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The Black Keys El Camino Review Roundup

Posted by MTV News On December - 8 - 2011

By Zachary Swickey

Few bands have ascended the rock and roll ranks as swiftly as The Black Keys have managed to do over the last year. Sure, the band has been around since their ’02 debut, but it wasn’t until their Danger Mouse-produced record – 2008’s Attack & Release – that the group finally started getting the attention they deserved. Consequentially, they went from playing bars and clubs to mid-size theatres, and early next year the band will be embarking on their first-ever arena tour (including a date at NYC’s iconic Madison Square Garden) – a rather magnificent feat for any band let alone a small-scale bluesy duo.

If the reviews pouring in on their latest effort, El Camino, are any indication, they won’t have any problems selling tickets. Here’s what the critics have had to say about the Black Keys’ seventh album:

>>> Los Angeles Times: “It feels a little funny to gush so outwardly about a record, like the critical capacities are failing when enthusiasm takes over. Really, the only question is whether, this late in the year, this constitutes the best rock album of 2011 or 2012. It’ll probably be both.” (Four stars out of four).

>>> Entertainment Weekly: “They’ve [the Black Keys] teamed up with longtime producer Danger Mouse to do what they do best: make a small-room racket that sounds massive enough for a bigger-is-better world. El Camino trades the soulful stylings of Brothers for harder-driving, faster-riffing rock & roll. They don’t make vintage folk-rock heavy metal like they used to – if they ever used to. And that’s a very good thing.” (A-).

>>> Rolling Stone: “There’s still a strange jukebox anonymity to the Keys’ approach; their vintage organ and guitar sounds often project larger personae than the band itself. But part of the reason Carney and Auerbach keep finding new ways to shake up that old-school blues-rock rumble is that they’re workaday dudes smart enough to get out of the way of their own songs. Like Clark Kent’s or Peter Parker’s, their 99 percentness only seems to enhance their powers.” (Four out of five stars).

>>> Spin: “The music is rooted in terse melody and two-chord patterns, so its bang-bang gets repeititve in a couple spots. And while Auerbach’s singing is finally more muhfuh then midnight moaner, he still says very little – women are trouble; people will take what’s yours; life ain’t easy. That’s okay though. Sal St. Monica doesn’t like to waste time with words, and El Camino is all action. (8 out of 10).

>>> Paste: “By the time the record ends, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself immediately wanting to start over again from the beginning. El Camino is yet another ear-pleasing installment in the catalog of a consistently impressive band. It’s an album that leaves you breathless and wanting more, but it becomes more fun with each new spin. (8.3 out of 10).

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Anne Hathaway, Gary Oldman Rally Around Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Passion Project

Posted by MTV News On October - 12 - 2011

For those who only know Joseph Gordon-Levitt from his excellent work in television and film over the past 20 years or so, do yourself a favor and expand your fandom by heading over to, Gordon-Levitt’s collaborative production company/community and passion project. On Monday night, the roughly seven-year-old operation celebrated its creative success with the 2011 Fall Formal, a live performance event at which Gordon-Levitt served as emcee and performer, along with guest appearances by supporters and friends Anne Hathaway, Neil Patrick Harris, Gary Oldman and Sia, along with an audience full of hitRECord members and enthusiasts.

The spirit of the evening was lighthearted and welcoming, with a vaudeville-esque lineup of readings, short films and musical numbers. Also, everyone in attendance was encouraged to record however much of the show they wanted. The video below, which features Gordon-Levitt, hitRECord artist the Metafictionis and Hathaway, will give you an idea of what I’m talking about.

Admittedly, I expected to be further charmed by Gordon-Levitt. He is just so darn talented and passionate and genuine, it’s irresistible and inspiring watching him move smoothly from narrating to dancing, to singing, to drumming to improv’ing. He’s an artist in every sense of the word, and while his name is attached to hitRECord and he emceed the program, it is obvious that Gordon-Levitt truly enjoys creating art that comes from a collaboration and collection of other equally talented individuals.

Also, when you get Oldman, Hathaway, Harris and Sia to come in and play with you during their time off, you know you are loved.

It was hard to pick a favorite moment, but when Oldman got up onstage to read a “Tiny Story” called “The Man With a Turnip for a Head,” written by hitRECord artist Metaphorest, he brought down the house.

“It’s going to be hard to top that,” Gordon-Levitt told the crowd as Oldman left the stage. Yet somehow, I’m sure he will figure out a way to do just that for next year’s event.

What do you think of Gordon-Levitt’s passion project, hitRECord? Tell us in the comments!

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Demi Lovato’s Unbroken Co-Signed By Ashley Greene, Critics

Posted by Jocelyn Vena On September - 20 - 2011

Hey y’all! Happy Unbroken Day! Today, Demi Lovato drops her new album and it seems that critics and celebrities all pretty much love what the “Skyscraper” singing is doing on it.

So, what are the critics saying? While the New York Times seemed a bit restrained about their love for the album, they did note, “These songs do give Ms. Lovato the opportunity to present herself as an adult, not just a moppet who knows too much.”

Meanwhile, the album scored an impressive B+ with the folks over at Entertainment Weekly, who added, “Clearly it’s been a tough year for Lovato. But as Rihanna could tell her, sometimes bad years make great songs.”

Rolling Stone focused less on the darker elements of the album, pointing out that “Unbroken is mostly sunshine and slumber-party hooks… She’s grown into her voice. Now, if only her music would grow up too.”

USA Today gave the album three out of four stars, noting that “By the time she hits the ballad ‘Skyscraper,’ a towering performance that sounds both desperate and determined, she has clearly transitioned from a teen star into a young woman worth listening to.”

But it’s not just the critics who have a thing or two to say about the album, it’s also her celebrity pals. Like who? Read on.

Well, for instance, fellow Joe Jonas ex and “Twilight” star Ashley Greene is also giving it two thumbs up. “Everyone make sure to get the new @ddlovato album ‘Unbroken’!!” she tweeted.

Speaking of Joe J, his tourmate JoJo said, “Pals! Please support my girl Demi @ddlovato by buying her new album #UNBROKEN asaptually! She’s singin’ her face off! Congrats mama”

Cobra Starship frontman Gabe Saporta had this message for his fans on Twitter: “@ddlovato did i just miss you at best buy? is it still open? i’m going back there now to get my copy of #Unbroken!”

Sean Kingston added, Everybody Go pick up THE BEAUTIFUL @ddlovato album now!!!! On iTUNES “UNBROKEN” #SWAGG.”

And if you hadn’t heard that Ms. Lovato is singing her heart out on the album, Jordin Sparks, is there to remind you. She tweeted, “Go grab @ddlovato’s new album #UNBROKEN now!! Girl, you are SANGIN! Congrats!”

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Britney Spears’ Femme Fatale: The Reviews Are In!

Posted by Kyle Anderson On March - 29 - 2011

Even though Britney Spears has sold over 100 million albums worldwide over the course of her decade-plus career, she still seems like something of an underdog every time she releases a new project. Perhaps it’s because of the fickle nature of pop music, or perhaps it’s because nobody can believe that Spears continues to top herself over and over again. Her eighth album Femme Fatale hits stores today (Tuesday, March 29) and is the follow-up to her ultra-successful and boundary-pushing 2008 release Circus. Is this yet another home run for Spears?

According to the critics, she has done it again. “On Femme Fatale, her seventh studio album and plainly one of her best, the erstwhile teen-pop princess is less the center of sonic attention than the occasion and enabler for a dozen of the age’s most accomplished record producers to show off their wildest moves from behind a plastic Britney mask,” wrote the Los Angeles Times‘ Carl Wilson in a three-star review. “The star serves mainly to illuminate their eccentric orbits with her considerable glow. She’s been shamed, stalked, bullied, rehabbed and ruled a bad mother by a court of law. There’s something glorious about answering with a victory dance, but it’s on the grave of any figment of innocence.”

In fact, many critics seem to be zeroing in on how Spears is able to transcend her limitations on Femme Fatale. “Britney always brings one undervalued asset to the table: her reedy, preshrunk voice — probably the single most maligned instrument in music this side of the vuvuzela,” wrote Entertainment Weekly‘s Adam Markovitz. “Spears is no technical singer, that’s for sure. But backed by Martin and Dr. Luke’s wall of pound, her vocals melt into a mix of babytalk coo and coital panting that is, in its own overprocessed way, just as iconic and propulsive as Michael Jackson’s yips or Eminem’s snarls.”

Rolling Stone gave Femme Fatale four stars, and critic Jody Rosen was thoroughly impressed with Spears’ ability to subvert pop tropes while still using them to her advantage. “Femme Fatale may be Britney’s best album; certainly it’s her strangest. Conceptually it’s straightforward: a party record packed with sex and sadness,” Rosen wrote. “On nearly every track, Britney’s voice is twisted, shredded, processed, roboticized. Maybe this is because she doesn’t have much of a voice; it’s certainly because she, more than almost any other pop diva, is simply game.”

Even indie stalwart Spin had positive vibes to send Spears’ way. “A few adventurous loops and gauzy midtempo moments stand out — the dubstep meltdown on ‘Hold It Against Me,’’s wackadoo beatfest ‘Big Fat Bass,’” wrote critic Caryn Ganz in a seven-dot review.

What do you think about the new Britney Spears album? Let us know in the comments!

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Wiz Khalifa’s Rolling Papers: The Reviews Are In!

Posted by Kyle Anderson On March - 29 - 2011

Last year, a relatively unknown rapper from a city not traditionally known for hip-hop graduated from the mixtape circuit to the mainstream and became one of the biggest names in the business. That rapper was Drake, the cerebral MC from Toronto who immediately established himself as a major player. This year, that ascension story belongs to Wiz Khalifa, the Pittsburgh-based rapper who went from underground favorite to mainstream superstar almost immediately. In the wake of his chart-topping hit “Black and Yellow” (which was adopted by fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the team’s run to the Super Bowl) comes his major label debut Rolling Papers, a stout collection of ear-bending rhymes and smokey beats.

But does the album live up to the considerable hype surrounding Khalifa’s arrival? All signs point to yes. “The Pittsburgher’s debut on Atlantic is lyrically limited to getting high, stealing chicks, and blowing cash,” wrote Brad Wete in Entertainment Weekly in a B+ review. “Yet it burns with an underdog’s passion and a champion’s spite. Marijuana may not be legal, but Rolling Papers surely will be enjoyed and passed around among Wiz’s fans.”

Rolling Stone also approved of Khalifa’s approach, and critic Jon Dolan appreciated his reinvention of some tropes. “On Rolling Papers, Khalifa manages to give life to those kinds of cash-gorged perma-baked clichés by warmly luxuriating in the space between pop’s fresh-faced exuberance and hip-hop’s easy arrogance — between skater and playa, Bieber and Biggie,” he wrote. “Khalifa hustled for years to get his big break, suffering record-label indignities, releasing mixtapes and using Twitter to build a following. When he raps, ‘I don’t wanna wake up,’ on ‘Wake Up,’ you can’t help but hope his dream lasts a while.”

USA Today was slightly more lukewarm but ultimately gave Rolling Papers the benefit of the doubt. “Khalifa is certainly likable enough with his laid-back flow and knack for catchy rhymes over melodic beats,” wrote critic Steve Jones. “But he is limited thematically, with almost every song extolling the virtue of weed, women and the good life. All of that footloose fun is cool and all. The only problem is that there are only so many clever ways to describe the hedonism.”

Still, plenty of people seem on board with Khalifa — even the British. “Apart from some of the tedious subject matter, [Rolling Papers is] the sort of rap that deserves mainstream attention as it’s musically thoughtful and endearing beyond the dancefloor,” wrote BBC Music critic Lloyd Bradley. “These are the sort of songs that mainstream hip-hop needs, and would probably find much more entertaining than what tends to get pushed at it.”

And David Jeffries of the All Music Guide really nailed it. “Rolling Papers casts Khalifa as a more earthbound and approachable version of Kid Cudi, or Curren$y for the masses, both of which are meant as compliments,” he wrote. “While it’s misrepresented by its single and the mixtapes that surround it, it is purposeful mood music, perfect for bong loading or just hanging out.”

What do you think of Wiz Khalifa’s new album? Let us know in the comments!

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