Reviews by mars
The best of New Music Friday’s releases featuring some “Sob Rock,” a powerhouse female collaboration, and LANY’s latest.
We’re officially past the halfway point of meteorological summer, and with another Summer Friday comes another New Music Friday. This week’s new releases include pop-rock veteran John Mayer with his much-desired follow-up to 2017’s The Search for Everything. After spending the last few years touring with the Grateful Dead and dropping sporadic singles, the Grammy winner returns with his eighth studio album. Additionally, former Fifth Harmony member Normani teams up with fellow female superstar Cardi B on the former’s first new solo release since “Motivation" dropped back in 2019. Lastly, the second taste of pop band LANY’s upcoming studio effort, gg bb xx, is a masterful dance-infested highlight that will likely find itself on many summer playlists. All highly anticipated and long-awaited, John Mayer’s Sob Rock, Normani’s “Wild Side,” and LANY’s “up to me” are all Mars’ picks of the week.
Sob Rock - John Mayer
2018 single “New Light” is a well-crafted, ‘80s-infused hit. A gorgeous union of genres and Mayer’s comically honest songwriting, “Light” serves as both an album highlight and a welcomed look back on summer’s past. On “Shouldn’t Matter but It Does,” listeners reunite with the melancholic Mayer who sings of lost love and the regret within their breakup. “Now the road keeps rolling on forever / And the years keep pulling us apart / We lost something, I still wonder where it was,” Mayer laments and later acknowledges his habit of hiding messages within his lyrics for past lovers, something one of his ex-girlfriends has a penchant for doing too.
Within the production of Sob Rock is a yearning for that aforementioned nostalgia. The pandemic led to Mayer turning inward and reflecting on his past: growing up in the ‘80s, the days of MTV, synths, and Toto. And this is no more prevalent than on his latest single, “Last Train Home.” Featuring keys and percussion from Toto’s Greg Phillinganes and Lenny Castro in addition to vocals from country superstar Maren Morris, “Last Train Home” is a stunning summer smash filled with production perfectly tying Mayer into the ‘80s revival in pop music. Hopping onto an already-cemented trend would normally seem outdated, but Mayer sounds effortlessly at home here
If one is to dissect Mayer’s latest into the sob and the rock, the latter is where Mayer shines brightest. On the sob end of the spectrum, the poorly titled “Why You No Love Me” has clear grammatical flaws that hinder its delivery, and while “All I Want Is to Be With You” has sparks within its guitar solos, other tracks could’ve worked as stronger album closers. Even so, Sob Rock is a reminder of what makes Mayer and his music so adored. His effortless genre surfing, honest songwriting, and casual approach to creation make Sob Rock a lovely addition to Mayer’s growing discography.
“Wild Side” (feat. Cardi B) - Normani
“Wild Side” is the R&B star’s follow-up to “Motivation” and turns the tables on what many expected Normani’s next move to be. Nowhere within the production of “Wild” are the bombastic melodies and carefully curated earworms that made “Motivation” a bonafide hit. This time around, Normani is fully embracing her artistic vision and R&B roots. With an assist from both Cardi B and a tasteful Aaliyah sample (“Wild Side” credits Aaliyah's 1996 single “One in a Million”), “Wild Side” has what it takes to make a splash on next week's charts.
Like “Motivation,” this single is masterfully elevated by its music video. The four-minute visual includes stellar choreography, consistently jaw-dropping looks, and tons of skin. Cardi’s verse is enticing and a nice addition to the slow-burner, but one can’t help but wonder if there is an alternate reality where the two collaborate on a single with production more akin to “Motivation.” It’s not that “Wild Side” disappoints (it surely does not), but with a soon-to-be massive radio impact and label promotional push planned for the single, listeners may be left wondering if “Wild Side” was the right choice for a lead single. Even so, "Wild Side" shows off Normani embracing her freedom, and she continues to be an artist to keep eyes on.
“up to me” - LANY
“I’m not sayin’ that my girl’s not amazin’ / I keep lookin’ for a problem, but there’s nothin’ wrong / The only problem is I can’t turn her into you,” Klein confesses and later details specific highs in life brought down because he isn’t with the one he still dreams of. Despite newfound success, Klein still seeks out that simpler time in life, before things weren’t up to him. “Up to me” serves as both a positive sign of what’s still to come throughout the gg bb xx album rollout and a strong indication that LANY continues to find their sweet spot.
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NY-based, 26-year-old, music-obsessed and loves to write about it.