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Album Review: Justin Timberlake – ‘The 20/20 Experience’

Easily one of the most anticipated albums of the year, there’s both a pressure and excitement that ushers in the release of Justin Timberlake’s comeback LP ‘The 20/20 Experience’.

Due in stores on March 18th, the ten-track set is the star’s first collection of new material since the super-selling ‘FutureSex/LoveSounds’ hit the charts almost seven years ago. And while it’s this very fact fueling this project’s hype, being an artist of Timberlake’s caliber means there’s also ample expectation of the songs housed on the album.

Naturally, then, That Grape Juice were elated to be among the few outlets invited to listen to the LP late last month in London town. Introduced by the man himself on the eve of the BRIT Awards, the album was played in its entirety – allowing us to taste, chew, and digest Pop’s most anticipated offering.

In the weeks since, the album has been streamed for the masses – with ample debate surrounding how good it actually is.

Ever keen to plough through the smoke and mirrors, That Grape Juice has your answer after the jump…

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Album Review (With A Twist): Rihanna – ‘Unapologetic’

Seven years. Seven albums. And seven million opinions. Rihanna has undoubtedly become one of Pop’s most pronounced polarizers.  Indeed, in an industry which sees tastes and consumption pattens change with the wind, some cultural commentators see the star’s candy-coloured wigs and annual albums as the blueprint for commercial survival. For others, her quantity over quality approach is the root cause of everything wrong with the once flourishing music business.

Whatever one’s take on the Bajan bombshell, the fact is…you have one; an ethos the 24 year old is all-too-aware of on her latest opus ‘Unapologetic’.

A flagrant courter of controversy, the album ironically takes aim with the tabloid flames she and her team ignited to burn her name into mass consciousness. Smartly, though, such themes are merely a light undercoat to an otherwise “business as usual” Rihanna LP. Catchy hooks, stellar production, and questionable vocals characterise much of the record; again, polarizing opinion. For, while some love her for this, it’s these exact traits that certain sects loathe.

Alas, in tipping our hats to the Roc Nation star’s status as That Grape Juice’s most-talked-about act, we want to hear YOUR review of ‘Unapologetic’! Did she deliver? Did she disappoint? Sound off below!

That Grape Juice’s Favourite ‘Unapologetic’ Tracks:

 

* Nobody’s Business (ft. Chris Brown)

* No Love Allowed

* Stay

* Jump

That Grape Juice’s Least Favourite ‘Unapologetic’ Tracks:

 

* Fresh Off The Runway

* Numb (ft. Eminem)

*Right Now (ft. David Guetta)

That Grape Juice Rating: 3/5

Conclusive: Album boasts strong moments, yet is plagued by disturbing and heavy portions of filler.

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Album Review: Christina Aguilera – ‘Lotus’

Two years may not be the longest window of time. Yet, in the career of superstar Christina Aguilera the last 730 days have brought with them a series of challenges. For many, the most notable of these is the under-performance of  ‘Bionic’ – her ill-fated 2010 LP. Received well critically, the set struggled to ignite the charts in the manner Aguilera’s past releases had, quickly fading into Pop abyss.

Fast-forward to today and the climate looks altogether brighter for the self-branded ‘Fighter’. A rejuvenating stint on NBC’s The Voice has seen “Brand Xtina” back in business, clearing the commercial freeway for the 31 year old’s “comeback”.

Christened ‘Lotus’, the singer’s 5th studio outing is immediately noteworthy in that, despite boasting a loose narrative of “freedom” and “self-expression”, it’s the first of Aguilera’s post-teen-queen releases not tied to an overt “theme”. A fact that re-affirms her position as one of Pop’s most renown risk-takers. For, not only has the length and breadth of her success come from concept records, we’re in an era where top ten tallies often sound like the same song with different lyrics.

As such, from the onset, Aguilera tasks herself with standing out from the pack – in an era where the stakes are both higher and harsher. That Grape Juice attended the exclusive ‘Lotus’ album playback at Sony Music London today. Find out whether her risk paid off below…

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Album Review: Nicki Minaj – ‘Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded’

After whipping up a frenzy with her debut ‘Pink Friday’ in 2010this week sees Nicki Minaj stake her claim as a formidable chart force with the arrival of her eagerly awaited sophomore set ‘Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded‘.

A pick ‘n’ mix of genres, the project is split loosely in two; a musical melee, the set finds itself divided between songs rolled in Hip-Hop grit and others soaked in Pop fantasy.

Boasting a tracklist as polarised as the artist performing them, the question on the lips of many remains: beyond the wigs, schtick, and “eccentric”, does Nicki deliver on the most important release of her career?

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Album Review: Madonna – ‘MDNA’

For Madonna‘s twelfth studio album, the Material Girl has ditched the ‘hard candy’ in favor of something stronger, something meaner. Something she bills, her ‘MDNA’.

A Pop triangulation of sorts, the set was primary produced by the singer’s longtime collaborator William Orbit and two contemporary composers, Benny Benassi and Martin Solveig, to inject an air of “fresh” and “exciting”. As always, being the businesswoman that she is, M shares a songwriting and producing credit on every track.

As her first release not to be associated with Warner Bros. Records (the label she called home since 1982), all eyes are on whether the ‘Queen of Pop’ has crafted a blockbuster Pop LP. One which firmly plants her as a viable contender against the Rihanna‘s and Katy Perry‘s of the world. And one which, at the same time, reintroduces her brand to the ‘YouTube Generation’.

Beyond this, there also remains the penultimate question: as a solid body of work, how hard does ‘MDNA’ hit? Swallow the full review after the jump.

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Album Review: Rihanna – ‘Talk That Talk’

Six albums in six years. Say what you want about Rihanna, but that is quite the feat.

Yet, it’s this very fact that has divided fans and critics alike. For, the Bajan star has crammed into her short career releases and achievements her predecessors have worked decades to amass.

Predictably, the 23 year old’s supporters lap up each annual effort. One after the other, after the other. However, growing ever wider is the sect of listeners who attribute her success to being little more than a record label puppet. Indeed, with few writing credits, a limited vocal range, and a “change-with-the-sway” sound, it’s hard to posit the contrary.

Whatever the reality, the singer remains a staple on the tongues of many.  A sentiment well captured on the title of her sixth studio album ‘Talk That Talk’.

However, with ample doubt still surrounding Ri’s legitimacy, it quite – literally – is time for her to ‘walk that walk’.

After attending Def Jam’s London playback, That Grape Juice gives you the WORLD EXCLUSIVE first full review of the album everyone’s waiting for.

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Album Review: Kelly Rowland – ‘Here I Am’

Things really do appear to have come full circle for a certain Kelly Rowland.

It’s almost 4 years to the day that the songbird unleashed her sophomore set ‘Ms. Kelly’ on the marketplace. As history goes; political and managerial mishaps unfortunately sunk that ship. As such, Rowland was seemingly cast to a fate as the lesser child of Destiny.

Fast forward to today, and the climate looks altogether different for the singer. Having severed ties with manager Mathew Knowles in 2009, her career has climbed from strength to strength. Indeed, the time since then has seen her notch up heightened success Internationally, land a role as a judge on the UK’s X Factor, and – perhaps most notably – score her biggest Stateside hit to date with the sizzling ‘Motivation’.

Hoping to legitimate this success, the 30 year old lined up an all-star cast of songwriters and producers to craft her third studio album ‘Here I Am’.

With past efforts not hitting the commercial strides they, perhaps, should have, will it be third time lucky for the songstress?

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Album Review: Chris Brown – ‘F.A.M.E’

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Fame. It is earned by people for either remarkable achievement or scandalous behaviour. However, for Chris Brown it occurs as a result of both.

Whether being praised for his brilliant live performances or scolded for his notorious actions, Brown has been the focus of media attention since his debut. However, the entertainer has managed to channel these pressures into a body of work that may very well be his best album to date.

Aptly entitled ‘F.A.M.E’, the 13-track LP demonstrates the versatility of an artist who, regardless of the tabloid headlines, has both the talent and passion to become a lasting figure in the music industry.

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Exclusive Album Review: Ciara – ‘Basic Instinct’

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Ciara has experienced several commercial struggles during the last 2 years. Her 2009 release, ‘Fantasy Ride’, performed poorly on the charts, selling less than 200,000 units in the US to date, despite producing the top 10 hit ‘Love Sex Magic (Ft. Justin Timberlake)’.

Additionally, instead of being praised for attempting to diversify her sound, Ciara endured a backlash from her listeners who argued that she had abandoned her Urban roots. So how has Ciara decided to respond to her critics? By giving them exactly what they want – a return to basics.

‘Basic Instinct’ features the Atlanta entertainer unleashing her sexuality over 11 bass-heavy tracks crafted by the likes of Tricky Stewart, The-Dream, Kenneth ‘Soundz’ Coby, Ester Dean, Tyler Williams, Nelson Kyle and Hilton Humphery. However, Ciara’s attempts at reclaiming her title as the Princess of Crunk N’B prove to be more lukewarm than the audio fire that some would desire.

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Album Review: Rihanna – ‘Loud’

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Open any dictionary and next to the word ‘loud’ you will find several definitions including ‘noisy’, ‘offensive’ and ‘vulgar’. If these are the type of meanings that Rihanna wants her listeners to derive from her new album then she has effectively achieved her goal.

‘Loud’ is the fifth studio album to be released by the Rihanna in as many years and it features the red haired vixen doing what she does best – attaching herself to the latest trends in Pop music. However, despite being bolstered by tight production and catchy melodies, Rihanna’s blatant lack of vocal skill and originality causes the 11-track LP to be far less impressive than those of her peers.

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Album Review: Mariah Carey – ‘Merry Christmas II You’

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Mariah Carey’s first Christmas album, ‘Merry Christmas’, is widely regarded as one of the best Holiday-themed collections of the last 20 years. Comprising some of her most impressive vocal performances and the now classic ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’, the record managed to be a top seller every year since being released in 1994.

Fast-forward exactly 16 years, to a time when Carey’s career is at a commercial standstill, and the diva finally delivers a followup in the form of ‘Merry Christmas II You’. Facing widespread speculation that her time at the top of the Pop roost is over and her famed 5 octave vocal range has faded into memory, Carey manages to do what she does best: prove her critics wrong. In fact, this 13-track LP almost achieves the impossible – matching its predecessor.

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Album Review: Fantasia – ‘Back to Me’

In 2006 Fantasia’s self-titled sophomore album received generally mixed reviews from critics and even less favourable responses from her fans. The record barely managed to achieve gold status in the US; a far cry from the 1.8 million units that the Grammy-nominated singer’s debut album, ‘Free Yourself’, sold in that territory.

Now, amidst public controversy and personal turmoil, Fantasia is back with a new album, aptly entitled ‘Back to Me’, which features a true return to form by the uniquely talented R&B singer. On this 13-track LP Fantasia manages to combine the raw passion of her Soul influences with her spine-tingling vocals and contemporary productions, creating one of the best releases of the year to date.

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