Tracks of the week reviewed: the Hotrats, Rihanna and Chai

This week weve got a chewy take on a Kelis classic, a husky slow jam and a beguiling piece of art-pop

The Hotrats


In lockdown, where Pringles dipped in peanut butter is an acceptable breakfast, its hard to know what we actually need. Do we really need a Kelis cover from Gaz and Danny from Supergrass? Is it actually a chunky, wonky, thigh-slappy hoot, or is it like slamming through a pack of Tunnocks before Bargain Hunt ie, Its Just Something To Do? Difficult to say. I think its magnificent. But then again, I havent left my flat for three weeks and just ate a whole a jar of jalapeos.


No More Cake

Cabin fever or not, this box-of-frogs whopper from artsy Japanese four-piece Chai absolutely bangs. Look at you, thats way too much / Your face is made up like a cake! they wail in prissy unison, over what sounds for all the world like Bjrks Army of Me and Nine Inch Nailss Closer nipple-twisting each other to death at a sexy party. The cake is a metaphor for makeup. Of course it is.

PartyNextDoor ft Rihanna

Believe It

Where has Rihanna been? Not a peep from her for three years, then out of nowhere she sticks her head above the parapet to wibble five words on this not wholly unpleasant yet instantly forgettable conjugal jam, before shes off again, disparu. Lovely to hear her dulcets, but for the Ri-Public thisll be like a nicotine patch, or screaming into a pillow because you want to go outside: itll take the edge off, but not for long.

Jess Williamson

Infinite Scroll

Time did unfold like an infinite scroll seems prescient at the moment, but rather than watching all three Lord of the Rings films while you languish in the Ocado queue, Austin tunester Williamson is deconstructing societys addiction to social media, making its languid desert-pop genuinely heartbreaking.

Kings of Leon

Going Nowhere

Few phrases these days conjure as little excitement as theres a new Kings of Leon song. And this is basically Oasiss Songbird, only with all that songs affable, doofus charm sucked out, so it sort of just plods hither and thither like a dying dog. Young people: KoL used to be good, honest. This, though, is toilet.

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McCoy Tyner, revered jazz pianist, dies aged 81

American musician, who played with John Coltrane, was seen as one of the most influential jazz pianists of all time

Jazz pianist McCoy Tyner has died at the age of 81.

The death of Tyner, known as one of the most influential figures in jazz, was announced on his Facebook page.

McCoy was an inspired musician who devoted his life to his art, his family and his spirituality, the statement read. McCoy Tyners music and legacy will continue to inspire fans and future talent for generations to come.

Tyner was born in 1938 and began studying the piano at the age of 13. He joined the John Coltrane quartet in 1960. We got along very well, Tyner later said of his relationship with Coltrane. We had a good feeling for each other, similar conceptually as far as music was concerned. I knew that is where I needed to be. I was really anxious and excited about it.

He was 21 at the time. He proceeded to play on Coltranes hit album My Favorite Things the following year. The band toured for the next few years, recording more albums, while Tyner also appeared on a number of other records from Blue Note.

He left the group in 1965 and produced a number of other albums before recording with other jazz trios for the next few decades, working with artists like Sonny Rollins and Stanley Clarke. He also made solo records, including Revelations in 1988.

The official account for Blue Note Records tweeted a titan has now been lost and that the amount of beauty Tyner gave to the world is simply staggering. Tributes have also arrives from Red Hot Chili Peppers founding member Flea who referred to Tyner as a stunner of a pianist and guitarist Charles Johnson, who played with him once, calling him an amazing force of nature and also a great person.

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Rapper Common alleges childhood sexual assault

Oscar-winner says he recalled the traumatic memory while working with Laura Dern on the film The Tale

Common, the Oscar-winning rapper, actor and activist, has alleged that he was sexually abused as a child by a family friend.

In his memoir Let Love Have the Last Word, he recalls a trip to his aunts house aged nine or 10, accompanied by a relative of a family friend. He alleges that when they had to share a bed together one night, Brandon molested him and tried to have him reciprocate. I kept repeating no and pushing him away, Common writes. I felt a deep and sudden shame for what happened.

He says he pushed the whole thing out of my head, and didnt recall the incident until working on The Tale, a 2018 film whose storyline features a woman investigating childhood rape cases, and questioning her own past. One day, while talking through the script with Laura [Dern], old memories surprisingly flashed in my mind, he writes. I caught my breath and just kept looping the memories over and over, like rewinding an old VHS tape I said Laura, I think I was abused.

He writes that he has forgiven his alleged attacker: I want to be a person who helps break cycles of violence.

Common has had an illustrious career in music and film, with 11 studio albums and roles in films including American Gangster, Terminator Salvation and the John Wick saga. He has earned three Grammys from 20 nominations, and has twice been nominated for an Oscar for best original song, winning in 2015 for Glory, recorded for Selma.

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With Homecoming, Beyonc Fully Leverages Her Internet Dominance

Deep into Homecoming, Beyoncé's doc and concert film from her performance at last year's Coachella, the artist explains her sense of purpose in creating the show, a celebration of both her decades-long career and a tribute to America's HBCUs. "As a black woman, I used to feel like the world wanted me to stay in my little box. And black women often feel underestimated," she says. "I wanted us to be proud of not only the show, but the process. … It was important to me that everyone who had never seen themselves represented felt like they were on that stage with us." It was integral, then, that she released the performance on the largest stages possible—not just the one in Indio, California.

Beyoncé's New Film Homecoming Is Headed to Netflix

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  • Beyoncé has always commanded the internet's attention, always been able to direct its narrative. She did it when she surprise-dropped her self-titled album, and its visual companion, on iTunes in 2013. She did it again in April 2016 with another late-night landmine: Lemonade, the visual album that debuted exclusively on Tidal at the same time as its companion short film aired on HBO. This time around, though, the megastar is out to make sure everyone who wants and needs to experience Homecoming can do so, releasing the concert film on Netflix and an accompanying 40-song, two-hour-long album on—deep breath—Apple Music, Amazon Music, SoundCloud, Deezer, Spotify, YouTube Music, and Tidal, all at once.

    Beyoncé's sneak-attack playbook has become a bit familiar—it all started with the release of Beyoncé, which mysteriously appeared in the iTunes store one December night, no notice, no leaks—but there are a few remarkably different aspects to the release of Homecoming. First, this album wasn't gated as a Tidal-only exclusive like Lemonade was. Beyoncé and her husband, Jay-Z, are co-owners of the music-streaming service, so when they team up to put her music on Tidal, the service presumably it gets a, ahem, wave of new users. This wasn't an Apple-only exclusive either, and it is on Spotify, the service that famously didn't get Lemonade. Just last year Beyoncé rapped that if she "gave two fucks, two fucks about streaming numbers [she] would've put Lemonade up on Spotify." She likely still doesn't need, or care about, the numbers, but she does want the access to be nearly universal.

    It's also notable that Beyoncé turned to Netflix over HBO. By putting Homecoming on Netflix, she chose to make this performance—a historical document in its own right—available to the biggest crowd possible. (Netflix has 149 million subscribers across the world.) There's also Beyoncé's business savvy on display. As one Twitter user pointed out, she recorded her history-making Coachella performance, which had already live-streamed on YouTube, and then turned around and made that video into a Netflix film, effectively minting money several times off of the same performance.

    But this wasn't simply an exercise in capitalism and record sales or streaming views (though it will certainly be downloaded and streamed plenty). This was about Beyoncé knowing the internet will pay attention—and using that attention to tell an important story. The HBCUs, as the artist points out in Homecoming, are an integral part of the American experience. Yet they are also a segment of public life that isn't celebrated in mainstream pop culture nearly enough. Beyoncé's performance on that Coachella stage was the largest of her career—second only to maybe the Super Bowl, which gave her far less screen time but also the opportunity to again blow up the internet by releasing "Formation"—and by streaming it, recording it, and releasing it on nearly every platform around, she ensured that no one missed it, or its message of legacy and empowerment.

    "Instead of me pulling out my flower crown," Beyoncé says in Homecoming, "it was important that I brought our culture to Coachella. Creating something that will live beyond me, that will make people feel open and like they're watching magic." Homecoming is that—a once-in-a-lifetime performance by one of the world's greatest living artists that our hyperconnected world allows everyone to celebrate together.

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    Ariana Grande sings Celine Dion as a toddler, predictably nails it

    Ariana Grande has been perfecting her diva impressions for years.
    Image: Andrew Lipovsky/NBC/NBCU Photobank

    Ariana Grande is well-known for her superb Celine Dion impression, but she’s been perfecting it, Carpool Karaoke-style, from an early age.

    The “thank u, next” pop star posted a clip on Instagram of her tiny toddler self singing along to the Canadian icon’s single “The Reason” in the car — and it’s almost pitch perfect.

    As E! News pointed out, Dion’s track dropped in 1997, when Grande was but four years old, so she could be around this age in the clip.

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    put it from the beginning ᶠʷᵃⁿᵏᶦᵉ

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    Grande posted another sweet moment of early car karaoke on Instagram, in a clip featuring her mother, Joan Grande. It’s from the same album, Let’s Talk About Love, but this time it’s Dion’s earnest, show-stopping duet with Barbra Streisand, “Tell Him.”

    “We still sing this,” she captioned the post. “She’s still barbara and still this stunning and cute if not more so.”

    Grande’s mother responded with as much adorableness on Twitter. “Every mother’s question to their 4 year old daughter, “am I Celine or Barbra?” We are cute!” she tweeted.

    The 25-year-old singer has performed her impression of Dion and other fellow female pop singers multiple times, notably on Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live

    Grande claimed during a 2016 appearance on Elvis Duran and The Morning Show that Dion was so into the SNL sketch that she told Grande, “When I saw you, I peed.”

    High praise.

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    Why you should always go to a music concert alone

    Image: vicky leta / mashable

    I could be anywhere in the world, but the moment I hear a song from Neko Case’s “Fox Confessor Brings The Flood,” I’m transported back to my friend’s single bed in northern France. The year is 2009, my Erasmus year, and I’m a teaching assistant in a suburban secondary school.

    There, I would spend my evenings drinking €3 red wine and listening to the iTunes library of a new American friend (and now, best friend) named Shannon who also happened to be teaching English in the same sleepy French town. It was there, during this year of instructing teenagers how to conjugate, that I realised how intensely personal our relationship with music can be. That’s why, nine years on, I decided I would go to see Neko Case on my own during her European tour. 

    Alone is how I go to gigs these days. I wouldn’t have it any other way, to be frank. This going-aloneness is not for want of anyone to go with, but instead because I actually want to be alone to fully enjoy the experience. It took me until my late twenties to discover the wonders of going to concerts alone. The first time was an accident. I’d booked two tickets to see Fleet Foxes at Brixton O2 Academy in the hope I’d be able to entice a friend to accompany me. But, my friends weren’t as enamoured with the dulcet tone of Robin Pecknold’s voice, so that ticket went unused. I ventured down to the gig on my own.

    Fleet Foxes perform on sage at O2 Academy Brixton, London on November 26, 2017.

    Image: Alberto Pezzali/NurPhoto via Getty Images

    I felt nervous and self-conscious when I first arrived. I wondered if people would see me standing friendless in the crowd and think I was some kind of outlier — a thought that I now freely admit was completely preposterous. I shrugged that self-consciousness off when I got inside the venue, had a beer, and told myself to get the hell over it, Rachel, you’re a fully grown woman. In the stalls, I metamorphosed from awkward billy-no-mates to a person reliving past moments that were inextricably tethered to this music. When “The Shrine / An Argument” played, I was reminded of the summer after graduating when I played “Helplessness Blues” on repeat, at full volume. 

    That night, during my first solo gig, I realised I have a unique bond with these songs, that I needed to be alone with them. Songs mean different things to different people. But, I now know that my experience of seeing an artist whose music has had an impact on my life is something I need to do alone. Just like visiting an old friend with whom you have a close personal bond, trying to bring a third person into the relationship would dilute the experience, divert my attention to other things.

    It is, of course, fun to bring a friend along to a gig. Especially if said friend is as big a fan as you are. My cousin Ellen and I have been to see Beyoncé together twice because we are both diehard superfans and I need someone to scream with. But other times, I’ve taken friends along with me and have caught myself worrying about whether they’re having a good time, worrying if they’re bored, worrying if maybe I shouldn’t have invited them in the first place.  

    One year on, with several solo gigs now under my belt, I went to see Neko Case unaccompanied. As she sang “Hold On, Hold On” my eyes welled up with tears as my mind travelled back in time to that year in France. It was a moving, lovely night. 

    Neko Case performs at The Barbican on November 8, 2018 in London.

    Image: Robin Little/Redferns

    I am not alone in my aloneness, of course. A lot of other people are in possession of the knowledge that going solo to a gig is a wonderful thing. 

    “Whenever I go to a show it is because the music is very personal and meaningful to me.”

    Freelance filmmaker Jeremiah Warren says he often goes by himself because he’s attending a show “for the music not for human interaction. “

    “Whenever I go to a show it is because the music is very personal and meaningful to me,” says Warren, who loves people and socialising, but also enjoys spending time alone and being able to experience something all by himself. “I heard Sigur Rós during their 2016 tour and it was one of the most emotional and spiritual experiences I’d had in a long time. I think it would have been a distraction if a friend had been there.”

    The one exception, he says, is “going with a significant other” which he feels is distinctly different to bringing a friend along for company. 

    Just like Warren, many solo-show-goers say it’s not really a conscious choice to go it alone. Joe Garbow, who works in communications, started going to gigs alone when he was a teenager. He says it’s not necessarily a conscious decision to not invite others who might be interested, but instead a case of “if I decide I want to go, I’m going.”

    “Going alone you are fully immersed in the performance, free to get crushed on the front row, and lost in the sway of the crowd.”

    He went to see The Streets on his own after a friend dropped out at the last minute. “Going alone you are fully immersed in the performance, free to get crushed on the front row, and lost in the sway of the crowd or stand at the side with some personal space,” Garbow tells me. “Bringing a friend, even if they are fellow fans, you somehow feel responsible for the quality of the show. If it doesn’t meet expectations, your musical prowess takes a knock,” he adds. 

    I can totally relate to this feeling. I’ve found myself constantly turning my head to check on a friend’s enjoyment of the gig, and interjecting with comments like “oh, this is my favourite song” in a bid to make them see the significance of a moment. 

    James Olliver, who works in PR, flew solo when he went to see Jake Bugg play when he was visiting Berlin and had “an amazing experience.” “None of the others I was travelling with fancied it so I decided to head over by myself,” says Olliver. “Barring getting slightly lost on the Berlin metro, it was great and I found myself chatting with more people than I would normally during a gig. Would definitely recommend it!”

    Whether you want to chat to fellow gig-goers, or just be alone with the music, going to a gig alone is something everyone should do at least once in their lifetime. If you have a personal connection to a particular song or musician, give yourself the gift of flying solo. You won’t regret it. 

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    The Best Albums of the Summer Were Exercises in Reinvention

    Summer is a time of intense polarities, of feverish abandon and earned languor. There’s heat and purpose waiting to be seized in those unexpected, life-altering summer nights: on the dancefloor, at the bar, among friends. There’s equal chill, though, in the loss and grief that surface: historically, fatalities spike during hotter months.

    Yet summer, at its glowing core, is a time of auspicious breakthroughs, and the best albums released across June, July, and August rattled with justifiable discovery. Excavating personal triumphs and public traumas, kindling love and sexuality, contending with struggle both emotional and economic. Discovering, ultimately, what it means, to shape yourself.

    This year has been an especially promising moment in music, a reminder that the gold rush of creativity from artists as varied as Sunflower Bean, Nipsey Hussle, Young Fathers and others won’t soon let up. It’s also a year marked by pure volatility. Artists no longer hew to industry conventions; fall no longer heralds the most attention-commanding records. Pop giants like Beyonce, Jay-Z, and Kanye West all issued albums this summer. Drake and Cardi B were the two most-streamed artists on Spotify, with nearly 1 billion spins between them. And the ascendant California artist Doja Cat released the summer’s surprise viral hit, with “Mooo!”; amassing more than 10 million views on YouTube since dropping just three weeks ago (she later came under fire after defending past homophobic language in a tweet).

    And in such transformative times, these six albums are perhaps the truest anomalies marking an era of Peak Music.

    The Internet, Hive Mind

    Steve Lacy is one of this generation’s most adept experimentalists—his SoundCloud-released teen-rock psalm “4Real” was one of 2017’s more gutsy propositions—and his work on The Internet’s fourth full-length, Hive Mind, is infused with the same daredevil spirit. Alongside prodigious frontwoman Syd and producer Matt Martians, Lacy helps the R&B collective innovate on the static, laid-back funk they’ve made their signature sound by simplifying their form into an even more cohesive symphony of earnest soul.

    The album doesn’t squirm as much as its predecessor, the Grammy-nominated Ego Death, but that’s actually a treat: track by track, the melodies coalesce into a groovy sum. “Come Over” is a lurching, bass-heavy slow burner about a cat-and-mouse game of love, while “Next Time/Humble Pie” and “It Gets Better (With Time)” writhe with subdued righteousness (they’re perhaps the two standout tracks on an otherwise standout album). Today, a smattering of on-the-rise artists, particularly on SoundCloud, have built an aesthetic on fragmentation—piecing together dark disparate sounds, doing away with neat genre formulations—but The Internet are proof that reinvention need not be predicated on novelty or risk, but can simply be a matter of honing what you do best.

    Ariana Grande, Sweetener

    Last May at Manchester Arena in England, 22 people were killed when a terrorist detonated a bomb during an Ariana Grande concert. The singer’s just-released fourth album blossoms, resilient and rising, from the horror of that day. With production from Pharrell and longtime collaborator Max Martin, and guest features from Missy Elliott and Nicki Minaj, Grande soars, fashioning an album heavy on uplift and love. “When life deals us cards, makes everything taste like it is salt,” she sings on the title track. “Then you come through like the sweetener you are to bring the bitter taste to a halt.” A meld of plinking keys, dense synths, and candied hooks, the album derails where her three previous kept right on track: it’s still decidedly empowerment pop, but it feels less manufactured for radio play thanks to Pharrell’s spaced-out ruses (particularly on “Borderline” and “R.E.M.”) and the somber, passion-sick “Better Off.” Grande fittingly bookends the album with eulogies to the Manchester victims, and in doing so, delivers her most vulnerable record to date.

    Buddy, Harlan & Alondra

    There’s a boom happening out west. California is quickly developing some of music’s most promising young talent. Los Angeles’ Top Dawg Entertainment alone has a chokehold on the charts thanks to Kendrick Lamar’s triumphant reign with DAMN.—which won him a Pulitzer Prize; the first for a rapper—the Black Panther soundtrack, and Jay Rock’s unrepentant Redemption. There’s also the aforementioned soul-collective The Internet and gangsta rap traditionalist Nipsey Hussle, whose album Victory Lap is easily one of 2018’s best. Add the bang and boogie of YG (LA), Mozzy (Sacramento), Kamaiyah (Oakland), SOB x RBE (Vallejo), and Nef the Pharaoh (also Vallejo) with the R&B brilliance of Miguel and Ty Dolla Sign and you’ve got a new age renaissance on your hands. Then there’s quasi-newcomer Buddy, the 24-year-old Compton emcee whose debut, Harlan & Alondra, bumps, shakes, bounces with regional pride.

    With unapologetic zeal, Buddy pays homage to black LA, past and present, through a stew of g-funk, soul, and breezy rap hymns (“Find Me 2” and “Shine” carry the force and grace of gospel songs). The album’s most politically charged paean, the ASAP Ferg-featuring “Black,” summons the ghost of Trayvon Martin and the Black Panther Party into a message of true urgency. “Just another black man trying to stay out the casket,” he raps. But it’s the album’s insistence on locality—its title is a homage to the two streets Buddy lived on for a time—that is paramount to its success. In doing so, the young rapper is attempting to reorient our gaze, from down South, the unofficial epicenter of hip-hop, back west, where the genre’s being injected with new life.

    Jorja Smith, Lost & Found

    London export Jorja Smith first came to international renown via More Life, Drake’s 2017 project of diasporic synthesis. But, really, the 21-year-old R&B prodigy is much more than the two features she was allotted on the rapper’s wobbly experiment. Smith is a true descendant of Amy Winehouse, with the swagger of Miseducation-era Lauryn Hill, and her cauldron of deep soul on Lost & Found, the singer’s beyond sensational debut, is obvious and expansive. Across 12 tracks, Smith swings her powerful, satiny falsetto like a hammer. The thematic landscape she traverses is just as impressive, spanning heartbreak (“Tomorrow”), state-enacted persecution (“Blue Lights”), juvenile abandon (“Teenage Fantasy”), and self-worth (“On Our Own”). For an album of such calculated beauty, Smith never once oversteps her boundaries, coloring within them with the radiant gloss and confidence of contemporaries like Rihanna, H.E.R., and SZA.

    Blood Orange, Negro Swan

    The polydirectional artist Dev Hynes—he’s a singer, multi-instrumentalist, director, and producer—understands the gravity of now better than most. The burden of the moment, if you’re black or queer or a woman or poor or any other identifier that white supremacy needs to smash out for its own survival, is a constant one. Hynes, working under the title Blood Orange, has faced these worries and injustices all his life, growing up in East London, and being exposed to them as a black queer person who moves through a world that does not always understand his body, his intention, or his work.

    The work on Negro Swan, though, continues Hynes’s career-long expedition into the communities that have built him, and cushion him. The album’s skeletal core deals with how one manages trauma, and one of its smarter plays is to cocoon songs with audio from author, TV writer, and activist Janet Mock, who speaks in short bursts about family, the power of images, and the importance of “showing up.” One early track, “Jewelry,” finds Mock flipping an insult—telling someone they are “doing the most”—on its head, asking: “But why would we want to do the least?” Negro Swan is Hynes’ sixth album, his fourth as Blood Orange, and it unfolds as mostly minimalist, downtempo fare. It’s a quiet, curious thing that answers as many questions as it asks. It’s a record about healing and getting through the day, about hope and defeat and trying to figure it out even when you don’t know where to begin. In this sense, it may end up being the year’s most vital, even if most don’t realize it yet.

    Nicki Minaj, Queen

    Breakthrough and reinvention are what Nicki Minaj has aimed for steadily throughout her career. And while the summer’s top albums are linked by the very same pursuits, perhaps with conflicting results, Minaj’s is perhaps the most stark—and the most surprising for where it ended up.

    For years, despite being one the most gifted rappers in the game, she was considered second-rate by some (mostly male) veterans. Still, the awards, the nominations, and the praise flooded in. The Barbz, her faithful online fanbase, held her down, often to the scorn of public approval. And Minaj’s stature grew; she became a solar system unto herself—a certified hitmaker, a trusted collaborator, and an unforgiving shit-stirrer. Queen, her fourth studio album, reckons with all of this. Which is to say, it’s an album about the drama of being, and what that brings with it.

    Of all the albums on this list, Queen is the least impressive—though “Barbie Dreams,” “LLC,” and lead single “Chun-Li” are soaked with characteristic Nicki wit—but, it’s what the album symbolizes in the abstract that lends it extra weight. Both the lead-up to its release and its fallout were sullied by social media theatrics and a shady promo run. The occurrences helped to expose another side of the star: she didn’t just play the role of villain anymore, she was the villain. What, then, does it mean to use your identity as an instrument of persuasion, for harm or actual good or even your own means? It’s a question that requires tough truths. The pursuit of breakthrough is not a guarantee, either. Much of the harsh criticism that surrounds Queen is born of our own failed expectations for Minaj, and how we hoped she would mature creatively. But Queen, as a whole, represents Minaj’s evolution into who she wants to be—someone who, whether we approve of it or not, does things just as she sees fit.

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    James Corden sings emotional Carpool Karaoke duets with Paul McCartney\n

    Imagine singing an emotional duet to “Let It Be” in the car with the man who wrote it.

    That little bucket list item was ticked by James Corden, who dropped the full instalment of “Carpool Karaoke” featuring legendary Beatle Paul McCartney on Thursday night’s The Late Late Show.

    A jolly good sport who genuinely looks like he had the best time, McCartney runs through some of his most iconic numbers, from the thematically necessary “Drive My Car,” to “Penny Lane,” and the first song he ever wrote at 14. Oh, and a little song called “Let It Be.”

    Corden takes McCartney on a little trip down memory lane around Liverpool in the episode, including a visit to the legend’s former childhood home, and of course, Penny Lane, and it all ends in a local pub with the pair singing “Hey Jude,” to some surprised locals. 

    What a legend.

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    There’s a lot you may have missed in Donald Glover’s ‘This Is America’ we’ve got you covered

    Donald Glover premiered two new songs on Saturday Night Live this weekend, and while he was on stage, he also dropped a music video for one of the singles — “This Is America.”

    The video, choreographed by Sherrie Silver and directed by Hiro Murai, has a lot jammed into it for a four-minute video. It’s an expertly packaged analysis of what’s really happening in the United States. Here’s what you might have missed: 

    1. That’s not Trayvon Martin’s dad

    Some Twitter users initially believed the man playing guitar at the beginning of the video was Tracy Martin — father of Trayvon Martin, the young boy who was killed by George Zimmerman in 2012. Turns out it’s actually Calvin II, a musician based in Los Angeles. You can listen to more of his work @CalvinTheII

    2. The guns are treated with more respect than human lives

    Image: donaldglover/youtube

    Soon after each gun is brandished in the video — it happens twice — Glover gently places the weapon on a red cloth held by well-dressed man. The shooting victim is then dragged off-screen by two similarly dressed men.

    3. What the choir represents


    One interpretation of this moment is that the choir could be seen as representing the folks who were gunned down while inside a church during the 2015 shooting in Charleston, South Carolina. Their ten faces are clear as day and jovial. Glover strolls in, shoots, and walks away nonchalantly and untouched. Sound familiar?  

    4. Pay attention to the background ….but also pay attention to the dances. 

    As the video progresses, the background activity intensifies. Riots are breaking out and cars are on fire — all while Glover and a group of kids dance. It’s a pretty clear metaphor — the dancing, or the cultural contributions of black entertainers, draw cheers from all corners of society while racial violence and injustice continues to be an everyday and oft-ignored aspect of life.

    Incorporated throughout the video are various moves — everything from viral video moves to Blocboy JB’s shoot dance to the South African Gwara Gwara. These all have different origins but blend together to form something unique, that is very much a part of our American tradition. 

    As Forbes unpacked, these dance numbers have multiple interpretations: To some, these moments of joy, drawn from the latest viral dances or videos, provide a brief, enjoyable respite. To others, they might be a way to gain a quick buck or a few followers. 

    Image: Donald glover/youtube

    The “dancing” around things like police brutality and gun violence could be seen as a metaphor for how in this country — politicians often dance around these issues. 

    Additionally, the fact that the dancing is front-and-center provides another lens of interpretation: that this, and similar culture, is all America sees when they see black people. Glover often makes exaggerated facial expressions while dancing in the video, which can perhaps be seen as a subtle nod to the caricatures made during the Jim Crow era

    5. Phones are out and recording


    In the video, a bunch of folks (that appear to be kids) are hanging from the balcony with phones out and face masks on, recording the action below. 

    Whether their phones are pointing to the dancers or the chaos beyond isn’t clear, but it’s a quick pan that lines up perfectly with Glover rapping the lyrics “This a celly / That’s a tool,” which references two things: the cell phone — not a tool — that Stephon Clark was holding before he was killed by police officers in his own backyard; and the many instances cell phones have been used as tools to broadcast police shooting, rioting against, or choking black people in this country. 

    6. The white horse

    Image: donaldglover/youtube

    In the background of one scene, we see a hooded figure riding a white horse. Twitter user @courtneysalvin pointed out that this could be a nod to the Horseman of the Apocalypse, referenced in the “Book of Revelation” in the Bible. The first horse of the traditional four is white, as is the one riding in the video. 

    7. SZA’s cameo

    This is America .

    A post shared by SZA (@sza) on

    All eyes are on Glover, which means SZA’s appearance in “This Is America” is easy to miss. The singer is perched on a car, and doesn’t have any lines — but perhaps it’s a teaser for a future collaboration. It’s worth noting all the car models seem to be from the ’80s or ’90s (in 2016, Philando Castile was killed by a police officer in a 1997 Oldsmobile).

    8. Is Glover running from…the Sunken Place?

    Image: donaldglover/youtube

    At the end of the video, Glover is seen running from a tunnel of darkness being chased by a variety of what seems to be non-black people, all while Young Thug sings in the background. Many on Twitter have theorized that Glover is in fact running from the Sunken Place, a concept developed in Jordan Peele’s film Get Out

    It’s worth noting here: Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya introduced Glover’s performance of “This Is America” on Saturday Night Live

    One message of “This Is America” is relatively clear: We’ve cultivated a culture in which we emphasize the trivial, while pressing life-or-death issues are all around us, unaddressed. Our priorities are messed up, Glover seems to be saying. 

    Repeat views of this masterpiece will, no doubt, reveal more things to unpack and analyze. Watch, do your homework, then watch again — that’s just the joy that comes with Glover’s work.

    UPDATED May 6, 2018, 5:13 p.m. EDTto reflect that Tracy Martin is not featured the music video.

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    Janelle Mone’s new album will feature a 50-minute Afrofuturistic film

    Sci-fi for the soul
    Image: axelle/bauer-griffin/FilmMagic

    If this were 1998 and Janelle Monáe just released her music video, “Pynk,” she’d be sitting at the top of MTV’s Total Request Live every day for months.

    Alas, it’s 2018 and we no longer have Carson Daly to guide our spiritual music journey. Which is why I’m here to ask you all to quietly bow down to Janelle Monáe next album, Dirty Computer, scheduled to drop April 27.

    The album will apparently come with a 50-minute Afrofuturist film featuring black, brown, queer, and trans people under threat from an authoritarian government trying to scrape their memories.

    According to a new profile in The New York Times Magazine, the film will feature Monáe as a “deviant” hiding from a totalitarian government and on the run to find her love interest (which just so happens to be Tessa Thompson, Monáe’s rumored partner). The government is on a mission to delete Monáe’s memories, as well as the memories of her fellow deviants (made up of people of color, queer folks, etc). Each video in the film is intended to reflect one of those missing moments

    A new Monáe’s album would be relevant always, but it’s especially salient at this political moment in history. The Trump administration has come under fire for multiple acts of erasure: LGTBQ people will be removed from the next census, for example, putting services to the community under jeopardy. Both the DOJ and the DOE have dramatically weakened their department’s civil rights enforcement divisions.

    It’s devastating, so pardon if we drown our sorrows in this image of Monáe a synchronized pussy pants militia.

    It’s the last remaining happy place.

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