Thanks for coming back. Part 2 features my reviews of CDs and TV shows. As always, comments are kindly welcomed.
Dierks Bentley “Black” Dierks is back for his 8th album. Special guests include Maren Morris and Elle King. Stylistically he is not presenting anything new for me, but it is still a solid record. “Somewhere on Beach” covers similar territory to “Drunk on a Plane.” The duet with Elle King “Different for Girls” is a bit of a sequel to Beyonce’s “If I Was a Boy” if you ask me. I hope it’s the second single. Grade: B-
Beyoncé “Lemonade” Queen Bey’s new project premiered as an HBO special, and an exclusive on Tidal. It is her follow-up her self-titled project. Again, we have a visual album and a music album. Stylistically it is her most diverse project yet: rock, reggae, country, gospel, R&B, ballads and more. She attacks the rumors of Jay-Z’s infidelity head-on. Ultimately it is story of female empowerment, especially black women. She is a force to be reckoned with. Grade: A
Kelly Clarkson “Piece by Piece Remixed” Her record company released this to capitalize on her triumphant return to American Idol in it’s final season. She sang a stripped down version of “Piece by Piece” which ended up going viral, and it instantly made it’s way onto the pop charts. You get new versions of 10 of the 16 songs off her last studio album. Grade: B+
Daughtry “It’s Not Over… the Hits So Far” Only the third American Idol alumni to warrant a greatest hits album, Chris Daughtry and company offer up only 2 new tracks on this collection (Torches and Go Down). It is still a great career overview, even if most of the songs are from the first 2 albums (the band has 4). Grade: B
Brett Eldredge “Illinois” This is his second album. I decided to take a chance on him since he is opening for Keith Urban on his tour this year. He’s got a nice voice, and I instantly liked some of the songs. Will see where he goes with his career. Grade: B
Ariana Grande “Dangerous Woman” Ariana’s 3rd album is just as good as her previous one “My Everything.” Contains the hit title track as well as “Into You.” And I am beginning to get a sense of her as a woman and an artist… something I wasn’t sure about last time. Grade: A-
Nick Jonas “Nick Jonas X2” Nick’s breakthrough solo project has been re-issued in a special deluxe edition with 7 additional songs. So you get the hits from the original like “Chains” and “Jealous;” plus remixes of those 2, and a couple of new songs too like “Levels” and “Good Thing” (with Sage the Gemini). His pop-R&B sound is finally starting to grow on me. Grade: B
Miranda Lambert “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” I am just catching up on this girl. And I have enjoyed every one of her releases. This is her 2nd album and includes the hit “Gunpowder and Lead.” So you get fiery uptempo songs with a ttitude and tender ballads too. Grade: B+
Little Big Town “Wanderlust” One of the year’s biggest surprises for pop music fans. This is the country group’s collaboration with Pharrell Williams, who co-wrote and produced the album for them. You get their trademark vocals, but the tracks are pop tunes for the most part. Danceable, fun, and definitely hook filled. I loved it the moment I heard it. Includes the fantastic first single “One of Those Days” — which is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Grade: A
Rascal Flatts “Changed” Rascal Flatts has never been much of a ground-breaker with their career. The country trio has a successful formula that they don’t mess with. So you get the big ballads, some good party tunes and nice vocals and harmonies. They have been consistently good through their whole career. Grade: B+
Blake Shelton “If I’m Honest” I am a fan of Blake, but this one is not doing much for me so far. “She’s Got a Way with Words” and the duet with girlfriend Gwen Stefani are the stand-outs for me. The rest is just OK. Hopefully it will grow on me. Grade: C
Sugarland “The Incredible Machine” This was the 4th (and so far last) album from the country duo. It contains the hits “Stuck on You” and “Tonight.” I hope that they get back together again to make some new music. Grade: B-
Keith Urban “Ripcord” Keith’s latest CD, has a few things in common with his last one “Fuse.” Is it country? If it is, it is very pop-oriented country. He has guest stars like Nile Rodgers, Carrie Underwood and Pitbull even on this album. I would love for Keith to try pop fully for one record, like Taylor Swift’s “1989.” That would be interesting. I believe Keith’s pop leanings, whereas with Tim McGraw it didn’t fit for me. Grade: B-
Jimmy Wayne “Sara Smile”
I first came to know this singer when he opened for Wynonna Judd on one of her tours. This is his 3rd album featuring the title track — a remake of a Hall & Oates song. They are featured on the song too. He’s got a nice voice, but some of the material is not up to par. Grade: C
Based on the Australian film of the same name, this TNT series follows the exploits of a crime family: a mother and her sons and grandson. The location has been moved from Australia to Southern California’s beaches. The cast is lead by Ellen Barkin and Scott Speedman. Everyone is good looking, and there is a decent amount of male flash on display. Sex, drugs, bad behavior — so far I am enjoying it. Grade: B+
Mad Men (Part 2 of Season 7)
I have been a big fan of this show through the years. I missed the last season, because I didn’t have a TV for a good portion of last year. So now I am finally catching up with it on Netflix. I have to say this last season was a bit of a disappointment to me. It was all over the place. So much of the stories occurred away from the ad agency. And they tried to give everyone a decent ending except Betty it seems. Grade: C
Billed as a special event limited summer series, this show brings back hitmakers of the past (like Rock Springfield and Backstreet Boys) singing their greatest hits as well as current hitmakers (Pitbull, Meghan Trainor) too. Each episode covers a 5-year period like 1980-1985; 1990-1995 etc. The show is hosted by Arsenio Hall and Kelsea Ballerini. This shows reminds me of “Hit Me Baby One More Time” a summer show from summer’s past that brought back old hitmakers to prime time. It was good to see some of the stars on here, even if they aren’t as good as they used to be. I hope they bring it back next summer. Grade: B
Do you agree with my reviews? Please sound off in the comments. I would love to know what you are watching and listening to.
KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.