God this album irritates me so much.WHEELS ON THE CURB SIDE, PUT IT IN SPEED DRIVE
God this album irritates me so much.WHEELS ON THE CURB SIDE, PUT IT IN SPEED DRIVE
Canada! Throw another steak on the barbie and… No, that’s the other one isn’t it? Throw another poutine on the Mike Myers, aye! We all love Canada, don’t we? They’re like the USA it’s OK to like! So polite! So, like, a bit American, but not offensively so, but then also a little bit English, so that’s OK! There are bits of it that are French, I believe, but I don’t really have time to logically process that right now. Those white Canadians, they’ve, like, always been there, right? There was never any indefensible stripping of natives’ land, like there was in the USA, as far as I – wider culture – am aware of. No old Canadian movies celebrating the Canadian John Wayne brutally murdering the native population, so I have to assume that it never happened. Who’s the Canadian John Wayne, I hear you ask? Probably Drake. No, I can’t explain it, it just probably is, I dunno. Oh Canada! That’s how the anthem starts, innit? Lovely country, lovely people, such a lovely counterpoint to all the divisive silliness that happened ‘down south’! Shows that actually, yes, it is possible to build a civilised society over there.
Get in line, pass the wine, bitch, we’re going straight to HellThis Hell
There are few things as indicative of a grossly rotten capitalist system as Elon Musk. If this was a world that worked in the slightest way, if it was properly focused on providing correctly for all human life, or even if it were really the meritocracy that many on the right and the centre claim it to be, then people like Elon would not exist.
Elon Musk has, according to Forbes, eight two sillywillion-scumskillion-foreskillion-skatupllion dollars. Remember how arsey I got about Beyoncé? Well, Elon Musk spends ‘a Beyoncé’ every day on one of his special artisanal morning coffees (he makes it out of unicorn anuses and the condensed tears of one hundred an fifty million starving children, which needs to be collected en masse overnight. Tastes quite nutty. Because Elon nuts in it. Because the idea turns him on so much). If Elon earned this money by being especially good at something like playing billiards – even if he were the best billiard player in the God damn world – then being allowed to greedily accumulate that much wealth would still mean the system is broken. But Elon isn’t especially good at anything. It’s just the whole depressing and boring vulture capitalist, venture buyouts, stock market nonsense that all rich people do.YOU MUST HAVE REALLY ENJOYED THIS ELON MUSK ALBUM
Seth Manchester again. Jesus Christ, mate, the places you drag me to. You’re exposing me to dangerous mental disorders here. Is this abuse? Am I being abused? I feel like I’m being abused here.
I am cashing outI Am Blacking Out
I have an expensive mouth
My teeth are stolen
I give watering cans to my children
No, forget everything I just said, this is fucking awesome. Abuse me more! Choke me Daddy!!THIS IS GOING PLACES…
Look out boys I’m on fire and I’m not going outRunning With the Hurricane
I know a lot of my fans (I see you) have been asking what my officially licensed catchphrase is, and I just now want to confirm that it is that.
If you’ll just allow me to shit on Beyoncé a little more…SIGH…
Beyoncé has made an estimated $114 million in digital single sales, along with $29.5 million from albums.
Beyoncé and Jay-Zed’s 2018 ‘On the Run II’ tour took in $250 million, to go with the $95 million they’d already grossed with the original 2014 ‘On the Run’ tour. Her 2016 ‘Formation’ tour made $256 million.
Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, has calculated the cost of ending hunger in the US at $25 billion.
By 2013, she had already sold $400 million of her signature perfume.I COULD GO ON. SO I WILL
We’re all friends here. This is a safe space. Let’s start this first blog post since March off by just putting all our cards on the table. When you’re from Europe, or Britain in my case (with perhaps a few notable exceptions) it’s really annoying to hear American people talk about dance music.
Completely unfairly, of course. They can’t help it, it’s not their fault, it’s just how they were brought up and the slight to significant social differences they have encountered. I feel like criticising the majority of Americans’ knowledge about dance music is like making fun of their monster truck rallies, school shootings or cowboy hats – it’s a central and important part of their culture, and mocking it seems insensitive. It’s just… infuriating… isn’t it? Even their insistence on calling it Electronic Dance Music/EDM – while being functionally completely sensical (the vague term ‘dance music’ rarely suitably describes what most people using it are referring to) – is really annoying. Whenever somebody refers to something as ‘EDM’ it’s a quick assurance that they probably think the greatest ever electronic dance album was ‘Purpose‘, that they believe Avicii and The Chainsmokers were the legendary originators, and that they’re unlikely to even get the Blackout Crew reference I made in this blog entry’s title.Read more: Blingy Lady (Puts a Donk On It): A Review of Beyoncé’s ‘RENAISSANCE’
Dance music has one of the most popular and successful genres in Europe since the early 90s at the latest and even well into the 80s. Growing up in that era (a ‘Cultural Boomer’) in Europe meant dance music being a constant background And absolutely not just critically- sure, there were always the likes of Orbital/Chemical Brothers/Faithless/KLF/Leftfield who married critical praise with moderate to huge commercial success. And the superstar DJs like Carl Cox, Paul Oakenfold, Eric Prydz and Armand van Helden, who would combine huge influence and talent with the odd number one single. But we also had the true sign of full cultural integration – the terrible dance acts that would clog up the charts and pollute local radio stations. Before you criticise an American’s perceived ignorance on dance music, remember that they likely grew up in a world without either The Venga Boys or 2 Unlimited.
And, yes, while, being English, my obvious and natural response would be to condescendingly smirk at those silly little colonies, raise an eyebrow as I take a sip of Earl Grey through pursed lip and drily remark how I very much doubt that most Americans even have an opinion on A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld, but we really have no room to talk. Perhaps the US had less time for the likes of Urban Cookie Collective because it was, y’know, inventing and popularising hip-hop, a genre which I’d argue didn’t properly break through in the UK until (seriously) Puff Daddy’s 1998 number one I’ll Be Missing You, a tribute to one of the most notable rappers of all time in the US, whose only charting album in the UK peaked at number twenty three. And we completely skipped grunge, Nirvana might have had a couple of top ten singles and some festival headliners, but otherwise rock music refused to truly comeback in the UK until Oasis started breaking records in 1993. There have since been attempts at revisionist history in the UK music press, arguing that Nirvana were as big a deal here as in the US, but… no… We try and pretend otherwise now, but we were all about Oasis. I’m sorry. When Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ historically and meaningfully knocked Michael Jackson’s ‘Dangerous’ (it was just an album title back then, not an official legal status) off the top of the US charts in January 1992, the UK charts were topped by very much our Nirvana – Wet Wet Wet, with their legendary third album ‘High on the Happy Side‘. So are we really so culturally and morally superior?
Yes, we are. But it’s still interesting innit?
And I’m referring to the general American consensus here. The USA is a big country – more than a million people – and there has always been pockets of massive dance music fans, as well as America contributing some (perhaps… most??) of the most influential and important dance music producers and DJs of all time. There’s an argument that San Jose’s DJ Shadow’s 1996 album ‘Endtroducing‘ is the most influential dance album of the 90s. New Jersey… sorry…Nuu Jooooysie‘s James Murphy – electronic music’s tramp sage – is among the most notable electronic producers of the modern era. And, holy shit, our blinkers here are so discriminating that we’re failing to see what a complete revolution to music that hip-hop was, especially on the electronic means of dance music, from Grandmaster Flash through Timbaland, The Neptunes, Tyler the Creator and countless other notable names. And, pretty much unanimously cited as the most important DJ of all time, the sadly departed Frankie Knuckles is, as the ostentatiously cool name suggests, from Weston-super-mare
sorry, I mean The Bronx. Which is in America. Not sure which part. Maybe in the middle somewhere. In fact, the very foundations and practices that define everything that the world recognises as ‘Dance Music’ (and the US as EDM) came from the gay scene in Chicago (that’s in America), the black suburbs of Detroit (that’s also in America), clubs in New York (in America) and New Jersey (also in America. The Sopranos live there). Unarguably, America invented dance music. It just then decided to ignore it for a few decades. The first dance album to go platinum in the USA was – and you’ll like this – the soundtrack to the 1995 movie adaptation of the popular computer game Moral Kombat. The hip American daddios who have been into dance music these past few decades, who were sweating out their Quaaludes down next to the speakers in Chicago clubs in the mid 80s, might be similarly kissing their teeth and rolling their eyes at wider American culture’s laughably belated appreciation of dance music. Or maybe they’re just happy that the sort of boundary pushing artistic revelations are now finally being widely appreciated? But that seems needlessly unresentful to me. Are the Americans not into needless spite or something?
To the wider culture though, much like punk music finally broke America in 1991 – when the Dead Kennedys played Too Drunk Too Fuck at the Superbowl halftime show – dance music finally got noticed in America with a similar multiple decade delay, though the exact year isn’t agreed upon nor easy to pin down. Some time around 2010, there were numerous mainstream dalliances, largely through hip-hop artists tipping their hat to the genre. Beyoncé herself (I am getting round to her eventually, I promise) played a notable role, with her 2011 banger Run the World (Girls) sampling both Diplo and Major Lazer, two contemporary and soon to be huge dance acts. A huge, huge, huge figure was David Guetta, whose collaborations with the likes of Nicki Minaj, Fergie*, Kid Cudi, Adam Rickit and Akon did much to popularise the genre. And, sorry, but we have to acknowledge Deadmau5 and Skrillex as being notable figures in dance music’s evolution’s both commercially and – I’m sorry, you’re going to have to admit it – artistically. Some might point to the humungous drop in Justin Bieber/Skrillex/Diplo’s 2015 Where Are U Now as a particular high watermark in terms of commercial notability (and artistic quality. Come on, don’t be pathetic, it’s a fucking banger). It’s also impossible to talk about the genre’s emergence in the USA without mentioning the importance of Daft Punk. Personally however, as a true line in the sand, I think the ultimate turning point came in late 2011, and was assisted by some 30 year old jabroni born in Dumfries. Calvin Harris and Rihanna’s We Found Love isn’t just one of the most perfect and gorgeous hit singles of the last twenty or so years, but it is 100% and unmistakeably a dance song, featuring all the tropes and features of the type of banger you’d be chewing your cheeks off to down the front at Manumission back in 92. The build, the drop, the repetitive but exhilarating synth beat – this wasn’t a hip-hop or R&B artist taking cues from dance music, this was a dance track that Rihanna provided vocals for. She was playing the same role that Loleatta Holloway performed on Black Box’s Ride on Time twenty years earlier. Except of course Rihanna was considered attractive and famous enough to appear in the video for We Found Love. Also, she wasn’t dead, which Black Box mistakenly assumed Loleatta was. It’s a long story. Oh, and We Found Love was also the biggest thing ever, so that was nice for everyone involved, and in my opinion truly inspired the (possibly racist/homophobic. Much bigger issue, no time to discuss it now) levee that America had built to suppress dance music’s wider acceptance to finally break, and the outpouring still continues to this day.
(*as in the legendary former manager of Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson, not the Black Eyed Peas singer, with whom he is often confused)
In 2022, America, God bless them all, seem to have discovered House Music. The aforementioned Frankie Knuckles (born Francis The Echidna) would have been overjoyed to see his country embrace the genre so quickly, just forty years after he invented it and eight years after he fucking died. The increased interest in the genre even inspired Rolling Stone, who generally believe ‘Songs of Innocence’ to be the most recent and noteworthy musical evolution, to compile a list of the 200 greatest ever dance songs, which – uuuurgh – I’ll get to later. Lot’s of people started bringing up Kaytranada, the Canadian born in 1992 who apparently invented house music. The renaissance
was instigated by two of the legitimately biggest musicians/celebrities/celestial beings in the world, Beyoncé and Canada’s perma-pursing feels navigator Drake, both released previously unannounced hugely house music inspired projects so close to each other. Drake released ‘Honestly, Nevermind’ on June 17th, and Ms Carter’s seventh studio album was released two days ago. Two days ago when I’m writing this, I mean. If you’re reading this next week, then it was released about a week ago. If you’re reading this in 2056, then it was released a long time ago. July 29th, if you’re using this post to conduct proper research and plan on citing it in your thesis. Which you all absolutely should. Before I talk about the Beyonkadonk album, we may as well quickly compare the two projects and say who comes out top in this unexpected House Off:
And, yeah, Beyoncé. It’s not even close. Firstly, I don’t think either album is a radical reinvention of the artists’ sounds. Both have frequently incorporated dance and house music influences on their records in the past, even more so than the natural shared lineage of hip-hop/R&B and dance production. Is there a track on ‘Renaissance’ significantly more house music influenced than something like Blow from Bee’s incredible self-titled 2015 album? Also: Ha! I’ve only just noticed that song is called ‘blow’, that’s fucking amazing. Also… is there a song… significantly… better…? We’ll get to that discussion soon.
Artistically, and just in terms of general quality, ‘RENAISSANCE’ far outperforms ‘Honestly, Nevermind’, but let’s just put that to one side. One major difference between the two artists’ homage to sweating themselves out at The Warehouse in 1992 is the differing understanding – or perhaps a refusal to understand – of house music’s central conceit, and what I would say is the genre’s main aspect of importance.
House music, my dudes, is gay as fuck.
I’ll let Padiheh Aghanourny and Unathi Nkhoma – two people whom I will uncharacteristically accept know more about the subject than me – explain it in more detail, but the importance of house music to LGBT history cannot be overstated. Was Drake aware of this? Is this why the video of the lead single sees Drake marrying forty women at once? Was he aware of the homosexual connotations and so really wanted to prove to the world that he’s definitely not a gayer? Look, everyone, I’m so straight that I’m fucking, like, all the women! Not that there’s anything wrong with that. ‘Drake’s ‘No Homo House’ can’t help but feel a little listless.
Beyoncé, however, does not shy away from the obvious connotations, and fully embraces house music’s gay as a window origins, and ‘RENAISSANCE’ sounds like a legitimate and faithful celebration of both house music and the queer black culture that was so central to it. A really faithful celebration. A admirably legitimate commemoration. A respectful homage. An assiduously studied pastiche.
Sigh. I’m sorry everyone, but I might just have to shit on this album a tiny bit. I know that a lot of people have taken this record to their heart. I know that Beyoncé’s paean to hot girl summers and careless partying has resonated with large sections of the populace. The album’s wholehearted urge/demand that the listener do anything and ignore any barrier between them and embracing pleasure. Lead single BREAK MY SOUL implores the listener to ‘Release ya job’, which really resonated with a society suffering under the decaying effects of late stage monopoly capitalism, and will I imagine be partnered with Ms Carter redistributing her $450mil wealth to support all of those workers to seize the means of production. A lot of the response to the record has highlighted – occasionally as the album’s main selling point – how much ‘fun’ Beyoncé is obviously having. Which is a valid point. She is legitimately one of the most powerful people in the world. I imagine it’s rather straightforward for her to have ‘fun’.
Remember ‘Lemonade’? Six years ago, Beyoncé released what I honestly believe will forever be remembered as one of the most important albums of the century. I named it album of the year. Later, I named it album of the decade. Looking back, I probably prefer Hotelier’s 2016 album ‘Goodness‘, but that’s neither here nor there. It was an event, it explicitly referenced and celebrated African American history, culture, and highlighted aspects of the struggles they’ve had to endure over the past, y’know, few hundred years. It did all this – all this sociological analysis and cultural celebration, presented alongside quotations from Malcolm X and underground black American poets like Warsan Shire – while still spinning a narrative of a betrayed woman learning to heal herself and her relationship after infidelity. Fuck, man, shall we just drop everything now and go and watch the ‘Lemonade’ visual album again?
This is the follow-up. Six years later. And the central message, the important memorandum that the artist wishes to impart on the listener and the world, is
just, like, party down my dudes, yeah? Live, laugh, love. Hashtag #GirlBoss, ammi right? Oh! But there’s a song called AMERICA HAS A PROBLEM, so I bet that’ll talk about some hot button issues like… Ah, no, that’s just the name of the sample from Kilo Ali’s 1990 song Cocaine (America Has a Problem). It’s actually about how loving someone is, y’know, a bit like a drug, which is an analogy I don’t think anyone has ever used before, so props for originality.
‘Originality’ is the main problem with ‘RENAISSANCE’. In the sense that there isn’t any. Perhaps it’s a matter of age. I am two years younger than Beyoncé (Ha! In your FACE, you old hag! Sorry, it’s very rare that I write about artists that are older than me…), we’re both old enough to remember a lot of this stuff first time around. A lot of her fans are a) younger than me, and b) more American than me, so unlikely to have grown up surrounded by Show Me Love and… erm…
Right Said Fred…? Weird flex sampling I’m Too Sexy on Alien Superstar, but OK. I know all these samples, I’ve heard all these basslines, these piano chords soundtracked thousands of popular songs all through my youth. Beyoncé repeats them, she centres them respectfully, she samples and builds around them, she pays repeated homage. She adds nothng to them. A lot of reviewers are hearing celebrations of black joy and subtle politics in its musical emphasis and reaffirmation of the queer beginnings of club culture. OK. It’s art. You can read whatever you want into it. All I can say is that such topics are barely evident in the actual text. ‘RENAISSANCE’ is a very decent album. It’s also slight, uninspired and would likely be forgettable if it weren’t released by the biggest pop star of the 21st century.
And listen, the reason I rarely do reviews so close to the release date is because I seriously don’t believe a couple of days is anywhere near enough time to properly absorb and understand a piece of musical art. Even if you have listened dozens of time as I have, musical art needs days, weeks, months to truly ingest into your soul. If you’d asked me to review the latest Kendrick Lamar record on the day of its release, for example, I would have told you it was a dull as dogs cock overlong and overimportant dirge. Now, I’d say it was… fine, I guess. I dunno. And like Kendrick on ‘Big Pumpin’ the Big Sleepers‘, or whatever it’s called, on ‘RENAISSANCE’ Beyoncé could be facing up to her status as a cultural icon and expected preacher. Perhaps this mantle of cultural spokesperson that has been thrust upon her is the ‘job’ that Beyoncé is so keen to ‘release’.
Again though, the main difference is that these allusions are actually present in Kendrick’s lyrics, while with Beyoncé we might just be searching for distinction in a text that so often seems shallow and superficial.
It’s the first part of a trilogy, which I am unbelievably excited about, and I have full faith in Beyoncé’s artistic ability to believe that it will all make mistakes at the end. And I can truly imagine that the love for this album amongst certain sections of society may lead to something magical and it could really be looked back upon as an important and notable cultural moment. But on it’s own terms, artistically?
Yeah, it’s fine. You might like it, I guess
BONUS! Rants About Rolling Stone’s Top 200 Dance Songs!!!
Two hundred songs. And they didn’t name You Got the Love. The fuck is wrong with these people?
By ‘these people’ I, of course, mean ‘Americans’.
Please like and subscribe. And comment! But I don’t think I’ve said anything contentious. Straight facts, my dudes.
(If you’re an American reading this, know that I’m joking – I know that you think Rolling Stone is fucking nonsense as well)
You know it’s all about that boom! Legit Bosses, baybay!*
(*yeah, that song isn’t actually included. It’ll be on Legit Bosses 2022 though! I’m just a bit slow with these things…)
So, only 121 this year, a marked decline on 2020’s 125. So was it a notably worse year? Absolutely chuffing not. Despite the 2.928% drop in numbers, the quality on show is outstanding. Never mind the weight, feel the quality. The top maybe twenty songs especially are on some next level shit, and you haven’t seen so many GOATs since you traumatically happened upon Weird Uncle Colin’s problematic porn collection back in 92. I also shaved a few songs last minute, mainly because they were from albums due to be released in 2022 and I decided to make them Next Year Alex’s problem. Also, one or two I realised… weren’t… actually… that… good… So that just means the 121 that made the cut are all of such spectacular quality that you may want to warn the people around you before you start reading this list, as the floor between your legs is about to get soaked.
No, no, hey, maybe it’s you that’s too gross, ever considered that??
Anyway, let the festivities begin, here are the playlists:Continue reading “Legit Bosses: 2021’s 121 Greatest Songs”
#40 Princess Nokia: Everything Sucks
Yep, Princess Nokia states that ‘Everything is Beautiful’ and only makes it to number 70, but when she simply throws up her arms and declares that ‘Everything Sucks’ she opens our top 40. What does this prove? That’s right- absolutely fuck all, as this list is an absolutely meaningless vanity project by some egotistical, fat, ginger, middle aged man frivlously listing albums he’s listened to this year in no real order despite knowing next to nothing about music.
I joke, of course, this list is an entirely scientific exercise. The real reason that the other album that The Princess Regent of Nokia and its Territories released in 2020 ranks so much higher is because, yeah, maybe everything does suck.Continue reading “Necesary Evil 2020 pt.8 (40-36)”
This blog has never been the place for timely, contemporary and up to the minute fresh takes. In normal circumstances, if something notable happens during the year I simply put it aside in that special part of my brain that I hope to access around December, then at the end of the year I rant about it in a blog post about my 25th best album of the year, or whatever, when every other person in the world has long stopped caring about it. Or, most likely, I’ll simply forget all about it and instead go off on a tangent about rape fantasies or utter fucking nonsense. It was all we wanted. All we needed. We were happy.
Well, COVID-19 got me doing all sorts of crazy shit that I’ve never done before- last Tuesday I ate an unsalted pistachio*- so I guess I may as well add to the insanity by commenting on something that only just happened this last week. Partly this is because a particularly obnoxious crow outside my window has woken me up at two thirty in the morning, like I’m a 15th century wheelwright working in the tower of his master’s monastery or some shit, but partly because Lana Del Rey’s 21st May Instagram post really got under my skin. Yeah, mostly the former. Sniff, sniff, what’s that smell? Oh yeah! Precious motherfucking content!!
Continue reading “You All Knew This Was Coming [UPDATED]”