This week has been a very loaded and busy one for music fans around the globe, as a plethora of big-name artists have released singles for upcoming albums or just outright pushed entire playlists.
Before getting into the big news though, I’m engaging in a bit of housekeeping.
Lorde continues to gradually release new singles from the upcoming album Melodrama, recently being the musical guest on Saturday Night Live, and performed her latest single “Liability,” which was received to rave reviews.
If “Green Light” signaled a new, more optimistic direction for Lorde’s music, “Liabilities” serves as a return to Lorde’s prior work, which focuses on her more somber and reflective tendencies.
Lorde has kept the rest of her album close to the vest, as the album has been confirmed for a June 16 release, but it should be fun to watch the album roll out.
Speaking of album roll-out, British post-pop band Gorillaz continues its epic marketing campaign ahead of the release of Humanz, the band’s first effort since Plastic Beach nearly six years ago.
What originally started as whimsical Instagram stories centered around the band’s main four members and character-inspired SoundCloud playlists has now turned into a razor-sharp and efficient rollout of single releases over Thursday and Friday.
“Hallelujah Money” featuring British beat poet Benjamin Clementine was released on Jan. 20 and offered a very somber political message, but so far, the rest of the singles indicate that single is more of a one-off.
The leaked album track list is quite a doozy, with features from icons such as De La Soul, Grace Jones, Mavis Staples and Pusha T, as well as some emerging names in music such as Popcaans, Jehnny Beth and D.R.A.M.
On Thursday evening, Gorillaz released four new “art videos” as part of a guerilla marketing campaign that is rumored to culminate in a full-album performance in London on Friday. (A full playlist is below.)
Humanz looks to be an epic in the truest sense of the word. For starters, the album tracklist is 14 tracks long for the regular version and 19 for the deluxe version. It also appears to follow a storyline of some sort from what the videos suggest.
Gorillaz certainly departs quite a bit from the sound they’re famous for in this effort. Songs such as “19-2000”, “Clint Eastwood” and “Feel-Good, Inc.” will have a tough time matching up to the sonically-crisp and complex, layered sounds expressed in this particular playlist.
If the first four tracks plus “Hallelujah Money” are any indication, Humanz could be one of the most ambitious and wide-ranging projects of the decade.
Gorillaz aren’t the only artist to drop a playlist seemingly overnight.
Canadian rapper and cultural mogul (or vulture, depending on who you ask) Drake released what is described as a “playlist” curated by October Firm. More Life was an album that had a little bit of pre-release hype but was otherwise a surprise for most music fans.
Drake needed to come out swinging after the critical flop that was Views, and this 22-track “playlist” rocks a lot of beats that take influence from the sounds of the London and Kingston rap scenes, while also managing to blend his unique sound with popular American aural trends, including the re-emergence of trap.
It’s a heavily star-ladden production meant for lots of immediate plays and there is no denying that Drake, while polarizing, manages to attract the biggest names in music today. Kanye West, 2 Chainz, Young Thug, Quavo (of Migos fame), Giggs and PARTYNEXTDOOR all make appearances on More Life.
More Life is an ambitious departure from a lot of what has been featured on Drake’s previous albums. For one, the decision to construct More Life as a playlist instead of a traditional album gives Drake more room to be artistically creative and it shows. The albums tracks all blend nicely into one another as a continuous track, yet have unique characteristics that set them apart as singles.
That’s hard to do and whether you like him or not, Drake has definitely put himself back in the driver’s seat in terms of being in the conversation for top artist after a tough few months that saw Drake go through a PR ringer as Remy Ma and other rappers in the game mocked Drake and company as cultural appropriators and lack of original lyrical talent.
One of those who has been vocal about Drake’s ghostwriting and mock persona has been one Kendrick Lamar, who has been one of rap’s most inventive and talented masters of the last decade.
Normally one who doesn’t make a lot of publicity regarding new music (or really, in general), Kendrick released “True Heart, Part IV” with no warning on Thursday night announcing he was about to drop a new album on April 7.
The memes were aplenty on Twitter, and there was plenty to digest from “The Heart: Part IV,” a reference to an ongoing series of tracks that anticipate album releases.
It’s rather immediately clear that this is a diss track, with both direct and indirect references to Drake and Big Sean for comments they made about Kendrick Lamar or about themselves. Yet, those aren’t his only targets. He also attacks American politics, Russian influence in the 2016 election and cultural appropriation during the course of the track with his trademark precision.
What’s perhaps most impressive is that Kendrick made a reference to Drake’s “Top 2” line from More Life, suggesting that this track was made after the release of said album. The track also exhibits features of Drake’s and Big Sean’s music, using them as a sort of leitmotif.
It’s a bold statement, and all eyes will be on the April 7 release (and also any potential releases by the industry before then.)