Album Review: Big Sean 'Bounces Back' with Strong Fourth Album, "I Decided"

(G.O.O.D Music / Def Jam Recordings)

Big Sean’s 4th album, I Decided was Friday. The album cover has two men standing parallel to one another, solidifying the idea that remains throughout the album showing his old self and who he is now. The album features an intro and 13 songs that boast a collection of raps and classic hip-hop vibes.

Check out our track-by-track run through below:

"The intro" brings in an older man talking about his life, and tells a wisdom and experience to a younger demographic.

"The Light" sends the message that nothing can stop what’s inside you, and the light that inspires oneself comes from one's core. The harmonic and uplifting vibes come through to stimulate and motivate.

"Bounce Back" gives off the vibe of the unwavering persona that Big Sean encompasses and takes the skill of recovering and turns it into a fresh radio hit. The verses put across the skill and expertise of fusing the rap with a catchy energy.

"No Favors" brings in esteemed rapper, Eminem, who joins Big Sean on the song. The dynamic between him and Sean plays throughout. His laid back verses seem to contrast nicely with Eminem’s mile a minute and belligerent words. The song personifies the idea of getting to where a person is without a helping hand.

"Jump Out The Window" is a chill song, that provides a laid-back vibe. The song is about a guy who can’t seem to get a girl, so he’s ready to move on.

“Moves" is another radio friendly single as it explores all that Big Sean has to offer. From his progress in the industry, to what a female presence has to offer, is all discussed in the song.

"Timing is everything," and it shows in Big Sean’s “Same Time Pt.1” which takes listeners on a tour of two people that unite over and over again. The track also features Jhene Aiko of Twenty88, the duo Sean belongs to with Jhene. 

"Owe Me," the piano led song tells the story of a girl that was involved with the rapper, who didn’t fulfill all that he wanted, and who is now trying to reenter his life. The relationship seems to be volatile, and plays into the back and forth feeling of the lyrics and rhythm. The song gets put on hold at the end by a paparazzi reporter who seems to be trying to figure out what the relationship is between the two people.

"Halfway off the Balcony" makes as a smooth melody of beats and verses. The intense track, covers and talks about the challenges of being an artist in this day and age. It explores themes like the temptation of being in artificial relationships over platonic ones, upholding the image that parents have in their minds, and keeping a stable mind in the music industry. The song ends with a voice ignoring the call from his mother, because he is too busy.

"Voices In My Head/ Stick To The Plan” showcases Big Sean going on about the various speakers in his brain, that tell him various distractions and thoughts on actions he has done or is going to do. The song covers a mental overload and it translates to a relatable and comprehensive exploration of the mental psyche.

The song “Sunday Morning Jetpack,” is a feel good tune that shows how grateful Big Sean is. He recalls old memories, chanting about the nostalgia and how it has stuck with him.

Big Sean talks about his extremely impactful mother in “Inspire Me.” The ‘son-to-mother’ song shows a real authenticity and almost seems like the listener is hearing a beautiful letter of love and appreciation to his mother.

“Inspiration” features acclaimed rap group Migos, including heated production and heated verses that talk about all the forfeits the artists have made to make this music.

The last song on the album, “Bigger Than Me” featuring The Flint Chosen Choir & Starrah, is a personal favorite. The soulful performance puts forward a realization theme of everything being left up to a larger force. The choir and Starrah round out the song and deliver powerful and pleasurable sound. The song’s ending features a voice recording from a cellphone talk with Big Sean and his mom, relating and appreciating one another.

I Decided is a strong contender for one of the best projects the Detroit-rapper has released. On each track, Big Sean proves he is not to be reckoned with. Leading the album with the previous release of singles “Bounce Back” and “Moves,” the bar was set high, and it does in fact live up to the expectations. 

Big Sean is hitting the road this Spring! See tour dates below:

Album Review: Kehlani Gets Personal on Long Awaited Album "SweetSexySavage"

(Atlantic Records)

SweetSexySavage, the long-awaited debut album from R&B songstress Kehlani, was released Friday. The album follows a long list of singles, and of course, the Grammy nominated mixtape, You Should Be Here, which was released in 2015 to much critical acclaim. The much anticipated album, which announces her presence in powerful and raw ways, boasts lyrics dealing with love and embraces the notion of being a sweet, sexy, and savage woman.

The lengthy track listing of eighteen songs offer appealing in-house production and catchy lyrics that draw in the listener. In the “Intro”, Kehlani brings in an uncredited woman who recites words from her heart, which is a common theme that follows throughout the album. She tackles her emotional past, life lessons, and how she has found herself. “Keep On" addresses how she feels about a guy who takes her back after all she has put him through. "Piece Of Mind" shows her trying to distance herself from all the stress and feelings that go into relationships.

The sexy songs "Distraction" and "Undercover" provide hits fit for the radio and boast strong vocals and repetitive verses. The album also offers "CRZY," which gives an unapologetic outlook of how the young singer deals with negativity, and how she sees a silver lining. The Savage comes out in the songs, "Not Used To It," "Too Much," and "Do U Dirty," where she sings in a more lewd and raunchy way.

The record showcases sweet and intimate ballads like "Everything Is Yours", "Escape," "Personal," and "Hold Me By The Heart", where she puts it all on the line and delves into the romantic love aspect of life. She thanks her fans in the emotional song "Thank You" and ends on the silky R&B song, "I Wanna Be."

SweetSexySavage is a phenomenal debut album that solidifies Kehlani’s place in the music industry. Coming out from a year full of drama, including cheating rumors, and a suicide attempt, this project shows that regardless of your situation, you can turn it around for the better. With SweetSexySavage, Kehlani created a passion-filled album that reveals a fragile, yet strong and confident artist who is destined to rise to the top.

Kehlani will embark on a massive world tour this February. Get tickets to see Kehlani in a city near you over at Ticketmaster. 

Album Review: PartyNextDoor Delivers Another 'Nocturnal' R&B Album

(OVO Sound/Warner Bros. Records)

Two years after dropping his debut studio album, PartyNextDoor is back with his follow up project, PARTYNEXTDOOR 3. Staying true to his R&B roots and signature Toronto sound, PND delivers with his best work yet.

After receiving mixed reviews on his freshman effort PARTYNEXTDOOR TWO, the third installment of PND’s saga is an effort to silence those who may have doubted him as he was getting his feet wet in the game. Leading off the album is “High Hopes,” and as soon as it begins playing, it is already possible to hear how much PND has progressed and matured as an artist. As usual with OVO Sound artists, the production is on point. With help from producers such as Noah “40” Shebib, it makes PARTYNEXTDOOR 3 an extremely listenable album. PND continues the project with “Don’t Run,” an R&B-inspired banger which is reminiscent of the sound that is dominating the game right now from artists such as Bryson Tiller, DVSN, and of course, PartyNextDoor. 

“Not Nice,” which was available for listen prior to the album’s release, is more of a dance song with a bit more pop appeal, similar to Drake’s “One Dance.” PND continues with the dancehall vibes on “Only U.”

PartyNextDoor reverts back to his signature 'late-night' R&B style on “Don’t Know How,” and this is when the album starts to slow things down and get more emotional. “Problems & Selfless” is told in two parts. The first part is PND addressing the problems he’s faced and had to deal with in past relationships, while the second part touches on the heartbreak he has experienced after the relationships. On “Temptations,” PND channels his inner Weeknd and delivers the most sexual song on the project.

By the time “Joy” starts, the album has begun to leave behind it’s darker parts. It’s also around this point that the project’s quality takes a little dip for the next two or three songs, but by the time “1942” begins playing, the ears are pleased again. The only feature on PND’s album comes from Drake on the track “Come and See Me,” and as always, he delivers a quality appearance to an already solid song. The project finishes out with “Nothing Easy to Please,” an extremely fitting closer to a quality and cohesive work of music.

Aside from a few tracks that may come across as mundane to some listeners, PARTYNEXTDOOR 3 is an excellent follow-up to his freshman effort, and proves that the sophomore slump doesn’t plague every artist.

Album Review: Ariana Grande is Strictly Pop on "Dangerous Woman"

(Republic Records)

Almost two years since the release of her sophomore album, My Everything, pop singer Ariana Grande is back with her new project Dangerous Woman.

When you compare Dangerous Woman to Ariana Grande’s debut album Yours Truly, it’s next to impossible not to realize how much the 22-year-old pop sensation has grown in just three years. Besides the fact that she is now an adult, it is very apparent that she is no longer the teenage Nickelodeon-actor-turned-singer. Dangerous Woman is a full-fledged attempt from Grande to strip away the G-rated perceptions that surround her.

While Dangerous Woman does lack the ballads that made Yours Truly and My Everything so notable, Ariana Grande’s new direction proves to be successful. She leads the album off with “Moonlight,” which is reminiscent of her old sound, a slow, sweet and sensual song dedicated to her new love. The tone of “Moonlight” is echoed later on in the album with the cute song “Sometimes,” where Grande admits that her current relationship is one that she wants to last. But the slow and sweet vibes on Dangerous Woman are rare, as the album immediately changes tone with Grande’s hit single named after the album; “Dangerous Woman,” a song that encompasses exactly where Grande is now. She’s more mature, more edgy, and more dangerous. She continues this theme on “Into You,” which is essentially an open letter to her lover, inviting him to come over and touch her body. “Side to Side” is a boastful track that features a verse from Nicki Minaj. With some extremely creative punchlines ("Curry with the me Stephanie"), Nicki raps about how she is the queen of rap, and no one is about to take that from her. She also co-signs Ariana Grande, letting the audience know that she is running pop music.

Nicki isn’t the only rapper who Grande recruited to help her out. On “Let Me Love You,” one of the sexier songs on Dangerous Woman, Lil Wayne provides his own verse. He reminds the listener that they should say “goodbye to the good girl,” (again referring to Grande’s transformation) and even explicitly describes a promiscuous encounter that he either has had or wishes to have with Ariana Grande herself.

Dangerous Woman continues the trend of sexy duets with big name rappers on “Everyday,” an upbeat song featuring Future, where the two highlight their sexual experiences, including how often the do it (everyday), with their respectful partners. “I Don’t Care” continues the theme of the album, and is basically Grande’s wave goodbye to her Nickelodeon days. It serves as the perfect segway to “Bad Decisions,” where she highlights the love she has for her partner in much more detail than she has on her previous projects. The album culminates with “Thinking Bout You,” where Grande tones it back down to complement the title track. In the sweet ballad, she remembers her previous lover. It serves as the perfect closer for the album. 

Despite missing out on some of the more big and catchy ballads that Ariana Grande had become known for, Dangerous Woman proves to be just as, if not more, successful as her previous projects. There are no inherently “bad” tracks on the album, and each one provides us with a deeper glimpse into Grande’s life, proving just how much more comfortable she is and how much she is willing to expose with her fans. 

First Look: Kygo Delivers Summer Vibes with Debut Album "Cloud Nine"

(RCA Records)

In case you may have run out of fresh new vibes to serve as the soundtrack to your summer, look no further than Kygo’s debut album Cloud Nine. Over the past few years, Kygo’s music has become the face of vacation montage videos, pool parties, and chill car rides on a sunny day. Now, thanks to Cloud Nine, you will have fresh new material guaranteed to satisfy your thirst for new jams.

As a whole collective, Cloud Nine does a fantastic job at carrying a consistent sound without sounding repetitive. Even for the everyday music listener who might not be the biggest fan of house or electronic dance music, Kygo has created piece of music that even the most stubborn listener could tolerate.

One of the most unique aspects of Cloud Nine is how, despite lacking in big-name features, it is still a very big album. Besides John Legend, Kygo recruited many smaller artists whom the average music listener may not know. But small names do not mean small sound. In fact, the majority of the lesser-known contributors on Cloud Nine out-do Legend’s birthday ballad, proving how important talent is when trying to make a hit.

Cloud Nine is an extremely solid start to Kygo’s budding career. It’s clear that he has an ear for what sounds good, and knows how to appeal to all different types of listeners. With 15 tracks to its name, Cloud Nine is full of material to start the summer off right.

Kygo's debut album Cloud Nine is available for purchase now on iTunes.