Showing posts with label pop. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pop. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

video review: 'sunshine kitty' by tove lo

Oh boy, this was a pretty sizable disappointment... but trust me when I say I've got something much worse in the wings - stay tuned!

album review: 'sunshine kitty' by tove lo

At this point, I'm a little mystified why I'm as eager as I am to look up a new Tove Lo album. 

Seriously, there are other projects that would normally be higher on my list - it's not like I don't have catch-up projects from last week and Tove Lo isn't even the biggest story coming out of this week of releases, be it Blink-182 somehow impressing the longtime fans or the Zac Brown Band delivering an outright catastrophe. And yet my thoughts kept coming back to the fact that of the mainstream and mainstream-adjacent pop acts this decade, she's been among the most ambitious, working to structure narrative-driven concept albums that actually can have some lyrical nuance at their best - I'm not about to forget her closer track 'hey you got drugs?' from her last album Blue Lips that somehow wound up as one of my favourite songs of 2017. But then I remember how damn inconsistent her production is, and how there have been tracts of her albums that feel like they're reaching for more insight than they actually deliver, or how thematically much of her first three albums have been retracing the same burned-out arc, or how she dove so deeply into selling sexuality that it almost has reached parody. I mean, credit to her for owning it as much as she has, but when your albums as of late have been titled Lady Wood, Blue Lips, and Sunshine Kitty, the double entendres are getting played out. But regardless, the reviews seem... well, as inconsistent as ever for her, but I was curious, so what did we get from Sunshine Kitty?

Thursday, August 29, 2019

video review: 'lover' by taylor swift

Hmm, I'm a bit surprised this hasn't been received as being more contentious than it is... funny, that.

Anyway, I really think I have to give Frank Turner a full review next, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

album review: 'lover' by taylor swift

I want to stop overanalyzing Taylor Swift.

I mean, in theory it should be easy as hell - she makes mainstream-accessible pop music that shouldn't require or demand such in-depth analysis, it shouldn't be difficult to do so. And yet when I reviewed reputation in 2017, it wound up one of my most lengthy, overwritten pieces that still wound up as inconclusive on the album - and what's frustrating is that upon revisiting reputation, I still feel that way. I still think the flaws are too glaring to ignore - it's too long, it's self-indulgent without feeling truly self-critical, the sequencing is terrible, the bad songs are among the worst in her career - but at the same time there's depth and complexity that can't really be ignored.

And yes, a huge part of it is bigger than the music and can't really be extricated from the artist. Hell, if you want to make one of the most striking examples for never separating the art from the artist, it is Taylor Swift - the emotional power comes not just from the personal details and the relationship to her life, but then how they can translate to the every girl, or at least an increasingly broad representation of what that is. It's one big reason why both she and Drake have translated to a massive audience this decade - the detail and the personal vulnerability that anyone might connect to is what hooked the audience, their flaws and humanity are on display to the point where you wind up as the villain in your own stories where your moral justifications are increasingly flimsy, and the fact that despite all your control, your image becomes so big that it can be anything to anyone means that you're heading for a crisis of self. For Drake it's been the paranoia that has consumed his work since 2015 but especially on Views and Scorpion and for which there hasn't been a proper correction, for Taylor Swift it was the heavy subtext of alcohol abuse and trying to build an emotionally resonant story out of quicksand that was reputation, which is one reason I find that project so fascinating.

But you don't have to steer into the skid, and with the change in labels and slight adjustment in pop sound that came with the new singles - especially with the stark self-awareness that characterized 'The Archer', I had the hope that she had corrected - hell, I had the biggest hope in the longest of times that I might really like a Taylor Swift album, especially with the producers and guest stars behind her. So how about it, what did we get on Lover?

Monday, July 22, 2019

video review: 'singular: act ii' by sabrina carpenter

Ehhh... look, it was a quick one to knock off my list, happy I got it done.

Next up, something I'm actually more interested in dissecting - stay tuned!

Sunday, July 21, 2019

album review: 'singular: act ii' by sabrina carpenter

Alright, round two, shall we?

Now for those of you unawares, this will be my second time covering a Sabrina Carpenter project, as I reviewed Act I of this series last year - and to my mild surprise, got a fair amount of traffic - and backlash - for it. And while some of this might be rooted in me just having heard too much of this style of pop before - not helped by being stuck on Hollywood Records where this sound has been utterly recycled and poorly produced time and time again - there were still blatant parallels to mainstream acts that Carpenter was mimicking, and not particularly well. And like with most vanity projects - which especially if you considered the content of the last project it felt like it was - it was made to serve the fanbase and nobody else, but I had to think she could try a little harder for some originality than this!

But hey, apparently she's still putting out projects with this being part two, and folks kept on requesting it even despite the last review, and it is short enough to make for a quick review while I crunch through meatier projects, so what did we get Singular: Act II?

Monday, July 15, 2019

video review: 'no.6 collaborations project' by ed sheeran

Hmm, a little surprised by how well this is getting received... guess the benefit of low expectations will take something a long way...?

But on the flip side, speaking of expectations... yeah, that's coming tonight, stay tuned!

Sunday, July 14, 2019

album review: 'no.6 collaborations project' by ed sheeran

So I brought this up originally on Billboard BREAKDOWN a month or so ago and I think it's important to state it here to provide some context: sometimes if you're an artist and you finally get the clout, popularity, and influence to create your dream project, it's worthwhile going back to when you first conceived of this dream and ask whether it was a good idea to begin with. I'm not saying this is an easy task - it demands self-awareness, the willingness to acknowledge your roots but also how far you've come, and will likely not be helped by the crowd of enablers you've accumulated thanks to your success - but it's one worth doing.

Now if you're an Ed Sheeran fan at this point you're probably a bit scandalized - he's proven himself time and time again that he can work with other acts, from writing to singing alongside them, why shouldn't he be allowed to curate a massive collaborative venture as a natural expansion from the EP he self-released in 2011? And if me saying that out loud didn't highlight at least some level of ridiculousness to this whole affair, it should come in understand what No.5 Collaborations Project was, an independent fusion of his brand of pop folk with a slew of grime acts that are not common names stateside. And while it becomes abundantly obvious that Ed Sheeran's writing has tightened up considerably since the beginning of the decade... well, it's leaner and darker and surprisingly cohesive, something that I didn't expect at all would be the case for this new album, which spans from Justin Bieber to Eminem, Stormzy to Skrillex, Chris Stapleton to Young Thug and Cardi B! And given that I've had kind of mixed results with the singles he's released thus far... look, I expected this to be a mess, or at the very least nowhere close to his best - when you have too many cooks in the kitchen, that happens. But okay, what did we get from No.6 Collaborations Project?

Friday, June 28, 2019

video review: 'late night feelings' by mark ronson

Well, I'm a little late to the punch with this one, but it was a genuinely solid project that I really liked - enjoy!

Next up... okay, Resonators, Trailing Edge, maybe one more review, and then the midyear - stay tuned!

album review: 'late night feelings' by mark ronson

Am I the only one who feels like it's been years since 'Uptown Funk'? And yes, that song originally debuted in 2014, I get that it's been a while, but the pop landscape that was once open to the shamelessly retro, classicist approach Mark Ronson brought to pop music has mutated so much thanks to the onset of trap and the collapse of so many acts seem like they've left the producer and singer-songwriter in a weird place - it feels so much longer than it's actually been. Hell, if you want evidence of that, look at how it seemed like radio was anemic towards 'Nothing Breaks Like A Heart', a genuinely terrific Miley Cyrus collaboration that was one of the best songs she's made this decade!

So in a way I'm not surprised that it seems like Late Night Feelings doesn't have the buzz that greeted Uptown Special in early 2015, but I still wanted to cover it, if only so I could have an excuse to give 'Nothing Breaks Like A Heart' more attention and exposure. And Ronson still has the sort of clout to pull acts as varied as Alicia Keys, Angel Olsen, and Lykke Li along with Miley. And while I wasn't expecting a smash in the same way as 'Uptown Funk', I did have high hopes in terms of pure craftsmanship, so what did we get from Late Night Feelings?

Sunday, June 9, 2019

video review: 'happiness begins' by jonas brothers

So yeah, this was rough... but the interesting thing is that I'm not seeing a huge backlash to my review, which is kind of fascinating...

Anyway, now onto the bigger matter at hand...

Friday, June 7, 2019

album review: 'happiness begins' by jonas brothers

I've said it before, I'll say it again: I missed the Jonas Brothers.

Not that I wanted them to come back or have some sort of fond nostalgia for the group - I literally had to check to be sure they weren't a part of High School Musical, even though they did come from the same Disney pop factory that gave us Miley and Demi - but that they were a little after my time. Strange that they missed my preteen years where I was an open fan of Hilary Duff and my university years where I was an open fan of Glee, but they were pumping out over-polished, basic pop rock where my tastes were more refined even then - you know, Fall Out Boy, Boys Like Girls, Simple Plan, that kind of thing.

But bad jokes aside, I've always had a bit of distance towards the whole Jonas Brothers thing - 'When You Look Me In The Eyes' was a good power ballad, sure, but the production was always mediocre at best and the band never brought a convincing edge or flair to bear, not helped by Nick Jonas needing a few years to grow into his voice... when he then promptly became an underwhelming solo act. And I honestly expected nothing more to come of the old group - Joe Jonas had gone on to his underwhelming pop-funk group DNCE, the third one - I've been told his name is Kevin - went on a bunch of reality shows, and irrelevance would hit once any of these guys hit their thirties. And then 'Sucker' became a radio behemoth riding on safety and nostalgia and suddenly there's a terrible follow-up single with 'Cool' and a new album waiting in the wings, and I'm stuck with a project that all the buzz was predicting was a multi-genre clusterfuck, not helped by the presence of executive producer Ryan Tedder. And look, Tedder has done great work in the past, but he's fallen off considerably since the 2000s and given that I have no real nostalgia for this group, I wasn't going to treat this with kid gloves - so what did we get from Happiness Begins?

Sunday, June 2, 2019

video review: '2waymirror' by gabbie hanna

So yeah, I found this better than I expected... actually, more or less exactly what I expected, go figure.

Anyway, next up is Denzel Curry, so stay tuned!

album review: '2waymirror' by gabbie hanna

If you're surprised that I'm covering this project, you haven't been paying attention.

Because I've mentioned before that I've watched Gabbie Hanna for some time now, for at least a couple of years, and I actually got into her content well before she started making music at all. Now you might be wondering why on earth I'm watching this - I'm clearly not her target demo in any criteria - but I've always been curious about framing, fostering a relationship with one's audience, and for Gabbie's brand of content to have survived so much, that speaks to her tenacity and work ethic.

That being said, I've been on the fence about her musical ambitions for some time now, mostly because she doesn't seem to cleanly fit into an easy box within the mainstream, and I question how much she should even go in that direction. She certainly has the presence and charisma and look of a pop act, especially given her commitment to dance... but you can also tell her other natural talents don't really fit in that lane. For one, there's her voice, which has a rough, throatier edge that I've always been convinced would be a better fit for rock or punk or emo - and that's not even taking into account her style of writing, which has a level of intricacy and poetry that'd be a natural fit for an act like Jetty Bones or Say Anything or even the old-school emo rap set - I remember seeing her 'Roast Herself' and being reminded of cadences from Sage Francis or Atmosphere, and that's high praise I rarely give! So packaging her into a mainstream-accessible pop package - when mainstream pop music is currently at one of its weakest points - it worried me that she'd play to a sound that was accessible but not the most flattering to her strengths, and given how she has a built-in, diehard audience, she doesn't need to do that. That said, I remember being pleasantly surprised by Emma Blackery last year, so what did I get from Gabbie on 2WayMirror?

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

video review: 'dedicated' by carly rae jepsen

Okay, so this is actually better received than I would expect... huh, interesting...

Anyway, I think it's Tyler coming next, but before that...

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

album review: 'dedicated' by carly rae jepsen

I'll admit to being surprised it took this long to get this album.

And sure, some of this comes of a question of momentum, which for a cult act like Carly Rae Jepsen might not matter - and I'll admit it's strange to refer to her as a cult act when in 2012 'Call Me Maybe' was nearly the biggest song of the year but seems to have mostly vanished from even a more nostalgic conversation. But I remember actually being ahead of the curve when it came to E.MO.TION, where I covered it as a fan who was fond of her earliest stuff and then saw the hipster crowd embrace her in spades, which carried into her short follow-up the next year on Side B. And then... well, the singles kept coming and the hype was there, but the reception felt increasingly lukewarm, and it wasn't like mainstream pop was in the best of places for the sort of crossover she probably deserved earlier. So when I started hearing the mixed reception for this album, I'll admit to being worried, especially with no credits from Josh Ramsay or Devonte Hynes. Still, I'm still a fan and I wanted to believe she could stick the landing, so what did we get from Dedicated?

Thursday, May 9, 2019

video review: 'hurts 2b human' by p!nk

Yeah, this was a disappointment...

But hopefully this new Randy Rogers Band album will hold up? We'll see, stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

album review: 'hurts 2b human' by p!nk

Did anyone care this came out, besides me?

I mean, I'm a bigger P!nk fan than most, and I could make the argument I nearly missed it, just one more project caught up in a tidal wave of releases in which I'm still trying to catch up, and it seems like everyone else already moved on to the new Vampire Weekend! But here's the thing: P!nk moved a lot of units because she does have a diehard fanbase and is one of the few pop acts of her era still making... quality? 

And I frame that as a question because the 2010s have not been kind to one of my favourite mainstream pop acts of this decade, and even if I'm inclined to be more forgiving than most, if we compare what's she's released since The Truth About Love to what came off of Missunderztood or I'm Not Dead or even Funhouse, it's not really in the same ballpark. Now a big part of this is not P!nk's fault - pop devolving into pale trap imitations instead of the aggressive pop rock where her natural timbre worked, it's something that has wreaked havoc on so many pop acts. But I think part of this comes from P!nk just not being as provocative as she used to be - yes, years in the industry will do that to you and her diet riot grrl approach to gender politics in her music was never that transgressive if you're closer to the indie scene, but she was one of the few mainstream acts who got political and in your face about it in the mid-2000s - that's why she stood out. Strip away that muscle and intensity and the songs get a lot more bland and forgettable - a great voice could only redeem so much.

Now granted, I had no idea where Hurts 2B Human was going, mostly because 'Walk Me Home' sounded exactly like the sort of bombastic but kind of hollow P!nk song we've gotten this decade... but also like the material fun. was putting out at the beginning of the decade, more rooted in indie rock tropes that went nowhere and probably deserved a longer shelf life! Now that made sense - one of the cowriters was Nate Ruess - but when I saw the newest list of cowriters that spread across Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons, Khalid, Teddy Geiger, Julia Michaels, Ryan Tedder, Sia, Beck, and Chris Stapleton, it gave me no clue where she would take this. But even if it's just me and the diehard fans who care about this, I still do - so what did we get from Hurts 2B Human?

Monday, April 22, 2019

video review: 'cuz i love you' by lizzo

You know those reviews where you're just certain that you're going to piss off a lot of folks, and certainly the artist should she see it? Yeah...

Anyway, I've got Billboard BREAKDOWN next and then probably this PUP album - stay tuned!

album review: 'cuz i love you' by lizzo

I get the feeling, looking at Lizzo's career arc, that her story could have been a lot different.

And to explain this, you need to go back to her debut project in 2013 Lizzobangers - and if you're familiar at all with her larger discography, this project will surprise you in sounding very little like her major label work. For one it's a lot more hip-hop, produced mostly by Lazerbeak of Doomtree - which makes sense because she had moved from Houston to Minneapolis and you can tell how her sound was influenced by the tropes and genre-blending that came out of that. Which was awesome, I've always been a huge fan of that sound, and while she took steps towards thicker indie R&B atmospherics on her 2015 follow-up, it's a tone and style of hip-hop that I'd love to see get more traction... but that was quick to evaporate by the time she signed to Atlantic, mostly because executives probably saw her huge personality and great singing voice and knew she'd probably have a bunch of crossover appeal. 

So Lazerbeak is gone and replaced by Ricky Reed, Oak, and X Ambassadors - and look, this doesn't have to be a bad thing, but when I listened to her EP Coconut Oil and then saw a tweet from a fellow critic suggesting Lizzo might be falling in the line of Bruno Mars... look, it's an easy and unfortunate comparison to make. But there's truth in it: a great personality who ultimately is more palatable to a larger audience making pastiches of sounds and styles that are not uniquely hers alone, only redeemed by the fact that she's a legitimately great talent behind the microphone - certainly better than when Ricky Reed tried a similar schtick with Meghan Trainor nearly five years ago! But suffice to say my expectations for Cuz I Love You were considerably diminished going in, but this could still be a good album, right?