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Ava Max

Heaven & Hell

Heaven & Hell

UPC: 075678645921

Format: LP

Regular price $29.95
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Following years of buildup and a whopping eight singles, Ava Max finally delivered her first official studio full-length, Heaven & Hell. Well worth the extended promotion, the album is a masterful pop debut, one of those might-as-well-be-a greatest-hits collections like Lady Gaga's The Fame, Dua Lipa's self-titled LP, or Katy Perry's One of the Boys. Indeed, Max is a kindred spirit with those hitmakers, both in vocal delivery and her knack for picking out an effective earworm, of which there is an embarrassing abundance on Heaven & Hell. Thematically divided into those two titular sides, the album takes that well-worn dichotomy and splits the track list between energetic bops and moodier -- but no less catchy -- doses of dark pop, all bound together by primary producer Cirkut (Marina, Katy Perry, Kim Petras). Opening with the swirling electronic "H.E.A.V.E.N.," the first half features Max's high-energy empowerment anthem "Kings & Queens"; the sleek, bass-driven "Naked"; the bouncy disco-funk "OMG What's Happening"; and "Tattoo," which sounds like a 2010 time-warp collaboration between Perry and Carly Rae Jepsen. Although every song is a potential hit, "Born to the Night" is a standout, a blissful dose of shimmering synths and '80s-inspired groove that evokes similar moments on Gaga's Born This Way. On the shadowy side of things, Max sheds her wide-eyed and lovelorn optimism, erecting protective barriers and revealing a sharp set of claws. Demanding better treatment from a lackluster lover, she reminds, "I'm not a bite/I'm a five course meal" on the cautionary "Take You to Hell." Later, on the sly kiss-off "Who's Laughing Now," she rides a Clean Bandit/Ace of Base island groove into the sunset, laughing mischievously as the person who wronged her is left in the dust. Pulsing mainstream hits "So Am I," "Salt," and global smash "Sweet but Psycho" also occupy this side, but it's the slow-burning "Belladonna" that really digs in its teeth, a menacing synth-washed warning that equates Max with the deadly nightshade. There's not a moment wasted over the course of these 15 tracks, and she is clever enough to balance the immediate jams with satisfying deep cuts like "Born to the Night" and "Belladonna," providing a break from the action and intensity with earworms that are no less effective. Heaven & Hell is an expertly crafted gem, showcasing the young hitmaker's burgeoning star power, relatable personality, and sonic range. ~ Neil Z. Yeung


1 - H.E.A.V.E.N
2 - Kings & Queens
3 - Naked
4 - Tattoo
5 - OMG What's Happening
6 - Call Me Tonight
7 - Born to the Night
8 - Torn
9 - Take You to Hell
10 - Who's Laughing Now
11 - Belladonna
12 - Rumors
13 - So Am I
14 - Salt
15 - Sweet But Psycho