Music Review: Expand your horizons: International musicians worth sampling

Music+Review%3A+Expand+your+horizons%3A+International+musicians+worth+sampling

S.M. Entertainment

Sarah Armstrong, Staff Writer

Staying stateside this summer break? Check out these artists from around the world and immediately escape to Italian night clubs, Brazilian beaches, and the streets of Seoul, from the comfort of your own headphones.

Italy
At age 48, Roman born Lorenzo Cherubini has evolved into a rare breed of artist who is capable of receiving both massive commercial success and critical acclaim.

Cherubini, more commonly known by his stage name Jovanotti, began his career as an awkwardly rebellious hip hop artist with shallow, relatively empty lyrics. Common themes from his first and second studio albums (released in 1988 and 1989, respectively) include partying, drinking, and expressing his love for his motorcycle.

In 1998, his girlfriend Francesca Valiani gave birth to their daughter Teresa, and Cherubini’s music began to reveal new sentimental depths. The track “Per te” (released 1999) is a raw, sweet serenade dedicated to her. It is laced with synthesized piano and light woodwind notes, and a gentle rattle provides the song’s percussion, almost as if baby Teresa was shaking it herself.

Ever since this watershed event, his last eight albums have all peaked at number one on the Italian charts.

“Lorenzo 2015 CC.” is Cherubini’s latest album, and with a lengthy 30 song tracklist, you are bound to find at least one that you can really jam to. The record never settles on a single genre, floating from indie-pop, to jazzy, nearly spoken-word music, to David Bowie-esque cosmic tunes. Tying the album together is the underlying sense that singer-songwriter Cherubini truly enjoyed himself during the writing and recording processes.

The album opens with “L’Alba” (“Sunrise”), a happily nostalgic tune that carries a message about the beauty of always being able to restart, and how we as humans never stop moving forward. With electronic keyboard, xylophone, and a few verses of cheery rap, the song is reminiscent of OneRepublic’s “Good Life.”

“Sabato” (“Saturday”) seems like a typical dance club anthem at first listen, but the lyrics are actually a commentary on the mindless party culture that has consumed many young Italians. Cherubini sings, “Vorrei che ritornasse presto un altro lunedi” (“I hope Monday comes soon”), over a sultry, pulsing beat, making for an amusing paradox.

Brazil
Jorge & Mateus, a duo from south central Brazil, have been making música sertaneja (country music) together since 2005. Their album “Os anjos cantam” (“The angels sing”) is brimming with festive accordion and both acoustic and electric guitar, and is not quite conventional “country music” by American standards.

Some songs sway towards reggae, while others straddle the pop-rock fence. Instead of blaring from the radio on a farmhouse’s front porch, this country record would serve well as background music in a springtime cafe, or simply a soundtrack for driving along the coastline.

The title track “Os anjos cantam” speaks of a heaven-blessed love at first sight. Even without any knowledge of the Portuguese language, the universal, passionate crooning clearly expresses the song’s romantic vibes. Playful and rhythmic, it has the perfect beat for solo shower samba dancing.

“Coisas de quem ama” (“Things she loves”) slows things down a little, serenely reflecting on the history of a couple’s relationship. A blend of toned-down acoustic guitar and delicate piano that works its way to a triumphant crescendo matches the storyline of a love that grows stronger with each weekend spent at the movie theater.

Warm-hearted, tender, hammock tunes are this duo’s special. Fans of Jason Mraz are guaranteed to enjoy the music of Jorge & Mateus.

South Korea
Precisely choreographed dance routines, extravagant clothing, and over-the-top hairstyles are not all the Korean-Chinese boyband EXO has going for them. As seen in their viral music videos, the ten-member K-pop group has impeccable chemistry and talent, and their performances are nothing short of fascinating.

Since their start in 2012, they have sold more than four million copies of their two studio albums worldwide, and have consistently topped the South Korean charts. Each track is released in both Mandarin, sung by the group’s Chinese subunit Exo-M, and Korean, by their subunit Exo-K.

“Exodus,” released on March 28, 2015, is a youthful, dynamic, R&B/dance/hip hop album that has garnered success in South Korea, China, Japan, and the United States, where it became the first K-pop album in almost a year to crack the Billboard 200.

The opening song, “Call Me Baby,” combines falsetto, digitized harmonies, and polarizing beats to create a catchy dance track, and also contains bits of repeated English phrases like “you’re the one” and “say my name.”

“시선 둘, 시선 하나” (“What If”) and “My Answer” are both soulfully sensual, with intense vocals and piano, much like a John Legend or Justin Timberlake ballad.

This eclectic album is is a delightfully upbeat record that is complementary to the band’s fresh image. If you like what you hear, look up one of Exo’s music videos to see these boys in action.

If you are are interested in delving a little deeper into the world of music, the website www.last.fm/charts lets you look up trending artists and songs in over 50 countries. The Rolling Stone magazine also has various international publications and websites that can be easily accessed with a Google search (e.g., www.rollingstone.es and www.rollingstone.de).