SINGLE REVIEW: Need It Too by AMAAL

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AMAAL is an 18 year old pop singer/songwriter haling from Washington, D.C. He’s been studying and performing music since the tender age of four and began singing lessons at fourteen. He gravitated towards pop and counts artists like Prince, David Bowie, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Jay Z, amongst others. He has battled with chronic pain and depression for years, and has found solace through music.

This song, Need It Too, is his debut single. It was written by himself and produced by Thomas Mansur. It is a pop ballad in the vein of modern Justin Bieber, and AMAAL’s voice is well suited to the material. It starts with simple piano chords, allowing the focus on the vocals and words.

Lyrically, it is honest and emotional deeper than most pop music, as you can tell from its opening lines: “Your breath reeks of whisky, used to say you missed me…”. It’s about a relationship where each others needs aren’t being met, with hedonism seen as a means of emotional escape. The vocal melody is memorable and catchy, with insistent rhythmic hooks keeping the listener gripped to the end.

Overall, this is a fine debut single for an artist with an emotional maturity beyond his years. His voice and music are perfectly in sync with what’s happening in the current pop scene, and the way his lyrics dig deep and capture his emotive rawness will win him many fans. With further material of this quality, there’s no reason why he won’t break into pop’s major league.

VERDICT: 8.3 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

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ALBUM REVIEW: Bernie Journey (remastered) by Bernie Journey

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Bernie Journey is a singer/songwriter hailing from New York. He was born in Cleveland, Ohio into a musical environment. He made his first recordings and EP with Lady Gaga’s first producer Joe Vulpis. In 2013, he rose to no.1 on the New York City Dance Charts with singles from his sophomore album release The World In The Eye of The Beholder.

This eponymous debut album has already been released to acclaim from critics and fans but has now been digitally remastered and scheduled for re-release on September 22, 2015. It was produced by Joe Vulpis and Dave ‘The Rave’ Rickard and also contains two new acoustic tracks produced by Peter Litvin, as well as a radio edit to go with the original eight tracks.

His musical style is commercial pop/RnB in the vein of Maroon 5, Justin Timberlake and, in particular, George Michael. Bernie has a distinctive, radio friendly voice and the first track Jump In And Out Of My Love is a fine start to the album. It is a moody, seductive mid paced pop song with a laid back dance groove and a jazzy chord progression. He gives an understated vocal performance that draws you in, backed by subtle synth, strings and acoustic guitar.

Second track Wounded Child has a funky groove, driven along by choppy wah-wah guitar. It has a real 70’s funk sound, aided by some smoky Rhodes piano and a biting lead guitar solo. The string arrangement also adds to the vibe, Bernie delivering some delicately sensual crooning backed by some fine harmonies.

Ran Away From Me continues the soulful feel, this one a slinky track based around a descending chord sequence that adds organ to the musical blend. Lyrically, it’s about being deserted by a lover and there are some strong emotions expressed in the lyrics: “I should try and wish you well, seems all I can do is hope you go to hell…”, then softening the blow with “but maybe that’s going a little bit far…”.

Say A Prayer is a real change of pace, just picked acoustic guitar and a superb vocal performance from Bernie. This kind of song is where he gets to show his songwriting craft, with a well structured chord progression. Lyrically, it is very moving, about remembering a loved one who has passed over: ‘Just remember that they’ve gone to some place better’. A highlight of the album for me. Only My Love returns to the pop/RnB style of earlier tracks while What Happened To Our Love? is a melancholy RnB song with an excellent bassline and nice flourishes of Spanish-style acoustic guitar. It features a very George Michael-style croon from Bernie.

Set Me Free has a nice, swinging RnB groove and a soul/gospel vibe with a reappearance of organ and some wonderfully arranged stacked vocal harmonies. Memories Of You is the original final track of the album and it’s another classy, well written ballad, this one with a decidedly 80’s sounding production. On this re-release there is also a radio edit of Ran Away From Me and lovely acoustic versions of Only My Love and Set Me Free.

Overall, this is a very fine pop album that has been superbly written, performed and produced. Stylistically, it often harks back to the clean, very commercial sound of late 80’s pop music and the recent chart success of Jason Derulo’s 80’s-influenced pop shows perhaps this is a timely re-release.

 

Alex Faulkner

Verdict: 8.6 out of 10

 

SINGLE REVIEW: Camera by Veronika

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Veronika is a singer, songwriter and dancer hailing from the Ukraine but now based in the USA. She began her musical journey when she began working with DJ and producer First Craft (Dmitri Stefaniv), a genius who was spotted at the age of only fourteen by Sony. Veronika also became associated with director Yevgeniy Timokhin, whom she met through a mutual friend during casting for a reality TV show.

Her music is pop/dubstep, and you can sense the influence of artists like Madonna, Lady Gaga and Lana Del Rey, though Veronika certainly has a unique style of her own. This track, Camera, is an epic piece of dubstep/Europop that features cutting edge production and a seductive vocal performance from Veronika. Her sultry voice is low on the verses, then higher for the instantly memorable, anthemic chorus, backed up with a pounding dance beat.

There are some incredible vocal effects on the second verse and a swirling synth in the middle section that brought to mind the classic I Feel Love by Donna Summer. Along with this very catchy song is a remarkable video, which features ex gay porn star Francois Sagat. It depicts the controversial love between a Jewish girl and a Muslim and Veronika explains that “there are important messages behind the song and video…. it is about unconditional love and freedom of choice”.

Overall, this is a very well performed and produced pop track that is totally in sync with the current musical zeitgeist and will be popular in the clubs and on radio. Veronika is an artist with a lot to express both musically and visually, and her already huge fan base will continue to rise with strong tracks like this one.

 

Alex Faulkner

Verdict: 7.6 out of 10