It’s not too far off from being a complete and overwhelming work of music. Putting aside its massive pop culture appeal, it has the makings of an engaging background structure with delectable energy, drive, builds, and contrasts to excite a listener. Having the “makings” of something doesn’t quite mean it always comes together and stays consistent, though. It had some good fragmented fun for sure, and one can easily get behind the musician’s sentiments to feel truly empowered. But it also stays on a rather safe and formulaic level musically, which doesn’t quite get the album over the hump of being just a 2019 flash in the pan.
There’s certainly some groovy moments here. The vocals ooze with soul. The synthetic timbre is never too overbearing or plastic (aside form “Like a Girl”), as it most always works within the confines of the emotion and varies density to an appreciative degree. The sound was also never there just to fill space and hog a spotlight, but to accentuate rhythm and syncopation with subdued yet unique timbral qualities. A lot of radio pop music today misses that level of intricacy, and that’s one way this album has a leg up. That may be where it stops on the intricacy/ingenuity path, but it was an important part of the composition.
There were a few standout harmonic progressions that made some particular tracks shine. The harmonic layer overall wasn’t necessarily used in a very remarkable way with regard to form; it was simply a string of three or four chord patterns that alternated at verses and choruses, and there really isn’t much emotional gravity in that tactic, especially when melodies contain little pitch material themselves.
One thing the harmonic layer did do well with, though, was rhythmic patterns. The syncopated beats and riffs found in the background here were perhaps the album’s greatest musical strengths, as it allowed for there to be an uplifting and physical reaction to the music, which was obviously a big goal. The couple of standouts to me in this regard were the opening title track, the song “Crybaby”, and my favorite overall track, “Heaven Help Me”. The latter also used a killer tonal progression of I, V/IV, IV, bVI, bVII, I amidst a strong rhythmic drive — great use of the borrowed chord bVI there to basically ignite the whole song.
The melodies, although maintaining an upbeat and rhythmic edge, were sadly the weakest link. This was mostly due to their lack of interesting pitch shape or construction, which is more evident when experiencing the album as a whole rather than listening to individual pockets. At secluded moments, the melody did well to provide a dominant sonic layer to carry on the groove of the background into the surface layer, mostly through syncopation. But there was a) not an overwhelming amount of captivation from its rhythmic properties alone to carry that itself, and b) not a whole lot of congenial line or sectioned repetition to stick out as a memorable feature.