Welcome to Part II of the Year End Album Reviews 2013. Because there’s so many albums to review, I couldn’t put it all in one post. The crazy thing about music is the trends of the time. This year, there was a lot of retro, disco-influenced tracks, slow ballads, and folk/country-influenced songs that were charting. The most successful hip-hop act of the year are two, independent label-signed white guys from Seattle making songs about thrift shops and same-sex marriage. Many big names of the music industry put out albums. Miley Cyrus annoyed the fuck outta people by not going away. If you’ve already seen Part I of these reviews, then you already know I’m gonna rate every album using the letter grade system, A, B, C, D, and F. And if you don’t know, now you know. Now let’s finish this. These are the albums released from July to December of 2013.
Magna Carta Holy Grail
Release Date: July 4
We all know Jay Z is a fucking legend in the game. He’s one of those dudes in rap who has respect from both the mainstream and hip-hop heads. But let’s be real; even the legends have a couple of duds in their catalog and Jay has plenty. Reasonable Doubt, The Blueprint, and The Black Album are undeniable classics, but his music after the latter has been inconsistent. Kingdom Come wasn’t that good, American Gangster was cool, and Blueprint 3 was a disappointment. So when Jay announced another album, people were wondering, “is this gonna make up for his previous lackluster efforts or is this gonna be another disappointment that adds to it instead?” Enter Magna Carta Holy Grail. Is it another classic or another stinker? Answer, it’s neither. This is a pretty average release. The production’s great, handled by Timbaland, The-Dream, Pharrell, Swizz Beatz, Boi-1da, and many more. But, lyrically, it’s a letdown. I mean, Jay can still spit a good verse every now and then, but half of the time, it sounds like he just gave up trying to sound good and just raps about whatever. Some of the album’s highlights include Holy Grail, Picasso Baby, Oceans, and Part II (On The Run). Most of the songs on this album are mediocre and forgettable, especially BBC, which had Nas on it; I thought that was gonna be one of the best songs on the entire album, but it was just a big mess and neither Nas or Jay brought their A-game. So, Magna Carta Holy Grail is overall just average. This will never be a classic album at all and it won’t be Jay’s worst album either. I give it a C. I do recommend checking out some songs on YouTube.
Release Date: July 23
The fourth studio album from Disney kid Selena Gomez and her first without her band The Scene, Stars Dance is a departure from past releases as this one ventures deep into electronica/dupstep territory and is considered to be Selena’s most mature work yet. And yet this is not that good. Sorry, Selena fans, but it’s true. The production’s overly processed and there’s too many effects put on her voice that doesn’t even make it sound like her. At times, I questioned if she was actually singing anything in the songs at all. Plus, have you notice that a lot of these songs on here sound like songs from other female pop stars? Seriously, some songs like Britney Spears while others sound like Rihanna. The themes of all these songs are romance, just like every other pop album out there, so nothing revolutionary is in this. Did I also forget to mention that some of these songs are about sex? Don’t believe me? Look at the lyrics to Come & Get It and Slow Down. Now I’ll admit that some of these songs are catchy as hell and as much as I bashed this album, there are some legitimately good songs on here. This record is best listened to at a party, a club, or some get-together. Outside of that, it’s not that good. You will not find one of these songs on my playlist. Stars Dance, overall. gets a D. If you want mindless dance music, then this is your album. Otherwise, I don’t recommend this to anyone.
Release Date: July 30
Tech N9ne is a true unsung hero. Not a lot people in the mainstream know about this guy. Tech has been in the game for 20 plus years and has been grinding non-stop independently while putting out a butt-load of songs. Something Else is Tech’s 13th studio album. Let me repeat that, THIRTEENTH STUDIO ALBUM. That’s a lot of music. And this is a great album. Not that many artists can be in the game as long as Tech has and still put out quality material. That’s impressive. Lyrically, Tech N9ne is insane. He’s probably one of the most underrated lyricists ever. The production’s dark and gothic, fitting the mood of the album and Tech’s lyrics. There’s a lot of guest features, but that’s completely justified here as there’s 21 tracks on here (24 if you include the deluxe tracks) and they all do their thing on here. This is an album that shouldn’t be slept on. If you wanna get into Tech N9ne, check out this album and go look up his other records on YouTube. Where to start, I don’t know since he has a lot of music. Something Else gets a perfect A. I highly recommend this to anyone who appreciate great lyrical hip-hop.
Release Date: July 30
Blurred Lines. The recent album from R&B singer Robin Thicke. Well, you wouldn’t tell that he’s actually an R&B singer because most of the songs on this entire album leans more towards pop. I don’t have a problem with artists experimenting with different sounds at all, but they have to make sense and they definitely have to get it right, otherwise the results come off sloppy. This album is okay, but it sounds too much like a Justin Timberlake album. There’s still some R&B shit on this album, but dance-pop is the main sound here. There is some funk/disco elements on here like the title track, which is one of the biggest songs of the entire year. Past albums, Robin wrote and produced all of the songs. Here, he enlisted the help of other hit-makers like Pharrell, Timbaland, will.i.am, and Dr. Luke. The crazy thing, the best songs on this entire album are the songs that he wrote and produced, the rest are hit and miss. The theme of this album, just like every R&B/pop album, is love and sex; what more can I say? So, yeah. Blurred Lines is cool, but it sounds too much like JT. This gets a C. It’s definitely worth checking out.
Release Date: August 20
I’m not a fan of the whole Odd Future group. I just can’t connect with them. Most of them are talentless hacks with no reason to have a music career. Now there are a few members of the group who are talented: Frank Ocean, Domo Genesis, Tyler the Creator (yes, the guy who ate a cockroach and threw it up in a video actually does have talent), and this guy, Earl Sweatshirt. I first heard of Earl when Odd Future members and fans kept saying “Free Earl” and I was like “who the fuck is Earl? Is he in prison or something?” Apparently, his mother sent him to a boarding school in Samoa and he was there until he turned 18. Now we have his first album, Doris and it’s a solid release. Earl is probably the best rapper out of that whole Odd Future clique. There are some weak moments every now and then, but Earl did good. His Odd Future brethren is featured here alongside Mac Miller, Vince Staples, and RZA. The production is cool, handled mostly by Earl himself and a couple of other co-producers. It’s not my favorite album at all, but it’s pretty good for someone from Odd Future. I give it a B. It’s definitely worth checking out, whether you’re an Odd Future fan or not.
Hall Of Fame
Release Date: August 26
Hall Of Fame is Big Sean’s second album and, compared to the first, there’s nothing different here. Big Sean ain’t the worst rapper out there, he’s got skills. But what brings him down is his corniness and his tendencies to use annoying ad-libs. Here, his rapping is hit and miss. The production, even though it’s generic mainstream rap, is pretty cool. Some of the guest features do well while others are trash. The big problem with this album is that there’s no growth, it’s Big Sean working on the same formula from his previous releases. There’s not that much versatility, making this project very predictable. I give it a C. I wouldn’t recommend this, but if you wanna check it out, then do it.
Release Date: August 23
Some people don’t realize this, but Juicy J is a legend in the game, being a member of Three 6 Mafia. Now he’s going solo and this is his latest album, Stay Trippy. It’s okay but it’s not the best release of the year. Juicy J isn’t that impressive lyrically and the production is all the same trap shit. Some of the guest features are good while others are wack. This record was clearly made to move the clubs and I think it does a good job doing that. It serves no other purpose. This isn’t an album from like Nas or Kendrick Lamar. There are some cool songs on here, but there’s a lot of filler on here as well. Another thing, I’m disappointed that One Of Those Nights featuring The Weeknd didn’t make the cut, because that was a great song. I give Stay Trippy a C. I recommend this album if you want a soundtrack to getting turned up.
Release Date: August 30
With the Disney kids getting all of the attention, you think Nickelodeon would feel threatened, right? Well, they got this chick, Ariana Grande. And, boy, she blows those Disney kids outta the water. Now before you roll your eyes and say, “another kid singer?” let me tell you two things; A. she’s 20 years old and B. she actually has talent and this album proves it. Ariana has one hell of a singing voice, which critics have compared to Mariah Carey and you can definitely hear that influence. Unlike other pop albums that dive into electronic music, Yours Truly has a 90s R&B sound. There’s no use of Auto-Tune or any similar vocal effects (thank fucking god), it’s just her voice and she can belt it out. Although those Mariah Carey-isms does get redundant at times, especially when she hit those high notes that dogs can hear. The records are typical love songs, so if you want more than that, you won’t find anything here. Guest features are kept at minimal and that’s good. Big Sean and Mac Miller are the only rappers here and they do alright. Then, there’s this Nathan Sykes guy, I don’t know who he is. Apparently, he’s in some boy band. Huh. Here, he’s pretty decent. So Yours Truly is a very good album, probably one of the best pop releases of the year. I give this a solid B. I definitely recommend checking this album out.
The Electric Lady
Release Date: September 6
God, I love this album. This is Janelle Monae’s second studio album and it’s one of the best releases of the year. Janelle Monae is a very underrated artist. She’s one of those female artists who doesn’t always have to be half-naked and instead lets her talent do the talking. The result is a collection of stellar records called The Electric Lady. It’s well-written and the production is beyond excellent. The whole thing also tells a story from front to back. The record is damn near flawless. Unfortunately, Janelle won’t see any commercial success because she’s not selling sex like other female artists and that’s sad. It tells you a lot about how the industry would rather see an attractive, sexualized female singer than an actually talented one. Now, don’t get me wrong; Janelle is hot, but she doesn’t always flaunt it like, say, Rihanna or Katy Perry. Oh, well. As long as she makes great records, then that’s fine with me. I give this sexy Electric Lady an A. I highly recommend this record.
B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time
Release Date: September 9
A year after his piece of shit debut album, Based On A TRU Story, the artist formerly known as Tity Boi aka 2 Chainz put out his second album, B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time. And guess what? It’s just as bad as the other album. There is NO growth with this album, NONE. It’s basically the same bullshit we got with the last album. Shitty rapping, annoying voice, generic mainstream production, wasted guest features (some of them weren’t that good in the first place), and a fucking waste of time. Why this guy is getting all the attention? What’s so special about him? He sounds like every other generic shitty Southern rapper out there. I don’t know. I guess people are just stupid. Anyways, I give this pile of dog doo-doo an F. Don’t waste your time with this bullshit.
Release Date: September 13
True is the debut album from Swedish DJ Avicii. He’s been doing dance music for years and with his first album, he decided to experiment more with other genres of music. The reception was very mixed; some thought it was genius while others thought it was crap. Me? I thought this album was pretty good. When an artist tries to experiment with other genres of music, backlash is expected because some people don’t like change, they like the artist to make the same records they’re known for and while that’s cool, it limits that artist’s potential at greatness. Anyways, back to this Avicii album. This is a solid release. I like the idea of fusing another genre of music with EDM. The guest vocalists do their thing, the beats are great, it’s just a good record to dance to. There’s a lot of great songs on here like Hey Brother, Liar Liar, Lay Me Down, and the multi-platinum Billboard hit Wake Me Up. There are a couple of moments where the shit gets repetitive and some of the tracks do sound the same, but that’s a minor issue. I enjoyed listening to this record, it’s definitely something different and interesting. I give True a B. It’s definitely worth a listen.
Nothing Was The Same
Release Date: September 24
I knew it wasn’t gonna be long before we get to this album, but here we are. Nothing Was The Same from Aubrey Graham himself, Drake. You all know that I’m not a Drake fan at all; I just couldn’t get into his music. So I’ll try to be unbiased here. How is this album? I, personally, don’t like it, but it’s… okay. Nothing special, I don’t see why people are hyping this up that much. Here, this album is basically working on the same formula as Thank Me Later and Take Care, just with more polished beats, and the subject matter is the same; women, money, his family & friends, and haters. Nothing new is being brought here. Let me point out the good things about this record; he steps it up lyrically a little, some of the production is nice, the features are kept to a minimal, and, speaking of features, there’s no features from Cash Money artists (outside of Detail and a Birdman outro on one of the songs). The best songs on here are Tuscan Leather, Too Much, and Pound Cake. Those are the positives. Now the negatives; all of the songs sound the same, some of the production is boring, the songwriting sounds like it was written in less than 5 minutes, there’s too much shitty singing, and the singles suck. I hated the fucking singles, Started From The Bottom, All Me, Hold On We’re Going Home, and especially Wu Tang Forever. Plus, there’s a lot of corniness that Drake is well-known for. Overall, it’s an average record that I can’t connect to. If you like it, cool. Just keep it away from me. Nothing Was The Same? Yes, it fucking was. I give this a C. It’s worth one listen, but if you’re like me and you’re not a fan of Drake, this album won’t change your mind about him. If you are a fan, you’ll probably like it.
Release Date: September 27
New Zealand indie-pop singer Lorde dropped her debut album, Pure Heroine, this year. And let me say that this is probably the best major-label debut album since good kid, m.A.A.d city. Yeah, it’s that phenomenal. It’s one of my personal favorite albums released this year. Lorde wrote all of the songs herself and Joel Little produced the entire thing. I think these two are perfect for each other musically because they both know what they want from each other and they hit it out the park every time. The songwriting is on another level. The themes are based around being a regular teenager and living life, something we can all relate to on some level. Vocally, she delivers. Her voice is unique and sounds like no other. And I don’t even need to get started on Royals, which was number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for 9 weeks. That’s an amazing feat for an artist like her and that wasn’t even her best song (Tennis Court is a personal favorite for me). Pure Heroine is definitely one of the best pop albums of the year. It easily gets an A. I strongly recommend this to anyone.
The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2
Release Date: September 27
In 2013, Justin Timberlake made his comeback to music and people welcomed him back. The 20/20 Experience was an event in 2013 music. So when it was announced that JT was gonna put out another album, people were psyched. And what we got was The 20/20 Experience Part 2 of 2, another solid piece of work. Normally, sequel albums don’t work and rarely live up to the expectations of the original. This album has gotten less favorable reviews than the previous 20/20 Experience and, honestly, I don’t see why. I think this is a pretty good follow up. What can I say about this album that I haven’t already said about the other one? Everything about it is good; production, songwriting, melodies, etc. My only gripe is an unnecessary Drake verse on Cabaret that doesn’t add anything to it and feels like filler that’s just there to extend the time of the record. Aside from that, I have no problems with this album. I give it a B. If you liked the first 20/20 Experience, you’ll definitely like this one. This album’s worth checking out.
Release Date: October 4
You know. There were certain albums that I did not wanna review at all and this is one of them. But I’m doing it anyways because it is one of the more significant releases of the year. And that doesn’t make it a good thing. So let me just go ahead and review… Bangerz from the spawn of Satan herself, Miley Cyrus. I’m just gonna be focused on the music instead of the attention-seeking behavior here. I’ve listened to it not once, not twice, but THREE times just in case I missed anything. And this is my verdict; this album is horrible. What’s wrong with it? What’s RIGHT with it is the real question. The songs are annoying, the lyrics are laughably childish, the beats are trash, there’s a lot of Auto-Tune or other similar technology being used here, the guest features suck, the sequencing is messy and all over the place, and there’s zero originality at all in this pile of horse feces. Miley doesn’t even try to hide the fact that every song on here sounds like rejects from the last albums from Nicki Minaj, Ke$ha, and Rihanna. When she tries to sell this fake ghetto/ratchet persona, it’s not believable at all. Also, talentless hack producer Mike WiLL Made It produced half of the songs on here. How do I know? He instantly lets you know he produced the tracks in the first 5 seconds of them using one of those ear-raping audio watermarks that he just loves putting on every song. Did I also forget to mention that Miley raps on some of the songs? If her singing wasn’t enough to make your ears bleed, then her trying to amateurly spit bars (that she didn’t write, ala Lil’ Kim) should be enough for them to turn into period-leaking vaginas. Look at some of these “hard-core” rhymes for example.
All the way in the back with a dick on my lap
All the boys like to ask me ‘what you doing with that?’
You, you, you say you love me, I ain’t fooling with that
They ask me how I keep a man, I keep a battery pack
One day he wants me, one day he wants me not
I don’t do chances, cause time just ain’t what I got
If he’s like that, I got a world tour that they need me at
I can’t be sitting ’round here waiting on a man
To tell me where the fuck my seat be at, where Mike Will at?
Do I EVEN need an explanation for how stupid these lyrics are? I don’t see how even the most dedicated Miley stan can defend this atrocious shit. This is just embarrassing, not for hip-hop, not for pop, but to music period. All of the individuals who made this record and put it out should be ashamed. *sigh* Moving on from that moment of awfulness, this whole album is an unfocused, uneven mess, full of boring ballads and shitty dance/party tracks and no other records on here represents those two types like We Can’t Stop and Wrecking Ball. There is no good thing to say about this album. It’s not just one of the worst albums of 2013, it’s one of the worst albums in music history period. It’s so bad, it creates a new low for music quality. This isn’t even worthy of being a weed plate or a frisbee. Copies of this shit should be destroyed forever. I give this landfill of ass-droppings a big, fat F. If you have any kinda dignity, stay the fuck away from this.
My Name Is My Name
Release Date: October 8
GOOD Music, the record label, haven’t been doing that well recently. Cruel Summer was a disappointing mess, Kid Cudi left, Yeezus wasn’t all that, and Big Sean flopped. So what about Clipse member Pusha T? His solo debut has been pushed (no pun intended) back since 2011. People though that it was gonna end up like Detox and never be released at all. After several delays, we finally get the album, My Name Is My Name. Not the best title name, but who cares? The album is finally here and how is it? It’s pretty good. This is actually one of my personal favorite releases of the year. Push brings it lyrically, the production bangs hard, and there’s a bunch of solid songs. But I’d be lying if I said that this album doesn’t have its problems because it does. There’s too many features, some of the production could be better, and a couple of songs could be cut out and replaced with something better. Those are the problems that I have with this album. And, yeah. Pusha is rapping about coke, but the way he does it is so creative and his bars are at another level. I think Pusha T is one of the most unappreciated rappers out there. This album, despite its obvious flaws, is really good. I give it a B. It’s definitely worth checking out.
Release Date: October 18
Coming into this album, my expectations were already pretty low because I knew what kind of music Katy Perry is gonna make and nothing she does is gonna blow me away at all. With this follow-up to Teenage Dream, I was not disappointed. I’m actually surprised here because while Katy’s previous work annoyed me, this actually bored me. Yeah. This album is boring. It makes Wale’s album seem more exciting in comparison. The songs are rip-offs, the production sounds like it was made by some first-time amateur, and there’s no growth, artistically or otherwise. Katy said that this album was gonna be “darker” than her previous work. Hearing this album for the first time, it doesn’t sound dark at all. It’s like Katy isn’t even trying to evolve, she’s just re-hashing the same formula from Teenage Dream. Prism is a complete waste of time; it’s your typical pop album that’s nothing more than a collection of radio singles. Somebody out there obviously like it if it keeps selling, but it does nothing for me. I give it an F. If you’re into bubblegum pop music, then you’ll probably like this album. If not, then you won’t like it. Honestly, I don’t recommend this to anyone.
Release Date: October 28
After winning Album Of The Year at the 2011 Grammys, Canadian indie-rock band Arcade Fire spent most of their time touring and started working on another album. And this is what they gave us, Reflektor. It’s a very interesting listen. The songs are well-written and the production’s very unique. Every member of the band can play multiple instruments, which is cool. They actually incorporated different music instruments into ever song. Not one song sounds like the other, meaning more originality. The risks they took with each track pays off to make a great record. My only complaint is that some of the songs do drag on and become a bore. In spite of that, Reflektor is one of the best albums released this year. I give it a A. If you want a great indie album, check this one out.
The Marshall Mathers LP 2
Release Date: November 5
Despite a few solid releases, 2013 has been pretty lackluster for hip-hop. A lot of albums range from okay to straight-up garbage and big names like Kanye West and Jay Z put out disappointing records. So when Eminem named his new album The Marshall Mathers LP 2, people were skeptical. Ever since The Eminem Show, Marshall did put out some sub-par records. Encore and Relapse were some of his worst albums to date and Recovery, while I personally think it was good, has some big flaws. And now Eminem’s about to release an album with the same title as his 2000 magnum opus, The Marshall Mathers LP. Like I’ve said before, sequels half the time don’t work and when you’re doing a sequel to a classic, there’s a lot of expectations to live up to. So how does The Marshall Mathers LP 2 hold up? Surprisingly, it’s a great album. It’s definitely better than Em’s last three albums. This isn’t even a sequel to The Marshall Mathers LP, it’s more of a re-visitation. Themes from the original album are revisited here, closing out certain chapters. This album, despite its title, is actually a combination of every Eminem album, from Infinite to The Slim Shady LP and The Marshall Mathers LP to The Eminem Show to Encore and Relapse to Recovery. Lyrically, Eminem murders it; some of Eminem’s best rapping is on here. The production on a lot of the songs are cool and it legitimately makes people take him seriously again. However, this is not a flawless album, it’s far from it. Corny lines, outdated pop culture references, questionable production & guest feature choices (seriously, another song with Rihanna AND Skylar Grey?), and some sloppy mixing with a couple of tracks. He definitely could have cut out a few weak tracks like Asshole, Stronger Than I Was, The Monster, and the Parking Lot skit which doesn’t really accomplish anything. There were definitely tracks that sound like Recovery rejects by the tone. But aside from that, The Marshall Mathers LP 2 is a pretty solid release. There’s a lot of great songs on here like Bad Guy, Legacy, Rap God, Brainless, and Evil Twin, along with personal favorites Rhyme Or Reason, So Far…, Love Game, and Headlights. Plus, the 5 bonus tracks kick ass. They’re actually better than most of the songs on the album. If you’re gonna buy this album, get the deluxe edition for those bonus tracks. You won’t regret it. So The Marshall Mathers LP 2 gets a solid B. It’s definitely worth checking out.
Release Date: December 17
You wanna know what’s worse than a bad album from a terrible artist? A bad album from a good artist. Because you expect more from a good artist. Take for example, B.o.B. When he became big with Nothing On You, he was a breath of fresh air in hip-hop. He wasn’t just a good rapper, he could sing, produce, and play different instruments. He definitely stood out. His first album, The Adventures Of Bobby Ray, was a solid debut. His second album, Strange Clouds, was underwhelming. His third album, Underground Luxury, was weak. How does a guy with that talent become so mediocre that quick? The production’s predictable, the lyrics aren’t impressive, there’s too much trap songs, and the singles are trash. B.o.B was good because he was a unique rapper who had other musical talents that he incorporates in all of his music. Here, it seems like he’s just hopping on the bandwagon of popular rap now. That’s sad. Despite a few good songs, Underground Luxury, overall, is a huge disappointment. I give this a D. I don’t recommend this to anyone. Go listen to B.o.B’s previous releases, they’re better than this shit.
So that was Part II of the Year End Album Reviews. I’ve pretty much got through most of the big releases of 2013. Disagree with what I’ve said about them? Then let me know what you think about them, whether you love them, hate them, or have no feelings about them.