Welcome back to the fourteenth installment of Spire’s Bops and Flops, the series where yours truly reviews the best and worst music of the month. To my fellow FSU students, happy summer! While there weren’t as many light and fun summer bops as anticipated, there’s still plenty of good music to jam out to all season long. The music from April ranges from indie-pop to instrumentals of iconic pop songs, so as usual, there’s something for everyone. Happy listening!
Marie Ulven Ringheim, professionally known as girl in red (stylized in all lowercase), is a Norweigan singer-songwriter and producer that amassed a fan base starting around 2018 for her indie-pop songs about queer romance and mental health. Ringheim has kept fans satiated with many singles and a few short EPs over the years, but If I Could Make It Go Quiet is her first full length studio album. The wait was worth it because If I Could Make It Go Quiet delivers. With her signature ethereal and floaty yet rock and edgy sound, Ringheim produced an album that is fantastic from start to finish. It’s almost impossible to not headbang and scream in the car to guitar heavy, emotionally frustrated tracks like You Stupid Bitch and Serotonin. Conversely songs like Apartment 402 will have you up in your feelings questioning life real quick.
The very first song, Serotonin, in particular is extra special. It is somewhat rare for music artists to explore anxiety in excruciating detail, and Serotonin feels all too familiar to those who struggle with their mental health. What’s even more impressive is that Ringheim is able to instrumentally capture that very specific feeling of being on the verge of a panic attack and desperately trying to calm yourself down. The song is chaotic yet comforting, and it is overwhelmingly cathartic for people who struggle with severe anxiety.
Somewhat of a contemporary icon for the LGBTQ+ community, particularly young lesbians, girl in red lives up to her hype. Ringheim writes about loving other women in a way that is simultaneously unapologetic and inconspicuous. In a heteronormative industry and society, Ringheim allows young queer people to feel seen by delivering quality music that just so happens to be gay.
Fearless (Taylor’s Version) is essentially a middle finger to Taylor Swift’s former management and label, and some might say that it’s better than revenge. Swift has been outspoken about her anger over the lack of ownership she had over her first six albums. After her first label, and consequently six albums, were bought by famous talent manager Scooter Braun, Swift vowed to re-release those six albums on her own terms to reclaim ownership and power over her own music. The re-releases will be Swift’s property, not a label’s.
Fearless (Taylor’s Version) comes over a decade after it was first released in 2008, and it’s the first of what is assumed to be the first of six re-releases— Taylor Swift, Fearless, SpeakNow, Red, 1989 and reputation (stylized in all lowercase). Some fans wondered why Swift began re-releasing with her second ever album instead of her first. The answer is unclear as of now. But what makes this re-released album gold is that it doesn’t feel like a petty cash grab. Every song on the album was rerecorded, and slight changes were made so revamp the already iconic tracklist. Swift’s vocals are sharper, more mature; instrumental elements are cleaner, revitalized. The last six tracks on Fearless (Taylor’s Version) are “From The Vault”, which means they were previously unreleased. Two of these vault songs feature Kieth Urban and Maren Morris respectively. Even though all 26 tracks on the album were rerecorded by an older and wiser Swift, they stay true to the Fearless era’s sound and are delightfully nostalgic.
In her signature soft vocal style, Billie Eilish makes a statement by singing about abusive relationships in her new single Your Power. As the song’s title might suggest, Your Power revolves around an abuser and how they use their power to manipulate their female partner, particularly in regards to her being much younger. What’s unique about this single is its lack of perspective permanence. The singer’s perspective shifts from an omniscient bystander to the abuser’s victim. This gives the listener a more well-rounded view of the situation even though subject pronouns are really the only lyrics changed to fit perspective.
Your Power is the first single from Eilish’s upcoming album Happier Than Ever, which will be released on July 30th. This single is a more than promising sneak peek into Happier Than Ever.
This is just an instrumental version of the original. I have nothing to say about the song, but I had to include it because the fact that Lil Nas X released this is absolutely hilarious to me.
In her brand new single, Hayley Kiyoko goes on a journey of self love and finding her best friend within herself. Found My Friends’ intro sounds almost like it could be in Stranger Things, and it gives the single a moody, rhythmic tone. But Kiyoko’s pop vocals pair well with the song’s sonics to lighten the mood enough to still make the single fun in nature. At the moment, it is unclear if Found My Friends means a new full length project from Kiyoko, but we can all hope.
I would say I expected better, but I really didn’t. I think someone needs to tell DJ Khaled that it’s not 2016 anymore, because I’m not sure that he’s aware. His once fun and rhythmic summer party tunes featuring the likes of Rihanna have grown increasingly stale over time. Even with a star-studded lineup of features on his newest album KHALED KHALED (Cardi B, Justin Timberlake, Megan Thee Stallion, JAY-Z, etc.), the project is messy and feels out of touch with reality. I don’t expect anything different from DJ Khaled himself, but for so many legitimate artists to take part in this dumpster fire of an album is truly disappointing.
The sheer amount of artists featured on most of the tracks overwhelms the music with too many ideas and voices. Verses from different artists can be really fun— in moderation. KHALED KHALED, and DJ Khaled himself, seem to just think that more is more. The excessive amount of verses from various artists makes the entire project feel extremely manufactured and insincere. DJ Khaled’s music will remain a major Flop unless he’s able to turn things around, which I do not foresee happening anytime soon.
So not only did H.E.R. collaborate with Chris Brown, but she was also featured on DJ Khaled’s mess of an album this month. What confuses me is what possible motive an incredibly talented, beloved R&B singer has to gain from making mediocre music with irrelevant members of the industry who are notorious for making questionable, at best, decisions. As for Come Through specifically, I am disappointed that H.E.R., who has such a beautiful voice, collaborated with Chris Brown whose voice is autotuned to a comedic extent. Dear H.E.R., do better please; you deserve it.