This past month has been outright exceptional in terms of music. Here are a few of my favorite releases from November.
Miley Cyrus showcased her highly anticipated album “Plastic Hearts” last week, and I could talk about it for hours. Being a long time Cyrus stan, I think this album captures who she has always strived to be as an artist. It is a 15-song masterpiece where Cyrus throws back to some 70s rock influences such as Blondie and Stevie Nicks. For a while, Cyrus dabbled with the standard pop trends of her time and even shifted into a folk feel for the past few years. “Plastic Hearts” reinforces that her raspy, powerful voice was made for rock ‘n’ roll. This album features modern legend Dua Lipa as well as old timers Joan Jett and Billy Idol. The grungy rhythm guitar and driving beats are refreshing when compared to most of today’s radio tunes.
My favorite track would have to be “High.” I suppose this song is reminiscent of Cyrus’s past relationship with ex-husband Liam Hemsworth. Her lyrics strip down the emotional side of their divorce that often go overlooked by the public. I can’t get enough of this song’s choral harmonies and acoustic backing.
Another monumental release was Chris Stapleton’s album “Starting Over.” The 14 tracks in this collection range from honky-tonk ditties to pulsing rock tunes, even flirting with some lyrical ballads. Somehow, Stapleton ties together such distinguished styles and sings from the soul. It’s one of those albums that turn country music haters to fanatics of the style.
Stapleton’s intimacy and full-throated vocals make for quite a riveting listening experience. He sets himself apart from pop-infected country music and stands true to his roots throughout the album. While some of the songs might not hit the radio charts, Stapleton will win over the hearts of true blues and deep country fans. I would have to choose “Watch You Burn” as my top pick; the lead electric guitar riff is infectious, and Stapleton’s use of a simple rhythm section isolates his vocal articulations. The buildup of vocal layering towards the end of this song truly takes my breath away.
Josh Groban released his newest album entitled “Harmony” which displays his own renditions of some well-known classics. Most recognizable for his popular 2003 single “You Raise Me Up,” Groban took a two-year hiatus from recording to make his Broadway debut. This album, recorded entirely in quarantine, revives Groban’s popularity and serves as a bridge between classical and contemporary. Leslie Odom Jr., Sara Bareilles and Kirk Franklin accompany Groban’s 10 covers and two original songs. Most impressively, he reconstructs the rock track “Shape of My Heart” by Sting into an orchestral piece. My favorite song from Groban’s album would have to be his rendition of “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” His voice was made for singing such heart-wrenching lyrics, and the stand out piano line is chilling.
If you need some hype to get you through the rest of 2020, have a listen to Megan Thee Stallion’s “Good News.” I’ve never been a huge follower of rap, but Meg is a different breed. She epitomizes girl power in this latest album, serving fiery lyrics and sassy beats while still recovering from a gunshot wound and criticism from the public eye. This album is outright incredible, especially considering that “Good News” is Meg’s studio album debut. Anyone who can feature big names like SZA, Young Thug and Beyoncé on their first studio release is bound to go places. Track one “Shots Fired” is at the top of my list. Meg gets the drama out of the way in the first song of the album to focus on her music for the 16 remaining tracks. She cleverly samples “Who Shot Ya?” by The Notorious B.I.G. and proves that she’s THE boss woman.
Will December top this month’s music releases? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.