2020 in Music, The Grammys, and other ramblings…

Preamble

Hello all Moonlings! If you don’t identify as a Moonling then hello to all other configurations of being (Wilford Warfstasch). Now onto the topic at hand. Music. Not a day goes by that I don’t listen to music. I write to it, walk to it and play to it. As someone who loves stories, I’ve always been a sucker for a good cohesive album.

When an album tells a story, or even has an overall narrative, I feel like I’m transported to a different world. While there were many new releases in 2020, I didn’t get around to listening to many of them. I think I fell into my familiar favourites for comfort and protection (2020 was a bit shite huh?). The melodies of the Eagles, Fall Out Boy, Foo Fighers, or Janelle Monáe uplifted me when the world outside was frightening.

So even though I don’t have many albums to talk about this year, I will still let you know some of my favourites. I will list them chronologically with their release dates rather than randomly. I would also like to discuss why some of these were nominated for Grammys and why some where strangely snubbed.

Let me know if your favourite album is here or if it’s not, tell me what was your most played new release of 2020.

Tame Impala: “The Slow Rush.” February 14th 2020.

Tame Impala “The Slow Rush.”

I’d never listened to a Tame Impala album before despite being a fan of this kind of music. This album is quite groovy, with the right mixture of old school pop sounds and fresh vocals, (said every album reviewer ever). According to Wikipedia it’s genre is rooted in ‘psychedelic disco’ and I couldn’t agree more with that assessment. I very much enjoyed it and would listen to it when I wanted to concentrate. I found the beat conducive production.

Highlights for me are, “Posthumous Forgiveness,” and I love the piano on “Breathe Deeper.” It reminds me of the Dooby Brothers. The pumped up start to “Lost In Yesterday,” gets my booty moving. Maybe he thinks he’s past his prime in “It might be time to face it,” but I still think he has something to say. I’m also a sucker for word play, so the name of the album tickles me. It was 57 minutes and 27 seconds of pure joy for me.

Kevin Parker

When I subsequently listened to their/his back catalogue I laughed at how many songs I knew. Now I don’t think this record deserves a Grammy. It’s a good solid album, but it is much of the same from their previous work. However it did receive nomination in the ‘Best Alternative Music Album’ category, and I wouldn’t be mad if it won.

Childish Gambino: “3.15.20.” March 15th 2020.

Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) “3.15.20.”

My sweet little Donald how I love you, let me count the ways. While he was Troy Barnes to me first, I really love what he’s grown into. His music is not be scoffed at or taken lightly. His acting has also grown which has resulted in him garnering many nominations and awards. These include but are not limited to a Primetime Emmy and a Golden Globe for his work on Atlanta.

Therefor I already adore him, and I listen to his 2016 album “Awaken, My Love!” all the time. It would be difficult for him to disappoint me and “3.5.20” was no exception. He really experiments with his vocals, and I love how he sounds on “Algorhythm,” the juxtaposition of his rap versus his sweet singing voice on the chorus. The album is in his signature groove, with electronic base and lyrical sensibility. The album is often classic “Time” often dark “19.10,” “32.22″, and always excellent “42.26,” “47.48“. It’s unique and innovative and deserves more attention.

Donald Glover -‘Childish Gambino.’ What a handsome young man he is though.

Yet, no surprise here he received no Grammy nominations for any of the work on this. This is despite the critical acclaim the album received from many reviews. It was among the best albums of 2020 and in my top 10 of the year. I love to listen to it when I’m writing as I cannot keep my body still. I could not recommend this album more. Gambino manages to be serious, funny and sweet all in one all mighty swoop.

What are your opinions on how the Grammys are run? I have way more to say so if you’re interested I can write another piece about it.

The Weeknd: “After Hours.” March 20th 2020.

The Weeknd “After Hours.”

Although I’d heard of The Weekend, before 2020 I’d never have been able to tell you one of his songs. Yet now he is one of my favourite artists. “Blinding Lights,” is completely my vibe. It sounds like an 80’s dance song that could have been in any of the “Beverly Hills Cop” movies and I’m here for it. It was actually the album cover, (I know you shouldn’t judge an album by its cover), that immediately gripped my attention. So without further investigation, (I wanted to keep my blank slate in regards to him) I listened to the album.

It became one of my favourite albums of 2020 and probably of all time. I can see myself listening to this in 10 – 20 years. It has a mixture of 80’s electronic vibes and modern beautiful pop. This album is a story that we all know (heartbreak and bad behaviour) but only Abel could tell it in this unique way. The album kicks off with the soft tones of “Alone Again” and “Hardest to Love.” I was then intrigued by his lyrics in “Snowchild,” “She don’t need a man, she what a man needs,” being turned completely on it’s head in the epic “Heartless,” “I don’t need a bitch, I’m what a bitch needs.” Overall the album tracks are strong, and all have a place. The 4 singles from it are absolutely fantastic, culminating in a new music video for “Save Your Tears,” that everyone needs to watch.

Abel Tesfaye – “The Weeknd.” Another beautiful man… swoon.

I was extremely surprised that not only did he not garner a nomination for best song for “Blinding Lights,” which was everywhere from Tik Tok to the Billboard 100 for weeks. Nor did he garner any nominations for the album itself. This is especially surprising to me seeing as he won “Favourite Album – Soul/RnB” at the American Music Awards. I know that this doesn’t automatically mean you will get another nomination / award. Yet not one single from the album received a Song of the year nomination. I genuinely think it is an excellent album overall. D’Angelo Wallace’s album review on it says it better than I ever can.

Thundercat: “It Is What It Is.” April 3rd 2020.

Thundercat “It Is What It Is.”

Thanks to Le’Boo for Thundercat. Credit where credit is due Le’Boo has some of the best taste in music I’ve ever encountered. We overlap in a lot of places and Thundercat is one of those… well cats. This album is both characteristic of Thundercat and a natural progression. His collaborations continue with the likes of Ty Dolla $ign, Childish Gambino and Steve Arrington. You all already know how I feel about Childish Gambino.

I also love Louis Cole. Therefore it will come as no surprise that I also love the song “I Love Louis Cole.” If you’re confused. Go listen to any Louis Cole (I recommend “Weird Part of the Night“, or “Blimp.”).  As usual, Thundercat is an underrated, modern funk, electronic genius. I know he is well known, but NOT WELL KNOWN ENOUGH. He has a wonderfully sweet, high and soulful voice. Even just listen to the opening track “Lost In Space / Great Scott / 22-26,” with the minor / major switches. You’ll be hooked. Or “How Sway,” and you’ll be so transfixed you won’t know what’s happening to you.

Stephen Lee Bruner – “Thundercat,” Anther cutie.

He is silly and fun on “Miguel’s Happy Dance,” “I love Louis Cole,” and “Dragonball Durag,” with lyrics like “‘Cause I’m tryna smash, Baby girl, I’m a smash in my durag.” Also the drums on “I Love Louis Cole,” are absolutely phenomenal. Then he has his dancey yet serious moments on the likes of “Funny Thing,” saying “if I get too drunk I’m going to ruin the fun.” His collaborations (including Louis Cole), “Black Qualls,” “Overseas,” “Fair Chance,” and title track “It Is What It Is,” are expansive.

5 moons out of 5. Would listen again and again. Thankfully this one received a nod from the Grammys. Not that it needs it to prove it’s worth, with a nomination for “Best Progressive RnB Album.” I could not tell you anything about the other’s nominated in that category so Thundercat for the win! I’m also so happy that Flying Lotus was nominated for Producer of the Year for the entire album of “It Is What Is Is.” Fingers crossed that the Grammy voters just give it to him. It’s beautifully produced.

Lady Gaga: “Chromatica.” May 29th 2020.

While dancing to “Stupid Love,” I’m both reminded of my clubbing days in my late teens and early twenties, but also my later more ‘mature’ years of 25 – 30. Lady Gaga has been with me all the way. I was 17 when “Just Dance,” hit the radio and I was hooked from the moment I heard the block chords. Since then I’ve listened to and loved every album of hers. So while I may be biased, no one can deny that this is just a good pop record.

She has also described the album as written for those who have/are going through difficult times and traumas. That sometimes you’re always looking for who you are and where you are. That sometimes you wished you were dry, but at least your alive “Rain On Me,” and that sometimes your biggest enemy is yourself “9/11,”

Ariana Grande & Stefani Germanotta – “Lady Gaga” together in the “Rain On Me,” video.

Though this is not my favourite album of hers, it is still excellent. I loved the symphonic tracks with full orchestras, “Chromatic I,” “Chromatica II,” and “Chromatica III.” The dance theme throughout is something I can throw on when I’m cooking or cleaning. I also love her lyrics, I always have she approaches her words differently than other pop icons. An absolute high point for is “Rain on Me,” with Ariana Grande. It was my most listened to song in 2020 followed in second place by “Stupid Love.” I honestly would just put them on and dance around the house in an attempt to cheer myself up and move. The music video, the vocals, the content was all pure indulgence for me.

Overall this is a cheer you up “Stupid Love“, empower you lady “Free Women,” “Plastic Doll,” and reminding you that our own minds can be our biggest enemy “911.” I also think “Sour Candy,” with BLACKPINK was a much better than their collab “Ice Cream,” with Selena Gomez. No shade I really like Selena. Her soaring vocals on “Enigma,” mixed with the European disco dance just does it for me. Then the collab with ELTON JOHN. One of my favourite musicians of all time, and I adore it “Sine From Above.” Dance, trance, disco, then that breakdown in the middle. I died. Also I’m pretty sure “Babylon” was a nod to “Vogue” by Madonna for sure.

Madonna & Lady Gaga (Madonna Ciccone and Stefani Germanotta)

Rain On Me,” was nominated for Best Duo. Looking at the competition I think they are a shoe in. “Chromatica” was also nominated for ‘Best Vocal Pop Album’. I think everyone is convince that Duo Lipa’s “Future Nostalgia” is going to win that category though. I haven’t listened to that album so I couldn’t tell you. 5 moons out of 5 for sure, added to my catalogue of Gaga creations.

Alanis Morissette: “Such Pretty Forks In The Road.” July 31st 2020.

Alanis Morissette “Such Pretty Forks In The Road.”

I’ve followed Alanis’ career for many years. I was listening to “Jagged Little Pill,” when I was merely a child. It came out in 1995, when I was 5. It was one of my Dad’s favoruite albums at the time (and still to this day), and he played it quite a lot. So when I got my own stereo for my bedroom, JLP was one of albums I would play to death. In addition (as if I’m writing an academic paper!) two of my favourite albums of all time are”Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie,” and “Flavours of Entanglement.” We (myself and Le’Boo) were meant to go see her last October (2020) but obviously that was cancelled. She moved the concert to October 2021, but even now I’m unsure if that will go ahead. She is one of my favourite artists of all time and I would love to see her in person someday. Also she is a twin. I don’t know why but this always shocks me when I find out someone is a twin.

Her 7th studio album opens with a superb echo of guitars on “Smiling” coupled with Morissette’s gorgeous vocals. The her sweet ode to her children in “Ablaze,” is truly demonstrative of a creative like Morissette becoming a mother. Her honesty in “The Reasons I Drink,” “Diagnosis,” and “Reckoning,” is something she is known for, however the music composition on TRID is a departure on from her usual approach. We see both her return to pain and writing material on “Losing The Plot.” She talks about being fed up of having to be Super Women, which is something I’m sure most mothers feels. I also want to know who she’s talking to on “Pedestal.” Is it her husband? Her children? Her fans? Or maybe someone from her past?

It’s lovely to see her return to music. I know she took some time to have her family, and this has really . Highlights for me are “Smiling,” “Reckoning,” “Her,” and “Nemesis.”

Alanis Morissette (One of my personal heroes)

No nominations for this album, and to be honest that feels right. While it’s a good cohesive album, it’s nothing too innovative or new on it. While it vital to highlight the topics she deals with on tracks like “These are the reasons I drink,” and “Reckoning“, she does it in her own quiet way, rather than attention grabbing.

I will note that she did receive a songwriting credit in the ‘Musical Theatre’ category for “Jagged Little Pill,” which is well deserved.

Miley Cyrus: “Plastic Hearts.” November 27th 2020.

Miley Cyrus “Plastic Hearts.”

I love it, I love it, I love it.

While I have a love / hate relationship with some of the musical choices Miley has made in the past, pretty much anything after “Younger Now,” has been of my vibe. I loved “Mothers Daughter,” and “Slide Away.” So I patiently awaited for another full length offering.

She used her pain, passion, and power in the creation of ‘Plastic Hearts‘ and it shows. The way her voice shines on each track is perfection, and it’s 80s rock sensibility hits all the right spots for me. If you have been following me for a while, you know how much I love rock music and this was a perfect blend of rock and pop that hasn’t been seen since the late 1990s early 2000s.

There is not one song on this album that I dislike. From her female empowerment tracks like “Plastic Hearts,” “Gimme What I Want,” and “Golden G String,” to her self deprecating “WTF Do I Know,” “High,” and “Never Be Me,” her clear, crisp and cool voice sells them all. Her first single “Midnight Sky,” really cemented my love for this era. She promoted the release with amazing covers including Blondie’s “Heart Of Glass,” and The Cranberries’ “Zombie.” Man I hope she stays in this lane, I would happily listen to her for the rest of my days if she did.

I can’t stop singing “Angels Like You,” and I enjoyed Dua Lipa’s smooth voice mixed with Miley’s more brassy vocals on “Prisoner.” “Nightcrawling” is an absolute album highlight for me as a Billy Idol fan. They really made a modern CyrusXIdol experience and I AM HERE FOR IT. There was also an excellent Joan Jett offering “Bad Karma,” and her “Edge of Midnight,” remix with the Goddess that is Stevie Nicks.

Billy Idol & Miley Cyrus

While she herself received no nominations from the Grammys, “Midnight Sky” was nominated for Producer of The Year. However, it’s up against some stiff competition so I don’t see it winning. For me thought, this is an album I will be listening to for many years to come. It sits in my sweet spot and I think rock suits Miley best. I enjoyed this era so much I recreated one of her looks, you can check that out here.

Conclusion

Some albums that I missed or didn’t listen to much despite liking the artist are: Coldplay’s “Everyday Life,” Taylor Swift’s “Folklore,” Haim’s “Women in Music III,” Disclosure’s “Energy,” and Alicia Keys’ “Alicia.”

Can we also talk about Bieber getting so many nominations for the absolute garbage he put out this year? Like what the hell was “Yummy,” and why does that have a Grammy nomination? Replace that with anything else, even “Stupid Love,” by Lady Gaga would do. “Yummy,” was a tragic, sub-par track written for the billboard 100 and is ultimately forgettable. Then he started moaning about not being nominated for any RnB categories, when other more deserving artists didn’t even get a look in. DUDE! You are not RnB and how entitled can you be. I hope anyone else in that category wins over him. My money is on Dua Lipa’s “Don’t Start Now,” or Harry Style’s “Watermelon Sugar.”

Tell me about your favourite albums of 2020, I want to know. Lots of people’s faves are probably not on this list for example “Future Nostalgia,” “Rare,” “Positions,” Map of the Soul:7,” etc… This is because I have not listened to them. Except for “Rare,” and I wasn’t a fan.

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