The 4 pillars of a great album

New music is literally being released every day. As you read this, someone somewhere is getting ready to premiere a body of work to the world for appreciation and scrutiny. And everyone’s taste is different. No matter how hard you try, you can never have the PERFECT album because as human nature dictates, people’s tastes vary. However, some of the best albums to touch this earth followed some of the same principles. I’ve taken the liberty to package it into a nice acronym for you guys for easier reading – PACT. As subjective as it can seem, I could have found some sort of answer.

Production
We are moved by the power of sounds. When you listen to a song, EP or album for the first time, your immediate reaction and your opinion on whether it deserves another play or a straight skip is determined on what it sounds like. The instrumental, percussion, the use of real instruments or synth-bass and 808’s; we enjoy being able to identify the elements and appreciate the hard work making a melody sound so nice.
An artist can’t afford to be lazy in this regard. While they may rely on a producer for that banging beat, they must also have a musical ear to decipher what works and what doesn’t. Many artists and producers have a sound that is synonymous with them. Quincy Jones is noted for having a beautiful relationship with Michael Jackson which birthed two of his greatest albums Off The Wall’ and Thriller’. I liken it to the relationship J Hus has with JAE5. JAE5 has helped make J Hus’ ‘UK-afro-bashment’ sound so unique and stood as executive producer in his critically acclaimed and Mercury Prize shortlisted Common Sense.
rick-ross-kanye-studioSome artists take to production themselves because, I mean, who knows your musical style, taste and preference better than yourself. The likes of Kanye West, Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Wonder have really shaped their respected genres by taking the music into their own hands.

 

Ability
We judge the greatness of an artist based primarily on their ability. For a rapper, it’s their abstract metaphors or double-time flow, rhyming style, storytelling prowess. For a singer, it’s their tone, their vocal control, riffs, runs & harmonies. We can sometimes be so swayed by a singer or rappers acrobatics on a song but it is that well executed dynamism that ultimately have people wanting to listen to the song or the album again and again. No better example than ‘Section.80’  by Kendrick Lamar and in particular “Rigamortis” . Take time to really listen to the song, you may be wowed by his effective use of double-time flow but what is more fascinating is his subtle and elaborate rhyming style. 15-phenomenal-female-british-soul-singers-u1
A sign of a great rap album is when you can listen to it much later and discover a new metaphor astonishingly like its the first time you heard the song. As crazy as that sounds, I still have that feeling when I listen to Wale’s Attention Deficit’ or Wretch 32’s Black and White’.
In like respect for a singer, it’s how your songs are vocally arranged, how you work through your range and no one did it better in prime like Sade. With songs like “Smooth Operator” and “Your Love is King”, her famous sultry vocals crowned her introductory album Diamond Life’ a top album of the 80’s era.

Content
After you first listen to an album and decide that you like it so you listen again, you’ll find yourself picking up on the messages of certain songs and the album as a whole. Whether the artist speaks on real-life experiences, a storyteller for others or speaking figuratively, listeners have an expectation for a quality written album (unless your songs lack proper lyrics, no shade).
lecrae-tickets_11-04-17_17_598899b350492Lecrae’s in-depth look into the African-American social-historical condition and being self reflective of his own personal journey while inspiring hope, faith and political change made ‘Church Clothes 3’ one of my favourite projects of 2016. Joey Bada$$ contribution to the message with ‘ALL AMERIKKKAN BADA$$’ was less historical, more passionate but powerful all the same. Especially the video for “Land of the Free“!
And while heartfelt messages arguably don’t achieve proper commercial success, her mature take on love and nostalgia fittingly made Adele’s ’25’ one of the best-selling albums of the 21st century.

Theme
Theme slightly differs to content for the reason that it can be executed in a number of different ways. It’s not strictly confined to what the artist speaks; it should realistically be always down to the artist to have the freedom to express and execute his creativity. GoldLink’s At What Cost’ was greatly inspired by his D.C. roots and that gave for an album that had a go-go, funky groove from top to bottom, with songs like “Summatime” “Hands on your Knees” and “Meditation” being prime examples.
Great albums have retrospective themes that can go beyond just the audible which the listener can follow and become immersed in. I took a real liking to Jon Bellion’s ‘The Human Condition’; what he presented was more than an album. He intertwines his own stories and relatable life experiences with a hint of imagination, and with the added artwork accompanying every song on the album, creates a visual-audible experience.

If I say anything else, let me say AGAIN this is not a comprehensive neither is it industry standard but my own personal opinion based on preference and listening experience but I feel like even you, the reader, after reading this may start to see these things yourself.

Grammys 2017 – Surprises, Remissions and Music firsts. My thoughts

The 59th Annual Grammy Awards has now come and gone and it had some memorable moments with James Corden at the helm as the host. 2016 was a notable year for music so l was already anxiously waiting to see who would make it onto the shortlist let alone win. Some names were a given, some were a bit of a shock to me. Good and bad. But I am allowed to be subjective as long as it makes sense, no?

Chance the Rapper himself was one highlight of the entire night for me. One of the biggest shake-ups this year was streaming-only works being considered for nominations. The Head of the Awards said that ‘Colouring Book’ had nothing to do with it but numerous nominations say otherwise. On his debut to the awards, he gave the performance of his life, doing a mashup of some of Colouring Book’s favourable songs accompanied with Francis & The Lights, gospel choir, Tamela Mann’s raw vocals and Kirk Franklin as the coolest hype-man ever.
He praised God numerous times and mentioned his team aiding his artist independence in his acceptance speech for Best New Artist and also managed to take away the award for Best Rap Performance AND Best Rap Album. Many congratulations to him.


Beyoncé graced the stage with what looked like one of the most visually captivating performances of the night with the best use of what looked like holograms and special effects I’ve seen. Singing “Love Drought” & “Sandcastles”, her regal/goddess-like styling and concept was not a far cry from the recent baby photos that have hit the web and all the while she effortlessly sang and did not hide her beautiful, pregnant body. She also had a successful night, claiming two Grammys for Best Music Video and Best Urban Contemporary Album. I personally wanted KING to win the latter but Lemonade was a soniclly excellent album so it’s very well deserved for her.

Another one of my highlights was seeing Hip-Hop came out in full force on the night. It was only right that after legendary crew
A Tribe Called Quest dropping an album late last year, it was only fair that they perform on the Grammy stage. 
Alongside Busta Rhymes and Anderson .Paak they gave one hell of a socially and politically ril
ed up artistic presentation with references to Donald Trump and the Muslim ban. Milit
arized perfection. Paak himself unfortunately missed out on Best Urban Contemporary Album.

Boy, did Adele have an interesting Sunday night. First of all, she initiated the show onstage under a spotlight with a moving performance of her hit song “Hello”. Brilliant. On the night itself, she had a Grammy clean sweep, picking up 5 awards for (clears throat) … Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Pop Solo Performance AND Best Pop Vocal Album. That I wasn’t expecting. I would have liked to see Beyoncé pick up Album of the Year and apparently Adele thought so too; as she dedicated the win to Beyoncé and made both of them shed tears. To make her night more interesting, after a shaky start to her George Michael tribute, she accidently cursed and insisted to start again. I don’t know about you but I don’t call that ‘not being professional’, I call it ‘keeping it real’.

The night itself also saw tributes galore as to Prince expertly honoured by Bruno Mars and The Time; a tribute to The Bee Gees respectfully done by the likes of Demi Lovato and Tori Kelly  and was topped off with John Legend and Cynthia Erivo combining to honour those who recently passed. It wasn’t a completely smooth show but that plus Corden and his quirky self definitely made a feast for the eyes.