Lexi’s Album Reviews

Lexis Album Reviews
Photo of Frank Ocean performing
THE BEAUTY OF BLONDE

Blonde by Frank Ocean came out in 2016 with seventeen songs. This was not Frank’s “debut album”. He already had a pretty big fandom beforehand from releases like channel ORANGE.

The first thing people noticed with this album Blonde is how the title is spelled with an E, but on the album cover is spelled without the E. There are a few theories that people have made.

The first one is a perspective on Frank’s sexuality. Blonde being the feminine side of bisexuality and “blond” being the masculine side.

Another view is that it could represent getting older. A lot of kids that are born blonde then their hair darkens as they age. Blonde shows Frank’s innocence and purity of his younger years, “making the album play out as more autobiographical”.

In my opinion both interpretations show a perspective of coming of age. Frank has never fully confirmed what the different spellings of blonde mean, but that doesn’t take away from the concept of the album.

This is his most vulnerable project that’s been released. He has talked about how he uses different voices throughout the songs. Frank explained,

“Sometimes I felt like you weren’t hearing enough versions of me within a song, ’cause there was a lot of hyperactive thinking…my point of view from one emotional state to another is a different point of view.”

— Frank Ocean

 

The overall meaning of the album is falling in and out of love “with themes of self-love and hate, failed relationships, and drugs”.

The first song on the album is called “Nike”.

There are two distinct voices you hear throughout this song, one at a much higher pitch than one with a lower pitch. This indicates two sides of one story perspective.

Both the video and song are based off of a cult in the 1990’s called Heaven’s Gate. This cult was known to take an oath to commit suicide together. They all wore Decades Nikes with the same outfit on, like Frank recreates in his music video.

The second song on the album is called “Ivy”.

This is the first song that talks about themes of falling in and out of love. A couple of his lyrics say, “We’ll never be those kids again” and “The start of nothin”.

This song shows how this relationship was the start of nothing and it wasn’t going to go anywhere. Later in the song it shows how the relationship did not last and still reminiscing back on how it felt when it was healthy.

The title “Ivy” comes from the real plant strangles and how ivy is not good for trees to have wrapped around them. Comparing the unhealthy relationship to a harmful plant.

“Pink + White” is the next song on the album

Despite how upbeat this song sounds, it brings up a particular moment from Frank Ocean’s younger years when someone close to him passed away. As sad as it sounds, it doesn’t bring the grief, he talks about the lessons he remembers this person giving.

In the second verse a hurricane is brought up and how it destroyed everything in its path. This might be referencing Hurricane Katrina and how his loved one may have died in it.

The title connects back to the sky or sunset that Frank could be reminiscing on relating back to one of the first lyrics of the song: “If the sky is pink and white”.

The next track is called “Be Yourself”.

It’s not a song, but a voice message from one of Frank’s childhood friends’ moms. She gives advice on how life is more than just wealth.

Following “Be Yourself” is “Solo”.

The title of this song has two interpretations. One is rather straightforward: Being solo in life, but it has also been seen as being “so low” emotionally.

The theme of this song touches on trying to treat yourself to self love, but also “waiting on a call from your lover”.

“Skyline To” does not follow the same trend as the past few songs.

There is no distinct theme or deep concept to this song. Common things he mentions are summer, sex, and drugs; nothing more than that. It is important to note Frank mentions summer in quite a few songs throughout his music

The seventh song on this album is “Self Control”

We see Frank using the different voices to convey different perspectives again here. He describes how he was in a relationship that was slowly falling apart. One lyric says: “wish we grew up on the same advice”. Hinting that maybe the other person was immature in the relationship and that’s what caused some of the issues.

The next song, “Good Guy”, is a lot rawer than some of the other songs.

Frank talks about going on a date with a mutual friend, but the intimacy was nothing. He hoped for something more that was never going to happen. His vocals are vulnerable and lost, displaying how difficult it can be surrounded by straight people when queer.

“Nights” is the next song in queue.

This song describes another relationship with a lot of inconsistent highs and lows. Again, Hurricane Katrina was mentioned and how it completely discombobulated Frank’s life. There’s a sudden change of tempo in the middle of the song to demonstrate the changes in his life that he had to endure. The use of drugs is also talked about metaphorically throughout.

The next few songs on this album do not have as much meaning as the rest of the songs. Those include: “Solo (Reprise)”, “Pretty Sweet”, “Facebook Story”, and “Close to You”Not that these songs aren’t meaningful, just not as significant.

“White Ferrari” is the fourteenth song on Blonde.

This song shows the simple, but emotional ride of losing innocence and purity in a relationship. Now those memories are just seen as a good time.

The last three songs wrap up the album very well. “Seigfried”, “Godspeed”, and “Futura Free”

These all show steps closer to feeling closer and comfortable independence. Frank starts truly reflecting on himself, not just on failed relationships, but many socially constructed issues. This is a wonderful way to end the entire album.

Blonde is such a beautiful and touching track if the lyrics are taken to heart. If you ever have an hour to spare, I recommend putting on headphones and sitting with Frank Ocean for seventeen songs and sixty minutes

Photo of Frank Ocean performing (Courtesy of Spin)
Photo of the Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers Album in store
KENDRICK WENT TO THERAPY

WARNING: The following article brings up topics of sexual abuse. If you are sensitive to this, read at your own discretion. 

On May 13, 2022 Kendrick Lamar released an album for the first time in five years. With nineteen total songs, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers digs into his trauma, therapy journey, social issues.

In the title, “the big steppers” refers to “those in his world assuming facades… to mask the inner trauma that they’re tap-dancing around”.

The first song on the album is “United In Grief”.

It opens with Lamar saying “I’ve been going through something 1,855 days”. That’s exactly the time difference between the release of DAMN to this album. Throughout this whole song he touches on several ideas of issues in the music industry, wealth, infidelity.

This is also the first time he mentions therapy: “I went and got me a therapist, I can debate on my theories and sharing it”. Lamar is constantly honest about his opinions.

The second song on the album is called “N95”.

A N95 is the medical grade masks that we saw during the global pandemic. Some references aren’t as apparent as others, but it’s very obvious it’s his opinions on how the pandemic was handled and the social effect it made.

Up next is “Worldwide Steppers”.

This song does not have just one meaning to take away. Lamar talks about cancel culture, writer’s block, and even the “shortcomings of society and his own failures”.

Kodak Black is featured on this song as well as three others. He has several criminal charges, but Lamar has made it clear that he doesn’t want to denounce him for his past mistakes.

“Die Hard” is the next song on the album.

It shows Lamar opening up about his insecurities and relationship struggles with sharing and honesty. He fears that, if he opens up, the person won’t still love him for who he is. This uncertainty probably comes from trauma caused by past experiences.

Despite this, by the end of the song he accepts that this is not what every relationship will look like and it’s okay to put his guard down.

The fifth song is “Father Time”.

“Father Time” explores his issues with his father as well as his wife, Whitney, telling Lamar he needs to go to therapy.

He talks about having “a foolish pride” and toxic masculinity passed down from a father or an absent father. Lamar goes in depth into the struggles of “gang culture among young Black men in the broader community” and how that can lead to issues with father figures .

Following “Father Time” is “Rich – Interlude” and “Rich Spirit”.

This is the first of two interludes on the album.

“Rich – Interlude” is about the rap industry and what it was like for Lamar. “Rich Spirit” is about him standing up for himself even through all the criticism. The song also touches on themes of mortality, loyalty, narcissism, and others.

Next is “We Cry Together”.

Originally this song wasn’t even supposed to be on the album, it was supposed to be turned into a short film.

This is what Lamar had to say about the song,

Ultimately, the main thing is, [we wanted to show] people that we can actually identify with, not only from our culture but from cultures all around the world

— Kendrick Lamar

 

 

The next song on the album is “Purple Hearts”.

“Purple Hearts” takes a different sound to the album. The lyrics touch on love, spirituality, and drugs. It is also seen as maybe talking about abuse with purple connecting to bruises.

The tenth track is “Count Me Out”.

This is about Lamar taking a step into his new life and feeling like he’s obligated to open up more in his relationship. It shows the more positive side of being vulnerable and that not everything has to be negative.

Following “Count Me Out” is “Crown”.

Lamar brings up religious ideologies and the rap industry again. Being in the music industry is hard and draining, but Lamar expresses how dangerous the rap side of it is.

“Silent Hill” featuring Kodak Black is next.

This song touches on recurring themes that pop up throughout the entire album, nothing necessarily new. It is important to mention that the title could also refer to the horror game Silent Hill that came out in 1999. Lamar could be comparing the horror game to the rap industry.

“Savior – Interlude” and “Savior” is the second interlude pair on this album.

Baby Keem is featured on both of these songs. The interlude starts with Keem opening the song with his personal problems growing up then it leads into recent experiences and overcomings.

According to Genius, “Savior” is literally about “the brokenness of society”.  Each verse addresses another issue that society has been facing. It consists of racial issues, political correctness, and ends with Lamar talking about his own flaws.

The fifteenth song is “Auntie Diaries”.

In “Auntie Diaries” Lamar talks about the LGBTQ+ community, specifically transgender people. One of the first lyrics is, “My auntie is a man now”. He addresses the society and church’s view on the community.

Lamar also juxtaposes the N-word and F-word with how they are both misused in their communities. He did this as a teaching moment to be aware of both peoples and the misconceptions. At the end of the song Lamar mentions the time in 2018 when he brought a white girl on stage to sing with him, but she ended up saying the N-word.

He wanted to start over and let her not say it, but she ended up being sent back to the audience.

This transitions into the next song, “Mr. Morale”.

It speaks themes of generational trauma. Abuse and sexual harassment are brought up through Lamar mentioning R. Kelly and Oprah.

“Mother I Sober” is an almost seven minute song.

In this song Lamar very openly talks about the sexual abuse that he experienced from his mother. It touches on drug addiction and him cheating on his fiance at the time. He explains how toxic sex culture is in the Black community. At the end of the song Lamar talks about breaking the “generational curse”.

The second to last song is “Mirror”.

It’s almost a summary of all the themes shown through the whole album. Lamar uses it as a metaphor for personal growth. With the long awaited release of this album, he explains how he doesn’t want his fans to wait on him and that they should grow on their own.

The final song is “The Heart Part 5”.

Lamar reflects on Michael Jackson and Martin Luther King Jr. and what they did for the Black community. Each verse explores how “the media is quick to dismiss an artist’s contributions to society due to their personal shortcomings”.

He ends on the idea that the things that the artist did still bring meaning and worth despite negative or controversial things they did.

Some people have said that this is Kendrick Lamar’s worst album. But in my opinion, out of his five studio released albums none of them are comparable.

Quality Control CEO Pierre tweeted, “Kendrick album makes you really look in the mirror and question yourself” about Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers.

Take a listen and see if you feel the same way.

Photo of the Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers Album in store (Lexi)
Drawing of Lucy Gray Baird
The Hunger Games: The Ballads of Songbirds & Snakes Soundtrack (released November 17, 2023)

The inside work of the new Hunger Games Soundtrack.

Featuring many different artists, Dave Cobb is the music producer for the new Hunger Games film. He is primarily a country music producer. Cobb has won 6 grammy awards and a nomination for producer of the year. He really brought alive the Appalachian-country folk feel of the soundtrack.

Appalachian music stems from the musical activity of the people living in the mountains. The name Appalachian directly relates to the Appalachian mountains. It originates from poems or ballads passed down through generations in the 1920’s and 30s. Folk music came to be even later than that. 

Post World War II the “Folk Boom” was inevitable. Traditional Folk music is an umbrella term for genres like Appalachian, bluegrass, cowboy music, sea shanties, and even more. Country fits very well into these genres as well. 

People connect through Folk music for many different reasons. White folk tradition was most common to tell a story, while enslaved people composed folk music to get them through the painful labor. Through mass media in the 60s as folk music was popularized it became a statement for the Civil Rights Movement. 

Nowadays, folk music is a lot more normalized; it’s just another genre people listen to. Some mainstream folk artists are: Mumford and Sons, The Lumineers, and Bon Iver. 

The Film The Hunger Games: The Ballads of Songbirds & Snakes perfectly captured the Appalachian sound that the writer pictured with the help of Dave Cobb and the beautiful vocals of Rachel Zegler.

Other artists that contributed to the beautiful soundtrack are: Flatland Cavalry, Molly Turtle, The Covey Band, and still many more.  

Rachel Zegler has an “itinerant folk singer” voice. She had a fantastic debut performance in West Side Story playing Maria. Making an even bigger impact on The Hunger Games, by singing every song live for the film.

In Cobb’s eyes, “it always starts with the voice”.

Whether it’s country or more R&B-flavored, I’m still looking for soul

— Dave Cobb

The way Cobb connected with everyone on the team was memorable. 

What drew them in to have Cobb a part of their team was his knowledge for the history of music and the way he connected with the writer, Suzanne Collins. The passion he had for her writing made the music more real and tangible. Collins said, “He wrote the full songs, and we barely did changes.”

What really brought the soundtrack alive was where they decided to produce it. Cobb pitched the idea to go down to his hometown, rent out an old mansion, and record in there for the acoustic effect. They also used old microphones that Cobb described as , “[they’d] been under a bed for 75 years”. 

There was a lot more that they did as a team to make it all come together as well as they did. Putting together the lyrics, production, and vocals fully brought it to life. 

If you don’t wanna catch the whole movie in theaters: I recommend putting your headphones in and listening to the Songbirds & Snakes soundtrack.

Drawing of Lucy Gray Baird
Photo of Billie Eilish
ISN’T EILISH LOVELY

Billie Eilish is a 21 year old singer and songwriter. She grew up in Los Angeles, California with a house full of musicians and actors. Eilish has almost always worked hand in hand with her older brother Finneas O’Connell. They have both always loved music for everything it is.

At just thirteen years old Eilish and Finneas wrote the song “Ocean Eyes”. On November 18th, 2015, Eilish released it on SoundCloud not knowing it would go viral when she woke up. 

Then exactly a year later she released it on Spotify. She released a couple other songs including, “Six Feet Under” and “Bellyache” a year later. In the midst of the sudden fame, Eilish signed with Darkroom and Interscope Records. 

Following signing with them, her song “Bored” got put into the first season of 13 Reasons Why during the spring of 2017. Later in August she released her first EP: don’t smile at me. 

Don’t Smile at Me peaked at 14 on the Billboard 200 chart”. Some of the most popular songs from that EP are: “COPYCAT” and “my boy”. During this time, she started getting interviews and a lot more social media traction. 

This is the year Eilish began the Vanity Fair interviews. There are currently six of these interviews posted. Every year since 2017 Eilish has sat down with Vanity Fair to be interviewed about several topics. Each one gets well over 10 million views.

The 2023 interview has yet to be posted. 

In 2018, Eilish released three singles: “b*tches broken hearts”, “lovely (with Khalid)”, and “come out and play”. Her song “lovely” featuring Khalid was a popular song that year and made “number 62 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and peaked within the top 40 in several other countries”. 

In 2019 it really started getting serious for Eilish.

On March 29th, 2019 she released her first studio album, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?. The album ended up hitting number one on the Billboard 200 chart. As well as her song “bad guy” becoming her first number one single on the Billboard Hot 100 chart

In 2020 Billie Eilish won 5 Grammy Awards and was nominated for 6. WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? was named album of the year. She also released “everything i ever wanted” in 2019 which ended up getting Record of the Year in 2020. Her track “bad guy” was named Song of the Year. Eilish also won Best New Artist. The final grammy award was Best Vocal Pop Album of the year for WWAFAWDEG?. 

Through all of this, her brother has been by her side, while still working on his own projects. 

In these past couple years, Eilish opened up about her mental health struggles. She addressed having depression and anxiety and how that’s affected her career, as well as her day to day life. Eilish also has been open about having Tourette Syndrome during an interview where she started ticking. Her being honest about those struggles helped bring awareness and a lot of people in her audience feel less alone. 

In the summer of 2021 Eilish released her second studio album, Happier Than Ever. It made the second number one album of the year, as well as number 11 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. 

She went on tour for this album from early 2022 to September 2020. It ended up being the sixth headlining tour of the year. 

At the end of 2021 Eilish released the first of three volumes of Eilish perfume. It’s described as smelling like amber and musk, as well as cocoa and berries. In the following years she came out with Eilish No. 2 in 2022 and Eilish No. 3 in 2023.

Each perfume coordinates to her aesthetic during that period of time. Volume 1 is a gold color to match the Happier Than Ever album. Volume 2 is matching her black hair but being a dark gray shade. And the most recent volume is bright red coordinating to her new red roots. 

This same year Eilish also collaborated with Nike and has been creating shoes with them since. 

Other than touring in 2022, Eilish wasn’t doing a ton compared to the last couple years.

Some notable moments were her Met Gala look, several awards, the release of “Guitar Songs”, and she was very open about her relationship with Jessie Rutherford (they are no longer together). 

Billie Eilish has never really been in the dark. She’s always had some sort of relevance despite not putting out any albums in the past couple years. 

In 2023, she wrote “What Was I Made For” for the new Barbie film that came out this past summer. It has five nominations for the next Grammy Awards. This became Eilish’s second Number 1 on the Official Singles Chart

Before she and Finneas decided to take up the project, Eilish had been open about struggling with writer’s block and wanting to quit making music. Finneas had taken the project and it was a perfect opportunity for them. 

As of today there is no set proof that she is going to be releasing any new projects soon, but there are definitely speculations.

On August 3rd, she posted a picture of her new hair color. Just like the green roots from 2019 and 2020, but now it’s red. People think it’s a new era which means we might get some new music. 

Eilish has had a few other projects other than music this year. She had the third volume of Eilish fragrance come out, as well as a couple more collabs with Nike.

A notable mention is her role as Eva, in Donal Glover’s horror show Swarm. People were beyond happy with her acting abilities. She’s never had any specific acting roles other than music videos, so it was a pleasant surprise. 

For only being 21, almost 22, Billie Eilish’s success is remarkable. As she gets older, I believe she will only grow bigger and start expanding on what she does. 

Photo of Billie Eilish (Credit to Rolling Stone)
Drawing of Steve Lacy
I WISH STEVE WAS RIGHT INFRUNAMI

Steve Lacy is a singer/songwriter from Compton, California most commonly known for his songs “Bad Habit” and “Dark Red”. 

He always knew he was meant for music and was going to pursue it one way or another. At a young age Lacy was producing beats using just his iPhone, and guitar. 

There is not much public information about his early or general personal life. 

Lacy grew up primarily with his mom and sisters because his father passed away when he was ten years old. He went to a private school and grew up pretty sheltered, since his mom “encouraged him and his three sisters to stay indoors”. This was probably to try to hide them from the crime in Compton

By 2013 Lacy joined the band, The Internet, and started gaining traction around his musical talents. 

He has also produced for artists such as J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, and Isaiah Rashad. Lacy also helped Mac Miller produce the song “Jet Fuel”. 

He didn’t start releasing music as a solo artist until 2015. Lacy’s first couple singles were “C U Girl”, “Some”, and “Dark Red”.

“Dark Red” has hit serveral Billboard charts and now has almost one billion streams.

Lacy released an EP titled Steve Lacy’s Demo in 2017. “Dark Red” and “Some” are featured on it. 

Then by 2019, he released his first album: Apollo XXI. A top song off this album was “N Side”. 

During an interview with GQ, Lacy explains that the title of the album is directly related to the Greek God. He goes on to say, “I really wanted 21 in the name because this album felt like a coming of age to me”. 

Later in this interview he explains he’s still gonna be making music, but he still really enjoys and wants to keep producing.

I’m a producer first

— Steve Lacy

Not long after Apollo XXI, he released his second album The Lo-Fis in 2020. Many songs off this album became recognizable, like “Infrunami” and “Uuuu”. 

After this album Steve Lacy didn’t release anything for two years. During 2021, billboard magazine explained how Lacy was going through a rough breakup. This led to him producing his third album: Gemini Rights. 

Gemini Rights came out in summer of 2022. 

He already had a fan base by this point, but this album pushed him to be more mainstream. 

A couple hits off the album are “Bad Habit” and “Static”. 

Bad Habit” was high on the charts, and gained a lot of streams and attention from the public as a summer hit.

Lacy went on tour for this album shortly after its release and he faced his first controversy. Because of this sudden wave of fame, many people who were new to his music were attending his concerts. He noticed this and at one of his shows he went silent after the chorus of “Bad Habit” and the building was silent. 

Lacy was upset, but not extremely, it was almost comedic. Other fans were really upset with this and thought it was super unfair that they got to go front row to his concert when they don’t even know all the words. There is another article written about the issue of concert behavior on the Spartan Scoop.

Despite this, Steve Lacy is still very loved and adored. He has not released anything since Gemini Rights and there’s nothing publicized that he’s releasing any time soon.

Other than his music, he is also known for being a fashion icon. 

He notoriously dresses himself for all events without a stylist and isn’t afraid of showing uniqueness and a little femininity. 

ONE37 PM describes Lacy as a “generational fashion icon in the making”. 

Lacy doesn’t think labels are necessary and he’s made that pretty obvious.

In 2017 there were headlines of “Lacy coming out as bisexual”, and he had his opinions about it. 

He clarifies it as he never formally came out; “it kind of just happened”.

Lacy goes on to say, “I don’t care to announce who I’m into sexually. I think it’s silly”. 

This is interesting about his career, because he is labeled as a queer artist often, similar to Frank Ocean. Since he gets labeled as that, other queer people get upset when straight identifying people listen to his music. 

This is not a black and white argument. There are many different people with different opinions, but in the end everyone should be able to enjoy the music they listen to. 

From Lacy’s perspective he explains how he doesn’t feel the need “to represent any specific image of queerness”, so no one else should be pushing him to; especially when sexuality is so fluent.

Steve Lacy is a very distinct artist and has a different personality from many other musicians. It would be worth everyone’s time to take a listen to his music and appreciate his character. 

 

Drawing of Steve Lacy (Jadis Veal)
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