“Ah, another virtual event that I will RSVP to and not at ALL want to attend most of,” I thought, as the first electronic communications regarding SXSW 2021 came through to my device.
And, as we got closer to the start date, I thought more and more about the piles of work and other obligations that I could not take a vacation from in order to attend – like I would in a non-pandemic year where I would be physically changing locations and turning on my out-of-office messages.
But, of all the virtual events I’ve attended – and chosen not to attend – during the COVID-19 pandemic, this one was by far the most beneficial for me to attend.
And, it’s not because there were speakers/talent who looked/were like me (a white, cishet, straight female), but because there were speakers/talent who looked
NOTHING. LIKE. ME.
Sure, there were some missteps. Namely:
1. Mark Cuban – not only is he the whitest dude, but he offers no additional perspective he hasn’t already spewed across all digital/media channels
2. MOST of the speakers were pre-recorded – so, couldn’t you pre-screen some of the talks to ensure that those catchy titles that were submitted in the panel picker process actually lived up to their name? (i.e. – anything that started with “How To” should have been some sort of how to…not just “I am so successful, here is how I am so successful”. See: Every white man – including Mark Cuban).
3. Allowing ANY talks with a white man – or a group of white men – by himself. Panels, groups discussions, or fireside chats with all types of people that include a white man? SURE! But our lives have been so saturated with mediocre white dudes on a podium talking down to us for LITERALLY OUR ENTIRE LIVES that we just don’t need one more talk by a solo white guy.
And, I’m not saying that was all that was there – but, constructive criticism is important. We’ve all got to keep organizers on their toes. Because, yes, there were plenty of talks that were out-of-the-box and from traditionally marginalized speakers. There were tracks on cannabis and living outside of the gender binary and women in [insert career here]. This was, in fact, the event with the widest array of representation I have attended yet.
AND it can’t stop here.
This can’t be the “diversity year” – one and done.
I hope this year’s SXSW sets the tone for pushing boundaries and innovating and leading the charge in representation across ALL events, multimedia, etc.
I hope it continues into the next in-person conference – and I am not left sitting in a cold conference room staring 10 feet up at a million Seth Rogens all week. (As delightful as one Seth Rogen can be).
I am delighted that I “left” SXSW having heard about subjects that move me from the people who are on the ground, doing the work.
Feeling hopeful about things to come.
I didn’t leave thinking: so what?
I left thinking: what now?
We celebrated the end of St. Patrick’s Day with the SXSW Digital Love Showcase. Curated by Tavia MD, this show featured the talents of Dallas Pyron, Kissie Lee, Hylan Starr, Tokyo Jetz, Dash Flash, Akeem Ali, Renni Rucci, BigBankBandz, and Hype. The performances started at 8pm CST and dazzled us into the night. Check out some highlights below, captured by Erin P.S. Zimmerman!
What to do when you find out your favorite musician is
A general piece of garbage…
You know that band/musician you loved growing up? The one that speaks to you at any age. The one you’ve seen in concert 10+ times? You’ve gone to festivals for them, you’ve had their posters since you were 8, their music got you through the good AND bad times – including moving to a new city as a kid. You requested a song of theirs and dedicated it to your twin sister at your wedding reception…
If you can’t tell, I have a band that fits this bill. And last week, it came to my attention that at least two of their members have revealed themselves as garbage.
And, I’m not kidding when I say that I have supported them, purchased their music and trivia books and even had lunch with them in high school. #BigFan
But, as of last week, that is no more. And, on top of that, I felt a strong urge to take a few more steps. So, if you are devastated and angry at a revelation that a musician that has had a strong impact in your life up to this point is actually COVID-denier – and more – and you aren’t sure what to do with that rage? How do you reconcile with the fact that you supported that trash for so long? Here’s what I’m doing:
- Sit with the fact that you wish they wouldn’t have said anything at all. It’s there. It’s real. AND it’s a red flag of privilege – that ignorance-is-bliss mentality COULD be easier at times, but isn’t something that many humans can afford, nor is it something to seek out. Easier does NOT equal better – at least in this case. Their saying something out loud may feel like a curse. It’s really a blessing. Because, once you know better, you do better, right?
- In your mind/journal, thank them for everything they brought/were to you/did for you in the before times. Maybe vent into a voice message. Scream into a pillow. All good things must come to an end. Now, get to work.
- Cut ‘em off. All social media follows and purchases.
- Call ‘em out. It’s not enough just to unfollow. Let people know the type of folks they are supporting/following. And, if all you can think with this step is, “WOW, another person promoting cancel culture and trying to silence someone”…read up on what cancel culture really is/means (and, this Times article is from 2019…still very much stands)
- Stop streaming. Even though it’s just pennies per stream – they are benefitting monetarily from you still tuning into their music.
- Count up how much money you’ve paid them over the years – posters, albums, concert tickets, merch, etc. – and demand they pay that in donations/reparations. Not sure what reparations are? Nicole Cardoza of Anti-Racism Daily (subscribe to the daily newsletter AND support their work monetarily), shared the following in the February 1, 2021 version of the newsletter:
“Reparations are necessary for achieving racial equity (Brookings). On an individual level, pay it forward to creators you learn from on social media or organizers in your community. On a local level, find the local or state initiative advocating for reparations and support for their work. In addition, I recommend completing the Reparations Now Tool Kit created by the Movement for Black Lives to create a comprehensive plan.”
- That last ask feel like a bit of a stretch? That’s OK. If you have the means, pay those reparations/donations yourself. Installments are fine. Refer to my last point in where to contribute, if you can’t think of anything. (For example: I am contributing to KC Tenants – a multiracial group in my hometown that organizes to ensure everyone has a safe, accessible, and affordable home. I also contribute to Gift KC on a monthly recurring basis).
- Feel like there is a hole in your heart where that music lived? Find some new music – you are in the right place to find independent artists here at imperfect Fifth), and accept that this – like many things and all of 2020 – is a grieving process. You won’t “just get over it”.
Just know that not taking action shows lack of care, and even – dare I say it – complicity?
The world won’t change unless we each take steps – individually and collectively – towards the world we want.
wondering what former favorite band of mine I might be referring to? Hanson. It’s Hanson (find out what led me to this action and rant, here and here). ALSO? Brian Littrell. Fuck em.
Erin P.S. Zimmerman has not only the memory of an elephant and the rhythm of one of Destiny’s children, but she’s the twin sister of our Editor, so she’s an absolute magnet for pop culture. She took a side road and grabbed us a large quantity of songs for a playlist that easily covers the entire decade. We’re sure it was inspired by her Spotify plays, as well as a deep dive into each year and her own iTunes library. But this girl’s got some gems. So read em, listen to em, and celebrate 2020 with the sounds of the past!
Dick in a Box – Lonely Island ft Justin Timberlake
One of the first times I realized that my mom has a wicked dirty sense of humor. In 2011, we requested this one at a piano bar “for our mom”. They pulled her on stage to sing and dance…and boy, did she!
I’m on a Boat – The Lonely Island
Everyone seemed to know this one, and it brought us all togethe
Water Landing – Third Eye Blind
Favorite TEB song. My new bf at the time – now my husband – made me a mix CD when we started dating, and this was the first song.
Boom Boom Pow – The Black Eyed Peas
“You’re so two thousand and LATE!” – Also, my sorority formal date’s “THIS IS MY JAM!”
Gives You Hell – The All-American Rejects
Our anthem for all the bullshit left behind in high school.
Use Somebody – Kings of Leon
Favorite moment of my study abroad trip to London: a packed room at a bar singing this to a live band playing a cover.
Party in the USA – Miley Cyrus
There is no physical possibility she could walk off the plane at LAX, hop in her cab and look to the right to see the Hollywood sign.
Battlefield – Jordin Sparks
Why DOES love always feel like a battlefield?
Fireflies – Owl City
Why did we like this one so much??
I Love College – Asher Roth
This is the given on the soundtrack of someone who was in college in 2009 or any year after.
Breakeven – The Script
This introduced me to The Script. Which became part of the soundtrack to my summer.
Lines, Vines, and Trying Times – Jonas Brothers
YES, this is the whole album. Because I loved about 4/5ths of it. And it was the magical soundtrack to exploring London and Los Angeles.
Cooler Than Me – Mike Posner
Someone told me they thought of me every time they hear this song because I probably think I’m cooler than them. I am.
Billionaire – Travie McCoy ft Bruno Mars
Heard this one for the first time driving around Los Angeles with some friends. And I could picture myself as a billionaire VERY clearly – and still do every time I hear it!
Club Can’t Handle Me – Flo Rida ft. David Guetta
Always blasted in my dorm with my roommates. Always never at the club…because it can’t handle me right now.
Whataya Want from Me – Adam Lambert
I felt like I had his vocal range. Spoiler alert: I didn’t. Also: what I sang in my head every time someone from high school reached out to me…
If I Die Young – The Band Perry
My co-worker’s young daughter loved this song. And creepily sang every word as she stared deep into my eyes. I lived to tell the tale.
Shout It Out – Hanson
Yes, it’s another boy band album. I truly love all of the upbeat music on this, and it’s great for running through the sprinklers and then enjoying a bomb pop on a summer day (or upbeat music for your NYE)!
Under the Mistletoe – Justin Bieber
My sister received a video invitation to a Christmas party in Manhattan, New York that featured this song. And it was original and funny and I can’t help but love the song now.
Rolling in the Deep – Adele
Power ballad and my introduction to Adele [insert heart eyes]
Party Rock Anthem – LMFAO
My little bro learned the dance. We made the gold box head from the video for him. This was his anthem.
Raise Your Glass – P!nk
Underdogs. Weirdos. Dirty little freaks. I’ve never felt so seen…
F**kin’ Perfect – P!nk
NOW I feel seen.
Look At Me Now – Chris Brown ft Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes
I spent an entire week vacationing in San Diego practicing rapping to Busta’s verse. I got most of it, performed it at my 21st birthday party, and retired from the rap game.
Good Life – OneRepublic
Upbeat. Meaningful. Nostalgic. Perfect for a party!
Pretty Girl Rock – Keri Hilson
Because, of course.
Jessie J’s entire album: Who You Are
Spent the summer – and fall and winter and spring – driving around with my twin sis rockin’ out to this one! Daddio’s favorite is Price Tag
Threw it on the Ground – The Lonely Island
Makes me giggle. Referenced often to this day.
Somebody That I Used to Know – Gotye
Just one of those songs from 2012 that defined the year…because it was played non-stop on every radio station. So, everyone knows it.
We Are Young – Fun
Another one of those anthems for people of all ages about going out and painting the town red – or setting it on fire, whatever
Ni**as in Paris – Jay Z and Kanye West
A fun one that made at least SOMETHING in Blades of Glory funny.
Birthday Cake – Rihanna ft Chris Brown
Super weird collaboration following his assaulting her and the romantic breakup that followed 3 years prior…but a super catchy – albeit sometimes annoying – track.
Thrift Shop – Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
Who didn’t love this song, and then become a complete thrift shop junkie? It took me years to get back to thrifting and getting anything good!
Flawless – Beyonce
Empowerment anthem OF THE DECADE. And, most days? I DID wake up like this.
Mirrors – Justin Timberlake
Cried. Sang it with the windows down driving up the 101. Made my bridal party do a dance to it. There is video evidence.
Royals – Lorde
I had somehow forgotten this song. It played in perpetuity from 2013-the KC Royals 2015 World Series Championship. Now I can’t get it out of my head…
Wrecking Ball – Miley Cyrus
An ode to Miley’s breakup, breakdown and ripping off the bandaid that was her Disney persona. And you, too, can get a skin for your MacBook that turns your Apple logo into the wrecking ball in question.
Girl on Fire – Alicia Keys
ANOTHER empowerment anthem? We will take all of them we can get!
Try – P!nk
Have you ever seen the music video? Watch it. NOW.
You and I – John Legend
Hell, really I just mean all of the album “Love in the Future”. Best of 2013.
Happy – Pharrell Williams
Who doesn’t want a feel-good song to take you from down in the dumps, to dancing on the hood of your car? Or the bar? Or the table or the street?
All of Me – John Legend
Bawled. Became first dance at wedding. Years later, I told John Legend to his face that he only makes music to purposefully make me cry. And he guaranteed tears at his concert. And he delivered. Damn him.
Turn Down for What – DJ Snake and Lil Jon
Only video I took at my wedding: Dance off in the foreground between 5 VERY white boys to this song. In the background? Family friend Russian kicking my 9-year-old niece into 2016.
Chandelier – Sia
I DO want to swing from the chandeli-here!
The Man – Aloe Blacc
Best basketball warm up song. Best slideshow music for the graduating seniors of the St. Pius X high school basketball team.
Partition – Beyonce
This one just has me feelin’ myself, no matter what mood I was in before! In fact, I’m going to go listen to it, now!
See You Again – Wiz Khalifa ft Charlie Puth
First death of a friend my age. This played on a slideshow. He’s all I think of when I hear it and I cry. Which means I cried while watching Fast and the Furious. But not because of Fast and the Furious.
Take Me to Church – Hozier
The year I really STOPPED going to church. But his voice more than made up for it!
Elastic Heart – Sia
Two words: Shia. Labeouf.
Outlaws – Alessia Cara
I felt like this was the anthem for myself and my fellow entrepreneurs as we retreated in the mountains and built our businesses and white-water rafted and had a jolly ole time.
House Party – Sam Hunt
How the twin and I have always lived our lives: entertaining from the comfort of our own homes.
Love Yourself – Justin Bieber
Sorry – Justin Bieber
OK, let’s be honest. The whole damn album. I’m not embarrassed. I danced my way through 2016 to JB.
Work from Home – Fifth Harmony
I had just started working from home as a full-time freelancer when this one came out. So, it was constantly in my head – and is a fun one to dance to, as well!
Just Like Fire – P!nk
Apparently, I am drawn to fire. I believe it’s the Aries in me…
One Call Away – Charlie Puth
Sister broke up with her boyfriend. I rallied the troops and had friends and family from across the US lip sync on video and put it together as a breakup gift. And a perpetual reminder.
Sit Still, Look Pretty – Daya
Calling society in to question. While being catchy and easy to dance to? Yes, please and thank you! Because smashing the patriarchy can and should feel a hell of a lot more fun!
Lost Boy – Ruth B
Haunting, gender-bending, put into question how we see ourselves vs. how we are seen.
I know, deep, right?
HUMBLE – Kendrick Lamar
I saw this one as a challenge for me to be less humble and take up space, while also singing along loudly in the direction of folx who need to sit the f*** down, shut up and listen.
Say You Won’t Let Go – James Arthur
Does anyone else see Jane and Rafael from Jane the Virgin when they listen to this song? No? Just me?
Redbone – Childish Gambino
A range and style no one expected, but everyone needed.
Slow Hands – Niall Horan
Sexy from a former One Directioner…I should have seen it coming.
Sorry Not Sorry – Demi Lovato
Hate the saying. LOVE the song.
DNA – Kendrick Lamar
The BEST song to lift heavy weights and smash a bag around to! TRY to tell me differently!
Better Life – P!nk
Sad and beautiful. It helps me to stop and take inventory and answer P!nk’s question for myself.
Younger Now – Miley Cyrus
How I feel with each passing year…
Bastards – Kesha
First song on her 2017 album. “Don’t let the bastards get you down” (America’s official slogan since, what, 2016?)
Everybody Lost Somebody – Bleachers
Bleachers makes depression fun by helping folx find commonalities in one another. YOU are not alone!
[Some of the above songs are in the article about favorite albums I wrote to wrap up 2017: http://imperfectfifth.com/top-17-of-2017-from-someone-whose-opinion-you-shouldnt-care-about/]
Finesse – Bruno Mars and Cardi B
LOVE the throwback late 80s/early 90s sound. MORE PLEASE!
All The Stars – Kendrick Lamar & SZA
Black Panther. Entire Marvel/Disney soundtrack produced by Kendrick Lamar. My mom is friends with SZA’s mom.
This is America – Childish Gambino
Calling us out. Poignant. This IS America. Always and still.
God is a Woman – Ariana Grande
Finally. Someone got it right.
Shape of You – Ed Sheeran
I’m still trying to hate it. But every time it comes on – and it still does a LOT – my foot just gets a’tappin’!
Thank U, Next – Ariana Grande
I find myself singing this at my husband of 5+ years. Gotta keep um on their toes!
Hey Look Ma, I Made It – Pan!c at the Disco
Haven’t heard much from Pan!c since the mid 2000s…and now they are back and better than ever! In fact: theirs was my favorite show of 2019 (and Elizabeth’s! Check out her review here: http://imperfectfifth.com/elizabeths-favorite-shows-of-2019-dont-threaten-me-with-a-good-time/)
7 Rings – Ariana Grande
Sound of Music is my favorite. And so are my bitches (though, I don’t have 6 of them…probably)
Old Town Road – Lil Nas X ft Billy Ray Cyrus
Lil Nas X became a role model, THEN came out (and became an even BIGGER role model), all while trolling us with this annoyingly catchy – but really bad – anthem of 2019.
Bad Guy – Billie Eilish
Hate to say it…I love it. Because, well, I don’t always want to be the nice guy!
I Don’t Care – Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber
This is literally how I feel about everyone and everything. Except for my family. Sometimes. Other times, it’s exactly how I feel about all humans except myself.
Homecoming: The Live Album – Beyonce
Watching it live. Listening to it in its entirety. Tears to my eyes and over a decade of music and emotions.
Learn more about Erin at EZVisibility.com.
The end of October brought with it more than just a weather cool-down. As we started to bundle up for the winter ahead, we took time to pause on a breezy Autumn evening to celebrate the last 2 years of accomplishments with Imperfect Fifth. We were lucky enough to partner with Do Good Co., an incredible company on 38th Street in Kansas City, MO, who was also celebrating their 2nd birthday that evening. Together, we brought in vendors (Sugar Buffet KC, Scorpio Rising Botanicals, Crystal Ramirez Jewelry) and unique shopping opportunities with an evening of music and fun. Guitarist James Schneider opened the evening, followed by the talents of Danza Special and Fathers. We captured some photographs, caught up with friends, and were able to celebrate some incredible people locally, to boost our change globally.
Check our merch shop all week for discounts! Sales end at midnight, 11.11!
**photos by Erin P.S. Zimmerman, Elizabeth Schneider, and Meredith Schneider
Judah & the Lion…what can I say? They are a band that I have seen multiple times, and that I will probably continue to see. My first encounter, admittedly, was a personal tour with the guys around the Kansas City Zoo as they were just gaining traction with “Take It All Back”, and they were such a joy to speak with and to capture (with the lions, no less!). They put on such an undeniably powerful, upbeat, and fun show, and consistently! Everywhere from a packed old theater to an intimate set in a bar, they know how to make you FEEL with their lyrics AND music.
Th latest venue when they passed through Kansas City on August 10th? The gorgeous outdoor stage at Starlight Theater. (Yup. Home to bats and big ass fans.) Aside from the wicked humidity that evening, I think it was my favorite show from them yet, which is a tall order! It truly felt like I was invited to a party as one of the band’s closest friends as I witnessed their talent beneath the summertime sky.
Prior to releasing their album Pep Talks in May, I don’t think I would have felt like they were speaking directly to me. But the lyrics are made up of stories that are trauma-informed and emotional, like the band has cracked themselves open to being completely honest and transparent to anyone that will listen. Their Nashville-infused folk-pop mixed with some clearly Blink 182-style beats – well informed influence, as they’ve been covering a Blink favorite on this tour – this whole concert felt like a nod to early 2000s teen flick house parties (you know, with the live punk band playing in the backyard by the pool a la “Scotty Doesn’t Know”?).
Judah and The Lion’s energy is undeniable. The dropping of a curtain makes me want to listen more. And share more and connect more with other humans. And it had a greater impact on me as I listened Saturday night.
They opened with “Pep Talk” (the first song on their new album of the same name) as the last glow of the evening sun disappeared over the horizon and brought the heat as the weather cooled (to a chill 76 degrees). They played their entire new album and mixed in some fan favorites along the way – including a Blink 182 cover! And, even though I love the new stuff, my ears perked up and my tail started wagging when “Suit and Jacket” started up a few songs in.
They sing. They dance. They play the banjo. They tell enveloping stories while running around the stage and tiring you out just watching them. But, most of all, they inspire you to live in the moment, dance like no one is watching, and remind you that you are never alone.
I attended the Judah & the Lion concert by myself on Saturday night. But, as I walked to my car during the encore of “Take It All Back”, I realized I was really in my own backyard, connecting through song and movement with 5,000 of mine and the band’s closest friends.
Kansas City setlist:
1. Pep Talk
2. Quarter-Life Crisis
3. Over My Head
4. i’m ok.
6. Suit and Jacket
8. All the Small Things (blink‐182 cover)
9. Queen Songs / human.
10. Don’t Mess With My Mama
13. Going to Mars
15. Rich Kids
16. Dance With Ya
18. Family / Best Is Yet to Come
20. Alright (frick it!)
21. Why Did You Run?
22. Take It All Back
Keep up with Judah & The Lion here.
For those of you who are not yet privy to the rising music scene in Kansas City, now is the time to do your research. Boulevardia – the midwest beer and music fest that started to call Kemper Arena and the West Bottoms home five years ago – has exploded into a much bigger event, drawing crowds from all over the United States to tap brand new and limited run beers, check out bands in both rustic venues and in front of a very spacey-looking building (Kemper Arena, about to become HyVee Arena), and to ride a ferris wheel in an undoubtedly urban and growing area. This year featured forty bands – including, but certainly not limited to Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear, Radkey, Manchester Orchestra, Sir Sly, Guster, Bleachers, and Kansas City’s own Tech N9ne -, craftspeople and artists from around the metropolitan area, and a silent disco experience. (The best part about that? It was outside, instead of in a tent, so looky-lous could stop and watch for a bit if life called for it.)
2018 featured an array of additional rides – you know, besides that vibrant, beautiful ferris wheel – and a Royals outfield experience. And even though this event seems to happen on the hottest and muggiest weekend of the year every single year, we were too busy watching numerous parades of contortionists and acrobats and clowns and people full of PRIDE and enjoying the midwest’s best in beers that we almost didn’t even notice it.
But that’s the magic of Boulevardia. Enjoy these Day 1 photos, and check back in to see some highlights from Day 2 as well!
…But, I did take a look afterwards, and a lot of these made OTHER top lists, so there! If you haven’t heard some of these, add them to a NYE playlist or sit at home and listen to them! They run the gamut when it comes to type, style, moods to listen in…heck, I even suggest wine with a whole album (whether that is 1 glass or 3 bottles…that is up to you)! Regardless, have a Happy New Year, and keep supporting music that means something as we move into 2018!
Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
This was a close second to my most anticipated album of the year. This album tells a story, so for the best effect, listen to all the songs in order in one sitting! The way that Kendrick’s voice flows so naturally, it’s like it’s a narration to a deeper story, and this album is just the tip of the iceberg.
DNA – This is my favorite heavy lifting song, my favorite running song, my favorite tackle-the-challenge song…did I mention it’s my favorite? At first, “Humble” really had me hooked, but one listen to this, and it was over. And the video? One of my favorite EVER. It co-stars KC native, Don Cheadle (now, are you intrigued?)
P!NK – Beautiful Trauma
I was waiting for this one. For a VERY long time. And it just doesn’t disappoint. As P!NK has grown and changed over the years, you can very much hear that she is the same person that showed up – seemingly out of nowhere – back in 1997. Her power vocals remain the same, as does her knack for storytelling, but the stories change. This time around she tackles relationship woes, family life, and all those thoughts going on in her head – an open book, singing about all we wish to say. And I just want more!
Better Life – Hands down my favorite. Because, who doesn’t sometimes wonder if their significant other may want something different? And, somehow, she makes it catchy and thrilling!
I Am Here – A declaration that she is here, her voice is important, and she is not backing down for anything. A little nudge at permission for the rest of us to never let anyone silence us.
Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken – For those who might be a little overwhelmed or downtrodden, especially in our current political climate. Here is our rallying cry.
Miley Cyrus – Younger Now
Somehow, this slipped my radar when it released back in September, and I didn’t give it a listen until late November. Now, all I can think is: WHY DID IT TAKE ME SO LONG? I am not, historically, a Cyrus fan, but she is finally coming into her own with a mix of country and pop that is not slippery sweet, but somehow raw and dreamy. And I wish there weren’t so few tracks!
Rainbowland – This one features Dolly Parton, and it DEFINITELY sounds like a more traditional Parton song…but it is positive and upbeat and makes you want to sleep forever and live in a damn Rainbowland – or maybe even try to make one of your own in real life!
Miss You So Much – This one is a bit on the stalker side, just without dark and creepy undertones. And it’s totally how I feel about my husband. I will just leave it at that.
Younger Now – The past handful of years of Cyrus’ life in a nutshell. She’s gone through a lot of changes and phases, and somehow has come out the other end feeling younger than she was then. I really resonate with it – maybe you can, too!
Harry Styles – Harry Styles
Harry Styles’ self-titled solo debut was my album of Summer 2017. Nothing I EVER thought I would say. Ever. There are no outright pop songs. Instead, Styles has chosen 10 tracks with melodies and instrumentation – even recording style – that calls back to Brit rockers of the1960s (think: Beatles, Rolling Stones). I know that may seem like high praise, but give it a listen. You will hear it. It’s not just the sound that has me turning this sucker up on an afternoon walk, evening drive, or even while I make breakfast in the morning, but lyrics that are a mix of fun, soulful, and a bit angsty.
Two Ghosts – This one is all about a love gone cold. How everything is the same as it always has been, but the passion and feelings that once were there have left the building. It’s something in between a break up and a love song, and it is heart-shattering.
Her. Voice. Is. HOLYSHIT. So soulful. So smooth, so powerful, so seemingly effortless. I truly have no other words. Give her album a listen. Especially her newest release, “Dream”.
Sam Smith – The Thrill of It All
I truly didn’t think that so much more emotion could come out of one person into an album, but with his sophomore album, I can FEEL more sadness as he sings. And, it doesn’t make me sad. It just makes me FEEL.
All I can say is that you need to grab a bottle (or two) of cabernet, draw a bath, and listen to the whole damn thing.
Lana Del Rey – Lust For Life
Does anyone remember Katy Perry’s recent album? Well, this did everything that Perry intended, and THEN some! Lana’s sultry voice lends itself to a story of awakening in our country’s current state, and somehow surviving it all – like every generation before us. These aren’t idyllic pop songs, but songs that make you feel a part of a bigger whole. And, with just a year and a half between her last release and this one, you KNOW it was spurred by current events.
God Bless America – And All The Beautiful Women In It – Hauntingly gorgeous.
When The World Was At War We Kept Dancing – MESSAGE: Don’t stop living when our country seems to be falling apart around you. Hopeful without being too idealistic.
Khalid – American Teen
In his debut album, Khalid let’s us know that he is fully aware of how disconnected and digital the life of an American teen has become. He doesn’t embrace it like – seemingly – every other young person. He rips it apart as he flows through each track. Though, I am sure many teenagers have held tight to this album as their anthem, it is a great one to give a listen no matter what you are doing if you want smooth vocals and music you can dance or relax to.
Kesha – Rainbow
It’s been awhile since we had a new Kesha album…and, to be honest, I was OK with that. Her previous music was NOT my jam. It should have been my college party soundtrack – and, trust me, I LOVE glitter – but I just couldn’t get behind Kesha. Now, I can. And it’s not just knowing her full story and struggles and the WHY behind it all. It’s also not just my feminist tendencies to support women who are into creating great things. Kesha is finally using her voice. Never have I been so happy when autotune is taken out of the equation. She can REALLY sing, and sing she does! Her album is a rallying cry for everyone who has felt like any part of their lives is a struggle. Every single song involves messages of independence and empowerment, whether they are set to ballads or party beats.
Bastards – …and this is just the FIRST song! Once you hear it, you will understand why the rest of the album is necessary listening!
Tyler, The Creator – Flower Boy
This is NOT what I was expecting from Tyler. But, why should I expect the same from someone who has always done what he wants, and sounds good doing it? This is a much more mellow album from one of my favorites, and it brings some heavy and big messages along with it. Also: please, if you choose to listen to this, appreciate the instrumentals as well! YESSSSS
Where this Flower Blooms – Ever feel different from everyone else? Or, confused because you don’t want to be “normal”? This song gives EVERYONE permission to do whatever the hell they want, no matter their age. Give it a listen…
Glitter – I love glitter. And this refers to someone feeling like glitter when they are around the person they love. Ka-ching!
Ed Sheeran – ÷
Every single Ed Sheeran album that comes out has about 5 years worth of “first dance” wedding songs on them. This one is no different…and this time he calls on his current romantic relationship as his muse! And, I like romantic songs as much as the next person – who isn’t currently going through a breakup – but those weren’t my favorites on the album! Watch the videos for the songs below and really listen to the lyrics…and dance along for the best experience!
Shape of You – I don’t care what I am doing, I drop EVERYTHING and groove to this one!
Castle on the Hill – Somehow he has made a freeing song that makes you feel like you are running across the hilltops of Ireland out of pure nostalgia. Mmmmm
Galway Girl – modern Irish jig based on his grandparents’ relationship. What more could you ask for?
Sza – CTRL
All I can really say about this one is: FINALLY. She says all the things you are thinkin’, girl, and puts some amazing music to it, too! You can FEEL the emotion in this one!
The Weekend – Ready to feel like the sexiest person in the room? Give this track a listen NOW!
Jay-Z – 4:44
At first, I thought this one was a cop out. Beyonce releases Lemonade, so Jay-Z feels the need to respond, right? But, then I thought, “Oh, wait, he needed to release something new.” And he does. And it’s personal and raw and real and a near masterpiece!
Favorite: Just listen to the whole thing. It only takes up 35 minutes of your time, and I don’t think any one song is as good as all of them together. Also: watch the videos if you can! Bey really challenged him to step up his game in the visual department, and it is paying off in dividends for fans!
Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 3
Can I just take a moment to declare that 2017 has been FIRE for MOVEMENT? And, this album is a movement in itself to eradicate oppression and seek social justice for all. All delivered in a VERY listenable package with beats that would make your grandma shake it!
Call Ticketron – I don’t need to explain it. Trust and give it a try!
Thieves! (Screamed the Ghost) – In response to recent riots. Yet, not fuel for the fire, but definitely a soundtrack for the movement. There is a flow to it unlike any other
Hanson – Middle of Everywhere
Can you believe it’s been 25 years since the brother band, “Hanson”, decided they should form a band? To celebrate, they released an album with some new tracks, as well as oldies-but-goodies.
I Was Born – Here we have one of the new tracks. It’s a great, poppy, inspirational song written for the band’s kids. And the stars of the video? Their kids!
Broken Angel – Not a new one. But SO happy it’s getting a little spotlight being featured on this album! It features the youngest, Zac, on vocals. And his voice is so smooth and soulful, you will wonder if you are actually listening to the same band!
Bleachers – Gone Now
This sucker opened to mixed reviews. But, I loved it from the first time I heard it through live, and it has since become a very nostalgia and dance-filled experience for me. Sounds from decades before and inspired by many musicians – including Springsteen – I can’t help but feel Jack Antonoff’s reaching for the stars and sharing the span of his life in music on one album, with the album title referring to past him being gone now. Feel it with me, and take a listen!
Everybody Lost Somebody – It is the early 90s anthem for us NOW. Bringing humans together around the idea that everyone has felt pain, and everybody has lost somebody. Doesn’t hurt that you can also dance to it!
Moon – Hang On EP
The best EP that most people haven’t heard made my list because, well, they are BADASS. The lead vocalist, Chelsea Davis, adds power to the words while also somehow drumming simultaneously. Seeing them live is a necessity, so that you can feel it while listening to the EP.
I Got a Fever – Sensual power and soul wrapped into one song.
Alright, folks. I am pretty darn open-minded (if I do say so myself), but I never thought I would find myself saying (typing) the following:
Harry Styles‘ self-titled solo debut is my album of Summer 2017.
I will admit that One Direction wasn’t a half bad boy group, but I never would have put them anywhere near the top of any list. But, it seems that they are finding much more success (at least in playtime by me) since each went solo.
Styles solidifies his singledom by self-titling his debut album. And, it works, but if it were me, I would have named it something much more pretentious. Maybe: “Rockstar,” or “THE Album of Summer 2017”.
There are no outright pop songs. Instead, Styles has chosen 10 tracks with melodies and instrumentation – even recording style – that calls back to Brit rockers of the1960s (think: Beatles, Rolling Stones). I know that may seem like high praise, but give it a listen. You will hear it. On top of that, his voice – solo – can be compared to Adam Lambert if he were to tone it down and take out the theatrics. Or maybe even Bruno Mars…if he were to tone it down and take out the theatrics. His voice is actually quite similar to fellow boy-bander, Zac Hanson.
If you haven’t checked out Hanson in awhile, give a listen to “Broken Angel” or “Misery” off their 2004 album, “Underneath”…the resemblance is striking.
My point with Harry’s voice is: It is very smooth, remarkable, and easy to listen to.
It’s not just the sound that has me turning this sucker up on an afternoon walk, evening drive, or even while I make breakfast in the morning, but lyrics that are a mix of fun, soulful, and a bit angsty. No, he hasn’t left the teenage angst behind, but do any of us, really? He croons about love, lust, the past, and growth, never letting us forget that we are all constantly in a state of change, regardless of if we are in our early 20s or our late 50s.
My favorite, “Two Ghosts”, is all about a love gone cold. How everything is the same as it always has been, but the passion and feelings that once were there have left the building. It’s something in between a break up and a love song, and it is heart-shattering.
Harry isn’t just covering light and airy teeny-bopper stuff anymore, folks.
**Originally on Impose.