Thank U, Next — Ariana Grande
Unnecessary words may have been exchanged on the last Grande review. Here at Albums Anonymous, we have come to terms with the expectations of a “popular music” album. The bubbly fizz pouring from Sweetener was part of the peppy persona, something that we had not considered. Coming into “Thank U, Next” with a more open mind, there’s much more to be appreciated from the moody Ari aura. Varied with trap beats and antiquated samples, the album feels more cohesive and a better step-up than the Pharrell Williams production on Sweetener.
The first artist since the Beatles in ’64 to take the top three spots of Billboard’s Hot 100, Grande pulled through big time with a hit-after-hit-after-hit-after-hit album, literally. All but one of the 12 tracks currently sit on top 40 radio lists, a huge success for the album.
For starters, radio and cultural charters, including tracks “Thank U, Next” and “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored” lend credibility to a pop breakthrough, furthering Grande’s presence in the ’10s decade of sound. Catchy melodies and zinging synth fly through the airwaves and digital streams and out into everybody’s ears. Other notables include the Wu-Tang-reminiscent sample-filled “fake smile” and “7 Rings” sang to the classic “Sound Of Music” tune about favorite things. Others may enjoy lyrically addictive songs like “bloodline” and “NASA.” What they do as a whole though, is one big mood. Chilled out restlessness and vindictive love come to mind when Grande sings about cutting off guys and living a lavish lifestyle.
So, what is there to fault? Not much, for one thing, the mass appeal is impeccable and unquestionable. Riding in a wave of music entering a new decade, it’s possible for “Thank U, Next” to stand out as a pop hit from its peers. If you were never a Grande fan or into her sound, there is most likely not much to enjoy. But for the vast circles it does encompass, “Thank U, Next” is a cultural phenomenon, in music, culture and everything that will be 2019. It is also a testament to the woman herself, a culmination of events related to the star that took headlines the past year. With the death of one ex and the broken engagement of another, “Thank U, Next” was an opportunity for Grande to lament and reflect through the power of pop music.
Hello Happiness — Chaka Khan
Chaka, Chaka, Chaka, Chaka Khan.
You may not want to rock the funk queen’s newest project, or you might end up in a Target Commercial. With a modern production, Khan loses her fervor, her voice dismayed behind only seven largely instrumental songs that mask what makes Chaka legendary.
Her first work since 2007, “Hello Happiness,” is supposed to represent a comeback for the artist after being admitted to rehab in 2016, a push she made due to close-associate Prince’s death to an accidental drug overdose. Khan stepped further into the new school with producer credits to Major Lazer member Switch to piece together a disco-esque work. However, even on its most groovy riffs, “Hello Happiness” never reaches the funky iconic style of her Rufus and early solo years.
For example, the progressions on “Like Sugar” can be appreciated, but they do not feel so exclusive to Khan herself. She can be replaced with any aging singer from her time and the impact would be the same. This is often due to the fact that her voice is set second to the rest of the music, making the album feel uninspired and uneventful. This falls through with other songs like “Too Hot” and “Like a Lady,” which can sound cool but do not do Khan any justice.
What more can be said about “Hello Happiness?” At only seven songs, it acts as more of an EP, with Khan trying to make headway in the contemporary world. But as a short listen, it does not hurt to give the Queen a chance as she balances an album of zealous instruments and subdued vocals. The infusion of old and new is a worthy venture, but ultimately uninteresting. You are probably better off buying back weird Uncle Joe’s disco records from his second wife’s garage sale.
Helium — HOMESHAKE
“I like how it sounds like all sounds were captured in a small bathroom.” – Mert Akgül, Youtube
Equivocating the ringing and tinniness of a lavatory best encapsulates the soundscapes dreamt up by Montreal-based musician Peter Sagar. A journey into minimalism, HOMESHAKE created another sleepy time-like soundtrack to capture the air into one place: “Helium.”
At solely 37 minutes, the experimental nature can be an acquired taste. Sagar does not hold to any limits when putting together tracks that flow in and out of one another in a contradicting cacophonic manner. The first song beeps along before transitioning into a different wave of tunage on “Anything At All.” Stand-outs include “Just Like My,” “Nothing Could Be Better” and “Like Mariah,” which are intertwined with intermittent indie instrumental feast fests, palatable for lonely nights and natural music highs. The album mainly focuses on loopy drums and rhythms, which is a departure from groovier dynamics on previous works. Nonetheless, there is still much to enjoy and get lost in.
If you have listened to earlier HOMESHAKE albums, “Helium” is a progression in the lo-fi scene for the artist. A chance for chancery, Sagar tests out what he likes, bringing listeners along for a quick trippy ride. Try it out sometime if you feel like beaming into Captain Kirk’s personal bathroom.
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