2020 has been a tumultuous year for almost everyone, however Megan Thee Stallion, the Texan rapper who became one of 2019’s biggest breakout artists, has had a particularly erratic twelve months. Since May this year, she was at the centre of the year’s biggest story within hip-hop after being allegedly shot by her ex-boyfriend, spoke out against political corruption in the police and judicial system and scored the biggest hits of her career via two number one hit singles.
The first of these singles is included here, a remix of her song “Savage” now featuring Beyoncé. The two have surprising chemistry and the song has been completely and superbly retooled to accommodate Beyoncé’s glamorous presence. The latter single was the infamous and hilarious “WAP”, an absurd piece of rap burlesque that the world took entirely too seriously, missing out on not only the joke, but a great song too.
It’s perhaps appropriate then that, making her ‘studio album debut’ (she already has a mixtape and three very generous EPs to her name) she should style her album around the many headlines she’s made in the recent past. It is odd though that there should be quite so much title overlap with Mac Miller’s devastating posthumous album Circles though, not only does it share a title with the album’s heart-breaking lead single “Good News” but the second track here is also called “Circles”. It’s a weird coincidence but I can’t find anything more to read into it.
Megan does indeed address the shooting at several points, principally on the opening track “Shots Fired” where she takes aim at her trigger-happy ex and his stans over a sample from Biggie’s song “Who Shot Ya?” a delicious move which puts ten points on her board before the song even starts. However, having cleared the air with the intro, her allusions to the incident thereafter are mostly restricted to targeting the fan armies wishing her ill. These moments themselves are structured as much as braggadocious power anthems for her and her clique as they are as diss tracks. The album is stacked with flexes, self-love and infectious confidence, as she brushes haters off one shoulder and unworthy prospective or past lovers off the other, replacing them both with jewels, designers and more virile suitors.
After a strong opening, the album does hit a bit of a rough patch though. “Cry Baby” sounds more like a DaBaby song featuring Megan than in does the other way round. The D.A Got That Dope beat is well within DaBaby’s typically boring and overplayed style with heavy distorted 808s and an insufferable vocal melody made to sound like a baby crying. DaBaby’s feature is nothing special and with such an awful beat it’s easily the most skippable moment on the album. Megan’s team up with City Girls is little less disappointing with a generic beat and distinct lack of quotable lyrics from all three rappers. “Sugar Baby” is a little better with a rising synth melody, but her fast flow makes the track sound cluttered, and perhaps that synth line would have been better reserved for the chorus only.
Sadly the underwhelming features continue onto “Movies” where Lil Durk continues to fail to impress with a verse and chorus that sound like he’s not quite committing to doing a full Lil Baby impression. SZA’s appearance on “Freaky Girls” is sadly a disappointment as well, with a poorly mixed chorus with a really ugly level of reverb on her vocals. It’s not the worst chorus on the album though, for that honour goes to Megan herself and her baffling “body-ody-ody-ody-ody-ody-ody-ody-ody-ody-ody-ody” hook on “Body”.
Both these tracks are otherwise enjoyable though and the album takes a considerable turn for the better at this point. By contrast, the Avedon-produced “What’s New” has a fantastic hook with a delectable wolf whistle playfully underlining the last line of each bar. “Work That” is a better version of “Body” with another really catchy chorus, Megan’s experimented with singing before on Suga with sadly poor results, but her voice has seemingly improved a lot since then and the chorus here is the first taste of that. The second comes in “Don’t Rock Me To Sleep”, a complete departure for Megan shifting into an R&B direction that she pulls off shockingly well. It’s the first instance of her breaking out of her comfort zone that has really paid off, barring her collaboration with Phony Ppl on “FKN Around”, a fantastic track which teased this poppier direction way back in January.
The features improve on the second half as well, with Big Sean continuing his redemption arc opposite 2 Chainz on “Go Crazy”, a solid Young Thug feature on the closer and the standout collaboration with Beyoncé. The only miss on the second half is “Intercourse”, a blatant attempt at courting a latin market with a chintzy and generic reggaeton beat by Mustard and Spanish language verse and chorus from Popcaan.
Megan brings the album home in style with a run of the phenomenal singles she’s dropped this year. There’s no “WAP” or “FKN Around” sadly, but alongside “Savage” and the sinister “Don’t Stop” with Young Thug, there’s also “Girls in the Hood”, the hardest track on the album, finding Megan in her element among Scott Storch’s grimy production. Despite the production on “Don’t Stop” sounding very similar to some of Pi’erre Bourne’s work on Thug’s last album So Much Fun, Megan actually sounds better on it than he does.
Though it stumbles on occasion, Good News is just about strong enough to consolidate Megan Thee Stallion’s place as an essential player in hip-hop, assuring her longevity and star power as well as a few moments of versatility. In its weaker moments, Megan is let down by her producers and her guests, but the best moments of Good News are all her own.