-by Dylan D
I don’t think there’s any question that 2016 was a huge year for the music industry. Many beloved musicians who haven’t been seen in a while came out of hibernation and displayed new styles and even personalities; it’s the versatility that was so interesting. These are the five albums I just couldn’t keep out of my headphones this year.
5. Awaken My Love! – Childish Gambino
Truth be told, I’m not that huge of a Childish Gambino fan. When my friend told me that his newest and heavily awaited album departed from his past style of Hip Hop and Rap, I was interested. How do I describe “Awaken, My Love!”? Awaken is like a psychedelic funk album fused with soulful vibes.
The tracks can take to you to a peaceful place; or if you want you can just play them in background like I’m doing right now while writing this piece. Some of the sounds feel like sounds you’d hear in a 70’s or 80’s song and are pretty cool to hear. Gambinos new album wasn’t my favorite of 2016 but it was damn good. My only critique is his voice is almost always edited to a different pitch, it would be nice and less distracting to have him sing normally. Some great music on this album.
You’ll always be Troy Barnes to me Donald.
Favorite Track- Redbone
4. 4 Your Eyez Only – J Cole
Much like with Gambino, I’m not that big of a J Cole fan. But in order to prepare for Eyez, I listened to his previous work, 2014 Forest Hills Drive and I must say he has some good tracks under his belt.
4 Your Eyez Only started out as nothing special to me, but as I kept listening I kept hearing new things to enjoy. Cole has some interesting sounds here like pianos and violins mixed in with some good beats. But the real star of the show here is the lyrics.
Damn. Cole jumps from a variety of topics like the rapping world, his life and possible/probable(?) soon death. He talks of love and what the meaning of it is, consumerism and how the meaning of Christmas has been destroyed. Finally, the last track is for his daughter to listen to in the case of his death.
I’m not that huge into rap, I can only take so much talk of drugs and women, but I’ll make an exception for J Cole; 4 Your Eyez Only proved to me there’s more than meets the eye, or in this case, ears.
Favorite Track: She’s Mine Pt. 1 and 2
3. Starboy – The Weeknd
Obviously this would be here, my review of Starboy was the first article ever posted on PlayingWithThoughts. I won’t repeat myself so I’ll keep it brief. I guess for some weird reasons I want to dislike Starboy. The new hair, the new style and vibes of The Weeknd; it’s all so new. And I’m not afraid to call Abel a sellout either. Yet I’m still a fan of his; and I still like the sounds he’s created on Starboy.
Just like last year on Beauty Behind the Madness, The Weeknd had me absolutely addicted to some of the eardrum-pounding songs on this album. With Behind the Madness I listened to literally every song multiple times, with Starboy I listen to a majority. It’s a little less this time around, but the quality is still there. If you want my more in depth thoughts, check out my review.
Favorite Track: Party Monster
Blond – Frank Ocean
Not gonna lie, I wrote that bit on hibernation in the intro just for Frank. HE’S BACK!
Blond is not just an album, it’s an existential crisis. In fact, when I think of Blond I think of the good 20% of audio that’s not even conventional music, but conversations or just short and bizarre. I don’t know what the hell is going on in Franks life (who does?) but it all bubbled up into some of the deepest songs produced this year.
Frank covers themes of time and how it keeps on getting faster and slipping out of his hands. As always he speaks about nostalgia, being a kid. He covers the painful isolation he feels and how he cannot relate to his peers. He also speaks of one topic I don’t hear many musicians sing about: living an idea from another mans mind. The latter two topics really stuck with me and made me question love and my very self identity. Am I who I am because I want to be like this or other people shaped me as I grew up to be what they want? Don’t get me wrong, good entertainment doesn’t have to be so meaningful, but it’s so much more interesting when it leaves you with giant questions like that.
Frank has done it again; I personally can’t wait for his fourth studio album which is expected around 2023.
Favorite Tracks –
Pink and White (purely for the AMAZING sound)
Seigfried (for the meaning, listen to those lyrics!)
1. Coloring Book – Chance the Rapper
Chance is my newest favorite musician and I couldn’t have asked to get into his music at a better time. After being gone for three years I listened to all his music just a couple months before Coloring Book hit.
On 10 Days I listened to a whiny self-assured punk (no offense) sing of how he didn’t need school and being suspended would be to his benefit. Not only did I love the ‘F-ck you school’ lyrics but I absolutely adored most of the songs on the album for their sound.
On Acid Rap I listened to a now successful rapper who is doing collaborations with Childish Gambino and other big stars. He goes cray here, singing about drugs, drugs, success, and drugs. No but seriously Chance brings up serious topics like how his mother doesn’t look at him the same anymore due to his drug use. Damn.
And Finally on Coloring Book I listen to a man who’s grown up, who has a daughter now, who I’m assuming is cooling it with all the drugs. Like Frank, Chance speaks of time, but also of people changing and how many of his friends died due to street violence in Chicago. This album defined my summer and the freedom I felt after my first year of college.This album actually convinced the Grammys to allow free music to be eligible for an award! That’s impact. Every song on Coloring Book is jam packed with different vibes and I love each one. Chance has created a perfect trilogy and it only makes me wonder how he’ll continue.
Favorite Track: All Night (so short but phenomenal sound)
Here’s to more great music in 2017, thanks for reading!