If “Love,” the dreamy first single from Lana Del Rey’s upcoming album, Lust for Life, felt like more of the same from the soporific singer-songwriter, the newly released title track is a refreshing about-face. Opening with the sound of a motorcycle revving its engine, “Lust for Life” reprises the themes—youth, love, death, escape—of countless Del Rey songs before it: “They say only the good die young/That just ain’t right/’Cause we’re having too much fun,” she laments. Some ’60s girl-group shoops underscore Del Rey’s spoken passages, which make nods to the Angels’s “My Boyfriend’s Back.”
The Weeknd (#1–10 of 12)
So many of the highlights and lowlights of the year in singles were, for better or worse, attuned to what feels like a worldwide drift toward maintaining one’s own financial and psychological (same diff) bottom line at the expense of anyone else’s. Beyoncé, of all performers, was far from immune, though her particular brand of exceptionalism continues to dress itself up in the finery of collective consciousness raising. Far more common were the unfussy, ruthlessly entertaining likes of Fifth Harmony speaking on behalf of Melania Trumps everywhere. Or Kanye West’s epic clapback against Taylor Swift, which in turn presaged his detour into the mental hospital, which we’ve now seen firsthand more or less counts as the first step in a presidential bid in 2020.
We’re repeatedly reminded that the Academy’s music branch is supposed to be paying attention to context when selecting their nominees for best song, so that they don’t simply wave five closing-credit ballads through, but actually select songs that function as part of the fabric of the film that surrounds them. All five songs nominated this year represent the sole nods for their respective films, two of which are documentaries and theoretically had favorable odds of at least getting nominated in that category. So concerns for context probably stand for very little, given the Academy’s clear indifference to this group of films. They may as well be voting on which song they most like listening to while frantically typing “g” and “h” playing Leo’s Red Carpet Rampage for the 12th time.
The last time Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar faced off in this category, a reluctance to award an artist twice in four years (Swift’s Fearless won back in 2010), as well as the Academy’s reticence toward hip-hop in the general field, resulted in Daft Punk’s star-studded commercial juggernaut Random Access Memories taking home the top prize—an outcome, it should be noted, we predicted. It’s tempting to make a case that voters, with #OscarSoWhite on their brains, will want to distinguish themselves from their myopic cinematic counterparts by rewarding a socially conscious album by a black man. But it’s unlikely they’ll feel obligated to make that course correction here, especially for a relatively new rapper whose album title contains the word “pimp.”
We’ve compared the correlation between Record of the Year and Song of the Year against Oscar’s tether between Best Picture and Best Director before. And every time we think we’re finally settling into a pattern, Grammy reverses course. The year after Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” staged a minor upset in this category without a Song of the Year nomination to its credit, the two categories almost completely aligned, resulting in identical winners (Sam Smith’s “Stay with Me,” which in retrospect couldn’t have been more perfectly engineered to conquer the top categories). So, naturally, this year finds only two songs competing on both sides of the producer/songwriter divide: Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” and Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space,” the latter of which we give the clear edge in Song of the Year.
Some songs deserve a second chance. And sometimes they get it. Sia’s “Elastic Heart” was originally featured on the Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack back in 2013, and the track, produced by Diplo and featuring the Weeknd, even got a video treatment starring a blond-bobbed stand-in (the clip has since been removed). The Aussie pop singer-songwriter would, of course, go on to cast another proxy for herself, 12-year-old Dance Moms star Maddie Ziegler, in the music video for “Chandelier,” the lead single from last year’s 1000 Forms of Fear. On the heels of that song’s massive success (the video is nearing half a billion views on YouTube), RCA is giving “Elastic Heart” a new shot of adrenaline. The re-launch includes a solo version of the song and a new clip, which finds Ziegler reprising her role as a bewigged (and semi-wigged-out) ballerina sporting a dirty leotard and some fantastic dance moves. This time, though, she goes toe to toe with creepy-sexy enfant terrible Shia LaBeouf, who is, naturally, bearded and half-naked. Locked in a giant birdcage from which only the petite-framed Maddie is able to escape, the pair face off in what is both a tender and sometimes funny sequel to “Chandelier.”
Lauryn Hill, “Consumerism”: Hip-hop icon Lauryn Hill completed a three-month prison term for tax evasion yesterday. To celebrate, the singer-rapper has released a new track, “Consumerism,” which was, according to Hill, mixed “via verbal and emailed direction” by a “crew of surrogate ears on the other side” and features the former Fugee spitting rapid-fire socio-political rhymes atop a bristling bed of live drums and some punk-hued electric guitars.
Janelle Monáe featuring Miguel, “PrimeTime”: The latest taste from Janelle Monáe’s forthcoming sophomore effort, Electric Lady, includes a sample from the Pixies’ 1988 single “Where Is My Mind?” and bears resemblance to Mariah Carey’s recent single, “#Beautiful,” another slow-burning R&B track that also featured Miguel. Electric Lady hits stores on September 10th.
The Weeknd, “Love in the Sky”: Mixtape master Abel Tesfaye (a.k.a. the Weeknd) has released a new single from his first studio album, Kiss Land, out September 10th on Republic Records.
- 2 Chainz
- abel tesfaye
- all me
- basement jaxx
- big sean
- Cut Copy
- dave sitek
- day n' nite
- death of a drum machine
- federal prism
- kiss land
- let me show you
- love in the sky
- move way
- nothing was the same
- richard x
- ryan hemsworth
- same brookes
- the weeknd
- tv on the radio
- what a difference your love makes
[Editor’s Note: “The Blender” is a new series dedicated to highlighting notable new releases in the mixtape world.]
Next month, perennial rap-rookie-of-the-year contender J. Cole will finally drop his major label debut, Cole World: The Sideline Story. Cole has some big names in his corner, Jay-Z among them, many of them claiming that the upstart MC from “Fayettenam,” North Carolina is nothing less than the future of rap—unless, of course, the future of rap turns out to be Drake (probable), Curren (less so), or Wale (exceedingly unlikely). All the same, kid’s gone through hell trying to get his album finished and released, though as many times as Watch the Throne and Tha Carter IV got pushed back, you might conclude that a rapper hasn’t made it big until his album’s been delayed three or four times. The early singles from Cole World haven’t exactly been fire, though that’s not the only reason the album’s release will be anticlimactic. Label backing or no, Cole’s provided a generous stream of free music to his fans over the past couple of years, and production values aside, his album will mostly be distinguished from his mixtapes by the extent to which it hues to the rap-radio playbook (the perfunctory cameos from Drake and Trey Songz have already been confirmed).