The Jewel Wicker Show

The Carters at the MTV VMAs

The Carters at the MTV VMAs

Many people believe that it’s not a good idea for a couple to work closely together constantly. Clearly, Jay Z and Beyonce don’t feel that way.

Fresh off their On The Run tour, the pour couple is now rumored to be working on a joint album, which will be released either later this year or in 2015, according to reports. The “Drunk In Love” duo has already combated divorce rumors earlier this year and ever-so-slyly dodged pregnancy reports in the last week, so we’ll see if this rumor ends up being true or not.

Admittedly, I’m more excited to see what #NewRules the Carters will be following this time around than I am for an actual album.

Still, there are many things that I wonder IF this joint album is actually real.

The Carters haven’t done much traditional promo for their recent releases, but I do wonder if the rumored album will be another surprise release (a la Beyonce) or a project centered around a major sponsorship deal (a la Magna Carta Holy Grail). Will this be another visual album (Note: at least with Beyonce we saw pictures of Mrs. Carter filming videos before the album dropped. We haven’t seen any of that so far.)? Also, will the couple be going on tour together again in support of the release?

If they really want to top charts, the album should feature a series of intros with their daughter Blue Ivy singing her favorite songs by her superstar parents.

Beyonce and Jay Z’s On The Run tour special will air on HBO this weekend (Saturday, Sept. 20 at 9 pm EST).

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Legacy Recordings

Legacy Recordings

Well, here’s something to be thankful for.

Whitney Houston’s estate and her mentor Clive Davis have put together a compilation of noteworthy performances from the late singer, affectionately called The Voice by media and fans, which will be released on Nov. 10. Just in time for the holiday season.

The ‘Whitney Houston Live’ album and DVD will feature performances from throughout the singer’s successful career, starting with her television debut on The Merv Griffin Show in 1983 when she covered The Wiz’s “Home” and ending with the 2009 Oprah Winfrey Show performance of “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength.”

This is definitely going to be one of those DVDs that I cry and laugh my way through. Houston’s voice and huge personality brought so much happiness to so many people and it’s still hard to believe it’s been over two years since we lost her.

See the tracklist for the project below. Continue reading

RCA

RCA

Chris Brown’s new project, out today, is understandably lengthy. Brown has been working to release the album for well over a year now, through on-again, off-again relationships, increasing legal woes and some time away in rehab and jail. A lot has happened to inspire new material. Unfortunately, due to the setbacks caused by Brown’s tumultuous life, some of his best singles (“Love More,” “Don’t Think They Know” and “Fine China”) have been relegated to the deluxe edition of the album.

The remaining 17 tracks are a great blend of the R&B and EDM styles Brown has revisited time and time again in his more recent material. Similarly, the lyrical content is the usual blend of the singer shrugging off the haters and toxic relationships and having a lot of sex.

That’s not to say it’s a bad album just because it’s a pretty standard Chris Brown release. Regardless of the singer’s obvious personal issues, Brown has clearly grown fairly comfortable with his often-controversial brand of R&B and it shows on X. He knows what works and he sticks to it, which results in a pretty solid album.

The EDM-infused, album opener and explosive title track finds Brown addressing the naysayers and an ex as well as his inability to escape some of the toxic cycles in his life. “You can start a fight, I ain’t fighting back I’m cool with it. I simply came here to party,” he sings before ushering in the album’s simplest and most effective hook. In a similar vein, “Stereotype” is a booming Danja-produced kiss-off to an ex or, as Brown calls her, his “biggest regret.”

Once Brown realizes the relationship is over he has two reactions: “So baby tonight I’m blowing up your line,” Brown sings, echoed by Souled Out songstress Jhene Aiko in “Drunk Texting,” a standout track and an ode to one of the biggest mistakes you can make when drunk. “I should’ve loved you way more, way more. So if this is the end of us now, I’ll see you around” Brown sings in “See You Around,” which features soft acoustic production during the verses, but builds to a huge chorus with booming percussion and bells.

Interestingly enough, two of the album’s best tracks center around R. Kelly. The after dark slow groove “Drown In It” doesn’t offer any new metaphors or even attempt to be anything novel, but, perhaps, it’s successful because it’s exactly how you’d expect a collaboration between the two to sound. “Songs on 12 Play” doesn’t feature R. Kelly, but it does feature Brown and his frequent collaborator Trey Songz delivering a handful of references to the singer’s debut album and some of his most popular hit songs. Songz, whose R. Kelly influences have always been glaringly apparent, sounds right at home on this cut as does Brown.

Sticking with the idea of paying homage, Brown’s latest single also references an old R&B hit (“Love In This Club”), while featuring it’s singer, Usher, and rapper Rick Ross.

On the highly-anticipated Kendrick Lamar-assisted “Autumn Leaves,” one of the album’s moodier cuts, Brown sings “I’ve been bleeding in your silence. I feel safer in your violence. I hold on like leaves in fall to what is left.” It’s one of the more poignant moments on the album, mainly because it seems to find Brown finally admitting an addiction to the vicious cycle he’s been trying so hard to escape.

Through the good and the bad, X is a product of this cycle. “It’s like I can’t get out of my own way,” Brown admits on the Brandy-assisted “Do Better.”

Nicki Minaj and August Alsina in "No Love" (Remix) video

Nicki Minaj and August Alsina in “No Love” (Remix) video

August Alsina isn’t the type of guy you can get to fall in love, but at least he warns you. The singer swears off the emotion in his single “No Love” and in the video for the song’s Nicki Minaj-assisted remix, he leaves his main chick (Minaj) at home while he goes out to party with another woman.

Minaj spends her night laying on the couch and losing her mind over her man’s whereabouts, but eventually he gets tired of living a double life and decides he IS capable of love and monogamy. Or maybe he’s just capable of sending red roses to smooth things over temporarily? I can’t be sure.

Regardless, Alsina and Minaj make a cute couple in the video, despite the rapper’s questionable guest verse (“Why you coming over weeded?”). Continue reading

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

Lights has been in creation mode since releasing her sophomore album Siberia in 2011. Three years, a little homemaking (I hate that word, but it’s symmetrical. She got married.), a little baby making (baby Rocket Wild Bokan was born earlier this year) and a few studio sessions later and the singer is finally ready to let fans hear her new album Little Machines.

A week ahead of the project’s Sept. 23 release date, the Canadian singer is allowing fans to listen to all 11 songs that will be featured on the new album over at The New York Times.

The album is lead by the cheery synth-pop cut “Up We Go.

Listen to the singer’s new project and share your first thoughts below!

RCA

RCA

Jennifer Hudson’s latest offering, “He Ain’t Going Nowhere,” feels eerily similar to Usher’s “She Came To Give It To You.”

The retro-inspired Pharrell-produced tracks don’t sound alike sonically, but they both suffer from being completely underwhelming despite the huge names attached. Where Usher’s single features Nicki Minaj, Hudson’s newest offering features “Black Widow” rapper Iggy Azalea.

As I said about “She Came To Give It To You,” none of “He Ain’t Going Nowhere’s” elements are individually awful, but, as a whole, the single is quite mediocre.

We’ve heard much better from all three of the artists involved, which is probably why my expectations were so high.

Hudson is preparing to release her third studio album, JHUD, on Sept. 23. Meanwhile, Usher’s album has been shelved until further notice.

Listen to “He Ain’t Going Nowhere” over at BuzzFeed.

Instagram

Instagram

Chris Brown and Trey Songz, self-proclaimed “R&B Thugs,” “Songs on 12 Play” collaborators and future tour mates, have teamed up for a new version of ILoveMakonnen’s “Tuesday.”

The two singers keep the hook the same, but they take turns singing about their flashy lifestyles during the verses.

“In the club with my strap, in case a n*gga wanna test me,” Brown sings. (That should do wonders for his reputation as a newly calm and trouble-free citizen.)

Regardless, this version is admittedly quite catchy.

Brown’s new album X is out tomorrow. And, the singer recently released his long-awaited collaboration with Ariana Grande.

Meanwhile, the Drake-assisted version of new OVO signee ILoveMakonnen’s first big single is continuing to make waves. Continue reading

Ed Sheeran performs "One" (YoutTube)

Ed Sheeran performs “One” (YoutTube)

When Ed Sheeran was ready to release the lead single from the much-anticipated follow-up to his critically acclaimed album + earlier this year, he did so in a way that was very much a representation of himself as an artist: He released a video of himself performing a portion of the album’s single, “Sing,” in an empty stadium. There was no large stage production, just Sheeran and his guitar standing in the spotlight on a barren stage.

Sheeran’s live shows are far from empty, mostly groups of teenage girls and their parents filled the Gwinnett Arena on Friday, Sept. 12, but the stage production wasn’t much different. Aside from a few lights and over a dozen sliding screens that hung from the ceiling showing Ed and pre-recorded videos throughout the show, there wasn’t much else on the stage. There was no band, no backup singers and no dancers.

It was just Ed Sheeran, standing in the middle of the stage with his guitar, loop machine, two microphones and three risers. Often a member of his crew would run on stage to trade guitars with Sheeran before disappearing again. During the two hour set he was the only other person to touch the stage.

It’s funny, then, that Sheeran’s live show, comprised of sweet acoustic tunes, has such a huge, arena-filling sound. He spends just enough time creating harmonies, background vocals and beating on his guitar to this desired effect. It’s as intriguing as it is amazing to watch the singer in this element and it’s a true testament to his musicality.

The one downside to the show is it’s fast pace. Even when Sheeran is singing slower songs, they seem to be sped up, rushed almost, because of the singer’s rapid strumming and the chaotic background noise he often loops to give his songs depth. Show opener “I’m a Mess” benefits from this sound, as does the + track “Drunk,” where the screens show hazy negatives of Sheeran as his strumming is sped up to delirium. “Forget about singing, just scream it,” the singer encourages fans after telling them their job during the show was to lose their voices by the end of his set. The show’s highlight probably would’ve been the performance of “Give Me Love” had Sheeran not popped his guitar strings (chalk it up to the fast-paced strumming). The song crescendos to raucous heights, but Sheeran definitely lost his momentum after his strings broke and spent a little while fumbling with his loop pedal. Had things gone well, this energetic cut, rather than the more solemn “I See Fire,” would’ve been a better closer.

The quiet moments are welcome in this set and as amazing it is that Sheeran can create such a huge sound by himself, it is just as fascinating that he can quiet an arena full of screaming girls to sing his more sentimental cuts. Fans illuminated the sky with their cell phones during “One” and songs like “Thinking Out Loud,” the song in the set that would no doubt be dedicated to audience engagements if Sheeran’s fan base was a little older. The arena was the quietest, however, for “Afire Love,” a song Sheeran wrote about losing his grandfather who suffered from Alzheimer’s. For this song he asked fans not to sing along and, surprisingly, they obliged.

Elsewhere in the set, he mixes new and old hits with his current single “Don’t.” “Don’t fuck with my love. These girls ain’t loyal,” he sang, incorporating Chris Brown’s popular single to the delight of fans, before diving into Blackstreet’s “No Diggity.” Meshing x album cut “Runaway” with Backstreet Boys’ “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” didn’t make as much sense lyrically, but it still got the crowd excited.

Whether he’s singing about his ex, his liver, his late grandfather or hilariously dedicating a song (“Little Bird”) to all of the chickens that die everyday so that the world can have chicken nuggets, he is always able to keep his audience entertained without anything more than his voice and guitar.

And therein lies the magic of Ed Sheeran.

Chris Brown and Ariana Grande in "Don't Be Gone Too Long" video

Chris Brown and Ariana Grande in “Don’t Be Gone Too Long” video

Fans first learned of a Chris Brown and Ariana Grande collaboration in February when the two singers uploaded pictures from their dance rehearsals to social media and tweeted lyrics that seemed to belong to the same song. Then, in April, Brown released a one-take clip of his dance scene for the video.

Unfortunately, fans learned the album version of the song, titled “Don’t Be Gone Too Long,” doesn’t feature Grande when Brown’s album leaked a few days ago.

That hasn’t stopped the singer from unveiling the long-awaited video featuring Grande as a ballerina-dancing princess. After falling in love with Brown, who many believe to be an improper suitor, she is locked away.

As with all fairytale endings, the two lovers are eventually reconnected.

The video is good, but I predict people will mostly talk about the fact that Grande has her hair down the entire time.

Also, the album version isn’t as good as this one.

X is out Sept. 16. Continue reading

Instagram (Nicki Minaj)

Instagram (Nicki Minaj)

Paid sisters Beyonce and Nicki Minaj surprised fans with an explosive performance of their “Flawless” remix in Paris last night during Bey and Jay-Z’s On The Run tour.

Many of the artists’ fans were already speculating that the ladies would link up on stage since they were both in Paris, but that didn’t stop the crowd from going CRAZY when Minaj walked on stage.

Beyonce mostly stood by mugging as Minaj delivered her verse, but she did join in for one line in particular. “Mayday Mayday, Earth to bitches,” she lipped.

Watch a clip from the performance now before the Beyency snatches it off YouTube. Continue reading

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