Monarch Music Minute: Bruno Mars, The Griswolds and In Flames
Bruno Mars – ‘24K Magic’ 💿💿💿💿
“If you ain’t here to party / take your ass back home,” is the lyric that best represents everything “24K Magic” is. The album reflects on the nostalgia of ‘80s and ‘90s R&B while still staying fresh for a modern audience.
Bruno Mars has made himself known through catchy hooks and over-confident pop singles. While “24K Magic” doesn’t adhere to this traditional sound, the funk tone suits Mars.
Even some of the more cheesy tracks such as “Versace on the Floor” grab the listener’s attention. While it does sound like something out of a bad ’90s romance film, the track is a confident, well-layered love song.
“Finesse” is the gold star of the album. It’s fun, upbeat and everything a pop artist should strive to sound like. Mars is known for his confident, over-the-top aesthetic, which is perfectly showcased in this track. “We out here drippin’ in finesse / it don’t make no sense,” sums up the theme of not only Mars, but also the album as a whole.
Halle Berry makes her presence known on “Calling All my Lovelies.” The track is one of the more distinct ones of the album, telling a story of an unrequited love.
Eponymous track “24K Magic” kicks off the album with its loud, synth-pop sound. While not as brash as some of Mars’ earlier music, the track still remains a solid attention-grabber and a firm start to the album.
Other tracks such as, “Chunky” and “Perm,” keep up the loud, party theme Mars’ established for the album. Each showcases Mars’ vocal range and his ability to tell a story, even if that story is about how he prefers his women.
“24K Magic” dropped Nov. 18, late in a year of incredible music, but still holds it’s own. The album is a layered, R&B infused synth ballad. It’s fun, it’s relatable and it’s Bruno Mars –there’s not much to dislike.
The Griswolds – ‘High Times for Low Lives’ 💿💿💿💿💿
The Aussie natives have taken a step back from their indie rock sound and have now produced an R&B infused pop album. No longer are The Griswolds amateur party planners, they are now bonafide rock stars.
“High Times for Low Lives” epitomizes the ultimate party life with extravagant music and confident, self-assured lyrics. They’re smoking weed, they’re doing cocaine and they’re broken-hearted. Somehow, The Griswolds have managed to find an equilibrium between partying and channeling a more reflective side of themselves.
The album, which dropped on Nov. 11, starts off loud and in your face. “Role Models” is, by all accounts, an epic pop song. As lead singer Christopher Whitewall sings, “We just being delinquents / Pumping out bad decisions,” exemplifying the nonchalance of stardom.
“Role Models” is just the beginning of this joy ride. While hit single “Outta My Head” tells a tale of heartbreak and resonates with The Griswold’s indie-rock roots, “Birthday” puts you right back in the middle of the party. The track features champagne, cocaine and everything in-between.
Other tracks such as, “Feels So Right” and “Lookin’ For Love,” showcase the Justin Timberlake-like side of The Griswolds, with their over-the-top lyrics and rock base layered with synth. The lines, “I enjoy being a single guy / because love is hell,” continue on the theme of cool, single party guy.
“High Times for Low Lives” closes on a quiet note. The eponymous track shows the listener a different side of the party life. The lyrics, “Yeah I guess this must be bad for my health and / welcome to my living hell,” displays the darker side of the rock star life. Closing track, “I Want it All,” features Whitewall’s struggles with a broken heart.
“High Times for Low Lives” is one of the most underrated of the year. The Griswolds have found an equilibrium of heartbreak and partying and made it into an epic R&B and indie album that is relatable and easy to dance to.
In Flames – ‘Battles’ 💿💿💿
In Flames have been struggling for almost their entire career to find their place in the metal music scene. Unfortunately, “Battles,” released on Nov. 11, only propels them towards the mainstream rock scene that no one wants to see them in.
While not terrible, “Battles” is not the edgy metal album their fans want. It relies on memorable choruses and boring guitar riffs. It’s basically metal for people who don’t like metal.
As low key as a metal album can be, “Battles” does open up on an aggressive front. “Drained” is an optimistic start. Lead singer Ander Fridéns screams, “You ripped the heart out,” and the listener is immediately introduced to the anger that drives many of their songs.
The second track off of the album, “The End,” is equally as promising. It’s catchy, has a guitar solo and is just your classic metal rock song. Fridéns screams about running away and existential crises.
The middle of “Battles” is where it gets a bit boring. The tracks “Before I Fall” and “Here Until Forever” are presented more as rock rather than metal. Each track sounds more like the last and it’s easy for the listener to lose interest.
The last saving grace of the album is “Save Me.” It’s heavy and loud as Fridéns begs for someone to save him. “I’m afraid I’d lose it all,” he sings as the heavy guitar riffs and drum beats carry on in the background.
“Battles” doesn’t hold the artistic integrity that earlier In Flames albums may have, but if you’re willing to take it as it is, it isn’t bad. There’s nothing unique about it and for any die hard metal fan, it falls short.
💿 — Face palm.
💿💿 — Eh…
💿💿💿 — We’re getting there.
💿💿💿💿 — I’ll listen to it twice, even.
💿💿💿💿💿 — Hell yes!