Friday, April 18, 2014

The New Classic | Iggy Azalea


★★★☆☆

Prince, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, The Beatles... All of these names in music are what we would call "classics." However, Australian native Iggy Azalea is working to one day be placed on this list with her debut studio album, The New Classic.

The album opens on a high note with "Walk The Line." The song's lyrics cover Azalea's move from Australia to America as a teenager: "Not where I want to be, but I'm far from home / Just trying to make it on my own / [...] / Ain't no going back now / It's just the line that I walk alone." (Her flow in the second verse is absolutely beautiful, by the way.)

After proclaiming that she walks solo, Azalea proclaims her independence once again in the sultry, dark "I Don't Y'all." In the chorus her voice has been processed through a vocoder as she raps, "Try to knock me down but I'm strong / Did all of this on my own / Ain't got no time for no new friends / So for now just leave me alone / I don't need ya'll anyway." The next track, "100," is a very bare-bones trap track and Azalea's flow top-notch, but the featured artist on the track annoys me as he wails "one-hunned" in a slurred vocal effort. Learn how to talk, please.

Azalea does some minor singing in "Change Your Life," as she does the vocal work for the chorus, but it's more like a sing-rap style in a Ke$ha-esque manner. It's a catchy song, though, minus T.I.'s verse. (There is a solo version out there, and I'm determined to find it.) The production in this song is killer; I'm surprised radio stations here in the United States haven't spun this song because of the production.

The fifth track on the album, "Fancy" was the fourth and final single to be released from The New Classic before the album even dropped, and managed to continue Azalea's success in the United Kingdom. The song features Charli XCX in the chorus, while Azalea does her thing through the verses. She first takes it slow with "First things first, I'm the realest / Drop this and let the whole world feel it" before completely tearing it up on the lines "Better get my money on time, if they not money, decline / And swear I meant that there so much that they give that line a rewind."

Stuck between two of the biggest hits from the album, "New Bitch" is a synthpop power ballad meets rap hit. In the song, a girl is explicitly told that her man now has a new girlfriend that goes by the name Iggy Azalea. The song is relatively forgettable, but I guess it helps fill the album.

"Work" was released as the lead single from The New Classic... an entire year before the album's release. It holds a very light trap sound, mainly emphasizing Azalea's voice and the lyrics covering Azalea's struggles as a teen. "You don't know the half / This shit get real / Valley girls giving blow jobs for Louboutins / What do you call that? / Head over heels / No money, no family. Sixteen in the middle of Miami," raps Azalea, leaving room for that oral sex pun in between the seriousness of her scenario (she left her Australian family at age sixteen to live in America, first settling in Miami, Florida).

"Impossible is Nothing" is a quick stab at a inspirational pick-me-up as Azalea raps, "Keep on living, keep on breathing / Even when you don't believe it / Keep on climbing, keep on reaching / Even when this world can't see it / No, impossible is nothing." The self-empowerment theme carries over to the loud, electric guitar and steel drum infused "Goddess," or at least the self-empowerment of Azalea's ego: "Make enough in ten months / I could live off of or retire / But I just won’t quit / [...] / Bow down to a goddess."

One of the most buzzed-about songs off the album by far is "Black Widow," which features the vocals of Rita Ora and was co-written by Azalea and Katy Perry. This song is legitimately "Dark Horse" 2.0 with a rapper that's actually half-way talented. Meanwhile, trap meets reggae in "Lady Patra" as Azalea revisits the "here I am so pay attention to me" theme from "Goddess." The song also features artist Mavado, who has a heavy native Jamaican accent to tie into the reggae feel of the song.

For the normal track listing, "Fuck Love" brings up the caboose of The New Classic, which pretty much sums up the entire album. In the song, she sings, "Fuck love, give me diamonds / I'm already in love with myself." Self-centered, worldly, independent; there's The New Classic in a nutshell. I'm not complaining though, because I feel like those are adjectives I would use to describe myself.

The deluxe edition of The New Classic brings about three tracks, the first being "Bounce." The song oozes Middle Eastern and Indian influences and has a great club-friendly vibe. In the synth-heavy "Rolex," Azalea compares a broken relationship to a fake Rolex watch: "Rolexes don't tick-tock / But damn it baby, my time costs / And damn it baby, my time is money / So I need pay back for all the time lost." Finally, the deluxe version of the album comes to a close with "Just Askin'," which is just a cutesy little pop-inspired bit.

In short, Iggy Azalea is doing what M.I.A. has already done and what Nicki Minaj just thinks she is doing: making her own page in female-fronted electronic hip hop music. Overall, the album came off to me as lukewarm, although many of the lyrics were outstanding, especially those that cover Azalea's travel to the United States and starting with not a nickel to her name. I must stress, for a debut album, this is better than most and there are some songs on this album that may just become The New Classic.

The New Classic is due out Tuesday, April 22, 2014 via Virgin EMI and Island Def Jam.

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Maira Gall