The music challenge continued
"Overall Annoying" Clay Aiken Reviewed by Andrea Domanick, 16, Harvard-Westlake school Billy Talent‘s CD Atlantic turned out to be a little different than I had expected. Having been raised on rock en español, I was expecting a Jaguares/La Ley style with really impactful lyrics and smooth rock melodies. However, the rhythms on Atlantic are really [...]
Reviewed by Andrea Domanick, 16, Harvard-Westlake school
I am not gonna lie. Clay Aiken is catchy. As a singer, he’s very talented. But his hummable, soaring melodies quickly annoyed me. His first single, "Invisible," starts out with a raw acoustic guitar fronted by some equally raw vocals and semi-decent lyrics. As other elements of the song come in, I’m vaguely reminded of Oasis—for about a second. Then the song rushes into its desperately heroic chorus. While his vocals remain strong, the lyrics get lost somewhere in between a land of creepy-bordering-stalker ("If I was invisible, I’d make you mine tonight") and so trite it just doesn’t even make sense ("Wish you could touch me with the colors of your life"). The well-orchestrated music and sweeping vocals allow limp lyrics to slip by relatively unnoticed—until Aiken pauses after the chorus and whimpers, "If I was invisible—wait, I already am." I guess the producers were trying to show the weak guy under all of the hope and confidence. Bad move—it just sounds like the record company ripped off the lyrics from a sensitive 13-year-old’s diary. Rather than feel Aiken’s pain, I felt like laughing at him. I prefer bands with more articulate, expressive lyrics and a more genuine, individual rock sound like The Faint, The Shins, Weezer, Oasis and Blur. A talented singer with cookie-cutter lyrics and excellent orchestration—Clay Aiken is a hit for the masses, but not a hit for me.
Reviewed by Guianna Henriquez, 17, Marlborough School
Billy Talent‘s CD Atlantic turned out to be a little different than I had expected. Having been raised on rock en español, I was expecting a Jaguares/La Ley style with really impactful lyrics and smooth rock melodies. However, the rhythms on Atlantic are really upbeat, with strong, pounding drums punctuated by rapid guitar sequences repeated over and over. Because of the fast beat, I couldn’t really get a sense of all the words, but the singer’s high-pitched yells fit in perfectly with the strong acoustics. The rebellious rhythm is what ultimately hooked me. It was just exciting to listen to. Billy Talent is definitely the kind of music that is best to see in concert, and not while you’re trying to fall asleep. Though this is not a CD I would normally buy, I was surprised to find myself connecting with it, despite the fact that the songs constantly yelled into my ears.
"Way too sweet"
Reviewed by Stephanie Cruz, 17, Bravo Medical Magnet
The sound of pop music usually makes me cringe. Sugar-sweet lyrics and melodramatic themes seem to make my head hurt; so when Mike, my editor, suggested I listen to one of his personal favorites, Debbie Gibson, I was a bit hesitant. The next day I went online and looked at a bunch of Debbie Gibson stuff: hits, videos, interviews and even the not-so-popular songs.
I thought that I could maybe relate to her songs; she did sing about teenage problems. But they were filled with teen drama and everything you hear today. In an interview I watched, Debbie said she wrote her own music, so I guess she was creative in that sense. But when I heard her sing, I found that although she has an awesome voice and is a great performer, I didn’t care much for her songs. I heard a couple of lyrics and found them to be overwhelmingly sweet: "I get lost in your eyes/ And I feel my spirits rise/ And soar like the wind… / Is it love that I am in?"
I thought that listening to older pop music would give me a little more insight into how the music has evolved or what it has evolved to. Truth is, it hasn’t changed all that much, except maybe for the big hair and bad dancing. I guess Debbie Gibson was the epitome of 80′s pop. She danced, she sang and her music wasn’t all that great.
Reviewed by Ashley Zartner, 15, Bell HS
Debbie Gibson’s Greatest Hits is something I probably would never have found myself listening to. I didn’t even really know who she was. I knew that she was an 80′s pop singer, but that’s it.
At first, I kept switching the tracks to find one that suited me. I really expected her to sound like Tiffany singing "I Think We’re Alone Now" in her girly-sounding voice. However, her voice was really popish and high-pitched. Even though I am a pop and country fanatic, this was 80′s pop, not something I would ever listen to, unless I was watching the movies Pretty in Pink or Sixteen Candles. After going through each track about three times, I finally found a few that I started to listen to over and over. I really liked "Only in My Dreams" and "Electric Youth." "Only In My Dreams" sounded more like a song I would listen to regularly, and it was easy to sing along to. "Electric Youth" was one of the songs that if I heard it on the radio for the first time, I would automatically change it, but it made me want to get up and dance each time I heard it. I found myself humming and singing them around the house. At one point my sister heard what I was listening to and she said "Debbie Gibson!" while making a weird face. I thought that was funny, since my sister grew up listening to New Kids on the Block and Tiffany.
I would definitely recommend this CD to anyone who likes pop.
"Not bad, but could have been better"
Reviewed by Mike Fricano, associate editor
As someone who cannot speak nor understand Spanish, listening to Juanes‘ debut CD was a challenge. But I also felt like my ignorance of the language allowed me to evaluate the melodies, rhythms and harmonies more purely. Since I didn’t know what he was singing about my feelings were tied to how the sounds moved me.
The first few tracks were a wonderful departure from my usual musical diet of alt-country folk singers like Neko Case or traditional rock bands like U2. Rather than a simple percussion set up with a snare drum and bass drum, Juanes’ best songs were more energetic using overlapping beats from many different percussion instruments. And I loved the unusual (to me) instrumentation—electric guitars over bongos and guiros, and later an accordian!. The flavorings of traditional Latin folk melodies should serve as a wake-up call to American pop stars (that’s you Britney) to remember to compose melodies, sing-alongable choruses and use actual live musicians.
Then track 5, "Destino," hit me. Rhythmically this song was much more comparable to a standard American pop-rock song with your basic beats on two and four. Without the freshness of a different cultural influence to engage me, this song and the one after it, "Nada," were just American pop rhythms with words I didn’t know. He could have been spilling his guts with the most profound emotional truths, but I was bored. Juanes’ best stuff came from his musical fusions of traditional Latin and South American styles with elements of funk or jazz or rock.