George Michael's take on great American tunes really shines
George Michael (Islands)
Forget about the health issues and personal problems — George Michael sounds just fine, super in fact, on his first new album in seven years, recorded live during his 2011-12 “Symphonica” tour in Europe. Time has not taken a toll on Michael's voice, which, if anything, sounds more supple and emotive than during his earlier pop incarnations. Gone is the swagger and blatant “come and get it” sexuality, replaced by a more subtle singer happy to pay homage to Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye and other giants as the album unfolds. He strikes a wistful tone, lamenting lost youth, in “John and Elvis Are Dead,” and captures the yearning and loss at the heart of the old standard “Wild Is the Wind.” There's a jazzy feel, with some swing, to his cover of the timeless “My Baby Just Cares for Me,” and he captures perfectly, without overdoing it, the pathos of the American depression-era classic “Brother Can You Spare a Dime?” The quality of the singing puts Michael head and shoulders above the other middle-aged and older English rockers looking to the Great American Songbook for inspiration. Michael sounds effortless and free, as if he could do this for decades to come.
— Associated Press
Lea Michele (Columbia Records)
On some of the songs from her debut album, Lea Michele is convincing. On others, it's like she is acting. The “Glee” star, known for her big voice, provides the pipes on “Louder,” but some songs sound empty and don't show much emotion or personality from the 27-year-old talent. The dance-flavored title track is typical and forgettable, as is “Don't Let Go.” “Empty Handed,” co-written by singer Christina Perri, comes off like an unimpressive Coldplay cover, while other songs echo Kelly Clarkson, but lack the energy that Clarkson's learned to build on her songs. Michele, who has appeared on Broadway in “Spring Awakening” and other shows, gets it right on the piercing “Burn With You.” But, all in all, “Louder” is jagged. The songs don't play well together, and the collection sounds more like a demo, instead of a Golden Globe- and Emmy-nominated singer-actress' debut album.
— Associated Press
‘Divergent: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack'
Various artists (Interscope Records)
The latest dystopian young-adult big-screen adaptation, “Divergent,” has high expectations for the box office, though its soundtrack offers an uneven bag of tracks. The film, highlighted by teenage angst overwrought by societal structure, could translate into a group of edgy, resonating songs, but the reality is that few rise up to the challenge. Ellie Goulding over-contributes with her brand of manic-pixie dream-girl electro pop on four tracks (three only on the non-digital version). The first single — Zedd's piano ballad turned triumphant dance song “Find You” — is neither convincing nor very inspiring to anyone other than the Saturday-night club crowd. And Goulding's “Beating Heart” is a stroke away from flatlining. A$AP Rocky's contribution, “In Distress,” is probably the most alienating and enticing of the whole album — the barky electro background is stabilized by his rapping, which turns into a melodic howl. Overall, though, the soundtrack barely passes the aptitude test into the Dauntless.
— Associated Press
Pharrell Williams (Columbia)
As singer, composer, and collaborator, Pharrell Williams has had a starry year under his production moniker, the Neptunes. His hits with Robin Thicke (“Blurred Lines”) and Daft Punk (“Get Lucky”) were summer 2013's soundtrack. His “Despicable Me 2” theme, “Happy,” pumped up this year's Oscar ceremony. And now we have “Girl,” Williams' second solo album, steeped in inventive soul, eccentric electro-disco and melodic-tinged tunes dedicated to his muses. Justin Timberlake, Alicia Keys, Miley Cyrus and the helmeted Daft Punk duo (their computerized, hooky “Gust of Wind” is the best teaming here) make appearances, but it's Williams alone — that falsetto, that control — that makes this “Girl” gorgeous. Starting with the swelling strings (courtesy Hans Zimmer) of “Marilyn Monroe,” Pharrell moves with bravura from dramatic drone to a discoesque groove. That same energy and panache are in evidence in the sexy “Hunter,” the Neptunes-ish “Gush,” and the minimalist “Lost Queen” (“I'm half good and half nasty”). And you also have the joyful “Happy”! With such riches, “Girl” could well be the “Thriller” of the 21st century.
— Philadelphia Inquirer
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Parrotheads rejoice: Jimmy Buffett coming to First Niagara on Aug. 13
- Music legends Dick Dale and Merle Haggard plan W.Pa. shows
- Kanny: Country and western rocks the PSO
- Queen of Soul delivers powerful performance at Heinz Hall
- Roy Ayers closes Pittsburgh’s Jazz Appreciation Month with R&B feel
- Texas Tenors view chance to perform as a gift
- Etheridge, Smashing Pumpkins tickets on sale soon for Munhall shows