Recomended: NF, Perception
You could almost hear the collective gasp from New York and LA when Billboard magazine announced that NF’s third studio album, “Perception,” debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. While signed to Capitol CMG (Christian Music Group), NF’s mainstream credibility has been on the rise for years. His 464 million streams, non-stop touring schedule and featured spots in shows like HBO's “Ballers” has propelled him into new circles of influence. “Perception” was co-released with Universal Music Group’s independent distribution and marketing arm, Caroline.
With his aggressive cadence, Detroit roots, and Caucasian skin tone, NF can't help the comparison to Eminem. Make no mistake, he is his own artist.
While “Perception" is his most solid album to date, his most powerful song may have been on the rapper's previous release, “Therapy Session.” In the song, “How Could You Leave Us,” NF’s anger and pain are palpable as he speaks, cries, and yells at his mother who died of an overdose.
"I got this picture in my room and it kills me / But I don't need a picture of my mom, I need the real thing / Now a relationship is something we won't ever have / Why do I feel like I lost something that I never had? / You shoulda been there when I graduated / Told me you love me and congratulations / Instead you left us at the window waiting”
icymi (In case you missed it): Kesha, Praying
Kesha's "Praying" confronts her alleged abuser through her most powerful work.
Long before Hollywood actresses came forward with their horrific stories of alleged sexual abuse at the hands of Harvey Weinstein, Kesha fought her own public battle against her alleged abuser, superstar producer Dr. Luke. In 2014, Kesha sued Dr. Luke seeking to void their contracts because of how he "sexually, physically, verbally, and emotionally abused [Kesha] to the point where [she] nearly lost her life.” The court eventually ruled against her and the video of her sobbing in court is heartbreaking. Eventually, Kesha got back in the studio (Sony allowed her to stop working with Dr. Luke and record directly for Sony) and channeled her pain into her art.
In July she released “Praying,” her first single since the ruling. The song is a revelation and possibly Kesha’s finest work. The song begins with the singer confronting her alleged abuser, “Cause you brought the flames, and you put me through hell / I had to learn how to fight for myself / And we both know all the truth I could tell / I’ll just say this is ‘I wish you farewell.'" In the second verse she takes back her identity: "I'm proud of who I am / No more monsters, I can breathe again / And you said that I was done / Well, you were wrong and now the best is yet to come.
In this era of women bravely coming forward with their own stories of sexual abuse, “Praying” is a beautiful reminder that good can triumph over evil and owning your story is a powerful weapon.
Music that people will be talking about this month.
Sam Smith, The Thrill of It All / November 3 / Capitol
It has been a while since we’ve heard anything from Sam Smith. After mistakenly taking credit for being the first openly gay person to receive an Oscar, he signed off social media and took a long break from the spotlight.
Smith came back in September with the song, “Too Good at Goodbyes.” The single quickly gained traction shooting up charts around the world. This success had the public expecting another hit. However, his second single, “Pray” has not even cracked Spotify's Top 50 songs.
The early word is that the album is a nice collection of songs, but lacks the hit tracks that his previous album was known for.
Taylor Swift, Reputation / November 10 / Big Machine
Anytime Taylor Swift does anything, it’s news. And when she releases a new album, it’s nearly a national holiday for half of the country. Her last album, 1989 was a pop classic that earned her a Grammy for Album of the Year. This time around though, things could be different for T-Swift. Her first single “Look What You Made Me Do” from her upcoming album “Reputation” is a major left turn. With production from the 90s duo Right Said Fred, the song is an aggressive attack on her "enemies." Critics and social media panned the single and called the singer self-absorbed and out of touch. However, Swift's fans proved they're willing to follow her in this new direction. Immediately, the song went to number one. Currently, it has 210 million streams on Spotify, and the video has almost 600 million YouTube views. Love it or hate it, the hype around “Look What You Made Me Do” just proves that “Reputation” will be the most talked about album of the year.
Mavis Staples, If I Was Black / November 17 / Anti
Don't sleep on Mavis Staples just because she's 78 years old. As part of The Staple Singers and as a friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, she became one of the spiritual and musical voices of the civil rights movement. Her life experience around social justice combined with her unmistakable voice gives her a platform to speak into today’s crisis.
Staples’ new album, “If I Was Black,” is produced by fellow Chicagoan and Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy. The album's lead single, “Little Bit,” is a rootsy, stripped-down, bluesy track that is sonically a throwback to the 60s, while lyrically it speaks to the issues that America, and in particular African Americans, are facing today.