April Album Reviews

Donald McElveen, Staff Writer

Album: While We Wait by Khelani
Rating: 4 ½ stars
Kehlani had a whirlwind of a year in 2018. Opening for multiple world tours for artists like Halsey and Demi Lovato, collaborating with artists like Cardi B, G-Eazy, Charlie Puth, and many others, and announcing her pregnancy were all parts of this big year for her. Since the 2017 release of her debut album SweetSexySavage, fans have been clamoring for a new record. Not wanting to make her dedicated fans wait any longer (but not in a position to release her follow-up), Kehlani released the mixtape While We Wait.
While We Wait is an enigma. While it definitely lacks the “polish” of a complete album, it’s hardly noticeable. The songs sound authentic to Kehlani in a way that wasn’t exactly explored in SweetSexySavage. Sonically, the albums are very different. While the latter had a more pop/R&B hybrid sound, While We Wait explores Kehlani’s more R&B/Hip-Hop vibe, which is a welcome departure as one of the downfalls of SweetSexySavage was its slight generic sound. Standout tracks include “Butterfly,” “RPG” (featuring 6lack), and “Morning Glory.”
Overall, While We Wait delivers a satisfying follow-up to Kehlani’s previous musical works and one that shows off her versatility as an artist. But it isn’t enough to take the place of a full-length album, and we will be patiently waiting for the official debut of her sophomore record.

Album: thank u, next by Ariana Grande
Rating 4 stars
Thank u, next is the album no one saw coming. Literally, no one. Grande had just released Sweetener in August 2018, so why come out with another album? However, since its release on February 8th, it’s impossible to escape the buzz around thank u, next and Grande, herself. But how exactly does the album live up to the hype?
thank u, next was born out of the intersection of raw emotion and careful calculation. Songs like “ghostin” and “needy” sound as though they are coming out of a place of emotional vulnerability, while songs like “bloodline” and “7 rings” are more fun and “pop-y” to appeal to the masses. This music is unapologetically Grande, and it shows. Standout tracks include “imagine,” “needy,” and “NASA”. The main problem with thank u, next (and it’s slight), is that it suffers from a bit of an identity crisis. Sometimes it’s an introspective reflection about Grande’s personal struggles, sometimes it’s an aggressive self-empowerment with brags about Grande’s star power.
This disconnect in Grande’s songs makes the album feel slightly half baked and not fully matured. Then again, for only putting it together in 6 months, thank u, next get’s a lot right. The bright spots of the record far outshine the dark ones, and Grande’s vulnerability and authenticity make this one of her strongest and most dynamic album to date. For a star who’s been through some bad “stuff”, she sure is shining brighter than ever.

Album: Wasteland Baby! by Hozier
Rating: 4 stars
It’s been quite a while since we’ve heard any music from indie rock artist Hozier. Since his massive hit “Take Me To Church,” Hozier has taken a step back from the music industry. However, with the release of the Nina Cried Power EP in September, Hozier seems to be back and back with a vengeance.
Nina Cried Power served as a preview of what was to come with Wasteland Baby! (as all the songs on the EP are here on the Baby!) Wasteland Baby! redefines what makes Hozier Hozier. His self-titled debut album definitely was a breath of fresh air at a time where music felt very stagnant and Wasteland Baby! very smartly takes that classic Hozier sound it and elevates it. Taking more influences from older musical icons and blending in more genres like gospel and classic rock and even pop rock, Wasteland Baby! is much different sonically from Hozier’s past works but manages to stay very authentic to him. Standout tracks include “Movement,” “Shrike,” and “Nina Cried Power”.
The main drawback with Wasteland is that at times, Hozier’s use of genre blending brings out some cliches that undermine his unique approach. That being said, when you have as unique a voice and perspective as Hozier, it makes these shortcomings forgivable. And whether you’re a fan of the record or not, it definitely gets one curious of what’s to come next from Hozier.