In the world of Pop music, if you are hot you are on fire, and Bebe Rexha, she is one toasty commodity! Finally, her long-awaited debut album, Expectations, arrives Friday, June 22, 2018, thanks to Warner Bros. Records.
New York Singer, Songwriter, and Multi-Instrumentalist Bebe Rexha has built quite the name for herself over the past eight years. Her initial start in the business came in 2010 thanks to, of all people, Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz, who invited the young vocalist to collaborate on his side project, Black Cards. She would spend two years with the musical entity before moving on to other sonic exploits. It hs been a long and winding road but, ultimately, Rexha has gone on to collaborate with some of the biggest names on today’s charts, from Florida Georgia Line to Nicki Minaj, while authoring songs for the likes of Eminem, Rihanna, Selena Gomez, Iggy Azalea, Nick Jonas, and many more.
Three EPs – 2015’s I Don’t Wanna Grow Up and 2017’s All Your Fault: Parts 1 & 2 – have served to establish a wanton build-up to Rexha’s first full-length, as have stints sharing stages with the likes of Katy Perry, Bruno Mars, Nick Jonas, and Ellie Goulding. Somewhat surprisingly, Rexha is even an alumnus of the Vans Warped Tour. Now, fortunately, the long wait for a full-length offering from Miss Rexha has finally come to a close, and the 14-song Expectations is finally ready to drop.
Expectations begins with muddy guitars that drive into “Ferrari,” a ballad-esque tribute to the lonely life in the fast lane. It is a bizarre note to begin on, as it lacks the rallying cry of most punchy Pop openings, but a solid track, if a little simple. Next, despite her therapist promising her that everything’s going to be okay, Rexha admits “I’m A Mess” in a semi-anthemic confessional that shows bits of humor to lighten the mood. Then Rapper Quavo guests on the sultry duet “2 Souls,” which includes some delicate island notes.
A flip on the usual, “Shining Star” is the story of a bad girl who fell in love with a good boy set to atmospheric, meandering guitars and a steady beat. There is a Spanish feel embedded within the song’s varying layers, something that adds a soft touch of sensuality. Electronics and delicate guitar strumming anchor Rexha’s passionate vocals in the emotional plea of “Knees” (“I wish I could read your mind, instead I have to read your eyes”), perhaps the collection’s all-around best offering.
The electronic effects of “I Got You” pump up the beat to craft a dance-a-thon that is catchy if a little repetitive, lyrically speaking. On another of the collection’s stand-outs, admittedly, Rexha has no “Self-Control,” but it is a personal thing, a desperate need for one person’s kiss that requires a brassy, bopping, spicy little number that is deliciously infectious. Meanwhile, sitting in silence, lost inside your own head, you are feeling comfortable with being “Sad.” Here, Rexha’s punctuated vocals ring like bells alongside perfectly complementary electronics.
Sultry “Mine” waves a finger at a needy lover whose number one fetish is Miss Rexha. While it is a little lacking in shine and stumbles here and there, it allows the album to move fluidly into the chemically-induced ballad “Steady,” which tells the story of the highs of love and life and features guest Rapper Tory Lanez. Then, Rexha’s vocals are allowed to soar on “Don’t Get Any Closer,” a delicately punctuated, dream-adaisical search for hidden truths that feels somehow reminiscent of Mazzy Star.
Piano ballad “Grace” is a heartfelt tribute to a “damn good guy” who just was not right for Rexha, a track that gives a pretty voice to the old saying “It’s not you, it’s me.” Presenting the other side of the coin, “Pillow” sees a lonely Rexha grasping pillows and missing her beloved. This one starts as a piano ballad but grows into electronic beats, establishing it as a separate entity from its predecessor.
For the album’s grand finale, she brings in the dreadfully simple-minded Florida Georgia Line to weave the fairly brainless Pop Country power-ballad “Meant To Be” that speaks of the travails of love, and is, of course, already a hit. It is the perfect example of how mindless Pop music has become in 2018, and for whatever reason, the masses are eating it up. That said, Rexha is clearly attempting to eschew preconceived notions on Expectations, flagging toward left where most popstars go right. It is enviable that a debut album would not follow the formula, and for this, Rexha is establishing herself as different from the herd.
In fact, most albums these days lead with their best foot forward then seem to decline in staying power as they progress. With Expectations, Rexha has gone the opposite route, building and snowballing as the collection takes root and arrives at some of its best offerings (“Knees,” “Self-Control,” “Sad”) towards its hefty middle. In truth, very few tracks on Expectations seem to blatantly scream major Pop hit, and perhaps that is the intention of Rexha’s understated debut.
Instead of going for obvious summer anthems and massive party sounds, she authors a collection of personal and poignant tracks that weave the story of a young woman, making her gentle mark in Pop culture and hoping for longevity and not just a million streams that leave her forgotten within a week. There are hits and misses, but the collection is cohesive and offers up a new talent who is going for longevity over celebrity. For this, you cannot help but to respect a woman like Bebe Rexha, who has talent but simply needs a little more evolution and experience as a solo artist. For these reasons, CrypticRock give Bebe Rexha’s Expectations 3.5 of 5 stars.