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Culture Shock

2013 Music In Review According to Jessica

Forget the champagne and the sparkly dresses and Ryan Seacrest (RIP Dick Clark), the best part about ringing in the New Year with the never-ending plethora of lists and think pieces decreeing the best and the worst of the past 365 days.

With the advent of Buzzfeed, Upworthy and everyone with an internet connection and an opinion, the last thing we need is another list. Sorry. Here is 2013’s Best Music According to Jessica, Full of Bias and Opinions. (RIP objective journalism)

. . .

2013 was supposed to be Kanye’s year. Yeezus, and all the hype surrounding its release, made it seem like the world, or at least the music world, would stop on June 18. Eager to steal the stage, Jay-Z stepped in, teaming up with Justin Timberlake, and Magna Carta Holy Grail with its Samsung Galaxy release efforts hoped to take away some the attention that Yeezus had garnered. Needless to say, that marketing plan failed, with many would-be listeners remembering Jay-Z’s latest album as that-song-with-Justin and something about Tom Ford.

Then, Miley Cyrus came back into the picture. Rocking a shaved head and announcing her love for weed and molly, America’s ex-sweetheart led to many uncomfortable conversations trying to explain what exactly “twerking” was after her performance with Robin Thicke (remember him?) at the MTV Music Awards. Miley got a lot of attention for her quirky antics, leading to many articles and think-pieces about slut-shaming and her new vision of feminism. Others were angry about her apparent appropriation of “black music” with her twerking and style of music on Bangerz. Not to mention the widespread shock that she generated with the infamous music video accompanying “Wrecking Ball,” showing her nakedly swinging on a wrecking ball. There are some images that are burned onto my retinas, and unfortunately, Miley making out with a sledgehammer is one of them.

Regardless of all the all-star names that released music this year, for the most part, it was not the big names that made the most noise (except Beyonce). Here’s my list of the five favorite albums of 2013. Spanning a plethora of ages, genres, experience and sound, they are all somewhat related in the sense that they take the world we live in today- an arguably narcissistic, Internet-obsessed, post-modern society- and try to make sense of it. 2013 was a good year for music.

Lorde-Pure Heroine

I’m Kind of Over Getting Told to Put My Hands Up in The Air

Lorde is #overit and #DGAF. She is as Internet as Doge and is to the teenagers of 2013 as Britney Spears was to the teenagers of 2000. She suggests the ever-popular façade of ambivalence among her peers on “Tennis Court,” singing “ It’s a new art form/showing how little we care.” She expresses the tension that her generation faces with the image that they cultivate online, the #DGAF one addressed on “Tennis Court” contrasting with their exposed offline identities; on "Ribs” she declares that she’s never felt so alone. She epitomizes the conflict of vulnerability and infinite power, though only 16, she sings “it feels so scary getting old,” alluding to the “real time nostalgia” that her friend, Tavi Gevinson wrote about. At the same time, in “Royals” she sings about the lifestyle of invincibility that pop stars live, and by using the royal “we,” she too admits living that way. Again, like Gevinson, Pure Herione embodies this permeating sense of being “eternally invincible” and “permanently trapped” that makes the album so appealing to a generation that feels the same way.


Kanye West-Yeezus

Yeezus Just Rose Again

If My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was Kanye’s apology album, Yeezus undid the apology. His eagerly anticipated seventh studio album caught both critics and fans off guard with brash and unapologetic lyrics that attack the consumerist society and big corporations. Yeezus follows up on themes that Kanye has always been addressing; on College Dropout he laments about an incarcerated cousin missing out on Thanksgiving and on Yeezus, Kanye raps about the racism embedded in the prison-industrial complex that holds a disproportionate number of black men. The album is minimal in its beats but maximum in its message. It is the basic theme of the album, that Kanye, a man that has everything-fame, money, power, family-he still experiences discomfort, take the line from “Guilt Trip” “I’m so scared of my demons/I go to sleep with a nightlight.” In “I Am A God” he shouts that he is a God and that he is equals with Jesus, “I just talked to Jesus/he said whattup Yeezus,” however he admits that being a God, having all this power is stressful. It isn’t easy being Kanye West, and instead of apologizing for it, he created Yeezus to try to explain it


Vampire Weekend-Modern Vampires of the City

Wisdom’s a Gift But You’d Trade it for Youth

Vampire Weekend frontman (and twitter aficionado) Eza Koenig announced that Modern Vampires of the City marked the final chapter in their trilogy of albums. For a band that is better known for their African-inspired beats, MVOTC takes a sharp left turn down a mellower route, switching up the giddiness for a sense of self-awareness that comes with age and experience. In fact, age seems to be the overarching theme. No longer is this a band of recent Ivy League grads playing afro-beats on "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa." They now speak of an apocalyptic Manhattan on “Hudson” (albeit the worst song on the album) and on “Step” Koenig sings “everyone’s dying but girl you’re not old yet,” adopting a wise persona. The album’s concern with youth and the passage of time is most clear in “Don’t Lie,” as Koenig croons, “does it bother you, the low clock of the ticking clock?” The preoccupation with a premature death is evident on “Diane Young,” a play on “dyin’ young” about a girl with the unfortunate “luck of a Kennedy,” who sets fire to a Saab. The album thrives on this constant tension of acquiring wisdom with age but also realizing that life is a constant race against the clock; the band says screw that and finds a solution on “Hannah Hunt,” by declaring “You and me/we got our own sense of time.” No one has told Vampire Weekend what they could do and no one is going to start now.


Arctic Monkeys-AM

R U Mine Tomorrow, Or Just Mine Tonight

Eight years ago, the Arctic Monkeys were the most hyped up band, leading to many music critics to hail them as the British Invasion 2.0. However, it’s AM, their fifth studio album that finally delivers. Hands down, this album is the biggest surprise hit of the year for me personally. Lead singer Alex Turner finally capitalizes on his sultry voice, and instead of trying to shove as many syllables as possible in one breath, he turns to a sleeker and more contemplative mood, evident of “Do I Wanna Know.” AM explores broader themes than sweaty dance floors and cheap hotel rooms, taking a sharp turn away from the Arctic Monkey’s previous album. It’s obvious that Turner and Co. are growing up-not just in their more mature musical style, but also through the messages in their songs. More poised and thoughtful, finally, the Arctic Monkey’s have proved that they’re worth the hype.


Childish Gambino-because the internet

Because of the Internet, Mistakes are Forever

Mix three parts of Kanye’s bombast on Yeezus with two parts of synths and slow jams from Channel Orange. Combine with post-modernism and a copy of Catch-22. Take a picture of it. Post it on Instagram with a filter, Hefe would probably work well. Share it on Twitter and Facebook. This is because the internet. A concept album and screenplay, because the internet is Donald Glover’s, aka Childish Gambino, second album. He improves his rap game from his debut album, Camp, and tackles the Internet and how it has changed (for the worse) the way people interact. On "III. Life: the biggest troll [Andrew aurenheimer]" Glover ruminates on how the Internet has ruined romantic relationships by allowing people to have dual personalities, “we are the dreams of our parents lost in the future/who hide the deepest desires and wear a mask like a lucha.” This isn’t an old man complaining about how the Internet has ruined the younger generation; Glover is a product of the Internet. As a 30-year-old who’s past credentials include writing for 30 Rock and acting in Community, Glover personally knows the feeling of being connected to the world 24/7, yet alienated; the Internet has prevented him from feeling completely alive, yet the Internet is the only platform where he feels he can express him off. Call it the post-modern Catch-22 or call it another well-off person figuring out that material goods cannot replace human relationships. Regardless, it’s because the Internet.


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