By Sara Nigro
Ava Max is an up-and-coming singer/songwriter best known for her single, “Sweet But Psycho.” Following her hit song that was released in August of 2018 and has topped the charts since, she started recording her debut album “Heaven & Hell” which the 26-year-old released on Sept. 18.
After the initial release, I took the time to go through the album from start to finish to get the full experience that Max intended. The album includes 15 tracks and totals a time of about 45 minutes.
Personally, my favorite way to listen to an album is chronologically, so for “Heaven & Hell” I started with “H.E.A.V.E.N” and finished at “Sweet But Psycho.” I prefer this rather than putting the album on shuffle during a first-time listen, because music is often told as a story, and hearing it in order allows for the story to be told correctly.
Almost every single song has a similar beat and after listening to all of them, they started to blend together, so it tends to get repetitive. But there were some outliers, such as “Take You to Hell” and “Belladonna.” These two had a darker vibe to them and demonstrated a different take on the romance/break-up theme she illustrated throughout her album.
My personal favorites were “Naked,” “Take You to Hell” and “Salt,” all of which are very different and broke from the repetitive mold the others hold. “Naked” sounds the most similar to the rest of the album, but is a very catchy, nice and easy listen. As I mentioned before, “Take You to Hell” is on the darker side; it has a very mysterious, intriguing tone and is lyrically impressive.
“Heart of gold that’s made of steel” is one of the lyrics that stuck out to me. It represents a delicate but strong nature, which I think adds to the theme of self-empowerment that’s very prevalent throughout the album. “Salt” is empowering as well — it’s very upbeat (similar to many of the other tracks) and its lyrics and representation of femininity make it stand out.
My least favorite track by far is the song that skyrocketed her into the world of music, “Sweet But Psycho.” Since its debut, this pop anthem has been played everywhere: on the radio, at the gym and at any and every store you can imagine.
Often songs can be “ruined” for someone simply by being overplayed (which was, in fact, the case for me) but after analyzing it further, I have more valid reasons for my dislike. As the last track on “Heaven & Hell,” I assumed it would tie the common concepts and themes together, but instead it contradicts the self-empowering messages represented in the others. It also lyrically seems less powerful, especially in comparison to other tracks.
The production heavily affects the similarities between the songs, but the lyrics are what made all the difference in expressing their own individuality. Along with other co-writers, Max took part in writing every song on this album. There’s a sense of appreciation for her artistic talents — for not only vocal abilities, but also her technical writing skills as well.
Although it’s lyrically very clever and well-written, the production and lack of originality do not make “Heaven & Hell” a memorable album. I think that the majority of these songs would be enjoyable in a club or party setting, but I don’t think they deserve a spot on an everyday playlist. Of course, there are a few outliers and everyone has different tastes, so if you listen to it yourself, you might find some hidden gems.