Our reviews of and predictions about some of the hottest summer releases.
Harry Styles – Harry Styles
Say what you will about One Direction’s long-locked breakaway star, but you can’t deny that the kid is talented. His clear toned-tenor soars through every song on the self-titled album, accented by impressive rock ‘n’ roll yells and expertly controlled falsetto. The result is some pretty good rock music, made even better by the fact that, by creating it, Styles has eschewed the more traditional paths for former boy-band members (the options are generally limited to becoming a singer-songwriter in the style of Ed Sheeran or an R&B artist like Zayn Malik or Justin Timberlake). If you, like me, used to turn your nose up at some of One Direction's hits, you might hate how much you enjoy a few of Styles' songs.
SONGS TO LISTEN TO: Skip the radio-candy “Sign of the Times”, and dive right into the oldies tributes like “Carolina”, “Kiwi”, “Only Angel”, and “Woman”.
Paramore – After Laughter
Paramore recently revealed in an Apple Music interview that they came close to dissolving their band before getting to work on their most recent album – and thank goodness they didn’t. The former punk-rockers, who swapped their bassist in 2016 for one of the founding members who’d previously left the band, have come back in full swing with an entirely new sound. After the success of the synth-y pop hit “Ain’t it Fun” in 2013, Paramore has rebranded (successfully) as an even more synth-y, more pop-y band. They haven’t completely lost their edge though – most of the lyrics on After Laughter center around lead singer Hayley Williams’ struggles with anxiety and depression. The raw power and poetic sharpness of Paramore’s words cut straight through their cotton candy sounds. The result is real art.
SONGS TO LISTEN TO: Upbeat, steel drum-backed “Hard Times”, snappy single “Told You So", and the flowing ballad “Tell Me How”
HAIM – Singles from Something to Tell You
HAIM’s newest album doesn’t drop until July 7th, but they’re already making headlines with their two incredible pre-released singles, “Right Now” and “Want You Back”. The trio of sisters retains the ethereal pop sound they’re adored for on both songs, but their talent and harmonies sound sharper and tighter than they did when they burst onto the scene in 2013. I can’t stop listening to “Want You Back”, which has that incredible 80’s-esque synth sound that I’d secretly be really happy to see come back into style.
Selena Gomez – “Bad Liar”
According to Variety, the inspiration for Selena Gomez’s newest song, "Bad Liar", came from the Talking Head’s 1977 classic “Psycho Killer.” Selena talk-sings sultrily over the oldies hit’s bass line, and the result is a simple yet not-too-remarkable single. The pop princess’ past releases have been pretty hit-or-miss, so let’s hope that this newest foray is an indicator that something a little more exciting is yet to come. For now, you might be better off listening instead to the original “Psycho Killer" (Qu’est que ce?).
Miley Cyrus – “Malibu”
Ugh, do we have to? If you haven’t read all about it yet, the internet is awash with criticism of Miley Cyrus’ new “reformed” image, attacking her for her decision to “become white again” after nearly five years of uncomfortably appropriating Black culture. For more background, check out this excellent piece in Teen Vogue.
But what about Miley’s music? Problematic behaviors aside, I have to hand it to Miley for her incredible voice. Listening to her sing is enjoyable, which is probably why her upcoming album, expected to be a little more country and a little less auto-tuned, is being hyped up by Hannah Montana and Bangerz fans alike. She has a clear, controlled, and pleasant sound on the guitar-heavy “Malibu”. Let’s just hope the rest of her act remains controlled and pleasant as well.