Music is a powerful instrument. Within the sounds presented, a different combination of notes, words, and rhythm can invoke different emotions and bring about our own memories from their home in the subconscious. Not only can it present certain moods to the listener, but the act of creating can be therapeutic for the artist themselves, condensing feelings, thoughts, and emotions into a singular piece of art. Whether reflecting on a relationship, the death of a loved one, or a broader world view, music opens a portal to the soul. This week’s new music aims to capture emotion and feeling on all wavelengths. Through these songs, we can relate to one another on a human level. These are our choices for February 3rd…
Big Sean // I Decided
Last week, Big Sean gave a short interview on The Daily Show about his latest effort, I Decided. Even before it’s release, you could tell this album was Sean at his most mature. The album cover itself conveys a theme of self reflection, portraying two versions of the rapper, one young and wild, one older and wiser. Keeping the great production that marks Big Sean’s music, the Detroit star trades his usual content for a more personal voice. This shift makes itself clear on the album’s first proper track, “Light.” With a slow beat, Sean looks within himself on a particularly pointed track that really sets the tone for the rest of the record. Songs like “Jump Out the Window” take the upbeat production fans of Big Sean’s are so used to and couples it with important messages, the aforementioned on recognizing a friend in an abusive relationship, and the desire and need to save them. The best track of the record comes ten in, the two part epic “Voices In My Head / Stick To the Plan.” Here, Sean battles with himself, conveying the emotion and feeling of being in your own head. The track opens slowly as Sean discusses the feeling that he could do better than he has, that perhaps somehow he has failed. However, part two hits with a contrast. Accompanied by signature Metro Boomin productions, the track grows to new heights and Sean overcomes and tells himself to stay true to the art. With introspective lyrical content and A+ production, I Decided is undoubtedly Big Sean’s best work.
Syd // Fin
Throughout their existence, R&B group The Internet have been infamously underrated. Their critically-acclaimed album Ego Death flew under many a listeners radars, but that’s all about to change. The leading voice behind the group now captivates with her solo debut, Fin, a collection of rich R&B that showcases Syd’s variation in stylings. “Know” boasts top production reminiscent of classic 90s R&B, while turning the spotlight to Syd’s beautiful vocals. “All About Me” turns up the heat, providing a more upbeat and modern trap song, showing variety in the record while holding together the flow of the album as a whole. The highlight of Fin comes in the finale, “Insecurities,” which delivers the all too familiar emotions of breaking it off with a lover. It’s the perfect R&B song, serving a hip-hop beat atop an organic harmony of guitar and keys, and boasting a superb bridge that sounds as if it came right out of Beyonce’s Lemonade. It’s the perfect closing to an all-around amazing R&B collection that is sure to give “Syd tha Kyd” the recognition she’s always deserved.
Sampha // Process
Process can be described quickly and precisely: simply and utterly beautiful. After a plateful of features with artists from SBTRKT to Kanye, Britain’s Sampha makes his debut with a most haunting and gorgeous record. The album opens with “Plastic 100ºC,” a track that comes with an emotional blow that prepares you for the journey ahead. In it, Sampha opens up about dealing with his mother’s death to cancer, comparing the emotional stress to melting like plastic under heat. The British singer-songwriter continues to tug at the listeners heartstrings on “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano,” a beautiful and heart wrenching ballad that takes breath away with every note. Though Sampha shows he’s a pro at watering eyes with his slow ballads, he also shows his diversity with “Reverse Faults” in which he confesses his faults and flaws after blaming another, all delivered to energetic synths and trap beats. The entirety of the album flows together to create a dazzling piece of art, dealing with grief and loss in a way that will relate to the vulnerable emotions of many.
MUNA // About U
Pop is a loaded genre, and amongst bigger names and albums with more money for advertising, some of the best examples of it get lost. 2015 saw this happen with Carly Rae Jespsen’s E•MO•TION, an album that has gone down as infamously underrated. This year, it seems as if MUNA’s debut may be destined to be the diamond in the rough of pop. With a full synth sound that will make you dance, and lead Katie Gavin’s unique voice, About U is a near perfect record. On a previously released EP, MUNA earned regard with “Loudspeaker,” a perfect introduction to their brand of synth pop, with inspiring lyrical content about loving yourself and not being afraid to show it. With the full-length album, MUNA give us even more tracks that pack an emotional punch. “Crying on the Bathroom Floor” is at once an upbeat pop number, while also taking a serious tone reflecting on an abusive relationship. Where MUNA really shine though is with the gorgeous ballad, “Everything,” which packs a rich production of synth, guitar, and a choir of strings. Through her stunning vocals, Katie Gavin expresses the feeling we’re all too familiar with, where that one person is stuck on your mind and you just can’t seem to shake them. They’re all that seems to matter in that moment. With skills in ballads, upbeat dance, and a crossover of the two, MUNA prove that they’ve mastered the pop record.
Dear Evan Hansen (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Last year, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton dominated all the award ceremonies it could, picking up Tonys for Best Musical, Best Score, and nine others, as well as a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album. Though the Tony Award nominees have yet to be announced, and the soundtrack not eligible for this Grammy season, but next, there’s little doubt that Dear Evan Hansen will be the new sherrief on Broadway. The musical’s comedic yet tragic tale opens up emotions, feelings, and thoughts from it’s range of characters, the titular being a boy who feels like he’s always on the outside, simply looking in. An outcast. We were introduced to Evan Hansen with the first single off the soundtrack, “Waving Through a Window,” in which he sings on just this feeling, one many of us have felt in our lives. From the first interaction with the music, it seems as if, like Hamilton did so well with hip-hop, Dear Evan Hansen makes perfect pop songs to fit into the musical’s story. Throughout the show’s course of events, Evan Hansen finds himself entangled in the lives of the Murphys, whose son Connor has taken his own life. Evan and the rest of the characters all deal with these events in different ways, and the music portrays their emotions and strife in provocative ways. “Requiem” is a powerful portrayal of grief, or the lack thereof, and how members of Connor’s family viewed him and feel in the wake of his passing. “You Will Be Found,” the finale to Act I, delivers a unifying message, touching on themes of solidarity and empathy following a tragedy within the community. With lessons in loss, grief, depression, and the feeling of just not fitting in, Dear Evan Hansen is a powerful musical that everyone needs to see and hear.
Brooke Candy // Living Out Loud (feat. Sia) (Single)
Throughout her career, Sia has proved herself to be the master of pop songwriting. After penning hits for Rihanna, Beyonce, and all her own, Sia now moves her magic to up-and-coming pop sensation, Brooke Candy. On her latest single, Brooke Candy unleashes an upbeat earworm that packs a powerful message. We all have our demons, but the most important thing is how we then learn to channel them and to overcome them. With help from the true queen of pop hooks, Brooke Candy solidifies herself as an artist to look out for with a song about living life to the fullest.
K. Flay // Black Wave (Single)
When you think emotion, the first feelings that come to mind are happiness and sadness. However, a song can capture even more ranges. Though many songs deal with battling our inner demons, and can bring tears to our eyes, some songs conjure up one of the most powerful emotions there is: anger. Following the events in the news and our current fucked up political climate, K. Flay channels this anger with the system and the world into a powerful song that will make you bang your head and clench your fist. K. Flay has proved with her previous releases that she is one of the most unique voices to emerge as of late, and “Black Wave” is no exception. With grungy synth drones, shrieking choruses, and lines like “Who you gonna trust when the killer is the cop?,” K. Flay creates a track full of red hot emotion. Her debut full-length drops April 7th, and if it’s anything like we’ve already heard, it’s one to look forward to.