Drake featuring Dawn Richard - “Where Were You”
The first few seconds had tricked me into thinking this was gonna be another spacey bedroom ballad from Drizzy but those drums kicked in and revealed that Drake is actually getting his Depeche Mode on with this discarded demo from the Thank Me Later era. A post-Danity/pre-Dirty Money Dawn Richard is along for the ride to provide the soothing female vocals for this tale of love from long ago. I likes it.
Frank Ocean - “Pyramids” (Video) (NSFW)
Strippers! Big budgets! John Mayer!; yes, Frank Ocean has it all in the first video from his channel ORANGE album. I’m not sure what it all means but Frankie O. spends part of the video channeling “I’ll Be Missing You”-era Puff Daddy when not busy laughing at the creepy faced pole dancers. Annnd there is a pyramid at the end—- illuminati theorists will have a field day with that but I’ll wait for the inevitable film student deconstructions.
Nelly Furtado - “Parking Lot” (Video)
It’s a shame that Nelly’s first two singles from her new album The Spirit Indestructible didn’t get any radio love as they were adventurous forays into pop that haven’t been done to death by current artists getting spins… and I guess that was the problem. Regardless, Nells continues to march to her own beat with a fantastic video for third single “Parking Lot”, which sounds like a less hyper “Hollaback Girl”. I’m glad to see that the lack of a mainstream hit has not deterred the label from spending promo dollars on her project as this simple but effective clip for “Parking Lot” shows that you can do a lot with clever lighting effects, editing, and a little bit o’ choreography.
Conor Maynard featuring Pharrell - “Lift Off”
I was championing this kid’s debut album Contrast during the latter part of the summer and I’ve been rocking various tracks from it since. The latest to get Jam of The Week status is the Pharrell assisted “Lift Off”. Yes, it is totally Justified-era JT but since he is busy still trying to be an actor, we’ve got Conor puttin’ it down and channeling his inner Justin—- and wouldn’t you rather it be Timberlake than Bieber?
Faith Evans - “Dumb”
I haven’t seen Fizzy’s reality show R&B Divas, but there is an album of the same name on its way featuring new material from Miz Evans and her sangin’ castmates. After countless ballad single releases over the years, it’s nice to her Faith pick up the tempo with this Motown-esque jam featuring a hilarious mid-song spoken interlude where she informs her no good boo that she is “Helene’s daughter” and “...ain’t nobody’s fool!”
The Dream featuring Pusha T and Mase - “Higher” (NSFW)
It always takes me a minute to get onboard with a Kanye project cuz it’s not always easy to separate the artist from his antics and fame-whoring tendencies—- this Kanye ‘n’ Kim era is especially grating. Paparazzi-bating publicity stunts aside, I’m kinda feeling the music comin’ outta Camp Kanye and his G.O.O.D. Music imprint. Compilation Cruel Summer just hit the streets and though I haven’t heard the whole thing, “Higher” is already a, well highlight for me. While The-Dream and The Autotune are unfortunate choices, I love the everything but the kitchen sink production that takes a spanish guitar, a “Mercy”-esque sorta Middle Eastern sample, harp-sounding flourishes, a didn’t-see-that-coming doo wop breakdown and manages to make it all hot for the streets.
Agnes - “Got Me Good”
Although I’m not vocal about it, I often find myself checking for the latest from a small cluster of Swedish popsters including Erik Hassle, Darin, Robyn (of course) and er, Agnes. Although I’m not sure if they needed one, Agnes is essentially Sweden’s very own Leona Lewis, but with a better team picking her songs. Best known in the U.S. for her sorta kinda minor hit “Release Me” from a few years back, ol’ Aggs just a dropped a new album in her native Swe-Town. Much like Alexandra Burke’s most recent album, Agnes’ Veritas is a collection of generic dance pop, but the production is so slick and lush that I couldn’t help but throw a few selections on the iPod. “Got Me Good” is an album highlight featuring a dreamy vocal from Ags soaring above cinematic strings, smoothed out “Show Me Love” synths and driving club beats that transform the tune from the ballad it very well originally could have been. Speaking of Leona…
Leona Lewis - “Trouble” (Video)
Yes, La Lewis is back and gearing up for the release of her third album, Glassheart. She tried the eurodance thing not too long ago with “Collide” and apparently retreated back into her ballad shell when that didn’t really hit. To her credit, or the credit of her team, there is an effort this time around to give her more of a edge by giving LeLew material with a bit more of a bite than her past Lite FM staples. Lead single “Trouble” is reportedly co-penned by Emilie Sand, influenced by Massive Attack and features a rap from Childish Gambino! Granted the video version is a Gambino-free teen drama, but this new direction for Lewis is still “ballsy” for someone who has been the musical equivalent of beige.
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