Taylor Swift, “reputation” Track-By-Track Album Review

Okay, guys. If I weren’t doing a review of the biggest album of 2017, I think I’d be doing myself an injustice as a music reviewer as well as a pop culture fan. Taylor Swift is back with her first album in about three years, marking her biggest hiatus from music yet. The title seems fitting, as Swift was a hot topic in the media last year for her feuds with Kim Kardashian West, Kanye West and Katy Perry. Swift enlists longtime collaborators, and two of my favorite producers, Max Martin and Shellback, who have given Swift some of her biggest hits to date, such as  “Blank Space” and “I Knew You Were Trouble”. Jack Antonoff, frontman for Bleachers, acts as a new addition to Swift’s collaboration team. Antonoff has an impeccable track record, producing the majority of New Zealand singer Lorde’s 2017 effort, Melodrama. These producers, combined with Swift’s near-perfect songwriting, make for a dark electro-pop album that could definitely be a contender for Album of the Year at the Grammys. So, without further ado, let’s get started.

Track 1, …Ready For It?

Swift comes in hot. The track opens with a dynamic, pulsating bass that immediately hooks the listener. The verses are classic Swift, who rap-sings about a love story from the beginning, warning her love interest to be prepared for the new Taylor. In a way, the  lyrical style echoes Swift’s 2014 effort, 1989, in that she paints an image for herself we as an audience know is just a façade. The pre-chorus is distinctly different from the rest of the song, as Swift’s falsetto glides over a silky synth melody, but the same opening bassline disrupts it, hooking the listener back in. Overall, there’s no surprise the song is the opening track. It does its job, warning the listener of a new and improved Taylor, one that takes absolutely no prisoners. Impressive, addicting, and a definite vocal standout, “…Ready For It?” is still one of my favorites from the album.

8/10

Track 2, End Game (feat. Ed Sheeran & Future)

Wait. Ed Sheeran AND Future? On a Taylor Swift track? Admit it, you were surprised too. The track opens with organ-like synths before one of my favorite hooks on the album. Big reputation, big reputation, you and me we got big reputations, Swift sings before Future begins his verse. Poking fun at the media once more, Taylor acknowledges the portrait the media has painted of her. Of course, in the most Taylor Swift way, she owns it. I admit, Taylor sort of acts as just “the girl who sings the hook”, and on first listen, I was more focused on how Future and Ed Sheeran would mesh than any of what Taylor was saying. However, on a few listens, you realize that the hook will be stuck in your head, definitely making this a contender for being a future single.   An awkward combination of features plus a drowned out Taylor equals… an okay song with an excellent hook.

6.5/10

Track 3, I Did Something Bad

Another song about what? You guessed it, her reputation. Bold, brash, with a stutter hook that makes you say “…wait, what?” at first, the song, in my interpretation, is Swift’s response to those who criticized Swift for defending herself when the whole Kim, Kanye, and Katy drama boiled over. At this point in the album, it is evident Swift has completed her departure from 1989, which oozed bubblegum pop. Reputation, so far, is a full 180, showcasing Taylor 2.0, complete with haunting vocals and vindictive lyrics. The track itself is catchy, but after a few listen-throughs, it screams filler track. As a piece in a body of work, though, it seems like a necessary addition to the album, written about a topic definitely necessary to address. They say I did something bad / then why’s it feel so good? Swift sings, alluding to another portrait the media and general public have painted of her.

7/10

Track 4, Don’t Blame Me

Opening with a backing vocal that echoes “Waiting Game” by Banks, I was immediately intrigued.  A warping synth melody follows, as Swift sings about a lover who has completely spun her out of control. As the chorus comes into full effect, I was sold. Swift does what she does best: impeccable songwriting combined with seamless production from Martin and Shellback. Lyrically, she alludes to the boy-crazy man eater persona described in “Blank Space”, as she begs her audience to not blame her for the crazy actions love can make someone do. I was very surprised as to what occurred in the short bridge: one of my favorite harmonic arrangements I’ve heard this year, followed by ad libs that made me question my thoughts on Swift’s vocal ability. Swift gives her all on the final chorus of the song, showcasing definite vocal growth on her riffs, runs, and falsetto.  Y’all, she delivered with these vocals in the last chorus. I had to question who I was listening to. Definitely worth a listen, a replay, and deserves shine as a single choice. One of my favorites for sure.

9/10

Track 5, Delicate

Someone found out what a vocoder is! Swift takes advantage of this newfound discovery as she sings the first love song on the album. If you haven’t realized, Taylor Swift is very good at writing love songs. She can write about, what feels like, every emotion that comes out of love, from the butterflies upon meeting someone new, to being obsessed with one another, to that same love crashing and burning. In “Delicate”, Swift does not want to overstep her boundaries with this new love interest. She second guesses herself almost the entire song, with the chorus including question after question everyone asks themselves when they meet someone new. Production wise, so far, it is the lightest and the most minimal track on the album. While listening, I started to feel a new emotion towards Swift not felt when listening to other tracks on the album: pity. My reputation’s never been worse so / you must like me for me, Swift sings. On first listen, I think I remember myself actually saying “aw…” out loud. Did the public do her that bad? Should we actually feel bad for her? Who knows. What she did do, though is make miss the old Taylor we knew and once tolerated. Definite standout.

9.5/10

Track 6, Look What You Made Me Do

Released as the lead single, this marked the beginning of the reputation era. On first listen, I had no clue what to expect. Swift draws direct emphasis to lyrical content, as she sings about the enemies who have previously wronged her. She pulls out all the stops, masters the art of analogies and metaphors, and directly addresses those who have wronged her: you guessed it, Kim, Katy and Kanye. In short, Swift implies she had to figuratively kill the old Taylor, develop a thicker skin, become quick-witted, and say goodbye to the old, naive Taylor. Quality wise, we all know Taylor could have done better with this song, along with choosing a better lead single. In my opinion, the choice of releasing this song as a lead was definitely calculated, but necessary for a complete transition into the reputation era. Not a song I’d particularly ever want to listen to other than when I listen to this album in full.

5/10

Track 7, So It Goes…

At the halfway point of the album comes “So It Goes…”. The title has been previously referenced in a couple of Swift’s previous songs (see Style, You Are In Love). Swift showcases her sexuality in this song, with lyrics like scratches down your back now, and I’m not a bad girl but I’ll do bad things with you. This comes as a complete surprise from Swift, who has never directly referenced sex in any of her previous works. When listening to the album thoroughly, the track kind of gets lost, and could be considered a boring filler. However, Swift offers some of her best lyrics on the album yet, cinematically expressing what a sexual experience with her lover would be like. Personally, I don’t think this track was necessary for the album, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s a filler. To me, it would find a better place on 1989. Definitely worth a listen for its lyrical content alone.

7/10

Track 8, Gorgeous

After the previous track, I was expecting something big and bold to bring this album back to life. With “Gorgeous”, Swift does the opposite. Another love song, Swift sings about meeting someone for the first time who you can’t help but be attracted to. Lyrically, she talks about the mixed signals she gives her love interest externally, but internally, she’s desperate for him to notice her. Although production by Martin and Shellback is noteworthy, the lyrics lack any type of depth. However, it is insanely catchy in that I find myself singing the hook more often than not… it’s the song’s saving grace. Don’t get me wrong, the song isn’t terrible, but it’s not necessarily good. So far, it’s the weakest song on the album.

5/10

Track 9, Getaway Car

You know a Jack Antonoff song when you hear one. Antonoff has a production style unlike many other producers. Hard to describe, but definitely a signature staple. As a person who has previously given Bleachers (Antonoff’s band) a chance, it’s not my favorite production style, as I try and avoid his songs any chance I get. After the first listen, “Getaway Car” was my least favorite track on the album solely for its production. If Antonoff sang the song, I wouldn’t be surprised; it sounds like a perfect fit on Bleachers’ 2014 effort, Strange Desire. However, when focused on the lyrics, it presents Swift’s impeccable songwriting talent. She picturesquely explains the story of her leaving her old lover, who has bored her to the point of wanting someone to save her and escape with in a, wait for it, getaway car.  While Taylor is on this great escape, she warns her new lover to not get too comfortable. She will be the first to leave, she will turn against her new lover, and he can’t blame her. Think about the place where you first met meIn a getaway car, she sings. Personally, I’m obsessed with the lyrical content in this song and find something new to love about it on every listen. Taylor can write a damn song, and you can’t ignore that.

8.5/10

Track 10, King of My Heart

In the initial portion of this track, Swift seems to be done with love. She has come to terms with the fact that she is, well, better off by herself. However, when she meets her newest love interest, he proves himself to be, as the title suggests, the king of her heart. Lyrically, Swift’s at her strongest, backed by an explosive beat break that spurts out lyrics from the song’s chorus. In regard to production, Swift’s voice, like “Delicate”, is heavily influenced by a vocoder, which helps keep the track interesting. Without it, I think the track would be uneventful. Swift’s use of the vocoder, along with the very strong lyrical content make this song one of the most noteworthy songs on the album. I’ll be very surprised if it doesn’t end up being a single choice in this album cycle.

8/10

Track 11, Dancing With Our Hands Tied

Hands down, my favorite track on the album. The song begins with an infectious and quick percussion pattern and haunting melody, production very similar to Swift’s 2012 single, “I Knew You Were Trouble.” Lyrically, in my opinion, this is the most complicated song to grasp on the album. I often find myself on long tangents with this song, asking myself things such as, “Well, what did she mean by this? Maybe it meant this? …But what about that?” That, to me, is songwriting at its best. Songwriting that keeps you on your toes, makes you second guess every word the artist is singing.  It’s Taylor’s biggest strength. To me, this song hints at the relationship Swift had with producer and artist Calvin Harris, a relationship that went very public and very wrong very quickly. From what I understand, the lovers went through the relationship with the underlying but omnipresent feeling that neither of them could handle it, but there was nothing either of them could do about it, hence their hands being tied. The bridge is definitely the most noteworthy portion of the song, and arguably the album, in which Swift sings I’d kiss you as the lights went out / Swaying as the room burned down / I’d hold you as the water rushes in / Just so I could dance with you again. Upon listening, my jaw dropped: there’s something irrevocably haunting about this song that left me pining for more. I wanted more details, a part two or a finale. You’ve got to listen to this track.

10/10

Track 12, Dress

Another Antonoff track and love song, Swift shows off her breathy falsetto in the chorus, cheekily singing lines like only bought this dress so you can take it off. But that, readers, is just one of the many lines I could cite from the song. Honestly, you either love this song or hate this song. It’s almost pure pop perfection, but like most of her songs, Swift offers such lyrical depth that it makes you want to listen over and over. Honestly, it isn’t one of my favorites from the album. However, just because I’m not particularly crazy over this song does not mean I’m going to deny how good it is. The charm, though, is its minimalistic approach, with a sparkly background melody that repeats itself throughout the song. Upon first listen, it reminded me of sister band HAIM’s signature sound. Lyrically, Swift sings about the sexual tension between her and a lover, a similar topic to track seven, “So It Goes…”. At this point in the album, Swift has seemed to do away with the topic of her reputation, owing it all to the mystery man she repeatedly sings about, most likely Joe Alwyn, Swift’s current boyfriend. I’ll admit, it’s nice to hear Swift’s sweet side at this point. Tracks like “Dress”, “So It Goes…” and “Delicate” are as good as they are because they show a side of Taylor definitely reminiscent of who she was in the past.  Definitely an album highlight and worth a listen.

8.5/10

Track 13, This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

I spoke too soon. Another track about her reputation. Nearing the end of the album, I thought maybe she completely did away with the vindictive attitude she had toward those with whom she had problems with and finally find closure. However, readers, that’s just not the case with this track. Lyrically, Swift sings over her life seemingly going very smoothly, but someone subsequently comes into Swift’s life and complicates it, and it’s up to her to make everything okay again. The second verse is the most noteworthy moment of the song, in which she could’ve just called Kanye West out by name. Swift goes as far as to stating what the dos and dont’s are in being a good friend, with the final, and very specific rule being that friends aren’t supposed to get you on the phone and mind twist you. The track almost completely parallels “Look What You Made Me Do” in lyrical content, the difference in the two being that the melody in “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” is weirdly happy and very bubblegum. The track is very reminiscent of 1989, however the song is includes a low synth that makes the song fitting for a place on reputation. It’s kind of cringy, and I felt a small feeling of secondhand embarrassment for her that she’d make a song this childish. Oh, and the cackle. The cackle has got to go.

5/10

Track 14, Call It What You Want

A dreamy nighttime song, “Call It What You Want” is the closure from Swift we were all waiting for. It’s Swift accepting what has happened to her, explaining her reasoning for stepping out of the spotlight for months, and moving past things with the man she loves. Listening to this track, I feel a sense of bitterness for many reasons, one being that Taylor had the ability to make an album that revolved around closure and moving on. The fact that she chose to spend an entire era revolving around the snakelike persona angers me. She chose to write songs like “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”, that tell listeners how bitter and vengeful she can be, when fans could’ve had an entire album full of “Call It What You Want”. Beside that point, “Call It What You Want” is a definite album high. Another Antonoff produced song, it is a mid-tempo love song that features Swift’s silky lower register. This song is a definite yes from me, and a great song to have as a sense of closure.

9/10

Track 15, New Year’s Day

Closing reputation comes “New Year’s Day”, a piano ballad that once again exemplifies Swift’s ability to make a song cinematic. Upon listening, I find myself thinking of the descriptive scenes Swift sings about in this song. Lyrically, the song is about making the best of the memories that happen, whether those memories are good or bad. Hold on to the memories / They will hold onto you, Swift sings repeatedly throughout the song. Production wise, the melody Swift and Antonoff chose to use for the verses in this song make it one of the most gripping songs on the album. It is clear, at this point, Taylor has found contentment with her reputation (what a relief).  This is Taylor at her strongest. Usually, her strongest songs are her ballads (see All Too Well, Dear John, Last Kiss). Swift  chose the perfect song to end the album with because it offers a piece of who the old Taylor was, along with a sense of who the new Taylor is. She’s officially moved on, found her happiness, and even someone to love. I’m happy for her.

8/10

reputation, overall

Taylor Swift’s reputation is an pop culture event that you’ll find immense difficulty getting away from. A complete departure from 1989, the album is dark, led by beat drops and an emphasis on vocoder and synths not explored by Swift in her previous works. Reputation shows a side to Swift no listener has ever heard before, whether you like it or not. She explores the topic of sexuality, offering a cinematic approach to sexual experiences. Of course, she explores the topic of reputation, and how the way others perceive someone can either make or break them. However, Swift finds that while being one of the most famous people world, your reputation does not define who you are. While this should’ve been obvious from the start, the road Swift took to get to this realization is unlike that of many superstars before. Sonically, the good songs on this album are really good, and the bad songs on this album are really bad.  I was informed that the album is chronologically ordered: the first track is where Swift was emotionally at the time of the Kim and Kanye drama, and the last track is where she is now. Taking that thought into consideration, I’m happy that Swift has found satisfaction in who she is and who others think she is. It makes for quality music from an outstanding songwriter. Reputation is definitely worth a listen and very open to interpretation. Her best work? No, Red already has that slot. Where will she go next? Who knows.

9/10

Sorry for any typos!

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Ariana Grande, “No Tears Left to Cry” Song Review

After a long two years since 2016’s Dangerous Woman, Ariana Grande is *finally* back with “No Tears Left to Cry” the lead single for her fourth album due later this year. Since her last LP, much has transpired in Grande’s life. On May 22, 2017, a terror attack that resulted in the deaths of twenty-two of Grande’s fans took place after the singer’s Dangerous Woman World Tour in Manchester, United Kingdom. Following the horrific attack, Grande chose not to retreat and hide, but instead to take action: she put together One Love Manchester, a benefit concert that aided the families of victims of the bombing. With help from huge names like Miley Cyrus, Niall Horan, Coldplay, and Katy Perry just to name a few, the benefit concert raised an estimated £17 million.

So, where would she go from here? Where would this life-changing event take her artistically? Grande answers both of these questions with “No Tears”, a song that includes lyrical content alluding to the Manchester bombing. Prior to the song’s release, Grande promoted the song by ending her social media hiatus, revealing both the cover art, release date, and a snippet of the song on Instagram. In the snippet, we hear what we (or at least I) thought to be the intro to the song. It featured only vocals from Grande, harmonizing a single measure as seamlessly as a polished church choir would. To be honest, I expected a somber ballad about what happened during the attack: her feelings, her condolences, etc. But upon the song’s release, I admit… it wasn’t what I was expecting. On first listen I really was not vibing with it.

My advice for this song is to watch the music video on first listen.It completes the song. There’s a clear sense of Grande’s intentions and vision for the song. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Ariana Grande. But at the same time, I’m no kiss ass. My main problem with the song is that I feel as if it feels incomplete on its own; it lacks the substance and structure necessary to be a huge hit for her. Also, I noticed that it doesn’t sound or feel like the song Grande teased us with. It’s almost like the polar opposite. And that post-chorus… the “we turning up” part I found completely unnecessary. I don’t necessarily hate it, but I don’t necessarily like it either.

All of my subjective opinions aside, I applaud Ariana Grande for having the courage to keep going after the horrific events in Manchester. This song not only shows her artistic growth, but it shows her maturation as a young woman.  For her, it’s time to move on from the trauma; she’s been reminded of the events for too long. It’s a new day for her, and she wants to let her fans know that she’s okay through it all. I’ve heard nothing but great things about her fourth album. I’m very excited for it. And, who knows. Maybe I’ll love the song sooner or later.

6.5/10

Sorry for any typos!

Cardi B, “Invasion of Privacy” Track-By-Track Album Review

Before we get into this, I want y’all to know reviewing/commenting rap/hip-hop is not my biggest strength. Pop music is what I enjoy, it’s what I plan on centering my career around, and I know good pop music when I hear it. All of this aside, I had to say SOMETHING about this release, you guys. Cardi’s dominating lately, and I feel as if this is such a good time to get out of my comfort zone with reviewing. If you don’t know who Cardi B is, what the hell have you been doing the past year? Everyone knows Cardi as a stripper-turned-rapper by the hands of social media. Her hilarious rants and famous staple “a hoe never gets cold” was everywhere on Instagram and Twitter. After the hype of her catchphrase, Cardi chose to make the wise decision to capitalize on the attention was receiving. She released a couple of mixtapes that included bops like “Foreva” and “Lick” featuring Migos’ Offset. It wasn’t until the release of 2017’s smash hit “Bodak Yellow” that the public began to take Cardi seriously as an artist. Cardi broke records with “Bodak”, all while lending some bars to G-Eazy’s “No Limit” and Migos’ “MotorSport”. If my memory serves me right, with these three releases, Cardi B became the first artist to go top ten with her first three Billboard entries since Ashanti in the early 2000s. Obviously, it’s not a case of a one-hit wonder. But can she put together a cohesive body of work? Let’s find out.

Track 1, Get Up 10

Like most rap openers that I’ve listened to, Cardi’s only intention with this track is to first and foremost prove that she can rap. Only complimented by a distant siren and piano, Cardi gives some insight into her upbringing and how she transformed  from a simple stripper in the Bronx to becoming one of rap’s biggest up-and-comers. With Cardi B, what you see is what you get. She doesn’t sugarcoat how she feels and will share her opinion with her millions of followers whether warranted or not. This track follows that same “Cardi mentality” in being unapologetically bold and confident. She’s worked hard for this moment, and through every time she’s knocked down, she’s going to get up and go harder. On first listen, I noticed there wasn’t a hook; it was only Cardi going hard. This is her proving not only to herself, but to her listeners that she’s in this for the long run. Not a song you’d find on many playlists, but it definitely does its job as an opener.

7/10

Track 2, Drip (feat. Migos)

This track was released a little bit before Invasion of Privacy‘s release, so I’d heard it before. I definitely knew what to expect from a Cardi/Migos collab: a lot of distant ad libs, a catchy hook, and a minimal trap beat. Lately, it seems as if everything Migos touches turns to gold. Since 2017’s “Bad and Boujee”, they’ve been rap’s golden boys. Given Migos’ Offset is engaged to Cardi, I wasn’t surprised they’d be a feature on her debut. Lyrically, it’s just about showing off. Not much substance to it, but if it came on at the club, you’d most likely find me going hard to it. It’s a good followup to “Get Up 10”, and it sets the tone for the album. My problem with the song, though, is that it lowkey sounds like Migos feat. Cardi, rather than Cardi feat. Migos. It’s definitely just due to Migos outnumbering Cardi, but still… she gets drowned out. Not a favorite, but it’s a fun track.

5/10

Track 3, Bickenhead

“Bitch you pressed / You can flex / Get some money ho / Tell me why you stressed” Cardi B rap-sings in the hook of “Bickenhead”, which is all about just getting some money! What else is there to rap about, right? Just gonna say it right now, this song goes. I’ve been seeing people call it the next “Bodak” on my Twitter timeline, and even Cardi herself has seen the response to it. Her delivery in the song is probably the most noteworthy, with Cardi rap-singing in the hook and switching flows effortlessly in the verses. The song features a sample of vocals from DJ Jimi’s 1992 song, “Bitches (Reply)”, as well as a sample of Project Pat’s “Chickenhead”, which influenced the song’s title. Y’all, I hope this song gets big. It’s so good. Three tracks in and this album is way better than I expected. I’m pleasantly surprised.

9/10

Track 4, Bodak Yellow

I have a hard time writing about lead singles. It’s something everyone’s heard before, everyone knows the lyrics to, and something that (mostly) everyone loves. “Bodak” was a sleeper hit. I remember my older sister told me about it before I had even heard about it. Few weeks later and I forced myself to memorize the lyrics… just for future reference. It’s liberating. Anthemic. The song samples rapper and rapist Kodak Black’s single “No Flockin” and quickly overshadowed it so much that Kodak had to remix “Bodak” to remind people that the song was inspired by him.  It’s easily Cardi’s staple song, and I was rooting hard for this song to go #1, and I’m so glad that it did. She deserved it. Like “Get Up 10”, it describes Cardi’s hustle and her come up from a stripper to rapper. And if this song comes on if you’re in any of the New York boroughs, you’re in for a treat. It’s a crazy experience.

7/10

Track 5, Be Careful

On first listen, this song was not doing it for me. It’s different from what we typically expect from Cardi, where she experiments with more of a pop sound and sings the chorus and hook. I, for one, am such a fan of Cardi’s vocals in the chorus. She’s not a singer by any means, but the vocal delivery has some ominous and haunting qualities that I don’t think someone who isn’t Cardi could’ve emulated. They didn’t go through what she did. Being cheated on and the world knowing about it in minutes? Be careful indeed, Offset. This aside, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the next single after “Bartier Cardi” off of the radio appeal alone. As previously mentioned, and if you’re caught up with popular culture at all, you’d remember that Migos’ Offset cheated on Cardi a few months back: and this is Cardi explaining (and venting) what exactly happened… and she doesn’t hold back. Posting a sidechick’s nudes, double standards, and warnings are all included in the track, which makes for an interesting insight on Offset and Cardi’s relationship.I’ve found that at least with people I’ve talked to, you either love this song or hate this song. But if you hated it, like I did, I assure you: it’s a grower.

7.5/10

Track 6, Best Life (feat. Chance the Rapper)

I try to keep these reviews as non-biased as I can, but I also am no kiss ass. I’m probably the only person who isn’t a fan of Chance the Rapper. He just doesn’t do it for me, but I completely commend him for what he’s done for the music industry. He’s a gamechanger, no doubt, but just not my favorite rapper. My tastes aside, this track is pretty self-explanatory. This fame has Cardi living her best life: taking photos with Beyoncè, walking red carpets, and above all, staying true to herself. It has Cardi  However, it also has Cardi addressing the controversies that followed in her rise to fame, especially her problematic past of not being completely accepting of the LGBTQ community. What I appreciate though, is how she addresses the problem head-on on this track. Again, the song follows the footsteps of “Bodak” and “Get Up 10” in the lyrical content, but production wise, it has an easy-going LA spin on it. The problem I have with the song, though, is that it sometimes feels like the song is as much Chance’s as it is Cardi’s. Of course, these star-studded collaborations are so beneficial to the album as well as adds to Cardi’s clout, but what she needs to make sure of is that she doesn’t get overshadowed by these stars. The only song besides “Drip” that I haven’t loved so far.

6/10

Track 7, I Like It (Cardi B, Bad Bunny & J Balvin)

In the first seven seconds of the song, I had no idea what to expect. But when that beat dropped? I knew what I was in for. I love when artists stay true to their roots, and I knew Cardi was Afro-Dominican, so I was wondering if she would incorporate any influences on her album. It heavily samples Pete Rodriguez’s 1967 song “I Like It Like That”, which follows through the entire song. It’s the crowd favorite, as it went Top 10 on iTunes not even a day from its release (!!). Lyrically, it’s literally Cardi explaining what she likes now that she has all of this newfound fame (money, diamonds, deals). The track features supporting vocals from Colombian singer J Balvin and Puerto Rican singer Bad Bunny. Their verses are in Spanish, so I obviously can’t translate or discern if their verses are good or not, but they definitely contribute to the song. Cardi couldn’t handle this song by herself. It’s a banger. Song of the summer potential.

8.5/10

Track 8, Ring (feat. Kehlani)

So, when Cardi revealed the tracklist of Invasion of Privacy, I was equally surprised and disappointed that there were no features, but upon release we were obviously lied to. Now, I had no idea what I Cardi/Kehlani track would ever sound like. I’m kind of thankful that it sounds more like a Kehlani track than anything because her vocals fit like a glove on this track. On the album’s first listen through, this song was my favorite. I had to replay it because I believed it was too short (and I still do). It’s very dependent on synths and gives off an LA vibe, but Cardi for sure pulls it off. As for the song’s content, it’s obviously hinting at Cardi and Offset’s relationship in the height of Offset’s cheating scandal: “The ring on my phone, ring on my finger / You actin’ like you ain’t tryna do either”. Definitely a topic a lot of us can relate to, and I’m glad Cardi chose to include this personal side on her album. It makes it personal. It makes the audience care.

9/10

Track 9, Money Bag

NEEDS to be the next single. She can’t just drop this song and not do anything with it. It’s a song I’d listen to in the car, working out, at the club, walking down the street… anywhere. This song is probably the hardest on the album for me. It’s everything I expected from Cardi, and it’s the reason why I love her. While her delivery is not to be ignored, what hooked me in was the song’s production; it has a looping warped synth melody that is so complementary to Cardi’s delivery. And that hook? That’s a hook. I could go on and on about this song, but I’ll keep it short and sweet before I start to ramble. Get into this.

10/10

Track 10, Bartier Cardi (feat. 21 Savage)

Following “Bodak Yellow” is comparable to following Elvis. How was Cardi going to top her signature song? When “Bartier Cardi” was released, it proved Cardi was waaaay more than a one-hit wonder. Released as the album’s official second single, “Bartier Cardi” features guest vocals from rapper 21 Savage. Personally, I love 21’s verse and ad libs, and honestly think the song would be lackluster without his contribution. The most notable part of the song has got to be the chorus, in which she uses her catchy stage name to her advantage, comparing it to fine jeweler, Cartier. Upon first listen, the chorus definitely grabbed my attention so much that I didn’t care that I had no clue what the hell she was saying in the second verse. I’ll admit, her heavy accent plays a huge role in her delivery and either is helpful or hurtful. As for this song, it’s kind of a mixture of both (?). Regardless, this song goes in. It’s kind of (in my opinion) the unsung hero of the album. It’s catchy, the production is seamless, and it’s unlike anything we’ve heard before. And if you haven’t seen that video, go watch it. Like yesterday.

9/10

Track 11, She Bad (Cardi B & YG)

With supporting vocals from Compton’s YG, “She Bad” is another opportunity for Cardi to show she has bars. And she does her job well. She raps about a lot of topics, including her dream threesome with singer Rihanna and model Chrissy Teigen, how her old man blew his chances, and her fellatio skills. Classic Cardi. With YG on the hook singing “She bad” repeatedly, it almost seems like he’s responding to Cardi’s verses. I’m growing to love his vocal delivery on the hook as well; he offers sultry vocals that I’ve never heard from YG before although I’m pretty sure I’ve only heard one or two songs from him. But his contribution to the track is well-received by me. Definitely another LA inspired track, being that DJ Mustard acts as a producer, but I’m not mad. Cardi rides the beat with ease, but the track is only something I’d play again when I’m really feeling myself.

6.5/10

Track 12, Thru Your Phone

This track is hands down my favorite track on the album. It’s another track that tells the story of Offset’s infidelity in the verses… and Cardi’s not holding back. It’s as if we have a lens into her mind, and her mind is on some crazy shit. She wonders if she should post Offset’s side chick’s nudes, vandalize his property, or even stabbing him (?!?).  And this is only her holding back. As hard as she goes in the verses, you would expect her (or a feature) to go equally as hard in the chorus. But as the chorus begins, we hear a female’s breathy falsetto that vocally echoes Miley Cyrus-esque vocals in her 2013 hit, “Wrecking Ball”. On first listen, I immediately felt the need to look who the vocals were from. But with one simple Google search, I found the vocals belong to Cardi herself. Can we say versatility? And honestly, the vocals aren’t bad. They show a vulnerable side to Cardi that most girls and gays (lol) can empathize with.

10/10

Track 13, I Do (feat. SZA)

Cardi seriously pulled through with all of these features. At this point, it isn’t even fair. As the album’s closer with guest vocals from SZA, I expected nothing but the best from these two, and I wasn’t disappointed. SZA’s rap-singing is a nice surprise and a good break from what was on 2017’s Ctrl. The song itself acts as a girl-power anthem, with SZA and Cardi basically saying they’re going to do whatever they want, when they want to, and how they want to. Cardi rides the beat like she owns it and it’s almost like she’s come full circle from the album’s opener, “Get Up 10”. In the opener, it’s as if Cardi had to prove to her haters, fans, and herself that she could do this. However, by “I Do”, it seems like she’s at least convinced herself, and I don’t know about y’all, but she’s convinced me.

7/10

Invasion of Privacy, overall

Debut albums are such a challenge to review. For these artists, they have to prove themselves as artists, as well as speak their truths in about twelve tracks or less. For female rappers, they face new obstacles: the stigmas that come with being a female rapper, competing with other female rappers, proving yourself to male rappers, and staying true to yourself. With Cardi B, what you see is what you get. I see a gifted lyricist who had humble beginnings who has worked her ass off to be recognized. The general public loves Cardi because she’s relatable, hilarious, and unapologetic. But now, we have a new reason to love her. She’s an artist. Take it from someone who’s seen Cardi grow since her Vine days: she’s here to stay, and there’s nowhere else for her to go but up.

9/10

Sorry for any typos!

 

The Weeknd, “My Dear Melancholy,” Track-By-Track Album Review

Q1, you were so lame. I swear, after Camila’s release it’s as if every pop artist went into hibernation. Longest hiatus yet, but after the PLETHORA of new releases in early April, there’s plenty of new music to review. Quick intro, but I’m so excited to be writing again. Let’s get into it.

After 2016’s Starboy, many were curious over the next route pop/R&B phenom The Weeknd would go down. With newest his mini-album(?)/EP(?) My Dear Melancholy,  he chose to return to his roots… and it paid off immensely. Early fans of Toronto native Abel Tesfaye were hooked by his early mixtapes, now compiled on 2012’s Trilogy. Through this release, Tesfaye’s reputation depended on playing the role of the anti-pop star. Some five years later, The Weeknd is one of the biggest superstars in the world. With a 2 #1 albums, 3 #1 singles, and a just-wrapped arena tour, he could be at the peak of his career. Choosing not to continue the typical path of a pop star, he takes two steps back and returns to what he knows: ominous falsettos over dark R&B production. It’s authentic. It’s more him than Starboy ever could be.

Track 1, Call Out My Name

A crowd favorite, the track starts with an ominous piano melody. As Abel’s vocals begin with We found each other / I helped you out of a broken place / one name immediately came to my mind, y’all: Selena Gomez. Now if you know me, you know I’m the biggest Selena Gomez stan you’ll ever meet. We all know Abel and Selena dated for about 10 months, and it seems like the relationship went south fast. This song proves it. Abel goes on to sing about how through every bump in the relationship, he stood by his love and continued to show her off proudly. By the chorus, Abel’s not letting up. Hard hitting percussion begins as he pleads with whoever he may be singing about (wink wink) to call for him whenever she needs him. The most telling line, though, comes in the second verse where Abel sings “I almost cut a piece of myself for your life / Guess I was just another pit stop / Till you made up your mind / You just wasted my time”. If you’re caught up with pop culture at all, you would know that Selena Gomez is recovering from kidney surgery due to an ongoing battle with lupus. Seems as if Abel contemplated giving his kidney to Selena, but as the relationship began to come to an end, he no longer had a reason to give anything up. The song is definitely worth a few listens, and with every listen, it seems as if I caught onto something new.

8/10

Track 2, Try Me

By the second track, it’s clear Abel’s heartbroken and is only looking for love to give to a girl who’ll only do him right. Sonically, the song’s dependent on a warping synth that follows throughout the entire song. Abel’s light falsetto follows in the verses, and it’s quite clear that the song’s not about former flame Selena Gomez. Instead, Abel wants this girl to step away from her current man (if she has one) and give Abel a chance. This song would have fit like a glove on Trilogy. Only two songs in and Abel shows his versatility in being able to fit the mold of a bonafide pop star, while also knowing when to step away from that mold and focus on his strengths as an R&B singer. The song is pretty one-dimensional and self-explanatory. Not much to it, but it does the job.

6/10

Track 3, Wasted Times

Bella Hadid, another former flame of Abel’s, seems to be the focal point of this track. Don’t count Selena out though, because he refers to her as, you guessed it, a wasted time. She wasn’t even half of you / Abel coos over the minimalistic melody. To put it simply, this track is Abel asking Hadid how she’s doing, what she’s doing, and who she’s romantically involved with currently. He’s very confident, though, and asserts that he’s the better fit than whoever Hadid’s involved with. He pulls out all the stops on referencing Hadid, even going as far as to call out her past as an equestrian: You were an equestrian so ride it like a champion / Subtle? Nah. Gets the job done? Definitely. Vocally, the song’s probably my favorite on the album. Abel switches from small belts and runs in the chorus to rap-singing in the second verse, most notably on the equestrian line. While the track keeps the somber theme of the record intact, it’s catchy. To me, I see a glimmer of radio appeal. He needs to cool it with trashing my girl Selena though.

9/10

Track 4, I Was Never There (feat. Gesaffalstein)

Featuring production from French producer Gesaffalstein, “I Was Never There” seems to have many layers to it. What makes a grown man wanna cry? / What makes him wanna take his life? / Abel sings in the first line. If you know of The Weeknd, you know his image and his past is one filled with a tendency for drugs and disassociating with reality whenever he’s feeling down. This song alludes to this past, along with his relationship to Selena Gomez. In the bridge, he reassesses his definition of love, and questions as to why Gomez would go back to the toxic relationship he helped her get out of. To help cope with the hurt he felt, Abel chooses to self-medicate with drugs until he doesn’t feel emotion anymore. Again, there’s layers to this song.  Some of these layers aren’t as clear as they could be, but this only adds to the mystery of who The Weeknd truly is, how he processes feelings, and how he copes with it. To be completely honest, this song wasn’t one of my favorites. Initially, I thought that it screamed “filler track”, but I realize that with this track, there’s so much more to it. It’s worth a lot of listens.

8/10

Track 5, Hurt You (feat. Gesaffalstein)

Another track with help from Gesaffalstein, this track sees Abel wanting to rekindle with an old flame, but he tells this old flame to not get it twisted. From past experience, he knows what love is and he hates it. He only wants this old flame for one night, and he doesn’t, of course, want to hurt her. It seems as if Abel is trying to convince this girl into being with him by bringing up their past, but he stresses the fact that yes, this is only for sex, no, he doesn’t want to be with her, and finally, no, he doesn’t want to put her in anymore pain. A recurring theme in this record is the sense of confidence Abel possesses that I, at least, wasn’t used to. This sense of confidence can come off as brash or condescending, but it adds to his style of bravado. It’s impressive, and it works for him. Unfortunately, this is probably the only track on the record that hasn’t stuck with me. He could’ve done without it and had a cohesive five-track body of work.

6/10

Track 6, Privilege

The album closer, the song seems to be another track about Selena Gomez. Abel has come to terms with the relationship’s demise, and he does not want to end on bad terms. Instead, he wants Gomez to think about what Abel did for her during their relationship. He was there for her when she was in recovery. He was there for her when she was still hurting from her last relationship. He knows she’ll be fine eventually, so his focus diverts from her, and reverts back to himself: he did all he could do for her. As for Abel, he’ll stick to his old habits: fucking the pain away, drinking the pain away, and taking pills to take his sorrows away. This track’s probably the unsung hero of the album. As the closer, it does its job of acting as a place of resolution. Sure, he’s not dealing with his heartbreak in the healthiest of ways, but as a listener, it seems as if Abel is content. He’ll be okay soon. I just wish the song was a little bit longer.

9/10

My Dear Melancholy, overall

My Dear Melancholy, was a short and bittersweet outlook into Abel’s current state. He’s been through a lot with Bella and Selena, and he needs time for himself. I loved that the album was reminiscent of his early works. It lets the audience know that while obviously Abel is trying to reach a broader audience by adopting a pop sound, he won’t forget how he got his start. It’s classic. The mini-album seems to act as a bridge between Starboy and his next project. I’m a big fan of Abel, but to be honest, I didn’t absolutely love this record. But with Starboy being as pop as it is and this record being as Trilogy-esque as it is, I’m curious as to where he’ll go with his next effort.

7/10

Sorry for any typos!

Camila Cabello, “Camila” Track-By-Track Album Review

The wait is over. Camila Cabello’s long-awaited debut album is finally here. After just two album cycles with her former girl group, Fifth Harmony, Cabello departed from the group in December 2016 in hopes of a solo career. Of course, there was backlash from Fifth Harmony and Harmonizers alike, but everyone was curious as to how she would do as a soloist. What route would she take? How could she break away from being known as the Fifth Harmony girl? Would she chart? These are the questions everyone was asking themselves all year. Prior to the album release, Cabello had lended her vocals to big names such as Machine Gun Kelly, Shawn Mendes and Major Lazer, but still, the public, myself included, were curious as to what body of work she could create on her own after so many features. So without further ado, let’s get into it.

Track 1, Never Be the Same (radio edit included)

“Never Be the Same” acted as one of two tracks Cabello released prior to the album’s release. On first listen, I admit I wasn’t loving it. It’s a hard hitter, with a head banging drum pattern that lasts through the entire song. The most notable part of the song, arguably, is the prechorus in which Cabello incorporates a very breathy falsetto as she compares her lover’s effects on her to hardcore drugs. Upon hearing this part for the first time, it came completely from left field: I had never heard anything like it. After, the hard hitting chorus returns, and Cabello’s vocal delivery is incredible. Senses of desperation and passion linger in her voice throughout each chorus, which makes the song a standout and great choice for an opener. She gets the job done. When I found out the song was to be released as the second single, I was ecstatic. Just like its predecessor, it’s like nothing on the radio. Freshness goes a long way in this industry, and Cabello understands. One of my favorites from the album for sure.

9/10

Track 2, All These Years

Reminiscent of a later track of the album, “Real Friends”, “All These Years” includes only a simple electric guitar melody, and it’s honestly the only thing the song needs. As for lyrical content, Cabello sings about her emotions after an encounter with an old flame. She ultimately regrets her decision to not tell her ex-lover her true feelings, but instead settles with the fact that he is still the one she has her eyes after all this time. Open, honest, and vulnerable, Cabello articulates her feelings in such a way that listeners just can’t help but empathize with each word she says. Cabello dives deep into her emotions, singing lines like After all these years, I still feel everything when you are near, and it was just a quick hello, and you had to go, and you probably will never know, you’re still the one I’m after all these years, Cabello sings. One thing’s clear: you can’t fake the authenticity Cabello exhibits on just the second track of her debut. I can tell exactly what she experienced, what she felt, and above all, I can tell she wrote it. Authenticity is crucial as a debut artist in order for your audience to truly appreciate and understand who you are. For this very reason, I’m not at all shocked that this song, has found its way into my daily rotation.

7.5/10

Track 3, She Loves Control

Three words. She did that. “She Loves Control”, full of the Latin flair present in “Havana”, is the track I knew she had in her. Cabello finds her flow in the song easily while singing about a girl who, well, is a control freak. She’s a heartbreaker, but she can find her next lover with much ease. On the first listen, I wondered if Cabello was singing about herself, and after a little research, it turns out I was right! With debut albums, it’s very rare that a label will give full creative control to the artist. Usually, the artist often times acts as a label puppet in order to get their foot in the door of the industry with hopes of an honest album somewhere down the line. But, obviously, it’s clear Cabello wasn’t having any of that. One thing I knew about Cabello’s album even before listening is that she wanted it to be “100% her”. It seems that she got the control she wanted, and also made a very catchy song to highlight that experience. Future single choice, perhaps? Here’s hoping.

8/10

Track 4, Havana (feat. Young Thug)

Okay. Let’s get very real here. Have you heard a song like this before? Ever? I sure as hell haven’t. If you haven’t heard this song, I’d assume you live under a rock. “Havana” is as fresh as a pop song comes, complete with one of the best hooks I’ve heard. Cabello uses her Cuban and Mexican heritage to full advantage on the song, complete with an infectious piano melody that carries through the whole track. A sleeper hit, “Havana” spontaneously had huge success, to my (and Cabello’s) surprise. Released as a “double feature” along with non-album track “OMG”, “Havana” was chosen as the official lead single of Camila, after success didn’t come with initial lead single, now considered “buzz single”, “Crying in the Club”. Assisted by rapper Young Thug, Cabello sings of a love that has her torn between Thug’s Atlanta, and where her heart is, Havana. The song found major success globally, and it is currently #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, and has been for about seven non-consecutive weeks, a feat only accomplished by Lady Gaga. This song was one of my most played of 2017, and I’m sure it’ll be the same for this year as well. Hands down, favorite track on the album

10/10

Track 5, Inside Out

In the first four seconds of this song, I was ready to hate it. I was ready to delete it from my library to never listen to it again. I was ready to tell all my friends how much I hate it. I remember thinking it belonged on a Smurfs soundtrack or something like that. But when the bassline comes in… it was a different story for me. It became very clear what Cabello’s intentions were with this track: a fun, simple, and catchy song with Latin flair comparable to “Havana” and “She Loves Control”. It’s become one of my favorites from the album. The song serves as another upbeat track that could serve as a single choice. Prior to Cabello’s album release, it never came to me how much the industry was missing pop tracks tinged with Latino elements, but Cabello fits the mold without question with only three offerings so far. You don’t wanna miss this one.

9/10

Track 6, Consequences

A deep cut, “Consequences” chronicles a love gone very wrong. This is a heartbreak we all know too well: a heartbreak that takes everything out of us and makes us lose who we are. Cabello articulates these feelings exceptionally, with one of my favorite moments in the song being the stark contrast of the high and low parts of the relationship. The writing is incredibly real; you can’t make this stuff up. A listener can tell just through her enunciation that she knows exactly what she’s talking about, and I immediately believe her. Additionally, the listener gets a very good understanding of how what Cabello’s voice can do. An impeccable lower register, vocal agility for days, and a new, fresh falsetto that I, for one, can’t get enough of. Like any song, though, there are cons. There are a few awkward moments in which it feels like Cabello just shoved lyrics in places where they shouldn’t have been. To a certain extent, the awkward moments are okay. They feel real. But it’s just a little too noticeable for me.

7/10

Track 7, Real Friends

Another song with singer-songwriter elements, “Real Friends” parallels the second track, “All These Years”, perfectly. As for lyrical content, it’s very, very clear who the song is directed towards. Cabello spent almost five years in Fifth Harmony, from 2012 to 2016, and her departure was not well received by Fifth Harmony and their fans alike. Fans loyal to Camila came to her defense, while fans loyal to the other four girls relentlessly attacked Camila for her premature departure. As for me, I was a bit surprised that Camila’s departure happened when it did. Fifth Harmony was on track to become great as a fivesome: “Work From Home” was a huge song in 2016, peaking at #4, and eventually going on to become a worldwide hit. Other notable singles while Cabello was a part of the group include “Worth It”, “BO$$”, and “All in My Head (Flex)”. But success doesn’t buy happiness, according to Cabello. In the song, she sounds miserable. When listening to the lyrics, it sounds like she was done so wrong. You start to pity her. And for someone who was initially on Fifth Harmony’s side of things, I was surprised as to what she had to say, and how much I sympathized with it. There are always two sides to every story and there’s always miscommunication. What I do hope, though, is that they eventually make amends for a comeback in coming years.

7.5/10

Track 8, Something’s Gotta Give

Another piano ballad, this track showcases Cabello’s vocals better than the previous ballad. She finds comfortability in the final chorus; she doesn’t overdo it, she keeps it simple, and subsequently, it goes over well. But at the same time, I feel like she’s holding back. The production’s probably my favorite part of the song. It builds on top of the piano, with additives being a soft drum pattern along with minimal synths. In the song, Cabello discusses a relationship in which she feels as if she is giving her full efforts, while her partner isn’t giving anything in return. Instead, he makes her feel small, relentlessly lies, and refuses to do anything about it. Cabello then resonates with the fact that her only option is to leave. Cabello’s signature raspy voice is the first thing I noticed in the song, especially in the second chorus where the three-part harmony comes in. Her voice sets her apart, and I feel as if she has come to that realizaiton as well. It’s what the public need right now.

7.5/10

Track 9, In the Dark

This song has a good message. Cabello pleads with her love interest to show her who they really are within, when people aren’t watching. The production is seamless and one of my favorites, production wise, on the album. I love the synths that follow throughout the entire song. The problem I’ve had with this song, along with a few other songs on the album, is that it feels a bit awkward. The hook, for one, in which Cabello tries to rhyme “dark” with an “I” sound, and especially the bridge, where Cabello uses her falsetto differently than what we’ve previously heard on the album. I appreciate the vocal variety she offers on the track and I know it’s a few of my friends’ favorite tracks, but as for me, I’ll pass. It’s almost good. I feel like it could’ve been executed a little better. Not one of my favorites.

6/10

Track 10, Into It

Before I had listened to the album, I was seeing this track everywhere on my Twitter timeline. It seemed to be an immediate favorite, and I wanted to skip to this song immediately on my first listen through of the album, but unfortunately I had to wait until the absolute last song. As a closer, I’d assume Cabello would want to finish her debut effort on a strong note, and I assumed right. To put it simply, this song is really good. It’s perfect pop: simple but smart, catchy, and all the makings of a number one hit, and weirdly, it reminds me a lot of Ariana Grande’s 2016 hit, “Into You”. If this song isn’t a single, I’ll be equally very surprised and very sad. It shows Cabello in a new, sexually liberated light, in which she continually gives her consent to whatever her partner has in mind for her. My favorite line of the song, I’m into it, whatever trouble that you’re thinking I could get into it, I see a king size bed in the corner, we should get into it, shows the effortlessness and naturalness of Cabello and team’s songwriting abilities. They have a gem on their hands, and they need to capitalize immediately. It’s pop magic.

9.5/10

Camila, overall

I’m pleasantly surprised with Camila Cabello’s debut. I applaud her for not going the predictable route that would’ve included high octane power pop songs backed by big budget producers and songwriters. Instead, Cabello uses vulnerability as her biggest advantage by including songs that have singer-songwriter influences, as well as songs that incorporate her Cuban-Mexican heritage. These elements, also fueled by Cabello’s goal to make an album 100% real, make for a different, yet impressive, debut album. A few things confuse me about Camila, though. For one, it’s incredibly short for a debut album. I’m missing tracks like “Crying in the Club”, which is, honestly, a better song than a lot of songs on this album. It’s the same with non-album tracks “OMG” and “I Have Questions”. All three of these tracks would’ve fit like a glove on this album, and I’m a little sad they weren’t included. With that being said, debut albums are difficult. As an artist, you have to figure out your image, what you want to say, how you want to say it, as well as what sound you’d like to capitalize on, all while aiming to be taken seriously… in about twelve songs or less. It seems as if Cabello found her rhythm very naturally, and subsequently made a cohesive, honest, unpredictable, and heavily praised body of work. It’s found my way into my daily rotation, and frankly, I’m getting obsessed with her. She’s the pop star we need right now. Get into her.

8/10

Artist Spotlight: Pia Mia

First and foremost, I’d like to formally apologize for my absence. I realize that in starting a blog, you have to keep up with it at least semi-regularly. But thankfully, the semester is over, finals are finished, and I can finally write again. Let’s get to it.

In addition to album reviews and single reviews, I realize that there are times when popular artists are not releasing music for extended periods of time, so I decided to include a new category for my blog. With Artist Spotlights, I try my best to focus some attention on new artists/underrated artists/artists who are absolutely killing it. For this Artist Spotlight, I chose to write about an artist some readers may know of, but have no idea who she actually is as an artist. Without further ado, this artist spotlight is for Pia Mia.

Now, when you think of Pia Mia, if you think of Pia Mia, the first thought that comes to mind may be one of the following: Instagram model, member of Kylie Jenner’s girl gang, or ‘style icon’, but that first thought is almost never ‘singer’. The reason Pia fits my first artist spotlight is because I think she’s very misunderstood as an artist, and has been done so wrong by previous record label, Interscope. It’s been brought to my attention that after almost five years of mild to very moderate success, Pia was dropped from Interscope in 2017. Why? We’ll get into that later. But for now, let’s focus on the music.

The Gift, 2013

After a few semi-embarrassing tracks in 2011 and 2012, Pia Mia dropped The Gift through both Interscope Records and her own independent label, Wolfpack Records in 2013. In my opinion, this was Pia’s heyday: after her cover of “Hold On, We’re Going Home” had gone viral after performing it at a Kardashian-Jenner dinner in front of none other than Drake himself, she gained attention from fans all over the world. The Gift was Pia Mia’s first attempt at seriously developing as an artist. Silky-smooth vocals, impressive vibrato, and a remarkable ability to formulate perfect runs that greatly compliment her voice, it’s no doubt Pia Mia can sing. That’s not the problem here. She had an image, complimented by her signature bandanas and red lipstick, and she can dance as well. So what’s not to love? When you think of pop music, you think of simple melodies and a catchy hook. When you think of rhythmic music, it’s a whole different ballgame. Artists like Chris Brown, Ty Dolla $ign, and Tinashe have paved the way for rhythmic music. However, when you have an artist like Pia Mia who tries to combine the two, it gets complicated. Rhythmic pop is a very hard genre to create a formula for. Pop radio won’t play you because you’re too rhythmic. Rhythmic radio won’t play you because you’re too pop. You have to be great to succeed at rhythmic pop, and Pia’s at a limbo. The Gift is worth a listen through; it’s a classic EP that I still listen through today. I’d give my favorite tracks, but I think that it functions better as a cohesive body of work rather than to pick favorites.

“Do It Again”, SoundCloud & Standalones, 2015-2017

After The Gift, Pia Mia was thought to be recording her debut album through Interscope. She released lead single “Do It Again” in 2015, her most successful song to date, featuring Chris Brown and Tyga. The song had moderate success in the US, peaking at #71 on the Hot 100, but found major success in Australia, peaking at #5. In both countries, it’s her first and only platinum single. After the success of “Do It Again” came “Touch”, her second single from her alleged debut album. The song didn’t break on the US Hot 100, but again found success abroad, peaking at #47 in both the UK and in Australia. After the release of “Touch” came a very awkward time in Pia Mia’s career. From the outside, it seemed as if she put her music on hold, releasing a SoundCloud cover every now and again (sidenote: her cover/response track to Justin Bieber’s “No Pressure” is my favorite thing she’s ever released). It became apparent that the singles she continued to drop at random times weren’t her lead singles, but instead were standalones. After Touch came We Should Be Together, an R&B track that has elements of Ashanti’s “Rain on Me”. Then came “I’m a Fan” featuring Jeremih, which seemed to be Interscope’s last attempt at jumpstarting Pia Mia’s career. It found little to no success, and after much research, I couldn’t find if the track charted anywhere. When this song was released, I realized things weren’t looking good for Pia Mia as an artist when I really thought she deserved much more than what she was getting.

The Gift 2, 2017

After about four years, Pia Mia released The Gift 2 on December 15, 2017, through Pia Mia Recordings. My hypothesis is either that Interscope dropped her after seeing little to no success with her singles, or she bought her way out of her deal, seeking creative freedom. Nonetheless, Pia Mia is back with new songs after a long hiatus. Complete with her signature breezy West Coast sound, The Gift 2 picks up right where her first installment left off. Highlights of the EP are definitely “Off My Feet” and “Ocean Drive”, and the lowlights are, well, every other track. With the two previous tracks mentioned, the vision for them was crystal clear: Pia’s vocals are A1, and the tracks themselves feel effortless. With the others, however, it feels as if she just needed songs to complete an EP. I’m hoping it’s a grower. That aside, I can say that no matter what happened with Interscope, I’m glad Pia found artistic and creative freedom with her work. That’s above everything in the industry and the rest, including success, will come later. I hope she continues to find her voice. I wish her the best in her career and hope that she continues her music on her terms.

Must-listen tracks in Pia Mia’s discography:

Do It Again, Touch, Justin Bieber, Underneath, Mr. President, On My Mind, Off My Feet

Sorry for any typos!

Steve Aoki & Lauren Jauregui, “All Night” Song Review

Hi guys! For those who haven’t read my About Me section or just don’t know me, my name is Josh, and I started this blog to give my honest, non-biased reviews of new songs and albums upon release. One thing I’ve been really struggling with is finding a good song or album to begin with, but I think I’ve finally settled on one.

Steve Aoki, one of the most influential producers/DJs in the game, enlists Fifth Harmony’s Lauren Jauregui for “All Night”, a mid-tempo EDM beat with an infectious hook. Released on November 17th, 2017, Jauregui sings about the initial feelings of infatuation, while showcasing her smooth-as-silk lower register. Aoki’s production is seamless, with a buildup and break unlike many EDM producers’ styles today.  However, with a lot of Aoki’s productions (see “I Love It When You Cry” with Moxie Raia) Aoki leaves me a bit… underwhelmed. Despite this, it’s definitely a very listenable track that’ll probably find its way onto one of my playlists soon. “All Night” comes in the midst of a Fifth Harmony album cycle, leaving listeners (myself included) wondering the future of the group. All members, excluding Normani Kordei, have released commercial singles that have found low to moderate success in the United States. Upon release, the track finds itself at a steady #6 on iTunes US, and rising, thanks to Fifth Harmony’s enormous fan following. As for the longevity of “All Night”, it depends on how far Jauregui is willing to go to further her solo career, but I can say it has definitely made me see potential for Jauregui as a soloist.

8/10

Sorry for any typos!