Showing posts with label outkast. Show all posts
Showing posts with label outkast. Show all posts

Monday, February 19, 2018

the top ten best hit songs of 2004 (VIDEO)

Well, this was long in coming... and overall, a pretty solid list. Not sure it's my wittiest list, but for those of you who remember the era, I think it works.

Next up, Black Panther and Wade Bowen, so stay tuned!

the top ten best hit songs of 2004

So this is the third big top ten outside of the current year that I've put together, and I think it's conducive to describe how this year differed in trends and sounds in comparison with those I discussed before. 2010 was at the height of club boom overexposure, and everything that charted, good or bad, was either informed by it and painfully dated, or ignoring it and sliding rapidly towards novelty. 1967... well, that was a year heralded by many as overstuffed with classic songs, but you could make a credible argument it was an 'off' year for many established greats, more transitional than anything else.

2004, meanwhile, has some elements of both. On the one hand, the charts were very much in the throes of the crunk explosion, but by proxy it was heralding hip-hop's utter dominance of the Hot 100. Yes, in 2004 indie rock was blowing up like you wouldn't see again for nearly a decade - most of which would hit the charts a year later - but 2004 hit the sweet spot where the kinks of southern hip-hop were getting ironed out and allowing for more diversity beyond New York and L.A.. And that was only a good thing, as 2004 was a huge breakthrough year for a number of acts that are now touted today with a ton of critical acclaim, either for landmark debuts or critical highpoints they'd seldom if ever reach again. And when you tack on the fact that pop rock was beginning its own rise, country hadn't started sliding to vapidity, and R&B was holding its own. The only genre that seriously suffered was mainstream pop, but that's more because hip-hop crossovers were doing it so much better, and when you consider that it really didn't have the stark lowpoints of, say, 2007, you can make a very credible argument that 2004 was one of the best years of the 2000s, at least for the Hot 100. And I can't even really say it was colored hugely by my nostalgia - yeah, I know and like a ton of this Hot 100, but it's hard to deny in a year flush with the debuts of Kanye West and Maroon 5, Usher's best album, Alicia Keys' best album, plus high points for Avril Lavigne and OutKast that we got something really special in 2004. And if you think that spoiled a lot of my list... well, maybe a bit, but you haven't seen nothing yet, so let's get this started!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

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?

Friday, June 29, 2012

album review: 'strange clouds' by b.o.b.

Short version: a promising album with moments of true brilliance, but hampered by unnecessary guest stars, compromised production, studio interference, and B.o.B.'s lack of creative assertion. Overall, a good album, but it could have been a great one.

Today, I'm going to talk briefly about the breakdown of regionalization in rap music. 

Now, as utterly pretentious and completely boring as that might sound, it's actually something that says a lot about the evolution in hip-hop and rap music over the past twenty to twenty-five years. Considering most of you reading this probably weren't alive or old enough to care about this sort of thing, let me make this very explicit: back in the 80s and 90s, it mattered where your hip-hop and rap came from, and each region developed their own distinctive style. 

The first two regions that really grew were the East and West Coast. Driven by developments in New York and L.A., this was where the first real differences in the genre grew up. On the East Coast, lyrical dexterity was prized, with multisyllabic rhyming and complex wordplay. This is the coast that spawned Biggie and Jay-Z and Public Enemy and Nas, politically charged poets that greatly elevated their craft. On the West Coast, we had the explosion of gangsta rap and G-funk, driven by marijuana and great beats, inspiring artists like Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and Tupac Shakur. Suffice to say, the highly charged mid-90s were rocked by the feud between both coasts, escalating to a peak with the deaths of Biggie and 2Pac within months of each other. 

But in the mean time, we also had the growth of rap across other sections of the United States. The first big growth was Midwest hip-hop, driven by N.W.A. and the gangster rap explosion, but the broader diversity of the Midwest led to greater experimentation, such as the speed rap pioneered by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and Twista and the horrorcore experiments of Eminem, Insane Clown Posse, and Three 6 Mafia. But I'm not here to talk about Midwest rap, or indeed any of the coastal rap movements.

Nope, today we're going to be discussing Southern rap, which is where the artist I'm reviewing today hails from. It's the youngest of the movements, and it also tends to be one most dismissed by critics (unfairly so, but I'll get to that). Granted, there have been a few critical success stories to emerge from 'the Dirty South', like Ludacris, T.I. and Lil Wayne, but most of the genre tends to get dumped upon for not nearly being as intelligent or interesting as their counterparts. It also doesn't help matters that crunk, the 'purple drank' movement, and Miami bass all came from the region - say what you want about the music of those movements, they weren't particularly lyrically dextrous or all that interesting outside of the initial fad. It also tended to be interesting to see how artists would distance themselves from the Southern scene as they got older. Lil Wayne has never rapped about the 'Dirty South', and while Ludacris and T.I. have always had some vestige of a connection to their roots, their later music had a much more pronounced West Coast vibe. It didn't seem that many rappers really wanted to embrace the southern style and culture with any intelligence or gravitas.

Except for one band: OutKast.