C arnival Vol. II, Jean's sixth solo album, is yet another mishmash, this one a cosmopolitan hip-pop grab bag full of big-name guests, baffling miscalculations and bursts of inspired songwriting. As usual, one of Jean's greatest assets seems to be Jerry "Wonda" Duplessis, his writing and producing partner. Another of his greatest assets: his guest list. T.I., one of the album's co-executive producers, lends his eloquent drawl to Slow Down; King & Queen comes alive when Shakira starts singing; and Sweetest Girl (Dollar Bill), the breezy and delectable current single, gives Akon and Lil Wayne a chance to cry crocodile tears for strippers. Also invited: Paul Simon, Mary J. Blige and Norah Jones, all of whom sing sweetly enough to (nearly) erase the memory of Serj Tankian, from System of a Down, rapping.
As for the host, his shamelessness can be charming. At the end of Hollywood Meets Bollywood (Immigration), a collaboration with the Indian composer Aadesh Shrivastava, Jean seems to be free-associating: "Let's go, Haiti! We everywhere! Caribbeans, stand up! Bring me my elephant! You want to hear me speak Punjabi?"
By contrast, Million Voices, an earnest song from the album's bonus CD, finds him plumbing new depths of lyrical infelicity. Suffice it to say that rapping isn't his forte, either, though he makes a pretty good MC.
S weden exports a lot of high-concept retro-rock, from glam (the Ark) to psychedelia (Dungen) to the garage rock of bands like Mando Diao and the Hives.
On their first albums the Hives apparently aspired to have their raucous, vintage-sounding songs mistaken for tracks from the mid-1960s garage-rock collection Nuggets. Now the Hives have decided to loosen the concept. "If same-ing isn't working, why don't you different instead," Howlin' Pelle Almqvist taunts in Try It Again.
Now the Hives allow songs to stretch past three minutes (but still under four), and occasionally to slow down. They've moved from low-fi, near-mono production to cleaner, deeper-bottomed stereo, adding tinges of metal and power pop to their garage rock. The Hives recorded most of the album in Mississippi at Sweet Tea studios, where Elvis Costello and Buddy Guy have also made albums with the house producer, Dennis Herring, and two songs were produced by none other than Pharrell Williams of the Neptunes. Now and then keyboards and female backup singers join the guitars and drums, while the Hives also reveal that they've heard some Clash, Sex Pistols and Devo.
The Hives haven't gotten any less rowdy. They're still fighting with girlfriends and, often, the rest of the world, and Almqvist still sings like someone who might laugh or run amok at any moment. Without their purist formula, the Hives are inconsistent.
T he debut album from Jordin Sparks sounds like a mirror-image version of the new Britney Spears album, Blackout. Spears had a problem: She needed to figure out how to make the most of her limited-range voice and reputation for debauchery. And Sparks, winner of the sixth season of American Idol, had the opposite problem: She needed to figure out how to make the most of her smooth, unquirky voice and her wholesome reputation.
No American Idol viewer will be surprised to hear that Sparks knows her way around a lightweight love song. Tattoo is her absurdly catchy current single: "You're on my heart, just like a tattoo," she sings, although the line might make more literal sense if she sang, "You're on my tattoo, just like a heart."
It was produced by the Norwegian duo Stargate, and it sounds like a cousin of Beyonce's Irreplaceable, another Stargate production. More often, though, the musical references are unexpected. No Air, with Chris Brown, breathes life into the over-familiar piano line from Coldplay's Clocks. And Permanent Monday is a hybrid so bizarre it's all but impossible to hate.
A couple of inspirational songs are hidden at the end, perhaps to remind listeners of the middling CD this could have been but isn't. If you're so inclined, you can pretend the album ends two tracks earlier, with See My Side, which must be one of the year's prettiest pop songs.
It starts softly and restrainedly, with Sparks murmuring the same note (it's a G) 33 times in a row, accompanied by a chiming music box, a buzzing bass and a few echoey hand claps.
T he acronym came first. That's a helpful bit of background when it comes to Audio Day Dream, the amiably scattershot debut by Blake Lewis, this year's runner-up on American Idol. Apparently ADD - attention deficit disorder, that is - provides a useful model for an artist as effervescent as Lewis. So if the album feels disjointed, even jumbled, that's only natural; check the diagnosis.
In the first few tracks Lewis bops along from flagship pop to lightweight hip-hop to a retro brand of new wave, manipulating his limber voice as needed. Results range from the appealing to the appalling, but on balance this code of eclecticism serves him well. It's as if the process that brought him to prominence stayed with him long after results were in.
Even as he enlists an impressive array of producers - including Ryan Alias Tedder, Mike Elizondo, J.R. Rotem, Sam Watters and BT - Lewis advances a loose but unified style. As unabashedly enamored of 1980s synth-pop as 1990s skate punk, he isn't afraid to sigh or croon. And judging by his songwriting credits on all but one of the album's tracks, he has a capable ear for melody, or at least for hooks that don't overreach.
With around 10,000 descendants packing the ancestral shrine every Tomb Sweeping Day, the Yeh family’s grand affair made a bid for the Guiness Book of World Records in 2016. They won’t be coming even close on Saturday. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, less than 30 people will be attending and conducting the rituals. “We hope that our ancestors don’t take offense,” branch association head Yeh Lun-tsai (葉倫在) tells the Liberty Times (sister paper of the Taipei Times). Tomb Sweeping Day activities can potentially aggravate the spread of the virus as large groups congregate in cemeteries and columbariums at the same
In terms of life expectancy for its citizens, in recent decades Taiwan has caught up with and overtaken a number of Western countries. According to the most recent edition of the CIA’s World Factbook, Taiwanese now live longer than Americans, Czechs and Poles. Of course, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may shake up the rankings. Taiwan’s single-payer healthcare system, set up in 1995, is one reason why people here can stay healthy for a long time. Before the postwar Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime introduced the piecemeal health-insurance schemes (covering government employees, farmers, and others) that preceded the universal system, sick people
Nowhere are the effects of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) postwar Sinification campaign more visible than in the toponymic revisions that the regime undertook after assuming power. Taipei’s streets were renamed after Chinese cities or quintessentially Chinese values, and with the kind of self-aggrandizing flourish to which the party was partial, the process even referenced itself, Guangfu (光復) — which translates as “retrocession” — becoming a mainstay of urban nomenclature. Above all, the KMT’s top brass was memorialized: the given names of Sun Yat-sen (孫中山) and Chiang Kai-shek (蔣中正) — Zhongshan (中山) and Zhongzheng (中正) — were conferred on locations
April 6 to April 12 Han Chinese settlers from Zhangzhou and Quanzhou were such fierce rivals that simple activities such as buying supplies for festivals would often result in armed violence. It’s said that this was especially severe just before Tomb Sweeping Festival, and to prevent bloodshed Qing Dynasty officials ordered them to conduct their rituals on different days. This is not unlike the government urging people to visit their ancestors’ graves on days other than yesterday’s official Tomb Sweeping Day, also known as the Qingming Festival, to curb the spreading of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the Chinese Nationalist Party