People were waiting for Ariana Grande’s fourth album, a collection of music that would be inextricably tied to the tragic terrorist attack at her Dangerous Woman tour in the city of Manchester last year. Though understandably devastated by the event, Grande bravely returned to put on a benefit concert to honor her fans and bring everyone together. She then dropped off of social media, only offering a cryptic teaser that hinted at new music featuring her heavenly vocals with the caption “see you next year.” As the year rolled on, albums and singles came and went. Though still largely out of sight, rumors continued to pop up that Grande was prepping something big, her most personal album yet according to industry insiders. By the time the singer started teasing lead single “no tears left to cry,” fans were insatiable, and all signs seemed to point to a power ballad about moving past tragedy that would no doubt showcase Grande’s soaring voice. Instead, they got a quirky, buoyant pop song that tricked listeners in the first 15 seconds after a somber intro explodes into an infectious UK garage beat. “I’m lovin, I’m livin, I’m pickin’ it up” Grande sings on the hook.
If there’s one thing Taylor Swift wants you to know, it’s that the Old Taylor is dead. You definitely knew her; the Taylor who sat in the bleachers with her t-shirt longing from a distance, who stood on the VMA stage, mouth agape, as Kanye West grabbed the mic from her and declared Beyoncé “Single Ladies” to be superior. The one who danced awkwardly at every award show as if she forgot the whole world was watching. New Taylor doesn’t give press interviews ahead of album releases. In fact, she’s almost fully retreated from the spotlight and has embraced being the villain because, yes she knows what you say about her on the internet.
When Kesha Rose Sebert exploded onto the music scene in 2009, she was something of a wild card. Armed with nothing but the ironic dollar sign in her name (which she has since dropped) and a bunch of glitter, she took the industry by storm. Her inescapable debut single “TiK ToK” would go on to become the second best-selling song of all time and with several successful follow-up singles and a multiplatinum #1 album, she was thrusted into the upper echelon along with Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Katy Perry. By comparison, her image and brand was much less polished; she sang about brushing her teeth with a bottle of jack, and in an interview she casually recounted a time when her vagina was haunted by a ghost. She was a breath of fresh air.
While her party girl aesthetic was hardly new to the world of pop, she sold it in a way that was uniquely her own. She had a deep connection with her fans, affectionately called “animals,” and wrote “We R Who We R” at a time when suicides within the LGBTQ community were making headlines left and right. When she said her mission was to make people just have fun on her short lived reality show, “My Crazy Beautiful Life,” you really believed it. Here was a woman who genuinely wanted to brighten the world with her creativity, and show people that being their true selves was something to be celebrated. But while the party was raging on through the release of her EP Cannibal and follow up album Warrior, something was brewing beneath the surface. Everyone else seemed to be loving the party, except the person that mattered the most: Kesha.
It’s been four, long years since we last heard from Ella Yelich-O’Connor, otherwise known as Lorde, the brilliant singer-songwriter-producer from New Zealand who took over the world with her debut single when she was just 16 years old. So, what has she been up to since you ask? Well according to Melodrama, her second album released yesterday, she’s been partying, but not having all that much fun.
Is there a pop star working today that has had a stranger trajectory than Charli XCX?
Consensus was that Beyoncé was going to clean up very well with the Grammy nominations this morning, and that consensus was right. Lemonade received an astounding 9 nominations throughout the Pop, Rap and even the Rock categories. That kind of broad support is the kind you want heading into the race, especially if you want an Album of the Year award. After coming close with her brilliant self-titled release, she might just get it with Lemonade which is her biggest, boldest work yet. She is now the most nominated woman in Grammy history. Continue reading
Say what you want about Lady Gaga, but she’s never boring. It’s almost impossible to look at her today and see the same pop culture obsessed songstress that sang about disco sticks and paparazzi. Even 2011’s Born This Way, which its truly laughable cover art, seems like it happened a lifetime ago, and hopefully we’ve all forgotten about ARTPOP by now. Continue reading
In case you haven’t heard, Sia has a new song and a new music video.
“The Greatest,” written by Sia and longtime collaborator/producer Greg Kurstin doesn’t stray too far from the typical Sia formula. It’s simple in its composition; “Running out of breath, but I/Oh I, I got stamina” and “Don’t give up, I won’t give up”repeat throughout the song, featuring Sia’s crackling, but powerfully emotive vocals. The uplifting and empowering lyrics are also pretty familiar territory; the hook sees the singer/songwriter insisting “I’m free to be the greatest, I’m alive.” Even the subtle, island-tinged influences alongside the massive pop beat recalls her most recent hit “Cheap Thrills. Even the music video features Maddie Ziegler (making this her fourth collaboration with Sia), with some specific shots and choreography recalling the singer’s past videos.
And yet, for all of its simplicity and familiarity, “The Greatest” is not only Sia’s best music video, but one of the best and most powerful of the year. Continue reading
It’s hard to talk about the first half of the year without immediately jumping to Beyoncé’s Lemonade. Leave it to Queen B to not only set the internet ablaze with yet another surprise release, followed by an amazing Super Bowl performance but pull off the feat of a “movie album.” Interweaving her own personal narrative while also speaking to a much larger audience, Beyoncé presented us with a complex, stunning and emotional journey, while also pushing herself forward as an artist and setting the bar higher (yet again) for everyone who would come after.
So, what else happened this year so far? Frank Ocean finally dropped not one, but two albums. Yeah, you read that right; after countless memes and false release dates we have new Frank Ocean music. Chance the Rapper dropped a masterpiece of his own, Britney Spears is back (though she never really left), Drake scammed his way into having one of the most successful albums of the year, Ariana Grande made the first move into her “Dirrty” era and Rihanna and Kanye both dropped their respective (and also much delayed) projects, and that’s really not even scratching the surface.
It’s been such a front loaded year for music; all the heavy hitters have been releasing everything at the same time. There’s talk that Katy Perry could be coming back sooner than expected, Lady Gaga’s new song drops next week and several heavy hitters have projects that are being rumored to drop in the coming months. But enough about what’s coming, let’s look back at what’s already dropped. Among all of the big releases this year, what’s really stuck out so far?