You should know by now that I love R&B. It has had its ups and downs over the years, and it certainly isn’t what it was during the age of Boyz II Men, Jodeci, Silk, En Vogue, and TLC, but it has continued to evolve. It has grown up. It has undertaken and embraced more mature themes. It works. The lovey-dovey songs have made room for the highly sexual and drug-induced ballads. Before you decide that that’s not your cup of tea, remember that music conveniently lends itself to drug users. Show me a legendary artist, and I’ll show you a drug user (there are a few exceptions, but work with me). Now, I keep my ears to the streets, and there are two mixtapes that I urge you to download (free and legal). Those two mixtapes are “Nostalgia, Ultra” by Frank Ocean and “House of Balloons” by The Weeknd.
Frank Ocean’s latest effort is called “Nostalgia, Ultra”, and I must say that it is a very refreshing listen. I can play this mixtape from start to finish, but there are a few songs that stand out to me. “Novacane” is a nice, up-tempo track with an adult theme, and I can’t stop listening to it. Here, he compares a woman to novacane and urges her to kill the pain. “We All Try” is beautifully written and passionately performed track that urges all of us to “believe in something”. “Swim Good” is a soulful tale with suicidal undertones about a man attempting to escape something that haunts him. It seems that he has broken many hearts in his past, and now he is trying to swim away from his troubles. This just may be my favorite song on the mixtape. “American Wedding” has a very familiar instrumental to anyone familiar with classic rock or who has played Guitar Hero. With the help of The Eagles’ “Hotel California”, Ocean croons: “Well, you can have my Mustang, that’s all I’ve got in my name / But Jesus Chris, don’t break my heart, this wedding ring won’t ever wipe off / But if you stay, girl, if you stay / You’ll probably leave later anyway, it’s love made in the USA”. That’s a pretty sobering, depressing, and realistic look at just around 50% of marriages in this country. Ocean pushes us out of the depths of disparity and depression with “Nature Feels”, though. As someone said on Twitter, it makes sex in a backyard/garden seem so aesthetically appealing. “Tell me how my nature feels…” Damn, Frank. Overall grade: B
I’ve been debating whether or not I wanted to review The Weeknd’s “House of Balloons” for weeks now because I wasn’t sure if I could do it justice. I feel like not enough people are talking about this masterpiece, so I figured I’d discuss it on the blog in hopes that more people would download it and give it a listen. It is only 9 tracks in length, but it is 50 minutes of the most calming, futuristic, sexually-charged, drug-referencing, mysterious, creative, unique, and intriguing R&B mixtape or album I have heard in…in years. This isn’t lightweight stuff, either. This is like a late-night, I can’t sleep, and I may make some irresponsible decisions kind of mixtape. People have asked me how I describe The Weeknd’s music, and all I can say is that it is like “The Dream heavily medicated on his best day backed by the darkest and sharpest of production.” It’s all such a mystery. Most people don’t even know if The Weeknd is a singer or if it is a group. There is only one guy singing throughout the
album mixtape, but I’m inclined to believe that it is a group because this production is the perfect complement to his voice. It starts with a slow track and seducing track called “High for This” where he takes a female on some kind of sexual escapade and tells her that she wants “to be high for this.” I heard this song, and I was immediately hooked. I could easily go track by track and pull out my favorite lyrics and list my favorite song (all nine) because it’s so complete. Instead of going doing that, I will just say that this is something you can do so many things to. I won’t specify what exactly, but you catch my drift. It is strangely kind of depressing and saddening at times, but somehow so soothing. I’ve listened to every song on repeat for weeks now in different states of mind, and every time I’m finished, I emerge from my headphones’ or speakers’ influence with a weird sense of euphoria and serenity. There really isn’t an album I can think of in my collection that has that kind of power. This is a mixtape! It didn’t even cost any money! I feel like I owe something for this kind of auditory therapy I’ve been receiving. Overall grade: A+
Download it here: http://the-weeknd.com/