I can’t remember how I felt about music in the beginning of 2014. The Grammy Awards were decent (I was here for Beyonce’s “Drunk In Love” and Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” performances), but I would have to wait until Lana Del Rey’s Ultraviolence to start compiling the tunes that would be the soundtrack for the rest of the year.
When deciding what I wanted to list as my favorite albums and songs, it wasn’t slim pickings, and I knew exactly who to honor. Plus it was a struggle to wait until 2014 ended, as it’s a pet peeve of mine when magazines and website start releasing their “Best Of” at the beginning of December when music is still being released. Last year, for example, virtually all publications missed their chance to include Beyonce’s self-titled surprise album which was the only album that mattered in 2013. But January is here and I must say that looking back on 2014, musically, it was a great year. There are still many more albums I got to hear, but I’m going to be honest about the ones I’ve heard and loved, and here’s the shortlist.
As excited as I was, I didn’t know what to expect from The Pinkprint. I liked “Pills N Potions”. “Anaconda” I could’ve done without. “Bed of Lies” redeemed my faith. When I pressed play however starting with “All Things Go”, I found myself trapped in Nicki Minaj-fandom. The Pinkprint was the album I needed. It got me through that reminded me of how Lady Gaga‘s Born This Way did the same. I know Minaj doesn’t like being compared to Gaga, as the media enjoyed comparing their theatrical tendencies, but they are more alike in ways that are complimentary of their talents. Both albums (and their best pieces of work) are defiant post-heartbreak and disappointment but vulnerable, as the simplicity of their emotions is what’ll grab you the most. There’s no kind of beating around the bush or tough-kid act here. Minaj, for example, owns all facets of her experiences, whether she was feeling defeated, empowered, or hopeful. Though fan favorites like “Feeling Myself” featuring Beyonce will likely be heard throughout much of 2015, I had a inkling towards the songs with a more wistful tone like “The Night Is Still Young” and “The Crying Game”. There are so many great ones. Read the original review here.
I heard LP1 in its entirety on Spotify while cleaning up my room. I promptly bought it online the next day. It was what I imagined and even better. I appreciate FKA Twigs most for while having an appearance and style that is outre, she still conveys a kind of sexuality and sensuality in her music that is believable and not presented in its usual format of a bodycon or platform stilettos. Sometimes popular culture only wants us to accept the aforementioned attributes from women that cater to the Barbie doll or sex symbol playbook, but Twigs, with her triangle-shaped tops, billow-y pants, and fanciful hairstyles, gets the message across in her own way. Her music is subtly thrilling in being emotional and seductive, and her videos are underground glamour with nods to the unknown. “Two Weeks”, both song and video, was a prime example of that, and other gems on the album were the gripping “Video Girl”, regretful “Numbers”, and tearjerker “Pendelum”. You can tell Kanye I sent you.
Wow. This album…I knew it’d be great because it’s Jessie Ware, which for all of the excitement and current acknowledgment of English artists like the poignant Sam Smith and fun Jessie J (who finally got that U.S. Top 10 recognition with “Bang Bang”) Ware is criminally underrated. Her name is not even listed but on the credits of one of Nicki Minaj‘s The Pinkprint best tracks “The Crying Game” is which her vocals alone are a highlight. Ware’s second album Tough Love paints the lushest pictures with her music. The lyrics are personal, and you’re engaged in her journey from lust to love to anxiety. This remarkably euphoric and understatedly sexy English major graduate is a dream to the ears, and Tough Love was one of the best R&B records of 2014. Do yourself a favor and get this album. My personal favorites? “Cruel”, “Say You Love Me” and “Kinda, Sometimes, Maybe.”
I meant to write a review on this back in October, but I still feel the same way about it in that Azealia Banks‘ long-awaited Broke With Expensive Taste may be the only album I’ve heard in the last ten years to effectively genre-bend so amazingly well. It’s almost spellbinding. In one song alone, she’ll go from pop-rap to EDM to nu-emtal. Here’s another word for the album: enthralling! Banks is another talent that is somewhat underrated, and while the media paid a lot of attention to what the Harlem-nite had to to say about race in America and the current state of the hip-hop infiltrated by White artists, her music deserves just as much attention. At 16 tracks, it’s a full package that even has her showing up Spanish-speaking artists with her hard turn towards the flamenco end of “Gimme Chance” with a Spanish rap. I was especially here for “Ice Princess” and “JFK.”
Danity Kane, whether as a trio or fivesome, also had such magic together as a group. Yet they never seemed to get along past an album release, and DK3 was their official goodbye after a business meeting gone horribly wrong within their circle. I was excited at the announcement of their reunion in 2013, and when they began touring, I was so happy for them. With so few girl groups as big today as they were since Destiny’s Child‘s Survivor days, it seemed so right to do it, especially since DK actually has a notable fanbase that welcomed them with many sold-out shows across the U.S. Thankfully, even after the disbanding, they were able to release DK3 and the album was just another confirmation of how talented they were. Great songs include “Two Sides”, the aptly titled closer “Bye Baby”, “Rage”, and the super sassy kiss-off “Lemonade”. But it’s “Tell Me” the sultry tune that at the end has the lasting members of Dawn Richard, Aubrey O’Day, and Shannon Bex harmonizing in such a fluid manner, it’s a reminder of what could’ve been. This was a good pop-R&B album that should’ve and could’ve been bigger.
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