Prince brings a social message to exciting music on a new platform while Carrie Underwood makes a vibrant return from a long hiatus, and Lana Del Rey makes more melancholy magic.
By Matt Gross
HITNRUN (NPG Records)
The eternally unconventional pop icon returns with the most experimental release in his esteemed four-decade career. In addition to exploring brand new sounds, the usually-sex-focused songsmith trades his customary seductive lyrics for social and political statements. On tracks such as “Shut This Down,” “Ain’t About 2 Stop” and “Mr. Nelson” (an ode to Nelson Mandela), Prince is more fearless and impassioned than we’ve ever heard him be before. For fans of his more lighthearted material, Prince softens the edges with sprightly jams like “Hard Rock Lover” and “Like a Mack” — which fit along beautifully next to his ‘80s and ‘90s mega-singles.
LANA DEL REY
Honeymoon (Interscope Records)
With multiple Grammy nominations under her belt — not to mention a pair of albums that peaked at the top of the charts and a staggering 1 billion YouTube views — it’s safe to say that Lana Del Rey has successfully transitioned from rising internet phenomenon to global superstar over the last four years. Her third record, Honeymoon, picks up just where she left off on last year’s beloved Ultraviolence: wistful, mysterious and infinitely romantic. For example, on the album’s heartbreaking title track, she begs a lover to “say you want me, too.” Elsewhere, she gives up on an unrequited love by getting “High by the Beach” in the album’s addictive first single. However, the most stunning and surprising moment on the release is her near-flawless rendition of Nina Simone’s classic track, “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” Honeymoon is both decidedly blue and undoubtedly one of the most intriguing pop releases of the year. Lana Del Rey will be pouring her heart out on an extensive U.S. tour this spring. For a full itinerary, visit lanadelrey.com.
Storyteller (Arista Nashville)
The wildly successful country-pop crossover (and American Idol–champion) follows her entry into motherhood with the most carefree and fun-loving release within her discography. Where her last effort — 2012’s Blown Away — tackled the anger and sadness stemming from relationship woes, Storyteller is far more playful, particularly in its songwriting. The record is largely comprised of the kind of anthemic love songs that fans have come to crave from the big-voiced blonde. She also takes time to pay heartwarming homage to her new son Isaiah, and mines her three-year hiatus for material on tracks like the instantly catchy single “Smoke Break.” Of course, Carrie will always have a special place in our hearts thanks to her early, staunch support of same-sex marriage in an otherwise socially-conservative country music landscape. For more personal insight, follow her on Twitter @carrieunderwood. (You can win Storyteller by entering our giveaway contest by December 15, 2015!)
Last modified: July 27, 2017