album reviews

Jay-Z

The Blueprint

Roc-A-Fella Records

After five albums and much success, Jay-Z the rapper has managed to do what some of the best artists do when they hit the top: improve.

The album is short for rap with only 13 songs, but it comes with little help: Eminem raps on one song.

“”Blueprint”” features a few of the songs that comprise rap these days. “”Izzo”” is the radio song — the one you’ll hear at stoplights and clubs or chirping from a third-story dorm window.

“”Girls, Girls, Girls”” is reminiscent of Too Short’s “”Freaky Tales,”” only more modern. Jay-Z lists off the women he’s been with, and though it must interest some, it just seems a bit tired at this point.

There is usually a song with an annoying chorus that gets repeated often. In this case, it’s “”Hola Hovito,”” in which the final chorus is carried for a couple beats longer than necessary.

Any complaints are minuscule and minimal. The album has a consistent sound with deep beats — at times with a metallic feel, at others, African.

Jay-Z’s lyrics are liquid, and although he occasionally drops into superficiality — a seemingly inherent rapper quality — throughout the album he dishes out lines that will either make you laugh or make you reach for the rewind button.

Examples include “”Don’t only talk it, walk like it/From the bricks to the booth I could predict the future like Cleo the Psychic”” and “”We can get paper longer than Pippen’s arms.””

The notable songs are “”Heart of the City”” and “”Renagade.”” The soulful chorus, Jay-Z’s flows and the beat mix well enough to get “”Heart of the City”” into your head. And, despite any previous feelings about Eminem’s content, his two verses on “”Renagade”” are packed with enough talent to raise eyebrows.

It’s one of those songs that allows rappers to throw out strings of words without breaking, so the entire thing — beats and lyrics — seems like one. In that regard, it’s like audio sex.

This one’s a must.

— Eric Dean,

Contributing Writer

Various Artists

WWF Tough Enough

Dreamworks

Finally, an album for people who divide their time between watching MTV, WWF and lifting weights. Dreamworks put every heavy metal song that has been played on MTV in the last 12 months on “”Tough Enough”” and threw on “”Smooth Criminal”” to capture the attention of people who do not fall into the aforementioned niche market.

What really makes this album interesting is that it features 13 different bands that span the hard rock genre and, well, they all sound the same.

One thing that becomes glaringly apparent after listening to the entire album is that one screaming male voice is indistinguishable from another.

Standout performances on the album come from the Deftones with “”Digital Bath.”” As the only ballad on the album, “”Digital Bath”” offers a refreshing break from the otherwise entirely hard rock album with smooth driving percussion and guitar that doesn’t scream, but yells between whispers.

Another breakaway from the too-hard rock album came from Halfcocked in “”Drive Away.”” The song still features hard guitar but is complemented by vocals from Sarah Reitkopp, whose voice flies effortlessly over the guitar. Halfcocked should be a great addition to what is otherwise a pretty weak female hard rock genre.

Pressure 4-5 has an interestingly catchy offering, “”Beat the World.”” Is this a bad song with really good parts or a good song with really bad parts? Either way, it outdoes the majority of the album.

The good thing about this album is that someone who is not into hard rock music can get almost every hard rock song they have heard on one album. The problem is that 10 songs on the album are indistinguishable from one another even after multiple listens.

Tough Enough? Maybe a little overdone and hard to swallow.

— David Bynum,

Contributing Writer

Jamiroquai

A Funk Odyssey

Epic

Jamiroquai has definitely been on an odyssey of funk. He appeared on the British club scene in 1992 with funky house rhythms and many influences from ’70s disco and soul.

His debut album, “”Emergency on Planet Earth,”” was released in 1993 and exploded in the United Kingdom, hitting No. 1 and going platinum. “”The Return of the Space Cowboy”” also had great commercial success.

“”Travelling Without Moving”” is the album Americans are most familiar with. “”Virtual Insanity”” was a huge success, receiving much radio and MTV play. Songs such as “”Cosmic Girl”” have been known to induce much ass-shaking.

Jamiroquai’s album, “”A Funk Odyssey,”” will also get you started with some feet tappin’ that’ll inevitably give way to letting loose and dancing.

The strings, guitars and vocals are definite nods to the disco era of the `70s, but the harder beats and a thick bassline give the album a modern house feel.

The first three tracks are great dance songs, but then the album settles into a groovy Brazilian tune called “”Corner of the Earth.”” The background vocals and the Latin guitar sound fit together to produce a very Antonio Carlos Jobim sound, complete with lyrics about nature.

The nostalgic “”Picture of My Life”” is also reminiscent of some older bassa nova grooves and closes out the album in a beautiful, sunset-like fashion.

Jamiroquai’s funk roots shine in “”Love Foolsophy”” with a slap bass. He shifts to a darker sound with a fuzz bass and darker breakbeats in “”Stop Don’t Panic”” and “”Twenty Zero One.””

Jamiroquai’s true talents lie in the funky house tunes found in “”Feel So Good,”” “”Little L”” and “”Main Vein.””

His 1999 release, “”Synkronized,”” failed to capture the magic of his previous albums and was met with some criticism. However, “”A Funk Odyssey”” shows that he is ready to get the dance floors groovin’ once again.

— Joseph Lee,

Hiatus Editor

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