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Aretha Butchers The Great Diva Classics – An Album Review

So you might remember this being a thing that happened:

Aretha’s Wet N’ Wild Eye Shadow.

Aretha’s wobbly knockers sitting sideways like boys in the days.

Aretha’s minty green discount prom dress.

Cissy’s perpetual over it face and lack of effort.

It’s amazing.

Well all of this was leading up to a new album release!!!

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So this is a cover of the “great diva classics” and Aretha is here to show you how she does it in 2014.  I’m going to listen to what can only be a flaw-free album.

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I’ll be rating each song on a scale of 1 to 5 Aretha Jigs.  One Aretha Jig being a live Jhene Aiko performance.  Five Aretha Jigs being this Respect performance. Let’s get started!

Track 1: At Last (originally performed by Etta James)

This one starts out pretty well.  Aretha seems comfortable and ready to slay.  But then, we get some of Aretha’s slight liberties where she slides up an octave. But you know this is nice.  Aretha’s trademark rasp and lisp are here, but there was some restraint here.  Both in the performance and the post-production (you’ll see what I mean later).  This is a good start to the album!

Rating: 4/5 Aretha Jigs

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Track 2: Rolling In The Deep – Aretha’s Version (originally performed by Adele)

You’ve already laughed at that live performance.  But how does the recorded version hold up?

Not too well actually.  The autotune on her voice in the verses are strange.  I like her performance during the pre-chorus for the most part.  But I just don’t follow where Aretha was going with the arbitrary octave jumps.  Her slides in the chorus are just as hilarious as they were live.

WE COULD HAVE HAD IT aaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWLLLLL!

ROLLING IN THE DeeeeEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEPPPPPPP!

But I can’t recommend this for any reason other than the lols.  There’s so much happening and it’s such a tonal departure from the original.  That doesn’t mean I’m not going to listen to it over and over again.

The bridge into Ain’t No Mountain High Enough is an interesting choice.  But they’ve autotuned her belting and it’s just so weird and, sorry to say, bad.  It’s just bad.  This is not a good song.  But it is an amazing one.

Rating: 2/5 Aretha Jigs

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Track 3: Midnight Train to Georgia (originally by Gladys Knight & The Pips)

Ooh I love this song!

::starts bopping::

“aHeeeeeeLL AAAAAAAAAYYYYEEEE”

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This one is going to be a hard one.  Part of it is that I absolutely adore the huskiness of Gladys Knight’s voice and her vocal performance on this song.  Aretha staying in her upper register does not fit this song even a little.

Once I get over that tragic mistake, it’s listenable.  The beat is comfortable and the background singers are killing it.  Aretha’s voice is much more natural here than in Rolling In The Deep.  Her ad libs as the song closes is some of the best stuff on the album so far.  It’s not too bad.

Rating: 3/5 Aretha Jigs

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Track 4: I Will Survive – The Aretha Version (originally by Gloria Gaynor)

Okay this is the first song that should really use her upper register.  Is that auto-tune???

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What is the jazz hi-hat??

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Okay.  It speeds ups after the first chorus.  I love the scatting! For the most part, once the disco beat kicks in, this is good.  Not great, but solid.  Aretha could have kept that ending run.

Wait, is that Survivor by Destiny’s Child?!?!?!? Okay, that is how a mash-up is done.  Wait, is this about her broken engagement from Catfish??? Okay Aretha! Sing from your pain!

Whomever thought it was a good idea to use effects on Aretha Franklin’s voice should be put out to pasture.  Her voice may not be at peak, but what in the absolute fuck? Leave it as it is.

This song has all the parts to be a good cover.  I like the scatting and Aretha’s mashup.  But I hate that the auto-tune and I especially HATE the intro.

Rating: 1/5 Aretha Jig 

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Track 5: People (Originally by Barbra Streisand)

Now I’m not as familiar with this song in comparison with the first four tracks.  But I think that it truly benefits from a more laissez-faire approach to the production.  The slower songs let Aretha be Aretha.  That’s all we really need.  My only complaints here are that I wish she had taken a bit more care to enunciate the song.  With the lisp on each “people,” the message loses just a hint of its power.  The other is that there’s a slight thinness to her voice in the later parts of the songs.  I wish it had a little more power to it.

Overall, I like this and it befits the Queen of Soul.

Rating: 4/5 Aretha Jigs

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Track 6: No One (originally by Alicia Keys)

Umm, is that the Casio keyboard Reggae 2 beat?

Wow…this intro…

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It doesn’t get any better from there honestly.  This is a travesty.  The voice is processed with in an inch of its life.  The beat is just awful. The vocal performance does not fit at all.

This is the first song that is actively terrible.  Yikes.

Rating: 0/5 Aretha Jigs

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Track 7: I’m Every Woman/Respect (Originally by Chaka Khan and Aretha Franklin)

Pump up the groove! Okay, this is already miles better than No One.  This song fits so much better on her voice.  I also love that the first voice stays in one octave.  It’s rare that she doesn’t arbitrarily jump up the octave.  (See the second verse and chorus).

Even with that complaint, it’s still good.  I’m bopping you know!

yankin bop

Now, the Respect portion of the song doesn’t work at all.  I mean, did you click that video I linked earlier in the post?  Now that was over 50 years ago. But once you listen to that, it’s hard to listen to this.  That said it’s still good, and I almost upped the score to five jiggin’ Arethas because I love a good key change.

Rating: 4/5 Aretha Jigs

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Track 8: Teach Me Tonight (This was performed by everyone, but let’s go with Dinah Washington)

Ooh, the slower songs are better.  And this is no exception.  The simple production really lets her shine.  Though the touches of autotune are completely out of place.

But this is beautiful.  This is the kind of cover I want to hear from Aretha Franklin.  Soulful, simple, all about her voice.

Best song on the album, by a wide margin

Rating: 5/5 Aretha Jigs

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Track 9: You Keep Me Hangin’ On (originally by The Supremes)

Okay, the opening is promising.  I love that Aretha performed with a bit of sweetness in her voice (a lovely nod to The Boss).

I like this a lot.  It’s much more relaxed and truly uses Aretha’s gifts appropriately.  Minor pitch correction.  Minimal octave jumps until Aretha is allowed to just go at it.  There’s such restraint here and the album shines in those moments.  Now excuse me while I bop my shoulders.

Another of the finer moments of the album.  Not as good as Teach Me Tonight, but solid all around.

Rating: 5/5 Aretha Jigs (I originally had this at a 4, but I honestly don’t have any real complaints)

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Track 10: Nothing Compares 2 U (originally by Sinead O’Connor)

Did you all know this was written by Prince?  Great diva classic, indeed!

Okay, this is jazzy. With a big band arrangement.  This isn’t what I was expecting.  I like  it, I think.

So I need to actually write about this song.  It’s so far outside of what I was expecting that I’m struggling to write about it.  There’s no way to compare this to the original.  That’s actually smart.  I’m not so sure that the song itself fits the production.  It’s an admirable attempt, but my brain just associates this lyric with Sinead’s buzzcut and lone tear.

NothingCompares2U

Taking it from  an sparse, emotional ballad to this upbeat, sassy song.

Don’t let my critique take away for Aretha’s singing.  I actually think this is her strongest vocal performance on the entire album.  So soulful and full of life.  The beginning of the album has this weird feeling of trying to modernize Aretha.  I don’t know about you all but that’s not what I want.  She has a voice that is representative of that bygone era and we don’t need to plasticize it, even if it’s not in prime condition.

Rating: 4/5 Aretha Jigs

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Overall Rating: 3/5 Aretha Jigs

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I like this album way more than I thought I would going into this review.  After that Rolling In The Deep, what possible opinion could I have??

But as I started to mention in the last song critique, the strengths of this album lie in letting Aretha be Aretha.  She’s not Kesha.  She doesn’t need vocal effects.  Give her a standard or a song from an era where covers of covers were number one hits and let her do her thing.  Despite age, Aretha still has a remarkable ability to convey emotion in her voice and to really use her voice as an instrument.  Look at the difference in her performance on Keep Me Hanging On versus the power on the opening verse of People.  Most of your famous singers these days are incapable of that versatility and it is why the divas are revered.

The album goes wrong when we try to modernize Aretha to make her “palatable” for the current music scene.  The covers of Rolling In the Deep and No One are easily the worst parts of the album.  Someone with good sense could have stopped this and steered her towards more classic sounding songs or at least better production as it relates to these two.

The other issue that I may not have raised is that there definitely is something cheap sounding about the album.  I mentioned that there are some pre-packaged sounding beats here and there.  Again, this isn’t as big a release in 2014 as say a Taylor Swift album (I just vomited in my mouth typing that). So there’s not going to be as much of an investment in the production on behalf of the label.  This can work for certain artists, but since most classic songs rely on a hearty instrumentation, it weakens the song rather than adding to it.

Go take a listen and let me know what you think! I’m off to bop to Hoodrat Tunes.  My basic side has been neglected.

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My 90s Sunday Playlist

Hey Lovebugs! It’s Sunday and that means it’s time to chill and get in the right mindset for the new week.  So here’s a few of my favorite songs that put me in a chill mood.

Cool Relax – Jon B

Listen, we really don’t pay enough homage to this ivory king.  His first album is a bop!

Set Adrift Of Memory Bliss – PM Dawn

So PM Dawn was a duo in the early 90’s who did a lot of trippy-R&B influenced rap.  My aunt had their cassette and I played the snot of it.  This was their earliest hit, but you should take a look through their archives.

I’m Ready – Tevin Campbell

I don’t even need to go into detail about the slayage of Tevin Campbell.  That little boy sang his ass off and we’re better for it.

Sending My Love – Zhané

Pronouched Jha-nay! Their harmonies and upbeat songs were more popular.  However, this has always been their standout track for me.  It’s a lovely song and the perfect song for thinking about the past.

Let It Flow – Toni Braxton

So a while back, Class and I were talking about trying to come up with your absolute favorite song.  This was my final answer.  It really has the best of everything.  It’s got a message I need to hear on a daily basis.  Learning to relax and just take life as it comes is something I always need to hear.  You’ve got Toni Braxton who does not get nearly enough credit for her flawless vocals. You’ve got TLC in the background.  It’s lush, it’s relaxing it’s perfect.

Give me some of your favorite Sunday routine songs!  Our inbox is open and don’t forget to check us out on Twitter at @ClassNTrashShow.

Just When You Thought It Was Safe

So Class took the time to listen to that awful mess from Anthony and raised me a Jacquees.

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So I’m listening and I’m like…his voice isn’t as bad as Anthony’s.

::the verse starts::

NO! NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!

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Candy Rain with a Rihanna reference…

Who is encouraging these people? Why are there multiple terrible, hideous, off-key, raggedy, renditions of this classic????

We’re not going to be great until this is stopped.

Look for the Class & Trash cover of Candy Rain on iTunes!!!  But again, here is the far superior original to cleanse your palette.

 

Let’s Talk: Chris Brown

So although it’s Trashy Thursday, I thought today that I’d hold off on the jams and talk about something that’s been bothering me for a bit.

Normally, you’d see a Chris Brown picture here but you know I don’t really want to go through the efforts of uploading any pictures of him.  Understand? I know you do.

Recently, Chris Brown’s jail stay was extended based on a violation of his parole.  All while his song Loyal has cracked the top 10 on Billboard’s charts and his collaboration with Kid Ink is also in the top 40 as well.  Despite the album push backs, none of this has affected his sales and record success.  But to be honest, his success post the incident has always felt a little wrong.  I’m going to try and work out why it bothers me so much.

So let’s flashback to 2009.  Now, I will go on record saying that I remember asking what the hell happened to cause the whole situation.  I remember saying that Chris Brown is terrible and thinking that Rihanna had to have done something for the violence to go that far.  I regret that I may have blamed her or insinuated that she deserved it.

However, my issue with Lispy is not that actual attack even though it was terrible.  It really boils down to the three issues.

1) He Keeps Fucking Up

Now far be it from me to try and psychoanalyze someone far richer and far more famous than me.  But let’s keep it real.  Chris Brown keep getting himself into situations where the police seem to show up.  The DC situation, the window at Good Morning America, the valet situation, and the fight with Drake with the bottles… you know just to name a few.  It might be different if there was only one or two instances, but I didn’t even give you a comprehensive list.

When you’re attempting to change your image and prove that you’re not a bad guy, you would think that you would ALWAYS let your bodyguard handle things.  If you feel yourself getting angry, remove yourself from the situation.  It’s not that he doesn’t have a right to get angry, but part of being a celebrity is working on your image.  His continued fuckery seriously hampers my ability to give him another shot.

Take an example.  I’m a celebrity with about 3 DUIs.  Do I

a) Drive myself everywhere knowing I’m hitting the club? or

b) Hire a personal driver?

I would think the answer is clear.

2) These Songs…

One of the biggest defenses that I’ve seen mounted is that we should ignore his personal life and just focus on the music. So let’s just talk about a few Lispy songs.

(Spotify pays artists the least, so there’s that.)

Loyal has a catchy beat and in the cluh, you probably can catch me doing a cute two-step to it.  But the thing about this song is that it’s a song for men who hate women and want to impress their friends.  He’s insulting the very women who he’s taking home for not being loyal to their regular menfolk because a star is hitting on them.

Like I’m spending my money and time on this lady in the club because I’m interested in her, but she’s not loyal so watch out!

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And the thing about it is that now you basic ass, trifling ass dudes think that this somehow applies to your life.  That’s what is dangerous about these songs.  There are people who don’t see this song for what it is, think that they can mistreat women because they aren’t “loyal.”  It perpetuates the inherit distrust and hatred of women that allows people to treat them like objects instead of human beings.

Girl, fuck you.  Like fuck you for this song.

Now generally, I think I that offenses committed prior to meeting a person should be out of scope in relationship decisions barring things that break the law or are genuinely gross.  But this song is not an earnest plea in order to save a relationship.  It’s not a genuine display of emotion.

This song is, simply put, a transparent grab at telling people to just forget about all of the things he’s done and continues to do.  Don’t pay attention to my fuck-ass video proclaiming my love for both Rihanna and Karrueche.  Nope, that parking lot scuffle with Frank Ocean does not exist!

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Like I said in the first point, Lispy keeps fucking up.  These aren’t isolated instances.  These aren’t situations where he’s been pushed beyond a reasonable limit.  So yes I’m going to judge you and I’m going to continue to hate this song.

Even beyond the message, the beat is plodding, his vocals are probably the weakest I’ve heard them, and the lyrics are treacly at best.  Bye ashy.

3) He Has Real Issues

Now it’s come out that Chris has bipolar disorder and experienced sex at a super early age (8 years old).  This is actually legitimately sad and underneath all of his bravado and antics, you can tell that there’s something brewing.  No one just ups and gets kicked out of a rehab facility.  These are not things that should be taken lightly.  And I’m more than sure he’s on a hell of a lot of drugs.

However, he is not going to get the treatment he needs nor is he going to take these diagnoses seriously if there is no real punishment or time allowed to reflect on his past and where he wants to go.  Celebrities tend to develop a sense of invincibility because of the constant adulation they receive, but those who crave being an alpha male tend to jump head first into maintaining that feeling.  You combine this with the old school definition of being a “man” and you have someone who is  blind to any criticism, regardless of how well meaning it may be.

By having continued success and greater acclaim during this time of turmoil, it appears that Chris’s ego has only grown and in a negative way.  He’s finding chart success with songs that are good for young people’s psyches.  He’s deflecting all punishment and critique instead of realizing where his actions have landed him.

While I can’t attribute all of his problems to his fame and success, I do think that they are playing a huge role in him growing up and making better choices.  So to me, his success only exacerbates the problems that he faces.

I just miss fresh face Chris who did Doublemint commercials and sang Yo!  I mean everyone has to grow up and we all face things that shape us as adults, but there’s a darkness to him that I always see even when he’s Harlem shaking and booty quaking in his videos.  I’ve joked that he looks like he would eat your baby these days.  But seriously, do a Google search.  Homey looks cracked out.  He has to get the help he needs if he’s going to prosper and be great.

I don’t know, maybe I’m reading too deep into it.  What do you all think?  Are you on Team Breezy and think the media is out to get him?  Or is he an egomaniac with mediocre songs that can’t get his shit together?  Let me know in the comments and we’ll chat about it.

Let’s end the post with one of my favorite Lispy jams.

Quickie Post: Blood Orange

Not the fruit, y’all.

But I’ve been recently listening to Cupid Deluxe album by Blood Orange.  He was one of the primary producers on Solange’s EP True, which I adore.  It’s very late 80’s synth pop interpreted for the current age.  If you like minimalism in your music, sparse harmonies, funky bass grooves and metaphors in your music, I think that you will enjoy the album.  It is a full experience where hooks and choruses are referenced in multiple songs to fit the theme of love, heartbreak, and dealing with self worth.

I’m embedding the full album for you all to enjoy before I talk about my favorite song.

So I absolutely adore all of the songs with the exception of High Street, but Chamakay is the stand out track for me.  I think that the production of the track conveys the separation and melancholy perfectly.  The uses of echos and having both the male and female voice personalizes the song in a way I’m not sure could be captured another way.

The song is direct but there is just enough mystery to the lyrics.  Absolutely adore this.  Here are the lyrics and take a listen.

Let me know what your favorite track is.

Chamakay

If giving left me lonely
If giving was my friend
I’m keeping all the old themes
I’m keeping my loose ends

But now you’re feeling empty
I tried my best last time
I’ll leave you with your feelings
I’ll leave you in your lies

I’m nothing without subtle
Heartache at its best
Are you the one who breaks my
Heart out of my chest

[Chorus x2]

I’ll never leave you if you’re think that it’s all the same
I’ll never trust you if you’re think that it’s just a game
I see you waiting for a guy/girl like me to come along
Baby girl you’re wrong

If giving left me lonely
If giving was my friend
I’m keeping all the old themes
I’m keeping my loose ends

But now you’re feeling empty
I tried my best last time
I’ll leave you with your feelings
I’ll leave you in your lies

[Chorus x2]

Quickie Post: Saturday Music Break

Hey lovely people!

This is fast but I was listening to this song and felt like you could relate. Solange’s EP “True” is fantastic if you haven’t listened.

This is my favorite song. Who hasn’t felt out of place? Who hadn’t dreamt of someone they “loved”? It’s so simple but so effective.

I’ve pasted the lyrics below so you can sing along.

Have a great day!

#TeamTrash

When I was just a girl I felt just so alone
Locked myself in closets thinking, “If I was the only one”
Dim light shining on my room
Locked up in this old cocoon

Look at me, I’m just a girl Still feeling so alone
Looking at myself thinking, ”Best to come and easy go”
Street light shining on my room
Locked up in this old cocoon

And all I wanted was the dream of being in love with you
All I wanted was the dream of being i
n love with you
All I wanted was the dream of being in love with you
All I wanted was the dream of being in love with you

When I was just a girl I wore a thousand lives
Heading on a search for the thing that makes me feel alright
Ten black moments in my room
Diamonds shimmers from the moon

And now I’m just a girl living in the satellite
Took what I needed from this town and getting down at night
Street light shining in my room
Getting out the suns up soon

And all I wanted was the dream of being in love with you
All I wanted was the dream of being in love with you
All I wanted was the dream of being in love with you
All I wanted was the dream of being in love with you

Source: AZlyrics.com