ALBUM REVIEW: Bare by Luci

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https://www.facebook.com/LaVidaLuci/

Luci is a singer and songwriter born in Lima, Peru but grew up in the Midwest and South of the United States. She learnt piano and flute in her youth and went on to study music production while at college. This eventually led to the release of her debut EP Live It Up in 2010.

Her music is a blend of modern pop and RnB infused with the influence of Latin styles and she regards her influences as Christina Aguilera, Beyoncé and Shakira amongst others. This album, Bare, sees her return to the pop scene and it consists of eleven tracks. The album is a mixture of pop and the more Latin influenced tracks that show her Peruvian heritage.

The album gets off to a strong start with the sassy pop of New Normal. It showcases Luci’s powerful voice which brings to mind Christina Aguilera, not just in its power but also her huge vocal range. Lyrically, it is about her own life’s journey and her return to music, captured by the opening line “I’ve got the new vision of a warrior”.

The following Boss Bitches is just as strong, a Latin-inflected RnB track. Lyrically it’s an empowering feminist anthem which will be particularly popular with her female audience. Luci gives a fantastic vocal performance and this is surely a contender as a single.

Free The Wildings is another super catchy pop/RnB with an irresistible hook while Oyeme shows a gentler side, a poignant piano-led ballad with an affecting and emotive lead vocal performance once again.

The Latin American influence really shines through on the Shakira-esque Marialucia (her full first name). With its incredibly funky and danceable sound this is a potential Hips Don’t Lie-style worldwide hit!

Culebra is another track sung in both Spanish and English, and it’s another infectious piece of Latin pop, this one with a more languid, laid back rhythm and tempo. Luci turns up the heat with the super sensual Savage, an X-rated lyric set to a slinky groove. It’s a fine track which shows her earthy, sexual side.

The following F***** Up is also X-rated due to its title but is lyrically more of a plea for love and validation. Hold My Breath is so languid it’s mesmerising and yet comes from a similarly troubled place emotionally. Luci’s artistic honesty and openness is one of her strongest qualities.

Can’t Stop Us is a return to the ultra positive and empowering vibe of earlier tracks and is musically quite different, a dubstep-infused RnB track with a killer hook. The final track Needs is another of her steamy, explicit songs, this one a very sexy slice of RnB designed to get hips grinding on the dance floor. It’s a fantastic way to finish, bringing to mind the smash hit Dirrty by Christina Aguilera and perhaps this track can follow suit.

Overall, this is a first class modern pop album full of musical variety. Luci is an intoxicating mixture of globe-conquering pop stars like Beyoncé, Christina Aguilera and Shakira and has several potential hits on her hands. With international appeal, along with a fabulous voice and image, there’s nothing to stop her emulating the success of all her musical heroines.

 

VERDICT = 9 out of 10       

Alex Faulkner

 

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SINGLE REVIEW: Race Against Time by Bianca Modesti

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https://www.bianca-modesti.com

Bianca Modesti is a singer and songwriter born and raised in Melbourne, Australia. She has been under the mentorship of her singing teacher Steven Zammit and as spent the last year working on original solo material. She has already performed at numerous venues and the result of her labours in the studio has been a 5 track EP, Race Against Time. She regards her influences as artists like Christina Aguilera, Alicia Keys and Pharell Williams as well as great singers from the past like Etta James.

This song is the title track from her EP and makes a strong showcase for her singing and songwriting skills. The track is an interesting blend of R&B, pop and rock. It begins with just her charismatic vocals singing the chorus hook, set to rhythmic acoustic guitar. We then hear a funky guitar lick, with some clever dynamics such as the drums briefly dropping out. The verse breaks down to just piano and tom-tom heavy drums before the bridge creates an effective tension for the explosive chorus.

This is where Bianca gets to display her powerhouse voice, with an Aguilera-esque range and a tone akin to Alicia Keys. However, the chunky low-end electric guitars give her music a unique sound that helps it stand apart from the crowd. The chorus has an excellent vocal melody and lyrics that capture the world’s obsession with chasing fame: “Reality is getting the better of me cos I can’t escape into my MTV….”. The words also subtly pay tribute to the late, great Prince with the line, “Wish I could party like it was ’99….”. Later in the song, she shows her fine ability to vocally extemporize with control.

Overall, this is a debut release of the highest calibre from a hugely gifted female singer/songwriter. Her singing voice is exceptional but augmented by refined songwriting skills, a vital string to her bow in an era where great vocals are not enough. She has emerged with a musical style that is a little different to what’s currently out there, whilst retaining a commercial and accessible sound. Bianca Modesti has the potential to become as successful as her artistic idols and she should have a very bright future ahead of her.

 

VERDICT = 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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SINGLE REVIEW: Move by Glorious

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www.gloriouslive.com

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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https://www.facebook.com/YvonneSangudi

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: Butterfly by Sofia Evangelina

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Official website: http://www.sofiaevangelina.com

Sofia Evangelina is a singer/songwriter from Canada. Despite only being the tender age of fifteen, she has already accomplished a great deal in her musical career. She has won numerous talent competitions including Canada National Overall Talent at Talent INC 2014, Canada Teenfest and TheMics amongst many others, as well as performing live at various festivals.

She has worked on her first album, Butterfly, with Beverly Delich and Bryant Oleander, known for their work with Michael Bublé. She cites her major influences as Christina Aguilera, Beyoncé and all time great female singers of the past like Etta James, Arethra Franklin and Nina Simone. In particular, you can hear the influence of Christina Aguilera. This debut album consists of ten tastefully chosen cover versions that range across numerous genres including soul, RnB, pop and gospel.

The album starts with a superb version of the evergreen Etta James classic At Last. Set to a beautifully performed and produced musical backdrop featuring synth strings, bluesy piano and picked acoustic guitar, it provides a perfect backdrop for Sofia’s voice. With a naturally strong tone, she gives a compelling vocal performance that captures the emotive resonance of the original. It also showcases her considerable vocal range and sets the tone for the rest of the album.

The soulful vibe continues with the second track, an upbeat cover of Sam Cooke’s timeless Wonderful World that retains the charm of the original but gives it a more modern pop sound. Sofia shows that her voice is just as suited to this kind of material, and her performance is nicely counter-pointed by male backing vocals which makes for an effective combination.

Third track All I Could Do Was Cry was originally released by Etta James but was brought back to mainstream prominence by Beyoncé in 2008 when she played Etta James in the film Cadillac Records. Sofia once again gives a fine performance, and a slow ballad like this allows her to extemporize the melody with vocal inflections in the style of Christina Aguilera, her idol. She hits the high notes with ease, and captures the emotion of the song well.

Next comes a powerhouse performance of the well known song Feeling Good, originally by the late, great Nina Simone. Starting with some gorgeous jazzy piano, it builds into a musical tour de force featuring a biting brass section, with a well crafted arrangement. Sofia steals the show with some versatile vocal acrobatics, and really let’s rip at the song’s climax. A fantastic interpretation of a perennial classic.

Then comes a real change of pace with a rendition of The Jackson 5’s I Want You Back. This song allows Sofia to express the more ebullient and joyous side to her character, which is delivered in abundance on this infectious performance. Musically, it captures the groovy rolling piano melody and strings of the original along with the skyscraping lead vocal melody which Sofia handles well. The call and response vocals with the backing singers is also highly effective.

Sixth track Hello is, for me, the centrepiece of the album. It’s not a cover of the huge hit by Adele, but in fact the romantic 80’s classic by Lionel Ritchie. Sofia gives a wonderfully sensitive and controlled performance that captures the tender poignancy of the lyrics. The arrangement, which builds from sparse and minimal to huge across the duration of the track, helps bring out the haunting and melancholy nature of the music and these two aspects converge to produce this standout track.

The final four songs on the album are all loving, positive and uplifting in nature. First is a fine cover of Bill Withers’ well known ode to friendship Lean On Me. It’s built around a simple arrangement consisting of strident, concise piano and the softer tones of Rhodes electric piano and organ. Sofia delivers another strong vocal near the top of her range, then the music modulates up a key towards the end for a climactic finish. She performs some very impressive vocal runs and riffs at the very end, which is truly worth listening out for.

Next is one of the more ambitious covers, Don’t You Worry Bout A Thing, originally written and sung by Stevie Wonder on his epochal 1973 album Innervisions. It’s an excellent choice of a song to cover, with the Latin-tinged feel of the music providing some nice stylistic variation. Sofia sounds like she’s having fun singing this one.

Perhaps more familiar to modern listeners will be the following cover of Coldplay’s melancholy but moving ballad, Fix You. Sofia gives an almost angelic performance of touching warmth and intimacy, capturing the empathy that lies at the heart of the song. The sparse arrangement allows her voice to take centre stage and the harmonies are gorgeous.

The last track is another song originally by The Jackson 5, I’ll Be There. This one is actually performed as a duet with a male vocalist, whose voice complements hers well. Sofia gives this one 110% vocally, often at the top of her range. They take turns singing alternate verses before joining together for the final section, bringing the whole album to a satisfying and emotional denouement.

Overall, this is a highly impressive debut from a gifted young singer who can convey deep emotions and make a song truly her own, an impressive feat for a singer of any age. Cover versions are a way for new artists to reach the public but Sofia is not resting on her laurels, currently working with prominent Canadian songwriters on original material.

That is what will decide whether she can emulate the huge success of her favourite singers, but this album is an excellent introduction to her versatile vocal talents and will make her many new fans. Butterfly is out now and available on Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon Music and all major streaming services.

 

VERDICT =  8.6 out of 10

 

Alex Faulkner

IG: @sofiaevangelinaxoxo

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sofiaevangelinaxoxo/

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E.P. REVIEW: Satisfied by Ashley J

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http://ashleyj.net

Ashley J is a singer and songwriter in the pop/EDM genre, originally from Texas. As a child, she grew up listening to singers like Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Christina Aguilera and Michael Jackson, as well as country stars like Johnny Cash. Her burgeoning love of music and songwriting eventually led to recording a couple of dance tracks in L.A., with Cali reaching the top 10 of the Billboard dance chart.

After a single, Unbreakable, reached no. 2 on the European Independent Music Charts, she released Trapped last year, which spent five weeks at no. 1. That song features on this 5-track EP, Satisfied, with the main track being Like You Used To. The EP has been written with her producers Lucas and Adrian Rezza, with a contemporary pop/EDM sound.

Trapped, which opens the EP, is a classy track which showcases Ashley J’s fine voice and excellent range. It’s an incredibly catchy piece of pop with a hook that latches into the memory immediately and you can see why it spent so long at no.1 in the EIMC charts last year.

The title track, Satisfied, has more of a foot in the EDM world, more specifically the dancehall genre popularized by artists like Major Lazer , blended with aspects of house music. It builds like any good dance track should, with another earworm title hook. Unbreakable is another track that finds the perfect midway point between EDM and well crafted pop songwriting, this one with an upbeat, summery feel that fits the timing of this release.

The lead track off the EP comes next, Like You Used To. It’s a slightly slower track than the rest with an R&B feel that broadens her commercial appeal still further. A superbly crafted and performed track, it starts out with the irresistible chorus and maintains its addictive quality throughout. It’s a song that Rihanna and Beyonce would both be proud to put out, and that bodes well for its commercial success.

The final song, When I Come Home To You, shows a more sensitive side to her songwriting, singing about a romance where they are “sending letters like we’re young schoolkids“. It’s a song that could have easily worked as a ballad, but it’s been produced in a similar vein to the rest of the EP. This combination of traditional songwriting with an EDM vibe has proved hugely popular in the last couple of years, and it should work for Ashley J too.

Overall, this is a very strong five-track EP, headed by the excellent Like You Used To. With production that makes it both perfect for radio and the dancefloor the commercial potential is enormous, and Ashley J has a voice that’s distinctive enough to stand out from the crowd. With a suitably glamorous image to go with the songs, she undoubtedly has what it takes to become a globe-conquering pop star.

 

VERDICT: 8.4 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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