Jake’s Take’s New Music Reviews: Week of March 20, 2020

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Welcome to the latest edition of “Jake’s Take’s New Music Reviews.” (Bitmoji property of Jake’s Take)

Welcome to the latest edition of Jake’s Take’s New Music Reviews. We got a lot of music to unpack, so let’s get this party started!

Adam Lambert’s ‘VELVET’ delivers a spectacular record that would make music fans dance. (Album cover property of More is More & Empire Records)

Velvet by Adam Lambert

After five years of waiting, superstar singer Adam Lambert dropped his latest studio album. Velvet showcases “The Original High” singer-songwriter’s latest chapter in his career. He teased fans of his vision with the fabulous Velvet: Side A EP that featured some of his best music in years. While there are no heavy songwriting hitters such as Max Martin, Shellback, and Sterling Fox, the Queen frontman recruited a new generation of songwriters and producers such as Tommy English, Ilsey Juber, Joe Janiak, and the Monarch production team. Velvet also features the show-stopping “Roses,” a duet between Lambert and the iconic Nile Rodgers. Congratulations, Adam! You released one of my favorite albums of 2020! A+ 

Tracks to Download: “Superpower,” “Roses,” “Overglow,” “Ready to Run,” “Velvet,” & “Stranger You Are.”

Kelsea Ballerini’s Kelsea showcases why she is one of country-pop music’s reigning queens. (Album cover property of Black River Entertainment)

Kelsea by Kelsea Ballerini 

Kelsea Ballerini is turning out to be one of the top stars in the country-pop world. The “Peter Pan” singer-songwriter released her third studio album. To craft her album, Kelsea turned to some of country music’s top songwriters such as Rose Copperman, Nicolle Galyon, Hillary Lindsey, Josh Osbourne, and Shane McNally. Fans would also notice if they dig into Kelsea’s album notes that the “Love Me Like You Mean It” singer-songwriter also collaborated with pop’s biggest names, including Ed Sheeran, Ian Kirkpatrick, and Julia Michaels. Also, keep an eye for Halsey (who worked with Kelsea on “The Other Girl,” which could be this generation’s “The Boy is Mine), I can confidentially say that this one of my favorite albums of 2020! Way to go, Kelsea! 

Tracks to Download: “Overshare,” “club,” “The Other Girl,” “love and hate,” & “bragger.”

Niall Horan dove into pop-rock music for his sophomore record: Heartbreak Weather. (Album cover property of Universal Music Group)

Heartbreak Weather by Niall Horan 

Niall Horan is continuing his solo career by dropping his sophomore album. Heartbreak Weather abandons the folk-pop format that the former One Direction star used in his 2017 debut solo album: FlickerWhile Niall and his team recruited a plethora of familiar faces from Flicker such as Julian Brunetta, Eskeerdo, Teddy Geiger, and John Ryan, I noticed that Niall was trying to keep up with the Joneses. “Heartbreak Weather” reminded me of the 1975’s “The Sound,” while “Black and White” and “No Judgement” had shades of Ed Sheeran’s “Castle on the Hill” and “Shape of You” respectively. There are breakout hits such as the ballad “Put a Little Love on Me,” “No Judgement,” “Nice to Meet Ya,” and the title track. However, I wanted to see Niall be himself and not emulate others. C+/B-

Tracks to Download: “Heartbreak Weather,” “Small Talk,” “Nice to Meet Ya,” & “No Judgement.” 

While music lovers might be disturbed by the cover, After Hours showcases the Weeknd’s drive to darker lyrics and tracks. (Album cover property of XO & Republic Records)

After Hours by the Weeknd

It has been four years since The Weeknd dropped a full-length studio album. After Hours is the “Can’t Feel My Face” singer-songwriter’s fourth album and it follows the darker music and themes from his 2018 EP: My Dear Melancholy. Variety reported that unlike his previous two studio albums: 2015’s Beauty Beneath the Madness and 2016’s Starboy, the Weeknd chose not to collaborate with guest artists. Instead, the Weeknd focused on his A-list team on producers and songwriters that include Jason “DaHeala” Quenneville, Mario Winans, Max Martin, Metro Boomin, and Oscar Holter. After Hours continues to cement The Weeknd’s legacy as one of his generation’s best artists and hopefully, there will be some awards headed his way in the future. A-

Tracks to Download: “Blinding Lights,” “Heartless,” “After Hours,” “Hardest to Love,” & “Scared to Live.”

The Dixie Chicks brilliantly blended country and power pop music together to create one of the year’s best songs: “Gaslighter.” (Video property of Columbia Records)

“Gaslighter” by the Dixie Chicks 

For the first time in 14 years, the Dixie Chicks are releasing new music! Natalie Maines, Emily Robison, and Martie Maguire released their first solo single since 2007’s “The Long Way Around.” The trio teamed up with Jack Antonoff, and the quartet released their catchiest country-pop tune in years. I loved their A cappella opening, and this track put a smile on my face! I think “Gaslighter” is a strong candidate for being on everyone’s Top 40 songs of 2020 lists in December. Welcome back, Dixie Chicks! A+ 

Rence’s “Type 2” showcases why he has a bright future in the music industry. (Video property of Epic Records)

“Type 2” by Rence 

Jake’s Take friend Rence released a new single: “Type 2.” The “Darkside” singer-songwriter continues to incorporate genre-blending (alternative, R&B, and pop) with a plethora of synthesizers that would please fans. Rence is continuing to be an artist that should be gaining more exposure, and I hope radio stations and streaming services include “Type 2” in their playlists. A- 

Artists to Watch:

Jake’s Take’s Artists to Watch is back with a few recording artists and bands that could shake up the music industry.

Conan Gray’s Kid Krow showcases why he is one of YouTube Music’s Artists on the Rise. (Album cover property of Republic Records)

Kid Krow by Conan Gray 

Republic Records’ latest artist to watch is Conan Gray. The 21-year-old has amassed an impeccable YouTube following (1.81 million subscribers-as of this publication) that even the platform’s YouTube Music division crowned him: “Artist on the Rise.” His debut offering, Kid Krow, showcases Gray’s impeccable songwriting. Also, kudos to his producer, Dan Nigro, for assisting Conan on creating one of the best debuts I have heard in years. I am looking forward to seeing how Conan develops his artistry. A- 

Tracks to Download: “Wish You Were Sober,” “Maniac,” “Checkmate,” “The Cut That Always Bleeds,” & “Fight or Flight.” 

lilspirit could be one of 2020’s breakout recording artists. (Music video property of 10K Projects and Internet Money Records)

“droptopbitch” by lilspirit

I am going to make a bold prediction…Lilspirit (real name: Geno Gitas) could be one artist that might have a Justin Bieber-esque rise. The Bay Area native is amassing a social media following on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. “Droptopbitch” showcases his superb pop-R&B ready vocals, and I could see both his songwriting and production teams could take him to the top of both radio and streaming charts. I see a lot of potential with him. 

“Free” by Satin Nickel

Americana and folk band Satin Nickel round out this edition of Jake’s Take’s New Music Reviews. Satin Nickel’s “Free” is the ultimate escape from the crazy times that we are living in. The first thing that stood out to me was vocalist Samanta Aneson’s lyrics and her superb vocals. Secondly, I loved how Ariana Karp’s cello was beautifully weaved throughout the track, and the vocal harmonies were pure brilliance. I hope that music aficionados take a chance on this up-and-coming group. B+ 

Copyright 2020 Jacob Elyachar