CURRENT: Beyoncé – “Sorry”

Beyoncé’s new album is great. I wrote about Lemonade yesterday, but today I wanted to highlight the song that has sunk in as my personal favorite from the album. The emotional title card to “Sorry” is Apathy, and the song is Beyoncé at her most dismissive since B’Day‘s smash single “Irreplaceable.” “Middle fingers up, put them hands high / Wave it in his face, tell him, ‘boy, bye,'” she sings as she takes a night off to give no fucks, to – if I may paraphrase an old hit of hers – live as if she were a boy. While the anger she releases on the preceding “Don’t Hurt Yourself” is extremely vital, the cool, casual tone she uses in “Sorry” is more devastating. She begins the third verse with the venom-injecting “looking at my watch, he shoulda been home / today I regret the night I put that ring on / he always got them fucking excuses,” and later, and perhaps even more painfully, singing, “me and my baby, we gon’ be alright / we gon’ live a good life / Big homie better grow up.” Even as she puts Jay Z on blast, she admits that “I ain’t sorry.” She doesn’t need to make any apologies. The world revolves around her.

Lemonade is available now on iTunes.

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REFLEX RESPONSE: Beyoncé – LEMONADE

If Beyoncé felt like a career defining peak for Beyoncé Knowles Carter, then Lemonade is the artist’s bronze statue, memorializing her career amongst the greatest in modern pop. While that sounds grossly hyperbolic, I’m hard pressed to think of another artist capable of creating such a complete visual and audible project, one that plays to an emotionally convincing arc filled with compelling musical moments.

During the course of Lemonade, the seemingly random title is given a loaded meaning. Near the end of the HBO-premiered visual album, Beyoncé draws a connection from her grandmother’s simple, everlasting lemonade recipe to her own perseverance, a literal manifestation of the saying “if life gives you lemons…” On Lemonade, the “lemons” appear to be the betrayals of the men closest to her, from her father’s publicized split from her mother to the rumored infidelity of Jay Z that appears to be confirmed on the blistering “Don’t Hurt Yourself” as well as the casual “Sorry.” Whatever the true inspiration for Lemonade was, it led to Beyoncé finding her strongest voice yet, an already powerful force becoming even more authoritative.

There’s perhaps no example better to showcase that than “Hold Up,” featuring a murderer’s row of songwriters, producers, and interpolations. Emile Haynie (Lana Del Rey, Bruno Mars), Ezra Koenig (Vampire Weekend), Diplo (Major Lazer), and Father John Misty all receive writing credits, while the song graciously plucks the “wait, they don’t love you like I love you” part of Yeah Yeah Yeah’s seminal “Maps” for the chorus, and Bey riffs on Soulja Boy at the close. I never knew how great it would be to hear Yoncé sing “hop out the bed, turn my swag on / Look in the mirror, say what up.”

Elsewhere, Beyoncé takes moments that should be grating left turns and makes them feel like natural transitions. Following the Weeknd-assisted “6 Inch,” which finds Abel Tesfaye doing a serviceable job in hitting all the checkmarks of a Weeknd song, comes the country-tinged “Daddy Lessons.” Those two songs shouldn’t work being sequenced next to each other, but as “6 Inch” closes, Beyoncé achingly sings “come back to me” before repeatedly singing “come back” in falsetto. Considering “Daddy Lessons” directly follows this somber moment, with a much more upbeat disposition, Beyoncé is able to subtly push the narrative and emotional arc of Lemonade forward.

By the time we get to “Freedom,” her collaboration with Kendrick Lamar, the album is in need of a jolt of energy. “Love Drought” is a downtempo, wispy R&B cut, while “Sandcastles” and the James Blake-featured “Forward” are both piano based ballads that field perhaps the two most affecting vocal performances on Lemonade. Those three slower tracks makes “Freedom” feel like a cathartic release of all the emotions that shape the visuals for the album. She’s giving up on denial, on grief, on anger and apathy. She’s left with herself, and her own perseverance. “Imma keep running cause women don’t quit on themselves,” she sings on “Freedom,” before the triumphant horns of OutKast’s “Spottieottiedopaliscious” closes the album on “All Night.” The journey Beyoncé goes on in Lemonade is not a new one; Beyoncé herself makes it known via the album’s breathtaking visuals that this story is many women’s story. The only thing unique about it is the way it’s told. Lemonade is Beyoncé’s most candid, open album to date. It’s also her best, breaking down and adding to her legend.

Stream/watch Lemonade exclusively on TIDAL.

CURRENT: Flume – “Say It” [ft. Tove Lo]

In a short amount of time, Tove Lo has built an impressive resumé for herself – and in the process, she’s become of the strongest voices in commercial pop radio. Just last month, she outshone Nick Jonas on “Close,” the first single from his forthcoming set. With Flume’s Skin set for release soon, he’s unleashed a Tove Lo collaboration of his own, “Say It.” The song centers around Tove Lo’s unobstructed, unwavering vocal performance as she delivers another masterful, layered hook. Flume’s production is as pristine and clinical as the best Flume productions, one that grants his guest the ability to shine in a new light. While it’s not particularly innovative or daring, “Say It” has a crucial quality to it that gives the song a pulse; there’s a heart at the center of the track, thanks to the shared singular vision between the two artists. It all feels natural.

Skin is out May 27 via Mom+Pop/Future Classic/Transgressive

R.I.P. Prince (1958-2016)

Growing up, I wasn’t the biggest Prince fan. My first memories of Prince were of him being better known as “the artist formerly known as Prince.” That alone positioned his impressive 1980s catalogue – which, while I loved his big hits, I never dove into a full album, partly knowing doing so would take a lot from me – as a relic of a past Era. I sat amazed at his superfluous body of work, but was never fully engaged. That being said, in the days since his death ripped a hole in the public discourse, while listening to his body of work, it’s impossible not to be moved by his nonchalant ability to conquer each and every genre he pursued. He was a musician, a pop star, a symbol. There was nothing quite like a Prince composition. Equal parts sincere and dramatic, Prince had the ability to expose his soul in ways that would make the most expressive artist green with envy. In the midst of all, it never seemed like a contest for Prince. As much as he pushed his own boundaries, he appeared most excited in pushing the boundaries of artists that would push his narrative forward. The losses that affect us most are the ones that leave the biggest gaps in our histories and lives. Prince is one of those losses. He gave us so much, of his artistry, of his personality, of his warmth. In return, we gave him our ears, our hearts, our minds and our souls. He was a darling one. And even though he’s gone, he’ll never be missed. Prince will always be with us. I can’t think of a greater consolation prize.

Thank you for everything,

EKS

CURRENT: Car Seat Headrest – “Fill In The Blank”

There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding Car Seat Headrest’s forthcoming Teens Of Denial, and on album opener “Fill In The Blank” that buzz is blown out of the water. It honestly reminds me of so many of my favorite bands during the beginning of their own careers. The energy is palpable – from the adrenaline-fueled sonics to Will Toledo’s clever, singular lyrics. When someone asks you “what’s so good about Car Seat Headrest,” the answer is easy. Fill in the blank.

CURRENT: Carlson – “Purgatory” [ft. Autre Ne Veut]

After working on albums from St. Vincent, Oneohtrix Point Never, Peaking Lights, Ford & Lopatin, Zola Jesus, Wild Nothing, Woods, Lady Gaga and Tamaryn, Brooklyn-based producer-engineer Carlson is set to release his own Going South on June 10 via Driftless. Today, he unveiled the album’s lead single “Purgatory,” featuring previous collaborator Autre Ne Veut. The two worked on Autre Ne Veut’s excellent 2013 album Anxiety, and are able to find similar ground on this fantastic new single. The production is all wheels in motion, with jazz flourishes and droning synths snuffed out by the skittering percussion and Arthur Ashin’s trademark emotionally bare vocals. “Purgatory” isn’t just an abstract concept, it’s now a real place; and as constructed by Carlson and Ashin, it’s not a place I’d soon want to visit.

BEST OF… MARCH 2016

MARCH 2016 – SONGS

10. Whitney, “Golden Days”

9. Ariana Grande, “Dangerous Woman”

8. Empress Of, “Woman Is a Word”

7. Kristin Kontrol, “X-Communicate”

6. dvsn, “Try/Effortless”

5. Kendrick Lamar, “untitled 05 | 09.21.2014.”

4. Kamaiyah, “Niggas”

3. Young Thug, “Drippin’”

2. ANOHNI, “Drone Bomb Me”

1. Mistki, “Your Best American Girl”

MARCH 2016 – ALBUMS/EPS

5. Anna Meredith, Varmints

4. dvsn, SEPT. 5TH

3. Young Thug, Slime Season 3

2. Kendrick Lamar, untitled unmastered.

1.Kamaiyah, A Good Night In The Ghetto