At Slate’s Annual Music Club, Slate reviewer Carl Wilson writes emails about the year in music alongside other reviewers – with Lindsay Zoladz, New York Times contributor, freelance writer Briana Younger, the reviewer. musical NPR Ann Powers, Glitter in the dark author Sasha Geffen, Pitchfork editor Jenn Pelly, WXNP Nashville Jewly Hight editorial director, Penguin Books author Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, critic Steacy Easton, Slate pop culture critic Jack Hamilton and Chris Molanphy, host of Slate’s Hit parade.
Yo no tengo miedo,
Jenn, I love what you have written about music and how it can foster community even when we are not physically close to each other, and especially in the midst of the various social and political upheavals of the genre that we have. had over the past two years. This year, I’m still barely out; Even as vaccines were no longer available in New York City and neighborhoods began to show signs of nightlife again, emerging from the mental cocoon of isolation felt Herculean in reach. Instead, I clung to headphone music that seemed to be uttered in sentences, as if to replace conversations I was missing: songs that distilled the experiences on our screens and in our heads, Insta’s microclubs. Live and quasi-social FaceTimes. in isolation. I particularly relied on young women like Olivia Rodrigo, PinkPantheress, HAWA and Self Esteem – their interiority was so specific, listening to it was like camping in their heads. They include a micro-generation of Billie Eilish sidekicks, some even younger than the savvy 20-year-old superstar.
For part of the year, I felt an unusual disinterest in cinematic bombast. Watching out of my apartment after the vaccination was gum activity, a necessary caution to re-acclimatize. Who in 2021 attended a social gathering for the first time in months and does not have feel disoriented, or that they had lost their capacity for witticisms, intimidated by the sight of full bodied flesh-and-blood friends as opposed to Max Headroom busts chirping on a Zoom screen?
Not me, that’s for sure. I stumbled upon the awkwardness and felt spiritually seen by the denominational music which could translate legibly on my small screen, scrolling TikTok until my thumb aches and trying to remember the last time I did. felt something as intensely as Olivia Rodrigo seems to do. Trying not to disassociate myself, I gorged myself on the chatty chamber club of PinkPantheress, a 20-year-old from Bath who hooks up diaristic storytelling in the British garage and drum and bass gestures. Listening to her, I imagined her wandering through a warehouse rave around the year 2000, as her words appear through a thought bubble. Her observations, about her own melancholy, relationships, and disaffection, were pithy and thoughtful, sung conversationally in a high cadence that avoided harsh vibrato. The breakups turned into mundane tragedies in group chat lingo, even if she wasn’t in such a rush, as on the heartbreaking opening line of “All My Friends Know”: “Did you ever want to of me ? / No worries otherwise. “Of course, this appealed to a British dance music stan who, during the pandemic, reached an age that could be described as ‘middle’; PinkPantheress was also grappling with the emotional uproar of a new phase of life. , measuring the young adult’s outlines against genres and song samples – “Flowers” by Sweet Female Attitude, “Gypsy Woman” by Crystal Waters – she was not yet born to.
After accepting the fact that I had become grayer since March 2020, older but also more tired of an oppressive day job and pointing out the disheartening fate of the news in the second, I left this shit and moved my fire. Bad Bunny, the biggest star in the universe when it comes to my WhatsApp chats and myself, debuted both as a professional wrestler and as a flossy cartel flack on Narcos: Mexico and dropped “Volví” with the megaliths of the American Dominican bachata Aventura, a slightly dirty number that looked like a passing of the torch, with Romeo Santos’ croon gossamer acknowledging Conejo’s level and relevance to the world. My friends and I edited it up and texted it, practically swooning from a video that reminded us that pop can still pump out mind-blowing moments – and, with its reggaeton / bachata mutuality, mixed music – to bond over and over again. group, even in our disconnection.
Bad Bunny is an artist who can cross genres with as much agility as any pop star. And I really enjoyed the discussion here about the genre, especially how industry terms have limited musicians primarily based on race, and its usefulness or lack of it as a designation. This has been a huge topic of discourse in Latin music for years, especially after the brilliant historians and journalists Katelina “Gata” Eccleston and Jenny Mota launched “el movimiento” to supplant the racial term “urbano” for music like reggaetón and dembow. music invented and produced largely by Afro-Latinx artists. As these genres become more and more consumed (and sanitized) by the general Anglo public, this continues to be a subject of conversation and derision; just last week a pianist by the name of James Rhodes tried to hit reggaeton. (Gata summed it up perfectly in a guest column for the LA Times’ crucial Latinx Files newsletter: “Put simply, perreo’s intentional composition is the continuation of a legacy that aims to maintain and inspire a private people. of its rights. ”) And yet this year has seen one of perreo’s greatest triumphs to date: a full house at Madison Square Garden for El Alfa, el jefe of the Dominican dembow, long one of the most popular genres. most alive and exciting on the planet, and whose specificity – language, spirit, rhythm – is crucial for its ingenuity.
That’s all to say, I am of the opinion that the complete elimination of the genre can lead to erasure, especially when the genre in question is self-designated and is born out of specific cultural and political influences. I feel it especially at a time when English speakers are working hard to make “Latinx” another political flashpoint, a whistling term in the genre (ha) of “critical race theory”, which means little but represents one. extreme right-wing resistance to racial and cultural difference. What this really symbolizes to me, unequivocally, is the continued politicization of “Latinos” in the United States among the Anglo expert class, without a genuine interest in understanding the diversity within our communities – “latinidad” is also a contested term. ; we are not a monolith, as well as a widespread contempt for queer people both inside and outside of Latinx cultures. To zoom in on that, react to Lil Nas X’s single “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)”, which sparked its own pearl wave in the form of his weird sexuality and flickering profanity – not just law. religious, but also among other rappers, some of whom can’t let Lil Nas X breathe without tweeting something homophobic. (After which he completely smokes them on social media; you can’t beat Nas at his own game.)
Carl, you mentioned Meg’s “Thot Shit” video, which provided its own response to last year’s conservative response to “WAP”, brutally usurping the classically boring mix of evangelical bustle and compulsive titillation. On a related note, there’s a salient passage from Jeremy O. Harris’s interview on GQ with Lil Nas X from November that still makes my brain vibrate, pointing out that the call is also coming from within. of the House :
I think you’re really one of the hypermasculine breakdowns that’s been happening in hip-hop recently.
I think it is certainly true. I’m not gonna lie, I feel bad for DaBaby. I hope he will come out of it. I hope he is able to. But I do not know. The whole landscape is very hypermasculine. It’s so awesome and so amazing that all of these female rappers perceive. And, in a way, female rappers are the greatest rappers around.
This is another reason why male performers go crazy and feel broken, isn’t it? For the first time, there isn’t just one Lil ‘Kim. There are seven Lil ‘Kim’s and one Missy Elliott. They can’t keep up. Because neither of them is Jay-Z or Kanye, and they all know it.
That the queering of mainstream rap has paralleled the domination of women in the genre is no coincidence. It’s not just because artists like Nas, Meg and Cardi are the most talented and charismatic stars, but because everything is starting to open up, in part because the critics, people in the industry and most of all young people on the Internet have these kinds of difficult conversations. and advance culture. So even though I shut myself down this year – to no avail, as I type this with a nasty fit of Covid fatigue – there was still something close to the community about the music, and that’s all that I could hope.
If you wanna run over a dude named Scott, go get shot,
The 21 songs I listened to the most in 2021, in rough order of obsession:
HAWA – “Wake up”
Kamo Mphela – “Nkulunkulu”
Bree Runway – “Hot Hot”
Ty Dolla $ ign ft. Bryson Tiller, Jhené Aiko and Moutarde – “By yourself”
Bad Bunny x Aventura – “Volví”
Megan Thee Stallion – “Thot Shit”
Anz f. George Riley – “You Could Be”
Tokischa, Haraka Kiko, El Cherry Scom – “Tukuntazo”
Meenoi – “Salang Salang”
Amber Mark, “Worth It”
Doja Cat ft. SZA – “Kiss Me More”
Jarina from Marco ft. Empress of – “Vacío”
PinkPantheress – “Get Out”
Bomba Estéréo – “Tamborero”
Kali Uchis ft. SZA – “Fue Mejor”
Cassper Nyovest ft. Abidola and Boohle – “Siyathandana”
Katy B – “Under my skin”
Tierra Whack – “Walk the Beat”
Burna Boy – “Kilometer”
Thuy – “In my bag”
El Alfa ft. Farruko, – “Curazao”
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