Sunday, December 15, 2013

Beyonce' ~ (Album Review)

No hype. No teasing. No promotion. Beyonce’ just pulls her new album out of the box. Literally. The biggest surprise though is the content. In an era where dance divas dominate (Rihanna, Katy P, GaGa), Queen Bee’s fifth solo effort is subdued, steady and sizably stuffed with sizzling slow jams. A cohesive effort that flows seamlessly like a cascade. 

The set’s opener, “Pretty Hurts” is a type of song that Pink or Kelly Clarkson would usually sing. Always the one to count on, Sia Furler, who co-wrote this inspirational anthem sprinkles grittiness and sentiment. Then B gets down and dirty with her husband on “Drunk In Love”. The thumping track is nowhere near the brilliance of “Crazy In Love”, their classic smash hit collarbo, but it definitely has swagger. The theme of raunchy sex continues with “Blow”, produced by Pharrell and Timbaland, a standout track that finds Beyonce asking her man to ‘turn that cheery out’ while begging, “Can you lick my skittles. That’s the sweetest in the middle”

There’s no diva torch song like “Listen” or “Dangerously In Love” here but Beyonce experiments with her vocals showcasing different colours, textures and layers of her voice; rich velvety lower register (“Superpower”, a refreshing duet with Frank Ocean), soft sexy coos, Prince-style (“No Angel”), lush and elegant mid-range (“Rocket”), effortless agility (“Blue”, a song dedicated to her little one) and emotive delivery on soon-to-be-funeral-favorite (“Heaven”) 

No Beyonce' album is complete without a compulsory feminist anthem of course. "Flawless" features empowerment message from the Nigerian literary superstar, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Deep.  But hey, let's face it, “Partition” is the track that will generate some serious twerking round the globe.

So… more Grammys for B? Hell yeah!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

ARTPOP ~ Lady Gaga (Album Review)

Strip off dizzying electro ornaments and painstakingly artificial gloss smeared all over Artpop, one of the most anticipated albums of 2013, heavily touted as the game changer, it is left with nothing but uninspiring lyrics and formulaic melodies. Take “Aura” the excessively produced opening track for example or the next, “Venus” or the next “G.U.Y”, all cooked in the same recipe as her previous hits, “Poker Face”, “Judas” or “Paparazzi”. And Gaga once again sings about fame, fortune, fashion and fucking, the fundamentals that heavily dominated her three previous discs. 

Lady Gaga ~ Applause

Many had thought “Applause”, the first single, to be quite weak to lead a project this big and ballyhooed, but it ends up being one of the bearable, if not better, tracks of the set. Thanks to a few solid tracks such as the cheerleading delight ("Manicure"), a modern-day nursery rhyme ("Gypsy") and the energetic signature Gaga ("Swine"), that follow the first half of mediocrity (and pure noise!) including the duet with R.Kelly ("Do What U Want").

Lady Gaga, astutely aware of her massive gay following, goes as camp as possible with “Donatella” (think “Alejandro” diluted) and “Fashion” with pointless lyrics like “Walk into the light. Display your diamonds and pearls in light. Fashion!” No doubt, she can sing circles around her contemporaries like Katy Perry or Rihanna but her best asset here is sadly put away, effectively buried under synth-heavy techno beats instead. Artpop in a nutshell is an overhyped third studio outing by an entertainer who has pretty much run out of ideas. And if she intends to keep this album on the charts for the next few months, she’d better start cooking up costumes with shock values or outrageous videos that go trending on Twitter. As usual.

Lady Gaga ~ Do What U Want

Lady Gaga ~ Swine

Lady Gaga ~ Manicure

Monday, November 18, 2013

~ A Photographic Journey Through Goa ~


This tiny little curve of serenity lies just minutes away from the beach joint where we are having a party. While many are busy grooving to “lambada”, strolling on the beach or simply being distracted by the crashing waves; this little oasis is oozing with stark lush green, completely isolated yet unaffected by the happenings nearby. The crystal clear emerald-hued water glistens under the mid-morning sun. This could easily be a scene coming out of “The Blue Lagoon”. “This is my favourite place in all of Goa. I love coming here and just forget about the world outside”, says Anjie, my new bff. I can easily imagine why a Mumbai-nian like her with a stressful job loves coming here and busting stress at Bogmalo.

I would definitely hashtag #SpectacularSunsets for Bogmalo. The generally quiet beach, in comparison to Goa’s other famous beaches, lies 9 km from the port town of Vasco da Gama, also a mere 4 km away from the international airport. It is situated in a small bay with just about 2-km stretch of sandy beach and palm trees. Basically, that’s IT but IT is more than enough to be claimed as paradise.  Soak up in the warm Arabian Sea. Let the gentle waves carry you through.  Catch your spirit’s glow. Think nothing but just be.

They are known as Tuk-tuk in Thailand. Similarly, in India, auto rickshaws are a common means of public transportation. Instead of taking a 20-minute walk, I opt for a ride in the black and yellow three-wheeler. “Can you take me to the church?” I ask the driver who’s reading a newspaper. I don’t know the name of the church but there’s only one in the city that tourists go to anyway. “Church In Panjim?” he confirms and we agree on the fees of 70 rupee, which is probably more than he would charge a local but I don’t intend to argue or negotiate further when the amount is not even 2 dollars. He drives me through the hectic streets of Panjim, Goa’s largest city with a population of nearly 115,000. Driving in India is definitely not for the faint-hearted. No one stays on the lane, everyone weaves in and out as though they were in a Vin Diesel movie, honking furiously at all times. But I have yet to witness an accident. They all somehow manage to manoeuvre well within any given space and finally reach their target destination unscathed. Soon, we are on the two-lane avenue that leads to the glorious “Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church. “You can stop over here. I’ll just walk up to the church”, I request.  “May I take a photo of you?” I push further. And succeed.My driver is a man of few words but he’s kind enough to pose for my camera, although without a smile. Perhaps he’s shy.

While passing in front of the Military Hospital in Panjim, these boys on the truck say "hi" to me, all of them in jolly good mood. I ask if I could take a picture of them, pointing at my camera. They all gleefully agree. As I approach near,I hear the engine start and the truck begins to move away. The guy in purple T-shirt, an extrovert clearly, shouts "Indian Army. Wonderful!".I give them two-thumps up wholeheartedly.The purpose of their hospital visit remains unclear; medical exam perhaps.Their smiles fill my heart. The reason why I travel with my camera. Always...

First, it is the buffalo that catches my attention. Then it’s this young boy who climbs on top of it, proudly showcasing his cowboy skills to a family of tourists nearby. He and his two other friends approach as I walk past and ask me to take their photos, which I happily oblige. The youngest of them all flashes a smile that could light up a dark grey sky. He is a superstar and he knows it. But the little cowboy has a better idea. He leads me back to the buffalo that is tethered to a tree. He swiftly hops onto the animal that is at least 10 times his size and poses for the camera. An older boy, about 15 or so, appears out of nowhere. Possibly the minder of the bunch, I am not quite sure. He slaps across the little cowboy’s face so hard and starts scolding him in their dialect. “Hey, stop it! Why did you hit him?” I ask. The boy answers me back in his language with a few English words thrown in. I gather that the little cowboy could have made the buffalo angry and therefore it’s dangerous. Obviously the teenager is jealous of the attention these three young boys are getting. Big bully! I sternly tell him one last time to stop hitting the boy and walk away from the scene, sort of feeling guilty.



Street vendors in Panjim can be quite persistent. And I easily stand out in the crowd as a tourist with a big camera. They try to sell me bananas, handkerchiefs, sunglasses, Kulfi (Frozen dairy dessert or Indian Ice-cream) and even women’s handbags as if I need one. I then come across two ladies in beautiful multi-coloured saris selling bananas on the street. They are sharing a chat sitting not far from each other. When they see me walking past, one of them points at the bananas laid out on the piece of cloth. “No, thank you! I am not hungry”. But she keeps insisting me to buy them. I squat down in front of her and politely ask if I could take a photo of her. She shoots me a look that probably means, “I’m an old woman. Why would you want a photo of me? Just buy the bananas” The pink and pale orange hues of her sari against the bluish purple door behind is simply striking. And how I adore the cynical look on her face!!! I later, on my return to hotel, see her again as I take the same route. She still insists I buy her bananas. And I still say no. 

Although many houses and buildings are painted in vibrant colours, yellow is one dominant force in Goa. Old buildings, some dated back to the early 16th century, reflect Goa’s colonial past. Elegant buildings such as, the Baroque style “The Immaculate Conception Church”, existing since 1540 and "the Goa Medical College", built during the British Raj, are painstakingly restored but many structures in Panjim are sadly crumbling apart or hanging by a thread. But “old” is definitely “gold”. Not to sound cliché but it’s the truth;‘they don’t make buildings like this anymore”. Strolling through narrow cobbled streets with Portuguese names and witnessing gorgeous old villas or various business signs that have stood the test of time, it is easy to imagine the city as it once was in full glory but hard to fathom at times that this is actually India, not Europe. Oh, well, garlands of Marigolds that adorn the doors and windows of shops and residences or the incessant images of Lakshmi or Ganesha will certainly serve as the reality check.




Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Mariah Carey ~ "The Art Of Letting Go" (Single Review)

“I'm making a statement of my own opinion, just a brief little reminder to help myself remember, I no longer live in your dominion”,

Mariah Carey sings in the opening line of her new single, “The Art of Letting Go”.

“You're just trifling, nothing more than a liability. Gotta lay all your possessions outside the kitchen window right now”, she continues.

At first glance, the ballad could easily be a break-up anthem with the universal message of ‘moving on’, which many could easily relate to but there has gotta be more. The famously private singer never truly reveals. Even with her most autobiographical songs, it’s always read-between-the-lines; somewhat vague and oblique.  Her very controversial diva persona is merely a façade, a protective shield in fact. Her little known album cuts such as “Looking In”, “I Am Free”, “Close My Eyes” and “Petals” may serve as windows to the complex and vulnerable person that she truly is. But only her true hardcore fans know and appreciate these little gems. She remains misunderstood in the eyes of general public.

“Letting go ain't easy, no it's just exceedingly hurtful. Cause somebody you used to know, is flinging your world around and they watch as you're falling down”

Considering Ms Carey has been happily married and raising two adorable twins in the last 6 years, this can’t possibly be about a lover who wronged her nor does this reflect her current state of mind. 

So… if this isn’t exactly about letting go of someone, could she be indirectly singing about “letting go of no one but her old self? In other words, “growing older gracefully” and facing the facts. To be more direct, not having any desire to compete with the young and crispy such as Miley Cyrus or Katy Perry for the chart domination or the pressure to come up with hipster music that guarantees a frequent play on the radios. Well, judging the musical direction that she has taken and the very minimal production by Rodney Jerkins, who is no longer the trendiest hit-maker these days, staying current or being number one again is the least of her worries. (Her record of 18 #1 hits is still unmatched even today).

The last few years saw Carey’s struggle with her vocals especially when performing live prompting many to accuse her of lip-syncing. She has clearly lost her stage presence and confidence that she displayed in the 90’s. Instead she looks rather nervous and uncomfortable when appearing on stage as of late because the voice she once could count on is not always fully there today. So… could she be metaphorically hinting that she has finally accepted her deteriorating voice, an instrument still very much in tact, but no longer effortless and agile as it once was. If this is true, this is huge for a singer famed for her glorious pipes that it almost overshadows her equally impressive song writing skill. (She writes and produces 90% of her songs) To be fair though, Carey, even today, is a master class singer, which she proves here once again with an incredibly raw and emotional delivery.  Especially towards the end of the song where she lets loose and simply soars to incredible heights, reminiscent of her previous fan favorites such as “Outside” from “Butterfly” album or “Vanishing” from her debut. Furthermore, how many notes can one warble out of a one-syllable word “down”? Simply let the songbird supreme show how it’s done at 2:20 mark of the song.

"I like to leave things very ambiguous so my fans can interpret the songs in the way that they choose to, and that's why I never really say, 'Well this happened to me," she says. "Sometimes it's a true story, every single word of the song, and maybe this one is, too, but you'll never know." 

It seems she’s ready to keep it real; unafraid to show flaws and all. Her recent top 15 hit “#Beautiful” and this new track promise there will definitely be a new sound, a more matured Carey and a yet another metamorphosis to expect from this upcoming album.

Hear it on her Facebook page : or stream it here on Vevo.