In the Cookie Jar
Latrice Royale’s new EP Here’s to Life is the perfect soundtrack for a lush summer evening. Royale has taken her big personality and stripped it down totally on this collection of classics. From the first strings of the Gershwin classic “Summertime,” Royale captivates the listener with her bluesy and powerful voice.
“When You’re Good To Mama” from the Broadway blockbuster Chicago could be Royale’s unofficial soundtrack, while her take on “I Am What I Am” from the Tony-winning musical La Cage aux Folles puts a completely different spin on this classic. Royale completely shines on the title track, where the purity of her voice and of the musical arrangement by her partner Christopher Hamblin meld together perfectly.
Gwen Stefani’s quintessential breakup album This Is What The Truth Feels Like provides a springtime soundtrack for the brokenhearted. While the album is chock full of veiled references to Stefani’s romantic entanglements, she takes time out for a spin on the dance floor with the infectiously wonderful single “Make Me Like You.” While the radio version contains Stefani’s slick vocals and an eye-popping Target-sponsored ad, the dance package for this track just released is superb. The “Sad Money Remix” adds a slow moving electronic beat to the track, giving it a dreamy vibe and making Stefani’s vocals the prominent piece of this mix, while the “RAC Mix” is close to the radio mix, but adding a great stripped-down vibe to the track. Legendary DJ and producer Chris Cox takes on Stefani with the expected hugely successful results; adding a slick guitar and rapid fire drums to the track, Cox turns Stefani’s breezy track into a dance floor anthem.
Beyond the elevator brawl that shook the world and the surprise album that practically coined the phrase “break the internet,” Beyonce is, and always has been, a killer artist. From her days leading Destiny’s Child to stepping away from the group Diana Ross-style and becoming one of the world’s most successful female artists, Queen Bey has always put her music and her message front and center.
That motto has never been as evident as it is with her latest release, Lemonade. While “Formation” caused much ado about nothing during her Super Bowl halftime performance, we have been waiting anxiously for a full album to be released. While an artistically styled movie came along with the release of Lemonade, the album is a departure for Ms. Knowles-Carter. From the strains of “Hold Up,” we can tell that Bey has something she wants to say.
Her airy vibes on “Love Drought” and “All Night” show a dichotomy, a contradiction of sorts between her feelings for a certain rap mogul and events that may or may not have transpired. Tracks like “Daddy Lessons” give us somewhat of a Beyonce history lesson, and the pure “Sandcastles” is one of Beyonce’s best singular vocals on this album, most likely due to the content.
Guest stars abound on this album, with R&B superstar of the moment The Weeknd joining Queen Bey on the provocatively titled “6 Inch” and Jack White partnering up with Bey on the gritty grinder “Don’t Hurt Yourself.” Her partnership with Kendrick Lamar, titled “Freedom,” is a retro-styled stomper, while James Blake lends some vocal pureness on the beautifully simple “Forward.” While this is not the “Bootylicious” Beyonce with whom you may be familiar, this album shows the evolution of an artist and the growth of the woman who has moved way past being the lead singer of a ‘90s girl group. In short, this will be the best lemonade you will taste all summer long.
Since Nick Jonas’ “Jealous” so beautifully infected the airwaves last summer, his fans have been eagerly anticipating the follow-up. With a package of tracks like the ones on Last Year Was Complicated they have been rewarded greatly. While Jonas could be seen on shows like the critically acclaimed Kingdom and the kitsch fest Scream Queens, he somehow managed to find time to put together a package of tracks that truly represents his growth as an artist. From songs like the smooth and eerily romantic “Close” (with chanteuse of the moment Tove Lo) to tracks like the dance floor and radio-ready “Champagne Problems,” Jonas is keeping on his trajectory of smooth vocals over killer production, with slick hooks to accompany. Jonas took on several other collaborators on this album like Big Sean on “Good Girls,” but Jonas himself sets the tone for this album.
Although many of us may know DJ and producer Tracy Young as the woman behind the wheels and the remix board during Madonna’s Music-era (and subsequent tracks), Young is also more than capable of making music that is her own and original. Her latest package, Living Cinema” moves Young off the throbbing dance floor and into a more intimate setting. Tracks like “I Need You Tonight” and “Never Let You Go” give a tropical-esque vibe with a hint of danceability, while tracks like “Inside Of You” let us know that this package of tracks is still by the Tracy Young, who is quite capable of taking us to the dance floor! Some of the best tracks on the package are the most simple, with tracks like “Undo” giving a completely and totally stripped-down version of what Young can do, and it’s simply sublime.