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Album of the Year #23: Dreamville - Revenge Of The Dreamers III
2020.02.22 15:28 Baskin5000Album of the Year #23: Dreamville - Revenge Of The Dreamers III
DREAMVILLE - REVENGE OF THE DREAMERS III YouTube Spotify Apple Music Background by Baskin5000 To preface, the background will be more focused on the label, and less about J. Cole. Back in 2007, Fayetteville, North Carolina rapper J Cole and his manager Ibrahim Hamad decided to start a record label known as Dreamville Records. The first artist signed to the label was rapper Omen, from Chicago, who had met Cole after sharing music with each other via online forums. Both artists would go on to release mixtapes through the label for the first few years, notable ones including Friday Night Lights, and Afraid of Heights. In early 2014, Cole announced while performing at Madison Square Garden, that Dreamville now has a distribution deal with Interscope Records, and handed out flyers to attendees announcing that a mixtape called Revenge of the Dreamers has been released. That same day rapper Bas from Queens was signed to Dreamville and featured on the mixtape with Cole and Omen. In June of 2014, Cozz from Los Angeles was signed. In December of 2015, R&B singer Ari Lennox from D.C. was signed, rapper Lute from Charlotte was signed, and Revenge of the Dreamers II was released, featuring all the current label artists, and a few outside features. In 2017, Dreamville signed East Atlanta (not Santa) rapper JID, and Atlanta duo EarthGang, comprising of Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot. JID and EarthGang would grow to be Dreamville’s biggest artists, sin J. Cole. THE RECORDING On January 6 of 2019, Dreamville announced Revenge of the Dreamers III, but this wasn’t announcing the release date. This was announcing the beginning of what would be a 10 day recording session in Atlanta, extending invites to over 100 artists and producers to come and work on the album with them. Singles including Middle Child and Down Bad were released, while Popup shops, brunches, private concerts, and even comics took were used to help promote the album. On July 2 of 2019, REVENGE, the documentary was released on YouTube, documenting the 10 day process, and featuring snippets from many of the songs featured on the album. 3 days later, Revenge of the Dreamers III was released. Review by Baskin5000 I will first be doing a track by track analysis, with an overall review and summary at the end. Under The Sun (J. Cole and Lute feat. DaBaby) The album opens up with a needle drop and a soul sample of “I’ll Be Waiting For You” by The Argo Singers. The sample then tapestops leading into a chopped up instrumental of the song and some booming 808s, with J. Cole mumbling,
“I done seen it all, oh my god”
before entering his verse with much more confidence.
“Nothing new under the sun, nobody fucking with son”
Thematically, the song is your typical braggadocio rap, but the confidence of Cole and the upcoming artists over the smooth soul sample gives the song much more prominence. Coles verse leads directly into the hook, which to many listeners shock is a surprise feature from Kendrick Lamar. He says two simple lines that follow the braggadocios theme, and then it’s on to the next verse.
“I woke up for some money Ayy, lil’ bitch, Too many opps in here tell me who you with.”
Lute from Dreamville raps the next verse, coming in with even more energy than Cole. He also raps about shooters, girls, and the now iconic line:
“Wish a nigga would like Liam Neeson”
Kendrick’s two-line hook is displayed again, and rapper DaBaby takes the last verse, and is the first of many non-Dreamville artists to officially feature on the album. Bragging ‘bout bagging girls back in college, guns, and even a reference to his self-defense shooting at a Walmart, he ends his verse shouting out his hometown Charlotte, which may be why Cole chose DaBaby for the opening track, as they share the same home state. The theme of under the sun can mean everything the rappers have experienced in their lives. The “sun” motif is also played with multiple meanings, as Cole and Lute refer to themselves as sons, while Cole himself has a son, and talks of Sunday dinners. Fun fact: The last time Kendrick and Cole’s voices were both on a song was on “American Dream” by Jeezy in 2017 but part of separate acts, and before that was “Forbidden Fruit” by Cole in 2013. Under the sun may be a great tease for fans of the duo, but to those thinking this might mean the long awaited collab album is coming, don’t get your hopes up. The hungry lyrics, laid over the smoothness of the sample elevate the song to a memorable album opener. Down Bad (Bas, EarthGang, J. Cole, JID feat. Young Nudy) Down Bad was one of the lead singles of ROTD3, and is a posse cut of Dreamville rappers, and features East-Atlanta trapper Young Nudy. Nudy, JID, and EarthGang are all from Atlanta which may be why Nudy made the final cut of the song. Nevertheless, Nudy breaks the song, as the opening sample gets filtered and reversed, bringing special attention to his verse. He delivers his signature flow, laid back yet still filled with energy, but his verse is cut off to tap in fellow East Atlanta rapper JID. One of Dreamville’s standout artists known for his fast doublet tip-tap cadence, he doesn’t cease to impress with strong lyrics and clever wordplay. JID’s verse leads into the hook, mentioning how he had a hard knock life, but had to harden up if he wants to be the best at the rap game. The Dreamville torch then gets passed to Bas, whose verse compares Dreamville to track and field athlete Marion Jones, who cheated in the Olympics to gain an upper hand. He uses this comparison to say how it’s unfair how Dreamville is racing past the competition, while everyone else is slow like a heroin high. Another hook and it leads to the head of Dreamville, J. Cole. Following the theme of being down bad, he raps about humble beginnings, and how hard work and pressure got him to where he is now, all while having kept a consistent yet complex rhyme scheme in the first half of his verse. EarthGang member Johnny Venus delivers the final verse. Doctur Dot isn’t on the song, and there will be many times on the album that will credit EarthGang but only include one of the members. Even though he doesn’t talk about being down bad, he makes up for it in his energy and flow. Shout-out Even Stevens. Overall, the song is a great banger and a good choice as one of the promotional singles. The instrumental is a fusion of rock and trap, with a heavy electric guitar and hard hitting trap drums. It also feels nostalgic giving early 2000’s (Toxic is the first song coming to mind) vibes with the high pitched instrument ringing throughout the track. Every artist gives an amazing performance with high energy. LamboTruck (Cozz feat. REASON and Childish Major) The anthem of the underappreciated. This song trades verses between Cozz of camp Dreamville, and REASON of Top Dawg Entertainment. The hook on this song is done by Childish Major, a renowned artist known for producing the tracks U.O.E.N.O (remixed by TDE) and 4 Your Eyez Only by Cole of Dreamville, which is fitting given the topic of discussion. Being the underdogs of their respective labels, the artists have an issue with being overshadowed by the more popular members, who have more favor for releases, features, pay, marketing, etc. etc. Cozz begins talking about his lack of pay from the label, and how his “dreams” at Dreamville aren’t able to be fleshed out due to lack of funds and attention. Cozz wonders if REASON is having more luck at TDE, since everyone there has gotten special attention to their album releases, from Schoolboy’s recent album to Isaiah Rashad (Ironic). He’s hungry to be making more music, but it’s not in his favor. He’s been so frustrated he’s even considering popping a glock. This could either mean suicide, or more likely used to threaten the label to give him more attention. He brushes it off because that would be stupid to do, but still thinks he might blow a fuse if something doesn’t change soon. REASON sings a different tune, talking about his lavish life as a rapper, getting money, getting girls and keeping up his image as a hardened West Coast rapper-wait, that’s a lie. He reveals to Cozz that he’s actually been broke for quite some time, the bills keep stacking up, and he can’t handle lying about his situation. Being surrounded by much more rich and famous artists at the Dreamville recording sessions got to him, and seeing J. Cole pull up to the studio in a Lamborghini truck was the straw that broke the camel’s back. REASON wants him and Cozz to rob Cole. The third verse is a back and forth between REASON and Cozz, with Cozz pleading not to mug Cole, as he’s like a brother to him, and crossing your own brother is taboo. REASON isn’t listening since he isn’t that close to Cole, so it’s not much of a loss if Cole dies in the process. The argument reaches a climax when REASON makes an offer: He goes and robs Cole, while Cozz robs Top Dawg, the head of REASON’s label. Cozz agrees. The outro by REASON summarizes the song, nice guys finish last, and if you want to get what you deserve, you have to take it for yourself. This song is one of my personal favorites on the album, since the topic is one rarely heard in rap. Usually artists rep their collective as their family, and upon getting signed, the artist will always be taken care of. In hip hop it’s common to talk about how you used to be broke, but working hard has got you in a much better financial situation. It’s refreshing but also sad hearing how in the case of Cozz and REASON, they’re still broke even after getting signed to some of the most desired and prestigious rap collectives. The back and forth arguing at the end of the song feels much more intense as their voices are panned to the left and right and the beat breaks, making the listener feel dead center of the altercation. Swivel (EarthGang) I’ll be keeping this track short since hammer_it_out is doing an AOTY review for Mirrorland and will most likely have a better analysis for this track (I will link once his review is out) The track focuses on caution and paranoia (Always keep your head on a swivel) and the gangs talk about the dangers of living in Atlanta. Dot salutes a fallen friend Alan, whose cause of death remains ambiguous but can be inferred through the lyric,
“RIP my nigga Alan, damn, I wish you would’ve stayed at home”.
Venus’ verse tells a small story of his youth, not involved much in gang violence which he was thankful for, but still had a rough upbringing as both his parents were overworked for little pay. Things changed for the worse though when Ronald Reagan introduced the War on Drugs, which I’ll try to keep short. Instead of helping communities stay safe from the addictive nature of drugs (which he may or may not have deliberately introduced into lower income communities), the administration used the War as an excuse to target and jail minorities. Now Venus is ironically surrounded by police brutality and death in what was once a safe neighborhood, and thinks solemnly that being dead would weigh less on him than needing to mourn for everyone else that has lost their lives. After 3 faster and more aggressive tracks, Swivel serves as a nice break to ground the listener, and help lead into the next track with a similar vibe. The beat teeters between smooth/calm, and eerie/unnerving, helping instill the feelings of paranoia that the song is focused on. Oh Wow…Swerve (J.Cole feat. Zoink Gang, KEY!, and Maxo Kream) Zoink Gang is the newly formed collective of JID, Smino, Buddy, and Guapdad4000, having been created during the Dreamville recording sessions. Buddy even announced the group has enough songs for a tape. Although this is the only track on the album officially featuring Zoink Gang, many tracks on the album will feature 2 or more members of the group. Oh Wow…Swerve is the combination of two tracks. Oh Wow opens with a dreamy, slow instrumental as Zoink Gang can be heard conversing in the background, and then coming together to chant the hook. Layered vocals of the members sing in the background leading into Coles verse, an introspective verse about how people are truly happy is when they enter the afterlife. Some purposefully corny bars about Radioactive (he’s becoming self aware), and the verse ends with an alarm clock, telling the listener to stay woke even though it may feel better to be asleep. Zoink gang chants the hook again, and Oh Wow ends. Swerve begins with an incredibly catchy hook from Atlanta’s KEY! talking about his car, the theme of Swerve. A slow but bouncy trap beat from Bizniss Boy is the instrumental for the song. A car skrts in the background and the song shifts focus to H-town Maxo Kream, a standout verse showcasing his clever comparisons of pop culture to gang life. Some of my favorite lines of the album are from his verse. The following verse is by JID, but is cut off short, the listener only hearing about 4 or so lines. This could be payback for cutting off Nudy’s verse early back in Down Bad. Oh Wow…Swerve is a nice double track, and although there is no real connection between the two parts of the song, it was probably combined as a way to transition back to banger territory from the solemnness of Oh Wow and Swivel. Swerve also doesn’t feature any Dreamville members bar the 4 bars from JID, so this could’ve been an excuse to get the track onto the album since Oh Wow does contain Dreamville members. Don’t Hit Me Right Now (Bas, Cozz, Ari Lennox, feat. Yung Baby Tate, Guapdad4000 and Buddy) Don’t Hit Me Right Now is a track packed full of different artists. The artists are tired of girls hitting up their phone, and are busy with other things, which is the theme of the song. The beat is bouncy and is fleshed out by Ari Lenox’s singing as she provides background vocals for the track. Oakland’s Guapdad4000 sings an incredibly catchy hook (it won’t be his last on the tape) and the remaining artists deliver quick 8 bars. Bas takes the first verse, and his last line actually begins the first bar of Atlanta’s Yung Baby Tate’s verse. With less rapping and more singing, her verse is also outstandingly catchy. The hook is displayed again and Compton’s Buddy begins the following verse. Buddy arguably benefitted the most from the recording sessions in this album, being lucky enough to voice in 6 separate tracks on the album (a whopping 9 if we include the director’s cut), the most from any non-dreamville artist. He even beats some of Dreamville’s own artists in volume. Cozz finishes the last verse and the hook plays again, ending the song. Overall, Don’t Hit Me Right Now is a nice party track, and is a fun song to listen to. Well Fargo Interlude (JID, EarthGang featuring Guapdad4000 and Buddy) However, the debatably most fun track on the album is an interlude. It begins with a skit from the credited artists imitating posh British accents, while preparing to rob a bank with bazookas, flamethrowers, machine guns, and muffins. The hook is the 4 artists chanting about how they’re about to rob the Wells Fargo. The beat is loud and rambunctious, and features some unique instruments imitating party horns to make the track extra playful. While the vocals and beat are in sync, the composition of either the hook or the beat (can’t tell which) is done so in a way to make it song sound off kilter, almost like the artists are coming in early/late and need to catch up to the beat. This is done on purpose as Johnny Venus is heard saying at the end:
“It’s just how you count it, it just depends on how you count it”
The verses are super quick, switching from one artist to the next before you even have time to realize they started rapping. The quickest song on the album, Wells Fargo makes a case of being one of the most HYPE songs of 2019. The energy in it is insane. Examples include the chanting of the chorus, the group finishing every bar for Johhny Venus, and Buddy cutting into the hook screaming:
“YOU GETTING THIS? YOU RECORDING THIS? ARE YOU GETTING THIS!? AAAAAAAAA”
If you haven’t watched the REVENGE documentary on youtube, I’d recommend scrubbing through until you find the clip of them recording this song. Seeing all these different people from across the country, having probably not even met each other prior to the recording sessions, have so much fun making a track captures the essence of what ROTD3 is about, getting people together to make great music. Sleep Deprived (Lute, Omen, feat. Mez and DaVionne) This track is another focused on overcoming hardships to reach success, so much so that the artists are sleep deprived from overworking. They also reminisce about past dreams and conquered goals. Raleigh’s Mez and DaVionne (hometown not specified) are featured on this track. The beat is filled with natural drums that surround the room, with a crash symbol that slides between the left and right connecting the kick and snare. A funky bass riff plays in the background, and dreamy piano keys capture the reminiscing topics of discussion. Lute begins talking about how thankful he is to be in his position to a girl he just met. To put it simply, even though saying Rap saved him is cliché, it’s true. He can live comfortably now, and watches as those who didn’t ride for him now want to be on his side. Lute manages to always bring hunger and energy in his verses, and the same goes for this one. Mez picks up the next verse, talking about his dreams, and mentions that he used to want to sign to Cole in the early days of Dreamville. He reflects on the hard times and trauma he had to go through, and now it keeps him up at night, yet tells someone (his fans or his girl) not to stay up late worrying about him. DaVionne delivers an amazing Chorus, catchy but meaningful, and Omen, one of the OG members of Dreamville, gives his first verse of the record. He talks about a failed relationship and trying to rid himself of her, yet still finds himself staying up late thinking about her. Every artist on this track shined, and played the different aspects of why someone could be sleep deprived. Lute is sleep deprived from stress. Mez doesn’t want his fans or his girl losing sleep over him. DaVionne is carving her own path in life while haters are losing sleep from trying to figure her out, and Omen is up late thinking about a lost love. Despite the topic of discussion, the vibe of the song is a mix between bounce and relaxation, and serves as another great bridge on the album as it delves into deeper, more meaningful cuts. Fun Fact: Mez actually did have a back and forth with Cole on MySpace back when J. Cole went by “The Therapist”. This was probably around the same time Omen was chatting with Cole and would eventually go on to create Dreamville. Self Love (Ari Lennox, Bas, feat. Baby Rose) This song is for the self-conscious. The soulful Ari Lennox and Atlanta’s Baby Rose sing about struggling to fit in, and how it’s unhealthy to invest too much of yourself into someone else, when instead you should be loving yourself. The chorus is short but impactful, “Self-love is the best love”. Ari Lennox croons her verse and her turn at the chorus, filling the air with vibrancy and emotion. Baby Rose sings the following verse and chorus with much more soul. You can feel the pain in her voice, and her performance is remarkable. Both singers mention a failed relationship amidst their self-conscious thoughts, and Bas comes in to play the other side of relationship, saying how he led his girl astray and feels shame for making her feel the way she feels. He realizes this relationship isn’t healthy and a break is needed, because “Self-love is the best love”. Another personal favorite of mine, it’s good to know you’re not alone when you feel down and out of place. Baby Rose killed her feature, and has an outstanding voice. Ladies, Ladies, Ladies (JID feat. T.I.) Based on “Girls, Girls, Girls” by Jay-Z, JID talks about his experience in past relationships with a little help from T.I. The beat uses a chopped up/reversed vocal sample and is slow and dreamy. JID reminisces, from girls who tried to rob him, girls far more wealthy than him, girls’ brothers trying to shoot him, andeven girls who tried to say the N-word around him even though they aren’t black. Some clever word play is used in his verse, such as:
“She be panty-less (penniless), so no panty lines…she fucked me, tryna pluck a couple bucks like a banjo…”
JID is almost always rapping with a faster flow, so it was a nice change of pace to see him rap so smoothly over a slower track. ATL’s T.I. is the guest of the track, talking about his past relationship with a girl named Loraine, and how karma from “loving” a woman too hard is bound to come back to you, so you can get that same lovin’. I feel like it has to be mentioned given the recent T.I. controversy, but it is pretty hypocritical about rapping about past relationships, and how fucking a girl really well will come back to you as good karma, while at the same time giving your daughter regular hymen checks to make sure she isn’t having sex. Nevertheless, T.I’s verse fit the song well, and did well as a guest feature. Costa Rica (Bas, JID feat. Mez, Buddy, Jace, Reese LAFLARE, Ski Mask the Slump God, Smokepurpp, and Guapdad4000) Another posse cut on the album but one highlighting the features much more than the Dreamville artists. CuBeatz makes the melody on this beat, with their signature of complex, catchy instruments. Pyrex Whippa known for his bouncy drums doesn’t disappoint, adding the percussion on this cut. This posse cut is aimed for flexing, each artist giving their own unique sauce for their verses. Reese from Atlanta begins with a standard trap verse, talking of fendi pants, slatt, and plenty of girls. The verse gets passed to Bas, who uses a clever simile telling his jeweler to make a piece out of his heart since it’s so icy cold. Guapdad4000 shows his amazing hook skills once over, yelling how he’s got plenty of fans and plenty of bands in the popular tourist country of Costa Rica. Jace’s verse is filled with pop culture references, from Norman Bates to Rihanna, and Raleigh NC’s Mez delivers a fast rhyme scheme in the latter half of his verse. Guapdad sings the hook again and the drums cut out for South Florida’s Smokepurpp, who’s funny lines paired with a laid-back tone make them even more humorous, examples include:
“Forty-five on me, shit hot like a pocket (doo-doo)” “Got your baby mama doing drugs in the moshpit”
JID is back to his fast cadence, bouncing off the walls from topic to topic, and ending his verse somewhat humorous saying that at the airport before flying to Costa Rica, a girl mistook him for Swae Lee. After the third hook, Buddy is back on the album track, also with a humorous verse, and even comparing himself to Ernest Hemingway because he’s been writing so much, which is why he’s on so many songs. Ski Mask, also from South Florida, holds the final verse. A long awaited one at that after a snippet surfaced of him in the studio during the Dreamville recordings, with almost a dozen artists all chanting his bars and going absolutely crazy. He also uses his signature style of fast flows and humorous references. I might be biased being from South FL but it’s nice seeing so many rappers fuck with him, and even having him and Purpp be invited amongst the other artists during the ‘Ville sessions. 1993 (J.Cole, JID, Cozz, EARTHGANG feat. Buddy and Smino) “Every album gotta have a weed song.” `-Danny Brown. Much like many rap albums, a dedicated song to the wonderful flower that is bud is needed, but this one has more of a twist. The artists are having a smoke sesh trying to relax after a day of recording during the Dreamville sessions. If you’ve ever seshed with friends, you know that there’s always going to be the one friend who’s high enough to think he can freestyle some bars and impress the group. Usually while attempting to freestyle, the blunt stays burning in their hand, and it’ll be ages before it finally gets passed. Take that scenario, but everyone in the group is a famous rapper. Buddy is not having it, and tries to stop everyone attempting to spit so that they can just chill and enjoy the sesh. Every rapper talks about their experiences with the drug, only to be abruptly cut off by Buddy who just wants the damn blunt to be passed. The highlight of the song is the skit at the end, just hearing all the rappers just laughing while Buddy is trying to quiet the room down, and points out:
“This nigga J. Cole, he done grew some dreads, he think he smoke now”
It’s definitely one of the funniest lines on the album and it’s not even part of the song, it’s a skit. I really enjoyed this song because like Wells Fargo, it’s not meant to be taken too seriously, but as a song/skit combo it does well enough to be funny without crossing the line of corny. Rembrandt…Run It Back (J. Cole, JID feat. Vince Staples) Rembrandt…Run It Back is another 2 part song, and Rembrandt opens up with a vocal pitched JID giving warning to anyone who might try to mess with him or Dreamville. JID and Cole both have verses on Rembrandt, talking about how their group is better than others in the game. A boastful song, both verses also feature 2 word couplets, using a limited vocabulary to help paint the picture (like artist Rembrandt van Rijn) showing their superiority. The hook is displayed again with gunshots ending Rembrandt, as Run It Back starts to play. Long Beach CA’s own Vince Staple’s voice can be heard trying to get someone’s attention. He’s confused and wonders if this is the Dreamville recording session he’s been hearing about. He then begins his albeit short verse with energy, boasting of his guns, clothing, cars, and fearlessness in the face of violence. He ends the verse warning someone not to get killed by the police, before his verse is cut off by fully automatic gun. Both 2-part songs on this album seem to have the second song only populated by non-Dreamville artists. As I mentioned earlier this is probably why they’re attached to the first song which does feature Dreamville, as a way to still have it listed on the album. Sunset (J. Cole feat. Young Nudy) Pyrex provides another bouncy trap beat, this time with help from ChaseTheMoney. Originally called God Flinch, this track was rumored to include a Drake feature due to a photo online of Drakes name attached to a first draft of credits for the song, and a photo of him riding in J. Cole’s RR around L.A. J Cole mentions riding the Rolls Royce in L.A, and includes the bar, “2-6 god” which could also be interpreted as “To 6-god”, but to many fans dismay, the track does not include Drake. J. Cole’s hook plays a cliché on the “Roses are red…” poem, saying roses are red while his diamonds are blue. His pockets are green from being filled with money all the time. He mentions how he wants to get a house in LA, and later explains why in his verse due to how he almost got killed in his hometown being mis-recognized in a drive-by. Young Nudy is back again (with a full verse this time) and uses his laid back flow to contrast his trap/drill filled lyrics. Thematically, the song isn’t very significant, however it’s still catchy to listen to if you need a banger. Got Me (Ari Lennox, Omen feat. Ty Dolla $ign and Dreezy) Ari Lennox and L.A’s Ty $ tag team in this R&B deep cut, singing of their loyalty to their lover, as long as their lover is just as loyal. Much like every album needing a weed song, if there’s an R&B track and Ty $ is featured it’s bound to be a vibe. Ari sings the following verse after Ty, talking about how just much more special she is as a lover than the other fish in the sea. Omen and Chicago’s Dreezy finish the cut with rap verses, but still fit the theme of the song as they discuss how grateful they are for their partner, and their partner for them. Like I said, the song is a vibe, plain and simple. The beat is very trapsoul, and allows the singers to shine. The rappers’ verses give support in order to make a catchy, quality, R&B track on this album. After what was about 5 trap-inspired songs previously, this is a nice change of pace yet again, showcasing the album’s diversity. Middle Child (J. Cole) A solo track by J. Cole, Middle Child was released under his name in January of 2019. Originally believed to be a single for what would be his next album, it was actually the first of many singles to be released promoting Revenge of the Dreamers III. A full brass section opens the song, serving as the basis of the song’s instrumental. Cole opens with a refrain, talking about his enemies and how he’s coming to get them. His first verse discusses how he isn’t into hard drugs, but may babysit some drinks and smoke ‘sum. He talks of wanting to support his friends and peers who aren’t in as lucky a position as Cole. A common theme of his is again expressed of him giving thanks to the rap idols of the past for giving him a source of inspiration. His refrain repeats and transitions into the hook, a chant of boasting, and telling other rappers that no amount of money or street cred will make you real. The second verse fits more into the theme of Middle Child. Cole feels like the middle child, bridging the gap of the older, more lyrical generation of rappers, and the new wave of trap-heavy beats carrying the songs of rappers with more minimalistic lyrics. He mentions talking with 21 Savage and Kodak Black, using them as a means to spark a discussion about how too many minorities are jailed. The lack of proper guidance due to generational trauma is leading to mass incarceration and infighting, which Cole hopes to fix. The chorus plays again, a quick outro and the song ends. Overall the song accomplishes its purpose. Just like merging the two wings of rap, it’s conscious and delivers its message prominently, while still being modern/poppy enough to be played at functions. Even though Cole says he doesn’t drink much, he talks about needing a very strong drink, “something he can feel” in the chorus. This could either mean hard liquor or lean. It’s argued whether he’s talking in first person perspective, or in the perspective of a typical new age rapper, but it’s still cleverly used as a way to keep the hook catchy. It’s modern enough to have playability at parties, (similar to Swimming Pools, albeit not as powerful imo) which is very smart from a marketing standpoint, making it a hit. Fun Fact: J. Cole is not actually a middle child. PTSD (Omen feat. Mereba, Deante’ Hitchcock, and St. Beauty) The penultimate track, PTSD is one of the most slept on songs of the album due to the lack of star-studded guests. What sound to be chopped vocals and a melancholic piano open up the song, with natural/rhythmic drums keeping the time. The theme of the song is just like the title-PTSD. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder usually develops in people who have witnessed a traumatic event, with its effects being triggered reactions within those affected regarding the event. The artists on this track talk about traumatic events in their lives and how it has affected them. Mereba from Alabama begins by speaking to an unnamed figure. This figure is no longer with her, with clues hinting to death by being shot. Now Mereba reflects and understands that this is the reason why she has trouble sleeping at night, and needs to sleep with a gun in order to feel safe. Deante’ has the next verse, very deeply and emotionally talking about his regrets through life. He’s carrying the thoughts of those close to him on his shoulders, not because they died, but because they failed to live out their dreams and are doing so vicariously in him. His fortune and fame is causing him guilt and shame. Omen has the closing verse of the song, and his trauma revolves around his sister. On a Tuesday he saw her walking with her kids, which normally is no issue, only it was at midnight. It finally dawned on Omen that rumors he’s heard of his sister being homeless are true, and that she was living on the streets. He was so in shock that he left her on the street before they could talk. The trauma is that he hadn’t seen her for years prior to that encounter, and hasn’t seen her since. Omen prays that he can get closure and the chance to talk to her before one of them dies. St. Beauty sings a refrain, and Buddy closes out the song with a more uplifting outro, chanting with many of those in the studio with him about how this (being the song or the album) is for the homies…and the hoes. Sacrifices (J. Cole, EARTHGANG feat. Smino and Saba) An album later and here we are. Is it really a closing track if it doesn’t have Smino and Saba? No need to worry about that here, as Chi-towns Saba and St. Louis’ Smino both have verses on this song. A guitar can be heard picking in the background, and a fast drum break leads into the beat of the song. Johnny Venus is the only EARTHGANG member on the song, but his two verses make up for Dot’s absence. His signature voice croons as he talks about a near death experience. The hook is short but meaningful.
“I make sacrifices, bloody sacrifices. Cutthroat... rabbit’s toe... I suppose... maybe that’s what life is”
His second verse gets more enthusiastic. Olu’s voice pans between the left and right ear as he yells two words at a time, only to slow back down again for his hook. St. Louis’ own Smino raps the next verse, a smooth feature showcasing his unique style of wordplay and flow. Smino always shines on closing tracks, and this is another example for that. The same goes for Saba, who goes next. His rhyme scheme is consistent, and near the end of his verse it really shows off. J. Cole has the last verse, and it’s honestly one of the best verses I’ve heard from him, period. He wrote more meaningful lyrics about how he loves his wife in a single verse than Chance did on an entire album. He also mentions cleverly how he went from Huey Freeman to Ed Wuncler from the Boondocks to describe how he went from being as conscious as he was pre-fame, to now a rich, disconnected man. It’s one of his most memorable verses, and the singing at the end really sells it. The way the beat rides at the end serves as a great album closer. OVERALL Revenge of the Dreamers III accomplished what a lot of other collaborative/label albums fail to achieve, being a critically good album. It has structure, flow, and consistency throughout. Much like critically good solo albums, there are high points and low points, a diverse mix of bangers and deep cuts, and track placement is perfect. The album is divided into small sections that help separate the tracks by feel, but short enough so the vibe doesn’t get stale. One of the main reasons this album is as good as it is, is because of the features. ROTD3 broke new ground, and inviting so many artists to help work on the album sparked waves of creativity that we will continue to see. Many songs from the Dreamville sessions may not see the light of day, but non-Dreamville artists will eventually have a track or two that was recorded at the time. The relationships formed such as ZoinkGang, Cozz and REASON, etc may also not have happened, and we may get more collaborative music in the future from them. The last time an event on this scale occurred was probably during the recording of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. While Kanye helped craft his album with the help of his legendary connections like Jay-Z, Rza, etc. Cole went a different route, and focused on the new school. He even minimized having more noticeable features, having only 2: Kendrick as an uncredited feature and a single verse from T.I. Doing so gave the new school a chance to show their hunger, and maybe even served as a competition; since so many artists were at the studio, only the best of the best could get featured on the album. Standout performances from people like REASON, Buddy, and Guapdad4000 may introduce them to new audiences, who may never have given them a chance beforehand. Even though this is a feature stacked album, it’s a Dreamville tape at heart. Dreamville didn’t disappoint. Every member came through, and reminded listeners why it was called Revenge of the Dreamers in the first place. Dreamville has done a lot better than other labels at showcasing their in-house talent, and gives each artist multiple spots on the album to exemplify their prowess (I’m looking at you, TDE and Cactus Jack). It was also a nice change of pace for J. Cole, his verses were much less serious than his solo work, and you can tell he really had fun when making the album. I really hope this album inspires more rap collectives/labels to make their own collab tapes. I also hope this makes it more acceptable for said collab tapes to accept help from outside artists. Revenge of the Dreamers 3 is a standout album in 2019, and definitely earned its Grammy nomination. FAVORITE LYRICS by baskin5000
“Potato over my gun” “Pistol grips get to squeezing, wish a nigga would like Liam Neeson”
Lute – Under the Sun
“Let a nigga cover Fader ‘fore I have to fade a nigga at the Fader Fort”
JID – Down Bad
“Maxo talk a lot of shit but is he really ‘bout that life? Is a pig’s pussy pork and can a caterpillar fly? Go Go Gadget, toting ratchets, beam attachment on the side”
Maxo Kream – Oh Wow…Swerve
“Had so many adventure times, we used to run from the jakes To make it for Southside, we do whatever it takes It was apartheid when my barber parted my fade ‘Cause now I’m pulled left and right by Keshia and Adrinae”
Mez – Sleep Deprived
“I got the Mike Jack’ nose, just before the vitiligo, Norman Bates with the eights, I’ma go psycho, Laundromat with a temper, this a vicious cycle, Feel like Rihanna, bitches go wherever I go” “Niggas got me tight like Arthur’s fist and shit” “I started sucking on her titty, put my thumb in her ass She had a little one, it really wasn’t nothing to grab, I did it anyway.” “I’m feelin’ like Goku, bitch, I need your energy, uh, um, okay, huh. Going on a date with an AK”
Jace, Mez, Buddy, and Ski Mask the Slump God – Costa Rica
“I push pack like USPS, you is a bitch”
Smino – 1993
“See a nigga in all red from the North with the pole, it ain’t Santa Claus Brought my gifts to Atlanta, I’m Atlanta Claus I can smell you pussy with the panties off” “It’s astigmatism, you got poor sight, let the bitches forget it, I do it Alzheim” “I’m a real soulful nigga, collard greens inside your speakers”
Smino – Sacrifices TALKING POINTS by baskin5000 • Would you like to see another collaborative album made similar to the Dreamville recording sessions? Will there be more events like this in the future? • How does Revenge of the Dreamers III rank compared to other label albums? (ex. Beast Coast, JackBoys, TDE/Black Panther soundtrack) • Who was your favorite Dreamville artist on the album? Your favorite non-Ville Artist? • Has this album introduced you to any new artists? Will you be exploring more of the artists featured on this album?
2020.01.25 16:19 ThereIsNoSantaClaus/r/Popheads Album of the Decade #25: Frank Ocean - Blonde
artist:Frank Ocean album:Blonde listen:Spotify, Apple Music August 20th, 2016. It’s a warm late summer Saturday afternoon. Many of us have been glued to our screens for weeks, hoping the moment will come. Finally, finally, Frank Ocean’s second proper studio album is on streaming services. No more rumors, no more waiting, no more misdirections, no more staircase building. The moment is here, we click play, and “Nikes” begins. But before this moment, so much happened, a story that’s almost as interesting as the album itself. tyler slept on my sofa, yeah To those heathens unfamiliar with Frank Ocean, I gotchu. Born Christopher Breaux and raised in New Orleans, Frank moved to Los Angeles at age 19 to pursue a career as a musician. Before his breakthrough as a vocalist, he got work as a songwriter, getting credits on tracks by a prepubescent Justin Bieber (“Bigger”) and John Legend (“Quickly” featuring Brandy). Despite working with two current A-listers, Frank’s come-up would come through a group of edgy teenagers making goofy rap music. He became an early member of the unexpectedly influential Odd Future collective, and along with Tyler the Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, and Syd, would become one of its most prominent members. Frank’s debut mixtape, 2011’s Nostalgia, Ultra, would fully break him through as a solo artist, and by the end of the year he got to write a song for Beyoncé (“I Miss You”) and feature twice on the Kanye West/Jay-Z collab album Watch the Throne. Nostalgia, Ultra was recorded in defiance of a middling relationship with his label Def Jam, and saw him recording over the instrumentals of a variety of different songs, such as “Electric Feel” by MGMT, “Strawberry Swing” by Coldplay, and “Optimistic” by Radiohead. This would later get Frank into legal trouble, as the Eagles would take offense with his use of the “Hotel California” backing track on “American Wedding”, and threatened to sue Frank despite the song being on a free mixtape. The controversy would not stop Frank’s rising star, as he would continue to record music, both solo and with Odd Future, such as the fan-favorite Tyler collab “She”. But things were about to get a lot bigger, and a lot more… orange. spending each day of the year If you’re vaguely familiar with Frank Ocean or Blonde, you’re probably aware of the memetic status of the long wait for the album. While there’s been far bigger gaps between releases and other similarly complained-about hiatuses (just look at the replies to literally anything Rihanna posts), people were unbelievably hyped for whatever Frank was doing next. Why? Well, channel ORANGE. Frank’s highly anticipated and overwhelmingly acclaimed debut album was released in mid-summer 2012, a week earlier than its announced date to avoid a possible leak. It was an album everyone deserved to experience together, a perfect summation of everything that Frank had done to that point. People fell in love with Frank’s abstract, idiosyncratic lyrics and song structures, the warm production, and a great list of collaborators from his Odd Future partners Tyler and Earl Sweatshirt to Pharrell, Andre 3000, and John Mayer. Frank had treaded new ground all through his career to this point, but he was about to jump forward in a whole different way. Right before the release of channel ORANGE, Frank posted a letter, originally intended for the liner notes of the album, on his Tumblr. It discussed his falling in love with a man who continued to influence Frank, firmly establishing him as being one of the first and most prominent openly LGBTQ+ artists in the hip hop industry. He recieved widespread support for his announcement from the wider music community, with the notable exception of Chris Brown, who jumped Frank outside a studio in early 2013. Brown, who punched Frank in the face and whose entourage called him a faggot, would attend the Grammys weeks later and refuse to stand with the crowd when Frank won the award for Best Urban Contemporary Album. Why is this part relevant? It isn’t really, but fuck Chris Brown. we’ll let you guys prophesy As early as February 2013, Frank was talking about his follow-up to channel ORANGE. In an interview with BBC’s Zane Lowe, he said he was “10, 11” songs into his next album, and was working with Pharrell, Tyler, and Danger Mouse. 2 months later, he would cite the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and Stevie Wonder (two of whom he would sample on the final album) as inspirations. In June, he would play several new songs at a rare live set in Munich, which included early versions of future Blonde cuts “Seigfried” and “Ivy”. This would be the last taste of anything new for a while, and the mystery of where Frank was and what he was working on increasingly grew as the years passed. In April 2014, he would post on Tumblr that the album was almost done, but seven more months would pass before anyone would be blessed with new Frank. Rather than an album announcement or new single, it was a lo-fi demo of a song that would not make the final album, “Memrise”. In January 2015, he would post a cover of the Isley Brothers’ “At Your Best (You Are Love)” as a tribute to Aaliyah, who had done a well-known cover of the song. 2015, however, would become infamous for something different. The Post. On April 6th, 2015, Frank posted on his Tumblr to finally announce the upcoming album alongside a curated magazine releasing in July. Through a misleading caption, the album would be regarded as Boys Don’t Cry up until the final release despite it being the name of the magazine. Hype would go into overdrive, and despite a lack of future announcements from Frank, fans would scavenge anything possible to find details. A picture of Frank on the set of a rumored music video leaked, and people would later find the song title “Nikes” in the director’s resume. This would later be (correctly) connected to a vague Chance the Rapper tweet from July, which he would actually post again closer to the final release. A mysterious empty playlist named states appeared on Frank’s SoundCloud in May, which caused a flurry of speculation for a while but ultimately led to absolutely nothing. Speaking of nothing, July 2015 would come and go, then August, then September, then 2015 itself. In late November, produceDJ A-Trak posted a tweet hinting at a mysterious upcoming song called “White Ferrari” releasing in several weeks. Frank fans jumped on it, with the evidence being: a) an old Tumblr post where you can see what looks like ‘rari’ written on a chalkboard next to Frank, and b) it’s the most Frank Ocean song title you can come up with. Again, this would turn out to be completely correct minus rumors that Playboi Carti was on the song. 2016 now. Frank would stay quiet for even longer, but fans would get a taste with a short feature on Kanye’s The Life of Pablo. Much of early 2016 was Frank occasionally emerging from the shadows, usually doing things that weren’t music like modeling for Calvin Klein. Finally, in July 2016, a self-deprecating post emerged on Frank’s website, acknowleding the many delays and announcing the album would be released in July. It wasn’t. As the final minutes of July ticked away and fans were losing all hope, suddenly, a mysterious livestream began on the website. It showed a black and white image of a warehouse. The New York Times reported the album and magazine would be out on August 5th. This was it. Or was it? endless, timeless People were so desperate for new Frank Ocean music that they watched him woodwork for weeks. Every so often, he would walk on camera and build… something. Clips of music would play, but they were often ambient loops or snippets of instrumentals. Well into the project, with the August 5th date having passed, there was a period of weeks with no new progress or appearances from Frank on the stream, leading impatient fans to search for the location of the warehouse. It would actually be found by Redditors as an event space in Brooklyn, but as the stream was pre-recorded, it wasn’t much help. Finally, on August 19th, Frank returned and finished the staircase, walking to the top and back down, completing the stream. Immediately after, a visual album called Endless dropped on Apple Music. Fans reacted with confusion and disappointment, believing that they had waited four years for something they could only play in one long sitting. However, there was a quick clarification that Endless was different from what people were still calling Boys Don’t Cry. The next morning, the “Nikes” video released on Apple Music, over a year after it was filmed. Things progressed incredibly quickly from there, as pop-up shops were announced for later that day, and it was discovered that copies of the long-teased magazine contained the even-longer-teased album. Fans wouldn’t have to wait for those to get online, however, as the album itself finally, FINALLY dropped on Apple Music at around 5:00 PM EST. That album is Blonde. these bitches want nikes It's pretty clear that Frank wanted "Nikes" to be everyone's introduction Blonde. It was released as a single/music video, the only one from the era, and it's also the first song on the album. "Nikes" is a bold choice for a lead single, a subversion of expectations for anyone coming in expecting a "Thinkin Bout You" or "Swim Good" type track. Over a melancholic, dark, almost ambient beat (and some of the only drums you'll hear on this album), Frank touches on a variety of topics, ranging from materialism to drugs to modern relationship dynamics to a shoutout to Trayvon Martin. Most notably, Frank's voice is pitched up for a majority of the song, almost building up the suspense on this long-awaited album for when the effect will drop. That moment comes almost exactly three minutes in, with Frank's natural voice coming through with the very self-aware line "we'll let you guys prophesy", which feels like a clear acknowledgement of the years of speculation leading to this moment. The final bridge of the album version (the alternate magazine version features a verse from Japanese rapper KOHH) is heartbreaking, describing a relationship where Frank's partner is making love with him despite them not being in love and the partner still not being over their previous relationship. Themes of relationship drama and love in the modern age permeate throughout the album, along with being regular songwriting topics of Frank's. Of course, I can't discuss "Nikes" without talking about the video. Directed by Tyrone Lebon, a London based photographer and filmmaker, the music video features a barrage of different subjects, locations, and abstract imagery with occasional appearances from Frank and a cameo from A$AP Rocky. Lebon, himself an accomplished fashion photographer who has worked with Louis Vuitton, Calvin Klein, and, yes, Nike, creates these beautiful dreamlike scenes, some of which only appear for brief moments. There is a nude woman swimming in a glass tank of water, hazy scenes of people at a club party, a man on fire, the devil dancing, and at one point, a talking dog. Some shots in the video even reference other media, with the most obvious being this shot of a nude figure in a pile of money, which seems like an obvious analogue to the famous rose petal scene from American Beauty. However, more interesting to me is this shot, which references the infamous Heaven's Gate cult, who committed mass suicide in March 1997 in conjunction with the Hale-Bopp comet, which they believed would bring a spacecraft that would take their souls to another world. The cult members had covered their (TW: non-graphic photo of body) upper bodies with a shroud and worn identical pairs of Nike Decades, an image Frank and Lebon recreated for the video. Considering the songs critiques of materialism and wanting specific brands as a status symbol, you can definitely interpret the shot as a statement calling this type of behavior cult-like. The crushing weight of capitalism sends people in all sorts of weird directions in a search for deeper meaning, some find it in buying expensive shoes made by slave labor, some are exploited by the allure of cults like Heaven's Gate. Interestingly enough, the cult would find itself intertwined with the world of hip hop again two years later when Frank collaborator Lil Uzi Vert referenced them on the cover to his still-unreleased album Eternal Atake. Bizarrely, this lead to Uzi being threatened with legal action by the surviving members of a suicide cult. we'll never be those kids again I've touched on Frank's use of pitch-shifting on "Nikes", but it's far from limited to one song. As touched on in this amazing Left at London video, Frank has something of a reputation for playing with pitch alot in his music. On Blonde, the effect can be used to convey a variety of things, which differ based on which song you're listening to. To me, Frank's pitched up vocals on "Nikes" when mixed with the frustrations about materialism, status, and relationships in the lyrics convey a sense of alienation, his voice sounding almost inhuman. On "Ivy", Frank's voice is pitched up again, but noticeably less, with way more of his natural voice coming through. Considering the lyrics center around a long-dead relationship with an emphasis on how they were "kids", the pitch shift gives his voice more of a child-like tone. The dreamy production, with help from former Vampire Weekend membeproducer Rostam Batmanglij, creates a sense of wistful nostalgia mostly through reverb-heavy guitars and subdued synths. Even more pitch-shifting is used for the rap sections of "Nights" and "Futura Free", possibly conveying a sense of youthful arrogance in the latter, and for the chorus of "Self Control", sung by Austin Anderson, lead singer of underrated indie band Slow Hollows. Quite possibly the only song on Blonde that wouldn't have sounded entirely out of place on channel ORANGE, "Pink + White" is also the album's most accessible track. Another longing love song with themes of mortality and nostalgia, it's still far from Top 40 radio, but the production from Pharrell Williams and a lush string arrangement from the legendary Jon Brion (who conducted my favorite film score, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as well as having worked with Kanye West, Fiona Apple, Sky Ferreria, Mac Miller, and others) gives the song extra punch. Of course, you can't talk about the song without mentioning Beyoncé, who drops by for an uncredited vocal performance, harmonizing behind Frank. As far as flexes go, getting Beyoncé on your album just for background vocals is definitely up there, but considering how Bey was one of Frank's first major co-signs, it makes a lot of sense. The final minute of the song, where Bey's harmonies, the piano and drum based beat, and the strings all swell, is purely beautiful. be yourself Rosie Watson, the mother of one of Frank's close friends, makes her second appearance on a Frank Ocean album on the first interlude, "Be Yourself". Watson was known for leaving passionate speeches of advice to her son over the phone, and one of them was used for the channel ORANGE interlude "Not Just Money". That speech was about money, and this one is about drugs. Watson tells her son not to fall into peer pressure, to not try to be someone else, and to not take drugs unless its under doctor's supervision lest he become a "weed-head" who is "sluggish, lazy, stupid, and unconcerned". While her fears of addictive weed are probably based in daytime news fearmongering, the message of individuality resonates. Frank is well known for doing his own thing, from going off on his own to be a musician to being with Odd Future to being one of the only openly LGBTQ+ figures in hip hop and R&B to literally being on his own by self-releasing Blonde. Frank has definitely been himself, and he's all the better for it. The interlude also features a reoccurring motif of the album, the ambient track "Running Around" by producemusician Buddy Ross, who has since worked with artists like Vampire Weekend and Bon Iver. "Be Yourself", along with later interludes "Facebook Story" and "Good Guy" and the outro of "Futura Free", feature "Running Around" underscoring various figures sharing monologues that define their ideology. Is there a particular reason for using this song specifically? Maybe, but personally I just think it's because its a really great, relaxing ambient piece. The album goes right from being yourself to being alone, two sides of a coin. "Solo" covers the fallout of a relationship, leading to Frank smoking weed by himself in the midst of the dark, empty world. The chorus invokes almost apocalyptic imagery, speaking of "hell on Earth" and "cities on fire". Drugs have become Frank's only shelter from the grim world, but unlike what Rosie Watson thinks, he's not taking them to be someone else. He knows things have ended, but can only escape with his mind altered. The lonely atmosphere of the song and biblical imagery of the chorus are both supported by a single (solo) organ being most of the song's backing instrumentation. James Blake, who played the organ and produced the track, is no stranger to minimalist atmospheres, having created many of them on his solo (ay!) music. Continuing the minimalism of the previous track, "Skyline To" is a dreamscape of a song. There's a hazy guitar, subtle synths and buried drums (provided by Tyler, the Creator) along with sounds of nature, creating a relaxing vibe. Much like a dream, Frank's lyrics are stream of consciousness, ranging from the passage of time to weed to sex. Piercing adlibs underscore many of Frank's lines, mostly saying "smoke", "haze", and "blur". These adlibs were, for some reason, originally thought to be Kendrick Lamar, but this was later debunked when physical copies of Blonde were released with the official credits. keep a place for me One of the album's absolute high points and one of the most heartbreaking songs of the decade, "Self Control" describes the slow death of a relationship. The first half is mostly underscored by minimal guitars provided by Austin Anderson and (Sandy) Alex G, with Anderson dropping in both pitched and unpitched. However, midway through the song, it goes to a whole different level. A wordless, distorted vocal wail brings in a gorgeous string section, and Frank's vocals for the outro are beautifully layered, creating a For Emma-esque multi-track choir, which plays out the song in a way that's both quiet and intimate and grand and epic. It's a painful, dramatic end to a relationship that was once happy, and Frank knows that it will be over that night. "Good Guy" feels like it comes from the direct aftermath of the breakup in "Self Control". Frank goes on a blind date set up through one of his friends to a gay bar, but comes away not feeling much. His date texts "nothing like you look", and talks "so much more" than Frank does. Most of all, Frank realizes that his date only sees it as a fun night, while Frank, profound as always, is hoping for a deeper connection. It's a simple interlude, with the only instrument being a keyboard, but it creates a sense of such distinct loneliness and disillusionment in the face of heartbreak that it's up there with the album's best songs. every night fucks every day up After the album dropped, "Nights" became an instant fan favorite. It's not hard to see why, with its melancholy tone, synth-heavy instrumental, and personal lyrics recapping Frank's life in Houston after Hurricane Katrina hit his hometown of New Orleans as well as relationship drama. The song feels more straightforward than others on the album, but then around the three minute mark things start changing up. Distorted guitar riffs drown out the synths, and get louder and louder before a beeping noise transitions into a ambient trap beat as Frank's voice gets more pitched up for a final rap verse and layered for the last chorus. The beat switch on "Nights" is almost memetically acclaimed, with my favorite being Big Quint's reaction. It's the kind of musical choice that really elevates a song, leading to its current reputation of being the favorite song of every depressed vibe guy who makes slowed + reverb versions of Frank, Tyler, and Lorde songs. Before Blonde dropped, there was much speculation as to who would end up appearing on the album as a feature. Kanye West was floated often of course, along with Chance the Rapper (due to the "Nikes" tweet), Playboi Carti, Bon Iver, and others. However, once the album actually came out there wasn't much of anything you could call a feature. Beyoncé singing backing vocals on a song, Kim Burrell on another, some voices on interludes, Not!Kendrick Lamar on adlibs. However, the one clear actual feature on the album was one nobody could be disappointed by. On "Solo (Reprise)", the absolute legend Andre 3000 comes out of his cave long enough to drop an absolutely fire verse over mostly just piano and occasional off-kilter, experimental drums. It's not a long track, coming in barely over a minute and not featuring Frank himself, but Andre's dense lyrics about everything from police brutality to ghostwritten bars (something that many people took as a shot at Drake despite it being recorded before Drake's ghostwriting scandal broke) create an instantly memorable, fleeting experience that transitions into the next section of the album. don't have much longer baby While there are several songs on Blonde that show Frank going more "out there" than ever before, maybe the best example is "Pretty Sweet". Channeling the orchestral swells on The Beatles' "A Day in the Life", the song begins with an overwhelming, chaotic string section blasting. Frank is audible, but being drowned out by the noise around him, which gets louder and louder before dropping completely. The second section of the song has some reverb-heavy, layered vocals from Frank over neo-psychedelia/dream pop-esque guitars. Suddenly, for the final minute, a drum-and-bass beat drops, which Frank wordlessly harmonizes before giving way to a children's choir, who sing a short outro which name-drops the song's title. The lyrics to the song are abstract and vague, singing about parents, religion, fake friends, and mortality. According to Genius, "sweet" is a term from the south (where Frank grew up) meaning to call someone gay. It's an interesting read, and I honestly don't think you can fully exclude any interpretation of Frank's work. Easily the most memed track when Blonde came out was "Facebook Story". The song isn't inherently funny, but it appears in the middle of a fairly dramatic stretch on the album and features a man with a thick accent talk about fighting with his girlfriend over Facebook. In the immediate panic of the album's release, the speaker was often incorrectly identified as Swedish cloud rapper Yung Lean (who was also incorrectly identified as a vocalist on "Self Control" and is officially listed as having vocals on "Godspeed"), but it's actually French house musician SebastiAn, who had worked with Frank on Endless. SebastiAn tells a story about having an argument with his then-girlfriend where she insists that he accept her on Facebook (or "Fazebuk" as he pronounces it). When SebastiAn refuses because she's in front of him and its unnecessary, she accuses him of cheating on her and breaks up with him. The interlude follows the pattern of the previous interludes, telling a wider story on modern culture. Rosie Watson tells her son to be himself and to not be someone he isn't, something that resonates heavy in our hypercapitalist modern culture, which emphasizes buying expensive status items and creating a Personal Brand to sell yourself. "Good Guy" takes things to modern relationships, which in Frank's view lead to more people just trying to find some fun for the night rather than deeper meaning. On "Facebook Story", a relationship is severed over not being "friends" on a social media app when you're in the same room. Much of modern culture is defined by our status symbols, and among them is the idea that a relationship isn't official until it hits social media. Finishing a four-song run of shorter tracks in the album's second half ("Pretty Sweet" is the longest of these at 2 and a half minutes) is "Close to You". Frank, who had listed Stevie Wonder as an influence on his new music all the way back in 2013, now reworks a Stevie cover of the Burt Bacharach and Hal David song "Close to You". It's not an exact word-for-word cover, but the inspiration is clear and a short piece of Stevie's talkbox-filtered voice appears at the end. Frank's verse, delivered through a vocoder effect provided by indie pop musician Francis and the Lights, is about the aftermath of a rough breakup, fitting with the previous interlude. Religious imagery comes up again, with Frank saying he's "preaching to this choir, to this atheist" when it comes to talking to his ex. He's not devastated by their breakup (touching back to the dichotomy of the relationship on "Nikes" and "Self Control") but he's lonely ("Solo") and worried about getting older. It's become ingrained in us that our twenties are the time where we become an adult, find a partner, and settle down, which leads to people feeling pressured to stick with people they might not have otherwise. Nobody wants to die alone and unloved, and it's a genuine feeling of anxiety for many that once they hit 30, they're basically a senior. Things in Frank's relationship may have ended badly, and he misses them deeply, but he still has memories that the two of them shared, and nobody can take those memories away. your dilated eyes watch the clouds float You might remember the "White Ferrari" tweet I mentioned from DJ A-Trak, where he said the song would be heard in a matter of weeks and it would be the best thing we heard that year. While it was more like months, the second part is 100% true. "White Ferrari" is my favorite song on Blonde and one of my favorites of all time. "White Ferrari" is the sound of driving into the early hours of the morning, letting your partner rest their head on your shoulder as you look up at the stars. It's an epic story of a relationship from his teen years, special, valuable, and pure (like a "white Ferrari"), a nod to the fleeting moments we have in this world and who we spend those moments with. The song is sonically intimate, mostly backed with ambient-esque synths and quiet acoustic guitars. There's a really cinematic quality to the instrumental to me, feeling like the soundtrack to a great indie film, and the presence of Jon Brion on the song hammers that home. Frank goes for it vocally on the track too, starting in his lower register, adding some beautiful vocal layering in the middle to create an amazing harmony effect, and ending in a quiet falsetto that could be mistaken for Justin Vernon (and it has). The final verse in particular is wonderfully abstract, with a series of wistful metaphors for wishing things had just been different. We wonders why couldn't they be older ("I'm sure we're taller in another dimension"), which feels like a poetic take on the sentiment from the Beach Boys' "Wouldn't It Be Nice". He just wishes they could go wherever they wanna go, go back to the basics and beginning of their relationship, when they were "primal and naked", a line that can be interpreted as invoking early human imagery or the passion that comes from the start of a sexual relationship. He just wants them to be go beyond their imagined walls, go to where the boundaries are limitless ("You dream of walls that hold us in prison / It's just a skull, least that's what they call it / And we're free to roam"). However, like in many songs throughout the album, there's a sense of depressing reality setting in. They spent so much time together, thought what they happened was special, one of a kind, and profound. However, things didn't work out like that, and now Frank is alone and trying to figure things out. It's a beautiful song, and interpolating The Beatles' "Here, There, and Everywhere" on the line "Spending each day of the year" definitely helps. In another interesting note, the release of the full credits for the album revealed that Kanye West co-wrote "White Ferrari". Kanye's exact contributions to the song aren't known, but I'm grateful for anyone who took part on creating this perfect song. "Seigfried" might be the most abstract and poetic breakup song ever recorded. Frank, in typical Frank fashion, takes a song about the end of relationship and brings it to deep existential ideas, mortality, and religion. Frank is frustrated by the end of a relationship, and considers that he should give up and just try for the idealized nuclear family, living in the suburbs behind a white picket fence with a few kids. But he rejects that, and it leads him down a darker path, one of life, death, God, and humanity itself. Frank isn't normal, he isn't superficial and based in status symbols, he wants something deeper and more profound. He wishes he could see God in a way that someone else could, even just a glimpse of belief, but is disillusioned by religion, something that was heavily touched on in the channel ORANGE song "Bad Religion". Frank wants to be able to believe, but he can't help but think about the fragility of human existence. A solar flare could turn our society upside down or end it entirely in a moment, which makes searches for deeper meaning seem pointless. This throws back to the invoking of the Heaven's Gate imagery from the "Nikes" video. People search for deeper meaning or satisfaction out of life in all kinds of varying ways. In Frank's eyes, he'd rather enjoy himself with film photography and psychedelic drugs. In the end, however, things circle back to what matters in the moment, the death of a relationship. He'd do anything for his ex, anything to bring them back. The psychedelic, dream-poppy production of the song is absolutely gorgeous, layering filtered guitars and keys with a dramatic string arrangement from Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood, underscoring the deep existentialism of the song. Because it's her favorite song on the album, I reached out to the amazing GoWestYoungKanye for a word on "Seigfried", and this is what she sent:
"‘Seigfried’ is my favourite song off all time — well, it’s tied for first with Nina Simone’s ‘Feeling Good’, at least. For three years, I listened to it every single night before I slept, at least once, finding it more and more spell-binding and resonant and splendid with each listen. (I’m an insomniac, things that put me to sleep are rare, and I tend to give ‘it put me to sleep’ as a compliment.) For me, at least, ‘Seigfried’ is the rawest song on an album that drips blood; there is something so infinite and agonising about the way Frank sings ‘two kids and a swimming pool’, and calls out ‘brave!’, echoing himself uncertainly. Most people are familiar with the beat switch at the album’s midpoint, and have rightfully lauded it, but the second the strings come in under Frank as he croons ‘I’m livin’ over city / And taking in the homeless sometimes’, acting as the track’s pulse, a quickened heart rate, is easily one of the best few seconds on the album, even if the bassline is only temporary. It wounds me, and it heals me, in the same way ‘Feeling Good’ does. Ultimately, I think the beauty of ‘Seigfried’ is in its honesty: an attempt at subversion fails; Frank is not brave; he’s a fool. He attempts to slot the minutiae of love (his lover’s freckles and his own crooked teeth [among other flaws]) into the hetero-nuclear ideal (two kids and a suburban house with a swimming pool) but comes up empty — as I listen, I find myself thinking of the word ‘emptiness’ constantly, and the track echoes in the empty space accordingly. Sometimes, it's good to be alone."
Thank you Kiki ❤️ "Godspeed" connects things back to the theme of religion. James Blake, who created a religious atmosphere on "Solo", is back in a more ambient take on gospel sounds. There's a prominent organ with some quiet electric pianos, digital strings, and an outro from gospel singer Kim Burrell. The first verse includes a direct Bible reference, tying into a Psalms 23 quote about always preparing a table in the presence of your enemies. Despite how Frank's relationship with his partner ended, he would still be there for them no matter what, and would offer them a place in his home. He wishes his ex godspeed on wherever they go in their future life, wanting them to live safely and happily even when they aren't together anymore. Frank's moving on, and with the knowledge that the relationship is over, still giving his best to his former partner. how far is a light year? This brings us to the final song on Blonde. While "Futura Free" is nine minutes long, it's split into a song and an extended outro interlude. Bringing things full circle by pitching his voice up for a majority of the song, Frank raps about his life, his upbringing, his fame, and the uncertainty of life. He references 2Pac and Selena, two stars who died young. He's living the life he wants to live, but not taking it for granted. He's grateful for all the success he's had, but still nostalgic for his life before the fame. It's stream of conscious, but Frank can make that sound profound. The production is kind of celebratory, but also kind of melancholic, capturing the uncertain feeling of the song perfectly. As one final way of tying everything together, at the near five minute mark, the song proper ends, and after a long silence, the interlude begins. Called "Interviews", it features a series of questions asked to Frank's brother Ryan, rappeproducedesigner Sage Elsesser (also known as Navy Blue), and others by skater and designer Mikey Alfred. It's a nostalgic piece, allowing the guys to goof around and answer questions about superpowers and secret talents. The final line of the album, spoken by Alfred, is "How far is a light year?". In the moment, it was innocuous, but as a way to play out Blonde, it takes on a deep, profound meaning. Frank has taken us on a journey, and that journey has ended for now, but there's so much more to go. please run that back though Blonde is one of the only albums I'd consider legitimately perfect. It's creative and unique, an album that people have since tried to recreate but not been able to. It's intimate, lush, and ambient, but also experimental and incredibly out there. The lyrics are heartbreaking and personal, but also existential and profound. There's a dichotomy to it, one that ties perfectly back to Frank's "two versions" he mentioned in the Post. Frank has seemed comfortable with taking his time on the next album, and considering how worth it Blonde was given the long wait, I have complete faith in him coming back and dropping another great album in the 2020s. No matter how long it takes. Thank you for reading. discussion questions
Where would you like to see Frank go on his next album? His future music has been previously described as "space reggae" and taking inspiration from “nightlife, Detroit, techno, house”.
There are many ways to interpret the overarching concept of Blonde. If you can sum up what the album means in 10 words or less, how would you?
Frank announced a release date for Blonde, missed it, and then went a full year before another update. Are artists entitled to keep fans updated of delays?
Frank made headlines on Blonde by releasing it independently aside from an initial exclusivity deal with Apple Music. Could you see this being the dominating future strategy, or do the labels have too much power for it to ever really work?
For each year in our tournament, I took the top 16 songs from Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100 chart (which measures a song’s overall popularity over the course of the year), and seeded them appropriately (so that the more popular songs have a slight advantage). Then, I took the output of the 16 years, and ran a tournament to find the best song of the 90s, the best song of the 00s, then pitted those two winners in the grand final. Note: In the filled-out bracket, we were mostly in agreement. When we absolutely couldn’t agree, we had to split. Splits are denoted by slashes; the song on top is d8uv’s choice, and the song on bottom is antarris’s choice.
Notes from the tournament
1992—Winner: “Under The Bridge”
End of the Road - Boyz II Men vs. I'll Be There - Mariah Carey
Under the Bridge - Red Hot Chili Peppers vs. All 4 Love - Color Me Badd
Baby-Baby-Baby - TLC vs. To Be with You - Mr. Big
Save the Best for Last - Vanessa Williams vs. I'm Too Sexy - Right Said Fred
Tears in Heaven - Eric Clapton vs. I Love Your Smile - Shanice
Jump - Kris Kross vs. Black or White - Michael Jackson
My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It) - En Vogue vs. Just Another Day - Jon Secada
Baby Got Back - Sir Mix-a-Lot vs. Achy Breaky Heart - Billy Ray Cyrus
d8uv: Note: “Smells Like Teen Spirit”–you know, the song that changed the entire rock genre—only got up to 32. And yet, “Just Another Day”, a song that you have never heard of, was the 10th most popular song. What the hell was wrong with the people of 1992? antarris: Not everyone was an angsty white suburban teenager, you know.
1993—Winner: “Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang”
I Will Always Love You - Whitney Houston vs. Dazzey Duks - Duice
Dreamlover - Mariah Carey vs. Rump Shaker - Wreckx-n-Effect
Freak Me - Silk vs. In the Still of the Nite - Boyz II Men
That's the Way Love Goes - Janet Jackson vs. Don't Walk Away - Jade
Weak - SWV vs. Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang - Dr. Dre
Can't Help Falling in Love - UB40 vs. Knockin' da Boots - H-Town
If I Ever Fall in Love - Shai vs. Informer - Snow
Whoomp! (There It Is) - Tag Team vs. Lately - Jodeci
antarris: I don’t even know who like a third of these people even are. “I Will Always Love You” nearly won my bracket.
The Sign - Ace of Base vs. Without You / Never Forget You - Mariah Carey
All for Love - Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart and Sting vs. All That She Wants - Ace of Base
Hero - Mariah Carey vs. Again - Janet Jackson
The Power of Love - Céline Dion vs. I'll Remember - Madonna
Stay (I Missed You) - Lisa Loeb and Nine Stories vs. Bump n' Grind - R. Kelly
I'll Make Love to You - Boyz II Men vs. Whatta Man - Salt-n-Pepa and En Vogue
Breathe Again - Toni Braxton vs. Don't Turn Around - Ace of Base
I Swear - All-4-One vs. Wild Night - John Mellencamp feat. Meshell Ndegeocello
antarris: The Sign was the first album I ever owned. I sang “Don’t Turn Around” in the shower through my mid-twenties. Sorry-not-sorry. d8uv: This was the year of Ace of Base, and as much as I love my trashy eurodance, the sound hasn’t aged particularly well. antarris: I live for my trashy eurodance. Fight me.
Gangsta's Paradise - Coolio feat. L.V. vs. Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman? - Bryan Adams
Take a Bow - Madonna vs. Don't Take It Personal (Just One of Dem Days) - Monica
On Bended Knee - Boyz II Men vs. Water Runs Dry - Boyz II Men
Kiss from a Rose - Seal vs. Freak Like Me - Adina Howard
Another Night - Real McCoy vs. I Know - Dionne Farris
Creep - TLC vs. Run-Around - Blues Traveler
Fantasy - Mariah Carey vs. This Is How We Do It - Montell Jordan
Waterfalls - TLC vs. I Can Love You Like That - All-4-One
antarris: “Waterfalls” is just a touch behind for me, probably because my little sister played it incessantly. She was seven. d8uv: Antarris called “Gangsta’s Paradise” out as “the only rap song every white person knows”. This was meant as a compliment, but I know better.
1996—Winner: d8uv: “Tha Crossroads”, antarris: “C’mon N’ Ride It (The Train)”
Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix) - Los del Río vs. Sittin' Up in My Room - Brandy
I Love You Always Forever - Donna Lewis vs. You're Makin' Me High / Let It Flow - Toni Braxton
Always Be My Baby - Mariah Carey vs. Missing - Everything but the Girl
Nobody Knows - The Tony Rich Project vs. Ironic - Alanis Morissette
Give Me One Reason - Tracy Chapman vs. C'mon N' Ride It (The Train) - Quad City DJ's
Because You Loved Me - Celine Dion vs. Exhale (Shoop Shoop) - Whitney Houston
Tha Crossroads - Bone Thugs-n-Harmony vs. Twisted - Keith Sweat
One Sweet Day - Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men vs. Follow You Down / Til I Hear It from You - Gin Blossoms
d8uv: When pressed for comment, all antarris said was “... it’s a choo-choo train.” antarris: Pure fucking lyrical genius. “Tha Crossroads” is my second favorite, though. d8uv: Still, I found myself honestly surprised at how much I liked “Tha Crossroads”.
Something About the Way You Look Tonight / Candle in the Wind 1997 - Elton John vs. Nobody - Keith Sweat feat. Athena Cage
Return of the Mack - Mark Morrison vs. How Do I Live - LeAnn Rimes
Can't Nobody Hold Me Down - Puff Daddy feat. Mase vs. MMMBop - Hanson
Un-Break My Heart - Toni Braxton vs. For You I Will - Monica
I Believe I Can Fly - R. Kelly vs. Quit Playing Games (With My Heart) - Backstreet Boys
I'll Be Missing You - Puff Daddy feat. Faith Evans and 112 vs. You Make Me Wanna... - Usher
Don't Let Go (Love) - En Vogue vs. Wannabe - Spice Girls
Foolish Games / You Were Meant for Me - Jewel vs. Bitch - Meredith Brooks
d8uv: This—like 1994—was a surprisingly weak year. Every matchup other than the final was super easy, and even the final wasn’t that hard. antarris: “Semi-Charmed Life” was #17. It would have won my bracket. I probably should’ve bought it instead of recording the video off MTV.
1998—Winner: “How’s It Going To Be”
Too Close - Next vs. My Way - Usher
Candle in the Wind 1997 - Elton John vs. Nice & Slow - Usher
How Do I Live - LeAnn Rimes vs. No, No, No - Destiny's Child
Truly Madly Deeply - Savage Garden vs. My Heart Will Go On - Celine Dion
Together Again - Janet vs. How's It Going to Be - Third Eye Blind
You're Still the One - Shania Twain vs. Gettin' Jiggy wit It - Will Smith
All My Life - K-Ci & JoJo vs. I Don't Want to Wait - Paula Cole
The Boy Is Mine - Brandy and Monica vs. You Make Me Wanna... - Usher
antarris: This year was also surprisingly weak. Lots of “this is my third favorite song from this artist.” d8uv: Elton John cheated with a mediocre song that made into two years of this tournament.
1999—Winner: “Livin’ la Vida Loca”
Believe - Cher vs. I'm Your Angel - R. Kelly and Celine Dion
Every Morning - Sugar Ray vs. Nobody's Supposed to Be Here - Deborah Cox
...Baby One More Time - Britney Spears vs. If You Had My Love - Jennifer Lopez
Heartbreak Hotel - Whitney Houston feat. Faith Evans and Kelly Price vs. Slide - Goo Goo Dolls
Kiss Me - Sixpence None the Richer vs. Where My Girls At? - 702
Angel of Mine - Monica vs. Have You Ever? - Brandy
Genie in a Bottle - Christina Aguilera vs. Livin' la Vida Loca - Ricky Martin
No Scrubs - TLC vs. I Want It That Way - Backstreet Boys
d8uv: This had the hardest matchup in the entire tournament. The seeding was unkind, and forced two songs that would have won the year if they didn’t have to clash. “No Scrubs” vs. “Livin’ la Vida Loca”. But, in the end, Ricky Martin just barely beat TLC. I’m still not sure if this was the right choice. antarris: If “No Scrubs” had won, it would have made it just as far as “Livin’ La Vida Loca” did. It’s that good. My mom thinks we made the wrong choice, though.
Breathe - Faith Hill vs. There You Go - Pink
Amazed - Lonestar vs. Bent - Matchbox Twenty
Everything You Want - Vertical Horizon vs. Try Again - Aaliyah
I Wanna Know - Joe vs. Jumpin', Jumpin' - Destiny's Child
Say My Name - Destiny's Child vs. Higher - Creed
Maria Maria - Santana feat. The Product G&B vs. Thong Song - Sisqó
I Knew I Loved You - Savage Garden vs. He Wasn't Man Enough - Toni Braxton
Smooth - Santana feat. Rob Thomas vs. Kryptonite - 3 Doors Down
antarris: I honestly thought d8uv would fight me on this one. I remembered him saying he absolutely hated “Smooth”. d8uv: My dad only listens to Classic Rock. So, when Santana came out with new music, of course he had to Limewire it, and he loved those singles. I heard “Smooth” so many times my teeth fell right out of my head. Turns out, it’s actually a great song. Who knew?
Hanging by a Moment - Lifehouse vs. Where the Party At - Jagged Edge feat. Nelly
Thank You - Dido vs. Again - Lenny Kravitz
I'm Real (Murder Remix) - Jennifer Lopez feat. Ja Rule vs. It Wasn't Me - Shaggy feat. Rikrok
Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me) - Train vs. Stutter - Joe feat. Mystikal
If You're Gone - Matchbox Twenty vs. Hit 'Em Up Style (Oops!) - Blu Cantrell
All for You - Janet Jackson vs. It's Been Awhile - Staind
Let Me Blow Ya Mind - Eve feat. Gwen Stefani vs. Independent Women - Destiny's Child
Fallin' - Alicia Keys vs. U Remind Me - Usher
antarris: A garbage-ass year. I’m pretty sure I rounded third base listening to that Staind song, though. d8uv: I thought Dido would win, since I love that song and still play it. antarris: I think you mean “Stan”.
2002—Winner: “In The End”
How You Remind Me - Nickelback vs. U Don't Have to Call - Usher
What's Luv? - Fat Joe feat. Ashanti vs. U Got It Bad - Usher
Wherever You Will Go - The Calling vs. Always on Time - Ja Rule feat. Ashanti
Dilemma - Nelly feat. Kelly Rowland vs. Ain't It Funny - Jennifer Lopez feat. Ja Rule
A Thousand Miles - Vanessa Carlton vs. Complicated - Avril Lavigne
Hot in Herre - Nelly vs. The Middle - Jimmy Eat World
In the End - Linkin Park vs. Blurry - Puddle of Mudd
Foolish - Ashanti vs. I Need a Girl (Part One) - P. Diddy feat. Usher and Loon
d8uv: Hybrid Theory is the rare album that became better over time. antarris: Seriously. I hated this in 2002. Love it now.
2003—Winner: “Crazy in Love”
In Da Club - 50 Cent vs. Beautiful - Christina Aguilera
Miss You - Aaliyah vs. Picture - Kid Rock feat. Sheryl Crow
When I'm Gone - 3 Doors Down vs. Baby Boy - Beyoncé feat. Sean Paul
Crazy in Love - Beyoncé feat. Jay-Z vs. Shake Ya Tailfeather - Nelly, P. Diddy and Murphy Lee
Unwell - Matchbox Twenty vs. Get Low - Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz feat. Ying Yang Twins
Get Busy - Sean Paul vs. 21 Questions - 50 Cent feat. Nate Dogg
Right Thurr - Chingy vs. Bring Me to Life - Evanescence feat. Paul McCoy
Ignition (Remix) - R. Kelly vs. All I Have - Jennifer Lopez feat. LL Cool J
antarris: I had somehow never even heard “Crazy in Love” before. Wow. d8uv: This did not win because it was novel. Lord knows, these pop charts are filled with random songs that we’ve forgotten. Almost every single one was forgotten for a reason. antarris: To be fair, I think 2001 made me give up on pop music for like a decade.
2004—Winner: “Hey Ya!”
Yeah! - Usher feat. Lil Jon and Ludacris vs. Slow Jamz - Twista feat. Kanye West and Jamie Foxx
Hey Ya! - Outkast vs. Goodies - Ciara feat. Petey Pablo
The Way You Move - Outkast feat. Sleepy Brown vs. Confessions Part II - Usher
This Love - Maroon 5 vs. Slow Motion - Juvenile feat. Soulja Slim
The Reason - Hoobastank vs. Tipsy - J-Kwon
If I Ain't Got You - Alicia Keys vs. Freek-a-Leek - Petey Pablo
I Don't Wanna Know - Mario Winans feat. Enya and P. Diddy vs. Lean Back - Terror Squad
Burn - Usher vs. Here Without You - 3 Doors Down
d8uv: Outkast was as popular as they deserve, for once. antarris: I was promised Enya. I got baby Adam Levine instead. What the actual fuck.
2005—Winner: “Gold Digger”
We Belong Together - Mariah Carey vs. Mr. Brightside - The Killers
Candy Shop - 50 Cent feat. Olivia vs. Don't Cha - The Pussycat Dolls feat. Busta Rhymes
1, 2 Step - Ciara feat. Missy Elliott vs. You and Me - Lifehouse
Since U Been Gone - Kelly Clarkson vs. Don't Phunk with My Heart - The Black Eyed Peas
Gold Digger - Kanye West feat. Jamie Foxx vs. Disco Inferno - 50 Cent
Let Me Love You - Mario vs. Lose Control - Missy Elliott feat. Ciara and Fatman Scoop
Boulevard of Broken Dreams - Green Day vs. Behind These Hazel Eyes - Kelly Clarkson
Hollaback Girl - Gwen Stefani vs. Shake It Off - Mariah Carey
antarris: That’s not even the best song named “Shake It Off.” d8uv: Kanye can be very VERY good when he tries.
Bad Day - Daniel Powter vs. Run It! - Chris Brown feat. Juelz Santana
Ridin' - Chamillionaire feat. Krayzie Bone vs. SexyBack - Justin Timberlake feat. Timbaland
Hips Don't Lie - Shakira feat. Wyclef Jean vs. Grillz - Nelly, Paul Wall and Ali & Gipp
You're Beautiful - James Blunt vs. Over My Head (Cable Car) - The Fray
Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield vs. Be Without You - Mary J. Blige
Promiscuous - Nelly Furtado feat. Timbaland vs. Me & U - Cassie
Crazy - Gnarls Barkley vs. Check on It - Beyoncé feat. Slim Thug
Temperature - Sean Paul vs. Buttons - Pussycat Dolls feat. Snoop Dogg
antarris: “Crazy” vs. “Ridin’” was hard for me. I’m still not sure if I made the right call. d8uv: Are you sure you weren’t thinking of the Weird Al version? antarris: Yes. Fuck off.
Irreplaceable - Beyoncé vs. This Is Why I'm Hot - Mims
I Wanna Love You - Akon feat. Snoop Dogg vs. Say It Right - Nelly Furtado
Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin') - T-Pain feat. Yung Joc vs. Girlfriend - Avril Lavigne
Big Girls Don't Cry - Fergie vs. Makes Me Wonder - Maroon 5
Before He Cheats - Carrie Underwood vs. Don't Matter - Akon
The Sweet Escape - Gwen Stefani feat. Akon vs. Party Like a Rockstar - Shop Boyz
Hey There Delilah - Plain White T's vs. Glamorous - Fergie feat. Ludacris
Umbrella - Rihanna feat. Jay-Z vs. Smack That - Akon feat. Eminem
d8uv: Here it is, the weakest year of the tournament. There’s like one, maybe two good songs in this list.
90s Grand Tournament—Winner: “Under The Bridge”
d8uv: This was harder than the individual years, because we love every single one of these songs. “Under The Bridge” vs. “Nuthin’ but A ‘G’ Thang” was particularly brutal for me. antarris: We started listening to high-quality versions of the songs here instead of just streaming YouTube. Coolio going over Ace of Base in my bracket surprised me.
00s Grand Tournament—Winner: “In The End”
antarris: “Umbrella” over “Crazy” and “Gold Digger”? Really? It’s like I don’t even know you! d8uv: Should I pack up and leave? Maybe head to the train station? antarris: I picked the song about choo-choo tr--oh, I see what you did there. Not cool. d8uv: This song was always great, it just took a few years for people to forget the stank of nu-metal.
The Grand Final—Winner: “Under The Bridge”
d8uv: They tried so hard, and got so far. But, in the end, it didn’t even matter. antarris: Afterwards, I looked up some of the history on “Under the Bridge”, and this makes sense. A funk-rock band wrote a song based on a poem and had it produced by Rick Rubin. It’s like catnip to both of us for completely different reasons. d8uv: The thing that clinched it for me was the realization that this song builds so beautifully. It’s dynamic in a way most pop songs are, but maintains being interesting even during the subdued opening. antarris: Yeah, I used an orgasm metaphor when I advocated for it. d8uv: Most of the songs on this list were pop songs that became art. This song felt like art that became a pop song. That’s pretentious to say, so just remember—I almost went with “Umbrella”.
I chose these years because I needed to cut 4 years to get 20 years down to 16. Because of this, I excluded the two lowest-revenue (according to the RIAA, adj. for inflation) years from the 90s (1990 and 1991), and the two lowest-revenue years for the 00s (2008 and 2009). It might have been better to include them, but I didn’t want to. Because the Billboard year ends in November, if a song is released during the winter, it’s likely that it won’t show up as a smash hit for one year; instead, it will show up as a mediocre hit across two years. Some songs can pull off charting highly in consecutive years, but that’s really rare. It’s important to remember the wise words of Binary Star: Everything that glitters ain’t gold, and every gold record don’t glitter—that’s for damn sure. The Hot 100 measures popularity, not cultural relevance or quality. A lot of very good, very important songs didn’t make the cut for this tournament, while a lot of long-forgotten dross did. Ultimately, I’m fine with this. Most of the fun of filling out the bracket was running into songs I don’t remember and going “What the fuck are YOU, song?” For singles with an A-side and a B-Side (ex: “Follow You Down / Til I Hear It from You - Gin Blossoms”) I chose the first song. This is a little arbitrary, but a line has to be drawn somewhere. Some additional caveats (because antarris is an academic pedant): this obviously has too small and homogenous a viewing audience to be objective truth. While both of us have pretty broad taste in music, there are some genres—mainstream country and slow R&B in particular—that neither of us is super into. This probably skews our results significantly, especially in the 90s bracket. Also, a better way to determine our sample of songs would be to take a page from Good Mythical Morning’s cereal tournament and set up a poll for each year. However, getting a survey sample that’s representative of the population at large would be extremely challenging with an internet poll and, let’s face it, we’re not getting grant money for this shit.
If you disagree, you should fill out your own bracket:
2018.09.12 06:48 radiofan15The streaming era and the lost art of the the physical singles, unique cover arts and B-Sides
I originally posted this essay inpopheadsthis weekend and it got a positive reaction and some recomendations to crosspost this so I decided to give it a try. In this streaming era we live in, we always complain about the length of the albums or messy rollouts... and yet, there's an element of the promotion that gets sidetracked in the conversations: the art of single releases. And no, I don't mean like music videos or traditional promotion, which still exists, but rather the advantages of PHYSICAL single releases. Of course I don't expect than in this times of diminishing sales for an artist to release a CD/cassette/vinyl of every single promotional release in an album cycle (even the bigger performers releases those as collectible items), but those small perks that physical (and to some extent, digital single releases before the streaming era) are sorely missed. You see, back in the days of Elvis and Chuck Berry, singles were the source of income for artists, with the switch to albums not taking place until the 70s with singles becoming advertisement for albums. This last point had an adverse effect in the late-80s and 90s as record labels sometimes didn't issued physical singles from popular songs in the hopes that the audience will buy the whole album instead: this helped, for example, MC Hammer's Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em to sell over 10 million copies as the lead single, U Can't Touch This, was released mostly as either 7-or-12-inches records (vinyls, for those who might not know) and in a CD format only in Europe (this is why it only peaked at #7 in Billboard); however, this system also prevented songs like No Doubt's Don't Speak and Goo Goo Dolls' Iris to chart at all despite being radio monster (the former in particular remained 16 weeks at number one in the airplay chart, and the latter for 18) because they weren't given physical releases in the United States other than promo CDs. Even if a balance wasn't always reached (thanks in part to the prominence of digital downloads the next decade), two things remained standard when it comes to singles: a unique art cover, and the accompanying B-side.
The art cover
Back in the gay olde days, art cover for singles was basically a photograph of the artist either from a photoshoot, a performance or similar, or even a colorful graphic for the title of the song and the artist's name; it was everything that was needed back then. However, as album artwork moved forward from the usual portrait (thanks in part to releases like Otis Reeding's Otis Blue and the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band) single’s covers slowly started to change to better complement the album's imagery. If the album artwork revolved around a photograph of the performer, the singles were expected to follow suit (see: Mariah Carey’s entire discography, but specially the single Fantasy, in which the cover is the full version of the parent album Daydream’s cover photograph); in cases in which the cover was any kind of graphic the singles would revolve around the same theme (see: Coldplay’s entire discography, but especially the singles for X&Y that, just like the album, featured the titled written in the Baudot code), and for visually dedicated performers like Pink Floyd (see: the cover of The Division Bellsingles) and 30 Seconds to Mars (see: the cover of the Love Lust Faith + Dreamssingles) it wasn’t uncommon for the singles cover to follow a certain theme that might not entirely reflect the album cover. Of course, this didn’t always happened: None of Michael Jackson’s singles reflected the artwork of the era and focused instead into represent the song itself (see: Scream and You Are Not Alone vs. HIStory) and sometimes it was common for the first, last or the occasional loose single to have a different style from the other releases of the era (see: Ariana Grande’s Problem vs. the other My Everythingsingles, or Lady Gaga’s Paparazzi and Just Dance vs. therestofThe Fame era, or Telephone in The Fame Monsterera), but of course this was always subject to the artistic vision of the performer. This doesn’t mean that it’s not like this anymore: some performers like Calvin Harris, The 1975 and Beyoncé still try to keep a consistent theme between eras, however they’re dime a dozen in this times. Just take a look at Nicki Minaj in the Queen era, moving from the consistency of Barbie Tingz/Chun-Li to Rich Sex and then Bed, all of them without any visual attachment to the parent album’s cover, which was apparently a stylistically choice… or a choice to say at least. However, she at least tries, unlike people like Rihanna, who releases remixes EPs (see: Desperado, Sex with Me, Pose, Consideration) with the album cover instead of a dedicated cover like the other EPs (ex. Love on the Brain); or Taylor, who after creating a very consistent aesthetic in the 1989 era (with the exception of the Bad Blood remix, all of the singles in the era featured a Polaroid-inspired cover) seems to have been contractually forced to use the reputation album cover for every single of the era (except for the remixes, which needed colored version of the same image because why not?), which was kinda ironic because the RIAA certifications plaques included a different photo for each track, photos that could have been used very easily if she wanted to. And, in fact, there’s a limited physical release of Look What You Made Me Do with a proper cover… not exactly the greatest but at least it’s not the album cover. And let’s not even talk about Dua Lipa: New Love, Be The One and Last Dance are photos of her with a flowery background, Hotter Than Hellsort of follows the idea (albeit with a red background), and then… Blow Your Mind (Mwah) and Room For 2 uses the photo that will eventually became the parent album cover (without the song title and with a colder tint) only to be followed by Thinking ‘Bout You reusing the same photo only with the song’s title this time AND THEN Lost In Your Light removing the song’s title once again, only to be bought back in the remixes EP; at least by this point New Rules finally found a new image (which was coloredin adifferentway depending of the release, except for the fan-made-turned-official-release Initial Talk remix, which apparently needed its own separate cover) and IDGAF doing its thing with Dua shaving her armpits (once again recolored in the remixes EPs for your convenience, as it should be)… however, this makes me wonder why the Live Acoustic EP could get its own photo while the promo single Want To needed to rehash the cover of the upcoming The Complete Edition, which is basically a glittered version of the actual album cover and the same photo of 4 of the 8 singles released at the moment. Of course Dua isn’t the only one, or the worst example, just the most prominent I could think of. Art covers are a dying art, especially in an era in which they are mostly seen in small screens, and when even albums can go lazy in the artwork department (ex. The Rolling Stones’ Blue & Lonesome, Britney Spears’ Glory) or not even bothering to have any real artwork (ex. Post Malone’s Beerbongs & Bentleys, Kanye West’s Yeezus) what can we really expect from the streaming era in the singles department? Photoshop failures like Mariah’s You Don't Know What to Do or Selena Gomez and Marshmello’s Wolves? Trying way too much approaches like DJ Khaled’s No Brainer and Sia’s Cheap Thrills? Lazy efforts like Bitch I’m Madonna, or Ed Sheeran in the whole Divide era? Or whatever the fuck Jessie J’s Bang Bang was?
When singles were released in vinyl, the A-side was usually reserved for the popular or commercially viable track, and the B-side was, well, a different story:
Outtakes from the recording session of the parent album (ex. Michael Jackson’ Shout, a B-Side from Cry, and Fleetwood Mac’s Silver Spring, a B-Side from Go Your Own Way)
Tracks with little to no commercial appeal, which the artist wanted to share with the audience for one reason or another (ex. Madonna’s Up Down Suite, a B-Side from Rain; and Kate Bush’s Ken, a B-Side from Love and Anger and originally a song composed for the comedy show The Comedy Strips Presents…)
In the earlier days in which mono and stereo coexisted together, it was the norm to include both versions of a track in each side, for the disc jockey’s convenience.
For longer songs, the track sometimes was divided between both sides, with the A-side being the portion played at radio and the B-side the remainder of the track (ex. Don McLean’s American Pie and Bob Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone, two tracks that became popular in their full version, and the Isley Brothers’ Shout)
With the advent of cassettes, 12” vinyl, and later CDs, the distinction of B-side became obsolete, instead the name became an umbrella term for whatever accompanied a single release in its release, which didn’t needed to be a sole track:
Instrumental or alternative version of album tracks (ex. The “shaketon” version of Shakira’s La Tortura and Alan Walker’s instrumental take of Faded)
Tracks recorded or completed for the sole purpose of being used as a B-side (ex. The covers in the Spotify Singles releases of any given artist)
B-Sides were a necessity of the time, as they added an extra incentive to the casual fans to buy the single if they already owned the album, and gave non-fans a chance to explore more of the artist’s catalogue. However, as technology moved forward, the idea of B-Sides became obsolete and was slowly replaced by bonus tracks in deluxe or extended editions; in the past, B-Sides were compiled in especial dedicated albums (ex. Gorillaz’ G Sides and D Sides, The Killers’ Sawdust) and Oasis’ The Masterplan)), included as bonus tracks in reissues or being only available in box sets (ex. The Smashing Pumpkins’ The Aeroplane Flies High, Nirvana’s With the Lights Out and Prince’s The Hits/The B-Sides) as an incentive for new or diehard fans. In today’s era is very common for single’s accompaniment to be either commissioned remixes or alternative edits for radio or videos, which would rarely get released in physical format or at all: Remixes are mostly thrown out in streaming services and digital stores without too much fanfare and normally as separated releases (ex. St. Vincent’s version of Maroon 5’s Girls Like You) and other version suffer of the same fate (ex. The “acoustic” and live renditions of Dua Lipa’s New Rules) or just get outright ignored (ex. The radio edit of Calvin Harris’s Faking It and the no-rap version of Camila Cabello’s Havana debuted in Now That’s What I Call Music! 65) as singles/EPs sections of artists get cluttered with entries featuring the exact same or similar photo for each slightly different version of a track when maxi singles or remixes EP were used with the exact same purpose. Tracks that were once B-Sides are now issued as bonus tracks in region-or-retailer-specific editions of albums: There are a total of 24 songs released as part of Madonna's Rebel Heart but you would need to buy the deluxe edition in a European supermarket chain to get the first 20 (it's not enough to buy the normal deluxe edition, as there's still a track missing, Auto-Tune Baby) AND THEN either buy the super deluxe or the Digital EP to get the other 4 remaining tracks. You wanna get Dua Lipa's version of Cher's Bang Bang? Then go to Italy to buy a special edition of the standard version of the self-titled album... and if you want the tracks in the deluxe edition like Room for 2 and Last Dance you betetr import the Japanese version because otherwise you would miss out one track: For Julian. Speaking of Japan, artists adds bonus tracks in that country's versions because the economy dictates that it must be that way: Admire David Bowie's God Bless the Girl from The Next Day from afar, join the conversation of why Muse's Fury remains trapped as an add-on in a foreign edition of Absolution and never stop thinking that Kanye West left Bittersweet Poetry to rot in Japan's Graduation edition. This also happens in the US with the Target bonus tracks: Adele's Can't Let Go, Lay Me Down and Why Do You Love Me from 25, Bullet for My Valentine with Breaking Out and Crawling from Gravity, Paul McCartney with Get Started and Nothing for Free from the recent Egypt Station.... the list goes on, and the idea of retailer exclusive bonus tracks is a controversial one On the other hand, today’s equivalent of doubled A-Sided releases seems to be releasing a normal single and putting it as the first track in a made-up EP consisting of the previously released tracks from the same era, sometimes without even bothering changing the cover at all, just to get some of that juicy and sweet streaming money: The Chainsmokers pioneered this with their current release pattern of one song per month and inventing an EP out of thin air out of them (right now it’s called Sick Boy… Save Yourself and features 6 singles), however they’re not the only ones who do this: Twenty One Pilots has My Blood and A Few Others from Trench (which follows Jumpsuit/Levitate/Nico And The Niners), Muse recently released the originally titled The Dark Side/Something Human/Thought Companion/Dig Down (two of those songs are from 2017 BTW)… heck, even my faves aren’t safe from this practice. Unfortunately, artists doesn’t seems interested in the B-Sides concept anymore, outside of the occasional Record Store Day release, and honestly in this current music climate I can’t blame them. We always talk about how streaming have made charts stagnant or unpredictable/unreliable (sometimes at the same time) or albums/singles rollout meaningless, and yet, we don’t really stop thinking about how much EVERYTHING else has changed, either for the best or for the worst. USEFUL LINKS:
MY FAVORITE COVERS AND B-SIDES (Incomplete list): COVERS
Radiohead's Knives Out:format(jpeg):mode_rgb():quality(90)/discogs-images/R-266860-1506764788-9583.jpeg.jpg). It's quite literal and that's why I love it. See also: 2+2=5 and Fake Plastic Trees:format(jpeg):mode_rgb():quality(90)/discogs-images/R-1288726-1206710847.jpeg.jpg)
2017.12.01 17:01 VodkaInsipidoAlbum of the Year 2017 #01: SZA - CTRL.
Artist: SZAAlbum: CTRL Listen: Apple Music Spotify Background: SZA (Self Savior, Zig Zag Zig, Allah in the Supreme Alphabet), born Solána Rowe, is the woman I’m going to talk about today. Her, and her debut album, CTRL, my second album of the year behind Lorde’s Melodrama. At barely 26 years old, her life has taken a lot of turns: from being a gymnast to working with Beyoncé and Rihanna to being a model for Ivy Park to being a neo-soul superstar. Born in St. Louis, from a black-muslim family, she only could listen to one genre of music in her house: jazz, with the artists her father played, like Miles Davis, Billie Holiday or Louis Armstrong. This would mark the jazzy production on CTRL. Other of her influences would be given by one of her friends, in a Bar Mitzvah: she got gifted a CD mixtape with Red Hot Chili Peppers, LFO and Macy Gray, what she called emo sad white rich kid shit. She loved it. But that isn’t everything; one day her old brother gave her an iPod. On it, she found artists that completely broke with the styles of music she was accustomed to: Wu-Tang Clan, Björk, Common, Mos Def, Nas and Jay-Z. Her brother (Manhattan) also introduced her to music: when she was 19, he asked her to do backing vocals for one of his songs, Where Do We Go?. Fast forward a year: SZA self-releases her debut mixtape See.SZA.Run, which included the single Time Travel Undone. Later in 2013, she signs to TDE and releases an EP, S. Then in 2014 she released another EP, Z, including the songs Child’s Play featuring Chance the Rapper and Babylon featuring Kendrick Lamar. Some writing credits with Beyoncé and Nicki, some others with Travis Scott and ScHoolboy Q, a feature with Jay Rock, and we get to the first big jump: Rihanna’s Consideration. Consideration is the intro track to the 2016 surprise-released Rihanna album, Anti. Well we don’t know if it was a surprise, but Tidal fucked up. SZA had previously spoken about Rihanna in a series of tweets calling her and Ciara out, but they became friends after. Consideration could be considered SZA’s first step into mainstream, especially thanks to that BRITs performance. To the track, SZA does the post-choruses and the outro. They are beautifully written, and SZA’s voice does a beautiful contrast with Rihanna’s.
When I look outside my windowI can't get no peace of mind
It’s a pessimistic line, evoking a moment of sadness. The picture of people looking at the window is constant in movies and shows, waiting for something to come or happen. But when SZA looks at the window, she can’t see nothing positive. Those two lines could condense SZA’s lyrical skills. Review:
That is my greatest fear, that if, if I lost control, or did not have control, things would just, you know, I would be… fatal.
“Supermodel”, the first track in SZA’s debut album CTRL, starts with these lines. They’re not spoken by her, but by her mother. SZA explained what control is for her in a Genius interview: “I have no control, there is no such thing as control. I’m chasing control. I’m craving control. I’m losing control. It’s a culmination of all these things, of this word, of this concept, that’s just run my life for so long, that’s just been very obsessive. [...] Like, ‘No, don’t put out an album until you’re a better writer.’ And the truth is, sometimes you just have to let go." We chase control in our lives. For many, our life goal is being with someone we love, in a pretty house, with a job we enjoy. But sometimes things don’t work out like that. Supermodel talks about SZA having a boyfriend, who heads to Vegas on Valentine’s Day. She later receives a call from one of his friends: they all had a orgy that day. This line feels like a bomb in a first listen:
Let me tell you a secretI been secretly banging your homeboyWhy you in Vegas all up on Valentine's Day?
SZA spits the lines over the looped chords of an electric guitar, the only beat of the song until the second minute, where some drums kick in. If he can cheat on her, she cheats on him. In an interview with The Breakfast Club, she revealed that after getting that call she started to go after one of his boyfriend’s friends, who she had a crush on. She uses the second and first person to end the verse:
Oh no she didn'tOh yes I didOh no she didn'tI'll do it again
This showcases the surprise of his boyfriend, the second person, to the indifference of her. She will do it again, just to hurt him more if it’s necessary. But at the same time, she isn’t comfortable with her new… Boyfriend? FWB? At all, SZA isn’t comfortable with a man, but she can’t be alone:
Why I can't stay alone just by myself?Wish I was comfortable just with myselfBut I need you, but I need you, but I need you
That’s a feeling many have. Even if it hurts, you need to be with someone. At the end, one needs to love itself, and move on. But instead, SZA breaks up with her boyfriend to move on with his friend:
That's why I stayed with yaThe dick was too goodIt made me feel goodFor temporary loveYou was a temporary lover
Still, she has insecurities she can’t let go. She looks for attention, but instead of love, only gets sex back. But it’s not bad for her, that still makes her feel good. And the chorus repeats again, going back to the wish I was comfortable just with myself lines, but this time it doesn’t apply to her old boyfriend, but to her new temporary lover. She went from a toxic relationship to another one. Sometimes, that person you love doesn’t love you as much, and that house you wanted for your future family won’t be bought. At the end, Supermodel becomes an hymn about letting go. About not being dependant of others. About getting over your insecurities. About being comfortable with yourself. Then, “Love Galore” does a flash-forward. The second single of CTRL becomes a flash-forward from Supermodel. It starts with an intro sung by Travis Scott, that goes by I need, I need several times, to which SZA’s chorus replies love, love. While he doesn’t know what he wants (sex, love, a family), SZA is sure about her ideas: as long as they have love, they’ll be fine. But, Love Galore has a special line that hits in the pre-chorus:
Why you bother me when you know you don't want me?
It’s a relatable sentiment. How many times has someone avoided talking with you after they started talking? In an era of digital communication where you can get everything through Twitter and talk with anybody, ignoring someone is easier than ever. Face to face, you can’t just leave running and have an excuse. Ask a girl, she’ll tell you about how she has fifteen guys texting her but none has asked her on a date. In any other context this line would feel pretty conservative, but on SZA’s words it works out. Then, the second line hits:
Why you bother me when you know you got a woman?
Now ask the same girl as before, and she’ll tell you about how half of those guys had a girlfriend and just wanted her to be either a side chick or a plan B. The whole pre-chorus is an oxymoron to the first verse, which talked about a temporary love (just like Supermodel), a summer fling, but now talks about taking any opportunity to be with her lover:
I be looking for yaGot me looking forward to weekendsWith you baby, with you baby[..]We do whatever we want, go wherever we wantLove however we want, it don't matterYou'll do whatever I want, get whatever I wantGet whatever I need, it's about (love, love)
The last two lines mark a huge change in the song: they might be playing, but now it’s her time to play with him. She wants him, but at the same time she is the one who will decide over him. The one who will leaver her on read. But then you have the gorgeous outro:
I came to your city, lookin' for lovin' n' licky'Cause you promised to put it downAll up in your city, lookin' for you, uhSearchin' for you like loveOnly thing keepin' me from droppin' you right nowRight now, loveOnly thing keepin' me by your sideOnly thing keepin' me by your side now
Go back to the same girl you talked with before. Has she been ghosted? Ever? Probably. Maybe the guy got a cold, maybe he was at a party, maybe he just forgot. SZA explains it once again to Genius: The outro is the telltale story of you be in the area. You said you wanted to do all these things. Like, you wanted to spend time and, you know, talked a good one. Via whatever. Via text, via on the phone, and then you go ghost. That’s happened to so many girls. [...] But, I have been in a place where I felt like I liked somebody and I couldn’t say what I wanted to say. So you just end up being quiet. Like, the whole time, in this place where the other person is. It could be a city, it could be a proverbial city. It could be a room. It could be a party. Love Galore is as a whole an anthem to digital love, in the good and the bad side. It’s a song that empowers to dump the guys who just want side chicks, to get out of toxic relationship, to recognize what’s wrong with you and your lover.
Fearin' not growin' upKeepin' me up at nightAm I doin' enough?Feel like I'm wastin' time
“Prom”, the fifth track, is a come back to the sound of her old mixtapes, doing disco-pop that many other popstars could have done. It’s teen angst, but late teen angst: prom season is coming of age, growing apart, and looking forward to the future. All of this happens while SZA sings about not maturing as fast as her boyfriend:
Please don't take it, don't take it personalLike I know you usually do
While he is caring with her, she just can’t give back. She just isn’t ready for a relationship. One of my favourite lines on the song is at the end of the second verse:
To run and hide out somewhereSo far awayHoppin' through poppy fieldsDodgin' evil witchesThese houses keep droppin' everywhere
Which is a reference to The Wizard of Oz. SZA likes to reference movies in her songs, like Forrest Gump in “Doves In The Wind” or Misery in the “Love Galore” video. Those evil witches are those mean girls and high-school, and the houses are her possible futures: what career to choose, who to settle down with… and just as with The Wizard of Oz, what matters in high-school is the journey, not the ending; the friends and experiences you make along the way, not going to university. Prom feels like a song stuck in a 90’s movie: after the couple leaves town in their convertible, the song starts to play as the camera does an aerial shot of the car far away, driving through the country roads, and then the credits kick in. Maybe it could be the ending of the album, but instead it rolls out to “The Weekend”. And then there is “The Weekend”.
You say you got a girlHow you want me?How you want me when you got a girl?
“The Weekend” starts as every other SZA song, or that’s what many people say: she is a side-chick in a relationship with a man who already has a girlfriend. These lines are from her perspective, facing his partner. The first verse follows:
Of knowin' it's selfishKnowin' I'm desperateGettin' all in your loveFallin' all over love, likeDo it 'til it hurts less
She desperately looks for his attention, trying to love him enough to make him dump his girlfriend and be with her. The irony of the last line is how even if he broke up with the other woman, and SZA became his girlfriend, the man would keep on cheating her with another woman. It will hurt less to be with him, sure, but he still won’t be only hers.
Hanging out the back, all up in your lapLike is you comin' home?Is you out with her?I don't care long as you're here by10:30, no later thanDrop them drawers, give me what I want
The lines are self-explanatory. She went from not caring about the other woman to worry about his relationship with her. But still, she doesn’t care as long as she gets sex. Then you get one of the most beautiful chorus this year:
My man is my man is your manHeard it's her man too[...]Tuesday and Wednesday, Thursday and FridayI just keep him satisfied through the weekendYou're like 9 to 5, I'm the weekendMake him lose his mind every weekendYou take Wednesday, ThursdayThen just send him my wayThink I got it covered for the weekend
Where she compares herself as a weekend with him, while his girlfriend is with him during the weekdays. This line also could have a deeper meaning: while he doesn’t enjoy his work (the weekdays, the other woman) and feels stressed about it, the weekend (her) are moments of relax. He enjoys more the moments he spends with SZA rather than with her girlfriend. As she says in “Love Galore” (got me looking forward to weekends), he looks forward to the weekend to be liberated.
I gotta say I'm in the mood for a little bit more of thatI mean I'm saying what kind of deal is two days?I need me at least 'bout four of themMore of them, more of you on meOn us, just tell me you want me, yeah
In the second SZA starts to argue about the arrangement her and the girlfriend did: while one gets 5 days, the other only gets 2.
Monday and I'll be at your doorReady to take her placeReady to give youWhat you've been missin' on weekdaysWhat you've been waitin' for10:30, no later thanDrop them drawers, I know what you want
Now SZA breaks her arrangement, and decides that she wants the man all for her. One of the most interesting parts is how the last line also references the last line of the first verse: instead of give me what I want now it’s I know what you want, showing that now she wants to take control of the relationship. Another chorus goes, and then an outro. What a good song, right? The thing is, to see what makes it great you need to switch the view on the song. “The Weekend” isn’t sung from one perspective; it’s sung from two. Both the side-chick and the girlfriend. And not just one side-chick, but two. And if you go back to the Breakfast Club interview I put around Supermodel, you’ll see she mentions how she talks from both perspectives: A lot of these songs have dual meanings. I’m speaking from the girlfriend and from the other perspective. Like I’ve been the girlfriend that didn’t know and I’ve been the girl that didn’t know you had a girlfriend. So at the end of the day, SZA isn’t the side-chick. She is the girlfriend, but sings from both perspectives. In some verses you can’t tell who is singing, like in the one that references home. It’s overall a very interesting song, where unless you get some context you’ll just say that it’s just good, where narratives matters.
That's me, Ms. 20 Something
“20 Something”, starts over some subtle guitar chords. It doesn’t sound like something special, but it is because it’s the first time in the whole album since Supermodel a guitar really stand out. It makes it sound like a bonfire song, and the harmonies in the chorus reinforce that feeling. It’s a campfire song, and just like “Prom”, it’s a song about being stuck but wanting to grow up. While “Prom” situated SZA at the end of high-school, “20 Something” is somewhere in her twenties, maybe finishing college, maybe right now. And while “Prom” was teenage angst, “20 Something” has a feeling of... matureness. SZA sings a beautiful chorus that sums it up:
Stuck in them 20 somethings, stuck in them 20 somethingsGood luck on them 20 somethings, good luck on them 20 somethingsBut God bless these 20 somethingsHopin' my 20 somethings won't endHopin' to keep the rest of my friendsPrayin' the 20 somethings don't kill me, don't kill me
Who hasn’t been told ‘good luck with that’ at any stage of his life? High-school, college, and then those twenty-somethings. A moment where you have to act mature, but you aren’t mature enough for some things. Mature enough to party all night and be responsible of your own acts, but not enough to settle down and buy a house. Some want to be stuck in the former, some look forward to the latter. But as she says, *’God Bless these 20 Somethings’. It’s a stage of life that as any other you have to enjoy and live as you want. Don’t look at the future as something perfect, and try to do the best in the time you have. You need to make your way out of the twenties, stand out, but at the same time it’s necessary to spend those years having fun and being happy. And that’s hard. Finally, the outro to CTRL is a phone call with SZA’s mother, once again:
And if it's an illusion, I don't want to wake up. I'm gonna hang on to it. Because the alternative is an abyss, is just a hole, a darkness, a nothingness. Who wants that? You know? So that's what I think about control, and that's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.That was beautiful mommy, that was perfect.
And this is what connects “Supermodel” to “20 Something”, what connects CTRL. A phone call from which we only know the start and the end. Those are two points of a story, the story of SZA’s mother, and you can connect them however you want. That’s what shines in CTRL, the skill of making songs that people can relate to. Maybe it’s not the same story they have lived, maybe it’s not their story at all, but it sure is one you can feel that has happened, to SZA and to many other people. CTRL isn’t a perfect album, neither it has a perfect message. It isn’t free of contradictions (first I need you, but now I don’t need nobody) but CTRL doesn’t pretend to be an album of self-help since the lyrics can’t be more full of guilt, low self-esteem and self-embarrassment. As the title suggests, the control SZA assumes sometimes works and other times, just like a keyboard key, doesn’t. This is SZA’s reality, the one of a ‘twenty-something’ woman, and also many other girls’, who will come to this album not to find answers to their questions but to comfort themselves in the experience a person like them had to suffer and later found the strength to tell. other favourite lyrics, chosen by other users:
Maybe I should kill my inhibitionMaybe I'll be perfect in a new dimension
I get so lonely, I forget what I'm worth,We get so lonely, we pretend that this worksI'm so ashamed of myself think I need therapy
“Drew Barrymore”, second verse, chosen by u/Leixander. It is kinda personal actually. Won't go too deep but in a point of my life I decided that I want to be alone for a while. It didn't go well as you can imagine, but I am way better now. SZA has many lyrics that I found reflecting, like in the later lines of Drew Barrymore's "I am sorry I am not attractive, I am sorry I am not more ladylike" i.e. the lack of self-worth.
How could it be?20 something, all alone stillNot a thing in my nameAin't got nothing, running from loveOnly know fear
“20 Something”, pre-chorus, chosen by u/-dolantello-. i love the lyrics because i think it perfectly captures the solitude and loneliness that comes to many people when they become young adults
I'm sorry I'm not more ladylikeI'm sorry I don't shave my legs at night
“Drew Barrymore”, second verse, chosen by u/Fledgeland. oh and vodka, its because i think its empowering ofc.
I know you'd rather be laid up with a big bootyBody hella positive 'cause she got a big bootyI know I'd rather be paid upYou know I'm sensitive about havin' no bootyHavin' nobody, only you, buddyCan you hold me when nobody's around us?
“Garden”, second verse, chosen by u/pasalacquanian. thats my favorite song, and her flow nice there.
Somebody get the tacos, somebody spark the bluntLet's start the Narcos off at episode one
“Drew Barrymore”, first verse, chosen by u/ThatParaonidPenguin. and this, i love drew barrymore. the juxtaposition of asking if its warm enough inside and outside. i could gush about this album all day.
It took SZA 3 years to release this album. Was it worth the wait or is the more left to be desired? (chosen by u/pasalacquanian)
Are we seeing another rise of storytellers in hip-hop and R&B?
With a genre so focused on objectifying women, how does SZA take the concept and turn it on its head? (chosen by u/ThatParanoidPenguin)
Based on the content of the album, why do you think the name CTRL was chosen? What do you think it means to SZA, and how do themes of the title play out throughout the album? (chosen by u/Fledgeland)
Where do you see SZA going from here? CTRL was an expansive album that covered various different sounds and concepts. Do you think she'll continue with more of the same or further explore different styles? (chosen by u/-dolantello-)
SZA has been called everything in the five years that separate the release of her first mixtape to today. The saviour of female R&B, the female Frank Ocean, the next big popstar, the new Beyoncé. Comparisons are never good, but maybe this time they are. If I wrote this review like this, focusing more on the lyrics than the production (when I prefer production most of the time), it’s because SZA has those lyrical skills that make her stand out. She is a storyteller, and maybe some people compare her with Frank Ocean for that. CTRL is an album full of stories, from falling out of love to parties to growing up, and she tells them all fantastically. And maybe she is the next big popstar. In a year with few to no female #1s (Taylor, Cardi and Halsey as a feature), pop needs a new star. One with attitude, that is able to make hits and at the same time amazing albums. For me, it’s torn between Ariana Grande, Camila Cabello or Dua Lipa, but SZA is a big contender. She’s had a top 30 single, and her first album debuted at #3 (behind Kendrick Lamar and Katy Perry tho) with 60k copies, half of them pure sales. She has gone on a big Europe tour with Bryson Tiller, got a cover on Billboard and has been working with Kevin Parker (Tame Impala) and Mark Ronson in an album. She has a top 10 hit with Maroon 5. And on top of all, she got 5 nominations for the Grammys this year. Her becoming a star is all a possibility, of course, but SZA sure has a bright future ahead.
2017.06.19 21:08 feedredditCrazy in Love: A Comprehensive Timeline of Jay Z and Beyoncé’s Relationship
Crazy in Love: A Comprehensive Timeline of Jay Z and Beyoncé’s Relationship by Cady Lang via TIME URL: http://ift.tt/2rJrj8I Beyoncé and Jay Z’s relationship is the stuff of pop culture legend. Over the course of almost two decades, the ultimate power couple has done everything from collaborate on music to tour together. And while their relationship hasn’t always been drama-free, there’s no doubt that Jay and Bey are committed. In honor of the birth of their twins, here’s a comprehensive primer on Beyoncé and Jay Z’s relationship. 1997 – 2000: Sometime during this three-year period, Jay Z and Beyoncé meet for the first time. Exactly when depends on the interview. In a 2007 interview with Charlie Rose, Jay Z said he met Beyoncé “10 years ago,” which would place their first meeting around 1997. However, in a 2008 interview with Seventeen, Beyoncé says that she first met the rap mogul when she was 18 (around 1999 or 2000) and that they began dating when she was 19. November 2001: The pair appear on the cover of _Vanity Fair_‘s music issue alongside David Bowie, Gwen Stefani and others. According to an interview with _Vanity Fair_in 2013, Jay Z says that during this shoot, they were “just beginning to try to date each other,” and that at the time, he was still trying to “wine and dine” her. October 2002: In her first post-Destiny’s Child work, Beyoncé is featured on Jay Z’s 2002 track “’03 Bonnie & Clyde;” she also appears as the ride-or-die Bonnie to Jay Z’s Clyde in the accompanying video. Jay Z’s use of the term “girlfriend” only heightened the romantic narrative of the song, sending tongues wagging about a potential romance between Beyoncé and Jay Z. In a 2016 interview with BET, Roc-A-Fella founder Kareem “Biggs” Burke said that this song signaled to him and Damon Dash that Jay Z was really in love with Beyoncé. “There was a time in Paris when they sent us ‘Bonnie & Clyde,’” he said. “When we heard that song, Dame looked at me and said ‘Yo, he’s in love.’ So if y’all know Jay, a lot of times everything comes out in music. When he does interviews he’s a little more reluctant to speak about certain things. But it always comes out in his albums; so at that time when ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ came out we knew he was in love with Beyoncé.” November 2002: Although Bey and Jay are keeping mum about a relationship, they show up in matching denim ensembles (and Bey rocks Jay’s signature Yankees cap, natch) to promote “’03 Bonnie & Clyde” on MTV’s _Total Request Live._During this appearance, Beyoncé also says that they “met a long time ago.” February 2003: Jay Z and Beyoncé are photographed together at the NBA All-Star Game Weekend, one of a number of outings that year. April 2003: Lest anyone get the wrong idea about their chummy relationship, however, Jay Z sets the record straight in an interview with Playboy: “We’re just cool. We’re just friends.” May 2003: Beyoncé releases “Crazy in Love,” as the lead single off her first solo album, _Dangerously in Love._Jay Z contributes a rap verse and features prominently as her love interest in the accompanying music video. Needless to say, their respective fans and most of the world assume that the two are more than just friends. June 2003: _Dangerously in Love_officially drops. The album features another duet with Jay Z, “That’s How You Like It,” and perhaps more interesting, a reference to her love for a Sagittarius on the song “Signs” with Missy Elliott; Jay Z, born on Dec. 4, is a Sagittarius. August 2003: The dynamic duo perform “Crazy in Love” at the MTV Video Music Awards. November 2003: Jay Z releases The Black Album; on his song “Public Service Announcement,” he makes the declaration that he’s got the “hottest chick in the game wearing my chain,” which is widely believed to be about Beyoncé. Later that month, Jay holds a “retirement” concert at Madison Square Garden where he and Beyoncé perform “Crazy in Love” together. December 2003: In an interview with The Guardian, Jay Z is referred to as Beyoncé’s boyfriend. August 2004: Bey and Jay make their first red carpet appearance at the 2004 MTV Video Music Awards together in some very memorable matching ensembles. Frank Micelotta—Getty Images2005: Rumors that Jay Z is having a relationship with then up-and-coming singer Rihanna surface. The author of an unauthorized Beyoncé biography, J. Randy Taraborrelli, told _Entertainment Tonight_in a 2015 interview that the unsubstantiated affair was fabricated for the tabloids to “boost Rihanna’s career.” Bey’s father and manager Matthew Knowles does not address the rumors until the following year in a lengthy press release that it’s a “consistent plan by some to create chaos around Beyoncé’s _B’Day_release.” January 2006: Trouble rumors swap out for rumors of wedding bells after an interview with Cosmopolitan when Beyoncé hints at a possible wedding. “Right now, the tabloids are saying I’m pregnant, and they’re naming the baby,” she said. “It’s hilarious. I don’t know when I’ll want to get married. I never pictured myself as a bride, but after my sister’s wedding, I did start thinking about what kind of wedding I’d want. I don’t think I want a big one.” September 2006: Beyoncé releases her second album _B’Day,_which includes two duet tracks with Jay Z: “Dèjá Vu” and “Upgrade U.” In the “Upgrade U” video, Beyoncé dresses up like Jay Z and lip syncs some of his rap verse. Matthew Knowles releases a statement denying several rumors including the ones about Rihanna, suggesting they are an attempt to sabotage the album’s success following the release of B’Day. The album prominently featured a number of joyful love songs, but “Ring the Alarm” and “Resentment” get the rumor mill going as some fans speculated the lyrics to “Resentment” in particular could have been inspired by an affair. November 2006: Jay Z releases the album Kingdom Come, which includes the song “Lost One.” The song’s introspective lyrics read “I don’t think it’s meant to be, B/But she loves her work more than she does me/And honestly, at 23/I would probably love my work more than I did she.” Later, in 2010, Jay Z addresses the lyrics in his book, _Decoded:_“These lines are about trying to have a real, serious relationship with another ambitious professional. In a lot of ways, this is the flip side of the songs in my catalog like ‘Big Pimpin’, where women exist almost completely as predators or objects. This is about how difficult it is to respect a lover as an autonomous human being, with separate needs and goals and timelines than yours. It’s one of the hardest things about a real relationship of equals. But it’s worth it.” The album also features “Hollywood,” a collaboration with Beyoncé. April 2008: Beyoncé and Jay Z tie the knot in a top-secret ceremony at Jay Z’s penthouse apartment in NYC on April 4, 2008. The date is an homage to the significance of the number 4 in the couple’s life; both Bey and Jay are born on the 4th (Beyoncé’s birthday is Sept. 4 while Jay’s is Dec. 4.) In lieu of wedding rings, Jay and Bey get the Roman numeral “IV” tattooed on their fourth/ring fingers. While the couple kept the wedding under wraps, without releasing photos or video, wedding footage makes its way into the “On the Run” tour visuals and on Beyoncé’s 2016 visual album Lemonade. It’s an uber-private ceremony — in a 2009 interview with Oprah, Jay Z says it was a small affair. 9 years already??? Congratulations to the Carters❤❤on their Anniversary 💐 ( thats my arm fixing the dress lol) Thats my minister Rudy Rasmus who married Solange, Beyonce and me❤ A post shared by Tina Knowles (@mstinalawson) on Apr 4, 2017 at 7:11am PDT October 2008: Beyoncé offers a rare glimpse of what her relationship with Jay Z is really like during an interview with _Essence:_“We decide everything. My word is my word. What Jay and I have is real. It’s not about interviews or getting the right photo op. It’s real.” She also shares that she didn’t want an engagement ring because “people put too much emphasis on that. It’s just material and it’s just silly to me.” During this month, Beyoncé also released “Single Ladies” and “If I Were a Boy” as the first singles off her third studio album I Am…Sasha Fierce. Producer Christopher “Tricky” Stewart commented in a 2014 interview with _Texas Music Magazine_that at the time, the song was “the only public statement [Beyoncé and Jay-Z] ever made about marriage.” January 2009: Jay Z and Beyoncé solidify their status as a power couple by joining forces with President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama. The Carter-Knowles were vocal supporters of Obama during the 2008 presidential election and made high-profile appearances at both the Inauguration and an inaugural ball. Beyoncé performed “America the Beautiful” at the Obama Inaugural Concert and “At Last” for the first dance at the Neighborhood Ball. April 2010: While Beyoncé is taking a break from her music that many believe is due to pregnancy, she makes a surprise appearance at Jay Z’s Coachella set that year to help him sing “Forever Young.” October 2010: Beyoncé’s mother, Tina Knowles, tells _Access Hollywood_that there’s no truth to the talk of pregnancy. “No, it’s not true right now,” she said. “It’s gonna happen when it’s time, but not right now.” May 2011: In a blog post on his website Life + Times, Jay Z posts a video that he took of Beyoncé rehearsing for an American Idol_performance, captioning it “Sometimes you need perspective. You’ve been right in front of greatness so often that you need to step back and see it again for the first time. This is the dressing room rehearsal for _American Idol. NO MICROPHONE. No effects.” June 2011: Beyoncé releases her fourth studio album, appropriately titled 4, after the couple’s favorite number. This is her first studio album that doesn’t feature Jay Z on any of the songs. Of the many love songs on the album, “Countdown” leads fans to theorize about a future pregnancy. August 2011: Jay Z and Kanye West release joint album Watch the Throne; Beyoncé appears on the track “Lift Off.” Later that month before performing at the MTV Video Music Awards, Beyoncé announces her pregnancy by asking the audience to “feel the love that’s growing inside of me.” At the end of her performance, she unbuttons her sequined tuxedo jacket to reveal her growing baby bump — much to the unbridled delight of the audience, Kanye West and pretty much the entire world. The announcement even sets a Guinness World Record for the most tweets per second recorded for a single event at the overwhelming rate of 8,868 tweets per second. January 2012: Beyoncé gives birth to Blue Ivy Carter on Jan. 7, 2012 in New York City. The couple releases an official joint statement about the heir to the Knowles-Carter legacy: “Her birth was emotional and extremely peaceful – we are in heaven. She was delivered naturally at a healthy 7 lbs. It was the best experience of both of our lives. We are thankful to everyone for all your prayers, well wishes, love and support.” Many see Blue’s middle name Ivy as a homonym for the Roman numeral IV, pointing to the Knowles-Carters’ affinity for the number. About a week later, Jay Z posts the Neptunes-produced song “Glory” on his website, which commemorates the birth of Blue Ivy, most notably by including a clip of her cries at the conclusion of the song and giving her a credit on the song as B.I.C. (Blue Ivy is the youngest person to ever appear on a Billboard chart.) The song is uncharacteristically revealing about the long-awaited joy Blue Ivy has brought them with lyrics like “False alarms and false starts/All made better by the sound of your heart/All the pain of the last time” and “My most greatest creation was you.” Jay also has some touching homages to Bey in the song, including a reference to her past life as a member of Destiny’s Child: “You’re a child of destiny/You’re a child of my destiny/You’re my child with the child from Destiny’s Child/That’s a hell of a recipe.” February 2012: The Knowles-Carters post the first pictures of Blue Ivy on her own, now-defunct Tumblr. The Internet, predictably, loses it. May 2012: Jay Z makes a rare display of public affection on Twitter about his wife. "I'm gonna say this and then I'm gonna end mine." BEYONCE is the best performer in the world. Period. — Mr. Carter (@S_C_) May 26, 2012 August 2012: The Carter-Knowles surpass Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen as _Forbes’_highest-paid celebrity couple at an estimated combined $78 million. January 2013: Beyoncé sings the national anthem at Obama’s second inauguration. That same month, Ora takes to Twitter to vehemently deny the rumor she’s having an affair with her then-Roc Nation mentor Jay Z. February 2013: Beyoncé releases her HBO documentary Life Is But a Dream, which features footage of intimate and romantic moments. Beyoncé also denies rumors that she wasn’t actually pregnant with Blue Ivy. An especially poignant part of the film shows the pair singing Coldplay’s “Yellow” together. Later in 2015, Jay Z will select this song as his pick for her birthday playlist, citing that “This song reminds me of you and I on vacation. ‘Look at the stars, look how they shine for you.’ So many legendary nights. It represents vulnerability; it’s us in our own world, away from work and totally lost in love. ‘For you, I’ll bleed myself dry.'” This month, Beyoncé also reveals to Oprah that she suffered a miscarriage before Blue Ivy; she also sheds light on how her marriage helped shape her self-concept. “I would not be the woman I am if I did not go home to that man,” Beyoncé said. “It gives me such a foundation.” April 2013: The couple celebrate their 5th wedding anniversary in Cuba with their respective mothers. While the trip was drew criticism for possibly violating U.S. sanction laws, it was later officially cleared by the Department of the Treasury. Beyoncé embarks on her Mrs. Carter World Tour; while on tour, Jay Z makes romantic surprise appearances like this one. July 2013: Jay Z releases his album Magna Carta Holy Grail; Beyoncé appears on the track “Part II (On the Run),” a sequel of sorts to “’03 Bonnie & Clyde.” Out of countless lyrics about matters of the heart, “Holy Grail” has a verse that references infidelity, which leads some listeners to jump to conclusions: “Keep cheating on me /What I do / I took her back / Fool me twice / That’s my bad / I can’t even blame her for that.” December 2013: Beyoncé drops her surprise self-titled visual album, _Beyoncé._The album features Jay Z on the sexy track “Drunk in Love,” which introduces the word “surfbort” into the pop culture canon. Jay Z — or representations of him — appears multiple times in the visual components, including Jay watching Beyoncé perform at the Crazy Horse in Paris in “Partition” and dancing with her on the beach for “Drunk in Love.” The album is lauded for Beyoncé’s strong embrace of being an empowered woman, from “Blow” to “***Flawless,” which sampled Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The theme of betrayal that Bey’s addressed in the past pops up again, especially on the tracks “Mine” and “Jealous.” On “Mine,” lyrics talk about “having conversations about breakups and separations/I’m not feeling like myself since the baby/Are we gonna even make it? Oooh/’Cause if we are, we’re taking this a little too far” while on “Jealous,” she notes “I never broke one promise, and I know when you’re not honest.” January 2014: Beyoncé and Jay Z give a much-praised performance of “Drunk in Love” at the Grammys; while Jay Z was criticized for his references to Ike and Tina Turner in his verse on the song, Beyoncé co-signs the lyric by singing the line with him during the live performance, a move that some pointed to as Bey standing by her man. Later that night, when Jay Z wins a Grammy for _Magna Carta Holy Grail,_Hov pays homage to Queen Bey in his acceptance speech. “I want to thank God, I mean, a little for this award, but mostly for that and all the universes for conspiring and putting that beautiful light of a young woman in my life.” He also calls his Grammy a “sippy cup” for Blue Ivy. April 2014: Jay and Bey announce their first ever joint tour called the “On the Run” tour, which includes a very excellent short film of a trailer. Ora again dispels rumors that she and Jay Z are involved in anything besides a working relationship during an interview on Power 105.1, telling the interviewer, “Don’t you dare disrespect Beyoncé like that ever again in your entire life,” she said. “You should know better than that. That’s just straight-up disrespect.” May 2014: The news of the tour is soon overshadowed after video footage is leaked of Beyoncé’s sister Solange physically attacking her brother-in-law in an elevator at the Standard Hotel in New York City, following a Met Gala after party. Beyoncé stood by without interfering during the incident. The buzz about the footage was enough to prompt the family to make a statement to AP, saying that while there has been “a great deal of speculation about what triggered the unfortunate incident…the most important thing is that our family has worked through it. Jay and Solange each assume their share of responsibility for what has occurred.” The statement stated that Jay and Solange also apologized to each other and that “we have moved forward as a united family.” Some speculated that the elevator episode was prompted by an interaction with Rachel Roy at the after-party. The fashion designer is the ex-wife of Jay’s ex-business partner Damon Dash. A former intern at Jay and Dash’s fashion label Rocawear, she eventually rose in the ranks until she was named the creative director of womenswear at the label. The day after the elevator incident, Beyoncé posts a photo of herself on Instagram wearing a shirt with Aaliyah’s face on it. Some see this action as a slight toward Roy, since Dash had dated the late singer until her untimely death; When Solange appears to delete most of the photos of her sister on her Instagram account, it makes headlines. Meanwhile, Beyoncé posts a prayer and photos of her and her sister together on her own Instagram. 🐝 A post shared by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on May 7, 2014 at 12:28pm PDT A post shared by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on May 14, 2014 at 3:34am PDT A post shared by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on May 6, 2014 at 6:43pm PDT Toward the end of the month, Beyoncé posts a photo of herself to Instagram that shows that she’s not at Kim Kardashian West’s wedding to Kanye West, an interesting development especially given Jay Z’s close collaboration with West. Some on the Internet point to Roy’s close friendship with Kardashian West as to why Bey and Jay skip the wedding. A post shared by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on May 24, 2014 at 9:46am PDT June 2014: The On the Run tour starts, with music’s ultimate power couple showing off tons of PDA onstage. During the Cincinnati stop of the On the Run tour, Beyoncé changes the lyrics of “Resentment” from “been ridin’ with you for six years” to “been ridin’ with you for 12 years,” which corresponds to their relationship timeline at that point. She also changes the lyrics to another line from “I’ll always remember feeling like I was no good/Like I couldn’t do it for you like your mistress could” to “I’ll always remember feeling like I was no good/Like I couldn’t do it for you like that wack b—-ch could.” The kicker of lyric changes, however, comes from the line “been ridin’ with you for six years/I gotta look at her in her eyes and see she’s had half of me” becoming “been ridin’ with you for 12 years/I gotta look at her in her eyes and see she’s had half of me. She ain’t even half of me. That b–ch will never be.” Over on Beyoncé’s Instagram, all appears well with the Knowles-Carters. A post shared by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on Jul 21, 2014 at 7:57pm PDT August 2014: Beyoncé releases a remix of”Flawless” featuring Nicki Minaj, adding the instantly iconic, self-referential line, “Of course sometimes sh-t go down when it’s a billion dollars on an elevator.” Later that month, Tina Knowles tells a TMZ_reporter that “everything’s perfect.” Matthew Knowles, no longer Beyoncé’s manager, suggests that breakup rumors are a “Jedi mind trick” to ignite ticket sales for the tour in an interview on the _The Roula & Ryan Show. However, at the end of the month, Beyoncé appears and performs a medley of her greatest hits at the MTV Video Music Awards, where Jay Z and Blue Ivy present her with the Video Vanguard Award. In her acceptance speech, Beyoncé tells Jay Z, “My beloved, I love you.” After the VMAs, the pair are spotted being affectionate at Jay’s Made in America festival. September 2014: Jay releases a tribute video to Bey in honor of her birthday. Later that month, HBO releases an “On the Run” concert special. October 2014: Bey and Jay take a trip to Paris. Quelle romantique! A post shared by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on Oct 17, 2014 at 6:31am PDT November 2014: Beyoncé releases the track “Ring Off,” which includes a story about turmoil that her mother Tina experienced; she ultimately divorced from Matthew Knowles. Some view this ode as a cautionary tale for Jay Z. February 2015: The pair appear at the Grammys that month. A post shared by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on Feb 9, 2015 at 10:57am PST May 2015: One year after the elevator incident, Jay Z and Beyoncé attend the Met Gala together. A post shared by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on May 4, 2015 at 8:15pm PDT September 2015: During a trip to Italy, Beyoncé posts a picture of herself on Instagram with a lemon, a photo that will be heavily analyzed after she releases her next album. A post shared by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on Sep 20, 2015 at 8:17am PDT April 2016: Beyoncé releases her widely celebrated sixth studio album (and second visual album,) _Lemonade._An overarching theme of the album is infidelity, with many lyrics and entire songs devoted to betrayal in a relationship (at one point in her song “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” she says “If you try this sh-t again/You gon’ lose your wife). However, the album ends with themes of reconciliation and forgiveness. As might be expected, the Internet explodes with memes, hot takes and perhaps more importantly, a manhunt for a certain “Becky with the good hair” who is referenced on the song “Sorry.” “Becky With the Good Hair” is one of two figures: either a fictional character who factors heavily into lyrics about infidelity, or an actual person with whom Jay Z cheated on Beyoncé. Whatever the case, the Bey Hive (the singer’s rabid fanbase) and the media devoted a great deal of energy to seeking out “Becky,” at one time pointing to designer Rachel Roy, who had worked with Jay Z. Celebrity chef Rachael Ray, whose name is similar to Roy’s, and hilariously Ray Romano, were also targets of the Hive’s ire. Roy denied the rumors in an interview with People saying “there is no validity to the idea that the song references me personally,” and advocated against bullying. Beyoncé also begins her Formation tour. At the opening show in Miami, she dedicates the song “Halo” to Jay Z with this sweet tribute: “I want to dedicate this song to my beautiful husband, I love you so much.” May 2016: Beyoncé attends the Met Gala sans Jay Z. At a Met Gala after-party, multiple celebs including Rita Ora are spotted wearing “Not Becky” pins. Ora also Snapchats a selfie of herself with Queen Bee, in what one might assume is an attempt to sedate the Bey Hive. A post shared by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on May 2, 2016 at 5:17pm PDT February 2017: Beyoncé breaks the Internet with a simple Instagram post announcing that the Knowles-Carter family would be expecting not one but two new additions to the family. We would like to share our love and happiness. We have been blessed two times over. We are incredibly grateful that our family will be growing by two, and we thank you for your well wishes. – The Carters A post shared by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on Feb 1, 2017 at 10:39am PST April 2017: On their ninth wedding anniversary, Beyoncé releases a new Tidal exclusive music video filled with lots of intimate home footage for “Die With You,” a song that she debuted in 2015 also on Tidal for the same occasion. A post shared by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on Apr 4, 2017 at 11:59am PDT 💙 4.4.17 💙 A post shared by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on Apr 4, 2017 at 12:04pm PDT June 2017: After much speculation and waiting, sources confirm to People that the twins arrived. That means Queen Bey has given birth to the two newest heirs to the Knowles-Carter legacy so the Internet, predictably loses its collective mind.
No. That would make for a wonderful story though. Emma seemed super psyched with how everything went and even came to our premier to do press. I think if you're that put off by weed, odds are you aren't working with us in the first place.
My parents sometimes get sick of me talking about weed on talkshows and shit like that. They finally said to me "jesus, do you have to talk about weed all the fucking time?" but people always asks so I don't know what to say.
I personally don't do that because it does take money out of people's pockets. sometimes very small films rely on sales to make any money. Huge movies are okay to ilegally download though. Ha! download man of steel all you want.
Well, Seth had noticed that in magazine interviews Rihanna had said that some of her favorite movies were SUPERBAD and PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, so it was a shot in the dark and she said yes. Emma Watson, we just kind of reached out. And everybody else we knew in some capacity and called them up as a friend, and asked if they wanted to come to New Orleans and die really quickly.
No. The inside was built in a warehouse that was used to store coffee beans. The outside was largely computer generated. I don't think franco actually has a house. He lives in a library like the bum in "With Honors".
I think sometimes they just catch us on a bad day. I talked to that guy for about two hours and when I went home I was like "jesus, I said about two thousand things that could make me look like a complete motherfucker". Alot of it is luck of the draw as to what the people will choose to use, and how they want the article to be. Jonah is not bruce banner in real life.
No, that's why we made SUPERBAD. If you're having trouble not getting laid, take that frustration and put that towards a future career, because it's not going to immediately change the fact that you're not getting laid.
Whooo. toughy. The first time I went to amsterdam when I was 19 I was alone waiting to meet a friend, so I went into a coffee shop and asked for the strongest weed they had. I smoked a huge joint of it alone and then sat alone in the coffee shop for two hours having no idea what to do. I kept thinking my giant backpack was in people's way.
We thought up the character first - someone who is just a cokehead, maniac sex-deviant - and then retroactively, we thought who would be the most surprising person to see in the role. So we chose the sweetest, most beautiful, innocent boy in the world, Michael Cera.
It's fucking crazy. When it got cancelled, there weren't really shows on dvd and netflix didn't exist, so there was no precedent for shows that got cancelled to come back to life. We thought it was done. And now more people probably watch it than when it was on in the first place, which is awesome and unexpected. I'm blown away by it.
It was great. It was mine and Evan's first actual job together. We would think of people he could interview and then write the questions that he would ask the people, while trying to predict what the people we are interviewing might say. We went on the road to texas and then to spring break in florida where we exposed frat boys as being much more homo-erotic than they would have liked.
Probably THIS IS THE END and PINEAPPLE EXPRESS. They're both just so fucking crazy, and specifically I think we enjoyed making these we were thinking the whole time "I can't believe they're letting us make this."
On a different note, I, Evan, would like to note that I didn't work on OBSERVE & REPORT but wish I had, because of how cool it is.
Ever since we started when we were 13, we've done everything together (except for acting). Even when we were in separate cities, we would write over the phone. If we don't agree on something, it's like any team or partnership, we just debate it until we reach an amicable middle ground. Also we have a lot of great people that we work with - Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shapir, Alex Mcatee, and our producing partner James Weaver, and we bounce stuff off them all the time.
We both do everything together. We sit in front of one computer at one desk and we make huge lists of ideas that slowly evolve into the movie. We outline the emotional stories and the structure for a long time and then we write the dialogue. All sitting six inches from each other. the whole time.
The first one. We've made both those types of movies (people don't like to admit it, but Green hornet made a shitload of money) and it feels much more gratifying to make movies that people love but aren't as successful. Kind of.
My biggest piece of advice to anybody is just to finish what you start. Because if you don't finish stuff, you're just trying to be a writer. When you finish it, you're a writer. And specifically regarding comedy, share with a lot of your friends; don't be isolationist about it, try to get a lot of opinions and try writing with a partner - it works for me!
We talk about making more dramatics movies, but it really seems that if approached right, you can make any movie into comedic one. 5050 showed us that. It's a greater challenge, but the movie is more accessible and more people will see a movie about a tough subject often if it's funny.
If it's the clip I'm thinking of, it's not my first show. It was something called "comedy night in canada" and it was my biggest show i'd ever done at that time. I think around 400 people or something. I think I'm around 15 in that video. I may be wearing a "Korn" shirt.
I would say every time you see anything that looks like LA, it's not perhaps a gag but something we're proud of because we filmed every minute of the movie in New Orleans - so the Hollywood sign, the palm trees, Melrose are all constructed or made with computers. Actually if you dissect the film the geography makes no sense - they go from Franco's house to a corner store in like 2 minutes walking, which is impossible. It's on the DVD, but we shot a whole thing where they talked about remaking some of their past movies, and only Seth and Jay had heard about Craig Robinson's past movie DRAGON WARS, so we made a bunch of jokes about it. Other than THIS IS THE END, DRAGON WARS probably has the most screwed up layout of LA.
It was incredibly fun. The studio was skeptical that it would be a good idea for us to play ourselves, but we lied to them and told them we would shoot a version where we could edit around that if people didn't like it. We did not do that. We just made the movie we wanted to make and had a blast doing it. Our friends were all there, and they were mocking each other. What more could you want.
We always wanted to do a movie where people played themselves and something extraordinary happened; the initial version of this movie was Seth Rogen and Busta Rhymes were filming a music video and a movie respectively, on the Sony lot, and Antmen attacked from the center of the earth.
We had a separate idea with Jason Stone about this short video about the apocalypse. We thought that we should combine these ideas, so we thought we'd do a film with Seth and all of our friends instead of Busta Rhymes. No disrespect to Busta Rhymes. Flipmode Squad is cool as hell in our books.
I don't have a favorite deli in LA. Seth and I used to live behind Canter's so we used to go there a lot, but we hear Langer's is really good so we'd like to go to Langers. I hold everything up to the gold standard which is Schwartz's in Montreal - so far, no other deli has beaten Schwartz's.
When we write, I always try to write together- I like to write with another person because I like to have someone to bounce things off of and fix my mistakes. I try to share things as often as possible with as many people as I can: I have a lot of smart friends and I try to take advantage of that. Share with your friends.
We talk about it all the time. The story we have in This is the End is the actual story we talk about doing. We have some original (we hope) ideas that we want to do before doing sequels, and comedy sequels seem to be the hardest, but it's definitely something that we keep coming back to. And the enthusiasm for it is hard to ignore.
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