Of all the One Direction boys, I probably had the lowest expectations for Liam Payne. He proved me wildly wrong. He eschews the artistry that dominates Harry Styles, the serious R&B of Zayne, and instead goes for fun. Thank God that 1D didn't take everything from him.
Not everything is so serious and Liam stirs mild controversy with the much hyped line, “I used to be in 1D / Now I'm Out Free”. The track is danceable (actually danceable) and it doesn't take itself too seriously. It follows mainstream sounds, even bringing in Ed Sheeran for a cowrite.
Key Lyric: I Love It When The Music's Loud / But C'mon Strip That Down
The song has HIT all over it. If that's not enough Quavo has a guest verse. I was past my limit with Migos / Quavo by the time their Katy Perry collaboration dropped, but the world still wants more. The music video is drenched in color and dancing girls. Liam isn't reinventing the wheel, but he's playing the newly minted popstar perfectly.
Key Lyric: There Are Rules That Are Meant To Break / You Could Call This A Great Mistake
“We Could Run” finds Beth Ditto wailing her impressive vocal chops over three minutes and thirty one seconds. Luke Britton for NME described the song as “stadium rock sized”. Performing at the Gucci cruise collection in Florence, the singer isn't slowing down expectations of what she's capable of.
Buy "We Could Run"
Key Lyric: Last Year Took A Toll On Me / But I Made It With You Next To Me
The music video has already dropped and it has it all. The quintessential San Francisco skyline, black nail polish, flowers, and a hoard of rave ready fans waiting for the drop. Troye Sivan may be about to have his biggest hit stateside yet.
Buy "There For You"
Key Lyric: Watch The Wasters Blow The Speakers / Spill My Guts Beneath The Outdoor Light
Billboard tauted the song as a “booming summer anthem”. The song finds the singer diving into topics of sex and cursing. She's a grown 19 year old finding her direction in the music world full of mass produced commercialization . “What the fuck are perfect places?” she snarls. Lorde might not know yet, but something tells me she will.
Buy "Perfect Places"
Key Lyric: Let's let our heart's bleed until they turn to rust
Meant to be the lead off for her third EP All Your Fault: Pt. 2 the song is a bigger banger then previous collaboration with rap star Nicki Minaj on “No Broken Hearts”. Lil Wayne needs a chart hit for longevity sake and this could be it. He needs a hit and Bebe's solo material has been long over looked on pop radio.
Key Lyric: Got A Million Things I Wanna Say / Like What Is It All For? Will It Be Okay?
Lyrics reference Led Zepplin's eternal, “Stairway To Heaven” and she talks about giving everything away if she could just ask God one question. The main draw of the song is it's topical lyrical content, but regardless it fits into Lana Del Rey's musical canon that she continue defies in regards to her muses.
Key Lyric: I always thought I would sink, so I never swam
The music video finds similar themes. Miley is in stripped down beauty. There's nothing shocking here. The song succeeds in translating genuine happiness. It's singer-songwriter, it's confessional, but it's very much Miley Cyrus.
This list is a review of all the albums I've bought this year. They are all rated on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. My favorite song (determined by how many times I've played it individually) is listed along with the album.
7/27: Fifth Harmony
The second album in the Fifth Harmony catalog falls to the same mistake of their debut. It is front loaded with quality songs, but the rest are lackluster. It remains unclear if they will continue on as a Fourth Harmony, but their output remains marked by inescapable singles and rough shod full lengths.
Most Played Song: “That's My Girl”
Detour: Cyndi Lauper
80s heavyweight, Cyndi Lauper turned her attention to country music with her latest studio album. Over a three decades long career that's experimented with jazz, electronic, and alternative stylings it's time the icon turned her attention to country music. Detour shows her deft ability to make old material her own, invoking a classic country feel, covering songs by Patsy Cline and featuring appearances from country superstars Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, among others. She subverts and passes expectations.
Most Played Song: “Heartaches By The Number”
Film soundtracks are usually at best a mixed bag (take The Bodyguard), that case is proven on this soundtrack that doesn't quite live up to the quality of the film. There are multiple standout tracks, but nothing that cast itself into iconic territory. With 4 versions of the “Ghostbusters” theme song, you really can't go wrong, but there is still some to be desired.
Most Played Song: “Ghostbusters (I'm Not Afraid)” by Fall Out Boy and Missy Elliott
Joanne: Lady Gaga
3 ½ Stars
Gaga finally ended her pop hiatus when she returned with “Perfect Illusion”. She's yet to find a hit to hold traction at mainstream radio, but she's showing us a different side on this album. Joanne empties Gaga's roots of EDM. She ditched collaborations with disco producer Giorgio Moroder, and worked with Mark Ronson who failed to yield an “Uptown Funk” for this album. Joanne despite it's flaws, showcases a new Gaga. Her voice is rough, the music is raw, and she seems genuinely enthralled with the material. She ditched the gimmicks, but it wouldn't be a Gaga album without an ode to masturbation. See “Dancing In Circles”. The album has a notable amount of soul bearing “come together” social messages that might make for a breakthrough in light of the 2017 political climate.
Most Played Song: “Come To Mama”
Love You To Death: Tegan & Sara
4 ½ Stars
Canadian sisters Tegan & Sara deliver a near perfect follow up to their first pop outing Heartthrob (which served as a musical guide for Taylor Swift's 1989). It was too gay for mainstream audiences. Lead single “Girlfriend” was a pop explosion that just wasn't relate-able for the heterosexuals. Greg Kurstin lends the album a trendy engineered sound, with the same insightful lyrics the duo is known for.
Most Played Song: “Faint of Heart” and “Dying To Know”
This Is What The Truth Feels Like: Gwen Stefani
3 ½ Stars
A shining return from one of 00's greatest stars, Gwen Stefani delivered a current pop album helmed with the help of hitmaker Justin Tranter (“Good For You” , “Centuries” , “Sorry”). The album has a solid EP of personal material. It tends to be the strongest on the album (“Asking For It” is an exception). Gwen suggested that this was a break up album and when she deals with that muse, she full handedly succeeds. The rest of the material, does not live up to the forward thinking process that made “Hollaback Girl” a hit. Although, enjoyable, and a thoroughly good listen, the album reveals less then it suggests, much to it's detriment.
Most Played Song: “Rare”
The Best Album(s) of 2016
The Best Song of 2016
Rihanna's near exact replica of the Tame Impala original is anything but radio friendly, but the six minute epic is endlessly listenable.
The most inventive of these new additions is the Fall Out Boy/Missy Elliot collaboration, “Ghostbusters (I'm Not Afraid)”. It blends their rock n roll inclinations with Missy's flow for one of the most explosive reimaginations. Expect one of these songs to light up radio this year, especially with the movie's continued successs.
In the words of Madonna, "Music makes the people come together."