My sympathies go out to you if you’re a Kanye West fan, because the past few months could not have been easy for you. His ideological beliefs are getting everybody up in a tizzy, and his long-awaited new album just isn’t that good… unless you’ve convinced yourself that it is because you so badly wanted it to be, that is. In that case, that’s awesome and I’m happy you’re better than me in that you’re enjoying something I haven’t really been able to.
Less controversially, Weezer is out here doing the Lord’s work by making the dreams of strange internet fan campaigns come true and covering a timeless classic you’ve definitely sung along to before, drunken or otherwise. Meanwhile, Snoop Dogg is pulling weed pranks, Ariana Grande stands up for herself, and Drake addresses some thought-provoking controversy (Yes, that controversy).
Win: The rains, blessed
The world needs more good sports (like dog dock jumping, a very good sport), and the Weezer folks are just the guys. After a months-long fan campaign that tried to get Weezer to cover Toto’s love-it-or-love-it classic “Africa,” they responded… by covering a non-“Africa” Toto song. After they and the rest of the internet had a good laugh about it, they quickly returned with their rendition of “Africa,” which turned out to be a pretty adept application of their power-pop-rock sound. It makes sense that this worked out so well, since Rivers Cuomo blessing the rains is all part of the natural water cycle.
Loss: Ye… or nay
After the mountainous ups (his return to Twitter was fun for a few minutes) and trench-like downs (his return to Twitter was not as fun after the first few minutes) Kanye West has gone through since The Life Of Pablo, his latest album, Ye, is finally out. To state the obvious, it’s one that people are having a hard time digesting in light of his recent heel turn. I listened to the album once, forgot what it sounded like almost immediately after my first play, then listened to it again because I didn’t want to feel too left out of the conversation in the Uproxx Music Slack room. I haven’t felt compelled to listen to it since its release date, because I try not to spend too much energy playing music I’m not enjoying: There’s making an effort to “get it,” and then there’s wasting time. Maybe I’ll revisit with fresh ears soon.
Maybe the album is better if you care about the developments of Kanye West’s personal life, because it sure is a personal record. The goings-on of celebrities aren’t an area of interest I spend too much time thinking about, and since he’s a stranger I don’t know, Ye doesn’t move the needle for me. It’s an album that’s much more about a specific person than it is about music, the latter being what I’m here for. Maybe the profound disappointment about the record and in Kanye himself is what happens when our happiness is sourced too little from within ourselves, and too much from external sources. It’s just music, Kanye is just a person (despite what he says and fans believe), and while there’s nothing wrong with enjoying both, let’s work on our self-reliance and making ourselves smile.
Ye is ultimately a forgettable album that’s notable mostly because of the context in which it was released, and much less because of its content. That’s a bummer for Kanye, as he needed a win to help stop, or at least slow, his current fall from grace. It will be interesting to see what happens next.
Win: Toke joke
Frat bros get iced, forcing each other to booze up if they touch a hidden bottle of alcohol stuff. Snoop Dogg, a fun-loving fellow, sort of has his own version of the practice, and as you’d imagine, it’s more weed-centric. Matthew McConaughey was filming a movie with Snoop Dogg, as he told Jimmy Kimmel recently, when Snoop swooped in and changed out the prop weed with some of his own double-G dankness (you can tell I myself am a marijuana user and know all the slang, yes?).
“The next 9 hours were a lot of fun but I don’t think we used one word in the English language,” McConaughey said of the experience. I’d be willing to bet, though, that he used at least three words, or rather, one word three times. I won’t insult your intelligence by writing it out. You know what I’m talking about.
Loss: SZA we miss ya
SZA recently had to hop off the TDE Championship Tour, to rest her voice, and recent, cryptic tweets have fans worried about her voice, her vocal technique, and a whole host of other factors.
Her situation does remind me of the importance of technique (which I can assure you I personally know nothing about, as the FBI agent who listens through my phone while I shout along to music alone in my car can confirm). It makes me think of Melissa Cross, a vocal coach most famous for working with metal singers to help them scream properly without destroying their vocal chords. Maybe somebody like Cross would be useful to SZA, and to all singers. SZA’s story should at least be an important reminder to vocalists out there that taking care of your voice is important, and you should start before real damage has been done.
Win: No budget, no problem
John Mayer is a fun guy and “New Light” is a fun song, and now the track has a similarly-spirited video to match. His claim that he made that video at “a place downtown […] that usually does birthday and Bar Mitzvah videos” might not be entirely true (it looks a bit too “HD” for that, or maybe I’m out of touch with how good those sorts of operations have gotten), but it definitely captures that vibe. The song and video, by the way, are a giant vibe: The No ID-produced track is Mayer at just about his smoothest, and the Photo-Booth-on-your-old-white-MacBook charm of the video proves that everything that’s good doesn’t have to be so serious.
Loss: No more tears left to cry
To be clear, this isn’t a loss for Ariana Grande. It’s more a reminder that a sad thing happened a year ago, when a pair of explosions went off at her concert in Manchester. For all the good that’s out there, there’s plenty of bad to counteract, but if there’s a silver lining, it’s that these negative experiences provide tests of our resilience and ability to respond and grow. Grande, and the city of Manchester, have responded admirably and shown that a little empathy goes a long way.
Win: Clapping directly back
Grande hasn’t sailed the smoothest seas over the past year, and it’s been hard for Mac Miller as well. He and Grande broke up, and he also was arrested for drunk driving after crashing into a pole. As wonderful a platform as Twitter can be, it’s also full of boneheads, and one of them made an unfair connection between Grande and Miller’s troubles, suggesting that maybe she owed him some sort of loyalty because of the album he made about her. Upon seeing that Tweet, Grande flexed her Twitter finger and laid the truth out there, saying that she isn’t Miller’s keeper and that their relationship had grown toxic.
Helping somebody in need is one thing, but if he’s not helping himself, expecting a significant other to make up for the lack of effort is an unreasonable ask. As an impartial third party, my impression of the situation is that Grande tried her best to support him, perhaps for longer than she should have, and she rightfully walked away from a futile situation with no regrets.
Loss: Are you sweaty for it?
Do I think an interviewer telling Taylor Swift that she should shower after a strenuous performance was meant to be a lighthearted joke with no malice behind it? Absolutely. Do I think the negative response the guy got on Twitter was an overreaction and a symptom of “gotcha” culture? Yeah. That said, even if BBC’s Greg James and Swift are as friendly as James claims they are, maybe that’s something you say off camera. Making a comment on somebody’s state of cleanliness in a public setting is just asking to be misinterpreted, and even though the interview was for a British audience and their comedic sensibilities are different than those of other parts of the world, the whole planet is watching when it comes to Swift. I don’t blame James for keeping it casual with somebody with whom he has a context, but perhaps greater situational awareness would have served him well here.
Win: Dad rock
Rock dads are great (so are rock moms, like Dave Grohl’s), so here’s one: Dad Auerbach’s old man Chuck announced that he’s releasing his debut album, and based on the early returns, it might actually be pretty good. It’s led by “My Old Man,” a subtle country track about Chuck’s own father that leans on the elder Auerbach’s quiet, perhaps Tom Waits-like growl. It’s a relaxing tune that feels something like the safety of a young boy being held in his father’s arms, and fittingly, the album comes out on Fathers’ Day.
Draw?: Drake’s blackface
Cultural sensitive is definitely higher now than it was just a few years ago, so now might not be the best time of a photo of yourself in blackface to crop up. That’s what happened to Drake, though, as Pusha T is pulling no punches in their current feud. A blackface photo is tough to explain, but Drake’s reasoning is believable: He wrote, “This picture is from 2007, […] a project that was about young black actors struggling to get roles, being stereotyped and type cast. The photos represented how African Americans were once wrongfully portrayed in entertainment. Me and my best friend at the time […] were attempting to use our voice to bring awareness to the issues we dealt with all the time as black actors at auditions. This was to highlight and raise our frustrations with not always getting a fair chance in the industry and to make a point that the struggle for black actors has not changed much.”
Based on that explanation (which I buy), the photo is clearly satirical and there’s no ill will behind it. For somebody who sees the image and isn’t interested in seeking out its context, though (which I’d imagine is most people who see the photo without an explanation readily available), Drake is now disgusting. Even if your intentions are pure, which they seemed to be here, having the black paint on your face is playing with fire.