Discussion in 'Charts, rates etc' started by Trouble in Paradise, Dec 8, 2018.
Dance To This for the win.
I know you’re in a moment of angst right now, but aim a bit higher.
Nah I'm trying to stay positive, you know?
Oh, thank goodness this is out.
The idea of this and Immaterial outlasting the likes of Big Freedia and Lizzo’s song, which had actual vocals... yikes.
It's Okay To Cry is a bit of a moment, it's so vulnerable, which was pretty fresh for SOPHIE, and coupled with that video, it feels like freedom. I know I only gave it a 9, but it's beautiful. Even those starting synths are so gentle and calming, I stan.
Some of y'all didn't fall off the chair when Sophie casually flashed her tit during the second chorus of that flawless music video and it shows. It's Okay to Cry is one of the most beautiful pop songs of all time. Almost won my eleven because there's hardly any song that came out last year that was truly anthemic, liberating, life-affirming and all of those adjectives we throw around quite a lot - this one is genuinely positive in the most wonderful way. The song feels like freedom, but only for ten seconds at the very end, after it takes you through a journey through heaven. And that's good because we couldn't handle more.
^This should be the Wikipedia entry for It's Okay To Cry!
It's okay to cry, but it's not okay to eliminate this beautiful song so early! Page 69 should have been a wonderful joyous page but now it is ruined.
edit: And on 4/20, too...!
Here to introduce our next cut is Janet Mock, a transgender activist and bestselling author. Her memoir Redefining Realness became a New York Times bestseller and she's given many interviews on major television platforms explaining trans rights.
42. "Charcoal Baby"
By Blood Orange
Highest Scores:10 x 4 (@Cutlery @slaybellz @Remyky22 @LE0Night ) 9.75 x 1 (@Music Is Life ) 9.5 x 1 (@Remorque)
Lowest Scores: 3.5 x 1 (@Lost Boy ) 4 x 2(@Empty Shoebox @londonrain)
My Score: 8.25
No one wants to be the odd one out at times
No one wants to be the negro swan
Can you break sometimes?
Can you break sometimes?
Yes, anyone familiar with Blood Orange's latest album Negro Swan should have seen this coming with Janet Mock's introduction! Mock provides spoken interludes ruminating on the themes of the album (blackness, queerness, black depression, the experience of being an outsider). Blood Orange is the current musical moniker of Dev Hynes who was formerly in Test Icicles and Lightspeed Champion. As previously covered in Ssion's elimination, Dev's former band member from Test Icicles Sam Mehran tragically died by suicide last year. Given the deep themes of Dev's music and interviews, I hope he's coping okay with the loss.
Speaking of deep themes, boy are Blood Orange interviews a rough ride! I must say, he's an incredibly articulate and deep thinking individual but he also comes across as deeply sad. It's interesting that when I first started making this list, I really wasn't sure to include him for fear he wasn't "queer enough." When I interrogated that notion more (and especially around the idea of using it to exclude a black man) I found it quite lacking. Dev himself has spoken to that experience as the New York Times wrote:
The last Blood Orange record, 2016’s “Freetown Sound,” was also about what Hynes “is,” or might be — an exploration of his family roots in Sierra Leone and Guyana. It was dedicated, as Hynes wrote on Instagram, to anyone who had ever felt not black enough, too black, too queer, not queer the right way.
In regards to his actual identity, he's a great example of the ways in which individuals are moving way beyond categories of gender and sexuality. He has explained to sex columnist Karley Sciortino that he is attracted to "the femininity of a woman, combined with the strong features and beauty of a man." His style is often androgynous and he's spoken in length about the abuse he faced as a child due to his gender nonconformity.
Anyways before I start to feel like I'm defending his queerness, let's get back to the music. Hynes did me a huge favor and broke down every track from Negro Swan for Pitchfork and had this to say about "Charcoal Baby:"
Though you’re a great guitar player, you’ve sometimes backgrounded that skill on Blood Orange records. But this song features a pretty prominent guitar part. What was the thinking behind that choice?
The only reason there wasn’t really guitar on the last couple of records—I mean, there is, but it’s very sparse—is because I didn’t have one. It was never, like, “I’m not gonna use guitar.” At the end of Freetown Sound, when it goes into this acoustic thing, it’s because I’d moved into the studio that was on St. Mark’s, which used to be my lawyer’s room, and he’d left his acoustic guitar there. So I used it.
But finally, through some blessings or luck, Fender made a guitar for me. Which is so crazy, because as a kid I had one guitar and it broke, and that was it. So “Charcoal Baby” was one of the first songs that I did with that guitar because I actually had one. [laughs] And I did a lot of crazy shit to that guitar sound. I put two different vinyl effects on it, warping at different speeds, so the guitar is, like, completely out of tune on the whole song, but the bass kind of keeps it locked in. Then, for the vocals, I wanted something that felt a bit more joyous for, quite simply, a celebration of black skin.
I really love the guitar and glad that he specifically brought it out for this song even if it was a bit of happenstance. I'm also happy that despite some of his more morose interviews, he speaks to the joy inherent in some of the vocals. I really love this song and it's slowly found it's way into many of my playlists especially those for post-work relaxation.
Oh also, Blood Orange is an incredible producer who's opus is "Never Let Me Go" by Florence and the Machine and I will hear nothing more of it.
Now let's hear more of your opinions:
The Hot Rock Outro bumped this by 1.
Verandi I don't know why but the vibe reminds me of the MGMT debut.
ufint So I’m writing this on Boxing Day, 2:30 AM and I’m quite liking the sound of this. The ambience, the feel, the glow up is all good. I’m still trying to navigate this keyboard, but I’m doing fairly good. Made me wanna take another sip of the white wine, and that’s a good sign at this hour.
Untouchable Ace Bless this man for MKS for being so talented and Test Icicles.
untitled immaculate production as always
Music is Life Okay the production reminds me of a more mid-tempo/upbeat version of Carly's All That and I'm totally here for it. (Yes I know part of Blood Orange produced that song). I like the dreamy vibes this gives off, more of this please.
Pop3blow2 Another solid Dev Hynes track, but of course.
Constantino On the whole, I found ‘Negro Swan’ to be a bit of a disappointment after its predecessor, with this being an exception, of course. With repeated listens, this has become all-the-more glorious as the rest of the album continues to grow. The outro with the sax is just...transcendent.
I let Dev know this elimination was coming up so he went and debuted a new song on national tv for me to embed at the end of it, he's such a sweety!
BTW "Charcoal Baby" actually tied scorewise but I broke the tie with an 11 so this is your warning to give your 11 an extra hug tonight.
Also all of these:
Not everyone has that!
Our next cut is introduced by Willi Ninja, the godfather of voguing and one of the stars of Paris is Burning. Ninja was able to use his appearance in the documentary about ball culture to springboard a career into choreography.
By Ryan Beatty
Highest Scores: 11 x 1 (@Remyky22 ) 10 x 3 (@Sanctuary @inevitable @Cutlery ) 9.75 x 1 (@ohnostalgia) 9.5 x 2 (@slaybellz me)
Lowest Scores: 4 x 2 (@yuuurei @dylanaber ) 5 x 2 (@soratami @The Hot Rock )
My Score: 9.5
You could pass for masculine
But that's not why I like it (no, no, no, no)
And we share a couple cigarettes before we go to bed
And you got the plastic
That's fucking fantastic
Now were powersliding 'til we can both pass out
You got the TV on with the volume down
For colors in the background
Poor @Remyky22 has had a rough back to back eliminations but at the very least they have taste! Boy in Jeans was one of my favorite discoveries of 20GAYTeen and I still listen to it in full on the regular. Let's get it out of the way now: it's very much the album some wanted from Troye after Blue Neighbourhood. There's a pretty strong "Troye listens to a lot of Frank Ocean" vibe to the whole album (and in a good way, side eying "Animal"). I quoted the whole second verse cause it shows what I love so much about the song and Beatty in general: it paints such a strong picture. He encapsulates the feel and sense of young gay summer love so vividly in just a few lines. @Jonathan27 has an amazing write up for the album over at the PopJustice Advent calendar that you should all read!
Now for those of you not in the know, Beatty was once an up and coming teen pop singer alongside Cody Simpson and was dubbed the next Justin Bieber. He thankfully avoided that fate and is instead the amazing artist he is now. He has collaborated frequently with Brockhampton and is featured in Kevin Abstract's latest release. When talking about his younger work and the experience of creating work in the closet, Beatty explained to the Fader:
Did the misery you felt when you were younger have to do with you being in the closet? I feel like when I was younger some of my depression and misery had a lot to do with me not being able to fully comprehend like, “Yo I’m queer as fuck and that’s okay.”
100%. I think that was holding me back creatively. I remember being in the studio with producers and not wanting to say he/him in songs or i wanted to and felt like I couldn’t because I hadn’t shared that with anybody. It definitely held me out creatively and once I accepted that slowly but surely it allowed me to be more honest with my music and enjoy writing more because there’s nothing holding me back when it comes to creating. That’s when I became a good writer.
I think we've all felt that sense of having one arm tied behind our backs when navigating the closet. As I've learned, and probably many of you have as well, even after you've had you're big coming out, the closet follows us around in the form of heteronormativity. There's that moment of using a same sex pronoun or boyfriend when talking to someone new or unfamiliar. Sometimes it's a colleague, sometimes it's a more distant relative or a friend's family member. It's strange and stifling and the more I've grown confident- in not just myself but in trusting other's open-mindness- the happier I've become.
In a nice comparison point to his earlier writing experiences, Beatty was asked about what it's like to be releasing music in the year 20GAYTeen when there's so much queer talent that I for some reason decided to run a rate:
How does it feel to make pop music right now? There’s so much more queer representation than when we were growing up.
I absolutely love it. To be honest when I’m writing a song and talking about a guy, I’m never trying to like use my sexuality as a marketing point. It’s just my truth. So writing these songs it wasn’t a question of should I or shouldn’t I. It was just about writing my truth. I think my favorite lyrics in this album are my more explicit ones, where I’m really talking about intimate relations with another guy. It’s such a liberating feeling because I don’t feel like I’m compromising in any way.
I love the way he answers this without having to play some sort of "my music is beyond sexuality" answer. Instead, he grounds his writing in his own life and his own experiences. I love that he names that there are some pretty sexy lyrics in this album and in almost every case it's very explicit that it's him and another man. It's a liberating listen so I can't imagine the joy it felt to write and record it!
As a hustling twentysomething and a Brockhampton affliate, Beatty has committed to a lot of visuals for his album. Each carries a similar lo-fi vibe and was made within a two week period with a small string of collaborators- chiefly Miloš Mihajlov. In describing the concept behind the videos to Billboard, Beatty explained:
"I knew I wanted to keep the concepts simple, but also keep it beautiful," he says. "I also think this record feels very real life to me, and so I wanted to keep that in the visuals. The way that they're shot—it just feels right with the song for me. There's this grittiness to it that translates well."
And we circle back to where we started, this song and this record are deeply real. One of the best parts of being a queer person in 20GAYTeen was the amount of art reflecting my own experiences back at me. Especially as another gay white man, Boy in Jeans and "Powerslide" spoke directly to my own life and my own experiences and the videos often felt like an extension of that.
I'll close this write up with Ryan's advice to his fellow queers:
Everyone always says it gets better and I try to write and make things that younger me needed to hear and read. So anyone, who is a queer young kid in the closet, do you have any words of wisdom?
It’s really hard to answer this. First thing i would say is that once you accept yourself, everything changes. Once you fully love yourself it doesn’t matter what people think of you. It’s different for everybody, but it gets better. I was really refraining from saying that because it’s so cliche but it’s true. It might but really hard right now, but it gets better.
Now let's see if you're commentary get's better:
Posh Spears He’s cool. He can stay.
Reboot It’s cute. Some of the lyrics are a bit crap, but it’s quite catchy. I’m intrigued enough to feel like checking his out his music
The Hot Rock A bit bland. It's fine and I don't mean this in like a really mean way but this kinda gave me Kidz Bop Frank Ocean vibes???
ufint Ryan Beatty is extremely pretty. Ryan Beatty is extremely talented. Ryan Beatty’s album is extremely good.
untitled this is... marginally better than everything else i've heard from him
Slaybellz Really beautiful song.
Remorque Some of these lyrics are poetry, some are filth and some are questionable... But it's a breezy bop nonetheless.
The way my 10s are dropping faster than digital sales is homophobic
I don't even have the energy to type out the essay on why It's Okay to Cry is one of the most important songs of the decade and cemented SOPHIE as a queer legend
I love both the songs that just left but I also think it's the right time for them to go.
I know I'm projecting a lot in this one, but Powerslide for me goes way beyond being a love song. Through its lyrics, that pulsating drum that leads you, images of skating and sex written with such easygoing pleasure and attitude, that heavenly chorus and back vocals, everything sung phenomenally (Ryan is a terribly underrated and capable vocalist), it encapsulates far more than queer love. It represents summer, such a widely explored trope in pop music, but from a perspective of a gay boy finding love in suburbian surroundings. Its story is something so many people could relate to, yet Ryan remains unique in this ("I can't relate to the people who relate to me." from one other amazing track). His voice and his thoughts throughout the song develop and end up portraying a generation, the same generation that, for example, Troye Sivan belongs to yet never fully comes to painting it so genuinely. I'm mentioning him because of the obvious common influences behind their music, but what I'm trying to say is that Ryan goes way beyond both his influences and tame Troye in displaying images of intimacy that feel more honest than everything that many other singers have so far displayed in their music. I truly think there's something special about him, and Powerslide is, along with probably all other tracks from his album, a true testament to his value as a musician. One of the strongest debuts in recent years and so important for both queer music and R&B/Pop in general.
But yeah, opinions are opinions, which is why these results are the way they are, but what goes way beyond opinions is the feeling you get when you play Powerslide or engage in some powersliding activity, the feeling I hope you too have when you this song takes you away during your walks or drives and make you casually dance just a little bit, like Ryan does in the beautiful music video. Jesus Christ he's perfect.
I could never give my eleven to another song, seeing that this one very much soundtracked my summer and all the loves and crushes and travels and rides. It'll always be special to me.
This is why I'm running this rate!
Our next cut is introduced by Geena Rocero a Filipina American trans rights activist who came out as trans in 2014 during her TED Talk for International Day of Transgender Visibility.
40. "There's a Honey"
By Pale Waves
Highest Scorers: 10 x 5 (@CorgiCorgiCorgi @slaybellz @Lost Boy @Hurricane Drunk @Music Is Life) 9.5 x 1 (@Posh Spears)
Lowest Scorers: 3 x 1 (@LE0Night) 4 x 1 (@Trouble in Paradise)
My Score: 4
Oh and you're not alright
'Cause I ruined your night
Well honey, that's what I'm good at
Finally, one of my absolute least favorite songs of the rate falls! Remember waaay back in the voting days how I talked about two songs being in close contention and one being one I loved and one being one I loathed? Well way back then, Perta and Pale Waves were actually neck in neck for a while. Unfortunately, taste failed and my beloved Perta bombed out at 59 while the incessant Pale Waves rocketed up to 40. Now that they finally leave us, I will do my best to give them a proper send off for the fans!
Let's start with who Pale Waves are: Heather Baron-Gracie, Ciara Doran, Hugo Silvani and Charlie Wood are all friends from Manchester who are making pop music with a goth aesthetic. They've been dogged for a bit by comparisons to the 1975, a band I've tried to listen to and failed multiple times. They're actually friends with the 1975 but Heather had this about comments about living in their shadow:
“Isn’t it the one where she’s like, ‘Oh, they find it hard to get out of The 1975’s shadow?’ Bitch. I was like, Fuck that, I’m not reading it. We’re not the little sisters of them. We’re just friends that are in bands.”
I really couldn't tell you how similar their sound is so I'll let you all squabble about that. Their origin is quite nice as Heather and Ciara became good friends and Ciara pushed Heather to share her music with a band. In their Fader interview, Heather explained how while it's amazing to be living her "11 year old dreams" she also has to deal with the other side of fame:
I started writing music because I didn’t want to be honest in conversation, but little did I know,” she says, laughing and gesturing toward the small device I’m using to record our conversation. “I’m not a very social person. Through college and high school I only connected with a handful of friends. I’d just go off and do my own thing, usually in the music room. I don’t like really busy social situations — it makes me really on edge.”
It's especially interesting to consider how she's dealt with this transition within the context of this rate. I mean the idea of being close to a handful of friends in high school and college sounds quite similar to my own experiences and I'm sure a lot of other queer people would relate to that. Her songs are quite personal and while I may not like "There's a Honey" it does tell quite an intimate story. So what has Heather had to say about her queerness in relation to her art? Let's take a read of NME's long read piece on the band:
They’re not the first or the last pop stars to liberate mainstream pop songs this year. Troye Sivan, Janelle Monae and Years & Years have all made inclusive, diverse bangers that change lives– and Pale Waves look poised to join them. “There are no pronouns in there, but some interviewers will just assume it’s about guys. Ciara is openly gay and I love whoever I love – I don’t put a term on my sexuality. I connect with whoever I connect with,” Heather says. “That expectation frustrates me because a lot of my songs are actually about girls. We’re willing to change that, and I think that’s what a lot of our young fans see in us.”
Man, heteronormativity is the worst.
Now what did you honey's have to say?
Untouchable Ace She's got this 90's aspect to her vocals
Ufint Lyrics hits a little close to home, but what a song. That chorus is awesome.
Untitled One of their weaker tracks. If you're gonna base a song on a repetitive hook you could at least make sure it's up to scratch. What a frustrating band!
Verandi I find Television Romance and Kiss much much superior, but this is still nice.
Slaybellz Another contender for my 11. The second I heard this song I became a stan instantly. I’m in love with this 80s influenced indie pop sound matched with emo lyrics. It’s a sound previously mastered by The 1975, although that added queer and female perspective makes me love Pale Waves considerably more.
Reboot I really like the production. I think I’d like the song more if her voice was less shrill.
Posh Spears What kind of adorable late summer evening jam?
Constantino So repetitive, Wolf Alice truly outsold.
Kalonite I'm sorry - this just fatigues me halfway through with the repetitiveness. It doesn't earn it, and I'm frustrated by the end.
Gimmework The production is giving me grandiose 80’s and I’m here for it.
The Hot Rock This really sounded like The 1975 which should've had this set as a low score. This was more tolerable than 90% of The 1975's stuff though, thankfully. Probably because there's no Matty.
Pop3blow2 This is pretty good. I feel like I should be into Pale Waves more, but it hasn’t happened yet. They check a lot of my boxes, though, so It might happen
Yuurei I feel bad rating them so average since they have other songs I really love (Eighteen and Heavenly are faves), I'm just not that fond of this one in particular. It's just okay.
Okay, I get it, I probably picked the wrong song of their's and they sound like the 1975...
Separate names with a comma.