Not many people will have heard of this artist but this is quite surprising as he has had a lot of praise over the years and has supported acts such as Muse, Gabriella Climi, Gym Class Heroes, Panic at The Disco, The Sunshine Underground, Reverend and the Makers and The Holloways. Which is quite an impressive list for someone that most people would ask the question who is he?
Looking at his second album, ‘Is The World Strange or Am I Strange?’ I think it answers the question why not a lot of people have heard of him and even though it is a brilliant album, the old saying comes to mind, a jack of all trades but master of none. This is one of the most versatile albums you will probably ever hear with Cosmo able to use nearly every genre from folk to rap to create a sound that is most of all just fun to listen to and will get you singing along and tapping your foot to. Some of the songs do drag slightly like ‘Sure as Hell Not Jesus’ but he has made an album exactly how he wants and hasn’t left anything out that he enjoys himself which has probably hindered his mainstream success as he hasn’t done what so many other artists have done and copied successful artists. He hasn’t had a single song chart in the UK and this is a real shame, in particular the song ‘Gay Pirates’ which should have done a lot better and gained support from famous people like Stephen Fry and John Barrowman. Yes, I know what most people will think as soon as they hear the title and that it’s just a joke but in all honesty it shows the songwriters advanced level of sophistication and how he can tell a brilliant story. You actually feel as though he is the character himself and is a very strong opening to the album that challenges the subject of forbidden love and that there is still prejudice towards the gay community in the world today.
There are enough catchy songs on the album though that if they had gained enough support would surely have got more radio time than they actually did, ‘Dave’s House’ is an example of this and even though some people will not like the song, I can guarantee that most will know the chorus after one play and will sing along to it. Other songs on the album that really impressed me were, ‘Blame It On Me’ as it has an up tempo, folk style vibe to it and is a little different. ‘Is The World Strange’ which is a slow rap with fantastic lyrics. ‘She Doesn’t Mind’ which is about a situation that nearly everyone will go through and that is trying to convince your parents that your partner is good enough for you. Finally, ‘My Day’ also impressed me as it shows his punk style and is a very funny track about our generation.
I believe a lot of people will love this album because of how experimental and completely different it is. I can’t decide how to describe it, and possibly the best words are quirky and strange. However, I also believe that the same number of people will hate this album and not see the point to it at all.
Some bands and artists try to change their style slightly to get new fans while keeping their older one happier.
Akon has had two number one singles in the UK
This is what R&B and hip hop artist Akon tried to do with his third album ‘Freedom’ and looking at the sales figures and how well he did in the charts it seems like his change in style worked and it was a good album. After being released in December 2008, the album reached number six in the UK Album Charts and number seven on the Billboard 200 but I think that is basically because a lot of people will have bought this album hoping for more of the same from Akon. Straightaway, there is a more dance feel to the album and is obviously very different to his first two albums as it was his first album that didn’t carry a Parental Advisory warning.
So onto the album itself, it is very easy to listen to when you are doing something else but in my opinion this is a bad thing for it because it doesn’t make you take any notice of it and you sort of forget you are listening to music. Akon is a clever writer but this album feels like he hasn’t put in much effort and his usually good hooks are missing so he has let himself down here. Another thing that makes this album poor is the fact that the first two songs are the best ones and I can imagine after the first two songs are played people will just turn it off or go back to the start which is a very wise decision.
In his defence ‘Right Now (Na Na Na) is a very catchy tune and is simple so it is easy to see why a lot of people liked this song. However, for his fans this will have been something strange to them as they may have been expecting more songs like ‘Smack That’. The change from rap to pop is quite a big leap and I know it isn’t a nice thing to say but Akon lost a bit of his edge when he stopped rapping about his past convictions and started singing about getting back together with his partner etc.
Most of the songs are poor but the song ‘Sunny Day’ featuring Wyclef Jean stuck out for me but that is only because Jean really stands out and is amazing because he is clearly a talented man yet he doesn’t overshadow Akon and makes him sound better.
I have slated this album quite a lot but to be honest I could pick out any pop stars album and see that they aren’t very good either which makes me wonder why they sell out big tours and their albums get near to the top of the charts. Pop artists and maybe even more now R&B stars focus on singles rather than albums as they know that if they put out one or two good songs people will buy their albums and come see them live. ‘Freedom’ leaves you feeling empty and this is a real shame as Akon is a decent singer but he uses a lot of effects which makes you realise he’s not confident he can pull off this style of music for a full album.
I think this is where music is going downhill because the bands that are producing good albums and putting in effort in every song are not getting the recognition in the singles charts which means that a lot of people won’t have heard of them or even if they have, they may be reluctant to pay for their albums.
Linkin Park continue to be one of the most unique bands in the world selling over 50 million albums worldwide and aren’t afraid to try out new genres.
No matter what they try it never seems like they are out of their depth, with the talents of Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda it is easy to see why they are so successful. It is difficult to pigeonhole the band into a specific genre for a number of reasons. In their early albums, it was more a case of alternative metal with a lot of rap and hip hop elements but with Joe Hahn on the turntables it gave it a more electronic feel at times. To me, they are so unique simply because they aren’t standing still and want to progress further and make new sounds, they clearly love what they are doing and are experimenting with new sounds all the time. All of their albums will divide opinions even amongst their own fans who may have hoped for one thing and got another, for example, if you loved Linkin Park because of Shinoda’s rapping then ‘Minutes to Midnight’ wouldn’t have been that enjoyable seen as though it only had two songs on in which he was rapping.
So what does their latest album offer? To me they have moved even further away from the metal genre as they continue to work more on their electronic sound however to me it is the bigger and louder choruses that make the difference in the album ‘Living Things’. The song ‘Victimized’ is a brilliant song which showcases a slightly different style they have gone for, drummer Rob Bourdon is sublime in this song and could easily overshadow everyone else in this song. Shinoda’s rapping isn’t too complicated and is reasonably laid back and the first verse is quite slow but then it does burst into life during the chorus when Bennington is screaming the word, victimized.
I am one of the fans that prefers their songs with Shinoda rapping as it sometimes seems a little bland without him even with all of their electronic sounds. The two songs that impressed me most were ‘Lies, Greed, Misery’ and ‘Until it Breaks’, they are both led by Shinoda who’s rapping skills are impressive especially in ‘Until it Breaks’ however this song is slightly let down by Bennington as it seems to me like they just wanted him involved somehow and I feel like it could have just been shortened instead of filling up parts of the song with him singing.
The album is closer to ‘Hybrid Theory’ than their last two albums because it is more energetic and angry and this is highlighted by the fact it is under 37 minutes long and no song is over four minutes while four are under three. It debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 as well as the UK album chart so the fans are clearly willing to listen to their experimentations and uniqueness and I think a huge reason for this is simply because you never quite know what to expect and how many other artists or bands can you say that about?