happy new year!
Since I didn’t do any “Whats in my Earbuds” posts throughout my musical adventures I figured I’d kinda recap the year in terms of new music that I’ve been listening to, and my personal favorites. Now this isn’t a “best of” because I just like what I like, and… of course you can tell ME what you think is best but that doesn’t mean I’ll agree, or vice versa. I mean, I’m not an authority. Just a girl with an opinion.
There was a LOT of decent material to hit the streets in 2012. And to be clear, by decent I mean it didn’t absolutely suck. Pretty low bar set there right? Catchy tunes full of popular catchphrases, clever wordplay, solid vocals and/or lyrics. The issue at hand is that, most of it isn’t very memorable.
This is the first time I’ve noticed that as music consumers, we listen to an album the entire leak week: the 4 or 5 days or so before it’s in store release, maybe throughout the official release week, and by the time 15 days or so if that long have passed, we’re off it. On to the next! This is a horrible for music consumption! But who’s to blame? Maybe us fans for having short attention spans? But HOW did this happen? Has to be the ease of access via technology. We no longer have to WAIT to release day and go to a brick and mortar record store. EYE still buy CDs from time to time, but it’s usually a purchase among other purchases at Target or Best Buy. Rarely do we make specific trips for albums anymore. I also blame artists for making such disposable music; for making mixtapes better than their actual studio albums, but that’s another topic. Just save that material and put it on the album–I KNOW THATS SOOOO EASIER SAID THAN DONE, BUT LET ME VENT. Record labels should allow artist to be their creative selves and put out the music they REALLY want on their albums so they don’t NEED mixtapes to do that. But I’m old and maybe I just don’t want to accept this is the new way of life for artists. I don’t need all these “mixtapes” though. I really don’t.
Also, it must be noted that Spotify really got its burn in my life in 2012. I’m not so quick to download new projects anymore before previewing them on Spotify first. A couple artists don’t want us to be great with Spotify–I’m looking at you Rihanna and Taylor Swift (yes I was curious to hear what the hype was about, not enough to dl or pay for it though :-P )– and want to force you to buy their music–or you know, just not stream it. WHATEVS.
One of the highly anticipated releases in 2012 was Frank Ocean’s Channel ORANGE. I had been a fan of his since Nostalgia/Ultra and wanted to catch him live in DC this year –but his show sold out in less than 48 hours. I wasn’t very moved with his features on WTT to be honest. But I liked the previous “album” and the songs I’ve heard under his former moniker Lonny Breaux, so I definitely was looking forward to Channel ORANGE. “Thinking Bout You” was a song I immediately liked. I listen to albums in tracklisting order and on shuffle. I need to know if the music flows as formatted and if it also sounds good in the mix of their other projects and my other randomness. One thing about me when I love an album–I listen to it so much and its seems like every couple days or so I discover a new “favorite” song. My favorites on this album went in this order: Thinking Bout You, Sweet Life, Pilot Jones, Pyramids. I think I tweeted last week sometime how “Pyramids” still does it for me, well actually the whole album does. I’m not hyping him because its the “in” thing to do, but rather because I still listen to this album and rarely skip a song when they come on shuffle. Its solidified its place on my list.
Emile Sande: Our Version of Events
I have to thank a couple of my fellow musical girlfriends for putting me on to Emile. Its very rare that I just buy an album off iTunes willy nilly but I heard one song of hers and did that. That song was “Hope.” I wanted more. I really really felt drawn to her vocals and at the time of this release it was all I listened to. Even now, when my music shuffles to any of these songs I don’t hesitate to take them in. I also love “Clown” “Maybe” and “Breaking the Law”
Nas: Life Is Good
Oh Nasir, my homie, lover friend (in my head). We didn’t think you could do it. Well, true fans KNEW you COULD, but we didn’t think you would. You made a solid album with production that truly matched the lyricism. You made an album with just the right amount of features, allowing us to remember what we love about you, yet staying relevant. 2012 was definitely your year, sir. I actually regret not buying a ticket to see you in DC. Or going to stand with the groupies when you performed at The Park. Okay not really but I heard you were worth the price of admission at DAR Constitution Hall. Nas “The Don” “Bye Baby” ” Black Bond” “Cherry Wine” obvious radio Swizz Beat joint “Summer on Smash” and all. I LOVE THIS ALBUM. whew!
Miguel: Kaleidoscope Dream
It began with the first Art Dealer Chic. As soon as I heard “Adorn” I knew it was a hit. Unfortunately its been played soooo much on radio, I’ve long been over it. I’m not sure if Miguel knew this would happen but I’m glad it’s the first track on the album so you can skip it and move on with your life lol. When I heard “Use Me” on the Water Preview I knew then that Miguel was not playing around! “…All” reminds me of someone special and just the whimsical yet simple view of doing whatever makes you happy. Like the Frank Ocean album, this one provided weekly favorites. Without even listening to the album in its entirety, “Arch & Point” was my first fave–and actually the last song I blogged about before my hiatus. other favorites are “The Thrill” “Where’s the Fun in Forever” and “Do You.” Actually there is not a song I don’t like…and while it has not topped his debut in my affinity, it lends nicely to his musical catalog.
Joss Stone: The Soul Sessions Vol. 2
This is a cover album like her 2003 debut. When I tell you the very first time I queued this up in Spotify I PARTIED at my desk at work. Classic soul jams by a SANGER. If you love classic music you’ll love this album, I mean there is no way around it. Instant mood lifter! “The Love We Had (Stays on My Mind)” is my favorite. I don’t have much to say because it’s not original music but that doesn’t mean it’s not great.
Kendrick Lamar: good kid MAAD City
I really wasn’t checking for KDot much. I kinda explain that reasoning regarding new rappers later in the post but I heard Section80 and even though I enjoyed it, it wasn’t like WOW he’s my new favorite person. That is NOT to say it’s not good, it’s just that at the time I wasn’t really in a space to really appreciate it. I’m moody with music as I am with life and maybe I was in a deep soul music mood. I can’t call it. So when GKMC came out I’ll admit I really hopped on it purely because of the buzz. And then I loved it!! It immediately gave me an Outkast ATLiens vibe. I appreciate the cohesiveness of the tracks and the story its telling. I actually felt like I KNEW Kendrick because of this. Concept albums aren’t for everyone, and actually aren’t always done well but I liked this a lot. Of course “Poetic Justice” was an immediate banger to me, sample alone. and yall know I “do” Drizzy. “Backseat Freestyle” “Sing About Me” “Swimming Pools” (a great lead single, btw) and “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” round out my favorites.
Brandy: Two Eleven.
Miss Norwood came back on the scene with a banger! “Put it Down” was a bubble gum pop song that I didn’t think suited her OR MY age– but I must admit in true radio spin fashion, it grew on me. Hands down my favorite single on the album is “Wildest Dreams.” considering she just got engaged I’m gonna assume this song was written about her Beau. I’m happy for her like she’s my big sis that after many ups and downs in love found the real thing. Other favorites include “Music” “Do You Know What You Have Here” “What You Need” and “Slower”. The auto-tunesy vocals aren’t really my thing, I wish she’d sang full out more on this album but I do appreciate the writing and production. very well done.
Keyshia Cole: Woman to Woman
you didn’t expect this right? ha! me neither. Really, I’ve been down for Keyshia since she was singing she “changed her mind” with Kanye West. What can I say, I needed me a hood R&B chick to sice my life and she did it. Keyshia Cole is the kind of artist if you loved her first album, or even the second you kinda hoped she’d continue to put out quality R&B gems, and then she didn’t. We were more familiar with her for her family drama and tv antics than her music. Her third album was actually pretty good to me, but I may be the only one that thinks so. The fourth? lets forget that exists. She became real sporadic giving in to typical features for radio spins but nothing really meaty enough or catchy or inspiring. And lets not make any mistake, Keysh is not a power vocal singer but she doesn’t have to be. She just has to give me some gems that make me want to sing along to in the car. As soon as I heard “Trust and Believe” I knew she accomplished that. The album flows well and is typical relationship ups and downs but like I said, thats all I need from my homegirl. You also have to be impressed with her vocal improvement, well at least I am.Other favorites include: “I Choose You” “Wonderland” “Stubborn” and “Zero”
Melanie Fiona: The MF LIfe
So many people either really like Mel or really are indifferent. I like her. I enjoyed her debut and when MF Life came out I listened to it constantly. Then… I stopped. not sure why. Probably just going through the rigmarole of previewing new music and didn’t come back to it. Mel can sing, and while I’m still not sure why she doesn’t get the shine she deserves or isnt’ marketed that well, this is a solid album. Every time I hear “Bones” I get chills. “Rock Paper Scissors” “The Wrong Side of a Love Song” and “I Been That Girl” yesss ma’am! I used to think Mel was boring until I saw her perform live. Now I know she’s got the skills she just needs to work on her packaging.
Robert Glasper Experiment’s Black Radio was really really good. Because of the R&B and hip hop features, I think it can be included in the genre. It’s not an album I listened to much in recent months as it was released earlier in the year, but I have revisit it from time to time, and unlike many of the others mentioned, the music is timeless. I adore the cover of “Cherish The Day” by Lalah Hathaway which I was initially iffy on. Another favorite is “Ah Yea” with Chrisette Michelle and Musiq. I REALLY wanted a special appearance by one or both of these artist at the Glasper show I went to JUST to hear this song. ah well.
I pretty much listened to most if not all of the mainstream R&B and hip hop releases this year. I’ve heard Elle, Rozay, Usher, Alicia Keys, Lupe, Meek Mill, GOOD Music, etc. but none of these got super replay value in my life. Okay the first two have, but just not enough to be favorites. I have favorite SONGS on those albums, like “I Don’t Care” is theeee best Elle Varner song to me. I enjoyed her album and her earlier mixtape Conversational Lush a lot. Her voice starts to grate on my nerves though. I appreciate her music more on shuffle, lol. Rick Ross isn’t a favorite– not because it’s not good, but because it sounds like everything else he’s done and Teflon Don is the only album I’ll claim as a favorite of his in my life. People are also telling me this Rihanna album is dope but eh… they all have started to run together too me. A new album every 9-10 months is WAY TOO MUCH. “Power it Up” knocks in the club though.
I admit that I stay in a particular lane with my regular spins just based on whats on my iPhone/iPod/iTunes, but this year I did branch out into other genres thanks to Spotify. Some days you just want to mix it up a bit and get out of the R&B or Rap lane. It wasn’t all released in 2012 but I listened to A LOT of Quadron, Lana Del Rey, Kimbra, Gotye, Allen Stone, Gary Clark Jr. to name a few. And I’m still discovering more. My ears need something fresh and I’m enjoying the process.
This was also the year of the EP it seems like. I love any good music so I’ll take it I guess, but 5-7 songs just don’t do it for me! However a couple favorites were Solange’s True and Daley’s Alone Together. His cover of “Love is a Losing Game” is everything.
I will also admit I don’t really listen to many “underground” rappers because… well I don’t know why. This year has just been as I said before full of listenable but not memorable music. I lose interest quickly with rappers unless it’s just remarkable to my ears. And I’m kinda lazy too. So unless someone (some of you?) drops a link directly on me I prob won’t know where to look. or care to. I did recently listen to the latest Action Bronson joint though… and I checked out Dom Kennedy’s Yellow Album and Long Live ASAP (both which I liked) and the latest offering from Pac Div. so that’s something!
For 2013 off the top of my head I’m looking forward to the new projects from J. Cole, Jhene Aiko, Alice Smith, Justin Timberlake (a girl can dream right? I heard he’s recording!) and actually The Dream. I think he has something coming out this year. I love that bitter black man music. lawd knows I do!
I know this was long. I’m sorry. I’ve had a lot to say, it been awhile. :-)
What are your favorites from 2012? I listed studio albums but you can share mixtapes/EPs as well. What are you looking forward to this year?