Without Warning- Metro Boomin, Offset, 21 Savage
“Without Warning” is the latest and best of many recent big name collaborations in the mainstream rap universe, a moody, concise and inexplicable project appropriately released on the eve of Halloween. It features Metro Boomin, a skilled producer of bleak trap soundscapes, Offset, the most nimble and engaging member of the Atlanta rap collective Migos, and 21 Savage, a cold monotonal street rapper who is currently dominating the charts. Metro Boomin’ and Offset are an appealing pairing, the latter’s effortless verbal agility contrasting the icy lifelessness of Boomin’s production. Both bring their A game here, particularly on the Offset solo cut “Ric Flair Drip,” the most bouncy and compelling track the project has to offer. Meanwhile 21 Savage’s deep drawl functions as a textural component to the album’s more chilling and aggressive moments, as well as an exciting contrast to Offset’s dense, ebullient flow. Sharing the spotlight allows Savage to stay squarely in his stylistic lane without risking the intolerable malaise that tends to accompany his solo projects. Despite this, Savage is by far the weakest and least riveting of the three artists, despite the distinctive vibe his presence adds to the project, due to a lack of memorable flows or variety in his vocal delivery. “Without Warning” is one of the better mainstream rap projects to drop this year, but most of all it presents Offset and Metro Boomin’ as two singular talents with impressive and unforeseen chemistry.
Reputation- Taylor Swift
“Look What You Made Me Do” is a terrible song. It’s abrasive in the brattiest, most Gwen Stefani way possible, yet trades “Hollaback Girl” sass for “Back to Back” pettiness. “The new Taylor can’t come to the phone right now! Why? Cause she’s dead!” is either funny or nauseating depending on your mood, but it’s definitely not the bad—, confrontational battle cry Swift intends it to be. On the chorus, she trades effortless, stadium-sized melodies for a joyless rendition of the “I’m Too Sexy” hook: Meanwhile a defiantly tuneless 808 blips away in the background, refusing to provide any of the provocative bounce the songs throwback sonics demand. The other singles from “Reputation” don’t fare too much better, with Swift attempting abrasive futurist hip-hop on “Ready For It” and coming through with her most uninspired and dispassionate ballad yet on “Call It What You Want.” Only the sparse synthpop of “Gorgeous” hits home – despite some truly clunky lines – with blissfully romantic lyrics, soaring hooks, and glistening keys. It succeeds as a reminder that Swift can still crank out a “crush” song with the best of them, but it wasn’t enough to assuage the worries of her core fans at the time of its release.
Thankfully, there’s little on Reputation that reaches the career low of “Look What You Made Me Do.” Many of the ballads rank among Swift’s best, and the project’s more absurd experiments – the Ed Sheeran and Future collab “End Game” and the foray into dubstep “I Did Something Bad – are made effective through the writer’s ability to craft sharp, melodic choruses that somehow survives the trendiest beats. A good chunk of the album is completely forgettable within the context of Swift’s catalogue, but it’s nonetheless a relief to hear something as restrained and tasteful as “Delicate” following the heavy-handed gospel rock crunch of “Don’t Blame Me.” The project mostly stands as a success due to how – despite the massive failure it could have been – it’s wholly listenable, and even enjoyable at parts, particularly in its quieter moments. America’s most beloved pop star attempting trap, EDM and whatever the hell “Look What You Made Me Do” is does not sound appealing, and while the influences on display are decidedly misguided, her hesitance to embrace this sonic direction ends up being Reputation’s saving grace. The Taylor Swift songs that feasibly could have been on 1989 or Red- “Getaway Car,” “New Year’s Day,” and the euphorically romantic highlight “Dress” – shine. Taylor’s reputation has nothing to do with the stale, excruciating beefs she obsesses over throughout the album: Her ability to consistently write and deliver gorgeous, uplifting hooks is what she’s known for, and she hasn’t failed us yet.