Dam Good Music: What is The Upper School Streaming?

A music review article by Hannah Sender

In preparation for this article, I conducted a survey asking my fellow upper school students, “What is your favorite album right now?”  While I received a wide variety of answers ranging in genre and artist, the top three albums in the upper school are “SOUR,” by Olivia Rodrigo, “MONTERO,” by Lil Nas X, and “folklore,” by Taylor Swift. 

I was obsessed with “SOUR” when it was first released by 18-year-old Olivia Rodrigo in May 2021. It was instantaneously a huge success, as it had the biggest opening week in 2021, setting a streaming record. Singles “good 4 u” and “deja vu” have over five million streams, and chart-topping “drivers license” has over one billion streams on Spotify. “Drivers license” spent over eight consecutive weeks at #1 on US Billboard Hot 100, making Rodrigo the youngest artist ever to have their debut album top the charts. Songs from “SOUR” were heard all over social media, especially on TikTok. Rodrigo won an MTV VMA award for  “Best New Artist” in 2021.

I listened to this album upon its release and was incredibly impressed by Rodrigo’s vocal range, lyricism, and the skillful strategies she used to connect each song; making the album feel connected. My favorite songs from “SOUR” include “happier,” “jealousy, jealousy,” and “favorite crime.” The themes that shine through this album are the struggles of being a teenager in modern times, finding and losing love, and learning how to love yourself. I recommend this album for most teens today because it is very easy to listen and relate to. Overall, I would rate this album a 9 out of 10. There are some moments when listening to the album where songs begin to feel repetitive, but for the most part, each is independent while simultaneously connecting to the others. Rodrigo has made history as a very young artist, and I can’t wait to see what she’ll accomplish as she moves forward with her career.

Moving onto a different genre, I explored “MONTERO” by Lil Nas X for the first time.

 “MONTERO” was released in September 2021. Single “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” quickly became popular, but it also received backlash on multiple accounts. Some claimed it was Devil worship, or simply too extravagant, especially for younger fans who picked up Lil Nas X’s music after his chart-topper “Old Town Road” in 2019. Nevertheless, the song quickly broke the record for longest #1 single on the Billboard Global 200. As for additional highly-streamed songs on the album, “INDUSTRY BABY (feat. Jack Harlow)” has become a trend on TikTok. I had been meaning to check this record out since it was released, even though I generally don’t listen to rap. Luckily, I finally had an excuse to listen.

This album was coherent and very easy to listen to, although most of the songs sounded very similar. A few that I especially liked and stood out were “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name,” “LIFE AFTER SALEM,” and “AM I DREAMING (feat. Miley Cyrus).” I especially liked these songs because they showed off Lil Nas X’s range vocally and lyrically. I especially enjoyed “AM I DREAMING” because the meaning behind the song was a great way to end the album as it references Lil Nas X’s confidence in his future success. Additionally, Lil Nas X and Cyrus’s vocal chemistry makes the song memorable. Overall, I would rate this album a 7 out of 10. I recommend this album to anyone who enjoys rap music, and to anyone who enjoys music with a euphoric feeling.

Finally, I listened to one of my all-time favorite albums, “folklore,” by Taylor Swift.

“Folklore” was released in July of 2020, amidst the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Folklore” is Swift’s eighth studio album and sister LP to “evermore.” Since its release, it has received two Grammy’s in the categories of “Best Pop Album” and “Best Pop Vocal Album”, the Danish Music Award for International Album of the Year, and an iHeartRadio Music Award for Pop Album of the Year. As a big Taylor Swift fan, whose favorite album is “folklore”, I am incredibly excited to be able to re-listen to, review, and recommend this album. “Folklore” is a complex and emotional record with multiple storylines and perspectives. One interesting plot-line that exists throughout is a love triangle between three characters Betty, James, and August/Augustine The plot of this storyline exists in the songs “cardigan,” “august,” and “betty.” In “august,” we hear the perspective of the girl who James chooses over Betty. In “betty,” we hear James’s point of view, asking Betty to take him back, for his relationship with August “…was just a summer thing.” In “cardigan,” we hear Betty’s perspective as she recollects her past relationship with James years later. The beauty of this made-up story is that there are many fan theories about how it occurred, none of them being wrong nor right. Also, in this album, there is advanced vocabulary and many gripping metaphors and similes that are used in the lyrics of each song. Another unique aspect of this album is that while it falls on the sadder side, listening to it can easily become therapeutic in that it allows the listener to immerse themself in their feelings while allowing themself to heal. My favorite songs on this album sporadically change, but at the moment, they are “my tears ricochet,” “mirrorball,” and “august.” I rate this album a 10 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone who enjoys emotionally complex themes.

From “SOUR”, which I was happy to come back to after a few months, my first listen of “MONTERO”, and finally, my current favorite album “folklore”, all three of these albums are well written, fluent, and easy to listen to. I hope after reading this article you’ll indulge in these impressive records. Thanks for reading!

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