- When I first heard this album, I’ll admit, I was a little turned off. I may have expected a more rap-heavy album from Gambino, but all I got was straight R&B vibes. Donald Glover a.k.a. Childish Gambino is a genius in everything he does, so I respected the attempt to move the culture forward, but it kind of seemed like he was just trying to be different for the sake of being different. I don’t even know how to describe it. The album sounded like a knockoff James Brown with some sort of auto-tuned trippy-ness, and I just wasn’t feeling it right off the bat. But then I kept listening and I watched Gambino’s performance of “Redbone” on Jimmy Fallon. Let’s just say, it was incredible. The album sounded like it definitely used some vocal manipulation and pitching effects, but after seeing his late night performance, it was apparent that Gambino just switched up his voice throughout this entire album, which is hard to believe because half the time he sounds like a girl. “Awaken, My Love!” has continued to grow on me, and I think it’s safe to say that there is a lot of artistic value in this album.
- This album was probably one of the most anticipated, sought-after albums of 2016. Frank Ocean kept dropping subtle hints early in the year that he may coming out with an album, and after numerous troll jobs, we finally got a new Frank album. Four years after his outstanding debut album, “Channel Orange,” Frank Ocean released “Blond” in conjunction with a visual album entitled “Endless,” which was a sort of Apple Music stream experiment and a “Boys Don’t Cry” magazine. “Blond” is very dense and very layered. It takes multiple listens to fully appreciate this album. It’s one of those albums you have to be in the right mood for, but when the mood hits, there’s no denying it’s beautiful music with a deep message. “Blond” didn’t hit me as hard as some of the other R&B albums from 2016, but I really enjoyed Frank’s “Channel Orange” follow-up.
- “Starboy” is sonically one of the best projects from 2016. It has a very futuristic vibe with Daft Punk behind a lot of the production, but it’s topped off with The Weeknd’s Michael Jackson-esque vocals. This is probably the most pop-sounding album in The Weeknd’s discography, but he still gets the job done with multiple hits and numerous songs to dance and vibe to. I also loved “Mania,” the visual piece he put out right before the album’s release. I felt like it was a perfect introduction to the album’s sound from a visual perspective. The Weeknd has found his groove and I don’t foresee him stopping any time soon.
- I said it after the first time I listened to the album: this is Beyoncé’s female version of Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Buterfly.” It’s cohesive, it tells a powerful story and it’s great music—all very similar things to Kendrick’s album from last year. As a man, this made me fear women a little bit more because Beyoncé gave her listeners reassurance that they are fierce, beautiful and shouldn’t take any s*** from anyone—things all women should be doing anyway. I can see the power in that, and I love it. Initially, I don’t know if the majority of people listening to this album really understood the point or the theme “Lemonade” was trying to teach. Yes, the album is directly pointed at Beyoncé’s husband, Jay Z, and his alleged affair with “Becky with the good hair.” At first, everybody didn’t see past that line. They all thought Beyoncé gunned Jay Z’s life and their marriage was over. They acted like Jay Z had no idea this was coming. But if they made it past that line, they would learn that the strong theme throughout this album is “true love.” I believe Beyoncé is saying, “Yes, Jay Z may have done some bad things in the past. Maybe it will be hard to forgive him. But at the end of the day, true love prevails.” This was further exemplified in Beyoncé’s short film on HBO. Jay Z actually made an appearance in the “Sandcastles” portion of the film. The film is really essential to getting the full picture from this album. True love prevails, ladies and gentlemen. It’s a strong message and an amazing album. Watch out this album to sweep the GRAMMYs.
- “Malibu” – Anderson .Paak
- Through and through, this has been one of my favorite albums of 2016. “Malibu” is flat-out incredible. Its positive vibes, beautiful production, surprisingly weird cohesiveness and epic vocals make it the best R&B project of the year. Anderson .Paak had a huge year and it all started with this album. Well, it may have started when Dr. Dre put him on six of his songs from his “Compton” album last year, but you know what I’m saying. Songs from “Malibu” appeared on numerous commercials, in video games and on TV. The vibes from “Malibu” kind of coincide with Chance the Rapper’s “Coloring Book.” They both exude positivity; they both have vibrant sounds; they both make it cool to feel good and happy. I’d say the only big difference between the vibes on “Malibu” and “Coloring Book,” is that “Malibu” is more abstract, more left for the listener to interpret. This album has been in rotation since January and I suspect it will remain on repeat for years to come. It’s an outstanding, fun, beautiful piece of music.
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