The collaboration of three of the biggest names in music right now makes for one of the most exciting releases of the year thus far – but does ‘Don’t Call Me Angel’ warrant the hype it has received?
With the release of the new Charlie’s Angels film approaching on November 15th, fans were treated to the soundtrack’s lead single on Friday 13th, which saw pop queens Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande, and Lana Del Rey team up to perform girl-power anthem ‘Don’t Call Me Angel’ with the accompanying music video depicting the trio as Charlie’s Angels. It was questioned how the three’s different styles would mesh on the track – Grande’s recent trend of hot-girl-summer songs such as ‘7 Rings’ tonally worlds away from Cyrus’s sexually explicit political pop ‘Mother’s Daughter’ and Del Rey’s slow sultry new album Norman Fucking Rockwell. Snippets that had been shoehorned into the trailer for the film seemed promising, placing Cyrus’s tough-girl verses and Grande’s cooler, more collected choruses at the forefront, with Del Rey’s feature reduced to a few breathy lines as the trailer reaches its conclusion.
Overall, the song feels like it belongs to Grande, and Del Rey and Cyrus should receive a featuring credit, not a lead- she sings the chorus almost entirely solo, with the other powerhouses reduced to backing vocals and harmonising with her soprano. There seems to be little attempt to meld the three voices- this was a great opportunity to show a softer side to Cyrus, and amp up Del Rey’s unique edge, while playing on Grande’s wide range, but this has been passed over in favour of highlighting the solo voices in the verses of the songs, and choosing Grande to shine in the chorus.
The video, shot in Malibu’s Villa de Leon, only serves to emphasise the differences between the three singers. Directed by Hannah Lux Davis, who also directed the videos for Grande’s ‘thank u, next’, ‘7 rings’, and ‘break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored’, it’s a cinematic pleasure, with tonal lighting and screenshot-worthy shots of Grande, Cyrus, and Del Rey looking mysterious and moody in various rooms around their mansion base. In relation to the Charlie’s Angels storyline, Cyrus puts on a show as a bad-cop interrogator, while Del Rey shines as the logistics and weapons expert brandishing a variety of tools while maintaining her effortless allure, stealing the solo scenes despite her toned-down personality. Grande’s role in the video is more of a miss – despite seeming like the star, she lacks a storyline unlike Del Rey and Cyrus, which unfortunately means she fades into the background. The mix of personalities is painfully evident in the group scenes- Grande is her usual charismatic, pop-princess self, smiling and posing dramatically, Del Rey is more mellow and out of focus, almost like the older sister struggling to keep up, and Cyrus is the polar opposite of the two, dancing off the staircase and licking Grande’s face in the provocative moves that we’ve come to expect from her.
Everyone’s performance averages out to good – while Grande’s performance in the video is lacklustre, you can’t deny that her vocals are as usual, perfect and seem as if they roll off her tongue, breathy and catchy as ever. Cyrus no doubt steals the group scenes with her vivacious personality, even if it is no surprise to us now, but brings herself down with her lack of vocals. It’s the same case for Del Rey – fans want to hear the three singing together, not just opposite each other on the same track. Her verse is stunning – seductive and perfectly fitting with the mysterious tone of her scenes in the video, which frankly I could watch as a feature length film (sans the over-dramatic knife throwing sounds- a rising trend in music videos that needs to be stopped), but as is the case with Grande and Cyrus too, Del Rey leaves us wanting more.
Header Image: twitter.com/LanaDelRey