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)

anohni’s ‘hopelessness’

i have noticed that a lot of people look for political perfection in pop music. mostly this idea amuses me, since pop like all art comes from humans, a species that does not generate perfection, though we do so many other things well.

art is in a dance with us, it is multitudes inside infinite echo chambers having individual and collective experiences and changing in real time. i get excited when i see something i believe echo into the pop realm, when something strikes a chord with my emotional truths.

i rarely feel a visceral political-emotional thrum inside of music, usually the quality suffers under the weight of the politic. but anohni’s album ‘hopelessness’ is everything. explicitly a political text, aesthetically flawless/classic. everything.

there are many many lines on this album that make me want to curl up in a ball with the large scale weight of american responsibility, of being inside the structure of america, trying to make good on my miraculous life to leverage us toward some direction other than total global devastation.

‘why did you separate me from the earth?’
‘if you showed up at my door: i don’t love you anymore. you left me in a cage, my only defense was rage’
‘drone bomb me…explode my crystal guts’

and the science fiction – ‘we will never again give birth to violent men’, and one where she commits to time travel such that she doesn’t cross paths with this time – ‘i don’t want your future’…

it is sometimes healing to just hear the truth told beautifully, with no compromises.

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?

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.