Headphones: Improvement and humility

In this week’s headphones column, we discuss the recently released album by Spoon, as well as Mary Blige’s new single with Kanye West. Next, we take a look a the humility of two strong artists; one being Kendrick Lamar with his new video for ‘HUMBLE,’ followed by an analysis of Wisin’s new showy music video ‘Escápate Conmigo,’ featuring Ozuna.

Album of the week: Hot Thoughts – Spoon: Spoon’s latest EP release on March 17, strays away from their natural, instrumental sound and employs stronger production elements. Spoon is able to keep their signature sound, while achieving a great contemporary feel throughout the album. The album is more pop-rock than most of their other releases. The bass, guitar, and drums are essential to the bands distinct style. Hot Thoughts can be considered an “electronic experiment,” with the addition of producer Dave Fridmann on four of the tracks. Fridmann has worked with successful alternative rock bands like The Flaming Lips, MGMT and Tame Impala.

Britt Daniels' unique tone and rasp to his voice allows their identity to easily be noticed as the ever-growing and improving band Spoon. Jim Eno carries the band’s rhythm, and overall direction with his skill on the drums. Without the talents of Rob Pope on bass guitar and Eric Harvey on guitar, Spoon’s music would almost fall flat.

The seventh track in the album, ‘I Aint the One,’ has a beautiful melody and sense of harmonics. The tune is mysteriously and beautifully dark. The band uses their instruments to their advantage. Spoon continues to sound effortlessly pure and natural — even along with the band’s increase in studio production. ‘First Caress,’ is sultry, upbeat, and all about the confusion of the first love in your life. You can not help but bob your head to this infectious beat. The lyrics talk a great deal about how going back to an old love is dangerous and wrong, but feels right.  

The band employs the usage of their words sung in reverse, a strategy used in songs like Stairway to Heaven, and several other famous songs from the 1960s. ‘Pink Up,’ is more spiritual, trippy, and electronic sounding. This track also incorporates maracas that add great value to the track.  

Alike several of the tracks in Hot Thoughts, the rhythm and textures are perfectly executed in ‘Can I Sit Next to You.’ This track is enticing and sexy. One of many tracks where Spoon successfully transitions their great amount of variance in sound. ‘Us,’ is a jazzy, cutting-edge interlude that introduces us to a new side of Spoon. The band from Austin, Texas closes the album with this mysterious, instrumental track incorporating saxophone and other woodwind instruments.

Single of the week: Love Yourself – Mary J. Blige ft. Kanye West: This is a beautiful reminder of how strong and graceful Mary J. Blige’s voice is. A jazzy tune with great crescendo builds into a hard hip-hop beat and the song proceeds into the chorus. The lyrics “You gotta love yourself before you love somebody else,” express the importance of appreciating one's self.

Kanye comes in strong with well-dressed lyrics following Blige’s robust chorus. Kanye’s verses are vivid and intense: "I decided not to use my color as a handicap. He a designer, artist, producer, and he rap.” Kanye alludes to several things including his rise to fame in this verse.

 Music Videos

Hip-Hop/R&B: Humble – Kendrick Lamar: Kendrick strikes a nerve with this creative, strategic music video in accord with his powerful lyrics in the recently released track ‘HUMBLE.’ With the help of Kendrick’s raw originality, Top Dawg Entertainment and direction by Dave Meyers and The Little Homies, this video will perplex you — just as Lamar always does with his deeper, underlying messages and significance to his words. Lyrically, Kendrick involves just about everything from religious references to comparisons of sex being like a game of Tetris; he boasts about his wealth and – of course – digs toward other prominent rappers.

Lamar’s incredible new music video explores several different interesting techniques of filming the rap-god from many different perspectives. Literally. The opening scene in the video shows K-Dot as a sort of Pope, then transitions rapidly between this character to Jesus at “The Last Supper,” the rapper getting his hair done at a salon, and the entertaining play on the 90s film Being John Malkovitch, where a crowd of bald black men are supporting Kendrick’s catchy chorus.

“My left stroke just went viral Right stroke put lil’ baby in a spiral…” refers to his recent single ‘The Heart Part 4,’ and “lil' baby” functions as the rappers he outwardly claims to outshine that will be put in a spiral with the release of ‘HUMBLE,’ and his new album coming out. In the music video, Lamar drives a golf cart in reference to the “strokes.” Overall, it's nothing new here. Kendrick continues to impress us with his deep-rooted lyrics, and unwithered sense of timing. He knows he is great, and understands his place, but urges his peers around him to “be humble,” and understand when its time to sit down. Although Kendrick seems to be overly confident, the song is almost a reminder for him to be humble as well.

Pop/Rap: Wisin - Escápate Conmigo ft. Ozuna: The video begins with two affluent men speaking on the phone. This conversation is followed by Wisin and Ozuna flirting with beautiful women who are encouraged by these artists to ‘Escápate Conmigo,’ meaning escape with me. The two created a sexy, romantic, and fun track together by integrating melodic rapping and singing. The video reflects this sexy, romantic feel perfectly. It matches the lyrical content quite well, while also succeeds in creating an entertaining, visually pleasing four-minute video.

Update: Drake’s ‘More Life,’ spends its second week at number one on the Billboard 200 list. Ed Sheeran remains at number one on the Hot 100 list — for the 10th week in a row.

Travis Scott and Kendrick Lamar came out with their long-anticipated music video for the hit single, ‘Goosebumps.’

Spotify has settled a new global license agreement with Universal Music Group that gives UMG artists access to a "flexible release policy." This grant artists the ability to reserve new albums for paid Spotify users only, for two-week period following release. The agreement means the end of Spotify's policy of granting all of its users access to complete albums on their release dates.