Labrinth, Sia, and Diplo's debut album together is fun, but it never quite peaks like you'd expect
The formation of musical supergroups is not quite as common an occurrence today as it was in the 1960s and '70s when the music world was graced with timeless all-star bands like Cream, Led Zeppelin, Journey, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
Of course, there have been attempts at supergroups in more recent years as well, but for one reason or another – probably a complex concoction of rock star egotism, conflictingly jam-packed schedules, and the pressure of grandiose expectations – many of these more contemporary supergroups have flopped, either commercially, artistically, or both. Obviously, there are a few exceptions. But just look at the unfulfilled potentials and swift demises of bands like the Guns N' Roses/Stone Temple Pilots crossover, Velvet Revolver (2004-2007); the hip hop lyricist's dream team, Slaughterhouse (2009-2012); and the ambitious [but ultimately disappointing] hybridization of Sound Garden and Rage Against the Machine that was Audioslave (2002-2006).
When a collective of already well-known and respected artists band together, they inevitably face an uphill battle. The supergroups that venture into new sonic terrain and meld signature styles into something both comfortably familiar and refreshingly alien are the ones who will find success.
This is a balance that LSD (Labrinth, Sia, and Diplo) have managed to strike on their eponymous debut release, Labrinth, Sia & Diplo Present…LSD. This may not come as much of a surprise, though, as the three have a history of collaboration prior to this album. Sia, for example, has worked with both Diplo and Labrinth before. Most notably, with Diplo on her 2014 chart-topper, "Elastic Heart." Six of the ten tracks on the album were also made public ahead of the album's April 12th release date, one of which was the infectious single, "Thunderclouds," which served as the musical backdrop for a Samsung ad. Fans were already well primed for the group's unique collaborative sound.
This pre-release familiarity both helped and hindered the album. On one hand, listeners had plenty of time to become acquainted with the new musical directions the three solo artists took when they put their many talents and stylistic sensibilities together. On the other hand, there weren't many surprises in store by the time LSD officially dropped. For an album with a grand total of ten songs – one of which is a remix of the LP's lead single, "Genius," and is basically a reprise of the song with a quick (but dope) Lil Wayne verse tagged onto the beginning – that only leaves four brand new, previously unheard tracks for fans to enjoy.
And one of those four is the somewhat underwhelming two-minute intro, "Welcome to the Wonderful World of." The song does a good job at grounding the listener in the unexpectedly rich and folky vocal harmonies that recur periodically throughout the rest of the album, but it does little in the way of capitalizing on the gradual buildup of the song. The intro seems to hint repeatedly at a climax that never really comes, causing it to sort of fizzle out as it leads into the next track, "Angel in your Eyes." This song is much closer to the big, fun, and dynamic sound that fans were expecting. A fusion of oscillating synths, Caribbean rhythms, and Labrinth and Sia volleying catchy and quirky melodies all make for a Coachella-ready EDM-pop experience.
In addition to the obligatory R&B, EDM, and pop influences heard throughout the album; there are three unexpected influences that guide many of the standout songs on this album: gospel, bossa nova, and reggae. Songs like "Mountains" — led by an understated but soulful organ, and "It's Time," in which Sia and Labrinth show off the full range of their vocal abilities alongside solemn piano chords — almost trick the ear into hearing a gospel choir. Plus, the syncopated, samba-esque rhythms of "Genius" and "No New Friends" provide a blend of Brazilian and Caribbean flavors into the mix.
There is much to love about LSD – it is fun, sonically cohesive, and musically curious – but it has a certain rushed quality, making the listener wonder if maybe the trio could have given the project a little more time. It doesn't quite feel complete. Although Labrinth, Sia, and Diplo have successfully sidestepped many of the common supergroup pitfalls, this album seems more like a preview of their newfound collective sound than a comprehensive exploration and firm declaration of it. Here's to hoping the group continues to grow out of the promising roots they've planted with this debut release.
Dustin DiPaulo is a writer and musician from Rochester, New York. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from Florida Atlantic University and can most likely be found at a local concert, dive bar, or comedy club (if he's not getting lost somewhere in the woods).
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The quarterback said "I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country." And then he tried to apologize. And only made it worse.
Drew Brees, a man who makes literally millions of dollars for throwing a ball, has come under fire for insensitive comments he made about NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem to protest police brutality.
"I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country," Brees said in the interview with Yahoo Finance. He clarified that this was in part because he envisioned his grandfathers, who fought in World War II, during the National Anthem. He continued, saying, "And is everything right with our country right now? No. It's not. We still have a long way to go. But I think what you do by standing there and showing respect to the flag with your hand over your heart, is it shows unity. It shows that we are all in this together. We can all do better. And that we are all part of the solution."
This isn't the first time Brees made it clear that he cares more for the idea of a make-believe unified America than he does for actual human lives. In 2016, he criticized Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the anthem, saying it was "disrespectful to the American flag" and "an oxymoron" because the flag gave critics the right to speak out in the first place.
Colin Kaepernick kneeling in protest of racist police brutality
Of course, the flag's alleged ideals have been proven to only be applicable to wealthy, white men—men like Brees. Sure, his grandfathers did a noble thing when they fought under the US flag during WWII, and no one, including Kaepernick, has ever said that sacrifice isn't worth respecting. Thanks to the sacrifices of many people (including the enslaved Black backs upon which this country was built, including the scores of routinely abused Black soldiers who fought for American lives), America has offered opportunity and peace for many, many people. In particular, Ole' Glory has been very kind to men like Brees: rich, white men who still control the majority of the power and the wealth in the United States.
But what about the rest of us, Drew? What about George Floyd whose neck was crushed by a police officer who kneeled on him so casually that he didn't even take his hand out of his pocket? What about Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot for the crime of being Black and going for a jog? What about Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was murdered by police in her home in the middle of the night for a crime that had nothing to do with her? What about Tony McDade, Drew–have you heard his name? Have you heard about the 38-year-old Black trans man who was gunned down in Florida last week? Do you understand why these people's family's may harbor just a bit of disrespect for your precious flag?
Is it possible for you to realize, Drew, that your wish for "unity" is not a wish for progress, but a wish to maintain the status quo? When you call for unity under the American flag, you're talking about your flag, the flag that represents a long, sordid history of racial oppression and violence. There is no unity where there is no justice. When you say that "we are all in this together," what you're saying is that we all have roles to play in the version of society that has served you so well. For your part, you'll be a rich, white man, and for Black people's part, they'll continue to be victims of state-sanctioned murders– but hopefully more quietly, hopefully in a manner that doesn't make you uncomfortable?
When you say, "We can all do better. And that we are all part of the solution," what you mean to say is that POC and their allies are at fault. Sure, you probably agree that Derek Chauvin took it a bit too far, and you probably feel a little self-conscious that he's brought all this "Black rights" stuff up again. But when you say "all," you place blame on the victims who are dying under a broken system. And what, exactly, do you expect POC to do differently, Drew? Ahmaud Arbery was just out jogging, and still he died. George Floyd was just trying to pay a cashier, and still he died. POC and their allies try to peacefully protest by marching in the streets or taking a knee at a football game, and still white people condemn and criticize. Still the police shoot.
After much criticism, Brees did attempt an apology on Instagram, where he posted a hilariously corny stock photo of a Black and white hand clasped together. His caption, though possibly well-intentioned, made it even clearer that his understanding of the movement for Black lives is thoroughly lacking.
Highlights of the "apology" include his immediate attempt to exonerate himself from culpability, claiming that his words were misconstrued, saying of his previous statement: "Those words have become divisive and hurtful and have misled people into believing that somehow I am an enemy. This could not be further from the truth, and is not an accurate reflection of my heart or my character." Unfortunately, Drew, white people like you are the "enemy," as you put it, because by default you are at the very least part of the problem. No one is accusing you of being an overt racist, Drew; no one thinks you actively and consciously detest Black people. But your lack of empathy, your apathy, and your unwillingness to unlearn your own biases are precisely what has persisted in the hearts and minds of well-meaning white Americans for centuries.
Next, you say, "I recognize that I am part of the solution and can be a leader for the Black community in this movement." No, Drew. Just no. Black people don't need white people's savior complexes to interfere in their organizing; what they need is for us to shut up and listen. What they need is for us to get our knees off of their necks.
Finally, you say, "I have ALWAYS been an ally, never an enemy." This, Drew, is suspiciously similar to saying, "But I'm one of the good whites!" The fact of the matter is that feeling the need to prove your allyship is not about helping a movement; it's about feeding your own ego. Not only that, but your emphasis on "ALWAYS" does a pretty good job of making it clear that you don't think you have a racist bone in your body and that you have taken great offense at any accusations to the contrary. I have some news for you, Drew: Every white person is racist. Sure, the levels vary, and while you may not be actively and consciously discriminating against POC, you have been brought up in a racist system, and your implicit biases are as strong as any other white person's. Your job now is to unlearn those biases and confront those subtle prejudices in yourself and in other white people. Maybe the first step in doing so is just shutting your f*cking mouth about kneeling at football games. Maybe you should even consider taking a knee yourself.
For other non-BIPOC trying to be better allies, check out one of these 68+ anti-racism resources.
We're glad they're on our side.
The world is up against a seemingly insurmountable threat, but luckily, we've got a crack team of heroes on the case.
Sure, there's already the girl with super strength, the guy who can fly, and the anthropomorphic, trash-talking animal tailor-made for merchandise. But this is a threat of intergalactic proportions, and we're going to need all the help we can get if we want to survive.
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