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Lorde’s long–awaited third studio album, Solar Power, is a patient record. No matter how many polarizing think pieces (including this one) try to tear it down, it's built to be tough and permanent like a castle. Except its castle is made of sand, and it’s surrounded by the crashing of beach waves and the clicking of cicadas.
You can’t pin Billie Eilish down. The 19–year–old pop prodigy cemented herself as one of the most famous teenagers in the world with her 2019 debut album, the monumental WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? The LP was co–written and produced entirely by her brother Finneas O'Connell, who recorded it with Eilish mostly in her childhood bedroom of their parents’ home in L.A. The record was a collage of Eilish’s brain, effortlessly switching between genres: art–pop, avant–folk, R&B–esque ruminations on hell, something akin to Frank Sinatra, and a song that even sampled The Office. It was a can’t–miss spectacle from the rising wunderkind, humorous yet genuinely introspective, eclectic yet cohesive, eccentric but not uncomfortable. WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? was a near–perfect thesis statement for everything Eilish stood for at the time. She was the soundtrack to your nightmares and your nights out. She was the bad guy, instantly recognizable in her oversized sweatshirts, black hair and green roots, and with her glazed ocean eyes aimed somewhere just beyond the camera.
Willow Smith (known mononymously as WILLOW) howls on her new poignant and brief album, lately I feel EVERYTHING. Star–studded and rippling with the voracious emotional life of a young woman in her prime, lately embodies a touching irony of sounding like a teenager venting her hormonal emotions in her dad’s garage, despite being backed by some of the biggest names in the industry and being distributed by Jay–Z’s Roc Nation Records.
Two weeks ago, Halsey (née Ashley Frangipane) revealed the cover art for her new album If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power with an extravagant 13 minute YouTube video of the unveiling at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In the video, Frangipane walks barefoot around the Met wearing a strange yet elegant get–up with her pregnant stomach prominently exposed, looking at paintings of the Virgin Mary. There is no music. Only the whooshing vacant sound of the air conditioning and traffic outside can be heard while she silently walks around the museum, ominously looking at the camera every so often.
Vince Staples is a rapper of the highest caliber, well on his way to a Pulitzer à la Kendrick Lamar. That being said, it’s disappointing that his new self–titled album is so artfully reserved that it lacks the passion that his previous projects had.
Jack Antonoff is sort of a jack–of–all–trades when it comes to pop music. Well, at least he tries to be.
Villains are en vogue in popular media. Suicide Squad has had not one, not two, but three movies dedicated to its team of misfits, and 2019’s Joker painted a scathing portrait of Batman’s iconic nemesis. Miss Cruella de Vil of One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), based on the 1956 novel by Dodie Smith, is the latest villain to receive the live–action remake treatment. Directed by Craig Gillespie and starring Emma Stone in the title role, the film Cruella presents viewers with a nearly two–and–a–half–hour backstory of de Vil’s path to treachery.
During my first few weeks at a local ReStore of my state’s Habitat for Humanity branch, I worked in what felt like my own bubble of silence. On my first day at work, I felt like a tornado wound up inside a glass case. I barely said more than three words, my nerves giving way to an anxiety–induced muteness that became difficult to break.
Daddy’s home. And so is St. Vincent, or so one would believe. On her sixth studio album to date, Annie Clark pays homage to her father and the music he raised her on. Inspired by the music scene of downtown New York in the early '70s, the album sees Clark pick apart her relationship with those around her: her father, her lover, and even herself. Just as she did on her last record, Clark plays with your perception of reality by creating an entirely new persona for this time period; an alter–ego that functions both as a means of self-defense and artistic flourish. This time, she dons a blonde wig—her natural black curls poking out—and a bright green pant–suit as she plays the role of a dame down on her luck yet aware of her self–worth, who takes her troubles in stride.
On the scale of notorious celebrity merchandise from Gwyneth Paltrow’s candles to Belle Delphine’s GamerGirl Bathwater, Lady Gaga’s new line of Oreos are relatively mild. Packaged in bright magenta plastic that vaguely radiates an aura of futurism and camp in equal measure, these are not your typical chocolate–and–white–creme Oreos. Instead, they are “pink–colored golden cookie[s]” filled with neon “green creme,” per the label’s description.
Valentine's Day is here, so what better way to celebrate it than with some love songs? Here you will find a hand–selected assortment of songs that cover all shades of romance—from heartbreak to a new crush to friendship and back.
The world lost a revolutionary last Saturday morning.
The Weeknd stands out from his fellow male pop stars in his self–presentation. No other cisgender heterosexual male pop star in the current mainstream puts as much effort into their aesthetic as Abel Tesfaye does. With the notable exceptions of Harry Styles and Bad Bunny, Tesfaye stands in blaring contrast to his colleagues—especially during the campaign for his most recent album and era, After Hours. The multifaceted personality he brings to the looks of this era are exemplary, too, of the double standard in the music industry between men and women when it comes to self–presentation.
Róisín Murphy occupies a peculiar space that's distinctly her own in the pop culture lexicon. With a unique flair for absurdist fashion and alternative pop, Murphy made a name for herself as an auteur of 21st Century disco ever since the release of her 2007 hit "Overpowered." After the middling success of 2016's Take Her up to Monto, she returns with the instant classic Róisín Machine. To both her benefit and her detriment, disco is en vogue again. Doja Cat's viral hit "Say So" bleeds of 70's nostalgia. Dua Lipa, similarly, updated the classic sound for the mainstream pop consumer with Future Nostalgia and its remix album. Even Jessie Ware made a splash with What's Your Pleasure? Given the prominence of her fellow disco adjacent peers, comparisons are inevitable. Speaking to NME, Murphy boasted "I'm back to snatch Dua Lipa's and Jessie Ware's wigs!" And she's right. She should say it.
Alexander Guy Cook, known to most as A.G. Cook, has been busy. The super-producer behind some of Charli XCX's biggest hits and founder of the experimental pop music collective PC Music has only sped up in quarantine. While the world reckoned with COVID–19 back in March, he produced Charli XCX's How I'm Feeling Now, in addition to co–producing Jonsi's Shiver. Then, just a month ago, he released his "debut album," an ambitious 7–disc, 2–hour record called 7G. The record was a revealing peek inside the music wiz's toolbox, albeit overwhelming upon first listen.
2020 has been anything but peaceful. This turbulent year has seen everything from the COVID–19 pandemic to a series of worldwide protests. Even though the elections have seemingly taken a back seat until now—36 days out from election night in November—it's important to keep in mind the prescient social issues that have been at forefront of public conversation, particularly protests against systemic racism.
To occupy myself in this endless quarantine, I've taken to going on walks around my neighborhood. I always bring headphones with me, so I can bury myself deep into the sonic worlds of whatever albums I'm listening to. However, when British pop star Dua Lipa dropped Club Future Nostalgia, I avoided listening to it on my daily walks. Instead, I waited until it was late at night and everyone else in my house was asleep. Then, I lay on my couch in the dark in an attempt to recreate the atmosphere of a club: the space where the music was meant to be heard.
Taylor Swift, for once, has thrown a curveball. Announced just 24 hours before its release, completely disregarding the lengthy release campaigns of her seven previous albums, folklore is a strange little gem in Taylor's long and illustrious career. Created remotely with Aaron Dessner and longtime collaborator Jack Antonoff, folklore sees Swift diving headfirst into folk pop and soft rock. Although an unexpected turn from a global superstar who perfected her craft in synth pop, it's not completely without precedent.
The Chicks, composed of lead singer Natalie Maines and sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer, were cancelled. Emphasis on the word "were": before the term became ubiquitous in social media vernacular, the trio faced backlash in 2003 for Maine's critical remarks of President Bush eight days before the U.S. entered the Iraqi War. Her simple expression that she was "ashamed" Bush was also from Texas at a London show sparked outrage among country fans. Radio stations arranged for protests burning the band's CDs, and their discography was banned from airplay itself. The women were called traitors and "Saddam's Angels." In response to the controversy, The Chicks released 2006's Taking the Long Way, with the bitterly defiant hit "Not Ready to Make Nice." Taylor Swift, a recent collaborator and clear successor of the the Chicks, has said that she was told not to be like them.
Arca's KiCk i is simultaneously the beginning, end, and continuation of multiple eras. The Venezuelan producer Alejandra Ghersi's past four albums, which mostly took the form of abstract electronica, with the notable exception of 2017's self–titled effort, lapsed toward an insular, isolated loneliness. Her prior works were more centered around her own personal growth rather than mass appeal; the music twisted and turned away from easily recognizable meaning and value. On KiCk i, appearing (for the first time) in a full–body shot on one of her album covers, Arca makes a gleefully genre–defying, compelling case for herself as the mutant popstar of 2020.