Tag Archives: pop music

Music Review: The Weeknd | Dawn FM

By: Orion

Abel Tesfaye aka The Weeknd’s newest and fifth studio LP Dawn FM was released on January 7, 2022. The album was hyped for with the release of a single in “Take My Breath” alongside a music video in early August of last year, along with teases on social media and another single collaboration with Swedish House Mafia (a producer on the album as well) on their track “Moth To A Flame” on October 22. The producers include familiar names such as Calvin Harris, Max Martin, Brian Kennedy, DaHeala, Abel himself, and even Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys among others, most of whom have worked with Abel before. Dawn FM takes the ‘80s new wave, synth-pop/dance-pop that was used extensively on his last more dreamy LP After Hours (2020) and that he had also dabbled with before on projects like his 3rd studio LP Starboy (2016) and ups it to eleven on this album. The album contains features from Tyler, the Creator, Lil Wayne, and a narration from Jim Carrey.

The eponymous “Dawn FM” title track sets up the listener with the feeling as if they are listening to more of a radio station (i.e. FM), that plays into more self-aware existential themes as if Abel himself knows that he’s being listened to but goes along with the ride anyway. 1980’s style synths are used heavily throughout the album and the title track is no different, but has a more spacey soulful feel, with Jim Carrey narrating at the end. “Gasoline” has Abel picking up where he left off in After Hours, indulging in his usual hedonism in face of sorrow to die but being saved from OD-ing himself completely by a woman. The high synth chords begin again before switching to a more minimal dance beat with Abel’s vocals switching from artificially deep to high to back his more confirmed R&B voice.

In “How Do I Make You Love Me,” Abel is seeking the love of this woman to become his lover, something that he admits is more out of the ordinary due to him normally being able to pick up most women very easily compared to her. The song’s composition has a more of a post-disco undertone combined with a more new-waveish dance-pop overtone that connects to the next song. The lead single, “Take My Breath” has Abel giving to his more hedonistic tendencies with the woman fulfillingly both of their erotic fanasties (in the music video she quite literally takes his breath away). The composition here has more of a psychedelic mix of new wave and dark wave, with some more overt disco and synth-pop. “Sacrifice” has Abel doubling down on his old ways with regret that he is neglecting his woman in the process but does not want to be held down. It has a more of a standard heavy dark synth-pop with a bit of a funkish undertone.

“A Tale By Quincy” has Quincy Jones delivering a spoken word track about his past with an institutionalized mother at an early age and wicked stepmother afterwards which he admits led to a subconscious fear of being too close to a woman (he had been married and divorced three times and has several children with five different women). The track itself has a more soft rock/adult contemporary jazzish tune. “Out of Time” tells of a relationship with a woman and how his neglect did eventually lead them to break apart when she finally left him for a different man; and now Abel wants her back in case the other man messes up, but he knows he’s too late. The track takes a city pop sample from Tomoko Aran and Tetsurō Oda’s Midnight Pretender’s, giving it it’s more city pop/R&B feel with another cameo from Jim Carrey who seems to be playing the disc jockey in this “radio” with talking about the listener being almost reborn by music itself.

“Here We Go… Again” takes more R&B vocalizations from Abel about his time with the woman before and how she ended up with someone lesser than him despite searching for someone better than Abel. The lyrics are more of falling back in love with a new woman, and him being dreamily head over heels in love with this woman. Tyler the Creator features on the track with him asking the person he loves to sign a prenup (just in case the relationship doesn’t work out) and that no one, not the government nor some outside religion can define what love is to them. The track’s music takes a more smooth soulful R&B approach combined with some synthy yacht rock. “Best Friends” has Abel turning a toxic relationship into a friend with benefits one instead but still feeling conflicted as he still loves this woman but doesn’t want to break her heart by getting into a relationship. The track has more of a minimal darkish new wave mixed with a trap beat and ending with an ominous repeating phrase like a broken record on a radio. “Is There Someone Else?” has Abel ironically questioning his lover’s loyalty as he tries to make himself a better partner for his woman and admits he is not really in any position to question her, but is still curious if the other man knows. This track has lighter synths that compliment the high pitched vocals of the song. Musically the track connects to “Starry Eyes” but with more of an urban/futuristic orchestral synths that are almost choir-like in some parts. The lyrics themselves have Abel wanting to comfort a broken and shattered woman who simply wants to push away all of those who get close, even through violent means of which Abel is willing to let happen to him.

“Every Angel Is Terrifying” is a more avant-garde spoken word track where Abel speaks about his existentialist fears on how if he cried out who would hear him? Even if the angels did hear him, he would be overwhelmed and terrified at his fate, and perhaps rightfully so as biblically accurate angels are radically different from what normally pops in our heads, and perhaps that’s what Abel thinks his afterlife may be. Speaking of afterlife, the next spoken word verses are of a radio/tv commercial of some sorts that markets the afterlife like a product and almost like a cheap recreational drug. The music switches between heavy futuristic synths at the beginning to more soulful chords when Abel talks about the angels, and then finally switches to a more commercialized synthpop tune to complement the commercial.

“Don’t Break My Heart” has Abel recovering from a break up and trying again to fall in love with hopes for a newer more devoted relationship with this mesmerizing woman but is afraid of what might happen to him if his heart is broken this one last time. The composition of this track takes more upon post-disco/dance-pop and minimal house music especially during the chorus. “I Heard You’re Married Girl” features Lil Wayne and Abel vocalizing about finding their lovers are actually married women with both artists giving ultimatums to them to either choose their husbands or them as they don’t want to be involved with married women. A more conventional synth-pop is used throughout the track with some occasional funkish undertones.

“Less Than Zero” is one of the highlights of the album, with Abel still having romantic feelings for a lover that he emotionally hid from and according to him, she thinks negatively about him but he can’t repress the feelings he still has for her and wants to rekindle a fire with her. The track’s composition is that of beautiful orchestral and upbeat synthwave mixed with a guitar to give it a more electro-pop rock feel that goes along perfectly with Abel’s more echoed vocals during the chorus, and the guitar becomes more evident near the end with Abel’s almost spoken word vocals. The final track “Phantom Regret” by Jim still has the tried and true minimal synths with Abel having echoed vocals over Jim’s monologue but ends peacefully with sounds of wildlife and nature. “Phantom Regret” by Jim has our narrator Jim Carrey giving a final poem to the listener on reflection about the journey they took to get to where they are now: what grudges did they have? Who did they hurt? Who or what did they remember? Jim reminds the listener of their regret and that despite all their pain, heaven, whatever it is to them, will still be there once they learn to let go of their regret and find inner peace within themselves. Furthermore, heaven isn’t always light or dark, heaven is what you make it to be.Dawn FM’s concept is a little hard to grasp with its more existential, self-reflecting themes than before mixed with a variety of ‘80’s electronic upbeat dance genres from disco to city pop that contrast with the more introspective and even romantic lyrics. It’s a very mature album for Abel as he clashes between staying the hedonistic self of his youth to the more older worn out Abel (as signified by the album cover) who simply wants peace and a stable relationship. Overall, the album has something for everyone with an overall consistent quality in songs and some incredible artistic highs.

Blue Banisters by Lana Del Rey: Music Review

By Orion

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

(7.5 stars out of 10)

Lana Del Rey returns with a second album this year, Blue Banisters and her eighth studio album overall in her discography. She had earlier released Chemtrails Over The Country Club in March, and had almost immediately announced another album to be released that same year in a different title of Rock Candy Sweet. After four single releases in “Text Book,” “Wildflower Wildfire,” “Blue Banisters,” and “Arcadia,” and multiple snippets on her now deleted instagram, Blue Banisters was released on October 22, 2021. Lana enlisted the help of seasoned producers such as Mike Dean and Rick Nowels and musicians such as the folk band Kassidy and Miles Kane on production with some even contributing vocals.

“Text Book” opens with Lana’s signature vocals singing about a lover and how their relationship reminds her of tumultuous relationship with her mother and father, and how her father often didn’t intervene when her mother lashed out, in the midst of the social backdrop of 2020. On the title track “Blue Banisters,” Lana vocalizes over a more piano based composition about a former lover in Oklahoma and how most men are intimidated by her high honors. She finds comfort from her pain in the midwest Americana and her friends but is still vulnerable.

In “Arcadia,” she compares herself to the state of California in both its virtues and faults where she uses Arcadia as an escape from her native East Coast in a more soulful tune. “The Trio” interlude has a sample from Italian composer Ennio Morricone being used with an out of place trap beat on the album, a notable instrumental interlude outlier from the more piano and guitar/drum based tunes of other songs. “Black Bathing Suit” has slight reverbed and almost cracking vocals near the end as she tells about her public perception both physically and socially, and how it doesn’t faze her (she even makes money off it), while asking her lover if he can handle all that and her maternal problems.

“If You Lie Down Next to Me” has Lana continuing a relationship with an untrustworthy lover which she knows is a liar but knows he is not over her despite his attempts. The track is notable for having a more horn-based instrumental outro reminiscent of 1920s jazz. “Beautiful” has Lana dealing with her depression in acceptance of her sadness rather than a look for a silver lining with wondrous light piano chords throughout. “Violets for Roses” has Lana finding happiness with the exit of a long, toxic relationship and the recovery of the world overall from the pandemic.

“Dealer” takes a much more soft rock turn as Lana literally screams to get out of a one-sided relationship on the metaphor as her lover and her drug dealer. It contains beautiful backing vocals and sometimes lead vocals from former Rascals frontman and solo artist Miles Kane.

“Thunder” has Lana vocalize over a soulful, bittersweet-like sound compared to the more somber songs; the lyrics are just as somber as Lana speaks of a facade of a happy relationship compared to the actual more lifeless and alcoholic abusive one.

“Wildflower Wildfire” has Lana sing about her past struggles and hospitalizations with alcohol abuse and her mother’s abuse, and with wishing to live free from all of that. “Nectar of the Gods” takes a more melancholic-folkish turn on Lana’s experiences with heroin and how it made her become more erratic and lost than before she took it. “Living Legend” has Lana serenade her early mentor Jane Powers in a song she wrote in 2013 with a powerful instrumental near the seemingly imitating Lana’s voice in a more ethereal like form. In returning to the more piano chords in “Cherry Blossom,” Lana sings about her future child and giving her the idealistic childhood that her mother never gave her, with hints at the child’s possible name. “Sweet Carolina” ends the album beautifully with a lullaby-like song dedicated to her sister Chuck who had recently given birth to a child this year.

Blue Banisters as a whole does contain some repetitive themes in some songs and at least one musically out of place song in “Trio.” However, it is perhaps one of her most introspective albums to date and the themes that are shown are extremely personal looks at Lana’s mental state in her relationships, her outlook on the world and her perception, and her hopes and fears for the future. Overall it is one of Lana’s most emotionally resonant albums in her discography and is one of her most unique and beautiful albums to date.

Music Review: “Red (Taylor’s Version)” by Taylor Swift

By Laci Bassaj

Taylor Swift released her second re-recorded album, Red (Taylor’s Version), on
November 12, 2021. While the original album was only 16 tracks, Red (Taylor’s Version)
consists of 30 tracks, including re-recordings of songs from the original album, as well as songs
“From The Vault” that were originally supposed to be on the album but didn’t make the final cut.
The album has a runtime of 2 hours and 10 minutes, including features from Gary Lightbody of
Snow Patrol, Ed Sheeran, Phoebe Bridgers, and Chris Stapleton.

This album is the second re-recorded album by Taylor Swift, following her first re-
recorded album Fearless (Taylor’s Version), released in April 2021. Similarly to her first re-
recorded album, Red (Taylor’s Version) stays true to the original, with few noticeable
differences. The only exception is “Girl At Home (Taylor’s Version),” which originally had a
country sound to it, but has been transformed into a pop song. Along with “Girl At Home
(Taylor’s Version),” some of my other favorites from the album were “Message In A Bottle
(Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)” and “The Very First Night (Taylor’s Version) (From The
Vault).”

Another song that stood out to me was “All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault).” When I was listening to the album, this was the song I was most excited for. This was the very last song on the album, and I almost wanted to skip all the other 29 tracks just so I could listen to this song as soon as possible, but I chose not to. “All Too Well” was already one of my favorite songs, and I love this version even more. To go along with the emotional song about heartbreak, Taylor Swift released a short film, which I also enjoyed. Overall, I loved Red (Taylor’s Version), and have been listening to it nonstop since it was released. Taylor Swift took an album that was already amazing, and made it even better. The songs “From The Vault” have become some of my favorite songs on the album, and I love the re-recordings even more than the originals. I loved this album and I look forward to the music Taylor Swift releases in the future.

Top 3 Tik Tok Trends

By Betsy Carranza 

Tik tok is an app full of entertainment; it started the year of 2016 by the chinese company ByteDance. The app has about 1.1 billion active global users by early 2021. Tik tok is a popular social media platform where people go out and make videos based on their opinions or on anything they wish to let others know about, or also videos of them and their friends going out and having fun. Tik Tok allows users to make and share 3 minute, 60 second or 15 second videos.  Based on Investopedia.com 69% of Tik Tok users are between the ages 13 and 24. 60% are females. Its users spend an average of 46 minutes per day on this app. What made this app so astronomically big was the trends that were happening through the app. For example, the top three trends as of 2021 are 1. Devious Lick 2. Dom Toretto and Family 3. Doja Cat (feat Sza) verse “Kiss Me More”.

There’s a  trend that even made it on the news which was called the “Devious lick”. This trend encouraged high school students to steal soap dispensers, laptops, and boxes of face masks. This all started when someone posted a video that got more than 7.2 million views in just two days. The video was about a kid opening up his Jansport backpack, with the caption of  “Only a month into school and got this absolute devious lick”, which was revealed  later in the video that he took a hand-sanitizer dispenser. The majority of people participating in this trend did this on school campuses. According to USA Today, students as young as 15 years old have been arrested and charged in states including Kentucky, Florida, Arizona, and Alabama for offenses including vandalism, theft, and criminal mischief. This is a trend where students would get together and try to impress others. This trend is an example of how you shouldn’t always participate in every trend that is going on in social media. Just because others are doing it, does not mean you should tag along and do the same. 

TikTok says it has passed 1 billion users - The Verge

If you’re obsessed with Tik tok as so many of us are, you would have also seen the trend “Dom Toretto and Family” getting memed so hard all over Tik Tok. This all started when the new movie “Fast and Furious 9” came out with the main character “Dom Toretto” played by Vin Diesel. His role was all about being with and fighting for family. “Fast And Furious” is not just one movie; it has a series. In order for you to understand these movies, you will have to watch them from the beginning, but in order to understand this trend, you could watch any movie from “The Fast and the Furious”. Vin Diesel  just wants to enjoy a grill out with his loved ones, but now people online have turned his admirable dedication to his family into a meme. Everyone has a family, but not quite like “Dom Toretto”. They turned Dom Toretto’s soft side into a meme. This whole trend was about Toretto being obsessed with his family. People would videotape themselves anywhere and simply say the word “Family,” and a picture of Toretto would emerge, along with an audio message that said “Did you say family?”

This last trend involves the singer Doja Cat (feat sza)  and her song “Kiss Me More”.  This was a trend I believe everyone can participate in since it was so easy to do. In the song when SZA was just singing, you would hear this sound of a bicycle bell. How this trend works is you would be in the beginning of the clip dressed casually, and then when you hear that bicycle bell then you would flick your wrist and then change into a nice fit. Many do this trend when it’s their prom day or a special occasion. This trend is to show off your outfit. TikTok has inspired countless dance trends since its debut, but one of the most viral (and simple) of 2021 involves a simple flick of the wrist.

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.