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Nadia Tehran - Dozakh: All Lovers Hell Music Album Reviews

The debut album from the Iranian-Swedish artist offers a fascinatingly dark take on romantic love, filled with images of violence and devastation.
Dozakh: All Lovers Hell, the debut album from Iranian-Swedish artist Nadia Tehran, begins with a recording of her immigrant father, Ali Kardar, saying that he’s not afraid of death. He’s in the middle of describing a near-fatal experience during his time as a soldier in the Iran-Iraq war. “I wake up with unbelievable pain that isn’t just pain from my legs, it’s pain through my whole soul,” he recounts in Swedish. “I didn’t even realize that my leg was gone.” And with that harrowing image, Tehran sets up Dozakh, an album examining emotional purgatory and devastation in all its forms.

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Ciara - Beauty Marks Music Album Reviews

The singer’s seventh album moves between frothy pop-R&B and stale empowerment anthems that leave her talents largely underused.

Over the past 15 years, Ciara’s career has become emblematic of a certain kind of pop star resilience: With six albums totaling over 23 million sales and a Grammy to her name, Ciara endures as a radio mainstay, but following the highs of her stellar 2013 self-titled fifth album, she reverted to momentum-killing, paint-by-number songwriting on follow-up Jackie. Beauty Marks is Ciara’s seventh album and first release since signing to Warner Bros. and forming her own company, Beauty Marks Entertainment, a creative departure that should have paved the way for the singer to create music more firmly in her own image. Yet despite a handful of highlights, Beauty Marks is marred by filler, moving between frothy pop-R&B and stale empowerment anthems that leave Ciara’s talents largely underused.


Beauty Marks prolongs the breakup and redemption narrative Ciara introduced on Jackie, focusing on a steadfast dedication to marriage, friendship, and emotional catharsis. But the message of persevering through struggle is kneecapped instantly by “I Love Myself,” a stiff ballad with a mystifying feature from Macklemore, here to complete his evolution into the John Mayer of rap: “Don’t want the ’Gram telling my daughters what beauty is, nah/I ain’t raising princesses/I’m raising warriors.” The song is negligible next to the frantic Jersey club beat of “Level Up,” a polyrhythmic romp and far better conduit for Ciara’s energetic self-encouragement. The DJ Telly Tellz–sampling song inspired a bonafide dance challenge last summer, evoking the vitalizing heyday of Ciara’s breakthrough single “Goodies” even despite its goofy lyrics (“Know you want this yummy, yummy all in your tummy”).

That divide, however, exemplifies Beauty Marks: Own your self-love with bouncy verve, but keep it all just beige enough for radio. She recruits a guest verse from Kelly Rowland over a flurry of sampled horns and trap beats on squad highlight “Girl Gang,” but it’s at odds with “Set,” a merely serviceable club song that sounds like a watered-down version of hard-hitting singles like “I’m Out” or “Gimmie Dat.” Still, Ciara is at her freest on Beauty Marks, both personally and professionally. On “Dose,” a Darkchild production with marching band horns and a stomping drumline, she quite literally cheerleads you on your journey to the same triumphant state of mind. Unfortunately, it sounds like a gimmick fit for an NFL commercial. The title track, a heartfelt ballad, is less overdone and better for it. The song paints her marriage to quarterback Russell Wilson in refreshingly earnest, real terms: “What did I do to deserve someone to hold me like you do?”

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Despite the unevenness, Ciara manages to add a few new wrinkles to her career with Beauty Marks. She relaxes into a featherlight flow alongside Nigerian pop star Tekno on the balmy “Freak Me,” and she shines on the bubbly single “Thinkin Bout You,” a full-on Whitney confection that’s her most capital-P pop moment in recent memory. “Thinkin Bout You” is a snug fit for her fluttering vocals, revealing a side of Ciara we haven’t heard before—breezy and lovestruck, with chintzy, ’80s production as a glittering backdrop. It just happens to be a brief bright spot on an otherwise minor entry in her catalog.


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