The Monthly Music Mix: November

By Drew Renner

‘Tis the season of seasons as we head out of November. We’re out of Halloween season, Thanksgiving season and Black Friday season but now well into the Christmas season. Most importantly though, it is Grammy season! The nominations were announced on November 20th, and living up to their reputation, everybody was a little bit pleased and a little bit disappointed. Still, when you look at something like the American Music Awards (which is viewers choice) and see how much nonsense they have in their nominations and winners, it makes one appreciate the big guys a little bit more. Sure some of the smaller music awards have value, the VMAs and BET awards in particular since they tend to reward younger artists, but Album of the Year is the most prestigious prize in music and it probably always will be. We’ll talk about that a little bit more later.

Huge news for anyone who can attend the Coachella festival next year- the return of Rage Against the Machine! They had been skewing further and further towards only having pop artists at the biggest live music weekend in America, so this is a pretty big deal on a few fronts. Too bad this takes place in California, hopefully they take their tour east at some point. We have plenty of swing states over here too!

Chart Talk

As predicted, Selena Gomez scored her first #1 with the debut of Lose You To Love Me. Her previous peak had been #5, with both Same Old Love and Good For You, and she’s also had top ten hits with her earlier work (like Come and Get It) and as a feature (like on We Don’t Talk Anymore). Lose You would probably have ended up stuck in that 5-11 area too if not for a few new factors that put it over the top. Much like with Ariana Grande, the pop music world really appreciated the authenticity and the way she brings us into a relationship that we had only ever read about or seen in the tabloids. Everybody knows the song is about Justin Bieber and not even his biggest fans can stop listening. Going day and date with the video helped alot too. Filming on iPhones has been very hit and miss in the cinema, but it added even more realness to the song as all her fans could picture themselves doing the same thing.

Lewis Capaldi returned to #1 for the two weeks after, bringing his own breakup smash hit Someone You Loved up to three weeks total. It should continue playing well throughout the holiday season. Post Malone knocked it off at the end of the month with Circles, his fourth #1 overall and first off this album after both Wow and Goodbyes were unable to get past the horses in the back over the summer.

Post Malone was also able to snag another week at #1 over on the album’s chart with Hollywood’s Bleeding, showing the same strong legs as his album from last year. Don’t be surprised to see him take another week or two during the holiday season until we start getting into the bigger releases in January.

Kanye West had an impressive debut at the top of the month with 264,000 units for Jesus Is King, one of the top ten debuts of the year. It was his ninth #1 album, and his ninth #1 debut in a row, matching Eminem for the all time record (both streaks are still active too). Kanye’s only album to not debut at #1 was his debut, The College Dropout, but even that had a huge breakout week of over 400,000 units back in 2004. Just happened to release on the same day as Norah Jones’ highly anticipated second album which sold over a million units that week, the music equivalent of a $100M+ opener at the box office.

Luke Combs ruled for two weeks after this with What You See Is What You Get, also setting the record for most streamed country album. And on the final chart of the month, Celene Dion actually took the top spot with Courage. It’s likely this was because of bundles bought with her concert tickets, but it is still impressive.

Song of the month:

Did the heartbreak change me? Maybe. But look where I ended up

Don’t Start Now by Dua Lipa

Dua actually won the Best New Artist at the Grammys earlier this year, so she was already showing a lot of promise in the disco-pop game. Don’t Start Now is her first real banger for me though. As soon as she comes in with “Did a full 180, crazy” just as the beat drops I am hooked, and when the song ends I can’t wait till the next time I get to hear it. And, according to Apple Music, this is already in my top 50 most streamed songs of 2019 after only a month. Can’t stop. Lyrically, it is pretty similar to many empowerment-through-breakup pop hits, but I like how there is an extra layer of the guy(or girl) becoming more interested after they are gone. The grass is always greener until you actually get to the other side.

Two raindrops in the same sea

Arabesque by Coldplay

After going full on pop with their latest few albums, Coldplay pivoted towards … world music I guess? Arabesque reminds me of Taureg prog rockers like Bombino and Imarhan more than any other Coldplay song. Definitely not a direction I saw them taking, and it doesn’t work on every song. The experiment is mostly a success though, I will happily take some weird songs from this band over songs they can perform with Bruno Mars at the Superbowl.

Album of the month:

Death Stranding soundtrack

While one might find a movie soundtrack full of quality original songs once or twice a year, it’s a pretty rare occurrence in the video game world. Mr. Hideo Kujima is a pretty rare type of guy though, and he usually gets what he wants (unless Konami has anything to say about it!) I was initially drawn in by the promise of new songs from a pair of my favorites – Chrvches and Bring Me The Horizon, both of which are pretty solid. The album kicks off with some starpower in the form of a team-up between Major Lazer and Khalid, which is also pretty darn good. The highlight comes from an unexpected place though, a song called Ghost by Au/Ra x Alan Walker. It kind of sounds like it was originally meant for Halsey, but they do such a fine job that one cannot imagine it going differently, and Halsey already has plenty of good songs – spread the love. The entire album has a creepy but hopeful post-apocalyptic feel to it, just as I’m sure the game does. I’ll get around to playing it and throwing poop at ghosts while reconnecting the world eventually.

Standout: Ghost

Hyperspace by Beck

Another mild surprise here, as I thought the singles leading up to this album were kind of meh on their own. Within the context of the entire project though, even they become stronger efforts. This album just has a vibe to it that a song called Uneventful Days (produced by Pharrell) fits into perfectly. And even though it doesn’t have any bombastic pop hits like Up All Night from Colors and even though it probably won’t win the album of the year grammy like Morning Phase – this vibe is my favorite thing Beck has done during the 2010s. At first, Hyperspace would seem like a poor title for this groovy project, but I think it works well. In hyperspace (theoretically) everything around you is moving as fast as possible, but to you it seems like time is barely moving at all. Ender survived for thousands of years by using the hyperspace exploit, where a few days in light speed would result in a few years passing by in normal time. So while we stay the same, going through our everyday routines, the world keeps on spinning faster and faster, changing everything big and small before one even realizes it has happened.

Standout: Die Waiting

Grammy Winner predictions:

The Grammy nominations are always tougher to predict than the major award shows in other mediums. As mentioned last month, the thousands of members of the music industry all vote like you’d expect to form a top 20 in each major category, then a special committee takes that top 20 and narrows it down to 8, and not necessarily the top 8. In the past they would use this technique to reward their friends and other past-due musicians. For example, Robert Plant won for an album he released last decade but he was really winning for all the Led Zeppelin albums that were wrongfully ignored in the 1970s. At the turn of the decade, the Grammys needed to change though, and started steering towards more modern and relevant pop music. I feel like there was a happy middle ground that they missed somewhere along the way, but artists like Arcade Fire, Kacey Musgraves, Daft Punk, etc… were all able to pull through with huge wins that may not have otherwise happened. On the down side, deserving artists will now miss out due to not fitting the current social trends. Ed Sheeran learned this the hard way a few years ago, the overwhelming favorite to win everything failed to score any major nominations, but the biggest victim has been rock music as a whole. The grammys paid for this last year though, as they did everything they could to set up a huge Cardi B win in album of the year, only to see Kacey (the only one representing anything resembling country or rock) fly in and take it.

So what I guess I’m getting at is that even though my own predictions were only 50% right, that’s still a pretty good batting average for these awards. The winners I’ll take full responsibility for though. I will rank them in the likelihood of their victory.

Album of the Year

Ariana Grande – thank u next
Lizzo – Because I Love You
Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride
Bon Iver – I,I
Lana Del Ray – Norman Fucking Rockwell
HER – I Used To Know Her
Lil Nas X – 7

Yes, the Lil Nas X nomination is completely absurd. Even if you love the guy, the album is only 18 minutes long. Maybe the Grammys need to add a best short-form album category. This is the type of review board shenanigans I was talking about. They needed to add a hip-hop album and just picked a name they knew. Yet, since I can’t see any self-respecting hip-hop fan voting for Lil Nas X, all their votes will go to the next closest thing – Ariana and her trap-beats. I had already pegged her as the favorite due to how personal she made the album feel, but now it feels a little too easy. Sure Lizzo and Billie are hungry, and people would love to see either of them win. But the last time somebody won Best New Artist and Album of the Year was 17 years ago, when Norah Jones ran the table. Before that it was Alannis Morrisette, although she somehow lost Best New Artist despite winning Best Album because … grammys. It just doesn’t happen and I don’t see that changing this year with such a strong frontrunner. Nobody predicted Bon Iver, Lana Del Ray or HER (again), but maybe we should have. They’ve all had success at these awards before after all.

That being said, when I posted a poll on our wonderful forums, Lizzo came out as the clear winner. I guess they believe her mix of pop, hip-hop and soul will overcome her freshman status.

Record of the Year

Old Town Road – Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus
Sunflower – Swae Lee and Post Malone
Bad Guy – Billie Eilish
Truth Hurts – Lizzo
Talk – Khalid
7 Rings – Ariana Grande
Hard Place – HER
Hey Ma – Bon Iver

I had originally pegged Old Town Road as an easy favorite here. It broke the record for biggest song ever on billboard after all and appeals to several different types of genre lovers. I do wonder if the backlash from his album of the year nomination will hurt him here though. That kind of drama seems more in line with the oscars though, so I’ll stick with the horses for the win here, but I’m not gonna be at all surprised if Sunflower pulls the upset. That song was everywhere this year, all year round, and it’s just undeniably catchy (even for an anti-Post listener such as myself.) I’ve already talked about how new artists don’t usually win the big awards (though it does happen here more often than album), but Lizzo or Billie sweeping is still a decent possibility.

The KJ Collective was split between Old Town Road, Truth Hurts and Bad Guy.

Song of the Year

Lover – Taylor Swift
Truth Hurts – Lizzo
Always Remember Us This Way – Lady Gaga
Normal Fucking Rockwell – Lana Del Ray
Someone You Loved – Lewis Capaldi
Bring Me Flowers Now – Tanya Tucker
Hard Place – HER
Bad Guy – Billie Eilish

This category rewards the writing of a song vs the production (though record of the year also takes lyrics into account so not sure why we need two categories…) I had initially predicted Taylor to get nominated for all the big awards, but win none of them. Yet being snubbed in other places will help her here I feel. Taylor fans won’t just let Lover go down without any major recognition. The song itself is also adorable and very worthy of a win here. Again though, watch out for a Lizzo or Billie sweep (though I feel like BG is the wrong song for her in this cat, the lyrics are good but most people know it by the catchy instrumental beat in the chorus, All The Good Girls Go To Hell is her best writing) And people still really like A Star Is Born so I can’t completely count that out.

KJ picked Lover by a large margin.

Best New Artist

Billie Eilish
Lil Nas X
Maggie Rogers
Tank and the Bangas
Black Pumas

Flip a coin. Both Billie and Lizzo have extremely strong claims to this award, being the only ones to nab nominations in all three major categories as well, and there’s no way to predict which one will go over. So instead I’ll just talk about how great Maggie Rogers is! Love that album and glad to see her get in here. Yola is also pretty solid, I saw her open for Kacey Musgraves and everyone in the crowd was very into it. I hadn’t heard of the others, but the songs I heard are … fine? Would have preferred to see Kim Petras get in but I guess we aren’t that woke yet.

Billie Eilish won this in the KJ Poll. So our members think that this will be a repeat of 96 after all, with Lizzo as Alanis and Billie as .. Hootie and the Blowfish. Kiss From A Rose by Seal won both song awards that year; so maybe that bodes well for Post Malone, Swae Lee and their own superhero theme?

Tune in next month to see if I’m right!

Next month’s Mix will be probably be a yearly recap. Though, we still have at least one more big release on the schedule as Camila Cabello released her much anticipated sophomore album this Friday December 6.

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