Keeping up and Catching up

by John Downey '23 on April 8, 2022
A&E Co-Editor

Arts & Entertainment

Keeping up and Catching up

The Kardashians Couldn’t Stay Away From Reality TV

Talia Rueda ’23

The “first family of reality television,” the Kardashians, is back and better than ever. After a leave of absence that gave the family a much-needed break from being surrounded by cameras for 15 years, they are returning to the small screen with a second TV series, The Kardashians, courtesy of a new contract with Hulu and DisneyPlus.

People may ask, why did the Kardashians leave television just to come back a year later? Or, why wouldn’t they renew their Keeping Up With The Kardashians contract with E! instead of signing with different providers? The upcoming series’ newly released trailer, which aired on March 14, offers some answers to these questions.

The trailer opens with a statement from Kourtney Kardashian. She remarks, “Life without cameras was a big change for us,” as a montage plays, featuring moments of her, her fiancé Travis Barker, and their kids. These clips immediately offer a sense of how the Kardashian family has grown and changed since we last saw them. 

Then, Kendall Jenner explains that the series will show a side of the family that viewers have never seen before. This statement led many dedicated fans to wonder how it could be possible for them to see anything more personal than what they have been seeing for the past 13 years. However, Jenner is likely alluding to the fact that she may receive more screen time this time around, as many have said over the years that Khloé and Kourtney Kardashian carried Keeping Up With The Kardashians.

Maybe this time around, that will be Jenner’s job.

The trailer also explores how all members of the family have “kind of gone into their own world” in their time off, advancing in their personal lives. Notably, many of the moments that the Kardashians’ fans see on social media and the news will be openly discussed and addressed. One such life event will be Kylie Jenner’s second pregnancy, which was kept fairly private and low-profile.

Khloé Kardashian has always been just the opposite of private and low-profile, appearing extremely open about her hardships and triumphs over the years. Perhaps the most clear example of this is her relationship with Tristan Thompson and his very public cheating scandals. 

In the trailer, Khloé Kardashian is shown expressing how she struggles to trust Thompson. Fans have seen Thompson’s cheating scandals play out in real-time from the outside looking in, and now, they can “keep up” with how Khloé Kardashian has handled the continuous betrayal.

The trailer also showcases more of Kourtney Kardashian and Barker’s relationship, from its beginnings to their more recent journey of trying to have a baby together.

Last, but certainly not least, the trailer hints at Kim Kardashian’s devastating, complex struggle with her divorce from Kanye West. While viewers are certainly aware of West’s recent actions by now and understand the clear reasons that Kim Kardashian would not be able to stay in a relationship with him, they will be intrigued to see how one of the most influential women in the world handles such a tribulation.

At the end of the trailer, the family reinforces the ways in which they stick together with an iconic remark, ”never go against the family,” which has been one of their key values throughout all of their successes and failures.

The Kardashians airs on Hulu and DisneyPlus on April 14.

Film Review: jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy

by John Downey '23 on March 26, 2022
A&E Co-Editor

Arts & Entertainment

Film Review: jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy

An Intimate Look at Kanye West’s Life and Career

Talia Rueda ’23

Fans of Kanye West can now catch a glimpse into the saga of the artist’s battles and brilliance that have unfolded over the course of his 20-year career thanks to West’s longtime friend, filmmaker Coodie Simmons.

Although some fans of West may not know much about Simmons or may have never even heard of him, jeen-yuhs, the new docuseries from Simmons about West’s life, proves that the two have had quite a mutually impactful relationship. Their connection has ebbed and flowed over the years, but has shaped both into the creatives that they are today.

The first part of jeen-yuhs aired on Jan. 23 and took viewers right back to the early 2000s, the beginning of West’s career. It follows him making beats as he lives in various studio apartments, yearning for more in life. Witnessing the humble beginnings of one of today’s most well-known artists is not only dumbfounding, but also does exactly what a documentary strives to do: create a greater appreciation and admiration for such a person.

West came from nothing and strove to break barriers in the music industry. He did not simply want to release his first album, The College Dropout, but also wanted Chicago to be represented in the rap scene and for those in the music industry to acknowledge his production and rap skills as two separate talents, as labels initially only saw him as a producer. 

While this was not necessarily a bad thing, as his production was high-quality, it proved to be to his detriment because his production skills were so elevated that no one thought his rapping talents could be of that caliber as well. However, the release of his music video for his single “Through the Wire” changed everything. The praise he received for it led Rock-A-Fella Records to fund his first album. 

The documentary demonstrates how at this moment in his life, West receives what he had long hoped for: recognition, appreciation, and fame. Along with these exciting developments, however, comes a strain on his relationship with Coodie, as well as increasing controversy over his boldness as both an individual and as an artist. To add difficulty to an already conflict-laden time in West’s life, this period sees him excitedly win Grammy awards while also grappling with the death of his beloved mother, Donda.

Jeen-yuhs emphasizes that despite this tragic loss, West does not take a break from making music, rather working tirelessly and dedicating his artistry to his mother. Notably, at this point in the documentary, Coodie and Kanye have not seen one another for six years.

Their reunion comes at a music festival. In the documentary, Coodie expresses how he was nervous to see his old friend after so much time had passed. He recalls how odd he felt that though he knew West from the beginning of his career, he did not know “Yeezus,” or the persona West was embodying at the time.

At this point in his life, West is seemingly on top of the world. His career has reached new heights as he embarks on his The Life of Pablo tour, launches the Yeezy clothing line, and experiences the joys of marriage and fatherhood.

Coodie remains behind the scenes throughout this period, capturing West’s life from afar as his old friend’s battles begin to outweigh his brilliance. The documentary shows West’s infamous social media rants and the growing concerns of those around him before depicting the artist receiving the mental health care he needs. During this time in West’s life, he and Coodie ultimately reconnected, per the rapper’s request. 

The film next explores how West’s diagnosis with bipolar proves accurate as he continues to make erratic statements to the public. Coodie captures several spur-of-the-moment rants from the artist that make little to no sense.

The footage from the most recent years of West’s life and career is perhaps the most up close, personal, and insular to the artist. Coodie documents West’s recent prioritization of spirituality as well as his life in the Mercedes Benz stadium while creating DONDA. Coodie is there for West in the artist’s most vulnerable times, capturing not only the iconic moments of West’s career, but supporting him off-screen when the bad outweighs the good.

The documentary suggests that West and Coodie’s bond represents the ups and downs of the rapper’s career. During the period in which the two lost contact, the rising star was making a name for himself and figuring out who he wanted to be; now that he has grown into himself and become an influential artist, he seemingly yearns for deeper connections with those who knew his younger self. Although fans may not have expected this relationship to be such a focal point of the film, when considering West’s journey as an artist and person, it makes a great deal of sense.

jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy is now streaming on Netflix.

2022 iHeartRadio Music Award Nominees Announced

by John Downey '23 on February 18, 2022
A&E Co-Editor

Arts & Entertainment

2022 iHeartRadio Music Award Nominees Announced

Music Fans Ready to Celebrate the Memorable Songs and Artists of the Past Year

Talia Rueda ’23

Nominations for the 2022 iHeartRadio Music Awards were released on Jan. 27. The nominees represent categories ranging from country music to dance music and constitute the most-listened-to artists and songs of the past year. 

The awards ceremony itself will air live from the Shine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Tuesday, March 22. Not only will the show highlight 2021’s iconic moments in music, but it will also offer music fans an exclusive look into what they can expect from their favorite artists in the coming year.

Notably, while the nominations have been released, many other details regarding the awards ceremony have yet to be announced, including the line-up of performers, which is one of the main reasons why fans tune into the iHeartRadio Music Awards.

This mystery surrounding the show’s production, however, effectively works to generate excitement about the ceremony among fans and in the media. Indeed, it prompts excited speculation about the possibilities of star-studded lineups and never-before-seen-collaborations. 

Another fun aspect of the iHeartRadio Music Awards is that they allow music fans to focus on artists and projects that they may have forgotten about over the course of the previous year, given how many artists release new material throughout the 12 months since the last ceremony.

One category in which this is typically not the case, however, is song of the year. The artists nominated in this category are those whose tracks have consistently met with great critical and commercial success throughout the year and are certainly recognizable to any music fan. This year’s nominees are “Bad Habits” by Ed Sheeran, “drivers license” by Olivia Rodrigo, “Easy On Me” by Adele, “Kiss Me More” by Doja Cat featuring SZA, “Leave The Door Open” by Silk Sonic, “Levitating” by Dua Lipa, “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” by Lil Nas X, “Peaches” by Justin Bieber featuring Daniel Caesar & Giveon, “positions” by Ariana Grande, and “Stay” by The Kid LAROI & Justin Bieber.

The iHeartRadio Music Awards are also exciting for music fans because of the wide range of categories in which artists can be nominated: no matter one’s taste in music, there is certain to be a category that they are excited for, especially since there are several categories whose winners are decided by viewers.

For example, one “socially voted category” recognizes America’s favorite TikTok song. This year’s nominations for the category are: “Beggin’” by Måneskin, “good 4 u” by Olivia Rodrigo, “Just For Me” by PinkPantheress, “Kiss Me More” by Doja Cat featuring SZA, “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” by Lil Nas X, “Stay” by The Kid LAROI & Justin Bieber, “Thot Sh*t” by Megan Thee Stallion, “TWINNEM” by Coi Leray, “Up” by Cardi B, and “Woman” by Doja Cat.

Thus, while the iHeartRadio Music Awards recognize today’s most popular musicians and their moving works, they nominate and awards these musicians with the ordinary people listening to this music in mind, whether that be through the ceremony’s more traditional-style awards in which the organization itself recognizes the artists they believe best represented a certain musical genre to listeners or through the newer style of awards that allows listeners, themselves, to decide the best of the best. 

For this reason, while the iHeartRadio Music Awards will only be holding its ninth award show this year, it is sure to solidify its place in the long tradition of music awards shows for years to come. 

Film Review: HBO’s The Fallout

by John Downey '23 on February 10, 2022
A&E Co-Editor

Arts & Entertainment

Film Review: HBO’s The Fallout

The First Movie of Gen Z

Talia Rueda ’23

On Jan. 27, HBO released The Fallout, a film about the ways in which a community deals with the tragedy of a school shooting. Starring Jenna Ortega and Maddie Ziegler, two Gen Z “it” girls, the movie represents the new era of filmmaking associated with this generation while also showcasing timeless themes.

The film seems to place great emphasis on artistry and cinematic elements rather than the actual context of them. In other words, the movie prioritizes moody lighting, an “artsy” film preset, and minuscule moments between its characters. Today, such cinematographic techniques are commonly used to focus on the aesthetic world of teenagers, as evident in projects such as HBO’s Euphoria. Although The Fallout seems to focus more on the beauty of its scenes rather than the unfolding story at hand, its message is far from simple. 

In telling the story of the aftermath of a school shooting, director Megan Park brings a dark situation to light. The scenes encompass small moments of grief, as well as the many different roles that people can take on after such a traumatic event. This storytelling approach brings a great deal of realism to the film. 

Notably, the movie takes its audience through the shooting in only its first few minutes. In this way, the focus is not placed on the actual shooting but rather on the ways in which it affects the school community. For instance, immediately after this traumatic event, viewers see the film’s characters at home, unsure of how they are supposed to act. Some sit in silence with their family at the dinner table; others immediately seek change and host marches to make sure this never happens again.

At first glance, main characters Mia (Ziegler) and Veda (Ortega) are very different from one another. Mia is a dance influencer who is always home alone because her dads are always traveling; Veda lives a much more typical teenage lifestyle, and initially finds herself idolizing Mia before the pair form a close relationship due to their shared trauma.

Through these characters, the film excels at realistically depicting teenage friendship. For instance, there are moments of awkward silence in Mia and Veda’s growing bond. They drink wine, swim in the hot tub, and FaceTime each other every night because they cannot sleep alone, but at times find that they do not know what to say to one another. The school shooting has certainly brought them together, but just as in most relationships, there are moments of discomfort. In the context of the film, these moments of silence suggest that despite the fact that their friendship is helping them heal, the pair must navigate certain elements of their trauma by themselves.

Altogether, The Fallout details many aspects of Gen Z life, not only by representing a common tragedy that has taken place in American schools in this generation’s formative years, but also by using camera operation and lighting styles that have become popular in young people’s favorite television shows, such as Euphoria and the rebooted version of Gossip Girl. Indeed, such idealistic cinematography not only encapsulates popular Gen Z trends, such as a love for film photos and retro ideals, but also presents the reality of this generation’s struggles unique to its own members.

Netflix’s Cheer Returns for Season Two

by John Downey '23 on January 29, 2022
A&E Co-Editor

Arts & Entertainment

Netflix’s Cheer Returns for Season Two

The Hit Series’ Hopeful Message

Talia Rueda ’23

The new season of Netflix’s Cheer was released on Wednesday, Jan. 12 and quickly reached the top of the streaming platform’s “most watched in the US today” list. It offers a new view of the world of cheerleading as well as inspiring insights on the top two cheer teams in the United States: Navarro College and Trinity Valley Community College. Due to their athletes’ intriguing lifestyles and determination, these teams are notorious in the world of cheer.

One notable difference between season one and season two of Cheer is the latter’s attention to Trinity Valley, who are the rivals of Navarro College and were not as represented in season one. The teams’ near-equal screen time emphasizes the similar ways in which they prepare to take on the competition in Daytona Beach, FL. This approach not only adds a new significance to the ways in which both squads devise techniques intended to help them take the top spot in the world of college cheerleading, but also sheds light on commonalities between the cheerleaders on the different teams, such as their similar lifestyles and struggles.

Many of the cheerleaders on both teams come from broken households and have faced everything from financial issues to the incarceration of family members. Although such conditions are certainly tragic in any circumstances, they pose a significant challenge to competitive cheerleaders: cheerleading is an expensive sport that often requires athletes to join multiple teams at once, participate in competitions, and travel extensively. Many of the Navarro College and Trinity Valley Community College cheerleaders struggle to pay for these necessities in the sport.

Cheer explores these challenges, but also how athletes are able to overcome them. One cheerleader who undergoes such a journey is Maddy Brum, who joins the Navarro squad in season two. Throughout the season, several of Brum’s team members and coaches reiterate her talent, admiring how she can tumble, fly, and dance, a combination of skills that not everyone on her team possesses. Brum’s upbringing consisted of moving from house to house while her dad was incarcerated and dealing with worsening financial issues. 

These struggles, however, did not stop her from cheering: her home gym knew that she struggled with a difficult home life and could not afford to pay for a cheerleading career on her own, but her coaches, recognizing that her talent was undeniable, provided her with a safe and accessible experience.

Stories such as Brum’s are what make Cheer so important; they not only illustrate the ways in which cheerleaders use the sport as an outlet, but also how cheerleading gives them a sense of importance, community, and purpose. Indeed, the experiences of many of the cheerleaders featured in both seasons one and two of Cheer demonstrate that cheerleading has offered them the family dynamic that they were never given. Monica Aldama, who coaches the Navarro team strives to create a positive community for her team. Throughout the series, several of her cheerleaders reiterate that Aldama is like the mother they never had: not only does she give them the foundations and coaching necessary for them to have a future in cheerleading, but also those necessary for them to have stable lives.

In season one of the show, a cheer professional comments that “the cheer world is very insular,” meaning that famous cheer teams and cheerleaders are only known by other cheer teams rather than by the public at large. Cheer offers America a closer look at this world and, in exploring how the sport has given many athletes who face hardships stable and successful futures, which they might not otherwise have, offers an inspirational story of hope.

Maid Shines a Light on Domestic Violence

by The Cowl Editor on November 18, 2021

Arts & Entertainment

Maid Shines a Light on Domestic Violence

The Netflix Drama’s Authenticity and Hopeful Message

Talia Rueda ’23

Maid was released on Netflix on Oct. 1 and has since claimed its place on Netflix’s “Top 10 in the US” list.

While the show offers a multitude of heartwarming moments between protagonist Alex and her 3-year-old daughter, Maddy, this mother-daughter relationship also proves to be life-saving. At one point, 23-year-old Alex is shown escaping her abusive boyfriend, Sean, in the middle of the night, hours after she finished picking glass out of her daughter’s hair from his usual drunken outrage.

Maddy being put in danger is the final straw for Alex. She leaves the comfort of her home and the little money she has in order to protect her daughter. However, while Alex knows she has to take action to protect Maddy, she is not initially aware of what Sean had been doing to her. It is not until she is homeless with nowhere to go and reaches out for housing assistance that she recognizes that she qualifies to live in a domestic violence shelter.

“I would hate to take a spot from someone that has been actually abused,” she says as she is offered the shelter’s phone number. It is clear that Alex is not aware of what emotional abuse is; she believes abuse can only be physical, and that the people she would not want to take a spot from people who have bruises all over their body.

This lack of education regarding emotional abuse comes up several times within the show. For instance, the court denies that there is evidence that Alex’s boyfriend abused her because she has an unmarked body. Also, Alex’s dad sees Sean verbally force her to sit down and eat dinner when she is not hungry, but when Alex asks her dad to testify for proof of abuse, he insists that this instance was just “a young couple going through a rough patch.” The show clearly works to inform its audience of what emotional abuse is, while simultaneously examining the ways in which the concept of abuse can be misconstrued.

Other scenes detail the less-obvious tactics emotional abusers use. Sean controls Alex in a subtle and isolating way. He wants Alex to be under his roof. He gives her car away and refuses to change his work schedule, making it impossible for her to get a job and gain monetary independence. Alex falls subject to Sean in all of these ways, working tirelessly for the comfortability and normality of being with the father of her daughter in their own home, making it an incredibly accurate portrayal of emotional abuse.

In one of the first episodes of the series, the owner of the domestic violence shelter informs Alex that women may return to their abuser up to seven times. Maid does an astounding job of showcasing this somber fact when Alex returns home to Sean out of desperation, but also with the hope that he will change. Alex’s desire for him to change is ultimately less powerful than her goal of making a better life for her daughter, one without glass thrown across the kitchen or drunk outbursts. 

Alex’s story ends more happily than many domestic abuse cases do, but there is nonetheless a commonality between her story and those of real women regarding the relationship between mothers and their children. These women do not often escape abuse for themselves, but for their sons and daughters. In the hardest moments of both Alex and Maddy’s lives, their mother-daughter relationship proves to save both of their spirits, and seemingly, their lives.

A Closer Look at The Life Support Tour

by The Cowl Editor on November 4, 2021

Arts & Entertainment

A Closer Look at The Life Support Tour

Madison Beer’s Authentic Connection With Her Audience

Talia Rueda ’23

Madison Beer has finally made her touring debut eight months after her first album, Life Support, was released. She has added an exuberance to the world of pop, not only with her histrionic tendencies, but also with her eagerness to relate to her audience. Beer has had a devoted online fan base since 2013, when she was discovered by Justin Bieber.

Beer’s first string of live shows proves the potential that Bieber saw in her eight years ago, while also finally allowing the connection that has been developing between her and her followers since 2013 to manifest itself into a tangible experience. 

Throughout the album, Beer works to evoke emotions from her listeners through an expression of her own experiences. Although she succeeds in doing so throughout the entirety of the record, it is quite possible that this endeavor is even more powerfully realized during a live performance, hence fans’ excitement for The Life Support Tour. 

Beer’s lyrics display a universal nature that perfectly relates to the young generation that mostly comprises her fanbase. For example, one track from Life Support, the third song she performs during her tour setlist, is “Stay Numb And Carry On,” which includes the lyrics, “Stay numb and carry on/Too young to hate someone/Truth is, it was never love/Your fault if you thought it was.”

These lyrics hold great importance. Obviously, they are the first words in the song, so they are the first that the crowd hears. More notably, however, while they appear to be quite standard lyrics for an artist such as Beer, her audience knows the significance these words hold for the artist and her personal experiences.

Beer’s online fanbase has followed her through her seemingly iconic but apparently emotionally abusive relationship with fellow social media star Jack Gilinsky. Additionally, she has been questioned by the media for years about her stunning appearance, with rumors circulating about whether she had undergone plastic surgery procedures and snide remarks that she should just “stick to modeling” rather than pursue a music career.

With this knowledge of Beer’s personal life in mind, the crowd is already on their toes as those lines open the third track as they are well-aware of their meaning. Audience members know why Beer has preferred to stay numb to the pain instead of reacting. 

Fans also relate the feelings she describes to their own lives. Indeed, Beer’s main fanbase, members of Gen-Z, are around the same age as her.

Beer has done a fantastic job of not only forming her community of fans, but also maintaining it. Indeed, she has birthed an audience that is receptive to her life experiences and journey as an artist, and she shares these moments with fans on stage. On social media, videos have circulated in which she demonstrates her intense gratitude to her fans during her live shows, visibly crying while thanking them.

Since Beer’s first performances on The Life Support Tour, she has posted several remarks on social media that showcase the magic of an artist’s developing career on their first tour. She writes, “What an absolute dream come true,” and, “Can already tell I’m probably gonna cry tonight sheesh I’ve sprung a leak.”

Aside from her evident emotional connection with her fans, other notable aspects of Beer’s tour set include those that showcase a more fun side to the artist. “Girl power” anthems including “BOYSH*T,” “Baby,” and “Good In Goodbye” offer the same emotions as songs like “Stay Numb and Carry On” but take an entirely opposite approach to expressing them. Indeed, although Beer discusses similar ideas in these anthems, such as ending relationships or false rumors, she addresses them with more power and capability in the former than in the latter. Performances of such songs are the moments of Beer’s set that are the most pulsating: when her strength is exemplified in her jolting bass rather than her wallowing chords.

Throughout the first half of her set, Beer appears inside of a clear rectangular cube and is pulled around the stage by her dancers. As the show progresses, she ditches the cube and inches closer to the audience. This choreography unfolds as she sings her more intimate songs—the tracks that listeners fell in love with in the first place.

In many ways, the concept of the cube confining Beer at the beginning of her performance, but then no longer being able to contain her, shows her growth as an artist. Life Support deals with serious subject matter, such as Beer’s battles with borderline personality disorder, abusive relationships, and detrimental false narratives about her. Beer has emerged victorious from these fights and rid herself of the means by which the industry has tried to confine her.

An artist’s first tour aims to showcase an ability to conquer the muddled exterior of the world and focus solely on a connection with fans for the first time. Beer has done just that.

Album Review: Life of a Don

by mpalmie2 on October 21, 2021

Arts & Entertainment

Album Review: Life of a Don

Don Toliver’s Ingenuity and Inspiration From Travis Scott

Talia Rueda ’23

Don Toliver released his second studio album on Oct. 8, 2021. Although the tracks were entirely original, they also sound quite familiar.

This is because hip-hop legend Travis Scott doubles as Toliver’s mentor and friend. Scott discovered Toliver, and it is clear why the prolific rapper saw a future with the up-and-comer. Not only are both artists originally from Houston, TX, but they also share an uncanny taste in hip-hop production and promote similar artistry. Whether speaking in terms of their luxurious lifestyles, high fashion, or tailored sounds, they have become a dynamic duo in the industry.

Life of a Don presents the point of view of someone with newfound fame who is under the wing of a mentor, but also attempting to strike out on his own. Toliver joined Scott’s record label, Cactus Jack, in early 2017. His privilege of learning to navigate the industry from one of the most accomplished artists of this generation is apparent throughout the album.

Toliver has certainly experienced Scott’s endeavours firsthand, Life of a Don explores his feelings regarding his own fame, as he finds that he is now the one in the spotlight. His lyrics express that he would rather count his money or break a girl’s heart than deal with the complications of life in the spotlight. While Scott, among other acclaimed musicians, has graduated from the shock of being famous, this extremely familiar theme appears in many artists’ albums. It is almost a rite of passage for musicians to contemplate their life decisions when they have achieved a certain degree of success.

Ironically, this is what is most interesting about Toliver’s new project. Although it is not extremely original with regard to production, the album’s normality reminds listeners what they love about the current era of hip-hop. Furthermore, the sound that the Cactus Jack team promotes is not only one of high production quality, but also effervescence. Scott, in particular, is known for his unreal sound design that makes listeners wonder how he and his team possibly constructed the beats on a computer. Naturally, these same aspects appear in Life of a Don, especially with its synthetics. Despite this influence Toliver certainly brings his own niche elements to the project.

Indeed, while Toliver certainly benefits from being an apprentice of Travis Scott, he has also found his own speciality with the vocal melodies that flow so easily from him. For instance, on his single “OUTER SPACE,” Toliver ironically conveys the song’s intensity with the natural lightness of his vocals. The parts of this and other songs that truly get the listener’s blood pumping are those Toliver narrates with the murky subtleness of his melodies. In simple terms, he’s relaxed and ready at the same time; he breathes life into his lyrics with this lightening sound.

Toliver’s second studio album captures so many aspects that listeners love about today’s era of electrifying hip-hop. Following the techniques of Travis Scott is clearly one of the smartest things a new artist can do to gain traction, but offering a fresh perspective on hip-hop will keep him afloat in the ever-growing hip-hop industry.

Indeed, Scott may be the master of highly-textured sound design, but his mentee might be the genius when it comes to the soft and glossy elegance on which hip-hop melodies thrive.

Clearly anticipating these elements from Toliver’s second studio album, avid fans and curious listeners alike launched Life of a Don to number one on the Apple Music pre-add chart. The album is now available for purchase and streaming.

Album Review: Lorde’s Solar Power

by The Cowl Editor on October 7, 2021

Arts & Entertainment

Album Review: Lorde’s Solar Power

The Personal Growth of the Artist and Her Listeners

Talia Rueda ’23

Lorde came into the music industry in 2013 in full force. She offered a distinctive music style to the world of Tumblr-lovers while also being highly relatable. Her first album, titled Pure Heroine, gave listeners the iconic singles “Royals” and “Ribs” that still evoke the utmost emotion today, even after fans have graduated from the grunge-Tumblr era. Lorde’s first album did exactly what it was meant to do as she entered the industry, which was to make her mark as a blossoming artist. She was young, and so were her listeners, who were displaying their emotions on social media for the first time. Indeed, in several ways, the artist and her listeners have grown up together.

This was certainly evident with Lorde’s second album, Melodrama, which blessed listeners’ ears in 2017. Fans saw a new chapter of the singer’s life, one with a less innocent point of view. The album’s title was a superb fit for its content, and the artist successfully appealed to listeners’ emotions. Something was different this time around: Lorde was growing up and learning to navigate the brutality of being a young woman.

So, what stage of life are Lorde and her fans at with her third album, four years later? Its title offers a clear indication of the answer to this question.

Solar Power was released on Aug. 20, 2021. Listeners were anxious to see what Lorde was going to make them feel this time. What many have probably found, though, is that Lorde did not have to make them feel anything: they were already on the same page.

The album demonstrates a significant amount of growth from her last release four long years ago. This did not come as a surprise. Not only had Lorde taken four years to release a new project, but she also removed herself from the grid in the meantime, disappearing from both social media and the public. Avid followers know that she took time to reflect, perhaps on her grief as shown on Melodrama, or maybe on climate change as she traveled from New Zealand to Antarctica.

One thing is clear from her new release—Lorde seems truly content and untroubled. In a departure from her past albums, her lyrics and production have a new sense of freedom, and she seems to want her listeners to feel the same delight she has been experiencing. For instance, Solar Power’s second single, “Stoned at the Nail Salon,” contains lyrics expressing a carefreeness that seems so different from the intensity of Melodrama. These lines read, “Cause all the music you loved at sixteen, you’ll grow out of / And all the times they will change, it’ll all come around / I don’t know / Maybe I’m just / Maybe I’m just stoned at the nail salon again.”

These lines seem to perfectly capture Lorde’s internal growth. Indeed, “Stoned at the Nail Salon” in particular discusses how her mindset has changed from when she was 16 years old. She also acknowledges that it is okay to grow apart from the habits and interests of one’s youth.

In addition to the lyrical differences between the artist’s earlier work and her latest release, the production of Solar Power takes an easier approach. The music itself is much more simple and reserved in its organization. Lorde even allows some harmonies from other artists on this album, including iconic indie singers Phoebe Bridgers and Clairo. In these and other aspects of the album, from lyrics to harmonies, it is clear that Lorde has become significantly lighter and seems glad to share this radiance with listeners.

Lorde’s newfound perspective, as expressed on Solar Power, embodies the new chapter of life that she is in. After years of privacy and remoteness, she is back to showcase how she has healed.

Many of Lorde’s fans have felt the emotions expressed on her highly personal first and second albums, drawing connections between her life and theirs. Her listeners have always been on the same page as her. Solar Power is different, though. If fans did not already feel a connection to the relief that Lorde has experienced, they will after listening to the album. The artist has chosen to nurture healing and peace in her own life, and the album’s therapeutic softness may do the same for listeners.