a sparse yet effective beat for the rapper to discuss his fame.
Look What You’ve Done – Probably one of the more intimate tracks on the album, finds Drake discussing a letter to his mom, uncle, and grandmother. This track is Drake being as heartfelt and honest as one could expect a rapper to be.
Go support Drake by purchasing his outstanding album on iTunes.