Do we call this year’s best…“Quarentunes”?

(Preface — While I gave myself extra time on this, I have to admit an omission. Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon III: The Chosen came out right at the tail end of the year. It’s a clear return to form but my list had been basically all but finalized at the point of its release; consider MOTM3 like…“25.5” in these rankings. Maybe like 20? I don’t know. It’s good. Go listen to it.)

25. songs /instrumentals — Adrianne Lenker

Welcome to this year’s entry into the “John, are you okay?” sweepstakes: Big Thief lead singer Adrianne Lenker unleashes…


Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, it does.

10. DAYSTAR — Tory Lanez

I really wanted to put this lower, I really did, but then I remember: there’s really no argument to be made about the quality of the music on DAYSTAR, because all anyone cares about is the fact that Tory Lanez shot Megan Thee Stallion, then thought this was a good idea. This is Tory at a tone-deaf peak completely losing the script behind his now infamous shooting incident, and all the while, he doesn’t say anything in any of these tracks — it’s all vague, loose, and empty. Nobody was listening for the musicality: they wanted answers, and we…


How I learned to accept our new Korean overlords

The next decade will tell us plenty about the long-term cultural ramifications of COVID-19, but one thing was sped up into full gear — the death of terrestrial radio as a pure indicator of pop supremacy.

Since 2020 resulted in many big-time pop releases being pushed back or delayed, listening to your local Top 40 station might have felt like Groundhog Day; it was either songs that had started catching on prior to quarantine in March, kooky non-tunes or gimmick songs floating in the ether, or desperate attempts to jump on trends that were on life support before 2020 even…


It’s exactly who you think it is!

25. CALIGULA — Lingua Ignota

This album is not an easy listen; a violent, slow, creeping doom permeates everything on CALIGULA, mixing baroque, electronica, black metal, and a thrashing wall of sound. Beneath all of this anger and spite is the real reflections of an abusive relationship that Kristin Hayter, the lead of this project, escaped, making all the more dark and gripping. The balance of Kristin’s velvety and classically trained voice with her painful, shrieking screams is, and pardon the hipster vocabulary on this, a sonic experience that nobody came close to touching this year.

24. Designer — Aldous Harding

Unapologetic folk excellence. Aldous Harding doesn’t exactly…


The Bottle is Ready to Blow…

10. Bad Habits — NAV

Enchanting…

There is a difference between being laid back, and completely disengaged. While it’s easy to call Nav yet another in the vein of Gunna or Lil Baby as disciples of Young Thug, Young Thug at least has some personality. Nav is completely devoid of this, and he unleashed 16 of the most boring, lifeless tracks of the year. “Price on My Head” is one of the few tracks that gets carried to something decent, but it’s almost entirely thanks to The Weeknd; when Nav is left to his own on tracks, his inability to offer anything new is exposed…


What the hell is pop music anymore, anyway?

The biggest star in pop music in 2019 is an 18 year old girl, performing songs she composed when she was 16, that evokes the soundtrack to Winnie the Pooh’s “Heffalumps and Woozles” scene rather than what fits the trends of modern radio-ready sounds.

Yeah, I’m confused.

2019 was a very large cumulative culling, the removal of a lot of the old guard of the lexicon of pop stars in favor of new ones (…for the most part, and we’ll get to that). On the one hand, that’s kind of refreshing; knowing that an under the radar song that in…


Proving how hipster I am, in a one-song-too-long playlist

On pure volume, this year, I committed myself to listening to as much as I could possibly handle; by the time we reached December, the typical point in the year that new releases stop in favor of Christmas music ad nauseam, I still had nearly 900 songs in consideration for this year end list. Is part of that probably procrastination? Yes. A lot of it. Even so, I think this list it one of my favorites I’ve had to compile in a long, long time as a result.

Yes, I’m still throwing in the usual baloney hipster hip-hop, the emotional…


My musical conscience eating itself alive

25. Dirty Computer — Janelle Monae

I’m very torn on this album. Dirty Computer has been a critical smash (even if it only bubbled under the radar of mainstream success), and nobody can say Janelle Monae didn’t push an impressive output for this LP. Maybe I’m skewed by Monae’s prior outputs, which seemed to lean into their thematic environments a bit more; this is a more subtle entry in the “Archandroid” series than others. That said, this is also does include some of the most effective songwriting of Monae’s career. …


Thanks, I Hate It.

10. AMERICA — Thirty Seconds to Mars

What do I even do with this?

Jared Leto had a fierce campaign, pushing AMERICA as an artistic journey and conceptual album, but he missed a very key point; it’s not, you know, good. Thirty Seconds to Mars was never a truly groundbreaking act, but at the very least they were able to understand how to make music that sounded interesting. This? It’s just Leto wearing different hats, one duller than the next. On “Love is Madness”, he’s wearing his low-fi pop hat. On “One Track Mind”, he’s wearing his grimey hip-hop hat. On “Hail to the Victor”, he’s playing…


A Brief Inquiry on Online Music Charts Wrecking Pop Forever

For 2017, I started this blog with a tagline: “The Year Rap Stole Pop’s Lunch Money”.

Turns out I was a year off; 2018 was that year. 51 of the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 were either directly by hip-hop artists, or included rap verses, which, discounting the latin, R&B, or alternative fields, gives you a staggeringly low amount of pure “pop” hits.

Of course, “pop” music is a shorthand that means nothing in 2019; “pop” is whatever happens to be popular, but what was just 2 years ago a landscape dominated by Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Adele, and Justin Timberlake, is…

John Stevens

I write about music my opinion's are usually bad and wrong, so that's fun.

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