2022 PopJustice Advent Calendar: 12 Days of XMAS Edition (DAY 2)

The Kick - Foxes

Reviewed by @2014

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Having the nerve to open up an album with something as electrifying as Sister Ray is talent quite frankly. The song grabs you for the initial listen, and then refuses to let you go as its replay value is just off the charts. Foxes has some almighty bops in her catalogue but this one doesn't relent. You then go straight into the title track, which with its empowering message and catchiness makes it known this album is going to be a classic. Growing On Me, Potential and Dance Magic all come next and are faultless, to be honest; Growing On Me's irresistible chorus, Potential's grooviness throughout its runtime and Dance Magic just bursting with life, the first 5 songs are a home run of pop brilliance it cannot be denied!

Then Body Suit, the first song on the tracklist to resemble a ballad, arrives. With its Carly-like arrangement, it is beautiful and serves as another reminder for Louisa's impeccable vocals, and her range as a songwriter and classic popmaker. The sax! Oof. My favourite song on the record, Absolute, is next, and for another artist may be a filler/forgettable moment, Foxes makes it another cracker. That chorus is hard to deny, maybe not the most obvious to be addicted to but it really grows into your brain. Two Kinds Of Silence and Forgive Yourself follow, both easy highlights on any other less good album, but here they're just 2 more moments of 10/10 pleasure. Her song-writing and the way she structures these 2 songs in particular with hook after hook, how she isn't so much bigger is a popinjustice.

Not many songs with Gentleman in the title are successes (cough The Saturdays cough), but Foxes busts that rule of course! While not the biggest banger on the album, its another sumptuous moment on the album, and Sky Love quickly brings us back to the poppy best The Kick has to offer - another killer euphoric chorus, there's nothing holding Foxes back now. Too Much Colour could have been made into a longer 6 minute epic ballad, but as it is it's nice enough and acts as a respectable closer to the hit heavy collection.

Foxes manages to so easily sing about any topic and make it super relatable; relationships falling apart, losing yourself in waves of emotion and everything in between, while other albums may have bettered it in terms of scope and variety, you'd be a fool to choose to miss out on The Kick as it is THE perfect pop album 2022 has offered us.

The Kick by Foxes really kicked 2022 off with a pop bang. The UK songstress has always had her knack for creating triumphant material (see my rate for further proof xx) and she really didn't let up with this, her 3rd record.​
 
Pisces - Yerin Baek

Reviewed by @aux

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This year, in many ways, has been extraordinary in K-Pop. It's not even funny how many brilliant releases - both debuts and comebacks - emerged this year. Yerin Baek had one of those excellent releases. I struggle to name Yerin Baek as K-Pop, as I tend to see that term not as a genre, but rather a name for songs that come out of the K-Pop system. Famously, Yerin left the K-Pop industry and opened her own record label, signalling a shift in sound and authorship in her music.

Pisces is Yerin Baek's latest single, featuring three tracks: "It was me", "Pisces" and "The loved one". Unlike her last two albums, the Pisces single sees Yerin return to singing in her native tongue of Korean, as opposed to English. She is working on an English album that will probably be out next year, so expect me to write again about her next year.

The opening track of the single, "It was me" is a pulsating synth-pop banger, for lack of a better word. Its breakdown is divine, and feels like a continuation of Yerin's last full length album. The song just pulsates, it feels like it's breathing. It's constantly rising, building itself, in the most beautiful way possible. The song is about realising that sometimes the blame is on yourself, as the title suggests.

"Pisces" is the centrepiece of this release, featuring the Wes Anderson inspired music video which I still cannot make sense of. Continuing the vibes of "It was me", the song takes a similar vibe during its breakdown, but its mostly guitar driven. It's the post-chorus where the song really gets a pulse. The outro is absolutely heavenly and really, it's my favourite moment in the song.

In this single, a lot of what Yerin does is merging two of her sides: the last album's Yerin, with influences of electronic music; and the old Yerin, with the guitar instrumentation. With "Pisces", she blends both sides of her career brilliantly.

"The loved one" is the closing track, a soft-piano ballad. When I first listened to it, I thought it was cute and left it at that. After doing some more digging, the lyrics are actually quite devastating. It's quite an introspective track about growing up and how love slowly dissipates in your life the older one gets.

Pisces, as a whole body of work, sweeps you off your feet immediately with the opening track and slowly lets go of that energy by the end. It's the perfect pairing of three songs to listen to during late summer by the beach. This single was one of the most comforting releases of the year for me, and I hope that, if you're new to her music, it does the same for you.
 
Florence + the Machine - Dance Fever
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Reviewed by @Trouble in Paradise


Dance Fever is Florence’s COVID-19 pandemic album, taking in the sinking feeling of what if this doesn’t go away to the plodding doom scrolling anxieties to giving way to deeper and difficult introspection to return to create a worthy addition to her epic catalog. Building on the strengths of High As Hope, Florence feels fully in control of the album’s sound and direction. The huhs rocketing My Love connect to the guttural magic of Florence live and the bodily shake of Heaven is Here was born from Florence’s love of dance itself. At times the influence of collaborators and influences come in too strong, Free feels too indie rock radio and Choreomania smacks of Jack’s handiwork. At other times, Florence leans into herself both playfully on the Ceremonialseque My Love’s house piano climax as well as more painfully on Mourning Elvis’s crystalline incapsulation of addiction. Mirroring the pandemic experience, Dance Fever is knocked for its stop-gap tracklisting, but knowing Florence sequenced the album in the chronological order of when they were written clarifies that this is what it felt like to go through this collective trauma for one artist. I have my own playlist with a revised tracklist like any good obsessive, but I respect her vision even if Back in Town slams us in the face. I reflect on the moments in quarantine that felt just like that big reverberating bass. Sometimes, life is in control no matter how hard we try.


And Florence does try in the most Florence way possible: witchcraft! Yes, this is Florence’s pandemic album but its also her witchiest album since that conversation about water for drinking, not writing. It’s clear since then the Coven of Stevie Knicks & other Pop Witches have granted Florence higher powers,. The rolicking Delilah has evolved into the chest pouding Cassandra, the flying Sky Full of Song has landed on The Landslide of her career in The Bomb. She conjures Maggie Rogers to join her in the pandemic spell of Girls Against God, The catharsis of hearing someone else say And it’s good to be alive/ Crying into cereal at midnight got me through some shit. Who else spent a large part of 2020 staring at the ceiling or floor listening to Fetch the Bolt Cutters?! Florence’s magic appears more effective as Choreomania’s apparent foreboding was true to life, written before the world really shut down. After giving Dream Girl Evil, I do fear for her exes.


Now, it’s far too soon to give this album a fair rating. Like all of her albums before Dance Fever, this soundtracked my year, the past years as I reflect on them, and future years yet to come. Did you know I didn’t really LOVE End of Love till 2020?! Certain artists click with us as listeners and we know we’ll always spend time with them. For others, Florence’s witchy quarantine album might sound like too much, but there is something here for everyone! If your first listen didn’t work try my sequence or just put it on shuffle. I know this sounds almost comically on the nose, but in this current moment Dance Fever gives me shades of Kate Bush’s seminal album The Dreaming. Both albums have a visionary British female stepping confidently into the producer’s chair and pushing their sound in new ways. I would argue Florence is too constrained to being Pop and playable on radio to go full tilt The Dreaming. Or in my dreams, that album is coming next with her producing herself or co-producing with a great technical producer. Ah, a boy can dream.
https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1PDuBp3c6CZWi0QmsUiRcX?si=fe15b85a524f4176
 
Taylor Swift - Midnights
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Reviewed by @Babyface

“What keeps you up at night?”

This is the question that Taylor Swift poses in the prologue to her 10th studio album – the aptly titled Midnights. For each of us, the answer to that question is probably slightly different at this very moment but across a lifetime it is largely the same few things that we find ourselves thinking about on our sleepless nights. Imagining the possibilities of a new romance or ruminating over the fallout from a failed one. Reflecting on the best and the worst moments of our past and how they lead us to exactly where we are today. Anxiety, hope, fear, regret, and self-loathing are some of the most common themes that are found across this album and likely across restless minds everywhere as the clock strikes midnight.

Sometimes, albums come to you exactly in the moment that you need them. It’s no secret that I am a massive fan of Taylor’s work and it was just over 2 years ago that she released folklore into the world on the day that I had to say goodbye to my dog of 16 years – who had been with me since the time I was in 5th grade. Even though that was objectively an incredibly sad record, it felt like a comforting hug that night I listened to it while I sat crying on my bedroom floor. With Midnights, I wouldn’t know the reason that I needed this album until about 2 weeks after it was released. In the first week of November, the man who I had been dating for more than 2 years decided to end our relationship with little to no warning (in fact, just 2 weeks before that he told me that he had picked out rings for us to get engaged!) and once again Taylor’s music was there for me when I needed it the most.

All oversharing aside, this album saw Taylor returning to her signature Jack Antonoff-assisted synthpop sound after a brief diversion into the woods on folklore/evermore. Despite certain detractors’ apprehension about Jack after a handful of albums that he produced in the last couple of years were viewed as disappointments (see: S*l*r P*w*r), I feel that on Midnights Taylor and Jack refined their signature sound and created an album that represents all of the best parts of their collaborative relationship. The droning synths and evocative storytelling of the gorgeous “Maroon”, the way that the bridge of “You’re On Your Own, Kid” just continues to build in urgency as it goes along until it threatens to burst, the somber reflection of “Midnight Rain” assisted by the use of Taylor’s pitched-down vocals as a the foundation of the song, and of course the undeniable FUN (finally done right compared to some of their past attempts at ‘fun’) of songs like “Bejeweled” and “Karma”.

Another clear standout moment is of course the lead single “Anti-Hero” which at the time of writing has become Taylor’s second longest running #1 single (behind only “Blank Space). This song sees Taylor taking a deep dive into her own psyche and examining her role in the issues that have plagued her personal relationships along with how she wrestles with not feeling like a “real person” after how unmanageably big her celebrity and career have become. The highlight of the song is the bridge (a common theme across both this album and Taylor’s career in general) where she admits that she has dreams that one day her future daughter in law will kill her for her money – only to learn that she was left out of the will, as Taylor laughs up from hell. I am not being dramatic when I say that I gay-gasped the first time I listened to it. It also helps that it’s an absolute titanium-plated BOP that has deservingly blossomed into one of the biggest smashes of Taylor’s illustrious career.

Aside from Taylor and Jack’s work together on the standard edition of the album, her other main collaborator from the last few years Aaron Dessner makes an appearance on the 3am edition of the album contributing the tracks “The Great War”, “High Infidelity”, as well as the career highlight “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve”. On the latter, we see Taylor re-examining a relationship from her past in which she dated a 32-year-old man when she was 19 and reckoning with the pain that she still feels from that relationship now that she herself is the age that this man was when they were together. The song is an absolute triumph and speaks to the specific kind of hurt, shame, confusion, and anger that comes from a relationship with a massive power imbalance between the two parties. Even 13 years later, you can actually feel the pain in Taylor’s voice as she sings

“Oh God rest my soul, I miss who I used to be
The tomb won't close, stained glass windows in my mind
I regret you all the time
I can't let this go, I fight with you in my sleep
The wound won't close, I keep on waiting for a sign
I regret you all the time”

I doubt that Taylor will ever perform this song live given that she hasn’t performed “Dear John” since the Speak Now World Tour and has told fans it’s too painful to sing when they have requested it, but I just know that hearing the above with an entire crowd chanting along could probably cause a stadium to collapse. In addition to the aforementioned songs, Aaron also worked on the excellent Target exclusive bonus track “Hits Different” which is an absolutely essential listen for anyone who has not managed to track it down yet (and make sure to give it the 10 it deserves in @aux’s BPG rate!).

In closing, I feel the need to specify that in addition the highlights that I’ve shouted out in the above write-up that I genuinely enjoy every single song on this album (yes, even “Vigilante Shit” don’t @ me). In just a matter of weeks it became my most played album of the year as I alternated between spiraling to “Maroon” and hyping myself up to “Bejeweled” during the aftermath of my break-up. I could also go on to talk about the unprecedented commercial success of this record – but I think we can sum it up by saying that it broke just about every record in existence and even created new ones. I’m truly grateful that I have had this album in my life to soundtrack the past month and a half and grateful for pop stars like Taylor who can still absolutely floor me with songs like “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” 10 studio albums into her career. That’s a really rare and special thing, and it is not lost on me at all – cheers to many more midnights spent listening to her albums on my bedroom floor.
 
MUNA - MUNA

Reviewed by @Sail On


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After the shooting at Club Q, a lot of family and friends were asking me to “be safe.” The advice wasn’t terribly unwarranted - by day, I work at an LGBTQ+ community center and by night, I frequent my city’s local drag shows regularly.

The news of this shooting was another gut punch reminder that these spaces aren’t always safe, despite our best efforts. As queer people, we’re constantly forging home in the rush of sweaty dancefloors, the laughter from an online forum quip, or the euphoria from a live concert. These spaces become sacred, ingraining our identity into a shared community. And when that’s threatened, we take stock of how important we hold these spaces.

I was lucky enough to see MUNA twice this past year, experiences they appropriately call “gay church.” ‘Twas sacred indeed. A lot of care is put into their live show to make it a safe space - their signature song is “I Know A Place,” mind you - though it mostly comes down to the music being That Damn Good. After all, singing along in a room full of strangers has always been my favorite catharsis.

MUNA’s self-titled third album, and their first on Saddest Factory Records, an imprint owned by Phoebe Bridgers, continues their tradition of synth-laden, thumping, incredible pop music. The record is a reclamation of joy, and a stunning look at the power of self-preservation and maturation. While I often get the ick when artists eponymously title an album post-debut, this one feels deserved: it’s assured, brazen pop that marks not only some of the best output of MUNA’s career, but also of the year.

The pre-chorus to “What I Want” illustrates a mission statement for the album: “I’ve spent too, too, too many years not knowing what / What I wanted, how to get it, how to live it, and now / I’m gonna make up for it all at once.” There’s a powerful urgency to reclaiming time and focus from years of wishful thinking. It’s intense and immediate. The track reflects that, exploding into a club banger that rivals the best queer anthems of recent years. Their perspective brings the themes of the album into sharp focus.

Speaking of queer anthems, Saddest Factory Records’ best collaboration as of yet “Silk Chiffon,” with label boss Phoebe Bridgers, kicks off the record. After years of leaning into their sad-confessional tunes, the lead single is a reclamation of queer joy. Being gay has never felt so freeing, comforting, and joyous as in the sing-along acoustic jam.

Meanwhile, with the cozy fabric in mind, its thematic counterpart “Loose Garment” comes in just before the album’s end. Not only has being queer become lighter, but so has a once constricting depression: “Used to wear my sadness like a choker / Yeah, it had me by the throat / Tonight I feel I’m draped in it / Like a loose garment, I just let it flow…” Dark thoughts still hover, and can still feel all-consuming after heartbreak, but they might just be a little easier to manage than those of our youth. Rewind a bit, and the foot stomper “Solid” picks up right where “Silk Chiffon” leaves off. It’s an excellently packaged love song - from that thudding chorus to the full-force bridge, the band truly pops off live with this one.

“Runner’s High,” one of 2022’s best album tracks, starts the self-preservation thread of the album. Without negating the pain that accompanies leaving a longtime partner, it revels in the delight in closing that chapter. It’s the song to point to as evidence for both MUNA’s growth and perfection of their craft. The auto-tuned vocals provide a brilliant contrast between Katie’s lower register and the chorus falsetto when she sings “high;” the post-chorus’ chopped synths reflect the takeoff from a run to sprint; and cutting lyrics make this a brilliant highlight.

That thread continues later on with second single “Anything But Me,” a soaring ode to breakup closure and boundaries. Lyrical highlights of course include what’s seemingly an intentional mondegreen (“...I asked for the moon, I think that it's you…” sounds a lot like MUNA... their minds, etc. etc.) and the entire first stanza letting listeners know they are not on a high horse - actually it’s regular-sized - and you’re just on a pony going circles on a carousel ride so how about THAT. It’s one of my top played songs of 2022, and for good reason: it brings the anthemic magic of “Stayaway” but with a new resolve. Now, we’re letting go, we’re not looking back, and we’re going to heal and move on.

Well, maybe we can’t totally refrain from looking back. “Home By Now” allows just a few moments of forlorn thinking, as Katie entertains hypotheticals from a past partner over towering production and one of the band’s biggest earworms. Here, they’re asking the tough questions: What if I stayed in the relationship? Would we have eventually “made it”? What does that even mean? Why IS it so hot in LA in late October??

All this reflection culminates in the career-highlight “Kind of Girl,” a country-tinged ballad that considers one’s capacity for change. They began previewing it in their opening slot for Kacey Musgraves at the top of the year, and I was lucky to see it live in Asbury Park before the studio version came out too. While introducing it, Katie dedicated the song to anyone going through transition in their life or identity. A powerful sentiment - and an impactful testament of a single. Intentions like “Go out and meet somebody / Who actually likes me for me / And this time I let them” and “Yeah, I like telling stories / But I don’t have write them in ink / I can still change the end” are just two lyrical highlights that speak to mentally working against a predestined fate, a fixed attitude, or an immutable identity. Look, transitions in life are a bitch, and they can be emotional rollercoasters. But, maybe you don’t know where the ride is going to take you, and that’s okay. Just raise your arms, enjoy the moment, and scream-sing along to “the winds could change at any given tiiiiiiimmmeeee.”

This next sonic similarity has been made a lot on forum.popjustice.com, but I’m going to say it anyway: “Handle Me” could fit in the American Life early 2K acoustic pop alternative blend universe. Here, Katie invites a lover in, assuring them they can handle her despite uneasy trepidation. We segue quickly into “No Idea,” a Miktski co-write and a groove-tastic bop. Not much else to say about the latter - when it bops, it bops, and that’s it!

Shooting Star” closes the album, and brings a lot of the themes to a head. “I think I might regret this either way / If I keep you in my heart or in the dark / So I love you from afar / You, my shining star,” sings Katie upon Naomi’s more muted production. Like “Home By Now,” there’s a struggle in letting go of a past flame, but in the end, when it shines too bright and moves too fast, one mustn’t get too close. Mentally maintaining distance from a former lover as seen in “Runner’s High” and “Anything But Me” becomes the healthy boundary set.

In a time where phrases like “safe spaces” and “self-care” inundate the culture, MUNA constructs refreshing reminders on why they’re important. Protecting oneself through setting boundaries, reclaiming happiness, and forging sacred spaces for and by queer people through some of the best pop music in recent memory make this album an essential listen, and cement MUNA one of the greatest acts doing it right now.​
 
Beyoncé - Renaissance

Reviewed by @klow

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The first thing I should say is that I’ve done a lot of umming and aahhing when faced with the task of completing this write-up, and so I’m submitting it well beyond the deadline; therefore, the second thing to say is: sorry to the organisers of this year’s calendar. When I’ve begun to think about putting any words together, it’s impossible to let go of the thought that there’s nothing more can I add to the Popjustice Renaissance discourse that hasn’t been covered in its dedicated thread, which runs for 412 pages and counting. Here's my attempt, anyway, and it’s possible this has already been expressed in more eloquent terms in the said thread, but I haven’t got enough time now to comb through it page by page to cite my sources, so apologies for any unintended plagiarism.

Renaissance is many things – a comeback, a tribute, personal reinvention, a text which promotes sexual agency. But I would say that one of its core aims is to reimagine the concept of the club through Beyoncé’s own lens. And that in itself is interesting, because the club is not likely to be a place Beyoncé has ever attended without an entourage or bodyguards, or without being confined to an area where only Very Important Persons can enter.

We queers tend to canonise the club as a utopian space – somewhere to express oneself freely, a place to unburden oneself from all manner of personal and professional problems. What is the club to us? It’s ecstasy, in both a literal and figurative sense; it’s lights; it’s the thud of a bassline; it’s catching eyes with another person, and possibilities and desires suddenly multiplying. It’s an important institution to protect. It’s heaven.

Except when…it’s not. I don’t generally get anxious when I think about clubbing, but I am very cognisant of its potential toxicities. Namely: heterosexuals heterosexualling; racists deciding what type of person gets to enter; personal boundaries being crossed on the dancefloor; things being villainously dropped into drinks; the horrors of events like Pulse and Club Q, et cetera. All of these things, to varying degrees, create apprehension and unease and impede the possibility for people like us – queer music nerds and their allies, who log in to the pink posting prison each day – to collectively create what should be the apotheosis of the club experience.

Beyoncé will never experience the thrill of anonymity that comes with being in a club in a foreign city; she will never have to queue at the bar, or wade her way to the front of the room in order to hear her favourite song that little bit louder. But Beyoncé is Beyoncé, and she has been for so long, and so I think at this point it is fruitless to try to relate to her in that way. Instead, we must recognise that she is canny enough to know precisely how we, as comparative plebeians, would like those experiences to be soundtracked. The club Beyoncé constructs with Renaissance is at once a broad church, and niche. It might seem niche to your general white suburban Westerner, who somehow still only thinks of Beyoncé in the context of the “Single Ladies hands”, because it incorporates the traditions of ballroom culture, emphasises Blackness above all else, and samples Ts Madison and Kevin Aviance. But at the same time, Renaissance’s world creates a dialogue between the mainstream and those of us that have known about these pleasures of the fringes for a while, effectively supporting the idea that these cultures are so profoundly important to the wider fabric of our society. Not that we need the approval, necessarily, of the GP when it comes to Honey Dijon productions, and not that we want, necessarily, those persons to actively participate in conversations that concern us. But on a comeback album, Beyoncé elected to give space to the delights of these cultures, in a way that was studied and not ahistorical or flippant. In so doing, she created a work that appealed both to those cultures as well as outsiders, and to me that very fact is itself of significance.

Anyway, enough vague generalities: all the pretty. girls. to. the floor! If pretty is defined as a kind of palatable daintiness, then perhaps the prettiest girl of all on Renaissance is “PLASTIC OFF THE SOFA”, the album’s “lying down in the summer gloaming with eyes closed deep in romantic contentment” moment. But for me, the album offers bigger thrills. “MOVE”, for instance, is an imperious mélange of Grace Jones and the most impressive use of growling noises on a song since Fiona Apple’s “Fetch The Bolt Cutters”, a title it held for mere minutes until the track that directly follows it, “HEATED”, came through with its yadda yadda yadda bom bom ka kas and homages to the formative influence of
Beyoncé's "Uncle" Johnny. “CHURCH GIRL” connects gospel harmonies with the Triggerman beat and the extended mix of Beyoncé’s own “Get Me Bodied” in a way that seems almost too original for an album this mainstream. On “ALL UP IN YOUR MIND”, Beyoncé appears in her most robot-like form, thrashing around more and more violently in mania as the track relentlessly climbs upward, while on tracks like “ALIEN SUPERSTAR” and “PURE/HONEY” the boat is pushed out even further. To even conceptualise a track that marries sci-fi synths, Right Said Fred appropriation and memable gibberish requires the kind of self-assurance that only a “one of one” can possess – the fact that it then came to exist is its own marvel. “PURE/HONEY” is just as remarkable, a track on which Beyoncé pays tribute to ballroom bona fides and establishes her own in equal measure. The “PURE” section’s thumping bassline is arguably one of the most exciting moments in music this year – up there with Big Freedia slowly being faded in at the end of “ENERGY”, the unexpected orchestra hits on the addictive “AMERICA HAS A PROBLEM”, or Beyoncé’s threat to paint the world “pussy pink” on early highlight “COZY”.

The Hive’s traditionalists were well-looked after too. “CUFF IT”, which sounds at once like the beach and dancing in the kitchen and driving with the sunroof down, is guaranteed to be played at every wedding from here on out to the end of time. On “VIRGO’S GROOVE”, Beyoncé reminds us of her extraordinary vocal proficiency, running from the top to the bottom of her range over and over again like she’s doing a beep test, while the beat motors behind her, dropping out here and there at just the right times, to remind us all of her pre-eminence. When susurrus was abounding over the sample in “SUMMER RENAISSANCE” pre-release, I had hoped Beyoncé might’ve opted for something a little less obvious than Donna’s signature classic – somehow that song seems to have cannibalised even the highlights of Bad Girls in its cultural status these days, which just seems unfair, and Beyoncé of course had already sampled a well-known Donna single way back when, so – why not opt for something more obtuse this time? But then, “I Feel Love” is probably a top 10 song in the history of humankind, when you think about it, and what is most interesting of all about its employment in the closing track of Beyoncé’s album is that the prominent sample doesn't come from “I Feel Love”’s chorus, which to me always feels like a resolution, or a euphoric release, following the tension of the verses. Instead, we get a reworking of the iconic Moog theme that comes in not long after "I Feel Love" begins and floats upward in that slow, alien way. What that means is that “SUMMER RENAISSANCE” becomes an open-ended question. Yes, Beyoncé asks us to applaud, gives us another reminder of her power, leaves us in a trance. But – and I accept that her reticence to release any music videos this year might suggest otherwise – when that synth pattern dries up at the end of “SUMMER RENAISSANCE”, I don’t get the impression the club is closed; even without the promise of further Acts in the liner notes, my assumption is that the story she tells on this album hasn’t reached its conclusion.

Renaissance is a reconstruction of the club, but also a dismantling of what some might expect a commercial album to be. In her 40s, Beyoncé is making the shrewdest, most inventive music of her career, with a looseness and jouissance that I suppose can only come from spending decades racking up virtually every accolade possible – and still, the certification plaques keep coming. It was heartening to know that, beyond the periphery, there remains an appetite for the kind of beauty, eccentricity, difference and innovation that this album represents.​
 
And there we have it!

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Jokes aside, I want to offer a genuine thank you to everyone who participated. This was very much a last minute volunteer effort assembled by @Petty Mayonnaise and I, and as luck would have it the real world timing ended up causing some rifts in consistency. That said, I always enjoy reading what y'all have to say about pop music while providing further insights into music I both loved and may have overlooked this year. Everyone's write-ups were excellent and gave me a new perspective!

Now on to 2023!

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Are we doing this again this year? I feel less depressed and not too traumatised to write about my picks this year, despite my top 2 being objectively more depressing.
 
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