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Music: A Year in Review

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What a rollercoaster this year has been. From Adele coming out of her hiatus to Drake v. Meek Mill, we had quite the year in music. But I wanted to change it up this time and write my thoughts on more of a personal note. Let’s start shall we?

First up is The Weeknd. With top hits like “The Hills” and “Can’t Feel My Face” The Weeknd has “made it”. But in my eyes and many others who are familiar with his original sound are still wondering why he went this direction. ‘Direction’ meaning new sound. His aim toward a greater prize altered his original sound completely. Let’s just say if The Weeknd released his most recent album “Beauty Behind the Madness”; Drake wouldn’t have discovered him. The album isn’t a total bust. “The Hills” is probably a bonus track off of his previous album “Kiss Land” (great album by the way). And his duo with Lana Del Rey on “Prisoner” sounds like The Weeknd, produced by The Weeknd. “Can’t Feel My Face” was produced by Max Martin who is known for working with pop artists such as Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, and N’Sync. Let’s just say that Max knows how to make a track popular. I’m not sure which direction The Weeknd will go toward next, or if he’ll keep riding this pop wave until the next “big thing” happens in music. My money is that he’ll adapt. I mean his mentor is Drake who has adapted quite well.

That brings me to my next topic; Drake. What year for the Canadian. Completely breaking all of the rules; everything he released this year didn’t have a ‘single’ to promote the album(s) or mixtape(s). He dropped “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” and a collab record with Future, “What A Time To Be Alive” without any warning at all. And it paid off. But in hip hop, there’s always someone who wants it more. And that person was Meek Mill. Meek Mill released music this year featuring Drake but didn’t appreciate Drake not supporting and promoting the album. So he attacked. On Twitter? Drake’s response was through music, releasing “Charged Up” and “Back to Back”. Drake has never really had to write a ‘diss’ track with the public eye watching his every move. But he delivered. Not only did Meek Mill’s response get sour reviews; “Back to Back” received a Grammy nomination. Well played Aubrey. But out of everything hip hop; Kendrick Lamar stole the show receiving eleven Grammy nominations without making many headlines this year. 

So, where is music at now? We always hear about its inevitable decline, but is that really going to happen? Of course the way we listen to music has changed drastically. From purchasing records, cassette tapes and CDs, to illegally downloading music from the internet, to now paying a monthly service fee to stream music; artists have adapted to these models without much say. But isn’t it really all about exposure? The live act? The complete product from image, sound, marketing, and having the art relate to life? Top artist such as Adele and Taylor Swift have denied streaming services. For good reasons. They are already house-hold names. People will find a way to listen to these artists, and these artists made sure that they’ll somehow be paying for it. In Adele’s case; she may be an exception to the matter at hand. When “21” was released it was the first time that the music industry made a profit in years. You can still stream “21” on services such as Spotify, but her new album “25” isn’t available for stream on any service. Will this move help or hurt the artist/industry with making bigger gains?

And now to my favorite topic; the underdogs. I remember last year The Weeknd was in this category, but now we have some new faces. Before you throw stones at me, I know I’ll miss some artists. But I want to focus on the ones that caught my ear:

Odesza: An act I’ve still yet to see live; I’m very happy for what this band of producers is doing. Not only do they give all their music away for free, they’ve also created a record label named “Foreign Family Collective” which features some of the most ground-breaking indie tracks of 2015. Did I mention they are nominated for a Grammy too?

Vanic: I want to compare Vanic to Steph Curry. Yes, I had to. Rookie year, Vanic didn’t tour. Just produced and remixed tracks that now have millions of plays. This year he played Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado. Wait, he’s still not ringing a bell? He has yet to release original material, which he says will be coming in 2016. It’s only a matter of time before we’re comparing him to the likes of Skrillex and Diplo.

Marshmellow: Who is this guy? That’s all I have to say about him. He’ll be on your list for 2016.

Giraffage: I don’t think anyone in ‘pop’ is doing it quite like Giraffage right now. The DJ/Producer made waves through a series of festivals this year playing his rendition of the modern pop sound. I still can’t get the record, “All That Matters” out of my head.

Kid Smpl: A producer out of Seattle making Beyoncé sound underground with his unique sound patterns; Kid Smpl has a lot of potential to redefine the sound of electronic music as we know it today.

Thank you for a great 2015 and always listening to our music and reading our thoughts. We’ll try to do it bigger in 16.

Sincerely yours,

Taj Simpson
Director of Music & Lifestyle
www.olemasonjar.com

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