ALBUM REVIEW: ‘Sucker Punch’ – Sigrid

Pure pop is a dying genre. Pop’s biggest names are quickly dropping the synths that once dominated charts the world over for the trap that is giving every sound loud rapper and their mother a number one. As a result, room for those pure pop artists is slowly becoming smaller and smaller. However, every so often, someone breaks through. Over two years ago, Sigrid wanted to be that someone. Two years on, Sigrid is that someone and her debut effort Sucker Punch is a marvellous introduction to pop’s next big thing.

After a string of hits, a number of which are included on Sucker Punch‘s tracklisting, Sigrid merely had to pull together a few filler tracks and put it out to get a hit debut album. Instead, the Norwegian 22 year-old took her time, and you can hear it across forty so minutes in which she allows us to dance along to her inner thoughts. The LP is fabulous showcase of what makes Sigrid someone to watch as she follows in the steps in some of pop’s finest. Credited on every track on Sucker Punch, Sigrid displays that sheer confessional determination to tell her own stories that made her predecessors like Taylor Swift, Adele and Lorde the global stars they are. Speaking of the latter, Sigrid’s vocals are laced with that same quirky unique tone that has always be a draw to Lorde. The combination results in 12 tracks filled with catchy hooks, pulsing synths and intimate lyricism that makes the singer even more endearing.

Along with the already released hits like ‘Strangers’ and ‘Sucker Punch’, songs like ‘Mine Right Now’, ‘Sight of You’ and ‘Basic’ seem like sure fire hits. That being said, there is something for everyone. ‘Level Up’ and ‘Business Dinners’ offer a more alternative pop that those hooky pop bangers while, ‘In Vain’ and album highlight ‘Dynamite’ provide the album with time to catch its breath as Sigrid strips everything back to just her voice.

‘Dynamite’ is a gorgeous piano ballad that closes the album, exploring herself and her relationship in a breathtakingly moment of pure vulnerability. In fact, the track is a so beautiful that even despite all the big bangers and tongue in cheek lyrics that come before it, this simple piano moment is the greatest sucker punch of them all. The album is meticulous in its detail and you never feel as if it’s the product of anything other than a 22 year old singer-songwriter, but it is this final instant that lets you know that it truly is Sigrid herself that is pulling all the strings in her career and what a career it will be.

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TRACK REVIEW: ‘Superstar’ – MARINA

Following the release of her third studio album, Froot, Marina Diamandis dropped the ‘& the Diamonds’ from her stage name, and went on an indefinite hiatus. Her fans remained supportive and now upping her return, they are ready to embrace her upcoming double album Love + Fear with all they have. This may not seem like much but when the first track off said album is ‘Handmade Heaven’, you begin to realise how big a feat that is. Thankfully, with ‘Superstar’, Marina turns it around.

The track, which features alongside the albums other two pre-releases ‘Handmade Heaven’ and Clean Bandit collaboration ‘Baby’ on the Love side of the album, is easily the best of the three so far. A dark throbbing electro pop number that harkens back to the darker second half of her 2012 LP Electra Heart like tracks such as ‘Teen Idle’, ‘Fear & Loathing’ and ‘Radioactive’. ‘Superstar’ is quite an interesting one, with the song’s tone and production almost construct with the lyrical content. Despite its pulsing, gloomy piano-edm instrumental, the song is a dead straight love song, positivity and all. The contrast makes for a refreshing take on the classic love ballad that this song easily could have been. Diamandis is on fire as per usual, again reminding us of her Electra Heart era with her vocals that move up and down with ease, showcasing the uniqueness of her voice perfectly.

Overall, ‘Superstar’ is a fabulous track that should have lead the album’s rollout but is a welcome second single anyways, and promises that the album will at least be interesting, if nothing else.

TRACK REVIEW: ‘Sucker’ – Jonas Brothers

After six years, its is perhaps surprising that the news that the Jonas Brothers reuniting would be such top trending news. Nick has been making music solo for a number of years and acting in a number of high profile, Joe has had some success with his bad DNCE and let’s be honest, one would be hard pushed to find someone who cares for Kevin more than the two other brothers. However, despite there never being a real lack of Jonas Brother related content (albeit separate), the news that the three brothers would reunite sent social media into a meltdown, and the news that a single was coming did even more damage. So, how is the first piece of music from the trio?

‘Sucker’ is a by the numbers pop-rock track that just could have easily been from the Jonas Brothers’ own discography or a recent hit for bands like Maroon 5, WALK THE MOON or even DNCE. The lyrics aren’t overly inspired, nor is the production but that doesn’t necessarily make ‘Sucker’ bad. The hook, although generic, is still catchy and the vocals from Nick and Joe are very nice (I fail to see what Kevin brings to the table).

Ultimately, ‘Sucker’ is a pretty nice song that could have been made by any number of people and that is pretty enjoyable once one gets over it’s almost painful mediocrity.

ALBUM REVIEW: ‘thank u, next’ – Ariana Grande

Thank_U,_Next_album_coverAriana Grande is at an odd point. In the middle of her biggest era of her career thus, less than six months out from her last album release and at the very peak of the industry. Many woman have occupied that spot before her and it’s safe to assume many will after her. However, what goes up must come down. What was once endearing becomes annoying, what was once incredible becomes boring, and so the cycle continues. It will be. An interesting moment to see if, how and when Grande falls. However, with the release of thank u, next, it’s safe to say it won’t be her music that brings about her downfall.

Despite the pressure of all eyes being on her, Grande safely pulls off what could well be her defining album. Her fifth studio album thus far, thank u, next builds on her previous releases, taking the good from her hit and miss Sweetener and ramping up the experimentation. The first thing you notice on thank u, next is the cohesion. Thank u, next is wonderfully diverse yet cohesive unlike the homogeneous-ness of Sweetener that bordered on cannibalism. Here, Grande flicks between genuine ballads, back to fiery trap numbers and even throws it back to her Broadway roots. The album never feels clunky, even in its more filler-esque moments, of which there are a few. ‘ break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored’ is not the most endearing moment of Grande’s discography, instead coming off as bit of a nasty attempt to recapture the drama of lead single ‘thank u, next’. ‘make up’ isn’t anything particularly exciting and sounds a bit like a reject from the first half of Sweetener, while ‘bad idea’ is an ok track with no real purpose. The three tracks are quite out of place given the rest of the record, which has a very distinct, and very purposeful voice.  ‘imagine’ is a gorgeous opener that soars into the rafters before bringing us back down to earth and transitioning into the equally beautiful ‘needy’. Grande’s songwriting style is even more clear on the ballads here, as she refuses to switch away from the more informal writing that is typical of the more banger-trap moments. thank u, next’s superior ballad is appropriately haunting ‘ghostin’, which really showcases the emotion in Grande’s vocal, as well as skill of Max Martin and his team. Martin is also all over another album highlight ‘bloodline’, which is fierce, pop-reggaeton banger that offers a moment of pure fun in the album’s track-list. The album’s two singles, title track ‘thank u, next’ and ‘7 rings’ are easily the most commercial offerings here, with the former being arguably the easily marketed tracks ever, and the latter just being a straight up banger. ‘7 rings’ is probably the most out of place track, with its Sound of Music sample and complete display of richness in an otherwise quite emotional album, but the brilliance of the track makes it easy to overlook.

Overall, thank u, next seems as though it’s supposed to be Grande equivalent of Beyoncé’s Lemonade, but given that Grande has far less to say, thank u, next is ultimately more comparable to Rihanna’s Anti. Like Anti, thank u, next isn’t a perfect album, nor is it the industry changer that Lemonade was, however, it marks an important shift in Grande’s career. Here, she seems more in control, more sure of herself, of what she wants to sound like more so than what she needs to sound like. thank u, next probably won’t alter the world as we know it, but it certainly will alter Grande’s world and it’s truly a sight to behold.

Alternatively Pop’s Top 10 Albums of 2018

As the dawn of a new year begins, the world takes a moment to reflect on the year gone by. Here at Alternatively Pop, we take that as our chance to reflect on the music released this year. Without further ado, here are Alternatively Pop’s Top 10 Albums of 2018.

1. Dirty Computer – Janelle Monaé

dirty computerAfter topping our Top Tracks of 2018 list, Janelle Monaé proves once again as she takes the top spot here as well. An immaculate collection of fun, fierce and fabulous pop-funk-R&B magic layers itself over heartfelt, raw and pure lyricism, Monaé’s Dirty Computer perfectly captures the unique experience and outlook of Monaé, as a queer WOC in a culture that puts up walls against her. Dirty Computer isn’t just an album, it’s an experience, and only after you are done will you realize the masterpiece that Monaé has created.

2. Look Up Child – Lauren Daigle

220px-look_up_child_(official_album_cover)_by_lauren_daigleA stunning ode to the power of not only faith but pure belief, Lauren Daigle’s Look Up Child is an otherworldly set that doesn’t get bogged down in its desire to be overtly Christian. This, allows the album to serve multiple purposes, as an expression of Daigle’s own religious beliefs, as well as just a fabulous album about passion and faith for those who don’t practice. Look Up Child is a gorgeous album that showcases a voice that deserves to be heard.

3. Golden Hour – Kacey Musgraves

golden hourCountry’s reigning queen of acclaim truly did it again with Golden Hour. With what may well be her crowning achievement, and is by far her most accomplished effort thus far, Musgraves has created an emotional knockout, a cohesive record full of heartbreak, healing and attempts to capture the beauty of life that picks you up, takes you in its arms and hugs you for 45 minutes before setting you gently down.

4. The Kids Are Alright – Chloe x Halle

the kids are alrightA mature debut from one of R&B’s most promising acts swings in many directions. From bangers to ballads, from catchy to pure experimental, the sister duo does it all and somehow retain cohesion. The album makes for a perfect breakthrough album that showcases the gorgeously diverse vocal ranges of the pair, and their ability to coin a lyric or two. If The Kids Are Alright is anything to go by, Chloe x Halle is a duo to watch.

5. Palo Santo – Years & Years

palo santoOne of the LGBTQ+ community’s most prominent acts, Years & Years have been producing great music for a while now. Palo Santo builds on that. A bare it all album, Palo Santo is pure pop escapism that aptly captures the experiences of the queer community. The record is sexy, intimate and vibrant from its get-go, and the band never second guess themselves, going all in with their explorations of sexuality and it’s complexities.

6. Expectations – Hayley Kiyoko

expectations2018 was a great year for Hayley Kiyoko and one of her crowning achievements is the release of her debut album. Expectations is a gorgeous and catchy walk through pop perfection as Kiyoko rolls out bangers and ballads across the album’s 14 tracks, perfectly painting her feelings across the lyrics and beats for an intimate debut.

 

7. LM5 – Little Mix

lm5With their final album as a SYCO act, Little Mix left the generic beat drops and trend attempts in their Glory Days. With LM5, Little Mix embraced experimentation and went all in with the album. The result is the quartet’s greatest and most importantly authentic album of their careers. It’s by no means perfect, but songs like ‘Wasabi’, ‘Joan of Arc’ and ‘The National Manthem’ finally crack the potential this band has had since day one, and hints at the brilliance they could finally achieve now they are free of SYCO.

8. No Shame – Lily Allen

no shameLily Allen has had a hard life, but she ain’t afraid to sing about it. No Shame truly lives up to its title as Allen spills her guts on subjects like drugs, divorce and motherhood. The album is a wonderfully unique record that is so acutely specific and detailed but together creates a marvellous story of a woman’s life.

 

9. Bloom – Troye Sivan

bloomTroye Sivan can be added to the history books as he becomes one of the few artists who have avoided the sophomore slump. 2018’s Bloom was anything but a slump, instead, it is full of vibrant life as Sivan meanders through the past and the present exploring the modern experience of being gay. The album is unapologetic, and deliciously positive, the perfect follow-up to Sivan’s Bloom.

10. By The Way, I Forgive You – Brandi Carlile

by the way i forgive youA gorgeous delve into Americana, Carlile’s By The Way, I Forgive You puts her signature vocals to the test as she soars from high pitches to the lowest of whispers in the space of the words. The record is full of delicate acoustic and crashing drums back up Carlile as she beautifully and emotionally discusses hope and forgiveness in a rare, but a fabulously positive move for the singer.

Alternatively Pop’s Top 20 Tracks of 2018

As the dawn of a new year begins, the world takes a moment to reflect on the year gone by. Here at Alternatively Pop, we take that as our chance to reflect on the music released this year. Without further ado, here are Alternatively Pop’s Top 20 Tracks of 2018.

1. Pynk – Janelle Monaé

Janelle Monaé failed to release a track that was anything less than stellar this year, but ‘Pynk’ was by far and away the greatest. If you’re looking for a cry for unity among beings, an immaculate exposé of the construction that is gender and a beautiful ode to femininity, ‘Pynk’ is the song for you. It’s damn catchy as well.

2. God is a Woman – Ariana Grande

Another artist who had an incredible 2018, Grande had some great tracks and some less than so, but ‘God is a Woman’ lived up to its title. A ballsy female anthem that holds no punches, ‘God is a Woman couldn’t have been more poignant in a year where women found their voice. ‘God is a Woman’ also has one of the greatest hooks of the year, and the gospel influence at the song’s climax is arguably the year’s most goosebump worthy moment, leaving you believing that God truly is a Woman.

3. You Say – Lauren Daigle 

From a more risqué portrayal of God to a more traditional Christian offering, Daigle’s ‘You Say’ is a gorgeous ballad that recognizes the comfort, hope, and self-belief that religion and God can provide someone. A straight-up piano ballad thy focuses the ear on Daigle’s vocals and lyrics, ‘You Say’ is a simple yet stunning track in a year full of complexity and boundary-pushing.

4. Alfie’s Song (Not So Typical Love Song) – The Bleachers

A not so typical love song written by a not so typical pairing for a not so typical movie, ‘Alfie’s Song’ is the perfect soundtrack for 2018’s ‘Love, Simon’. Written by Jack Antonoff with frequent hit-maker Isley Juber and resident heartthrob Harry Styles, ‘Alfie’s Song’ is pure feel-good movie magic that is the perfect companion to a rom-com.

5. Not So Bad in L.A. – Allie X

Allie X has been consistently blasting out pop bangers over the past few years, but ‘Not So Bad in LA’ is easily one of her best so far. A searing satirical take on the city of angels delivered in a lazy, disinterested vocal with a touch of quirky thrown in, this is one for the ages.

6. Curious – Hayley Kiyoko

As representation takes hold of entertainment, LGBT artists have begun to rise to prominence. One of “20GayTeens” main breakthroughs was Hayley Kiyoko. Her debut album’s lead single, ‘Curious’, is one of the reasons of why. The nonchalant way that the track doesn’t make a big deal of how it varies from the usual heterosexual break up bop is what sets it apart, but that infectious hook sure helps.

7. Sue Me – Sabrina Carpenter


It’s amazing how far a catchy hook will get you and ‘Sue Me’ is a perfect example of how a brilliant hook can elevate a track even further than where it already was. The sassy vocal of Carpenter perfectly matches the unbothered attitude this track adopts. From its screw you lyrics to perfect synth production, ‘Sue Me’ should have been a surefire hit.

8. Sanctify – Years & Years

Years & Years ‘Sanctify’ is one of those tracks that kind of seeps into your skin until one day you wake up and realise just how well the song is constructed. From those dark, skittish drums to the equally haunting vocal of frontman Olly Alexander to the clever wordplay of the lyrics, ‘Sanctify’ is an immaculate conception.

9. Space Cowboy – Kacey Musgraves

Speaking of clever wordplay, Kacey Musgraves’ ‘Space Cowboy’ dives right into that arena. One of country’s more experimental artists, ‘Space Cowboy’ perfectly showcases Musgraves’ ability to toe the line between classic country ballad and more pop-influenced moments, as she tinges the track with a little something more than just southern charm that elevates the track beyond being just another acoustic guitar moment that gets lost.

10. Moment – Blanche

Blanche is one of the most fascinating artists to ever come out of the Eurovision. All of her 2018 droplets could have made this list, but it’s ‘Moment’ that truly capitalises on what Blanche did on last year’s ‘City Lights’ and raises the level. Here, Blanche goes from sheer potential to full-blown pop star, with her emotive vocal adding dimension to the sensual clap-along beat of ‘Moment’.

11. Bloom – Troye Sivan

Troye Sivan is one of the finest pop artists to come out of this decade, and ‘Bloom’ is the perfect example of how he has matured since his debut. The tongue in cheek lyrics laced over the sweet as sugar synth is the perfect encapsulation of sexual liberation and Sivan’s own quirky brand. Also, it’s the use of metaphor is about as good as it gets, so that earns it points as well.

12. Venice Bitch – Lana Del Rey

Despite rarely varying her sound too much, Lana Del Rey somehow always makes it sound fresh and new. On ‘Venice Bitch’, Del Rey goes back to basics, singing lightly about her sugar baby antics while backed by an acoustic guitar. Oddly the track is nine minutes as Del Rey tacks on some odd psychedelic instrumental at the end that somehow makes the track even more endearing.

13. Party For One – Carly Rae Jepsen

One hit Wonder turned cult favourite Carly Rae Jepsen returned this year following her critical darling of an album, E•MO•TION, and she delivered. Although similar to much of her previous material, ‘Party For One’ is an anthem of self-love (of the very literal variety). The sexual innuendo here is half the fun but the bouncing beat is hard to ignore and when you put them together, you have another banger from Jepsen.

14. God in Jeans – Ryan Beatty

Although not technically a single, this was one of those tracks I just couldn’t ignore. A weird hybrid between rock, country, and R&B, ‘God In Jeans’ takes on the sexes up religion claiming that “God is real and he was sleeping in my bed last night”. The track is one of those perfect blends of genre that exists on a whole level of its own.

15. Youngblood – 5 Seconds of Summer

After a tumultuous few years, 5 Seconds of Summer blasted back to flying form in 2018, and ‘Youngblood’ was the anthem for that comeback. The track’s thumping guitar line gets the blood pumping like no other before letting the calm set in with the minimalistic approach to the track’s verses, resulting in a rollercoaster-esque banger.

16. Miracle – CHRVCHES

CHVRCHES ‘Miracle’ is another blend genres, here blurring the boundaries of big pop and generic EDM. The drop is arguably one of the most satisfying of the year, avoiding the pitfalls of unoriginality, instead of producing a drop that actually evokes a headband instead of a groan. The track’s boldness in its production, as well as the vocal performance, sets ‘Miracle’ apart in a field where it’s very difficult to even try and be original, never mind actually pull it off.

17. Crush – Tessa Violet

A triply little number, Tessa Violet’s ‘Crush’ just oozes summer. The track relies on very little production, with Violet sing-speaking over a sparking kick track until the song climaxes into a slightly less minimalist chorus. Violet also throws in some little effective samples on the bridge to add to the track’s cool edge.

18. 5 In The Morning – Charli XCX

Pop’s resident party girl, Charli XCX released some clunkers in 2018 but who cares when she also dropped her best bop since ‘Break The Rules’. A mix between the oddball production of Pop 2 and more classic pop hits, ‘5 In The Morning’ so arguably XCX’s most on brand track to date. She sings about how great her afterparty game is with her cocky vocal providing serious ‘fuck you’ vibes, ‘5 In The Morning’ is the perfect night out banger.

19. King’s Dead – Jay Rock with Kendrick Lamar, Future & James Blake

Infinitely better than the Black Panther soundtrack’s lead single ‘All The Stars’, ‘King’s Dead’ is a stuttering star turn that showcases the talents of Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, James Blake, and even the ever-mumbling Future. ‘King’s Dead’ does exactly what a great movie track does – standing on its own as a song while also elevating the motion picture it was created for.

20. Currency – Ivy Adara

As I said before, it’s incredible how far a catchy hook will get you. And that’s exactly why this track is here. Ivy Adara’s ‘Currency’ isn’t a slam dunk, in fact, the track isn’t all that great as a whole. But that hook is so good. Although the lyrics are a bit cliché, the production takes all the right cues and Adara gives off such cool girl vibes she somehow gets away with singing about such cliché topics such as dreams and rainbows to the point that she has you singing along with her.

Listen to all of our Top 20 Tracks of 2018 on our official Spotify Playlist here:
https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/ryanxoc/playlist/20DOE9hlGJKC1y7mOcd7cF

TRACK REVIEW: ‘Imagine’ – Ariana Grande

It’s hard to comprehend just how fast and how high Ariana Grande has risen as of late. Although she had success with her first three LPs, she had never quite had superstar status success. With the release of Sweetener, it’s singles, and the media frenzy that surrounded her relationship with Pete Davidson, it seemed she was beginning the transition from pop star to superstar at a relatively predictable pace. Then her relationship with Davidson broke apart and she put her foot on the pedal with the release of ‘Thank U, Next’. Now, with it’s follow-up ‘Imagine’, Grande proves she’s a superstar in other aspects.

Although not a sure-fire hit as the ever catchy and radio-friendly ‘Thank U, Next’, ‘Imagine’ is a magical showcase of Grande’s pure, raw, superstar level voice, as she lets her voice loose for once, belting high and whistling higher. Lyrically, ‘Imagine’ is beautifully mundane, conjuring up a plain and simple life where everything is fine. It is the simple version of Lorde’s ever-complex ‘The Louvre’, as both songs detail immaculate relationships that are practically art in their perfection. The production here is so sparse it’s barely there, but it’s magically constructed to provide a beautifully wistful for this melancholy ballad.

Overall, ‘Imagine’ is one of those rare gems of a pop song that is practically perfect in every. It feels simple, but epic at the same time. Its lyrics are relatable but never cliché. The production is innovative and original. But what truly elevates ‘Imagine’, is that it is a great vocalist letting her voice do what her voice is supposed to do, and that’s truly something you can’t imagine.

Listen to Ariana Grande’s ‘Imagine’ below and let us know what you think in the comments: