Favorites Friday – The Weeknd, “Wicked Games”

the-weekndI’ve been away this weekend, and you know what they say about hotel wifi: it sucks. Luckily, we can use our imaginations and act like it is still Friday night. For my next installment of musical favorites, we’ll start with my first song I ever heard by The Weeknd. Of course, I downloaded “Crew Love” on Drake’s Take Care, but I had no real inclination to listen to that song more than a couple of times. It took hearing Abel’s solo work to realize my love for the singer.

I have written about The Weeknd plenty before, and you may know that his “Adaptation” ranks in my Top 50 all-time favorite songs. “Wicked Games” may not be an all-timer, but it still stands as an excellent piece and one of the best songs by The Weeknd. The tune is gritty and unfiltered, releasing an emotional opening-up to Abel’s mistress.

The vocals echo a bit but stay rather pure (oftentimes it sounds almost live, especially on the chorus). The beat is simplistic, but features usage of multiple instruments and is subtle enough to carry along the vocals.

Overall, I would rate the song at:

9/10

You can check out the song below:

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Hear It First – Mike Will Made-It ft. The Weeknd, Swan Lee and Future, “Drinks On Us”

drinks-on-usDespite a less-than-relevant 2014, Mike Will Made It grabs an artist we love and two artists we cannot stand to make a song that is not necessarily terrible. Swan Lee’s verse is much better than anything I have heard by him, and Future sounded like more of the same. The beat is signature Hip-Hop but does feel a little repetitive.

The Weeknd is the best part of the song, which makes it good that he has the most singing time. You can check out the song below and hear it first:

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Artist Recommendation – Years & Years

years-and-yearsElectro-Soul band Years & Years have quite an impressive list of recommendations, among them from Ellie Goulding. A tweet by the British singer was the only reason I noticed the young band, who currently have multiple EPs (Take Shelter, Real and Traps), a  and a recent single title “King”. The London-based group puts together complex but rhythmic music that conveys a sense of being separate from the earth when listening to it.

While that may be a bold claim, the sound of Years & Years is Soulful while exciting, passionate, and tailored for anywhere from an upbeat clubscene to a one-man dance party where you hope your parents don’t return home early. The vocals are presented in a high and absolutely smooth tone that sounds similar to The Weeknd. At times, the high pitch and instrumentals do not feel like a match when both try so hard to be unique, but “King” does a superb job of showing an awareness for that and finding the right match.

Speaking of “King”, that is my absolute favorite song by Years & Years and one of my favorite songs currently. Other favorites include “Memo” and “Desire”, which are some of their more popular songs (For a reason, of course). The EDM-portion of the music is more apparent in “Desire” while a sense of Soul is portrayed in “Memo”, so that gives some balance for both audiences of the genres.

Overall, I would rate Years & Years’ music at:

8.25/10

Expect a lot of sound layered upon more sound in the music by Years & Years, and the Pop-EDM vibe is always somewhat apparent. For some (like myself), this is more appealing than to those searching for a mellow EDM-Soul combo (such as MNEK).

Regardless, you can check out my favorites (and more) below. You can also purchase their music on iTunes here. Now go enjoy the entrancing and hair-flipping music of Years & Years:

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Billboard Hot 100 Favorites #1

billboard

In honor of hitting 5,000 views today, I decided to do something special. Just because I write about less-than-mainstream music sometimes does not mean I have no ounce of soul. AKA I do not consider myself a hipster. If you do, go ahead, but I thought I would share my favorite mainstream music picks. So let’s jump right into this, I’ll even give quick ratings!

Disclosure: I will not write about songs that I have already given “Hear It First” articles. These songs and their positions are as of the week of January 17, 2015 on the America (‘Murica!) chart. You can read about each song below the jump:

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Music Recommendation – Single – Wiz Khalifa ft. Ty Dolla $ign, “Refresh/Say No More”

wiz-khalifa-ty-dollaYou liked these two together on their hit Or Nah, so two of the biggest faces of Taylor Gang came back together to give you 8:40 more of their music. However, Wiz Khalifa sounds more like his prime form and Ty Dolla $ign manages to carry much of the song. Throughout, it is slow while lengthy but manages to resemble one of my all-time favorite songs, Remember You.

The song starts with Khalifa rapping about the same ole same ole, behind a rather ominous but fitting beat. I would wait until Ty Dolla $ign jumps in before fully judging this song, however. His voice makes the song a bit more interesting, though he makes me feel like an old man trying to hear what he is whispering on the chorus.

Overall, I would rate the song/songs/noise for eight and a half minutes at:

8.5/10

This project is very slow-paced, which is not necessarily bad, but has a problem fitting into a time length and keeping the listener paying attention. The Say No More section is way better, but both are enjoyable. I would have loved hearing The Weeknd on this track, but then again I do not know a song that I wouldn’t enjoy hearing The Weeknd add his voice to. Somehow this article transformed into praising The Weeknd, but then again no one ever said that they wouldn’t prefer a meal without dessert.

So go ahead and give the song a listen below. I highly recommend that if you will listen to it, play it in full or don’t play it at all. Hear it in full and pretty much first below:

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Music Recommendation – Single – Kiki Rowe, “Demolition”

kikirowe2Only a couple of months after her self-titled debut album released (and was reviewed by AMP here), the rising RnB singer is back with another distorted-voiced love song. Solid production finds an excellent balance behind the entrancing voice of Rowe. Demolition starts out the path to a sophomore album right and offers listeners an insight into Kiki Rowe’s sound before, what I believe is on the horizon, her big break.

Kiki Rowe has already worked with important names in the music industry, including the hit-maker DJ Mustard on Trust Issues. I have always used The Weeknd comparisons to Kiki Rowe, but Demolition is a bit more unique this time around. Her voice and production give her the perfect sense of originality while striking a slight resemblance to give first-time listeners something to compare with.

Demolition is a bit over-mechanized at times, but for the most-part, production went quite well. The song keeps a steady pace on a long chorus, but can be entertaining to any RnB listener due to all the stops that the voice of Kiki Rowe pulls out to impress listeners.

I have big hopes that Kiki Rowe ranges her music a bit more to appeal to a wider demographic than just the RnB/Soul fan. Alternative fans might find love for Rowe’s music, but currently it feels a bit too focused on one brand. This is, however, coming from somebody who claims RnB to be a favorite genre, so basically the same as a baker talking about an overpopulation of cupcakes in a bakery; we don’t really mind it one bit! So this is more professional opinion than criticism.

Overall, I would rate the song at:

9.25/10

The song is a huge return for Kiki Rowe and reminds me of Go Getta quite a bit in its potential. I recommend a listen below:

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Music Recommendation – Single – The Weeknd, “Earned It”

the-weekndSaddle in, get your lotion out, and enjoy the movie. 50 Shades Of Grey is a movie now, and as our human race has proven countless times already, we can blow (ha) things out of proportion and capitalize on our terribleness as a species. At least The Weeknd is entertainment’s savior and can make something like this somewhat bearable by helping give it a good soundtrack.

Notice that The Weeknd makes Earned It sound a bit more Pop-like and easy to play on the radio. The song feels repetitive and lyrics are brief. However, the lack of crude character is refreshing (similar to how Love Me Harder was) and shows the diversity in The Weeknd’s music. The strings and beat sound spectacular and the drums carry everything together well. The song is layered well, though feels a bit lackluster and boring.

Overall, I would rate the song at:

9.25/10

After reading my horrible first paragraph joke (or mis-attempt at one) you can – nay, may, stream the song below. You’ve…earned it:

-Austin Heath

Album Review – Tyler Carter, “Leave Your Love” (EP)

leave-your-love-tyler-carterTyler Carter has the ability to make some excellent and diverse music, ranging from Pop to Metalcore. The lead singer of Issues released his new EP, Leave Your Love, earlier this week to stream on YouTube. The album has a bit more of a Soulful Pop tone and includes only one feature.

So how does the solo work of Tyler Carter compare to that of his popular hits with his band? Let’s break down this album track by track and find out:

1. Sophisticated – The beat is rather basic and the vocal production feels a bit subpar, but Sophisticated is an enjoyable song. The hook seems to just go on for too long, though. I can nitpick this song quite a bit, as little aspects just feel overlooked. It focuses more on the hook than anything else, which while catchy, reaches a point where it is not as enjoyable and just makes the song feel shorter than it actually is. There is something about the song that makes it easy to listen to, however, and Tyler Carter’s voice sounds passionate and flows well with the beat.

7.25/10

2. Leave Your Love – The title track of the EP is a bit more mellow and soulful than Sophisticated, showing the diversity of Tyler Carter’s music.  Leave Your Love‘s tone reminds me a bit of The Weeknd but has a bit more vocal editing and extra notes behind lyrics. These can be a bit excessive, but otherwise the song is enjoyable. The end of the chorus is especially catchy and the fade out instrumental is beautifully composed and executed.

9.25/10

3. Georgia – Already reviewed this song here. Sidenote: This song has become incredibly catchy due to its simple lyrics and soulful sound. Though the rating was not incredibly high, it does deserve a listen.

7.5/10

4. So Slow – Despite starting the musical aspect way too late, So Slow actually becomes a great listen. The song sounds similar to Chris Brown’s F.A.M.E. sound. You know, amazing RnB? The flow in the second stanza is a bit off at times, but the whole song is a great pace and my only wish it that it had ceased the talking part earlier. Though the random pitch sounds for a bridge could have been dealt with any other way perhaps.

6.5/10

5. Tears On The Runway (Pt. 1) ft. Nylo – Two-parters are always interesting, especially when lined up together. Sadly, this one will not get a part two for a while. The duet is rather low-key and features heartfelt lyricism. The chorus is a bit brief, but it is enjoyable. This is my first encounter with Nylo, and her voice is unique, though not very ranged. Tyler Carter’s synth-based and tuned vocals sound a bit too much like the Jonas Brothers for me on this song, but it is still a fine listen.

7.25/10

6. Find Me – Find Me caps off the album decently, as the song capitalizes on the mistakes of the previous songs by adding a bit more emphasis on the points put into the verses. The song is a bit explicit, but feels more emotionally connected with Tyler Carter. The vocals are a bit rough, but have points where they are more impressive. The song is a bit average and hardly stands out as making the album great, but is not difficult to enjoy.

8/10

So overall, the EP averages out to a score of about:

7.75/10

The EP is a bit messy in its sound quality and composition, but the songs are diverse and interesting to hear. There are plenty of catchy melodies worth hearing and I would say listening to the EP in full is not a mistake, but is not necessarily going to be considered a “slept-on album” if it does not get the attention it was made to receive.

I still enjoy Tyler Carter’s solo music quite a bit, though this EP had its flaws. I just want to see these flaws practiced on and a full EP released with a couple of features and better faith in Tyler Carter’s voice. I have seen mixed reviews, and mixed is exactly how I feel about these six songs.

You can stream the EP below on YouTube, along with pre-ordering it on iTunes for its January 2015 release here (So I don’t feel like such an industry killer by only sharing the stream and have Taylor Swift show up at my door):

-Austin Heath

Favorites Friday – Ellie Goulding, High For This (Cover)

I get it, it is Saturday (Sunday for some of you), but we all forget things and this entire week I feel like I have been a day behind for whatever reason. So let’s just pretend today is Friday (or very early Saturday depending on where you live) so I feel less pathetic. So hooray, it’s Friday! What are your plans for this lovely weekend? Spoiler Alert: Depending on where you live, it might snow.

Ellie Goulding’s cover of The Weeknd’s High For This is the subject of this installment of Favorites Friday. Most of the time, if The Weeknd is involved, I will give it a listen. I loved the original High For This, but something about Goulding’s voice on it made it even more likable. Together, I feel like these two would have made an incredible duet, but to each their own. I just want what I can never have.

So the real question of this post is this: Who dun-done it better? To be honest, it depends on your musical preference. Ellie Goulding’s version is much different from The Weeknd’s. In the end, despite my preference for RnB, I can almost definitively say that Ellie Goulding’s rendition is the better of the two. It is simply more entertaining and relies on both vocals and the complex beat.

That being said, I know a number of listeners who do not find Ellie Goulding’s voice appealing. Her sound is unique and stands out against other artists, and while I can go about saying I prefer British Pop over American, Ellie Goulding’s voice can over-do it for me at times. She is on point on this song though, and it is truly only dependent on whether or not you like her voice that proves if you will enjoy this song.

So overall, I would give the cover a 9.75/10. One of the best covers out there, a great change-up to the song and still an amazing piece. It’s a bit old but definitely worth sharing. Go ahead and check it out if you have not already below, as it is still one of my favorites over a year later:

-Austin Heath

Artist Recommendation – Kiki Rowe

In my next Artist picks we have Kiki Rowe. Kiki is an up-and-coming Canadian RnB/Alternative singer. Sound familiar? Yes, Kiki bears serious resemblance to The Weeknd, and that is definitely not a bad thing. If you enjoy listening to Abel, you should seriously listen to this girl’s stuff.

Be Alright and All We Got are excellent, but my number one pick of the Mississauga native’s songs is Come Through. All of her songs have a gorgeous sound though, and her diverse music ranges from low-key RnB to Alternative-pop. The beautiful artist keeps her work original and interesting throughout every track.

I’m leaving her 10 SoundCloud tracks below, but if you do not have enough time to listen to them all then I recommend at least giving my three favorites above a listen. Overall, I would rate her sound at 9.5/10. While her sound is similar to The Weeknd’s, it is distinct and quite majestic. I would love to hear a little less editing in some of her tracks (something I’ve noticed changing anyways though). Now check out her music below:

-Austin Heath