State In The Real – Penn State Music Scene

Author - Chris Will

Song Review of the Week: "Satellite" by The Wanted

The Wanted, the UK-bred boy band that is partially responsible for the “boy band comeback” that seems to be sweeping the nation (the rest of the blame falls on One Direction), released their self-titled U.S. debut on Tuesday. The 7-track release is full of smooth-talking songwriting and club-themed production built around layers of hooks. Though they have yet to release it as a single, the track “Satellite” seems to be The Wanted’s most solid record, maybe even more so than “Glad You Came”.

Penned by famed producer, songwriter, and OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder, “Satellite” is an optimistic love song slightly similar to Katy Perry’s smash hit “Firework.” The song starts slow amongst a throbbing synthesizer and a steady club beat, while the different members of The Wanted take turns singing, focusing presumably on a female lover. The pre-chorus and chorus are effortlessly catchy as the vocals ring above the atmospheric house music. “Satellite” has a bit of an 80’s touch to it, and Tedder’s superior lyricism grants the song an added dimension, “We can take on the bodies of angels, away from everyone.  Touch as we circle the world, you and me on the run.” Check it out!

Song Review of the Week: "I'm All Yours" by Jay Sean feat. Pitbull

British R&B singer/songwriter Jay Sean is slowly, but surely, preparing for the release of his next album Worth It All.  He recently released the single “I’m All Yours” to the radio, and with its upbeat sound and dance-themed production, it’s sure to be another huge success for Sean.

“I’m All Yours” kicks off big as Jay Sean moves straight into the hook. Metallic synthesizers and tribal-like background vocals create a catchy contradiction for Sean’s voice to use as a foothold.  Pitbull jumps in right after and manages to string together his verse well enough to generally stay true to the theme (though I’m not sure what law-suits and scubas have to do with romance).   His second verse in the bridge is much more short and succinct, and Sean closes out his half of the bridge effectively as he croons, “We gonna fly, yeah, and we gonna soar, yeah, tonight is ours, yeah, and I’m all yours, yeah.” “I’m All Yours” is a pretty solid track even with the standard house breakdowns.  The clannish backup choir gives what would be a generic dance chorus an interesting twist, and Sean’s vocals are more than equipped to stand out above the instrumentation.  Pitbull expectedly turns out to be a sturdy feature, and the songwriting is simple enough for the feel of the song without coming across as asinine.

Keep an eye out for when the track hits iTunes, and now that Sean has a definite plan set for Worth It All, he’ll be sure to release more singles in the future.

Linkin Park or Linkin Pop?

 

Yesterday, nu-metal all stars Linkin Park released the first single off of their upcoming album, Living Things, set to drop on June 26th.  The track, labeled “Burn It Down” doesn’t really burn as much as it does bubble.

The aggressive hip-hop and metal that characterized Meteora and Hybrid Theory have been replaced with fizzy pop and electro.  Singer Chester Bennington, whose snarling, angry voice used to cut into hits such as “Faint” and “In The End”, now sounds soft and wounded, dejected even while supported by a mattress of comfy synthesizers.   Even rapper Mike Shinoda sounds different, and his verses come across as more emotive than assertive.  This is certainly a change of pace for Linkin Park, and though it’s bound to bring in a new group of fans, it’s also likely to turn some of their more seasoned fans away.  Is “Burn It Down” a come-back hit or a complete flop?  You decide.

“Call Me Maybe” gets an R-rated Remix

The hype behind “Call Me Maybe” is comical.  A teenybopper love song from a Canadian singer who looks like she’s 15, but is really in her mid 20’s, Carly Rae Jepsen’s debut single is currently the 10th most popular song in America (according to the Billboard Hot 100).  It’s upbeat, kid-friendly, and as sweet as can be.  Or at least it was, until WVU rapper Huey Mack put his own spin on it.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more ridiculous, introducing “F**k Me Baby.” Mack’s re-make is not only hilarious, it’s also just catchy as the original.  Sure, Mack may not be as obnoxiously spunky as Jepsen, but with his clever lyrics and quick flow, his voice still prevails over the cheesy production.  His shout out to Selena Gomez in the second verse is one of the highlights of the track, and with a remix this solid, it’s easy to see why he has such a big underground following.

Song Review Of The Week: "Warrior" by Kimbra, Mark Foster, and A-Trak

What do “Somebody That I Used To Know”, Foster The People, and EDM have in common?  They’re all partially involved with Converse’s newest segment of its “3 artists, 1 song” campaign.  “Warrior” features Kimbra, who is the female counterpart in “Somebody That I Used To Know,” Foster The People frontman Mark Foster, and electronic DJ A-Trak, who’s remixed for the likes of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Kanye West.  This trio combines the best of their musical talents to create an upbeat, disco-swathed dance hit that’s marinating in 80’s pop.

A-Trak’s frenzied, funkifed synthesizers spring and bounce through kick drums and claps, and Kimbra’s cool, breezy voice acts as a good base to counteract the acidic beats.  Mark Foster comes in to join Kimbra in the chorus, creating a fun and sunny throwback to the days when parachute pants and shoulder pads were all the rage.  The two vocalists compliment each other well, and the lyrical theme of strong and rebellious youth rings clearly over A-Trak’s in-your-face production.  The bridge plays out in true Foster The People fashion, as Mark Foster sets off the instrumentation with a cheerily unsettling wail.  It may not be the most conventional of pop tracks, but then again, that’s the whole point of “3 artists, 1 song.”  This isn’t your standard collaboration; these are three groundbreaking musicians who are coming together to combine their musical influences to create a cohesive, catchy hit.

Between “Warrior” and Converse’s previous track “DoYaThing” (which if you haven’t heard, you’re seriously, honestly, sadly missing out), Converse seems to be on the right track with these “3 artists, 1 song” releases.  You can download the track for free here.  Also, make sure you watch the video.  It’s pretty awesome.

Song Review of the Week: "Va Va Voom" by Nicki Minaj

Silly Nicki Minaj!  She always hides her best songs in her bonus tracks.  Her sophomore effort, Pink Friday…Roman Reloaded, dropped Tuesday, and it’s packed with 19 outlandish songs full of club-ready pop, raucous rap, and R&B flavor.  The deluxe version of the album contains four extra cuts.  Two of the songs are new, one is a 26-minute recording of Nicki talking, and one is David Guetta’s “Turn Me On” (I don’t know why either).  One of the originals, “Masquerade”, is a fun listen, but the lyrics and sound both come off as a bit scatter-brained.  The other original, “Va Va Voom”, is the standout hit on Roman Reloaded, outshining not only “Masquerade” but also every other track on the album.  “Va Va Voom” is to Roman Reloaded what “Super Bass” was to Nicki’s first album, Pink Friday: a tucked away bonus track, blistering with radio potential, begging to be heard.

Like “Super Bass”, “Va Va Voom” is bubble-gum pop at it’s core: sugary sweet, chock-full of hooks, and showcasing an innovative and radio-friendly side to Minaj that is hardly seen these days (“Starships” doesn’t fit into the category of innovative).  However, unlike “Super Bass”, “Va Va Voom” finds Minaj more vulnerable than confident.  Instead of celebrating love, she regrets it.  Instead of her voice rising joyously in the chorus, it strains with aching passion.  It’s less of a proclamation than a story, and while Minaj recognizes that the man she wants is taken, she also realizes that she can’t let her affection for him go.  This kind of downtrodden desperation is such a rarity for Minaj that the tone and lyrics alone make “Va Va Voom” a notable track.

The production in “Va Va Voom” is crisp, clean, and compact. It’s a pop gem that’s brimming with dance-floor potential and can also be enjoyed in a more relaxed environment.  The backbone of the song consists mostly of a haunting, ethereal vocal track, while a deep, throaty synthesizer chugs steadily along.  The chorus is a bit more explosive, but on the whole “Va Va Voom” balances well.  The production never overtakes Minaj’s voice, and her vocals never overshadow the production.  The sound is original, the songwriting is original, and there’s an extremely good chance this song will be blaring tirelessly from the radio in just a few months.