Music reviews

This week's new releases from Jay Z to Asher Roth and beyond. We inspect the releases to watch out for

Asher Roth

Asleep In The Bread Aisle

On ‘As I Em’, the midpoint on Asher Roth’s debut album, he begs his listeners not to compare him to Eminem. Sure, they’re both blonde white guys, he says, but beyond that the similarities run out. True enough – while Marshall Mathers deftly danced between biography and fiction, Roth mines the small ironies of modern life for his lyrics. And while Eminem was the white-trash kid from Michigan, Roth’s public persona is a laidback suburbanite stoner, more likely to fall asleep watching ThunderCats reruns than chainsaw up his girlfriend.

But there’s a bigger difference between the two and that is, frankly, quality. Roth clocked in two relatively high-profile mixtapes prior to this release (hence the appearances by Cee-Lo and Busta Rhymes on what is technically his first album), which ought to have given him something of a head start. But while Eminem’s sophomore effort, The Slim Shady EP, was filled with verbal dexterity and sharp humour, Roth’s album raises little more than a light smile. There’s no spark here, no surprises waiting for the attentive listener. ‘Bad Day’ sounds like someone at work describing a sitcom that wasn’t funny in the first place, and ‘I Like College’ somehow turns the hedonism of US university culture into a bland paste.

His attempts at sincerity don’t come off much better; ‘Sour Patch Kids’ reaches the philosophical heights of ‘the poor get poorer, the rich just get richer,’ and ‘His Dream’, an ode to Roth’s father, just comes off as mawkish. Fingers crossed for the future, but right now this stoner-boy’s wit is, well, blunt.
James Wilkinson
Available in stores.


The Blueprint 3

If you live under a rock on a moon in a distant star system this news may come as a shock to you: Jay-Z is a rich and powerful man. For everybody else this is a widely known fact, particularly for Jay-Z himself, whose 11th studio album The Blueprint 3, stands as a testament to his wealth, influence and, above all, ego. Unfortunately, these things don’t necessarily combine to make a good album.

Not that Jay-Z’s lost any of his talent – it’s just that the boasts about his political power, rather than his reputation on the streets, starts to get annoying after the first mention of The White House. Missing is the insightful social commentary of ‘99 Problems’ or the romance of ‘’03 Bonnie & Clyde’. The closest he gets is ‘D.O.A. (Death Of Auto-Tune)’, where he essentially complains over a beat about hip hop’s recent reliance on pitch shifting vocals.

Jay-Z likes to think of this album as a blueprint for the future of rap, but it’s really just building on other people’s experimentation. Kanye West’s production never reaches the insanity he’s known for, and it seems telling that his most avant-garde production on The Blueprint 3, ‘Hate’, is also the shortest song on the album. Is Jay-Z holding him back? Swizz Beats, meanwhile, lifts the aesthetic of Lil Wayne’s career-making ‘A Milli’ for his track ‘Off To The Next One’.

This isn’t a bad album, just a bland one. Necessity is the mother of invention, and therein lies the rub: Jay-Z is crazy rich and doesn’t need to do a thing anymore. Maybe it’s time for Jigga to retire. Again.
Jonathon Valenzuela
Available in stores.

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