Music 2016: Scene’s Red Cards of the Year
Even in one of the strongest years for music in recent memory, there were bound to be a handful of disappointments. Here are a handful of artists that should have been benched this year.
Drake by Erin McAuliffe, Scene Editor
After singles “Hotline Bling” and “One Dance” were released to much hype, Drake fell off that high tower he sits upon in “Views.” Meandering songs like “Keep The Family Close” and “Redemption” come in at over five minutes long, resulting in boredom (the latter features over 20 seconds of wind-blowing before any instrumentals come in). The singles standout while the rest is filler on this 20-song album.
2013’s “Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2” was long form, experimental Drake at his best — “Views” sees him flounder. Was the record potentially in an attempt to gather more streaming credits via extensive song options? Possibly. But if this was Drake’s strategy, the fact that he released it exclusively on Apple Music back in April only hindered him. With a song titled “Hype,” Drake should have been aware of how that works in the music industry: Exclusivity can lead to irrelevance in today’s streaming society. (To counter that, building up hype by delaying world-wide release worked for artists like Kanye West and Frank Ocean, respectively numbers six and 15 on our Top 20, this year.)
The album, like Drake, was best used for the generation of memes and meaningless award nominations.
M83 by Mike Donovan, Scene Writer
It was a pleasant night on the riverfront. After two days of your standard music festival mayhem, the exhaustion was starting to catch up to me. Still, I pledged to stay for the final act. M83 — the night’s headliner — had been a part of my life for quite a while. When my sister started guiding me through deeper musical waters, she held up M83 as a gateway band. Since then, their music has soundtracked more late nights of studying, vertical feet of skiing and miles of lonely driving than I care to count. Sentiment made the chance to witness their expansive soundscapes too enticing to pass up.
The set opened just as I’d imagined. An mesmerizing light show obscured the band members as subtle sonic hues gave way to the infectious hooks of “Reunion.” As the song reached its coda, though, a dramatic transformation took place. The lights changed color schemes, leaving the band in full view. A synth line that I can only describe as glorified elevator music ushered in a barrage of “Do it’s” and “Try it’s” in quick succession. After a few measures the sound shifted back to the immersive M83 of their previous records, but it quickly returned to the strange retro revival tropes. It’s like they were pranking their audience. “Do it, try it”— the lead single on their 2016 album “Junk” — ushered in a record which systematically avoided everything I loved about M83. I shut my eyes and prayed for tonal hemlock to fade out.
Don’t give up on M83, but — I beg of you — do not listen to “Junk.” The album lives up to its namesake. Life is short, and there’s a lot of good music out there. Misguided pastiche pop, even from a good band, isn’t worth your time.
Desiigner by Jimmy Kemper, Scene Writer
Desiigner has had a roller coaster of a year. After blowing up when his underground hit “Panda” was sampled (read: copied) on Kanye West’s “Pt. 2” from “The Life of Pablo,” “Panda” became a mainstream success in its own right. Over time, however, it became apparent that the original track was just too long and derivative of Future; Kanye’s approach to the track improved it by slimming the song down to half of its length.
This problem of tired-out music persisted on Desiigner’s debut GOOD Music mixtape, “New English,” which felt overstuffed with every industry cliche since the start of the decade and lacking the original energy that attracted us to the young rapper. It then reached a critical apex when Desiigner re-released “Tiimmy Turner” as the full-length lead single for his forthcoming debut album. The original 45-second XXL freestyle was a brilliant, dark piece of incomprehensible and nostalgic balladry, whereas the single version felt like an overproduced cash grab.
It again took Kanye to sweep in and fix Desiigner’s problems when he pumped out the remix that stripped the song back down to the wild, dark and bareboned aesthetic that made us fall in love with Desiigner in the first place. Going into 2017, Desiigner has to figure out if he’s in over his head, prove that he’s more than just a budget Future and firmly establish his identity as an artist.