L.A. Youth teen staffers give thumbs up to Mariah Carey, Lily Allen, Britney Spears, Daniel Powter and Jay-Z.
MARIAH CAREY: E=MC2
By Brandy Hernandez, 17, Hawthorne Academy
This album is one of Mariah Carey’s greatest CDs. The first two days I had the CD, I pressed repeat over and over. I wanted to listen to the whole CD because I like every song, but I also couldn’t stop listening to my three favorite songs.
I like “Cruise Control” because she adds a reggae twist. Damian Marley sings on it. I like when she sings, “I’ve been told so many sagas/ He brings the drama, six baby mamas.” I laughed at that one because that’s so many. But she says she still can’t resist him.
I like the softer beat on “Side Effects” and that she featured Young Jeezy. I’m not too into rap but I like Young Jeezy because his lyrics aren’t “shake your a** b****” stuff and his beats are all different. It’s one of those songs I keep listening to. She sings about letting go of a boyfriend. “You were too much to handle, hanging like a chandelier in the private hell that we built.”
My favorite slow song is “Bye Bye.” I love this song. She’s singing about the people who have passed away. “This is for my peoples who just lost somebody/ Your best friend, your baby, your man or your lady/ Put your hand way up high/ We will never say bye.” It makes you sad thinking about the people you know who passed away, but it makes you feel better because you think about how you’re going to see them one day. I thought about my grandpa and my dad.
Mariah doesn’t hit as many of the high notes as she does on her other CDs, but her voice still sounds powerful. At the end of “Touch My Body” she hits high notes and that’s the part I like to hear. That’s when her voice really comes out. She also hits the high notes on the last song, “I Wish You Well.” When her voice gets high and the piano plays, it reminds me of a church song.
I really like that Mariah can sing and that her lyrics are what people can relate to and fall in love with. I encourage everyone to go out and buy this CD. You will NOT be disappointed.
LILY ALLEN: Alright, Still
By Katie Havard, 18, Beverly Hills HS
OK everyone, let’s play pretend. First, imagine that you are a girl (actual girls may skip this step). Now imagine that you have a boyfriend (aw!) who has just dumped you hardcore (gasp!). You are distraught. Who do you call? Obviously, your best friend.
Now, imagine that Britpop sensation Lily Allen is your best friend, and her entire personality is based on her album Alright, Still.
So, Lily Allen comes over and you’re all depressed and listening to Radiohead and you’re like “Oh my god, what am I going to do, Lily? My heart is besquished!” And she’ll let you mope for a while (track 8 “Littlest Things”) but then you guys will start talking about your ex and pretty soon she’ll have you rolling on the floor laughing at him because he’s SUUUUUCH a loser, right? And she’ll come up with some embarrassing nickname for him (track 5 “Not Big”) that somehow gets out and “accidentally” replaces his name in the yearbook.
Then, that weekend, she’ll take you out and make sure you look really cute so that you get hit on a lot and you realize “Psh, I don’t need that loser ex, I am supafoxy!” A few days later, you guys are having lunch and she’s telling you all these hilarious stories about her stoner little brother (track 11 “Alfie”) and somewhere in the middle of the conversation you realize, “Whoa, I haven’t thought about ex boy all day. I am totally over him!” (track 1 “Smile”). Then, at that EXACT moment you get this text from him that’s like BABY TAKE ME BACK. And you’re like “Haha … no.”(track 7 “Shame for You”).
Alright, Still is like that, but in album form. It is the musical equivalent of the Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging books grown up. With her cute British accent and sexy, poppy sound, Lily Allen is infectiously cute without being sugary sweet. She’s fierce, her lyrics are clever and savvy and Alright, Still rules.
BRITNEY SPEARS: Blackout
By Brandy Hernandez, 17, Hawthorne Academy
I’ve always been a Britney Spears fan but I didn’t think I was going to like her new album Blackout. I thought she was going to make a lame CD because her life wasn’t going good. I was wrong.
The album is great. The beats are funky and up to date. “Gimme More” is one of those club songs that get the dancing mood started when you’re at a party.
Blackout is more autobiographical than her other albums. In “Why Should I Be Sad,” one of my favorite songs because the lyrics are true, she sings about her ex-husband Kevin, “Even got the drop Ferrari/ Filled up our garage for you.” She’s saying why should she be sad about their breakup because he was just using her.
My other favorite song is “Piece of Me” because she tells everybody off—the paparazzi, Kevin—saying this is who she is, what are you going to do? I love her attitude. “I’m Miss bad media karma/ Another day another drama/ Guess I can’t see the harm/ In working and being a mama/ And with a kid on my arm I’m still an exceptional earner/ And you want a piece of me?”
There are slower songs too. My favorite of these is “Heaven on Earth.” The techno beat in the beginning reminds me of Marilyn Manson, who I like. She talks along with the beat, like she’s out of breath. “Your touch/ Your taste/ Your breath/ Your face … You’re heaven on earth.”
I like Blackout better than Britney’s other albums. It shows she can still make good music despite what she’s going through.
DANIEL POWTER: Daniel Powter
By Crystal Hua, 17, Gabrielino HS (San Gabriel)
Most of the songs on Daniel Powter’s wonderful, self-titled CD offer delightfully catchy beats and flowing lyrics that I keep replaying in my head.
The opening track, “Song 6,” showcases Powter’s spectacular songwriting talent as well as his smooth voice, which beckons you to “lie in the sun.” And it keeps getting better—just wait until you hear the songs “Free Loop” and “Bad Day,” which add jazzy piano melodies, providing the perfect fix for pop junkies.
“Bad Day,” which was his biggest hit, and was used as the goodbye song on American Idol a few seasons ago, is the highlight of the album because of the memorable music and meaningful lyrics. It feels as though Powter uses his songs to show how “you fall into pieces” but can “sing a sad song to turn it around,” too.
Like many great albums there are tracks that sound out of place, like the three songs following “Bad Day.” I remember hearing a sudden jump in volume of Powter’s vocals on his song “Suspect” when he sings about some “funky ’65.” Listeners will wonder what he’s singing about, because the words become hard to understand after that line. Powter continues in the same high-pitched voice on “Jimmy Gets High,” causing his cool voice to screech, making me reach quickly for the fast forward button.
Despite this somewhat minor hiccup in the middle, the CD is a great beginning to the Canadian singer’s career.
JAY-Z: American Gangster
By Malcolm Parker, 16, Mayfair HS (Lakewood)
Jay-Z’s latest, American Gangster, is inspired by the blockbuster movie American Gangster and like the movie, the album has its emotional highs and lows. Jay-Z’s vision of an “American Gangster” is an emotional one.
In the intense “Pray” the American gangster Jay-Z portrays is distressed at the gangster life he feels he didn’t want. “Everything I seen made me everything I am/ I didn’t choose this life/ this life chose me.”
Clearly, there is much more to his lifestyle than getting bling, money, girls and slinging drugs. These are aspects of Jay-Z’s album but it is not what defines the music. What dominates American Gangster is his compelling honestly. On “No Hook” he admits “That the streets was my second home/ Since I never got my dad back.” Jay-Z doesn’t express his emotions in an overbearing way either; he rhymes as if he’s narrating his own life. Unlike most rappers who rely on production to convey the feeling of a song, Jay-Z does the opposite on this CD. On “No Hook” he harshly states that “This is not for commercial usage/ Please don’t categorize this as music/ I’m more Frank Lucas than Ludacris.”
The exciting thing about the album is not only how Jay-Z redefines the idea of a gangster but how he humanizes the image of the gangster. On American Gangster Jay-Z presents the reality of the streets without any compromise.