Tag Archives: Beyonce

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.

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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.

 

Beyonce, “7/11”

Sure, I was excited to learn that Beyonce’s latest single shares its title with my birthday. Yes—Beyonce sold 828,773 copies in three days with no notice. Quantity, however, doesn’t always mean quality.

While Beyonce’s self-titled 5th LP may be the icon’s most impressive, if not definitive release to date, “7/11″—a track described as “R&B ratchet record similar towards ‘Partition,” —hardly carries the weight of ‘Yonce’s sexiest anthem to date.

Hyped through fake track-lists and insider comments, “7/11” is a minimalist trap cut that sounds more like an unfinished demo than a finished, radio-ready single. Rampant auto-tune, simple instrumentals, sloppy lyrics—all characteristics we’d never expect from a Beyonce release yet are plentiful in “7/11.” With so little to offer, the best feature of the song is the final segment which finds Ms. Carter playfully ad-libbing over a relatively lush pad vamp.

One viewing of the low-maintenance music video and anyone would conclude “7/11” is Beyonce’s attempt to let loose and play after a year of divorce rumors and back-to-back world tours. Still, fun and innovation—both of which “7/11” strives for yet falls short of—shouldn’t sound this forced. It’s hard to believe that “Partition” placed 10 spots lower than “7/11” on the Billboard Hot 100 yet became a viral phenom without the build-up.

I won’t lie: I don’t hate “7/11.” The track does, however, seem like a lazy, tired attempt from such the 21st century’s most elite diva. Beyonce’s latest single proves the hit-maker doesn’t need a reissue as much as a well-deserved break.