6 months since my last blog post. Here’s where my head’s at tonight (music and article recommendations at the bottom):
Made in America has done a phenomenal job giving Philadelphia its own festival. 70,000 people a day took over the Parkway for two days, and the only possible complaint is that there’s not enough room to hold them all. Would love to see them expand further towards Center City and add a few more general attractions and art installations, but they’ve done a great job solidifying their lineup identity and bringing Philly on-board. Shorter lines on the food trucks would be good too.
Made in America performances were pretty tight across the board, though the Weeknd’s material probably would’ve played better in a club. First time ever seeing the Queen, and I loved how theatrical Beyoncé’s headlining set was—it’s beautiful that arguably the biggest pop star on the planet (give or take a TSwizzy) has IDEAS about what her art means. Favorite set of the weekend actually goes to J Cole, who had the crowd eating out of his hand even though he pretty much only stuck to songs off his newest album. I didn’t realize 2014 Forest Hills Drive had the much staying power, but it goes to show that news stories and press don’t determine a hit…the streets love it.
It’s still so hot outside. The city turns on the sprinklers in Rittenhouse Square every night to make sure the homeless people don’t sleep on “their” benches. They’ve got nowhere else to go, though, so they end up soaking wet in a different park seat. I’m not entirely sure how to feel about it, though I’ll never miss a chance to find something poetic in futility.
Underneath everything these days is this presidential primary race, which increasingly feels like a loud, angry media sideshow. I’m honestly not even sure if politics can get better in our current soundbyte era (pun intended), which is both frustrating and nauseating when they’re literally supposed to be our way of fixing the most important problems in our society.
If there’s a bright spot, it’s that music and art still makes me feel the way I always have. Here’s some recommendations:
Lupe Fiasco – Valleys
Lupe’s wordplay and concepts are so dense that it’s amazing how shortening up the tracklist on this surprise EP-length mixtape makes it more digestible. Incredible verses with both complex and simple punchlines (favorite: “You’re loyal, so I’m Khaled“). Bonus points for the beat because he’s spitting over the same J Dilla track that he did freestyling at the Blue Note with Kanye and Mos Def in 2011.
Noah Gundersen – Selfish Art
My most anticipated album of the year was a little less immediate than Ledges, but the slow burn ends up leaving the same mark. “Selfish Art” is one of those songs that every poet and musician has tried and failed to write, so of course Noah pulls it off like it’s nothing. When it gets colder this album will own me.
Carly Rae Jepsen – Boy Problems
Think Cyndi Lauper on a coke binge. The hooks in this song are incredible–the “nah nah nahs”, the synth that doubles the “don’t really care” vocal, the way the melodies and rhythms run into each other and build something beat-by-beat. It’s a master class in songwriting. Respect for one of the best songs on THE best pop album of the year.
Here are some articles I’ve read lately and recommend:
Celebrity Rebranding – Short and sweet marketing article about trying to adjust and reframe an artist’s image (Jordin Sparks is the cited example). Some interesting strategy about digital influencers and the article does a good job showing how connected the music world is.
Why Drivers In China Intentionally Kill The People They Hit – This is not a joke, and it’s scary as hell. Expecting it to go viral at some point.
The Republicans Are Now Officially The Party Of White Paranoia – Matt Taibbi has been on fire lately. It’s horrific to me that people who call themselves “conservative” can relabel and vilify entire groups of people, hoping that in end their voter turnout will justify the means.
How Kanye West Changed The Way We Think About “Ghostwriting” – Besides “Back To Back” and about 600 memes, my favorite thing about the Drake/Meek beef was the renewed conversation about authenticity in rap music. Who you’re with and what you claim has always been so inextricably linked with rap, and one of the (hundred) ways Kanye has blown up hip hop is by normalizing overt cowrites. Then again, I love pop music, so I’ve never had a problem with songwriting and per by committee…feels problematic to say otherwise. Good music is good music.
Evolving The Google Identity – Fascinating in-depth look at how Google approached changing their logo and overall online identity. Don’t really love the G-icon, but I like everything else.
Hoping I can get this blog up and about again now that summer’s almost over I’m not out drinking every night. I do better when my thoughts are somewhere.