The Knack Music Reviews


Kelly Clarkson 'Piece By Piece' Review: Title Track from New Album

musictimes.com

Kelly Clarkson continues to roll out new music from her upcoming album Piece By Piece. After the release of "Heartbeat Song" last month and the Sia-penned "Invincible" on February 24, Clarkson released a touching ode to her husband, Brandon Blackstock, in the love ballad title track.

"Piece By Piece" dives into Clarkson's personal life, as she opens up about her father who left her family when she was a young girl before comparing him to her newfound love, husband and daughter River Rose.

"And all I remember is your back / Walking toward the airport, leaving us all in the past / I traveled 1500 miles to see you / Begged you to want me but you didn't want to / But piece by piece, he collected me / Up off the ground when you were bending things / Piece by piece he filled the holes you left in me at six years old," Clarkson sings with notable emotion, against a marching snare drum.

Clarkson praises Blackstock, saying that he loves her for who she is and for her family, not for her money.

All at once, the song is a biting burn at Clarkson's father (whom she also took on in " Because of You") and a loving ode to what a husband and parent should be. Clarkson pulls it off not because of the personal nature of the song, but because of how much she sells her message.

And from axs.com:
It's been a while since we've had a proper studio album from Kelly Clarkson. She's been busy making Christmas music, a greatest hits album and a baby. Over three years later, she's ready to release the new album Piece By Piece on March 3 via RCA Records. The new set is still very pop (and her final pop record in her current contract) and quite a departure from what she's done in the past. While the 2011 Grammy winning Stronger was cohesive with her pop rock styling, she's ditched the roaring guitars for songs that move and groove with messages of empowerment.

Recording the album while mostly pregnant, the passion and intensity is littered across the album on songs like "Invincible," written by singer-songwriter Sia (producers Greg Kurstin and Jesse Shatkin are collaborators with Sia). Bold and in your face, Kelly took on the world and the industry, "Now I ain't a scared little girl no more," she sings. Sia also contributed "Let Your Tears Fall" to the project, another solid pop track that was the first song recorded. "Invincible" was the final track done for Piece By Piece.

Kelly Clarkson branched out and while it's not groundbreaking, it's an evolution of who she is an artist on the dance tracks "Dance With Me" and "Take You High." Clocking in at 4:20 (happy accident?), the latter feels ethereal, light and airy with dubstep breakdowns. "Dance With Me" is power pop perfection that will do well for a night on the town. "War Paint" is about wearing fear on the sleeve being guarded.

For Piece By Piece, Clarkson asked John Legend to sing on "Run Run Run," a track she put on hold during her 2013 tour with Maroon 5. Originally not a duet, Legend and Clarkson built a slow builder that exits with intensity, something that could be heard in a movie. "Run Run Run" was later recorded by Tokio Hotel before Clarkson was able to release the track.

Usually KC has her hand in writing more on her albums. Piece By Piece is more of a collection of songs she gathered and were introduced to than it is her own writes. The songs she did write don't hold back on how she was feeling like title track "Piece By Piece," the silver lining to 2005 hit "Because of You." Kelly also expresses her disappointment in today's generation on the self-penned "I Had A Dream."

"When I was writing this song — well first of all, I was very hormonal — I was sitting around and talking with some of my friends, and we were all talking about how I just expected more of our generation. I just expected us, first of all, to be past 'Gay, straight, black, and white.' Like, who cares? Are we still talking about this? We should just have equal rights across the board for every person no matter what you look like, no matter who you like. I don't understand why we're still struggling with these basic, asinine issues. It bothers me. So I ended up writing this whole song about it and I had a dream that we were more. That's where the chorus came from. I thought as a kid, I just remember being that ten-year-old girl going, 'I can't wait to change the world.' You dream big when you're little. I guess I look at our generation and we're still talking about the same stuff. That's sad," she tells SPIN.

While most of the album is rainbows and blue skies, another self-penned ballad "Tightrope" hits on trying to always please people and it's never enough. "Good Goes The Bye" closes the standard album on a sad note but even then the song has a steady beat to compliment it. Rather it's the apologetic "Someone" or the sassy "Bad Reputation," the album goes from one emotion to the next with intensity.

Kelly teamed up with producer Greg Kurstin for Piece By Piece. The two have previously worked together on No. 1 hit "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)," "Dark Side," "People Like Us" and the entire Wrapped In Red holiday album. She also brought in her longtime musical director to produce several tracks including the 80's throwback jam "Nostalgic."

Piece By Piece is the beginning of a new chapter in Clarkson's life.

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Ed Sheeran “Thinking Out Loud” Music Review

musictimes.com

Straying away from x breakup anthems such as "Sing" and "Don't," Sheeran got back in touch with his lovey-dovey song for "Thinking Out Loud," lyrically discussing the softer side of life and the comforting side of being with another person.

Musically recalling love songwriter extraordinaire Jason Mraz, Sheeran keeps things relaxed and loose for on "Thinking Out Loud." Little starts and stops of his acoustic guitar keep pace underneath a bit more flared playing in the mix, which adds to the intimate nature of the track in the "I'm singing this around a beach campfire" type of way. Even when the drums kick in, there's no real displacement on this song... it's all one smooth, casual ride to the marriage altar.

"Darling I'll be loving you 'til we're 70 / And baby my heart could still fall as a heart of 23 / And I'm thinking 'bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways / Maybe just the touch of a hand / Me, I fall in love with you every single day / And I just want to tell you I am," Sheeran sings in the pre-chorus before wholeheartedly asking for a nice proper cuddle in his lady's "loving arms."

Both the message and the musicality of "Thinking Out Loud" is the direct opposite of the funky fresh Pharrell Williams-produced lead single "Sing," but both songs work as individual Ed Sheeran pieces, exploring and exposing both sides of his artistry. Will the message get muddled on the album x as a whole? It seems as though only time will tell... luckily the album drops in five days.

"Thinking Out Loud" is a track from Ed Sheeran's new album x, which will be released on June 23 worldwide. This track was released as a part of a series leading up to x's release, wherein Sheeran releases one new song a day. Earlier this week he debuted the studio versions of "Afire Love" and "Bloodstream." The songs "Sing," "Don't" and "One" have also been released.

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Charli XCX: Sucker

billboard.com

She might have had one of the summer's biggest hits with "Boom Clap," but Charli XCX is still best-known for her assists on other artists' songs, most notably Iggy Azalea's "Fancy" and Icona Pop's "I Love It." It's not as if she has been hiding, Sia-like, in the background -- in the past 18 months, she has toured extensively and cranked out a 15-track album, the critical-but-not-commercial favorite True Romance, as well as a half-dozen or so other songs and several features. But that was just a prelude: Her second LP, Sucker, is poised to be the album that makes the 22-year-old Brit a true stand-alone star.

In fact, virtually everything about this album is big and mouthy: Where True Romance was practically a mash note to the pop-critic intelligentsia -- with shimmering production, clever samples and a big assist from alt-pop savant Ariel Rechtshaid -- this one's as subtle as a Super Bowl TV ad. That's not to say the songs, nearly all of which have hooks big enough to be spotted from a satellite, aren't sophisticated. They range from me-and-my-homies party anthems ("Break the Rules") to buzzy new wave ("London Queen"), from a girl-group homage ("Need Your Love") to a potential prom anthem ("Die Tonight"). Virtually every sound on the album is wielded like an earworm-y hook: the grinding guitars and video-game noises in "Gold Coins," the synth squiggles in "London Queen," the EDM-inspired breakdown in "Break the Rules," the booms in "Boom Clap."
Perhaps more than any other young hitmaker, Charli has a sound that is distinctively her own, despite the murderers' row of producer-songwriters onboard: Stargate, Greg Kurstin, Benny Blanco and Rechtshaid weigh in with a song apiece; Patrik Berger (Robyn, Lana Del Rey) and frequent Rechtshaid collaborator Justin Raisen helm several others. The surprise, however, is Weezer's Rivers Cuomo. He's one of four writers on "Hanging Around," but his mark is unmistakable on the song's lighter-waving chorus.


Thanks to "Fancy" and "Boom Clap," Charli's voice is already among the most ubiquitous of the year. But Sucker is likely to confirm that she's one of pop's biggest new stars -- and biggest personalities.

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Rae Lynn: Me

tasteofcountry.com

The wonderful thing about RaeLynn's debut EP 'Me' is that she makes no apologies for who she is. The five-song release is diverse, original and absolutely sure to further upset haters that were quick to take aim at her after 'The Voice.'

Her fans will love it. In fact, they'll want more. Approach this talented newcomer with an open mind and you'll find sharp songwriting, clever melodies and a needed new female voice for country music to embrace. Aside from the single 'God Made Girls,' the signature song is 'Better Do It.'
"I'm not the cry type / I'm not the whine type / I'm not the wait around a little while you find time type / I'm not the pretty please / Don't leave me / I'm the one that takes the bull by the horns," she sings during this funky, guitar-driven groove that doesn't back off from modern production techniques.

"Ain't no girl in the USA / That wants a little boy who's always afraid / I'm gonna get to leavin' / Better figure out what you're feeling."
Joey Moi is at the helm, showing some range himself. His arrangements leave plenty of air — he's truly tailored a sound just for her.
The divisive 'Boyfriend' returns. 'Kissin' Frogs' and 'Careless' are the other two songs, the latter being the safest of the five. The songs that are missing stand out. Miranda Lambert's tour opener has been playing nearly a dozen songs live and had previously hinted the emotional 'Love Triangle' (about her parents' divorce) would make the cut. She told ToC her next single will not come from this EP, however, so there's hope that beautiful song will find the ears it deserves soon enough.
Key Tracks: 'God Made Girls,' 'Better Do It'
Did You Know?: RaeLynn co-wrote all five songs.

….and….

RaeLynn's 'blondetourage' is growing! The 'God Made Girls' singer has added another yellow furry friend to her household.

The 20-year-old already had one sweet little pup that goes by the name of Dolly (after Dolly Parton). The chihuahua mix is 2 years old and a blonde, just like her mom. This summer, Dolly broke RaeLynn's heart when she went missing near Nashville, but luckily, the chihuahua was found by two local mall workers who took good care of her until she could be returned to the singer.

It didn't take RaeLynn long to realize Dolly needed a friend — another chihuahua, in fact. After eyeing one little boy, who just so happens to be Dolly's brother, the singer knew she had to get him. Of course, also had to give him a country legend's name.

"Dolly loves other dogs and I've been wanting to get her a friend," RaeLynn tells Taste of Country. "I saw Waylon and he was from the same parents as Dolly and he needed a home. I couldn't resist."

Judging by photos and videos on the singer's Instagram, the puppy brother and sister are already fast friends. The two play together and even have their own Instagram account. Waylon, who looks like a lot like Dolly, is irresistible with his big blue eyes.

"It's a blondetourage at my house," adds 'The Voice' star.

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