MUSIC

Popdust's Spooktacular Halloween Playlist

Are you tasked with hosting a Halloween party this year? Let us help you with the music.

Howl you doing boys and girls? What's up, my witches?

Spooky season is drawing nearer, and with Halloween falling on a Thursday this year, it means that there is only one weekend to curate a spooktacular party playlist, and one opportunity to throw a fa-boo-lous Halloween party. It is no easy task, but if you want your guests to shake their BOOty, eat, drink, and be scary all night long, Popdust has just the playlist that will give your friends pumpkin' to talk about.

Itsy Bitsy Spider by Carly Simon

Have you ever heard such an elegant and moving interpretation of this spooky nursery rhyme? In this version, I wasn't rooting for the rain to "wash the spider out"; instead, Simon's mash up of the nursery rhyme with her hit "Comin Around Again" paints a darker picture. "I know nothing stays the same, but if you're willing to play the game, it's coming around again," Simon sings. The Spider's journey is a complex one: He is tenacious in his dream of scaling the water spout and is an inspiration to us all. "Nothing stays the same," little Spider, keep climbing. One day, you may just turn your dream into a reality. It's a reminder of our mortality and serves as the perfect song to kick off the night as your guests eat hors d'oeuvres and pour their first cup of spiked punch.

Follow the playlist on Spotify!

MUSIC

Pitchfork's Top 200 Songs of the 2010s Actually Gave Me Hope

Kendrick Lamar tops Pitchfork's pleasantly surprising list of the top 200 songs of the 2010s.

I dipped into Pitchfork's list of the top songs of the 2010s tentatively, not knowing what to expect.

Considering the sheer amount of music released in the past decade, there's simply no way one could ever hope to listen to it all, let alone compare it. Also, music rankings are inherently subjective, entirely reliant on the opinions of those curating the list and their respective definitions of what makes "great" art.

Don't get me wrong—the Pitchfork list has issues. First off, it essentially consists of popular American music. You won't find too many deep cuts here, nor many country, K-pop, classical, or non-English-language tracks. If you're someone who "dislikes pop," you might as well leave. Also, some of the blurbs are very odd. "Hotline Bling" is described as a "human centipede of modern music," which is a unique metaphor—I'll give them that—and apparently Lorde "[dissects] love like it's a frog in science class." Justin Bieber's "Sorry" is somehow painted as a track that asks for redemption in an era of #BlackLivesMatter protests. A lot of the writing is beautiful, though, and we get phrases like, "Pop songs, trends, and life itself are a constant cycle of death and rebirth" (in reference to Ariel Pink) to balance out the other stuff.

In terms of the song choices, I like and respect Grimes, but I'm not sure "Oblivion" deserves its number two slot. There are countless glaring omissions, with innovators like Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey, Donald Glover, and Sufjan Stevens notably absent (though Gaga and Stevens appeared on Pitchfork's equally solid best albums of the 2010s list). Also, "The Louvre" is objectively not the best song on Melodrama.

Even so, scrolling through the list made me remember that a lot of fantastic music has been released this decade, and a lot of creative visionaries have come out of the woodwork, selectively utilizing new technologies to create ambitious works of art. Plus, in contrast to the vast majority of best-songs-of-all-time lists, a lot of these songs are by women and people of color. Yes, there's still inequality in the music industry, but music has never been more diverse, both sonically and demographically.

The list is evidence that the concept of listening to one genre or disliking music just because it's pop has been steadily dying over the past decade. In today's world, pop hits like Carly Rae Jepsen's "Run Away With Me" and Robyn's "Dancing On My Own" exist comfortably next to indie powerhouse ballads like Mitski's "Your Best American Girl" and ANOHNI's "Drone Bomb Me," and rap and ambient and metal all appear on the same playlists. The kind of pretentiousness that discredited pop music in the past is largely disappearing, and in its own respect, pop is getting more daring, more willing to experiment and pull from other genres.

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

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

You could analyze the list forever on this kind of macroscopic level, but music is never only collective or political; it always has a microscopic, personal dimension. Personally, as I scrolled through the list from the bottom to the top, I began to feel something that I don't usually feel while on the Internet. The list was strangely heartwarming. It brought back good memories. Many of the songs on it are extremely special to me, intertwined with specific places, people, and emotions.

For example, Sampha's breathtaking ballad "No One Knows Me (Like the Piano)" took me right back to a time I got lost on a bus in Queens and ended up listening to that song as a woman delivered a sermon from the seat across me while rain poured down around us. The Kanye selections are particularly wrenching; "Runaway" is eternally powerful, "Ultralight Beam" sparks several memories immediately—driving over a bridge under a purple sunset, or another time, astronomically high in the woods, blasting the song from speakers and clinging to every note. "Queen" by Perfume Genius made my jaw drop the first time I heard it. Listening to "Mary" by Big Thief is always a religious experience. SZA, Tyler the Creator, the National, Vampire Weekend, Chance the Rapper—they've all held special places in my heart and life over the years. They're as real and significant to me as any friend, and I doubt I'm alone in that.

Perfume Genius - 'Queen' (Official Video) www.youtube.com

Reading through the list made me remember that while the world may be incredibly chaotic and painful to exist in, there's so much good music to soundtrack our journey through this brief and absurd life. The 2010's gave us revolutionary opuses like Kendrick Lamar's DAMN. and "Pa'lante" by Hurray for the Riff Raff. It gave us Frank Ocean's mystical, effervescent Blond, which I must give thanks for roughly once per week. It gave us Katy Perry's early exquisite pop and Courtney Barnett's dry ramblings and the soft electricity of Yaeji, whose "Drink I'm Sippin On" soundtracked so many of my night walks around the city.

Hurray For The Riff Raff - Pa'lante (Official Video) www.youtube.com

It gave us ample drama and good stories, too—there was the gleeful spite of "thank u, next," and the thrill of watching Cardi B rise with "Bodak Yellow," Miley's chaotic metamorphosis and Solange's ascendance. The 2010s took David Bowie and Lil Peep. It gave us unforgettable images, Bon Iver and his mythological cabin and FKA Twigs' surrealist masterpiece "Cellophane," images that connected to us on personal levels and bind us together across space and time.

FKA twigs - Cellophane www.youtube.com

I think that the best kind of music is taps into something much bigger than us, like a collective unconscious, something that extends way beyond the reach of one person. In order to make it, and to make any kind of art that can reach others on a profound level, you have to let go of the limitations of your singular self. That's what so many of these songs do—they tell individual stories, but they also channel something greater, and bring us together on a higher plane.

In many ways, I suspect that the 2020s will be even more full of change and tumult than the 2010s were. But I have complete faith that, when 2029 rolls around, there will be another Pitchfork list of songs that tap into the deepest emotions and most powerful connections we have. And maybe sometimes, the songs that help us personally are what give us the strength to engage with the world on a larger scale and speak truth to power. Maybe our greatest songs are the ones that, like Kendrick Lamar's "Alright," give us the strength to go on.

Kendrick Lamar - Alright www.youtube.com


This was a year of change and tumult, but if anything has remained consistent through it all, it's been Beyoncé's greatness.

This year, she consistently outdid herself and gave us incredible work, releasing one project after another and reminding us all to reconnect with our power and rise up again and again.

It's her 38th birthday, so here are some highlights from her 37th year on Earth.

1. The Homecoming Documentary

On April 29, Homecoming dropped on Netflix. The chill-inducing documentary details Beyoncé's incredible 2018 Coachella performance, showing the nuances of her choreography, costume design, and flawless dancing in high-definition. Though it sometimes highlights the unattainability of Beyoncé's lifestyle, that's kind of always been Beyoncé's brand; she's more of a deity than a human being at this point, and we love her for it.

Homecoming: A Film By Beyoncé | Official Trailer | Netflix www.youtube.com


2. When She Gave Us Homecoming and Lemonade on Streaming Services

If the documentary wasn't enough, Beyoncé dropped two albums on all streaming services—including Lemonade, which had formerly been inaccessible for those without access to Tidal or other roundabout ways of listening to music. Now, we can all listen to the elegant, gloomy harmonies of "Pray You Catch Me" or the radiant rhythms of her iconic hits like "Who Run the World (Girls)" on repeat to our hearts' content.

Beyoncé - Sorry (Video) www.youtube.com


3. When Blue Made Her Singing Debut

Beyoncé's oldest daughter made hearts melt when she lent her voice to a rehearsal of "Lift Every Voice and Sing." As a mother of three, Beyoncé must have her hands full, but she's obviously incorporating her children into her work. Blue has appeared in a lot of Beyoncé's videos and albums by now, and most likely, we'll be getting a surprise release from Blue Ivy one of these days.

Lift Every Voice and Sing Blue s Version Homecoming - Beyonce www.youtube.com

`4. The Lion King

Beyoncé announced that she would be voicing Nala, the leading lioness in Disney's The Lion King, back in 2018, and when the film dropped on July 19, her vocals didn't disappoint. She adds her smooth riffs to "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," her voice fusing seamlessly with Donald Glover's and sometimes eviscerating it (but who can hold up to Beyoncé in a duet, really? Definitely not Ed Sheeran). Thanks to her presence, despite somewhat mixed reviews, the whole film feels like it's wrapped in the glow of her star power.

5. When She Met Meghan Markle

Beyoncé and Meghan Markle's meeting at the UK premier of The Lion King was documented carefully by the press. The two real-life superheroines exchanged some words of support and thoughts about motherhood (and/or world domination), and the Internet celebrated.

hellomagazine.com


6. The Lion King: The Gift

Of course, since it's Beyoncé, she couldn't just star in a movie and call it a day. Instead, she had to also produce and curate a companion album featuring incredible artists from around the world. Called The Gift, the album features 20 artists in total, many hailing from Nigeria, Cameroon, South Africa, and Ghana, and it fuses Afrobeats with American hip hop and blends many languages together, bringing much-needed diversity to the Disney brand.

"Spirit" + "Bigger" Extended cut from Disney's The Lion King in theaters now (Official ... www.youtube.com

6. When She Danced to Lizzo at her 38th Birthday Celebration

Two days before her 38th birthday, Beyoncé posted videos of herself celebrating backstage at the Made in America festival in Philadelphia. She was spotted alongside Jay-Z, dancing along to Lizzo, and fans (and Lizzo herself) couldn't have been more thrilled.

Has anybody had a year that compared to Beyoncé's? The only person who could hold a candle to 37-year-old Bey is probably...36-year-old Beyoncé. That year, she gave birth to twins, performed at Coachella, dropped her album Everything Is Love with Jay-Z, and carved a space for herself in the classical art world with the music video she filmed at the Louvre.

Then again, at 34, she released Lemonade, a video that was revolutionary in the way it combines music with poetry and visuals...and the year before, she was named the world's most charitable celebrity.

What will 38-year-old Beyoncé give us? Maybe she'll finally give herself a break—but honestly, we need her strength more than ever nowadays, and after 37 years of excellence, it's probable that she'll deliver. She's a master of multimedia, so the idea that she might forge her way into the virtual reality sphere isn't so hard to imagine, or maybe she'll invent an entirely new form of media in order to highlight her talent. As always, the sky is the limit.

New Releases

Nicki Minaj Plays It Safe with “MEGATRON”

Nicki Minaj is a voracious rapper on any song, but she hasn't been able to put out anything innovative or captivating since 2014's The Pinkprint.

Nicki Minaj is throwing her hat into the ring for the song of the summer— and if her Barbz have anything to say about it, it's a big contender.

On "Megatron," Minaj stays in her element with an airy vibe. The Caribbean-inspired beat highlights the rapper's clever lyricism and bitey flow. Her first single post-Queen, "Megatron" validates that Minaj has already proven her abilities as a singular rapper. However, despite her skills, the "Queen of Rap" is still struggling to maintain relevance and reinvent the wheel.

Nicki Minaj - MEGATRON www.youtube.com

The seductive, glossy video for "Megatron" is reminiscent of the bootylicious jungle in "Anaconda"—but the song, while great, demonstrates that Minaj hasn't progressed much as an artist since then. "Megatron" could've been released in 2015; if it had been, Minaj would've seemed edgy and ahead of her time. Unfortunately, nowadays, island-inspired, hip-swaying music has been overdone in popular music ever since Rihanna's "Work."

Still, the music video incorporates all of today's popular elements of futuristic, colorful, and inviting visuals. The video successfully adds to the playful, seductive energy of "Megatron." It perfectly captures how Minaj wants to be perceived, regardless of how unchanged and outdated her public image becomes.

Nicki Minaj may be in a realm of her own when it comes to her sound and style, as she's cultivated a voice that's instantly recognizable and sharp. Even though she comes packing with ingenious wordplay, a unique flow, and entertaining production, she hasn't been able to deliver anything as inspiring and cohesive as 2014's The Pinkprint. Yet, there's no doubt people will be bumping to the loose, sexy "Megatron" this summer, and maybe that's just what she needs to launch a second wave of relevance.

MUSIC

Taylor Swift Only Sees the Glitter in LGBTQ+

While her intentions are well-meaning, the "You Need to Calm Down" video is a missed opportunity to highlight the narratives represented by the queer icons.

Taylor Swift telling us to calm down.

Just when Taylor Swift gives us hope, she lets us down.

Her latest music video features almost every mainstream queer celebrity you could imagine. While her intentions are well-meaning, the video is a missed opportunity to highlight the narratives represented by the queer icons. Instead of throwing a trans flag at Laverne Cox, Swift could center the video on the activist and her perspective rather than on her own.

Taylor Swift - You Need To Calm Down www.youtube.com

The Todrick Hall production capitalized solely on the culture of the LGBTQ+ community— celebrating it and taking the song a bit too literally. But uplifting these voices means more than a feature in a video or tagging them on social media.

The music video highlights the visual aesthetic that "signifies" gay culture. There are rainbows and dancing and glitter. We follow a white cis, straight woman parade around with her LGBTQ+ friends. It's a party, a celebration of being yourself, fighting against "barbaric" homophobes with love and positivity. Yet, here, the biggest takeaway from this video is that at last, pop's biggest feud between Taylor Swift and Katy Perry is over. They embrace in the video— which will be sure to cause conversation. It overshadows the video's intent. It's also marketing genius.

The video ends with an image of text advocating for the Equality Act. The Equality Act was passed by the House of Representatives but now sits idle in the Senate. The law would extend civil rights protections to people of any sexual orientation and gender identity. Swift urged supporters to sign her petition asking for Senate support. The petition already has over 200,000 signatures, converting the single's success into political support for LGBTQ+ issues.

While Taylor Swift has contributed to the LGTBQ+ community through donations and recent political support, she's misinterpreted what an ally should be. Leading up to the video's release, Swift addressed a rumor that she would share a kiss with Perry:

"That is ABSOLUTELY false. To be an ally is to understand the difference between advocating and baiting. Anyone trying to twist this positivity into something it isn't needs to calm down. It costs zero dollars to not step on our gowns."

It's difficult to forget the days when Taylor Swift refused to comment on politics, to the point she threatened to sue over white supremacy allegations. Now, she's attempting to be a part of the conversation while lacking the language to be effective. What Swift cannot seem to grasp is that advocating for and offering a platform to the LBGTQ+ community should be greater than featuring them in a music video. Uplifting their stories and normalizing their experiences goes a lot further than a straight woman's celebration of pride. Expecting an immediate embrace from LGBTQ+ members after years of silence and quiet donations is asking for more credit than she deserves. It takes time to earn the trust of queer people, and just maybe, Taylor Swift should take several seats and listen.

The Hollywood Reporter

Music bundling and bloated albums are among the latest attempts by artists to skew album charting, streaming numbers, and sales in their favor.

DJ Khaled is not the first nor the last to join the endless debate about the validity of these kinds of marketing strategies.

After his latest album, Father of Asahd, charted at number 2 (behind Tyler the Creator's IGOR) Khaled threatened to sue, claiming his album sold more than Billboard stated. The controversy stems from Khaled's bundle deal with Hype Power: With a purchase of the DJ Khaled Official Energy Drink Vibes Berry Colada, customers also receive a download link of his album.

According to Khaled, Billboard agreed to recognize the bundle deal as a part of the album sales but then backtracked, arguing there were "anomalies" in the financial records. Khaled accused Billboard of hypocrisy since they recognized Tyler the Creator's merch bundles as a part of record sales.

The threatened lawsuit reopens the conversation about record sales and how institutions like Billboard quantify and justify an album's "number one spot" on the charts. The debate continues to put artists at odds and in competition with each other. Similar to Khaled, Nicki Minaj claimed that Travis Scott's Astroworld did not deserve to beat her album, Queen, on the charts after his tour bundles boosted his album sales.

Although many sided with Scott, Minaj's highly anticipated album and unsuccessful comeback have Billboard reassessing their rules regarding bundle deals with merchandise. While the music industry has been able to keep up with the shift from sales to streaming, the questionable tactics used to influence record numbers are a key issue that could be blown wide open if brought to court. Only time will tell, but either way, we can all agree Khalid's chaotic 15-track album with 29 features doesn't deserve any more attention than it's already received.