sign of the times.

i, like most others who aren’t a part of one direction’s fanbase, have always thought that, while the members do have solid voices, the band is as musically overrated and bland as any other boy band to have ever entered the mainstream. however, within the past year, the band’s members have started dissociating themselves with the group and venturing into solo endeavors. the most relevant and appealing member, harry styles, released his debut solo single titled “sign of the times” a few days ago, and i was shocked at how well it went over. it is a heartfelt, emotional ballad about how the world is in a state of panic and uproar–the song was dropped on the night that the orange thing in office launched a fucking missile strike on syria–and how, consequently, people often repress feelings of sadness, grief, and terror from others in fear that they will be uncomfortable being anything other than content and complacent. i think harry’s vocal performance is extraordinarily powerful, and it shines over the grand classic-rock instrumentation. this track really hooked me, and i think that, along with pillowtalk, it’s the best work from the band’s members. shit deadass almost made me cry first listen. supposedly, it’s the first single from his upcoming debut album, and i’m looking forward to it.

listen here:

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saturnz barz.

not gonna lie, it hasn’t been until very recently that i’ve really started getting into the england-based band gorillaz. i know, i know… i’m an uncultured asshole. but within the past few weeks, gorillaz have released five singles in preparation for their new album humanz, set to drop on april 28 (which is also my birthday). i like the majority of these songs, but the track “saturnz barz” in particular has stuck out to me. popcaan’s animated, autotuned feature makes the song a change of pace from the others. the trap-flavored, ethereal instrumental compliments popcaan’s vocals well, and the ghostly moans in the second half of the track make for a haunting, spacey atmosphere. i really like how damon makes his appearance in the second half to provide a varied version of the hook, in which he and popcaan trade back and forth; this makes for an unorthodox blend of styles that surprisingly goes over pretty well. based off what we’ve been given so far, i’m anticipating the album pretty heavy.

peep the video for “saturnz barz” here:

empty.

i know kevin abstract’s “empty” video came out over half a year ago now, but i wanna talk about it anyway. i remember my first time seeing it. i had heard of him a few times prior to this, but i had made the mistake of never checking out his stuff. i saw the video surfacing here and there on twitter a few times, and even then i hadn’t clicked on it. i finally gave in after i saw someone tweet it to tyler’s twitter. i watched it and was struck by how beautifully up-front this guy is about his queer sexuality; i really hadn’t seen anything like it in a music video before. i couldn’t stop watching; i loved it. i checked out the rest of his material and related heavy with the whole outsider persona that he portrays. it turns out that “empty” had been the first single from his upcoming album american boyfriend: a suburban love story, which dropped in november 2016. needless to say, the album made me a fan. that is, if i hadn’t already been one.

i think artists like kevin are unequivocally important for listeners like me (i.e. those who hated high school and who never really fit in). kevin is a product of innovators like tyler, frank, kanye, and cudi, who have all been known to portray some sort of vulnerability–usually in quantities that are considered abnormal and condescendingly feminine for men in today’s society, especially in the hip-hop industry–in their music. kevin is no stranger to this himself and really allows these influences to shine both through his music and through his message; his music thereby acts as an outlet, not only for him, but for his fans as well. furthermore, i think he’s also becoming more and more of a role model and an icon for people of color and other minorities, which is huge in an environment where these groups are constantly marginalized. while kevin may not be hugely popular, his current impact is nothing less than admirable and inspiring, and it has earned him a cult fan base that continues to grow and support him on his journey to become a worldly-acknowledged popstar.

watch the video for “empty” here:

biking.

last night i hopped on twitter to find out that frank ocean was about to drop a new track called “biking” featuring tyler, the creator and jay-z in the third episode of his blonded radio show. as someone whose individuality was shaped by the whole odd future era and the refreshing angle that they brought to the hip-hop scene, i damn near wet myself when i saw that frank and tyler were about to drop a new collab. and of course, while i’m not the biggest fan of rappers who were poppin in the 90’s (i was born in ’98), jay’s always a nice recruit for a feature.

i listened to the whole show until he finally premiered it at about midnight. not gonna lie, by that point i was pretty tired and preoccupied and didn’t pay too much attention first listen. after some more listens though, i pretty much formed the opinion that i knew i would: the song is good as fuck. now while i think jay’s feature is a little out of place, it definitely isn’t as bad as some of the verses he’s given out over the past few years, and i think the way his verse was left untouched and raw in the mix was a cool way to kick the track off. frank’s empowering vocals immediately bounce off that with a surprising young thug-type flow that fits really well over the guitar-driven instrumental. i think frank killed it as always. tyler follows with a pretty decent verse that reminds me of how cold-blooded he sounds on his recent collab with a$ap mob called “telephone calls.” if tyler’s next album sounds like what he’s bringing with his recent features, i have a good feeling that’ll be some of his best work. at the end of the track, frank straight up channels young thug by slurring his last couple bars beyond comprehension. as a fan of what young thug does with his vocal inflections, i really enjoyed this.

clearly the song has a deeper subject matter than just bikes. i like the theory that’s going around about how the track title is wordplay for the phrase “bi-king” and that frank is proclaiming himself as the bisexual icon that we all know he is. given frank’s songwriting and wordplay abilities and what he talks about in his other new single “chanel” (which is quite the bisexual anthem), this wouldn’t surprise me one bit. people have been speculating that he’ll continue to drop new tracks on his upcoming radio broadcasts and that he may even drop another album this year. all we can do is hope.

listen here:

also watch what could possibly be a preview of the track’s music video at blonded.co