Have you ever seen an artist as an opener and thought they might be a one-hit wonder? Well, back in 2019, I saw Ava Max as the opening act at Wango Tango, when her only radio hit was “Sweet but Psycho.”
The song was everywhere, but she reminded me of Carly Rae Jepsen in the way she came to fame. I really wasn’t convinced she’d have another hit afterwards.
Despite my doubts, Max has built up a fanbase and officially released her first album, “Heaven & Hell,” on Friday, September 18th.
In honor of revisiting an artist I never thought I would, I decided to document my initial thoughts and interpretations of each track. Some songs included are previously released singles, but most of the album is new content.
This song is the shortest on the album, but it is a strong introduction. “H.E.A.V.E.N” is very techno-heavy with ethereal vibes. Max reminds me of Melanie Martinez here, with the song being very reliant on the music supporting the lyrics, rather than the meaning lying entirely within the lyrics themselves.
Where you’d hear this: the first song at a music festival
Genre: Pop, EDM
Kings & Queens
Max released “Kings & Queens” as a single in March of this year and to Spotify, it is currently her most popular song, despite having less streams than “Sweet But Psycho.” It is about female empowerment and not needing a king to help the queen rule.
I would definitely listen to this when my roommate and I have our hype-up dance parties in the apartment.
Where you’d hear this: a high school dance team’s halftime performance
My first thought while listening to this song is that I can see Ariana Grande writing it in 2018.
The song itself is about having a hard time opening up to people. Max states in the song that someone can take her clothes off, but they won’t see her naked. She is thus insinuating that she won’t show them every part of her. By the end of the song, however, she starts to say she wants to open up and show this person everything about her – the good and the bad.
This song is deeper than the previous two and got me thinking about how often I really let people in, which was a little more to delve into than I was expecting on this pop diva’s album.
Where you’d hear this: PINK as you’re shopping for perfume
This song is about having a permanent effect on someone once Max has loved them. She says her love is like a tattoo on their heart or under their skin — a “write my name in cursive” kind of love. The type of love where you can never forget her after you’ve had her.
Honestly, I strive to have this level of confidence. Can you imagine going into a relationship feeling secure that you’re the one they’ll miss if it ends?
Where you’d hear this: “Teen’s Night” at a trampoline park
OMG What’s Happening
This song is harder for me to discuss because it feels like surface-level pop. It reminds me of every other pop song that gives me a headache after hearing it two or three times. While very catchy and easy to get stuck in your head, the monotony is bothersome.
The song is meant to discuss how Max was fine alone until she met this person who made her realize she wasn’t. This is something most people have experienced whether it be meeting someone who treats you decently when others haven’t or meeting someone who treats you significantly better than those prior.
Where you’d hear this: an ice skating rink
Call Me Tonight
This song touches on what it’s like to feel lust for someone, however that’s as far as the attraction goes. She doesn’t care if she doesn’t know the name of who she hooks up with, because all she wants is to have a good time for the night.
Where you’d hear this: The Cheetah Girls if they weren’t Disney
Born to the Night
This song is one of my top picks of the album. I love how Max chose to open this song with tower bells chiming before transitioning it into an upbeat techno-like pop track. It gives me both Lady Gaga and 80’s vibes, which is really intriguing. That’s not a combo I was expecting.
The lyrics of the song portray Max as someone who has a hard time committing to relationships and would much rather do random hookups. She wants to have fun and keep it light.
Where you’d hear this: A Star Is Born themed Stranger Things episode.
Genre: Pop, Techno
This song was released in 2019 with a superhero comic style music video. In the video, Max is a superhero in a relationship where her identity is a secret, and she doesn’t know whether or not to let him know.
The song itself is about being in a position where she is torn between two decisions. We’ve all been there one way or another.
Where you’d hear this: the TV show Shake It Up
Take You To Hell
This song is my favorite off the album by far. It feels dark and mysterious, almost reminding me of “Castle” by Halsey.
In “Take You To Hell,” Max is explaining how she’ll be good to those who are good to her; but if you make one wrong move, she can and will switch up on you.
Where you’d hear this: Harley Quinn’s villain origin story
Who’s Laughing Now
“Who’s Laughing Now” quickly became a fan favorite as it hit over 30 million streams on its first day. This song is a revenge-driven pop anthem that is sure to make you want to get back at someone who wronged you.
For the music video, the chaotic energy is enhanced as Max is dressed in colorful costumes and several wigs. I couldn’t keep my eyes off the screen.
There’s a band called Against the Current that released a song titled “Forget Me Now” in 2016 that gives me very similar vibes to this song. I’d definitely add them both to a playlist to send to all my exes once I’m happy and successful.
Where you’d hear this: the last episode of Outer Banks on Netflix
This song makes me feel like a dramatic bad b*tch. It honestly makes me want to dress up like Ariana Grande in her “Dangerous Woman” era and do something I’m not supposed to.
Where you’d hear this: the soundtrack in your mind as you’re walking downtown dressed to the nines
Rumors is about knowing someone is spreading rumors about you, but going back to them anyway. This one is an oof.
I, regrettably, have personal experience being sucked in by someone I knew was bad news. I knew I was making a bad decision by continuing to be with them, but I couldn’t help it.
He used to talk about other girls in front of me, announce to random people that we weren’t dating when we went in public together, and he told my friends things about me that were blatantly untrue.
I knew all of this was bad, and many of my friends told me it was bad, yet I kept going back. Sometimes you just need to have that experience to learn to never do it again.
Where you’d hear this: an EDM set at a college event
So Am I
I love this one. I can imagine a solid Tik Tok dance being created to it.
“So Am I” is about knowing it’s okay to be different because you’re not the only one. So many people associate the word different with negative connotations, but if everyone were the same, do you know how boring this world would be?
Where you’d hear this: the alternative soundtrack for Suicide Squad
In “Salt,” Max perfectly portrays what it feels like to finally get over someone. She’s happy, confident, and out of tears. She’s done giving this person what they want and showing to them that they got to her.
I’ve experienced this form of empowerment a few times in my life. It makes you feel like you’re on top of the world. You want them to see you thrive and know they’re not relevant to you anymore.
Where you’d hear this: a heels class at a dance studio
Sweet But Psycho
“Sweet but Psycho” was a huge pop hit back in 2019 after its release a year prior. I remember having it stuck in my head for days at a time after I’d hear it play.
In case you haven’t heard this song before, it’s about being in a relationship with a girl that’s very attractive and seems chill at the start, but as you get in deeper you start to see who she really is – a “psycho”.
My freshman year of college, some of the boys in my dorm made a graph rating girls on a scale of hot and crazy. According to them, the hotter a girl is, the crazier they are. Of course this is demeaning to women everywhere, however this song always takes me back to those boys and how I can imagine them relating to this song.
Where you’d hear this: the radio in 2019