Category Archives: Music

Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke (CD)

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blurred lines

Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke ISBN: 602537424788

Overview: This album is rooted in R&B and the soul of the 1970s. The album has a casual and lighthearted feel, while also infusing more bass and synthesizers to make it more danceable. The title track of this album achieved something rare for an R&B single these days in reaching the #1 spot on the Billboard charts. Blurred Lines, “contains a motley assortment of high-gloss dance tracks seemingly made for pop-chart contention,” according to the review by Andy Kellman.

Track List:

1 Blurred Lines
2 Take It Easy on Me
3 Ooo La La
4 Ain’t No Hat 4 That
5 Get in My Way
6 Give It 2 U
7 Feel Good
8 Go Stupid 4 U
9 For the Rest of My Life
10 Top of the World
11 Good Life

Critical Evaluation: I found the best tracks on here to be “Blurred Lines” and “Top of the World.” Both are somewhat catchy, the title track being more of a danceable song, and “Top of the World” with a nice piano melody in the background and lighthearted lyrics. The title track is meant to remind the listener of Marvin Gaye’s disco-funk groove in “Got to give it up.” However, I did not really enjoy most of the songs on this album. I found them to be rather repetitive and predictable. Robin has a reputation as a songwriter, but I found lyrics to be inconsequential, bland, and in many cases, overly sexualized. Many of the earlier songs have Robin singing almost entirely in falsetto. These earlier songs incorporate more electronic elements. “Ain’t no hat for that,” seems to talk about a shallow woman; three songs towards the end seem to be more positive and seem to be about Robin’s wife and outlook on life. I can appreciate these songs from that standpoint, though none of it is really my musical preference. A review of the album by Andy Kellman argues that none of these songs are Robin’s best. Without having listened to any of his other music, I hope he’s right.

Reader’s Annotation: Blurred Lines features danceable songs with heavy beats and more lighthearted melodic tunes for R&B and New Soul fans. 

Information about the author: Robin Thicke is the son of vocalist and actress Gloria Loring and theme song composer and actor Alan Thicke. He grew up in suburban Los Angeles. Brian McKnight heard a demo he recorded at 14 years old and helped Robin get a recording deal with Interscope Records.

Previous to 2000 he experienced most success as a songwriter for other artists. He released several albums before finding success on the charts with “The Evolution of Robin Thicke.” Andy Kellman writes, “Thicke then settled into a lengthy career as a widely respected artist — with occasional diversions into humorous, self-aware showboating — who remained true to his root influences while occasionally departing from ’70s-indebted stylistic comfort zone.”

Genre: Pop, R &B Music

Curriculum ties, if any: This could be examined in a music class.

Booktalking Ideas: I could see fans of mainstream dance music and R&B enjoying this music.

Reading Level/Interest Age:  The lyrics of this album make this more appropriate for older teens.

Challenge Issues:

  • Sexual situations
  • Some language

Defense Strategy:

  1. First, I would want to be familiar with the album. As I’ve listened to this album, I’d be aware of potential issues that could be challenged. In the case of an album I had not listened to, I would want to have access to reviews.
  2. Then I would put together a rationale for why this album is included in the collection. This rationale would include:
    • Bibliographic Citation of the album.
    • A description of who the album is best suited for.
    • A summary of the album and applicable other information, such as biographical information about the author.
    • My justification for including the album. This would include how it fits in with the selection policy and library mission statement, and include its educational significance if applicable or the impact it could have on readers.
    • Copy of selection policy and library mission statement at my library.
    • ALA Library Bill of Rights
    • Good and bad reviews of the album
    • Alternative works a student could listen to
    • Reconsideration form if patron is not satisfied with rationale
  3. When talking to patron, I would listen to their concerns without getting on the defensive and attempt to sympathize with their concerns. In some cases, all an upset patron needs is to be able to vent and know that someone is listening to them.
  4. If needed, I would send the challenge up the chain of command.

This album meets the recreational needs of teens.

Why did you include this album? : It is very popular so it represents something teen librarians should be aware of.

Reference Page:

Kellman, A. (2013). Artist biography of Robin Thicke. All Music. Retrieved from http://www.allmusic.com/artist/robin-thicke-mn0000238686/biography

Kellman, A. (2013). Blurred Lines review. All Music. Retrieved from http://www.allmusic.com/album/blurred-lines-mw0002518827

The Heist by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

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Macklemore - The Heist

The Heist by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, ASIN: B009G78EE2

Overview: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis have created a genre bending rap album with reflective intelligent songs, and catchy songs you’ll hear on the radio or in the club. The album features many different guest artists, like Mary Lambert and Ab-Soul.

Track List:

1 Ten Thousand Hours
2 Can’t Hold Us
3 Thrift Shop
4 Thin Line
5 Same Love
6 Make the Money
7 Neon Cathedral
8 Bombom
9 White Walls
10 Jimmy Iovine
11 Wing$
12 Wake
13 Gold
14 Starting Over
15 Cowboy Boots

Critical Evaluation: These songs are generally catchy, danceable, and frequently have a deeper message. Songs like “Same Love” advocate for same sex marriage, while others address Macklemore’s addiction issues, the recording industry, or race. “Thrift Shop” and “Can’t Hold Us” are the songs I’d heard beforehand, both good for dancing. “Thrift Shop” is funny but also smart, demonstrating Macklemore’s ability to make fun of himself. Songs like “Thin Line” are more melodic and slow, but no less catchy. Ryan Lewis contributes dynamic beats and inventive ideas for the trajectory of the songs. Each song sounds differently from the next one, and from a lot of other popular rap songs. Most of the songs have explicit language and some sexual situations.

Reader’s Annotation: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis create dynamic beats, catchy and intelligent lyrics, and danceable songs for a discerning pop and rap listener.

Information about the author: Macklemore was born Ben Haggerty and is based in Seattle. He debuted as Professor Macklemore in 2000. His 2012 album climbed the Billboard charts with little mainstream support.

Much of his more commercial success is credited to his frequent collaborator, Ryan Lewis, the producer on this album. He is also a Washington native. His creative interests have ranged from guitar to audio production to photography from his teens to his twenties. His interest in production was rekindled during a photo shoot with Macklemore, and the rest is evident

Genre: Rap Pop CD

Curriculum ties, if any: This could be looked at in a music class for its inventive and genre bending qualities.

Booktalking Ideas: I would play either “Can’t Stop Us” or “Thrift Shop” and “A Wake” to demonstrate the spectrum of this album.

Reading Level/Interest Age:  The lyrics of this album make this more appropriate for older teens.

Challenge Issues:

  • Language
  • Drug and alcohol use
  • Sexual situations

Defense Strategy:

  1. First, I would want to be familiar with the album. As I’ve listened to this album, I’d be aware of potential issues that could be challenged. In the case of an album I had not listened to, I would want to have access to reviews.
  2. Then I would put together a rationale for why this album is included in the collection. This rationale would include:
    • Bibliographic Citation of the album.
    • A description of who the album is best suited for.
    • A summary of the album and applicable other information, such as biographical information about the author.
    • My justification for including the album. This would include how it fits in with the selection policy and library mission statement, and include its educational significance if applicable or the impact it could have on readers.
    • Copy of selection policy and library mission statement at my library.
    • ALA Library Bill of Rights
    • Good and bad reviews of the album
    • Alternative works a student could listen to
    • Reconsideration form if patron is not satisfied with rationale
  3. When talking to patron, I would listen to their concerns without getting on the defensive and attempt to sympathize with their concerns. In some cases, all an upset patron needs is to be able to vent and know that someone is listening to them.
  4. If needed, I would send the challenge up the chain of command.

This album meets the recreational needs of teens. It also has a lot of smart lyrics and ideas that would be good for reflection. I think Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ grassroots success would also be inspiring for teen musicians, so it’s important for teens to have access to.

Why did you include this book? : It is very popular so it represents something teen librarians should be aware of.

Reference Page:

Jeffries, D. (2013). Macklemore’s artist biography. All Music. Retrieved from http://www.allmusic.com/artist/macklemore-mn0001015772/biography

Jeffries, D. (2013). Ryan Lewis’ artist biography. All Music. Retrieved from http://www.allmusic.com/artist/ryan-lewis-mn0002159538/biography

Night Visions by Imagine Dragons

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Imagine Dragons

Night Visions by Imagine Dragons,  ASIN: B00B81B0HC

Overview: This is the debut album of Imagine Dragons. It was released on September 4, 2012. In a review on All Music, Gregory Heaney describes the album as “track after track of hooky and emotional mid-tempo jams.” They have an ambitious, “arena made sound” that is nontraditional for someone at their stage in the music career, but for some, it works.

Track List:

1 Radioactive
2 Tiptoe
3 It’s Time
4 Demons
5 On Top of the World
6 Amsterdam
7 Hear Me
8 Every Night
9 Bleeding Out
10 Underdog
11 Nothing Left to Say/Rocks

Critical Evaluation: Overall, this album is very ballad heavy, ballad being a song that has a chorus you can sing along to. Beyond that, I don’t find most of the songs to be very memorable. They sound a lot like other musicians, and rely a little too heavily on synthesizers for my taste. I was interested in this band initially because of their first single, Radioactive. After listening to the rest of the CD, that is the only song that really stands out. It has a post-apocalyptic feel that relies on the kick drum to punctuate the song. It’s also the only song on the album that leans more towards rock instead of pop rock. Tiptoe is okay, but there is a synth heavy moment that I found kind of cheesy. After that, the album kind of devolves into ballad-y anthems. Some have a message, like Demons, but I find they veer too much towards preachy. To be fair, I have very high standards for my music with a message, so there are not many musicians I think can pull that off effectively. Several of the songs, like On Top of the World and Underdog remind me of Caribbean music in a way that feels gimmicky. These songs remind me of Jack Johnson, so I imagine that for some listeners, this is very enjoyable. For me, it got a little pop and light music heavy.

Reader’s Annotation:  Imagine Dragons blend engaging, synth-based dance-pop with emotionally charged, Brit-pop-inspired alt-rock. Known for the singles, “Radioactive,” “It’s Time,” and “Demons.”

Information about the artists: Imagine Dragons is based in Las Vegas. They formed in 2009 in Provo, Utah. According to their biography by James Christopher Monger, they “blend engaging, synth-based dance-pop with emotionally charged, Brit-pop-inspired alt-rock.”

They released two well received EPs before signing with Interscope Records. Night Visions was recorded at Westlake Recording Studio in West Hollywood with producer Alex Da Kid. Alex has worked with such artists as Eminem and Paramore.

Genre: Pop/Rock Music

Curriculum ties, if any: This could be examined in a music class.

Booktalking Ideas: I would compare the group to Jack Johnson, Fun, or Coldplay for the similar sound on some of the tracks. I would appeal to teens interested in rock and melodic, ballad-y songs.

Reading Level/Interest Age:  This album does not particularly apply to a certain age. It was on the top albums on the Billboard list at the time, which makes me think that many teens are listening to it.

Challenge Issues: None that I could discern. I didn’t hear any language or explicit lyrics.

Why did you include this album? : I picked all three albums for this project from the top albums on the Billboard list. I also attempted to pick musical groups with diverse styles to be more representative of what teens are listening to.

Reference Page:

Heaney, G (2012). Night Visions review. All Music. Retrieved from http://www.allmusic.com/album/night-visions-mw0002409529

Monger, J.C. (2012). Imagine Dragons biography. All Music. Retrieved from http://www.allmusic.com/artist/imagine-dragons-mn0002040645/biography