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CD reviews (March – April 2009)

KANYE WEST: 808s & Heartbreak

Reviewed by Francisco Sandoval, 16, Nogales HS (La Puente)

With his fourth album, 808s & Heartbreak, Kanye West goes in a different direction. Inspired by the death of his mother and the breakup with his girlfriend, West gets more personal and darker than ever before. He also sings instead of rapping and doesn’t have his usual I-am-the-best attitude. Fortunately, he still brings his creativity and his awesome beats.

“Coldest Winter” is a tribute to West’s mother and how her death has left him alone. West feels that with his mother gone he no longer has a reason to love. “Goodbye my friend/ will I ever love again?” The production of this song is the best of the whole album. I like the loud drum, and the background violins add sadness to the song.

West was devastated and angry over his breakup with his girlfriend and this is obvious in “See You In My Nightmares.” It’s the most intense song about his ex-girlfriend. Kanye starts off singing but as the song progresses he gets angrier and begins to almost yell. “We were once a fairytale, but this is farewell.”

808s & Heartbreak is an album that breaks away from West’s traditional style but I think it was a good move. Although I didn’t like that it was so depressing—every song was about death or relationships ending—it’s not like he had anything to be happy about when recording it. Hopefully in the coming year West will find the strength to go back to his usual confident self and deliver another great album.

GUNS N’ ROSES: Chinese Democracy

Reviewed by Jacky Garcia, 16, Lynwood HS

After the 15-year wait (which is almost my whole lifetime), Guns N’ Roses finally released Chinese Democracy. My expectations were pretty high and the album has that raw, hard-rock feel that I enjoy, but a couple of songs just drag on.
“Better” is the best song on the album. It’s about a guy who loves a girl who rejects him. I love the guitar arrangements and the very catchy hook that I’m always singing to: “No one ever told me when I was alone/ They just thought I’d know better/ Better.”

The album has a variety of sounds and one that I really liked was the flamenco sound on the song “If the World.” It goes perfectly with the seductive feel that the guitar adds to the song.

The album has its share of ballads, and my favorite one is “This I Love.” It is a melodramatic song with lyrics that reflect lead singer Axl Rose’s emotions. “I‘ve searched the universe/ And found myself/ Within her eyes.” The song starts off with Rose on piano and climaxes to a theatrical guitar solo that parallels the strong emotions of the song.

One of those songs that drag on is “Sorry.” It has a good guitar riff, but not strong enough to make it memorable. “Madagascar” also has no standout moments, and the sampling of Martin Luther King Jr. and the movie Cool Hand Luke was unnecessary.

Despite the numerous changes in the band’s lineup, Rose’s controversial behavior and problems with former band members, Guns N’ Roses created an enjoyable album but just not one that should have needed 15 years to make it.

Original Broadway Cast Recording: Spamalot

Reviewed by Lia Dun, 17, Marshall HS

Spamalot, the musical version of the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, is one of the funniest plays I’ve ever seen, and the music is even better.

A lot of people associate musicals with boring classical music, but the music in Spamalot will make you laugh. Like the movie, Spamalot spoofs the story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable as they search for the Holy Grail. The songs add to the story’s ridiculousness so that the musical is even funnier than the movie.

My favorite number is “The Song that Goes Like This,” which spoofs sappy love songs and begins with the line, “Once in every show, there comes a song like this. It starts off soft and low and ends up with a kiss.” I also liked “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway,” a song about how you need Jewish people to succeed on Broadway, and “He Is Not Dead Yet,” in which a man who is about to be put on a dead-body cart jumps up and starts singing, “I am not dead yet. I can dance and I can sing. I am not dead yet … No need to go to bed. No need to call the doctor ‘cause I’m not yet dead.” Then the dead bodies on the cart wake up and become the chorus.

It might sound ridiculous, but every song on the Spamalot CD is hilarious. You can still enjoy the music without having seen the musical because the lyrics are so funny and absurd. Everyone should definitely listen to Spamalot.