Showing posts with label 2017. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2017. Show all posts

Thursday, January 25, 2018

video review: 'poet|artist' by JONGHYUN

So this is one of those reviews where I literally have no idea how it's going to be received. I'd like to think well, but really with fandoms these days, who the hell knows...

Anyway, with schedule voting still running I have no idea what I'll be covering next, so I'm just going to work on Resonators instead - stay tuned!

album review: 'poet|artist' by JONGHYUN

So I knew that as soon as I even referenced k-pop as a possibility in my Resonators series, it would be only a matter of time before a k-pop album showed up on my schedule - frankly, I'm surprised it hasn't been sooner, given the genre's devout fanbase. And yet there's a part of me that wishes it wasn't this record to start things off.

Some context, for those who don't know: JONGHYUN, the stage name of Kim Jong-Hyun, was formerly a member of the massive k-pop boy band SHINee, who blew up in the late 2000s blending in elements of contemporary R&B into the traditional boy band stock type. But it didn't surprise me when JONGHYUN started releasing solo projects - he was considered the lead of SHINee and having revisited those solo compilations and debut album, I can see why he had potential. As much as SHINee has embraced elements of more reserved j-pop to flesh out their sound, JONGHYUN was just as reserved and tasteful, pivoting into the sort of mid-2000s R&B that you'd hear from a guy like Ne-Yo or maybe Usher, albeit preferring more grooves driven off of warmer acoustic instrumentation or touches of lush 90s R&B or even g-funk. Even if the writing that I could translate didn't really wow me, I thought this guy had talent, he could have certainly been a solo success story in k-pop...

And I say 'could have' because in December of 2017, JONGHYUN died of toxic smoke inhalation in a death that's widely been considered a suicide, something that deeply shook idol culture in South Korea and provided another serious note in the conversation about the hyper-competitive nature of the k-pop industry. And thus covering this record, which was to be released in January 2018 with writing, production, and promotion nearly done before JONGHYUN's death... well, it's awkward. Hell, all posthumous records are, and I wouldn't cover this as a matter of principle if I felt that the money from it was going to anyone beyond JONGHYUN's family to create a foundation, which it is. So, was this a proper send-off?

Saturday, January 6, 2018

trailing edge - episode 001 - 2017 (VIDEO)

Well, this was a TON of work... and overall, pretty damn fun to assemble too, generally happy with how it turned out. Enjoy!

the top 25 best albums of 2017 (VIDEO)

Well, nearly forgot about this one... but not to worry, it's still here. Enjoy!

Next up, the debut of The Trailing Edge - stay tuned!

the top 25 best albums of 2017

Of all the years I've put together year-end lists for albums, this might be the hardest it's been - and believe it or not, it's for the best possible reason: I covered an abundance of incredible music in 2017, arguably more than I ever have before! Even though I didn't give out any perfect scores, this year showed multiple genres giving us the goods, from a revitalized rock scene to several country gems to underground hip-hop making a major resurgence to pop putting forward its best showing in years - and that's not even getting to the genre-defying oddities that utterly blew my mind!

But what this also meant were cuts... in a year where I could put together a top 50 and still feel like I'm leaving stuff off, this was particularly brutal. Once again, I was very tempted to expand this list, but again, I'm highlighting the best of the best, and that means while these could have made it in a weaker year, for 2017 they didn't cut it. I won't deny that hip-hop got hit hard in this, as I really wanted to include records from Quelle Chris, Jay-Z, milo, Armand Hammer, Tyler the Creator, Rapsody, Yelawolf, and yes, Kendrick Lamar on this list and I can't. And queue the outrage by everyone that DAMN. is not making this list, but considering there are  five hip-hop records that beat him out to get here, there isn't room for complaining. And I don't want to hear anything from the indie set either than Father John Misty, Kirin J. Callinan, Spoon, The xx, St. Vincent, and Alvvays missed the cut too - all great records, to be sure, but not quite good or consistent enough. Honestly, the most painful cuts for me came in rock - where Creeper, Chelsea Wolfe, and Ayreon all missed it - and especially country, where Natalie Hemby, Angaleena Presley, Dori Freeman and Chris Stapleton all didn't make it - again, great albums, but limited slots. Finally, we have three records that would have sparked controversy had they landed on the list so there is a part of me they just missed the cut: Jhene Aiko, Brand New, and Niall Horan - although there is another part of me that would love to see everyone's expression if Niall made my year end list and Kendrick didn't.

But again, those are my Honourable Mentions... and now onto the list proper.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

the top 50 songs of 2017 (VIDEO)

And there we go. Massive videos, really proud with how they turned out - enjoy!

the top 50 best songs of 2017

I said on Twitter a few months ago that of all of my year-end lists, this one is always the most complicated - because it's by far the most personal. With the constraint of a list of hits or talking about records in aggregate, you've manufactured some distance - but if you're just going through the list of the songs that spoke the most to you regardless of whether they were a single or not, there's no separation or barrier.

And when you add to the fact that 2017 was a tumultuous year - not just for me but for most of the world, although I did have my own share of trying times - it's a little unnerving to go through the cutting process and realize how dark it truly got. There isn't much escapism in this top 50, and what escapism does show up is very much colored by consequences waiting in the wings. I'm not saying it's downbeat - in comparison to the melancholy that colored a lot of last year, there are more pronounced moments of joy and triumph - but it is by far the most unsettled, pulling the least punches and ultimately producing a psychological profile of my year in 2017 I'm still not quite sure what to do with. But hey, all of these came from albums I covered this year, and I wouldn't have spent a month pruning this list to its form now if I didn't have faith in it - even though I can guarantee there'll be a fair few conspicuous entries that aren't here if you're comparing to other critical lists. So let's get this started...

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - january 3, 2018 (VIDEO)

I am disturbingly behind in updating things here, but yeah, this was an episode. Enjoy?

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - january 3, 2018

I think I was expecting a lot more to actually happen this week than actually did. Sure, it's the holiday season and that usually meant things were slower - with the exception of The Voice, but we'll get to that - but we had big releases from Eminem and G-Eazy that had hype, and also from N*E*R*D, which with the continued single success could have streaming crossover... and yet that didn't happen. Sure, Eminem got a few songs, but people must have been satisfied by what they got otherwise because this was a slow week on the Hot 100. Not complaining, mind you - sorting out year-end lists is pretty difficult as it is - but still, I was expecting more.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

the top ten best hit songs of 2017 (VIDEO)

Always the one that's the most entertaining to put together, a real treat here. Enjoy!

the top ten best hit songs of 2017

So as I said in my last list, I haven't considered 2017 nearly as bad of a year as some critics have, especially when it comes to the hits. Yeah, there was a lot of stupid, misinformed, or just outright offensive garbage that clogged up the charts, and I can see if you weren't willing to dig beyond the top ten you might dispirited in the dreary trap slog, but the truth is that the songs that did break away from that sound or mold - or hell, even a few of the tracks within it - were true gems across multiple genres. Yeah, country struggled in the mainstream this year, but there was real greatness in pop, hip-hop, EDM, R&B, and even some rock-leaning tunes. I wouldn't quite say the overall quality or sheer number of hits is comparable to 2015 or 2012, but it is up there. 

And what surprised me in a great way was the truly amazing hits of this year were strong enough to maybe even reach my year-end list of my favourite songs of 2017, not just the hits! And you know, for as many obscure or weird albums as I cover and then love, this is still a great feeling, that sometimes quality does win out and rise to mainstream prominence for everyone to share, and that's good for culture everywhere! Yeah, I know some of these picks might be controversial - especially in my Honourable Mentions - but as always they debuted on the year-end Hot 100 for 2017, and I did manage to find some quality here. So let's start with the Honourable Mentions, particularly one that if you saw my worst hits last year might shock you a bit...

Monday, December 25, 2017

the top ten worst hit songs of 2017 (VIDEO)

It's here, it's already controversial, and apparently the damn video malfunctioned because after rendering the damn thing three times I can't catch a break. Ah well, best hits of 2017 is coming in a day or two, stay tuned!

the top ten worst hit songs of 2017

There have been years where writing this list is easy. Sometimes it's like 2015 or 2012, where the bad songs can't diminish otherwise diminish a strong or interesting year - or on the flip side we get years like 2016, where the avalanche of awful is so pronounced I almost have too much material, and while that list might be painful to revisit, sheer rage makes it all surge out.

2017 has not been that year, and it's a little tough to explain why. You could make a comparison to 2014 in how so much of this year defaulted towards average instead of a more pronounced brand of awful - I'm certainly not as angry towards this list as I've been in previous years - but the truly excellent hits were much stronger in 2017. What I think has befuddled some critics is how pop was effectively overtaken by the hip-hop and R&B aesthetic on the Hot 100 - it might have become more pronounced in 2013 but in 2017 the takeover was complete, and if you weren't paying more attention to streaming instead of radio, you were going to be left behind. And thus in 2017 the truly bad songs are a bit of a mix of the pop songs tumbling towards the monogenre and the lazy, bargain-barrel dumpster fire that is the dregs of trap. And again, to establish the rules the songs had to debut on the year-end Hot 100 list for 2017, and purely boring doesn't just cut it for me. Given how much of this I've covered on Billboard BREAKDOWN, I've long been numbed to the endless swirl of interchangeable trap bangers and their brand of disposable mediocrity. If you want to land on this list, you need to really irritate me or piss me off, so let's get going with some Dishonourable Mentions!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

video review: 'saturation iii' by BROCKHAMPTON

You know, this might have taken a bit to grow on me, but I'm really genuinely happy that it did. Fun stuff.

Anyway, probably one last album review proper before I duck into lists and one big catch-up video... stay tuned!

album review: 'saturation iii' by BROCKHAMPTON

Not going to lie, I had mixed feelings about this the second I heard about it. Hell, they're the same mixed feelings I have whenever a band or act decides to drop multiple projects in a year when they could combine them into one uniquely strong record...

Actually, I'm not sure I stand by that in the same way anymore. The fact remains that I've covered a fair few artists over the course of this show who have dropped more than one project in the course of a year, sometimes with a radically different focus and style where the quality remains consistent - look at billy woods or Eric Taxxon. I think my bigger issue with BROCKHAMPTON is that while both Saturation I and II are good albums, they're a shade away from greatness, and it's hard not to feel like the thematic arc is retreading familiar territory without really evolving on it. And then there's the other big concern: burnout - quite simply, churning out multiple records in a year with a distinct promotion and marketing arc, especially when you're an independent collective, while it might be easier in the internet age it's also the sort of work that can push working relationships to their limit. And thus when Kevin Abstract made his fakeout post that Saturation III was their last hip-hop record, I believed it - artistic collectives have broken up over far less.

Now of course that's not quite the case, and we'll probably have more BROCKHAMPTON coming up, along with solo projects, but in the mean time, the critical buzz behind Saturation III was promising, so what did we get with this?

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - december 30, 2017 (VIDEO)

And this week was pretty damn rough too... goddamn it, 2018 is not looking good going forward...

But okay, we've got some better hip-hop coming, so stay tuned!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - december 30, 2017

So as I've been predicting, the charts are heading into the lull around the holiday season - and I mean that more than most, because I don't think I've seen the Hot 100 this static in months, with only a pretty sparse crop of new arrivals to bring any real disruption. Hopefully that means I can keep this episode short and get to work on my last few reviews before year-end lists, but hey, you never know, right?

Monday, December 18, 2017

video review: 'revival' by eminem

So yeah, this one hurt. Man, I wanted to defend this record... but I can't. Sorry, folks.

Next up, Billboard BREAKDOWN and hopefully some even better hip-hop - stay tuned!

album review: 'revival' by eminem

So do you ever have the feeling before going into a movie or game or record that while you desperately hope it's going to be good, you know deep down it probably won't be? That slow, sinking feeling as your rational mind overrides the sense of hype and the feeling that nothing could live up to your expectations, even if they aren't all that high?

Yeah, that's how I felt going into Revival - and if anything, it was even worse because I've been an Eminem fan for decades. I'll admit to being one of the fans for whom Eminem was my introduction to more hip-hop, that can rattle off multiple Eminem songs from memory - and not just the singles but deep cuts and diss tracks too. And as I grew and matured as a critic and heard so much more hip-hop and Eminem's flaws came more sharply into view, it also led to a different sort of artistic appreciation for even his worst projects - while Encore is far from good it was the sort of record that understood its purpose of artistic suicide, and I still hold Relapse is criminally underrated to this day, where Slim Shady was revealed to be as perverse and deranged as he always was before, this time without any veneer of 'cool'. And even though I'd likely agree with the assertion that Eminem becomes less impressive as an artist the more hip-hop you hear, I don't think even the best in the game would deny his talent for wordplay, his charisma, and his uncanny knack for mainstream crossover success.

And thus, when I heard Em was looking to get more political for his upcoming record, not only was I not surprised I was also extremely encouraged. For many white people Eminem was one of the few rappers they would listen to or cite as a favourite, he spoke across demographics and genres and he's never been uncomfortable speaking truth to power, especially given how much he continued to identify with his working class roots in Detroit. But in the lead-up to this release - and especially after the track and feature list was released - I had a really bad feeling going into this, with names showing a lot of potential for pop crossover but few if any of the relevant acts making conscious hip-hop right now. You'd think someone of his stature would use this opportunity to put some names over instead of pass over more production to Alex da Kid and hooks to goddamn Skylar Grey - an artist who has never been interesting or compelling and who has been neutering the power of Em's hooks for too long - but if Eminem wasn't willing to venture out of his comfort zone to make his political statement, this could be pretty rough. But again, I'm an Eminem fan, I've defended records from him that many brand as legendarily terrible - can I defend Revival?

movie review: 'star wars - episode viii: the last jedi' (VIDEO)

Whoo boy, this one got a lot of anger from a lot of people... and really, I don't think it deserved it, this is a great film.

Now what's coming up next might just deserve the anger... stay tuned?