Tag Archives: music review

Music Review: DONDA by Kanye

By Orion

Kanye’s 10th studio album, Donda, dedicated to his mother, Donda West, has had one of the most anticipated and controversial lead-ups to any of his albums. With multiple delays from its original release date until it finally dropped August 29th, 2021, Donda had three listening parties to help promote the album.

The album cover was changed three times (in the order below) with Louise Bourgeois’ Les têtes bleues et les femmes rouges being the inspiration for the middle cover. The final cover  used for the album debut is purely black, possibly inspired by one of the producers Gesaffelstein’s similarly black album Hyperion (2018).

Kanye West's DONDA album may drop this week - The West News TeamKanyeDaily on Twitter: "ALBUM COVER Kanye West - Donda (Artwork by  Louise Bourgeois)… " Kanye West "Donda" Album Review - NMSU Round Up

At each party, a new or altered feature came in an album chock full of features. Most controversially, the third listening party featured the presence of both Da Baby (who made troubling homophobic comments) and Marilyn Manson (who is fresh off recent sexual assault allegations). A renewed beef with Drake also helped with the album’s hype.

The album features some familiar producers that West has collabed with before, such as Mike Dean, Gesaffelstein, Boi-1da, Ronny J, DJ Khalil, Warryn Campbell, and Swizz Beats, among many others.

Donda has produced some new ground for Kanye, while also using some old concepts from his past musical endeavors. The avant-garde-esqe opening track of “Donda Chant” has his late mother performed entirely by soul singer Syleena Johnson, with only the word “Donda” being spoken at different intervals. It stands as a questionable but understandable opener.

The next two tracks in “Jail” and “God Breathed” take more minimalist influences that were used extensively on his 6th studio album Yeezus (2013) with a welcome return of longtime collaborator Jay-Z on “Jail.” The song “Off the Grid” has more of a modern drill beat with first time features from Playboi Carti and Fivio Foreign on a West album, with West delivering some of his most charming lyrics. As with many of the songs on Donda, the lyrics in “Off the Grid” deal with rising social and economic inequality, as well as trying to keep God in mind and the strains of mental health. “Hurricane” was originally meant to be on one of West’s many scrapped albums, Yandhi, with all of the original features being replaced by The Weeknd’s angelic vocals and Lil Baby’s phenomenal flow.

Some of the lyrics on Donda can come off as preachy with the major emphasis on God, but the corniest lyrics are often few and far between. Religion is often used in West’s music as an emotional bridge between his anxieties and inner thoughts, most prominently on his 7th and 8th studio albums The Life of Pablo (2016), and ye (2018), and to a lesser extent on his 9th studio album Jesus is King (2019). And Donda is no exception with multiple song titles throughout the album having biblical titles, as shown on the next track with “Praise God.”

The more maximalist autotune track features one of his many musical protégés Travis Scott and relative newcomer Baby Keem, with a spoken word excerpt intro from Donda West’s speech in October of 2007 less than a month before she died. “Jonah” is one of the more personal tracks with West’s rapping about his work ethic playing over an almost ambient pop beat; it features Vory and Lil Durk who rap about their internal struggles and seemingly survivor’s guilt over their harsh upbringings. “Ok Ok” has Foreign returning with West, Lil Yachty, and Rooga to express their dismay with fake/backstabbing friends and how they often wish on your downfall, and only showing up when it benefits them. West’s tribute to the enigmatic Japanese fashion designer Junya Watanabe on his eponymous track (simplified as “Junya”) as West and Carti celebrate their wealth over a trap-inspired beat, a fun song even if lacking emotional weight comparatively.

His next track pays homage to rap legend Ms. Lauryn Hill with a sample from her song “Doo Wop (That Thing)” and with him rapping how he doesn’t let the media bring him down (which always tended to portray him in a negative light since his early career). The feature here has famous Jamaican reggae artist Buju Banton talking about a complicated relationship, which may be an allegory to West’s relationship with the media as portrayed in the song. “24” has West collaborating with Sunday Service Choir as he did almost exclusively on Jesus is King, as such it is probably one of/if not the most spiritually driven songs in West’s discography with him reaffirming his faith and emotionally putting his entire self in God’s hands. It is followed by one of West’s most preachy faith based songs on the album, “Remote Control,” with God literally in Remote Control as West states. Young Thug’s feature was a highlight in an overall mediocre song.

Long time protégé and collaborator Kid Cudi features on the fittingly titled “Moon” (due to Cudi’s long association with the moon in his music) as well as beautiful vocals by Don Toliver, with the song being primarily performed by Cudi on his internal struggles and his content with moving on. “Heaven and Hell” and “Donda” have fairly similar thematic themes about God with “Heaven and Hell” being more preachy and “Donda” having another speech excerpt from West’s mother, although it is much more prominent this time and more gospel-focused musically than the sample heavy beat on “Heaven and Hell.”

“Keep My Spirit Alive” seemingly combines and makes a balance of the past two tracks with gospelish vocals from KayCyy and more social commentary-oriented rapping from West, Westside Gunn, Conway the Machine, and Royce da 5’9.” The next song, “Jesus Lord,” has West emotionally tell us about his drug addictions that he used to cope with his mother’s death and his mental health, he also gives us some verses on how people’s poor upbringings often make them question their faith in God. Jay Electronica also features with similar themes in his verses, with the main theme being to keep faith in the face of societal issues, something further emphasized on the ending monologue delivered by Larry Hoover Jr. on having his father being freed from his unjust imprisonment.

“New Again” has one of the more synth-pop beats reminiscent of his 3rd and 4th studio album, Graduation (2007) and 808s & Heartbreak (2008), with the lyrics less strong and being more preachy, with West and Chris Brown rapping about evangelicalism. “Tell The Vision” is by far one of the low points in the album, with it being entirely rapped by the late Pop Smoke about “making it,” which seems disingenuous due to Smoke’s death last year.

“Lord I Need You” entails the recent divorce between Kanye and ex-wife Kim Kardasian as he comes to seemingly good terms on their relationship while also thanking her for all the wonderful things she’s brought him, such as their children. Roddy Rich and West put aside their minor beef to collaborate on a gospel organ-inspired beat about coming up from the bottom and staying true to themselves and not selling out to the fortune of fame, with an inspiring outro by Shenseea. “Come to Life” details more on West’s rocky relationship with Kardasian over wonderful synth-ish instrumentals, with the known braggadocio West even wishing for a different life but still having God help him become content with the one he has now.

“No Child Left Behind” (in reference to George W. Bush’s education act of the same name) has divine organ chords being played over West’s concern over his children’s future with a feature from Vory on his reliance on God over others. The next three part 2s for Jail, Ok Ok, and Jesus Lord are essentially the same musically with some feature changes and edits, most controversially on Jail pt. 2 with Da Baby and Marilyn Manson. Manson provides background vocals and Da Baby addresses his “cancellation” by the industry, making the appeal that he too came from nothing the same as any other rapper, with him noticeably not addressing why he cancelled in the first place. “Ok Ok pt. 2” has a shortened verse of Lil Yachty while adding an entirely new verse by Shenseea and “Jesus Lord pt.2” having additional verses from the LOX crew of rappers.

Overall the album can be considered bloated with some filler as well as some low points especially near the end with the pt. 2s, but overall the album as a whole is consistently great in lyrical quality, production, and thematic connections with God that do not come off as overbearing or overly preachy. West uses God more effectively as a bridge between himself and the listener to tell them of his internal and external struggles with himself and the unjust society in mind with the importance of keeping God in mind.

Music Review: “Lalisa” by Lisa from Blackpink

By Laci Bassaj

Lisa from the K-pop group Blackpink made her solo debut on September 9, 2021 with her first single entitled “Lalisa.” This single makes Lisa the third member of Blackpink to make a solo debut, following bandmates Jennie, who made her solo debut in 2018, and Rosé who made hers earlier this year. The highly anticipated single album includes two tracks called “Lalisa” and “Money,” along with instrumental versions of both.

“Lalisa” is a hip-hop song full of confidence, celebrating Lisa’s rise to success. The first time I listened to this song, I immediately loved it, and it only gets better the more I listen to it. I particularly enjoy the third verse, and find myself replaying it nearly every time I listen to the song. The repetition of the song’s title “Lalisa” in the chorus made the song extremely catchy, and I’m sure this song will be stuck in my head for quite some time.

The second track, “Money,” is about exactly what the title suggests. The song features how much Lisa loves making money and spending it. I found that the lyrics of “Money” were quite generic, and there wasn’t anything about them that really stood out to me. The majority of the song felt repetitive and underwhelming, but it finally picked up in the outro. The outro is much more upbeat and energetic, making it stand out from the rest of the song.

Overall, this release was pretty enjoyable, but since it was a single album it left me wanting more. Although “Money” wasn’t the best, I still liked the song, and I really loved “Lalisa.” I give it a solid 7/10 rating.

Certified Lover Boy by Drake: Music Review

By Vanessa Mojica

Drake recently came out with his sixth album Certified Lover Boy on September 3, 2021. This album is 1 hour and 26 minutes long. Surprisingly this isn’t Drake’s longest album to date. That title belongs to another album. This album features artists such as Kid Cudi, 21 Savage, Future, and Jay-Z. My personal favorite songs on this album are “Knife Talk” and “TSU.”

There have been many mixed reviews on this album. However, we cannot overlook the amount of success Drake has received from its sales and streams. It debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200. It is easy to say this album is boring, the same old Drake is nothing new. However, it’s a classic Drake. What exactly is classic Drake? Well he is, after all, a certified lover boy…

Classic Album Revisited: Michael Jackson – Thriller

By Brian Serrano

Michael Jackson’s album Thriller is considered to be one of the greatest albums of all time, but what exactly made it so successful and popular throughout society? Thriller was Jackson’s sixth solo album, released in November 1982. So what brought it this much success?

Thriller is said to foreshadow contradictory themes of Jackson’s personal life, as he began using darker themes in his songs. The album produced these singles known as, “The Girl Is Mine,” “Billie Jean,” “Beat It,” “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” “Human Nature,” “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing),” and “Thriller,” all reaching the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, which set the record for the most top 10 singles from one album.

One major thing that differentiates this album from others during that time was that it used music videos as promotional tools, such as the videos for “Billie Jean”, “Beat It” and “Thriller,” which are credited for transforming music videos into a serious art form. The album’s success set the standard for the music industry with its songs which we now see as music videos common in today’s world. The album also broke racial barriers in popular music, which allowed Jackson’s appearances on MTV and to meet with then-President Ronald Reagan at the White House.

Overall, the album had so much success that people to this day call it one of the greatest albums of all time. It is said to have an untouchable amount of copies reaching a reported 66 million sales worldwide, making it the best-selling album of all time and being marked platinum 33 times (for U.S. sales of around 33 million copies). Thriller also reached a record-breaking 8 Grammys won, another record for AMA awards with 8 awards, being inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and the “Thriller” music video being inducted into the National Film Preservation Board’s National Film Registry of “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant films.”

The Thriller album changed the music industry in using music videos as a way of advertising their music. All these music videos we see today are a reminder of Michael Jackson’s legacy, marking Thriller as a classic.

Music Review: Falling In Reverse “I’m Not a Vampire (revamped)”

by Paula Huerta

On February 12, 2021, Falling In Reverse released a new and improved version of their original song “I’m not a Vampire.”

The original was released back in 2011  along with the rest of the album, Drug In Me Is You and had a huge impact on the emo/hardcore community.  While the original had major success on YouTube, receiving 44 million views, the revamped version gained 2.8 million views!

Lead singer/songwriter, Ronnie Radke has been incorporating different genres such as rap, metal, pop, etc. into the band’s music over the years. However, he says the band features mainly pop now that he does “everything.”

I love that Falling In Reverse is so diverse because that means more people can enjoy the music since it’s not limited to one genre.

I was so excited to hear that there was going to be a new single! The song includes a very beautiful orchestra type beat.  

Personally, I love the music video and enjoy the song itself, but the majority of the band’s old fanbase no longer supports them since these fans were more fond of the band’s former “hardcore music.

So, if you’re looking for a diverse band leaning more towards the emo/hardcore genre, Falling In Reverse is the band for you.

I hope you enjoy their music as much as I do!

Have You Heard of MF Doom?

The death of a legend

By Johnny Barraza

Underground rapper MF DOOM’s death caught all of his fans by surprise. His family announced his death at the beginning of this year, but what really shocked everyone is that he’s been dead since October 31. He was only 49. The cause of his death has not been disclosed, so it remains a mystery to his fans.

Metal Face Doom was known by many for two things: the first being the secrecy of his personal life and the other being his love for music. He was able to rap and make it seem effortless. 

Doom was famous for his lyricism and ability to use the beats he produced to his advantage. It was as if he manipulated the music to fit his desires.

Doom’s two most loved projects are Madvilliany and Mm.. Food. They each portrayed a story filled with great detail and featuring double-meaning wordplay. 

This guy was truly a talented artist who didn’t get the recognition he deserved, and he left this world far too soon.

LIL BABY’S ‘MY TURN’ NAMED BEST SELLING U.S. ALBUM FOR 2020

By David Gomez 

My Turn, an album by Lil Baby helped drive the rise of the Atlanta native into the next wave of superstars of rap. It also played a major role in Baby putting out a 2020 banner campaign.

Nielsen Music/MRC Data revealed on January 7 that My Turn was the most successful album in the United States in 2020 across all genres. 

 Baby’s sophomore album was the most-streamed effort of the year with the set of songs banking 3.93 billion streams during 2020. Additionally, My Turn received 2.63 million cumulative album-equivalent units for the project. 

However in typical album sales, the LP only sold around 40,000 physical copies. 

Behind Baby and T-Swift, were Pop Smokes’ Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon, Juice WRLD’s Legends Never Die, Hollywood’s Bleeding from Post Malone, Eternal Atake from Lil Uzi Vert, and Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial from Roddy Rich. 

My Turn officially raked in over $19 million during the year and became the first project to go multi-platinum in 2020.

With his politically-charged The Bigger Picture anthem capturing the 2020 Album of the Year, Lil Baby took home HipHopDX’s Rapper of the Year honors. 

Congratulations Lil Baby, it was well deserved!

Music Review: Bad Bunny–El Último Tour Del Mundo

by Arlene Perez

On November 27th, the Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny released a new album of 16 songs called El Último Tour Del Mundo.

When Billboard asked him to describe his newly released album, he said, “This is a more sentimental album, more chill, the kind of thing you can listen to in your room.” The rapper said he took a different route compared to his album ‘YHLQMDLG.’

After listening to the album I would rate it a solid 8.5 out of 10. Why? Well to begin with, it was different. It was all over the place. It had rock-en-espanol, late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s vibes, soft reggaeton, Latin trap, and heavy rock beats, yet was still a great album. By doing this, Bad Bunny proves that he isn’t afraid to try something new, and he won’t always submit to his perro and reggaeton music choices. It shows he can experiment with various music genres.

Songs I’d recommend are:

 “Te Mudaste,” 

“Maldita Pobreza,” 

“Yo Visto Así,” 

 “La noche De Anoche (Ft. Rosalia),” 

“Booker T, La Droga,” 

“Dakiti (Ft. Jhay Cortez),” 

 “Sorry Papi (Ft. Abra),”

 and finally

 “120.”

The Weeknd “Snagged” of Grammy Nomination

by Johnny Barraza

The annual Grammy nominations have been released, and people have been left in shock: the infamous music artist The Weeknd wasn’t nominated for any categories!  

After dropping his fifth studio album in March, Weeknd’s After Hours sold about 440,000 units in its first week. One song from this album “Blinding Lights,” has spent a whole entire YEAR on the Hot 100! This on its own is an amazing accomplishment, and it ranks Top 10 for a record, extending for its 41st week. 

The Weeknd was also number one on Complex’s Top 50 albums of the year. And if accolades like these weren’t enough, the songs within the album speak for themselves. After Hours contains a complicated story showing struggles with love and turning to drugs. The album is one whole narrative that can be compared to a well-written movie. 

Beloved by fans, After Hours is undoubtedly the artist’s best album yet. It makes one wonder why he was snubbed. Fans have every right to be outraged.

Album Review: Eternal Atake by Lil Uzi Vert

By David Gomez

Eternal Atake, the new album from rapper Lil Uzi Vert, acts like the tumultuous catharsis of a prolific rapper with eighteen songs and 62 minutes, silenced by powers entirely out of his control. One moment is smashing and the next is slippery, a place where a jarringly saccharine sample of the 1999 hit “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys coexists with a jittery, steamrolling track designed around the music from the Space Cadet 3D Pinball video game from Microsoft Windows.

This album has been around for a long time. Artist Lil Uzi Vert went to battle with his Generation Now label bosses DJ Drama and Don Cannon over his contract after releasing his double-platinum major-label debut album Luv Is Rage 2 in 2017. He beefed up with Rich the Kid in the streets of Philadelphia, cut off his trademark dreadlocks, left music, returned to the fold, and forged a new relationship with Jay-Roc Z’s Nation label, all without missing a release date.

A rap album released to such fervent expectations is hard to recall, let alone one that lived up to those expectations. With a cohesiveness, sleek concept, and performance that justifies every ounce of hype, Eternal Atake is Lil Uzi Vert’s best album yet.

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