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

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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!

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!

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!