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Anne-Marie doesn’t mind telling you that she’s ‘UNHEALTHY’ when it comes to love
The pop singer released her third album ‘UNHEALTHY’ yesterday and it follows her trend of brutal honesty over synthesized pop melodies.
First it was ‘Speak Your Mind’, then came ‘Therapy’ - Anne-Marie has always been a fan of talking. And this time she wants you to know that she’s a bit, just a little, crazy (when it comes to love).
The singer has always had a taste for this theme, a revengeful streak if you will. In one of her earliest hits, ‘Ciao Adios’, she powerfully ditches her partner, walking out on a relationship after they’d been unfaithful. Whether she’s telling you to get lost or love yourself, she has no regrets about saying how she feels. Her music is always unapologetic. The only wish with this third album is that she would dig a little deeper.
As many have noted, the songs are very short. Yes, the album has 16 songs, but at only 41 minutes run time most of these tracks are considerably less than 3 minutes long. Perhaps this is a conscious decision for them to be radio ready, however as most of the singles have explicit words, they’re not that radio friendly after all. Would it have been so bad to make some of these longer for more emotional and lyrical depth?
Nonetheless, she jumps right into the revengeful tracks with ‘SUCKS TO BE YOU’, (all caps being her style choice for the album, not ours). At only 43 seconds long it acts as the album’s intro, setting the overall tone with the lyrics ‘this could be us but you be playin’ and ‘I’ll go and find me somebody new, it sucks to be you’. She’s not wasting anytime here and expressing how she feels straight off the bat.
Prior to the album’s release, she released four singles from the track list with ‘UNHEALTHY’, featuring Shania Twain, being undoubtedly the strongest of those. The collaboration was unexpected, and it is often those unlikely pairs that make the best art. Of course, as it’s Twain, the song has a country influence whilst remaining pop enough for mainstream radio play. It’s definitely the most original track on the album. Aside from Morgan Wallen, there aren’t too many country songs in the charts right now. This one’s a refreshing change.
Aside from telling it straight, another thing Anne-Marie loves to do is sample and remake. It worked for her hit ‘2002’, taking lyrics from early 2000s hits and, to an extent, also works for ‘PSYCHO’, the third track on this album which remakes ‘Mambo No. 5’, switching out the female names. But on ‘OBSESSED’ the sample from the musical Oliver’s ‘Anything for You’, feels awkward. A futile attempt to perhaps remake the success of ‘2002’ or Ariana Grande’s Sound of Music influenced ‘7 Rings’. The album would’ve done fine without this clunky addition.
Further into the album, things start to slow down. Supposedly this second half begins to move the narrative of the album from a past relationship to a new, exciting one. The mellow, string-infused ‘IRISH GOODBYE’ marking the end of the first relationship. This tranquil sounding track is disjointed by ‘CUCKOO’, a song jam packed with instruments and noises that seem to be taken straight from the sound effect button on a keyboard. ‘YOU & I’, featuring Khalid is your typical pop collab, nothing to get too excited over and is followed up by ‘NEVER LOVED ANYONE BEFORE’, a sweet song about an all-encompassing romance that the singer has, thus far, not encountered. Finally, ‘BETTER OFF’ takes it back to the feeling of independence seen earlier in the album.
Excluding ’CUCKOO’, this run of tracks is smooth sailing, a welcome lull in the album. However, the transition to the next track should come with a helmet warning as it’s unexpectedness gives the listener whiplash. It opens with the lyrics, ‘why you gotta go give me the ick’. The ‘ick’, a term made trendy by Gen Z and - you guessed it - TikTok, feels misplaced here amongst the calmer tracks and more thoughtful lyrics.
It’s not that there’s no room for this sort of brutal honesty in the pop music scene right now. In fact, artists like Olivia Rodrigo have shown that you can do it well. But Rodrigo’s debut album sandwiched such songs between more reflective, and emotional ones. ‘UNHEALTHY’ seems to pack all its power songs into the first half, becoming repetitive. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to think listeners could get tired. A little bit of spacing out and more attention the track list order would have made a whole world of difference.