Release Date: April 15, 2014
Label: Island Def Jam
She’s a singer and a rapper, the first white woman to appear on the cover of XXL, and an uninformed expert on Aborigines. She has scored three U.K. Top 20 hits but endured the delayed release of her debut album, the optimistically titled The New Classic. Iggy Azalea, in short, understands the vagaries of third tier stardom in the 21st century. “Have you ever wished your life could change?” she asks on “Change Your Life,” a collaboration with former label mate T.I. Eleven tracks later the question lingers. Zippy, squeaky, and context-free, The New Classic establishes the Australian artist as a competent rapper with a decent ear for hooks, but that’s about it.
The fustiest part of the album is helmed by Norway’s The Messengers, the duo responsible for the stuttering, whirring, processed beats and manipulated multi-track harmonies for the likes of Justin Bieber, Chris Brown, and Pitbull. What that leaves Iggy with is a state of the art 2011 album, designed to compete with the 2014 versions of Nicki Minaj and Rihanna: good luck. Draping her declarations of independence around those beats creates a comic and, if you think about it, depressing poignancy. “The mention of my name cause a media frenzy,” she spits on the Stargate-produced “Goddess” to no one in the room over a faint steel drum sample. “Black Widow” even boasts a hook sung by Rita Ora (“I’m gonna love ya until you hate me”) that the Norwegian duo might have lifted from their own “Hate That I Love You,” with the synth arpeggios nicked straight from the pneumatic EDM they wrote for Ne-Yo’s 2010 Libra Scale.
Azalea’s gum-chewing vowel elasticity evokes Ke$ha after she reconfigured herself in 2014 as Kesha—a post-peak performer whose hit-chasing smothers her charisma. Call it Clark Kent pretending to be Superman. Charli XCX shows her up something awful on “Fancy,” on which Charli’s starchy timbre suggests a cheerleader who’s won a few fist fights. Watch The Duck’s acoustics and beatbox turn “100” into a tepid K’Naan track. Festooned with sirens and sparkles, “Impossible Is Nothing” lays out every admonitory cliché from the Barnes & Noble self-help shelf: she’s blazing a path, she won’t stop breathing, they’ll never see her sleep, although “haters hang from your neck like ascots” is pretty good if you forget that ascots are tied and tucked rather than hung as if they were, I dunno, rosaries or something.
It’s conceivable that Azalea needed to release this damn thing before moving on to projects she doesn’t turn into dunking booths for the obliging guest MCs. But I hear few indications in The New Classic of ambition existing apart from the itch for celebrity.