Discussion in 'Charts, rates etc' started by Mr.Arroz, Sep 26, 2017.
Both flawless bops.
OUR FINAL TWO
WHO CAST THE PERFECT SPELL?
ON OUR LEFT...
Will it be Azealia, whose debut single blindsided the industry and built her a vast fanbase that still sustains her today, even without an album follow-up, three years after the fact?
AND, ON OUR RIGHT...
Or Kelela, who blazed into 2017 after a terrific mixtape, a brilliant EP, and years of anticipation, releasing one of the phreshest, tightly-composed debuts, with an iconic lead visual to match?
ONLY TIME WILL TELL.
Final result landing January 18th, 2018 @ 1PM EST.
Ctrl and Santigold write-up's tomorrow!
Dddd I’m a piece of shit. I’d say it’s been a pleasure to follow this from the sidelines but some of y’all even fucked that up.
These write-up's are making me mad emosh, y'all.
LMK is a smoke show, but 212 is the only winner for me.
Our final statistics for Santigold:
Highest average: 9.334 (@soratami)
Lowest average: 6.167 (@BML)
My average: 8.5
1. @soratami - 9.334
2. @constantino - 9.25
3. @ohnostalgia - 9.084
4. @Bangers&Bops - 9
5. @Jwentz - 8.917
1. @BML - 6.167
2. @theelusivechanteuse - 6.417
3. @kermit_the_frog - 6.75
4. @TRAVVV - 6.958
5. @Sanctuary - 7.125
Ah, Santi, Santi, Santi.
It seems like a million years that I’ve been lucky enough to have your work with me, that to get this chance to celebrate it with so many people on PJ that I admire wholeheartedly too feels unreal. I remember sitting back and half-assing my participation in rates in my near-decade on Popjustice, arbitrarily assigning scores without understanding the art and I suppose, the science involved with the entire process. I can say now as both a participant and now, host of albums that have each come to me in their own ways, in their unique times, that the effort and energy required to run a rate are not only monumental, but they are purely driven by the affection that I hold for the music that we’ve decided to explore a little more competitively as what can somehow be considered a team.
The weird thing is, I can’t pinpoint the exact moment that Santigold and her music came into my world, as my Last.fm only heads back to July 2008 - three months after her album debuted, which…I remember purchasing on CD as a broke first-year college student working in our school’s media library. And perhaps that’s why writing this post might get me a little more choked up than the others, simply because… Santi’s music has been there for me these last ten years, which again is crazy to say, as age slides up on you; never truly preparing you to be ready to so easily dig into your own decades of memory. I registered on Popjustice on March 18th, 2008, and just as much as this world has been part of who @Mr.Arroz is, Santigold has carried me through a lot of places, stilting me up in times of self-doubt, to remind me that you can be Black and weird, Latino and fluent, awkward and goofy, light as opposed to white. That.. you…can... be. Much of her music held the promise that you can be as you are, provided you find your path in doing so. Santigold thus holds a undeniable plot in my heart, because in traditional @Mr.Arroz fashion, her output has stung me in that specific part of my being, connecting deeply to the emotion that runs through so much of who I’ve built myself to be in the years since. I consider myself lucky to have received three records from her, as well as getting to see her live in April 2016, not too long after a car accident which gave me a bevy of reasons to believe that my life was probably over.
Santigold was born Santi White in 1976, in Philadelphia, and was first known as Santogold until 2009, when legal action led to a slight name change. Having debuted as a soloist in early 2007 after leaving her previous punk-rock band Stiffed, she eventually began uploading demos to Myspace; eventually signing to her own solo deal, and releasing an EP (“I Believe in Santogold”), which featured many of the tracks that would eventually make the album’s tracklist. A moderate, niche success (by April 2012 it had sold 225k stateside, peaking at #74 on the Billboard 200), Santogold (later renamed to Santigold, to match her name change) pushed away from some of the rather pointed expectations placed upon Santi’s head leading up to, and around her debut’s release: that she was the “American" M.I.A., that she was a “popstar”, and ultimately, that she thus strove to “save pop”, words and ideas that quickly dropped off by the time her second release would pop up - nearly four years after Santigold’s street date, in April 2012.
After a decent assortment of features, endorsements, and a variety of tour spots,
things suddenly went quiet for much of 2009, despite announcing that her work on album #2 would soon commence. Providing occasional songwriting work/vocal contributions to others (Ashlee Simpson, Christina Aguilera, Scissor Sisters, Kanye West, etc.), much in Santi-world went hush-hush, but when her sophomore record did appear, it quickly squashed for good that her intent in music was to become a chart/pop darling.
“Go”, featuring Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, was officially released on April 14, 2011, where Santi mentioned her second release was being held up by “red tape”, lamenting that her work was “[made] to be heard”. This red tape, however lasted still yet another year, as Master of My Make-Believe, didn’t drop until April 24th, 2012. Preceded by free download/buzz single “Big Mouth” in January, Master effectively (at least for me) recreated the magic of Santigold, this time with a further drive into pop melodies, experimentation with dance, and grander hints of reggae, as the album was partially recorded in Jamaica. But it was the way that Santi led the LP, with a song named “Disparate Youth”, that cemented in my mind that she could be a force even greater than that of her debut:
Released nearly two months before its parent album, “Disparate Youth” was a more finely defined push into rock elements, with one of her cleanest vocal lines up to that point, and both a haunting baseline and infectious production flourishes. I was enraptured. After all but giving up on Santi by early 2012, “Disparate Youth” showed that she was just as focused and able to recreate the magic behind “L.E.S. Artistes” - which is how “Disparate” made me feel. And as someone who was selling TV’s at Best Buy as his job after graduating college in 2011, it helped me become #1 salesman for months, as no one could resist buying a flatscreen without a bomb ass sound system after I showed them how good “Disparate Youth” sounded with it, only driving my margin-heavy sales tally higher with each passing shift. I lowkey hated that job, but being in home entertainment and getting to bop to Electra Heart too sure made it better. #lamememories
Master was almost as good to me then as Santigold is to me still now, even if I return to it a little less. It does house my all-time favorite Santi song “This Isn’t Our Parade”:
as well as “The Keepers”, the album’s second/final single
which got a dope remix from Duke Dumont, and iTunes-only bonus “Never Enough”, which is perhaps one of her poppiest releases, ever (seriously though, LISTEN TO IT). The record peaked much higher on the Billboard 200, at #21, leading to further features, soundtrack songs, and more touring gigs on her part, but, as was seen with Santigold… another wait would begin once more, this time slightly shorter than the last.
99¢ arrived in February 2016, led by “Can’t Get Enough of Myself (feat. B.C.) and “Who Be Lovin Me” with ILOVEMAKONNEN, which both dropped in late 2015:
Probably the least invested that I’ve ever been in a new long-form release from Santi, even from the jump, even to this day, I find very little to take from her third album, and rather unfortunately, the critics seemed to agree with me. A steady 77-74-71 slope defines her critical reception at Metacritic, showing a gradual decline in how her work has been received, mirroring in many ways how I feel, especially as the years have gone. Recreating, or at least evolving past the magic on Santigold nowadays feels like it might be impossible for Santi, at least in my eyes. I fortunately enough left 99¢ with “All I Got”:
one of my favorite-ever tracks from the artist herself, while also scoring tickets to see her in April 2016, (not long after the car accident) which reminded me of my love for music. These two things allowed me to kept some semblance of faith in her work, but I’d be a liar to deny just how disappointed I was in the album itself. Maybe time will reveal more; maybe I need to sit down and re-evaluate it, especially as my ears and desires are much different from the 19 year-old hearing her debut for the first time. I’m not sure.
Perhaps a little different than the other women here, my investment in Santi is ridiculously long, years longer even than for the woman that I care so much about next, Azealia, which makes my current stance even more bittersweet. I’ve become more reserved and maybe a little cynical in the years that I’ve accepted my adulthood, but also my mortality, shifting from wide, open eyes, to a view that tries to deftly foresee outcomes, hoping to minimize hurt and the weight of weariness. Is Santi like me, accepting a different tempo, a different POV to experiencing, and thus, sharing her world? Is there more than this? Or do we settle, learning to accept that our previous wishes are going to fall even further from grasp? Why do our thirties, and more so, our forties and beyond, all lie with the heft of social expectation, of social betrayal? Ddddd let me calm my own existential whispers for a moment: is this who Santi is? Who she’s always been? Is her ability to construct a narrative across an entire album gone… or did it ever exist? Sometimes her debut feels like lightning in bottle, and my most harrowing worry is that maybe it was once in a lifetime, and if so, that’s okay, I can accept that. But in the meantime, until I know for sure, it just sucks, at least for me, to see only morsels of brilliance pass by, especially after receiving an album which has been able to nourish almost indefinitely in the decade since it’s been served to us.
I guess I could say that I don’t know where I stand with Santi, but that would be rather untrue. I wish her the best, I want the best, and hopefully, if her pattern is to be considered as reliable as it has been in the past, then 2020 will hopefully give us a greater answer of the artist that I want her to become again - or - a confirmation of the artist that she’s been post-debut. Guess we’ll see. Until then, you catch occasional updates on her official Twitter, breaking her tradition of near radio silence between LP releases.
Whew, we stan talent!
Great write up!
I love Rendezvous Girl from her latest album. It always pumps me up.
That's two highest album averages so far. Guess I have a lot of love to give, especially when talent is concerned.
Then again those are two of my favourite albums ever, so it's not surprising.
Y'all want the other one
Our final statistics for Ctrl:
Highest average: 9.393 (@Solenciennes)
Lowest average: 5.821 (@A&E)
My average: 8.857
1. @Solenciennes - 9.393
2. @paperboyfriendd - 9.357
3. @R92 - 9.286
4. @Petty Mayonnaise - 9.036
5. @Vitamin - 9
1. @A&E - 5.821
2. @BML - 6.607
3. @KingBruno - 7.107
4. @Trouble in Paradise - 7.143
5. @kermit_the_frog - 7.286
I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t rocking much with Solána before Ctrl, besides a download of Z, and a good amount of plays of two of its tracks “Julia”, and “Shattered Ring”. I recommend those two like no other, especially if you’d like to dip a bit into the pre-Ctrl waters to see if anything is up your alley.
Me though, I’m gonna stick a little more purely to her debut in this write-up. SZA was born in Missouri in late 1990, before relocating to New Jersey, where she was raised. I’ll let Wikipedia do the heaving lifting here, as in SZA’s industry come-up, many of her claims have either been debunked, proven to be lies, or just have plain been backtracked on. Maybe this is linked to her anxiety and self-doubt that she’s much more open about now? Who knows? I just am aware that she’s been involved in plenty a mess in the past, and my biggest takeaway for it all has been to focus on the music until I know/learn more. That gives me a bit of peace.
In ways that contrast my unique investment in SZA from many of the other women here, bar perhaps Kelela as well, due to these two having just released their debut LP's, I don’t have elaborate attachment or history with SZA or Kelela’s past, as I didn’t experience either in real time. My ability to walk you all from then until now is thus limited, so I’ll call on those that know more to fill in blanks as they see fit. But despite these bumps in the road, both women are here today, and their work, which is just as high-tier as the rest, stands in high esteem, at least from me. So let’s kick this off right, aight?
2012, 2013, and 2014 each brought their own EP from Solána, who officially signed with Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) in mid-2013 - the label home of Kendrick Lamar, Isaiah Rashad, ScHoolboy Q, many of whom would later collaborate with SZA, both on their own projects, as well as on SZA’s too. During this period, SZA toured and wrote for other artists, slowly building a name for herself in circles traditionally composed of men, offering features to her peers, as well as collaboration with others, including Felix Snow, and Rihanna, on the opener to her 2016 LP, ANTI:
an album which served to paint Rihanna in depths previously unknown, but which also brought those three little letters in Solána’s stage name to a much wider, much more pop audience. The cumulative value of all of these opportunities was staggering: SZA gained critical praise and built hype behind both her name, but also for her long-promised album, which by late 2016 seemed to take a turn for the worse - potentially heading toward shelved status, surprisingly at the discretion (and clear frustration) of the artist herself:
Through what might be considered small miracles, though, late 2016/early 2017 unexpectedly brought snippets of “Love Galore” and performances of album tracks, before “Drew Barrymore”, its best-performing track here (and the album’s first official release), debuted at the top of year, followed just a few months later by the studio mix of “Love Galore”, with Travis Scott. This is approximately where my number of fucks steadily increased, with its lead single getting occasional plays, but also me checking out occasionally, waiting for an album release date like everyone else. Luckily for me, and for the rest of us too, we didn’t have much longer to wait.
Ctrl dropped on June 9th, 2017, after what seemed like years of waiting (and label hard-drive intervention!), seemingly changing so much of the rest of 2017, for me, and from what I can see, so many Popjustice users as well. I won’t kill y’all with @Mr.Arroz’s Ctrl Confessions part 857, but I will reiterate how this album nearly ripped my heart from my chest, having me look over, analyze, and assess how my own fears, anxieties, and self-esteem have been subject to the pressures of others, but also the pressure that I’ve assumed that others have exhibited over me in my past, and even in how I experience things as I am now. The strange thing about Ctrl is how soul-baring it is, which only furthers its ability to connect those that listen to its 14-track expanse. I can’t even begin to mention the amount of times that “Supermodel” has made me cry, even that first listen of the leak, lights out, under the covers, not ready to face another day of a new job, a new house, a new…everything. Something about the song just folded me back into myself, before allowing me to reflect on how much I had regained and kept for myself, especially since my move to the city, and experiencing a plethora of things that I wasn’t prepared for, but had to surmount regardless. I knew after that first play, and the many more that would soon follow, that Ctrl would become a very large part of my world. And I was right.
Ctrl debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200, before ending calendar year 2017 with a gold certification, one of only six new artists to achieve that feat in that year’s twelve months. SZA’s 2017 would then go on to continually blow the fucc up: in August, she embarked on Ctrl the Tour, to further promote her LP (which will conclude at the end of January 2018); she got her name further out in pop circles with a corny ass Maroon 5 single that I’ve probably heard 34 seconds of; toured briefly with Bryson Tiller (who I do NOT phuck wit either); popped up on a remix of Lorde’s "Homemade Dynamite"; and had her music feature in pivotal moments of Insecure, one of the up-and-coming Black-led TV shows on pay TV, focusing on the life of a character who could very well sing many of the songs and themes present on Ctrl itself. One such track featured was the non-album track, “Quicksand”, which was officially released to the show’s season two soundtrack in late 2017:
But even greater, was November 28th, 2017, when SZA garnered five 2018 Grammy nominations:
Best New Artist
Best R&B Performance - "The Weekend"
Best R&B Song - "Supermodel"
Best Urban Contemporary Album - Ctrl
Best Rap/Sung Performance - "Love Galore"
which led to an outpouring of gratitude and humility from the artist herself:
Which dddddd, made me made emotional and gave more gravity to how I’ve been able to experience and absorb all that SZA’s offered us since her debut has dropped. As I’d earlier mentioned, it took me time to embrace the narrative of Ctrl in conjunction with the bits and pieces of her media past, but even though I still lack what might be considered concrete “answers”… I realize now, that I don’t... really need them. Her album, the way it’s been received, but also, the way that she herself has responded to her success, has almost explained the flip-flopping, the pressure to be seen as “cool”, to fit in, to be something - because in ways, she too has seen the worth of her being as its own being, of its own. As funny as it may sound or seem, that moment does indeed come for all of us, and SZA is a prime example in illustrating how it’s not always at 18, leaving high school, or at 21/22, leaving college; those traditional-ized moments of watershed significance. Our moments, our own self-realization, our own self-comfort, rest somewhere in the distance, ready for our vision to clear itself enough for us to fully engage its power. I think the greatest thing in watching SZA’s journey this last year has been witnessing someone come so fully into themselves, that you, as a listener, as a spectator, almost walk away feeling like that your story could mirror hers. And that’s the integral part of Ctrl, that our relationship with “control”, and understanding/peace with it, is what will truly bring us something close to comfort in this life, as SZA explained the album title and overarching to be, in an interview with Pitchfork.
SZA left 2017 as a winner, and has hit the ground running in 2018, starting with a contribution to the OST of Black Panther (one of the year’s most anticipated films, featuring an all-Black cast) alongside Kendrick Lamar, who will be curating the film's soundtrack himself:
The 60th Annual Grammy Awards will air January 28th, 2018, on American channel CBS, where you can see how Solána will fare, and a deluxe edition of Ctrl (affectionately called Alt) is said to be on the horizon, too. In any case, I have nothing but the brightest of hopes for the coming year for SZA. Just like the other women presented here in the rate, she deserves the world and back. And more.
See you guys tomorrow.
I have played CTRL a total of 864 times, which averages to around 62 plays per track.
It is a stunning piece of art which completely encapsulates and distills all the joys, fears and confusion which I, and presumably many others like me, are currently experiencing into a handy 50 minute package. And so for me, this album is pure catharsis. I haven't come across an album with as much personality and emotional honesty packed into it as much as this one has in a long time, and I don't think I'll find one like it in the near future.
Anyway, I'm glad Ms SZA held on for as long as she did and now I'm happy for Kelela to swoop in and snatch that number one spot with that bop of a century she released in August of last year.
CTRL is just such an enjoyable album for me, I've not tired of it yet. There are so many lyrical triumphs, the music is slick and SZA shines.
Backing Azealia to snatch the win but great top two.
@BML sis, no shade.. but do you like anyone involved in this rate? You've been one of the lowest scorers for every album that's left so far ddd.
For anyone seeking pre-Ctrl SZA, I strongly recommend Teen Spirit.
It may still be my favourite track from her...
SZA's statuses after her Grammy noms will always make me feel emotional.
I admire all of the ladies featured here and I'm pretty sure each album got at least one 10 from me (except solo Dawn)! I'm just more realistic in my voting and use the entire 0-11 spectrum. Take Me Apart and Broke With Expensive Taste were easily my favorites here though (the latter being one of my most played albums ever) so I wouldn't be surprised to my name among the top scorers for those.
To add, the repetition of certain names in "Top Scorers" made me wonder whether they had solely given out 8-10s across the board.
In which case, why bother with the current rate format. Maybe we could all do "Thumbs Up" or "Thumbs Down".
I think that the averages for the rate speak VOLUMES about the quality on display (nobody tanked anything?)
Separate names with a comma.