Monarch Music Minute: Grace VanderWaal, Kelsea Ballerini, Maroon 5
Adam Flores | Senior Writer
Grace VanderWaal – ‘Just the Beginning’ 💿 💿 💿 💿 💿
Thirteen-year-old singer-songwriter phenom Grace VanderWaal’s full-length debut studio album, “Just the Beginning,” is just that from the 2016 season 11 winner of NBC’s America’s Got Talent competition show.
Preceding the new record were single releases “Moonlight,” “Sick of Being Told,” “So Much More Than This” and “Escape My Mind.” All of which foretold of VanderWaal’s luminary vocal and musical prowess that is well beyond her years.
The 12-track compilation is a stunningly refreshing approach in its production and delivery. VanderWaal’s voice is front and center complete with every nuance and crackle in her lyrical innocence. Simplicity and brevity fused with modern pop sensibilities permeate each track, regardless if she is striving for tropical, dance, modern or acoustic pop soundscapes.
VanderWaal’s narrative explores rebellion and romp. “Sick of Being Told” relates not just to teendom, but also adults in its lyrical “I wanna run away just to live my life my way” adolescent outcry. “Insane Sometimes” uses question and answer “‘Cause, ‘cause don’t you know? / We’re all a little insane sometimes.”
“Just the Beginning’s” perfectly imperfect presentation is a much-needed addition to the pop music spectrum. Grace VanderWaal’s aptitude and musical maturity is just the first chapter of her story.
Kelsea Ballerini – ‘Unapologetically’ 💿 💿 💿 💿
Country pop singer-songwriter Kelsea Ballerini’s “Unapologetically” is her sophomore follow-up to her highly acclaimed “The First Time” 2015 studio debut disc. Conflated with pop and country, the new record continues her Peter Pan trope with the sass of a Britney and Shania.
“Unapologetically” was preceded by a string of tracks. Lead single “Legends” and promotional singles “High School,” “Miss Me More” and the album’s title track received heavy radio play and further attention to the 24-year-old Knoxville, Tennessee, native.
Lead track “Graveyard” picks up where Ballerini left off in 2015 continuing to smack down users, losers, and liars as also reflected in “Get Over Yourself.” Personal and introspective in nature, “Unapologetically” appears as an open book into her life full of love, loss and longing.
Ballerini was offered numerous hit-worthy material for her second effort by some of Nashville’s best in songwriting. She called dibs, however, on co-writing each new track. This is reflected in each song proving herself the best and only storyteller of her life experiences.
“Unapologetically” may seem raw and reflective in her musical approach within the subgenre of country pop, but offers nothing new in terms of themes that others in the genus have already covered.
Maroon 5 – ‘Red Pill Blues’ (Deluxe) 💿 💿 💿 💿
“Red Pill Blues (Deluxe)” is Maroon 5’s sixth studio offering and the first to feature multi-instrumentalist Sam Farrar as an official member of the Los Angeles-based group. Lead single “What Lovers Do” featuring SZA was released back in late August and also offered a glimpse into the new record’s strength in numbers with A-list guest appearances across several tracks along with a who’s who in production throughout the set.
Frontman Adam Levine continues to take on his pliant role as the voice that seemingly adjusts and conforms to each track’s calling. From seductive lyrical suggestions in songs such as “Lips on You” to belting out bombastic queries as found in “Bet My Heart,” Levine shows control in all aspects of his vocal tenure carefully revealing a musical influence within owning his approach.
“Red Pill Blues’s” matrix reflects a cinematic approach within each cut reflecting a dreamlike aesthetic delivered through pulsating beats and synth textures that attempt to carry the listener to new but familiar places.
Maroon 5 capture plenty of emotion and feeling within “Red Pill Blues.” Relying on electronic production, capturing raw elements that elevated them to fame in the “Songs About Jane” era would have complemented the mix.
💿 – Face palm.
💿 💿 – Eh…
💿 💿 💿 – We’re getting there.
💿 💿 💿 💿 – I’ll listen to it twice, even.
💿 💿 💿 💿 💿 – Hell yes!