Country music has long been associated as a storytelling journey, but the evolution of the country sound has been made most obvious not by the music but by the image. There was a time when arenas would sparkle from all the rhinestones and when stetsons were a must-have. Then Johnny Cash brought his man in black phase into the mix, and with it a rebellion that few had seen before amongst those of that genre. Pretty soon it was all about carving out your own niche, fixing your own trademark look; whether it was Kenny Rogers and his white three-piece suits, or Tanya Tucker with her 'badgirl' catsuits and tight pants. Pictures from the mutation of country music throughout the last eight decades are perhaps some of the most telling because something about the looks of these country stars had as much of an impact as the music itself.
Yelawolf's journey and evolution has certainly been fascinating if nothing else. Going from absolute bangers like 'Daddy's Lambo' and 'Pop The Trunk', which marked the start of his Interscope affiliation back in 2010, to signing to Shady Records in 2011, this Alabama spitter sticks out from the rest of hip-hop like a sore thumb. With rock and country influences always being a part of his sound, as well as blistering rapid-fire flows and confident deliveries, the partnership with Eminem is one that makes sense, and 'Love Story' is his second album released through the label, following 2011's 'Radioactive'.
The album starts off with 'Outer Space'; an energetic, guitar driven tune which culminates in a funky, oddly trippy refrain. Yela is certainly making a statement with this opener, as it's nothing like what I was expecting, although he's very far away from the kind of impact 'Trunk Muzik 0-60' had when I first heard that project. 'Change' and 'American You' continue this unprecedented shift in direction for Yelawolf, with the 35-year-old demonstrating his vocal abilities. Yelawolf can sing, and his tone suits the electronic country vibe, as is exemplified on 'Whiskey In A Bottle', although the lyrical content occasionally comes across slightly cliché and preachy, which is a shame as Yela is often at his best when he's being heartfelt and passionate. I can't help but blame the mainstream country vibe for contributing to this.
'Til It's Gone' is the first track on 'Love Story' to bridge the aggressive nature of Yela's rapping with a convincing, catchy hook that doesn't sound out of place. He spits about the pitfalls of, and his struggles with, fame over a subtle, upbeat Will Power instrumental with intent. 'Best Friend', featuring Shady Records head honcho Eminem, is the only track with a guest appearance. Yela and Em both have a history of honest, personal lyricism combined with amped-up deliveries and quick MCing, and this is what I was hoping for with this track. Instead, it's disjointed, with no rapping from the Alabama spitter; instead we get Yelawolf's spiritual crooning for two verses, before Marshall Mathers contributes a lengthy, aggressive verse, which although does occasionally slip into a more emotional theme, for the most part feels out of place, no matter how technically good it may be.
Continue reading: Yelawolf - Love Story Album Review
The Alabama outfit (as you'd guess by their name) are celebrating their first Number One record this week after 'Sound & Color' beat all other records.
In quite a low-selling week, the rockers sold 96,000 copies of their sophomore effort to reach the top spot in the Billboard 200 chart. The reformed system counts track equivalent sales and streaming equivalent sales, though some 91,000 of Sound & Color’s sales total came from traditional physical sales.
Alabama Shakes’ debut album Boys & Girls won the group a lot of plaudits upon its release in 2012 for its classic rock sound. It peaked at Number 6 in the American charts, nearly a year after its release, due to its three Grammy nominations in 2013.
Continue reading: Alabama Shakes Rock To The Top Of The Billboard Albums Chart
Eminem released a project as recently as last year, and 'The Marshall Mathers LP 2' seemed to win back some of the critics of his recent, more aggressive and emotional style. 'ShadyXV' is a 2 disc release, consisting of tracks from Shady Records' talented roster, as well as some of the label's greatest hits, and we even get the demo version of 'Lose Yourself'; a real treat for Em fans and makes for a very interesting listen when comparing it to one of the most successful and important rap songs of the past decade or so. We get new tracks from Slaughterhouse, Yelawolf, D12, Bad Meets Evil and Slim Shady himself; it really does seem that Em has a new found motivation to take Shady Records back to the very top of the rap scene, and 'ShadyXV' serves as evidence that the diverse and talented roster definitely have the potential to do so.
The Shady Records head honcho kicks the album off himself, with the unashamedly rock-infused, self-produced title track. Eminem's frantic and aggressive delivery has divided opinions, but he is undeniably tight on this cut, demonstrating complex rhyme schemes, resulting in a hard-hitting and impressive opener. Em seems to have a reignited enthusiasm for complexity, and we're getting many examples of just how well he can construct lyrics in his newer work. Eminem is also behind the board for the Bad Meets Evil addition to 'ShadyXV', 'Vegas'. Mathers and Royce Da 5'9" both deliver forceful verses, demonstrating their ferocious flows and delivery. The stuttering flow in Em's verse matches the overdriven instrumental, and the consistency of both lengthy verses is impressive. DJ Premier contributes a signature instrumental, with his instantly recognizable timeless boom bap production backing Slaughterhouse on 'Y'all Ready Know'. Joell Ortiz and Joe Budden stand out, but each of the four lyricists definitely step up to the plate. 'Fine Line' is a highlight of the album, with Eminem delivering a passionate and intricate performance, and it's a great touch to shout out The Outsidaz, name checking Young Zee and Pace Won on the third verse. 'Detroit Vs Everybody' has been doing the rounds online for a while now, with an incredible 16 minute long remix featuring some of Detroit's finest spitters also surfacing in the past few days, and the Statik Selektah produced cut closes the album in fantastic fashion.
It's not all good though. Eminem's appearances vary from the aggressive and technical cuts, such as 'Right For Me' and the compilations intro, to the more commercial and inspirational songs he's found huge chart success with recently. 'Guts Over Fear' finds its home here, and 'Die Alone' feels like a re-hash of the same subject matter Em is constantly tackling nowadays. You can't really blame him too much though; he's never going to sound the same as his wild and crazy early releases, and if anything he's showing tremendous growth as an artist, and the confusion evident is not a new concept in the Detroit MC's discography. D12 mark their return with 'Bane', going down the electronic route, and it's not as successful as I hoped when I saw their name on the track-list. It's an unashamedly aggressive track, but ends up being a little forgettable when compared to their older material; '40 Oz', 'Fight Music' and '6 In The Morning' are absolute classics. Hopefully the dark, trap infused sound of 'Bane' isn't the new direction they're going down.
Continue reading: Eminem And Various Artists - ShadyXV Album Review