Music Box, 3/27/2014

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Enrique Iglesias, “Sex and Love”

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Nearly four years have passed since Enrique Iglesias released a full studio album. “Euphoria” marked a return to form for Iglesias, who had been without a major international hit since 2001’s “Hero.”
“Euphoria” was Iglesias’s first bilingual album featuring hit tracks in both English and Spanish. For his tenth studio album “Sex and Love,” Iglesias hopes to continue the success of his last album, which sold over four million copies worldwide.
“Sex and Love” is also a bilingual album featuring six Spanish tracks and five in English. Coming from a business standpoint, it is a brilliant concept. Iglesias bridges the gap between two different cultures and makes it into a product that can be relevant for a plethora of people around the world.
With that being said, it seems to me that instead of Iglesias’ spreading his creative force with this album, he simply wanted to re-create the success of “Euphoria.” That is a particular pet peeve of mine when artists don’t spread their wings for different albums. While many of “Sex and Love’s” tracks are catchy and will easily affect pop radio, they seem like leftover tracks from “Euphoria.”
For instance, the album’s first track “I’m a Freak” reunites the singer with rapper Pitbull who was an integral part of the 2010 hit “I Like It.” While nothing on this album will re-create the catchiness and success of “I Like It,” this is the only track that even comes close.
On the Spanish side of the album, the lead single “Loco” will do well on the Latin charts. The song features Latin singing sensations Romeo Santos, India Martinez and Roberto Tapia. Since its release this past August, the song has been played over and over on Spanish radio reaching No. 1 on the U.S. Latin charts.
While I am not an expert on Spanish music, I thoroughly enjoyed this portion of Iglesias’ album. He seems much more comfortable in his Spanish songs and seems to enjoy performing those songs much more live on stage. American audiences are picky when it comes to their favorite music and their minds changes quickly.
This album will not duplicate the success of “Euphoria,” at least not in the U.S. For the next album Iglesias needs to experiment with different artists so he doesn’t release the same album for the third time in a row.

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Foster the People, “Supermodel”

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Initially, I half expected Foster the People’s new album “Supermodel” to be just like “Torches,” where every song would have that same irresistibly catchy beat similar to “Pumped Up Kicks.” Never have I been so glad to be wrong.
Unlike “Torches,” which is mostly electronically influenced, “Supermodel” has more of a natural sound, with its emphasis on guitar and world instruments.
What really sets this album apart from “Torches” (and other mixed-genre artists) is how it blends various sounds from different cultures, but still has the pop feel. For instance, “Are You What You Want to Be?” features some of the elements of a typical pop song but is brilliantly mixed with west-African influences.
Then some tracks like “Nevermind” and “Fire Escape” are a bit mellow and slow-paced but balance the otherwise upbeat instrumentals of the album.
Perhaps the best quality that “Supermodel” has is that it’s more of a concept album than anything else. Negativity towards modern popular culture and consumer ideology are among the recurring themes that appear throughout the album. These concepts seem to reflect our culture’s idea that self-worth stems from how many “retweets” or “likes” we get and our overwhelming need to present ourselves like super models.
“The Truth” provides a great example of these themes, “I have tried so hard not to be like them / I have found they don’t ever say what they mean.” These lines could be referencing frontman Mark Foster’s sort of negative attitude toward mainstream artists who sing what the public wants to hear, instead of what the artists actually want to do. The lines could also express Foster the People’s strong adversion to supplying the public’s demand and being forced into the mainstream mold.
Foster also described the album’s title as playing with the idea about how we feel the need to hide our true selves behind a mask of what we want others to perceive us as.
If you’re listening to this album for the first time, I’d recommend beginning with “Are You What You Want to Be?” or “A Beginner’s Guide to Destroying the Moon” if you want to get a taste of the differences between Foster the People’s new album and the previous one.
All in all, “Supermodel” is definitely an album worth listening to. So all you “Torches” fans don’t despair, this album won’t disappoint.

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Skrillex, “Recess”

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Despite that he’s already known fondly as “the darling of dubstep” (thanks, NPR) and has six Grammy awards under his belt, “Recess” is the first full length studio album released by world famous DJ and producer Skrillex.
The album was a surprise release gifted to fans on March 10 under the guise of a video game app created and played by Skrillex, his team and fans alike. The album, which officially came out on March 18, features 11 songs, all but two of which feature a host of collaborators that include Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos, K-Pop artist G-Dragon and Chance the Rapper. While the guests are genre-bending choices, Skrillex’s new album takes a playful approach that still sounds characteristically Skrillex.
The album starts with “All is Fair in Love and Brostep” a track that pays homage to what Skrillex was and where he hopes to go. It’s sharp and aggressive in sound, employing classic drops and electronic sounds, but pairs well with the slick vocals provided by the Ragga Twins.
Easily my favorite track on the album, and the one that I think showcases Skrillex’s versatility and breadth of talent is “Ease My Mind” featuring Niki and the Dove. Lyrical and melodic in the way a lot of his earlier work could be, this track takes its time building, the focus being on the vocals and the high, silvery beats that bleed into the sly dubstep drops customary to EDM.
A particularly unique number, “Doompy Poomp” (yes, that is the title and yes, I dare you to say it without laughing) is one of the only two tracks to not feature a collaborating artist. It’s mellow, funky, plays into the alien theme of the album, and lies solidly off the course Skrillex has thus far followed.
While I leave you to make your own decisions about “Doompy Poomp,” let’s jump to “Coast is Clear,” which starts out so jazzy, you’d never guess it was on a Skrillex album. The introduction of the bass line, gritty and low, is smooth and seamless but stays well behind the horns and bare drums. Stylistically it’s reminiscent of the drum n bass movement that emerged out of London in the 1990s.
Overall, “Recess” portrays some of the most eclectic aspects of Skrillex’s repertoire of talent and does it well. Electronic Dance Music fans will surely find one, if not many tracks, to suit their particular taste. For those who don’t have much stomach for “wub wub,” you too may find something here that surprises you.

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