Catalogue Check: Taylor Swift

The tumultuous unpredictability of 2020 forges on in its final few weeks, and with it comes more and more music from artists around the globe. Taylor Swift is one such artist, whose had as busy a year as any in her career. She has just announced yet another surprise album, her third record in just over a year. Before evermorefoklore‘s sister album, is released, take a look back at the sensation’s collection through the years.


A Definitive Ranking of Every Taylor Swift Album:

Taylor Swift AlbumsTaylor Swift Credit: Big Machine
Taylor Swift, Big Machine Records

8. Taylor Swift (2006)

Taylor Swift was just a taste of what would become of Taylor Swift. The pop phenomenon’s first record was her only true country album. It spawned the timeless hits “Tim McGraw” and “Our Song,” but simply does not compare to her subsequent, sweepingly epic saga of albums. There is a lot to love, and it provides enough intrigue to give the next few albums a listen, but Taylor Swift does not match up to the quality of Swift’s later records.

Best Track(s): “Our Song,” “Cold As You”


Taylor Swift albumsTaylor Swift - Speak Now Credit: Big Machine
Speak Now, Big Machine Records

7. Speak Now (2010)

Speak Now is a perfect example of growing pains. After the immense success of her second album Fearless, Swift was forced back to the drawing board. How could she top a multiple-Grammy-winning smash hit of an album? Switching gears, perhaps. Swift made one of the boldest moves in her ongoing career, penning the lyrics and composition of Speak Now completely alone. What came out of Speak Now were raw, unfiltered glimpses into Swift’s diary. The record is too long, but it possesses some of the singer’s most impressive, haunting songwriting. Though some songs are skippable, Speak Now would be considered many other artists’ magnum opus.

Best Track(s): “Dear John,” “Enchanted,” “Long Live,” “Last Kiss”


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Lover, Taylor Swift

6. Lover (2019)

Lover is as imperfect as its unapologetic creator. In embracing the facets of her personality and the genre experimentation that has defined her career, Swift continues to prove her longevity. With the exception of the swift closing of the narrative to reputation in the album opener “I Forgot You Existed,” Lover is very much a direct sequel to Swift’s most culturally influential album 1989. Adopting a similar, 80s inspired pop sound, Lover exists as most sequels do– it’s bigger, more ambitious, and often less polished than its predecessor. 

Best Track(s): “Lover,” “Death By A Thousand Cuts,” “Daylight”


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reputation, Big Machine Records

5. reputation (2017)

After Swift established world domination with the instant classic 1989 and its subsequent world tour, she faced immense backlash in the media. The singer was branded a snake and a fraud. Many saw this media storm as the abrupt end to the once prolific career of the country-pop goddess. In true Swift fashion, the singer-songwriter took back her narrative. She owned the snake, her past mistakes, and dropped one of the best videos of her career. Its accompanying single remains one of her worst tracks, but the album has a lot to offer. reputation shows Swift further experimenting with perspective and narrative writing. The sonically adventurous reputation is a violent, brash, cathartic reflection of Swift’s most turbulent year of fame.

Best Track(s): “Call It What You Want,” “End Game”


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Red, Big Machine Records

4. Red (2012)

Red is a complicated record in that it showcases the best and worst of Swift. The album showed the singer at a crossroads. Released in her early 20s, Red represents the uncertainty of young adult life within its lyrics and sonics. Red is a lot of things, but boring is not one of them. The album contains elements of dance pop, country, alternative, folk, and rock. It is the most Taylor Swift of Taylor Swift’s albums. It features her best song to date, “All Too Well,” but drags on with overly melancholy cuts that could’ve been left off the final LP. With Red, Swift bid farewell to the country girl and laid the groundwork for what would become a pop phenomenon. Red marks the turning point of the singer’s career in a thrillingly chaotic way.

Best Track(s): “All Too Well,” “State of Grace,” “I Knew You Were Trouble.”


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Fearless, Big Machine Records

3. Fearless (2008)

Fearless was just that. The 13-track LP was a cohesive, lyrically driven, country-pop smash. Each song said something compelling and found its place on the album. It is incomprehensible how, at 18 years old, Swift was able to articulate such a vast array of emotions through these traditionally arranged country songs. Its raw authenticity, emotionally resonant vocals, and strong production made Fearless Swift’s shining moment. It launched her from being an artist to watch to standing among the biggest pop stars in the world.

Best Track(s): “Change,” “You Belong With Me,” “Forever & Always”


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1989, Big Machine Records

2. 1989 (2014)

1989 marks the best concept, promotion, production, and delivery from the artist. Swift managed to retain her good girl persona while growing up and adopting a bold new sound. It was the riskiest move in her career, and it very well may be her best decision. The album marked a rebirth in sound and mind. Swift named it after her birth year, drew influence from the music of that time, and astounded even the biggest of skeptics. 1989 was a true gift and will go on to be remembered as one of the best albums in 21st century pop music.

Best Track(s): “Blank Space,” “Wildest Dreams,” “New Romantics,” “Out of the Woods”


1. folklore (2020)

Reinvention, novelty, surprise, and quality. Pop stars are plagued with the task of accomplishing all of these, many times over. Those that withstand the brutal, often sexist tests of time become immortalized. Taylor Swift is one of those women. Though a far cry from maintaining a perfect public persona, Swift has always retreated from her mistakes and found solace in songwriting. In a year when the public was longing for solace in their respective isolated bubbles, Swift once again rebirth herself and her sound with folklore. Swept away were the heavily curated promotional cycles and replacing them were inspired, richly imagined songs that for the first time transcended Swift’s personal life and its incessant coverage. In many ways similar to the now classic 1989folklore has unlocked the latest chapter in the living legend’s career.

Best track(s): “august,” “invisible string,” “the 1,” “the last great american dynasty”


Miley Cyrus finds home in herself with ‘Plastic Hearts’

Plastic Hearts, RCA Records

Foam fingers, bleached hair, cowboy boots, and psychedelics. Transcendent Disney star Miley Cyrus has become perhaps the most commercially experimental millennial artist to graduate from the Disney Channel.

Since her days on Hannah Montana, Cyrus has had a good girl gone bad moment in her third album Can’t Be Tamed, taken it one step further in the instantly viral and often superb Bangerz, and stripped herself back down in an effort to mature with the misdirected Younger Now. The streamline throughout her discography up to this point is its innate consideration of reputation and public perception.

In reaction to her Disney days, Cyrus contradicted her image by releasing Can’t Be Tamed and Bangerz. In contrast, Younger Now revealed a Miley Cyrus once again pivoting away from what the public expected. The back-to-roots project was stripped bare, unfortunately erasing much of the singer’s edge in the process.

With her seventh studio album, Plastic Hearts, the developing singer/songwriter finally lets go of that image in what will likely come to be known as the quintessential Miley Cyrus album; it’s an equation of her inspirations, her past sounds, and her growing control over her sonic style. It has pop, it has rock, it has alt. It’s a dazzling, often restrained showcase of an artist who continues to evolve, ripping apart the plastic to reveal a more authentic version of herself.

The album opens with the scathing “WTF Do I Know,” decidedly leaving off a question mark in the title. More of a statement than a longing for answers, the track immediately sets the tone. Cyrus has evolved on the introduction. She’s shed the scars of her relationships, turning her attention inward to her own growth. This unapologetic attitude is undeniably empowered and Cyrus has never sounded more confident. The sonic references to “Start All Over” from her Hannah Montana days is just an added treat to this kiss off.

The album quickly sinks deeper into a more thoughtful string of songs in “Plastic Hearts” and “Angels Like You.” There’s a level of self-reflexive apathy present on the former that aptly fits the overall album theme. Featuring a Rolling Stones inspired sound bed, “Plastic Hearts” is a groovy tune that encapsulates the album. It isn’t overly adventurous or all that exciting, but it gets the artist’s message across.

Similar is “Angels Like You,” the first moment of empathy from Cyrus on the record. She reflects on a previous relationship here, offering her kind words and understanding to her past love. The self-assuredness on this track is an astonishing showcase of the singer’s growth. She knows herself, and knows the relationship is doomed. Her lover is too kindhearted to survive a relationship with the firey Miley.

Similar is the penultimate track on the album, “Never Be Me.”

Cyrus provides listeners with context into her state of mind throughout the chorus. She expresses her lack of fidelity, stability, and desire to manage someone else’s baggage. Its one of the highlights of the album, beautifully presenting an artist growing into herself and her prime. From a technical standpoint, Cyrus’ vocals have never sounded more emotive or poignant.

While Plastic Hearts loaded with surprisingly softer ballads, that isn’t to say the album has some head thrashing bangers. The first of which is the undeniable Dua Lipa collaboration, “Prisoner.” Both singers lend a level of grit to the anthem, running from a doomed love throughout the song. This momentum continues on one of the most fun tracks on the album, “Gimme What I Want.” With a murky electric guitar riff and a frivolous Cyrus looking for instant gratification, it’s awesome.

Cyrus also finds new ways of expressing herself on the record through duets with her inspirations in Billy Idol and Joan Jett. On “Night Crawling” with Idol, she adopts his signature sound with an 80s-rock single. It’s “Blinding Lights” meets Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” the blending of new and old that has dominated pop this year, the sound also laying the foundation of lead single “Midnight Sky.”

Underneath the spectrum of rock that dominates the sound of Plastic Hearts are more vulnerable showcases of the singer’s evolution. On “Hate Me,” Cyrus finds a stylish way to contemplate her own death in the context of her past loves and friendships. Like “Plastic Hearts,” it isn’t all that interesting or boundary pushing, but the lyrics on top of the standard backing is enough to compel listeners.

Improving upon “Hate Me” is the Mark Ronson assisted standout “High.” A rare perspective from Cyrus on this album, it showcases her longing for a past relationship. Its the matured successor to Bangerz opener “Adore You.” For the first time in her career, the singer successfully blends her sonic inspirations with the track. Country twang blend with traditional rock sensibilities to curate a perfect atmosphere for the song’s content.

Plastic Hearts plays it safe more often than it should, but in reflecting on the artist’s recent work, this is only the beginning. It’s a career rebirth that will hopefully unlock the doors for more country rock leaning sensibilities.

Closing the album with “Golden G String,” the pop rock chameleon leaves listeners with a concise summary of her current mentality. Combing through the memories of her past and her mistakes, Cyrus finds closure in self-awareness.

“I was tryin’ to own my power. Still I’m tryin’ to work it out,” she coos. With Plastic Hearts, she finally does.


Grammys 2021: Nominations + Predictions

Another year, another chaotic and unpredictable string of nominees to read across the screens of music fans, lovers, and critics as they hear the nominees for this year’s Grammy Awards. Pleasant surprises and shocking oversights were to be expected, but the biggest surprise this year is The Weeknd’s complete shut out. Receiving 0 nominations in a year when the artist is at what many consider his peak, After Hours‘ failure to be recognized is baffling. The first smash album to come from the pandemic, After Hours is the cinematic escape from reality that listeners could latch on and relate to. Where it didn’t literally relate to the year at play, it thematically weaved together concepts like isolation, grief, and loneliness in an extremely profound way. It’s just one of many shockers to come from one of the most baffling lists in Grammy history yet.

Take a look a look at the snubs, surprises, picks and predictions for this year’s ceremony:

Sam Smith finds liberation in convention

Love Goes, Capitol

“I wanna be wild and young, and not be afraid to lose,” Sam Smith coos in the opening line of their long reworked third studio album Love Goes. The dance pop record, originally titled To Die For, is essentially a breakup album explored through the theme of rebirth and re-acclamating with oneself.

Like Lorde’s Melodrama and Taylor Swift’s Red before it, the album finds enlightenment in heartbreak. The biggest issue with the project isn’t that its themes are familiar, it’s that Smith’s self actualization comes in the form of their weakest artistry to date. The bulk of the record feels so commonplace it only beckons listeners to reassemble with Smith’s past work. With each wave, it’s pulled in a new sonic direction, none of which stick the landing enough to dazzle.

Opening with “Youth,” Love Goes has a clear narrative of love lost. Smith’s heartbreak is well worn in the intro as they yearn for the next phase of their life. Before they find it, they succumb to memories with bitter hindsight on standout “Diamonds” and “Another One.” Their partner, shallow and quick to move on, has done a number on the pop crooner.

The remaining story of the album is Smith’s crawl back to themself, gluing their soul back together to new sounds. Similar to Lorde’s “Green Light,” they find solace on the dance floor and in the forms of new bodies and friends. If only this profound realization was reflected in a stronger, more unified production.

The majority of the songs on Love Goes play it extremely safe. On “So Serious,” Smith reflects on their lack of freedom, taking things overly personal. It’s set to a backdrop of snaps and claps that, if played at a low volume, may lay listeners to sleep. Instantly forgettable, the track lacks substance. Similar is the often whispered vocal of “Breaking Hearts.” Another song of losing love and the one sided aftermath Smith experiences, it too lacks conviction and singularity.

Perhaps most disappointing is the Labrinth assisted title track. In a year when Labrinth simply never misses (listen to the award winning Euphoria score immediately), the single is exactly that. What is meant to be the cathartic climax of a once in a lifetime love, it leaves listeners with little more than a shrug.

There are moments of sparkle within the album. One of the strongest moments comes in “Dance (‘Til You Love Someone Else).” The track is one of the few actually convincing moments of Smiths newly established sound. Applying the popular UK sound found in house pop like Calvin Harris’ “How Deep Is Your Love,” the song effectively supports its confident lyricism.

Unsurprisingly, Smith shines brightest when they slow down the party with the ballad “For The Lover That I Lost.” It’s a rare glimpse of the artist fans have come to love over the years. Their voice is truly once in a generation, and it couldn’t be more apparent than on this gem of a deep cut.

At 11 tracks, the standard edition of the album closes with “Kids Again.” A Troye Sivan esque track reveals a still hurt, but more matured Smith. Its another glimpse of the sound they were going for in constructing the project.

The biggest flaw of the record is its directionless structure. Where Taylor Swift’s Red lightsped through genres through the lens of the emotional process, Love Goes fails to justify its sonic incoherence. Some of the strongest statements lay in the deluxe tracks released across the last year and a half, namely “Dancing With a Stranger” and “To Die For.”

If nothing more, Love Goes shows an artist willing and committed to evolving. Whatever’s next, Smith has the potential to grow into whatever they want to become next.


‘Positions’ doesn’t quite switch up enough

Positions, Republic

No one pumps out consistently strong new music as frequently as pop sensation Ariana Grande. In the past two years, the singer released a whopping six singles and two albums, both debuting at No.1 on the Billboard 200 with Top 10 Hot 100 debuts for each track. Even for a pop star of her echelon, this feat is extremely impressive.

What’s more, Grande accomplished these rare milestones in the midst of some of the most painful, public tragedy imaginable. A tumultuous, grief stricken break-up went from tabloids to the studio, and thank u, next was born.

To that fans and music lovers alike said thank you, but what’s next?

Positions, the singer’s sixth studio album, attempts to answer that question. Helmed by her newest relationship, the album largely draws from the sound Grande mastered with thank u, next. Where the former had a jaded, morbid attitude, Positions reveals a more aloof, cautiously optimistic Grande. She’s more mature, more calm, and more self-aware when it comes to her approach to love.

Conceptually, Positions is one of the singer’s more interesting works. It amply tackles its titular theme in compellingly abstract ways. She looks at love and her life through the lens of various vantage points, interestingly relating her experiences and woes with her increasingly mass audience.

She stews in self-doubt and uncertainty on “off the table (feat. The Weeknd)” and “motive (feat. Doja Cat),” reflects on her life, past and present, with confidence on “just like magic” and opener “shut up,” and imagines herself in her partner’s shoes on closer “pov.”

Regardless of perspective, gone are bonafide hits like “7 rings” and “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored,” and replacing them are softer, more laid back Kehlani influenced novellas.

One of the most prominent examples of this deeper R&B tinged aesthetic is brought forth in the long teased cut “nasty.” With a lethargic trap drum, ambient atmosphere and relaxed vocal performance from Grande, the single shows the singer in deeper, more sexual territory. Drawing influence from early 2000s R&B and current artists like SZA, this continues on the effortlessly sultry “west side.”

Grande even dips her toes into disco on “love language.” One of the more experimental tracks on the record, it’s the perfect kind of disco for the bedroom. Grande has never sounded cooler or confident, especially on the commanding outro.

The former tracks considered, each song on Positions has a flighty sense of weightlessness. Credited to the joy Grande’s found in her newest love perhaps, this aspect is as much a strength as it is a fault. Upon the first few listens, listeners will fail to latch on to a song or songs that bolster the album. The 14 track record is decidedly slight at 42 minutes.

This dearth of longer or more fully produced tracks may leave many listeners wanting more to the point of dissatisfaction. Positions often plays like the thank u, next b-sides. There are many songs strong enough to warrant a spot on a studio album, namely standouts “just like magic” and “obvious.”

Others like “my hair,” however, lack the conviction and individuality that made thank u, next such a smash. Whether Positions was meant to make waves and redefine Grande or not, fans will find gems on the tracklist to carry them through the indefinite remainder of quarantine.

Grande likely would have benefited from a longer wait before releasing a thank u, next follow-up. With Positions, though, she evidently does as she pleases. At the end of the day, 7 years into her career, she gets everything she wants ‘cus she attracts it.


Catalogue Check: Ariana Grande

Ariana Grande has grown through popstar evolution and personal tragedy. With perhaps the strongest vocals out of any singer in pop today, the songstress has withstood countless heartbreaks, romantically and publicly, and dealt with far more than most people can say. The one constant, though, has been music. Through it all, the superstar has bared her soul to the world and picked herself to travel to new heights. As we await the arrival of positions later this evening, let’s look back at each of Grande’s studio albums, ranked.


A Definitive Ranking of Every Ariana Grande Album:

5. Yours Truly (2013)

From its inception, Yours Truly was meant as an experiment. Opener “Honeymoon Avenue” went through several reworks, and after the success of one of the strongest singles of Grande’s career in “The Way (feat. Mac Miller),” the remainder of the record opted for a contemporary doo-wop R&B sound. It has a lot of highlights, namely the aforementioned intro, as well as “The Way” doppelgänger “Right There (feat. Big Sean)” and deep cut “You’ll Never Know,” but it pales in comparison to the more fully realized artistry of her follow-ups.


My Everything, Republic

4. My Everything (2014)

Grande’s sophomore effort was less of an album and more of a “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” project. Her most, industry speaking, political record, it offers the glossy EDM of its time in “Break Free (feat. Zedd)” and an impressive array of collaborations from the biggest names in R&B and Hip-Hop. In addition, who can forget that sax on “Problem” and the guest spot from now irrelevant Iggy Azalea. The album could not be more from its time. That said, it doesn’t have much of a voice or any real insight into who Grande is as an artist. Bangers? Quite definitely, but like from Yours Truly, compelling artistry is the missing piece in this bloated pop confection.


Sweetener, Republic

3. Sweetener (2018)

Sweetener is an incredibly complex project. Coming after the Manchester attacks in a time when Grande found joy in a new love, it’s a glimmer of hope in what continues to be a violent and uncertain cultural moment in history. Grande enlisted the help of the ever-present Pharell Williams and longtime collaborator Max Martin for the bulk of the album, which is as much an asset as it is a burden. The different styles of the aforementioned producers make much of the album a jarring, disjointed listen. It lends itself to trap pop in “God is a woman” and “everytime,” but also showcases Grande’s best N.E.R.D. impressions in “the light is coming” and title track “sweetener.” Some tracks are complete throwaways, while others remain some of Grande’s strongest work. As an entire project it’s messy and uneven, but its ambition alone elevates it from much of the singer’s past work.


thank u, next, Republic

2. thank u, next (2019)

The fact that this album, in all of its cultural ubiquity, did not win Album of the Year in 2020 was a huge shock to most. Led by dual smash hit singles “thank u, next,” the biggest and baddest ex kiss-off of the 21st century, and “7 rings,” a revamped Sound of Music banger, the album was undoubtedly the most talked about of the year. While the lyricism could have been stronger, the empowering narrative and personal growth Grande poured into the record remains an astonishing feat, only months after the Sweetener release and death of dear friend and partner Mac Miller.


Dangerous Woman, Republic

1. Dangerous Woman (2016)

From the moment “Dangerous Woman” was released into the world, pop Stans and music listeners everywhere did a double take. Here she was, a near fully realized superstar finally seizing the power of her own vocals. What followed was a decidedly “good girl gone bad” evolution for Ariana Grande. Does it cater to the cliches of pop albums that have come before it? Sure, but it does it ever so stylishly. Coming before a wave of grief completely and unfairly removed an innocent young woman from a joyous time in her life, the album showcased Grande at her most powerful and least problematic. There was no brown facing, instead a collection of timeless bangers cohesively stitched together in her strongest project to date. Dangerous Woman is peak pop.

BLACKPINK lights up the sky in new doc

When it comes to BLACKPINK, the four woman K-pop group that infiltrated 2019’s Coachella with a disciplined mix of cuteness and absolute savagery, many of these details couldn’t be further from the truth. With BLACKPINK: Light Up the Sky, the group is introduced and their story of endless effort, constant evolution, and developmental frenzy is revealed.

Director Caroline Suh introduces each member with a rhythm reflective of the group’s easy swagger, swiftly breezing through their impressively dissimilar upbringings. There’s lead singer Jisoo, born and raised in South Korea; Jennie, singer/rapper who spent much of her childhood in New Zealand before returning to her birthplace of Seol; Lisa, rapper and lead dancer from Thailand; and Rosé, a lead vocalist born in Auckland to South Korean immigrants before moving to Melbourne where she grew up.

The four met throughout their shockingly long stint as trainees in YG Entertainment’s song and dance program. American Idol with no off switch, the program saw the girls spend years mastering their craft, testing their chemistry with fellow trainees until they joined one another to become something entirely new to the K-pop genre, BLACKPINK.

Flashforward through years of touring and smash hit global singles comes their history making Coachella performance. The documentary details the group’s shock and awe in exceeding the bounds of their already multicultural backgrounds to break onto perhaps the most mainstream festival stage in music today.

The documentary drops viewers into the group and their already long established dynamic well into their global success, with noticeably more quietly outgoing Jennie appearing as the evident leader of the group. The first to release her own work in single “SOLO,” she explains that the group is deep into work on their first full length LP; what would become October 2020’s release of THE ALBUM, a record that would skyrocket to the Billboard 200 and Hot 100 charts higher than any female K-pop group has ever gone.

The group then introduces songwriter/producer Teddy Park, a K-pop performer turned producer who helped the group find their sound and become what they are today. He describes the group’s initial release strategy favored singles before leaning more heavily into the personal storytelling of their latest project.

The film is so interesting for its multifaceted nature, outlining the similarly atypical group of women and their worldly experiences. They each possess such specific personalities that, when blended together, shine the light on why the group has become so universally resonant among audiences around the world.

Emotional, revealing, and eye opening for a corner of a massive genre constantly evolving, BLACKPINK: Light Up the Sky is nearly impossible to look away from, and soon after audiences will find themselves digging through the group’s growing discography.

Joji drops commercial ‘Nectar’

What happens when new media meets art?

In the 21st century, each decade has produced new avenues for talent of all kinds to achieve the success they likely would not have achieved without technological advancements. This can date back to the days of Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian. Utilizing the newly minted “reality television” medium, the two socialites became the original “influencers,” ushering in an Instagram-driven age of the self brand and a type of self employment that required nothing but luxury and style.

Today, this now obsolete tactic has created an oversaturated market for influencers far and wide. In need of a new tactic, the public flocked to YouTube and TikTok. Both free form platforms for users to put out essentially anything they want, it has provided an outlet for stars like the D’Amelios and Addion Raes of the world.

On the YouTube side, artist Joji made a stark transition to music, utilizing his steady following on the platform to seamlessly segue into his new role of genuine artist. His single, “SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK,” was a huge streaming hit. It allowed the singer to shed the skin of his former persona, leaving room for an easily marketable “sadboi” for the kids of Gen Z.

Clearly an ingenious tactic, the single resonated with users of this demographic. The song was appropriated into one of the first TikTok trends of its kind. Users utilized the song to film their own videos, expanding the already viral nature of the single.

With Nectar, Joji’s second studio album, the artist triples down on this tactic. The sweeping 18 track set features enough melancholy and hip hop influenced beats to dominate TikTok feeds for the fleeting days of the app’s reign.

It’s impossible to analyze Nectar from a purely artistic standpoint. The strategy is too on-the-nose. This, though, doesn’t necessarily discredit the quality of the often high quality record. Is it a few songs too long? Yes. Does it repeat themes to the point of monotony? Definitely. Is it, above all else, emotionally compelling and entertaining? Absolutely.

Nectar is made up mostly of love tunes across the spectrum of pursuit, loss, and the instability between those two benchmarks. The opener, “Ew,” immediately sets the tone of the project. Lamenting the loss of a love and wishing for one more longstanding and true, Joji sounds exasperated. This exhaustion only continues throughout most of the tracks.

The singer goes beyond the science of love to discuss the trappings of fame and the business side of his industry. Standout “MODUS” deals directly with labels and publicity teams forcing an image on him.

“I don’t feel the way they programmed me to feel today,” he sighs. The chorus of the song plays like an eboy version of Adele’s “Someone Like You,” and it’s actually one of the best moments on the album. It’s an interestingly self aware moment for a project seeped in its own commercialism and business oriented structure, actually including a song titled “Tick Tock.”

Another highlight is the Diplo assisted single “Daylight.” It’s a rare uptempo bop in a sea of mid tempo pieces of introspection.

Should Nectar have been abridged to about 12 songs, it would play as a much better album. Joji’s talent as both a songwriter and performer is undeniable since BALLADS 1. He’s shifted his sonics to inconsistent success. Though this work is a symptom of the maneuvers that got him to this point, the strength of the work often shines through the cracks.


Fall Favorites: Best New Music

If music is in the age of the independent artist, then 2020 is the renaissance of innovation. Forced isolation and physical entrapment has led to an escapism in creativity from a never before seen scope. This forced reality alteration has proven its profound impact on musicians. With more music coming out and new ways of releasing and promoting it, this is one of the few industries to find enrichment throughout this time (though we of course all miss our live shows).

This season, check out the below EPs from new and up-and-coming artists injecting their own DNA into the veins of the global music ecosystem.


I’m Allergic to Dogs! Remi Wolf

I’m Allergic to Dogs! – Remi Wolf

Remi Wolf is one of the most creative songwriters to breakout this year. “He likes his cherries when they’re Maraschino, he likes his movies when they’re Tarantino,” she asserts on standout track “Disco Man.” The set is incredibly fun and demands a few repeats with every listen. Funk, pop, and indie electronica provide a compelling backdrop from a lyricist unafraid to explore the facets of herself and share them with the world.

For fans of: Cautious Clay, Ryan Beatty, BROCKHAMPTON


Skofee, Signs From The Universe Entertainment

Polished – Skofee

The self-proclaimed “Beverly Hillbilly,” singer-songwriter Skofee impresses with a debut EP well beyond its years in maturity and artistic integrity. The 5-song set, released earlier this month, largely tells tales of loss, heartache, and self doubt. Amply titled, its juxtaposes the artist’s internal strife with a vocal performance so self-assured it beckons skepticism of how novel this artist really is. Indie pop has never been so emotionally affecting. Prepare to cry in the club (looking at you, “Bleach”).

For fans of: Tove Lo, Charli XCX, BANKS


Good Things, Atlantic

Good Things – Wafia

Wafia has been around for quite a while now. Her biggest hit remaining the Louis The Child collaboration “Better Not,” the multicultural alt-pop craftsman has yet to make her own mark on the pop sphere. That’s not to say the artist isn’t locked and loaded with some of the most powerful and introspective bangers. From “I’m Good” to this project’s “Flowers & Superpowers” and “Good Things,” Wafia balances vulnerability and confidence in a relatable way. This project has both, stitched together by a strong woman finding her way in life and love.

For fans of: Empress Of, King Princess, Lennon Stella


On Self Loathing, McCall

On Self Loathing – McCall

It’s endlessly impressive for any artist to be able to encapsulate internal anxiety and stress. A hidden battle, it often goes unnoticed by others. With her latest project, On Self Loathing, McCall powerfully achieves this. Both in sonics and lyricism, the artist is able to pinpoint the thought pathways that carry people through waves of depression. Beginning with “Nothing Even Wrong,” a dreamy, Bon Iver inspired opener, the artist volunteers her struggle to find the source problem for the feeling of hollow sadness. “I’m sorry I can’t come out, I really hate myself right now,” she secedes on the bouncy “Without Even Trying.” Endlessly honest, On Self Loathing forces listeners to think of the parts of themselves they shy away from, painting a relatable portrait for everyone.

For fans of: Bon Iver, The 1975, The Japanese House

A ‘Smile’ filled with cavities

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Smile, Capitol

When it comes to bubblegum, sometimes, if chewed too long, it grows stale.

The recently tumultuous career of pop superstar and record breaker Katy Perry has reached an impasse. After 2017’s Witness was a personal disaster for the singer, Perry felt the need to recalibrate to the sound that shot her to fame. It;s not a strange move for a pop star of her level. Actually, it’s more of a learned track; a crutch used to course correct a media attacked image. From Taylor Swift’s reputation follow up Lover to Britney Spears’ Blackout successor Circus, pop stars often toe the line between light and darkness driven by their public perception at the time.

The problem with notions like these is that, because these artists are so far removed from the everyman, they often overestimate how necessary sonic retreads are. Witness, while a huge underperformer relative to Perry’s previous work, had its moments. “Chained to the Rhythm” is an expertly crafted pop single that painted the national political anxiety that was suddenly spread throughout America.

The entire LP was a failed experiment, but that doesn’t suggest an artist should stop taking risks altogether. Unfortunately, musicians at this level of commercial success often feel the pressure to appeal to the masses at the expense of their artistry. Smile is a symptom of that – a fine, middle of the road pop record that the listener will listen to once, hopefully in full, and immediately forget about once it’s completed its run.

Even fireworks have to fizzle out eventually.

The album’s narrative largely tells a tale of personal redemption. Opening with “Never Really Over,” a year-old smash single, Perry expresses the undying nature of a deep love. Regardless of its existence in the present moment, it marks her forever. Sampling Dagny’s incredible “I Love You Like That,” the song remains the strongest on the album.

The following songs are disappointing, spreading platitudes of self-love, growth, and resiliency. The latter theme spotlit on “Resilient,” is a grating chant with little to offer but juvenile lyricism. This plague continues on “Cry About It Later” and “Teary Eyes.” The former, meant to be the anchor single of the album’s release, features one of the weakest hooks in the singer’s discography to date. At the time of this writing, its difficult to recall what “Teary Eyes” sounds like – it’s that forgettable.

Draping her best Post Malone costume, Perry adopts a hip hop beat with “Not the End of the World.” Again, it’s not a horrible track, it simply lacks a personality sharp enough to leave an impression on the listener. Perry, as fans know her from Teenage Dream and Prism, dissolves beneath the smoke and mirrors of desperate mass appeal.

This is perhaps no more obvious than on the title track, single “Smile.” Its repetitive, concise, and boring. Where most songs have bridges, the track showcases what was meant to be a dance break, but instead feels like a rapper missed his deadline to throw a watered down verse in support of the singer.

The album, while filled with cavities, beams in moments. Most previously released tracks are great. “Daisies” accomplishes what other positive anthems on the record fail to get across. Its stadium boom and powerful vocal elevate it from the crowd of shrugs. “Harleys in Hawaii” is another tasty treat. It features Perry’s signature lower register, seductively taking listeners with her on a one on one vacation. She’s in love on the track, and rarely for this album, it feels authentic.

The final two tracks, “Only Love” and “What Makes A Woman,” continue the conclusion on a high. The former, surely succumbing to the clichés of earlier moments on Smile, is set apart for its honest lyrics. The track is truly personal to Perry’s experience, allowing the viewer a chance to empathize.

The soft punctuation of “What Makes A Woman” ends the album well enough. It encapsulates the main takeaway of the record; Perry has recovered from personal strife, but her music has yet to progress and push any more boundaries.