Last week, the music world saw Cardi B debut her first hotly anticipated studio album, and Thirty Seconds to Mars changed it up to the disappointment of their fans.
Here are four notable album releases, along with my thoughts on them, to help listeners sift through and narrow down what tunes they might want to add to their playlists.
Cardi B “Invasion of Privacy”
Here’s a rapper whose career absolutely exploded last year with the release of the extremely popular single, “Bodak Yellow.” Cardi B’s first album is one of the most exciting of the year for many.
Taking full advantage of the publicity and buzz, Cardi just announced her pregnancy on Saturday Night Live and is also a part of a university Tinder-swiping contest (of which Penn State is progressing steadily through each round).
Naturally, “Bodak Yellow” is a big part of “Invasion of Privacy,” and serves as an excellent primer for what listeners are in for with this new collection of tunes.
The first track, “Get Up 10 ,” is about Cardi B’s journey to where she is now, and the beat builds gradually and subtly in the background. Another highlight, “Be Careful” successfully covers rocky relationships and cheating. “Money Bag” is my favorite, an extremely catchy song that evokes and improves upon “Bodak Yellow.”
Of course, the album comes with its fair share of guests. Her collaboration with Migos, “Drip,” is a bit repetitive but has an excellent verse from Takeoff. Chance The Rapper helps create a strong vibe for “Best Life.” And collaborations with 21 Savage and SZA came out great.
Wisely, “Invasion of Privacy” is all killer and no filler, avoiding a problem that plagued recent hip-hop albums such as Migos’ “Culture II.” At a lean 13 songs, not one tune is a miss. If there was any remaining doubt, it is safe to say that Cardi B is no one-hit-wonder.
Thirty Seconds to Mars “America”
Artists always want to try new things, not just in the hopes of attracting new listeners, but also just from an inherent need to express creativity. But the problem with a total shift in genres is a risk of completely alienating the fans they already have.
Frontman Jared Leto — also known as a movie star — said he wanted to push away from what Thirty Seconds to Mars is known for. What was once a rock band shifts into more electronic rhythms and fans appear to be split as to whether they enjoy this departure.
Expectations aside, “America” is hit-or-miss regardless. If anything, a lot of the songs just feel pretty generic. “Walk on Water,” a single released far ahead of the full album, is one of the high points. A special shout out to the music video, which provides a really interesting look at last year’s Fourth of July around the country.
The more laidback style of “Rider” and “Great Wide Open” is a lot less fun and does not feel like Thirty Seconds to Mars at their best. This continues into a big guest star-influenced tune “One Track Mind,” which prominently features A$AP Rocky. While not an awful track, it does little to really inspire and goes in one ear and out the other. One feature that is more successful, however, is the soulful “Love is Madness” with Halsey.
It’s disappointing that while Thirty Seconds to Mars is inspired enough to dive into new genres, the results often feel bland and unmemorable.
Kylie Minogue “Golden”
“Golden” is the 14th album from this popular Australian singer who has consistently found massive success in her native country but also has a large audience in the United States.
Her upbeat dance-pop style remains in her newest work, but it also surprisingly leans heavily into country. The tasteful mesh of the two genres work well for Minogue, who at this point in her career is likely looking for ways to distinguish each of her albums from one another.
Of course, there’s the risk of losing some listeners who cannot stand the country genre, but these new rhythms don’t overwhelm the tracks.
The first and best song of the album, “Dancing” starts off with simple acoustics and a country feel, but builds up to a chorus that sounds like the sort of disco-infused tune Kylie Minogue is known for. And the titular song, “Golden” cleverly homages “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” with some impressive yodeling.
As always, some will criticize Minogue’s work for sounding too saccharine, but this newest album feels really inspired even after so many songs and years in the music industry.
Lil Xan “Total Xanarchy”
Well, they can’t all work.
“Total Xanarchy” is another fairly high-profile debut studio album from a rapper. Like many fellow artists in the genre, Lil Xan has gathered a number of popular friends like 2 Chainz, Rae Sremmurd and Diplo . But what Lil Xan forgot to do was write some good songs.
At times, the album is bafflingly bad in its simple-minded lyrics and unimpressive beats.
“April be the worst month. That’s the month my heart broke. That’s the time my life froze. Life needed a life source,” Lil Xan raps in one line in “Who I Am,” displaying his limited vocabulary.
At the very least, he can rely on some of his more talented contemporaries. 2 Chainz pulls “Tick Tock” out of total disaster territory to something tolerable. “Shine Hard” is decent because it’s more about Swae Lee and Rae Sremmund. But whenever the 21-year-old rapper tries to shine on his own, things do not go according to plan.
There are some positive things about Lil Xan. For example, he has combatted a former addiction to Xanax and makes some of his rap about that. But for every good intention, there is something plainly misogynistic or misguided.
If there’s a next time, there’s a lot of room for growth. There couldn’t be more room, actually.