Album Review: Megan Thee Stallion, ‘MEGAN’

    A new Megan Thee Stallion album has to come with the promise of being at once her fiercest and most personal to date, and one called MEGAN is certainly no different. Even the stylization of the title sets a specific tone: like her second album, 2022’s Traumazine, it focuses on the Houston native’s own journey more than any of her alter egos, but listeners should expect less sadness and trauma, more straight-up fire. It’s supposed to be loud and exuberant, a reminder that though grief, betrayal, and public scrutiny may continue to weigh heavy on her, she won’t let them weigh down her music. At the same time, like every one of her previous LPs, the independently released record attempts to stand up to the pressure of constantly proving Megan’s skill and versatility, which prevents her – capabable as she may be – from using the space to take bigger risks and really dig into her story.

    The impulse to give listeners a little bit of everything is justifiable, especially for a female rapper at Megan’s level. After all, the meme that hurt her one-time collaborator is “Go girl give us nothing.” She has to reintroduce herself each release cycle, thus the serpentine imagery prevalent in MEGAN‘s early singles: album to album, even track to track, Megan has to shed her skin and continue her evolution. Two of them – titles all in caps, unlike the rest of the album – bookend the album, and the other, ‘BOA’, is placed in the middle. But rather than bookmarking a kind of narrative arc, they serve to signal the theme of rebirth that should tie the whole thing together, when really it feels tacky and forced. Megan is much better at getting her point across through her delivery, which is as biting and boisterous as ever – even if it’s not multifaceted enough to fill an 18-song tracklist without landing some misses.

    Megan knows what’ll turn up the heat, and she opens the album with a series of disses: ‘HISS’ stirred discourse early on and became her first solo No. 1, but its direct follow-up, ‘Rattle’, is even sharper as she sneers, “Ain’t got no tea on me, this ho’ think she TMZ.” (‘Figueroa’ is worth a mention for the line “I’m a motherfuckin’ brat, not a Barbie,” but not much else.) The icier and more insistent her attacks get, however, the more her sense of charisma and humour take the back seat, and the album’s momentum suffers as a result. By ‘BOA’, her bravado grows trite and uninventive. Thankfully, there are enough hits to keep things refreshing: the Jujutsu Kaisen-sampling ‘Otaku Hot Girl’ and Yuki Chiba-assisted ‘Mamushi’ feel like earnest displays of her appreciation of Japanese culture rather than sloppy crossover attempts, while ‘Where Them Girls At’ ticks all the boxes of a successful dance-rap anthem, even if she’s pulled it off before. The self-empowerment pop rap of ‘Worthy’, on the other hand, fares much worse.

    Rather than overstuffing her albums, Megan is more effective at showcasing her range when letting it shine through individual tracks, getting innovative with both production and lyricism. Candidly flipping a sample of Teena Marie’s ’80s hit ‘Out on a Limb’, ‘B.A.S’ matches the dynamics of a toxic relationship with a guest verse by Brooklyn drill crew 41 member Kyle Richh, and Megan makes sure we’re paying attention with a truly bonkers opener: “That ain’t my bae, he really more like my bidet/ He like to wake up with ass in his face.” She’s way funnier, and comes out on top, when she’s playful and irreverent rather than repeatedly asserting her dominance, addressing the haters, and casting the widest net, even if that’s exactly what the industry expects of her.

    “Only thing gettin’ this head tonight is my pillow,” Megan declares, hilariously, on the penultimate ‘Moody Girl’, and by this point, we’re pretty worn-out by all the beef, too. That she ends the album with some of her most vulnerable music to date isn’t exactly going against the grain; this well-roundedness is pretty much a requirement, yet every circle looks the same. Still, it’s hard to think of an artist, much less one this popular, whose presence could remain so commanding as they deliver the line “How can somebody so blessed wanna slit they wrist?” on the lead single and closing track of their new album. It might be a little all over the place, but there’s nothing out of character, or in the least bit disgraceful, about MEGAN.

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    A new Megan Thee Stallion album has to come with the promise of being at once her fiercest and most personal to date, and one called MEGAN is certainly no different. Even the stylization of the title sets a specific tone: like her second...Album Review: Megan Thee Stallion, 'MEGAN'