Starting out rivetingly enough with "Idle Delilah," Azealia Banks re-introduces herself to the world with the intro track on Broke With Expensive Taste, an album she's been attempting to release since fall of 2012. After getting dropped by her label, Interscope, the opportunity to get the album out into the universe finally came on November 6, with the help of entertainment production company Prospect Park.
"Gimme A Chance," the second track already finds Banks veering toward the experimental side, with musical homages to a decidedly 80s style. Alternating between an 80s and bachata vibe, it is one of the most daring songs on the record.
"Desperado" slows down the tempo a bit, with sultry saxophones to match Banks' deep, rich vocals. Though not lyrically complex, the backbeat of "Desperado" sustains it enough to make it a worthwhile addition to the album. Following is "JFK," featuring an ambient opening that lures you in right away. Likening the assassination of JFK to the assassination of "the look/Murderin' the gown/Fashion killer, the body on the ground," Banks is given a hand on this song from Theophilus London.
"212," which has obviously been well played by now, serves as the fifth track on Broke With Expensive Taste, giving Banks something of a freebie in terms of additional content. "Wallace" is Banks at her most classicist in terms of delivering pure, straight up vocals. Showcasing her trademark brand of confidence, Banks sings, "I suppose I been hot in Europe, yep/Tel Aviv, Istanbul, Seoul, London, Tokyo/Dawn is dusk to me, yep."
Frantic and sweltering, "Heavy Metal and Reflective" is the type of fare you would expect to hear in some dark, seedy underground club in Berlin. As the second single from the album, Banks channels Nicki Minaj with lyrics like, "I'm in every city/They say hello to the head bitch." Next up is "BBD," not to be confused as the abbreviation for Bel Biv Devoe (rather, it stands for Bad Bitches Do-it), yet another song we've already heard before, circa early 2013--which is the major flaw with the entire album: we've heard it all before.
"Ice Princess" opens with a blustering wind sound effect and a sleigh bell-like musical intro, setting the tone for the dual meaning of the song, applying to Banks' icy demeanor and her icy jewelry collection--elucidated by the statement, "I'm so cold, I'm dripping icicles/I go and take your man, that nigga might miss you/Spent his whole commission on my neck and ear." "Yung Rapunxel" (another track we've heard already) offers frantic beats in the vein of Zebra Katz's "Ima Read" as Banks repeats "I wanna be free." It's easily one of the best songs on Broke With Expensive Taste, with its combination of witch hop and rock, at times sounding faintly like Lady Gaga if she wasn't so overly processed.
"Soda" features more controlled vocals from Banks, set against danceable music you would undoubtedly hear in any gay bar worth its liquor selection. Picking up where the single "1991" left off, "Chasing Time" is perhaps Banks at her most self-assured and courageous, as she makes overt reference to her former record label and the associated contention of their relationship. Keeping in stride with the theme of the record's title, "Luxury" is a lush offering that details the conflict of wanting all that's luxe and not quite being able to attain it.
"Nude Beach A Go-Go" starts to see Banks go off the rails a little bit as she attempts to sing in a genre that's out of her wheelhouse. Luckily, it's the shortest song on the album, so that you don't have to feel uncomfortable for an inordinate amount of time. The second to last track, "Miss Amor," finds Banks back in top form with a range of musical instruments that the likes of Crystal Waters would most definitely approve of. "Miss Camaraderie," the conclusion to the long-awaited debut from Banks, continues the auditory motif of "Miss Amor," though with Banks showcasing the deeper side of her voice as she paints the picture of "A night, a scene, a town, a ride with Miss Camaraderie." Does the culmination of this collection of songs prove Banks is rich in talent even if somewhat broke in bank account? Yes. But it does leave one to wonder if she can handle herself a bit more business savvily on her sophomore effort--which will hopefully contain nothing but new material instead of recycled songs from her various EPs.