Scene Selections: Redemption songs
Everyone knows that musicians have ups and downs. Our favorites let their personal triumphs and tribulations shine through in their music. With Easter less than a week away, Scene has put together a choice collection of songs about redemption.
“All Night” — Beyoncé
By Nora McGreevy, Scene Editor
In Beyoncé’s 65-minute visual album “Lemonade,” released in 2016, the artist pairs songs from her musical album of the same name with a vibrant, stunning array of visuals and spoken-word poetry. She divides the film into 11 parts loosely based on the stages of grief, with plenty additions of her own. “Lemonade” cycles from “Intuition” to “Denial” to “Anger,” then later on to “Resurrection” and “Hope.” Each section corresponds to a different song from the album, and together the two interlaced mediums tell a nuanced, powerful story of marital infidelity and heartbreak.
“Redemption,” the last and eleventh sequence in the film, presents the culmination of all of the grief, pain and immeasurable anger of the previous 10 installments. Against all odds, our protagonist has managed to work through her pain until she begins to heal. Black-and-white footage of young women standing knee-deep in water, resembling a baptismal scene, plays in tandem with Beyoncé’s voice, quoting altered words from poet Warsan Shire: “You discovered the antidote within your own kitchen / broke the curse with your own two hands.” The message is clear — the protagonist of Beyoncé’s narrative, has forged her own path to recovery.
Suddenly, the black-and-white switches abruptly to color. We see women working, planting and harvesting things that they pull from the ground. The beginnings of “All Night” crescendo until the first forceful bars of the song ring out. Beyoncé is striding atop a crumbling brick wall with flowers sprouting between the cracks of the rocks. “I’ll trade your broken wings for mine,” she offers to the camera, smiling assuredly. As a final montage of loving couples and home footage of Beyoncé’s own family rolls, Beyoncé sings a love song. Yet after the past 50 minutes of rage and devastation, “All Night” feels like more than a love song — it’s a moment of cathartic, tearful relief. “We together, I remember / Sweet love, all night long.”
“Eggs over Easy” — Tank and the Bangas
By Mike Donovan, Associate Scene Editor
As the American populace continues to face the steady onslaught of secularization, we are quickly losing sight of Easter’s true meaning — eggs! Yes, be they hard boiled, poached or, dare I say, deviled, eggs should be the only thing on your mind during this most sacred week. Make a particular effort to spend time with the most underrated of the eggs varieties (and no, I’m not talking about that finger painted nonsense): a quality plate of “Eggs Over Easy.”
Tank and the Bangas serve it up like no other, and at such a delightful consistency that you will be humming “mmmmmmm well well” as your soul swells with wonderful intonations of yolky goodness. Naysayers might call “Eggs Over Easy” a mere resurrection of a classic ’60s dish, but, in combination with the countless other delectable goodies on “Think Tank” (various zesty sauces, more than a few aromatic verses), the dish rises to messianic significance.
It’ll take your regrets (“I shouldn’t say what I should say”) and wash them away in the exuberant sunshine of a new life, for Hip Hop and for music as a whole. Hurry up now. Quick! Like a Bunny!
“Runaway” — Kanye West
By Owen Lane, Scene Writer
It’s not hard to understand why “Runaway” is considered the quintessential Kanye West song. On this track, West builds a chorus around his many vulgar nicknames (some of them similar to President Obama’s famous declaration). West, however, manages to transform the song into a nine-minute master course in seeking redemption. At the song’s beginning, Kanye swaggers about his many faults, insinuating that any problems you may have with him are your own fault. By Kanye’s last intelligible words on the track, he has reduced himself from a callous award-show ruiner to an insecure human being with contempt for his flaws. Contrasted with both Pusha T’s and his own bravado, Kanye’s admission that “I don’t know how I’mma manage / if one day you just up and leave” conveys more than any other words in his catalogue.
There’s not much more I can say about a 2010 song that has already been called a “song of the decade.” The beginning piano notes have become as iconic as any other six-note sequence in 21st century music. Somehow, the fuzzy vocoder/string orchestra outro pleads for Kanye’s redemption just as well as the expertly-penned verses. “Runaway” does not promise a happy ending for its flawed protagonist, but it is a cathartic release that begs listeners to forgive a man for his brokenness.
“Dis Generation” — A Tribe Called Request
By Adam Ramos, Senior Scene Writer
A special thing happened in fall of 2016. In a year that saw releases from some of rap’s biggest names, including Kanye West and Chance the Rapper, it was a group recovered from the ’90s that delivered the year’s best release in the genre. After 18 years of silence, A Tribe Called Quest rose again (in accordance with the hipsters). Capitalizing on the group’s storied signature flows, intricate beats and eclectic samples, “We got it from Here … Thank You For Your service” shined a powerful light on a continuity in style that rap hardly ever sees.
In addition to being Phife Dawg’s compelling swan song (he passed before the record’s release), the album can be understood as redeeming for many other reasons. Yet, the power in the record lies outside of redemption — after all, you don’t need to be redeemed if your style never died. Take “Dis Generation,” for example. Even when rapping about its separation from the spotlight, Tribe sounds just as jubilant as its modern day contemporaries. Speaking of those contemporaries, the Tribe has it thoughts about them, stating on the track how “Joey, Earl, Kendrick and Cole,” are the “gatekeepers of flow” and “extensions of instinctual souls / the highest in commodity grade.” Real recognize real.