In VH New Music Fridays, the Life staff cover this week’s new music releases, from pop to country to alternative.
Pop: Taylor Hopkins
Bebe Rexha, “Last Hurrah”
Bebe Rexha’s newest single “Last Hurrah” gives fans everything they have come to love about the electric pop singer, but unfortunately fails to distinguish itself from every other repeat radio track. In the first few lyrics Rexha declares “I’m done with the drinking/ I’m done with the smoking/ I’m done with the playing/ I’m done with the joking/ I’m done with the ladies/ I’m done with the fellas/ Just sayin’” and sets up a very new-year-new-me vibe that feels both relatable and uninteresting. The tune is sure to be a popular dance track, similarly to some of Rexha’s other hits. However, it leaves listeners more bored than ready to party. While I wouldn’t change the station if “Last Hurrah” came on the radio, I also wouldn’t pay $1.29 to buy it on iTunes.
Avril Lavigne, Head Above Water
Six years ago pop-punk singer Avril Lavigne declared “They say just grow up, but they don’t know us/ We don’t give a fuck, and we’re never gonna change” on her song “Here’s to Never Growing Up,” but on her newest album Head Above Water Lavigne proves she’s done exactly that. One divorce, a battle with lyme disease and numerous conspiracy theories later, Lavigne shows she’s only gotten better with time. However, for fans looking for more angsty, punk songs like she used to sing, prepare to be disappointed. The only punk song (and I’m applying punk very loosely) is the somewhat random track “Dumb Blonde” featuring Nicki Minaj that just does not fit in with the rest of the album. Head Above Water leans into it’s inspirational title as Lavigne gives plenty of power ballads and blends a lyrical maturity with the same vocal chops we know and love her for. While it’s a departure from her past work, it is still a great album that shows off an Avril Lavigne who did have to grow up, but did so in the best way possible.
Country: Alexa Bussmann
Florida Georgia Line, Can’t Say I Ain’t Country
Country’s favorite millennial duo is back with their fourth studio album. Whether or not Can’t Say I Aint Country is a response to critics is anybody’s guess, but the title track references their lifestyle rather than their music. Buried in the second half of the album is “Can’t Hide Red” featuring Jason Aldean, a song that similarly praises the pervasiveness of the country lifestyle. The album ranges from the quick “Speed of Love” to the smooth “Talk You Out of It.” FGL isn’t afraid to experiment with the genre, mixing in rock and rap with their take on country music. Four “skits” featuring Brother Jervel appear throughout the album, adding a little interest and humor. “Colorado” and the previously-released “Simple” are two of the album’s must-listens.
Hip Hop-Pop: Brendan Sawyer
Cardi B and Bruno Mars, “Please Me”
Cardi B continues to flex her hit-single-crafting skills with “Please Me.” The production is grand, lush and powerful, with trap-inspired drum beats and waving synths. Mars’ hook is nothing short of hypnotizing, as he hits higher and higher riffs. While Cardi’s lyrics are undeniably corny, they add a certain charm that’s signature to her style. The song crescendos with each subsequent hook, adding more instruments, backing vocals, and adlibs. The song ends in a final rendition of the hook, with Mars’ vocals leaving a chill in the listener’s spine. “Please Me” will definitely prove itself to be another hit for Cardi.
John Legend, “Preach”
John Legend’s new single feels almost a little too reminiscent of the cheesy pop-ballads of the late 00’s with its pandering drum beats and “woaaahhh’s” of its chorus. The lyrics are fairly run-of-the mill as well, as Legend sings how “Heaven knows I’m not helpless, but what do I do?” The over-polished production puts a damper on Legend’s vocals, to a point where I wouldn’t have even know it was him. The strings of the song’s bridge give the track new life, and the more minimal production of the verse allows Legend to shine momentarily. Still, the song felt very underwhelming and uninspired overall, and I hope Legend shows some more variety on his next project.
Indie and Alternative: Angela Karas
Catfish and the Bottlemen, “Fluctuate”
While the Welsh band has been performing this song at some of their more recent gigs, “Fluctuate” was officially released as a single on Feb. 14. Boasting an ambitious chorus and exceptional drumming, Catfish and the Bottlemen have once again solidified themselves as a frontrunner on the indie rock scene. “Fluctuate” is the second single the band has released in anticipation of their third studio album, The Balance, out April 26. Following the release of Catfish’s first new single, “Longshot,” “Fluctuate” now raises the stakes for the album, showcasing the band’s talent. Lyrically, the song perhaps lacks some depth, as it merely abstractly depicts time spent with a love interest, though the single’s overall production certainly compensates for this minor pitfall. This new release definitely heightens anticipation for The Balance, yet also leaves one curious as to which other songs on the LP might have a similarly effective lead-single dynamism.
Hozier, “Dinner & Diatribes”
Hozier once again delivers the folk-rock for which he is known in this lead single from the eponymous five-song EP released today. With a solid, mid-paced tempo, the track is easy to digest and boasts a broad appeal. Particularly noteworthy is the fact this EP has been released in anticipation of Hozier’s upcoming LP, Wasteland, Baby!, expected March 1. He also recently announced additional dates for his U.S. tour, and while the Nashville date is sold out, new dates in various cities over the summer may be feasible options for Hozier fans.
Foals, “On the Luna”
Quirky and upbeat, “On the Luna” is an instantly infectious offering from Foals. The song, while undoubtedly a Rock ‘n‘ Roll product, intriguingly incorporates pop-rock elements, rendering the song rather reminiscent of Foals’ “My Number.” Especially when “On the Luna” is viewed comparatively with the band’s other recent release, single “Exits,” the band showcases its diversity. While “Exits” maintains the provocative and intrepid nature customary of a rock song, “On the Luna” attests to the band’s additional proclivity toward invigorating pop-rock. Both singles are from Foals’ upcoming two-part album Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost. Part One will be released March 8, and Part Two is slated for an autumn 2019 release.
Cover Photo: Catfish and the Bottlemen, Cardi B and Bebe Rexha