Ariana Grande, ‘thank u, next’

Ariana Grande’s 2018 release, sweetener, had only been on store shelves for two months before the pop star began recording its follow up, thank u, next. Prior to this, Grande had officially declared a hiatus from her music career following both the passing of ex-boyfriend, Mac Miller and split from fiance, Pete Davidson.

sweetener stood as Grande’s statement following 2017’s Manchester bombing and her newfound relationship with Davidson. Riddled with songs dealing with crippling anxiety and odes to newfound love, sweetener inched Grande’s image one-step closer to the sense of female empowerment that simmered under fan favorites such as “Dangerous Woman,” and “Bang Bang.” Obviously wounded, Grande would nevertheless assure interviewers and fans alike that she was in an optimistic place following a self-professed love of therapy and studio sessions.

thank u, next rewrites that story. For her fifth album, Grande ditches her pop roots for Beyonce-style R&B and a controversial trap sound that sent Twitter into a frenzy for weeks. With it’s vulnerable lyrics and upbeat sound, the album’s title track earned Grande her first #1 on the Billboard 100. Save for the risque “7 Rings,” (Grande’s 2nd #1, might we add) such confidence proves an exception on the 12-track collection; Grande herself described thank u, next in an interview with Billboard as ” [sounding] really upbeat, [although] it’s actually a super-sad chapter. [The album’s] not particularly uplifting.” 

Songs like the bouncy highlight, “NASA” and the quirky “make up” are prime examples. Playful rhythms and quirky synths try their best to sugarcoat the underlying themes of distancing and shortcomings within relationships. Sonically, the blaring synth horns and percussive groove of “bloodline” are reminiscent of 2016’s “Side to Side.” The first half of “bad idea” comes closest to Grande’s “Into You” days before seguing into a trap-lite instrumental. Throughout the record, buoyant arrangements and sanguine melodies repeatedly distract from Grande’s melancholic views; most fans probably found themselves listening to tracks on repeat just to understand the full gist of the album’s heavy mood.

Other cuts, such as the stripped-down “needy” and the eerie “ghostin’,” face her anguish head-on. It’s on these tracks that producers Tommy Brown and the duo, ILYA and Max Martin allow for Grande’s much needed vulnerability. While the aforementioned “7 Rings” tries to smother her disappointment under thick sub-bass and heavy braggadocio, the straight-forward heartache and disappointment heard on “in my head” and “fake smile” offer an honest view fans are sure to appreciate.

thank u, next has become Ariana Grande’s 4th chart-topping album on the Billboard 200 with a debut week of 360,000 total units. After five years since Grande’s debut album, thank u, next has finally scored Grande not one, but two #1 debuts on the Hot 100 (with “break up with your boyfriend, i’m bored” set to become her third). Still, thank u, next’s biggest achievement isn’t its commercial success; rather, its an unabashed embracing of the personal that allows the record to stand on its own two feet. On her latest release, Grande favors keyed-down production and vulnerability over the high-profile promotional schedules and controversies that have marked her career thus far.


Demolish Writer’s Block, An Intro and Exercise

In my personal library, I have over 20 books devoted to the tricky subject of writer’s block. My collection ranges from the cutesy Writing Block series by Lou Harry (with each book printed in the shape of a 3x3x3 inch block) to the brainy treatise that is Rosanne Bane’s Around the Writer’s Block: Using Brain Science to Solve Writer’s BlockA quick read-through of the far-ranging titles on my shelf highlights one of writer’s block’s crucial dilemmas: the overloading amount of advice and solutions offered to squash writer’s block reflects the multi-faceted nature of the problem itself. If I’m dealing with a vicious inner critic, there are 189 book listings that can solve the issue on Amazon alone. How about procrastination?  Over 100+ podcasts on iTunes can help.

The subjectivity of creative writing has created a demanding market of self-help authors that overwhelm the aspiring writer in their attempts to assist him.  This frustration ultimately led to the creation of the first exercise in this series. One July, after almost two years of only freewriting to show for my attempts, I snapped. Fed up with the “Show up at the page” and “Discipline is everything” I preached at my own workshops,  I slammed my Macbook shut and walked out into a blazing heat. Without the looming presence of my 5-subject notebooks and Macbook, I felt liberated from the demands I had placed on myself.

Over the next two hours, I explored the local “Rail to Trails,” stumbling upon everything from an unfortanate porcupine corpse to a severed seat belt buckle left on the trail—all excellent fodder for the writer! Luckily, I had stormed out of the house with my iPhone in my pocket. After recording my journey through photos, I later returned home and wrote about the photos I had taken. I sent out three new poems to various literary journals later that month.


Too often, the aspiring writer gets consumed with the “Product”. He devotes his time and thoughts to his project with an idealized end result in mind. The writer, however, soon faces creative exhaustion after spending x amount of hours in front a blank page. With the fast-paced opportunities that self-publishing and online publications offer, the time needed to foster inspiration and indulge the process of composing has been cast to the side. Many of the most promising remedies for writer’s block must come from the work done beyond the confines of the page margin or mouse cursor.

Before we begin the first exercise, consider this quote by two-time Booker Prize recipient and National Book Critic’c Circle Award winner, Hilary Mantel:

“If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to ­music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.”

—Hilary Mantel, The Guardian, 2/25/10

Exercise # 1: The Walk


  • A smartphone or digital camera
  • A walking path or route, preferably in nature

Step 1: Leave your writing projects and upcoming deadlines at home. If anything, this exercise acts as a walking meditation. Attune yourself to all the sensations of your body and sights on your path.

Step 2: Devote at least 30 minutes to your chosen route. Allow yourself to carefully observe anything that catches your eye. Check under your feet for animal imprints. Scan the forest canopy for a deserted squirrel nest. Too often, we make a habit out of quickly passing through the spaces we inhabit without noting all the details that make up our environment.

Step 3: Take at least 10 pictures. This guideline is meant to force you to actively hunt out potential subjects for a new piece, and provide a set of parameters the creative mind often needs to produce.

Step 4: Incubate. Once you have your photos, do not allow yourself to write about the pictures until at least 3 days have passed. Allow your mind to take the time it needs to remove itself from the immediate context in which the photos were taken. You’ll be surprised at what new connections your mind will make once you strip the photos of the trivial memories you had from that day.

Step 5: Freewrite. Write your first impressions from the photos, allowing yourself to consider various settings, plots, or other details that weren’t part of your original walk.

Step 6: Share (Optional): Once you have finished your exercise, feel free to share your work with me via Twitter at @aarontremper

Riding The “Landslide”: A Post for a 26th Birthday

Every time I attend a Stevie Nicks concert, I call my Dad the moment “Landslide” begins. Nicks often opts to perform this iconic ballad as an encore, acknowledging the leverage such artists as the Dixie Chicks and Smashing Pumpkins have given the track. At this point, the crowd is deafening and my cell phone reception becomes sporadic. My goal, however, isn’t to bootleg a Madison Square Garden rendition of “Landslide”; my sole aim is to remind my family of how they provided me with the greatest love of my life—music.

I discovered Stevie Nicks while rummaging through my father’s old vinyl. Among picture discs of Ozzy Osbourne’s Diary of a Madman and KISS records, I found copies of both Fleetwood Mac’s 1977’s Rumours and Stevie Nick’s solo debut, Bella Donna. I had spent the first 13 years of my life hooked on my stepmother’s country pop and my sister’s obsession with 90’s R&B. Once I heard the opening verses of “Dreams,” however, my musical direction would shift lanes. ’70’s Stevie Nicks wasn’t the bouncy optimism of Shania Twain or Carey’s flashy belts and whistles; Stevie’s sang with both the humility of an early Dolly Parton and the eccentric mysticism that underscored Led Zeppelin’s most iconic songs. By the time I had reached Bella Donna‘s gruff, Police-inspired “Edge of Seventeen,” I interrogated my father about everything and anything that was Fleetwood Mac.

My father has devoted his life to his guitar. A gifted neoclassical guitarist, he dedicates every spare minute to his craft. He spent decades gorging himself on Yngwie Malmsteen imports and Van Halen videos. A self-taught guitarist before the coming of the Internet, he’s rehashed for me the nights spent playing along to guitar solos on vinyl records for hours on end. Before tablature on the web or DAWs, there were only haphazardly printed songbooks and the discipline to learn an upcoming gig’s setlist by ear. He mourns the lost art of discipline and dedication in the contemporary musician, who has endless Youtube tutorials and tab forums at his disposal; in this era of information overload, I envy his willingness to devote his time to nothing more than his guitar and his favorite records. My biggest musical hero, my father was the recipient of every inquiry I had—Fleetwood Mac would be no different.

Shortly after my Fleetwood Mac discovery, my father dug out his copy of their 1997 live album, The Dance. I wore out the gears in my yellow Walkman listening to a version of “Landslide” dedicated to her father. While I admired Lindsey Buckingham’s Travis-picking and Stevie’s wizened, yet emotive vocals, it was the timeless lyrics describing the reluctance and uncertainty in aging that kept the song on repeat. Any 13 year old would feel the gravity of such lyrics; with the arrival of a younger brother and strained ties within my family, “Landslide” reigned me in, easing the rough transition and reigniting my passion for writing.

As I write this, I am only half an hour away from my 26th birthday. The past year has been riddled with unexpected bouts of illness, uncertainty regarding graduate school, and a new romantic relationship. I’ve often told myself that this year was the most challenging in my life, despite family and friends reassuring me otherwise. For the past week, I’ve been listening to “Landslide” on repeat, contemplating the many paths I must choose from. I’ve found comfort, however, in remembering that Stevie was only 25 when she wrote “Landslide.” Dropped from Polydor Records after a failed record, Stevie created “Landslide” out of indecision: Would she appease her parents by finishing college or chase after a music career with Lindsey Buckingham? Stevie chose the latter, living off Hamburger Helper and a waitress’s paycheck until Mick Fleetwood signed the duo a year later.

The last time I saw Stevie Nicks was on her 24 Karat Tour. I left during the middle of “Rhiannon,” a song Stevie claims she’s performed at every concert since its release in 1975. As I scooted around hollering fans, I reasoned that “Landslide” must have been booted in favor of more obscure 80’s recordings. As I opened the door leading to the stairs, however, I heard the first chords to “Landslide,” soon followed by an arena full of cheers. The crowd roared and the reception wasn’t too great. Still, I dialed my father and waited as I listened to the concert from the fire escape.

photo credit: golfnride Stevie Nicksphotopin (license)

Frank Ocean, “Chanel”

With last year’s release of Blonde, listeners found a liberated Frank Ocean flaunting his freedom from the constraints and demands of his record label, Def Jam. Under Def Jam’s supervision, Ocean’s openly bisexual status would only be hinted at on Channel Orange‘s “Thinkin’ of You” and a coming out letter on his Tumblr account. While writing Blonde, Ocean sought inspiration from his own turbulent past, with songs such as “Self Control,” and “Good Guy” allowing for a deeper self-expression of his bisexuality.

On his 2017 single, “Chanel,” Ocean continues to fuel the public’s perception of him as an ambassador for LGBTQ artistry within the relatively hostile domain of R&B and Hip-Hop. Ocean opens with the assertive declaration:”My guy pretty like a girl and he got fight stories to tell/ I see both sides like Chanel, I see on both sides like Chanel.” Later on, Ocean details an intimate encounter with another man, whose “straight-acting” persona soon gives way to a malleable, “dirty plastic” sense of identity. Both encounters highlight the dichotomies that have become a motif throughout  Ocean’s catalog; the allure of “Chanel” relies on such observations concerning the binaries inherent in his “post-breakout” experience: sexuality, gender norms, and status.

The musical arrangement of “Chanel” recalls the hazy, ambiguous production of Blonde, with programmed drums setting the pace for the slow piano progression, and vague synth leads that loop throughout the song. The subtle instrumentals, however, bow to Ocean’s rapping, which holds most of the song’s conflict and appeal. With its social commentary and avant-garde production, “Chanel” reflects the newfound artistic freedom of the

With its social commentary and avant-garde production, “Chanel” reflects the newfound artistic freedom of the Blonde sessions; Ocean’s empathetic confessionalism, however, hasn’t been lost in the experimentation, making for another raw hit that we’ve come to expect from him.


Lady Gaga, “Perfect Illusion”

With the announcement of “Perfect Illusion,” Little Monsters and critics alike were left to wonder what a Lady Gaga single would sound like after her three-year hiatus from pop music. Would the swirling rumors of a RedOne/Gaga reunion make for a dark, club banger a la “Bad Romance?” Perhaps a Grammy win with Tony Bennett had persuaded the Golden Globe winner to try her hand at a solo jazz collection? Neither, it seems. As a collaboration between Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, Mark Ronson, and the producer, Bloodpop, Lady Gaga’s “Perfect Illusion” finds the Mother Monster swapping her jazz ensemble for a handful of guitars and a dash of punk.

More Tame Impala than Mark Ronson or Bloodpop, “Perfect Illusion” takes a stab at dance-rock, toeing in line with Ronson’s promise of a purely “analog record.” Simple guitar progressions and delayed synth vamps underscore Gaga’s raw vocals, which waver between a female Bruce Springsteen and (oddly enough) a belting Miley Cyrus. The auto-tune that ran rampant on previous dance hits like “Poker Face” and “Bad Romance” is gone, leaving behind the sheer force of her powerful delivery.

The Ronson-Parker-Bloodpop trio’s intentions are glaringly clear from the first listen: to feature Gaga’s undeniable vocal talent, as showcased on Cheek To Cheek and her memorable tribute to Julie Andrews at 2015’s Oscars. The effect, however, has overshadowed Gaga’s knack for quirky, provocative lyrics. Vague verses and a simple, repetitive chorus stand as some of Gaga’s weakest lines, despite her recent boast that “every few days, a lyric would change and it would get better and better.”   Even in its final draft, the song’s intention as a commentary on the ingenuine nature of social media barely comes across.

Lady Gaga’s survey into punkish disco-rock of “Perfect Illusion,” marks the beginning of yet another reinvention in the singer’s eight-year stint in the limelight.  After the saccharine empowerment of Born This Way and the weed-fueled erracticism of Artpop, the raw vocal power and refreshing collaborations on”Perfect Illusion” are a hopeful sign that Joanne may produce some of Lady Gaga’s most accessible work. The stale lyrics and modest arrangement, however, still fall short in capturing the thrill and intrigue of The Fame Monster, arguably the most authentic and respectable release of the icon’s career.


Britney Spears, “Private Show”/”Make Me”

It’s hard to believe that Beyoncé and Britney Spears are the same age. 34 years, however, have treated the two mega-divas quite differently: while Yoncé continues to sell out massive venues on the success of her latest album, Lemonade, Brit-Brit has spent the past three years peddling lackluster singles. After the disappointing Iggy Azalea collab, “Pretty Girls,” fizzled out, it seemed plans for another Spears album were once again shelved.

One year later, Spears fans worldwide reveled in the promise of “Make Me,” the lead single off of Spears’s ninth studio release, Glory. True to form, the track includes the three hallmarks of every Britney single: 1.) whiny, feeble vocals, 2.) excessive Auto-tune to fluff up the former (second only to Ke$ha), and 3.) mid-riff baring artwork to highlight her best asset, her body.With an appearance by G-Eazy, we also find Spears’s recent habit of outsourcing for more relevant, fresh-faced talent (see “Pretty Girls,” which rode on the coattails of the brief Iggy Azalea craze) in full force.

That being said, the vocals don’t fall into the realm of robotic, as on the throwaway recording, “Ooh La La” or the Ke$ha-penned, “Til The World Ends.”Smooth choral runs and subtle verses prove a working formula for Spears’s limited range, even adding a flair of, dare we say, artistry to the mix?

Not so fast. “Private Show,” which shares the name of Spears’s newest fragrance, abandons such subtleties for a bold release that’s heavy on sex appeal and auto-tune. In short, the effect is that of a robot crooning about stripteases and twerking—bizarre and repulsive. Britney chokes on the chorus and invokes a laughable Rihanna impression with her clipped “work it’s.”The entire track revolves around an awkward arrangement that tries to balance the instrumental’s light-hearted mood with Spear’s obvious struggle in singing the song.

When, at the three and a half minute mark, Spears confidently asks to take on the song again, one has to wonder at how deeply Spears’s denial runs; after a 24-year long career of cashing in on lip-synced global tours and Las Vegas residencies, Britney Spears once again proves how her career relies on her fan base’s sense of nostalgia for her reign as the Queen of Y2k pop. Let’s leave 2016 and the actual singing to Beyoncé.


Ferras, “Closer”

It’s been over two years since the release of Ferras’s last release, an eponymous five-track EP brimming with romantic yearning — and the inevitable heartbreak and disappointment that results from it. The single, “Champagne,” was an assertive departure from Ferras’s piano-driven debut, “Hollywood’s Not America”. While “America’s” radio-friendly sound worked well for its use as American Idol’s departure song, “Champagne” reeked of Dom Perignon and coke-fueled urgency. 2014 brought with it a fiery new Ferras flaunting a serious mohawk —and a sound to match.

Two years later, Ferras continues the trend with “Closer,” a  mid tempo pop track reminiscent of the Ferras sessions. Subtle marimbas and piano stabs shuffle behind lyrics resounding with the same urgency and desperation that made “Champagne” so exceptional. While Ferras’s passionate delivery remains in tip-top form, the backing arrangement lags behind his aroused vocals. The mismatch between Ferras’s zeal and his underwhelming instrumental recalls the jounce of “No Good in Goodnight,” a slice of filler that lacks the vulnerability of tracks like “Speak In Tongues” or the gorgeous Aliens & Rainbows take of “Take My Lips.”

Still, “Closer” teems with a come-hither appeal that only Ferras can pull off . Although the drastic highs and sweeping lows of songs like “Champagne” and “My Beautiful Life” may be lacking from Ferras’s latest release, “Closer” still carries with it the promise of another solid LP. In the meantime, we’ll have to wait with fingers crossed, hoping to hear Ferras at his best—that is,  when he’s hot and bothered.


Grace, FMA

It began with the name. When a slicker, rap-infused take of Leslie Gore’s hit, “You Don’t Own Me,” (Only “It’s My Party”would outsell this multi-platinum selling recording) came on my car radio, I was quick to ask Siri for the name of this newcomer. The single meandered it’s way through 60’s pop and G-Eazy’s verses, all ushered on by this nameless singer channeling everything from an erratic Aguilera to a tall order of Winehouse Lite.  Imagine my confusion when I was told the brash commander of such refurbished feminism was “Grace,” merely Grace. Not Grace Potter. Not even Grace Jones or Grace Slick. Just the unassuming Grace.

The Australian singer’s debut, FMA, is, at times, another reworked blend of 60’s girl group nostalgia. Sonically, FMA toes in line with the releases of recent British Invasion of soul chanteuses such as Winehouse, Duffy, and Adele. On “Hope You Understand,” Grace’s gritty vocals sound like a rehearsed, yet impressive imitation of Winehouse. The arrangement and melodies on the sparse piano ballad, “How to Love Me” would fit snuggly into Adele’s recent smash release, 25. Grace studied her idols well, to the point where her own presence is lost in the production and imitations.

Between a lackluster stage name and reiterating the style of her overplayed idols, it’s clear that Grace’s, well, saving grace is her versatile voice and hip-hop leanings. Driving hip-hop beats underscore a bright organ on the naughty “Church on Sunday,” while electronic pianos and pitched vocal samples make for a dreamy midtempo jam on the yearning “Say.” “Hell Of A Girl,” a bombastic ode to 60’s soul and independence, drifts smoothly along before building to Grace’s climactic ad-libbing in the whistle register. On the remixed single, “Boyfriend Jeans,” Grace takes it down a few semi-tones with a falsetto reminiscent of Leona Lewis.With its smooth, harmonized chorus of man-worship, the soul romp of “Boys Boys Boys” epitomizes the album’s theme of romances won & lost.

While the track is one of many standout tracks, it too pales in comparison with the brief, yet powerful outro of “Song Cries and Amens.” Clocking in at a measly one and a half minutes, “Song Cries and Amens” is a quasi-poetic reprieve from a tracklist devoted to summer flings and failed relationships. Instead, Grace opts for self-reflection, wavering between loathing (Sometimes I hate me. . . I’m selfish, you’re right/ I can’t be normal. I lied) and self-acceptance (“I’m lame. So what?/ I’m all right”). With a lush backdrop of pizzicato strings, muted horns, and solemn piano, the track is refreshing cut that comes too late in the album and ends to soon.

Like her older brother, Conrad Sewell (who topped the Australian charts with his single, “Start Again”), Grace is a rookie in the major label scene. Graced with a formidable voice, the younger Sewell’s future success on radio seems promising. Many listeners, however, may dismiss her as redundant if she refuses to part ways with her imitations of more established soul singers.



Ariana Grande, Dangerous Woman

After the infamous “Donut Licking Fiasco of 2015,” former Nickelodean actress, Ariana Grande, has committed herself to her most ambitious promotional agenda yet: adulthood. Between sitting for Playboy Bunny-inspired album cover shoots, donning lingerie in risque music videos, and ditching her signature pony-tail, Grande’s stance on maturity reflects the failed approaches of countless kid stars before her.

While Miley Cyrus’s grinding routine and Lindsay Lohan’s, well, adult career have failed to fully redeem these once beloved kid stars, Grande’s four-octave voice has set her apart. With each performance, her talent proves to be a magnetic tour-de-force that has drawn in countless fans (myself included) since 2013’s doo-wop inspired Yours Truly.

2015’s Dangerous Woman is a collection of mostly sulty, sexually charged R&B meant to capitalize on Grande’s most mature asset, her voice. A shameless nod to Aretha Franklin’s 1967 hit, “(You Make Me Feel like) A Natural Woman,” the title track features an empowered Grande belting over slinky guitar riffs and a smooth high-hat beat. Meanwhile,the Macy Gray-featuring soul of “Leave Me Lonely,”  offers a rare glimpse of a raw and vulnerable Ariana shedding a fickle lover. Whether it’s the contemporary trap of “Everyday” or the throwback brass & electric piano of “I Don’t Care,”Grande’s vocal versatility allows for a diverse assortment of R&B achieved by few in the Top 40.

The 15-track LP, however, doesn’t confine itself to one genre. Fans of the 2014  breakthrough hit, “Break Free,” will appreciate the 90’s Mariah-meets-Mura-Musa feel of “Be Alright,” and the addictive pulse of “Into You.” Those missing the 50’s doo-wop and girl-group rehashing of Grande’s debut might prefer the demure opener, “Moonlight,” in which Grande romances a contemporary “Elvis with some James Dean in his eyes.” Grande even stakes out new territory with frequent collaborator, Nicki Minaj, on the domineering reggae of “Side to Side.” Embracing both the familiar and new, Dangerous Woman merges past tastes with an  emerging curiosity for new genres and timbres.

Although the eclectic mix of genres and lackluster lyrics, at times, mimic the inconsistency found on My Everything, Dangerous Woman finds America’s favorite “Mini-Mariah” inching toward finally establishing an authentic presence that is undeniably Ariana Grande. Until then, Grande’s latest LP will stand as another stepping stone between the Nickelodeon child star posting Adele covers on Youtube, and the woman who has embraced her showstopping talent as the hallmark of a “dangerous woman.”

Ariana Grande’s Dangerous Woman hits shelves May 21st! In the meantime, watch Ariana and Miley take on “Don’t Dream It’s Over!

“Work,” Rihanna feat. Drake

Rihanna’s newest single, “Work” invokes several motifs from the R&B princess’s career: Drake collaborations, topless photoshoots, and dancehall anthems. Despite the nostalgia of past career moves, “Work” is being touted as the “first” single off of the bad gal’s highly-anticipated album, Anti. It seems Rihanna’s 2015 roster of eclectic singles—the Kanye West/Paul McCartney product “FourFiveSeconds,” ; the trap track, “Bitch Better Have My Money,”; and protest slump, “American Oxygen,”—have been shrugged off as mere promotional singles following the announcement of West’s resignation from his role as Anti’s executive producer.

Tapping into the Caribbean feel of Rihanna’s debut, Music of the Sun, “Work” nevertheless reflects more recent nuances from Rihanna’s catalog. Rihanna’s vocals are tinged with a grittiness absent from Sun and it’s 2006 follow-up, A Girl Like Me; Fenty’s slight rasp colors the erratic verses with a sensuality that trumps the monotony of a nearly incoherent chorus. Furthermore, the heavy autotune used on Drake contribution does nothing to bolster the, otherwise, pristine production. Even Rihanna’s unique mezzo-soprano has been touched up, with the outro showcasing obvious “enhancements.”

Musically, the song relies on an alternating synth-bass line that fuels the characteristic syncopation that has become a trademark feature of contemporary “digital dancehall” hits (see Mr. Vegas and Elephant Man). When dubbed with steel drums strikes and three-note synth leads, the result is a moody, almost retro groove able to heavy the winding melodies of the verse and chorus.

With a three-year hiatus between albums, Rihanna’s decision to announce another comeback with a single titled “Work” rings with an undeniable insincerity. Even so, Rihanna’s conscious return to her roots may very well be the song’s most redefining attribute. In a year flooded with tropical house from the likes of Justin Bieber, we gladly embrace Rihanna’s reclamation of her Barbadian beginnings.