If there’s one good thing that might come out of 2017 is that this just might be the best year for pop culture ever, particularly music. That is, if Bruno Mars and Donald Glover’s latest offerings are anything to predict by.
First, let’s talk about Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic. The album is short, but it’s jam-packed with late ’80s and early ’90s production value. One of my favorites is “Calling All My Lovelies,” which sounds one part ridiculous ’80s funky slow-jam and one part ridiculous skewering of the sensitive male ego. (Mars’ character’s dismay at once again being on the receiving end of Halle Berry’s voicemail is hilarious.)
The other fave, “Finesse,” is pure ’90s New Jack Swing. I’d been wishing songs could go back to this sound for years, and someone finally did it! Thank goodness it was Mars, who has shown a deft understanding what made party jams of the recent past so cool.
Rolling Stone Magazine called 24K Magic “a lush Nineties throwback,” with Christopher R. Weingarten writing:
“Mars wanted Magic to recreate the nostalgic wonder of the school dances he attended in he Ninetines–and his croweded productions, infectious attitude and soaring voice go well beyond ‘tribute’ into the realm of ‘IMAX reboot.'”
Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, is now taking listeners on a ride through the ’70s with his first offerings from his latest album, Awaken, My Love!, available Dec. 2. “Me and Your Mama” is great if you’re looking for some blaxploitation-esque funk, but “Redbone” really gets to the Bootsy Collins feel that I grew up listening to, thanks to my dad.
Glover also referenced memories of his childhood when talking about his new album to XXL Magazine:
“I remember listening to songs my dad would play–albums by the Isleys or Funkadelic–and not understanding the feeling I was feeling. I remember hearing a Funkadelic scream and being like, ‘Wow, that’s sexual and it’s scary.’ Not having a name for that, though; just having a feeling. That’s what made it great.”
Even Glover’s cover art evokes the same scariness and enigmatic mystery that surrounds the best of Funkadelic and Bootsy Collins’ cover art. Even though you’re repelled by the cover of Awaken, My Love!, you still want to know what’s inside the album. You want to know what has made this woman poke her head above the muck to grace us with her eerie smile.
(There’s also a reaffirming, apologetic blackness to the cover art as well, but you didn’t come here for an art treatise.)
To me, it makes sense that music would start harking back to another time and place, simply because music, as an escape, can take us back to times of our youth. With everything ranging from politics to the very state of the earth up in the air, it makes sense that millennials and Gen Xers want to go back to a time when everything seemed more stable and, frankly, a lot more fun. Right now, we all need an escape, and Mars and Glover are giving us the escape we need.
Now, if only Kid Sister would come out with another retro-’80s album, if Sharaya J would actually release her full-length album (WHEN WILL IT GET MADE?!), and if Monica, Missy Elliot, Remy Ma, and Lil Kim come out with stuff that evokes the ’90s and early ’00s, then we could really kick off 2017 on the musical good foot. For now, though, I’ll just keep Mars and Glover on and endless loop.
Who do you hope comes out of the woodwork and gives us the album we need to get through 2017? How are you liking Mars and Glover’s retro sounds? Give your opinions in the comments section below!
While we’re still collecting ourselves from the Yoruba imagery in Beyoncé’s “Lemonade”, let’s not sleep on another artist using the religion as a basis for self-expression and family homage.
Princess Nokia paid respect to her Afro-Latinx roots by honoring her family’s Santería and Yoruba religions in “BRUJAS”, which gives a message of black sisterhood and unity. It’s a message we certainly need in these new days of Trump.
The video will certainly hit you in the feels, especially if you’re a black woman feeling downtrodden because your mind, your body, and your soul have been hit in an even greater round of political and social warfare. The overriding message of black feminine power will have you feeling uplifted and ready to take on whatever BS is coming our way because we have higher energy holding us down.
To quote Nylon Magazine:
Its so refreshing to see brown women embraced for their pure divinity. Prepare to be completely mesmerized by all the melanin on your screen. Throughout the visual, [co-director Destiny Frasqueri] and her sisters come together to pray, read, play games, and bond over their connection to a higher power.
Overall, the message is a beautiful conglomerate of feminism, sisterhood, and self-love.”
I agree. We’ve all got to be brujas to deal with the trickery that’s already been in our lives and the new trickery that’s coming. Check out “BRUJAS” below and write about how it empowered you in the comments section below.
If I can be honest, I didn’t understand much of the MTV VMAs. I’ve never seen most of the people in attendance ever in life, so count me among the “I’m officially old” club. But I’ll tell you what the two highlights of the night were. No, it wasn’t Kanye’s rambling speech; I read it, and while I’m always here for a clapback directed at Taylor Swift, I couldn’t make heads or tails of what Kanye was talking about, which is typical Kanye. The two highlights were, clearly, Beyoncé’s epic set and Drake giving Rihanna the introduction only a loving, attentive boyfriend could give.
I don’t even need words to describe what you just saw, but I’ll still put in my two cents. I admit that I’ve had my own issues with Beyoncé in the past. No, I’m not a BeyHiver now; I’d break out in hives if I ever found myself even considering such a thing. No; I simply like Beyoncé now. I am here for what she is finally doing, which is making music that has a message and is music that is firmly entrenched in black womanhood and power. I found myself calling her performance on “Michael Jackson level,” and that is not a title to throw around lightly. Not everyone can perform basically five music videos live and sing at full-throat and dance and destroy cameras and have a gazillion costume changes and make it all look easy. That ish is hard! And she just did the impossible.
(Yes, I know I just gushed over Beyoncé; NO, I’M NOT IN NO DOGGONE BEYHIVE.)
Second, Drake’s speech about Rihanna and how much he’s loved her even before they were together. (Also: Rihanna’s speech upon accepting the Vanguard Award)
Okay, in order to make this not all about the guy, let me state that Rihanna had the daunting task of performing four times that night. FOUR TIMES. She basically had her own Beyoncé performance, but at least hers was scattered throughout. Still that’s a wild feat to undertake, and she definitely showed why she was getting the Michael Jackson Vanguard Award. She’s put out more hits than I even knew; I’d even forgotten about some of her hits. She’s been the soundtrack to these years of the aughts, and she’s changed and grown in such a positive way that you can’t help but root for her. As Drake said, she did it all while staying true to herself, and not everyone in the industry can say that. To quote Drake, “no one” can say that. I wonder who he was throwing shots at, since everyone who was anyone was performing or presenting that night.
Now, to get back to that speech: nearly everyone online expressed sentiment that they wished they had someone in their lives who were so in love with them as Drake is with Rihanna. People were so bowled over by his love and admiration for her that they thought he was going to propose to her. My sister thought so. I thought so. It would have only been too much to handle at one time. Unfortunately (or thankfully) he didn’t, but let’s not be so surprised that Drake could be so sensitive with or without a proposal; did we forget that Aubrey Drake Graham was once a regular cast member of the ultra-feely show Degrassi: The Next Generation? When that show said, “It goes there,” they weren’t kidding, and Drake’s character Jimmy went through it. Plus, the music video for Hotline Bling is delightful in its corniness. Corny people are usually sensitive souls.
Anyways, I hope a proposal is somewhere in the future for Drake and Rihanna. I’d love to see the photos from that wedding.
What did you think of the MTV VMAs? Are you officially old like me? Who did you just not understand? (There was that one performance with that guy and that girl with the booby half-shirt and that dude on that…instrument? It was a terrible performance.) Sound off below!
Rihanna has slayed the song/movie tie-in game with her new single “Sledgehammer.” I rarely use the term “slayed,” so trust me that I don’t mean this lightly. Frankly, it’s the best I’ve seen of Rihanna since “BBHMM.”
Here’s what you need to know about the song:
1. The song has the Sia stamp: We’ve all rocked out to Sia’s “Chandelier” and her other powerful ballads, and the same unmistakable Sia mark is on “Sledgehammer.” Sia wrote the song, and Sia’s dramatic scope fits the space operatic tones of the Star Trek movie universe.
2. Rihanna’s voice has never sounded stronger: Is it just me, or has Rihanna’s voice never sounded better? I’ve become a small-time Rihanna fan as of late, and I have to say that I’m proud of her growth. But even still, it seems like her vocal ability has become even deeper and broader than I realized, and I’m really excited by it. Hearing Rihanna’s voice soar through this song was so good that when I heard it blind on one of the Star Trek Beyond commercials, I actually thought it was Sia, no joke. Great job on this, Rihanna!
3. It’s the first music video to debut in IMAX, and it makes full use of the technology:
Floria Sigismondi, the director of the music video, wanted to make sure the viewers really felt like they were in space. “Because the beginning of the video takes place in space, you really get the sense of floating through and also the sound,” said Sigismondi to Billboard. IMAX remixed the music, so that when it plays in the theatre it really has such a three-dimensional quality. That low-end is really pushed so it really feels booming.”
4. The music video’s director wanted to tell a story about humanity
Sigismondi told Billboard that the story told in the music video is something she’s always wanted to tell. “…I’ve always wanted to do a person breaking apart into the universe. I just think that’s so beautiful in terms of what you can say about humanity,” she said. “I’ve created this mystical being in this otherworldy planet being that harnesses the power to manipulate the elements and the elements around her being the sand, the rocks and the earth, and that she actually has a power as well to conjure up the energy and create light and stars. So she transforms into the universe itself.”
Check out the video and Rihanna discussing how much of a Star Trek fan she is. Star Trek Beyond will be in theaters July 22.
“Star Trek Beyond,” the highly anticipated next installment in the globally popular Star Trek franchise, created by Gene Roddenberry and reintroduced by J.J. Abrams in 2009, returns with director Justin Lin (“The Fast and the Furious” franchise) at the helm of this epic voyage of the U.S.S. Enterprise and her intrepid crew. In “Beyond,” the Enterprise crew explores the furthest reaches of uncharted space, where they encounter a mysterious new enemy who puts them and everything the Federation stands for to the test.
You might know Judith Hill from The Voice and 20 Feet From Stardom, but now the talented singer/songwriter has her new album, Back in Time and for longtime fans and Hill herself, this album has been a long time coming. Hill worked in the music industry as a background singer for some of pop culture’s most talented artists, and all of that hard work is shown in the versatility and artistry shown on Back in Time‘s songs.
I was very excited to be able to speak with Hill about her album, which is now available for purchase today from NPG Records, her career, and what it’s like to work in Prince’s Paisley Park Studios. You can follow Hill on JudithHill.com and on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
You might recall my interview with Jaafar, the talented international singer/songwriter whose latest single, “Sixteen,” is blowing up in both America and around the world. If you read the interview, loved the music, and want to see more of Jaafar, you’re in luck. Jaafar will be performing Oct. 21 at The Roxy in West Hollywood, CA.
Singer-entertainer Ava Gold is teaching her fans how to act “Classy” when it comes to dealing with negativity. Gold is known for her role as Kiki on Nickelodeon’s The Fresh Beat Band and the new animated show Fresh Beat Band of Spies, and not only is she also concentrating on her songwriting career with BMG, but she’s also giving back to people in need through her charity work.
I was happy to interview Gold via email to learn more about her career, her new single, “Classy,” and what fans can expect from her in the future.
That Taylor Swift video. Yes, I saw it. The short of it is that it annoys me.