The singer pulls from genres of the past and present to craft an R&B hitmaker
They're calling Rag'n'Bone Man's Human blues, neo-blues, hip-hop flavored R&B, and that pointless umbrella, "alternative." Rory Graham's giant, 19-song deluxe album certainly takes influence from all of those genres and, at its best, is an excellent blend of all of them.
The album's stomping namesake and opener, "Human," encompasses the whole album's best qualities. Catchy, bass-heavy verses and a steady rhythm roll into the explosive chorus. This first song shows off the range of Graham's voice and introduces listeners to the many influences that create the rest of the album.
"Bitter End" throws Graham's voice into center stage over ringing piano and allows him to float into gentle falsetto in a break from the huge choruses of the LP's other tracks. In between R&B hits he writes soft ballads in the line of John Legend, complemented by somber strings and sparse piano. His voice remains the constantly powerful element in all of the album's tracks.
Pop songs like "Be the Man" and "Ego" balance the album's grand anthems and heavy ballads. "Ego" pulls heavily from hip hop and even features some rap verses between its gospel vocals and the bright horns of the hook. Meanwhile, Graham gets his blues cred from "Die Easy," a solo, haunting, a capella dance with death and the devil. His growling vocals are chillingly beautiful and reach flawlessly from deep lows to huge highs.
Humans is an alternative album in the best definition of the word. A blues purist will say it isn't blues. A rapper won't call it hip hop. It's too much R&B to be rock and it does pop hooks too well to be simply R&B. What it is is alternative to any of these, a conversation between all of them from a singer well-versed in the sound of the blues.
Listening to it, I'm thinking of John Legend's lecture to the purist Ryan Gosling in La La Land: "Jazz is dying because of people like you. . . . Where are the kids? Where are the young people? . . . How are you going to be a revolutionary if you're such a traditionalist?"
A style of music or any kind of art has to keep changing to stay relevant, has to keep evolving to maintain its vitality. That's something that artists, even the biggest and best, often fail to achieve. U2 kept up with the times for decades but has failed to find the modern sound in their last three albums. It doesn't mean they'll lose fans, but they won't find fans in the youth.
Rag'n'Bone Man is energizing the blues and all of the other musical ingredients in his creation. Don't call Graham's album neo-blues; better to give up and label it alternative. Call it exciting, call it new, call it modern. Rag'n'Bone Man has crafted a pop hitmaker from the scraps of what came before and the energy of what's happening now.
Listen to Human on Apple Music and Spotify.
The newly passed "BTS Law" allows K-pop stars to defer mandatory military service.
This week South Korea's National Assembly passed a law that is sure to have BTS ARMY cheering them on.
Generally speaking, all South Korean men are required to spend at least 18 months enlisted in the military, with the final cut-off for entry at age 28. But the new legislation — informally referred to as "The BTS Law" — will allow K-pop stars who meet certain requirements to defer until the age of 30.
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"I want to share with you that I am trans, my pronouns are he/they and my name is Elliot."
Academy Award-nominated actor Elliot Page has come out as transgender.
Page, known for his roles in films like Juno, Whip It, and Inception, announced his coming out in a social media post today. "Hi friends, I want to share with you that I am trans, my pronouns are he/they and my name is Elliot," he wrote. "I feel lucky to be writing this. To be here. To have arrived at this place in my life."
Every year, Spotify listeners win out over devotees to other streaming platforms when they unveil their Spotify Wrapped playlists — a data driven analysis of what the year sounded like.
And while this year's personal Spotify Wrapped summaries are still loading, Spotify just released their data for their most streamed global music and podcasts of the year.
Announced the week following the Grammy nominations, Spotify Wrapped feels like vindication for artists who were snubbed by the awards committee, like The Weeknd and Halsey.
The summary also analyzed trends of when and how people were listening to content, noting increased popularity in nostalgia-themed playlists and work-from-home-themed playlists. Spotify users were understandably playing music from home more, which even caused an uptick in streaming music from gaming consoles. Listeners also tuned obsessively into wellness podcasts like never before.
After months of on and off again speculation, Rihanna and A$AP Rocky seem to be dating.
Obviously, this is good news if it's true. Can you imagine? For the coordinating outfits alone, I need it.
There have been a ton of icky white rappers over the years, but these take the cake.
On this day in 1990, Vanilla Ice's "Under Pressure" reboot "Ice, Ice Baby" debuted at No. 1 in the UK, kickstarting a Billboard run that would soon carry over to the states and invigorate a fleeting love for Vanilla Ice and his whole...vibe.
Of course, we all know how it ends. Vanilla Ice's credibility and career unraveled as quickly as it began. "Ice Ice Baby" took on a satirical identity larger than its creator, all while Robert Van Wrinkle refused to pay royalties (or even give a shout-out) to Freddie Mercury and David Bowie despite liberally sampling the track's true creators. Ice instead tried to cultivate a hollow rap identity, one where he was a hardened former-gang member from Miami and not a middle-class teen from a Texas suburb. The chorus of the song then came under fire by a black fraternity, who accused Vanilla Ice of ripping off their fraternal chant ("ice ice baby/ too cold, too cold.")