Headphones: Slow Summer Is Bad For Music

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Summer is typically a hot time of the year for music.  Most musicians engage in artistic warfare as they compete for the right to have the song/album of the summer.  For this reason, we usually see artists unload their best work, chart smashing hits and pioneering album concepts.  This summer however, has been a bitter disappointment.  Recently in Headphones we talked about Drake’s record-breaking accomplishments for the album Views, which has seen an almost unprecedented run at the top of Billboard.  Views, which was critically seen as unspectacular, is slowly approaching Michael Jackson’s Thriller record for longest streak at the top of the charts.  This run only highlights how poor of a summer it has been.  While we did see solid projects from artists like Schoolboy Q and Logic, we were hit with major disappointments from Frank Ocean and Travis Scott, who declined to release their albums despite mass speculation they would.  Solid work, but nothing earth shattering. 

Sure, there have been hits here and there, by nothing that you could label ‘song of the summer.’  Just look at the charts, there have been sixteen #1 singles this year alone.   We can only look to this Fall to bring us what we deserve as loyal fans… maybe even a Frank Ocean album. 

Album of the Week: Untitled Unmastered: While we weren’t blessed with anything summer from Kendrick, we did receive this mixtape/project from King Kunta himself this past spring.  Possibly deserving as ‘album of the spring’, this LP was a compilation of tracks that didn’t make To Pimp A Butterfly, the Grammy winning record from 2015.  In contrast to artists like Frank Ocean, who like to keep their fans guessing upon repeated failed released dates, Kendrick dropped Untitled over night and without warning, to the appeal of many. These tracks fit the darker atmosphere and context embodied on TPAB, and string together nicely.  The narration, which we have come to expect on Kendrick albums, is also present as a sinister voice coaxes in from the opening track.

The album is Untitled Unmastered for a reason.  Most of the tracks feel unfinished or in need of work, but at the same time they are wholly satisfactory, especially to Kendrick.  Throughout the album, he repeatedly cheers ‘Pimp Pimp! Hooray!’ It feels like he is toasting his accomplishments on TPAB, releasing them to further revel in the well-deserved glory.   Conceptually, this album feels much for jazzy, like the tracks Complexion and For FreeKendrick often takes a back seat to the band, as they jam behind soulful vocals of a woman singer, like on Untitled 5

While trying to grade and review this album, its best described as a contradiction, but a good one at that.  Kendrick isn’t trying to show off, but he is.  This isn’t supposed to be a polished work, but it is.  Untitled Unmastered is a clear example of just how good Kendrick is.  Even when he isn’t trying, he is still the best mind in the game.  Even when he is releasing an ‘Unmastered’ work, we are being gifted with greatness.

Music Videos

Pop: Katy Perry - Rise: This marks the second time this song has made our column. Two weeks ago, the song was the anthem for the Olympics. This time, we get an actual music video from the Queen of Pop.  

Hip-Hop: Drake - Hotline Bling: This weeks hip hop pick pick is a bit of throwback, looking at the lead single off of Views.  

EDM: DJ Snake - Middle: In this weeks EDM pick, Josh Hutcherson lends his screen talents to popular DJ Snake, as he dons a mask to fight crime.  The songs vocals are done by Bipolar Sunshine. 

Rap: Me, Myself & I: 'Young Gerald' continues his hot year, with lead single Me, Myself & I off of the Platinum album hen It's Dark Out

International: Zayn - Like I Would: There appears to be no One Direction hangover for Zayn, who has been letting out hit after hit.  This time he opts for glow in the dark gear introduce his new single Like I Would.

Noteworthy: RIP Frank Ocean: Okay… so not really, but his actions do make one wonder.  Last week, we touched on the mysterious actions of Frank Ocean this past month.    To briefly catch you up, this is where we’re at: Many expected the follow up to Grammy-winning Channel Orange to be released in July.  When that didn’t happen, Frank Ocean’s website was updated with a live stream of a mostly empty warehouse.  Slowly but surely, Frank began to appear on the screen, appearing to be building something out of wood and metal.  A few days in to this, New York Times broke the news that the album would drop Friday, August 5th, exclusively to Apple Music’s streaming service.  Fans began to feverishly wait by their computers screen, coming to the conclusion that whatever Frank was building would be completed and finished by the same date.  As midnight of Friday approached, Frank appeared to finishing up what he was working on.  When the clock hit 12, he walked off screen and then… nothing.  No drop, no completed work, no explanation; another misleading report for an album that never came out.  The only thing we have to go off of now is the ‘library card’ image he had posted to his website weeks ago, that has the date November 13th, 2016. So there’s that…

As fans we are often spoiled with ridiculously good music year round from our favorite artists.  After a while, we begin to expect it.  So when artists like Frank or Kanye take 3 or more years to release an album, it becomes frustrating.  It does go both ways.  We do support the artists, whether it be with moral support, concert tickets, or album sales.  With that, we do have somewhat of a right to expect something in return, but we shouldn’t go completely overboard.  Frank Ocean has stretched his fan’s good grace very thin, but the important thing for those fans to remember is that when they hear that first beat come through the headphones it will all be worth it.  The extra time isn’t being spent goofing off (I hope), but entirely on putting together something worth that wait.  So have faith, trust the process and try not to pull your hair out… Winter/November is Coming.

MusicLJ Hilberath