We lived through Hot Girl Summer with thighs and minds intact, and now Megan Pete delivers her retail debut album Good News, reporting live from a global time that’ll surely go down as Hot Girl Hell for all who make it out alive. It’s so damn unfair: a Megan Thee Stallion album with nowhere to throw ass or barbecue or ride out safely, save for sneaky links to satisfy ourselves and nightclubs in every state where governors don’t care about our lives? Paired with Megan’s year of publicly morphing her personal and professional turmoil, as facilitated by a deeply anti-Black, patriarchal world demanding her ceaseless negotiation for space and authenticity in the hip-hop music that’s molded her? Damn that: a man shot her. A man shot her, dropped a top-10 album about it—while daring to utter about her late mother, who recently passed on!—and baited her out of silence that graced his every second after that moment.

But one thing about Megan? She controls the spectacle, for she remains the spectacle. She is the boat, and the driver of the boat. She is the Hottie and Tina and Suga and all that. Within the first two songs of Good News, she gets her getback; the rest is dedicated to what we came here for. It’s another decisive example of narrative control, and a quick reminder that she knows why we’re here, but refuses to cave into our demands for access to every facet of her trauma. She will respond, but the mourning is boldly tucked between the creases of music designed to dance to. Once she’s through with it, we are, too.

The rest of Good News finds Megan reveling in her starpower, with the subplot of making her male counterparts either look silly alongside her or serve as foils for her power. Gender aside, every collaborator knows to act accordingly in this moment, as they should. Megan’s a formidable spitter, and deeply entertaining as well; for reasons why this remains in question for some, see above. The Houston cuts through every verse, a deeply-embedded ruggedness that brings sauce to the gloss and makes Megan engaging without having to overdo it. She’s also deeply concerned with legacy, as we’re deeply in a remake moment in the mainstream. Some choices work far better than others, but nothing sounds like a cheap cash grab; the sample-heavy approach borrows across regions and decades to recontextualize the familiar (and unlikely) into her intentions.

For all the good on Good News, there’s a prevailing sense of serviceability when the album pushes 49 minutes with three pre-singles tacked on the back end. Megan constantly clears the bar, but moments of technical awkwardness feel a bit more glaring when it comes to hooks and song structure in particular. Her writing’s littered with potential quotables around gender dynamics, sex talk, and empowerment, but there are minimal earworms ringing off in the hook department. She scored a feature on the year’s biggest record—“WAP,” an instant earworm complete with visuals primed for virality—but Good News doesn’t have a runaway record of that caliber present. It’s not required, but it’s noticeable when some records feel like lukewarm attempts at Megan going pop, or bops treading the familiar for a chance to strike again. This attribute begs the bigger question: where will Megan go once the party’s over?

Good News has flashes of an answer, but not sustained enough to elevate this work to another caliber so clearly within her reach. While long proven as a hitmaker, the album’s most impressive when she balances her competitive nature with a lowering of the guard. It’s what places her power in a light we’ve been waiting for Megan to shine, before any of the controversy reared its ugly around her. For now, Good News lives as a reaffirming celebration of Megan Thee Stallion as rapper, as party-starter, and as certified survivor of anything thrown her way thus far: label woes, sexist criticisms, violence. She rides the waves, never sputtering out or surrendering control. It’s also another chapter in a superstar finding herself in public, soon claiming the consistency she seeks. She’s already unstoppable; when she acquires that balance, she’ll reign supreme in and outside of the function.

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