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KANYE WEST: Graduation

By Francisco Sandoval, 15, Nogales HS

This September had one of the greatest days in hip-hop history—Kanye West and 50 Cent each released new CDs on the same day. Kanye West came out on top, outselling 50 Cent by 266,000 copies in the first week. The public got their money’s worth when they purchased Kanye’s CD. His third album, Graduation, is his best yet—it has more creativity, better production and Kanye’s flow is at its best.

When I heard the first single “Stronger,” which includes an infectious sample from Daft Punk, I knew Graduation was going to be an amazing album. “Stronger” is a fast song that fuses techno with hip-hop. The beat is so ridiculous you can’t stay still.
A slower, less intense song that is still very energetic is “Good Life.” When Kanye raps “The best things in life are free,” he’s telling us that life is good from any perspective. Fellow musical genius T-Pain sings and raps during the chorus, adding energy to the song. Kanye has blown up. But he remembers how things were before he had fame, money and luxury. So he tells his fans to enjoy life no matter what.

On “Homecoming,” Kanye borrows from his friend Common when he raps about coming home to a special person. It almost sounds as if it’s a girlfriend, but it’s really his hometown Chicago. “I met this girl when I was 3 years old/ And what I love most is she had so much soul.”

Kanye is the best rapper who ever touched a microphone. What I like most is that he isn’t like other rappers who rap about girls, money and cars. As long as Kanye does this he’ll continue to be a great rapper and a great influence.

FEIST: The Reminder

By Charlene Lee, 14, Walnut HS

I first heard the Canadian artist Feist in an iPod commercial, singing “1234,” a charming song with deliciously catchy melodies. She has a sweet, mellow voice that’s almost as seductive as it is memorable. A majority of her album, The Reminder, offers the same bold and saucy personality that I liked in the commercial song, but there are also a few misplaced slow and empty songs that upset the otherwise wonderful album.

The opener “So Sorry” is bland and almost depressing. Her voice is frail and sounds like a cat yelping in pain. But it’s followed by a whole slew of sassy songs like “I Feel It All” and “Past In Present,” which highlight the album’s eccentric mix of folk and modern jazz.

Feist creates captivating music with her voice. In “My Moon My Man,” only three piano keys, soft drumming and a gentle guitar accompany her, yet the song is easily my favorite because of her unique voice. Though some of her lyrics are nonsensical, like in her standout song “Sealion,” with lines like “Sea lion woman/ She drink coffee/ Sea lion woman/ She drink tea/ And a rooster crows,” the silly lyrics are compensated for by ringing melodies and her sunny personality.

The back-to-back mood killers, “The Park” and “The Water,” feel like they were haphazardly thrown in. Their drowsiness nearly destroys the album’s lively spirit. Overall, The Reminder offers plenty of favorites, but to avoid the depressing ballads, you should buy the songs you like on iTunes instead.

HIM: Venus Doom

By Nattalie Tehrani, 17, South HS (TORRANCE)

Raw, gothic, and of course love-doomed lyrics that pull your heart out, HIM’s Venus Doom is one of the most beautiful albums I’ve heard all year.

Lead singer Ville Valo was quoted as saying that the love metal band’s sixth album would be Metallica and Black Sabbath-esque. You can hear their inspirations in songs like “Passion’s Killing Floor,” which has a beautiful guitar intro, and “Bleed Well,” which contributes a heavier sound to the album.

One of the most spine-tingling songs is “Venus Doom.” The first time I heard it, I immediately recognized Elvis’s “Can’t Help Falling In Love” sound. Little did I know what joy the bridge had in store for me. The song slows down and Valo’s baritone, 100-cigarettes-a-day voice filled all around me. I can hear a lot of passion in Valo’s voice, which is one of the biggest reasons why I love the song so much. Then you have “Song Or Suicide,” a one-minute 12-second track. The song is simple, just Valo’s voice and him playing an acoustic guitar. It’s so unedited that you can hear him moving around on his chair. Its honesty is why I think it’s one of the most important songs on the album.

“Kiss of Dawn” is the first single released off the album. The lyrics are beautiful and powerful, like, “I’m reaching for your shadow/ Drowning in the kiss of dawn,” and shoot amazing imagery through my head. With Venus Doom, HIM proved once again that the flame of His Infernal Majesty will never blow out.