Art or Insensitivity?

Pop is expected to be easy. You hear a song once and you know the story almost instantly. However, when it deviates from the norm and becomes complex, it’s difficult to delve past the surface.

My initial exposure to Anohni’s “Drone Bomb Me” was a viewing of the music video and after watching, I was confused. The video clearly wants to emphasize pain. Throughout the beginning scenes of the video when Noami Campbell is sitting in the chair her expression is one of manic glee – happiness for finally ending her pain. There is symbolism in who Naomi Campbell plays. Maybe I read too much into the video, but you clearly see her wearing a Rosary and thorny headpiece, which could to be a reference to Jesus. Campbell symbolizes a desire to end pain with the sacrifice of her life so that others will not have to? There is also the unmissable depiction of the cross when Campbell horizontally outstretches her arms. All in all, there is something unsettling about this video.

Listening for the first time, I thought the song was about tragic love and perhaps there is truth in that assumption, but my scope was too small. My initial thought was that the song had been inspired by Anohni’s struggle dealing with the reminder of lost love – relief could only be reached by death, and more specifically death by drone. It was a morbid conclusion, but the video was anything but optimistic, so I thought my superficial interpretation was correct. Operating under this pretense, the song did not sit well with me. How could Anohni (and all those involved)  be so insensitive? To wish for a drone bomb was disrespectful and inappropriate.

Turns out, Anohni isn’t insensitive. The song represents the bleak and desperate yearnings of a girl living in Afghanistan who has witnessed the death and destruction of her family members as the result of drone bombings. There is nothing else for this girl, but to wish for the very same fate as her family. The music video, although visually beautiful (Riccardo Tisci is the creative director), does not explicitly indicate the true source of inspiration, but now that I’m aware of Anohni’s political message, I can listen to the song and try to build a sliver of understanding and empathy.

The “Drone Bomb Me,” music video is below. I will take the week to listen to the rest of the album and organize my thoughts. Clearly, I’m late in reviewing this album, but I know it will be moving and I’d love for us to share whatever feelings surface while listening.

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Bennie and the Jets?

I’m a huge fan of playing music in the background. It’s my way of pretending I’m a star of a tv show (sad, I know). Today, I had Beats 1 Radio playing and at some point “Sick Love” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers started playing. My gut told me that something about the song was familiar. Mind you, at this point I’d only heard the song once, but from one listen I was able to conclude that an element in the verses resembled Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets.” Was Elton John aware? Was he involved?

With this little piece of information, I took to the internet. According to an interview, “Sick Love” was already in progress when the Red Hot Chili Peppers found a similarity to “Bennie and the Jets.” This prompted the band to contact Elton John and propose a collaborative effort – Elton John plays the piano and has writing credit, as does Bernie Taupin.

This discovery prompted me to look into Lady Gaga’s “Girl,” which features Florence Welch and also sounds like “Bennie and the Jets.” “Girl” is a lady anthem depicting one of the most special and often ridiculed friendships. With lines like “we can make it easy if we lift each other” and “help me hold my hair back. walk me home ’cause I can’t find a cab,” you can’t help but find the duet fun and honest. After looking through a few sources, I found no credits to Elton John. The song was written by Mark Ronson, Lady Gaga, and Florence Welch. However, the piano is so similar. I’m surprised there are no credits to John or Taupin. Perhaps I’m missing something, maybe there is some obscure reference I’ve been unable to uncover, or maybe the close relationship between Gaga and John allowed for omission. Who knows! The point is that in a weird way it’s kind of the year of “Bennie and the Jets,” and I want to know if there are any other songs which have been influenced  it.

24K Magic

I am a Bruno Mars Fan. To me, Bruno Mars is a soulful, fun, and heartfelt reminder of an era of real singers and performers. Bruno is probably the type of guy who’ll take you on an excursion through the Andies and then serenade you on top of the highest peak. But all distractions and dream situations aside, 24K Magic is Mr. Mars’ follow-up album to Orthodox Jukebox, and although the new album is quintessential Bruno Mars, the undertones are different.

24K Magic is only 33 minutes long – a lot shorter than I was anticipating. The sound of this album is 80s and 90s R&B, but some songs have an even older influence. If you listen to “Perm” you’ll instantly have a flashback to James Brown. If you’re looking for something to throw into your playlist that’s a little cheeky and induces gyrations, you’ll want to throw it in the mix. If you want to slow it down, I’d listen to “Versace on the Floor.” I’m not going to lie, I am really hoping that Bruno chooses to sing it at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion show – it’s only appropriate? The song is also very 80s, which I love. The lead single is 24K Magic, but the best song on the whole album is “Finesse” for the simple fact that it exemplifies 80s R&B so well. I can see the video now –  an homage to New Edition – matching outfits, box fades, and choreography for the dance gods. Bruno call me if you need help with the creative direction, I got you.

Overall the album leaves a bit to be desired. I wanted more. Here’s to hoping there’s an additional release. Let me know your favorites!

 

Lane 8

I think I speak for the majority when I say we go through most of our lives vaguely aware of things. I make this assessment because prior to me listening to Lane 8’s “Loving You,” I was vaguely aware of Lulu James and Anjuadeep. Per a previous post, you know I have an ongoing appreciation and love for Above & Beyond. The always lovely, Jono and Paavo, formed Anjuabeats in 2000, with sub-label Anjuabeats coming to fruition in 2005. My history with Lulu James is new and different than A&B’s. Lulu James actually graced me with her magnificent presence when I went to see Gorgon City a few months (maybe a year) ago. She had a powerful voice, little did I know the growth she’d achieve as an in-demand vocalist and writer. Lane 8, however, is a brand new name for me, so let us commence the internet stalk!

As we all know, there is no greater source than the all-knowing Wikipedia. Every day I thank the heavens for the internet community’s commitment to the dissemination of information. A skim of Lane 8’s page reveals that 1) he’s an American artist, 2) Pete Tong’s labeled him a “Future Star,” and 3) Wikipedia marks his start in 2012. I’m not going to pretend I know a lot about production or vocals, but I know what I like and I’ll explain it to the best of my ability. For the purposes of this post, I’m focusing primarily on the “In Session with Lulu James” version of the song because it’s raw and caters to my penchant for emotion.

The song opens with James’ somber vocals and moves into questions of time, whether the moment will last and whether her lover will leave her. All questions we ask ourselves in stable and tumultuous relationships. The song plays on the doubt and blind love that intermingle when in a relationship. The simple accompaniment of the piano feeds into this emotion, helping to build James’ cry. The song is eerie and even if you’re a single pringle like me, it’ll make you feel all sorts of feelings that you should embrace. After listening to the song, my suggestion is repeat the following statement, “My feelings are good and justified!” – Cheers my lovely chickens 🙂

 

“Too Late Now”

I’ve been an odd mood over the past couple of weeks and today I heard something that lifted my spirits a bit, which for now is just enough to make my day. The song with revitalizing mood powers is Anik Khan’s “Too Late Now.”

I actually heard the song during Beats 1’s Live From NYC Show, and it instantly felt like a tune. I think what did me in was the saxophone – I’m a sucker for the saxophone. Saxophones are groovy, they produce a sound that’s easy to sway and become deeply in tune with. It’s like your body hears the saxophone and instantly knows how to move – it’s intuitive.

In terms of the vocals, the first verse is rich, deep, almost jazzy? Combated with the hook and pre-hook the song is a journey for your ears.

Basically, this song makes me want to move and anything that makes me want to dance becomes a jam. Listen to the song below and join me as I stalk the sounds of Anik Khan.

“We Don’t Talk Anymore”?

Truth be told I really wanted to dislike this song, but as I tried to type a well-written, witty, and interesting letter, I found myself slowly grooving. This is a very fresh first impression, but so far (after one listen) I can definitely see this song becoming a “summer smash” and here’s why.

  1. Former Disney Princess Selena Gomez is featured on the track. She’s obviously strayed away from Disney and she’s got her own “edge” now – much sexier, more “sensual,” more womanly? Her name brings attention and the song is slow enough for her vocals to skim over the song and add to the breeziness.
  2. Charlie Puth was already a featured on one of the most memorable summer and soundtrack songs with “See You Again.” His chorus in that song is actually why I instantly recognized his new song. With that in mind, I kind of feel like his voice is inexplicably connected to summer. When I hear Charlie Puth I know it’s summer. Is that odd?
  3. The song fits perfectly with summer’s easy-breezy vibe. Summer isn’t supposed to be hard, it’s supposed to be hot, humid, fun and the song just works. Period. Also the chorus has a really nice harmony on the “we don’t anymore, like we used toOooO.”

Here’s a link to the song (no official video yet) and enjoy this nice cover (also did anyone else watch X Factor? I instantly recognized Diamond…YASS) 🙂

 

I’ve got a lot of things in common…

with the mass of America that loves and requests Alicia Keys’ new single, “In Common.” First and foremost, I am an Alicia Keys fan. I also love the fact that she appreciates a good jumpsuit (remember the “Karma” music video? That jumpsuit is I.C.O.N.I.C.). Outfits and #nomakeup aside, her new single is just upbeat enough to get you moving and chill enough to play at night on a long drive home (from the club or bea’s house?).

In my true fashion, I decided to see if there are decent remixes out there right now, because any good song can also be remixed…right? In this case I first began my search on Soundcloud. The only standout I could find is the one below.

What I like about this remix is the build, it’s smooth all the way through, until certain portions when the bass kicks in a bit heavier. It’s enough to add an additional element to the song without overpowering it.

Youtube offered a wider array of options, but the increased content proved to be disappointing. Honestly, there weren’t any remixes that I felt I should add to this post. None of the remixes were “right” for me/none hit my musical taste palate. On the plus side, I found a video that is basically me when “In Common” is on, so enjoy the video below for a smile.