February 2023 Album Release Recap [Review]


Jordie Simpson

Paramore’s new album: “This is Why” on Spotify.

Gorillaz: Cracker Island (February 24, 10 tracks, 37 min 29 sec)

With notable features including Stevie Nicks, Tame Impala and Bad Bunny, Gorillaz’s eighth studio album holds plenty of starpower, though it lacks any astronomic aspirations. The album is not best described as bland, though it fails to stand out, especially considering Gorillaz typical formula: animated characters, celestial melodies and eclectic features. 

Nonetheless, there are several songs which make the album a worthwhile listen. “Tormenta (ft. Bad Bunny)” is currently the number one song on Gorillaz’s Spotify page, and the irresistible allure of Bad Bunny is not lost on the track. Intoxicating in its jazzy tone, “Tormenta” is hot among what is primarily lukewarm. It should be noted that Bad Bunny is not the first Latin artist to feature on a Gorillaz album (“Latin Simone (Que Pasa Contigo),” 2001) though his feature emphasizes the recent rise in Latin influence in the pop genre

If I could choose one other track to separate from the mediocrity, it would be “Skinny Ape.” While certainly not breaking from any formula, the track goes to show that not everything has to be done differently in order to be good. The lyrics are vulnerable, even with the repeated chanting of the word “ape” throughout. This, combined with a vibey melody, work together to make what is a recognizably Gorillaz song that doesn’t need to be anything different. As a disclaimer, the beautiful slow pace of the first half of the song is nearly ruined by a shaky electropop ending, though is saved in my opinion by paying homage to the songwriter’s composition and intentions. 

The Weeknd: Die For You Remix (Feb 27, 4 tracks- 16 min 15 sec)

“Die For You,” originally released in 2016 as a part of The Weeknd’s 2016 album “Starboy,” has received a remix over half a decade later. The latest release features four tracks: “Die For You (With Ariana Grande)- Remix,” the original “Die For You,” “Die For You- Instrumental,” and “Die For you – Sped Up.” 

Unfortunately, none of these tracks are special. The obvious highlight, Ariana Grande’s feature, feels more like a way for each artist to make money as opposed to improving the original track. The only fans benefitting from this track are Tik Tokers, who can use the new sound given its outdated original release. 

This is not the first time that Grande and The Weeknd have collaborated on a remix; in 2021, the pair offered a more befitting remix of the Weeknd’s “Save Your Tears.” The difference between the two can be seen in the way Grande’s vocals actually add to “Save Your Tears,” mixing in well to the flow of the song, while her role in the “Die For You” remix feels forced. Of course,  fans are going to love the track; any time artists as big as Grande and The Weeknd come together the results are sure to be chart toppers, but this simply fails to deliver. Meek and quintessentially poppy, this remix is a reminder that not every song needs, or deserves, a new stream of revenue. 

Other Notable Releases

I wish I didn’t spend half of this review talking about The Weekend and Ariana Grande, but that’s the nature of the music industry. Other notable, and arguably more worthy, releases from this February include: Renee Rapp’s “Everything To Everyone (Deluxe)”—a poppy and emotional debut album, which has the potential to take you on an emotional dance trip around your bedroom—and Elle Mai’s “Heart On My Sleeve (Deluxe Edition),” which is an excellent example of when an artist’s singing and songwriting make each other better. The follow-up to her debut album is not perfect, but it is sincere, strong and delightfully replayable. And last but certainly not least, Ice Spice’s single “Boy’s a Liar” and “Boy’s a Liar Pt. 2” featuring PinkPanthress—not much needs to be said about these tracks as they are everywhere at the moment, and Ice Spice has become a cultural icon. It will be interesting to see where Ice Spice goes next and whether I am “a liar” in saying she’s “good enough” to make it past Tik Tok fame to mainstream A-list status.