Western Conference Finals Game 5: Phoenix Suns 101, Los Angeles Lakers 103 (L.A leads series 3-2)

In a matter of 3 seconds, Ron Artest has redeemed himself in grand fashion with a tip-in in Game 5 of their Western Conference Finals showdown with the Phoenix Suns. Remember, this is a guy who has been criticized for missing loads of outside shots during the playoffs. Even Phil Jackson has said that Artest should stop taking so many shots. All of these complaints are going to the recycle bin for a short while as Artest gave the Lakers an important 3-2 edge in the seven-game series.

In the previous two Laker losses, I can honestly say the team really looked lost in attacking the zone that the Suns have used all series long. However, come Game 5, the Lakers moved the ball from side to side and looked for great scoring chances. Kobe Bryant almost had a triple-double with 30 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists.

Looking at how the game unfolded, Kobe really had it going. Sure, he shot 12 for 27 but some of those misses were mostly going down and went out at the last moment. Even Derek Fisher had a great night. His shots were falling down and this led to 22 important points. Fisher and Kobe made sure that when the Suns hit them with hard hooks, they will counter hard enough with hooks of their own. It was a fantastic offensive battle with two teams slugging it out like there is no tomorrow.

The Suns bench has been playing huge all series long and after a slow first half, they lit it up yet again come second half. Channing Frye seems to be back in a groove albeit an airball was one of his missed attempts. Jared Dudley even helped big time with some shots. But I have got to say that the bench really was one of the reasons why the Suns lost.

First and foremost, the Suns’ pace when the bench was playing just slowed down drastically. The Suns execute better when they strike fast. With Dragic manning the point, it all slowed down (Vujacic did a great job but that will be discussed later) until it reached the point where the shots they hoisted were late. Second, Dragic really played poorly. I do consider him as the sparkplug of that bench and with him not performing efficiently, things will crumble down.

This is where Sasha Vujacic comes in. He did a phenomenal job in getting under Dragic’s skin. He literally annoyed the hell out of Dragic and things even got testy between the two Slovenians. Remember, this is a guy who has only played a minute and 50 seconds all series long and here he comes and plays a very crucial role in shaping the outcome of Game 5. He played fantastic defense and who knows, he might get more playing time in Game 6 after this performance.

Give the Suns credit though for coming back down from a huge 16-point deficit. Steve Nash played fantastic yet again and had 29 points and 11 assists. He basically hit tons of jumpers above Pau Gasol’s outstretched arms. He weaved through the Laker defense and made one amazing pass after another. With Nash on the floor, the shot selection for the Suns was much better. They were basically on a roll with him present. That three pointer by J-Rich also was huge. Three 50-50 balls and it went the Suns way and what they got was a lucky three pointer. The playoffs have surely been great in delivering some ‘drama.’

The zone still worked to some extent as the Lakers attempted 24 three pointers and only made 7. The problem was Pau Gasol got involved (please, make this guy the focal point in every half-court set) more in this one unlike in Game 4 where he was neutralized big time.

I still have got to say that the Lakers almost shot themselves in the foot with this game. Ron Artest did not care and shot a wide-open three with 22 seconds left on the shot clock in a game that only has 56 seconds left. I do not even know why Phil Jackson was confident with Pau Gasol defending Nash and we all know what happened to Tim Duncan in that Western Semifinal series. The Lakers have to avoid the temptation of hoisting up contested jumpers. They are much better than this. They have got to go back to playing more efficient offensive basketball. It will come eventually but hopefully it does not come too late for them.

Of course, that last play will be the topic of discussion and I think the Suns did a poor job in boxing out Artest. They did a great job in defending Kobe but that was really a poor job in terms of getting the rebound. Where was Robin Lopez or Amare Stoudemire for that last play? Come on Alvin Gentry! This is your team fighting for momentum in a series against the defending champs.  Why put Channing Frye in there? Sure he had ten boards coming into that play but come on, you have got to go with more established rebounders out there!

In the end, the Lakers got away with one. Artest has to step up still though. That was some great upper body strength in showcase there but we would not have had that play in the first place if Artest made some wise decisions. Still, great job by Artest for not giving it up. The Laker Nation are surely saying this now: In Ron, we trust.

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Semi Precious Weapons’ debut album for Interscope Records named You Love You is all set for a June 22 release. The album is produced by Jack Joseph Puig (Beck, Green Day) and has nine tracks that intend to showcase the band’s versatility and creativity. The track listing for the said album is now released and without further adieu, I am sharing it below alongside the album artwork:

1. Semi Precious Weapons
2. Put A Diamond In It
3. Magnetic Baby
4. Statues Of Ourselves
5. Sticky With Champagne
6. I Could Die
7. Leave Your Pretty To Me
8. Rock N Roll Never Looked So Beautiful
9. Look At Me

Again, here are the key details for the album:
Release Date: June 22, 2010
Label: Interscope Records
Producer: Jack Joseph Puig

Connect with the Semi Precious Weapons via the following methods:

She may be known to some as Ingrid Michaelson’s lead guitarist but Allie Moss does possess some mad vocals just like the aforementioned singer-songwriter. She has already released one EP named Passerby which includes the single which might have made her known in the UK, Corner. Recently, her single, Melancholy Astronautic Man, was part of the iTunes Indie Sampler and after hearing the said single, I was impressed.

If there is something that this single proved about Allie Moss, it would be that Allie Moss has the talent needed to make herself known in the crowded field of singer-songwriters present in the airwaves today. The single sounds very pleasing to the ears. It is nothing fancy but the simplicity itself is its crowning jewel. Allie Moss’ vocals are smooth and are perfect for bright and sunny days.

Ultimately, Melancholy Astronautic Man showcases the impressive musicality that Allie Moss has. The vocals are rich. As for the songwriting, it can be said as superb. Is she accessible? The answer is a resounding yes. Here is me hoping that she continues churning out singles such as this. The masses might realize soon that not listening to this talented musician is a mistake that they should not have done.

Genre: Pop
Date Released: January 11, 2010

Newly-crowned American Idol Lee Dewyze has released his ‘coronation song’ Beautiful Day. Yes, you saw it right. The ‘coronation song’ for the recently concluded season of American Idol is a cover of a U2 song. Sure, the show has contestants perform their respective renditions of songs from established acts but couldn’t the show produce a song for the winner? Anyway, so much about that and let us just move on about my thoughts regarding the new Idol’s first release since being crowned as the winner.

With covers, it is inevitable that the artist gets compared to the original performer of the material.  Lee surely ain’t Bono but he holds his own in this effort. The arrangement is something that I have been raving about constantly. The violins are perfectly placed and everything else is well done. Lee’s vocals are really great. The problem I have with him is that he sounds so superb in his studio recordings that when compared to his live performances, you can see he has some troubles. His live performances are pitchy to say the least.

I may not have rooted for Lee in the finale (I was originally a Siobhan fan but she got eliminated way too early for my liking so I ended up going for Bowersox) but Beautiful Day is definitely a grower. People who rooted for Bowersox in the finale may not like this at first listen but the charm simply grows eventually. The studio recording sounds so much better than his live performance, without a doubt. He better improve his live performances in order for him to be a more credible performer. I sincerely wish Lee Dewyze the best. Congratulations again!

Genre: Pop
Date Released: May 26, 2010 (iTunes US)

Enrique’s first bilingual studio album entitled Euphoria will be released on the 6th of July. The list of guest stars include Akon, Nicole Scherzinger, Usher, Pitbull, Lionel Richie, amongst many others. Two singles have been released for the album – one is I Like It which is part of the Jersey Shore Soundtrack and the other is Cuando Me Enamoro which features Juan Luis Guerra. The album cover has also been released. It looks smooth for me. The tracklist also is out and without further adieu, here it is (album cover included):

Tracklisting:

1. Cuando Me Enamoro (Feat. Juan Luis Guerra)
2. No Me Digas Que No (Feat. Wisin & Yandel)
3. Ayer
4. Dile Que
5. I Like It (Feat. Pitbull & Lionel Richie)
6. One Day at a Time (Feat. Akon)
7. I Can Feel Your Heartbeat (Feat. Nicole Scherzinger)
8. Dirty Dancer (With Usher)
9. Tu Y Yo
10. No Me Digas Que No

Buy Cuando Me Enamoro in iTunes
Buy I Like It in iTunes
Again, the album will be released on July 6, 2010.

The Queen of Pop has been fittingly given the first tribute episode in the hit TV series Glee. Madonna’s songs have been synonymous to excellence and pop perfection. Her songs are always filled with substance and with the Glee cast covering her singles for the EP, the end product should be something desirable.

Desirable, it really is. The EP may only last for seven tracks but the Glee cast do give justice to Madonna’s material. Glee and Madonna ends up as a well-done ‘marriage’ in my book. There really are loads of positives in this release albeit a short one.

One of them is that other cast members finally get the chance to show off their vocal chops. Jane Lynch, also known as Sue Sylvester, makes her debut with Vogue, one of the EP’s quality tracks. Lynch finally shows that Glee is more than a Lea Michele show. Another cast member who has her vocal debut is Naya Rivera who portrays Santana. Who would have thought that she actually has a great voice? Jayma Mays and Rivera actually make their respective vocal debuts in Like A Virgin, a track that somehow plays it safe but has its shining moment when Rivera’s vocals get some part of the limelight.

The boys in the cast, minus Matthew Morrison, team up to perform a heartwarming rendition of What It Feels Like For A Girl. Skepticism may be the initial reaction but it all ends well as the track is something well-polished and simply put, it ends up as one of the EP’s few recommended tracks. Amber Riley (Mercedes) and Chris Colfer (Kurt) join forces for 4 Minutes. The arrangement was cleverly thought of with the usage of the horns. It is reminiscent of those cheering squads who perform during the halftime of basketball games. Perfectly done, I can say the track was.

Sadly, the EP still releases an aura that tells it is still the Lea Michele show. Michele sings lead vocals for four of the seven tracks in the EP. It is not really a bad thing initially but it gets too stale for people’s tastes eventually. Of all the Michele-related tracks, it is the album closer, Like A Prayer, that stands out from the rest of the pack. The gospel vibe that the track had absolutely did wonders.

Every track in the EP can stand on its own but of course, there are those that stand out big time. 4 MinutesWhat It Feels Like For A Girl, and Vogue do stand out for it showed that other people aside from Michele can step up and deliver when it mattered the most.

Ultimately, everything ends well for the EP. The song selection is great and Cory Monteith did not even rely on the dreaded auto-tuning technology to sound great in the release. Desirable, the record really is. I bet Madonna is smiling after hearing the record. I really do.

Best Track: What It Feels Like For A Girl
Other Recommended Tracks: 4 MinutesVogue, and Like A Prayer
Genre: Pop
Date Released: April 20, 2010
Label: Columbia Records

Canadian singer-songwriter Valerie Anne Poxleitner or Lights Poxleitner, more known by her stage name LIGHTS, tries to convince people who have not heard her material that she is the real deal with her debut album entitled The Listening. The 13-track-long LP consistently utilizes Lights’ ability to play the synths in grand fashion.

All the tracks in the LP make use of Lights’ sweet and melodic vocals accompanied by the ever-reliable keyboards, lovely rhythms, catchy beats, and lyrics that have loads of sense in them. The tracks do showcase the musicality (versatility included) that this bubbly singer-songwriter has.

There is no denying that the tracks in the LP are outstanding on their own merit. They all have their respective catchy hooks included. Are there album fillers though? I am happy to say that there is no filler track in this effort. All tracks are contagious though some of the tracks do have their blemishes.

Saviour sets the tone for the album with a very pulsating beat that soothes the senses. The keyboard-led track has auto-tuning in it but all ends well since the vocal manipulation works perfectly in the track. Drive My Soul, meanwhile, slows the pace down and gives off that smooth vibe.

River is one of the haymakers that this album has. The quality of the track is simply superb and the track is without a doubt one of the best in the LP. The title track, The Listening, has a chorus that shines continuously even if put on loop. Ice has a Kylie Minoque-esque vibe in it. Actually, it is one of the more upbeat offerings in the LP which allows it to distance itself from the other offerings which may sound too similar for one’s liking.

Pretend has two versions included in the LP with the first one using the synths and the second one relying on an acoustic vibe. The first version is more preferable in my book though the second one is also likable. It all depends on one’s cup of tea.

February Air has this sound which may give one thoughts of those classic videogame instrumentals. Catchy, it actually is. The simple yet remarkable song structure gives the song some much-valued punch. Lions! uses the conventional formula that Lights uses all throughout the LP. That is rely on some creative arrangement and sweet vocals. It works but it does bring up a point regarding the LP’s imperfections.

Some tracks may sound too similar for some. However, there will always be that one song which one will love to listen continuously over and over again. I also suggest that listen to the album on shuffle to counter the ‘sameness’ that some tracks have. Listening to the LP in order just does not do it right.

Do I like the LP though? Yes, I really do. All the songs have simple yet remarkable structures embedded in them. The vocals from Lights are exceptional. All the arrangements used are clever and well-thought. However, The Listening is far from being a perfect record but if you are a fan of well-done pop material, do check this offering out. You’ll get your money’s worth. Trust me.

Best Track: Saviour
Other Recommended Tracks: Drive My SoulIceRiver, and February Air
Genre: Pop
Date Released: May 17, 2010
Label: Underground Operations

Upbeat pop goodness has been quite the norm for this year and the latest to join the trend is New Zealand-born Natasha Bedingfield. Expect a surprise once the electronic touches kick in. The sound is altogether different from her previous singles such as UnwrittenThese Words, and Pocketful of Sunshine but mind you, the risk was really worth it.

The verses are nothing outstanding, to be honest but once the chorus introduces itself, sheer brilliance starts flowing. The outstanding power vocals by Natasha Bedingfield just knock the roof off with that chorus. The verses may not be that great in terms of lyrical brilliance but the vocals save the track from being mediocre.

Touch, ultimately, introduces us to the new direction that Natasha Bedingfield has chosen. Is the change in direction good though? That is still relatively unknown, for now. It must be known though that Touch is a great track loaded with the trademark power vocals that we all used to hear from Natasha Bedingfield.

Date Released: May 18, 2010
Label: Sony Music

Ne-Yo is returning anew with his first single off his soon-to-be-released fourth studio effort entitled  Libra Scale. The single’s name is Beautiful Monster and is set to premiere on MySpace on the 25th of May. The single will be available as a download on both iTunes and Amazon on June 1, 2010.

To have a preview of the song, go to this link: Beautiful Monster preview

As for the single sleeve, here it is in its great quality glory:

What are your thoughts about the upcoming single? Let me know by dropping a comment!

David Guetta basically has turned himself into the modern day Timbaland: He is now a hot commodity among mainstream club music lovers – frequently appearing on the playlists of almost everyone. With his fourth album One Love, he hopes to further cement his status as a top DJ.

The album consists lots of collaborations – some spectacular and some which could be said as utter garbage. I am reviewing the Standard U.S version which consists of 13 tracks that aim to fill up the void of quality dance tracks in today’s music industry.

Kicking things off is the very impressive When Love Takes Over which features Kelly Rowland of Destiny’s Child fame. The single is absolutely brilliant with the subtle touch of European dance elements included. Following closely isGettin’ Over You which has Chris Willis doing the vocal duties. It is nothing outstanding and actually falls short when compared to its latest remix which has Fergie and LMFAO as its collaborators.

The second single released Sexy Bitch is one of the album’s impressive home run hitters. For once, Akon does not irritate the auditory capabilities of listener. Memories starts with some hints of pianos and ends up as something magnificent with the bassline doing a fantastic job in enticing the senses. Cudi’s vocals are great albeit the weird chorus. The track is something one could listen to from time and time again. The appeal just will not wear off for reasons unknown.

Miss Rowland appears for the second time with It’s The Way You Love Me. With When Love Takes Over setting the bar so high, It’s The Way You Love Me could not simply match or outdo the quality that When Love Takes Over had. All of a sudden, the quality of the album falls apart and disintegrates. It all starts with Choose, which has Rowland as its collaborator yet again alongside Ne-Yo. Vocally, Rowland and Ne-Yo are fine but the overall product is loaded with blemishes.

Will.i.am lends his hand alongside fellow Black Eyed Peas member Apl.de.ap in On The Dancefloor. The bassline is pure magic in here and with a lovely synth sound to boot, what’s not to love in this track? I actually liked the remix of the Black Eyed Peas’ smash single (albeit overplayed) I Gotta Feeling. It somehow made the track bearable yet again after those massive number of plays it received.

Estelle comes up with the best track of the horrid second half in the form of One Love. The pace shifts dramatically and turns the track into something very lovely. The said track saves the horrid second half from total mediocrity. Sound of Letting Go is pure garbage though the synths do a fine job. I Wanna Go Crazy lets one hear Will.i.am act like a total psycho. The album closer If We Ever tries its best to end the album on a high note but the vibe is absolutely loaded with crap. Nice effort though.

One Love ends up as an effort with a spectacular first half and a horrible second half. The second half prevents the album from being totally fantastic. More production time could have been given to the second half. The quality of the second half is downright disappointing. However, it must not be forgotten that the album also has very impressive tracks. Overall, an enjoyable effort albeit the crappy second half.

Best Track: Memories
Other Recommended Tracks: When Love Takes OverSexy BitchI Gotta FeelingOn The Dancefloor, and One Love
Genre: House
Date Released: August 21, 2009
Label: Virgin Records