This past week, two former Disney starlets released albums that were pivotal changes in their career trajectory, for better or for worse. Demi Lovato crafted a strong R&B influenced opus while Miley created a stripped-back country-inspired album, let’s get to it!
Tell Me You Love Me
Starting off with the bombastic lead single, “Sorry Not Sorry,” Tell Me You Love Me immediately introduces a new Demi Lovato, one who is comfortable in her own skin and with her own voice. Perhaps the best single of her career, “Sorry Not Sorry,” is a ballsy fusion of soul, trap, and pop that somehow works incredibly. The album continues with a trio of promotional singles: the title track, “Tell Me You Love Me,” the 80s pop-inspired, “Sexy Dirty Love,” and the emotional, “You Don’t Do It For Me Anymore.” The title track is simply gorgeous, the vocal performance is impressive, yet still relatively reserved and the horns are the perfect touch for the lush production. “Sexy Dirty Love” is funky and fun, but definitely one of the weaker tracks on the album, it hasn’t aged well since it’s initial release as a promotional track. On a more positive note, I think this track could make a fine summer single with a remix from a freaky female rapper like, Cardi B. The final track of the trio is to Tell Me You Love Me what “Father” was to Confident. “You Don’t Do It For Me Anymore” is a show-stopping and incredibly heart-wrenching ballad that demands your full attention.
The album chugs along with the next two gems, the fresh “Daddy Issues” and the absolutely gorgeous “Ruin The Friendship.” The former is a forward-thinking and cleverly written dance track and the latter is an example of how beautiful Demi’s tone is when she sings softly and sensually. This string of strong tracks is broken by the middling, “Only Forever;” the repetitive hook is somewhat redeemed by the interestingly ominous production, that distorted piano riff is everything. Followed by the old school soul ballad “Cry Baby” and the most urban track, “Lonely (feat. Lil Wayne),” the album maintains it’s greatness throughout nine consecutive tracks, a great feat in a music landscape drowned in bloated albums.
The last of the final three tracks, “Games,” is a fine track, but something is off in the mixing of the track which distracts from the overall experience. The vocal comping and the production mixing sound rushed and unpleasant. The final two tracks, “Concentrate” and “Hitchhiker,” are sexy and vocally impressive, but they are essentially the same track. The chord progressions, subject matter, and vocal delivery for both tracks are ridiculously similar which dampens a great album.
Overall, Ms. Lovato delivered the best album of her career and the second best pop album of the year so far. She has never sounded so carefree, yet so in control. The risks she took on this album lyrically, vocally, and production-wise, truly paid off. Bravo!
Top Three Tracks: “Ruin The Friendship,” “Tell Me You Love Me,” “Daddy Issues”
After eschewing her twisted vision of hip-hop for guitars and waterfalls, Miley Cyrus had absolutely no choice but to release an objectively great body of work. That said, Younger Now is a grower, it is a fine album, but surely not near her best. Opening with the nostalgic “Younger Now,” the album seems to be on track. The stellar vocal and good production help to properly introduce the album. The trend continues with the gorgeous lead single, “Malibu,” its fuzzy guitar line, sweet lyrics, and deceptively-simple vocal delivery make for an absolutely great track. The album seems to be going great until we reach the third track. “Rainbowland,” a collaboration with her godmother, Dolly Parton. The gesture is sweet, but their voices do not blend well at all. Add the tone-deaf and weak lyrics, and you have a track that should’ve stayed on Miley’s hard drive.
The next three tracks are similarly weak, they are victims of either weak lyrics or poor production with the exception of “Week Without You.” “Week Without You” is a 50s-reminiscent track that recalls the spunk of Miley’s Bangerz days in a more mellow fashion. The following two tracks, “Miss You So Much,” and “I Would Die For You,” are simply boring and forgettable. Neither track is a good representation of what Miley is capable of as an artist, it is a shame that they got placed on the album.
Once you get through the semi-challenging first half, you are truly in for a treat with the stellar second half. Kicking things off with the catchy “Thinkin’,” the album finds itself back on track. “Thinkin’,” recalls the slick pop songwriting of Breakout and Bangerz while still staying true to the style of Younger Now. The following two tracks, the stunning indie rock-esque midtempo, “Bad Mood,” and the rollicking stadium rock-inspired, “Love Someone,” are some of the best and most interesting songs of Miley’s career. They are vocally excellent with beautiful instrumentation that more than makes up for the average lyrics. Ending the album, are the delicate and emotional “She’s Not Him” and the uplifting “Inspired.” “She’s Not Him,” follows the indie rock vein that “Bad Mood” is in and really hones in on the vocal delivery. Miley manipulates her vocal to turn its huskiness into fragility, one of the most beautiful moments on the album. Finally, “Inspired,” is a stunning vocal performance that perfectly compliments the best production and some of the best lyrics on the album, a fitting ending.
Overall, Younger Now is yet another major sonic shift in Miley’s career and it produced some of her best songs and some of her worst songs. Nevertheless, it is definitely worth a listen or two, but it is not for everyone.
Top Three Tracks: “Bad Mood,” “Love Someone,” “Inspired”
So which album is better? The answer is in your hands, each album caters to a different audience, but they both have their highs and lows. Go support both of these great pieces of work, here at Black Boy Bulletin, we don’t pit women against one another!