So, it has come to this. The last article. After two and a half years, my weekly column runs one last time. It’s hard to believe that after all this time I will leave behind The Catalyst and Colorado College in two weeks. So the one final question to ask is what truly are my picks?
I could have given you a list, but that’s a lousy sendoff. So I may just ramble until I hit my word limit and give you an idea. I will not give you my lifetime picks because I’m not leaving life, I’m leaving college, and how could I truly and unequivocally tell you that I will love this song and artist forever.
What is my favorite album from all of college? Well, I loved Yeezus with its disruptive tear into rap music by its loudest figurehead, but that fell to second in 2013 to Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of The City with its pondering of God and the perils of love.
When I entered college, I made friends listening to Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange. That album made R&B cool again, as well as thought-provoking. Then came good kid, m.A.A.d city, an album that flipped gang banging from trigger happy bravado to terrorism in our cities traumatizing the poor.
Last year, Kendrick Lamar upped the stakes against an already incredible piece of work with To Pimp A Butterfly. I chose that album as last year’s number one not only because it was a masterpiece, but because it reflected current racial tension in this country. But that wasn’t my favorite of last year. That was Jamie XX’s In Colour, an impeccable electronic masterwork full of moving parts and the summation of the feeling of loneliness.
And there were others I loved too: Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience Part 1, Tame Impala’s Currents, Earl Sweatshirt’s Doris, Disclosure’s Settle, Taylor Swift’s 1989, etc. This list could go on and on and a clear favorite may never come.
What was my favorite song? In 2013, it was Earl Sweatshirt & Frank Ocean’s pouty, off-beat “Sunday.” In 2014, it was Sam Smith’s choral, emotional “Stay With Me.” In 2015, it was the anthemic, soaring, layered “Loud Places,” by Jamie XX and bandmate Romy.
But I question my picks of any of those lists. Vic Mensa’s “Down on My Luck” blew my mind as rap, pop, and house all collided in one song. Vampire Weekend’s “Hannah Hunt” is poetic and wails its way through the bridge. Find me one person who will not automatically bust a move to Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.” As I wander further into adulthood in these last two weeks, how do I not connect to Courtney Barnett’s “Depreston.” Even this year, there was the gospel of Kanye West and Chance The Rapper’s “Ultra Light Beam.”
Who was my favorite artist? Well, Kanye West gets mentioned almost every article because no matter what your opinion is on the guy it is undeniable how much he has changed music, and I do not just mean rap. If you take the perspective of rap pre-and post-College Dropout and every Kanye article that came after it, the genre would essentially split in half.
But two rappers practically made their mainstream debuts my first year at CC: Kendrick Lamar and Chance The Rapper. Both rappers come from the crime-riddled cities of Compton and Chicago, respectively, and work to progress our understanding of race, crime, and poverty. Kendrick is the radical poet agonizing over the fear of violence and destruction, and Chance is the youth preacher begging us as a people to strive for a better tomorrow.
There is Diplo, who is not a super-producer, but a master producer with whom I share a hometown. He has made the energetic and overwhelming music of Major Lazer and Jack U, but he also produces incredible rap and pop songs. Right now you are all listening to Beyonce’s “Hold Up” and “All Night” produced by the man formerly known as Wesley Pentz.
And to an extent, there is Ariana Grande who I would argue is the best pop singer, not songwriter, we have seen in the last 10 years. Or even Taylor Swift who has created a perfect pop album.
I go to these extents to say there is no Nick’s pick. Music always changes. When I was in middle school, I would say my favorite song was The White Stripe’s “Seven Nation Army,” but I would hardly agree with that now. I could never pick one and I could never make a list.
Music has overwhelmingly become a sport of who is better, who gets better reviews, and who sells more. Yes, there are some artists who are great and some who are terrible. Every great artist is great for their own reason that other artists cannot beat. Kanye West is not Vampire Weekend and vice versa. There is no one version of greatness and thus I can not give you one pick.