Lana, Drake and Cardi B

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Here is your summer reading list.

Music review often gets a bad press – “Critics are pussies who want to look cool,” sang Jen Cloher on her track “Shoegazing” earlier this year – but a good, vital review can be a brilliant help for them. fans and musicians. .

Truly excellent writing can reveal new perspectives on an artist’s process or make connections between eras, places and cultures that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. There was a lot of great music this year, and a bunch of great writing too. Here are some of the best.


“This void between fantasy and reality, I think, is the true frame of Del Rey and Biller’s respective work – a dreamlike, self-constructed universe that reconciles the romantic optimism of a young woman’s expectations with the unsatisfying realities. of feminine existence.

The effect is stereoscopic, the way old red and blue glasses tricked the brain into seeing a single 3D image merged from two separate two-dimensional shadows. Real-life events and feelings are mediated through the lens of the female fantasy, creating what can function as a memory lure that makes trauma and frustrations more beautiful, cinematic, and generally more livable.

Meaghan Garvey, editor for MTV News, wrote two of the year’s best reviews in “Female Gaze: Lana Del Rey, I Love Dick and The Love Witch” for MTV, and in her review of Del Rey in 2017 Desire for life for fork.

In these pieces, which read very well as a set, Garvey disentangles the ideology and character of Del Rey with more nuance than any of the critics who have written about Born to die put together.

Garvey skillfully makes connections between Del Rey’s music and Anna Biller’s The witch of love and Chris Kraus’ I like cock, two works that are, like the music of Del Rey, often misinterpreted by male critics. In her review, she unwraps Del Rey’s obsession with Americana with amazing depth and clarity.

Read: “Feminine gaze: Lana Del Rey, the witch of love and I love cock” in MTV News and “Lana Del Rey: Lust For Life Review” to Fork.

“The selfish indigence that emerges from Drake’s songs irritates me. “You are to blame for what we could have been / because looks at what we are,” he sings on “Teenage Fever,” which is possibly the 15th best song on More life. Thanks, asshole. I imagine Drake, a phone romance walker, has had his number blocked several times. – Anwen Crawford, writing about Drake in The Monthly

No one has been able to stop talking about Drake throughout the month of November. How could you talk about anything else? It was Drake, in Australia. Fortunately, we had Anwen Crawford – one of Australia’s top reviewers – and Osman Faruqi – one of Australia’s best on Twitter – to write about it.

Crawford’s “Drakeworld” piece for The Monthly is brilliant, beautiful, and lyrical, and makes a great read if you don’t understand Drake’s place in the musical landscape (or even if you do). Faruqi’s review of Drake’s show, for The Guardian, pinpoints Drake’s idea as a rap star and instead turns him into Drake The Pop Star, a performer for the masses.

Read: “Drakeworld” by Anwen Crawford in The Monthly and “Drake review – Boy Meets World tour reflects the tension at the heart of the popstar” by Osman Faruqi in The Guardian.

“Jesse Lacey’s legacy will be to shape the behavior of a generation of teenagers whom it is okay to treat women with contempt. If you are in a band it is even more ok, because you are a tortured artist and the pain and suffering of these women is really in the service of art. As a man in a group, you are entitled to the body, mind and confidence of these girls. It is your due. It’s like groupies, but less Almost Famous and scarier. – Sophie Benjamin on sexism in emo

The allegations against Brand New’s Jesse Lacey were shocking to many listeners who were (and are) fans of the early 2000s emo. The revelation inspired some brilliant and searing writing from Sophie Benjamin (on her personal page Medium) and Jenn Pelly, writing for Pitchfork.

Read: “How the mid-2000s emo cured underage girls and poisoned teens” by Sophie Benjamin and “Unraveling the Sexism of Emo’s Third Wave” by Jenn Pelly in Pitchfork.

“When we come in to hang out with Hayley and the guys, I feel the cold shoulder pretty quickly. Hayley is polite but calm. She keeps her sunglasses on, fidgets nervously and we barely make eye contact.

Once we are seated, I have a distinctly uncomfortable feeling that I am back in the high school cafeteria, stuck at a table with a friend who is mad at me but unwilling or unable to explain why. . Going to my phone, I noticed on Twitter that shortly after we broke up she tweeted something scathing: “Just enjoy that damn music.” Alex Frank’s FADER cover story on Hayley Williams and Paramore

Many musicians who once made music on the sidelines have made great strides in pop this year, journeys that have been recounted in a stack of excellent profiles. New York writer Alex Frank has written many excellent profiles this year, but two of his pieces for The FADER – covers on Hayley Williams and Perfume Genius – stood out.

Frank is an incredible profile writer – he gets extremely intimate with his subjects (sometimes causing problems, like in his feature film Paramore) – but he’s also incredibly observant and very analytical at times. Likewise, Laura Snapes wrote an incredible profile of St Vincent for Buzzfeed that delved into Annie Clark more than any other profile on Clark. MASSEDUCTION is a stimulating and spectacular record, and Snapes’ profile set the mood wonderfully.

Read: “St Vincent tells you everything” by Laura Snapes in Buzzfeed, “Adult Emotions” by Alex Frank in The FADER and “How Perfume Genius Grew and Began to Thrive” by Alex Frank in The FADER.

Photo by Savvy Creative / Savannah van der Niet

It was a revolutionary art form because it allowed black people to see reflections of their own beauty and power that are never represented in mainstream society. What does a white man have to fight for in Australia? A country based on the genocide and colonialism of the world’s first black people. White culture is full of violence and cultural domination, not resilience. White artists who create hip-hop and dominate black artists is just another form of colonialism to me. – Wahe Kavara speaking to Kish Lal in Acclaim

Australia has a problem with diversity in its festivals and culture, and Kish Lal of Acclaim and Hayden Davies of Pilerats have taken the time not only to solve the problem, but also to offer us solutions. In Lal’s work for Acclaim, she spoke to black women and non-binary people about the music industry‘s lack of black voices in hip-hop, speaking to Miss Blanks and Kandere about one of the greatest. shame on Australian music.

Davies took a more analytical approach, creating a series of damning charts breaking down the number of women and people of color on major festival lineups into cold and harsh statistics.

Read: “The problem of the diversity of music festivals in Australia in numbers and some steps to improve it” by Hayden Davies in Pilerats and “It’s time to listen to more diverse voices in Australian hip-hop” by Kish Lal in Acclaim.

“The Cardi B phenomenon is just that: an anomaly in the culture rather than a confirmation of it. She threatens the rules. New York City has long ceded its rap dominance to the South, but in “Bodak Yellow,” a proud upscale kid Cardi B riffs on an old Florida rapper Kodak Black’s flow.

Young rappers like Black and xxxTentacion are currently climbing the heights of popularity on the internet while being blatantly abusive towards women; Cardi B is open about the abusive relationships she went through and what she had to do to get out of it. For male rappers, the strip club is a temple, an affirmation of their prowess; Cardi B turned the strip club into a site of female ingenuity. – Doreen St. Felix writes about Cardi B in The New Yorker

In a pretty crappy year for the pop charts, Cardi B was a silver lining. Her story is so perfect that at the time she seemed designed, but she is so messy and beautiful and perfect that there is no way she could have been designed. One of the fun games to play this year was to open up some of Cardi’s press clippings from the start of the year to the end of the year and see how quickly her Instagram account grew – with each new clipping, she was gaining one, two million additional followers.

Doreen St. Felix and Lindsay Zoladz, perhaps the two best critics currently in office, have each written compelling tales of Cardi’s rise and its implications. Cardi is so naturally fun that writing about her is often boring, or at least not up to her standards – both of these pieces are exceptions.

Read: “Cardi B, the rapper who ousted Taylor Swift from the top of the charts” by Doreen St. Felix in The New Yorker and “Bloody Slippers: Cardi B’s Fairy Tale” by Lindsay Zoladz in The Ringer.

It’s not even half. It would take a while to compile all of this year’s amazing writings, but here are a few more pieces that are worth your time:

“Waxahatchee walks in a hurricane without a raincoat” by Lindsay Zoladz in The Ringer
The Ringer’s wonderful music critic Lindsay Zoladz on Out In The Storm, Waxahatchee’s latest album.

“Quindon Tarver was the child star of Romeo + Juliet: What happened next ? by Dan Condon on Double J
Dan Condon of Double J talks to Quindon Tarver, the child singer who played an important role in the Romeo + Juliet soundtrack.

“Word of mouth resurgence of Arthur Russell” by Lucy Schiller in The New Yorker
Lucy Schiller writes about Arthur Russell’s legacy for The New Yorker.

“A projection: Harry Styles and the art of idealism” by Mitski in The Talkhouse
Musician Mitski writes about Harry Styles and Harry Styles.

“The cure for Dr. Luke?” »By Lindsay Zoladz in The Ringer
Lindsay Zoladz writes about the pop production following the Kesha / Dr Luke trial, and the character of Jack Antonoff’s “Nice Guy”.

Shaad D’Souza is a freelance writer from Melbourne. Follow him on twitter here.


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