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Ava Max’s Heaven & Hell: Worth the Wait?

Ava Max’s debut album has been a long time coming. It came out on 18th September after its original release was delayed first by her changing some of the content in late 2019 and then by Covid in early 2020.

The album is called Heaven & Hell and brings together some of Ava Max’s best singles and new material. It’s a great dance album reminiscent in style and lyrics of Sia and Lady Gaga. There are fifteen tracks in total, with most of the seven previously released songs intermingled between them, apart from ‘So Am I’, ‘Salt’, and ‘Sweet but Psycho’ being back-to-back at the end. If you’ve been listening to those three songs since they all came out several months to two years ago, then it’s an underwhelming conclusion to an album that is actually very good. If you’re new to Ava Max’s music, then it’s a powerful end to a promising debut album.

The themes of heaven and hell are reflected clearly. The first half of the album has songs that are positively focused on nightlife and romance like ‘Naked’ and ‘Tattoo’, whereas the second half has songs that are ambiguous or defiant, particularly ‘Belladonna’ and ‘Who’s Laughing Now’. This juxtaposition makes the album poppy and energetic throughout, but with a switch between light and dark that perfectly justifies its title and brings together all of its songs.

Heaven & Hell is receiving positive ratings and reviews, so it looks like it was worth the wait. Ava Max’s singles before the album came out were all distinctive and had lively and unapologetic lyrics, and the songs exclusive to the album have kept this up beautifully. This is encouraging after the wait for the album and promises that Ava Max’s creativity will continue in her future work.

One thing that would have been nicer after the wait is more new material. Seven of the fifteen songs on the album were released before it came out, ranging from two years ago in the case of ‘Sweet but Psycho’ to very near to the album’s release like ‘Who’s Laughing Now’ and ‘OMG What’s Happening’. While the need to keep the public interested in a debut album is understandable, Ava Max had already released a particularly high number of singles and so already had a dedicated following. It would also be nice to have more material altogether, as while they’re punchy many of the songs are below three minutes long. However, they’re so good that that’s much less of an issue than the fact that only about half of the album is new material.

If you like the sound of Heaven & Hell (see what I did there?), then it’s available for £8.99 from Amazon, Apple Music, and Google Play, which is about £2 less than other recent releases, such as Lady Gaga’s Chromatica, Taylor Swift’s Folklore, and Katy Perry’s Smile. This might be because it’s a debut album, but given her well-established popularity it would have been understandable if the album cost £10.99. That being said, given the number of songs on the album that were already released before the full album was, the lower price seems fair.

Chloé Agar

Chloé (she/her) is an Egyptologist who, when not studying obscure ancient languages, writes fantasy and sci-fi fiction and non-fiction articles on education and the arts for The Oxford Blue, The Oxford Student, and Coronavirus Tutoring Initiative.