They all have albums that we forgot to review but were half-heartedly to heavily promoted on release! Late winter: That traditionally huge time for music, eh? Anyway, we’re rounding up some reviews for you.
GIRL – Pharrell Williams
One thing before we start: When can we call time on irritatingly styled album names? GIRL joins PRISM and ARTPOP. in the running for grammatically aggressive pop albums. I suppose that’s not the worst club for the talented producer and aspiring pop star – and it’s not as bad as having to spell out tUnE-yArDs (which is just yeesh) – but at the same time, what’s wrong with Girl? It might have confused tired, millennial writers like myself into thinking you were a perfectly crafter, way-too-accurate HBO drama and you would have tricked your way into a five star review. As is, Pharrell didn’t really need to trick his way into a good review: GIRL is PRETTY GOOD. If you ignore the flimsy feminist premise – which should be up my street in a pop-feminist-third wave kinda way but ends up more than a little patronising – GIRL is an enjoyably cheesy, unchallenging romp. You clap your way through the choruses on ‘Happy,’ you giggle-talk through the intro to ‘Come Get it Bae’ and you wonder if Daft Punk will ever reach Discovery levels again on ‘Gust of Wind.’ I’m kind of joking on that last one; Random Access Memories was fun, it just wasn’t landscape defining as their 2001 effort. Anyway, GIRL is the sweet and well-deserved finale to Pharrell’s year of domination. It’s his world, we’re just tuning into it:
Kiss Me Once – Kylie
Kylie: A national treasure. But which nation’s? Sure, she’s Australian but she spends so much time over here – promoting her music, and helping to judge our nation’s Next Great Popstar – that sometimes it’s hard to remember if she started off in Neighbours or EastEnders (it was the former). Kiss Me Once is Kylie’s 12th (12th!) studio album and this time it’s infused by our musical overlord, Pharrell. I’m fairly partial to the pop-oblivion that is Into the Blue, which sounds like a sexy stroll around the posh parts of London (just listen to it and you’ll get what I mean). Pop a pea-coat around your shoulders and a pair of Wayfarers on your face, and you head into that Notting Hill sunshine, Kylie. The rest of the album is surprisingly refreshing for an artist whose work could very much just be fan service at this point in her career. But we reach an unapologetically giddy climax with the 80s, disco-track ‘I Was Gonna Cancel’ which is Kylie at her campest and most charmingly electric:
Louder – Lea Michele
This is Lea’s debut pop effort but you could have fooled us. There was a moment in Glee’s season 4 premiere (yeah, I know, I need a life) where the new Rachel (played by Melissa Benoist) says she doesn’t want to be like the old, musical theatre Rachel (played by Lea) but that she wants to be a recording artist. I can’t help but thinking of that distinction in regards to Louder. Seriously, this is stuck in an awkward middle-ground: It’s a little too theatrical to be considered pop starlet territory but it doesn’t really venture far enough into pop to make it a stand-out radio success. Instead, it’s part inspiring (‘Cannonball’ is in the running for showcasing pop’s most mixed metaphor this year), part ‘ugh-love-is-so-hard’ (‘Burn With You’) and part ‘ugh-love-is-so-great’ (‘You’re Mine’). In fairness, there’s autobiographical evidence for all three of those parts. She’s a Glee alum so there’s probably some contractual agreement that you’ve got to inspire someone somewhere to do something (even if that means telling them to fly – and presumably crash back down into earth – like a cannonball). And then there’s her celebrity love-story turned tragedy that is the inescapable key to understanding all those songs about love. ‘If You Say So’ is a beautifully intimate pop-song (that sounds authentic as hell thanks to Michele’s unimpeachable vocals) but it’s made more than a little uncomfortable by the fact that you just know there’s a studio executive sacrificing a prize goat to the Gods of the Tabloids for Michele’s public narrative. I’m not saying it doesn’t add weight to the record, I’m just saying it doesn’t sit quite right: