Ivy Levan
Introducing the Dame EP
(Cherrytree/Interscope)
Bouncing horns, great beats, and delicious vocals mark this EP as one of the best I’ve heard from a fairly new pop artist in a long time. The melodies are reminiscent of Amy Winehouse’s style. Vocally, Ivy Levan sounds like a wonderful mix of Christina Aguilera and Lady Gaga. The four songs on this EP are not enough for me, though. I’m going to keep a watch out for this one. Three out of the four songs from this EP have already been made into videos, so go to YouTube to check them out. They are dark and sexy. For those who like strong pop with a dance edge, Levan is amazing. My favorite songs are “Money” and “Hang Forever.”
Ciara
Self Titled
(Epic)
I enjoy Ciara’s new album. Janet Jackson influences are definitely prevalent here. I see a bit of Aaliyah’s influence in this, although that comparison isn’t usually made because of that singer’s untimely death at age 22 in a 2001 airplane crash. I was a distraught teenager when her life tragically ended. This album isn’t super flashy. It’s more calmed-down than what we usually see from hip hop divas, but it’s not trying to be something that it’s not. The simplicity in Ciara’s vocals is what I enjoy from her. She isn’t trying to show off, though she could. A couple of her songs feature Nicki Minaj, and they are incredibly different in tone from the rest of the album. My favorite tracks are “Sophomore,” “Read My Lips,” and “Where You Go.”
Drop City Yacht Club
Crickets: Single featuring Jeremih and Remixes
(A&M/Octone)
I was instantly surprised when I listened to this R&B hip hop song and I enjoyed it quite a bit. It’s hard to pass up a decent beat and good vocals. The melody and the lyrics aren’t so bad either. I can’t wait to hear an entire album from Drop City Yacht Club. In the five remixes, there’s a wide variety, so it’s hard to pick the best ones. My favorites are the Viceroy remix because it’s heavier in the electronica department, the Benji Boko remix for its deep bass and light dubstep electronic style that retains the hip hop essence, and the Seamus Haji remix because it highlights the vocals and gives the song a more celebratory tone.
Jay Z
Magna Carta ... Holy Grail
(Roc-A-Fella/Roc Nation/Universal)
Jay Z’s new album starts off and ends strong. In between, it wavers here and there, but not enough to say it’s weak. It’s an amazing R&B and hip hop album that fans will quite enjoy. Certain songs stuck out. “F.U.T.W.” reminded me of the more stripped-down rap songs of the ’90s, but with today’s recording quality. I simply enjoy listening to it, maybe because I grew up with ’90s rap and R&B, or maybe just because it is good to keep things simple sometimes. The song that follows it on the track list, “Somewhere in America,” couldn’t be more different. It is more modern hip hop, with an experimental haunting piano mixed into an upbeat horn melody. It’s confusing, and I was battling with myself about whether I hated or loved it. It stayed in my head, though, so I quickly found myself listening to it again several times. Now it’s a favorite. After making my list of favorite songs for myself, I realized that every song featuring Justin Timberlake as a writer was on there. It’s not a coincidence.

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