Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2015-08-14
Jason Derulo: Everything Is 4 (Beluga Heights/Warner Bros., 2015) Though it's no surprise that it's less silly and romantic than the ebullient Talk Dirty, Derulo is proof that the pop machine comes in many models. Like the Chevy Malibu, Derulo has his blind spots. But his gimmicky pop r&b reminds me more of the peppy Ford Focus. At least three different ways to say ooh-ooh-ooh. Effective cameos from the iconic Stevie Wonder, the generic Julia Michaels, the useless Meghan Trainor, and the fat, deep, obscure Big Marv. Plenty of sex. Less love. Enough love nonetheless. A-
Miguel: Wildheart (RCA, 2015) It's sloppy to slot this as the latest in r&b's endless succession of sin-versus-salvation struggles. This Angeleno is more secular than that, and also less desperate. So ". . . goingtohell" is about romantic love and human mortality, not eternal damnation, and "gonna die young" addresses not the brutalities of the thug life but the perils of the fast lane like Frank Ocean and the Eagles before it. Nor is the chiseled Afro-Hispanic the pure sex symbol some assume--that's why the porn-inspired "the valley" is followed by the domestic morning-after of "coffee" before it's trumped by some dickish fuckery he hands off to Kurupt. You could even say this recalls one of rock's endless succession of coming-of-age struggles. The straightforwardly confused "what's normal anyway" sums it up nicely. He is normal--because he ain't. A-
OceaŠn: The Grip EP (Rough Trade EP, 2014) The--all right, an--erotic truth for an epoch of signal-impaired courtship and the phone pulsing every time you get a new sext ("Grip," "Veritas") **
Sam Smith: In the Lonely Hour (Capitol, 2014) Only when I finally bought the CD did I realize how well this pleasant pop I'd been MP3ing through my skull cohered as a self-portrait. This Sam Smith fella is a needy man, insecure about love as all of us are and more candid about it than most. And though manly types may scoff at his pleasing to infernally hooky tunes, not one song approaches self-pity. Both vocally and verbally, they offer the kind of emotional complexity about sexual romance's ins and outs that good pop captures better than good literature, where cynicism is such a folkway. But having established that baseline, let me single out my favorite, the lead "Money on My Mind," an emotionally complex reflection on his record deal. And let me add that the four OK-to-excellent extras on the deluxe edition dilute the original album's effect. A-
Tinashe: Aquarius (RCA, 2014) Any stroke can stretch an orgasm, any sound can state a beat ("2 On," "Wildfire") ***
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