Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Singles Summary: June 2015

Foxes // "Body Talk"
TBA, Sign of the Times / Sony UK

English singer-songwriter wasted no time preparing a follow-up to last year's Glorious, her impressive full-length debut. The rapid fire release schedule doesn't equate to diminish quality, though. She has tweaked her previous sound to deliver a lively nod to '80s pop and disco on "Body Talk." Based on the commercial reception to the single, it seems that, like Carly Rae Jepsen's newest album, Foxes' sophomore album will be a less-publicized event than her debut. However, also like the case of Jespen, quality hasn't been sacrificed.

Bonnie McKee // "Bombastic"
Bombastic EP, Bonnie McKee Music

Following Cher Lloyd and Karmin in a departure from Epic Records, Bonnie McKee has decided to become an artist on her own terms. With tracks like "American Girl" and "Sleepwalker" in the rear-view window, she's starting over with her Bombastic EP. The title track is an intense piece of pop, while the accompanying video is a sexed-up remake of a cheap '80s workout video. McKee has been hidden behind-the-scenes as a songwriter for some of today's biggest pop-stars, so it's nice to see her producing her own pop jams once again. Hopefully as an independent artist, she will be more committed to the full-length album that we've been awaiting for many years now.

Halsey // "Hold Me Down"
Badlands, Astralwerks

Synthpop artist Halsey is ready to promote her upcoming debut album, Badlands. Although singles "Hurricane" and "Ghost" (from both Badlands and her previously-released concept EP Room 93) are still growing in popularity, she has dropped "Hold Me Down." She holds steady with her dark, grinding synthpop style and has yet to falter. Given that she continues to pump out material like this, Badlands is sure to be a force to be reckoned with.

Selena Gomez // "Good for You"
TBA, Interscope

Selena Gomez has wasted no time after fulfilling her contract with Hollywood Records and signing a new agreement with Interscope Records. She dropped a collaboration with short-term love interest Zedd earlier this year, and now she has begun promotion for the solo full-length follow-up to 2013's Stars Dance. The lead single to the unnamed album, "Good for You," is a sensual urban-inspired track. The video cut is a solo rendition that cuts out the glimmering booms of the choruses, while the official version (which features A$AP Rocky) is bit more climatic. The track's production evokes that of Gomez's last solo hit, "The Heart Wants What It Wants," from her last-minute greatest hits compilation, but this song's lyrics are geared towards sex appeal and self-confidence.

Demi Lovato // "Cool for the Summer"
TBA, Hollywood

Demi Lovato's fifth album cycle has begun with the push of lead single "Cool for the Summer." The single is a driving, gritty stab at synthpop that brings Max Martin into Lovato's list of production collaborators. The song itself is a great summer anthem, but unfortunately, Lovato's personality is not along for the ride; through most of the song, her voice is rendered unrecognizable. It is nice, though, to see her moving towards sexier, more mature sounds and lyrical content. 

The Weeknd // "The Hills" & "Can't Feel My Face"
TBA, Republic
"The Hills": ★★★★☆ // "Can't Feel My Face": ★★★★☆

The Weeknd is wasting no time after mainstream success via his Ariana Grande duet "Love Me Harder" and Fifty Shades of Grey-fueled solo hit "Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey)." He released two new tracks - "The Hills" and "Can't Feel My Face" - within a few weeks of one another. The former follows his signature sultry sound, complete with a bass-blasting, ground-shaking chorus, while "Can't Feel My Face" finds him sounding more like Michael Jackson than himself. It looks like the third chapter of the Weeknd chronicles will be quite a varied set, but a good one at that.

Friday, June 26, 2015

E•MO•TION | Carly Rae Jepsen

The follow-up to an artist's mainstream breakthrough album is a crucial piece of work, even more so for an artist slammed with threats of a permanent spot in the one-hit wonder hall of fame; the stakes are high and the chance for a career-ending misstep is even higher. The Ting Tings jumped off the deep-end with Sounds from Nowheresville, Robin Thicke rushed into a heartbroken mess on Paula, and Cher Lloyd somehow forgot to market Sorry I'm Late altogether.

Carly Rae Jepsen, the Canadian Idol contestant who was pushed into overnight stardom by Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez in 2012, is no stranger to the struggle. After the success of the multi-platinum single "Call Me Maybe" and Owl City collaboration "Good Time," Jepsen took a hiatus from the spotlight to fulfill a lead role in a Broadway rendition of Cinderella and to form a full-length follow-up. Flash forward three years after Jepsen's initial wave of success, and her third studio album, E•MO•TION, has finally come to fruition. She may have taken a hit commercially due to her time away, but she used that time to perfect a sturdy pop album.

Jepsen's Kiss was unabashedly cute, yet somewhat misguided. In addition to "Call Me Maybe," the album was a mixed bag of '80s-tinged synthpop tracks ("Tiny Little Bows," "Curiosity") and modern radio-appeasers ("Turn Me Up," "Tonight I'm Getting Over You"). For E•MO•TION, Jepsen has chosen to focus solely on that nostalgia-inducing synthpop. She targets the sound of the core divas (and short-lived teen stars) of the 1980s - Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, Debbie Gibson, and Tiffany, to name a few - and cultivates her influences better than most of her contemporaries have. Taylor Swift's mega-record 1989 was applauded for mere splashes of sounds from the decade, but Jepsen's album is so immersed in the time period that it could camouflage itself as a multi-platinum effort of an authentic '80s teen-pop titan.

The blanket of automated drums and synthesizers complement Jepsen's bubbly personality well. She doesn't veer off of typical pop topics - love, heartbreak, and the like - but she knows how to craft well-written declarations of her affection and some ear-catching melodies. While her lyrics are not always the most mature, she only delivers a few lukewarm lines (e.g., "I really, really, really, really, really, really like you / And I want you / Do you want me? / Do you want me, too?" and "Boy problems, who's got 'em? I've got 'em too / Boy trouble, we've got double / Don't know what to do") that are glossed over by her bright melodies and radiant production anyway. In fact, these particular tracks - lead single "I Really Like You" and the Sia-assisted "Boy Problems" - prove that lyrics do not have to make or break a song, given the song is spotless in other rights.

And when she is on her A-game in every aspect, Jepsen is an unstoppable power; for proof, check out "Run Away With Me," with its horn-accented instrumentation and its shouted "Baby, take me to the feeling / I'll be your sinner in secret when the lights go out" chorus, or "Making the Most of the Night," in all of its explosive, glitchy glory. None of the album's 12 tracks are without grand hooks, either. Dare I say that the blossoming choruses of "Your Type" and "E•MO•TION" in particular ensure they will stay fresh months, if not years, from now? Actually, the same could be said about most of these tracks. In fact, even the album's only ballad, "All That," is an anthem in its own lighter-raising right.

With its cohesive coating of clean-cut synthesizers and heavy dance beats, E•MO•TION is clearly a product of the post-La Roux era. Current American contemporary hit trends, however, do not favor Jepsen's sugary-sweet synthpop style, which may force her to bask in a cult viral following à la Marina Diamandis. That shouldn't be a problem, though, considering she still boasts a Twitter following of over 10 million users and isn't holding back in terms of quality. "Call Me Maybe" may have proved that Jepsen can produce a hit, but every track on E•MO•TION validates that she craft sugary sweet pop music like a seasoned professional.

E•MO•TION has already been released in Japan and will be released August 21, 2015 in the United States under School Boy Records and Interscope Records. Standard and deluxe editions will be available.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Unbreakable Smile | Tori Kelly

"And that was the day that I promised I'd never sing of love if it does not exist," sang a 16-year-old Tori Kelly in her first formal cover on YouTube. She reinterpreted Hayley Williams' ode with an unseasoned voice and a borrowed guitar in a video uploaded not long after the release of Paramore's original in 2009. Six years removed from that cover, Kelly now has her own guitar, a record contract, and a debut album on the shelves. The LP, Unbreakable Smile, expands her horizons past the status of a YouTube cover star; she now sings her own love-struck lyrics and blurs the boundaries between acoustic pop, soul, and R&B.

Once shrill and unidentifiable, Kelly's voice now carries a wholesome inflection that adds a touch of warm personality to each of this album's 14 tracks. If anything, her voice is the only element that adds a soul touch to her otherwise pop-meets-R&B music. As powerful as her voice may be, though, her true power lies in her lyrics. Despite the assertive urban tinsel wrapped over Kelly's pop core by executive producer Max Martin, her lyrics remain surprisingly personal and straightforward. Her narratives are similar to those of Taylor Swift: like Swift's discography, Kelly's debut is fueled on personal pick-me-ups and lots of love. (For her most charming stanzas, check out the optimistic title track and the heartbroken "Art of Letting You Go.")

For an album with Martin's name attached to it, Unbreakable Smile isn't as climatic as expected. He steers most of his collaborators towards larger-than-life, color-by-numbers synthpop, but Kelly is different. While singles "Nobody Love," "Should've Been Us," and "Expensive" (which throw Kelly's voice into extravagant R&B-fused backdrops, complete with brass, beats, and bass) may suggest otherwise, the majority of this album is hazy and easy-going. Kelly's guitar is her best friend, and together, they can provide sufficient entertainment without any extra frills: the track "Funny" is ripped from a bare-bones live performance that finds Kelly still sounding pitch perfect. 

Whether she rips through radio-ready cuts or works some subdued magic with Ed Sheeran, Kelly constantly proves to be an immense talent. She does make her best products while playing the role of a pop siren, which happens less often than we could have assumed from her single choices. She has the power to compete with bigger production, so it would be nice to see her go all-out on more occasions. Even without many speaker-blowing songs, Unbreakable Smile is a compelling introduction to Tori Kelly. Melismatic belts and tongue-twisting verses construe Kelly as a hybrid of Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and (an elegant reincarnate of) Kesha Sebert, but a humble attitude and singer-songwriter tendencies are promising signs of a fresh, unique star in the making.

Unbreakable Smile is out now under Capitol Records. Exclusive deluxe editions can be found at Target department stores and digitally through iTunes.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Original High | Adam Lambert

Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson, and Adam Lambert should start their own celebrity clique. While American Idol was once a staple of pop culture in the United States and promised to skyrocket its winning contestants to fame, the moribund show provided only those four individuals with sustainable platforms. Lambert, as a "glam-tastic" gay man, is arguably the most surprising of the show's successes; despite declarations of acceptance, American society has never really embraced male flamboyance. (For proof, check up on the fiasco that surrounded Lambert's own 2009 American Music Awards performance.) After spending a few years as a stand-in for Freddie Mercury on a worldwide tour with Queen, though, Lambert has substituted ostentation for subdued glitz. In turn, his third full-length album, The Original High, marks his move to a refined electropop with much less attitude.

The record's club-ready production comes courtesy of mega-producers Max Martin and Shellback, the duo that produced his Top 40 hits "Whataya Want From Me" and "If I Had You." More often than not, Lambert and his production team resort to a heavyweight beats, the upbeat "nnnst-ching, nnnst-ching, nnnst-ching" club pattern, and late '90s europop. Notes from pop divas that gay men tend to gravitate toward are prevalent on this record as Lambert shoots for the top billing on disc jockeys' playlists. In particular, many tracks here sound like diluted companions to the potent collaborations between Cher and Mark Taylor (throwback to 1998's Believe).

Like Cher, Lambert has the power to be heard over the depths of production laid out by his producers. The disco-inspired title track is one of the most energized of the record's offerings, with Lambert's voice spanning a solid portion of his range over a production that could instantly fill a dance floor. His voice commands attention on the fluid "The Light" and the blossoming "Another Lonely Night," both of which stand out as attempted club bangers. Lead single "Ghost Town" is meant to be in the same vein, but it is crafted with awkward, harsh disconnects between lonely guitar-led verses and electronic choruses that ruin its momentum.

Unfortunately, it seems that Martin and Shellback's dime-a-dozen productions and Lambert's vocal displays overcompensate for the lack of substantial lyrics. The seriousness he tries to convey is dampened by tawdry lines that are sure to make listeners cringe: "So there I said it / And I won't apologize to you anymore / 'Cause I'm a grown-ass man," "You work it like there's no rules / Little criminal, I'm calling the police," "Now, I'm searching for trust / In a city of rust / A city of vampires / Tonight, Elvis is dead / And everyone's spread / And love is a satire." Even with the help of Swedish singer-songwriter Tove Lo, who has quickly become a miniature Sia Furler of sorts, on "Rumors," Lambert is still ill-spoken: "Get out of the gossip game / Get out of the 'haterade' / Don't, don't care about, don't care about / Don't care about the rumors."

The Original High is a tight-knit collection of cohesive tracks, minus the Brian May collaboration "Lucy," which makes a surface-level stab at May's rock background. (Despite not fitting with the rest of the tracks, it does make its mark as one of the most memorable tracks from the set.) While the songs fit together well, that doesn't guarantee that they're quality pieces of work. It seems as if Lambert's physical transformation has resulted in the loss of the spunk that made his debut album likable; gone is the larger-than-life personality that ripped through For Your Entertainment and, to a certain extent, Trespassing. Ultimately, while this record is dedicated to Lambert's chase of The Original High, it seems that his music has fallen stone-cold sober.

The Original High is out now via Warner Bros. Records. Standard and deluxe pressings are available.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Breathe In. Breathe Out. | Hilary Duff

The last time that Hilary Duff released a full-length album, the year was 2007. The first generation of Apple's iPhone was just unveiled, MySpace was still the reigning force in social media, Amy Winehouse and Michael Jackson were still with us, and George W. Bush was near the end of his eight-year term of confusion and destruction in the United States. Plenty has changed for the better (and some for the worse) since then, but one constant that remains is Duff's love for free-good pop music. After promises of a new album since 2008 and an ill-fated promotion jump last year, Duff has finally delivered Breathe In. Breathe Out., her fifth studio album.

The collection of selected songwriters this time around is impressive; void of Duff's longtime collaborator Kara DioGaurdi, this record includes songs written by Tove Lo, Matthew Koma, and Ed Sheeran. She and her songwriters crafted songs that revolve around the typical: love, heartbreak, sex, and the like. Lo ("Sparks," "Stay in Love," "One in a Million") and Koma ("Arms Around a Memory," "Breathe In. Breathe Out.") deliver some quality pop gems, while the Sheeran-penned "Tattoo" bleeds his influence. The vapid, heartbroken lyrics and the reliance on an acoustic guitar are dead giveaways; his formula proves inflexible, yet potent and successful. Duff does the song justice, but it's quite easy to imagine a Sheeran demo track.

Free of any true ballads, this record thrives on clean-cut, glistening synthpop that evokes influences from Duff's contemporaries. "Confetti" delivers a lively chorus similar to what Zedd and Selena Gomez delivered on "I Want You To Know," the title track sounds as if it could have been added to Taylor Swift's 1989 track list without anybody batting an eye, and "My Kind" gives a clear nod to Gwen Stefani's "Baby Don't Lie." These comparisons don't discount the infectious nature of Duff's new tracks, though. "Sparks," with its sexed-up vocals and whistled post-chorus, and "Arms Around a Memory," an energized dance track with abridged instrumental breaks, are shining representations of her unforgettable pop delicacies. 

Despite her time out of the business, the original Disney Channel princess can still pull her own weight in today's pop music scene. Nostalgia tied to Duff's previous work and anticipation due to her long-term absence help amp the appreciation for Breathe In. Breathe Out.; however, beneath all of the warm, fuzzy feelings from memories of Lizzie McGuire and Metamorphosis, a solid pop album still exists. Each sugary sweet track is like a drug: easy to digest and capable of taking a listener on a short technicolor trip. It may not be groundbreaking by any stretch of the imagination, but it contains everything expected from a Hilary Duff album: lively synthpop productions, confident (but limited) vocal displays, and buckets of fun.

Breathe In. Breathe Out. is out now under RCA Records. Exclusive deluxe editions can be found at Target department stores and online at Fanjoy.co.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Fool | Ryn Weaver

Not long ago, American singer-songwriter Ryn Weaver was no more than a young student going through the motions at New York University. She dropped out of the school after a few uninspired years and was eventually connected with mega-producer Benny Blanco at a birthday party. Thanks to Blanco's help and some celebrity endorsements from the likes of Hayley Williams and Jessie Ware, she was plugged as an overnight viral sensation last year with her fiery debut single "OctaHate." As buzz continued, the doe-eyed musician conducted interviews from a bed in Blanco's Manhattan apartment and performed some of her first live shows in New York City, shocking audience members by exposing her unshaven armpits in a sleeveless outfit.

Nowadays, fans can follow her closely via social media outlets. She posts memes of crudely-drawn frogs on Twitter and holds video meetings with her close-knit group of dedicated followers via Omegle and Periscope. As she talks nonchalantly to her fans about her favorite video game character (Yoshi from Nintendo's Mario franchise, in case you were wondering) and the wonders of sugar daddies, her youthful, bouncy speaking voice is unrecognizable from the recordings on her debut album, The Fool

Behind the microphone, Weaver carries a subtle vibrato, which becomes strikingly vibrant as she sustains notes or is ending a phrase. (Think of Shakira, spare the sultry Columbia accent, or of Florence Welch, minus the extreme volume.) Her vibrato is at its purest in the middle of her range, but that doesn't stop her from taking advantage of her full range on this album. Although she does so infrequently, she bottoms out at her lowest notes (as heard in the bridge of the title track) and soars through her upper register (particular moments can be heard in the chorus of "Pierre" and underneath the layers of instrumentation in the post chorus of "Free").

The entire album is tied together by pastel tone colors. With a sound like no other, Weaver blends light electropop with alternative undertones with heavy use of delicate synthetic instruments and subtle implementations of acoustic guitars. At her most pop-oriented moments, Weaver can craft a mean hook; the childish clinks and snaps in the verses of "OctaHate" are struck down with pounding choruses that are fueled on frustration ("I can't take it / From the day I saw my heart start breaking, no one saved me"), while "Pierre," which chronicles past encounters with men and echoes unapologetic feelings, follows an identical pattern. Other numbers, particularly "The Fool," "Stay Low," and "Free," slide into their climaxes with less force and flourish with layers of vocals and synthesizers.

There is a fine division, however, between Weaver's glossy pop coating and her singer-songwriter tendencies. By the final three tracks of the album, Weaver's sonic force dwindles, her voice takes center stage, and her journey comes full circle. The touching "Traveling Song" is a steady-paced, stripped-back dedication to her grandfather that pairs her voice with acoustic guitars, while the ambient "New Constellations" justifies her curiosity with bold comparisons to those who declared, "No, the world isn't flat, it's a circle instead / You can ride to wherever you want to now." Perhaps the closest Weaver gets to a love song is on "Here is Home." The track, like "Traveling Song" and "New Constellations," is without an attention-grabbing chorus and assures her lover that he will always have a home in her arms: "You can fall into my arms / Yes, I know you know that here is home."

When listened to in one sitting, the album places its true emphasis on the journey; the songs stem from her stories as mere mementos. Telling stories of travel, indecisiveness, love, and heartbreak, the record reflects a long-term learning experience: listeners hear moments of intensity ("Runaway," "OctaHate"), conflict and contemplation ("The Fool," "Promises," "Pierre"), and reflection ("Traveling Song," "New Constellations"). Prior to the album's release, Weaver claimed that the album begs to ask, "Are you a fool for settling for something you've always wanted? Or are you a fool for running away and looking for more?" Even in hindsight, she still seems to favor fleeing for the open road in search of what could be; from the beginning to the end of this album, she sings the same messages of freedom. In all fairness, though, if she had not followed her free spirit, she wouldn't have this musical debut under her belt. While not the most thunderous debut to exist, The Fool tells engrossing tales that end not in periods, but instead semicolons, because Weaver's journey is nowhere near an end.

The Fool will be released June 16, 2015 via Mad Love and Interscope Records, but it can be streamed for a limited time on iTunes Radio First Play. Exclusive editions can be found at Walmart and Target department stores.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Siberia | Lights



Canadian singer-songwriter Lights Bokan (née Poxleitner) dropped her third studio album last year, three years removed from her previous record's release. Little Machines returned to a lighter synthpop variation that her debut album thrived on, leaving her sophomore attempt, Siberia, in a class of its own. Siberia was a force to be reckoned with when it was released in the fourth quarter of 2011, and it has withstood the test of time and remained fresh nearly four years later.

Siberia revolts against the bright electronics - and the self-proclaimed "intergalactic" experience - of her debut album, The Listening. In turn, Siberia has made its mark as one of the grittiest synthpop records of the decade, if not the new millennium. Canadian electronic outfit Holy Fuck introduced the artist to the rough-edged synths and distorted drum machines that cover the entire album and contrast her strong soprano vocals. A shocking sonic transformation was the ultimate goal, though; the album comes to close with a nine-minute track titled "Day One," an ambient track of ugly, diminishing synths that was produced during the first day of experimentation between Lights and Holy Fuck.

The rough soundscapes offer Lights some competition, but she is still able to make herself heard and shine with confidence on even the loudest tracks. In "Flux and Flow," she nearly shouts over the sweeping, dubstep-inspired chorus, but delivers some velvet-smooth vocals over the equally-rough production of the verses. Even the two songs closest to ballad formats - the fan-favorite "Heavy Rope" and  the subdued "Cactus in the Valley" - are backed by the signature chunky synths, although "Cactus" offers a minimal backdrop that Lights can sing over with ease. However, other tracks, like "Suspension" and "Everybody Breaks A Glass," find her voice comfortably embedded in the madness, rather than begging to be heard above it all. 

The acoustic companion to the album, which features stripped renditions of ten tracks, reveals solid song bases beneath the speaker-blowing production. Bubbly melodies and wisely-crafted lyrics are Lights' true specialties, and her fans still showcase their "no weapon can sever the soul from me" tattoos and chant every word to "Toes" and "Timing is Everything" today. The magic of her lyrics lies in their flexibility; each song can be morphed easily to relate to a listener's situation with stories of unconditional affection ("Oh, you capture my attention / I’m anticipating, I’m watching, I’m waiting for you to make your move / Got me on my toes") and optimistic contemplation ("However much you've got on your plate, you're as good as you reciprocate / We all pretend to keep our tongue out of our cheek / Everyone's the fool they seek / We all go off the track and feel for our way back / Everybody breaks a glass").

Lights allured huge audiences online and in her native country of Canada with the sparkly synthesizers and squeaky, cutesy vocals of her debut, but she impressed those audiences with the jagged production and vocal acrobatics of Siberia. From the rugged synths of the opening title track to the final deteriorating moments of "Day One," the album's cohesive production grinds at listeners for nearly an hour without once getting stale. Her lyrical handiwork retained its charm in the transfer between styles, as did her personality. For Lights, each creative step towards the final product was sure to be challenging, but for listeners, the journey through Siberia is still a spectacular experience.

Siberia was released on October 4, 2011 under Last Gang Records and Lights Music.

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Endless Summer Tour | Lana Del Rey with Grimes

The thermometer read 48 degrees in Clarkson, Michigan on Monday; nevertheless, the outdoor DTE Energy Music Theatre was packed with nearly 15,000 people, all waiting for Lana Del Rey to take the stage as part of her (ironically titled) Endless Summer Tour.

Canadian synthpop artist Grimes took the torch from Courtney Love, who opened for the few handful of dates for the tour, as the supporting act for the remaining dates. Her high-energy set was well-received by some (including a set of girls that lost their shit to "Oblivion" and "REALiTi") and completely ignored by others (including another set of girls that took selfies through the entirety of one song before stomping back out of the venue for refreshments). She garnered the most attention during "Genesis," one of her most popular tracks among mainstream audiences.

Grimes hunched over her control boards to mark cues of individual song elements, looking like an unconventional disc jockey in a plaid skirt and over-sized jacket. While her reverberated microphone rendered her voice nearly inaudible underneath her heavy production, she and her backup dancers were still filled with energy. She growled and shouted with excitement, as if a demon had possessed the jittery young woman, at the core of each song.

After Grimes' set, most of the empty seats were taken by their respective ticket holders. As Del Rey walked on stage in a sheer, fluorescent green dress, she sent a spark of energy into the crowd. The first verse of he first number, "Cruel World," sent all of us spectators to our feet, and we remained standing for the remainder of her 13-song set. (The set list seemed short, but quality trumped quantity here; minus the absence of "Ride" and "National Anthem," it was a perfect combination of her catalog.) Her stage was adorned with building facades and a city skyline, giving the jumbo screens the appearance of a Lana-filled sky. On certain cues, the building windows and an incandescent sign (simply reading "Del Rey") would flash as a subtle light-show.

The cold temperatures did not deter fans from making the show seem like any other summer festival show. Underneath layers of coats and blankets, we still donned flower crowns, flannels, and Chuck Taylor sneakers. As time passed, artificial fog and the smell of marijuana (and the smell of cigarettes, after Del Rey lit up a quick smoke while covering Lenord Cohen's "Chelsea Hotel No. 2") drifted through the cold air. Most importantly, we were all well-connected with the sultry songstress; from newer material ("Shades of Cool," "West Coast") to the LDR classics ("Video Games," "Born To Die"), not one song passed by without us fans singing right along with her.

Del Rey's stage manner has transformed from awkward, twirling mumbler to a soft-spoken yet radiant songstress. Her gawky Saturday Night Live performance is now a insignificant dot in the rear-view mirror, and she is able to soar her way through her sets with ease nowadays. She is still a woman of few words aside from her music, which gives her an enigmatic presence, but her face lights up when she comes near her loving audience members; partway through the show, she stopped the show to take selfies with fans in the VIP standing pit in front of the stage. As someone who has followed her since 2011, I couldn't be happier (or prouder) to see her live performance metamorphosis.

The Endless Summer Tour will continue through June 16, 2015. Tickets for the remaining dates can be found at Ticketmaster.