Critical Circuit #4 – September 15, 2021

Kacey Musgraves – Star-Crossed

Coming off of her biggest album to date, expectations were certainly high for anything Kacey Musgraves had in store. And it is hard not to bring up 2018’s Golden Hour when so much of this album is a response to the end of the marriage that inspired much of that lovestruck album. If the title or any of the promotional material didn’t give it away, ­Star-Crossed is Musgraves’ divorce album and as a divorce album I would say it mostly accomplishes what it sets out to do. Musgraves’ voice is still very gentle and pretty, not an ideal fit for songs trying to really capture despair and anguish, but for the most part these songs are not going for that. Instead, the best moments here see Musgraves going through the most tender, intimate moments of heartbreak like on “Hookup Scene”  or “Camera Roll.” The first leg of this album also has a lot of great pop country moments. The title track opens everything up nicely as songs like “Cherry Blossom,” “If This Was a Movie,” and “Justified” prove she can make a song on par with most of what was on Golden Hour. The second half, while still listenable, does feel a little less developed in both presentation and writing. But as a whole package, this is a nice way to capture where Musgraves is right now and another success for her discography.

Baby Keem – The Melodic Blue

If there was ever a time for Baby Keem to capitalize on his recent success it would be now. After a huge verse on Donda and the immediate success of “Family Ties” I was incredibly excited for this record. On top of this being Keem’s debut album it was also the first major release from Kendrick Lamar’s pgLang, hence his inclusion on three tracks here. With all this riding on The Melodic Blue it is easy to understand why people see it as a disappointment, it is certainly a messy, bloated record, but it’s highlights cannot be ignored. As mentioned, “Family Ties” is an instantly iconic track, with Keem coming out strong with his verse and Kendrick making up for lost time by switching up flows and voices. Outside this song, songs like “Trademark USA” and “Scars” have a fun energy to them and I would be lying if “Range Brothers” wasn’t wildly entertaining, if with its goofy outro. But that is where this album’s biggest issue lies, it teeters the line between weird and silly a ton with Baby Keem’s various voices and ad libs that pop up throughout. It is clear he has some good ideas but definitely needs some time to develop and hone these ideas. But that doesn’t take away from how much potential this project has and how talented Keem is for such a young rapper.

Lady Gaga – Dawn of Chromatica

I had a fun time with Lady Gaga’s Chromatica last year but was left feeling that it was still a little safe for Gaga. It had ambitions but the production never lived up to those ambitions so I was curious about a remix album. Then you throw in names like Arca, Charli XCX, Rina Sawayama, Clarence Clarity, Dorian Electra, to name a few, and I am definitely on board. This definitely plays like a compilation, and you get what you ask for from each collaborator, but to see an artist at Gaga’s level of popularity put on all these artists is really uplifting. And when this album shines, it really shines. Obviously Arca’s “Rain on Me” and Charli XCX and A. G. Cook’s “911”  are a blast but it was moments like “Sine From Above” and “1000 Doves” that really blew me away with how far this album was willing to commit to being out there. It will absolutely not be for everyone but I am glad we finally have a version of Chromatica that matches the vision that I had seen for it.

Malignant

Some movies you cannot talk about without diving deep into spoilers, and this is a prime example of that. So, I’ll keep this short and say if you’re a fan of weird horror films this might be your thing. It certainly caught my off guard in the best possible way. James Wan has always been a very stylish director, and his vision is clear throughout this movie. Wide shots, interesting angles, long takes, this is the technical craft we have come to expect from a competent director like Wan. The story, however, is much crazier than anything he has done in recent memory. He really goes out there with the premise and while it certainly ends up a little sloppy, it is insanely entertaining that I could not help but laugh and just enjoy the ride he had set up for me. Great stuff, one of the most fun theater experiences I’ve had in a minute and worth your time for sure.

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