Written by: Tiffany Chang and Neil MacAlister
Liberation by Christina Aguilera
After six long years, Christina Aguilera is finally back with her studio album Liberation. The powerhouse vocalist has always been known for producing solid music, and her new songs continue to exhibit her strong sense of authenticity as an artist. While her previous major project, Lotus (2012), mainly consists of extremely catchy numbers like “Let There Be Love,” Liberation is primarily comprised of slow-to-mid tempo tracks conveying meaningful messages, with some upbeat elements.
When she released “Accelerate,” the first single of this album, featuring rappers Ty Dolla $ign and 2 Chainz, I initially felt it had a little more rap than I anticipated, but the fun, sing-along tune made it worth a listen. “Twice,” my new favourite of hers, is a haunting ballad and a perfect combination of rawness, restraint, and emotion, proving she still has one of the best voices on the planet.
The lead single “Fall in Line,” a duet with Demi Lovato, is an explosive female-empowerment anthem paying homage to what she has stood for since the beginning of her career. It’s a profound musical creation that did not disappoint. Overall, with Liberation under her belt, Aguilera is having an amazing return to the spotlight. – TC
Nasir by Nas
There are implications which arise from naming an album after yourself; your listeners expect something personal and revelatory, a glimpse into the artist behind the music. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of Nasir Jones in Nasir.
For his first album in six years (following 2012’s Life Is Good), expectations were high for the revered rap veteran’s latest offering. Fans were expecting Nas to address the allegations of alcoholism and domestic abuse raised by his ex-wife Kelis. Nasir, however, doesn’t just fail to address these issues: it fails to offer anything personal from the rapper at all.
Nasir attempts to play to Nas’ strength — his ability to craft songs around tight, visceral concepts — but even this falls short on Nasir. “Adam and Eve” feels like too many ideas mashed into one song, and the gorgeously-produced “Everything,” with its haunting chorus of “if I could change anything, I’d change everything,” deserves better than an entire verse devoted to anti-vaxxing. Nevertheless, the production is solid, giving Nas a distinct aura of grandiosity, and “Cop Shot the Kid” builds a simple vocal sample into an anthemic condemnation of police brutality. Nas is well-established as one of the best rappers alive, and he’s still impressive on Nasir, but this album simply feels like a series of missed opportunities. – NM
K.T.S.E. by Teyana Taylor
Since Kanye West released ye a few weeks ago, I’ve had a clip of Ty Dolla $ign singing “Keep that same energy” (off “Wouldn’t Leave”) playing in my head near-constantly. It turns out that the lyric was a preview for the last album of West’s Wyoming Sessions, Teyana Taylor’s K.T.S.E.
Taylor is one of GOOD Music’s lesser-known acts, having only released one album through the label (2014’s VII), but she’s a vastly underutilized R&B talent. For Taylor, West managed to craft a very mid-2000s R&B-influenced project, built around lush guitar loops and seductive soundscapes. The biggest left turn comes at the very end, where “WTP” bounces and vogues with all the energy of an Azealia Banks hit.
Despite feeling somewhat unfinished (something Taylor admitted to herself and a consequence of West’s ambitious release strategy), K.T.S.E. is a great closer to the Wyoming Sessions. Taylor is immensely talented, and while she deserves better than a rushed album at the end of a long five weeks, she nevertheless delivered what will go down as one of the best R&B projects of the year. – NM