2020 has been a rollercoaster for Megan Thee Stallion, who faced everything from the legal drama surrounding the release of her EP, “Suga,” being shot by Tory Lanez — and consequent victim-blaming and gaslighting from the general public — and receiving immense backlash and controversy for her sex-positive collaboration with Cardi B — “WAP.” After such a tumultuous year so early on in her career, Megan Pete — known professionally as Megan Thee Stallion — could have retreated from fame and the music industry. No one would have blamed her. Instead, she returned with her debut album, “Good News” — a rightfully boastful and triumphant celebration of her empowerment and resilience.
Right out the gate, “Good News” begins with guns blazing. Based on a sample of “Who Shot Ya?” by Biggie Smalls, the opening track — “Shots Fired” — is one of the only heavy moments on the album as it directly addresses the situation with Lanez. As a rapper, it is expected for Pete to respond to Lanez. However, as a Black woman who experienced vitriol, mockery and misogynoir from the American public following the shooting, saying anything at all is a risk that can expose her to more undue media hate.
And yet, Pete verbally annihilates Lanez. She raps, “You shot a 5'10" b—h with a .22 / Talkin' 'bout bones and tendons like them bullets wasn't pellets / A p—y n—a with a p—y gun in his feelings.” In the process of doing this, Pete still manages to go beyond her situation specifically and look to the larger picture — Black women are often victims of police violence, and yet constantly their voices and names go forgotten about or unheard in movements like Black Lives Matter. She raps, “Now here we are, 2020, eight months later / And we still ain't got no f—n' justice for Breonna Taylor.”
Outside of her injury, sex is another recurring theme on “Good News.” Sex has been a constant topic of discussion not only for Pete but for most female rappers today. However, following the criticism Pete and Cardi B received for the explicitness of “WAP,” the sex anthems on “Good News” feel bolder and raunchier — as if laughing in the face of “WAP’s” critiques.
Almost half the tracks on the album are primarily about or explicitly reference sexuality. Two standouts are “Cry Baby” and “Body.” “Cry Baby,” which includes an appearance by fellow rapper DaBaby, features what one can only assume to be the sound of cheeks clapping in the background of the instrumental, and it continues with Thee Stallion’s theme of sexual agency, telling her partner, “Uh-uh, don't f—k me like that, f—k me like this.” The backing vocals of “Body” consists purely of female moans, reminiscent of “Throb” by Janet Jackson or “Deepthroat” by Cupcakke. While the chorus of “body-ody-ody-ody…” verges on repetitive and redundant, it is nothing if not catchy.
While portions of “Good News,” could benefit from upgraded production as the songs sound a bit too similar to Pete’s previous releases from “Fever” and “Suga,” there is a clear effort in the album for the rapper to branch out. A hard-hitting trap beat might be her M.O., but the “Savage” songwriter refuses to be pigeonholed into what society deems a conventional sound for a female rapper. She tackles tropical music on “Intercourse” and electronic with “Don’t Stop.” But perhaps the most adventurous risk she takes is on “Don’t Rock Me to Sleep.” The melodic synth-pop song sees Pete sing rather than rap and calls to mind the sounds of Doja Cat and “Future Nostalgia” by Dua Lipa. The track sounds like something one might hear playing over the speakers of a Rainbow or H&M in a shopping mall and is ultimately the weakest track on “Good News.” Nevertheless, because this is Pete’s debut album and she has yet to find an established sound, it reveals her commitment to musical diversity.
“Good News” won’t be sweeping the Grammys and it is definitely not the strongest material Megan Thee Stallion has released. But for a debut studio album, the LP is solid. While the rapper could do with a much-needed change in producer and flow, no one can deny Pete’s strong pen game or rapping ability, and there are clear attempts on the album to vary her sound. But more importantly than that, despite its shortcomings, the album stands firm as a reflection of sexual agency, empowerment and resilience. Megan Thee Stallion was put through the wringer and, still, she continues to buck off the naysayers.