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“22 MINUTES LATER” by Brayton Bowman

By Jimmy Sears

With February’s departure and March’s arrival, for me, there’s always been an air of optimism this time of the year. Spring beckons, midterms are over (whether we did well or not), we’ve reached the half-way mark, and baseball returns. As spring blooms, so do budding artists; Brayton Bowman being one such. The 22-year-old artist reminds us that, as humans, we are always a work-in-progress in terms of learning who we are. Inspired by musicians such as Amy Winehouse and Stevie Wonder, Bowman describes his sound as pop music we are not used to, but to be more specific, it could also be called “90s-R&B-influenced electronic music.” This week we’ll look at “22 MINUTES LATER,” which was released on February 24.

The album opens with “WORRY TOO MUCH (INTRO),” where Bowman introduces himself as a 22-year-old who “worries too much.” The track is a story about feeling regret, yet marching on despite these circumstances. There’s a philosophy that states that if one has or lacks the power to fix a problem, then he or she should not worry, which seems to be at play here. The song also describes the insecurities despite “feeling strong,” which I’m positive we’ve all felt at some point. The instrumental includes smooth piano play along with rhythmic drum beats. Both elements complement each other to make for a strong opening track that ends with the declaration that Bowman will “keep on writing these songs.” It seamlessly transitions into “PUFF PUFF PASS,” which, if the title didn’t give it away, is about relaxing while smoking weed to de-stress and forget about the struggles of everyday life.  The voices change their pitch and sound throughout to possibly represent the drug’s effects along with psychedelic beats to create the illusion of being under the influence.

Throughout the album, claps and snaps are heard and share a similar beat to “WORRY TOO MUCH,” which, while it doesn’t particularly bother me, it makes me wish Bowman put more variety into his sound to show us what he’s really capable of. But, for now, this is a solid album, so I’d definitely recommend checking out “22 MINUTES LATER.”

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“Nu Religion: HYENA” by THEY.

By Joel Mcrae

After a steady release of highly-acclaimed singles over the past year, Los Angeles-based R&B duo THEY. have released their debut project, “Nu Religion: HYENA,” which is a heavy-hitting 14-track album with absolutely no boundaries. By slightly twisting the sex-pop formula of the likes of The Weeknd and Bryson Tiller and gritty guitar work, THEY. has managed to create a fluid fusion of hip-hop and R&B meshed with rock sensibilities in their debut release.

Long known as songwriters in the industry for major artists like Chris Brown and Kelly Clarkson, vocalist Drew Love and producer Dante Jones made the decision to venture further than their mainstream pop songwriting and delve into the world of R&B for themselves. The self-professed “Grunge&B” duo has hit the mark on “Nu Religion: HYENA,tackling more than the usual sex-drenched R&B piece and touching on subjects like police brutality, the “Black Lives Matter” movement and self-loathing. That isn’t to say that the album goes without brooding, sex-fixated tracks however, as can be proven by provocative songs like “All,” “Deep End” and “Bad Habits” to name a few.

Drawing inspiration from 90s grunge bands like Nirvana along with mainstream R&B acts like Drake, THEY. flawlessly fused genres with several bass-rattling, guitar-laced tracks like “What You Want,” “Motley Crew” and “Dante’s Creek.” The combination of thumping 808 hits, clean snares and deceptively dark guitar licks allow for the fusion of boundary-pushing music unlike any others before them. A clear stand-out track from the release is undoubtedly “Say When,” which is a fiery, mind-bending juxtaposition of modern trap and contemporary R&B with hints of punk rock sensibilities.

Luckily, “HYENA” is only the first installment of THEY.’s three-part “Nu Religion” album series, and we can only imagine the duo will go nowhere but up from here.

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“The Search for Everything: Wave Two” by John Mayer

By John Samuel Mecum

John Mayer has been a recording artist for over 15 years now. From his own solo ventures and side projects in the John Mayer Trio, to touring with Dead and Company last summer (along with 19 upcoming dates this year), Mayer has developed a catalog of a great variety. The variety shows with Mayer’s newest batch of songs from his latest release: “The Search for Everything: Wave Two.” It’s a four song EP and is the second in a series of monthly installments, leading up to the release of the 14-song album later in the spring.

The songs on “Wave Two” reflect sounds from various points in Mayer’s career. Soulful melodies and funky riffs reminiscent of his album “Continuum” take the forefront in songs such as “Still Feel Like Your Man” and “Helpless.” The song, “Emoji of a Wave” presents a delicate acoustic guitar that floats around beautiful harmonies and reflects the playful, yet clever and well-thought-out sounds of Mayer’s early work. The fourth and final track of the EP, “Roll it on Home,” feels like Mayer plucked it from his sessions for “Paradise Valleyand emits a very folky mid-western vibe.

Even with all four songs on “The Search for Everything” having their own unique qualities to them, the one thing that ties them all together is the lyrical content. All four songs deal with loss of love and the process of living with and getting over that loss. After a very public relationship and separation from singer Katy Perry, it’s apparent that Mayer is using his music to get through some feelings of love lost. If one thing is for certain about John Mayer and his music, it is that few things can be as inspiring as a broken heart.

 

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“Gang Signs and Prayer” by Stormzy

By Deja Kehinde

South London grime artist Stormzy delivers a diverse debut album entitled “Gang Signs and Prayer,” which allows himself to standout as not only a grime rapper, but also as a faith-driven artist capable of stepping outside of his comfort zone. Stormzy, known for delivering hard-hitting singles, lets listeners hear a new side of his artistry by singing on a couple tracks and expressing gospel messages throughout. The cover itself is a distorted representation of the last supper.

The album starts with what Stormzy calls “a punch in the face.” “First Things First” wakes people up to his talents as an MC, but he transitions to songs like “Blinded By Grace Pt. 1,” where he sings a nostalgic gospel song followed by the lead single, “Big For Your Boots.” Guests include Kehlani, Wretch 32, Ghetts and J Hus.

Overall, “Gang Signs and Prayer” is a great start for Stormzy, who has built quite the buzz for himself. Not only does the album help put grime rap on the map, but it also brings new approaches to his music.

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“The Chief” by Jidenna

By April Latham

Does anybody remember “Classic Man” and how big of a hit it was? Well that’s exactly how it feels to listen to Jidenna’s debut album, “The Chief.” Released February 17, it is already making news on social media. Just after listening to the first couple songs, I can already tell that this is a whole new side of Jidenna and I love it.

In the beginning of the album, the woman speaking tells Jidenna, “Jidenna, you are a stubborn bull…just like your father.” Already, that tells me that he is ready to prove something, and it’s that we’re in for greatness. We had a sample of the album from his hit single, “Long Live the Chief,” but little did we know that wasn’t going to be his best work. There are so many songs just as good or even better than LLTC that I felt like my head was going to explode.

A song that really stood out to me was “Helicopters/Beware.” They basically have the same meaning, but it’s told in two different styles and I find that so interesting. What I got out of it was that you need to be mindful of your surroundings and who you let in your circle. “Helicopters” is the hype part of the song, while “Beware” comes in to mellow everything out. All in all, I have to say that I am incredibly impressed with Jidenna’s debut album, and I’m excited to see where the future takes him.