Freetown Sound is one of the biggest surprises of 2016, and I’ve felt tongue-tied every time I listen. This album is a violent rush of pop mastery, the kind of cultural explosion that’s rarely matched with such slick and catchy production. It’s difficult to talk about.
What I do know is that Blood Orange has somehow conjured the urgency of Kendrick Lamar’s American dystopia and the defiant fantasia of Beyoncé’s Lemonade while sounding like no one but himself.
I only mention current events in these weekly posts to give context to the words I write and the music I share. The circumstances in which we listen are important. Music might help buffer the hardness of the world, but he world informs it all the same.
That being said, I don’t even know what to say about what’s happening in America lately. Everyone seems to have lost hope. I know it’s not true, but dark attitudes are in the wind. I’m doing my part to remind those around me that things can and do get better. The fact that there’s always beautiful new music is enough proof for me.
This week I’ve only got two things to talk about, but they’re really important to me: Sade and the new Miles Davis biopic, Miles Ahead.
Lately I’ve had to remind myself that, in the long run, art has always said more about humanity than the news ever has.
This is one idea that’s helping keep me sane and clearheaded as 2016 rolls on. It’s also something that motivates and inspires me. Let’s see what else helped this week.
I was never a Beyoncé fan. Not really. Sure, I enjoyed some of the big singles, recognized her A-level game, but never actually enjoyed a full album. I’d honestly tried with Sasha Fierce, but her energy always felt constrained and compromised across the length of an album, only fully erupting on a song or two. I was never completely blown away by her artistry and passion.
What happened this week? What didn’t happen?
No more rock gods died. We’ve got that going for us. Aside from continuing my Prince binge and getting cereal lessons from Kendrick Lamar, I replayed one of the greatest video games of all time. I luxuriated in some deep house tunes. Oh, and Beyoncé dropped one of the biggest surprises I’ve ever heard from a pop star.
Things are looking pretty good from here.
Here’s a slinky hit from my teenage years, with a video that felt uncomfortable, sexy, and powerful. I was 14 when it appeared on MTV, unable to appreciate what was happening. It was unshakable anyway.
Check out Toni Braxton’s 1996 single, You’re Makin’ Me High.
Here’s that moment, almost 5 years ago, when I realized The Weeknd was my jam.
While Abel Tesfaye is currently riding a wave of stardom with Can’t Feel My Face and spots on the Fifty Shades soundtrack, here’s the original slow jam that seduced the world. It’s called The Morning.
It’s great seeing more of my friends finally recognizing this dude, thanks to his latest single, but I’ve been proselytizing for years now. For all the fine work he’s done since, the original Trilogy of albums from 2011 stands as his obvious masterpiece. I’ve got fond memories of walking down the sidewalk with friends in San Francisco, belting out the verses to this tune. We were ecstatic and laughing at the seemingly sudden and magical way R&B had re-entered our lives as a vital force. It had returned older, wiser, and a lot more psychedelic than we remembered from the 90s.
I’ll just leave you with a link to those evocative lyrics. It’s just not the same to quote them in print; you’ve gotta sing ’em.