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Machine Gun Kelly’s newest album transcends his former rap concentration and launches the artist into his newest exploration: pop-punk. Based heavily on popular music of the early 2000s, “Tickets to My Downfall” marks the genre’s return to popularity with a new edge that makes it stronger than before. With over 66 million streams, Kelly has seen more commercial success from this album than any of his previous work, proving his versatility by successfully making the difficult jump to a new genre.
Until recently, Annie Clark’s — who goes by the stage name St. Vincent — most personal album was “Marry Me,” her debut album, which came out in 2007. Since then, she’s leaned more and more into her St. Vincent persona. Even songs that explored her personal struggles, like “Marrow” or “Strange Mercy,” feel detached from the real Annie Clark, distorted through the filter of St. Vincent. For a long time, this strategy worked well, as much of her best work can be found on albums like “Actor,” “Strange Mercy'' and “St. Vincent.” However, the culmination of this style was 2017’s “Masseduction,” a deeply impersonal album that felt sanitized and cold, both lyrically and musically. However, St. Vincent reverses course with her most recent album “Daddy’s Home,” that features much more personal lyrics.
The popular reality television series “RuPaul’s Drag Race” is a rare staple in both queer and mainstream culture, appealing to a wide range of audiences through its blend of drama, comedy, heartwarming moments and true artistic talent. Following season 12, a fan favorite, audiences had high hopes for season 13. Ultimately, however, the latest installment was unable to live up to its potential. Despite the talent of the drag queen contestants, the stylistic and structural production of this season was notably lackluster.
In the beginning of this year’s award season, many awards shows had trouble adapting to the virtual setting necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. After watching the trials and tribulations of the Grammys and the Golden Globes, the Academy Awards executed their show quite well in comparison: The part-in-person, part-virtual show progressed without any major technical difficulties. For the third straight year, there was no host; instead, the Academy rotated awards presenters. Even with the success of the format, though, the ceremony had only 10.4 million viewers, making it the least-watched Oscars since the Academy started recording views in 1974.
Over the past few years, Netflix has capitalized on people’s fascination with the macabre. From the 2015 hit “Making a Murderer” to “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes,” “The Ripper” and then this year’s “Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel,” recent Netflix originals have focused on a darker side of human nature. On April 2, this trend continued with “The Serpent.”
Whenever I walk into a party, I can’t help but ask myself how each person is experiencing the party themselves — the couple in the back curled into an embrace, the gaggle of girls infused by music, their hair a silky blur; a half-drunk group with hands raised as a pong ball sinks into stinky froth. In the colored lights and thrumming bass of a party, it’s practically impossible to see anyone clearly — to see the world through the eyes of those disguised by makeup and alcohol and fake smiles.
The 63rd annual Grammy Awards, which took place on March 14th, marked the continuation of this year’s socially distanced award season. Unlike the Golden Globes a few weeks ago, the Recording Academy chose to hold its ceremony outdoors where it could host nominees in person. The format worked well, making the ceremony feel more like a normal, pre-COVID event.
Frontwoman Tamara Lindeman takes a grand leap on The Weather Station’s fifth album, “Ignorance.” She departs from the band’s previous indie-folk sound to undertake an emotive art rock project brimming with existentialism. Lindeman interweaves personal storytelling with reflections on climate change and urbanization, bringing emotional weight to easily depersonalized issues. Despite a sometimes simplistic sound, the masterful lyricism of “Ignorance” offers a poignant take on the ongoing destruction of the natural world.
No other band has had as inconsistent a career as Weezer has. After achieving critical and commercial success with the power-pop of their 1994 self-titled first album, the darker direction of Weezer’s second album, “Pinkerton,” initially drew negative reviews, despite later achieving cult status. Lead singer Rivers Cuomo’s embarrassment over “Pinkerton” led to a long series of albums in the 2000s full of safe, boring pop music that lacked the magic of Weezer’s early work. While the band did produce a couple of albums I enjoyed during this period, particularly 2016’s “White Album,” they reached a low with 2019’s “Black Album.”
For the better part of the decade, experimental hip-hop group Clipping — stylized as clipping. — has played a pivotal role in the revitalization of horrorcore. Consisting of rapper Daveed Diggs — known for his role as Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in the 2015 Broadway hit “Hamilton” — and producers William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes, Clipping prides themselves on taking elements of horror films and transforming them into musical form. The trio’s name perfectly encapsulates their production style, as harsh, industrial noises overlay unnerving, spine-tingling screams and discord.
“Enola Holmes” — one of the newest entries to Netflix’s catalog, based on the young adult series by Nancy Springer — is a fun, adventurous and action-packed film that brilliantly reinvents the Sherlock Holmes franchise. Directed by Harry Bradbeer and written by Jack Thorne, “Enola Holmes” centers on the life of the youngest Holmes sibling, Enola (Millie Bobby Brown), and her journey to reunite with her missing mother while forging her own sense of freedom. While the film contains some elements of the classic Holmes mysteries, it adds a new twist with its focus on social activism and female intellect. From start to finish, the film successfully creates a world that places a strong-willed heroine center-stage, offering a timeless lesson on female empowerment.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s New York Times best-seller “Mexican Gothic” is a lush, moody story brimming with horror and mystery. With all the trappings of a Victorian novel, “Mexican Gothic,” which was released in June, calls upon notable doomed heroines in the literary canon, from Ophelia in “Hamlet” to Cathy in “Wuthering Heights,” in order to place readers in its melodramatic prose. “Mexican Gothic” is your favorite Brontë novel, but better.
Yaa Gyasi’s follow-up to her American Book Award-winning 2016 debut “Homegoing” is “Transcendent Kingdom,” a novel alternating between past and present in the life of Gifty, a Ghanaian-American neuroscience Ph.D. candidate and former self-proclaimed “Jesus Freak.” Throughout the book, Gifty, who studies impulse control in mice, reexamines what led her to a life of empiricism after growing up in a deeply religious immigrant family in the Bible Belt. Grappling with Gifty’s experiences growing up “sticking out like a sore thumb” in her predominantly-white town and “as Ghanaian as apple pie,” the novel is both accessible and urgent.
Just when I thought Taylor Swift had surpassed every semblance of an expectation, she proved to be even more of a superwoman. The release of her eighth album, “folklore,” on July 24th comes only 11 months after the cheerful and flowery “Lover.” Written and recorded entirely in quarantine, “folklore” is a testament to the singer’s creativity as a musical powerhouse. “Folklore” stuns with its ethereal beauty and maturity, expressed through intelligent lyrics and gentle, haunting melodies.
In a genre as old as folk, it can be hard for anything to stand out against the large body of work comprising the genre’s canon. Artists like Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon cultivated the sound that became associated with folk singer-songwriters in the middle of the 20th century. While the sounds they played were by definition based on earlier American musical styles, these artists sounded novel and each presented a unique brand of folk. In recent years, however, artists like Ed Sheeran have figured out how to soullessly manufacture the singer-songwriter formula by repeating the same tired sound again and again. Faced with a barrage of mediocre music, modern folk singer-songwriters have been forced to innovate in an attempt to stand out.
Tom Misch and Yussef Dayes released their latest project, “What Kinda Music,” through the jazz label Blue Note Records on April 24. Their collaboration is an experimental album combining the upbeat, polished chords and production of Misch with the jazzier, more experimentally inclined sound of the drummer Dayes. “What Kinda Music” is Misch’s first project since his 2018 album “Geography” and is also Dayes’ first album release since 2017. “What Kinda Music” is exactly what the name implies — a genre-defying album, incorporating the best of both Misch and Dayes. It’s a project that’s part electronica, part jazz and part hip-hop. Dayes’ experimental inventiveness melds with Misch’s catchy chords and pitch-perfect voice (and a well-rounded range of featured artists) to create an original UK sound.
On April 10, Netflix released Alan Yang’s “Tigertail,” a film inspired by the experiences of Yang’s father that follows the life of Pin-Jui (Tzi Ma), a Taiwanese-American immigrant. Despite a few flaws, “Tigertail” shares a touching, authentic and relatable story about the Asian-American immigrant experience.
Every 20 years, like clockwork, American culture repeats itself. This does not mean that the same exact trends are recycled in an endless loop. Rather, after about 20 years, outdated culture becomes “retro,” and nostalgia for past decades shapes new styles and artwork. The 1970s had “Happy Days,” and the 1990s had “That ’70s Show.” In a more abstract sense, the infatuation with the glamorous lifestyles of the fabulously wealthy in the 1980s inspired reality television and “Gossip Girl” in the 2000s. As we enter the 2020s, the music stylings of the early aughts are making a comeback. Artists like Charli XCX and Slayyyter evoke Britney Spears-style pop, while Poppy and Grimes both recently released music that is heavily reminiscent of nu metal.
As a wave of states introduced abortion restrictions last year, abortion rights have increasingly come under fire. Now, in the age of COVID-19 — with abortions deemed non-essential in some states — the right to choose is especially pertinent. With this in mind, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” a movie that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January and can now be purchased on Amazon Prime, is even more timely than it would’ve been just two months ago.
After eight long years, 1990s teenage pop sensation turned reclusive savant Fiona Apple has released her fifth album, “Fetch the Bolt Cutters.” As longtime fans know, Apple’s album release schedule is erratic; she has only released five albums since her 1996 debut “Tidal,” which she released when she was 18 years old. Apple’s prodigious talents as a writer are apparent even on her first album, but her teenage immaturity and naivete are also obvious. While the 90-word title of her second album, often shortened to “When the Pawn …,” initially annoyed fans and critics when it debuted in 1999, the complex, jazzy instrumentals and tremendous lyrical improvement won over most listeners. A protracted dispute with her label created a six-year gap before the release of Apple’s third album, “Extraordinary Machine,” in 2005, which introduced full orchestration behind her music.