the mini-bitch: january music edition
a rundown of the music we've been blessed & cursed with so far in 2020
|Lily Zacharias||Jan 24, 2020||17|
Good morning bitches, and welcome to this mini-bitch which will probably be more like a maxi-bitch because I got LOTS to talk about.
Last Friday was an absolutely nuts day for music releases. Not only did Eminem hit us with (another) surprise album, but we got Halsey’s Manic and Mac Miller’s posthumous Circles. New (ish) Breaking Benjamin dropped this morning, and, completely unrelated to the month of January, I’ll tell you about a rock band I can’t get enough of. If you don’t care about music, I understand if you leave now ☹️
Before I get into this, I want to take a moment to celebrate the fact that I actually have an opinion on several new albums at once. It seems like a strange thing to proud of, but for almost two years I had purposefully avoided music, throwing myself ear-first into a podcast/audiobook hole. I simply couldn’t handle listening to anything while my mom was sick, because I didn’t want to associate any songs with such a traumatic time in life. I told my mom about this about six months before she died and I couldn’t tell if she wanted to cry or slap me. (Probably both.) She made me promise to never avoid music for any reason, and especially not because of her.
That’s great advice, but it’s SO! HARD! It was way, way easier to get through long commutes by putting on a distracting podcast than it was to play music and get lost in my sad thoughts for hour. But now, I listen to music and yeah, sometimes it bums me out and I start crying on the 294, but I’m trying to lean into all the sadness and confusion and anger that come with grief. Unsurprisingly, music has been a great way to evoke some of those feelings I’ve been avoiding for a very long time.
ANYWAY, all that to say: I have been completely under a music rock for a while so don’t judge my excitement/opinions/inability to make up my mind on eminem!!
This edition was born out of a Spotify playlist that I made to compile all the music from last week that I couldn’t stop listening to on repeat. I can guarantee that everything on this playlist is a certified banger, even if it’s a guilty pleasure banger (I mean, it has Eminem on it, so that’s inevitable.)
Circles - Mac Miller
Posthumous albums are a strange beast. Every lyric seems to carry more weight, and they are picked apart endlessly by fans and critics in an attempt to make sense of a talent gone too soon. When it comes to Circles, you don’t have to read too deeply into the lyrics to feel the irony following his 2018 accidental overdose. Several tracks are sprinkled with references to death and drugs. (In another twist of irony, Miller’s single “Good News” became his first top 10 appearance on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart today.)
I haven’t kept up with Mac’s music much since high school—I was admittedly waaaay more into his unrefined bops like “Knock Knock”, “Donald Trump”, and “Party on Fifth Ave” than I was the thoughtful, crafted works which followed in the next 7 years. I was surprised (people who know their shit weren’t, for the record) that Circles is a mellow, beautifully self-reflective collection that features more singing than rapping, more dreamy synths than hard beats, and overall, more soul than I ever expected.
Bitch picks: Good News, Complicated, Everybody, Hand Me Downs, I Can See
Manic - Halsey
(A note before we begin: I feel significantly less stressed writing about a singer who is still alive.)
I’m just gonna shoot you straight: I freaking love this album. I adore albums that feel disjointed if you listen to them on shuffle because each song is engineered to flow into the next. Tracks 4-10 are a seamless block of beautiful pop.
Halsey Updates @HalseyInsidersDominic’s interlude blends into I HATE EVERYBODY so perfectly I seriously thought it was all one song #MANICTHEALBUM
“Forever … (is a long time)” is one of my favorites. About a minute in, it changes keys and transitions into what feels like a piano-led movie score, then transitions again into a futuristic synth situation. It’s badass and sad which is…relatable!
Much of Halsey’s album will sound familiar—6 of the tracks were released as singles before it came out. I hope the early-2000s-girl-pop-punk “3am” gets a single release soon. It is certainly not the first song we’ve heard about singers making sexual decisions at exactly 3 a.m.—Matchbox Twenty and Meghan Trainor have both given us insight to their weakness in the wee hours of the morning. But this is the first song about 3 a.m. that is also partly about phone sex, so um, that’s 2020 for you?
(Side note: will any artist ever be more specific about 3 a.m. than Simon & Garfunkel, whose second album was Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.? They CREATED 3 a.m in 1964, bitches!)
Wow, some quality good morning bitches-level DRAMA happened just in time to send this out. Pitchfork’s review of Manic was mostly positive, with a few critical lines that Halsey apparently did not appreciate. She appreciated them so little, in fact, that she tweeted:
Here’s the problem….Pitchfork’s office??? It’s in One World Trade Center.
She apologized, deleted it, etc. etc.
Bitch picks: You should be sad, Forever … (is a long time), I HATE EVERYBODY, 3am, Without Me, 929, Graveyard
Bitch skips: Alanis’ Interlude
Music To Be Murdered By - Eminem
I can’t beat this lede written by Variety’s Jemayel Khawaja:
Eminem’s surprise album release may bear the Hitchcock-referencing title “Music to Be Murdered By,” but, yes, as you’d expect, “Music to Murder To” might be a more apt description.
This album is……wow. I mean that in a good way, and also definitely mean that in a bad way. Everything that I find endearing about this album I quickly find a way to hate, mostly just because it’s Eminem and he’s so….hateable.
Here’s the thing: I know it’s Eminem’s shtick to be an angry white dude, but at what point do we collectively decide that this gets annoying after 11 albums? He spits complaints about trivial things in a way that was DOOOOOOPE back in the day, but now it’s just like—dude, can you relax?
Yet, here I am, genuinely suggesting you listen to it. I dunno. Ugh.
The song I will never forget from this album is, without a doubt, “Stepdad”. Remember the guilty pleasure I was talking about at the beginning of this newsletter? This…is it. It represents everything I would tell my children about Eminem without letting them listen to his music: that he can describe a gruesome situation, slap a hook on it, describe an even worse situation in the third verse, and then make millions. (See: “Love The Way You Lie”)
Eminem famously has familial issues, but “Stepdad” is a whole new level of secondhand cringe. It’s essentially a three and a half minute roast of a (potentially/hopefully) fictional stepdad who abused his mom and killed his chihuahua so Eminem, in turn, kills him. The hook is both awful yet remarkably catchy, making it the kind of song you pretend to hate until you’ve drank four beers at a house party and it comes on shuffle and suddenly you’re yelling “I, I, HAAAAAAAATE, MY, MY STEPDAD!!!!!”
Of course he had to collab with Ed Sheeran again, and it sounds like literally every other rap song that Ed Sheeran has sang the chorus for. And because of that, I’m sure it will constantly be on the radio. So you heard it here first: “Those Kinda Nights” is destined to drive you crazy by the end of the summer.
“Godzilla” is no doubt a banger with a final verse that I DARE you to try to learn to rap, but “Leaving Heaven” is the standout for me thanks to an absolutely gorgeous chorus sung by Skylar Grey.
It will shock absolutely no one that this album was met with quite a bit of controversy. The focus of the backlash is “Darkness”, a track that first caught my attention because it sort of samples “The Sound of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel, which of course reminded me of one of the best television bits of all time:
On my first listen, I was too excited by the 60s nod to really listen to the actual lyrics. The end of the song fades into reporters talking about a mass shooting and I about had a heart attack on the highway because he mixed in some VERY loud sounds of gunshots. I was incredibly confused how we went from sampling Simon & Garfunkel to screaming and local news, so I started it over.
This article describes it all really well, but essentially Eminem creates a parallel narrative between himself and the Las Vegas shooter by comparing him looking out on a concert space he’s supposed to perform at to the LV shooter looking out at the concert space he’s about to shoot up.
It was…….certainly a choice.
I guess Eminem set out to psychoanalyze the Las Vegas shooter (as if he deserves the attention) and ultimately the song does bring about a gun control message…..but instead of being thought-provoking, it just comes off as exploitative hypocrisy for the sake of shock value. But naturally, Eminem doesn’t care what we think:
Bitch picks: Stepdad, Darkness, Leaving Heaven, Godzilla, Farewell
Bitch skips: Stepdad (this is not a typo), Those Kinda Nights
Aurora - Breaking Benjamin
I am personally not a huge Breaking Benjamin fan, so I am shocked I am even writing about them—but I will explain. My mom and my brother shared a love for this band for years, thus I was dragged with them to their concert in Milwaukee last year. I had been subjected to listening to BB for a decade and a half at this point, but it wasn’t until my mom forcibly pulled us to the front row that I finally understood what they were hyped about. Yeah, many of the songs sound the same and the lyrics occasionally edge on cheesy, but seeing them live gave me a whooole new respect for their music and especially frontman Ben Burnley’s sheer talent.
Anyway, this album mostly an acoustic “Best Of” compilation, with one new song. I don’t usually love even my favorite bands’ attempts at acoustic (This Left Feels Right by Bon Jovi is a waste of time) but Aurora is beauuuutifully done. They strip down the songs, add a lot of strings, throw in some duets, yet still keep crucial elements like the double bass on “Failure”. The result is a cohesive collection of acoustic tracks with equal—if not more—power as the original songs.
(“Dear Agony” meant a lot to my mom and my brother, and I’m an emo mess at work listening to it. I wish she could hear this album. She would have loved it so much.)
Bitch picks: So Cold, Failure, Angels Fall, Dance with the Devil, Dear Agony
Dirty Honey EP - Dirty Honey
This album did not come out in January, but I have been listening to it nonstop since I discovered it a few weeks ago so HERE WE ARE!
Dirty Honey became first unsigned band to land a number one song on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart back in October, and I am eagerly waiting for them to fully explode. This EP is absolutely stacked with banger after banger, and each one brings a slightly different sound to the table.
If you like 80s hairbands in general you will love it, but here are my official music matchmaking pairings:
If you like… the ACDC & Guns N’ Roses songs that inevitably play before high school football games … try “When I’m Gone”
If you like… Aerosmith harmonies and that little scream-sing thing Steven Tyler does … try “Rolling 7s”
If you like… the New Jersey era of Bon Jovi, before they started releasing albums for the sake of releasing albums … try “Break You”
If you like… Brad Paisley specifically because of his electric guitar … try “Down the Road”
If you like… 2013 Arctic Monkeys but think it could use higher vocals and better drums … try “Fire Away”
Shoutout to the musical bitches who stuck with me through this whole thing! Send me albums! Send me playlists! Let’s jam!!!
Until next time,