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Music Reviews: Junior Pops, Kelly Flops, Utada Plays It Safe

Editor’s Note: Introducing Queerty Arts Thursday, our weekly look at the music, film, theater and visual arts that you need to know about. In February, you voted for your favorite music reviewers and their were two clear winners: Bradley Stern and Daniel Villareal. We liked them so much that we hired them both. Bradley will take one week and Daniel the next. We think they both bring different things to the table and we’re thrilled to have them join the Queerty family.

Junior
Röyksopp
Astralwerks

royksopp_junior_album_coverIf I had my way, this review would simple: “Perfection.” Reviews I am told do not work that way however, so allow me to elaborate.

The boys of Röyksopp have been hard at work over the past three years producing their third album, Junior. Like a Nordic creation of Frankenstein proportions (I’ll allow time to envision the monster as a blonde), pasting the moody beats of Melody AM with the tenderest bits of pop-mindedness from The Understanding. To do so, the duo have enlisted a superstar cast of Swedish chanteuses, including Lykke Li, Robyn, Anneli Drecker, and Karin Dreijer—a line-up indie-licious enough to make the Pitchfork crew’s pants grow even tighter at the waist. Though it’s an all killer, no filler sort of deal, Junior contains many classic moments: From Karin Dreijer’s damning outcries on “This Must Be It,” to “The Girl and The Robot”—a stomping, 21st century makeover of the classic torch song and undoubtedly one of the coolest songs Robyn has recorded in recent time. (Honestly though, she hasn’t
really recorded anything new in years).

Then there’s “Vision One,” the Anneli Drecker-led cover of an Eri Nobuchika song: “Let evil ways caress our smile, the cities are dying / As we watch it fall into a modern state, a modern time.” Looking for a distraction from the economy? You’re listening to the wrong album.

As poppy as Junior sounds however, it’s sure got its fair share of gloomy lyrics—if we’re not listening to Lykke Li sigh away memories of a lost love on “Miss It So Much,” we’ve got the boys throwing their hands up in resignation with the album’s final moment, “It’s What I Want”: “It’s what I want that’s easy / It’s getting it that’s complicated.” Congratulations boys, I think you’ve found it.

This Is The One
Utada
Island

thisistheone2 “Intoxicated, emancipated, unapologetic,” Utada gushes in the chorus of “On and On,” the lead track off her second American album, This Is The One. Strong words coming from the soft-spoken artist who once released a song called “I’m A Bear.”

With Stargate and “Tricky” Stewart behind the mixing panel, Utada’s latest hosts an array of hip-hop beats and ‘90’s-inspired grooves. While most benefit from modern production (the urbanized bossa nova swagger of “Me Muero”), others simply reek of kitsch (“Taking My Money Back,” which might as well been airlifted from Destiny’s Child’s Writings on the Wall.)

Utada’s follow-up is commendable—it’s fresh, hip, and incredibly re-listenable. Yet in order to create such a sound, Utada has also sacrificed that experimental quality of her 2004 album, Exodus. Sure, it’s not the worst thing she could have done (a foray into alt-country folk would do the trick), but it’s certainly the safest.

All I Ever Wanted
Kelly Clarkson
Sony BMG

all_i_ever_wanted_kelly_clarkson_album Two years after releasing her moderately successful “self-expression” piece, My December, Kelly Clarkson has returned—and this time, it’s impersonal.

After once scoffing off the notion of covering Lindsay Lohan demos, Clarkson now finds herself waist deep in Katy Perry rejects including “I Do Not Hook Up,” a hook-heavy ode to anti-promiscuity that—when released—may fashion Clarkson as the Pat Benatar of the Promise Ring generation.

If not a Perry castaway, most tracks still ooze with Top 40 familiarity: The up-tempo electro-rocker “If I Can’t Have You” wedges nicely between Rihanna’s “Disturbia” and Miley Cyrus’ “Fly On The Wall,” while “Already Gone” proves identical to Beyoncé’s “Halo” (both tracks produced by Ryan Tedder).

Still, this is hardly all I ever wanted. If I had my way, she’d be strapping on a guitar, growing out her hair to grunge proportions, and trailblazing the revival of Lillith Fair. I’ll keep praying.


Aside from being a full fledged star, Bradley Stern is an up-and-coming young sprout who enjoys chocolate teddy grahams, organizing his Britney Spears singles in reverse chronological order, and musing about music on his pop music blog, MuuMuse.

By:           Queerty
On:           Apr 9, 2009
Tagged: , , ,

  • 12 Comments
    • scott
      scott

      i love “i do not hook up”. And I’m surprised on how much I dig it. It’s really good. I think this album is pretty decent but I did dig her last album a lot too.

      Apr 9, 2009 at 8:18 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Ben F
      Ben F

      Junior is brilliant!

      Apr 9, 2009 at 10:07 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • alan brickman
      alan brickman

      where are the sound bytes!??

      Apr 9, 2009 at 12:18 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Greg Ever
      Greg Ever

      I agree with alan brickman, we definitely need some sound samples. You can embed the songs (legally) using the code on imeem.com, if you want. Just look up the song and there it is. This would be a big help, I think.

      Apr 9, 2009 at 6:25 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Greg Ever
      Greg Ever

      Oh, and I’ve not heard of Utada before, but Royksopp is easily 1000 times better than anything Kelly Clarkson could ever do.

      Apr 9, 2009 at 6:27 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Stenar
      Stenar

      Anneli Drecker, one of my long-time favorites–and lead singer of Bel Canto, is NORWEGIAN, not Swedish.

      Apr 9, 2009 at 6:46 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Japhy Grant
      Japhy Grant

      @Greg Ever: Great suggestion, guys. We’ll look into it.

      Apr 9, 2009 at 7:56 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Ben
      Ben

      This Utada chick is actually pretty good, sure it’s ‘safe’, but it still has personality.

      Apr 9, 2009 at 7:58 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • AutomaticTLC
      AutomaticTLC

      Love Junior!
      Love This is the One!
      ….Kelly…..

      Great reviews.

      Apr 9, 2009 at 10:59 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • lilyilly
      lilyilly

      Yea, I’m kinda disappointed with Kelly’s effort this time around…
      But yay, Utada – I especially love the hook you flagged out in ‘On and On’.

      Apr 10, 2009 at 7:54 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • MusicIsMyLife
      MusicIsMyLife

      Utada’s “This is the one” is a great Pop album.
      She is so unique and original.
      If you guys haven’t listened to the album, you should try “On and On” and “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, FYI” at least on iTunes.
      Lyrics from “On and On”
      “Honeys if you’re gay,
      Burn it up like a gay parade
      Honeys if you’re straight,
      Pump it up, take it all the way
      Intoxicated, emancipated, unapologetic…….”

      Apr 11, 2009 at 2:32 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Greg Ever
      Greg Ever

      Also, a recommendation for future review posts: I think it needs to be a little clearer in the review titles what is the artist and what is the album name for people who don’t already know the musicians. Having the album name first seems a bit odd to me and unlike how most reviews I’ve seen are done.

      Apr 11, 2009 at 6:42 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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