Is digital technology decimating our attention spans? With anything (literally, anything) just a few clicks away, it would seem quite logical to conclude that our collective cultural focus is destined to flit about at ever more fickle speeds.
Yet, intriguingly, the evidence stacks up to the contrary. If you check the top rated TV shows, few titles are new. And, amidst the rubble of what once was the music industry, Adele proved that even today you can freeze the world in a musical Medusa gaze for months upon months upon months.
Of the many important factors that propelled her gravity-defying ubiquity, remixes and covers played an unheralded but central role. It was not Adele alone who kept “Rolling in the Deep” on replay. Rather, a lengthy roster of artists who are superstars in their own right jumped on board to do their part to keep the bandwagon rolling. Here are two of the better remixes/covers that give even the most familiar song a bit of fresh life.
When an artist sells 13 million copies of an album, it’s bound to draw a follower or two. Though there’s good reason why you haven’t heard much of the many Adele-ites that have developed a sudden fascination with soul, a soulful voice that’s worth watching is Cold Specks. Though she hails from Canada and currently lives in London, Cold Specks (nee Al Spx) sounds as if she were plucked from an antebellum choir. Such songs don’t exactly scream “pop hit,” but one might have said the same of Adele. Take a listen.
There’s something about the end of the year that brings me back to my days as a music store employee. Part promoter, part critic, entirely focused on getting those around me to appreciate the year in music as they… well, should. So, with a bit of time to breathe this week, I’m going to return to this oft-neglected blog and highlight both the best songs of this past year and the brightest stars that are now emerging to make their mark on the year to come. Each day will feature one of these pairings, and I’ll seek to write each and every day.
Though these days aren’t choreographed to follow any particular order, it feels right to begin with Frank Ocean. There was no other artist in this past year that highlighted so much of what’s right and wrong with the music industry. Getting his start in the shadows of others as a songwriter, Ocean landed his own contract only to languish with an album that he couldn’t get released. Frustrated by a label who didn’t know what to do with him, Ocean “self-released” his music via Twitter and a blog and set forth a torrent of acclaim that landed him– among other places– as the first voice you hear on “Watch the Throne.” Despite continued enthusiasm that marks him as the closest thing to a sure bet in the age after Napster, his label has yet to release his album for anything other than free.
Despite this commercial confusion, Ocean helps lead the creative resurgence that has broken R&B free from the retrospective references that had marked it for years as a genre that was little more than mood music.
On the early end of the hype of mixtape marketing is an artist who goes by the name of Jhameel. With a bio pitch-perfect for the Gaga age, Jhameel combines Korean, Japanese and Mongolian ancestry with an ardent androgyny and a penchant for pop hooks. Though his first few complete albums have the expected unevenness of an artist finding his way, songs like these make you wonder what might be next.