CD Reviews

Five Albums to Prolong Your Summer

Photo Credit: Wendy Hu

Labor Day has come and gone and as much as we’d like to deny it, autumn is officially here. While it may be time to pack up that bikini, there’s no need to turn the music down. With tunes this good, who said summer has to be over?

Black Eyed Peas – The E.N.D.

The E.N.D., short for The Energy Never Dies, does just that. Released in June, many of the tracks could be heard in clubs and parties all summer long. In fact, it didn’t seem right if the night ended having never heard at least one of Black Eyed Peas’ songs. Hit singles, “Boom Boom Pow,” “I Gotta Feeling,” and “Meet Me Halfway” are undeniably 2009 summer anthems. With their electrifying dance beats, catchy choruses and synth-fused tracks, Black Eyed Peas prove they still know how to get the party started.

Colbie Caillat – Breakthrough

If Colbie Caillat’s new album, Breakthrough, doesn’t emit summer nostalgia, I don’t know what will. You can practically hear the ocean waves and smell the sea salt as she’s singing current radio hit “Fallin’ For You” and moving opening track, “I Won’t.” Of course, that could be because she wrote the album while vacationing in Hawaii. Songs like the laidback acoustic “Droplets,” featuring co-singer/songwriter Jason Reeves, and emotional “I Never Told You” are a breath of fresh air. Bet you can’t help but reminisce about that summer romance.

The Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound

Jersey’s own the Gaslight Anthem have had quite the summer. Having toured the globe in support of their incredibly well received sophomore effort, The ’59 Sound, the band also shared the stage with Bruce Springsteen at Glastonbury Festival in England. If there was one album that epitomized driving down the shore with the top down and radio blasting, it would be this one. Tracks like “Great Expectations,” “Here’s Lookin’ At You, Kid” and “Backseats” are filled with vivid imagery and descriptive narratives of failed relationships, lost youth and somber regrets masked by energetic musical accompaniment. With a punk rock feel combined with that classic Springsteen sound, The ’59 Sound references those long summer days and endless summer nights.

Gloriana – Gloriana

The country outfit’s debut self-titled release encompasses upbeat, high energy songs bound to get the crowd on their feet. This is no summer campfire music. Currently on the road supporting Taylor Swift, the four-piece, made up of brothers Tom and Mike Gossin, Rachel Reinert and Cheyenne Kimball, are sure to change the everyday music lover’s opinion on country. Catchy hit single “Wild At Heart” has been gaining attention throughout the summer, garnering them best single by a new country act in 2009 while tracks like “The Way It Goes” are sure to be just as successful. With fitting fiddle, steel and guitar accompaniment along with the bands’ emotive lyrics, Gloriana is sure to win over music fans everywhere.

Sean Paul – Imperial Blaze

The reggae king is back with his 20-track summer release, Imperial Blaze. Including smash club-centric tracks like “So Fine,” “Now That I’ve Got Your Love” and “Press It Up,” Sean Paul continues to prove his success as a producer and solo reggae artist. At a press conference earlier this summer, Paul talked of his new single. “I think [“So Fine”] is a perfect summer giant. It’s very bouncy. I usually cover stuff that you can hear in the clubs, in the cars. It’s raunchy but also sounds smooth. It has a cool attitude.” After listening to the track, I couldn’t agree more. In fact, most of Imperial Blaze has that same flavor: jams that make you want to get out on the dance floor.

What do you think? What albums did I leave out that should be considered? What’s your favorite summer album?


Black Eyed Peas

Photo Credit: Wendy Hu

They’ve sold millions of albums and have battled breakup rumors for years, but the Black Eyed Peas proved Saturday night that they’re not going anywhere. Their energetic Zootopia set at the IZOD Center in New Jersey had the crowd dancing and partying the night away. And, if their current radio hit, “Boom Boom Pow” is any indication of their upcoming June 9 release, The E.N.D. BEP’s will surely have the summer ’09 record.

While signing autographs for fans, Fergie was nice enough to chat with me about what’s going through her head while performing. Extremely down to earth, her answer may surprise you. Read on to learn what the rest of the gang had to say about the new album, working with Michael Jackson and what President Obama thinks of the Peas.

So tell us about your new album, The E.N.D. The Energy Never Dies. What does that mean? What is it all about? The E.N.D. The Energy Never Dies means a lot of things. But, most importantly it means the end of the rumors that the Black Eyed Peas are breaking up. It’s the end of an era. There used to be record stores like Virgin and Tower and Warehouse and Sam Goody and they’re no longer. The era is moving towards…we don’t know yet. But we’re going to continue to make music and tour and make people dance and make music that can change people’s lives and change our lives as well.

Everybody’s excited about Michael Jackson’s comeback tour. You and Fergie worked with Michael. What was that experience like working with him? The experience working with Michael Jackson was phenomenal. I flew out and worked with him in Ireland and produced songs on his Thriller 25 and a couple of songs on his new record. I don’t know what’s going to end up on the record, but it’s great. He’s a gift to the world.

You just did X Men. Have you ever thought of taking the acting route? That would be cool, but right now I’m focused on the Peas. X Men I filmed last year and I’m so thrilled to be a part of it. It’s a great movie. After the Peas run maybe I’ll think about it.

You set up a scholarship. Why?
I set up a scholarship, the i am scholarship, because someone at some point in time believed in me and my dreams. I made it out of the ghetto. I’m able to take care of my family and I want to provide that same opportunity for some kid that has dreams – especially in this economy. You don’t bail out on kids just because the finances are not there. You still have to let them know that their dreams can become a reality, so I wanted to do my part.

Fergie, looking back on all you’ve accomplished, what’s the highlight of your life so far?
The highlight of my life – going on tour with these guys. Seriously. Honestly, joining this band was such a blessing for me. Just them accepting me into their circle and becoming friends, it really gave me the confidence to be the artist that I had always wanted to be. I never would have been able to do a song like “My Humps” if it wasn’t for these guys and “Fergalicious” or anything like that, if they didn’t give me the confidence to tour and explore Hip-Hop music, one of the loves of my life.

Can you tell us about your next single?
Our second single is called “I Gotta Feeling.” It’s dedicated to all the party people out there in the world that want to go out and party. Mostly every song on the Black Eyed Peas record is painting a picture of our party life. It was a conscious decision to make this type of record. Times are really hard for a lot of people and you want to give them escape and you want to make them feel good about life, especially at these low points.

Taboo: This is the first time we actually had all four of us on a song simultaneously with the verses, which is something different for us. Usually we break up the verses and everybody has their parts. It was a good opportunity for us to show the world what would come of it.

What was the best thing Barack Obama has said to any of you? He told me that he likes my style and he likes the way that I dance.

Are you guys playing the “American Idol” finale? If so, what are you going to perform on it?
Oh. I don’t know if we can say that, ‘cause they told us not to. Guess I just blew it, right?

So what are you going to do?
[starts singing] Boom Boom Boom.

What do you think about when you’re onstage performing?
When to breathe ‘cause jumping around with these guys I realize I do have to sing so I can’t be too out of breath. I’m learning now to perform in heels. I used to not perform in heels. I only did three songs in heels; “Glamorous,” “Fergalicious” and “Big Girls.” “Big Girls” I really don’t have to move much. It’s a new thing for me, learning to dance in heels, so we’ll see how that goes. Also, connecting with the fans. It’s really not just performing out to the light, but really connecting with the people and looking at people.

You can also read this interview on

Concert Reviews

Zootopia Brings Diverse Lineup to New Jersey

Photo Credit: Wendy Hu

Before I give my full report on Saturday’s Zootopia concert I have to preface this entry by explaining that I grew up listening to Z100. It was always my dream in middle and high school (I’ll admit in college too) to win tickets and attend a show. In fact, I can’t even count how many times I called the radio station in hopes to be caller 100!

Whether it was the Backstreet Boys in the 90s or the Jonas Brothers last year, Zootopia is one of the biggest concerts showcasing today’s hottest music and being behind the scenes always seemed so glamorous to me. Never in a million years would I have imagined I’d be attending and sitting in the press room interviewing the artists I grew up listening to. But, that’s exactly what I was doing Saturday night and loved every minute of it!

Upon arrival at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, NJ, Wendy and I were ushered into the press room shortly before 6 p.m. The back wall was lined with video cameras while the front of the room had a dozen or so photographers vying for the perfect location to capture the best shot of each artist. We made our way to the seats and shortly after none other than teen heartthrob Jesse McCartney entered the room. After his photo opp. he made his way to the mics for a quick Q&A.;

I realized right away how aggressive you have to be in a press conference set up and by the time the third artist came in, I made sure I got a question in. While one-on-one interviewing will always be my favorite, this set up was definitely a learning experience. I plan on typing up the Q&A;’s from each artist so you can have complete access to what was discussed. Each night this week I’ll post a new interview for you — how does that sound?

As much as I enjoyed the interviews, I had to catch some of the show. While I’ve seen the All-American Rejects numerous times in concert, their live show is always a treat. Whether it’s frontman Tyson Ritter making peculiar comments to the crowd or funny facial contortions, AAR’s energy and stage presence is undeniable. Playing a solid set of crowd favorites, “Dirty Little Secret” and “Move Along,” they switched gears up a bit by ending with latest single, slower ballad “The Wind Blows.” Riding the waves off chart topper “Gives You Hell,” “The Wind Blows” is sure to do the same. The guys talked about touring with Blink 182 this summer, so be sure to catch them soon!

Kelly Clarkson is another must-see live. Her arena friendly pop rock is solid and her vocals are always impressive. Not to mention, she had everyone around me singing along to “Since U Been Gone” (yes, even the guys). “I’m all about quality over quantity,” Clarkson told the crowd. “My personal philosophy is I do not hook up…unless it’s Hugh Jackman or Russell Crowe or someone really hot,” she joked before introducing current radio hit “I Do Not Hook Up.”

Jesse McCartney opened the night and most likely had all the girls swooning in the crowd. While I watched most of his set from the press room, his dancing and singing style was impressive. Having recently been hailed “The Heir to Justin Timberlake’s Throne,” while McCartney definitely has big shoes to fill, I’m rooting for him. As if that’s not enough, he’ll be touring this summer with New Kids On the Block and will surely win over the older women if he hasn’t done so already.

The rest of the night included appearance by Sean Paul, LMFAO and Taylor Momsen as well as the hosts for the evening — Z100’s radio station djs. Ciara’s performance made me wish I paid more attention in dance class, as her moves were like no one I’ve ever seen while Flo Rida and Soulja Boy wowed the crowd and surely increased the energy for Black Eyed Peas’ closing set.

If anything is certain from their performance Saturday night, the Peas will have the album of the summer. While “Boom Boom Pow” is heating up the charts, next single, “I Gotta Feeling” undeniably will to do the same. The band proved the breakup rumors to be false and their show demonstrated that they’re in it for the long haul. Playing past chart toppers, “Where Is the Love,” “My Humps” and “Let’s Get Retarted” the Peas had concertgoers at the IZOD Center on their feet, dancing and partying along until the last beat of “Boom Boom Pow” was played.
Stay tuned this week for interviews with each of the performers!


Zootopia 2009 – What Do You Want Covered?

I’ll be covering radio station Z100’s infamous Zootopia concert tomorrow night at the IZOD Center. For those of you that don’t know the line-up, Kelly Clarkson, Jesse McCartney, All-American Rejects, Ciara, Soulja Boy, Flo Rida and Black Eyed Peas will be performing along with some unannounced special guests.

I’ll have access to the press room where I can ask each artist questions as well as tickets to cover the show. My question for you is, what do you want to know? What are you dying to ask one of the artists?

I’m going to have to juggle the press room and the performances from the looks of it, so what would you rather read about — an exclusive interview or concert review? Let me know! Question submissions always welcome. For more information on the show and for last minute tickets, click here. I’ll be reporting live via Twitter so if you don’t yet, make sure you follow me for up-to-the-minute coverage!