TRACK REVIEW: ‘Never Really Over’ – Katy Perry

Several years ago, Katy Perry dominated pop music with an vice grip. With Teenage Dream and Prism, Perry’s rule was undisputed. However, with 2017’s Witness, Perry’s music had an existential crisis leaning away from the sugary pop that made her the star she was and instead attempted to capture trends of political messages, rap features and take down tracks. None of that worked, and the album cycle was a complete misfire.

Two years later, Perry returns to her home and thankfully it’s not only miles better than recent releases, but is arguably stronger than a lot of her back catalogue. The lyricism is noticeably better than a lot of Perry’s music with one of her most ear-wormy hooks and mature exploration of an on and off again relationship. Zedd’s production is anything but sparse, throwing every bit of pop production he has in from throbbing synth to a thudding drumline.

Overall, the track is a great return to form for one of pop’s finest and may not only put her back on the top, but put the genre back where it once was.

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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.

TRACK REVIEW: ‘Sally Walker’ – Iggy Azalea

If there is one thing the world loves more than to watch someone fall, it’s to watch someone make a comeback. Five years since The New Classic and the various hits that made her a household name, Iggy Azalea has been to career hell and back. The public tore her down as fast as they made her and her former record label had no clue what to do with her after she decided she wanted to leave the pop collaborations in the past (see the scrapped sophomore album and the abysmal handling of 2018’s Survive The Summer). But with ‘Sally Walker’, Azalea is making up for lost time.

The first single off her upcoming sophomore record In My Defence and the first released through her own record label Bad Dreams Records, ‘Sally Walker’ marks Azalea taking control of her career and if the pure campness of the track’s concept and its video are anything to go by, she’s back with a vengeance. Azalea’s ideas are pretty smart lyric wise with the verses using some nice pop culture references and full of flex in the vein of every other rap song getting any airplay these day but the highlight is the true brilliance of the hook. Referencing a nursery rhyme is one thing but basing your entire track and flow around somehow making it one of the catchiest choruses of the year so far is a whole other level.

The production is quite similar to every other trap song in the top ten but you can hear the influence of J. White from a mile away. In fact, the production is quite close to White’s recent Cardi B effort ‘Money’ but the presence of actual personality on ‘Sally Walker’ saves it from the same fate as that track, instead being one of the catchier efforts from a female rapper since Cardi’s own ‘I Like It’ – and that’s damn impressive. In fact, ‘Sally Walker’ may just be a fun banger on the surface, but its ability to not only stand next to its contemporaries, but to do so without the backing of a major label (or even a minor album for that matter) is the ultimate flex.

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.

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:

TRACK REVIEW: ‘Nothing Breaks Like A Heart’ – Mark Ronson feat. Miley Cyrus

Miley Cyrus’ career has been one of the greatest rollercoasters the world has ever seen. The world has loved her and the world has hated her. She’s had her ups and her downs and often times they come simultaneously, with her hardest personal times bringing her undeniable success in her professional life and vice versa. On her latest effort, ‘Nothing Breaks Like A Heart’, a collaboration for Producer Mark Ronson’s upcoming record, she appears ridiculously self-aware of that fact.

Her first release since the absolute flop that was 2017’s Younger Now, ‘Nothing Breaks Like A Heart’ is Cyrus deciding to exist somewhere between the reformed perfect country bumpkin that she tried to be for Younger Now and the uber-controversial pop diva that possessed her for her Bangerz era, and simply being herself. The track is a mature country ballad/pop banger. Lyrically, ‘Nothing Breaks Like A Heart’ drips with melancholy, discussing the impact of the modern world (more specifically, modern America) on one’s life and how no matter how bad the world around you is, ultimately it is heartbreak that will cause you the most pain. Cyrus and Ronson’s writing is mature and gorgeous, boosted even more by the stunning delivery provided by Cyrus’ love-bruised yet confident vocal. The track is masterfully produced by Ronson, who is actually the lead artist on the track, with the raw twang of the country instrumentals mixing perfectly into the throbbing ache of the synth-pop beat, a blend that never feels forced or messy.

In fact, ‘Nothing Breaks Like A Heart’ is exactly the opposite. It’s the perfect blend of both pop and country, of both Bangerz Miley and Younger Now Miley, and as a result, the messy, forced track you might expect is nowhere to be found. Instead, Ronson and Cyrus’ collaboration is some of each artist’s best, and arguably, most real work to date.

Check out the official video for Mark Ronson’s ‘Nothing Breaks Like A Heart’ feat. Miley Cyrus below: