Massachusetts Daily Collegian

From comebacks to career revivals, the artists that defined music this summer

By Troy Kowalchuk

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Dr. Dre

(Matt Karp/Flickr)

From comebacks to come-ups, this summer brought a fresh new batch of artists to the spotlight, while reviving the careers of fading ones.

Former  Disney stars Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato both had their own summer hits. Gomez’s “Good For You” and Lovato’s “Cool for the Summer” were both bubbly and infectious tracks, rewarding fans who had been anxious for new material from the singers.

Gomez’s more sexualized tone on the track stands in stark contrast to the innocent, passive image she has cultivated in the past. Similarly, “Cool for the Summer” features Lovato discussing her fantasies with a newfound confidence. This rebirth in sound for these two artists was both a mark of newfound maturity, and a willingness to experiment.

After waiting over a decade and a half, Dr. Dre finally returned with his widely anticipated third studio album, “Compton”. The massively popular and critically acclaimed album was an unofficial soundtrack of sorts to “Straight Outta Compton,” the biopic based on the career of Dre’s former hip-hop group, N.W.A.

The soundtrack parallels the films’ discussions of race in the United States, while showing the importance of recognizing the history and struggles people of color have endured in America.

Andy Grammer and Walk the Moon returned with two of the summer’s most sunny hit tracks, “Honey I’m Good” and “Shut Up and Dance,” respectively. These two infectious tracks were everywhere this summer. Mirroring the style Grammer used on previous singles “Keep Your Head Up” and “Fine by Me,” “Honey I’m Good” was Grammer’s first top 10 hit.

Similarly, while American pop band Walk the Moon had established its fan base with up-tempo singles like “Anna Sun,” they had never  made it to Billboard’s Hot 100 until this summer, when their party-starting anthem, “Shut Up and Dance,” broke the top 5. These chart-breaking summer tracks are the sort that show two artists who are on the verge of becoming household names.

The Weeknd, the one-man R&B project of Canadian producer Abel Tesfaye,  became a permanent fixture on pop radio, after years as an underground fixture. “Earned It,” his contribution to the “50 Shades of Grey” soundtrack, had reached number 3 on the Hot 100, but this summer is where Tesfeye nearly took over R&B radio waves with “The Hills” and “Can’t Feel My Face.”

Both singles made the top five, with “Can’t Feel My Face” being his first number one single. With critically acclaimed mixtapes and a commercially successful studio album, Tesfeye had already established his fan base, but with the success of these singles and his second studio album, “Beauty Behind the Madness” Tesfeye has become one of the biggest names in R&B.

After the monster hit “Trap Queen,” Fetty Wap, whose real name is Willie Maxwell, followed up this summer with two of hip hop’s biggest summer tracks, “My Way” and “679.” With his peculiar yet addicting vocals, Maxwell has a sound like no other that the listeners  seem to have fallen in love with. Even without the release of a debut album, Maxwell has emerged as one of hip hop’s biggest voices of the year.

Having spent more than a decade in the music industry, Rachel Platten finally burst into the music world’s consciousness  with her breakout single, “Fight Song.”  The Massachusetts native instantly became a hit maker. Having covered the track live with Taylor Swift, and now touring with Colbie Caillat and Christina Perri, Platten finally seems ready for the success she has worked so hard for.

“The Voice” contestant Melanie Martinez released her debut album, “Cry Baby,’ on Aug. 14. With her twisted lullabies and dark, fantasy-styled tones, Martinez has crafted a sound  unlike that of any other artist which attracted the attention of many fans. With tracks like “Soap” and “Dollhouse,” Martinez makes statements on heavy topics like love, society, mental illness and alcoholism, while still maintaining her hushed voice.

While her vocals can be a bit dramatic at times, her literal writing style is deeply affecting. Without much radio play, Martinez remains an underground and understated artist, however, with the help of her constantly growing fanbase, Martinez could become one of the fall’s biggest hit makers.

Troy Kowalchuk can be reached at [email protected]

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