Tag Archive for 'music'

lessons from solange

just listened to a delectable remix of “Cranes in the Sky”, Solange’s song where she looks in everyone’s whole life and Ripertons thru all our coping mechanisms so pretty style.

the remix is from Kaytranada, via Taylor Renee Aldridge of arts.black and “my faves” fame. putting CITS on repeat (original or remix) while reading this review will make it more accurate for you.

i put CITS on after a long day of life work and i start dancing around, leaving the hard day in piles on the floor.

i think i should write a sci fi short/book about Solange, but not tonight. tonight i am just sitting with her wisdom:

when everyone else is being smooth, jut and jitter and be an angle that must be observed and accounted for.

make it all sacred.

it’s good to roll with the squad nearby, just being themselves.

when everyone is trying to be hard and cool, be soft, sharp and ethereal.

even when simple and forgettable are trending, be complex and irresistable.

when there is too much fear to breathe in, or even take it all seriously, be a balm. a tuning fork in the ground beneath us, making us praise dance. be a healing energy, nourishing not because you ignore our suffering, but because you make room for our wholeness.

be you, and make no concessions or apologies.

(this fractal extraneous review of life lessons applies specifically to “cranes in the sky”, inclusivally to the entire album, and generally to Solange Knowles)

lemonade. masterpiece.

‘beyoncé is fully in her power and is inviting you to be in yours.’ celeste faison, sitting on couch of the house im staying in in oakland where we are watching lemonade.

with love. this is not a review and this is not for folks who ain’t see it yet.

this is my third time watching and i am looking for a flaw but all i see is

warsan shire poetry
kahlil joseph’s eye
blackness behind and ahead

beyoncé’s heart and brilliance and collaborative spirit
lemonade

mervyn marcano said ‘lemonade on HBO was a visual masterpiece. beyonce’s curation is on another level. some of our best living artists collaborating to make magic. streaming the music now, but that visual piece stands on it’s own.’

y’all. y’all.
it’s black love
the next chapter of Her visual album, with direct responses
to partition and jealous and drunk in love and blue and to herself
just then
across both the visuals and the lyrics

‘grief sedated by orgasm
orgasm heightened by grief
god was in the room

sometimes when her nipple was in his mouth
she’d whisper oh my god
that too was a form of worship’

black womanhood and our pain and our irresistability and our grief
from serena’s perfection
to the mothers of the slain

the adoration of the natural world
water everywhere
moon to flood
reflection to truth

nina and malcolm
zora neal and toni

the journey all over black america
the love of black girls and griots
the use of witchcraft, magic, dreams and spells to heal the heartbreak

jay-z’s eyes

transformation, transformative justice
the power of love, vulnerability, walking away until you can be seen in your wholeness –
truth and reconciliation
‘there is a curse that will be broken’

daniel jose older said ‘beyoncé wrote the great american novel and made it into a music video.’

celeste said, ‘thank you Bey- from this black women. this is surely a part of our story. the relationship, the dad, the slain boys. this conjuring, setting prayer, this is the prose of a spell and the breaking of curses. yes. y’all – this is a prayer. a testimony and a fierce warrior call.’

to reiterate this is not a review, its a godbless and thank you after three days of tears, knowing how important it is to give artists the glory and gratitude they earn while they live.

idrissa louise said, ‘Prince had a premonition and said “they gone be alright”‘. she is not speaking in hyperbole.

i know beyoncé had to consider delaying this because we just lost Prince and to go thru with this she had to know she was offering something that would be good, now.

beyoncé took us inside. herself and ourselves and all the women before us. through love and politics and spells and fashion and mirrors. and babies, here and lost.

orgasm and grief.
miscarriage and release. resurrection and life.

‘so we’re gonna heal’

4 music reviews, divergent and brief

the life of pablo, kanye west

standout tracks: ultralight beam, low lights, waves, real friends

why i like it: kanye is perhaps my favorite producer. he drops a gospel wall of sound and then something profane but true, and then moves towards something soft, vulnerable, meandering, raw, full of bravado. this is all what he does in the tracks, before his voice enters. he says his normal offensive things, and under that he exposes his awareness of the spectacle of himself and his life. i don’t ask for much more than that from anyone, i particularly don’t demand that from someone whose gift requires the public eye in order to feel realized.

i will admit i feel protective of him, as i do of all artists and creators who dance with their sanity in front of us. we want ‘crazy people’ to stay this side of offending us, and when we get offended we say ‘fuck him he’s crazy’…i want to examine who is allowed to be ‘crazy’, or controversial..who is allowed to make mistakes, who we wish well and hope they get help, who we just try to erase or ignore. who we demonize while they live and glorify when they die. more on that in the future. but well, unwell, he made a piece of art here, much of it is ecstatic and iterative. i could do without ever hearing the words bleach and asshole near each other again, and i would love more andre 3000. but i can’t stop listening.

a thoughtiverse unmarred, georgia anne muldrow

standout track: great blacks

my friend rich/fflood put me on to this and i initially felt annoyed that no one told me about it earlier. if it was a wine i would say it has notes of lauryn hill, mf doom, erykah badu, malcolm x. it is rap, political – nuanced ‘i am in community with other humans and i read the news and i know what time it is’ political, pleasing to the ear, and bumps in the car. if you missed it, travel back in time and get it.

traveller, chris stapleton

standout tracks: tennessee whiskey, more of you, traveller, sometimes i cry

i have to admit i found this song by accidentally listening to a playlist k michelle had curated, but i am so glad i did. i heard ‘tennessee whiskey’, and i thrilled because it felt like an accurate articulation of the sensual world. this dude sings his ass off! ‘more of you’ is the love my parents have, they just celebrated their 39th anniversary. it’s specific and forever and focused and really lovely. ‘sometimes i cry’ made me feel like he had seen me on a certain day last year when i couldn’t remember my name for the pain. i believe he has earned the emotional depth that shows up in his voice here, like he could sit in a meaningful conversation with etta james and brittany howard about heartache and art. some of the songs are too much on the country end for me, but the good slow stuff is oof so good.

this is what the truth feels like, gwen stefani

stand out tracks: make me like you, truth, rare

i have gone in and out of love for gwen. she is a badass, but she has fallen down the cultural appropriation stairs a few times. and she often performs with a pouty infant face that offends me. but i watched her on the voice and felt her goodness, felt her learning. she has landed in a realm of style that feels all her own, diaphanous and structured and lovely. so when she popped up on snl the other night in an amazing (really wonderful great good) song and dance skit with peter dinklage, i was pleased. and then she performed a song off her new album which i keep putting on and dancing (yes i am slowly getting back to dancing!!) around the house to, ‘make me like you’. then i listened to the album, which is half awesome lover pop and half awesome accountability pop. it’s solid, she sounds strong, and i love how music can allow us to synchronize our healing with others sometimes. i want all my honeys to listen to ‘truth’ and reflect on how we heal our hearts, how we land in what is right for us.

what y’all listening to?

5 reasons sam smith is everything

this tender young brit is the only thing i want to hear right now, and here is why:

1. he doesn’t care about money and he says so on multiple songs. he doesn’t have money on his mind, and that leaves so much room for love songs. 1b. his romantic nature is so consistent! he has a love song to a soulmate he hasn’t met yet. i was his emotional twin at 21.

2. he also can’t be bothered with trifling people in general and just covers his ears and says, la la la la la. this reminds me of one of my favorite facilitation agreements: engage tension, don’t indulge drama.

3. the album is an emotional journey. it works song for song in order on repeat: leave your lover, stay with me, i know i’m not the only one, he’ll never love you like i can, i’ve told you now, make it to me.

i miss albums, i miss albums that are unapologetically meant to be consumed whole as a singular text and mood. when i get excited about an artist, i want them to do me the honor of consistently being at their most awesome. there is nothing so disappointing as two great songs on a subpar album. this album is an act of respect. i feel like i can trust him now.

4. i love how he looks. he doesn’t smile when he sings, because he is singing about a subtle pull that is wrought with tension. i love his soft chin, his narrow hair, his bright eyes, his black jacket.

5. he is not afraid of pulling in a big ass choir to emphasize the truth of what he is feeling, but he doesn’t overuse them, or any other production elements. fundamentally this is us with him, a few instruments, and that voice. and occasionally about thirty other people clapping hands and catching the early teen romance spirit.

its. so. good.

pop vent: on ‘me, i am mariah…the elusive chanteuse’

I normally pop vent in private. You know – if you can’t think of something nice to say, just spill it over a nice bourbon to your best friend. But me and Mariah go back like pop infantilization, and I need to process aloud my intimate disappointment with her most recent work.

I was gonna leave it at a Facebook post until I heard R Kelly on this album. His voice is a desperate canary in any pop singer’s coal mine. I generally don’t comment on famous people’s scandals, because who can really know? Except, you know, journalism.

When I was the age at which he would have been interested in me, I was hiding under covers with a Mariah tape in my walkman singing Always Be My Baby. I’m disappointed to hear his voice here, especially in what sounds like another gross narrative of his innocence. I removed the song from my playlist, but I’m not sure I can shake his verse from my view of this work.

And it kind of clicked something together in my mind about why Mariah has been coming up short for me since Glitter. She’s desperately clinging to the past.

She was ahead of her years in both vocals and content on her first album. But this most recent album, besides it’s unfortunate title, continues the trend of implying that Mariah never got past that moment. In fact I am beginning to wonder if the lyrics and presentation and vocal choices could actually indicate that she is unavailable for any emotions that might age her.

She adapts, which I am generally fan of. But not necessarily the good stuff. Mariah keeps learning the language and vocal styling of the lowest common denominator pop of the incoming generation, and adjusting. Her voice, within that hit-oriented container, is contorted. In the effort to quickly top charts, she loses her capacity to awe.

In a vacuum this might work, but I’ve listened to Little Dragon, Meshell, & Lykke Li’s new albums this month, each one amongst their best work, Lykke Li’s work an emotional revelation. And Beyonce is still right there. All maturing before our ears. So I am getting spoiled, I expect my artists to develop, grow, age elegantly.

In terms of the music, it’s certainly not a vision of love. It sounds like it was a first production effort by her church choir director, or by her teenage heartthrob husband Nick, or maybe herself with garage band (I speak from experience as a mixed girl with garage band – that’s private MC!).

Song after song, album after album, she surrenders her once glorious upper register to an oft giggly childish nasal tone that makes me think we wouldn’t get along anymore – keep in mind she was once my range ambition at five octaves! Now her runs are overwrought in a way that implies she couldn’t hold these notes and let the emotions run.

I accepted these floral concoctions as a teen. But now we can make other choices.

She brings Nas, Fabolous and other rappers in the studio with her, and it makes me miss Ol Dirty…even Puffy. But that might be nostalgic bitterness on my part, because somewhere in her effort to be a perpetual hip-hop princess, she’s sacrificed the grand potential of her octaves. It isn’t just hitting the notes, it’s filling them out with life.

To veer close to petty – I’m not convinced she understands the word elusive. But regardless, I don’t want her to tell me how to think of her. I want her to embody herself fully. That is what makes an artist irresistible to me, that is how she first appeared on the scene. Now she deploys multisyllabic vocabulary in her familiar oddly paced way, as if she perhaps longs to be a rapper at some tectonic level.

And yet…isn’t this my Mariah of unicorns, butterflies and rainbows, earnest romance, random visits to black church, abundant runs that indicate she lives an unedited life?

Yes, she is Mariah.

There are catchy tunes on this album that I could give in to. I feel some goodness in here. ‘Make It Look Good’ is the best song I’m hearing so far. Her babies are sampled in cute ways on ‘Supernatural’. If I forget we are grown women, there are moments that shine, that earn my shimmy and my nostalgia.

But even with the cute bits and occasionally lovely and innovative runs, I can’t green light this. Her look, her words, her sound all evoke a teenaged love affair, a girl afraid to be a woman, Romeo and Juliet forever sacrificing wisdom for romance, forever sixteen. I want to see a line on her face, hear her throaty experience show up in her songs, see a grown up sexual diva emerge – isn’t the butterfly a creature of spread wings?

Clinging is not healthy, clinging to one’s youth truncates the miracles that come as the gift after suffering. Clinging leads to bad choices. Mariah wants to look and sound like a sixteen year old. And R Kelly? He is the step too far in her role play.

random SPRING music round-up

today for the first time since december, beyonce’s ‘drunk in love’ came on a playlist and i skipped it.

to honor this completion of a small complicated era of obsessive listening, i thought it would be nice to share what else i have been tuning into. what you will see below is mostly pop, which is my favorite music for spring, and other seasons.

these are not critical reviews, it’s not even really a set of recommendations. it’s just what i like right now as i procrastinate on a piece of writing:

1. sam smith, nirvana – been listening to his EP and everything else i have been able to find on spotify and youtube. his voice is perfection, his live performances show it isn’t a fluke or a gimmick – it’s really that pretty. he reminds of my friend mike in the sense that they both evoke the cool of boy george with a bit more husk to their spirits. the songwriting is solid – just a pleasing experience. highlight: the dj premier remix of ‘latch’.

2. latasha lee & the black ties – found the lead singer a while back through an indie black women singers list posted on forharriet, but i’m really diving in now. she reminds me a lot of amy winehouse and a little bit of one of my favorite people, my friend janine. the group is giving us modern subject matter through a timeless sonic lens that both samples melodic lines from and gives funky reference to the temptations, the jets, mint condition, sam cooke – they’re just wonderful, her voice is time traveling. highlight: stuck in my mind.

3. feist, metals – somehow this album came out and i missed it, even though i wore “the reminder” out. but lynnee found it and it’s so magnificent. her songs are complex but sound simple and spare and emotive. so good. highlight: the circle married the line.

as a mood album, i’m enjoying beck, morning phase. this album picks up the journey he began with sea changes, which is just a soft transformative soundtrack.

i also want to mention these songs/folks who are good on a playlist, though not necessarily blowing me away: imagine dragon (though if you add kendrick lamar to ‘radioactive’, i’m blown away), lorde (excited to hear her when she’s 35), pharrell (the best song off g.i.r.l. imho is ‘brand new’ with justin timberlake), aloe blacc’s ‘the man’, jessie j’s ‘who you are’ (and nothing else so far except her cover of ‘we found love‘), mr v’s ‘go downtown’ when i need to blush, and the national’s ‘graceless’ when i need to feel human.

oh and guilty pleasure: shakirihanna’s ‘can’t remember to forget you’ (just ignore the silly video).

who y’all listening to and loving these days?

Beyonce: album review

it’s a straight up lie to call this a review when it’s a turned-out-last-night style love note. however, ‘i’m a grown woman’ and thus ‘can do whatever i want.’

i woke up this morning to the new self-titled Beyonce album because my beloved loves me right.

within a few hours i had bought it for her too.

i worked hard all day knowing that i was going to be with Her 17 new videos this evening.

now i just finished watching Beyonce’s visual album, which She released with no press, all at once, as if we could handle that. but i’m stepping up to the challenge, i am actually letting the love i feel for Her flow through my whole self.

highlights are too plentiful to be a useful frame here. this is about an explosion of love, of Bey loving us and letting us love Her, giving us both a futuristic form of musical release AND a throwback monocultural experience, at least much closer to one than any other artist has done recently in a positive way.

i tweeted that my love for Beyonce feels sacrilegious, miraculous, infinite, inappropriate and healing. and yes of course it’s been building for some time now, but with this album She makes me feel good about being myself in these specific ways:

being exactly my shape
being a feminist
being a futurist
being a fashionista
being a partner to a peer
being unapologetically a boss at the work i’m on earth to do
being a virgo
being sure And full of doubt
being a shape shifter
being sexually brilliant
being dramatic
being international
being vulnerable
being in a state of constant growth
being a cultural change agent
being a pleasure activist who knows how to get down properly…not just still, but more than ever
being a lady, a bitch, a freak, a lover, a gift
being alive right now

there are more things, but the point i want to make here is that She manages to both be changing the game constantly while also making that Bey feeling somehow universal. i saw Her in concert last summer and it blew me away to see the gorgeous self-expression of the audience, the way we moved in Her presence. we all elevated our own best efforts to come be in Her presence.

sigh. just reveling in that memory for a second.

with this album, also, the love in Her life is such a crucial part of Her narrative – She lets us feel how She is being changed, challenged, complicated, held and grown by the passion and partnership She practices.

i think the potential results of this album are myriad: better albums from Her would-be peers, better sex, better fashion, more complex ideas of what power looks like, and what mamas look like, and wives, and divas. also more babies, slower seductions, better dancing, less policing of how we are women, more excitement about art as controversial ground to grow society, less fear.

the album is worth this love without the videos. then the videos are fantastic. the throwback videos of baby Bey are tender. the inclusion of family, friends, Her Bey world, is so right and generous.

i gifted it today to women i love because it’s the right thing to do.

i am so grateful i am capable of loving this way. thank you so much Beyonce. thank you.

i woke up like this!
i woke up like this.
flawless.

short music recommendations

she, alice smith – because you like sangin’, and original songs, and songs about all the different aspects of love and heartbreak. because alice is on par with the best vocalists singing anywhere today. because her cover of cee-lo’s fool for you smashes.

jake bugg, (self-titled) – because you like bob dylan but always wondered how it would be if his voice was a bit more tender. because you really like simple lines well delivered – ‘broke my heart when i knew/that i could never be with you’.

reincarnated, snoop lion – because it will make you feel like your regular life is smoking weed in l.a. and you’re on vacation in jamaica discovering your greatest self. all summer.

nomad, bombino – because you need gorgeous expansive road music that can play on repeat, and this touches that sacred ali farke toure place.

haim – because sometimes you need dramatic music that harkens fleetwood mac and the 80s and you’ve played your florence & the machine albums too much.

blah, blah, blah, denitia and sene – because you are unafraid of pretty, blatantly cool and well-produced pairings.

overgrown, james blake – because his voice is unique and meta-gender and the album is calm and sexy and kind of feels like bubbling up from a deep place.

ghost on ghost, iron and wine – because you have guests over and you want something warm and cozy and mature and easy on in the background.

passalaqua – because you want some detroit hip-hop that makes you laugh and feel your nerdy swag.

james linck – because though he is harder to find (has some stuff on soundcloud) he’s into making magic electro-soul falsetto music.

indicud, kid cudi – because some songs (not the whole ambum) are magnificent. primarily unfuckwittable and afterwards with michael bolton.

the 20/20 experience, justin timberlake – because it’s smooth and funky and unashamed of being pop. this is going continue to be good all summer.

songs:

queen, janelle monae featuring erykah badu – because it’s actually too good to even talk about. song alone, or video.

#beautiful, mariah carey and miguel – because i am loyal.

what y’all listening to?