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Listen UP!: Katy Perry, Halsey, London Grammar, Amber Coffman, Hey Violet

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Thursday Jun 15, 2017
Listen UP!: Katy Perry, Halsey, London Grammar, Amber Coffman, Hey Violet

Singer Katy Perry releases her fifth studio album, 15 tracks to make you move your ass! Pop singer Halsey releases her second full-length album, "hopeless fountain kingdom," and it's quickly bounded to number one on the Billboard Top 200. London Grammar, the UK trio of Hannah Reid, Dan Rothman and Dominic Major releases their second album. It's an ethereal blend of ambient and classical sounds with melancholy guitar and soaring alto vocals. LA singer/songwriter Amber Coffman releases her debut solo album, 11 tracks of avant-garde rock over Coffman's wavery soprano. And LA-based rock band Hey Violet releases their second studio album; the first since they changed their name and their lineup.


"Witness" (Katy Perry)

"Witness" (Katy Perry)

Singer Katy Perry releases her fifth studio album, 15 tracks to make you move your ass! Perry kicks things off with the title track "Witness," wondering if he'd stick with her if she lost it all. She doesn't have time to play around; she's looking for someone that speaks her language. You may think she's fragile as a Faberge egg, but she's made of tough stuff, Perry sings in "Hey Hey Hey." She wants to close her eyes and roll it with you in the flirty dance cut "Roulette." Her performance of "Swish Swish" (featuring Nicki Minaj) blew up the airwaves when she invited a passel of drag queens (and Internet sensation "Backpack Kid") to help her roll it out on "Saturday Night Live." If you're not doing Death Drops to this vogue-ready song all summer long, you're just not doing life right. In her rap break, Minaj lays a patter down that pays homage to the original fast-lister, Blondie's "Rapture." Her "Déjà Vu" has her living off the echoes of your "I love yous." She gets real with shit in "Power" admitting that she lost herself inside him, how he took control of a vulnerable soul and tried to clip her wings. But in this anthem of female empowerment, she's not having it anymore! It's one of the best of the bunch. She's tired of all the head games in "Mind Maze," and gets a little sappy in "Miss You More." Skip Marley spits an 'irie' rap break in "Chained to the Rhythm," with its throwback lo-fi opening and funky, finger-snapping beat. It's all about living in that utopian bubble and not being able to see the problems all around you for those rose-colored glasses you're wearing. They twirl and spin as they're caught up in the "Tsunami," and he's got her spread like a buffet, fresh out the oven in "Bon Appetit" featuring the tough Georgia thugs of Migos. Perry knows she "can't go with the flow; got to make waves," in "Bigger Than Me" and makes some changes before she decides to "Save As Draft." Her old-school funky cut "Pendulum" promises that all things come full circle, and Perry closes out the album with "Into Me You See," a slow tune about that person who sees more of you than you see yourself. This is one to add to your permanent collection! Perry plays select dates on the East Coast this fall.
(Capitol Records)


"hopeless fountain kingdom" (Halsey)

"hopeless fountain kingdom" (Halsey)

Pop singer Halsey released her second full-length album, "hopeless fountain kingdom," and it's quickly bounded to number one on the Billboard Top 200. She opens things with a Prologue from "Romeo & Juliet," and goes into the heavily Auto-Tuned "100 Letters," about Midas's golden touch, singing, "But I don't let him touch me anymore, I said, 'I'm not something to butter up and taste when you're bored,'/'Cause I have spent too many nights on dirty bathroom floors to find some peace and quiet right behind a wooden door." She sang her hit single "Eyes Closed," on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert," and hit it out of the park with the lyrics, "Now if I keep my eyes closed, he looks just like you./But he'll never stay, they never do." She promises to put on a show once you surrender to the heat, in "Heaven in Hiding." She's not even bothering to hide because no matter who she meets, she stays "Alone," singing, "I know you're dying to meet me but I can just tell you this/ baby as soon as you leave me, you'll wish that you never did." Deep bass roots the frustrated love song, "Now or Never," and Halsey is "Sorry" in a melancholy hit about forgetting your feelings, your birthday, and your mother's favorite song. As she puts it bluntly, "someone will love you, but that someone won't be me." She kicks off "Good Mourning" with a spoken-word intro about finding your home, and lets it bleed right into "Lie" featuring Quavo, a perfect pair of dark bookends. She ain't your baby no more, and she's thinking back on those old times, thinking -- damn, if these "Walls Could Talk." She wants to pursue her career, but he wants her in the kitchen; she likes that pretty girl, but the girl's hooked on drugs. You can't blame Halsey for trying, it's just that she's "Bad At Love." The percussion effects add a tropical feel as Halsey breaks bad in "Don't Play." "She doesn't kiss me on the mouth anymore, 'cause it's more intimate than she thinks we should get" sings Halsey in "Strangers," with Lauren Jauregui adding depth to the chorus, singing, "we're not lovers, we're just strangers with the same damn hunger to be touched, to be loved, to feel anything at all." Halsey used to be on fire, but she's fading away, all dark and small in "Angel on Fire," but refuses to eat her feelings in "Devil In Me." She ends the album with help from Cashmere Cat on "Hopeless." With this album, Halsey cements her move from unknown pop singer to bona fide pop star. She sets out on tour with openers Charli XCX and PARTYNEXTDOOR in September in Connecticut, before hitting Canada and assorted East Coast dates, and making their way to the West Coast by November.
(Astralwerks)


"Truth Is a Beautiful Thing" (London Grammar)

"Truth Is a Beautiful Thing" (London Grammar)

London Grammar, the UK trio of Hannah Reid, Dan Rothman and Dominic Major, releases their second album. It's an ethereal blend of ambient and classical sounds with melancholy guitar and soaring alto vocals. Reid's huge vocals open the album's 11 tracks with "Rooting For You," hitting the deepest lows and impossibly high highs as she sings, "I'd love to always love you but I'm scared of loneliness when I'm alone with you." She wonders what love has done to her, leaving her life stretched out before her, in "Big Picture," singing, "I might be blind but you taught me the difference between mistakes and what you just meant for me." The dour instrumentals on "Wild Eyed" belie the title, as Reid sings of being "wild eyed and wandering," imploring that you "wear another truth on your turned-up sleeve." They teamed up with British director Tony Kaye to create visuals for their single, "Oh Woman, Oh Man," a luscious, heartbreaking tune where Reid sings of taking the devil by the hand. She follows it up with another hot single, "Hell to the Liars," opening it with "Here's to you and me/ Hell to the best of us." She channels Sade in her tortured cut "Everyone Else," and warns about an untrue lover in "Non Believer," singing, "we both know that you wanna love her/ Skies are open crying, please don't believe her/ 'Cause she'll tell you lies and then say it doesn't matter." They get closest to a pop sound with the snare drums holding time in "Bones of Ribbon" as Reid implores, "Feet don't stop me now." Reid wonders "Who Am I" to judge you for leaving, and declares it's fair game in "Leave the War." She finishes a truly superb album with the title track, "Truth is a Beautiful Thing," with actual piano instead of electronic flourishes. London Grammar is simply put, the best band you've never heard of. They set out for a European tour on June 12, hitting the UK, France, Portugal, Switzerland, Russia and more.
(Metal & Dust/ Ministry of Sound)


"City of No Reply" (Amber Coffman)

"City of No Reply" (Amber Coffman)

LA singer/songwriter Amber Coffman releases her debut solo album, 11 tracks of avant-garde rock over Coffman's wavery soprano. She kicks things off with "All to Myself," with its doo-wop chorus flourishes and sweet message about getting out there and getting things done for yourself. Her single "No Coffee" was released in early May, and the video is "a bit of a commentary on the American Dream, which I think informs a lot of our romantic endeavors, and often times in a not-so-healthy or fulfilling way." It's got a cool underlying ska beat that pairs well with Coffman's high vocals singing, "I haven't been the same since you went away; I've come undone. I can hardly wait for the end of the day/ and when the morning comes don't need no coffee, I'm wide awake."
"Dark Night" is surprisingly upbeat as Coffman sings "if you should ever feel lonely, in a minute I'll be there." Choppy instrumentals give a '90s vibe to "City of No Reply," and echo distortion opens "Miss You." She slows things down for the sentimental "Do You Believe," which sounds a little like a Carpenters single. Slightly off-kilter bass gives an interesting vibe to "If You Want My Heart," and the trill of calypso drums underscore the serious message when Coffman admits, "'Nobody Knows' how I feel, nobody sees my soul." "Under the Sun" is a breezy, sunny tune while "Brand New" has the sad tinge of hard-won experience to it, oddly paired with a flourish of horns toward the end; the same effect she employs in the album's final song, "Kindness." Coffman's a talented singer with some interesting material to present; too bad it's presented a bit scattershot in this freshman release.
(Columbia Records)


"From the Outside" (Hey Violet)

"From the Outside" (Hey Violet)

LA-based rock band Hey Violet releases their second studio album; the first since they changed their name and their lineup. The group now consists of Rena Lovelis, Miranda Miller, Nia Lovelis, Casey Moreta, and Iain Shipp. But they originally formed in 2008 while middle-schoolers as the all-girl hard rock band Cherri Bomb. They later added Casey Moreta on lead vocals and guitar, and Iain Shipp on bass. Their singles, "Break My Heart" and "O.D.D." have gotten good play. "Break My Heart" is a sweet pop confection that's "like a game, to see how much I can take." When Lovelis sings, "Break my heart!" it's almost like she draws a line in the sand and dares you to cross it. "O.D.D" is a dark, drum-heavy cut that has Lovelis singing, "I was raised by a mom who told me I should never listen to another voice but my own." Along with Miller, they sing out the grotty chorus, "I'm the girl in the back of the class, blank stare, don't care, don't ask." Their cut "Guys My Age" dropped way back in September 2016, and hit 68 on the Billboard Hot 100. It's a story about the guy she ditched "probably 'cause he didn't wanna grow up" and she's out wearing something low-cut, "'bout to get attention from a grownup." Slow down, girl! You've got your whole life to give it up. "I'm right here so pour yourself all over me," they sing in the sultry, slick cut "Brand New Moves," acknowledging that it's been forever since the last time they danced. She's got some brand-new moves -- and she wants to try them on you. She can't keep your love, but she'll keep your "Hoodie," broken zipper, cigarette burn and all. In the dark they spill their guts, in the singsong "My Consequence," singing, "the world is ours; at least it is tonight." Their pop anthem "All We Ever Wanted" meshes electronica with a catchy refrain, and they turn the tables on the idea of women as the object by dismissing that too-cute guy at school as a "Fuqboi." In "Unholy," she's having thoughts that won't go away, and keeping them to herself in "Where Have You Been (All My Night)." They use a oompa-pa klezmer beat for "Like Lovers Do," and end up, fittingly, with the punk-rock influenced "This Is Me (Breaking Up With You)." For such young performers, the Hey Violet crew is on the right path. But if they want to be considered as serious musicians, they should consider dropping the nursery-rhyme patter in favor of developing their craft. Right now, they're ones to watch.
(Capitol Records)


Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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