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Ava Max’s Diamonds & Dancefloors is pure pop escapism

"Diamonds & Dancefloors"

Release date: 27 January 2023
Ava max diamonds dance art
23 January 2023, 09:00 Written by Sam Franzini

Something strange is happening within the Ava Max Cinematic Universe.

The Albanian pop star, known for her somewhat silly escapades – an album party hosted on ROBLOX; an ill-fated promise her signature hairstyle would last three albums (it lasted one); general clunky lyricism – has steadily been releasing could-be solid pop hits since late 2020. With playful, energetic hits like “My Head & My Heart” and “Million Dollar Baby”, it seemed her status as a ‘Main Pop Girl’ has never been closer.

Her resulting sophomore album, Diamonds & Dancefloors, is a solid enough collection of songs, each with a tight synthpop beat and strong vocal performance, but it isn’t necessarily a career-maker. We don’t learn much about Max on these songs; most revolve around lyrical themes of dancing; it being nighttime; love. When she does veer slightly, like on “Hold Up, Wait A Minute”, she describes catching a partner cheating with the same amount of grace as a sitcom: “Who is that girl? Oh, she ain’t me / Say she’s a friend, no more than me.” The well-intentioned but clumsy anti-bullying anthem “Weapons” sounds as if commissioned by a middle school (“Stop! Using your words as weapons”). And on “In The Dark,” she laments about a partner who is only caring at night, only to demand on the very next song to “turn off the lights”, which makes no narrative sense. Perhaps the quick burst of intimacy is enough to get her through the night, but no narrative threat connects the two – each song is in its own world.

But a smorgasbord of pop hooks isn’t necessarily a bad move to make – it’s clear there’s more good tracks than bad here. While there’s little variability, each song absolutely belongs in this collection, shimmering and twinkling with production that is consistently sharp. She presents some of the best songs in her career, here: “Million Dollar Baby”, for instance, pairs a confidence boost with a killer bassline: “She broke out of her chains, turned the fire into rain,” she sings of a separate persona of hers. “Maybe You’re The Problem” is a playful jab at a breakup song, with the deliriously catchy run-on “You should take your little finger and just point it in the mirror, baby, maybe you’re the problem,” forming the best part of its chorus. The beat on “Last Night On Earth” could’ve belonged to The Weeknd, with his recent '80s obsession, and Max wears an ice-cool demeanor well. The closer “Dancing’s Done” has traces of the intensity of darkness and intensity of ABBA’s “Lay All Your Love On Me”; she also seems to offer a different take on their song “One of Us” on hers of the same name.

Diamonds & Dancefloors is a party album, one you put on that’s bouncy enough to get by without really having to listen to the lyrics. Interestingly, she seemed to experiment more on her debut; Dancefloors feels too honed-in within its lyrical scope. But, hell, if she keeps on crafting these pop gems, there’s little to complain about.

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