Stress Relief: Week Three Playlist

By Meghan Hall

Contributing Writer

As the semester picks up, so does the amount of homework. With all the responsibilities and pressure coming, listen to this playlist when it seems like stress is getting the better of you.

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Mac Miller: One of the Best Artists in the Game

By Meghan Hall

Contributing Writer

“RIP Mac Miller.” The sentence feels too hard to write, too surreal to be a phrase floating around on my Twitter timeline. Mac Miller really was one of those artists that grew with you and became part of life through good times and bad.

A wordsmith with his lyrics, Miller’s career truly took off at age 18 with his fourth mixtape, K.I.D.S.After the record put him on the map, his hip hop career soared, creating insightful, thought-provoking records that proved his ability to relate to an audience that stuck with him all the way through his latest release, Swimming.

His fanbase looked forward to the relatable, transparent records he produced. Showing his roots, his outlooks on life and his struggles, he bared his soul to a world that accepted it. Never ingenuine, always pushing forward, Miller’s music became better with time.

Unlike many artists, Miller’s need to succeed persevered and furthered his need to produce meaningful sound that would garner positive reactions and reviews. As we grew up, Miller grew with us, becoming more refined and always pushing to be the artist he’d dreamed of as a young Pittsburgh teen. The 2018 release Swimming proved Miller’s prowess. Leaps and bounds ahead of his initial albums, Swimming was a culmination of the untapped potential Miller had saved, yet he still relied on his roots.

Miller’s fanbase fell in love not only with his clever, eclectic music, but his reputation as the “nice guy” in an industry filled with iconic artists whose songs were a façade for their poor attitudes. Mac Miller was real. He was candid, open with his struggles, humble. He was human—the game now is filled with artists who enjoy the status of being “untouchable.” Miller never looked for that. Sure, his initial climb to fame was riddled with a bit of glory-seeking, but whose isn’t? Once Miller made it to the top, he stayed there gracefully, recognizing that all that he had could just as easily be taken away.

The fear of losing his status never seemed to bother him, though. His 2011 single “Donald Trump” was one of his top hits, one of his signature claims to fame. However, that didn’t stop him from voicing his opinions on Trump’s presidency. Recognizing the hatred and divide that Trump has caused this country, Miller shared his thoughts on the Trump administration without hesitation and without fear of what would come next. Miller easily could’ve lost some of his fanbase to the comments, but the thing about Miller was that candor came first.

Collaborating with countless other powerful artists inside the hip hop sphere, Mac Miller became a name that any rap fan knew, and knew well. Sure, not everyone liked Mac Miller’s tunes, and not everyone understood the important impact Miller had on the hip hop industry, but there was never a shortage of respect for Mac Miller.

When we remember Mac Miller, it’s hard to get over the fact that his life was cut short by drugs. Mac Miller fans, fellow rappers, music critics and casual hip hop listeners alike mourn his death and lament the fact that his enormous potential was severed so early.

But more than Miller’s drug addiction, it’s important to realize that in less than ten years, he changed the music industry forever. It’s important to remember the smile that persisted through the hard times. It’s important to recall the way he treated the world—with respect and love.

So today, I mourn Mac Miller. But I look forward to the recognition of his contribution to this world, in terms of music, and in terms of humanity. And so, although it still seems surreal to type these words… Rest in Peace, Mac. We’ll miss you.

Alt-pop singer Amir Miles embraces and rejects the come up

By Josh Svetz

Uncensored version published on https://wsbufm.com/

Amir Miles believes he’s the next great pop star. This thought doesn’t come from a point of arrogance; he just knows that to survive in the ever-evolving music industry, you must believe you’re up next.

“In the local scene, I’m no Jimmy Wopo or Hardo, but I’m not a no-name,” Miles said. “I’m just confident in my abilities and my team.”

Miles, 22, is just one of many hopeful musicians trying to catch their big break in the business.

The Pittsburgh singer has already hit several milestones. In the past two years, the alternative-pop singer opened for GZA, Oddisee and Migos just to name a few. He also reached over 800,000 plays on Spotify for his song “Bad Habits.” And on June 6th, he’ll finally get to open for a singer that’s much closer to his music scene than a Migos when he warms up the crowd for Kali Uchis at Stage AE.

But to get to the come up, Miles had to make a lot of mistakes.

Born in Chicago and raised by a single mom, Miles moved to Virginia at age 11 where he began to take interest in music, forming a band with his friends in junior high school for simple reasons.

“We thought it’d be sick to play shows and get girls,” Miles said. “That’s what you expect to happen when you’re a kid.”

What came from that experience would act as the building block to his career in music. Miles played bass guitar and eventually transitioned into vocal work. The band itself disbanded after a year, but he continued to play bass and sing on his own. He started by playing covers of songs he knew, gravitating to rock and R&B music. But after not wanting to be a “copycat,” he started to play chords and make his own lyrics, changing his inflections and words depending on what the melody sounded like.

While the building block to his career laid in place, Miles didn’t believe he could make it as a musician. He originally attended Pittsburgh University to learn business and economics. He figured that getting into the world of music marketing or being the band manager would give him a good chance to get involved with the industry.

Fate had other plans.

His freshman year, he won a rap battle contest along with his resident assistant, Tory Hains, securing an opportunity to open for Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco. He then started to make songs like “On a Dime” and the musician bug bit him fully.

“People were just f****** with it,” Miles said. “And I enjoyed making it. I was set—I’m going to be a musician.”

As he continued to grow as an artist, his grades slipped. He felt misery every time he went to class. School just didn’t feel like the right path. So, he dropped out.

Returning home to Virginia, he struggled in the job market. After receiving two consecutive pink slips, Miles found a home at Zara, a retail company that he described as a European H&M. There, he met his current producer Nxfce (pronounced ‘no face’) and nothing would ever be the same.

Nxfce and Miles talked music regularly on the job, but Nxfce had reservations about working with Miles until he showed him his music. The first studio session, Miles said they didn’t get anywhere. The second studio session, they made “Bad Habits,” Miles’ most popular song to date and a turning point in his career.

Soon after, he returned to Pittsburgh because of the youthfulness of the city and already having a fan base intact.

Originally, he mirrored acts like the Weeknd, Frank Ocean and Miguel. Now, with Nxfce’s more dance-infused and rhythmic beats, he began to cultivate his own sound.

Trying to describe Miles’ sound would give even the greatest music critic problems.

At times, he brings an energy and vigor reminiscent of Michael Jackson. Not to say he matches the king of pop, but when listening to the opening of “Neon//Love,” it’s hard to not hear the inflection of late ‘80s MJ. On “Fade” he sounds like a more exuberant and upbeat Chet Faker. On “Bad Habits,” he inflects the soul of a Sampha, with the vivacious catchiness of “Can’t Feel My Face” Weeknd. No matter what track you play though, he keeps an atmospheric and sexy vibe intact, reminiscent of Ginuwine and Usher.

All these comparisons have one thing in common: it’s music that makes people move. It just so happens that Miles’ biggest concern when he makes music is if it makes people move or not. He used Drake as an example.

“People hear ‘God’s Plan’ and they’re willing to give themselves up (to the song),” Miles said. “They sing, dance, act a fool, because they know the song. They trust the song. They know where it’s going.”

While he may not be Drake, Miles’ recognizes that the buzz he’s obtained from projects like Faceless has made people more comfortable with his music. In turn, he’s starting to get the action he desires from the crowd — dancing.

“That’s what I get most excited about before I go on stage,” Miles said. “Watching people bop, jump, get rowdy. That’s what I love about making music.”

Of course, he’d be the first to tell you that there’s a love/hate relationship with the live show, especially as an opening act.

“Sometimes it sucks,” Miles said. “Yeah, you get to open for these great acts and be like, ‘Yo, I’m a part of the show, I’m a part of the experience.’ But, you’re usually performing for people that don’t know who you are, don’t know what you’re about, don’t care what you’re about and don’t want to learn what you’re about in 30 minutes. They just want to see the main act.”

Miles said he believes this mindset has spread due to the internet.

“I feel like in the ‘90s and ‘00s, people were more artistically curious at live shows because that’s how you found new music,” Miles said. “But now you find music on Spotify, so if you go to a show and haven’t heard the opener’s music on Spotify or SoundCloud, you’re less likely to care about their music.”

But Miles’ biggest concern comes from capitalizing during the come up. He knows he has buzz now and reflects on how people are watching him. Before the come up, he could do whatever the hell he wanted. Now, he has labels making decisions about distributing his music, concert venues considering if they should book him and most of all, people waiting for him to fail.

“It’s do or die,” Miles said. “The next singles have to hit, because if not, then there’s stagnation and that’s the kiss of death in the music industry.”

Again, Miles said the internet has changed the time window. The turnover rate due to social media has become so fast that you need to find a way to stay relevant. Otherwise, people forget you exist.

That’s just the double-edged sword of the modern music industry powered by what’s shareable and viral.

Miles obsesses over music. He soundtracks his life with Gus Dapperton and Rex Orange County. He sings when he gets ready to go out. Hell, even as he’s brushing his teeth, he’s working on his craft.

His conversation topics always include music. One minute he’ll talk about the intricacies of Migos, explaining what creates the draw to the triplet flow. Another he’ll dive into the mystery of Frank Ocean and why his aesthetic matches his art.

The unwind period for Miles comes from watching anime and being around people. He has a complex of wanting to be liked but doesn’t work hard to please. Genuinely, he just wants a good energy and for people to enjoy themselves.

In his dingy, lowly-lit apartment Miles plays Madden as he reflects on his career. He’s using the Seahawks, his favorite Madden team. In the time we’ve talked, he’s won one game but lost the other off a two-point conversion against the New England Patriots, of course.

Unlike the Seahawks though, he sees the end zone.

He’s planning to move out to Los Angeles next year to push his music more and work with other artists. He also plans to write for record labels. Going to LA may lead to one of his biggest fears: fame.

“I’m worried about turning into a commodity,” Miles said. “I don’t want to lose myself. I’ve seen enough people crack. One slip up and people pounce. They’re waiting for you to fail.”

He also worries about his relationships if he indeed becomes famous.

“They’re not going to be natural,” Miles said. “They’ll always be skewed, and people have agendas. Like, do they f*** with me for my music, for me? Do they want something? Do they truly just want to connect? That’s always going to be in the back of my mind now.”

Miles still has a way to go before reaching that point, but it still scares him. He’s not in the business for the money or the fame, or even the girls. He just wants the experience few will ever know.

“When I’m on my death bed and I think about where my life went, I’ll be able to say it went everywhere,” Miles said. ”I’m here for the adventure. I want my life to be a f****** movie.”

Check out Miles at Stage AE June 6th when he opens for Kali Uchis. Tickets are available here: https://www1.ticketmaster.com/kali-uchis-pittsburgh-pennsylvania-06-06-2018/event/1600546DDA6EB60E 

 

 

 

Beyonce captivates audience with Lemonade

[image courtesy of hypebeast.com]

By: Liam McGurl  @Liiiammm1996

 

Fans might think Beyoncé effortlessly handles life’s curveballs because, well, she’s Beyoncé.  But her new, highly secretive album Lemonade is visual and sonic proof that’s not the case. Even further, her latest artistic effort shatters the typical boundaries of pop music—utilizing striking visuals to accentuate an already powerful message.

Opening with the prophetic words, “The past and the present merge to meet us here…What am I doing my love,” Lemonade’s official trailer left fans unexplainably disturbed, intrigued and downright confused. The promotional video itself didn’t include an excess of Bey-focused shots; rather, it put the attention on art—with starkly contrasted visuals of peace and tranquility, juxtaposed to utter chaos and destruction.

Continue reading “Beyonce captivates audience with Lemonade”

Zayn Malik separates himself with Mind of Mine

[image courtesy of officialcharts.com]

By: Liam McGurl  @Liiiammm1996

 

After the release of Zayn Malik’s “Pillowtalk,” Directioners were split between their long-time-favorite boy band and its bad boy breakaway—with some taking a middle road.  Now, it’s looking like Malik will hold a fan base all his own after releasing two more successful singles off his upcoming album.

The 23-year-old singer’s first solos prior to his new album Mind of Mine teased the record with three contrasting sounds.  It was a move full of marketing genius and, surprisingly, impressive artistry.  He’s proven his diversity, a likely incentive behind his split from One Direction’s all-too-consistent sound.

At this point, virtually anyone who owns a radio has heard “Pillowtalk”—and rightfully so.  It is a major success, especially considering it’s Malik’s first promotional solo single—featuring psychedelic visual support to catchy choruses in its accompanying music video.

“It’s You,” officially written as “iT’s YoU,” making grammar fanatics cringe and conjuring roaring applause from music-lovers, gives a sound more distant from “Pillowtalk” than Malik’s relationship with 1D.  The ballad, possibly inspired by Little Mix’ Perrie Edwards, has an undeniably mature sound and message.  The track and its Apple Music video— both released on Feb. 26—are all about heartbreak and mistrust.  While heartbreak anthems are nothing new to the music industry—the lyrics lining “It’s You” serve a presumably all-too-real look at the Bradford, England, native’s specific relationship experience. It’s honest, down-to-Earth and spares us another cheesy tune—who can complain?

While “Pillowtalk” relied on catchy choruses, “It’s You” is grounded almost entirely in the single’s sentiment of self-conflict inside a failing relationship.  Singing, “I won’t, I won’t, I won’t/ Cover my scars/ I’ll let ’em bleed/ So my silence/ So my silence won’t/ Be mistaken for peace,” Malik shelves his badass reputation momentarily, letting us into his unvarnished emotional experiences.

The last album teaser, “Like I Would,” remains the least impactful release thus far—fluctuating between lethargic lulls and a funky chorus packed full of potential.  The track, released on March 10, opens with the words, “Hey what’s up, it’s been a while,” starting off on an Adele-esque note, both in lyricism and pace.  Well, that is until the buoyant chorus’ introduction, commenced with Malik shrieking, “He, won’t touch you like I do.”  It feels remarkably inconsistent compared to its preceding singles, a sure death sentence for any solo track.

In all honesty, Directioners’ reactions to the single seem to be more memorable than the actual effort behind “Like I Would.” Shortly after the song’s reveal, 1D fans took to Twitter, accusing Malik’s track of appropriating the boyband’s 2012 hit “I Would.” Regardless, Malik’s made it brilliantly clear where he stands on the group’s “generic as f*ck” sound and, so, it’s safe to say he isn’t stressing over the criticism.

Following the release of his album, Malik has established his aesthetic as a solo artist and solidified his newfound, independent reputation.

Adele’s 25 blows past expectations

By Liam McGurl  @Liiiammm1996

 

It was starting to feel like a “Million Years Ago” since we last heard from London native Adele, but her powerful new installment, 25, has arrived and is, arguably, her most daring studio album yet.

While the soulful ballad “Hello” stays true to the album’s lyrical message of pain in heartbreak, it’s robust, wholesome sounds aren’t exactly a testament to the overall musicality of 25—which is No. 1 on Apple’s iTunes chart in 110 countries.

In contrast to Adele’s preceding records, 25 gives fans the full range of the 27-year-old singer’s talents.  From the underlying pop sentiments of “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” to the Latin feel of “Million Years Ago,” the album’s as unpredictable as it is sonically satisfying.  In essence, it’s the model comeback album—and will likely help Adele reclaim her chart-topping, Grammy-snagging status.

Not surprisingly, the album sold at least 2.5 million copies in the United States in its first week—which, according to the New York Times is “… the highest weekly sales for any album since at least 1991…”

While the 2016 Grammy Awards are scheduled for Feb. 15—and that seems centuries away— it’s likely Adele will be taking home the awards in her nominated categories.  It’s all about timing, and with a new album and singles leading up to the award show, she’ll likely be the focus of the red carpet event—both on and off stage.  Let’s be honest, though, it’s not that big of a surprise considering the 2006 BRIT School for Performing Arts and Technology graduate has already received 86 musical arts-based awards out of 168 total nominations.

As expected, the vocal caliber of the “Rolling In The Deep” singer on 25 met both anxious fan and critic expectations, but her noteworthy lyricality on the installment was the main supporter of her impactful trills and riffs.

Adele sings of yearning for renewed love in “I Miss You,” exclaiming, “I love the way your body moves/ Towards me from across the room/ Brushing past my every groove/ No one has me like you do.”  It’s a change from her previous content, opening up about more vulnerable, uncanny dimensions of love: regret and reminiscing.

Her usual sentiments of heartbreak line the record’s tracks, still, but she’s honest about the pain in a new way.

“When We Were Young”—a serious contender for a second single—moves us through the motions of hoping for a revived love life, while “Water Under the Bridge” takes listeners to that uncomfortable place of accepting failed love and hoping for peaceful closure.

“All I Ask”—the second to last track on the record—is a musical plea for that same sort of peaceful closure.  As the track’s chorus closes with the lines “It matters how this ends/Cause what if I never love again?” listeners are struck with relatability internalized as goosebumps.  It’s essentially the “breakup experience” in a single line—acceptance of one’s romantic standings but hoping to move to a place of forgiveness and progression past the pain.

While Adele’s content has remained consistent—and time out of the spotlight hasn’t changed her attraction to love ballads and breakup tunes—she’s used a variety of unexpected, and intentional, instrumentals to support her commanding vocals.

Light guitar strumming follows Adele’s soft vocals at the early formation of “Sweetest Devotion,” while pulsating drumming carries the track’s forceful chorus.  Likewise, classical piano carries the consistent dynamics of “Remedy.”

Adele’s captivating choices in accompaniment elevate her already moving vocals to a place of euphoria that acapella rarely meets.  Aside from her undeniable vocal gift, Adele’s lyrical genius and appropriate selection of instrumentation will likely carry 25 to record-breaking numbers of awards and continued positive critical acclamation.