Album Art - The 1975, A Brief Enquiry Into Online Relationships
You might have gathered from previous posts that I’m not a fan of modern rock. But for the past two ‘Album Arts of the Week’ I’ve chosen cover art from rock bands - perhaps this means they should all quit their day jobs and become artists instead of singers? I speak in jest, for rock music obviously has a lot to offer in the today’s times, especially, it seems, The 1975. Which is ironic, considering their group’s name is over 40 years old. The title of their upcoming album, A Brief Enquiry Into Online Relationships, draws intrigue, and pokes fun at the pervasiveness of technology in the 21st Century, a subject that will undoubtedly provide numerous points of interest when the album is ultimately released (See, at Maximoco Review HQ we’re so ahead of the charts, we review albums that haven’t even come out yet. That way, no-one can tell if our review is way off the mark or not).
But you may be staring at this random arrangement of coloured dots, and wondering why it’s sitting under the ‘Album Art of the Week’ heading. I confess that I’m not artistically learned enough to be able to explain to you the subtle machinations and hidden messages behind this picture. As much of a cop-out as it may be, I simply chose it because I find it aesthetically pleasing, and it definitely gives off a minimalist, AI-fax-machine (is that a thing?) kind of feel, which ties it in perfectly with the album title. It looks like the sort of thing you’d find at a modernist art exhibition, where everyone stands around it nodding and hmm-ing pensively, when really no-one has the slightest clue as to what they are looking at. And that’s why I like it.
Song Title - 'Look Up Child', Lauren Daigle
I think this is the vocalised thought of every parent and grandparent in the world right now. Children and teenagers are glued to their phones, living their lives through the eyes of social media, which inevitably entails living life through the eyes of someone else. As Drake wisely raps on ‘Emotionless’, “I always hear people complain about the place that they live…Cause they been staring at somebody else’s version of s***”. It seems Daigle is offering a similarly poignant message for our society. There is a wonderful world to see out there, but we miss most of it because we’re too busy looking down at our phones. If you’re reading this on your phone - look up! (But of course, don’t forget to return to us later. Sorry, page-views over scenic-views). Still, see the sky, see the birds, see the trees. It’ll inspire you. Also, on a less practical note, it’ll mean you’re less likely to walk straight into a telegraph pole.
Music Video - 2 Chainz ft. Quavo, Drake: 'Bigger Than You'
Watch as child-lookalikes of three of the biggest names in rap strut around in a school and cause anarchy for the teachers. Ah, reminds me of my days of young rebellion at High School, only reading four out of the five books on the reading lists, and some days, if I was feeling really naughty, not even doing any extra work during lunch time. I know, pretty scary stuff, but don’t fret, my life is firmly back on the rails now. Anyway, it’s a fun video - check it out here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r26bNe0MTzs
Yours sincerely, but not too seriously,
Doesn't it get dark, right before the sun peaks?
Chance the Rapper, Work Out
I was going to call this edition of Self-Help Songs ‘How to Handle a Break-Up'. Because, initially at least, that’s what this song is about. But then the core message is so overwhelmingly one of love and peace that I had to put it in the ‘How to Be Positive’ category. It’s interesting because it does involve an on-off relationship, but Chance gives us insight into how to continue loving through these testing times, and to not react with resentment to periods of distance within a relationship.
Work Out is infectiously uplifting. What makes it resonate so much more than the usual, bubblegum-pop, happy-clappy songs that we might also deem exceedingly positive, is that he starts off on a more prickly note. And when I say prickly, I mean as prickly as the ever-smiling, man-of-God Chance the Rapper is ever going to be, which isn’t very. Chance begins his verse rapping, “Luckily my ex ugly, I don’t eat so she can’t get no lunch with me, I don’t reach so she can’t get in touch with me, Can’t be buds with me”.
This is an unusual tone for the Chicago rapper in that it feels kind of bitter. Is Chance making a…God forbid…diss track?
Before any of you start to wonder whether the world has just turned upside down, have no fear. Because before the first verse is even finished, Chance restores life to normality, crooning, “But I must confess, I must confess, For every single ex, I want the best, I really wish you nothing but success”.
Ah, that’s more like it. Although I speak in jest, it does contain a vital point about having the right outlook in life. Having feelings of bitterness or anger is only going to fester and have a negative impact on you in the long-run, especially if it’s about an ex-lover or someone you used to be super close to. I think Chance is preaching acceptance here, and more than anything love - because thinking selfishly, love not only brings warmth to its recipients, it also makes the giver feel so much better and happier.
How to Be Positive #1 - Love unconditionally
This isn’t the only thing we can learn from Work Out, though. Chance goes on to reference the earlier statement about his ex, rapping, “No you is not ugly I just said it to be/Funny we both know that you look better than me”. Now, there’s not many people who've gone through a break-up, and would be able to bring themselves to say something like that. So this obviously ties in with the ‘unconditional love’ note, but also what I get from it is how important it is to not take yourself too seriously. Yes, it’s vital to have self-esteem and to be confidant. But equally it’s refreshing and healthy to be able to laugh about yourself. A lot of artists get too involved in the intense introspection that music often entails, but watching Chance the Rapper speak on Genius about this song reinforces how it’s usually a lot better not to be so po-faced. Life can be sombre enough without adding extra, unnecessary seriousness to it. It’ll only weigh you down.
How to Be Positive #2 - Don’t take yourself too seriously
Finally, just a point on the fact that Chance is now engaged to the woman he is singing about on this song. I guess it goes to show that in the end, even when life sucks and gets you down, everything ultimately works out. Hey, that would be a good name for a song…
How to Be Positive #3 - Know that it always works out in the end
When I’m with you, I’m not afraid to show it all. When I’m with you, I’m not hiding anymore
The Shires, Naked
How to Love #1 - Be Yourself
This song is all about how love involves letting your guard down and just being yourself. The Shires suggest that if you love someone without letting them see who you really are, then that person will be loving someone that isn’t really you, and you’ll be playing a part that eventually you’ll become tired of playing.
I love the metaphor of being physically naked, as it shows how revealing your true personality and all your flaws can be scary, because in your head you’ll be listing all the negative parts of you and you might feel set up for embarrassment. But this is why the line, “I can’t believe that you’re finally letting go/And I’ve been hurt and burnt before” is so important, because it shows how closely intertwined this feeling of being yourself is with trust. It takes trust to let someone in, especially if you’ve been ‘hurt and burnt’ in the past.
I feel like this whole song encapsulates one of the most vital moments in any relationship, when you finally drop the facade you’ve been maintaining to impress the person you’re with, and you just relax. The song’s intro highlights how putting up walls only complicates things and creates a feeling of uncertainty. But if there are no walls, then there is nothing to hide, as everything is out in the open.
Equally, what’s awesome about The Shires is that they can portray the perspectives of both lovers. So we are not only shown the amazing experience of freeing oneself from insecurity in the presence of one’s partner, but also the partner’s fulfilling feeling of being trusted and accepted. The country duo highlight the responsibility in a relationship not to judge, and to not throw this trust back in their partner's face.
Read the full lyrics to Naked here: https://genius.com/The-shires-naked-lyrics
Let’s switch bodies for a day. You could be me and I could be you
How to Be More Tolerant #1 - Before you judge someone, imagine life through their eyes
You might remember the comedy-rap hit from earlier this year, Lil Dicky’s ‘Freaky Friday’, in which he hilariously swaps bodies with Chris Brown. 6lack takes this plot but gives it a much deeper, more poignant makeover.
The chorus plays, “Now switch/Tell me how it feels/to be somebody else”. The famous ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ quote comes to mind - “You never truly understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
In this world of instant opinions and twitter debates, Switch’s message couldn’t be more appropriate. Social media increasingly gets us into the habit of making immediate judgments about people, words and images. Everything is divided into two categories - like or dislike, and while it may feel like a greater amount of viewpoints is making us more open-minded, I would argue it is having the opposite effect. Accusations of ‘Fake News’ has led us to judge based on emotions rather than on hard facts.
6lack croons, “Ain’t nobody gotta go through what I’m going through, no/But it seems like they all know what I’m supposed to do, so”. He is criticising those who try to dictate to him how he should live his life, and there is perhaps also a shot aimed at those who claim his problems aren’t worthy because he is living a life of stardom. But I think the most crucial message from Switch is to be more tolerant of others, because we can never truly experience life from their perspective. So although their issues may seem insignificant to us, or they may come across in a negative way, everyone is fighting their own battles, and each person’s troubles are the most important things in their own lives. Therefore everyone’s problems are equally as important as a whole - it is just a matter of subjectivity and perspective.
Next time you’re going to judge someone, think of the unlikely partnership of fictional 1930s lawyer Atticus Finch and 21st Century rapper 6lack:
“You never truly understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it. Now switch, tell me how it feels, to be somebody else.”
As a philosophy student, I spend most of my time learning about the best ideas we humans have ever had.
One day I'll read about John Stuart Mill's ethic of doing the greatest good for the greatest number, as long as no harm is done in the process. The next I might have to peruse through Aristotle's theory of following a middle path between vice and virtue, in order to be a good person. And maybe then I'll be taught about the Buddhist principle of losing one's self and focussing on love as the only way to be truly happy. But while sitting wide-eyed and amazed by these awesome ideas, something always troubled me.
These principles and theories seem pretty watertight, right? So whenever I read about them, I can't help but wonder to myself, why is the world still full of problems, if these philosophers have offered us so many good solutions to them? Why don't people always act with love as their main motive? Why don't people walk down a middle path between vice and virtue? Why don't people do the greatest good for the greatest number?
Okay, circumstances make it incredibly difficult for a lot of people to do this. But most of these ideas don't require any money or assistance, they start with ourselves.
So why haven't philosophers' ideas spread more widely? When I enquired about this to my teacher, she simply replied, 'Because most people haven't read the books. Sure, they'll hear about the main ideas, but to understand them you have to read the texts. People don't look up to philosophers anymore - they look up to the fickle merry-go-round of popstars and rappers.'
So...what? Is she suggesting that I'm supposed to view Lil Yachty on a par with Plato? If that's the case, then I might as well quit my course now and save myself Â£9,000 a year!â
After a moment of Descartes-style self-doubt, wondering whether my belief in the powers of Philosophy were in jeopardy, I realised that all might not be lost just yet.
Think about it. Artists are the prime champions of free thought and the capacity of ideas, probably even more so than philosophers. At the moment, the charts are full of feel-good, soundbite-philosophies. The past few years have heralded hits called, 'One Man Can Change the World', 'Get Along', 'Donât Be So Hard On Yourself', 'God is a Woman', and at least three called 'Love Yourself'. This is an era where music is trying to inspire us to be better, to be happier and to be ourselves. Yet due to a number of factors, such as the rise of Social Media and Reality TV, people struggle with issues such as self-esteem, mental health and finding a purpose in life, probably now more than ever.
Of course, music isn't going to solve these problems. But the least it can do is help. Whenever review sites (like this one) analyse tracks and albums, we look at what the song means for the artist. We ask, 'What does the artist mean by this?', 'What emotions are they trying to convey?', 'How does this correlate to the recent events in their private life?'
I think these aren't the questions we should be asking. We should instead approach music with the mindset of 'What can I take from this?' Songs often contain incredibly motivational and insightful lyrics, but they get lost in all the focus on the actual artist and how it relates to their life. Well, not only is beauty in the eye of the beholder - meaning is too.
So welcome to a music series with a selfish twist - I'm looking at what songs can teach us about how to be happy, how to love, how to be more appreciative, and many more lessons we can learn from unsuspecting sources. I might call it 'Music Philosophy'. Or maybe 'Self-Help Songs'. Oo, how about 'Headphone Healing'?
Without further ado, my first piece will be on 'How to Be More Decisive'.
Actually, maybe it won't. But then again, maybe it will.
Recently, it feels like Future has been threatening Drake’s title as the marmite rapper of this generation. Some adore him and herald him as the best thing since sliced bread (to keep in line with the marmite metaphor), some dismiss him as a commercial calamity that will soon be toast (too far?).
The main strike that people place against Future’s name is the accusation that he releases way too much music for any of it to be well-constructed or well thought-out. If he can make an entire mixtape in roughly a week, when we are used to artists painstakingly honing the sound of an album over a matter of years, can it truly contain the same quality?
Probably not, if we are talking purely musically. But Future’s strategy is actually more astute than simply flooding the market. Artistically, it provides us with a catalogue of projects, which we can then view as a whole and appreciate the evolution of his music. A lot of them are undoubtedly samey, with hooks often consisting of a mind-numbing amount of repeated lines, and subject matter rarely straying out of rap’s typical hedonistic confines.
But while the individual songs on each album may be overly derivative, there is definitely progress from project to project. The spasmodic, confusing leaps from each Kanye West album to the next can partially be explained by there being a gap of a few years between each one. Future’s development from album to album is much, much less significant, yet to an extent the subtlety in the changes gives the listener more of an insight into the mind space Future is in at each moment of his artistic and personal progression. He has spoken in interviews of a reluctance to speak about past works, arguing that they show us a snapshot of where his head was when he made that body of music, and that it is no longer relevant to him now.
Future makes music that is perfectly tailored to our instagram-infested, twitter-twisted, facebook-frenzied brains, where followers are kept updated through a regular flow of photographs, tweets or posts. This is what Future’s albums do for his listeners, and the intense quantity lets us feel even closer to the action - just how a more frequently updated twitter or instagram account will make followers feel.
Furthermore, the rapidity of Future’s musical turnover targets our so-called short attention span generation, where instead of savouring an album for months or years on end, we binge a project in an hour and then are already desperately seeking out our next sonic fix. Future is one of the only artists in the market right now who can satisfy that desire. Okay, perhaps rappers that build up publicity for an album over the course of a year or two may hit bigger first-week sales, but generally we have found that the greater the hype, the greater the disappointment when it actually arrives on our playlists.
So yes, in isolation Future’s albums may not be anything spectacular, and by no means can he be called the best artist of the moment. But he has an excellent strategy, both artistically and marketing-wise, and one that epitomises 2018. It’s quick, it’s simple and it’s effective.
And hey, I don’t know about you, but I love marmite.
Yours sincerely, but not too seriously,
Hello! I'm currently studying Philosophy & Theology at Oxford University, UK. Having always loved writing and music in equal measure, and having always hated decision-making, I figured hey, why do I need to choose between the two?