Every week, members of the Vulture staff highlight the best new music of 2015. If the song is worthy of your ears and attention, you will find it here. Read our picks below, share yours in the comments, and subscribe to the Vulture 2015 Playlist for a comprehensive guide to the year's best music.
I’m worried that in the end I’ll never know, not really, what I think about Dr. Dre’s new album, Compton, released earlier this month as the official soundtrack to the new (and increasingly, and rightly, controversial) N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton. Here is a partial list of the things I think I do know: I know that the drums on almost every track are characteristically Dre, a study in perfected slap and kick. I know that the distention and wooziness that stretch across the album double as a subtle reminder that several of the qualities now commonly attributed to southern rap have their provenance in and around Los Angeles County. I know that the album is also a testament to the mogul’s ear for talent, ever true: Some of Compton’s most electric moments come by way of old protégés — Eminem, Kendrick, the Game — and promising unknowns like the Bilal-reminiscent Anderson .Paak. I know that Dre, sort of miraculously, can still really rap.
As you probably saw last night, Tori Kelly sings runs that can melt your face off. The 22-year-old YouTube-bred pop star can turn every Yeah into an endless, acrobatic Yeaaaeeeeaaaaaeeeaaooahaaoaoaoah, as if she has an entire gospel choir living in her throat. She got her start deploying that signature melisma doing cover songs on her video channel, where none other than megamanager Scooter Braun reportedly spotted her and added her to his client list.
Along with Scooter, I've been watching. Repeat viewings of every video on Kelly's channel (not to mention her cheerful urban-pop earworm “Nobody Love”) have convinced me that she can sing anything — literally anything — and make it sound incredible. (Her cover of a Paramore song even made me like a Paramore song for one minute. One.) I wondered if I could survive one of those runs at close range, if my skin would maintain its physical form. So, I emailed her PR team: “Hey, I kind of want Tori to melt my face off. Would she sing karaoke with me?” To my surprise, her management said yes.
Hours after making their public debut as a couple at the VMAs — with the rest of the Kardashian-Jenner fam, of course — Kylie Jenner and Tyga cemented their recently legal relationship in video form. Just after the show, Tyga released his video for "Stimulated," a song off his new mixtape in which he shrugs off any wrongdoing with Kylie before she turned 18. The controversial lyric: "They say she's young, I should've waited / She a big girl, dog, when she stimulated." It seems Kylie's cool with what Tyga's implying because she stars in the song's video, in which the two get cozy on a balcony for all the world (and paparazzi) to see. If you're still grossed out by the whole affair, join the club.
In 2013, Kanye West gave a spirited, instant-classic interview to former BBC Radio 1 host Zane Lowe. “I’ve reached a point in my life where my Truman Show boat has hit the painting,” he said, in perhaps the most frequently quoted bit of the segment. West was referring, of course, to the moment at the end of Peter Weir’s 1998 sophisticated dorm-room stoner drama when Jim Carrey’s character sails up to the wall at the end of the closed-off television set he’s taken for the real world, realizes its artificiality, and engages in a conversation with his “creator,” a TV producer played by Ed Harris. “Was nothing real?” Truman Burbank asks an omniscient voice he can’t see. “You were real,” the producer says. “That’s what made you so good to watch.”
Oh, 2015 VMAs: Was nothing real? I am both shocked and relieved to report that I actually believe a few things were: Bieber’s tears, Nicki’s swipes at Miley, O’Shea Jackson Jr.’s palpable embarrassment when his father was speaking to young people. And, of course, every word (and every prolonged silence!) uttered by the 2020 president of the United States, Kanye West. In retrospect, it seems like he called it a few years too early: Last night, at the 2015 VMAs, was when Kanye’s Truman Show boat officially hit the painting. “I still don’t understand awards shows,” he said in the middle of the best TED Talk I’ve ever seen, a meandering, exhilaratingly freewheeling speech accepting the night’s Video Vanguard award from Taylor Swift. At first, the pairing seemed like a staged, slightly stilted act of televised public reconciliation, not unlike the one Swift and her former Twitter sparring partner Nicki Minaj participated in during the show’s opening number: Swift did a cute, rehearsed, inevitably groan-worthy “Imma let you finish” joke, and West seemed to be gearing up for a public apology. “I think if I had to do it all again,” he said, referring to the night six years ago when he swiped the award out of Swift’s hands, “What would I have done?” But then he did something so much better than answering that question: He steered the boat straight into the wall. “You know how many times MTV ran that footage again because it got them more ratings? You know how many times [tonight] they announced Taylor was presenting the award because it got more ratings?” What a thrill to hear someone speaking from the heart, to listen to an artist unafraid to let us in on the process of exactly how his thoughts come together, to watch a show that had been intermittently frustrating and boring us all night suddenly collapse in on itself.
As part of VMA Day, Biebs unspooled the main video for "What Do You Mean?" (you can watch the lyric video here). This one is kind of like David Fincher's The Game, except it's a five-minute music vid about a really cool, intricate date, instead of a 129-minute movie about a really cool, intricate birthday. Also, skateboards and John Leguizamo in place of Michael Douglas and Sean Penn.
That song Miley closed out the VMAs with? It's part of a surprise new album with the Flaming Lips, Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz, which she just dropped for free, and you can stream it both on her website and below. It features Big Sean, Ariel Pink, her faithful producer Mike Will Made-It, her dad Billy Ray Cyrus, and more. And she's already got a vibrant video for its trap-heavy first single, "Dooo It!":
Miley Cyrus's big night hosting the 2015 Video Music Awards came and went. As much as it was about her and her zany getups (or lack thereof), it was also not really about her. It was about the nominees, like Beyoncé (who was nominated in five categories), Taylor Swift (up for nine), Ed Sheeran (up for six), and Kanye West (who received the Vanguard Award and casually announced he'd be running for President). But mostly, it was about the over-the-top performances and crazy moments — like Nicki Minaj calling out Miley her, Bieber staging his comeback, and T-Swift debuting "Wildest Dreams." But back to the awards, because people actually did win things: Fall Out Boy started the night off, snatching the first Moon Man for Best Rock Video; T. Swift won an award before the show even started (get used to it); and 5 Seconds of Summer, coincidentally, won the VMA's Song of Summer with "She's Kinda Hot." The big winners? Well, there weren't many surprises — see below.
The music video for T. Swift's "Wildest Dreams," the fifth single from 1989, premiered during the 2015 VMAs, and it was as intense as you might have expected. Like "Bad Blood," it's a cinematic extravaganza that feels like a movie slammed into four minutes (both were directed by Joseph Kahn). It also features Scott Eastwood kicking a barrel, the biggest yellow dress you'll ever see, and a ton of animals that are evidently huge Swifties.
In 1967, during his period of convalescence, Bob Dylan and the band that would eventually become the Band recorded more than 100 tracks in an upstate New York house now known as the Big Pink. Dylan & Co. would whittle those tracks down to his seminal 1975 double LP The Basement Tapes, an album essentially written and recorded in a pink-hued void, cut off from modern pop music. You can now rent that void for the low price of $650 a night, for a minimum of two nights. The house currently has a perfect five-star rating, based on five reviews. Sadly, the posting says "the basement is not included in the rental," but a futon is, so if you ever wanted to write an album called The Futon Tapes, now’s your chance.
Drake closed out Lil Wayne's Lil WeezyAna Festival last night, which, as the portmanteau in the name implies, took place in New Orleans. It was a charity concert to benefit kids affected by Hurricane Katrina, and the whole concert was streamed via Tidal. But when Drake took the stage, rotten Apple intervened and the video went dead, following the company's threat of a $20 million lawsuit if Drake's two-song performance streamed on Tidal's rival music service. As "Page Six" reports, lawyers were called in because Drake has an exclusive deal with Apple Music said to be worth up to $19 million. Drake ultimately prevailed, however, and you can now stream his performance below, or watch the whole concert via Mr. World Premiere.
In his new video for “Tell Your Friends,” Abel Tesfaye — better known as the Weeknd — buries a man alive against a desert horizon at dusk. As he finishes the job and strides through the desolate landscape in step with the song’s slurry, slow-motion pace (“Tell Your Friends” sounds, somehow, like if “Benny and the Jets” were a Drake song), the camera looks up at him from his feet, like he’s a larger-than-life antihero in a John Ford movie. At some point, another person approaches; Tesfaye draws his gun without effort and shoots them down. The video offers no narrative explanation as to why he does this — I guess we’re supposed to assume that he’s the kind of guy who’d shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die. “This ain’t the right time for you to fall in love with me,” Tesfaye will warn with a bluesy swagger a little later in this record, The Beauty Behind the Madness, but by then we’ve gotten the message: This guy is bad news, baby. It wouldn’t be any clearer if he were wearing a black hat.
Patti Smith Celebrates Electric Lady’s 45th Birthday by Playing Horses, Spitting on Her Celeb-Heavy CrowdBy Jada Yuan
Patti Smith is 68, and she gives negative fucks what you think. As it should be. On Wednesday night, punk’s poet laureate tore into the mic and spat on multiple audience members, including me and Proenza Schouler’s Jack McCollough, while playing her 1975 debut, Horses, from front to back. She recorded the classic album 40 years ago at Electric Lady Studios, the recording palace Jimi Hendrix opened exactly 45 years ago, just one month before his death. Watching Smith and three-quarters of her original band, including guitarist Lenny Kaye and drummer Jay Dee Daugherty, blaze through Horses live wasn’t a one-off experience; Smith has already been touring the globe doing just that, and will be coming back to New York’s Beacon Theatre on November 10 for a similar show. (She'll also be touring with her new book, M Train, a collection of essays about her travels.) But there was something about being surrounded by Electric Lady's ghosts that seemed to energize the singer.
Hot off a remix from Fetty Wap, New York City club-pop duo the Knocks keep the momentum going with a video for their disco gem (and previous Song of the Week pick) "Collect My Love." The song and video are anchored by the charisma of Alex Newell, best remembered for playing Glee's first transgender character, Unique. With its setting at famed party spot China Chalet and its cameos from rising drag stars Aquaria and Daphne Sumtimez, the Austin Peters–directed video gives a rapturous glimpse into Downtown Manhattan's underground club culture.
"He did a great job capturing the energy of Alex's performance and the energy of our favorite part of New York City," DJ B-Roc says of Peters. Newell especially delivers a showstopping turn as the Chalet's dance queen, putting his sky-high vocal range center stage — while wearing a flower crown and sequins, natch. Consider this your Friday night slay-spiration.
The music video for Justin Bieber's "What Do You Mean" surfaced earlier than planned Thursday night — and what a treat it is. The song sounds like what would happen if you took Steve Aoki's alarm clock to a tropical beach resort. (In other words, electro-catchy as hell.) And although the accompanying video doesn't really go with the lyrics, it's fun to watch — like the visual artists who do Disclosure's stuff had at a Tony Hawk video game featuring Ryan Sheckler, Chelsea Castro, and the Biebs as the only playable characters. Sorry, no Bam Margera, but how badly have you wanted to see Justin Bieber do a nollie flip? Doesn't matter! He does one here, with 50 percent clothes and 100 percent bad-itude. Enjoy:
There is no album more anticipated than Adele's follow-up to 2011's diamond-certified 21. And, according to Billboard, the wait is nearly over: The magazine reports that she plans to release her third album this November. Their information comes straight from her label, XL Records, which had previously denied rumors that Adele would put out an album last year. The singer, however, was thought to have teased a new project, tentatively titled 25, on Twitter last May. As expected, details are scarce, but Billboard confirms that Danger Mouse, Max Martin, Ryan Tedder, and Tobias Jesso Jr. have each contributed to the album — though it remains to be seen what'll make the finished product. We're personally holding out for an Adele–Stevie Nicks duet.
In Barry Levinson's Rock the Kasbah, Bill Murray plays a cantankerous, on-the-outs record producer who insists he's still got it. (He doesn't.) It's sort of a play on his 1970s SNL character Jerry Aldini. Murray accidentally becomes a talent scout for Afghanistan's version of American Idol and goes on one of those wacky trips during which he experiences zany antics and eventually an epiphany. The movie also features Zooey Deschanel, Kate Hudson, Danny McBride, and Bruce Willis. No word yet if the shareef don't like it.
Black Keys front man Dan Auerbach has a new band, the Arcs, and their debut album is streaming now via NPR. The Arcs' debut album is called Yours, Dreamily, and it has a more loosey-goosey psychedelic feel to it than the Keys' blues-rock. Auerbach has said of the album, “I wanted everything to flow [and] be cohesive. A lot of the songs bleed one into the other, a lot like the Grateful Dead — my favorite records that they did. So I’ve got a lot of connected songs. It’s basically everything I love about music all wrapped up into one record — that’s all!” The Arcs also consist of Truth and Soul Records founder Leon Michels, Black Keys touring bassist Richard Swift, Menahan Street Band member Homer Steinweiss, Amy Winehouse collaborator Nick Movshon, guitarist Kenny Vaughan, and an all-female mariachi band called Mariachi Flor de Toloache. Yours, Dreamily comes out on September 4.
"Times Square," the latest single from Destroyer's upcoming album Poison Season, has a trippy new stop-motion video. It feels like hitting a bowl with Wallace and Gromit. As singer-songwriter Dan Bejar croons to the screen, small, pot-smoking creatures made of moss, a chewing-gum monster, and a human brain with googly eyes dance laconically. Despite the song's title, New York's iconic hub of tourists and taxis barely appears in the video. The playful opening guitar recalls the Flaming Lips' "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots," but the mix of sultry-sad saxophones, jangly pianos, and Bejar's singular voice is completely Destroyer. "The writing on the wall / Isn't writing at all / Just forces of nature / In love with the weather station."
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