I know, what the hell? A new blog post on a Sunday? Usually there’s
But today I felt motivated to write, so you’re getting a double review. You’re welcome.
Every album ever made has been made with a purpose. At least, that’s how it should be. Why make a body of work if you don’t have anything to say? Most artists get that. But every once in a while you come across an album that makes you ask, “Why was this made?”
Over the past couple of weeks, a number of albums have been released that fit into both categories. Heard It in a Past Life, Maggie Rogers’ debut, is a record with something to say. Sonically, it stands out among the overwhelming influx of trap and hip hop on the radio. Teal Album, on the other hand, has nothing to say at all. Weezer’s music is often hit or miss, but this most recent miss is just confusing.
Purpose makes or breaks an album. If your record makes you seem like you don’t have a voice, you’ve failed as an artist. Heard It in a Past Life stands as a shining example of an album with a message, while Teal Album shows other artists what not to do. Don’t believe me? Let’s watch my theory in action.
Out of all the long-awaiting debuts due out this year, Maggie Rogers’ was definitely one worth waiting for. Heard It in a Past Life is a heady mix of pop, alternative, and adult contemporary. Rogers’ vocals are sweet and strong. Her lyrics are deeply personal and introspective. This is an album with something to say, an artist with a voice and a story to tell.
Whether paired with MUNA-esque instrumentals or just a piano, Rogers is a dazzling presence. From the bass-heavy “The Knife” to the dance pop of “On + Off” to the soothing acoustic of “Past Life,” Rogers has established herself as a dynamic singer-songwriter.
The album deals with themes of hindsight, personal well-being, and bitter hope. Rogers breaks down on songs like “Retrograde.” She holds out for a former flame on “Light On.” She comes home to herself on “Back in My Body.” “Give a Little” was inspired by the national school walk-out for gun control. More than anything, Heard It in a Past Life is a record about learning from the past to make for a better present and future.
Every lyric is purposeful, each word carefully chosen. Rogers paints vivid pictures, the album a mosaic of pain and rediscovery of self. Take the opening lyrics of “The Knife, for instance: “The knife of insight tore its way in me/A brash collision without sympathy.” This is a powerful and poetic statement, a brutal description of hindsight. Everything Rogers says on this record is just as raw, but never takes away from the infectious beat.
Heard It in a Past Life is an album that was created with care and genuine love of the craft. There are absolutely no missteps here. Maggie Rogers asserts herself as one of the most talented up-and-coming pop stars. This record was a labor of love, the product of two years of hard work and experience. If this is what resulted from the lessons Rogers learned in her first two years in the music industry, then I can’t wait to see what she has in store in her next life.
Earlier I stated that Teal Album has nothing at all to say. This isn’t because it’s an entire album of covers. No, it’s because Weezer doesn’t do anything new with the covers. Teal Album is a karaoke record at best.
Honestly, these covers aren’t bad. Most of them are actually pretty decent. But they all sound exactly like the originals. Why bother to listen to Weezer’s version when you might as well give that love to the original band or artist?
Even “No Scrubs,” the one song I thought they’d do something fun with, sounds exactly like the original (but without the personality). It’s a little more drum-heavy, but otherwise unchanged. It just feels like they covered this song to be surprising without having to actually put in any work.
And that’s the fundamental problem with this album— it’s lazy. It’s a tribute album without the passion. There’s not a drop of creativity on this record. Covering a song is about more than just honoring it— you have to put some of yourself into it too. Find a way to make the song your own. But Weezer didn’t do that, which is weird because the band usually has such a distinct personality.
So, again, we return to the question: why was this made? It feels like they released this album just to release something. That’s just about the worst reason to make an album. They cashed in on the fluke success of their cover of “Africa” by Toto, flopping in the biggest way. There is no statement here, no purpose. Weezer is just riding on the coattails of others’ creativity. Teal Album? More like Steal Album.
So you see, if a band or artist has something to say, they can easily make an album worth listening to. The statement doesn’t even have to be something novel, just personal. But if the album feels pointless, what reason is there to listen?
It’s better to make a body of work you believe in even if people hate it, because at least it’s garnering a reaction. If your album has no purpose, it has no emotional impact and will be quickly forgotten. But with a purpose? Your music could change the world.
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