TRACK REVIEW: ‘ME!’ (feat. Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco) – Taylor Swift

It’s hard to deny that reputation was a defining moment in Taylor Swift’s career. It may not have been as successful (critically or commercially) as 1989, but it was defining. It was dark and edgy and undeniably ballsy. A cathartic, 180 from the persona that made her famous, reputation was full of ambition. Now, on the dawn of her newest era, Swift returns to the aesthetic that made reputation a possibility, and turns it up to an 11. Unfortunately, in this case, it isn’t a good thing.

I feel the need to preface this review with a message: I’ve been a fan of Swift since Fearless, and have followed her career ever since. I consider her among the great legends of music, and always will. With that, comes the knowledge of Swift’s habits. For example, I am fully aware of her tendency to release catchy, fun and light hearted anthems with less than groundbreaking lyrics as the lead single. I am also fully aware of the fact that music can be all those things and still be brilliant, for example, her last three lead singles. In this case, however, I believe Swift has let the ball drop.

Featuring Brendon Urie (of Panic! At the Disco), the TS7 lead single, ‘ME!’, is the antithesis of everything ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ was, not only in terms of sound and aesthetic, but in quality. The campy brilliance of ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ is missing on ‘ME!’, with a seemingly lack of thought to be the problem. Although catchy, ‘ME!’ seems too generic, too impersonal to be the work of Swift. It’s quite odd given the talent involved. Urie along with Joel Little (frequent collaborator of Lorde) share writing credits along with Swift. Despite her recent essay discussing how personal details make pop music great, ‘ME!’ lacks any of this, instead focusing on being relatable to its own detriment. Even Swift’s staple spoken bridge that features on her lead singles more so than not lacks all the iconic-ness of ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”s “so he calls me up…”, ‘Shake It Off”s “this sick beat” and ‘Look What You Made Me Do”s “cause she’s dead”. Instead she Best she could come up with was “Hey Kids! Spelling is Fun!” before launching into a god awful and nonsensical bridge made of tragic plays on spelling words with the song’s title (in Swift’s defence, she credits Urie as the mastermind behind the bridge, so at least the songwriter part of her reputation remains somewhat intact).

In the song’s favour, ‘ME!’ is rather catchy and features quite a good message, and must have been a relief for Swift to leave the persona of her reputation behind. It also features some great vocal work from both Swift and Urie, whose voices actually mesh better than one would expect. Their back and forth on the song’s second half is quite entertaining and appears and genuine collaboration between two artists, for which the pair has to be given credit given generic one verse feature that has become a trend for anyone looking to make a quick buck.

At the end of the day, ‘ME!’ serves a purpose. It’s designed by Swift and her collaborators to be a fun pop song with little depth other than to make you feel good about yourself. However, as well intentioned as it may be, ‘ME!’ is a poor attempt to recapture the brilliance of previous eras, made look only worse when considered against the body of work that is Swift’s discography with which it must compete.

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GRAMMYS 2019 Predictions: Beyoncé, Gambino and more eye the Big Four

As award season draws ever closer, it is once again that time to think about who will be a major player at music’s biggest night. Last year was one of complete unpredictability but with the expansion of the main four categories to 8 nominees instead of the usual five, it is slightly easier to take a stab at guessing who will be honoured at this year’s ceremony. Here are Alternatively Pop’s predictions for the 2019 Grammy Award Nominations:

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

the carters

Album of the Year is the biggest award of the night and arguably the least competitive this year. There seems to be no clear frontrunner with every contender being hampered by some aspect or another. The closest thing to a frontrunner is The Carters’ Everything is Love which received critical acclaim, although slightly less so than Beyoncé’s Lemonade and Jay-Z’s 4:44. The pair should be a lock for a nomination, with five nominations between them in just the last ten years. The biggest obstacle in the way of music’s reigning king and queen is that the album was not received well commercially, opening at number two behind 5 Seconds of Summer’s Youngblood, with 123,000 units of which only 70,000 were pure, marking a huge decline from both artists previous efforts. Given the Academy’s tendency to award big commercial hits such as Bruno Mars last year, Adele in 2017 and Taylor Swift in 2016, this could be one obstacle The Carter’s can’t clear. Speaking of Swift, she’s back in the ring for the first time since her Album of the Year win with 2014’s 1989. 2017’s reputation was a divisive piece of work but still garnered enough acclaim to grab a nomination. The album was a commercial powerhouse and it’s supporting tour was even more so and that should be enough to give her a lock and her fourth nomination, but given her recent win, don’t expect her to take home the award. Another commercial success is Drake’s Scorpion, which debuted to huge sales earlier this year and spawned three number one hits. Unfortunately for the rapper, the album received underwhelming reviews from critics. That combined with the recent report that 82% of the album’s total streams are made up of six of its twenty-five tracks, could be enough to deter a Drake win here, and in fact may be enough to knock him out of the top eight completely should the academy choose to go a more alternative route. Other contenders include Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy and Ariana Grande’s Sweetener, with both artists coming off huge years. However, with IOP being Cardi’s debut and Grande’s upcoming follow-up Thank U, Next threatening to overshadow Sweetener, I can’t see either of them walking home with the award. Grammy favourite Sam Smith could be in with a chance with The Thrill of It All getting good reviews and decent commercial success, but would be an underwhelming winner given the inoffensive nature of the record and with neither huge sales or huge critical support to propel him to the front of the pack, he’s another nomination with no win. After a controversially male year last year, the Grammys will be looking to include a more female presence this year, which could be wonderful news for critical darlings Kacey Musgraves and Janelle Monae. Musgraves Golden Hour is her most critically adored album of her career and would also be a winner that would be supported by the industry and fans alike. Although not a huge commercial success, Musgraves did take home Album of the Year at the CMA’s, indicating strong industry support. Monae’s Dirty Computer has also been critically adored and given her veteran status in the industry and the comparisons to her late mentor Prince, Dirty Computer could be a dark horse in this race yet. Alongside the more traditional albums, soundtracks had a big year. The Greatest Showman was a runaway hit and should be a huge contender in the Motion Picture categories, while Black Panther offers the Academy to honour one of the most commercially and culturally significant movies in history.

Final Predictions: Everything is Love, reputation, Invasion of Privacy, Golden Hour, Scorpion, The Thrill of it All, Dirty Computer, Black Panther

 

RECORD OF THE YEAR

gambino

Unlike Album of the Year, Record of the Year has a clear frontrunner. Childish Gambino’s ‘This is America’ is everything the academy could want. Massively successful and critically adored, it should be a slam-dunk. However, many would have said the same about Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Humble’ last year and he left without the award. If the Academy decides that ‘This is America’ is too politically charged for them to award, they could turn to equally popular efforts in Cardi B’s ‘I Like It’ and Drake’s ‘God’s Plan’ which provided each artist with huge hits this year. Neither have the critical support of ‘This Is America’ but neither were close to panned, being received similarly to last year’s winner ‘24k Magic’. Many are predicting that Maroon 5’s ‘Girl Like You’ could also be a contender for Cardi B, but given the unoriginality of that track, and the fact that there are other ways to award Cardi, I don’t see ‘Girl Like You’ giving the band it’s first main field nomination since their first and last with Best New Artist thirteen years ago. The Carters’ ‘Apesh*t’ should also be in with a shot of a nomination, but given its lack of commercial support and no major critical push, I would say nomination is all it will get. Beyoncé’s duet with Ed Sheeran on ‘Perfect’ could grab the pair a nod, but given the fact that Sheeran was completely shut out of the main field last year despite much buzz, I wouldn’t hold my breath. The pop field should produce a number of contenders – Ariana Grande’s ‘God is a Woman’ could be nominated, but given its slightly controversial nature, it probably won’t be enough for a win. Zedd’s ‘The Middle’ could be one that sneaks into that top eight with ease, along with Bebe Rexha’s ‘Meant to Be’ and Post Malone’s ‘Rockstar’. Finally, soundtracks could provide a number of potential nominees here as well. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s ‘Shallow’ could be a dark horse here, particularly given that the pair will be running the song’s Oscar campaign simultaneously. The track was also released just as the eligibility period closed, so it’s fresh in the voter’s minds. Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s ‘All The Stars’ and Keala Settle’s ‘This is Me’ could also contend for those top eight spots.

Final Predictions: ‘This is America’, ‘I Like It’, ‘God’s Plan’,’Apesh*t’, ‘The Middle’, ‘All The Stars, ‘God is a Woman, ‘Meant To Be’

 

SONG OF THE YEAR

Delicate-Video

Song of the Year is an odd category this year. Like Album of the Year, there is no clear frontrunner but there are a number of tracks in contention for the award. Again ‘This Is America’, ‘Apesh*t, ‘The Middle’ and a variety of others from Record of the Year will contend here as well, but other tracks will most definitely break through. Breakout star Ella Mai could well be in the race with ‘Boo’d Up’ being a huge hit for her. While Record of the Year has favoured more R&B tracks in the past few years, Song of the Year has embraced other genres particularly pop. Maroon 5’s ‘Girls Like You’ could fare better here given its message and its mass appeal. Ariana Grande’s ‘No Tears Left To Cry’ could be a major player for a nomination, and even the award should the Academy decide that this is the year to anoint her. My only pause for concern is the mammoth success of her latest effort ‘Thank U, Next’, both commercially and critically, which could lead to the Academy regulating Grande to nominations or a win in the pop field, instead choosing to award her in the main field next year. Additionally, Grammy favourite Taylor Swift could be in the mix with ‘Delicate’. While she fell out of favour last year with the controversial ‘Look What You Made Me Do’, ‘Delicate’ has been critically acclaimed and was a big enough hit with the industry with massive radio play and holding strong on the hot 100 for 35 weeks. Although this isn’t the flashiest of entries, Swift has never won here despite being a three-time nominee in this category, and this could be the Academy’s chance to award one of this generation’s greatest songwriters. ‘This is Me’, ‘All The Stars’, and ‘Shallow’ could all be in with a shot here as well. Drake could also contend with ‘God’s Plan’ and even ‘Nice For What’. XXXTentacion could also be in with a chance at a posthumous nomination here with ‘SAD!’ and given his polarising career, it will be interesting to see if the Grammys are able to ignore him. Fringe contenders such as Kacey Musgraves (‘High Horse’), Sam Smith (‘Pray’), Demi Lovato (‘Sober’) and Dan + Shay (‘Tequila’) could also factor in if the Academy decides to snub some of the more heavy hitters.

Final Predictions: ‘This is America’, ‘No Tears Left To Cry’,’Boo’d Up’, ‘Nice For What’, ‘Delicate’, ‘The Middle’, ‘Shallow’, ‘Girls Like You’

 

BEST NEW ARTIST

Dua-Lipa-New-Rules

Best New Artist finds itself in the same situation as it always does. The rules are messy and poorly applied, leaving the top contenders out of the running after Cardi B, Post Malone and XXXTentacion were all deemed ineligible for the award. That leaves it as a two horse race between pop’s latest princess Dua Lipa and R&B breakout Ella Mai. Both have had monumental years, with a number of hits under each of their belts. Lipa would probably be my choice for the frontrunner but Mai is nipping at her heels. This award has often been the kiss of death for a number of artists, while a number of the world’s biggest stars have been nominated and not won in the past, so the pair may be wishing the other luck in the end. While Lipa and Mai are in a tight race for the award, there aren’t too many other locks for a nod. Juice Wrld could be their closest competition but I can’t see the Academy awarding him. There is often a country nominee and with eight nominees this year, a few will certainly be in contention. Luke Combs, Brett Young and Carly Pearce could all fill that slot or even take more than one spot. Troye Sivan, Hayley Kiyoko, Bebe Rexha, Marshmello and Billie Eilish will all be aiming to get into those pop slots, while niche artists H.E.R and Greta Van Fleet will also be hoping to garner genre bids.

Final Predictions: Dua Lipa, Ella Mai, Juice Wrld, Luke Combs, Troye Sivan, Great Van Fleet, Carly Pearce, Bebe Rexha

Nominations for the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards will be announced in all 84 categories on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018.

CONCERT REVIEW: Taylor Swift’s reputation Stadium Tour

Taylor Swift’s reputation Stadium Tour is brazen, bold and intimate – all at the same time.

taylor swift rep tour
Taylor Swift performing on the first night of her Croke Park reputation Stadium Tour dates. Picture: Ryan O’Connell/Alternatively Pop

Taylor Swift’s reputation Stadium Tour is brazen, bold and intimate – all at the same time.

12 years ago, a 16-year-old girl from Pennsylvania jumped head first into the music industry. Many in the same situation have crumbled and cracked under the industry’s ever-growing pressures. However, the former queen of country and reigning queen of pop Taylor Swift did not. Even after the Kimye phone gate situation, Swift did not break. Instead, she took it in her stride and embraced her newest title as the resident Queen of Snakes, a title that has left its mark all over the stage of Swift’s latest – and largest – tour, the reputation stadium tour, which stopped in Ireland’s Croke Park for history-making back to back shows.

taylor swift rep tour
Taylor Swift performing ‘Shake It Off’ at her reputation Stadium Tour. Picture: Ryan O’Connell/Alternatively Pop

Taylor Swift’s reputation stadium tour is an unrelenting mix of camp, brazen stadium numbers that make the 68,000 capacity stadium feel even more mammoth than it already is and small, intimate cuts that shrink the crowd to the size of even the smallest of indie gigs. The show may have many moving parts complete with elaborate sets, dancers and fireworks but there is only one star and anyone who thinks otherwise will be swiftly proven wrong.

Swift’s support acts do their best with the time they’re given and, surprisingly, it is Charli XCX that manages to actually make an impression. Her short but impressive set builds a buzz by combining hits such as the now infamous ‘I Love It’ and ‘Boom Clap’ with lesser known tracks such as ‘Unlock It’ and latest release ‘5 in the Morning’. Regardless of whether XCX is performing a hit or a deep cut, her performance is at all times stadium-sized and that manages to keep the crowd engaged. The same cannot be said for fellow support act Camila Cabello, who, despite having smash hit ‘Havana’ in her repertoire, fails to keep the momentum that XCX builds going as she makes her way through a sluggish, overly long and overly remixed set that peaks with a short cover of Elvis Presley’s ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’.

Despite their efforts, the two support acts can’t seem to shake the shadow of Swift, who’s face looms on screen throughout both acts’ sets as almost a promise of what’s to come. It is after Cabello and XCX have had their turns that the true performance begins. The show opens with an interlude on how Swift’s reputation has built to her current status as the Queen of Snakes, swelling to its peak before the crowd is blasted with a sudden ‘Baby, let the games begin’ of reputation’s opening track ‘…Ready For It?’. A perfect concert opener, the performance sets Swift firmly in the centre of the spotlight before anything else is even on the stage. Swift’s live performance elevates the pounding assault of bass and brilliance of ‘…Ready For It?’, and poses the perfect question that sets up the entire rest of the show. The show moves quickly through its set, with highlights ranging from the dramatic and unhinged ‘I Did Something Bad’ and the sheer power of the vocal Olympics that is ‘Don’t Blame Me’ to the quiet intimacy of fan-favourite ‘Long Live’ and album closer ‘New Year’s Day’, a mash-up that proves that despite the scale of the production surrounding her, Swift doesn’t need it to fill a stadium.

Regardless of the song or performance, Swift manages to fill the astronomical space of Croke Park, whether it be with the support of crowd singing along to hits such as ‘Shake It Off’ and ‘Love Story’ or with the mere strength of her own voice and character on tracks such as ‘Should’ve Said No’ from her debut or deep cuts like ‘Dress’ or ‘Dancing With Our Hands Tied’ from reputation. 12 years on, Swift knows it no longer matters what she sings, the crowd in the palm of her hand. Her confidence drips off the stage in an awe-inspiring display of just how brilliant a pop show can be.

Taylor Swift Rep Tour
Taylor Swift performing ‘This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things’ at her reputation stadium Tour. Picture: Ryan O’Connell/Alternatively Pop

Her belief in herself is displayed in her unwavering determination to leave behind old hits that are guaranteed to please the crowd such as ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ and ‘Wildest Dreams’ in favour of new material that not even half of the 68,000 people present know the words to. Instead, she knows fully that no matter what she sings, she will capture their attention. She doesn’t need the fireworks or the dancers. She has herself, a star that cannot be outshined no matter how many times it has been beaten down.

Taylor Swift’s reputation may well be notorious, but her reputation tour easily eclipses it. The high scale production and incredible performance value redefines what a concert experience should and will be. However, Swift makes sure that even with everything going on around her, this tour, and the pop music industry as a whole, is nothing without her.

To read Alternatively Pop’s review of Swift’s sixth studio album reputation, go here.

Alternatively Pop’s Top 15 Albums of 2017

2017 gave birth to wonderful comebacks, marvelous debuts and brilliant follow-ups, marking one of the strongest years (creatively that is) for pop music. Here are our picks for the top 15 albums this year.

  1. Melodrama – Lorde

melodramaAn immaculate culmination of synths and sorrow, Lorde left only destruction in her wake upon her return to the music industry. An unprecedented triumph, Melodrama ranks among the greatest pop albums since music’s conception and proves that the artist behind it isn’t quite the one-trick pony some thought she was.

 

  1. Reputation – Taylor Swift

taylor coverWhilst her contemporary, Lorde, took a more experimental approach on melodrama, Swift ventured further into the mainstream (with a sprinkle of her own experimentation), and produced the polished and perfected pop that glittered on every second of every track on reputation. A departure from the demure crafted synth-pop of 1989. Swift stretched the very boundaries of pop music, and did so to a great degree of success.

 

  1. Waves – Rachel Platten

wavesA perfect example of an artist maturing into they’re sound. Platten’s Waves delivered on all the potential that its predecessor Wildfire promised. Combining a more vulnerable and sincere approach to the album’s lyrics and a slicker dance-pop production, Waves wipes away the façade and pushes Platten out from behind the clichéd power slogans that were one too many on Wildfire and shows her off for the force of nature that she truly is.

 

  1. Harry Styles – Harry Styles

harryA cohesive and risky debut rooted in soft and indie rock was not the solo project many expected when Styles began curating following the announcement of his band’s hiatus. However, it is what he created and he truly displayed every bit of talent he had. A record full of interesting tracks with different yet cohesive production makes for a wonderful debut.

 

  1. Rainbow – Kesha

rainbowBoth Lorde and Swift may have made strong comebacks in 2017, but it was the reinvention of Kesha that made for a truly pleasant surprise. Following a very public legal battle, the star returned to her comfort zone – the recording studio – and made a record that, while flawed, displayed her extensive capabilities to dabble in various genres and uncanny ability to write from unique perspectives.

 

  1. What Do You Think About The Car? – Declan McKenna

declan mckennaIn a year of marvellous debuts, McKenna seized the opportunity to capture the views of his generation. Discussing a variety of subjects that plague millennials, McKenna put those issues to an indie rock soundtrack fabulously.

 

  1. Lust For Life – Lana Del Rey

alt pop lanaAs always, Del Rey produced an album full of vintage, wistful and melancholic gorgeousness. While the first half of the album has its let downs, the second half is home to some of Del Rey’s best work to date.

 

 

 

  1. Dua Lipa – Dua Lipa

Dua_Lipa_(album)A tour de force of pop magic that ranges from slower acoustic to tropical club anthems – such as the insatiable ‘New Rules’ – Dua Lipa affirmed that she is the next big power in pop music and she is here to stay.

 

 

  1. Ride – Loreen

Loreen_-_Ride_CoverMoving from her prior EDM driven releases to a more mid-tempo electro-alternative sound in a seamless fashion, Loreen’s Ride gave a darker and mature look at the star’s already unique sound and vocals, bring about one of the year’s best alternative releases.

 

 

  1. Places – Lea Michele

Lea_Michele_-_Places_(Official_Album_Cover)Places is like listening to someone slipping into their old favourite jumper after spending the entire day in an uncomfortable gown. Michele never truly sounded comfortable on her debut (except for the stunning ‘If You Say So’) but that discomfort disintegrates as she steps into her Broadway shoes and her comfort zone on the masterful traditional pop of her sophomore effort.

 

  1. Nervous System – Julia Michaels

268x0wAlthough it is technically an EP, Nervous System is one of pop’s best songwriters make her grand entrance into the singing side of her industry. A fabulous collection of modern mainstream pop that, while not overly unique, is fantastically executed.

 

 

  1. Younger Now – Miley Cyrus

MileyA beautiful but bumpy return to her country roots, Younger Now brought about some of Cyrus’ best work and worst work alike. Tracks like ‘Malibu’ and ‘I Would Die For You’ mark some of the most mature and intentional work of Cyrus’ career and made for an enjoyable listen despite its shortcomings.

 

  1. Ctrl – SZA

1200x630bbA masterclass in modern R&B, Sza explored themes of femininity, what it means to be young and all the issues that come with that with commanding lyrics and breath-taking production that displays a grasp and willingness to push the boundaries of R&B that is beyond her years.

 

 

  1. American Teen – Khalid

1200x630bb (1)Another album based in R&B, American Teen pushes the boundaries of the genre in the exact opposite direction that SZA went in and does it just as wonderfully. Khalid embraces the mainstream influences of pop music while remaining firmly rooted in R&B with brilliance and conviction.

 

  1. Gemini – Macklemore

220px-Macklemore_GeminiA mixed album that feels more uneven than the other 14 albums on this list, Gemini is held together by its brightest moments and the spirit of the artist behind. Every track and every moment, good or bad, feels genuine and earned and necessary and that, is the brilliance of the album.

 

 

 

Alternatively Pop’s Top 20 Songs of 2017

We count down our picks for the top 10 tracks of 2017

2017 was an… interesting year. Albeit not the best year in other areas, at least the music was good, even great in some cases. We were blessed with some brilliant songs this year. These are (subjective to opinion) the best of those.

  1. Praying – Kesha

Simultaneously, a piercing battle cry and heart-breaking anthem of pain, Kesha’s first release in almost five years came as nothing less than a triumph.  A stunning return to the industry and a musical 180, ‘Praying’ was the perfect encapsulation of the hurt and rage that the Trump-era has brought upon the world, as well as the personal turmoil of the voice that brought the track to life.

2. Bad Liar – Selena Gomez

Selena Gomez is not the first name that is on the tip of everyone’s tongue when it comes to experimental pop songs. However, Gomez’s ‘Bad Liar’ was an immaculate pop song that stopped critics in their tracks with its simplistic production paired with Gomez’s sensual and breathy vocals. Written over the bassline of the Talking Heads’ ‘Psycho Killer’, Gomez put herself well and truly on the map with this one.

3. Green Light – Lorde

A champion of everything weirdly brilliant, Lorde knocked everything she had done out of the water when she returned with ‘Green Light’. Marvellously rousing, ‘Green Light’ is like a jigsaw put together incorrectly but fitting perfectly all the same. Mismatched song writing over a flawlessly building pop beat, Lorde made sure her return was as perfect as it could be.

4. Look What You Made Me Do – Taylor Swift

Although it’s follow-up ‘…Ready For It?’ is sonically superior, it is ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ that truly shows off the brilliance of its creator. Arguably the most divisive song of the year, ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ was the comeback heard on every corner of the globe, and only in the wake of its flickering and savage arrival, could one appreciate the genius behind it. From the choice to make the pre-chorus build to nothing to the risk of interpolating Right Said Fred’s ‘I’m Too Sexy’, Swift made sure her return came singed with the rage and anger only pop’s most hated person could muster.

5. The Kids Don’t Wanna Come Home – Declan Mckenna

On ‘The Kids Don’t Wanna Come Home’, Mckenna perfectly captured what it is to be tethering on the line between youth and adulthood in a world where so much is so unsure. The raw vocal of Mckenna paired with the pondering almost conversational lyrics make for an impeccable indie-rock track that sounds like stepping into someone’s thoughts.

6. City Lights – Blanche

The Eurovision song contest is assured to give you two things – camp over the top performances and awkward instances of countries giving their neighbour points. However, every year, there is some songs that stand out among their sub-par competitors. Belgium’s entry to the 2017 contest was one of those rare shining diamonds. An impeccably crafted pop song, ‘City Lights’ relies on its simplicity, in both production and vocals to truly make it epic and god, does it succeed.

7. Sign of the Times – Harry Styles

God only knew what the hiatus of the world’s biggest boyband would bring about and while his bandmates went in reasonably predictable routes, Harry Styles shed his mainstream cocoon and dove head first into the world of rock. A sweeping soft rock ballad that Bowie would have been proud of, Styles showed exactly what he was capable and flexed his creative muscles to their full extent for what may well have been first time in years.

8. Love – Lana Del Rey

On the lead single from her fourth full length, Del Rey returned to the vintage greatness of tracks such as ‘Young and Beautiful’. ‘Love’ arrived wrapped in a bow and dripping with Hollywood glamour to deliver an awe-inspiringly cinematic testament to the beauty of young love in a way that only the voice of Del Rey can conjure.

9. Disco Tits – Tove Lo

A sexually charged club anthem, ‘Disco Tits’ held nothing back as Tove Lo bared it all. The EDM tinged dance-pop pounds and bounces unapologetically and lets it all hang out – literally. The song draws on disco as well as more modern influences and explores a care free attitude and approach to the world – and its fabulous.

10. Feel It Still – Portugal. The Man

A retro track from a little known alternative band is an odd thing to find within the top 40, never mind the top 10, and yet that’s exactly where Portugal. The Man found themselves this year with ‘Feel It Still’. This funky hit harkens back to 60’s groove in both production and lyrically, resulting in an impossible to ignore earworm.

11. Love is Alive – Lea Michele

Michele truly created something special with the release of ‘Love is Alive’. A stunning broadwayesque power ballad that reaches to the skies and fabulously showcases the vocal talent of Michele, the track perfectly captures the essence of the star who created it.

12. Watch – Billie Eilish

Speaking of talent, this fifteen-year-old singer-songwriter is one of the best things to emerge in music in 2017. Perfectly capturing the dramatic nature of teenage love and over the top feelings that come along with it, Eilish displays a masterful touch on this pop masterpiece that throbs as though it is a recording of the broken heart that inspired it.

13. Lost Without You – Freya Ridings

In a similar vein to Blanche’s ‘City Lights’, Riding’s heart-breaking ballad thrives on its simplicity. Reduced to merely a piano and the gut-wrenching voice of Ridings, ‘Lost Without You’ displays the brilliance in the less is more mantra as its quietest moments are in fact, its loudest.

14. The Cure – Lady Gaga

After the dramatic departure from pop that Joanne took, Gaga returned to her comfort zone with this track. Debuted during her Coachella set, The Cure is a flawlessly fashioned radio hit with a chorus that is undeniably addictive and annoyingly irresistible.

15. Uh Huh – Julia Michaels

One of pop’s most prolific songwriters, Michaels had one of the best breakouts of the year with her hit ‘Issues’. However, it is its follow-up ‘Uh Huh’ that impeccably shows off her genius as a pop mastermind. With a guitar instrumental backing up the verses, it is the drop right into the chorus that makes this one of those unskippable ones that sneaks into very corner of your brain.

16. ’71 Charger – Loreen

Rooted in alternative music, ‘’71 Charger’ broke new ground for the Swedish hit maker. The track draws heavily on minimalistic beats and production, showcasing the voice of Loreen, who makes the bold choice to match and double down on her minimalistic production, with an equally minimalistic but mystifying vocal performance that can only be described as brilliant.

17. Drew Barrymore – SZA

I always believed that Drew Barrymore was the superior Charlie’s Angel and thankfully, R&B’s newest prodigy agrees. SZA cites Barrymore as an inspiration as she played the roles that SZA herself identified with such as the girl who couldn’t get the guy and the track perfectly captures that as SZA asks her lover is she is enough for him.

18. Waking Up Slow – Gabrielle Aplin

A brilliant and overlooked talent, Aplin has developed and coined a unique sound since her debut English Rain. ‘Waking Up Slow’ is fabulous new-age synth driven dance track that is alight with euphoria as bright as the sun.

19. I Know – Aly & AJ

From the pop royalty that brought us the legendary track that is ‘Potential Break-up Song’, Aly & AJ continued to deliver on their potential a decade after their last release. The track was yet another notch in the marvellous year that experimental female pop music has had. A dream pop song that has its head in the clouds and its production in 80s synth pop, ‘I Know’ plays like candy floss and vintage shops.

20. Lost in Your Light – Dua Lipa

Another breakout star of 2017, Lipa’s ‘New Rules’ was absolutely everywhere as it dominated airwaves, its predecessor was equally worthy of adoration. A catchy hook, peppy beat and interesting feature from Miguel makes for an all-around dance-pop banger that was, sadly, ignored.

Listen to all the tracks on this list on Spotify here

ALBUM REVIEW: ‘reputation’ – Taylor Swift

Swift marvelously bounces from love to scorn on the a perfect and cohesive pop record that builds on her work but is nothing like anything she has done before.

taylor cover“They’re burning all the witches, even if you aren’t one” isn’t a typical lyric you would expect to find on a Taylor Swift album. Then again, neither is “But I stay when you’re lost and I’m scared and you’re turning away”. However, both feature on the resident queen of breakup anthem’s latest full length effort reputation, where she leaves the relationship post-mortems behind in favour of a mix of angry clap backs and lovesick lullabies. Somehow kept almost entirely a mystery until its release, reputation is Swift’s first record since 2014’s 1989, and god, has a lot happened since then. To her credit, Swift never blinked, she never deviated from her plan. When she said “There will be no further explanation. There will just be reputation”, she meant it.DIC_q8vUMAA4Yf-

Swift truly allows the music to speak for itself on reputation, and she doesn’t shy away from letting it tell all. ‘This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things’ is a trap-pop masterpiece, dripping in sarcasm, all but explicitly saying Kanye West’s name. Swift sounds defiant and unbothered, as she fabulously declares “Friends don’t try to trick you/ Get you on the phone and mind-twist you”. This track perfectly encapsulates the record as a whole – it is Swift not caring what happens. She isn’t censored, or worried about saying what she thinks. This attitude continues on album highlight ‘I Did Something Bad’, easily one of the best songs of Swift’s career, where she sneers at the men she’s left behind and it is this confidence that pulls the album tightly together as a cohesive unit.

121369reputation experiments with the synth-pop of 1989, with cuts like ‘Getaway Car’ and ‘Gorgeous’ retaining that fizzy 80’s influence that was so affluent on 1989. The former track is a marvellous sequel to 1989’s ‘Style’, with low, brooding verses that build with Swift’s passion filled vocal performance to a heavenly chorus. Speaking of heavenly, Swift incorporates the slightest of gospel tinges on the dark and beat heavy ‘Don’t Blame Me’,  and less so on the ever so fragile ‘Delicate’, where layering her own vocals over and over again results in a hauntingly beautiful opening that releases into a tropical beat. That tropical influence also appears on ‘…Ready For It?’, the album’s second official single. The track is a pounding assault of bass and brilliance filled with Swift’s breathy vocals and incredible production that transcends the track to new heights, while simultaneously producing one of the best lyrics of her career, referencing the overexposed but defiant love of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

taylor-swift-look-what-you-made-me-do-868x680In fact, the lyricism of reputation is where, unsurprisingly, Swift truly shines. Swift’s writing has grown with her and her maturity is evident on tracks like ‘So It Goes…’, where she recalls “scratches down your back”, and ‘Dress’, which she only bought “so you to take it off”. Notably, the album’s closing track ‘New Year’s Day’ sees Swift return to the realm of balladry. Here, Swift quietens to a mere piano and her voice. Yet, somehow, the ballad is just as loud as any other track. Swift’s skill as a writer is on full display here, as she returns to her country roots to tell a story before crooning “Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you”. Ultimately, that line summarises the album. It is about not forgetting, whether it be the good or the bad, you should hold onto things. You should hold onto the moments you feel angry, when you feel sad, when you feel defiant and especially when you feel loved. Swift doesn’t deny or confirm her reputation on this LP. She instead owns it and every single emotion that comes with it. And it is truly something to behold.

TRACK REVIEW: ‘Gorgeous’ – Taylor Swift

zmtkxMUTLess than a month out from the release of Taylor Swift’s hotly anticipated sixth full-length effort reputation, and the world remains relatively in the dark surrounding the contents of the album and the direction its unpredictable creator decided upon when putting it together. Lead single ‘Look What You Made Me Do” was a dark, unrelentingly angry anthem of a woman sick of being painted as a monster, while the first promo single ‘…Ready For It?’ was a peppy pop anthem that experimented with Swift’s production and vocal delivery. ‘Gorgeous’ follows a similar pattern in that it is entirely different to anything the two releases that came before it.

A bubbly, fizzy lovesick pop song about just how beautiful a boy is, ‘Gorgeous’ is the weakest of reputation’s pre-releases thus far. That being said, the track is a hypnotic earworm that gets stuck in your head like only Swift can. Its production is a mash-up of 80’s synth poptaylor 2 (most notably the chorus) plucked straight from Swift’s own 1989 and Carly Rae Jepson’s EMOTION. Lyrically, the song delivers what it is supposed to but nothing revolutionary, mostly let down by the chorus with its pre-choruses and verses being its main stars, a common trend in reputation’s tracks so far. Vocally, Swift explores a higher, airier register on the chorus reminiscent of her collaboration with Zayn on ‘I Don’t Want To Live Forever’.

Overall, the track is a strong pop song, but isn’t as brilliant nor hit-worthy as ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ or ‘…Ready For It?’. However, it is a perfect promotional single, only adding to the mystery surrounding the question on everyone’s mind – what exactly Swift’s reputation is going to be?

Make sure to listen to the track below and comment your thoughts:

 

Swift’s ‘reputation’ is available here:http://smarturl.it/reputationTS

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