What a delight to see that Paper Mario is back in action, paperizing everything in sight! Our music reviews highlight two very different performers, both chart leaders in their own genres, who sweep away listeners with their unique voices and styles.
Paper Mario: Sticker Star (Nintendo)
The annual Mushroom Kingdom holiday of Sticker Fest is taking place at the festival grounds in Decalburg. But Mario’s old nemesis, the evil Bowser, disrupts the event, scattering the kingdom’s sticker collection far and wide and kidnapping Princess Peach. It’s up to Mario and the spirited royal sticker caretaker, Kersti, to set things right. With Kersti’s help, Mario can paperize any environment, taking three-dimensional objects and flattening them into an ever-folding paper world. Mario’s trusty hammer and stiff boot are his main weapons, but he also uses a variety of stickers to enhance his power. Most battles are enjoyable and follow the classic running, swinging, and jumping associated with Mario games. Mario is such a happy and charming character that players can’t help but laugh alongside this mustached hero. Throughout the game, you collect specific items to turn into stickers, which are needed to solve puzzles and mazes. Some of the best and most rewarding parts of the game are in finding the solutions to move to the next stage. There’s lots of Mario-style fun here that will provide hours of adventure, making you smile over and over again. Rating: E for Everyone. Platform: Nintendo 3DS.—Ryan A., grade 9, Floral Park (NY) Memorial High School
Burning Lights, Chris Tomlin (Sparrow Records)
Music has always been an important part of my life, as is being a person of faith. That’s why it’s really cool to have an opportunity to listen to Christian themes in modern music. Worship leader, musician, and songwriter Chris Tomlin does just that on Burning Lights, his seventh studio album. Tomlin’s trademark songs express Biblical themes combined with personal reflection, and they’re truly meaningful and inspirational to the listener. The appeal of many of the 12 tracks is in Tomlin’s emotional call to his audience. He recognizes the difficulty and challenges we face on a daily basis, and that in tough times, we need to seek comfort from God. He does this by mixing Christian lyrics with electronic beats, strings, and rap vocals in a traditional Brit-rock style. For example, on the opening track, “Awake My Soul,” featuring Lecrae, he recites a passage from the Book of Ezekiel, which adds a whole new dimension to the power of the song. The same goes for “Crown Him,” in which Tomlin reconstructs the timeless hymm “Crown Him with Many Crowns,” with the help of Karl Jobe’s vocals. Other notable tracks include “Whom Shall I Fear,” “Lay Me Down,” and Thank You God for Saving Me.” Although this album is definitely not for everyone, it’s worth taking a listen to.—Latyese M., grade 11, Floral Park (NY) Memorial High School
Contrast, Conor Maynard (Capital)
This 20-year-old YouTube sensation has hit it big and may just be a continuation of the British invasion that began with One Direction and Adele. With his debut album, Contrast, Maynard has already conquered the U.K. pop chart and is now bringing his success to the States. Lucky for him, he has all the ingredients for a recipe for fame—good looks, sex appeal, a great voice, self-esteem, and the backing of powerful people in the music industry. On the track “Pictures,” written by Frank Ocean, Maynard’s voice comes across with such depth and maturity it literally shines. On “Lift Off,” the fast-paced beat and pumped-up pop sound produced by the Neptunes’ Pharrell Williams works perfectly with Maynard’s voice. One of the best tracks is “Better Than You,” where he’s paired up with the feisty Rita Ora. Listeners will definitely feel the great chemistry between these two performers. Other tracks to check out are “Turn Around,” with Ne-Yo, “Animal,” and “Vegas Girl.” It will be interesting to see what comes next from this new heartthrob of the music industry.—Maureen L., grade 12, Floral Park (NY) Memorial High School
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