SZA – Ctrl (Album Review)

SZA has flourished massively as an R&B artist this year. With the release of her debut album in early June, she has pounced onto the scene of new and upcoming artists that have major potential. Khalid, Kehlani and Aminé are just a few other artists that I think have done the same. Despite Ctrl being SZA’s debut album, she really did something magical with it.

After featuring on Rihanna’s song ‘Consideration’ back in 2016, SZA is still new to the scene of making music for a large audience and population. She has previous EP’s but has arguably created one of the best debut albums this year with Ctrl. The production on Ctrl works effectively with SZA’s unique voice. I think that it’s demonstrated at it’s best on the song ‘Garden (Say It Like Dat)’.

The lead single ‘Drew Barrymore’ introduced us to a soft and soulful side of SZA. It displays how SZA can turn such a simple song into something that makes you feel every emotion that she has intended for you to feel. The second single ‘Love Galore’ featuring Travis Scott is something that I think the R&B genre has been missing for such a long time. The tones of both SZA and Scott’s voices compliment and work perfectly together. In terms, of the album, I like that Ctrl is lengthy. Although some songs are stronger than others, is is clear that the album is cohesive and flows smoothly. The interludes of her mothers speech adds narrative and understanding to the songs and album as a whole. It also breaks everything down nicely.

From the honest but shameless song of ‘The Weekend’, to the wishful track of ‘Normal Girl’, SZA explores her musical capacities in ways that I have only seen a few artists do with a debut album. SZA didn’t hold back in any way on this album and I admire her for that. She has demonstrated honesty in her work at such a young age and has been able to represent both her good and bad characteristics. Each song on the album is powerful and fierce. The use of both Kendrick Lamar and James Fauntleroy as features on the album is magnificent and I hope to see them both work with SZA again sometime in the future.

After the release of Ctrl, SZA has caught the attention of mainstream music critics and radio stations. She has gone on to collaborate with artists such as Maroon 5 and Lorde which has helped her massively in gaining a larger audience. After the success of Ctrl, SZA has even bagged herself a tour.

The future looks bright for SZA. She has the potential of being very successful. It’s clear that she has gained herself a loyal fan base too. Debuting No. 3 on the Billboard 200 behind Katy Perry and Kendrick Lamar just shows how much people warm to her music. In addition, Ctrl even scored a Metacritic score of 86 so it’s evident that even the professional music critics were pleased. I’m sure that SZA is on a journey of success that has only just begun. I hope to see her winning many awards in the future.

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Beyoncé, the conscientious social activist.

Let’s put it out there, I’m a huge Beyoncé fan. However, her music is only a small factor as to why I am in awe of her. Of course, I was initially gripped by her music but that’s not a good enough reason to really respect her for who she is. An artist can make amazing music but still be a complete idiot. Chris Brown, Miley Cyrus and Azalea Banks are only a few examples. Even, Ed Sheeran has had his moments.

Beyoncé is a hard working independent woman who is always actively reaching out for equality. Mrs Carter is a true feminist and she has proven that to us by making songs like ‘If I Were A Boy’ and ‘Flawless’. She was a supporter of the Women’s March back in January and is an organiser for the Chime For Change campaign.

Other charity work includes her BeyGood organisation. This month, Beyoncé has demonstrated how she can raise money through this organisation for those effected by the hurricane in her home town, Houston. This is on top of donating a mass amount of money herself. Beyoncé simply has a heart of gold and does so much for the black community too.

Lemonade was a whole visual album that helped appreciate black women’s beauty, talent and achievements. Black excellence was shown throughout the whole of the visuals incorporated in the album film. In her Ivy Park clothing collection, she includes women and men of many ethnic minority backgrounds and which sends an inclusive message to all.

Beyoncé also openly supports the LGBT community. I’m not sure that I know of any other artist that is determined to make an overall social change as much as her. As well as being a social activist that uses her power and status to channel her messages. Beyoncé is hard working. Someone that I feel all young women should look up to. The way in which she has carried herself throughout her 20 year old career has been magnificent. From managing herself, to now owning her own entertainment company, Parkwood Entertainment. The work ethic of Beyoncé is something that is rare in the music industry today.

Whilst having so many great personality traits, Beyoncé really is a legend. Not many artists can say that they have 6 solo platinum albums, 22 Grammy’s and a net worth of $350M. Beyoncé is a perfectionist and arguable the best performer of all time. Consequently, that is why I love Beyoncé.

Please feel free to read my other blog posts here 🙂

Aminé – Good For You (Album Review)

Being the music fanatic that I am, I love listening to new artists. I’m glad that I use a streaming service that suggests music for me based on what I already listen to. Tidal has definitely enabled me to find great new artists such as Aminé himself.

Before listening to ‘Good For You’, I’d never even heard of the rapper Aminé. However, his bright yellow album cover caught my eye whilst searching for new music. I thought that I’d give his album a listen and I can honestly say that I have no regrets. I later learned that ‘Good For You’ is Aminé’s debut album which made me admire his music even more. The album is magnificent for such a ‘beginner’.

‘Good For You’ was released shortly after his debut single ‘Caroline’. He also released a song featuring Kehlani called ‘Heebiejeebies’ which I had seen advertise on social media. Unfortunately, I never thought to explore Aminé as an artist alone until I saw the album cover featured in the Tidal’s app.

The only way that I can describe Aminé’s music is by saying that it’s a cross between Frank Ocean and Chance The Rapper. Two artists that I incidentally love. The sounds that Aminé brings to the table are fun and energetic. His vocals are unique and fit neatly with his production.

I haven’t studied the lyrics of this album much compared to maybe Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’ or Lorde’s ‘Melodrama’. However, from what I’ve heard, the album is presented to be something that is well humoured instead of something that should be taken too seriously. Some lyrics are low key rude but with Aminé’s cheeky touch, you can only embrace it. With savage lyrics in the song ‘Wedding Crashers’ it almost makes it laughable. I understand the significant messages in the song ‘Money’ and I am excited to see if Aminé will begin to voice maybe his political views in his music now that he has a bigger platform,

The album isn’t excellent however, it’s one of the best debut albums that 2017 has seen.

After playing ‘Good For You’ a few times, I later watched a few YouTube videos such as interviews of him to gather an understanding of his personality. I think that it’s pretty clear that Aminé is a really chilled, fun but genuine artist that cares for his music. I definitely like the fresh vibe that he gives off.

The important messages behind Jay Z’s 4:44

Disclaimer: I always wanted to write a post about this album but I was unsure about how I was going to set it out. Therefore, I kind of just left it. However, I then remembered how much I enjoyed writing my Lorde – Melodrama album review so I thought i’d just give it another try.

Jay Z, Hova, Jigga, the rap legend is back with his 13th solo album and it carries a lot of meaningful messages with it.

rs_634x789-170306082546-634.jay-z-beyonce-blue-ivy-carter.3617After listening to the album, I realised that the 47 year old businessman had a lot of things to get off his chest. Yes, the biggest shock was that Jay finally confessed to cheating on Beyoncé. He also addresses a few other hiccups in his life that we all wanted answers to. For example, the shooting of his brother, the stabbing of Lance ‘Un’ Rivera and that all so very heated elevator incident with Solange. He even mentions how he would hate for his children to find out that he was ever disloyal to Bey. Despite all of that, i’m only going to talk about the important messages that could benefit others from this insightful album.

Jay gives advice to new and upcoming young rappers in this album. Those rapper that are getting unthinkable sums of money so quickly causing them to be irresponsible with it. He advises them to make investments instead of wasting money on pointless things such as flashy cars. He says “Fuck dying broke and living rich” and he kind of has a good point. It makes more sense to leave money behind for your children. Towards the end of the album is the track ‘Legacy’ he goes on to rap “That’s how we keep Carter money all in the family”.

The Shawn Carter Foundation Hosts An Evening of "Making The Ordinary Extraordinary"Along with sharing financial advice, Jay shows his support to his lesbian mother who had four children  before coming out. He explains how he has no problem with it and that he will love her no matter what with the lyrics of “Cried tears of joy when you fell in love, don’t matter to me if it’s a him or her, I just wanna see you smile through all the hate”. This is something that I think will help tackle homophobia in the black and  hip hop community.

Finally, lets discuss Hov addressing the subject of black excellence. Despite all setbacks of being a black man in America, Jay has been able to achieve many things within his career. From creating thirteen solo albums to being the founder of Roc Nation and owner of Tidal. Shawn has created an empire for not only himself, but also his family. I feel as though Jay has set the bar for major success and it is something that more young black kids should aspire to be doing.

Lorde – Melodrama (Album Review)

After the release of her unexpected highly successful single ‘Royals’ and debut album ‘Pure Heroine’, I have continued to listen to Lorde’s music repeatedly and she has undoubtedly become one of my favourite artists despite only having one LP. I have patiently waited years for Lorde to release new music. Green Light, the lead single from the her new album was released earlier this year. It caused Melodrama to become highly anticipated by myself and millions globally. The album cover is beautiful. I literally counted down the days until the album would drop. Every time a new song from the album was released or performed, I was SHOOK.

Finally, as the release date arrived, I listened to the album at midnight, as soon as it was released in the UK. At first, I was disappointed with how short the album was. However, I quickly came to realise that Melodrama really was a masterpiece. The album didn’t need to be any longer than it already was. The quality of the album really hit me. I knew that Lorde was clever but I have come to the conclusion that Lorde is a lyrical GENIUS. Lyrics like “I am your sweetheart, psychopath is crush” are so cleverly crafted together and don’t compare to any other artist that I listen to.

Every single song on Melodrama is so creative, from the vocal arrangements, to the production. The narrative of the whole album has worked really well with the sounds to create a cohesive piece of art. Melodrama really is one of the best “breakup” albums of all time. Lorde tells her story so magically and I can really see how it pulls on peoples heart strings. Despite it being a breakup album, there are fun tracks like ‘Homemade Dynamite’ and ‘Perfect Places’ which really give the album a good balance and a break from the heartache.  My personal favourite from the album would have to be ‘The Louvre’. A song about having a crush on someone. It describes the initial moments of when your heart would race at just the thought of them.

Lorde’s decision of naming the album ‘Melodrama’ is interesting as it suggests that everything on the album is over dramatised and exaggerated. However, I, as a listener am completely cool with it because without the Melodrama aspect, the album wouldn’t be what it is. Another gripping thing about Lorde’s music is that, as a listener, you can often feel as though you’re in Lorde’s friendship group and that she’s simply made this album for fun so that her and her friends can all listen to it together. I especially get this feeling in random moments like halfway through ‘Homemade Dynamite’ when the music stops and you hear Lorde whisper “Now you know it’s really gonna blow (bhoo)”. It’s just so unique.

Overall, the album is definitely one of the best of the year so far. I hope that it goes on to win many awards at award shows over the next year. I also hope that Lorde can gain the confidence that she never used to have. I am sure that she can progressively evolve more from this album to go on to make even more breathtaking music in the future.

Are streaming sites devaluing our music?

Music has been a massive part of popular culture for generations and children are almost instantly introduced to it. However, the way in which music is being consumed and listened to has shifted over the years. People used to buy their music in stores. They bought tapes, vinyl’s and CD’s. People would listen to music through mainstream radio stations too. The way that music is being listened to and consumed nowadays is completely different. Streaming has now become one of the most popular ways in which people listen to music with over 100 million people now paying for music streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal. These sites have made it much easier for people to access their music. Along with this, streaming has almost made it effortless for people to explore new music. I personally use Tidal and I know that I would never have found half of the music, genres and artists that I listen to now without it.

Although streaming sites do offer all of these amazing features, many people argue that it has literally ruined the music industry. It makes it difficult for artists to make money from their music as the streaming sites do tend to take a large percentage of their profit along with record labels and other organisations. Many people also say that streaming sites devalues music itself. It has been brought to discussion by artists such as Beyoncé who feel as if people just don’t make albums anymore which is a real shame.

Despite all of this, it has lead to artists and fan bases using social media to communicate and interact. This has been great for new artists who are getting more recognition such as Kehlani and SZA and Khalid. They have been able to build a fan base for themselves without needing to use radio and television promotion which is very costly. Artists and the interaction with their fans through social media sites is crucial in the 21st century. Having a physical copy is very satisfying and is something for you to look after but after all, it is very exciting when you know that your favourite artist is going to drop an album at midnight and you stay up to share your excitement with friends and fellow fans online.

The use of streaming sites and social media combined has definitely made it easy for artists to share their music with their audiences. However, is it making the music too accessible for people?  After all, Beyoncé says the she misses that “immersive experience” and I’m sure that many listeners as well as artists like herself agree.