Showing posts with label janelle monae. Show all posts
Showing posts with label janelle monae. Show all posts

Sunday, January 6, 2019

the top 25 best albums of 2018 (VIDEO)

And that's the last of year-end list promotion...whew.

Next up... honestly, no idea, we'll see - stay tuned!

the top 25 best albums of 2018

Normally this is the list that feels like the greatest relief to make - it's the final moment where we can lay a year to rest chronicling the best of the best, the sort of release that comes with it being the last list but also one that feels the most professional, for lack of better words. I'm having fun with the lists of the best and worst hits, I'm getting more personal with the overall songs list - this list for critics is staking claim, drawing our lines in the sand, and as such, it's normally the most professionally rewarding.

But I have to say, in comparison to previous years, this list was not that hard to make. Even though I covered far more albums in 2018 than ever before, it felt like I hit greatness less often on average. Which is probably not completely true, but it sure as hell feels like it, especially given that the cuts weren't that painful this year, or it certainly seemed like there was less of them to make. And while I don't do an Honourable Mentions segment for this list, I will say I'm a little regretful that I have to leave Rolo Tomassi and Against All Logic off this list, and I'm sure I'm going to surprise some folks by saying that Beach House and Kacey Musgraves also missed the cut - sorry, but especially in country, Kacey had stiffer competition. But really, if we're to highlight a genre that turned out in spades in 2018, it was hip-hop - and no jokes here, this is more hip-hop on this albums list than I think there has ever been before... which yes, means that there were two painful cuts in the form of Marlowe and Armand Hammer. But you know, let's start off with hip-hop here...

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

the top 50 best songs of 2018

The tagline that I've always had with this list is that it's the hardest to make, but let me qualify it: it's the one that easily requires the most work. And considering this is the year where I reviewed more albums than ever before, you'd think for the sheer volume of material this would be excruciating to assemble...

But in truth, this top 50 list actually fell out pretty quickly, at least with respect to the volume of music I've consumed. It still takes a lot of refinement to go through the best songs of any given year, but the truth about 2018 was that for as many songs as I loved, most of them were concentrated onto specific albums, which might lead to a slightly less diverse list as a whole. And if there was a year where my qualification that I can only put up to three songs from any given album on this list was tested... yeah, it was here. And yet even with that qualification, this list is kind of all over the place - little more hip-hop heavy than previous years and we'll get into why on my final list - and I'll freely admit there isn't quite as much metal or electronic music I'd prefer, but I needed to be honest with this one. Keep in mind songs from albums I covered on the Trailing Edge are eligible, and that if you don't see any songs from an album I loved earlier this year, there's no guarantee it won't show up on a different list - some albums don't put out the best individual songs and vice-versa. 

But no more wasting time, let's get this started!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

the top albums/songs of the midyear - 2018

There are years where I struggle with this midyear list, sometimes in years overloaded with quality that force me to make some painful cuts, or years that are a little more scant I'm stuck with what seems like a smaller list... and still have to make painful cuts. 

And thus it feels odd that building this 2018 midyear list is perhaps one of the easiest I've ever assembled, and since I'm not about to assume I'm getting good at this, I'm genuinely curious why that might be. I will say that outside of hip-hop, other genres don't seem to be having an exceptionally strong year - great albums in rock and country and metal but few that really went over the top in terms of quality, and I'd argue pop has had it even worse. But more than that, even the records that just missed the cut - Beach House, Iceage, Parquet Courts, Against All Logic, and especially Phonte - while they were truly terrific releases, I'm not precisely torn up that they had to miss the cut, as they all have a considerable shot for the year-end as my tastes evolve and change. 

So given that this is my fifth list like this, you know the rules: the albums and songs have to have been reviewed in 2018, and while I'm fairly certain you'll all know what's going to top this list, I'll add that there are songs from The Trailing Edge that have a chance to wind up in the individual songs, because there really were some incredible cuts there. So let's not waste any time and start with...

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

video review: 'dirty computer' by janelle monae

Yeah, this project kicked ass... I'm a tad disappointed it seems like it's being dismissed as being too blunt and mainstream friendly (seemed like Kendrick got away with that with DAMN....), especially when there's a lot more insight lurking beneath the surface. Definitely worth your time, check this out!

Monday, April 30, 2018

album review: 'dirty computer' by janelle monae

I remember referencing Afrofuturism in brief while talking about Janelle Monae's past two records, the underlying Cindi Mayweather stories that have served as a time travelling narrative undercurrent to her stories, taking the tropes and aesthetics of 50s and 60s sci-fi and fusing it with modern language, taking the textures of R&B and soul of the 70s and 80s and bringing them into a swirling, neon genre fusion with rock and modern R&B, and its core was the swirling, magnetic charisma of Janelle Monae...

And there's a part of me that feels I owe her an apology. Now to some of you that might seem confusing - I've been openly a fan for years ever since her guest appearance on Idlewild, I'd put both The ArchAndroid and The Electric Lady on year-end lists, I wouldn't hesitate to put her on a list of one of the most defiantly unique and potent artists of the 2010s both in terms of raw talent and experimentation and that's even before you consider how she hasn't compromised her pop sensibility. And yet going back to my review of The Electric Lady five years ago, just when I was starting out... there's a part of me not proud of it, primarily because of how I treated the underlying metaphors and themes at the core of the work. Not that I didn't grasp it - the queer black femininity at its core was always apparent and Janelle Monae did a wonderful job exploring its nuances through the larger metaphors of her story - but I feel the language I chose was minimizing, especially given how deeply personal said narrative turned out to be. For me it was more paying attention to the mechanics of the story, looking for a weightier external payoff to the narrative rather than realizing the true thematic and emotional arc was internal... and while some of that could be explained due to the theatrical artificiality of the narrative, I should have realized the inward shift of the metaphor and presentation was likely far more representative of what explorations of queer black femininity and sexuality are. 

Fast forward to 2018 and it should surprise nobody that so much of the coded theatricality has slipped away: the institutional pressures have redoubled both internal and external strain, and flagrant urgency becomes a necessity. More than that, Janelle Monae has only grown into a more assured and confident artist, both from her forays into acting or even her steps into mainstream R&B with The Eephus EP in 2015 - yes, I personally preferred more of the fantastical sci-fi aesthetic and genre blending, but raw charisma can compensate for a lot. And thus for Dirty Computer, there was a part of me that knew this record wouldn't quite be the same sort of Afrofuturist affair as her previous work - especially with the lead-off singles, it looked to be, for lack of better words, more conventional and accessible. Granted, she still released an entire short film to flesh out the greater themes of the record that was very much linked to her conceptual framework, but we're here to focus on the album itself - so how is it?

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - march 10, 2018 (VIDEO)

And here we are - I'm actually a little surprised with as many debuts as we got this is actually out on time.

Okay, Phonte is up next, stay tuned!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - march 10, 2018

So it's pretty rare I get surprised on the Hot 100 - I've been doing this for three and a half years and I have chart records going back to the 2000s, I generally have an expectation what'll land here and be successful, and I've been long conditioned by disappointment to not expect the best. But it seems like this week we got a few welcome surprises that not only met my low expectations for this week, but might have even exceeded them. I'm not saying it was precisely a great week or that any of these new arrivals will last, but some of these are encouraging.

Friday, July 3, 2015

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - july 11, 2015

And that happened. Whew, glad that episode is over with.

Next up, I finally talk about Vince Staples. From there, Czarface, Between The Buried And Me, I've got my work cut out for me. Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - july 11, 2015 remember when I said last week I had a sense of foreboding that something bad was coming, that I couldn't quite feel it and it hadn't quite happened yet, but it was on its way? Yeah, I'm starting to wish these bad feelings didn't come up so much, because sure enough...

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

the top 25 best albums of 2013

And now we're down to the final list - my top twenty-five albums of 2013. This year, I reviewed 135 albums - and frankly, I should have done more. But I feel it's a plenty big sample size to discuss my choices, and all of these earned their slots on this list. I'll also try to keep this as quick as I possibly can - I've already talked about all of these albums in detail, and you should all check out my reviews if you want a more in-depth discussion. Also, my list isn't exactly going to correspond with common critical consensus - there are albums I have picked that have been ignored, and there are certain albums that some critics lauded that I didn't find nearly as strong. Got all that? Good, because we're not waiting any longer, let's GO!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

video review: 'the electric lady' by janelle monae

Man, I was happy that I got a chance to review this, because it's a great album and I don't think I'll have many of those for the next little bit. 

Seriously, if you didn't get the message in my previous post, you need to check this album out immediately, it's definitely for an artist who deserves far more fame than she gets. Janelle Monae's 'The Electric Lady' might not be as much to my tastes as 'The ArchAndroid', but goddamnit, it's close.

And now for the shitstorm to commence... 2 Chainz, you're up.

album review: 'the electric lady' by janelle monae

Back in my review of Robin Thicke's album Blurred Lines, I mentioned why R&B as a genre doesn't tend to work for me as well as others, mostly because I've found the traditional topics in their songwriting a little overused. Now, you get this in every genre, but it got on my nerves a lot more in R&B because so many of the artists had a serious problem in having their songs be criminally underwritten, instead preferring to fill the verses with vocal gymnastics and other such elements that might sound pretty but don't really have a lot of substance.

Now I'll admit that my particular point of view has already been proven wrong once this year by Ariana Grande, but to be fair, she was using the conventional songwriting topics for R&B, just written with a little bit more wit and sharp poetry. But considering that I do like to be proven wrong when in the process I'm exposed to great music, I finally took the opportunity to get into the discography of Janelle Monae, an R&B act who has amassed some serious critical acclaim and who reportedly eschewed genres traditions in favour of weirder topics. And while I definitely was optimistic, I remembered the catastrophic example of 30 Seconds To Mars and I prepared myself for the worst.

Instead, I was blown out of the water. Folks, if you're not listening to Janelle Monae and her Afrofuturist sci-fi masterpieces, you should be. Not only are her high-concept topics of choice brilliantly realized in some of the most innovative and strikingly original ways I've seen in a long time, she's also an extraordinarily talented singer and songwriter, fusing a dozen genres of the past into a coherent, frequently beautiful whole that somehow remains catchy and emotionally evocative just the same. I'll admit that I'm a serious sucker for great space rock (and Janelle Monae is one of the best in the genre, hands-down), but I'm still stunned by how well she manages to make so many disparate genres sound distinctly fresh and new, breathing new life into them in a way I haven't seen since Daft Punk released Random Accessed Memories earlier this year (before that, I'd probably have to go all the way back to The Love Below from OutKast). People say that Justin Timberlake is innovating in R&B - all respect to Justin Timberlake, but he doesn't possess a tenth of the imagination, soul, and creative genius that Janelle Monae has.

And I could spend the next several hours raving about how the music is striking and unique and how Janelle Monae sells all of her material with well-chosen and incredibly heartfelt emotion and how she manages to get her guest stars swept up in her eclectic vision and how her Afrofuturistic themes are a perfect blend of past and future African-American art synthesized from multiple generations and how even with her high-minded ideals she still has that streak of populism to make her music compelling to a wider audience, but really, all I need to say is this: Janelle Monae is to R&B what Arjen Lucassen's Ayreon project is to metal. And if you're one of the three people who are looking at this and know what the Ayreon project is, you'll understand precisely how high of a compliment that is.

So to say that my expectations for her new album, The Electric Lady were high is a bit of an understatement. Continuing her ongoing space-epic saga from her 2010 album The ArchAndroid and recruiting guest stars like Miguel, Erykah Badu, Solange, and even Prince, one of the legends of R&B himself, I was incredibly excited to find out her newest album was coming out this month, and I was looking forward to seeing how her story would continue. So what does the next chapter in her story look like?