The Monthly Music Mix: Grammuary
By Drew Renner
I was going to do a full article for the grammy’s recap, but there’s no longer any need. The entire night was overshadowed by real world events, such as Kobe Bryant’s tragic death, the President being impeached, the escalating conflict with Iran, a new plague in China and of course the WWE Royal Rumble (grats to those who won) There were a lot of really long performances, most of which contained high-grade spectacle that would be better suited for the VMAs, but Tyler the Creator being surrounded by fire was pretty cool, as was the real Nas coming out during Lil Nas X’s performance. I’m weird I guess since I’m more into the awards themselves then these “once in a lifetime” performances they dream up (and I definitely haven’t seen Run DMC crash an Aerosmith performance a hundred times before.) And there .. wasn’t much of those on the actual broadcast. Let’s recap what they actually showed on television.
Every Award – Billie Eilish
And that was that. Sweeping the four main categories has only happened once before (though to be fair, you can only win New Artist the one time so that severely limits the contenders.) The only other artist to do it was Christopher Cross back in 1981. My first reaction to that is the daddy mack will make you jump jump, but apparently this is an entirely different Chris Chross and therefore worthy of a Guardians of the Galaxy meme.
Of course he defeated The Wall by Pink Floyd to win the album of the year in a decision that has held up wonderfully. Everyone forgot about those silly bricks in the wall immediately right? It definitely didn’t become one of the most iconic pieces of music ever recorded. That’s the way the grammys used to be though, and thus why the 90s and 2000s were full of legacy awards (like Robert Plant winning in 09 to make up for all the times Led Zeppelin was snubbed.) So even though one person winning everything is boring, it feels right because Billie’s album was the hottest thing released last year and will probably be remembered as the music that defined 2019. So congrats to her, and to the grammys for picking a good winner for the second year in a row (last year was Kacey Musgraves.)
They also did a good job with the rock awards, though again I wish at least one or two had made it to the main broadcast. Vampire Weekend won Alternative album, Cage the Elephant won rock album, Gary Clark won best rock song for This Land and Tool won metal performance for their epic 7empest. At least Gary got to perform on the show, but they all should have been there in some manner or another.
The charts were a bit more interesting than your usual January fare. Mariah Carey became the first artist to ever have a #1 hit in four different decades when All I Want For Christmas Is You took the top spot in the first week of the month (and year and decade.) And it appears to be the new norm that old Christmas songs will dominate the hot 100 in December, so it’s entirely possible that this song will end up eventually passing Old Town Road for most weeks at #1 … in 2026.
As soon as people were done with Christmas songs, Roddy Ricch took control with his hit single The Box also known as the BITCH DON’T WEAR NO SHOES IN MY HOUSE song. So far Roddy has already fended up huge debuts from Justin Bieber, Drake, Future and Eminem , we could be in for another very long reign here if Demi Lovato isn’t able to get it done next week. He is also doing very well on the album side, chalking up several weeks at #1, and barely losing a photo finish to the debuting Selena Gomez by just 2,000 units! One of the closest races in history.
The biggest debut of the month was Eminem’s surprise release Music To Be Murdered By. The quality of the music wasn’t too impressive, but it’s 267,000 units moved certainly was. He has had bigger numbers in the past, but so did everyone else. That’s 267k without the help of preorders or concert bundles which everyone else uses to boost their numbers. Unfortunately, due to his timing, he ended up stealing the #1 spot away from Halsey’s Manic, who did actually use the concert bundle method – as proven by the three still wrapped CDs on my table (they can’t fit in my phone or Homepod …) She will just have to be content with having the top album of our hearts.
Albums of the month:
Manic by Halsey
Halsey’s album Badlands is probably one of the strongest debuts of the entire last decade (right now I can only think of 3 that I liked more) and became a star almost instantly. Her second wasn’t as impressive, but certainly avoided the dreaded sophomore slump. Now she’s back and almost in top form again. It’s a different type of form though, wearing influences from the 90s more than anything else. Alanis Morrisette is here and several of the songs (most definitely 3am) would probably place on the VH1 Top 20 if music video countdowns were still a thing. Halsey is puzzled by fame on this record. As she says on the best song, Still Learning, “Thought I’d be living the dream, instead I’m living with a security team.” Sure it’s brought her lots of money and adoration, but all the issues that she assumed would go away are still present. Heartbreak (one that takes place in public this time), poor decisions while drinking, paranoia, friendship (or not), etc… It’s difficult to feel sorry for someone who has been so successful, but it does make you wonder – what does it take to be happy? Is it just an illusion we see in photos, where blissful fiction is frozen in time for all to see? I sure hope not, and hope Halsey figures it out for the benefit of all of us.
Standout: Still Learning
I Disagree by Poppy
It was a few months ago, in the beginning of the Wednesday Night Wars, that Poppy opened an episode of WWE NXT by playing superstar Io Sharai to the ring, using the title track of this album which sounds kinda similar to her theme. HHH, the guy who runs the program, has proven he has good taste in the past (using Slipknot’s All Out Life, my #2 song of 2019, as the opening theme for instance), so I decided to give this album a shot and am very glad I did. If Billie Eilish decided she wanted to make an alternative metal album, it would come across as something like this. And that is almost exactly what happened, with Poppy being much more …. well poppy when she first started out and then gained an edge somewhere along the way. It’s a very unique sound, with certain parts resembling bands like Metric and others Manson, sometimes in the same song. The sound is all over the place, with only the dark lyrics tying them together, and that’s just the way I like it.
Standout: Fill That Crown
Songs of the month:
“Bashless thoughts, careless wants, emotional involvement”
Dream Boy by Beach Bunny
Coming in at under two and half minutes, this song packs a lot in. The lyrics are strong, as are the guitar riffs, and it sure does have an earworm of a chorus. Beach Bunny have been around for a few years now, putting out at least one EP every year, but now that they’ve signed with Mom + Pop records it is time for a full album. And so far, that little bit of extra production has made a pretty huge difference. Dream Boy would be as much at home in an arena as a garage. And the album debuts in just a few weeks on Valentine’s Day, so it is quite possible you see Lili Trifilio and the boys back here in about 29 days.
“Keeps me blinded, I’m unwinding”
Just A Little Bit by The Jacks
The Jacks burst onto the rock scene last year with various singles and EPs, whilst being on the last line of every big festival. I didn’t wake up early enough to see them at Sonic Temple, but now wish I had. This newest single is their best to date though, their So-Cal rock n roll sound shining bright. These guys claim they have no choice in the matter, rock is in their blood, and when they get together with some instruments it just happens. Now I’m craving just a little bit more music from these guys, and they’ll deliver another five song EP sometime later this year. Hopefully by then they will have enough material to headline their own tours, at night and not at the beginning of a hot/rainy day in May.
“Saw us getting older, burning toast in the toaster, my ambitions were too high”
Rare by Selena Gomez
Selena captured her first #1 spot on the billboard hot #1 with the emotionally vulnerable ballad Lose You To Love Me a few months ago. It’s a song that only she would be able to make because of her personal it was. So opening her new album with a challenge to all who don’t appreciate her feels very appropriate. You could probably find all the lyrics to this song on your Facebook feed over the course of a day, you know all the “My problem is I care too much” blocks of text. When I see those I usually just roll my eyes, but Selena kinda convinces me of it. Like screw you Justin Bieber, who the fuck made you the boss of who is hot? Well besides millions and millions of teenage girls.
“You on top of me, fills my heart times three, flawed in Ecstacy”
Bebey by Theophilus London
This is a song that will make everyone want to get tropical. It’s really just about having sex while on vacation, but gosh that beat really helps sell the setting for that sex. It makes me wonder why I’m writing about this song rather than just going out and living it. Someone book me a cruise! Anyways, Theophilus here has been around for a bit, building a reputation by collaborating with both Kanye West and Tame Impala over the past few years, two people who are also probably having sex on vacation right now. And while his full album might rely on the auto-tuned poprap sound a little too much, I feel like this one has a nice balance between it and normal spittin. With the current trends in 2020, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see him become a more recognizable name and start showing up on the top lines of these festival lineups just like his bud Kevin Parker.
The Gereg by The Hu
As is usually the case, I found another excellent 2019 album after I had already completed my best of the year list. These Mongolians forge metal and folk music, smashing through the wall that previously divided the genres. With recency bias acknowledged, I do think this would have had a strong chance at upsetting Billie Eilish and Kim Petras as my favorite new artist of the year. I often mention how much I enjoy unique sounds, and you don’t get much stranger than these guys. Yet, it feels perfectly natural at the same time, like they’re in a pub in the Wild wild west, and nobody can understand what they’re saying, but Ian McShane is grooving away anyways because it just fits the vibe.
Top three: Wolf Totem, Shoog Shoog, The Gereg
It’s always difficult to predict which artists will release new albums in a given year. Some don’t follow the usual cycles (2 years for pop/hip-hop and 3 years for rock) , some are just sick of the album cycle entirely (I hope this doesn’t stick since I personally love the album cycle.) But we can try to deduce enough for an anticipated list based on a few factors, even if somebody hasn’t posted a release date. Releasing some singles is usually a good sign, though again some people just release their singles as they make them these days rather than saving them up for a collection. The other is the festival lineups, since you figure that if an artist is touring they probably have some new material to show off. So hopefully all of these people in my top ten end up releasing this year.
Dance Gavin Dance
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Run The Jewels
A Day To Remember
Will my actual end of the year list look anything like this? Hard to say. I certainly would not have guessed that six out of ten from 2019 would come from pop artists (though I suppose it’s a bit of a coincidence that all my favorites released in the same year). I’m really hoping for a strong bounce back year from hip-hop though. I’m already tired of this poprap insurrection and need some new sounds in my life.