The Five Worst Album of the Year Snubs in Grammy History

If 1992 doesn’t make you angry, I don’t know who you are!

1959

Should’ve Won: Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely – Frank Sinatra

Winner: The Music From Peter Gunn – Henry Mancini

The very first album of the year award was given in 1959, which means that Sinatra’s true masterpiece, 1955’s In the Wee Small Hours, was never eligible. Luckily, his 1959 classic was at least nominated, but sadly lost the award to Henry Mancini. While Mancini’s record was a better than average soundtrack that included an iconic main theme, it simply doesn’t compare to Sinatra’s emotional classic.

For Only the Lonely is a strong contender for the second best entry into Sinatra’s legendary catalog, sporting a multitude of excellent tracks and great performances from ‘Ole Blue Eyes across the run time. “Angel Eyes,” is one of the best tracks in his career and throughout the entire record, Frank is at his absolute best. Above all this, while Mancini is no slouch in music history, hindsight has shown that the pedigree of Frank Sinatra would’ve been the perfect starting point for music’s most prestigious annual award.

1970

Should’ve Won: Abby Road – The Beatles

Winner: Blood, Sweat, & Tears – Blood, Sweat, & Tears

If ever one needed proof of the Grammys’ fallibility, it can be found in 1970’s award for Best Album. This wasn’t the first Grammys snub that the Fab Four had suffered as their 1967 classic, Revolver was beat out by a lesser release from Frank Sinatra, but this is quite different. Where The Beatles were only just getting started in ’67, no hindsight was needed to understand the importance of Abbey Road which came at the end of the most celebrated and influential careers in music history that had kickstarted the British Invasion and forged rock music into existence.

You could be forgiven, on the other hand, for not knowing the album that won 1970’s award. Blood, Sweat, & Tears was the sophomore album for the jazz rock band of the same name. It went quadruple platinum and was exceptionally well received upon release, but it hasn’t aged all that well, and today just sounds like a fairly well performed jazz rock record. It isn’t the worst choice for album of the year, but with the rock and roll movement in full swing, there’s simply no excuse for the Grammys to miss such an important record.

1974

Should’ve Won: The Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd

Winner: Innervisions – Stevie Wonder

Unlike the majority of this list, 1974’s winner is somewhat understandable. This was Stevie Wonder’s first Best Album win, and though he’d go on to win twice more with arguably better projects, Innervisions is no slouch. The instrumentation on this record is excellent and Wonder’s ear for melody and songwriting abilities certainly comes through loud and clear. This would be a perfectly good choice if it weren’t for the album it beat out.

The Dark Side of the Moon is on nearly every list of all time great albums and tops quite a few. While I’ve written extensively about the album from a sonic standpoint, it’s worth noting just how important it is. Often sighted as the moment when Pink Floyd found their footing, Dark Side was the beginning of a run of internationally massive and creatively groundbreaking records that would see Floyd climb to heights that are very rarely reached by musicians. It took an underground psych-rock outfit to the absolute peak of rock superstardom, engraining them in American culture forever. It went on to sell 45 million copies worldwide, putting it in the top five  best selling albums of all time. Worse still, it wasn’t even nominated.

1992

Should’ve Won: Nevermind – Nirvana

Winner: Unforgettable… With Love – Natalie Cole

1991 was one of the most exciting years in music, and especially rock history. Here are just a few high profile releases: Skid Row’s Slave to the Grind, Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger, Pearl Jam’s Ten, Use Your Illusion I and II from Gunz n’ Roses, U2’s Achtung Baby, and Metallica’s Black Album. In rap music, we had releases from Tribe Called Quest, Ice Cube, and Public Enemy. In fact, on the exact same day as the release of my choice for this year’s Grammy, Red Hot Chili Peppers released their seminole classic, Blood Sugar Sex Magik. The kicker is, not only were all of these albums beat out by Natalie Cole, not a single record I just listed was nominated for best album at 1992’s awards.

Any of those records are absolutely excellent choices for album of the year, but if the Grammys are ostensibly concerned with awarding not only artistic excellence but cultural importance, they missed a big one in September of ’91. Nirvana’s Nevermind, though arguably not their best project, is on the shortlist for the most game changing albums of all time. Coming out of nowhere and released with reasonably low expectations from DGC Records, the album exploded thanks to an incredible reception of the lead single, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” While the Grammys could be slightly forgiven had the record been still in the early days of it’s meteoric rise, this was clearly not the case as it had just, a month before the awards, toppled Michael Jackson’s Dangerous to top the Billboard charts. Sadly, the Grammys never did catch up on the Grunge movement as only one grunge album, Pearl Jam’s Vitology in ’96, was ever even nominated and none won the award.

2015 

Should’ve Won: To Pimp a Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar

Winner: 1989 – Taylor Swift

This is the most recent word from the Grammys and it is yet another case of a massively impressive field of choices from which the committee seemed to do their best to make the worst possible choice. While 1989 was successful, it was far from Taylor Swift’s best effort, even at the time as she was coming off of the far superior Red just two years prior. Swift seemed destined for Grammy gold in the years, like it or not, but there was simply no excuse for this snub.

Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly can only be described as a masterpiece in every since of the word. The storytelling and political commentary is some of the best in music history, the gorgeous instrumentation of Kamasi Washington and his orchestra is breathtaking, the production is the best since Radiohead’s OK Computer, and the scope and shear ambition of the project is simply unmatched in the modern music landscape. I would confidently place the record among the greatest of all time, but there is, of course, another element to this. Only two hip-hop albums have ever won the award, Lauren Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauren Hill and Outkast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, and the category’s history of representing African American artists is nearly as abysmal. Considering the massive amount of TPaB that is devoted to discussion of African Americans in modern culture, it couldn’t have been a better choice for the win. Unfortunately, Kendrick seems cursed to be perpetually nominated without a win, despite being one of the best artists of our time.

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G Herbo Stumbles on Third Studio Album

While Still Swervin’ features more than its fair share of strong moments, it’s G Herbo’s weakest effort to date and the first to sound like he just didn’t try.

G Herbo is a rapper and producer from Chicago, Illinois. He debuted in 2014 with the Welcome to Fazoland and Pistol P Project mixtapes. He quickly became a key part of the later years of the Chicago drill movement, long after the successes of genre staples like Chief Keef and Lil Durk. Nevertheless, he found substantial success and eventually found his way onto charts and released his first LP, Humble Beast in 2017. Shortly after, he signed with 808 Mafia and released his sophomore record, Swervo, which received mild acclaim from critics, including this website.

His success hinges on a few things but none more than his flow. His style is hard-hitting and violent, perfectly in line with the sound that put drill rap on the map. He also writes with quite a bit of raw passion, refusing to turn away from the harsh realities of life in downtown Chicago. His rough voice plays well against the classically hectic instrumentals of trap music and makes for a tight package that is extremely enjoyable for fans of his style of music. He doesn’t aim to reinvent the wheel, but he does what he does very well. He aims to continue that style with Still Swervin’ which is his most mixed effort to date.

Much of what we’ve come to appreciate from Herbo is here on the record. His flow is hard hitting on tracks like the opener, “Sacrifice,” and “Do Yo Sh!t.” Several tracks, including these two, have no chorus or hook and instead consist of one long verse from Herbo that feels almost like a freestyle. While the flows can often feel repetitive, they hit hard enough to keep a listener entertained.

His lyrics are fairly impressive on more than a few occasions as well. Tracks like “Yerk 30,” and “Wilt Chamberlin” are some of the best on the project because of Herbo’s braggadocios lyricism and creative imagery. He’s at his best when he’s writing about his money and street cred, though his rare attempt at telling a more vulnerable story on the closer, “Hood Cycle,” feels surprisingly genuine.

The few features that do appear on the record run the gamut from the fantastic work of Pretty Savage on the album’s best track, “Bug,” and the very funny “Shakey Skit,” to the sleepy performances from Gunna on “Trained to Kill,” or Juice WRLD on “Never Scared,” both of which suck the life out of otherwise enjoyable tracks. Aside from Pretty Savage, however, none of the features feel necessary or even helpful, especially since Herbo has such a dynamic voice as he shows on tracks like “Ok.”

This is still more than I can say for the production, however. Nearly every instrumental on the album is either boring or unlistenable. The manic energy of old school drill rap is gone in favor of nothing beats like “Up It,” and “Visionary.” Virtually the entire album is drenched in uninventive trap cymbals and the occasional accent which is generally abrasively mixed and completely out of place.

The worst quality of the record, however, and one that plagues the entirety of the nearly 50 minute runtime, is G Herbo’s inability to stay on beat. It’s especially bad in the first half, with tracks like “Scratchy & Itchy,” and “Bought a Tool,” sounding as if the vocals were recorded totally separately and just layered over the existing beat. Not to be outdone, however, the latter half contains “Boww,” which is easily one of the worst rap songs I’ve heard in many years and the worst on the album by a mile.

The album is an odd outing for Herbo and disappointing to say the least. With a solid debut and an even better sophomore effort under his belt, this record would’ve been the perfect opportunity for his sound to pierce the mainstream bubble. Unfortunately, even its best moments are pulled down by structural problems like weak instrumentals and off-beat rapping that are so severe that the LP never does quite find its footing.

While Still Swervin’ features more than its fair share of strong moments, it’s G Herbo’s weakest effort to date and the first to sound like he just didn’t try.

3/10

Nina Nesbitt Shows Promise With Sophomore LP

While The Sun Will Come Up, The Seasons Will Change may suffer from quite a few noticeable defects, it’s a fun listen that hints toward the possibility of an impressive catalog to come.

Nina Nesbitt is a pop singer/songwriter from Livingston, Scotland. She first found fame opening for Ed Sheeran on the European leg of his 2012 world tour. She signed with Universal Records and dropped five EP’s from 2011 to 2013, gaining substantial notoriety and a strong following, particularly back home in Scotland. Her first full length LP, Peroxide released in early 2014 and though it found some success charting at number 11 worldwide and number one in Scotland, it was met with middling to negative reception by critics. While Nesbitt’s lyricism and voice was impressive, any promise seemed to drown in a pool of trendy folk-pop instrumentation and melody. Her subsequent EP releases received similarly mixed reviews until she left Universal and signed with Cooked Vinyl, an indie outfit from London, in 2016.

While her early sound was, admittedly, a bit immature, especially in the prominence of her Sheeran and Swift influences, there was still a bit of promise. She wrote with an interestingly sardonic sense of humor and had a skill for witty turn of phrase, which played well over her acoustic guitar heavy style. With The Sun Will Come Up, The Seasons Will Change, however, she has wholly revolutionized her sound for the better.

Much of her best qualities are still here, including her voice. Tracks like the opener, “Sacred,” and “Chloe,” are made infinitely better by Nesbitt’s excellent vocal talents. Even on a few of the weaker tracks in the runtime, her voice is able to act as a shining center point thanks to a soft and controlled falsetto combined with a powerful lower register. This is a difficult album to front, and Nina handles the burden extremely well.

She also has an incredible ear for melody. The choruses on tracks like “The Best You Had,” and my personal favorite track, “Things I Say When You Sleep,” are undeniable ear-worms that listeners will be singing for days to come. It’s a rare skill to have, but it’s one which Nesbitt uses to her advantage across the entire project.

Her ear isn’t just well tuned melodically, however, but also rhythmically. Her flow on “The Moments I’m Missing,” and “Colder,” fits perfectly, and is rare to hear in the pop world today. Thanks to this, she’s able to keep her audience entertained through her verses as well as her choruses, creating a fully enthralling track when it works well.

The album is at it’s best when all these elements combine on top of the its greatest strength of creative and unique instrumentals. From the soft piano and atmospheric accents on “Is It Really Me You’re Missing?” to the intriguing latin guitar on “Love Letter,” when the beats work, they work. Even the old school, almost Abdul-esque track on “Loyal To Me,” is extremely enjoyable thanks to a few creative touches. Virtually every track is accented with a few subtle and unique sounds that add quite a bit to the songs themselves.

Unfortunately, the instrumentation is also a source of annoyance at times. Tracks like “Somebody Special,” and “Last December,” are all but butchered by abusing the acoustic guitar as a lead, calling back to the cheesy, folk-pop of her early career.

Additionally, the production has a few persistent issues. From beats that don’t seem to fully develop like the weakest track on the track list, “Empire,” to the near constant use of trap drums which takes some life out of nearly every track, especially the closer and title track.

Worst of all, Nina’s vocal is constantly EQ’d extremely poorly, pushing the high end to the point of an irritating hissing noise accompanying much of her performance. It’s a testament to her talent that she still sounds quite impressive despite this, but never really goes away and actually becomes quite noticeable and annoying at a few points on the album.

Regardless of shortcomings, however, The Sun Will Come Up, The Seasons Will Change is a massive step forward for Nina Nesbitt. Having left Universal for a smaller, indie label, it seems she’s finally being given the freedom to step out from the pop-folk shadow and take part in the wild and exciting world of modern pop music.

While The Sun Will Come Up, The Seasons Will Change may suffer from quite a few noticeable defects, it’s a fun listen that hints toward the possibility of an impressive catalog to come.

5/10

Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” Is the Greatest Song Ever Recorded

In a few simple lyrics and one magnificent performance, the track tells the story of endless struggle struggle, of boundless pain, and ultimately of resilience. It is everything music can be and should be, all in three minutes.

To ask the question of the greatest song of all time will often leave many music fans scoffing and claiming the question to be unanswerable. To some extent, they’re right. This question, as with anything else in music, does come down to personal opinion, and though there is some understanding that one’s choice aught to be historically important and maybe even performed by fairly well known artist, there’s no agreement as to what balance should be struck between cultural significance and sonic quality, let alone what role one’s personal taste may play into the decision. All of this being said, I have come to the position that one song in particular is uniquely poised to be chosen. I’m speaking of Billie Holiday’s 1939 masterpiece, “Strange Fruit.”

It’s difficult to know where to begin on this track, but we’ll start with an understanding of the pedigree involved with the song’s recording. The Cafe Society Band handles the brunt of the instrumental load. They’re one of the most revered African American jazz bands of the era, accompanying the likes of Nat King Cole and Miles Davis, along with many more. Their main gig came as the house band for the Cafe Society, which was known for political cabaret performances and for being the first integrated nightclub in New York.

Of course, the real star is Billie Holliday, who likely needs no introduction, but will receive one nonetheless. She has six singles and two albums inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, in addition to 23 Grammy Awards, all given after her tragic death in 1959. She had a horribly difficult upbringing in 1920’s Philadelphia, including surviving an attempted rape at the age of 11 and losing her father to a treatable lung disorder for which he was refused care on the grounds of his skin color just a few years later. In spite of this, she went on to release some of the most popular and influential music in the entire history of Jazz music, sell out Carnegie Hall in the 1948, and is now regarded as one of the greatest vocalists in American history. And she simply has no better performance than that which she gave on “Strange Fruit.”

On the song, Holiday’s command of silence and subtlety is simply breathtaking. The emotion conveyed in her twisting, spinning vocal mannerisms is absolutely haunting, and when she uses the full extent of her vocal power, there is no listener in the world who wouldn’t feel a chill striking directly to the bone. Buried in the many facets of her voice is the howling cry of an oppressed people that simply can’t be ignored. Unimaginable anger, unfathomable anguish, and unbreakable resolve all ring through her voice. This is to say nothing of the lyrics.

Taken from a poem written by American songwriter and poet Abel Meeropol who used the pseudonym of Lewis Allan at the time for fear of anti-semitic bigotry, the lyrics focus on lynching in the American South. He was inspired by the infamous and horrendous photo of two men, Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, being lynched in front of an excited crowd in Marion, Indiana in 1930. It isn’t only the topic of the lyrics but the fearless way in which the lyrics describe the “Strange Fruit,” as “black bodies, swaying in the summer breeze.” They go on to speak to the state of the decaying bodies much like rotting fruit, touching on smells and horrific imagery. It is, genuinely, one of the most powerful pieces of writing put to paper and there are very few ways to describe the sense of horror and disgust it inspires without simply reading the lyrics, which I must insist that anyone reading this piece do, immediately.

Most important of all, however, is the history surrounding the song and Holiday’s performance of it. While reports vary on how she came across the song itself, she debuted it at the Cafe Society in 1939, which was, as previously mentioned, New York’s first integrated night club. The song quickly became a regular for her along with rules for it’s performance. She would close with it, the waiters would stop all service in advance, and the room would be completely dark, except for a spotlight on Holiday’s face. There would be no encore. During the musical introduction, Holiday stood with her eyes closed, both praying and preparing herself for the performance.

She had extreme difficulty getting the track recorded as her label, Columbia, denied her, fearing repercussions from record retailers in the South. She also faced great fear of retaliation for even performing the song, though she chose to keep performing it as the imagery reminded her of her father and his unfair treatment from the medical community. Holiday went to her friend, Milt Gabler, who owned an alternative Jazz label called Commodore. She performed the piece a cappella and moved him to tears, convincing him to record the track with the help of the Cafe Society band and pianist, Sonny White. Holiday’s recording of the track eventually sold one million copies upon release, which was extremely rare for the time. It would be a large hit for Holiday throughout her career and was named as the “Best Song of the Century,” by Times Magazine in 1999.

All this being said, strip away sales, political importance, and historical pertinence, and “Strange Fruit,” is still the greatest song of all time. It is the most harrowing cry of pain ever put to record.

In a few simple lyrics and one magnificent performance, the track tells the story of endless struggle, of boundless pain, and ultimately of resilience. It is everything music can be and should be, all in three minutes.

Super Bowl LIII’s Halftime Show: A Story of Missed Opportunity

If all else fails, I’ll also accept a large screen at the fifty yard line that will play the entirety of Spongebob’s “Sweet Victory,” and the episode it came from for the adoring crowd.

I think I’ll need to begin this piece with something of a prolonged throat clearing of all the things I’m not saying. I’m not saying that Maroon 5 gave the worst super bowl performance of all time or that they were inherently bad choices to headline. I thought that their performance was fine and, though I don’t love a lot of their newest music, it did send me careening down memory lane as I quickly pulled up and revisited their excellent 2002 debut, Songs About Jane. I’m also not here to complain about the absence of Spongebob’s “Sweet Victory,” and the way it was used as an intro to “Sicko Mode,” although I am genuinely irate about this and could easily write another piece all about it.

Most importantly, I’m not headed into the territory of the many controversies which were ignored here. Put simply, Maroon 5 is not the band to salute Colin Kaepernick, speak out about the president’s many scandals, or make any other gesture of political dissidence. They aren’t Rage Against the Machine and they shouldn’t try to be. When Maroon 5 was chosen, they were expected to play a few hits, put on a light show, and finish out with a shirtless Adam Levine, all of which they accomplished with admirable precision.

The real missed opportunity has to do with location of this year’s Super Bowl, which was only ever so briefly made relevant by the ATLiens jerseys that appeared during Big Boi’s performance. While older hip-hop fans will remember the East and West coast feuds of 90’s hip hop, the 2000’s and on have been defined by a North and South dichotomy far more. Specifically, this has centered in two cities, Chicago and, to a much larger extent, Atlanta.

Just a short list of possible hometown choices would include Migos, who’s last two albums have gone platinum and double platinum respectively, Childish Gambino, who’s recent track “This is America,” has become an international sensation, or 21 Savage, who is nominated for two Grammys at the moment. This is just in terms of current acts.

As far as legacy artists, icons like Cee Lo Green, T.I, Lil Jon, Killer Mike, Future, Gucci Mane, Soulja Boy, and Usher are all on call and ready to electrify a hometown crowd. These are people who forged an entirely new brand of hip-hop and R&B into existence, taking a budding scene to the MainStage with flair and power and all but creating modern rap in the process. Of course, there are two glaring omissions from this list and it’s here where I start building my dream line up for Super Bowl LIII.

Headlining and masterminding the Brendon’s Beats halftime extravaganza is the single most important group in southern hip-hop, Outkast. Of course, we got half of Outkast with Big Boi, but the absence of his partner, Andre 3000, who is often named among the greatest rappers and most brilliant musical minds of all time, can’t be overstated. They could even bring a few Dungeon Family alumni with them. Reuniting one of hip-hop’s greatest groups would be enough, but it’s Atlanta. We can do better.

Travis Scott’s admittedly energetic performance of “Sicko Mode,” could be much better replaced by an appearance from the Migos performing their quadruple platinum smash-hit, “Bad and Boujee,” maybe even with a verse from 21 Savage in place of Lil Uzi Vert’s section on the original. It’s a performance that would excite young fans as much as Scott’s if not more, and the dynamic between the two rap groups from different generations, but the same city. So who is our rock/pop artist to act as an olive branch for non-rap fans?

There is none. I’d personally enjoy a legacy act like T.I. or Lil Jon, though a Gucci Mane or Soulja Boy would be fascinating in a chaotic way. The key is that this show should be a tribute to Southern hip-hop from the epicenter of it’s mainstream success and headlined by it’s most infamous pioneers.

I’ll be the first to admit that this dream lineup could probably never translate to the real world, especially as the odds of reuniting Outkast are slim to none, but the spirit could remain intact. There has never been a rapper or rap group headline the Super Bowl, despite the fact that rap music is, without a doubt, the most prevalent genre of music in the world and has been for nearly 20 years. It’s time for that to change, and baring the possibility of a super bowl in Compton, there is no city in America which is more historically apt to host this ground breaking show than Atlanta.

If all else fails, I’ll also accept a large screen at the fifty yard line that will play the entirety of Spongebob’s “Sweet Victory,” and the episode it came from for the adoring crowd.

Classics Review: Tom T. Hall’s “In Search of a Song”

Hall would go on to an incredible career in country music, largely aided by the success of this album, but In Search of a Song remains as a testament to an era and a style that scarcely exists today.

Tom T. Hall is a country and bluegrass icon from Olive Hill, Kentucky. He debuted with two albums in 1969 and two more in 1970, all released on Mercury Records, who’m he’d work with all the way through the mid-90’s. He was known as “the Storyteller,” among fans because of his ability to weave narratives throughout each of his songs, and by the early 70’s, he was a staple in the country music world. 

He was also known for what he called “song hunting” trips, where he would travel through rural areas not unlike his small hometown. On these trips, he’d take notes and have conversations with locals in order to get a feel for the area he was visiting. Later, he’d reopen his notes and begin to write music, attempting to capture the spirit of the towns he’d just visited. This became a common practice in Hall’s music, certainly playing a role in the continually high quality of his output over his many years, but his skill as an author and story teller simply can’t be ignored. He would go on to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008 and the Bluegrass Hall of Fame in late 2018, but before all of that, the year was 1971 when Tom T. Hall would release In Search of a Song. It’s the first full album to have resulted from one of his song-hunting trips and hailed as one of the best country and bluegrass records of all time, but is it all that good? Let’s discuss.

The album’s best quality comes in Hall’s lyricism, particularly when he’s telling a story. Tracks like “The Year That Clayton Delaney Died,” and “The Little Lady Preacher,” carry direct narratives, one of which is quite moving and the latter a bit comical. The ability to weave a storyline across verses is somewhat lost in modern country music, but Hall was one of the best to ever do it. His rhyme schemes are simple and his stories are remarkably descriptive, not to mention inthralling.

While the traditional narrative structures are interesting, he also has a talent for what I would call descriptive narrative. On tracks like my favorite on the album, “Trip to Hyden,” “A Million Miles to the City,” or “Kentucky, February 27, 1971,” Hall uses storylines to provide description of and commentary on the area he writes about. The story becomes cursory to the experience, and thanks to the fantastically visual writing, listeners are able to experience the towns and people first themselves.

In addition to these two styles, each track is decorated with Tom’s unique sense of humor. The most obvious and well known example of this comes on “Who’s Gonna Feed Them Hogs,” but tracks like “Ramona’s Revenge,” and “Tulsa Telephone Book,” are colored with subtle jokes and comedy throughout. His real skill as a lyricist shows in the way his humor and personality permeate every aspect of every track. Hall is always able to use himself as a sympathetic main character, or at least narrator, thanks to the many jokes and relatable thoughts he expresses throughout.

On top of all this, the instrumentation is fantastic. From the howling harmonica on “It Sure Can Get Cold in Des Moines,” to the sweet guitar on “Second Hand Flowers,” and even the surprising rock influences on “L.A. Blues,” each track is perfectly played by a talented cast of musicians, many of whom are Nashville legends in their own right and fellow members of the Country Music Hall of Fame. It’s a veritable who’s who of 70’s Nashville studio musicians and each of them does fantastic work on In Search of a Song.

Ultimately, In Search of a Song is one of the best country/bluegrass records of all time. Thanks to talented instrumentalists and an uncanny talent for lyricism, Tom T. Hall was able to craft a truly unique piece of country music that is still hailed to this day for it’s storytelling qualities.

Hall would go on to an incredible career in country music, largely aided by the success of this album, but In Search of a Song remains as a testament to an era and a style that scarcely exists today.

Boogie Drops Strong Major Label Debut

Everythings For Sale is a very strong debut from an exciting young artist.

Boogie is a rapper and vocalist from Compton, California. He made a name for himself in the underground world with his debut mixtape, The Thirst 48 in 2014, before breaking through a year later with his follow up, The Reach. He was immediately notable for his ability to bring his own real life experiences to his lyrics in a visceral way in addition to his unique, gospel inspired beats. He signed to Eminem’s Shady Records label in time to release The Thirst 48 Pt. II as a continuation to his debut mixtape.

After signing he received a strong push from the label, including a ton of features with artists like Denzel Curry, Royce Da 5’9, and a strong cypher at 2017’s BET Awards. When his major label debut, Everythings For Sale was announced, anticipation was high as Boogie’s unique sound was expected to benefit quite a bit from the full funding treatment. Despite the odd decision to release such an anticipated project in January, this record certainly didn’t disappoint.

The full studio treatment comes through immediately in the form of excellent beats and a wide instrumental pallet. From the bombastic horn section on “Who’s Fault,” to the reedy woodwinds on “Silent Ride,” listener’s never quite know what to expect on a track and it works extremely well. Not to mention the live drum kit on tracks like the “lolsmh,” interlude that benefits from sharp rimshots and explosive cymbals.

The features list also shows signs of the new studio, though the performances are a bit of a mixed bag. They range from JID’s fantastic verse on “Soho,” and Eminem’s technically impressive pass on “Rainy Days,” to 6lack’s formulaic and boring work on “Skydive II,” which all but ruins what could’ve been the best track on the record.

As for Boogie himself, he’s fantastic. Lyrically, he deals in topics like mortality and death before switching effortlessly to a track like “Self Destruction,” that focuses on drinking and partying and then coming right back to a track about his divorce. He’s incredibly heartfelt and visual, particularly on the more nocturnal tracks like “No Warning.”

The most noticeable and strongest aspect of the record is Boogie’s flow. From the opener, “Tired/Reflection” where his tight scheme plays well off of the jazz instrumental, to the closer, “Time,” where he’s far more relaxed but no less emotional, his rapping is simply captivating. In fact, it’s the tracks that lack a rap verse where the record does fall short.

The influence of artists like Chance the Rapper is worn quite boldly on his sleeve, and it works on a track like “Live 95,” where the old school, R&B vibe lends itself to Boogie’s strong ear for melody. Unfortunately, his singing is hardly capable of carrying a full track. This becomes painfully obvious when one hears a song like “Swap Meet,” or “Skydive.” Here, the lack of a strong verse makes the tracks feel somewhat aimless, and by the time they end, they feel like nothing more than unimportant interludes.

Luckily, this is rarely the case as the majority of the album is excellent. Everythings For Sale simply doesn’t feel like a debut LP as Boogie’s meaningful lyricism and wide array of flows makes him a strong front man for such a well made record. Boogie is one of few young and exciting acts on Shady Records and with this being his first LP on the label, he’s showing quite a bit of promise. One can only hope that the label will give him ample opportunity to succeed and that he keep up the strong performances on future releases.

  Everythings For Sale is a very strong debut from an exciting young artist.

6/10