The debut (well technically, she was the lead singer of Meg & Dia, this is her first solo album) album of Dia Frampton, Red. I will admit, I was a little cautious about buying it in away because I had very high expectations for this album. Now that sounds like a good thing, but most the time when I have high expectations for something, im let down. This is not the case, this album exceeded my already sky high expectations for Ms. Frampton. One thing to note (besides a couple people helping to co-write and co-produce a couple songs) Dia wrote and produced all these songs. By the way, this review ended up fairly positive, I tried to be as critical as I could, but it is very hard to be ciritical to an album of this quality.
Now for how I will do the review, I will be seperating this review for each song into four different scoring catagories. One catagory will be vocals, the next instrumentals, the next is lyricality (how well was the song written), and the last one is originality. After that I will put the overall score for the song, at the end I will put in the mean score of the album for vocals, instrumentals, lyricality, originality, and then find the mean of those to give the album an overall score. I will grade the songs, and album on a 1-100 scale, and then put a letter grade next to the score. Here is an indicator to understand on what each score means.
100, A++: It is at or as close as it can get to perfection.
97-99, A+: It is spectacular, and absolutely amazing. Close to perfection, and was amazing.
94-96 A: It is amazing.
90-93 A-: It is really great, and very well done.
87-89 B+: It is great, and well done.
84-86 B: It is great.
80-84 B-: It is good, but could be better.
77-79 C+: Above average, and shows potential.
74-76 C: It is decent, but needs some improvement.
70-73 C-: Average
67-69 D+: Mediocre
64-66 D: Below average
60-63 D-: It's bad, and needs work.
55-59 F+: It is really bad, and a lot of work.
50-54 F: It is terrible, and needs tons of work.
0-49 F-: It is completely awful, and no amount of work can help it get any better.
Now onto the album!
Song #1 - Don't Kick the Chair ft. Kid Cudi Vocals - Let me get one thing set out first, Dia is NOT a powerhouse singer, her voice is weaker but that is the beauty of it. She DOES have power in her voice however, and this song show it. Her vocals are part of what make her amazing, and these vocals help bring out the more powerful side of her voice. The only weakest vocal part of the song is Kid Cudi, and even then he does great, his rap section doesn't live up to the bar Dia sets in this song, so that is what will weaken the vocal score for this song. Vocal Score: 87, B+
Instrumentals - This song is one of the more 'poppy' and 'radio friendly' songs on the album, and the instrumentals just aren't that great. The majority of it is the usual beats in the background, it fits the song, but the instrumentals are not on part of the vocals. However they are still good, just not up to par with vocals, however I feel like that was intended for this song, since it's a vocal song. Instrumental Score: 82, B-
Lyricality - This part of songs is really where I think Dia shines, on all her songs, aswell with the originality most the time. The lyrics to this song work great with the happy beat and sound of the song, why? The song is about life being horrible to you in short, a fairly dark meaning with a happy beat you could dance to with it. That was the intention of it, and it just works, and completely different to hear about a song with a happy sound that is basically asking if life is crap. And then with the chorus, and Kid Cudi's part it gives an optimistic look it's saying, 'Don't kick the chair, it's gonna get better', and helps give a fairly inspirational feel to it. Great song lyrically. Lyricality Score: 93, A-
Originality - Although parts of the song goes with a average pop styling, its the way she makes the song that makes it original. Combining a darker type lyricality, with a happy/fun sound and you get an interesting song. It isn't Dia Frampton's most original work however, but it is definately original when compared to many other songs you would hear on the radio. The originality also comes in the lyrics though, not to much originality in the beat and vocals alone. Originality Score: 85, B
Overall - A great, radio friendly, and lyrically written song to open up the album. Overall Score: 87, B+
Song #2 - Isabella
Vocals - This song brings back the haunting vocals that I absolutely love about Dia, and this song is one of my favorite in the album. I still get chills up my spine when I listen to the haunting line, "Isabella run away,". Vocally Dia brought this close to perfection on her level, it is pitch perfect, and completely haunting. I couldn't ask for better vocals from Dia. Vocal Score: 98, A+
Instrumentals - Another thing I love about this album, is it brings back the folk-light rock feeling I love from Dia. The instrumentals match Dia's vocals perfectly, no poppy gimicks, just pure genuine instrumentals. They add onto the haunting feeling of the song, and always pick up at the right time. Great job instrumentally. Instrumental Score: 95, A
Lyricality - This song is another proof that Dia Frampton is a lyrical genius. The whole thought of the song is great, and is relatable in many ways to people. In a literal form it's about telling a girl with (possibly abusive) parents to run away, but in a whole general thought, it is an escape song. It is a song about being trapped, imprisoned and something you feel forced to stay into, and saying don't be afraid, and to run away from, or leave the bad area. Or at least that's my interpretation, outstanding lyrically. Lyricality Score: 98, A+
Originality - The way Dia makes this song instantly seperates it from the pop label the album has, and has a completely original form. I wouldn't hear a song similar to his anywhere, the lyrics touch on something I have rarely heard of in a song, and the styling of the vocals also helps with the originality. Originality Score: 97, A+
Overall - One of my favorite songs in the whole album (although I have quite a few favorites in this album), a completely outstanding piece of work. Overall Score: 97, A+
Song #3, The Broken Ones
Vocals - The vocals of this aren't up to par, in my opinion, with Isabella, but they still work greatly. They seem to be a bit of a mix of trying to have some power in it, but trying to keep the haunting part aswell. It works in a way, but it also makes the vocals sound a bit weak. Still great vocals, just vocally weaker compared to many of the songs on the album. Vocal Rating: 86, B
Instrumentals - The instruments are better than the last two songs, are very well done, and help make the song shine. I am going to keep this short and sweet, instrumentals are done great on this song. Instrumental Rating: 97, A+
Lyricality - The lyrics are still well written like all of Dia's songs, although not as lyrically interesting as the other two songs, it does convey a good message and is done in a good manner. The message is fairly obvious and doesn't need to much explaining for it. I love the lyrics, like always. Lyricality Rating: 95, A
Originality - Still original, like most of Dia's work is, just it is one of her less original works, for her, not for artists in general. But yes it is still original, just not up to Dia original par, so that makes me cut from the score a bit. Originality Rating: 84, B
Overall: - Overall, it is a good song, and good enough to be her first single from the album, it just isn't one of the better songs in my opinion on the album. Overall Rating: 91, A-
Song #4, Good Boy
Vocals - This song puts Dia on more of her power sounding vocals again, similar to don't kick the chair. This however, she uses her vocals to try and tell the story of the song, which works perfectly. This is a fairly radio friendly song (besides its meaning), and it has a haunting, creepy, moment in it. But overall it's a happy sounding song with the vocals, and is done very well. Vocal Score: 92, A-
Instrumentals - This goes back to the instrumental type sounding of Don't Kick the Chair, however a tad less poppy, and is done better, and suits the vocals fine. It has it's good pauses, and pick ups. Well done instrumentals. Instrumental Score: 91, A-
Lyricality - Oh what a song lyrically this is, it goes back to a happy sound, and dark meaning sound but takes it to a different level. This song just proves a gain what a lyrical genius Dia is and how relevant they are. Although it has its happy tune, its meanings is probably the opposite of the song, which is about a child molester who moves into a town, and the kid in the town who is the victim doesnt want to tell because he is a 'good boy' and is turned from an 'angel' to a 'little devil'. The molester then dies of old age because the kid felt like he wouldn't be a 'goody boy' if he told. (dont read the spoiler if you think a dark meaning could ruin a song for you). The song addresses something that isn't addressed that much, and Dia does it billiantly. Lyrical masterpiece. Lyricality Rating: 98, A+
Originality - With the compeltely original meaning behind it, and the whole part of the song styled to more tell the story vaguely, and makes you feel like dancing to it the first times you hear it, only to learn it has a pretty dark meaning behind it. Dia shows that she is one of the most original artists out there. Originality Rating: 97, A+
Overall - A very originaly, and well lyrically written piece, that tells a story perfectly, and uses the amazing style of dark meaning with a light-hearted beat, tempo, and styling. Overall Rating: 95, A
Song #5, I Will ft. Blake Shelton
Vocals - Although the genre of the song is country-balladish (the only country song on the album). It is a strong powerhouse song, Blake brings out the power for the vocals, with Dia's voice giving a chilling complementery to his. Dia's opening is absolutely gorgeous for this song. Their voices don't blend perfectly, but the vocals are definately great. Vocal Rating: 96, A
Instrumentals - The instrumentals differ from the rest of the album because of the country sound. They are done greatly, and the opening instrumentals are done perfectly. These instrumentals beat The Broken Ones definately, and one of the better instrumental songs on the album. Instrumental Rating: 97, A+
Lyricality - The lyrics are fairly simple, but they are supposed to. It's a great duet lyrically styled, because it is not a normal, 'in-love' power-ballad duet, because it isn't a love duet, it's a friendship duet. Something that I haven't heard really used in any songs, while it could be taken as a love song, it at it's core isn't, and is very well written, like every song on this album. Lyricality Rating: 96, A
Originality - It is original in some ways, but in other ways it can sound like a typical country ballad. The lyrics are what bring Dia's originality into the song, and it is styled differently from typical country song. It is still bery original. Originality Rating: 94, A
Overall: - A great, and different sounding song, and shows what is great about this album. Every song is unique. Great song, as long as you like country. Overall Rating: 96, A
Song #6, Billy the Kid
Vocals - This is the, what the heck, curveball of the album. The sound vocally, instrumentally, is a complete U-turn from the last song, and takes a completely different alternative rock feel to it. The vocals are great, although it is masked with a Foster the People feel, it doesn't make it bad. I love the sound of the vocals, and although this could get old, it's the only song that does it so it doesn't get old. It also keeps an amazingly haunting sound to it, especially the laugh at the end. Great curveball vocally. Vocal Rating: 97, A+
Instrumentals - This is the best instrumental song on the album, it is a mix of electronic and alternative rock, the instrumentals make the song here. The instrumentals are very similar to Foster the People's instrumental style (who just so happenned to co-produce this song). Great job on the instrumentals. Instrumental Rating: 98, A+
Lyricality - The lyrics are just completely genius for this song, it has a great allusion to Billy the Kid or William Henry Mcarty, Jr. from the west. It is a story about him in a way, and also gives a slight nod to Tom Petty's song 'Billy the Kid' (which isn't the same song, the lyrics are different). Not only does it tell the story, it also creates a meaning from the story which is told from the song. The lyrics are just genius. Lyricality Rating: 99, A+
Originality - The only thing not to original of this song is at times (if the person listening had never heard of Dia Frampton) it could sound like an infusion of Foster the People and Madonna. At times Dia's voice can really shine and not shine though, and it still is original. Originality Rating: 93, A-
Overall - One of the best songs on the album. Overall Rating: 97, A+
Song #7, Daniel
Vocals - After the whole alternative-electronic feel of the last song, this song comes to a complete folk, and singer/songwriter feel that originally made me fall in love with Dia's voice. The song goes back to the quiet, haunting, and amazing tone of her voice. You can tell the emotion in this song through the vocals, even though it's a studio verison. And unlike the usual, where studio versions just dont have the same emotion of a live version, this you can feel the emotion through it. The vocals are outstanding on this song, and it's one of my favorites. Vocal Rating: 99, A+
Instrumentals - Just a folk sounding guitar, the instruments fit it perfectly, and are extremely well done. There just isn't much to say without it sounding like rambling. Instrumental Rating: 97, A+
Lyricality - Although the lyrics are easy to understand the meaning, the lyrics are extremely deep and emotional. Although it may not be 'geniusly written' like the last song, there is tons of meaning within those lyrics. This is lyrically the best song in the album. Lyricality Rating: 100, A++
Originality - The song is something you won't hear often, if ever, it is original at the fact you can feel the emotion through the studio version, which is very rare. Everything is done very originally. Originality Rating: 98, A+
Overall - One of the best songs on the album. Overall Rating: 99, A+
Song #8, Walk Away
Vocals - Her vocals are done great, and similar to Good Boy, the vocals are there to tell the story. Her vocals aren't the strongest in this song, but they do well at the intention of them for the song. Vocal Rating: 89, B+
Instrumentals - The instrumentals are done very well to give a mix of poppish sound with a light rockish sound, and it helps with the anthemic build up of this song. Strong instrumentals. Instrumental Rating: 87, B+
Lyricality - The lyrics yet again are written geniusly by Dia Frampton, and tell a great and dark/deep story of a girl who was given by her dad to his friend, for his 'entertainment'. And she never sook any revenge, and was waiting to be rescued. And this song is the 'pay back' for the girl Lyrically great, like all the songs. Lyricality Rating: 97, A+
Originality -It is yet again another original song by Dia, like pretty much all of her songs are. Originality Rating 92, A-
Overall - A good song, not one of the best of the album, but it is good. Overall Rating: 91, A-
Song #9, Bullseye
Vocals - The song is the most anthemic song on the album, and Dia does a fine job on it. Not the best for her vocals, but it is a great vocal piece, and has great little breaks in it where it will slow down, and then get back into the song. Good job on the vocals. Vocal Rating: 83, B-
Instrumentals - The instrumentals help fit the vocals to it, and are some of the better vocals on the album. Again, good job on the vocals. Instrumental Rating: 97, A+
Lyricality - This is the one time, although the songwriting was good, that I didn't feel like the songwriting lived up to the rest of the album. it is well written, don't get me wrong, just not at Dia's best. 82, B-
Originality - Again, Dia didn't really come out to her best, it still good, just not up to par with the rest of the album. Originality Rating: 84, B
Overall - One of the so-so songs of the albums, not Dia at her best, it's good just not up to some of the other songs. Overall Rating: 87, B+
Song #10, Trapeze
Vocals - The vocals of this song are simply beautiful, and it keeps the tone of Dia's voice that i love so much. The interlude with the oo's always gives me chills when I hear it. Like the song Daniel, you can hear some emotion in this song. The song is haunting, chilling, beautiful, and absolutely amazing vocal wise. The whispers at the ends of the long phrases, build on to it making this song completely stunning vocally. Vocal Rating: 100, A++
Instrumentals - Light instrumentals adding onto the beauty of the song, it's simply that, a simple addition making it that much more beautiful. Instrumental Rating: 98, A+
Lyricality - The lyrics are mesh of words, thoughts, and phrases blended together so perfectly to give the song the roots of its beautiful. It is a bittersweet song, easy to relate to, and not complicated to understand without losing the utter amazing meaning. This is again Dia Frampton's songwriting at its best. Lyricality Rating: 98, A+
Originality - The haunting, beautiful vocals, the light and beauty of the instrumentals, and the mesh of perfectly blended lyrics. It shows off Dia's great original, and creative mind for music. 99, A+
Overall - Probably the best song on the album. 99, A+
Song #11, Homeless
Vocals - This song is extremely catchy, and again Dia kills it on the vocals. She uses her voice to sing probably her happiest song in the album that sounds happy aswell. Her voice is again extremely chilling in this song, and it really brings out a beauty in her voice that hasn't been displayed in the other songs. I especially like the fast speaking at parts, and then slowing it down, it all blends perfectly. Vocal Rating: 98, A+
Instrumentals - The instruments are done great on this song, and in at times the instruments make the song feel Beatle'ish. The trumpet also really helps bring the happy feeling to the song, it also adds to the catchiness. Great instrumentals. Instrumental Rating: 98, A+
Lyricality - The first 'in love' type song of the album, and the only one. Maybe the lyrics are a tad cliche, but they are geniusly written. The words she wrote blend together perfectly, and perfectly display what Dia is about, and it is in my opinion the signature song of Red, with her saying Red quite a few times in the song. I feel like this song should have closed the album, but besides that the lyrics for it are great. Lyricality Rating: 99, A+
Originality - This song hits the spot on her originality, it is her most original, and fun song in the album. One of my favorites, and one of the best ones. It's a great signature song for the album. Originality Rating: 100, A++
Overall - This is probably the second best song in the album, and is a great way to follow Trapeze. Overall Rating: 99, A+
Song #12, Hearts Out to Dry
Vocals - Feels weird for her to close her album with the slowest song in her album, but this song brings back that complete haunting feel to Dia's voice that I absolutely love. Her vocals really make this song sound very much like an older Coldplay song, it is an outstanding preformance vocally though. Vocal Rating: 99, A+
Instrumentals - Forget what I said about Billy the Kid having the best instrumentals, this song does. The instrumentals add fully to this song, complement her voice, and really helps with a bonechilling, haunting close to her album. Instrumental Rating: 100, A++
Lyricality - To be honest I havent dug real deep into the lyrics of this song yet, but her songwriting for it was great, so I won't spend to much time critiqueing this song and rate it. Lyricality Rating: 98, A+
Originality - Very original from the rest of the songs of the album, keeps a light, alternative rock feeling, while sticking to her singer/songwriter self. Great job. Originality Rating: 99, A+
Overall - Great, and unique way to close the album. Overall Rating: 99, A+
Overall Vocal Rating: 94, A
Overall Instrumental Rating: 95, A
Overall Lyricality Rating: 96, A
Overall Originality Rating: 94, A
Overall Rating: 96, A
Im actually surprised my scores made Instrumentals a bit higher than vocals when I always though her vocals were one of the strongest points second to her lyrics. The album is great, and to end the review here are the standout tracks in my opinion. (although compared to most music I hear now days they are all standouts) Remember, for my ratings even a mid-low 80's would be a good score, anything in the 90's in excellent.
Standout Tracks: Isabella, Billy the Kid, Daniel, Trapeze, Homeless, and Hearts Out to Dry
Numbers are a controversial thing, some people are more leniant with the numbers, and some are a lot more strict with their numbers. It all depends on the reviewer.
Not to start this way off on a tangent, but the inflation of ratings and scores is actually becoming a bit of problem in the gaming industry - people seemingly go ape shit when their favourite new games aren't given 9+/10 by reviewers. Realistically speaking, there needs to be more parity because it's gotten to the point where an average game is getting 7.5, and a great immersive game with fun mechanics is getting 9.
So with all that said, I think grading the way you want to be is entirely on you. It's your view, do what you will. I just think it really hurts the impact of your "grading" if an inflated value is given (unless of course this is the favourite album of all time for you, or one of).
Furthermore, you've definitely put a lot of work into this, offering personal and sincere thoughts of the record. However, if I might make a suggestion? Try not to do track by track reviews (and definitely not track-by-track, track composition-by-track composition). I know it's very tempting since a record's track listing makes for an incredibly easy target, but it makes your review read in a haltingly awkward way. In other words, your exploration of the album feels artificially segmented and it feels like your merely telling me what each song has in it, not what the album is like sonically or emotionally as a whole.
Not the greatest review, but at the very least, it's honest and sincere.