Soul meets space travel on the soundtrack for forthcoming film, Hidden Figures. It comes courtesy of Pharrell Williams – who also worked on the film’s score with Hans Zimmer – and features guest spots by Lalah Hathaway, Mary J Blige, Alicia Keys, Janelle Monáe and Kim Burrell. Continue reading
Where did 2015 go, ay? It seems like only yesterday that I was writing about my lofty ambitions to hear 150-plus albums this year, and pointing out the absurdity of that goal. Well, I managed to listen to a fair number of the albums on my original preview list, and I’ve soaked up an even greater number than last year. But still, with an ever-growing to-listen-to-list, I’ve been in a state of never-ending improbability to hear all of the records that have come into my orbit this year.
Still, here we are once again, after a year of trials and tribulations, hurt and pain, success stories and retirements, sorrows and separations, fading dreams and whispers of hope, quiet triumphs and steady commitments – and that’s just the news.
In the world of music, things have been as turbulent and trying as ever, while still being encouraged and unimaginably fruitful. They’ve been new streaming services, new business models, new artists and, of course, new albums. Once again, I’m here to offer my thoughts on latter, with the hope that you’ll discover a piece of music that makes your life that much brighter.
Saturday begins my annual albums of the year round-up in earnest, where I run down 50 albums I’ve heard this year and deem to be among the year’s best. But, starting this year, I’ve decided to precede my main list with a selection of honourable mentions.
This unranked appetiser, which includes albums, EPs, mixtapes and even a spoken word poetry piece, is a chance to recommend a shade more 2015 releases that are worth listening to. Continue reading
Progressive-agent-of-equality-cum-band-leading-music-CEO, Janelle Monáe has come good with the new material she’s championed so far from her fellow Wondaland Records artists. Jidenna’s ‘Classic Man’ was a Drake-like club appetiser that set Wondaland’s men and women of elegance away from contemporary hip hop tropes. ‘Yoga’, the new track from Janelle Monáe & Jidenna, is equally as stylish. It bears a groove that you might expect from a Beyoncé or Rihanna track, spliced with Monáe’s encouragements of “baby, bend over”. It’s a steamy, beautifully direct pop anthem from an artist who appears to be having a tonne of fun with her creative power. Continue reading
Earlier this month, the genre-bending queen of pop for the discerning music fan, Janelle Monáe, revealed plans to unleash her Wondaland Art Society, the fellow artists and songwriters she’s collaborated with on her first two studio albums (which are among the finest records of the current decade), upon the Earth. Through a partnership with Epic, Wondaland Records is fostering and releasing music from Monáe’s close-knit inner circle. A compilation is due in May featuring music from all five of Wondaland’s current roster, including Monáe herself, who will debut ‘Yoga’. Continue reading
O2 Brixton Academy, LondonWaiting outside the Brixton Academy on the eve of Janelle Monàe’s sell-out show, the scene resembled more of a fashion parade than a concert for a lady who is undoubtedly one of the finest talents to emerge since the golden age of soul music.
Monáe’s fans – self-proclaimed ‘fandroids’ – were out in force. Girls strutted around in striped leggings, while others had donned tuxedos and bow ties, their hair whipped into the icon afro-hawk of their idol. Most of the gents, too, had swapped casual polo necks for suits, braces and shoes. The sight of all this, the effort, the enthusiasm to get wrapped up in the artist’s world, it was unlike any concert I’d been to before. And it only heightened the anticipation for the coming show. Continue reading
Any avid gambler will tell you that you can never have too many good tips. And while, in this case, tip-offs about 2014’s likely breakthrough artists come a dime a dozen, here are a selection of bold, up-and-coming artists that deserve your attention.
The buzz around this 24-year-old south Londoner has reached a new high. Already a runner-up in the BBC’s Sound of 2014 list and many others, new single ‘Too Much’ confirms the excitement is warranted. Continue reading
Here we are. The final 10 and my chosen favourites. Over the first and second parts of my album round-up, there have been disappointments (yep, no Bowie, no Kanye), there been surprises and there has even been some grief.
A picture may tell a thousand words, but music can paint a million different images. Which is why no amount of text could ever capture how those moments of musical elation feel. Still, if you’ve faced struggles and doubt this year, then, in their own way, each of these 10 albums offer reasons for you to press on in search of better days to come. Continue reading
For the past month I have been embroiled in a wondrous chase. A chase so thrilling it feels as though I’ve left the physical part of me behind every time I tune into its hyperactive frequency.
What I didn’t realise was just how deep her emotional touch would be with the breadth of her stupendous sounds. Tunes like ‘Many Moons’, ‘Faster’ and ‘Oh, Maker’ took me on an astral hike like never before. Impossible to resist, these tracks just send my body into overdrive. Even when confined to the drudgery of my commute and expected behaviour on public transport, a brilliant tableau of imagery is flowing in my mind’s eye as Monáe’s music and messages engulf my senses. And this isn’t your usual ‘girl meets boy and falls in love’ lyrics. She manages to express serious social commentary on race, segregation and war through a conceptual allegory which forms the basis for her image. As Tony Renner says, Monáe’s albums are to be listened to in their entirety if you wish to experience the full impact of her art.
She inhabits her alter ego of Cindi Mayweather, an android who has fallen in love with a human, Anthony Greendown, in this hash postmodern world, where many of today inequalities still exist. As a result of her affection, she is now on the run from the Wolfmasters and their merciless band of bounty hunters in a city built on social stratification.