Reviews for Normal People

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Drake’s Top Ten Best Features — September 10, 2015

Drake’s Top Ten Best Features

I recently did an article about the best Drake songs. It was pretty cool. But it gave me the idea to look at another, perhaps even more important part of Drake’s career: his features. Whether a guest verse or a chorus, Drake always brings his unmistakable style to songs he’s featured on. At his best, he adapts to the style of whatever performer he’s working with and uses it to his advantage. Note that the songs on this list are here not because of the song’s overall quality, but the integrity of Drake’s part alone. That being said, here’s my top ten features by Drake.

10. 100 – The Game feat. Drake

Often, when Drake goes into this sort of sleepy style it leads to some of his worse songs, but there’s something mesmerizing about his combination of chill and energy on this track. Over a soulful Johnny Juliano beat, Drake preaches the virtues of honesty, as well as addressing those asking him to do more conscious raps. It does a good job of covering what’s on Drake’s mind at this point in his career. And it’s not even his song.

9. KNOW BOUT ME – Timbaland feat. Drake, Jay-Z, and James Fauntleroy

On this song, Drake goes rapid-fire and imitates Jay-Z’s stutter flow from “Party People”. It’s one of the better brag raps in Drake’s career, and the man does a lot of brag raps.

8. STUNTIN’ – Lil Wayne feat. Drake

This track off Wayne’s Dedication 3 mixtape is one of the first Wayne/Drake collabs ever, and coincidentally one of the best. Drake’s delivering wordplay the likes of which we haven’t seen from him since. While it doesn’t exactly stay on topic, it keeps a great flow and rhyme scheme that make it one of Drake’s better verses, guest or otherwise.

7. CABARET – Justin Timberlake feat. Drake

This song had a rhyme-oriented flow that we hadn’t seen from Drake in a number of years. It’s a cool mix of Drake’s two favorite topics: how great he is and how great his girl is. And at 30 bars, there’s plenty of room to branch out lyrically, which Drake certainly does, referencing everything from Superman to Eddie Murphy to Lil Boosie. A good example of how funny this verse is is the line “Keep this whole stripper thing secret in a pole vault.” There’s a lot of that.

6. ALL OF THE LIGHTS (REMIX) – Lil Wayne, Big Sean, and Drake

All three artists on this remix did a great job, but it’s generally agreed that Drake had the best verse. It’s one of the most energetic verses Drake has ever done, and the best verse anyone’s ever put over this beat (sorry, Gambino). Drake’s at his best when he’s pissed, and he’s definitely angry at someone on this song, though it’s not quite clear who.

5. POP THAT – French Montana feat. Rick Ross, Drake, and Lil Wayne

This song’s really all over the place. The beat is great, but French kind of sucks, and Wayne’s verse is one of the worst he’s ever put out. But on the other hand, Ross’ verse is surprisingly decent. And then there’s Drake. I don’t know if Drake got the memo about what kind of song this was, but he definitely overprepared. This verse could have been on an album. It could have been a freestyle. It could have been a feature on a good song. But for whatever reason, he decided to save up one of his best verses for “Pop That” by French Montana. A baffling choice, but at least we got the verse.

4. POETIC JUSTICE – Kendrick Lamar feat. Drake

This song is here to remind us of a simpler time when Kendrick and Drake weren’t taking subliminals at each other every other week. The song follows Kendrick’s relationship with Sherane, a recurring topic on Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City. If you didn’t have faith in Drake’s skills as an MC before, he goes up against Kendrick on this track to cement his status. Over an amazing Sounwave beat, Drake shows he can be a surprisingly good storyteller if he needs to. In the same way that “100” is Drake proving that he doesn’t need to do deep raps, this track is him proving that he could.

3. FOREVER – Drake, Lil Wayne, Kanye West, and Eminem

This song really proved Drake’s place among the greats in hip-hop. Way back in 2009, before he ran the whole game, he was just a young upstart who’d only recently signed to Lil Wayne. On this track, he pulled his weight against three rap heavyweights. His chorus remains one of his most memorable to this very day and his fiery punchlines stand out on an already loaded track. While it’s not the best verse on the song, it’s highly impressive nonetheless.

2. ASTON MARTIN MUSIC – Rick Ross feat. Chrisette Michele and Drake

OK, before I get into this, I just want to point out that the censored video censors “Gaye” as in “Marvin Gaye”. Now that’s funny. Anyway, this is a fantastic verse. Its rhyme scheme is impeccable and its lyrics are introspective and deep. Drake has always been really good at humblebragging. He talks about missing where he grew up and the trappings of fame, while making sure you know just how famous and talented he is. “I got wedding ring flows, that engaging shit”. Et cetera. It does fit the tone of the rest of the song, to be fair.

1. MINE – Beyonce feat. Drake

As I said earlier, Drake sometimes has a cool ability to use the style of other artists to his advantage. On this track, Bey and Drake put their distinct styles together to create a musical masterpiece that was a standout from Beyonce’s 2014 self-titled album. Not much to say about it. It’s just a fascinating, immensely well-put-together, catchy, beautiful song.

I have a lot of articles on the way soon. Be patient. And in the meantime, like this post if you like it, comment if you’ve got something to say, follow the blog if you like it like it, you can also follow me on Twitter, and I’ll see you next time.

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Review: A Walk in the Woods — September 7, 2015

Review: A Walk in the Woods

In theory, Robert Redford and Nick Nolte are a match made in comedy heaven. Redford’s sardonic wit and Nolte’s off-the-wall lunacy make them an ideal comedy duo. And in A Walk in the Woods, they go hiking on the Appalachian Trail. Sounds like a recipe for a lot of zany adventures, right?

Well, yes and no. While Redford and Nolte exchange a fair bit of decent banter, I found myself a bit surprised by the lack of hijinks in this film. For example, at one point Redford quietly eats at a restaurant and contemplates adultery when Nolte busts through the door and tells a story about being chased through the whole town by a guy whose wife he was flirting with. I found myself thinking, “Why aren’t we watching that?” It seems much more interesting story than Nolte causing a minor disruption in a diner.

The film is full of moments like that. It seems like so many valuable stories are wasted to make room for more heart-to-heart conversations, some of which involve the two talking about people that we, the audience, know nothing about. As a matter of fact, the film will frequently skip over whole months of story. And when you get past all the humor, the premise doesn’t make much sense. Redford, a successful travel author who isn’t recognized by any of the travel enthusiasts he encounters along the Appalachian Trail, decides to hike said trail, not for the purposes of writing another book, but just because he feels like it. There’s no indication that he’s not interested in writing a book (in fact, he’s halfway through a book), just that he doesn’t want to write one about this trip. At the end of the movie, he continues to tell Nolte that he won’t write a book, only to arrive home right after and immediately start writing the book. Two months into a trip both characters know will take six months, they’re flabbergasted to find that they’re less than halfway there. At the beginning of the movie, Redford says that he lived in England for 10 years and went back to the States for 20, but then later repeatedly states that he met his wife in the UK 40 years ago.

This has been a negative review so far, but I actually sort of liked the movie. It was pretty charming, and Redford and Nolte really do bounce off of each other really well. It’s just that throughout the movie, people keep telling them that they’ll never make it to Georgia, and in the end… they don’t. They head back less than halfway through. It’s all these weird missed opportunities and anticlimaxes that make the film disappointing, even though it is really fun to watch.

Overall, I give it a B-. Definitely not one of my favorites, but worth a watch if you’ve got those post-summer blues. Coming up, I’ll have a list of the best Drake features, my top 5 favorite movies that were never made, the best Nicki Minaj features, and a review of Sleeping With Other People if it’s showing anywhere near me. Until then, like this post if you like it, comment if you’ve got something to say, follow my blog if you like it like it, you can also follow me on Twitter @BreakingPOORLY, and I’ll see you ’round.

Top 10 Best Singles of the Month (August 2015) — September 4, 2015

Top 10 Best Singles of the Month (August 2015)

A great year in music continues as I look back at some of the best singles from the month of August. You may notice that two of the songs on this list are actually remixes of previously released songs. Whether or not this is cheating is for you to decide. Anyway, here’s the list.

10. CLASSIC – The Knocks feat. Fetty Wap and POWERS

The initial version of this song was released eleven months ago by relative unknowns The Knocks and POWERS. The original version is pretty hype, but nothing particularly worthwhile about it. That’s where Fetty Wap comes in. America’s sweetheart WIllie “Fetty Wap” Maxwell has been swiftly climbing in popularity since the release of his monster hit “Trap Queen”. But his previous singles, four of which are in the Billboard Top 40 right now, all had a certain element of sameness. He sing-raps about a girl and he’s super sweet and he throws in some gangsta cliches for good measure. This track combines that sappy style we know and love with a really cool EDM beat. It comes together to create what could have been a song of the summer if it was sold right.

9. 28 THOUSAND DAYS – Alicia Keys

Alicia Keys is an artist who’s usually at her best when she deviates from her typical soulful style, which is part of why this song works. It has an interesting riff reminiscent of ’90s hip hop, and Keys delivers an interesting message about living life to the fullest and viewing it as a collection of 28,000 days (76.7 years). The horns at the end are especially enticing, but the whole song has a cool old school R&B vibe that’s just different enough to work.

8. BACK AND FORTH – B.o.B

Bobby Ray is back with a left-field funk album called Psycadelik Thoughtz. It’s fitting that as the mainstream hip hop scene rejected B.o.B, he went back to his rock roots with this record. The lead and so far only single from this surprise album was the groovy, lighthearted jam “Back and Forth”. It’s reminiscent of Daft Punk’s 2013 monster hit “Get Lucky”, and in my book, that’s a good thing. B.o.B has never exactly been known for dense metaphors, so he keeps things simple on this track by talking about dancing (read: “fucking”). ‘Snice.

7. MARVIN GAYE (Remix) – Charlie Puth feat. Wale

Honestly, I don’t really care for Charlie Puth’s voice. It just sort of irritates me; I don’t really have a good reason why. So, it’s taken a good few songs for him to grow on me. While I don’t mind the original version of this song with Meghan Trainor, That being said, when you boil it down to Meghan Trainor and Wale, there’s really no contest. Wale delivers a short and sweet verse that sounds less jarring than one might expect from an MMG rapper doing a verse over a remix to a ’50s throwback track about Marvin Gaye. I’d like to see Wale breaking into the mainstream more in the future.

6. HELL YOU TALMBOUT – Wondaland Records

This powerful protest song consists of Janelle Monae and her Wonaland crew passionately remembering those we’ve lost to police brutality. It’s a perfect marching song and its raw emotion makes it especially touching. Where a hip-hop protest song could have been overly wordy (cough cough, Lupe Fiasco), this song goes the simple route by simply listing black police brutality victims, telling the audience to say their names, and adding in a brief, simplistic chorus to tie it all together.

5. PROFESSIONAL RAPPER – Lil Dicky feat. Snoop Dogg

Lil Dicky is the latest Goofy Jewish Rapper to take the world by storm. In this song, he applies for a job at Rap Game, Inc. through an interview with legendary MC Snoop Dogg. The song is a pretty good display of everything Lil Dicky has to offer, which includes some pretty insane flows and genuinely funny lyrics. And when you get past all that pomp and circumstance, along with the conversations dispersed throughout and the animated video, it actually has a really cool beat, too. I didn’t listen to Lil Dicky’s album, but this is a pretty solid first impression.

4. TIRING GAME – John Newman feat. Charlie Wilson

John Newman is an up-and-coming British songster best known stateside for his song “Blame” with Calvin Harris. This latest single of his is a lot better. However, its strengths have little to do with John Newman and more to do with its awesome gospel-inspired beat and epic chorus by one of the best voices in the business, Charlie Wilson (“Bound 2”, “There Goes My Baby”). I can never help myself from dancing when I listen to it. It’s just so good.

3. JFKPSA – Kid Cudi

This one’s a bit more experimental than the other songs on this list. It’s apparently off Kid Cudi’s upcoming album, Speedin’ Bullet to Heaven, and it features a speech by John F. Kennedy with a cool bass solo by Kid Cudi in the background. It’s weird, even for Cudi, but I consider myself pro-weird. The message of the speech is a bit lost in the psychedelia of it all, but from what I can tell it’s unabashedly pro-artistry, which is sort of what Kid Cudi’s all about. While his other single this month, “Confused”, was a bit lackluster, this has me much more excited for what’s to come.

2. ISRAEL (SPARRING) – Chance the Rapper and Noname Gypsy

This mellow, lyrical track by Chano and his friend Noname explores the trappings of the rap game through a series of biblical metaphors. It’s pretty chill.

Before I get to my #1 pick, here’s some honorable mentions:

“Grinder” – Gary Clark, Jr.

“Milions” – Rene Brown

“All That Shines” – Vic Mensa

“Back to Earth” – Steve Aoki feat. Fall Out Boy

1. DOWNTOWN – Macklemore and Ryan Lewis feat. Eric Nally, Melle Mel, Cool Moe Dee, and Grandmaster Caz

At the start of the month, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis released a surprise single. It was called “Growing Up”, it featured Ed Sheeran, and it was kinda dull. Then, just as the month was winding down and I had most of my list already picked out, they dropped this bombshell on us. Holy shit. The chorus. The horns. The piano. The mopeds. This is like five different amazing songs all wrapped up in one. It’s just the right mix of charmingly bad and shockingly good. You see, while Macklemore isn’t a particularly good rapper, Ryan Lewis is an excellent song maker, and this is the perfect example of that. Whenever I hear a new song produced by him, I say it’s one of his best. He’s one of the most consistent producers in the game. And that’s where this song succeeds: by focusing more on the beat and the supporting cast than on Macklemore himself. Even accounting for Macklemore’s verses, which are admittedly pretty solid, this is one of the best songs I’ve heard all year.

So, those are my favorite songs of the month. I’m working on a list of the best Drake features, and I’ll probably have a few more movie reviews out pretty soon. Until then, like this post if you like it, follow my blog if you like it like it, comment if you’ve got something to say, you can also follow me on Twitter @BreakingPOORLY, and I’ll see ya ’round.