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Taking Pop Back to Its Roots

A review of the latest music releases.

Lady Gaga makes her long-awaited return to pop
Lady Gaga gave fans a taste of her sixth album this Friday, releasing her latest single titled “Stupid Love.” The song represents the LGBTQ icon’s return to pop music after several years of country and rock experimentation. “Stupid Love” isn’t a vocal-blasting ballad like “Shallow” or a rock throwdown like “Perfect Illusion.” Instead, Gaga goes completely back to her pop roots for the first time since 2013’s “Applause.” 

Lyrically, while the song isn’t particularly impressive compared to what she’s released in the past, it’s refreshing to hear Gaga drop a track with such an upbeat, breezy vibe. With a deliciously airy pre-chorus and a heavy, electropop production, the disco-infused anthem harkens back to what made Gaga popular to begin with. Plus, hearing Gaga vamp out with lyrics such as “Freak out! Freak out! Freak out! Freak out!” only adds to the fun, campy nature of the song. 

Overall: While “Stupid Love” doesn’t blaze any new trails for the pop singer, the track is a welcome return for Gaga, proving that despite the blockbuster movies and jazz albums, she still can craft some pretty enjoyable pop when she wants to. Plus, she looks killer with pink hair. 

Dua Lipa Gets “Physical”
English singer Dua Lipa has made a name for herself in the pop scene for the last few years and February was no different. Following the successful disco groove that was “Don’t Start Now,” Dua Lipa’s new single “Physical” continues to show the singer stretching her pop talents in the disco genre. Interpolating lyrics from the iconic 1981 single of the same name by Olivia Newton-John, the synth-pop song has Lipa fully embracing the eighties. 

Instead of expressing her dread or disappointment with a relationship, “Physical” has the 24-year-old singing her enjoyment and happiness over a vibrant romance. The slick production isn’t quite as catchy as “Don’t Start Now,” but it’s a more than serviceable follow-up song and only builds excitement for the singer’s new album, which is due out in early April.

Overall: With a chant-worthy chorus about a love that’s out of this world, “Physical” showcases exactly why Lipa has become an LGBTQ favorite in the pop scene in recent years and proves that the singer is far from finished showing listeners what she’s capable of.

Kesha releases emotional new album
Following the “Rainbow” album that had Kesha completely shedding the autotune, party girl persona that made her a household name, the singer’s follow-up album is an amalgamation of her past and the present. With “High Road,” the “Tik Tok” singer doubles down on the country rock sound she experimented with in her previous album, but there are numerous moments of pop and rap laced in a majority of the songs. Some tracks don’t try to hide the references to her past, with the singer amusingly collaborating with herself, dollar sign and all, on the track “Kinky.” An album highlight, the track is so bizarre and strange that only Kesha could pull it off.  

Kesha also continues to exude the personal strength she found on “Rainbow,” openly singing about the type of music she previously made and what the public has thought of her. On the track “My Own Dance,” the singer rejects what people have come to expect from her. “You’re the party girl/You’re the tragedy/But the funny thing/I’m f*****g everything.”

Kesha’s acceptance of her pop star past combined with her current stripped back approach allows the album to feel like Kesha’s most honest record yet. Despite this, it is not as cohesive as “Rainbow.” The former album was able to effortlessly incorporate elements of pop rock, glam rock, neo soul and country pop. With “High Road,” the rap pop and country rock don’t always quite gel as smoothly.

Overall: While it doesn’t quite reach the highs of her last album, “High Road” is Kesha’s most honest record, featuring the star reflecting on her career and what she wants her future to look like. While she may no longer have the pop hits that catapulted her into stardom, in rejecting her party girl persona, the singer has transformed into something far more honest. 

No Time To Die for Billie Eilish
The eighteen-year-old is the youngest artist to ever write and record a James Bond theme song, and the budding alternative pop star doesn’t disappoint.

Billie Eilish’s theme for the new James Bond film, “No Time to Die” is a dark ballad that swirls to a dramatic finish, with Eilish belting out about a troubled romance and an unsavory past. And while the Bond theme doesn’t reach the extraordinary high notes of Adele’s wonderfully sultry “Skyfall” theme, Eilish does a commendable job following Sam Smith’s previous Bond theme for “Skyfall.” 

Overall: Eilish’s soft, quiet vocals are piercing against the brooding production, allowing this song to be a serviceable crescendo to Daniel Craig’s time as James Bond and enough to build the hype for the film’s release in April. 

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Connor Behrens

Connor Behrens is a communications graduate from the University of Houston. He has written for the Washington Post, Community Impact Newspaper and the Galveston County Daily News (the oldest newspaper in Texas). When he's not writing stories, he is likely watching the latest new release at the movie theater.
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