It’s hard to believe last year not many people even knew the name Olivia Rodrigo but after January of this year she became a household name overnight. “drivers license” was the key to her new life in this crazy musical spotlight and she’s taking full advantage of it. A debut album opening with a song like “brutal” is incredibly impressive. Sounding like a straight-up Bikini Kill b-side, this rebel anthem is girl punk at its finest. Rodrigo sing-speaks “I’m so sick of seventeen, where’s my f****ng teenage dream”. While this song differs from most of the tracks on the album, it fits in with the angsty feelings we hear echoed throughout.
Sour has expertly crafted production on every track. It’s easy to create a pop album, but you can tell Olivia wanted to make this one different, and boy did it pay off. Each song is unique with a variety of production elements and intricate vocal changes. Listen to how Olivia sings the chorus in “jealousy, jealousy” versus in “good 4 u” – the artistry speaks for itself. Not to mention, her alto voice has such a wide range that feels more romantic and lush everytime she holds a note.
While some songs feel more mature than others, the teenage themes cannot be avoided; lost friendships, jealousy, young love, betrayal. She could’ve made a simple cookie-cutter breakup album about hating her ex and wanting to key his car, but Sour is much more layered than that. “hope ur ok” is a touching tribute to lost friendships. Rodrigo sings, “but, God I hope that you’re happier today, cause I love you, and I hope that you’re okay”. While next single “enough for you” focuses on insecurities in a relationship, ones that can consume your mind. The piano-led “1 step forward, 3 steps back” details a toxic relationship and the ups and downs that come with it; “Do you love me, want me, hate me? Boy, I don’t understand”.
Rodrigo stated in a recent interview that she loves writing ballads more than any other type of song but knew her album needed to have more variety to it which is exactly what she did. Even the upbeat songs still evoke the exact emotion she’s feeling, whether it be anger or sadness without sounding forced or ingenuine. Hit single “deja vu” is a soft song until it builds to a powerful loud chorus playing on the idea of deja vu from an outside perspective – another mature metaphor that you can’t help but relate to.
With a debut album this authentic and flawless, it’s hard to believe Olivia is only 18 years old. She’s zooming on the fast track to a Grammy, a world tour, and a career full of success.
I’d like to say FLOWERS for VASES/descansos is the softer side of Hayley Williams, but these songs are the farthest thing from soft. Enmeshed in complicated emotions, every track tugs and pulls at a personal place. These are her feelings and she’s owning them.
Almost every song off the album opens with either a guitar or piano intro, lighting a match for some beautifully constructed musical masterpieces. Hayley wastes no time and opens with a song titled, “First Thing To Go” a unique play on a common phrase, but this time it’s referencing the death of a relationship. Williams softly sings, “the first thing to go was the sound of his voice.” As the song barrels on with dainty acoustics, we realize how raw this album is going to be. This similar sound floods the album on other tracks like “HYD”, “Wait On”, and “Good Grief”.
Songs like “Asystole”, “Over Those Hills”, and “Find Me Here” sound like they could be an old Fleetwood Mac b-side providing layered vocals, pretty picked guitar strings, and intricate lyrics. “As long as I’m lovin you, you’ll never be alone, as long as you keep wanting me around” she croons on “Find Me Here” – a delicate lullaby. Her vocals on this album remain simple and I love Hayley for choosing to go that route. After spending so much of her career pleasing other people with crazy high notes and aggressive vocal work, she’s now able to sit back and harness her naturally alto-voice that sounds so soothing and honest.
While there are a plethora of important themes laced throughout this collection of songs, there is one that reveals itself the most, which is vulnerability. This is the deepest we’ve heard from the pop/rock singer as she details intimate moments through this new singer/songwriter lens. “Inordinary” stands out for this exact reason. We hear Williams describing the day her and her mother picked up everything and moved to Franklin, TN. The song hints at the beginning of her new life including a newfound identity. As the album floats on, she exposes her vulnerability through some powerful statements like: “I got the trigger but you hold the gun”, “love has turned me into many others”, “if only I could prove that on my own, I’m worthy”, “my altar is full of our love’s delusions”, “I take my pills every night and in the morning.” Each lyric feels like it was carefully plucked from a diary and placed ever so delicately in its own spot for Hayley to explore and expand upon.
FLOWERS for VASES/descansos not only proves Hayley’s musical prowess but also that her songwriting skills are the sharpest they’ve ever been.
Although Lennon is no stranger to the music industry (both of her parents are singers and her and sister Maisy were cast members on the hit TV show Nashville as a singing duo). Lennon has successfully showed off her artistry since starting her solo music journey with a gorgeous EP titled Love, Me back in 2018. In a recent interview, Lennon said, “Putting out an album has been my dream for as long as I can remember. I wanted it to be something that embodied who I am. I wasn’t listening to any other opinions to morph it into anything.” Her debut album, Three. Two. One. is certainly a debut to be proud of.
This album is flooded with every type of relationship; family, friends, and lovers. Every emotion is explored through enchanting lyrics and melodies brushed with subtle strings and piano chords. Lennon’s voice is so pretty it hurts. She makes singing look easy. Opening track, “Much Too Much” shines light on a deep relationship and the uncertainty that lies beneath the surface. Stella explains it saying, “So this is that fear-based concept: of being scared of letting go of something because you think ‘What if later on I’m like, it was perfect, and now it’s not?'” Pretty mature for a 20-year-old, huh?
Every song is just as beautiful as the next. “Games”, “Fear of Being Alone”, and “Jealous” have radio-ready potential featuring beautifully crafted choruses and gentle pop vocals. “Bend Over Backwards” has a heavier beat straying from Lennon’s usual subdued production. She sings about standing your ground and not succumbing to outside pressures; another mature topic beyond her years. “Since I Was A Kid”, “Older Than I Am” and “Weakness” are some of the most personal tracks off the album revolving around Lennon’s upbringing and keeping her family close. Her sister Maisy is featured on “Weakness” as they sing about the close bond they have with eachother and how its developed over the years. Closing the album is “Goodnight”; a song I’ve been listening to on YouTube for a year waiting for her to release it on an album. She quietly sings with purpose, “when I close my eyes, please don’t say goodbye, just say goodnight.” The lyrics and melody make this lullaby feel hopeful and open-ended.
Some artists would take 10 years to compose an album this unblemished. Lennon Stella has proven her artistry is hers and no one else’s through an album that is 100% her.
As Williams’ solo debut album inches closer and closer, the talented singer/songwriter has continued to release more songs for fans to digest. Her latest, titled “Why We Ever” might be my favorite so far.
This melancholy track is a diary entry that feels all too relatable. Although the underlying bass groove of the track is a bit retro and cute, the lyrics prove another all-bearing emotional story. Hayley describes a relationship at its end, but why? Sometimes we don’t really know; “And now I, can’t seem to remember why we ever felt we had to say goodbye.” Apologies crawl into the closing piano-led outro as Hayley anxiously sings, “I just wanna talk about it, sorry for freaking out,” over and over. These words feel significant in so many ways, like they could somehow solve everything but instead, just saying them out loud is a step towards inner freedom. I keep going back to the closing piano melody and find it so beautiful. It flows just slow enough to compliment the lyrics with upper and lower notes to mimic the heartfelt feelings described in the track. It’s pure magic.
As we’ve heard in previously released singles, self-identity is a huge theme in this new chapter of Hayley’s life. Is she happy, mad, sad, hurt, peaceful? It doesn’t matter. Her main goal is honest expression – nothing is off limits on this album.
Saturated in 70’s style synths, Dua Lipa is finally growing into her artistry. Future Nostalgia is her long-awaited sophomore album – a hurdle most artists buckle at the chance to master. Through a haze of masterly produced tracks, Dua proves she’s here to entertain. In an interview with British Vogue, the singer described the album as a whole saying, “It kind of feels like a dancercise class…I’m not trying to take myself too seriously but as a record it does feel more mature.”
Lead single “Don’t Start Now” gave fans a glimpse into the futuristic yet retro sound behind this album. Disco pop and light house intertwine into their own recipe as we listen to a pop singer finally come into her own. “Pretty Please” has a groovy baseline meant for hip swaying while “Break My Heart” is an eclectic disco pop anthem worthy of your widest flare pants. Dua keeps her simple pop-centric lyrics as we hear on the bouncy track “Hallucinate”; “I hallucinate when you call my name / Got stars in my eyes / and they don’t fade when you come my way.”
Standout track “Good In Bed” shows off some cheeky production skills while Dua’s voice dances up and down the scale. The album as a whole pulls at the usual themes of love, relationships, and sex alongside a casual and fun backdrop. Future Nostalgia has definitely proven Dua’s staying power in an industry full of bubble gum pop queens.