SINGLE REVIEW: Truth Syrum (ft. Wo-Billz) by Nikia


Nikia is a R&B/pop singer who was born in New York and raised in California. She hails from a large musical family and was musically highly precocious, starting her career as a professional singer at just thirteen and signing a deal with L.A.’s Swooper Records at fifteen. She released her first single Wanna Get With You the next year and then released a Spanish crossover album which was a big hit overseas. She has since released several albums, EPs and singles including the 2016 EP She Is Me. She has also more recently released the song Do U from her upcoming album No Fairytale.

This track, Truth Syrum (ft. Wo-Billz), is a slow R&B/pop ballad that makes a wonderful showcase for Nikia’s considerable talents as a vocalist. Set to a musical backdrop of subtle synths and a languid, seductive R&B beat, as soon as Nikia enters on the verse her silky smooth vocals captures the attention. With a voice comparable to megastars like Beyonce and Rihanna, she gets to express her vocal range at the end of the memorable chorus.

Lyrically, it’s an emotionally heartfelt plea towards a lover who has been straying: “Out in the clubs, playing with these freaks….you’re out in these streets while I’m lonely in our sheets….”. After the first chorus we then here a rap section from guest vocalist Wo-Billz, whose naturally contrasting style is highly effective juxtaposed against the sung sections. Wo-Billz gives the track a cutting edge vibe and keeps it real with killer lines like, “Go scuba diving for your ring…..”. After the second chorus Nikia delivers the poignant refrain, “What goes around comes around….”, aided by some slick production effects on her voice which adds to the modernity of the sound.

Overall, this is an emotionally powerful R&B/pop track about infidelity by a truly gifted female singer. The song captures the pain and heartbreak of being cheated on, while the acerbic contribution of female rapper and guest star Wo-Billz adds some bite and dry humour to proceedings. The production is flawless and very commercial, making it perfect for radio. It feels only a matter of time before Nikia breaks through to the world stage and Truth Syrum could be the song that gets her there.


VERDICT = 8.8 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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SINGLE REVIEW: Move by Glorious


Glorious is a pop singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist from Washington, D.C. but now based in New York. Remarkably, by the age of three she started playing drums and is now a livetronica drummer. She combines this talent and her jazz background with her abilities as a songwriter and vocalist. Her influences are numerous, from fellow pop singers like Beyonce and Pink, EDM artists like Tiesto, David Guetta and Diplo as well as jazz legends like Miles Davis.

This track, Move, is a hugely infectious pop track that shows her self-belief and artistic potential. She has a magnificent voice, comparable to Beyonce and Christina Aguilera with a similarly huge vocal range. The song itself is actually about her skills as a drummer, however, and the power that rhythm has to make people dance. Naturally, it has a brilliant beat that gets your top tapping immediately, but the track also features a funky, driving bassline and a lead vocal from Glorious that is by turns smoky and sultry then exultant and powerful on the incendiary chorus.

The title hook is brief but incredibly catchy: “I make the whole room move….”. After the second chorus the song takes an unexpected left turn into a dreamy, blissed out middle eight section where she sings sincerely, “I know you feel it, deep in your soul….”. It then gradually builds back up for a couple more killer choruses, with some fantastic vocal extemporizations towards the end. The production is slick, inventive and modern, as good as anything you’ll hear in the Billboard Top 100.

Overall, Glorious has written, performed and produced a pop classic. As vocally gifted as her idols, her skills behind the kit only add to her appeal, but most importantly this is simply a great song. Equally suited to both radio and the dancefloor, this track will surely make a strong impact on the music world and make her legions of new fans. For my money, Glorious could well go on to become the next Beyonce.


VERDICT= 9.2 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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SINGLE REVIEW: MistaRomeo by Yvonne Sangudi

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Yvonne Sangudi is a Tanzanian-American singer and songwriter who currently resides in Los Angeles. She was musically precocious as a child and was writing, recording and producing by the age of nine! Since then she gained a huge amount of progress and experience, being described by the Huffington Post as “the next great songstress”. Her music combines pop with reggaeton and world-beat, though her influences range from Bach to Shania Twain.

She released her debut single Tanzanite back in 2014, which reached #35 on the iTunes Top 100 Pop Charts (New Releases). Following a hiatus, she is back with MistaRomeo, was co-produced by Jens Gad, who is the older brother of Toby Gad (who was named the #3 top Producer & Songwriter by Billboard). The Gad brothers have penned hits for Beyonce, Madonna, Brandy, John Legend, Fergie, Leona Lewis and Engima. The track is an instantly infectious fusion of pop and world-beat, similar in style to the sound that made Shakira huge.

Starting with a catchy swirling synth riff, it breaks into a Hips Don’t Lie-style beat that could lure anyone to the dancefloor. Yvonne has a powerful, charismatic vocal style which emerges on the verses, counterpointed by lush backing harmonies. It builds to a memorable chorus, augmented by some skyscraping “Oh-oh’s” that seem ubiquitous in modern pop.

Lyrically, it’s about falling for a lothario then realizing he’s worthless, summed up succinctly in the chorus: “Oh, MistaRomeo, you liar….you liar….”. After the second chorus there is an effective middle section where it breaks down to the beat then builds up again. The final chorus features some superb extemporizations where Yvonne showcases her remarkable vocal range.

Overall, this is an excellent pop/world-beat fusion by an artist who has emerged fully developed on just her second single. Very well written and flawlessly produced, Yvonne Sangudi’s show-stealing performance sticks in the mind along with the addictive vocal melody. This is a singer all set for the world stage, and in this instance the hype is fully justified.


VERDICT = 8.8 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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ALBUM REVIEW: The Journey by J. Sariah

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J. Sariah is a singer songwriter born and raised in Macon, Georgia but has lived in several places including Long Island, New York, Cardiff in Wales and Houston, Texas. She began writing songs in her teenage years, which helped her cope with difficult experiences. This led to winning the Director’s Award in the Paramount Songwriting Contest at the age of 15. From there, she began working on songwriting projects with her cousin Airplane B, the founder of AMG (Airplane Music Group).

She describes her music as Neo-Soul, which encompasses R&B, hip hop, soul and gospel, and cites her favourite artists as Aaliyah, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Chris Brown and Ashanti, amongst others. Her debut EP, The Path, was released in March this year and The Journey is her first full album consisting of eleven tracks, featuring songs produced by Houston duo 3Bubble & J. Gray of Live From The Pentagon Entertainment and DJ Izzy Ill, idreaminstereo and Dorothy Chan of Barron Studios in Houston, Texas.

Opening track Friendzone is a brilliant start to the album. It’s a slinky, soulful piece of R&B with an instantly addictive vocal melody. J. Sariah gives a compelling vocal performance, her voice distinctive and easy on the ear which bodes well for her commercial potential. The track is superbly arranged, with a wealth of subtle detail in everything from the intricate beat to vocal doubling on certain lines.

Lyrically, it’s about someone hiding their desire by keeping them a friend: “In the friend zone, I know you want me, but you’ve got me in the friendzone…..”. With its catchy title hook and slick production, it’s a song that Rihanna or Beyoncé would be proud to have in their canon, and a perfect choice for a single.

Second track Shooting Star is another fine song, this one more languid and romantic with a jazzy chord progression and a deep dub bass. J. Sariah’s natural style of mixing rhythmic, fast paced vocal melodies on the verse, then switching to longer, anthemic melodies on the chorus is very effective. The hook grabs you on the first listen, lyrically about dreaming of being with someone they’re in love with: “I’m wishin’ on a shooting star, for you and me to be making history forever….”.

Are You Ready is based on a simple but effective guitar figure which forms the bedrock for another well crafted and soulful R&B song featuring some lush vocal harmonies and cutting edge production, especially towards the end. Track four, Run It, is a sharp contrast with a harder edged sound driven by a low-end synth melody. The lyrics are a little edgier too, describing the enjoyment of flirtation and seduction with an alpha male: “That smirk is worth a thousand words playing on repeat….”.

Overthinking is one of the more emotional, reflective songs on the album. It’s a poignant and sensitively performed expression of something many will relate to, thinking obsessively about a relationship and its issues. The chorus is clever, both highly memorable but reflecting the repeating inner turmoil she’s feeling: “Am I thinking about it, thinking about it too much?“.

Sixth song Revenge is another emotive and honest track that deals with a handling negative situation, this time a cheating lover. The perfectly executed vocal harmonies makes this one stand out musically. The lyrics are barbed and pull no punches: “What goes around comes and I’ll make sure it happens…who knew karma could be such a friend? Revenge…..” The following Reflection also wears its heart on its sleeve, an escape from her relationship issues into hedonism as captured by the opening lines: “Wasted, drinks on me…”. It’s another highly relatable, memorable song that packs an emotional punch due to its lyrical openness and honesty.

Break History is a real departure from her signature sound, this one with a bit of a rock vibe. Starting with some mellifluous lead electric guitar, it bursts into an infectious pop/rock fusion that shows her Beyoncé influence. Her vocals on this one are particularly good, singing near the top of her range on the anthemic chorus. Lyrically, its another positive message about putting the past behind you.

H202 is a return to her more usual super-catchy R&B style with a particularly good groove, a love song with an interesting and inventive metaphor: “Let the rain fall, like a waterfall of never ending love into a  sea, you’re the water and I’m  the air, the only elements we need….”. Another potential single for the future.

Reckless Love starts with a haunting, evocative piano/vibes melody that made me think of the composer Saint Saens. It progresses into a beat with a tempo so laid back it’s almost vertical, setting the scene for a smooth-as-honey lead vocal with strong lyrics:  “You’re like a man in the mirror for me, you reflect everything I need….”. The section where its just her voice with the intro melody sends shivers up the spine.

The closing Dutty Wine is a great way to finish the album, featuring a guest male vocalist. Their voices complement each other perfectly, alternating and then combining. It’s a fiendishly catchy track with a slick R&B groove, an openly sexy expression of sensual desire that will be hugely popular on the dancefloor. It completes the emotional journey of the album, which J. Sariah says is about the ups and downs of tempestuous young love.

Overall, this is a consistently excellent modern pop album that balances commercial appeal with authentic artistic expression. She has a gift for writing about the issues that affect most of us with insight and brutal honesty. Containing several potential singles and not a weak moment on the whole album, it’s surely just a matter of time before this gifted artist explodes onto the world stage. J. Sariah has the potential to be as big as her musical heroes and heroines.


VERDICT =  9.2 out of 10

Alex Faulkner


Visit her official website HERE

ALBUM REVIEW: BARE by Celeste Buckingham


Celeste Buckingham is a Slovak singer-songwriter of Swiss-American descent. Her songwriting began at a young age, with one of her first demos having been written when only twelve. She also wrote a successful children’s story with her sister, which they self-published in 2007 and eventually resulted in a paperback release. She rose to prominence with her musical talents in 2011 via becoming a finalist in the Czech and Slovak TV series Superstar.

From this success she was able to establish herself as an artist which resulted in the release of her debut album Don’t Look Back in 2012. Released to critical acclaim, it spawned a number two hit single in the national charts, Run, Run, Run. She followed this with the 2013 album Where I Belong, which featured the single I’m Not Sorry. Another album followed in 2015, So Far So Good. She has also featured as a judge on the Czech-Slovak X Factor.

This album, BARE, features ten tracks and musically is fairly eclectic in its influences, but it is essentially soul/RnB fused with Middle Eastern and Latin elements that is reminiscent of artists like Shakira. Vocally, she is distinctive and powerful, with a voice to stand up against any of pop’s big hitters like Beyonce, Rihanna and Adele. You can also detect the influence of Joss Stone, and Celeste shares her penchant for barefoot performances!

The album gets off to a blistering start with the perfect R&B pop of Paradise, with cutting edge production that rivals the best Bloodshy & Avant productions (Britney Spears, Katy Perry). Starting with a pulsing kick drum that ensures it will rip on the dancefloor, Celeste lays down a killer vocal about resisting but still being tempted by a lothario: “You say you love the dark side, and I got a wild side but I ain’t gonna let you in, no, no…”.

As with the best pop songs, every section of the track is filled with catchy hooks and ear candy, the breakdown bridge (“Even though I know you’re no good for me…”) building to an instantly memorable chorus that captures the harsh reality of life and both the shallow nature and allure of human relationships: “This ain’t paradise, it’s as cold as ice, but there’s magic in your bones I don’t understand…”. If there’s a better pop song in 2018, I’ll be surprised.

While Paradise is my personal favourite on the album, second track Addict is perhaps the one with the most commercial potential and is quite simply, well, addictive! Built around an exotic Eastern groove and a seductive vocal melody, it brings to mind the world conquering classic Hips Don’t Lie by Shakira. Again, it’s about the potency and lure of physical and mental attraction and starts with the chorus hook: “Losing my mind and I kind of like that….”.

Unexpectedly, Celeste shows her versatility on the verses, rapping with a smooth and rapid delivery as fluent and rhythmic as Eminem at his best. This gives the track added sass and really drives it forward, contrasting effectively with the sung sections. A song that could storm the charts, globally.

Third song Rose is a total change of pace; a tender ballad about feeling love and compassion for a man going through a rough time emotionally: “His petals are worn and frayed at the edge, his clothes are torn and his face is a mess…”. Celeste gets to show another side to her talent here, delivering a sensitive, moving and powerful vocal, with a theme that avoids the clichés of the traditional love ballad. With its radio friendly sound and strong chorus, this is another potential single.

Next up is Go Away, which has been released as the first single from the album. It is a return to the Latin-tinged R&B vibes of the first two tracks and matches them for sheer catchiness. Lyrically, as the title implies, it’s about reaching the end of a relationship with someone who’s turned out to be no good. The whole song is packed with hooks, and with its solid four-to-the-floor beat you can tell it will work well in the clubs.

The following Selfish is another fine track, with some nice production effects on the vocals. Although it’s as good as most of what you hear in the charts, it doesn’t have the inspired vitality of the preceding songs and perhaps sounds a little too similar to the majority of what’s out there.

Things pick up again straight away with the superb Trip, a slinky piece of jazz-inflected R&B that Beyonce would be very happy to have in her catalogue. The track makes great use of space, with a sparse but highly effective arrangement based around a xylophone-esque synth melody. It exudes a tasteful sensuality, especially as Celeste purrs “Can we take it nice and slow?” on the bridge. The use of triplet rhythms vocally and instrumentally throughout is the secret to its immense catchiness. A monster track that must surely become a single!

Seventh song Immature has a similar production style to Selfish, with a beefier hip hop style beat. I enjoyed the way the arrangement built across the duration of the track, and the chorus hook soon gets stuck in your head. Lyrically, it’s self explanatory, about a man who hasn’t got round to growing up yet. There is a dry humour in the lyrics that I appreciated, another facet to her musical personality.

Time Is Ours is the second ballad on the album, based around a haunting Coldplay-esque piano arpeggio. Celeste delivers another excellent vocal full of intimate vulnerability, and though it’s not as memorable as the lovely Rose, it’s certainly another well crafted piece of songwriting. All This is another fine example of what is essentially her staple sound, exotic rhythms and percussion and hook-laden vocal melodies, this one driven along by an elastic bassline.

The final track Intoxicated is perhaps the most lyrically edgy song on the album, and makes for a blazing finale. Starting with a harmonized vocoder effect, it’s an ode to the need to temporarily escape through hedonism: “I must stay intoxicated, baby, drink till it’s over, don’t try to change me“. A stomping beat and the verses delivered as a laconic rap gives this a hip urban feel, and this, again, has the potential to be a huge hit in the clubs. A great way to finish.

Having already amassed a huge fanbase, Celeste Buckingham stands poised to enter the big league with this album. She has the voice, image and charisma to become a globe conquering star, but most importantly, she has several songs that sound like they are destined to soar to the upper reaches of the charts. In particular, Paradise, Addict and Trip are potential number ones, but what makes this album stand out from the pack is its consistently high quality. When Shakira released Laundry Service, it broke her beyond just success in her native country and the same should happen here. I rate this as the most important female pop album since Lorde’s debut Pure Heroine. A star is born.



VERDICT: 8.9 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner


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