Review: The 1975's beauty, Macklemore's unruly mess
"This Unruly Mess I've Made" - Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Macklemore has once again paired up with his right-hand producer Ryan Lewis for their sophomore album, “This Unruly Mess I’ve Made.” The Seattle rapper centralizes on social issues prevalent in 2016 and problems currently affecting the duo.
After receiving mixed criticism surrounding their previous album, “The Heist,”the duo appeared to be in a negative light, often being compared to artists like Iggy Azalea. They were the joke of the hip hop community.
Their follow-up doesn't necessarily stand to change this as it is an uneven collection of tracks that ends up an "Unruly Mess," indeed.
The first song “Light Tunnels” centers on the issue of the Seattle rapper coping with the new found fame surrounding the duo. It focuses on his acceptance speech and feelings when going up to receive his Grammy for “The Heist.” Overall, it is a strong, refreshing song to start off the album, providing a recap of where he is now.
The moped anthem “Downtown” carries on the project with a more upbeat tone. Released back in August of 2015, the song features artists such as Eric Nally (Foxy Shazam), and rap legends Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee, and Grandmaster Caz. It appears to be a Broadway-style version of “Thrift Shop” that gets lost in the process.
“Brad Pitt’s Cousin” is a corny track detailing the importance of staying independent. Saying, “It’s up to you to turn the pen into a machete” and being proud of making it to the radio. It started with Macklemore talking about his cat, even making her meow on the record which seemed like a forced attempt to keep it lively.
“Buckshot” features hip-hop legends KRS-ONE and DJ Premier. The album as a whole should’ve been more like this track: it didn't have a forced pop feel which worked and mixed well with the aggressiveness that KRS brings. “Growing Up” featuring Ed Sheeran provides more self-conscious material, this time about Mack's role as a father. It's a good song overall as many could relate to this type of content.
“Kevin” was my favorite song on the album. It had a beautiful feel overall touching on many problems surrounding the pharmaceutical industry. He brings a unique perspective as a former addict, and the lyrics dealing with a friend who overdosed is powerful.
“ST. Ides” is one of the stronger tracks on the record and doesn't seem to be getting the credit it deserves. He focuses on his time as an alcoholic, saying how he didn’t remember some things that happened at the time, again criticizing himself. “Need To Know” again has Mack criticizing himself, but ends up a forgettable song even though Chance The Rapper is featured.
Here’s where it goes downhill.
“Dance Off” was by far the worst song of the album. It was disappointing from start to finish, with an awkward feel throughout that made me cringe. I was expecting more from the new Aftermath Entertainment singer Anderson .Paak, but it wasn’t just him: the song seemed all over the place. Again, the song was forgettable overall.
The next three songs are mediocre at best, aside from YG’s verse in “Bolo Tie,” which offered a good balance of Macklemore’s softer sound and the Compton rapper’s aggressive tone (similar to Buckshot).
The standout track was “White Privilege II.” He details his complicated feelings about being in the Ferguson protests and feeling out of place. His perspective on the song is unique for an artist of his caliber; while many are scared to mention these issues about police brutality he is honest and real about it.
He mentions how he and other white artists have exploited black culture and not acknowledged it; going as far as taking shots at Miley Cyrus, Iggy Azalea, and even Elvis for their take on their respective genres.
This is not his first take on the issue, however. In his previous solo album “The Language of My World” he says, “But we still owe ‘em 40 acres/now we’ve stolen their 16 bars.” The issues spoken on both albums are still prevalent in 2016.
Overall, it was a good listen that focused on many different topics. At points it may come on as preachy or corny, but that's to be expected from Macklemore at this point. The album, as it tries to tackle many different issues, is all over the place. There is not one exact issue that continues throughout the project save Macklemore's introspective criticism.
I appreciate Macklemore as a person for being different and not following the typical path of others artists: making a hit song and stopping there because they already have the money they were going after in the first place. To add on, his storytelling is impressive to say the least; it feels like the listener is reading the lyrics with him as he continues to rap on the issues he feels are important.
"I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It" - The 1975
The 1975 are back with their sophomore album, “I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It.” The British alternative rock band have produced a welcome change of pace and perspective from their self-titled debut album, which gained them a huge fan base outside of the UK.
The band brings new sounds to this eclectic album. Whether it be from semi-rapping to melodic guitar sounds or post-rock instrumentals, the band brings a little of everything to their fans.
The self-titled first track provides a gentle intro that gives the listener a confusing, yet claustrophobic feel. It follows up with an abrupt halt to emphasize the choir vocals, only for it to end the same way. Stellar to say the least.
The first proper song was “Love Me,” a single released in October of 2015, and its distorted parts in the intro and outro are a great addition to portray the mood. This fun, dance-pop track has a great feel to it. It also takes elements from other singers such as David Bowie, sounding almost identical to “Fame.”
“UGH!” is another single that, like the previous track, has a feel-good funkified chorus that will most likely be played in the radio quite a bit this summer. “A Change of Heart” follows, this time with winding synth lines and a resounding 808s beat unique from the previous songs on the album. The song expresses lead singer Matthew Healy's inner conflict on whether or not to stay with the girl he’s been seeing, realizing that physical appearance is not enough of a reason to stay with her. One cutting remark he makes is, “And you were coming across as clever/Then you lit the wrong end of your cigarette.”
“She’s American” is an ode to an American girl that is attracted to things the singer can’t understand. Overall a good song with emphasis on the guitar that cuts through the funk bass and soft saxophone solo. “If I Believe You” has a sexy, gospel like delivery that offers Matty declaring his love for Jesus if he makes his suffering and pain stop. The gospel choirs give the pleas a sense of urgency which complement the song’s moody message.
“Please Be Naked” serves as a perfect interlude. The instrumental track is dark and expansive with great buildups that go around in circles until the next song. “Lostmyhead” offers distorted guitar sounds and lyrics like, “And you say I've lost my head/Can you see it, can you see it?” serving as a perfect prelude for the song “The Ballad of Me and My Brain.” One of the best songs on the album, the song details Matty’s mental health and the side effects of sudden fame.
“Somebody Else” offers more 808 beats and is easily the most heartfelt song in the album. It details a partner in a dying relationship moving on to another person. Beautiful execution.
As a hip-hop enthusiast, “Loving Someone” was refreshing. It includes popular topics on culture conditions saying, “It's better if we keep them perplexed/Better if we make them want the opposite sex," or brilliant lines like, “I'm the Greek economy of cashing intellectual cheques.”
The titular song works as a longer interlude than that of “Please Be Naked,” but with a more ambient sound. Then “The Sound” brings back the upbeat atmosphere to the album, it’s basically a ‘feel-good’ track, both musically and lyrically.
“This Must Be My Dream” and “Paris” are both moody tracks, but for different reasons. The former has a lighter feel that makes light of Matty’s misfortune. The latter song on the other hand has a brilliant guitar execution and underlining theme of meeting people that are "fucked up" inside. The song is quite depressing and somber, but the delivery is brilliant.
“Nana” is also one of my favorite songs here. It’s a tearjerker compared to the previous tracks, highlighting the love Matty has for his dead Grandma over an acoustic production. The final song, “She Lays Down,” is another heartfelt song dealing with his mother’s postnatal depression and how she is praying for a change, even if it means death.
This was a beautiful album overall. It tackles multiple topics the front man of the band is facing within himself and how he’s dealing with these situations. The 1975 is unpredictable. They could go from ‘80s pop or funk influences to heartfelt, simple songs and make them just as effective. Now, comparing it to their previous album, I prefer this one. It offers more variety in terms of content and brings in new sounds the band had not used previously.