ALBUM REVIEW: ZZ Ward Showcases Tenacious Grit & Sultry Spirit On Versatile Record ‘Dirty Shine’

With blues in her veins and hip-hop in her soul, it’s no surprise that fierce singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist ZZ Ward continues her ascent in the music world.

Bringing a vibrant blend of contemporary blues, R&B, pop, and hip-hop, the artist says she can “fully be myself, and nothing can stop me.” And if you’ve been hunting for empowering anthems, look no further. 

Channeling her signature unapologetic and confident energy, Ward’s latest release via her own Dirty Shine Records, aptly titled Dirty Shine, is the ultimate ode to tenacious self-assurance. 

Putting her fiercest foot forward, each of the 14 tracks on Dirty Shine display an honest, powerful representation of her full self in every note. The artist delivered a darkly entertaining and satirical album trailer, offering a take on popular horror films. The trailer was directed by ZZ’s brother, Adam William Ward.

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Celebrating cinema and music, the trailer is only a taste of Ward’s creativity and vision, both of which are central to the album’s diverse tracklist. Full of fiery feminine power, pop hooks, and unique genre blends, the release is a timely entry into the next chapter of her career and life as a new mother. 

Dirty Shine Album Trailer

Setting the tone with “Welcome to Dirty Shine,” this Ennio Morricone Western-inspired instrumental track is a short and cinematic opener of what’s to come.

The edgy yet soulful May single, “Ride or Die,” offers a look at the artist being confidently herself, as this song is Ward in her element, offering her baddest self. Juxtaposed with rap accompaniment from VIC MENSA, the song radiates resilient energy. 

With an inventively ghoulish music video to accompany the track, “On One” is an inspiring, feel-good anthem featuring Jean Deaux. The song will get you fired up, making it a solid must-add to your morning routine playlist. 

Another notable and sultry track, “Forget About Us,” takes a slower pace than most of the other songs, but still hits like a cannonball. Reaching a climax at the chorus, the melody unravels like a thread through the verses, carrying its empowering message about standing strong in yourself and refusing to take back an unfaithful lover. Power anthems are something that Ward does best, and this track is a prime example. “Baby Don’t” is another sticky pop-rock anthem with hip hop flair in the verses, encouraging empowerment and knowing what you deserve from a romantic partner. 

“On One”

Garnering over 800,000 streams, “Tin Cups” is the most popular song off the album so far. A duet with acclaimed artist Aloe Blacc, this tune follows a different musical road than most of Ward’s other tracks – acoustic. Beginning with a gentle strumming melody and a haunting humming that repeats throughout, both artists’ compelling vocals take center stage. Blacc shines in the second verse, lending his honeyed voice to an evocative harmony during the repetition of the chorus.  

The ultimate ender, “Don’t Let Me Down,” is a fitting close for the cinematic and fierce album, reiterating Ward’s admirable strength as an artist and a woman. A role model in her own right, her music has made her into an example of confidence, courage, and an authentic approach to life. 

Since the release of her first album, “dirty shine” has been a sense of identity amongst Ward’s fans. The term refers to being your true self, flaws and all, and has since morphed into a shared mission statement. To Ward, it’s “about embracing who you are – we are all dirty, a little rough around the edges.” 

“Baby Don’t”

Moving into a new and exciting stage in her life, motherhood has been a time for Ward to truly embrace this idea of “dirty shine,” fueling her fire for music and giving it a whole new meaning.

Growing up in Eugene, Oregon, at the age of 16 Ward was performing at local venues, busking, booking her own tours, and selling demos in parking lots. After a time of unwavering dedication (and many nights spent on an air mattress at her brother’s place), Ward landed a recording contract with Hollywood Records, where her first release, Til the Casket Drops, debuted in 2012. Following this album’s quick success, Ward has been expanding her talents as video director, record label owner, and milliner, as she handcrafts her own signature fedoras. 

Soaring on the wings of this September 8th release, Ward is currently on tour across the United States, culminating this November with a series of shows in California.

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