It was the work of bedroom-studio conspirators, of songwriters confronting their traumas and aspirations, of old hands challenging themselves and newcomers determined to warp accepted boundaries: artists working to please themselves at a time when gatekeepers can easily be bypassed. The weird outsider became a popular girl in The songs of Billie Eilish, 17, are death-haunted and depressive, by turns arrogant and anxious, mocking and desperate.
Quiet moments are shattered by creepy sound effects or loud intrusions, while her breathy vocals — hushed enough for A. The show-tune shapeliness of her melodies is often a sardonic frame for grim sentiments, to be faced with a ballooning bass line and a self-conscious smirk.
Her songs are decisively personal, detailing struggles with racism, faith, desire and her own self-sabotage, while the music is gleefully experimental, playing with sounds and structures and taking chances just because she can. Carlos Santana revved up his band with grooves adapted from Africa and the Caribbean , jamming live in the studio. The debut album by the songwriter, singer, violinist and producer Sudan Archives born Brittney Parks carries the potential of her homemade EPs even further.
Loops of her beats and her raw violin lines are still the core of her music, but collaborating producers add new possibilities: wilder counterpoint, psychedelic hazes, orchestral cushioning. As she sings about self-invention and self-discovery, she accomplishes exactly that in the music. She assails colonialism, machismo, hypocrisy and hate, and praises Pan-American solidarity and traditions , in songs that balance pugnacity, elegance and lithe rhythms. Vintage Caribbean styles like bolero and rumba get 21st-century twists.
But what comes through all the convolutions is a paradoxically pastoral warmth : earnest, yearning melodies and music that rustles and burbles like a digitally enchanted forest. She presents herself as a latter-day Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter, full of longing and devotion, supported by the naturalism of piano, guitars and string sections.
But her lyrics also quote a litany of California musicians and song titles — constructing the state from its pop artifacts — and the longer a song extends, the more its sound wanders toward the surreal present.
Del Rey suspends herself between emotion and well-wrought illusion. His soundstage is as broad as his ambitions, with choirs, horns, strings and echoes of lates soul and psychedelia, while the grain in his voice is equal parts weariness and persistence.
Pounding, gnashing, jabbing and sneering — but also swerving suddenly into passages of intricate interplay — the English rock group Black Midi pulls together all the virtuosic and noisy impulses of post-punk, math-rock, jazz-rock fusion and progressive rock.
Each song is a labyrinth with hairpin-turn episodes and lyrics full of dourly corrosive observations. The music feels energized and pulled taut by every apprehension of Voices are pitched up; arrangements skid through changes of beat, texture, direction and volume, with the speed and arbitrariness of digital editing run amok. Each year the album becomes a more fragile thing, and also less meaningful: Musicians are focused on their fame and their art minute to minute, not cycle to cycle.
The sound of internet splatter. The use of machine textures to capture and amplify deeply human joy. Bad Bunny, the definitive global pop star of the last two years, is good at lots of things: low, moanlike singing, densely packed rapping, melodies that melt atop all kinds of production. The latest iteration of post-post-Drake sing-rapping comes in the melancholy lullabies of Polo G and YoungBoy Never Broke Again, both of whom made heartbreaking albums.
A high-gloss debut album from a rising pop star who has made something pure out of pastiche. Her songs capture the thrill of slightly askew pop gems, then amplify them into something undeniable. Romeo Santos has nothing left to prove in bachata: He brought the genre into the present day, made it huge and gleaming, and remained the most tender-voiced and, at times, one of the most boundary-pushing singers in Latin pop.
The new rap eccentrics cloak their peculiarities in au-courant-sounding packages. Caash, who is single-handedly restoring early Beastie Boys mayhem to hip-hop. Since the beginning of her career, Ariana Grande has been an excellent singer, precise and slyly emotional.
And then in recent years, she became a pro at stirring up online conversation. It marked her arrival as a pop superstar who could still turn on a dime. Rarely does an album feel so frank, so cut-to-the-quick. The result is startlingly damp. Stoicism can turn into a kind of flamboyance — hard-nosed commitment to form is rare and electric. So it is with Benny the Butcher, part of the Griselda Records crew, who is kiln-fired in the ethos of s New York rap. This coldblooded EP features others in the tradition Jadakiss, Pusha-T and comes off like a gathering of Mafia elders, reflective but still scowling.
Music Best Albums of Jon Caramanica Pop Prognosticators, Rap Rebels Each year the album becomes a more fragile thing, and also less meaningful: Musicians are focused on their fame and their art minute to minute, not cycle to cycle.
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