Contrast Magazine’s 2018 Album Reviews

Post Malone – beerbongs & bentleys

When Republic Records signed the insanely talented rapper Post Malone, they had to have some slight idea that they were investing in a goldmine. From his first album release in 2016 to his 2018 album beerbongs & bentleys, Malone has made quite a name for himself in the industry. Released in April of this year, the album received airplay and accolades for the entire year of the release with a whopping five singles making major impacts in streaming and sales. In fact, the album was said to break streaming records on Spotify at the time of release, with over 78 million streams globally – and that’s only within 24 hours of the album’s release.

Malone touches on a few subjects in beerbongs & bentleys such as his transition into fame on tracks like “Rockstar.” Conversely, his song “Better Now” centers on the turmoil of romantic relationships falling through. The song plays a positive role in the album instead of being your traditional breakup song, even offering positive reflections on what has been and what could be. The album as a whole might not have as much cohesion as one would hope, but his ability to attempt a depiction of fame is absolutely worth the listen. With that being said, Post Malone might not be your modern musical poet, but something about this album feels like a genuine documentation of his life and living true to each moment.

Ariana Grande – Sweetener

It has been quite a year for Ariana Grande, as the singer released her fourth studio album Sweetener that instantly became a commercial success. Grande received her third album to go number one on the Billboard charts, reminding her fans that she is a true musician who can deliver with each piece of work she puts out into the world. From a marketing standpoint alone, she used her notoriety to tease fans with visuals, snippets, and photo-shoots that are crucial in building the hype around an album as a whole. Aside from her brilliant sense of advertising, Sweetener is one of Grande’s more personal albums with her putting her emotions into each track that feels symbolic of a new point in her life.

Songs like the album title, “Sweetener” acknowledges what she describes as the bitterness people and or life can bring, while molding an upbeat song about empowerment with love and hope. Though she creates a softer tone (yet still finding a powerful balance) the cheerful song adds a heavier dance beat to make Sweetener another bop from Grande. Of course some her her radio-friendly singles like “God Is a Woman” or “No Tears Left to Cry” are fast favorites, but tracks such as “Breathin'” shows an almost pixie-like aspect to her powerful voice and provides examples that she has more elements to her music than many initially predicted.

After the release of her post-album single “Thank U Next” fans are only hungrier to hear what comes next from Grande – but whatever it may be, we can expect it won’t go unheard.

Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy

2018 was arguably the biggest year for new rapper Cardi B. The star who found her platform with the VH1 series Love & Hip Hop launching her career as a legitimate musician shortly after – ultimately changing her entire life. With the release of her first major album, her single “Bodak Yellow” went number one on Billboard and became one of the most recognizable songs of the year. Her album wasn’t just filled with novelty songs to push an album release either; Cardi gifted listeners with several noteworthy genre-fused tracks like “I Like It” which made Cardi the first female rapper to earn herself two number one songs.

Aside from the more heavily played records, “Ring” featuring Kehlani and “I Do” with SZA are easily two of her best songs from Invasion of Privacy for their unapologetic attitude or addressing a potentially stagnant relationship that contains a raw, genuinity from the Bronx rapper that makes her so important to the industry moving forward. Others like “Drip”are laced with a more playful energy about wealth and simply enjoying the more materialistic aspects of her success. The album is a complete body of work from start to finish and gives us high hopes for the continued dominance of Cardi B.

Christina Aguilera – Liberation

Christina is back! After a six year hiatus post-Lotus, the soulful popstar returned with Liberation, ready to force us to shed all thoughts and expectations we had for her music. The album made quite a comeback for the singer, beginning with the lead single “Accelerate” (produced and co-written by Kanye West) with a new sound that’s both unusual and striking. While many questioned it as a first single for the album, it truly represented an experimental album that stayed true to Aguilera’s desire to stray from repeat productions.

Aguilera has often avoided fulfilling pop-star expectations over the course of her career, but Liberation feels like an honest title for the album and she’s prepared to create music that you can tell the singer truly flourished while crating. There’s some of that reliable power ballad nature we know is a big piece of her as an artist (“Fall in Line”) but it’s when she comes out of her comfort zone with songs like the reggae infused “Right Moves” that she puts out some of her best work. Aguilera even takes a Janis Joplin inspired turn with “Sick of Sittin” that completely evokes a stadium banger with a rock twinge spotlighting her powerhouse vocals. Liberation may have appeased fans who have been waiting for Aguilera’s music for several years, but it’s really her taking a stance on her perceptions of being through industry highs and lows – coming through it with maturity, strength,  and as an evolved artist.

Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper – A Star Is Born

It’s not everyday that a film’s soundtrack makes a heavy impact and Gaga’s contributions to the 2018 film A Star Is Born have pushed the endeavor to the epitome of real music. Gaga is a know musical chameleon, and her direction with ASIB has given her a chance to do what she does best by telling an emotional story with the contrast of delivering some pop-esque hits that stay true to her nature. Not only did ASIB remain number one on Billboard for three weeks straight, but “Shallow” has dominated digital sales and others like “Always Remember Us This Way” continue to pick up steam for her stripped vocals and country-rock fusion that many other traditional pop singers couldn’t touch.

If that isn’t enough, the underappreciated “Why Did You Do That?” sounds like it could be a musical sibling to “The Cure” that we didn’t know we so desperately needed. After covering almost every genre one can take on (with unparalleled perfection of course) Lady Gaga uses ASIB to fill that middle-ground between the Joanne era and “mainstream pop” which really just has everyone excited to soak-up anything that Gaga will bless us with in the future. Whether you watched ASIB or not, the soundtrack is a piece of cinematic and musical history that will stand the test of time as an instant classic.