When Katy Perry’s Smile album just lately failed to fret the highest of the worldwide charts it apparently rang the demise knell for capital P pop. “Life and listening have become too complex for 2D”, claimed The Atlantic, with the “costumed fictions” of Perry, Lady Gaga and greenback sign-era Kesha dismissed as passé. How then to clarify 26-year-old Amanda Koci, AKA Ava Max, an uncomplicated throwback to Fame-era Gaga, saddled with a gimmicky lopsided wig? Sure, Heaven & Hell has a unfastened conceptual framework – first half uplifting, second half darker – but it surely doesn’t impede on a turbo-charged, ballad-averse album that buffs 2010-level melodies till they dazzle.
Chances are you’ll be acquainted with ludicrous earworm Sweet But Psycho, which is quick approaching one billion Spotify streams. Its template of churning synths and cheerleader chants additionally kinds the spine of the bubbly Tattoo, whereas latest single, the broad strokes empowerment anthem Kings & Queens, goes one step additional into Stars of their Eyes territory by using Gaga’s erstwhile producer RedOne. The references don’t finish there; on Naked, which shares Teenage Dream’s wistful, baked-in nostalgia, Max channels Ariana Grande’s managed craving, whereas the disco-tinged OMG What’s Happening remembers Marina’s high-wire vocal undulations.
Clearly originality isn’t a precedence, and lyrically Heaven & Hell blows up pop cliches to 96-point headlines, reaching a nadir on the heavy-handed, “I’m weird me” outcast anthem So Am I. Even at its most simple, nevertheless, the melodic infrastructure is impeccable, plus there’s one thing superb about its dogged aversion to something apart from 2D escapism.