New Releases

RMR's Trap Ballad Is Country Rap's Next Sensation

While "Old Town Road's" naiveté was part of its charm, RMR is here to push the genre forward.

"B*tches that broke my heart, they became hoes I scam," cries out the anonymous 22-year-old crooner RMR.

"Crooning" actually may not be the appropriate word to describe the raw emotion this talented singer belts out on his debut track, "Rascal," which this morning started to take over the Internet. The young man can undoubtedly sing, and never has "f*ck the boys in blue" sounded so sensual and uplifting. Driven solely by a piano cover of "Bless the Broken Road" by Rascal Flatts, the single's music video, which as of this morning already has thousands of views, finds a masked RMR walking around singing of his struggles in the trap, as his crew lingers behind him, shirtless, tatted up with a variety of guns drawn.

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The viewing experience is no doubt unusual, but RMR assured The Fader today that there is nothing meme-able or ironic about it. "I grew up on country and rap music," he told them in an e-mail interview, "and this song is the interpretation of what the new genre should sound like."

While the "Old Town Road's" naiveté was part of its charm, RMR may represent the next evolutionary step in the subgenre of Country Rap. The song is actually very good and deserves to be taken seriously. RMR's vocals are amazing, and his tales of violence and sadness are as authentic as they come. Country Rap may have been founded on absurdity, but RMR is showing us that the genre has real potential to be something deeper and more meaningful, and we should genuinely start considering it to be more than just a trend. His new EP Drug Dealing Is a Lost Art is due out this Spring.

Music Features

"Old Town Road" Deserved Better at the Grammy Awards

While Billie Eilish's sweep is worth celebrating, it comes at the expense of slighting Lil Nas X's leaps towards equal representation in music.

In the 13 months since Lil Nas X independently released "Old Town Road," he went from a virtual unknown to one of the Grammys' most discussed artists.

His country-rap smash, which was later re-released to include a guest verse from Billy Ray Cyrus, went on to top the Billboard Hot 100 for a record-breaking 19 weeks last year. In addition to Lil Nas X's nomination for Album of the Year and Best New Artist, his and Cyrus' rendition of "Old Town Road" earned nods for Record of the Year, Best Pop/Duo Performance, and Best Music Video. Of those three, they won the latter two awards.

Record of the Year went to Billie Eilish's "bad guy," solidifying her sweep of all four major categories; she also won Song of the Year, Album of the Year, and Best New Artist. She's the youngest artist in Grammy history to be nominated in all Big Four categories and only the second ever to win them all. While Eilish is undoubtedly a precocious, era-defining talent and absolutely deserving of such recognition, the Recording Academy's decision to award her so liberally comes at the expense of slighting "Old Town Road"'s cultural significance.

Lil Nas X's overnight success had naysayers accusing him of being an industry plant, a meticulously-optimized figure cultivated by high-level executives. But the truth is that the 20-year-old, born Montero Lamar Hill, was just exceptionally well-versed in what causes internet virality; he ran meme accounts, and after spending $30 on a beat, saw the perfect opportunity to stake his claim in the yeehaw agenda—the trend of utilizing Old Western/cowboy fashion and culture, especially as it's been reclaimed by black artists.

"Old Town Road" was basically designed to stir the pot, but it soon shone a light on the ugly side of chart data and its consistent othering of black artists. In April, a few weeks after debuting on the Billboard charts in both the country and hip-hop charts simultaneously, Billboard quietly removed the song from the country charts, sparking countless accusations of racism. In solidarity, country legend Billy Ray Cyrus hopped on the first official remix of "Old Town Road," leading the song to its peak success.

In June, when "Old Town Road" reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100, Lil Nas X ended Pride Month by coming out as gay, making him the first artist to do so with a No. 1 single. He also became the first openly gay black artist to win a CMA Award in November. And although the popularity of "Old Town Road" might be waning, the track isn't stopping anytime soon: At the Grammys, Lil Nas X and Cyrus performed the hit alongside yodeling wunderkind Mason Ramsey, Diplo, and K-pop's biggest exports, BTS (naturally, this version was dubbed "Seoul Town Road").

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Aside from just smashing records, "Old Town Road" will go down in history as a major accomplishment for black LGBTQ+ artists and a middle finger to straight-white-dude worship of traditional country music. Couldn't the Recording Academy have given Lil Nas X more recognition by awarding him with Song of the Year? Best Rap Album winner Tyler, the Creator said it best when he explained that part of him felt like his win was a "backhanded compliment" as a black person.

Now, this isn't an argument against Eilish by any means—although she even expressed hesitance towards accepting so many awards—but the Grammys are historically racist, and giving "Old Town Road" more accolades would've been the right step towards correcting the injustice Lil Nas X has faced regarding the track. Despite its initial success as a solo song, Billboard credits all of "Old Town Road"'s chart success to the version that features Cyrus. "This song stopped racism!!!" reads the title of YouTuber No Life Shaq's review of the song, but the Grammys disprove that claim. A more correct description of "Old Town Road" is that, despite its leaps and bounds towards more equal representation in the entertainment industry, it's proven that even unimaginable viral success doesn't protect an artist from racism in the music world.

CULTURE

BTS Should've Had More Time Onstage at the Grammys

The supergroup was treated like backup dancers during a performance of "Old Town Road."

BTS is one of the most influential pop music groups in the world right now.

The South Korean boy band has skyrocketed to the top of the charts and into the hearts of millions of fans, becoming one of the most beloved pop groups in recent memory. At this year's Grammy awards, they appeared as a feature in Lil Nas X's impressive rendition of "Old Town Road," but they were given a mere 20 seconds onstage to sing their part of "Seoul Town Road," one of the song's many remixes.

The performance was an impressive show of multicultural, multi-generational, and multi-genre unity. Visually, it was a triumph, if a bit hallucinatory.

BTS's appearance also made history, as it was the first time a South Korean band performed at the Grammys. True to form, the boys used the time the best they could.

Still, fans are calling the Grammys out for underusing the band's talents. BTS deserved more time, if not their own solo slot onstage, considering the amount of talent and influence they wield—and fans are already calling for the Grammys to remedy their mistake by giving BTS their own Grammys moment (and a lot of awards, hopefully) next year.

Watch clips of the performance below:

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The Grammys have been heavily criticized for their poor diversity and representation. This ceremony marked an improvement from previous years—Gary Clark, Jr.'s fiery protest song was a flashpoint—but in order to keep changing and keeping up with the pulse of the music world, the Grammys needs to shift its focus from Eurocentric music and English-language art to a more global view.

Music Lists

20 Music Predictions for the 2020s

What will our favorite artists be up to this decade?

Now that we're deep enough into 2020 that our New Year's Resolutions have wilted away, it's time to focus on things that matter most: what our favorite musicians will get up to in the decade to come.

A lot can happen in 10 years; hell, Spotify hadn't even hit the United States yet when the last decade began. Since 2010, the music world has been shook with Beyonce's surprise self-titled album, Lady Gaga's meat dress, Ariana Grande's massive benefit concert for Manchester, and Billboard revamping their Hot 100 formulations to include YouTube hits, making viral dance number "Harlem Shake" a surprise No. 1. So, what's next?

Here are 20 events we think could take the music world by storm in the 2020s.

-Grimes pivots from electropop's robo-queen to full-time mommy blogger. She and her unborn child's father, Elon Musk, reportedly launched an Instagram account for their baby, which has "family friendly spon-con" written all over it.


-Lizzo teaches a flute masterclass for those aspiring to follow her example of woodwind-assisted twerking.


-A documentary, or maybe even a hologram tour, of Mac Miller is created to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his debut LP, Blue Slide Park.

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-Too preoccupied by being obsessed with his wife, Chance the Rapper quietly retires from music.


-Ariana Grande dates a minimum of two high-profile, tattooed, skinny white men before tying the knot.


-Snail Mail and Soccer Mommy form a duo, Soccer Snail, and release an album together. They still get mistaken for each other.


-Facebook launches a music streaming platform.


-100 gecs headline a major music festival.


-Billboard starts factoring in TikTok plays to calculate songs' positions on the charts.


-Lil Nas X—already known to be a hit with kids—pens a Wild West-themed children's book, and a coinciding G-rated soundtrack.


-Post Malone opens a tattoo studio in New York City, further pushing the popularity of facial script tattoos.


-Drake makes a cameo in Euphoria, commencing his full return to acting.


-Following the Dixie Chicks' highly-successful comeback, they collaborate with Kacey Musgraves.


-It is revealed that Vampire Weekend frontman, Ezra Koenig, and his longtime partner, Parks and Recreation star Rashida Jones, secretly got married years ago during an intimate ceremony at Columbia University's Butler Library.


-The Postal Service—the band with Ben Gibbard, not the government agency—reunite for a 20th anniversary performance of their sole album, Give Up.


-My Chemical Romance are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (they'll be eligible in 2027).


-Feeling inspired by his Sunday Service performance at Joel Osteen's megachurch, Kanye West opens his own megachurch near his home in Wyoming. Tourism in Wyoming reaches record highs as a result.


-Billie Eilish surpasses Van Halen in record sales.


-In the wake of the the climate crisis, an allegiance of major artists will cease touring to minimize their carbon footprint.


-Speaking of climate, Greta Thunberg launches her singer-songwriter career. Her breakout hit is a cover of Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi," the original environmentalist anthem. It becomes a No. 1 hit, and Thunberg donates all the proceeds to various environmental groups.

MUSIC

The Top 10 Most Influential Albums of the 2010s

These albums not only shaped the past decade: they'll determine what music will be in the coming one.

Music has never been extricable from culture, but in the 2010s, it became crystal clear that music has the ability to shatter norms and reshape the world.

Take a moment and think back to the albums that changed your life over the past decade. Most likely, they altered your worldview on a fundamental level, reshaping the way you saw yourself and your life. Some albums are capable of doing that on a massive scale, and that's what this list is intended to highlight: Albums that managed to shift the way people saw music, culture, and themselves, and that paved the way for what music might become.

10. Kendrick Lamar — To Pimp A Butterfly

Kendrick Lamar - Alright www.youtube.com

Poet and firebrand Kendrick Lamar creates music that's both timeless and entirely of its time. To Pimp A Butterfly was Kendrick at his most inspired and radioactive. It cut into the pain and rage and hope of an era and a community and a person, and collapsed time into a tangle of sound and memory that reviewers and listeners will be playing and attempting to understand for decades.

It made an indelible impact, becoming a juggernaut and an easy name-drop, but fortunately, To Pimp A Butterfly searingly addresses all the trappings of fame, shallow understanding, and commodification that follow it, retaining an indomitable inner life.

9. BTS — Map of the Soul: Persona

BTS (방탄소년단) MAP OF THE SOUL : PERSONA 'Persona' Comeback Trailer www.youtube.com

The 2010s were the era that K-pop entered the global theatre, and nobody dominated more than BTS. Their album Map of the Soul: Persona may not have been critically lauded, but it was legendary in the hearts and minds of their fans.

Map of the Soul: Persona was glittery boy-band pop, pristine and starry-eyed. Rolling Stone described it as "harmless" and "impregnable," but BTS fans are not harmless, and neither is K-pop, but what this band is is unavoidable, pervasive, and larger-than-life. To ignore the impact of BTS would be to miss a massive portion of the 2010s and to remain blind to what the 2020s will hold, which is a far more globalized music industry that, no matter what, will always, always have its beloved boy bands.

8. Carly Rae Jepsen — E•MO•TION

Carly Rae Jepsen - Run Away With Me www.youtube.com

Jepsen's seminal debut album gained her a cult of devoted fans and spread a wide-eyed sense of pop optimism across the 2010s. Just what about E•MO•TION was so singular, so moving, so unforgettable? As Jia Tolentino wrote, "Carly Rae Jepsen is a pop artist zeroed in on love's totipotency: the glance, the kaleidoscope-confetti-spinning instant, the first bit of nothing that contains it all." As one Twitter user insinuated, "Carly Rae Jepsen's E•MO•TION is for all the gays in a healthy relationship for the first time."

Electric Lit argued that with E•MO•TION, Jepsen ushered in a "queer renaissance," one that exists because her music occupies a familiar feeling: "the struggle to express a desire that isn't supposed to exist." From the raw ecstasy of "Run Away With Me" to the dreamy chaos of "LA Hallucinations," Jepsen's music is desperate to bridge the gap between the self and others, to leave behind loneliness, to cut straight to the feeling; and in that, it left an indelible impact for those who were there to experience its majesty.

7. Lana Del Rey — Born To Die

Lana Del Rey - Born To Die (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com

Lana Del Rey is, rightfully, credited with ushering in the wave of sad-girl pop that is still going strong, thanks to artists like Halsey, Billie Eilish, and of course, Del Rey herself. The artist formerly known as Lizzy Grant emerged onto the scene as a cyborgian, hyper-manufactured industry plant refracted through a vintage DIY filter, and now she's one of the voices of her generation, whispering platitudes on America and sex and sadness in the same breath.

Born To Die was Del Rey at her most manufactured, her most glittery, her must luxurious and opulent and depressed, and it's beautiful in its decay. Its kitschy Americana held no bars, and from its nihilistic title track to the sultry "Blue Jeans" to the weird glamour of "Off To the Races," it effectively spawned an entire generation of flower-crowned teens who are now sad Trump-hating adults.

6. Lady Gaga — Born This Way

Lady Gaga - Born This Way www.youtube.com

Lady Gaga might not have the clout she did at the beginning of the 2010s, but back in the day, Gaga was a wild card and game-changer, crushing norms, changing fashion, and standing up for the LGBTQ+ community. She was proudly weird and always daring, and she created a whole space for weird pop stars after her. She blended drag, burlesque, and shock-factor performance with genuinely catchy pop, and created a new blueprint for stardom in the process.

Born This Way was arguably her crown jewel, the point where she blossomed into the true freak she'd been waiting to become. It had the ecstatic "You and I" and "Edge of Glory." It marked an era where pop music became inextricable from its visual component and political implications—not that it ever really was.

5. Lizzo — Cuz I Love You

Lizzo - Truth Hurts (Official Video) www.youtube.com

Most likely, Lizzo will be even bigger in the 2020s; after all, she only just released her major label debut album. But Lizzo has already changed the game, creating space for a type of beauty and confidence that pop stars before her have only played at or insinuated. From her refusal to tolerate inadequate men to her willingness to rock thongs at baseball games and her decision to pay tribute to the great women who paved the way for her, at this point, Lizzo might be our best hope for the future.

Cuz I Love You synthesized the hits Lizzo had been building up for years, twining them into a euphoric testament to self-love in spite of a world that teaches you to hate yourself. From the celebratory "Good As Hell" to the buoyant mic-drop that is "Truth Hurts," the album is a gift to us all.

4. Lil Nas X — 7 (EP)

Lil Nas X - Old Town Road (Official Movie) ft. Billy Ray Cyrus www.youtube.com

Lil Nas X's fantastic "Old Town Road" was the perfect conflagration of factors that hit at exactly the right time. It was also supremely, unbelievably catchy. Using memes, blurring genres, buying beats off SoundCloud, coming out on Twitter and being open about how he made "Old Town Road" while sleeping on his sister's couch, Lil Nas caught us all in our heartstrings and created a blueprint for music's undeniably post-genre and multimedia future.

X's EP, "7," wasn't a high-quality work so much as it was a cultural flashpoint, an inspiration that no doubt has marketing executives scrambling to replicate it.

3. Billie Eilish — when we all fall asleep, where do we go?

Billie Eilish - bad guy www.youtube.com

Billie Eilish is changing the game in terms of what pop music can sound like and how pop stars should act. Any producer who attempts to drag pop songs into clear-cut and old-fashioned forms involving high notes and beat drops will find themselves challenged by the innovative, glitchy, challenging tunes that Eilish creates with her brother in their childhood home. Her refusal to fit into gender norms and her insistence on standing up for things like climate make her emblematic of what a future of Gen-Z stars might look like.

when we all fall asleep, where do we go? is a peculiar album. A lot of its songs don't even try for radio play, and some are so sad they can take your breath away. Some are barely whispers, like the moody "when the party's over," while others are cracked and angry and challenging, like the smash hit "bad guy," but all of it's undeniably unforgettable and boundary-breaking.

2. Kanye West — My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Kanye West - Runaway (Full-length Film) www.youtube.com

Provocative, raw, and almost bloody with emotion, Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy continues to reverberate nearly 10 years after it was released. West's album is full of unexpected dips into guitar solos and alien sounds that draw it into new dimensions; it's peppered with cheesy lines, dirty jokes, and shockingly confessional lyrics; and no matter how far West has gone into Christianity, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is an enduring ode to the devils we all know.

Its best songs, "All Of the Lights," "Devil In A New Dress" and "Runaway," explore what West has always been working through—the ragged edge where sin meets faith, and where success meets corruption. MBDTF sinks its teeth into the rough, infected parts of the world and creates something great out of them. Though we might not see West exploring this territory again, his work sparked an entire generation of artists looking to dive into the world he created.

1. Beyoncé — Lemonade

Beyoncé - Formation www.youtube.com

Beyoncé's brilliant Lemonade has yet to be surpassed, even as other artists try to mirror her surprise video-drop format. Lemonade mixed poetry, visuals, and beautiful, kaleidoscopic music to form a treatise on freedom, love, black women's power, and of course, Jay-Z. It made an indelible impact on all the music that came after it, setting the standard for what a truly creative release could look and sound like.

From the harmony-laden "Pray You Catch Me" to the gritty Jack White duet "Don't Hurt Yourself" to the triumphant, anthemic "Freedom," Lemonade changed everything. We can only hope we'll see more like it in the 2020s.

End-of-decade ranking lists are inherently flawed, dependent on a list of arbitrary criteria that's largely influenced by the overculture's equally arbitrary metrics of quality—yet we're making one anyway.

Despite their issues, end-of-decade lists and rankings are ways for us all to reflect on the sound and media we've consumed over the past ten years. The past decade saw streaming services, social media, and the widespread dissemination of DIY production completely re-terraform music, opening up space for post-genre innovation and new forms of political protest music.

While so many artists put out incredible work this decade, four in particular stood out to us at Popdust due to the quality of their music, their personas, and their cultural resonance. Here are our top artists of the 2010s.

Frank Ocean

Frank Ocean has received ample love from end-of-decade lists so far, but all of it is deserved. The 2010s were defined by Ocean's music, from 2011's earworm "Thinkin Bout You" to 2012's highly acclaimed Channel Orange. He made history with his legendary decision to release Blond independently just a day after releasing Endless and finishing his contract with Def Jam. It might be a stretch to say that his decision to break from the label could symbolize a larger global shift towards dissatisfaction with major corporations and big money, but regardless, his act of defiance made Blond's expansive generosity and creativity that much more influential.

Thinkin Bout You www.youtube.com

Blond twines infinite musical genres and emotional threads into one entity. It's gloomy and hypnotic, nostalgic and futuristic. It sounds effortless despite its constantly shifting rhythms and unpredictable flows, but it's incredibly complicated and intentionally made. On "Nikes" and "Solo (Reprise)," Ocean makes powerful references to Trayvon Martin, police brutality, and the Black Lives Matter movement, arguably one of the most important movements of the past decades. The album was also praised for helping to redefine queerness in pop music, and, in a huge decade for LGBTQ+ people, Ocean was at the center of that shift.

But Blond's political undertones take a backseat to its artistry. In the final song, "Futura Free," Mikey Alfred asks, "How far is a light year?" A light year is ~9.4x1012 kilometers, and "Futura Free" is exactly nine minutes and four seconds long.

Frank Ocean - Futura Free www.youtube.com

Mitski

Mitski Miyawaki started out as a classical musician, but 2014's Bury Me at Makeout Creek was a raw, sputtering, furious melding of abandon, fury, and poetic refractions of young-adult angst. Then 2016's Puberty 2 addressed the painful experience that is realizing growing up is a never-ending process, particularly in an America that endlessly silences and pigeonholes women of color. 2018's Be the Cowboy was a dizzying reflection on fame, loneliness, and creative practice, a primal scream at the end of a painful metamorphosis.

Mitski - Your Best American Girl (Official Video) www.youtube.com

Mitski's music is endlessly giving, the sort that takes on different shapes depending on when you listen to it and what you're listening to. She throws the grainy psychedelic qualities reminiscent of Jim Morrison over dark beats and places wailing guitars beneath searing lyrics. Her concerts and persona have become loci of redemptive rage and solidarity.

The quality of music and performance alone isn't enough to define an artist as one of the top three musicians of the decade, so although she would probably hate this entire statement, Mitski also stands out because she symbolizes an entire new genre of indie-alternative musicians (ranging from Angel Olsen to Phoebe Bridgers to Vagabon) who are redefining and exploding what it means to be a "woman in music." In the 2010s, which saw the rise of the #MeToo movement and intersectional feminism and nonbinary identities (things that had always existed, but were finally starting to break into the mainstream), Mitski's music—which excavates trauma and strength, self-love and self-hate, womanhood and personhood on the whole—encapsulated and shattered ideas about what an artist could be.

Mitski - Townie (Official Video) www.youtube.com

Bon Iver

Bon Iver released his bleary folk masterpiece For Emma, Forever Ago in 2007, and he took all our breath away with his expansive self-titled sophomore album (which had the windy, breathtakingly humble "Holocene" as its crown jewel). But his stylistic innovations really took off with 2016's 22, A Million, a.k.a. "the BULLSH*T numbers album," as my editor says. 22, A Million was deeply weird, chaotic, unpredictable, and highly refined, laden with musings on gods and nature and time that seemed as abstract as the Internet and everyday life can feel.

Bon Iver - "Holocene" (Official Video) www.youtube.com

Throughout his entire career, Bon Iver has broken boundaries with his lyrics, which express emotions despite refusing exact translations (or maybe because they subvert the trappings of language, tapping into something more primal). He uses words as instruments, playing with their shapes and cadences in a way that no other artist has been able to emulate.

As a cultural symbol, Bon Iver is as much meme as man. Known initially for his sleepy snowbound folk, he transitioned to autotuned features on Kanye West songs and later broke boundaries in electronic music and the multi-genre sphere. Though 2019's i,i lacked the raw creativity of 22, A Million, it felt richer and warmer than ever before, an artist's return to the home he had to leave to rediscover.

Bon Iver: Full Concert | NPR MUSIC FRONT ROWwww.youtube.com

On a larger scale, Bon Iver's music and persona might symbolize a large segment of musicians who, after initially being relegated to the folk genre (or another single sound), began to experiment with genres and themes, breaking them down and showing that close-minded rules about sound, lyricism, and reality itself simply did not have to apply. In the 2010s, genre broke down, identity politics came up, we started telling stories through memes and emojis, and Bon Iver opened our minds to universes and colors and sounds we'd never seen before.

Kendrick Lamar

Between 2012's Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, 2015's To Pimp a Butterfly, and 2017's DAMN., Kendrick Lamar has created an exhaustive collection of work that set new standards for hip-hop and music itself. Kendrick's work is rigorous and liberated, egoistic and self-critical. It's the finest modern protest music we have today. A master storyteller, Kendrick is frequently referred to as the best rapper alive, and though his lyrics bridge the gap between raw, confessional emo rap and guilt and power and glory, it's his flow that makes him truly unparalleled.

Kendrick Lamar - Alright www.youtube.com

During the 2010s, Kendrick Lamar became culturally omnipotent, snagging a Pulitzer, headlining Coachella, and pulling together the Black Panther companion album, contributing to the film's massive and long-lasting resonance. In a decade arguably defined by hip hop, Kendrick was constantly pushing the boundaries of what the genre could be. He'll probably be remembered in the same way we recall Bob Dylan today—the voice of a revolution we didn't know we were in the midst of, though in hindsight, we've been singing along this whole time.

Beyoncé - Freedom (ft. Kendrick Lamar) www.youtube.com


Runners-Up: Rihanna, Drake, Lana Del Rey, Beyoncé, Kanye West