To say I’ve been hip to the charms of deceased rapper Mac Miller before this past year would be a bold-faced lie, but I couldn’t be any happier that now that I’ve actually given his music a chance – Now, I know what you’re thinking, but it’s not merely his untimely passing that got me hooked on the Pittsburgh native’s body of work, rather a chance encounter with his music nearly two years ago whilst up late doing some data work for my job. You see, I’d been purposely avoiding his music for years before then, constantly getting him confused with NF, Logic, Macklemore, G-Eazy or any of those other up-n-coming white rappers who were starting to get big around 2013, finding all of their flows to be so incredibly banal & cookie-cutter-ish in comparison to the serious hood hooks I grew up with being raised in the Bay Area; Nothing any of these guys released ever caught me in a way that felt inspiring & I didn’t want to support the media machine who were simply praising them for being Caucasian rather than for the talents when there were so many underground rappers out there absolutely killin’ it, so I shut myself off entirely from what they had to say, ultimately lumping Miller into the same group like a damned fool – Boy, what a mistake that was. I liken it to being a picky eater as a kid who would only eat chicken-strips & fries for pretty much every meal; I was denying myself so many fantastic meals throughout my childhood, not only messing with my internal health but damaging my outward appearance ‘cause I was now known as that idiot who’d go out on a date & order the chicken teriyaki instead of something adventurous like maguro or unagi, proving to the world that I wasn’t mature enough to put aside my preconceived notions & try something new for once. Well, much like I’d eventually open up my palate to everything offered my way, becoming a professional chef who now tries to convince his girlfriend to eat outside her comfort zone, my musical prejudices would eventually lighten up in the last couple of years as well, with Miller’s The Divine Feminine being one of the many overwhelming surprises I experienced once I stopped being such an incredible hater – I’d like to say that the wait made his reveal that much better, but I can’t forgive myself for being such an incredible asshole all this time when he had so many dope rhymes to share with me when he was still around.
c a m e r o n 🍣
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Collected by ”@camjameson”
Written by “@camjameson”
Whenever I get into a conversation with people my age about the late-noughties period of Screamo & Metalcore that took the internet generation by storm, I typically receive a mixed bag of reactions that vary from utter disgust to incredibly strong nostalgia for the once-prolific genres. Some people – usually those who were directly involved in the formation of such genres – find immense joy in the bombastic instrumentation & guttural screams of the sound, claiming it allowed them to express their innermost angst in a pleasantly bold manner, but the vast majority of people I talk to claim it’s nothing but nonsense noise used for shock value that holds no melodic integrity whatsoever – As someone who spent years performing in touring bands from 2006 to 2014 promoting these aesthetics, I feel a distinct sense of alienation from anyone who says they don’t understand it at all since my contemporaries & I had such a heavy hand in the formation of the genres themselves, my ex-Hardcore & Punk brethren & I putting our all into the most aggressive arrangements we could to gain street cred, or rather internet cred, within the fading confines of Myspace, the social media platform where Screamo & Metalcore found its biggest audience in Scene Kids. This music was the best platform we had to express who we were, allowing us to find a niche culture all our own much in the same way Trappers on SoundCloud have their own unique subculture to champion in the modern day, yet I can’t help but feel like the massive strides we made in improving the genre are lost on today’s listeners who’ve grown up with a very polished & refined Rock music industry wholly informed by Pop media; You just don’t get the same sort of blood-curdling screams & poignant narratives of teenage insecurity now that mental health issues & depression are all the rage in mainstream Pop radio, so trying to observe what made these genres so delightful is incredibly difficult as you really had to be there to understand how amazing it was joining voices with a crowd of ragamuffins at Warped Tour throwing your fists around to a bunch of drop-C tuned open-chord breakdowns & shouting about how death is preferable to living in obscurity – Of all the bands in this scene, there’ve been hundreds of groups who hold a special place in my heart that’ve yet to see the fame they truly deserve, but perhaps the band who changed the public perception of Screamo & Metalcore – specifically Deathcore, in fact – is undoubtedly Bring Me The Horizon, one of the few remaining bands of the era who’re still driving audiences crazy today. They’re a far-cry from the band they were in my day, but their success can be directly linked to their second & most prolific album Suicide Season, a record which defined a generation & split audiences straight down the middle, fracturing the scene into two distinct groups of people who would either stick to their old-world mindset or continue to shell out clones of the sound until the current day, literally a curse & a blessing marking the end of the scene altogether.
No matter how young or old you are, there’s just something so unmistakably endearing about the music modern R&B maestro Bruno Mars produces, as he’s able to capture the trends of today’s music industry whilst sparking a fire of nostalgia within your heart for the iconic sounds of yesteryear, casting the widest net of sonic tastes imaginable to satisfy virtually any type of listener alive today – It feels a bit strange yet also fulfilling to say this, ‘cause it goes to show how far Mars has come since he first hit the scene, taking an incredibly longue route to discover what sound actually defines him but doing so with the utmost efficacy. You see, at the release of Doo-Wops & Hooligans, Mars was somewhere between a happy-go-lucky Roots Rock performer like Jason Mraz & a barebones Pop idol with no integrity whatsoever, churning out painfully generic tunes such as “Grenade” & “Just The Way You Are” that lacked a sense of personality, so clearly designed to appeal to young, typically-female mainstream audiences that he was more of a joke than someone you’d actually want to spend your hard-earned cash on; I mean, I certainly couldn’t stand a single track he released until I heard him cover Mark Ronson’s “Valerie” as a tribute to Amy Winehouse at the MTV Video Music Awards – Of course, with fame & status came identity & comfort for Mars, using his platform to shell out music that aligned with his interests growing up, suddenly introducing modern millennial audiences to New Jack Swing, R&B Slow Jams, Funk & all manner of Soul jams in the subsequent years, thus turning him into a powerhouse of personality you couldn’t bring yourself to look away from, culminating at long last with his most recent album 24K Magic which is by all standards the best record he’s ever put into the ether; It’s a collection of songs that are wholly unique to this day & age whilst simultaneously championing the greatest subgenres to have ever hit the classic R&B scenes, educating contemporary listeners & bringing a smile to the faces of old-heads such as myself in the best of ways. Even so, it’s not without its faults, as it’s one thing to take inspiration from the past but it’s another entirely to attempt fusing such techniques with today’s ideals, a feat he certainly accomplishes for the vast majority of 24K Magic but that quickly becomes a detrimental crutch on a handful of numbers throughout.
In a move that certainly confuses my girlfriend to no end, I’ve developed an incredibly unhealthy obsession with the music of Maren Morris, a love affair that started just a few years ago when I first heard her fantastic contemporary Country Pop jam “80s Mercedes.” At the time, I had just started exploring the newest wave of Country artists who were trying to bring the genre back to its former glory as artists like Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson & Midland defiantly fought back with astounding compositions hearkening to the older drifter tunes of the eighties, giving me hope that my opinion of Country could expand beyond my prior prejudices to give me a new appreciation of modern music. I’d come around to the idea of not feeling embarrassed by my newfound love of the genre, but then Morris came out of the blue with a phenomenal performance on Saturday Night Live that made me absolutely lose my shit, delighting me in ways I really didn’t think Country ever could. This track – along with “My Church” – was so exceptionally crafted, utilizing some of the best recording techniques & compositional structures to make a tune that felt simultaneously anachronistic & futuristic, what with its killer blend of epic Gospel vibes, classic New Wave electronic instrumentation & fiercely driving chord progression which filled my bones with such satisfying warmth I couldn’t put it down for weeks; It certainly didn’t hurt the track at all to have a wonderfully imaginative music video with some eye-catching visuals, aiding the entire piece in showing me that the upcoming generation of young musicians really do have something of value to behold in the face of so many cookie-cutter clones elsewhere in the Pop industry, thus solidifying Morris as an act I’d love to continue following for years to come – Sadly, much of this popularity led to her inevitably partnering up with artists like Zedd for the Dance Pop tune “The Middle,” which by all means is a thrilling Synth Pop number in its own right but seemed to indicate that Morris was taking a sharp left turn from the solid showing she’d produced only a year or two before, essentially signifying that the Pop machine had taken its hold & that we’d never get such inspiring Country Pop tunes from her in the future. Combined with her less-charismatic persona following her shotgun marriage soon after, I’d pretty much written her off from that moment on as another victim of mainstream media, doomed to go down the same route of generic banality the previous Country queen Taylor Swift did once the fame went to her head, but like a shining ray of hope for humanity Maren Morris persevered just long enough to drop yet another top-tier album in 2019 with GIRL, a home-run of a production equal to & even surpassing the magnificence of her last record – If you’re reading this, I doubt you’re not already familiar with how dope this album is, but just in case let’s take a look at some of its high & low points.
For the majority of the early-teens up until 2016, I had a fairly fringe understanding of just how spectacular K Pop music could be, never really succumbing to the Korean music machine that so many had fallen in love with largely due to how disappointed I was at the rise & eventual fall of J Pop music in the early-noughties. Being a heavy consumer of Anime & Japanese culture through much of my youth leading into my later years, I’d been let down time & time again by how much time I’d devoted to watching J Pop grow, my dreams of it being the next big thing squandered as public reception waned so much so that you almost never hear anyone mention that they actually like the genre unless they’re talking about the opening credits for a series like My Hero Academia or Naruto; As such, I naturally strayed away from the popularity K Pop had garnered in the last decade, thinking it too was going to just be another fad that would die in time, but to my surprise some of my favourite acts recently have been of the K Pop variety, notable groups being NCT U with their fantastically bombastic Dance numbers & GOT7 with their astonishingly soulful nineties-R&B revival aesthetics, spawning a newfound love for the impressive musicianship of the burgeoning Korean music scene. It goes without saying, then, that I’d missed out on a lot of prominent acts earlier years, generally writing off the 2010 to 2015 period of K Pop as nothing more than kitschy Idol Pop music with a slight EDM vibe running through every song’s chorus, an opinion I so unrightfully applied to one of the groups I hold so near & dear to my heart today, BLACKPINK – Yes, I actually got my first taste of how spectacular they were with their most recent release SQUARE UP – EP towards the latter end of 2018, a thrilling album that not only touched on the anachronistic origins of female-led K Pop music but did so with more authenticity & true skill than the vast majority of contemporary K Pop groups, instantly achieving crush-status as I swooned over the group’s delightful personalities & incredible vocal prowess that just seemed to stand apart from the rest of the crowd. Imagine my surprise, then, when I find that SQUARE UP – EP was actually the third in a trilogy of EP drops from these ladies, each more impressive than the last & packed to the gills with dancefloor potential I can’t help but shake my butt to every time I press play; More importantly, I realized I’d actually been hearing their music for years in the most random of locations, from Korean Barbeque joints down here in Los Angeles to commercials on various music platforms before I’d started working for VIBBIDI, the tracks within their second EP drop SQUARE TWO – EP – sometimes packaged as SQUARE ONE & SQUARE TWO together – being of particular splendor, giving me a sense of recent nostalgia I had no idea I was connected to already – So let’s jump in & see why this album is so overwhelmingly enticing, shall we?
What the hell is happening to me? I used to take pride in absolutely decimating mainstream Pop music like this, finding it to be the bane of my existence & an industry-wide plague that was stagnating the creativity of far-greater undiscovered musicians out there in the market, but now I’m suddenly defending the very music I once thought to be utter trash. Am I just getting old & soft, weakened by years of monotonous mainstream radio performances? Was this music catchy all along & I was just too blind to see it? Or is it something else, like perhaps my progressed age has shown me how spectacularly entertaining it is to watch someone game the system entirely, knowing exactly how to tweak their sound to appeal to modern audiences whilst maintaining their individual schtick, thereby reaching the widest market & reaping the rewards monetarily? Whatever it is, it’s causing me to voice a very controversial opinion that goes against everything I’ve believe in for decades now: Florida Georgia Line are genuine geniuses of contemporary Country music, far more talented & impressive than we give them credit for – Yes, I’ve drank the fucking Kool-Aid & it’s incredibly uncomfortable for me. I know their first album Here’s To The Good Times… was influential & whatnot for how tremendously it shifted the Country Pop scene into the mainstream consciousness as a viable creative outlet & I get that artists should naturally improve their skillsets over the years like a fine wine aged in oak barrels, but their 2019 release Can’t Say I Ain’t Country has no right being as good as it is, literally living up to its namesake by delivering a stellar collection of backwoods jams that’re so clearly influenced by eighties- & nineties-era Country that you rightfully can’t pigeonhole the duo as being a bunch of braindead Popstars. Time & time again I find myself going into songs thinking ‘oh yeah, this is gonna be an absolute train-wreck,’ only to find that my expectations – typically based on their previous history of coopting Hip Hop culture for song names that have nothing to do with the actual lyrical content – were totally off-base, founded in stereotype with no confidence that Florida Georgia Line could actually produce anything worth shaking a tail-feather at, resulting in me eating crow more on this album than pretty much any artist I’ve reviewed in the last year who’s completely reinvented themselves as a sort of ten-year reunion present to today’s aging audiences – So, if you’ll humour me, prepare to uncover some of the best qualities about this album; You’ll likely be just as surprised as I was.
Lemme level with you – Though he’d been making waves in the mainstream Hip Hop industry for years beforehand, I didn’t actually know who the hell Wiz Khalifa was until he teamed up with Charlie Puth for the Grammy Award-winning Pop tune “ See You Again” from 2015 made specifically as a tribute to actor Paul Walker in the film Furious 7 & even then he wasn’t necessarily unique enough to really grab my attention that much; I mean, shit, I didn’t even know he was popular until my mom spent the majority of the awards show gabbing about how endearing Khalifa was, continuously telling me she thought he was a charming man who showed promise for the future of Hip Hop music, even saying he reminded her of my brothers & I ‘cause he was a quaint light-skinned brother who just wanted to have a good time with respect to those around him. I’d spent years having absolutely no clue just how prolific he’d become, repeatedly believing such hits as “Black and Yellow,” “We Dem Boyz” & the incredibly relaxing “Young, Wild & Free” were one-hit wonders from Gym Class Heroes front-man Travie McCoy, even confusing his incredibly straightforward vocalism with the lazy Rap techniques of white-buffalo lyricist Macklemore – As time passed by, I recognized that he was a major player in the new wave of Mainstream Rap idols, responsible for some of the biggest hits the industry has scene in the last decade alone, but he still existed somewhat in the periphery of my interests, a rather simplistic voice in a crowd of style-biters who were churning out the same exact SoundCloud-based Trap styles everyone else was doing, never quite giving me the old-school charisma or revolutionary genre evolution I needed for him to be a regular player in my weekly rotations; That is, until he released Rolling Papers 2, upon which a singular song with a decidedly old-school West Coast vibe was lighting up my pleasure-centers, reminding me of my days as a Punk-ish hooligan ghost-ridin’ the whip with my friends in Oakland at the height of the Hyphy movement back when I was just a teenager, piquing my attention & encouraging me to check out the rest of the album in hopes of finding similar material – Well, I finally took the plunge into Rolling Papers 2 in earnest recently, head held high & expectations turned up to the max, but almost all of my excitement was quickly met with disappointment as I discovered yet another middling-quality modern Rap album with nothing to say other than repetitive lyrics & unenthusiastic hype techniques that had already turned me off of today’s hottest trends.
In the years since she first captured the hearts of mainstream audiences everywhere with her delightfully Alternative attitude & approachable Skater Punk aesthetics, Avril Lavigne has more or less fallen down the rabbit hole into a nightmarish world of mediocrity, delving further & further into monotony with every subsequent album. In Under My Skin, she seemingly dropped her streetwise persona altogether in favour of a more Liz Phair sort of kitsch-iness, she regressed into a self-centered snob of a pre-teen performer in The Best Damn Thing through which she not only insulted Japanese Kawaii culture several times but also created a brand new standard of garishly bratty behaviour for young girls to identify themselves with in the Teen Pop romp “Girlfriend,” followed by two consecutive albums – Goodbye Lullaby & Avril Lavigne – that were so banal nobody even remembered they came out, too focused on her relationship with Nickleback frontman Chad Kroeger to give a damn about her music; This, of course, culminated in her wholly underwhelming 2019 release Head Above Water that saw her adopt a faux-Christian persona after a short stint with Lyme disease in an attempt to ‘reinvent’ her public image, a move that only served to prove how devoid of character & integrity she is as a musician – Looking back, then, it’s understandable that her breakout album Let Go still sits atop the list as the singular most important piece of media she’s ever released, figuratively overflowing with personality & capitalizing on the very essence of adolescence at the turn of the century, youngsters looking for any sort of mainstream outlet for their furious angst that could delight the senses whilst straying far away from the overwhelming positivity of the Teen Pop acts who’d ruled the airwaves in the years prior. It was & still is a picture-perfect representation of just how awkward the transition from child to teen can be in the American scene as you struggle to find your place amidst the hormonal changes of puberty, trying on different personas & finding cliques of like-minded individuals through which your unbridled angst & apathy can be channeled for good. There wasn’t any concern for grandiose thought experiments or introspective analyses of life’s purpose, just a bunch of entertaining Pop Punk numbers with a feminine touch that made every teen want to find a girl just like her, showing that you didn’t have to be some blonde bombshell or the most talented singer in the world to be noticed so long as you had some raw emotions boiling in your heart & a counter-culture attitude that said ‘fuck the system.’
Much like his contemporary equal Michael Bublé who also made his bread & butter in Pop media by creating updated covers of classic music, Josh Groban has been a staple for mainstream listeners on the radio for decades now, finding a particularly ravenous audience among people waiting in line at Starbucks who like to peruse the last-minute gift ideas placed in front of the cashier. He’s an undeniably talented performer, literally changing the face of Opera music forever by making it much more approachable to modern listeners through the sheer power of his voice & his conventionally appealing looks, but with great mainstream success also comes immense criticism, especially in today’s day & age where popularity is often conflated with mediocrity, a cheap opinion listeners use to feel like they’re ‘in’ on the joke for the sake of camaraderie – More often than not, individuals who think themselves better than the Pop machine will happily shit on everything Groban has created, as anyone capable of remaining positive & hopeful in a world as cruel as ours is clearly a sellout who’s shamelessly shilling good vibes just ‘cause that sort of generic worldview performs well with your run-of-the-mill middle-American person, right? I know this because I was one of those haters not too long ago, constantly tearing down any sort of positive review he received ‘cause I thought he was somehow inferior to the seemingly magnificent musicianship I enjoyed in my own sonic interests – You see, I once dated a girl from North Carolina who identified herself by three specific things: The popular ABC dating show The Bachelor, everyone’s favourite Disney trio the Jonas Brothers & – you guessed it – Josh Groban. She equally idolized the completely unrealistic expectations of romance all three promoted, but it was Groban in particular who she just couldn’t get enough of, playing his lofty, often monotonal & undynamic Opera numbers on repeat for days at a time no matter how embarrassing & completely uncharacteristic it was of the person she presented herself to be when we first started dating; This unfortunately tainted my perspective of his music for years after we broke up as I associated his music with hours upon hours of tedious replays that bore away at my very soul, literally embodying how exhausting our relationship was right up until the bitter end, so I was never able to really appreciate his fantastic skill as a musician considering he represented something so foul – Thankfully, time has broken down many of those ill-placed barriers, allowing me to approach his latest record Bridges with open eyes & I’ve gotta say, I absolutely love what I see & wish I hadn’t been such a defensive prick all these years whenever someone said they actually liked his music.
Collected by ”@camjameson”
Collected by ”@camjameson”
Collected by ”@camjameson”
Collected by ”@camjameson”
Collected by ”@camjameson”
Velocity. Tetra. Opinionated. Resolute. Analyst. Fervent. Tinker. Maelstrom. Introspection. Kinetic. Morbid. Husk. Sequence. Content Strategist for VIBBIDI