In a now altogether too common meeting of marketing prowess and the expectations of a society in the throes of progression, Australian-born emcee Iggy Azalea’s debut album The New Classic is just that; a modern twist on mainstream marketing’s ideal of beauty and expectations from popular music. Depending on perspective, Azalea unfortunately (or fortunately) follows in a long line of physically attractive blondes pushed to the stars by the music industry. In that being said instead of Azalea’s unique gifts as a lyricist being showcased, the album feels flat and uninspiring. This isn’t as much an enjoyable album as it is a brand marketing impact report highlighting percentages of target demographics reached.
From Marilyn Monroe salaciously wishing then-President of the United States John F. Kennedy a happy birthday in a provocative manner to Blondie’s Debbie Harry, country icon Dolly Parton and Rap divas Lil Kim and Nicki Minaj, bodacious blondes have always been music’s best friend. Next in line is 23-year-old Amethyst Amelia Kelly from Mullumbimby, New South Wales, Australia. For America in 2014, it apparently takes someone from 9,000 miles away to execute the perfect union of popular music and American culture as a whole.
In the ‘90s, “Hip-House” was at least still being done by the Native Tongues, and absolutely nobody is ever going to question the Rap credibility of Heavy D & the Boyz. Thus, while Iggy Azalea’s The New Classic isn’t the offensive dud to Rap as a genre that Vanilla Ice’s To The Extreme was in 1990, Azalea still feels like a pretty white girl interloper in the tough and/or cocksure male and sexy and self-assured black female club that mainstream Rap’s highest level has become.
However, if just wanting another hour-plus of inoffensive and turnt-up party jams to listen to after you finish your top 40 diet featuring Katy Perry and Juicy J, The New Classic has that in spades. Azalea’s most palatable tracks for both Pop and traditional Rap fans alike are T.I. feature “Change Your Life” and already-released single “Work.” Kicking things off with, “You’re used to dealing with basic bitches, basic shit, all the time,” “Change Your Life” is an Azalea showcase because she feels entirely comfortable here with her put upon Southern American accent, and the trite, yet contemporary material.
When listening to this album with a critical ear, one must understand that in Azalea being only 23 and an Australian female emcee who only has been in America for seven years, that her depth of field for developing intriguing material probably isn’t exactly going to yield anything as socio-politically profound or ridiculously vulgar as Queen Latifah or the Queen Bee, Lil Kim. Iggy rapping about being a great girlfriend? Well, again, depending on how you view it, it’s a great thing.
As close as we get to honest and intriguing greatness on the album is “Work.” If there were to be one sentence to take away from this album that accurately describes everything a potential new fan would want to know about Azalea, it’s, “No money, no family, 16 in the middle of Miami.” There’s an ocean of depth in that one statement that makes the rest of the album feel like swimming in a kiddie pool. Producers The Invisible Men shine here as Azalea’s vocals when cast against an 808-heavy trap-meets-EDM firework party of claps and plaintive melodies makes for an extraordinarily well-rounded listen.
It’s a true shame when one listens to an album and the level of production and collaborators far outshines the work of the lead emcee. “Fuck Love” is a dance-bass heater featuring tempo shifts that lend well to peak hours at bottle service clubs that believe in both “turnt” and “PLUR.” “Fancy” slides right onto that launchpad of a sound that sits on top of the Billboard charts, and “Lady Patra” approaches true irie vibes, but stops when the blonde girl has to go back to college with her Jamaican spring break braids. This album has tremendous potential in the Pop-commercial lane dominated by label-driven Rap, but for those wanting to hear Illmatic again, they should definitely go look up MC Lyte on Spotify because this just isn’t for you.
The New Classic is a musical throne upon which the new blonde princess of Pop can rest her ample posterior. As Rap and Pop synergize again—yet this time without significantly embarrassing results—it opens the gate for Iggy Azalea to have an opportunity to shine. Sometimes, when Pop marketing and urban music perfectly commingle, we get Michael Jackson’s Thriller. In other cases, Iggy Azalea’s The New Classic aims high, but ultimately falls flat.