The Monthly Music Mix: August
By Drew Renner
The summer is at an end and although that means it will be cold soon, we sure are going out of season in a blaze of glory. For the last few months I’ve mentioned just how stacked this month was going to be, and it turns out that just about everyone delivered the high quality music that I was expecting. Some actually even blew past those expectations to deliver arguably the greatest work of their entire careers. And once you move past all the quality tunes, we finally have some change in the billboard charts to talk about as well. So that means I don’t have to talk about aliens (this kinda burned out on its own anyways), politics (could have made an entire column of Greenland jokes), sports , movies, anything other than music because that is all anybody cares about right now.
The King is Dead! Long live the Queen(s). Yes, after an absurd, record-breaking 19 weeks at #1 for Old Town Road, Lil Nas X finally lost his crown. Billie Eilish swooped in and avoided making history herself with bad guy, as she was very close to having the all-time most weeks at #2. Nobody wants that record, if you’re not first you’re last. So congrats to Billie on achieving her first ever hot 100 #1, I’m sure there will be a lot more on the horizon. Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes also swooped in at the end of the month to snag #1 with Senorita, her second and his first. So even though these songs are pretty old themselves, it was very nice to see some fresh faces atop the charts.
Over on the album side, Taylor slaughtered the competition by becoming the highest selling album of 2019 in just two days. Reputation was the last album to sell over a million in a week, though Swift had purposefully withheld it from streaming services for its first few weeks, so you had to buy it if you couldn’t wait. Lover went right to streaming and is still posting equivalently mammoth numbers(~875k), which we didn’t even think was possible.
Slipknot also had a very impressive debut with We Are Not Your Kind. The numbers look low next to Taylor, but 160k units is nothing to turn away from. It’s basically the same amount that Ed Sheeran debuted with a few weeks ago. And it’s just so funny to see them slipped in between Drake and Young Thug on the weekly #1 charts, as if nothing is off about that at all. Though both Rihanna and Justin Beiber have claimed Slipknot as their favorite band, so maybe they do have this underground following in the pop and hip-hop worlds. This is also the first hard-rock album to debut at #1 since Brand New’s Science Fiction in 2017, and if they’re not hard enough for ya then you have to go all the way back to fall 2016 with Metallica’s Hardwired … To Self Destruct.
A major upset took place too, as last year’s #3 song of the month winner NF defeated last month’s #3 album Chance the Rapper. Now The Big Day has had its fair share of critique (I liked it!) but that album came into the world on a tidal wave of hype and everybody was expecting it to be one of the biggest debuts of the year. It ended posting a week of just over 100k units, which on an off week would be good enough for #1 but NF trounced it with 140k units for The Search. That has to be the biggest victory for a white rapper since the end of 8 Mile.
Album of the month:
Lover by Taylor Swift
Well the old Taylor is back and answered the call in spectacular fashion. The two lead singles Me! and You Need to Calm Down signaled another big sound change for her, though they had most of us believing it would be for the worst. A very pleasant surprise – those two are the weakest on the album and everything else is freaking great. We’ve never had a ‘fully confident in her romantic life’ Taylor Swift, and it plays as a very balanced mix of her life. Not everything is perfect, but she doesn’t need to write revenge songs or feud with rappers or wax infatuation for somebody who doesn’t appreciate her. She is fully confident, but also realistic, and because of this has become as strong of an artist as anyone.
Standout song – Cruel Summer
Runner-up #1: We Are Not Your Kind by Slipknot
Slipknot heralded their return late last year with the release of All Out Life, a powerhouse of a song that challenged the music industry, but more importantly showed that the band had a lot more to offer it. Then they announced that, despite being one of their very best, AOL would not even be on the album. Weird huh? Well it turns out they didn’t even need it. Corey Taylor and the rest of these masked maniacs knew they had a winner on their hands, over an hour of killer songs. It goes beyond just nostalgia for them returning to their old sound, it sounds like they’ve finally mastered it. They’ve always been famous for the chaos they bring, but a controlled chaos is something new, a paradox that is sitting before our ears.
Standout song – Birth Of The Cruel
Runner-up #2: Fear Inoculum by Tool
Maynard James Keenan claimed it would take some time to fully digest the new Tool album. He was proven correct almost immediately – the album is very long, clocking in at just under an hour and thirty minutes. Could it have been much shorter? Yes. Are every one of the six real songs great? Also yes. Are they hypnotic and bend your mind? Sey. So it will actually take some time to figure how these behemoths stack up with the oldies. Lyrically, Tool are looking at themselves are veteran warriors who have been summoned back into battle by the various unpleasantries in the world. I’m not a fan of anything unpleasant, but am so very glad they got the motivation to work again, cause any new Tool music is priceless from here on out.
Standout song – 7empest
A Distant Call by Sheer Mag
Sheer Mag shocked the world two years ago when they released their debut record Need To Feel Your Love, a critical smash and my personal album of the year winner in 2017. It was a modern take on a 70s classic rock sound, mixed in with some of the funk sounds of that era. On A Distant Call, they drop the earth and the wind but keep the fire, focusing on just the jailhouse rock they are most known for. That was a little disappointing for me, whose favorite song was the very groovy title-track, but the good news is that every tune on here is still very strong.
Standout song – Hardly To Blame
Song of the month:
I don’t like going outside, so bring me everything here
People by The 1975
The 1975, who just a year ago claimed they didn’t want anything to do with rock music, return with a straight up punk rock song, and possibly the best one of those this year. I guess they changed their mind. Though if you’re going to get political then punk is definitely the genre to do it in. I really wasn’t even a fan of them before the last album, which had several high quality tracks, but I really love when bands do this type of thing. An entire discography of similar sounding songs is boring. The 1975 obviously agree and thus added this shredder, which I assume will also intensify their live shows immensely.
Runner-up #1: I’ll Be Back Someday by Tegan and Sara
Tegan and Sara must have heard me talking about them last month and said ‘oh you think we’re only synthy pop now? Well take this!” Happily taken, ladies. Don’t get me wrong, the post-Drive album Hearthrob is still my favorite from them, but it’s really nice to hear them doing indie-punk type music again.
Cause my car in your drive is way too obvious
Runner-up #2: Hush Hush by The Band CAMINO
Last month’s song winners almost do it again as they released their eight-track album tryhard. They probably belong in the album of the month section for having this and Daphne Blue in the same place, but the schedule just didn’t work out for them. Hush Hush doesn’t have the power that DB had, but it is a really fun pop-rock song that you could hear at some party with an 80s cover band and not think anything was unusual.
Runner-up #3: The One by Marika Hackman
This album is also really good and probably would have made the top 3 in a normal, not-super packed month. This track is a bit humorous, as she takes her insecurities about her thus-far only modest success in the industry and amplifies them by as much as she needs to. ‘I fucked it up with the saddest songs’ is sung alongside ‘rub me till my ego is raw.” It’s definitely a first-world problem, but hey we can all relate, and what’s the point of being an entertainer if you don’t want to maximize your audience?
Also must give shout outs to Ride, Ty Segall and The Regrettes who all put out very good albums, but got shut out due to the abundance of greatness throughout the month.