Kodak Black / YoungBoy Never Broke Again

"We love antiheroes and complicated figures, and can acknowledge the ways in which the system preys on young Black men, but as long as we pretend that their upbringing completely stifles their agency, we allow them to avoid accountability for their actions [like Kodak Black and YoundBoy Never Broke Again]. To be 'complicated' is a patriarchal privilege. When Cardi B or Azealia Banks admit their past misdeeds or act out on social media, they aren’t contextualized; they’re policed" - Complex writes in an excellent essay.

Rayshard Brooks

"Is it ever a good idea to put on performances that depict police brutality, jail, and other facets of Black oppression, especially on the stages of white institutions? There’s the chance that these displays enlighten some viewers to the gravity of American oppression, but there is also the reality that they come off as pandering and upset people directly impacted by state violence" - Complex discusses the value, or harm, of these performances.

Guardian explores an interesting theory - that there aren't any new pop bands anymore in western music, rather a line of solo musicians. Ben Mortimer, co-president of Polydor Records, says that it's much cheaper and simpler to start a solo music career - "you could download Ableton [production software], shut your bedroom door and get creating straight away. Culture is shaped by technology”. Ben Mortimer, co-president of Polydor Records points out a socio-cultural change - “The majority of young people aren’t excited by band music in the traditional sense: groups of lads with guitars. And that’s reflected in the number of streams these bands receive. That then impacts on what talented young musicians go on to create". The G admits however that it's exactly bands at the forefront of pop music in Asia.

Hipgnosis' Merck Mercuriadis

A very interesting theory in The Baffler about Hipgnosis and similar investment funds which buy rights to old hit songs, and make cash from those songs being played or remade. "This puts them in a curious position with regard to 'new music', which they must perforce view with a combination of avarice, suspicion, and fear. Every original song that gains cultural traction drains potential listeners—and therefore revenue—away from the Hipgnosis portfolio, diluting the value of their assets... In their ideal world, therefore, there are no original songs, no fresh styles or hybrid genres—nothing, in short, which might lure listeners away from the necrotic embrace of 'Can’t Touch This'”.

A great read in the Quietus about the legendary singer-songwriter Jake Thackray: "When an attempt is made by the artist to self-mythologise or distance themselves from biography, a la Tom Waits or Frida Kahlo, I see it as becoming part of the work. For someone who worked so hard to distance himself from attention, it seems fitting to give a summation of Jake Thackray’s music through his life. Indeed, his work often ended up echoing or anticipating what he later became".

Death is not the end - of music
February 19, 2021

Pop Smoke a year after - a superstar

A year ago Pop Smoke was shot and killed at age 20, as he was preparing to release his debut album. Although he died, his music reached high levels in the meantime, as Independent sums it up. Last summer, the rapper’s breakout 2019 single 'Dior' became fuel for the Black Lives Matter movement. His posthumous single 'What You Know Bout Love' reached the top spot on the US rhythmic radio chart last month. Song 'For The Night' is now a staple among the top five played songs on urban radio stations. His posthumous album 'Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon' has topped the Billboard 200 twice...

The rebel child
February 15, 2021

Cowpunk - how punk met country

"Cowpunk is a reaction against conventional country, yet embodies some of its distant and deepest traits; likewise, it is also a reaction against punk, yet manifests as one of its purest expressions" - PopMatters writes about the common ground the two seemingly distant genres have found some 40 years ago.

Birthday flag
February 14, 2021

Ten points of entry to Henry Rollins' career

"Rollins' body, fortified with heavy weights and tattooed totems, became a vessel for the message of his music, which is that there is nothing glorious about being broken but there is dignity to be found in the bearing of it and consolation in the knowledge that it's not borne alone" - the Quietus writes in the lovely birthday card for the punk icon who turned 60 this weekend. The Q chooses 10 songs as points of entry to Henry Rollins' music.

The first home
February 11, 2021

Essay: We have to give Africa its music back

"Western bands, largely blessed with unrivaled marketing and export power, won over ears and hearts worldwide. Had African bands had similar reach and clout, at worst they would have gone toe to toe with Europe and North America’s most revered. At best, you may have never heard of your favorites. I would argue without respite that what was happening in the buzzing cultural citadels of Africa—the railway station hotel of Bamako with Rail Band, Mogadishu’s Jazira Hotel with Iftiin Band, Dakar’s Le Miami nightclub with Star Band, the recording studios of Cotonou with Orchestre Poly-Rhythmo, the musseques of Luanda with Jovens do Prenda—was simply a notch above" - Africa is a Country argues quite confidently, asking for a return of physical recordings of African music from independence onwards, large catalogs of which are no longer on the continent.

Young Dolph

Their predecessors once flaunted such signifiers as cars and diamond chains, while the new generation of hip-hop artists is flaunting ownership of their masters. High Snobiety names several artists who kept their music sovereignty, quite successfully so, like Russ, Young Dolph, JACKBOY, Rich the Kid, King Von, 21 Savage, J Cole, and expects the list to grow bigger in time.

"The common thread between those I spoke to about making music or writing in the midst of grief was that the art became a tool to make sense of the trauma. It was not made 'great' because of the pain but instead became a method to begin to understand what they had been through" - Welsh indie-rock multi-instrumentalist The Anchoress (real name Catherine Anne Davies), writes in the Quietus about the idea that it is great pain what is needed to make great idea. She has also started her career with that idea, but nos she believes there's a way out of it - "rather than chase down the 'chaos' of our adolescent 'dancing stars', under the illusion that it might make us burn brighter, write better, I’ve come to learn that we should instead acknowledge those deep scars that they leave upon the body of our lives so that we can in time turn our gaze once more towards the light".

Battles of the Caribbean
January 29, 2021

Showdown - the Caribbean answer to Verzuz

Swizz Beats and Timbaland were the masters of the battle last year with their Verzuz shows, but it had all started in the Caribbean, half a century ago, NPR argues. The story goes back to Jamaica in the late 1950s, when the streets of Kingston hosted rabid competitions between DJ crews or "sound systems", blasting imported jazz and blues on colossal speakers stacked high. DJs staged lyrical battles onstage and in the studio, with some clashes so intense that the authorities have had to be called into suppressing them. Verzuz was born on that tradition, and last autumn a Caribbean battle show Showdown debuted with artists Alison Hinds from Barbados and Patrice Roberts from Trinidad. Showdown is born from Verzuz, which is in turn born from Jamaican dancehall, which is born from American jazz and blues, NPR concludes.

Jazzy graffiti
January 26, 2021

Video: How jazz influenced painter Basquiat?

Producer Terrace Martin narrates a video about how jazz influenced New York graffiti artist Basquiat. Martin delves into how the genre, and especially artists like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, played a role in his artistic vision.

Disney Channel actor Olivia Rodrigo released her single 'Drivers License' to attract 82 million domestic streams across all platforms, the biggest US streaming week ever, and it had 15.17 million global Spotify streams on Jan. 11, a record for a non-holiday track. Stereogum argues the 17-year old's moody indie-pop ballad will have a big effect on pop music this year, and sees the song as a clear sign of a turn in pop-music: "Depressive guitar balladry might be a more reliable pathway to mainstream success than sparkling synth-pop. For years cultural critics have been noting that streaming, social media, and a lifestyle dominated by screen time were fostering a moodier, blearier mainstream".

Want your time, and want it now!
January 22, 2021

MIDiA: Music has developed an attention dependency

"The attention economy is becoming a malign force for culture. Consumption is holding culture hostage" - Music Industry Blog writes in an interesting post about how the very nature is being changed due to ways we consume it - "artists and labels are locked in a race to increase the volume and velocity of music they put out... And because music attention spans are shortening, no sooner has the listener’s attention been grabbed, then it is lost again due to the next new track. In the attention economy’s volume and velocity game, the streaming platform is a hungry beast that is perpetually hungry. Each new song is just another bit of calorific input to sate its appetite".

Long live the album!
January 17, 2021

An essay: Album's not dead

Treblezine doesn't agree with The New York Times' pop music critic statement that the album is dead, here's why: "What too many 'album is dead' arguments seem to ignore is that the consumer has a choice in this—it’s easier to be a passive listener and let the machine feed you what it thinks you want, but we can choose to be better listeners and more actively engage with music on a deeper level. The song might be the primary unit of popular music, but an album can tell a larger story—perhaps not literally, but the best of them still serve to transport you away from the mundane and into a self-contained world that’s worth exploring repeatedly". Funny thing is, Caramanica made a list of best albums of the year - in 2020 as well 🙂

"Berman altered my perception, permanently. Because I’ve listened to and read him, I see city skylines as jagged rows of car keys, the ground sometimes seems to wobble in the moonlight, and I know that they build corduroy suits from gutters. When I drive by a yard filled with broken stuff I imagine the crumbled […]