Well, this past week provided us with another batch of new music releases, and I was anticipating how most of these projects were going to turn out. Sadly, for the most part I ended up being let down by every one of these projects I'm about to cover in this article. Now, these albums and singles weren't all horrendously awful or downright unlistenable per say, as they did contain a decent amount of bright spots on them. However, I felt that as overall albums and songs they were very spotty, disappointing, and forgettable. So, even though I didn't find these projects to be outstanding or mind blowing, here are my thoughts on them, and don't worry it's not all negative. I do have some positives about a couple of them. Plus, it's just my opinion, so don't be too hurt by it.
1. Imagine Dragons- Evolve
While I haven't been a huge fan of Imagine Dragons, I found their debut album from 2011 titled Night Visions to be a decent release filled with somewhat catchy and passable pop and pop rock tunes on it. However, I didn't seem to feel the same way about their mediocre at best sophomore release Smoke + Mirrors from 2015 as it contained a handful of cringe-worthy songs like "Gold," "Smoke + Mirrors," "Polaroid," and "Dream." just to name a few, that ended up making the record a huge disappointment to me as a whole. So, with this new album Evolve, I was hoping and thought that the only place that this band could go is up and man was I wrong. If anything, I would dare say that this new album right here is the group's worst project to date with it's constant lows and very few highs.
To get the pain over with first, I'll rip the band-aid off and begin by talking about my dislikes regarding this record. While there were a handful of songs on this thing that I found to be lackluster, there were a few of them that stuck out like a really sour thumb. The first of these being the song titled "Yesterday," which is a piano led track about trying to find out who you really are, regretting decisions you made during your past and to move on from them while looking forward to your future with drums and an electric guitar solo played at the bridge being added as additional instruments throughout the song. The gripes I have with this tune are that lead singer Dan Reynolds gives what might be the worst vocal performance of his career thus far as his delivery makes him sound like he's drunk while singing the verses and chorus in an incredibly sloppy way. In addition, the piano playing sounds very choppy and it seems that the background vocals sung by the other members of the band were trying to go for "Queen-like" background vocals but they end up being extremely annoying and fall flat on their face as a result.
The other song I found to be down right atrocious is the final song on this record titled "Dancing in the Dark" (and no it's not a Bruce Springsteen cover). I would give a short summary of what this song is about, but I really can't due to how insufferable Reynolds' vocals are on this track, along with the boring spacey-like instrumental that includes high hats and bass drums being played throughout. I can't really tell if they added auto-tune to his voice or pitch shifted his vocals, but whatever they did makes his vocal performance sound absolutely horrid and annoying through the entire track. It's almost as if they decided to have C-3PO come in and sing on the song in place of Reynolds. As a result, this has to be one of the worst songs to close out an album that I've heard in quite awhile, that's for sure. While these songs weren't as bad as the two I mentioned previously, other songs that I thought missed the mark were "Walking the Wire" and "Rise Up."
However, despite the decent amount of songs that I found to be complete trash, there were still a few songs on this album that I found to be pretty good or at least listenable. These include the simple but heart-pounding "Thunder" with it's booming drums throughout and catchy guitar solos near the end of the track (and yes I can tolerate the annoying pitch shifted background vocals), the '80s new waveish inspired "I Don't Know Why," which is probably my favorite track on the record as I could see it as a song I would be dancing crazy to on the dance floor with it's glistening synth-lines in the beginning of the song and its infectiously catchy and head bobbing chorus (just listen to that bass solo that comes in during the middle part of the chorus, man what a groove). Lastly, the track "Whatever It Takes" was a standout to me because it was the one song on the album that reminded me of or came close to the original sound that Imagine Dragons incorporated when they first came out. Also, I will say that despite the few spotty songs I mentioned earlier that missed the mark, I thought Reynolds' vocal performances were pretty solid as a whole on this project and he showed how he is still one of the most powerful singers in today's popular music scene. On a side note, I find it hilarious that two of these songs I found to be favorites on the album in "Thunder" and "I Don't Know Why" have actually gotten mixed reactions or have been absolutely panned by fans and critics, but hey what can I say? I like 'em.
Overall, while this album did have a couple of highlights on it, I thought that as a whole it was a big mess that went all over the place with its constant sound changes throughout. Also, I found that Reynolds' gruff, shouty, and powerful voice didn't fit or sounded awkward on almost all of the soft poppy instrumentals that were used on these songs throughout this thing. In the end, I would hope that this album won't kill Imagine Dragons relevance in popular music and make people forget about them, but we shall see.
Favorite tracks: "I Don't Know Why," "Thunder," "Whatever It Takes,"
Least favorites: "Dancing in the Dark," "Yesterday," "Walking the Wire," "Rise Up"
Album rating: 2.5/5
2. DJ Khaled- Grateful
Okay, this review/opinion will not be as in-depth as the one for the Imagine Dragons album because first of all, it's a DJ Khaled album (so nothing exciting for the most part), there are very few things I got out of this album that I would like to address, and pretty much all of the songs on this project were executive produced by a freaking baby! (and by baby I mean Khaled's newborn child Asahd, who is actually pictured on the album's cover if you didn't notice). First off, before I say anything about this project, this particular release was the first one of Khaled's that I ever listened to from beginning to end, and holy crap was it hard to sit through. Now, based on the fact that mostly all of my favorite songs off of this record (which were pretty much all of the singles, besides "To the Max (ft. Drake) which is a lackluster song at best) have been reviewed and discussed by other critics and reviewers, I might just skip right to the things that I disliked about this disaster of an album. However, I will mention the one track on the album that wasn't a single that I did find likable, and that song was "Don't Quit" with Calvin Harris, Travis Scott, and Jeremih. I actually really love the groovy instrumental set to this song and the chorus does get in your head with repeated listens. I know it has gotten stuck in my head over the past few days after listening to this record.
But now as far as the negatives, I guess my first gripe with this album would have to be the time length of this album which ended up being nearly an hour and a half long, or as I like to call it: unnecessary. In regards to what I considered to be the worst songs on this album, these include the opening track "(Intro) I'm So Grateful" which contains a Caribbean/Reggae instrumental that has bongos and wildlife sound effects playing in the background, while Jamaican reggae artist Sizzla sings an absolutely ear-aching and off pitch auto-tuned mess of a chorus that makes me want to clean my ears out with cotton swabs to get it out so I don't remember that I ever heard something as awful as that was, the semi-decent (thanks to it's disco-inspired instrumental and entertaining performance by Chance the Rapper) but repetitive and overall annoying song titled "I Love You So Much" which has Khaled boasting about his newborn son (like I care) and repeating the words "I Love So Much" which seems like for an eternity, a laughable bridge which consists of Chance and a few female background singers singing the ABCs (and that's not a joke), along with a line said by a random contributor at the end of the song that goes "Now where your eyes at?/Where your ears at?/Where your mouth at?/Where your nose at?" (I'm not making that up either, sadly) and a few other songs that were so bad to me that they don't need their own detailed descriptions as their amount of horribleness speak for themselves.
Overall, this album proved to me once and for all why I have always considered DJ Khaled to be only a singles artist (if you even want to call him an artist, I only call him a hype-man) because nearly every song on this record was completely forgettable and generic as hell. So, unless you want to waste an hour and a half of your life (something that I won't ever be able to get back sadly), don't listen to this. Just stick with the singles off of it, nothing else. One thing is for sure about DJ Khaled, if I have to listen to "another one" of his albums in the near future, I'm going to run away and hide from it because they are scary bad.
Favorite tracks: "Shining" (ft. Beyoncé and Jay-Z), "I'm the One" (ft. Justin Bieber, Chance the Rapper, Quavo, and Lil Wayne), "Wild Thoughts" (ft. Rihanna and Bryson Tiller), "Don't Quit" (ft. Calvin Harris, Travis Scott and Jeremih)
Least favorite tracks: "(Intro) I'm So Grateful" (ft. Sizzla), "To the Max" (ft. Drake), "I Love You So Much" (ft. Chance the Rapper), "Down for Life" (ft. PartyNextDoor, Future, Travis Scott, Rick Ross, and Kodak Black), "That Range Rover Came With Steps" (ft. Future and Yo Gotti), "Iced Out My Arms" (ft. Future, Migos, 21 Savage, and T.I.)
Album rating: 2/5
1. Fall Out Boy- "Champion"
"If I can live through this/If I can live through this/If I can live through this/I can do anything." This chorus contains just some of the dull and lackluster lyrics that can be found throughout the entirety of this song from the pop (formerly pop punk) sensations, Fall Out Boy. Now, in this song's defense, I will say that it is a bit of an improvement over the band's last single "Young and Menace" with it's opening riff and continuous electric guitar playing throughout, along with some pounding drums from Andy Hurley (which almost made me fall out of my chair while listening to this because I was shocked to hear them using real instruments throughout the whole track). However, the lyrics on this song are by far its biggest weakness, which is a damn shame because one of the things I loved about Fall Out Boy from their past works were the creative, thoughtful, and at times relatable lyrics that they would come up with in their tunes. Nowadays it seems that the band has decided to toss those talents out the window and release these generic pop songs. I know that many fans and critics have said that this song reminds them of the band's hit single "Centuries" from their last album American Beauty/American Psycho, but in my opinion at least that song actually had a lyrical theme of trying to leave this world with a legacy that will make you be remembered for years to come. This dumpster fire of a track on the other hand has no lyrical theme or detailed message behind it.
For example, when Patrick Stump sings the first line of the chorus, "If I can live through this," what exactly are you trying to live through? What mistakes have kept you from being a champion? What are these dreams that you mention at the beginning of the song? None of these questions are answered or described in detail during this track's entire three minutes and twelve second run time. C'mon Fall Out Boy, you can do wayyy better than this! Tell us a story. Be more specific and to the point in your lyrics like you've done before, and being the big fan I am of you guys I know you have, trust me I've heard them all.
Overall, this to me is just another stale and plain pop rock song that will probably serve as a generic sports anthem type of tune at sporting arenas and football stadiums over the next year or so, just like "Centuries" did, and nothing else. Man, I hope the rest of the tracks off this new album Mania coming out in September will be superb, because right now based off of these last two new singles, I'm not convinced whatsoever.
Track rating: 2/5
2. Drake- "Signs"
Okay, can Drake please go away for a few years? Like seriously I'm begging you Drizzy, you need to take a break from music man. Now, the guy can obviously do whatever he wants, but he has released two mediocre near 90 minute projects with Views and More Life, and has been featured on numerous hit singles and songs by other artists all in the past two years, which definitely shows how dedicated he is to his craft, but at the same time with that short span he has used to release new records, the quality of his music deteriorates which leads to it sounding much more stale, generic, and uninteresting. Not to mention that he also does it to make money, money, and more money, in addition with the fact that he always needs to be the center of attention in the music industry, which has gotten really annoying up to this point.
Now. the one type of sounds that Drake has been incorporating into his records for the past couple years has been Caribbean dance hall music which is showcased on his songs "One Dance" (ft. Wizkid and Kyla), "Fake Love," and "Passionfruit," and now this new song titled "Signs" looks to be heading down that same rabbit hole and boy is it hard to listen to all the way through. I swear, after listening to this entire song for a third time, I almost fell asleep, and I'm not joking, because this song was that boring. The reason why is because the song is a typical Drake song where he sings in his insufferable monotone voice about his struggles with trying to get a girl that he is involved with to stay with him by acting like a totally different person from what he usually is when he is around her, along with buying her anything she wants because he simply can't say "no" when she tells him that she wants something and says "please." So basically, what I got from this song was that it is about Drake trying to please a "gold digger" in any way that he can to make her stick around and continue to have "good times" with him. Booorrriiinnnggg!
"Champagne with breakfast while I'm yawning." Couldn't agree more Drake. I was definitely yawning through this snooze-fest single of yours for sure, except it wasn't in the morning while drinking Champagne. It was in the afternoon while I was drinking a Lipton Iced Tea on my living room couch. Unless you're a die-hard fan of Drizzy Drake or need something to help you go to sleep, I would recommend that you stay away from this lackluster disaster. Believe me, I've already forgotten about it and most likely will for as long as I live.
Track rating: 1.5/5