Carly Rae Jepsen is no one-trick pony; Madonna can still stir controversy; and Dionne Warwick serves up some vintage soul.
Madame X (Interscope Records)
On the diva’s 14th release, Madonna examines the current state of the world while imagining a peaceful, harmonious way to move it forward. Of the anthemic “I Rise,” Madge says the track gives “voice to all marginalized people who feel they don’t have the opportunity to speak their minds.” It features a spoken-word intro from Emma Gonzalez, the young social activist, gun control advocate and survivor from the Parkland school shooting in early 2018. Earlier this summer in Israel, Madonna performed another Madame X track, “Future” at the Eurovision Song Contest — and stirred up some controversy: While telling her audience to “never underestimate the power of music to bring people together,” her set featured two male dancers walking arm-in-arm with Israeli and Palestinian flags on their respective backs. When she’s not pushing the envelope in a political sense, Madame X includes some notable bangers, including the pulsating lead single, “Medellin,” a duet with the gorgeous Colombian reggaeton singer Maluma. Another collaboration, “Crave” with rapper Swae Lee, is a desire-tinged pop gem. This Queen won’t be passing her crown along anytime soon.
She’s Back (E-One Records / Kind Music)
The legendary chanteuse returns with an impressive new release comprised entirely of covers. It’s her first collection of new music in five years. Produced by her son, Damon Elliott, Dionne’s 36th album includes duets with singer-songwriter Kenny Lattimore (“What Color is Love”) as well as revered R&B crooner Musiq Soulchild (“Am I Dreaming?”). And that’s only two of the many soulful heavy hitters on this parade of ballads and slow jams. The lead single of She’s Back is her updated heart-wrenching version of the Burt Bacharach / Hal David classic, “What the World Needs Now,” which she originally recorded in the ‘60s. With an array of synthesizers, a steady in-the-pocket bass line and a touch of modern production, She’s Back is clearly meant to inject some modern vitality into the singer’s familiar easy-listening sound, and the album succeeds greatly in doing so. Warwick sounds weathered on certain tracks — which is to be expected at 78 with a six-decade career under her belt. But there’s also no denying it still possesses unparalleled warmth and sweetness.
Carly Rae Jepsen
Dedicated (School Boy / Interscope Records)
In 2015, Carly Rae’s last release, EMOTION, proved that she’s much more than a one-trick pony (anyone remember her 2011 earworm “Call Me Maybe”?). Now, Dedicated proves she might be one of her generation’s more enduring popsters. Dedicated is the kind of catchy summer album that begs to be turned up full blast while roaring down the highway with the convertible top down. Admittedly Carly’s lyrics have never been particularly deep or introspective. However, her cleverly crafted tunes chronicling crushes, first kisses and the sparkle of new love have never sounded stronger than they do on Dedicated. Highlights include the sultry opener “Julien,” “Now That I Found You,” (cat people are advised to watch the accompanying video immediately), and the deliciously funky “Want You in My Room.” She’s never sounded more self-assured, spirited or direct.
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Last modified: August 14, 2019