My most memorable melodies during the month of March. Happy March Madness, man/madame!
- “Nobody” by Mac Demarco
Ahead of his fourth studio album Here Comes The Cowboy, set to drop May 10, Demarco shares “Nobody”, the project’s second track. This is the first album he will be releasing under his own record label. “Nobody” is a lovely, melodic ballad reminiscent for me of his last album This Old Dog. His calming tone of voice is close to a whisper, making the song feel like the indie rock lullaby of my dreams. With the full length album, I hope he comes through with a variety of both fun-loving upbeat funk and moody lethargic ballads. And now we wait…
2. “Almeda” by Solange
Solange getting Carti on a Pharrel beat?! C’mon. C’MON. Coming from her most recent album When I Get Home, “Almeda” is a straight up anthem reclaiming black art and culture. Named after an area in Solange’s hometown Houston, Solange draws from her southern roots praising everything from “brown skin” and “black braids” to “Florida water”, the latter being a mix of essential oils meant to promote wellbeing via its healing effects (which Solange carried into the 2018 Met Gala).
After her 2016 project A Seat at the Table, full of beautiful instrumentals and strong social commentary, Solange truly solidified her name in the music industry, refusing to be ignored from that point forward. This track’s organization and repetition are reminiscent of a Playboi Carti track, making his feature a no brainer. In just a few years, Carti has become the new face of repetitive rap, following the likes of artists like Chief Keef. In Carti’s latest full length project Die Lit, songs “Pull Up” and “Lean 4 Real (feat. Skepta)” model this syntax he has become known for, the same syntax Solange adopted for this track. As always, Solange comes through with another insane visual with this music video. Not only is the video just beautiful to watch as it unfolds, its collage of black pride and purposeful symmetry tells a captivating story. Solange never fails to deliver.
3. “Vérité” by Claire Laffut
24 year-old Belgian born/Paris based model, painter, and singer Claire Laffut has no shortage of talents to share. Vice.com perfectly classifies Laffut’s music as “classic French chanson realized in full color”. Laffut herself labels it quite differently, saying, “[It is] music from a Belgian kid: childish, sweet like a lemon tart with a meringue topping. I mix this with a small touch of soul and African rhythms, fresh pop filled with bossa nova and jazzy notes. Because I love dancing, and I also love the heat”. “Vérité” is such a fun, feel good track. Between that catchy synth piano and rhythmic lyrics, I catch myself singing this track all the time, despite knowing not a single word! Wild how that works!
Is her vocal quality especially impressive? In her live performances, not really. However, the soft, sensual raspiness works for her and aligns with her overall ~vibe~. For me, her music is reminiscent of Clairo. Neither boasts the most amazing voice, but the bedroom pop each is known for does not require them to be vocal powerhouses. I know I am not alone in being spellbound by spoken French, let alone hearing it sung. I went through a phase a few years back with French rapper Ash Kidd, and could not be more pleased to have reignited my love for the language. And I mean, just as a side note, Laffut is absolutely stunning. So like, you will fall in love with her.
4. “Colossus” by Tyler, the Creator
To this day, Tyler’s third full length project Wolf might be my favorite. I revisit the album daily. Songs like “Awkward”, “Answer”, “PartyIsntOver/Campfire/Bimmer”, “IFHY”, and “Rusty”, I really gotta call classics. **they are classics to me!!!** While “IFHY” definitely is up there in my top two favorite Tyler tracks of all time, “Colossus” has become my biggest guilty pleasure over the past few months. I say “guilty” because I don’t particularly love Tyler’s word choice in this era, with one offensive phrase in particular that you hear within the song’s first line.
Not to excuse the immature choices of teen Tyler, but looking beyond this, the song really is captivating. Following the storyline of Eminem’s “Stan”, “Colossus” tells the vivid true story of an obsessive that that Tyler encounters on a trip to Six Flags. The song’s pace is eerily hypnotic, and it allows listeners to clearly hear from both Tyler and the fixated fan. There are small details scattered throughout that make the encounter so realistic (it was based on true events after all). My favorite of these would be when the fan clearly has always imagined this conversation, but misspeaks due to nervousness. “See, me and you, we go together like snare and a beat. I mean snare and a kick drum,” Tyler’s audible reactions of confusion and frustration perfectly complement the fan’s nonstop word vomit. The handful of times I have encountered Tyler up close and instinctively wanted a photo, “Colossus” never fails to pop into my head and change my mind.
5. “Past, Present, and Future” by The Shangri-Las
The Shangri-Las were an American pop girl group in the 1960s known for their melodramas and teenage love songs. This track is absolutely mesmerizing. Beautifully haunting, it sends chills up the spine as it unpacks the double edged sword of heartbreak and acceptance. The song’s instrumental is cinematic and utterly captivating. The group released this track while they were still minors, between the ages of 15 and 17. To think they were younger than me upon this release is incredible. “Past, Present, and Future” tells the story of a relationship dynamic that still plagues tragic ballads to this day.
Until I stumbled upon this, teenage angst from this era had never felt tangible. Growing up in the 21st century, it is so easy to classify this era as a “simpler time” of love and human connection. This song illustrates that young love and heartache were just as complex, or just as simple (you decide), as they are today. Below I have included one of the group’s most popular tracks, “Leader of The Pack”, performed live in 1965.
6. “Hate It or Love It (feat. 50 Cent)” by The Game
Coming from his 2005 album The Documentary, The Game enlisted the help of Dr. Dre on the production of this track. Possibly its most notable detail, the song features 50 Cent. This collaboration birthed one of the largest and most intense beefs in hip hop history.
In 2005, Dr. Dre brought The Game into the G Unit collective to increase his recognition before The Documentary dropped. Including “Hate It or Love It”, this album includes three features from 50 Cent. Leading up to the project’s release, the release of 50 Cent’s second album The Massacre was delayed in order to accommodate The Game’s debut album. This is where the tensions began. While 50 Cent can still be seen in the music video for “Hate It or Love It”, he apparently refused to sit in the front seat of a car next to Game. Since that video, over 100 diss tracks have been released between the two of them, not to mention the scuffle at a radio station where one of The Game’s friends was shot. Many fans consider this beef such a shame, and cite “Hate It or Love It” specifically as one of the most legendary collaborations.
Knowing the history of this collaboration, the track itself was built upon a sample from “Rubber Band” by The Trammps. “Hate It or Love It” tells the rags-to-riches story of both The Game and 50 Cent, as music video that alternates from their respective neighborhoods of Compton (The Game) and Jamaica, Queens (50 Cent). Each verse is brutally honest, contrasting their struggles with drug dealing and gang violence to the glitz and glamour of their newfound fame. The video was nominated at the MTV Video Music Awards of 2005 for “Best Rap Video”. It was also nominated for “Best Rap Collaboration” at the BET awards, as well as the “Best Rap Song” and the “Best Rap Collaboration” at the Grammy’s. Below is a live performance of the track from the 2005 BET Awards, featuring Mary J Blige and The Game’s oldest son Harlem Taylor. As one commenter put it, “Rapping with your kid in your arms… priceless!”
7. “Tired of Being Alone” by Al Green
Al Green! A true soul superhero. Off of the 1971 album Gets Next to You, “Tired of Being Alone” quickly became a monumental success, selling over a million copies. It reached #11 on the Billboard Hot 100, and was named as one of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. I fell in love with this song a few years ago after hearing it in the 2014 drama Chef. This track perfectly encompasses Green’s signature sound, with its impressive vocal range and tangible emotion. Certified classic. That’s all there is to it.
8. “Paranoid” by Kanye West
In my opinion, Kanye’s 2008 epic tale of love and loss, 808s and Heartbreaks, is maybe his most overlooked album. This makes sense, considering its lukewarm reception upon release. It is a popular argument that Kanye West paved the way for both the hip hop and pop music of today. This album clearly illustrates the earliest form of one today’s biggest trends, emotional autotune ballads. This style has become the norm of today, being adopted by artists like Drake, Travis Scott, and Future. On 808s, Kanye mastered “tuneful trap” and created some of my favorite Kanye tracks of all time, including “Say You Will”, “Welcome to Heartbreak”, “Heartless”, “Love Lockdown”, “Street Lights”, and “Coldest Winter”. This album marks a pivotal point in Kanye’s career. Not only was he dealing with the death of his mother and split from fiancé Alexis Phifer, but it also includes the first collaborations between Kanye and Kid Cudi, who now form the massively popular group Kids See Ghosts.
Revisiting this project, I remembered “Paranoid” and fell involve with it all over again. Compared to the rest of the album, this track is a more upbeat take on the frustrations of lovers past. The song’s refrain, where he tells his ex “you worry ’bout the wrong things, the wrong things”, embodies the sound of Kanye during the era of his previous album, Graduation. As much as I love 808’s passionate ballads, this nod to Graduation’s synthesizers and house-music influence provides the refreshing and bright sound that balances this project out. Not to mention Cudi on the chorus, it can’t help but take you back, waaaaay back. And a 21 year-old Rihanna in the music video? Unreal.
9. “Lucky” by Choker
At 23 years-old, Detroit based artist Choker has been quietly building an impressive discography with the releases of his debut project Peak, his most recent album Honeybloom, and a plethora of beautiful singles in between. His music, most of which he produced and released on his own, gracefully captures nostalgia and the power of honesty. “Lucky” comes from a trio of singles released this year, all of which showcase his signature stripped back guitar and simple percussion. With this song, Choker reflects on his life thus far, grateful for the unexpected turns along the way. The music video, like the song, is simple and dreamy.
Upon discovery, many listeners compare him to Frank Ocean. In an interview Complex, he addressed resemblance, saying, “I think any kid putting music on the internet in this current climate would be lying if they said Odd Future wasn’t an influence in some way, shape, or form. The Frank comparison makes sense to me in terms of vocal approach at times, but I can’t really help how my voice sounds. Of course I’m inspired by him though”.
10. “Purity” by A$AP Rocky
We gotta round it out with a classic. “Purity” from A$AP Rocky’s most recent album TESTING is one of my favorite outro tracks from the past few years. This is most likely largely because of its prominent feature of Lauryn’s Hill’s “I Gotta Find Peace of Mind” . While I like the pace of Rocky’s verse, it is clear that Frank Ocean is the star of this track. His verse coming first on this track makes it close to impossible for Rocky to follow up. Frank is reminding us that the man has bars! (Which I can never forget because I revisit his verse on Odd Future’s “Oldie” more often than I should) For me, TESTING is a mix of experimental tracks, some that work and others of which are a bit forgetful. However, between Lauryn Hill and Frank, “Purity” is an intoxicating exploration of time and regretfulness that really stands out.