Each syllable is drawn out like taffy, and her voice hovers just above a whisper, as if she wants you to lean in a little closer. Kamasi Washington is an artist who needs room to meditate, sculpt, engineer. You know, king shit. The strategy should be nearly impossible to pull off, and yet the Atlanta star is one of the most gifted stylists in contemporary rap.
But still he rises to the occasion by plumbing the depths of drug abuse. Martin Luther King, Jr. Working with his band the Violators, producer John Agnello, and an expanded cast, Vile replaced the bleary atmosphere of his earliest releases with crystalline finger-picking, and the mumbled aphorisms with odes to his loved one. It sounds full while barely rising above a whisper.
Under the anxiety and damage are the same elemental urges, where every momentary escape holds the promise of nothing, now and forever.
In the video, he mugged with diamond teeth and coiled-up charisma—shirtless, venomous. At the start of the decade, pop music taught teenagers what their desires were, not the other way around. According to the radio, teen dreams were filled with earth-shattering parties and unconscionable excess tracked to wall-of-sound synth production best suited for football stadiums. In the years since, the genre has grown bleaker, replacing maximalist odes to excess with bummed-out songs stressing isolation and anxiety.
In , Young Thug descended from an unknown planet equipped with a language that everyone was dying to learn and a melody that reshaped what we thought we knew about rappers who sing. More important was what he did with those vocals: chopping, re-pitching, and layering them with his own processed voice, creating a strange, hybrid call-and-response that floated, web-like, over synths as spongy as marshland.
It was the sound of a new world coming into focus, and it would guide his music for years to come. She also straddles a mechanical bull while wearing a drenched undershirt. A trance-y bridge with digital strings seals the deal on this masterclass in contemporary pop. The lead single of her debut album, Immunity , reintroduced her with new vigor and undeniable shine.
Hailing from the most anarchic corners of the social internet but also Atlanta , Carti is someone whose promise will always outpace his official output, and that is by design. And no one has ever wielded that energy as fluidly as DJ Rashad. Spinn and Taso]. By grafting a fashionably clipped pop melody over a retro, Shabba Ranks-inspired Caribbean fusion beat, producers Skrillex and BloodPop created one of the best tropical house hits of the decade. Here is an anthem for anyone who has felt adrift, abandoned, unsure of their purpose in the world.
By any conventional wisdom, a five-minute, three-part suite of a song should have never become a phenomenon in a climate where dwindling attention spans are leading to shorter and shorter hits. Once the funky second beat hits, you forget about Drake as Travis takes center stage with some of the best rapping of his career. But by , he was reduced to guesting on anonymous Max Martin and will. But instead of conveying intense feelings with a chilly shrug, Usher is clearly pained as he eulogizes a failing relationship in a lonely falsetto.
Agonizingly, Burial never gave us a proper follow-up to his classic album Untrue this decade, instead resorting to intermittent singles and EPs. When the full song finally arrived, the instrumentation was pretty much just those four bars over and over, and it was still engrossing. Daft Punk take the right parts of this song either incredibly seriously or not seriously at all.
Really, the record was a deeply accomplished inquiry into the possibility of a feminine sound that gravitated towards the grotesque. Williams has never sounded more monumental or self-possessed. They may have made their name on rollercoaster hooks fit for Warped Tour—influencing the likes of Snail Mail, Princess Nokia, and Lil Uzi Vert in the process—but here they grew into themselves, anticipating the influence of blown-up Hot Topic emo in the unlikeliest of places. Brooklyn synth-pop aesthetes Chairlift were a sneakily influential act right up until their split in What comes through is the giddy sensation of falling so deeply in love that nothing quite makes sense except a warm embrace.
Giving so much of yourself to someone else is always a risky proposition, but for three and a half minutes, Chairlift make the act of devotion sound worth it. Its delicate notes are pierced by a prickly guitar before Tividad and Tucker launch in, singing in tandem. Together, they reminisce about how easy life felt when they were childhood friends, when reality confined itself to the surrounding neighborhood and the complexities of life had not yet made themselves known.
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Together, they stand on the precipice of adulthood and eulogize a time when the future was just another question waiting to be answered. But like Roger Troutman of Zapp and other funk pioneers of the past, Fetty used effects not to sanitize or correct his voice, but to inject even more emotion into it. And when the synths in the verses lurch like warm blood rushes of adrenaline, or arousal, Chris conveys a real-time sense of being overcome by acceptance for the first time.
In this way, Kendrick Lamar is an anomaly: As dense as his lyrics can be, he zooms out onto big ideas that are resonant and impactful to the masses. In the face of a growing, grinning wave of genocidal hate-speech delivered with the presidential seal of approval, Lamar shouts forth the steely confidence of a people ready to bark and bite back, standing on roots that run centuries deep.
Those big West Coast waves that Dora surfed half a century ago are rendered endless in the mesmerizing rhythm of the song. She coos sweet salutations into the receiver, he untangles verses about the terrors of opening up—be it the digital fear of unlocking your phone for a snoopy lover or the analog fear of sitting by, waiting, and having to bear your soul when the phone is finally answered.
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It feels like two people figuring things out. No pyrotechnic breasts , psychedelic candy landscapes , or glow-in-the-dark alien abductions : just Katy, her ripped beau, and some similarly photogenic pals on a sepia-toned drive along the beach. At the time Perry recorded it, she was attempting to become more than a pop novelty. Meanwhile, she was midway through her 20s, about to get married, and entering a decade where her propensity for unsubtle gestures of positivity would fall in and out of fashion. The popularity of the track led its makers to recoil from the spotlight and quietly switch off the TNGHT signal, which is fair enough.
Who knew the shy producer from whispery indie rock trio the xx could also throw a great party? Young Thug and Popcaan]. A heartfelt tribute to a notoriously terrible brand of cigarettes became a career-making moment for Mac DeMarco. With his inaugural solo mini-album Rock and Roll Night Club , the Canadian singer established himself as a weirdo skeez with a shit-eating grin—a guy whose songs showed tons of promise if you pierced through the thick coats of deep-voiced, slow-motion gimmickry.
The unlikely love song ends with the sound of him lighting up, inhaling, and collapsing into a fit of echoing coughs. It sounds off at first, but as the strings quiver and the unquantized drums tick along, every instance of the word becomes a knowing wink, a flash of intimacy. The song includes a spoken word intro in Spanish, along with violin, viola, contrabass, sitar, multiple guitars, horns, synths—even a Curtis Mayfield sample. With these words, Jordan builds a scarecrow outline of her relationship just to torch it all to the ground.
For a virtuoso whose music explores the outer reaches of funk, yacht rock, and astral jazz, Thundercat has always shown a sensitive undercurrent.
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In his first two solo albums, he slowed down a George Duke love anthem, sang adoringly about his cat, and composed a heart-wrenching tribute to a late friend. Then, in an interlude, his trusty bass falls away and he sings some ethereal oooohs , pinpointing a sweet spot between boldness and fragility.
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This was the music video that launched a thousand pearl-clutching critiques, along with about as many think pieces about its radical significance. In it, Rihanna nonchalantly threatens her accountant with a phrase often wielded by men. In the process, she kidnaps and tortures his wife, before taking a chainsaw to his neck. There are umteen ways to read into the politics of this video: What kind of violence are we sensitized to, and what makes us squirm?
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What does it look like for a woman to be powerful and angry while also being feminine? How are white women complicit in and benefitting from the bad behavior of white men? But ultimately, determining whether this video is Good and Feminist or Bad and Cancelled is futile; what freedom looks like for any woman cannot be simplified into one set of rules.
Since the storm hit, Segarra continuously tried to find her way back to her ravaged ancestral homeland in a way that would allow her to give without taking. She finally made it in December But Yorke never abandoned the studio version, eventually forgoing the experimental synthesizers and Rhodes piano he kept trying to make work in favor of soft piano chords. May the gods protect the DJ who cut away from the weepy grand pianos before the beat change—that switch-up is the point, the gas pedal.
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