Pink, “Beautiful Trauma” (RCA)
Pink’s seventh album takes the confessional tone she has succeeded with in recent years and makes it her focus. Of course, Pink does it her way, throwing in plenty of twists to keep people guessing. The biggest surprise is Eminem’s arrival on “Revenge,” as the unlikely duo debate the merits of revenge on exes.
On “I Am Here,” she goes from Lumineers alt-country to gospel hoedown in a matter of moments, creating something both wild and spiritual. In the album’s title track, she bounces between extremes to try to explain her relationship — “my perfect rock bottom, my beautiful trauma, my love, my love” — and with help from Jack Antonoff builds a catchy musical backdrop to match.
The first single, “What About Us,” best captures Pink’s mood for the album — infusing a poignant ballad with radio-friendly dance beats and adopting the lyrical stance of imperfect, but defiant, that she carries through most of the album. On “For Now,” she crafts a potent guitar ballad that is idiosyncratically hers. Her twist on cherishing simpler times, “Barbies,” is another treasure.
She wrote or co-wrote everything here, and it shows. Everything feels personal and confessional, like Pink was talking about her life over dinner. Sure, over the course of an album, things may get a bit repetitive. However, her unique perspective on pop makes the whole uplifting, painful trip worthwhile.
GLENN GAMBOA, Newsday
Kelela, “Take Me Apart” (Warp)
Since her outlandish 2013 “Cut 4 Me” mixtape, Washington, D.C., native Kelela has been discussed in the same breath as Björk, Solange (both are fans) and Frank Ocean, especially when it comes to smartly confessional, experimental electronic soul. Without relying on conventional rhythm, melody, meter or structure, Kelela became a sensation of next-level genre-babbling, a vibe she doubles down on, hard, for her full-album debut.
With her brawny vocals and an oddly phrased and hungry take on breakups, makeups and forthcoming romance, Kelela is ready to take no prisoners. The jungle-electro of her terrorizing title track is both immensely sexual and potently psychological in its principal provocation of desire.
While nerve-scrapping songs such as “S.O.S.” and “Better” follow a similar brain/body dialogue and tone, an aptly titled “Truth or Dare” finds its synaptic gap sensuality (and reality) espoused in robotic nu-funk beeps and boings. Still, it is “Turn to Dust” that is most stirring in that it toys with soul’s age-old conventions while imagining love’s hole-in-the-heart (and head) distance in language that’s crisp, frank and emotive. That’s a tradition worth keeping and twisting, and Kelela does so brilliantly.
A.D. amorosi, Philadelphia Inquirer
• Niall Horan, “Flicker”
• Margo Price, “All American Made”
• Darius Rucker, “When Was the Last Time”
• Bully, “Losing”
• Chris Barron, “Angels & One-Armed Jugglers”