How much can one come-up story be milked on a single album? At least twelve times it seems on this, the long-delayed debut album from pop-rap starlet Iggy Azalea.
If its title wasn’t indication enough, let it be known that this Australian-born talent is obsessed with the past. Granted, hers is intriguing enough: after dropping out of high school at the age of 16, a brave Amethyst Kelly boards a one-way flight from her hometown of Mullumbimby to Miami to forge a rap career. However, instead of allowing it to inform her record, Azalea’s past consumes it.
A big part of the problem lies in The New Classic’s strongest offering, ‘Work’, a single that distils both her aspirations and inspirations so effectively that it voids at least two-thirds of the record’s lyrical content. That the slow-burn call to arms of ‘Impossible Is Nothing’ happens to follow directly after only emphasises this.
And on the rare occasion where Azalea isn’t concerned with her journey, she’s too busy emulating her peers. ‘Goddess’ is particularly unsuccessful, a recast of Kanye-esque braggadocio set to a sub-par Yeezus soundscape and one trite electric guitar solo. However, top 10 single ‘Fancy’ gets away with its Gwen Stefani homage on account of her vocal delivery, a deep South slur that’s been unfairly branded fake by critics (in which case, what are we to make of British artists who sing in American accents?).
A lacklustre assortment of guest contributions don’t help matters. The worst offenders are amongst the most popular: Rita Ora appears on the Katy Perry-penned ‘Black Widow’, but the track falls flat on account of her lifeless vocal. Meanwhile, an unexpected case of Azalea singing vox on ‘Change Your Life’ steals the limelight from long-term collaborator and mentor T.I.
Still, on an album bursting with old singles, The New Classic reassuringly hits the mark with an opening one-two punch of new, fresh material. ‘Walk the Line’ wastes no time in familliarising the listener with her aggressive double-time flow, while ‘Don’t Need Y’all’’s minimalist, Noah Shebib-inspired backdrop is an ideal foil for her after-dark reflections, offering a much-needed change of pace to proceedings.
Yet despite these momentary glimpses of star potential, we’re soon reminded that we’re dealing with someone whose latest video recreated the cult classic film Clueless (see above) with an uncanny level of precision – almost to a fault. Indeed, it’s an apt image for The New Classic, an album as frustratingly torn between pastiche and originality as it is between club rap and conscious rap, between Miami and Mullumbimby.