How Performance Affects Meaning:

An Analysis of Be More Chill’s “Michael in the Bathroom”

Michael in the Bathroom has been sung and performed by George Salazar and Will Roland. While the song doesn’t change, the final product differs drastically in presentation. In George Salazar’s version, Michael’s anxiety shines through and it is clear the character is having a panic attack. Will Roland’s version highlights the anger and self-pity the character feels. 

This song is from the musical Be More Chill centers around two friends, Michael and Jeremy. With the advent of a new drug, Super Quantum Unit Intel Processor (SQUIP), that implants in the brain and tells the user how to gain social standing. When Jeremy takes this drug, he distances from Michael, which culminates in Michael hiding in the bathroom at a party after attempting to speak to Jeremy at the start of Act 2.

In George Salazar’s version, anxiety is the main emotion portrayed. Salazar begins singing rather calmly. Once the refrain begins, Michael’s anxiety creeps out. By the last “Michael in the bathroom,” of the refrain, it becomes clear the character is having an anxiety attack. In the second verse, Michael’s anxious thoughts continue. There is a brief reprieve as he listens to the girl singing Whitney, but these thoughts just lead straight back to his situation, and Michael remains anxious. This anxiety keeps building into and through the second refrain. When the knocking begins, Salazar’s tone and movements become more frantic, showing the character’s anxiety increasing exponentially, until he splashes water in his face, effectively calming himself down to open the door. When he finds he doesn’t have to leave his bathroom space, the character’s anxiety builds back up. His thoughts begin spiral out of control, and become more self-deprecating, wishing he was never born. These negative thoughts continue as the character loses control of his anxiety, until the very end. At this point, Salazar’s singing becomes less desperate and more sarcastic, showing that while the character does not feel better, but rather has calmed himself down enough to exchange the necessary pleasantries. Salazar’s version follows the ups and downs of the character during his moments in the bathroom and his thoughts as his anxiety spirals out of control, and the audience can feel these emotions in listening or watching along. 

When Will Roland sings “Michael in the Bathroom,” his tone is much more bitter.  He starts off singing quietly, expressing his awkward feeling at being alone, locking himself away in the bathroom, as he is friendless at the “hottest party of the fall.” When he begins singing about Jeremy ditching him, he sounds sadder. In entering the first refrain, he starts off self-pitying, but midway shifts to an angrier tone. In this version, Michael is resentful of being left alone, and it shown through Roland’s tone. This anger is carried into the second verse. When he quotes the girl singing Whitney Houston, he mocks her in singing, “I wanna dance with somebody.” When faced with the knocking, his anger shines through, and he bites back at the knocking, rather than, as Salazar’s Michael, spiral down into a much more anxious state. Later in the song, the lyrics are self-deprecating, but Roland sounds sarcastic, which further highlights his resentment. In the final line, Roland is at his most sarcastic, showcasing the characters anger and resentment.

These two versions of the same song have vastly different tones, and the character’s emotions are represented vastly differently. Roland presents the character as bitter and self-pitying. Salazar showcases Michael’s anxiety, and the roller-coaster of emotions he experiences locked in the bathroom. While both singers work with the same notes, music, and lyrics, these interpretations are vastly different. By singing the exact same song, these performers are able to tell completely different stories. Through their acting and tone, these two artists present two completely different characters.

“Noname, the hypnotic rapper from Chicago, is among the best young wordsmiths working today,” Doreen St. Félix writes. “The twenty-six-year-old is adept at the technical aspects of verse construction, yes, but she displays preternatural judgment when practicing the hazier, more alchemical art of organizing words in arrangements previously unseen, arrangements that make the hairs on your arms stand up. Her affect is cool—she is sometimes mischaracterized as “sweet”—but she is forging brief and bright storms.”

Read the full review of “Room 25″ here. 

The hardest thing about being a hip-hop fan in 2018 is watching legends turn into cannibals. Not to suggest that rap should ever be above self-critique – that’s always been a major tenet of the genre. But certain artists seem to have forgotten what it’s like to be young, dumb and numb. In their hunger for lasting relevance, some have even begun to feast on their own babies.

On Aug. 31, Eminem surprise released Kamikaze, his appropriately-titled 10th studio album. And by industry accounts he pulled off a successful suicide mission. It debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 this week, pushing 434,000 equivalent album units. But those receipts don’t even begin to reflect the LP’s divisive reception. In the digital age, even numbers lie. Or, as Mark Twain legitimately put it, “Lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

Welcome to the era of hate streams. A close cousin to hate clicks – the metric beloved by media outlets that troll readers into submission with contentious clickbait — hate streams are the music world’s zero-sum equivalent. And Eminem is the latest to benefit in a year defined by hip-hop’s mega stars releasing subpar albums while coasting on controversy stoked by erratic rollout strategies and boiled-over beef with perceived competitors. The list of 2018 offenders (or beneficiaries, depending on your take) range from Kanye West, whose MAGA-hat mania drove Ye to debut atop the Billboard charts despite it earning a critical beatdown; to Nicki Minaj, whose tweetstorms in the weeks prior to and following Queen earned more coverage than the actual music, which debuted at No. 2. Even an artist like Drake, who is practically guaranteed to sit atop the charts for weeks with each new release, gets a boost from curiosity seekers on Spotify who can partake without having to purchase. It’s partly why Pusha T’s pre-release diss (“Story of Adidon”) could be considered a win-win for Drake. Forget the battle rap; for a pop phenomenon, winning the war means prioritizing mass consumption over credibility.

Music it seems is no longer enough. Maybe it never was. (Hell, even the King of Pop moonwalked his biggest hit “Billie Jean” to the top of the charts with an assist from mythical tabloid fodder.) But today, shock and awe has become the go-to marketing plan for artists desperate to compensate for a lack of creativity. What they’re really selling when you get right down to it is high drama.

Eminem has always had a flair for the dramatic. If ever there was a rapper who would fail to grow old gracefully, remaining juvenile and belligerent to the bitter end, we should’ve known it would be Marshall Mathers. This is the same emcee who climbed the charts by wearing his childhood insecurities on his sleeve. Throwing tantrums has always been his M.O. It was his mid-career years of sober reflection, if anything, that threw fans for a loop. He may be going out with a cliché bang on Kamikaze, but he hasn’t sounded more like himself in years.

Eminem Became A Parody Of Himself And Everybody’s Laughing

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for iHeartMedia

Scream by Michael Jackson

Nooooo, not the duet with little sister Janet (although, this tune makes an appearance), but a new compilation from the estate of MJ.

This “Halloween album” is filled with the macabre and mystery from
Jackson’s back catalogue, including the odd trick and treat. There are classics (Thriller, Dirty Diana, Blood on the Dance Floor), a few of wild cards (Unbreakable, Ghosts, Xscape) and a couple of oldies from The Jacksons catalogue (This Place Hotel, Torture). It all works incredibly well as a concept album, telling the story of an old gangster flick with a hint of horror and allows its listeners to reminisce about the not so memorable tracks. For some, it could be a neat way to hear unknown stuff for the first time ever, which is a great thing!

Finally, there’s this mondo crazy remix of a few tracks giving the fans something new to lap up, not to mention the Steve Aoki remix of Thriller that seems to be getting a lot of stick. I for one love it. It depends where you listen to it… I was racing through a forest route in my car whilst smashing it out… frantic is an understatement.

This’ll provide a great soundtrack to any Halloween party this season.

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Today Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker reviews the Black Panther soundtrack:

“The level on which Kendrick Lamar connects to a superhero like Black Panther is in identifying with the struggle of a protagonist who faces not only enemies trying to oppress him, but also internal struggles—conflicting emotions and temptations. And with almost super-heroic strength—musical strength, that is—he turns all of this into sounds that are shrewd, passionate, and almost ridiculously entertaining.”

Hear this review.

DUSK TILL’ DAWN

ARTIST: ZAYN ft. SIA

Genre: R&B / Pop

Initially, the news of a collab of ZAYN and Sia came as something as a surprise to me. One is an anonymous powerhouse pop sensation whilst the other is an R&B musician with an impressive vocal range and known for his past as a member of One Direction. However, after listening to ZAYN’s new track ‘Dusk Till Dawn’, it seems to be an unprecedented match made in heaven; for what Sia provides in impressive vocal runs, ZAYN matches and harmonises with effortlessly. The effect is a creation of seamless melodies which seems almost undemanding to sing in a way that only Sia and ZAYN can achieve.

Similarly, the opening notes of the song were somewhat unexpected. The opening of the first verse is a soft piano melody under his raspy voice. This is understandably very different to his typical solo work such as PILLOWTALK or BeFour, both of which are fast tempo, sexy and sultry R&B songs. However, it seems his foray into more acoustic songs plays well in his favour as it enables for his vocal talent to shine through and the sentiment of the lyrics ‘Not tryna be indie/ Not tryna be cool/Just tryna be in this/Tell me are you to?’ to become apparent. It harkens back to his days as a member of One Direction, something which he said he was keen to leave behind, yet as the song progresses, it becomes more and more his own style.

The chorus is an emotional, drum and bass driven section, interlaced with impressive harmonies and finishing with a large vocal run that not many artists other than these two can achieve. It echoes ZAYN’s other works, yet it still allows for the talents of Sia to shine through as she gives her own unique touch to the song.

Overall, the song, although different from what we have come to expect from ZAYN, and initially perhaps unusual, is an impressive work which allows for both of the singers’ talents to shine above the well-crafted melodies of the instruments. These instruments heighten the emotion in both of their voices to create a sonic story of heart-felt devotion, with an easy to follow beat that keeps the listener engaged and in time despite the rapid runs, cutting out at the end of the bridge to truly show the capacity of ZAYNs vocal ability in one soaring note, which although unoriginal in this genre, is still worth listening to and admiring.

I hope ZAYN will explore other types of music like he has here, rather than stick to just tracks like PILLOWTALK, which, as much as I love, can become tedious for both listener and artist. This track is a refreshing example of how he can still remain talented and true to himself whilst still dipping his toe into other aspects of Pop and R&B. 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A Crow Looked At Me is not only a stark portrait of grief but also a love story of 13 years. “I’ll speak to your absence and carry our stories around my whole life,” he sings over what sounds like a breathing machine on “My Chasm,” lost in loss and repeating her memory like a prayer, or really, a conversation that’s still ongoing. But just as Elverum disarms with devotion, he later attempts to find some humor in his pain just moments later with a self-deprecating admission: “I now wield the power to transform a grocery store aisle into a canyon of pity and confusion and mutual aching to leave.”

First Listen: Mount Eerie, ‘A Crow Looked At Me’

Image: Allyson Foster/Courtesy of the artist

My Personal Top 10 Unreleased Lana Del Rey Songs

Lana has an extensive collection of unreleased songs, and these are my personal, in my own opinion, top 10 favourites. I love all the songs wholeheartedly and it’s so difficult to put into a list but I thought I’d give it a go anyway. This is more brief and less descriptive compared to my usual writing but hey ho, I have to keep it short.

10. You Can Be The Boss

This was one of the first few songs I had heard from Lana and it was one of the ones that had me hooked (aside from Young and Beautiful and Put Me In A Movie). Though I feel like I’ve heard it a thousand times, therefore don’t feel like listening to it as often, it still has the pure Lana feel to me and the vibe of BTD; the imagery of cigarettes and the flirtatious, spoken verses aimed at her possible daddy-to-be have some of the Lizzy, Lolita charm, so it feels like a classic to me.

9. Go Go Dancer

I adore this song because it’s such a fun one; it’s full of energy and makes you just want to dance much like her, the go-go dancer. It is like the more upbeat, flirty sister of Disco and I think it’s definitely one of her more sexy ones (especially since she’s “pushing up her ahh in your face, in your face”). It’s another with a Lolita vibe, aimed at a rich man with money that she’s dancing for, and I can’t not smile and dance to it in a poor imitation of the fabulous imagery she gives.

8. Last Girl On Earth

I am obsessed with this beautiful song and the lyrics. Lana paints such a sad but gorgeous picture of being loved but lonely, and it’s quite mellow with a strong piano which I think pulls at the heartstrings more. The imagery is my favourite part (”I belly dance and do the tango”, owning Mexico and rollercoasters and the lines about Cleopatra and Caesar which I adore). The strange echoing voice playing under her singing through either ear like buzzing thoughts you can’t get rid of add a complicated layer to it as she ponders living forever. It’s a thoughtful song and her voice and vision makes it straight away one of my favourites.

7. On Our Way

I had originally heard the much more acoustic, stripped back version of this song and when I heard the fuller version with more instruments I still loved it the same, though the former version is locked in my heart. The song is one of her most meaningful and romantic, and it feels like it is one of her most personal. The drawl and accent in her voice makes it feel more raw and cuter, and the chorus makes me want to smile, cry and twirl on a dance floor with someone I love every time. The stripped back, lone guitar version has more of a one-on-one serenade feel, whilst the other version sounds better for a performance due to the strength to it. Either way, it’s a feel good, sweet song with a country twist and I love it.

6. Riverside (feat. Barrie-James O’neill)

This song was originally intended for Barrie’s album and I stumbled on it by accident. The entire song from start to finish is gorgeous and I wish it had been released somehow. It’s a very eerie track, with light vocals echoing over an uncomfortable, long sound much like static (the only way I can describe it) and their dreamy vocals paired with the strong piano and yearning lyrics has me breathless each time. Their voices are beautiful together, even more so than in the cover of Summer Wine, and though it has an other-worldly feel to it, it is still meaningful and has far more emotion behind it, especially in the way they sing “finally I’m getting closer - to the dream”. It’s one I can’t resist replaying.

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On Friday, June 1, Kanye West released his eighth studio album, titled ye, after revealing it during a live-streamed event held at a ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Later that day, two of NPR Music’s critics, Rodney Carmichael and Ann Powers, discussed what they heard in the album’s seven songs, and whether they could separate the music from the mania that surrounds it.

2-Sided: Trying To Hear Kanye West’s New Album, ‘ye,’ Through All The Noise

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Album of the Day: Frank Ocean - ‘Endless’

Frank Ocean is an enigma. An artist who refuses to explain himself or his art. He speaks through his art. After a little more than 4 years, and one and a half years after the initial announcement of his third official album “Boys Don’t Cry” (or whatever it will be called), Frank launched a mysterious livestream inside a warehouse where he built a staircase to climb and reach the top by the end of the livestream. He did it for 4 days (starting August 1st), and then disappeared for 2 weeks, with no explanation, and no album, even after the New York Times reported the album and the magazine would be out on August 5th. Two weeks passed until Thursday night when Frank came back to the livestream and it came to a conclusion and his new 45-minute visual album “Endless” was released as an Apple Music exclusive.

A very important and key element of this whole livestream/film was that every day, during the time Frank was working, we would hear snippets of what appeared to be new music from a boombox inside the warehouse, in a very minimal manner. We would hear a beautiful acoustic guitar melody looped for few minutes, then it would cut to a synth melody looped for another few minutes, so on and so forth. But every day, these sounds became more developed as more elements were added to them, and on the final day, we heard the full songs while Frank was finishing the staircase. What I got from this was Frank showing his creative process in the form of a metaphor (making the staircase) and when you hear the album, there’s this strange sense of familiarity and satisfaction at the same time. That the snippets that we heard for 5 days have actually lead to the full songs (and interludes).

“Endless”, however is not “the” album. It’s the prelude to the album that is supposed to follow up “Channel Orange”. But if “Endless” is anything to go by, the forthcoming album is going to be an astonishment to behold, because “Endless” itself is an all-around great album. It’s bold, gorgeous, unsettling and confident. With this album, Frank has taken a whole new path with his music and lyrics. A lot of these songs (18 tracks in total) have no form or structure. At times they sound as if they were created in one day as Frank was experimenting with different sounds and vibes with his producers without any sort of pre-planning or pre-written material. As a result, the lyrics of this album are like a stream of consciousness, and they are emotionally unsettling and dark for the most part. An instant highlight of the album “U-N-I-T-Y” is the first track where Frank legitimately raps in a very rant-like, confident manner and his compelling flow never lets go of your attention. You keep trying to understand what he is saying, and his lyrics are strangely out of character.

“Is you Roger or Novak? You still are no match, you get no rematch. Boy, you missed your moment.” That’s not a very Frank Ocean-esque line, is it? Yet it’s pleasantly surprising that Frank delivers interesting lines like this over a very beautiful, laid-back instrumental consisted of a guitar and programmed beats (which sound insanely fresh, by the way.) Another very out of character lyric that is strangely fitting is in the song “Sideways” where Frank raps “Sucked a dick long, had a swan neck, put some real swans in the pond then.” The very seamless transition from melodic rapping to singing that Frank does throughout the album is absolutely incredible. His rapping does not feel forced at all and shows a different side of his musicality.

The best track of the album, and quite easily one of Frank’s absolute best songs musically and lyrically is the very somber, heartbreaking “Rushes To” which is about Frank describing the time he spent/is spending with his lover. It’s one his ‘narrative’ songs, the more you listen the more you take out of it. It’s also one of the very few non-rap/beat-oriented songs of the album all the way through. It’s only consisted of an acoustic guitar, a bluesy electric guitar and a distant synth line that fades out quickly. “Saturdays involved making our entrances into life outside” Frank sings in a very quiet, vulnerable way.

Then the story of the song gets a very dark turn lyrically as Frank describes the time when he made a sextape with his lover and rewatched it to recapture the moment they had, but the “only difference is it’s flat.” A simple yet absolutely crushing line that suggests that intimate moment may never be recreated through rewatching a sextape. Then few moments later comes the most stunning vocal range and high notes that Frank has ever delivered. It’s so incredible. I cannot praise it enough but it’s something that needs to be experienced rather than read about.

“Endless” is a challenging album because of its unconventional structure and lyrics. None of the songs have a hook or chorus. They’re not radio-friendly. The songs are very personal (Frank makes them sound personal even if they are fiction). The sound of the album is very different than “Channel Orange”. It’s more electronic and beats-oriented and despite the complexion of most of the beats (particular “Higgs”) there’s always a sense of “space” in every song, which adds to the lasting impact of the album long after it’s finished. Malay, one of Frank’s frequent producers mentioned that the majority of the album was made with a handheld mic in the control room. So you get a sense that a lot of these lyrics were most likely sung in the moment, and you might also notice some human error in the album as well, which makes the album more human and intimate. Even if Frank doesn’t releases the “official” follow-up to “Channel Orange” anytime soon, “Endless” once again proves Frank’s magnificent artistry on all fronts.

Pills - St. Vincent

From healers to dealers and then back again
From guru to voodoo and voodoo to zen

With an echoing melody enough to make anyone feel like they need a Xanax, the track delves into a thoughtful narrative that’s supposed to be alarmingly relatable to a society running on prescriptions. Model and ex-lover Cara Delevigne makes an appearance on the song’s dizzying chorus. x

Made with SoundCloud
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BROCKHAMPTON just dropped this highly anticipated album, Saturation. Over the past month or so the group has been dropping singles and videos that have just been hitting it out of the park everytime. This made for high expectations when their album dropped, and I was not disappointed. This album feels so authentic. What I mean by authentic is that every word, feeling, and sound that comes across feels real and not contrived. Even in the moments that may have not been the most perfect, you can respect the honesty of the music. The album has a nice range of tone. There are plenty of bangers, but also several chill tunes. The lyrics are extremely intelligent and witty and when thrown over these killers instrumentals, you can’t go wrong. However, the most resounding accomplishment of this record is the sense family that you can feel within it. BROCKHAMPTON seems to pride themselves on the fact that they are a true group. Everything that is done is for the sake of the whole and not the individual, which is what really allows this record to flourish. The flow between group members is really unrivaled. When you listen to this album you feel like you are at the BROCKHAMPTON factory in South Central.

9/10

Favorite Tracks: GOLD, HEAT, SWIM, MILK, BOYS, CASH, BUMP (Basically the whole album)

Least Favorite Track: WASTE

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My Life In 13 Random Songs

I’m taking a break from our usual programming to answer some questions courtesy of @positivedisplacement (via @chaunceyandchumleysdad), but I’m going to bend the rules just a bit. Instead of putting my music collection on shuffle and answering each question based on the song that pops up, I’m going to cheat and answer based on songs from my record collection. It’s not quite as random, but I hope you enjoy the list below just as much.

1. This song describes your personality: “Helplessness Blues” by Fleet Foxes. I’m still trying to figure it all out, but if I don’t, I wouldn’t mind working at an orchard, either.

2. This song describes what you want/wish from your life: “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys. The title says it all.

3. This song describes how other people perceive you: “Buddy Holly” by Weezer. People say I do kind of look like Buddy Holly. And I’m always losing my shoe.

4. This song describes the love of your life: “True Love Waits” by Radiohead. She’s very patient with me.

5. This song describes your life at the moment: “Once in a Lifetime” by Talking Heads. How did I get here?

6. This song to make love to: “Adore” by Prince. Or any Prince song, really.

7. This song to dance your heart out: “Modern Love” by David Bowie. I mean it’s the first song off an album called Let’s Dance so how could this not be the right answer.

8. The song that will make you cry: “Two-Headed Boy, Part Two” by Neutral Milk Hotel. Such a sad song made even sadder when you hear Jeff put his guitar down when he gets up to leave at the end and knowing we may never hear another new NHM song again.

9. The song about your future: “Can’t Hardly Wait” by the Replacements. I can’t wait. Hardly wait.

10. The last song you will ever hear in your life: “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” by Neutral Milk Hotel. Double dipping in the NMH well, but how strange it is to be anything at all, indeed.

11. This song describes your next life: “I’ll Believe in Anything” by Wolf Parade. Hopefully it’ll be a place where nobody knows me and nobody gives a damn.

12. The song that makes you feel better: “Stuck Between Stations” by the Hold Steady. Craig Finn always makes me feel better, and this is one of their best.

13. You end up listening to just one song for the rest of your life: “Sound and Vision” by David Bowie. It’s gotta be Bowie, and it’s gotta be his finest.

Let me know what you think of the list!

And tagging some more vinyl friends to join in on the fun, too (if you want!): @ihavelistenedto @reviewthistune @secretsharklover @mikeelikesmusic @flipbin @recordhoarder @ohgodamibored @vinylsocialclub @melvinomusic @mshiphop @thevinylhours @fixedantlers