The NY Times Spelling Bee game is THE MOST ADDICTIVE THING ON THE PLANET! It’s a word jumble game—make as many words as you can out of 7 letters, with 1 letter common to all of them. I’ve gotten my entire office on board.
Quick P.S. I want to apologize for my lack of acknowledgment of the current political…kerfuffle. I’m personally staying away from the news for my mental health. I keep apprised of the highlights, and I act with my vote and my dollar. This blog, for the past three years, has been a spot of light and love in my life, and I intend to keep it that way.
My vacation in Florida this weekend was cancelled due to a f***ing Nor’easter, so of course, instead of enjoying myself in the sun, I’m bundled up in the Boston suburbs, miserably freezing my butt off. I did, however, give myself the gift of an extra-long weekend and a bottle of Rosé to comfort me in this dark time. So, when I have to, in the words of poet laureate Marshall Mathers, snap back to reality on Monday, here’s what I’ll be thinking about.
Should I give up paper towels? They’re my green cleaning vice, along with disposable sanitizing wipes.
I’ve been consigning my clothes with thredUP this year, to amazing results. They make it so, so easy to purge your house and get a lil’ cashish in the process. I’ve made over $200 already, with almost no effort!
I’ve been wishy-washy about this for well over a year. Should I finally actually try the Pomodoro Technique? I mean, it is named after the Italian word for tomato, so it’s right up my alley. Time management is NOT my strong suit.
I went on a Society6 bath mat window-shopping spree. I have four in my cart right now: check them out here, here, here, and here. My new bathroom has a black-white-and-grey Parisian-inspired theme, but who says I can’t add tiny rugs to other parts of my house as well?
Vacation is the best, but mostly because I get to read for pleasure! I’m reading Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace and Janet Mock’s Redefining Realness this week. #YQY
Full disclosure: I read Fifty Shades of Grey a few years ago when I was house-bound for a day. I watched the movie a year or so later, because it happened to be free on HBO. Now that the franchise has come to a close (probably), should I just read the other 2 books and watch the trilogy? I love trash, so I could probably spin it into my thesis topic or something.
Did you all know that Ivy Park is still a thing at Nordstrom and TopShop? Now that I actually go to the gym, maybe it’s time…(Update: 100% just bought these.)
If you have met me, or read anything I’ve ever written, or picked up on my psychic energy, you know that I love Beyoncé. She’s the HBIC of our entire cultural landscape, which is actually really major. It’s so important that a powerful woman of color is making daring artistic choices and subsequently gaining the respect and admiration of even the most unlikely people.
She hasn’t ended sexism or racism or anything, she’s a human woman, but she is an exceptional role model to girls—she is an avowed feminist and activist, and she embraces and celebrates her sexuality without shame. She is a mother, a distraction and sacrifice for many, yet has released her best and most gripping work since her daughter was born. Motherhood, for Bey, is one of the many facets of femininity, and she glorifies it without being exclusionary. She’s got the whole world breathlessly awaiting the birth of her twins, so let’s celebrate the mother of all icons!
Aside from being our generation’s biggest icon, she’s a musical artist. A singer, songwriter, and producer that has more hit songs than you can shake a stick at (that’s a phrase, right?) It’s not just her image that is valuable. She’s got songs! Six solo albums worth of glorious songs! A lot of people have only begun to truly appreciate Queen Bey in the past few years, more for her persona than for her actual talent, which is a damn shame. She has been out here on her own since 2003, making our lives better with her art. I present to you Beyoncé’s six albums, in order of the quality of the songwriting on each. This was not easy, but we live in the age of listicles and all must be ranked. Here they are, in order from great to greatest.
Released on her 25th birthday, B’Day is Beyoncé’s second solo effort, best known for spawning the hit single “Irreplaceable“. This is the reason that everyone spent the entirety of 2007 saying “to the left, to the left”. This album was released before I became a Bey-votee, but I would hardly be the aficionado I claim to be if I did not revisit her early works.
I don’t have much to say about B’Day, apart from that it is musically pretty unremarkable. Apart from “Irreplaceable”, it doesn’t have any stand-out tracks. Even the two songs featuring Jay-Z are forgettable. The lyrics, however, are all about female empowerment, laying the foundation for her later work. Solange also has some writing credits on this album!
One thing worth noting is that, apparently, every song on this album has a music video, which indicates that, even seven years before she stealth-dropped the movie/album Beyoncé, visual representation was a priority.
This is Beyoncé’s debut solo album, y’all! She came out the gate spitting venom. “Crazy in Love (feat. Jay-Z)” is an enduring banger and “Naughty Girl“, which samples Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby”, is one of her sexiest tracks to date. This album, as a whole, is hardly a musical revelation, but it certainly proved that Bey’s career would be just fine without the other ladies of Destiny’s Child. “Baby Boy” notably features Sean Paul, as all songs did in the year 2003. That was currency back then.
Much like B’Day above, Dangerously in Love was merely sowing the seeds that would bloom Beyoncé into the iconic matriarch she is today.
P.S. Fuckin’ shout-out to “Stole” by Kelly Rowland. I mean no disrespect to the alumnae of Destiny’s Child.
I Am…Sasha Fierce (2008)
I Am…Sasha Fierce is, in my opinion, Beyoncé’s first cohesive album. Like the first two albums, Sasha Fierce spawned a ton of hits, but for the first time, the album was more than a vehicle for singles. The concept was that the double album’s second side would represent the perspective of Beyoncé’s alter ego, Sasha Fierce, an edgier stage version of the wholesome image of Beyoncé. If I remember my pop culture history correctly, this is when people really started paying attention to Beyoncé as an artist, rather than just a pop star. Of course she was already an A-list celebrity, but 2008 is when the veil of mystique that she still wears was cast upon her. Earlier in the year, she married Jay-Z, and his influence no doubt led her to be more selective about her musical projects.
As the individual songs go, this album is a heavy-hitter. “If I Were A Boy” is not only a great track that picks up the girl power theme in a big way, the title also employs the subjunctive tense properly, which never, ever happens in songs. Sasha Fierce also notably contains what may be Beyoncé’s best song, “Halo“. And then, of course, there’s the pièce de résistance, “Single Ladies“, the music video that launched a thousand parodies. Shout out to Ms. Tina’s Deréon jeans! This video is what caused the Kanye Interruption heard ’round the world! No prior moment in Bey’s career so solidified her status as a cult leader an icon.
Also, in case you were wondering, a diva is a female version of a hustler.
‘Twas in this era that we truly began to understand the cultural import of Queen Bey. SNL may have put it best in “The Beygency“. She had revealed years prior that she basically doesn’t need the media when she released the first photos of Blue Ivy on her own site. Then in December 2013, she blessed us with a surprise album that, SURPRISE AGAIN, was also a movie.
*very Stefon voice* This album has everything. Bey was not fucking around with this album. It opens with “Pretty Hurts“, penned by Sia—a scathing condemnation of damaging societal beauty standards. “***Flawless” features Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s TED Talk. This is the era in which Bey performed at awards shows in front of giant neon signs reading “FEMINIST”. Do not underestimate how important it was for a famous woman of color to declare herself a feminist—feminism is for everyone. It is inclusive and intersectional.
I very nearly placed I Am…Sasha Fierce in this spot, but Beyoncé broke the internet and changed the world. Maybe I’ll listen to “Halo” more often than “Blow“, but I’ll always acknowledge the awesome power of Bey’s 2013 sexual revolution.
The only, I mean the only, reason that this album did not take the top spot is the intro to the song “Party”, which features Kanye West rapping: You a bad girl / And your friends bad too / We got the swag sauce / She drippin’ Swagu. The rest of the song is actually great—it features André 3000, for chrissakes—but that Swagu line is so cheesy that I can’t endorse it and must bump the incredible, sensational 4 to second place.
The highlights of this album are, in my opinion, “Countdown” and “I Care” which is a stunning track that features some of Bey’s best vocals to date. She sings along with the guitar solo. It is chilling. Also, can we fucking talk about Frank Ocean’s writing and vocal contribution to “I Miss You”? If you can tolerate crappy-quality YouTube vids, there are quite a few of him performing the song alone, which melt me.
4 is just an incredible album. Every single track is a musical goldmine and I will love each one ’til the end of time.
P.S. I just re-watched the pregnancy-reveal video and cried when Kanye hugs Jay.
P.P.S. The official video for “Party” features J. Cole instead of André and in my opinion, this constitutes a war crime.
Are you surprised, though? Know what surprises me? That Adele won a Grammy for Best Album over Lemonade. That’s institutional racism at work, friends. Beyoncé, despite jumping genres at a break-neck speed, is trapped in the less-respected “Urban Contemporary” category. SMDH @ the Academy forever. And I ain’t sorry.
Lemonade began its journey into our collective consciousness when Bey dropped the “Formation” video prior to her performance at the 2016 Super Bowl. It set the world ablaze, gave us all the best catchphrase of all time (“I got hot sauce in my bag”), and inspired one of my favorite SNL Digital Shorts, “The Day Beyoncé Turned Black“, which skewers the criticism she faced over the controversial video.
Then, in the springtime, the season of rebirth, we were blessed with Lemonade. I will come out and say that I do not care if it is merely a performance piece and she and Jay were 100% fine the whole time. I don’t even care if the Solange elevator moment was unrelated. All I care about is that my queen collaborated with Jack White, Kendrick, James Blake, and The Weeknd to bring us this sensational vision.
P.S. In the time since I started this post, the new season of Kimmy Schmidt dropped, and with it an incomparable “Hold Up” parody by the incredible Tituss Burgess. They also riffed on “Sorry” and “All Night“. I will not rest until Tituss and Bey sing together IRL.
P.P.S. The album also inspired this fabulous video, back when there was still light in the world and we almost had a competent president.
P.P.P.S. Lemonade was released on HBO and Tidal, so not all of the mini-movies are available on YouTube. You can watch the pirate versions, of course, or you could just buy the fucking album.
So, there you have it. Enough Beyoncé #content to have you in a YouTube k-hole for half a day.
63 Grammy nominations, 22 wins, 6 solo albums, 3 children, 1 Beyoncé.
2016 was another year that SLAYED the music game. I can’t keep up with the amount of good good that blessed us this year.
5. Childish Gambino – Awaken, My Love!
Donald Glover was already one of my favorite people. I was a fan of his comedy and a total nerd about the show Community (#sixseasonsandamovie), so when I discovered, many moons ago, that he rapped under the name Childish Gambino, I feverishly sought out his music. And loved it. His raps are so clever, it’s painful. Yes, I know, he’s rapped some unsavory sexist shit, but you have to appreciate the artistry. And I am NOT an apologist about this sort of thing. But anyway…
It had been a few years since a Childish release, so I was awaiting more rhymes to blow my mind. NOT SO, it turns out. This isn’t a rap album! I guess it’s an R&B album, but in a lot of ways it defies genre. It is a masterpiece, start to finish, as if we expected anything less from Mr. Gambino. Once I get my hands on a hard copy of this album, I’ll have a lot more to say about it critically, but for now, SLAY THE GAME, BAE.
Consider the tracks:
“Me and Your Mama” and “Redbone”
4. Solange – A Seat At The Table
Before ASATT, Solange hadn’t released new music since her 2012 EP True (which is a 7-song dose of heaven), so this album had to face and overcome a lot of hype. And ohmylordinheaven does it deliver. This album is 100% pure #BlackGirlMagic. Knowles incorporates moving spoken word into nofucksgiven anthems like “Don’t Touch My Hair”—for Solange, the personal is political. Apart from being poignant and brave, the songs themselves comprise 51 minutes of solid songwriting and performances. Solange’s voice is certainly more delicate than that of her very famous sister, but its fragility is made powerful both by the subject matter of the songs and the perfectly tight melodies and arrangements.
Even the title of this incredible album takes a fierce stand. Solange is demanding that black women, arguably one of the most marginalized groups in the world, be granted autonomy over their own bodies and experiences. It is cutting and badass, and we especially need fearless work like this under the fascist regime currently dismantling our government. Solange will save us.
P.S. Every single person on Earth that is cool (André 3000, Questlove, Raphael Saadiq, Q-Tip, Lil’ Wayne, Rostam, Kelly Rowland, Miss Tina!) makes an appearance on this album, so don’t sleep!
Consider the tracks:
“Cranes in the Sky” and “Rise”
3. case/lang/veirs – case/lang/veirs
I nearly had a heart attack when this collaboration was announced. Queen of my existence Neko Case teaming up with two equally rad ladies whose music I adore (k.d. lang & Laura Veirs)? From the first track, “Atomic Number,” to the last note, this album is gripping, emotional, and just fun enough to not leave you in a puddle on the floor contemplating your own lack of talent and drive (oh, is that just me?). Produced by the incredible Tucker Martine (also Laura’s husband—s’cute!), the album balances sparseness with rich string arrangements in a way that never feels heavy-handed.
Each of the songwriters’ voices comes through so clearly, but at no point is any of the women stealing the show. k.d.’s songs are sultry and slower, Laura’s have a pop vivacity to them that sparkles. Neko, it seems, holds the remote control to my emotions. This is as close to a perfect record as it gets, guys. Go forth and listen.
Consider the tracks:
“Best Kept Secret” and “Delirium”
2. David Bowie – ★ (Blackstar)
Look up here, I’m in heaven. Bowie blessed us with this beautiful love note on his 69th birthday, 2 days before his sudden and tragic death from cancer. There is not much I can say about this album that has not already been said beautifully in the past year, but I can express how much I truly love it. It was the man’s 25th album. To put it in perspective, Nirvana made 4. Twenty-five albums—twenty-five expressions of Bowie’s infinite genius. In some ways, it feels like the album is lost to the tragedy, overshadowed by heavy-handed tributes and cover versions. And that Lady Gaga Grammy thing, forchristssake.
There are still a lot of emotions wrapped up in this for me, so here, read what a bunch of brilliant people have said about this opus:
I know. I put this above David Bowie. There is a special ring in hell reserved for me. But goddamnit if I don’t love of Montreal. Everything Kevin Barnes lays his hands on is pure gold (see Pillar Point’s most recent album). Innocence Reaches was everything I wanted from the new oM. Over the last few years, oM has genre-hopped at a head-spinning pace. 2013’s Lousy with Sylvianbriar was recorded to tape, has a heavily-featured girl singer (the incomparable Rebecca Cash), and is the most rootsy, acoustic thing the band has released. Last year’s Aureate Gloom expanded on that theme, but added a frantic rock energy to it. Innocence Reaches gives the people what they want without compromising Kevin’s penchant for brilliant, provocative lyrics and innovative song structure. It has all the dance energy of 2007’s Hissing Fauna but with delicious trap beats tucked in so tastefully they don’t distract, only enhance. Lyrically, the album gives zero fucks—perfect in a year that saw so much hatred and bigotry from the right. In the land of of Montreal, gender is largely irrelevant and individual expression is celebrated. The opening track “Let’s Relate” contains the lines,
Amalgam, I think that you’re great
I already like you
I like that you like you
I think that you’re great
I want to relate
Barnes uses the simplest possible language to convey a sentiment that has been impossible for so many to grasp. Seeing him perform this track wearing a hat that said, on each side of the brim, BOY or GIRL, really drove the point home.The following track, “It’s Different for Girls,” is a male feminist anthem for the ages. Typically, this doesn’t work. Men inserting themselves into this conversation often goes awry. But Barnes handles the topic, presumably inspired by his own fluid understanding of gender and the fact that he now has a teenaged daughter, with such finesse that he actually adds to the conversation without trampling over women’s voices. Lines like, “For every one ‘psycho bitch’ there’s ten thousand aggro pricks” are really, really fun to sing at the top of your lungs.
Basically, Kevin is a goddamned genius.
Consider the tracks:
“Trashed Exes” and “My Fair Lady”
This list may change and evolve dramatically—I haven’t even heard all of the 2016 releases that we have, and there are so many more I still have to buy, like my beloved Frank Ocean and Chance the Rapper (who crushed the game on SNL recently). I haven’t even listened to the new Bon Iver yet, which is insane since Justin Vernon is basically my sexual orientation.
A few honorable mentions:
Beyoncé – Lemonade
Because I’m a human woman, and Beyoncé SLAYED ALL DAY with this #flawless album. This isn’t just a “Bey is queen of all things” type of shout out. This album is actually a musical triumph. Everyone who’s anyone had a hand in making this a balls-out amazing album. She and Solange tagged-teamed 2016.
Consider the tracks:
“Don’t Hurt Yourself (feat. Jack White)” and “All Night”
Various Artists – The Hamilton Mixtape
You already know I love me some Lin-Manuel Miranda. The features on this are insane. I’m only like, ten years younger than him, so our mutual love for Ja Rule/Ashanti duos makes perfect sense. Even if you’re not a musical person, this mixtape is worth it for “Wrote My Way Out”, and “Immigrants (We Get the Job Done)” alone.
Consider the tracks:
“Say Yes to This” (Jill Scott) and “My Shot” (The Roots, Busta,Joell Ortiz, & Nate Ruess)
Friday, I’m in love…with Etsy. I had seen this post on Pinterest which made me long for a Feyoncé shirt to call my own. Luckily, I located this shop that hooked me up with a great tank (it is July, after all).
The following photo, which was something of an outtake is the only one in which you can see my fakey-fake ring that I’ve been wearing to numb the pain of my real one not being back from the jeweler.
The fake ring is kind of a wacky story. As a kid, I spent a lot of time at my grandmother’s house. She and I are pretty close. One day, snooping through her jewelry box, I found this ring and snagged it, thinking it was the prettiest thing I’d ever seen. I kept it for years, through various moves, truly thinking it was my grandmother’s engagement ring, deeply ashamed of having swiped it. My old job was located next to a jeweler—they tested the ring to discover that the diamond was a fake but the gold was real (although low-quality and not worth much). I developed theories about the ring. Was she given a fake? Was it a replica of her ring from the sixties? How did this fake engagement ring find its way into the back of a tiny drawer in my grandmother’s jewelry box?
When I finally got engaged for real, I went to tell the news to my grandmother. I decided it was a good time to come clean about my thievery at least a decade prior. Instead of being mad, she thought it was hilarious—apparently the ring had been my aunt’s…and no one had known that it wasn’t real! Drama! My aunt has been divorced for probably nearly 20 years, so it’s water under the bridge, but it’s still fascinating that this little bizarre artifact found its way into my hands. My grandmother laughed again and told my mother, “Imagine if she’d made off with a real diamond!” It was kind of a cute family moment.
My actual engagement ring is my mother’s from the nineties. We’re having the diamond reset into the ring (it was removed to be weighed & graded), and having the ring dipped by some sort of magic/alchemy to be white gold instead of yellow. It’s a marquise cut with tiny chip diamonds along the sides—my totally unique dream ring. But for now, I’ve got my fakey to help everything feel real.
In any case, thanks, Etsy, for making my engagement dreams come true, Mom, for saving her ring to pass down to me, and Grandma/Aunt Michelle for helping keep me sane while I wait for my ring for another week.