Nandita talks for a while: Albums of the summer

Nandita Kumar, Staffer

Volume 71, Issue 1

October 3, 2022

Every summer, at least one musician gives us an album to obsess over, and 2022 was no different. Kendrick Lamar, Beyonce, Bad Bunny, Denzel Curry, Steve Lacey, Harry Styles and Lizzo all released hugely successful albums, along with more singles than anyone could count. Below are some of my quick reviews of this summer’s new music. 

Although it came out about four months ago, “Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers” by Kendrick Lamar still sits at the front of my memory. This album feels so different from his others, but nevertheless maintains the quality, specificity, and thoughtfulness we see in all his projects. In the album, Kendrick talks about his relationship to Christianity, his partner, his family and his friends. He makes a real effort to portray perspectives outside of his own, often using playlike scripts as the creative focus. The music itself is reminiscent of his past projects, with a more modern spin that suits the lyrical content. If you like more experimental forms of rap and R&B, this album is for you.

Beyonce’s “Renaissance” is a party album through and through, with few slower exceptions. The songs sit very high, at around 120 BPM. If, like me, that number means almost nothing to you, think “I Feel Love” by Donna Summers (which she samples at the album’s conclusion). Beyonce moves quickly from one track to the next, working with fast, roughly mixed sounds that reminded me a lot of Solange’s “When I Get Home.” If you like bold, in your face, powerful music, you’ll love “Renaissance.”

Of all this summer’s albums, Bad Bunny’s “Un Verano Sin Ti” is the hardest for me to be objective about. Everything about this album reminds me of summer. It’s vibrant and exciting to listen to, and combines so many different types of Latin music. From Dominican dembow, mambo and bachata, to Carribean reggaetón, reggae and bomba, to romantiqueo, “Un Verano Sin Ti” takes it all, and makes a cohesive and brilliant album that, more than anything, is fun to listen to. If you like reggaeton pop, I hope you listen to this and become as obsessed as I am with Bad Bunny. 

Steve Lacey’s “Gemini Rights” was a combination of smooth synthy soul, rock and R&B, pulling slight influence from his past two releases, “The Lo-Fi’s,” and “Apollo XXI.” Listened to in order, none of his songs flow into the next. Each was distinctive, with its own personality and combination of various different musical influences. Lacey has made a point to not pitch or contort his voice into something it’s not, and that’s part of the fun in listening to him. It sounds like he’s belting his emotions as they arrive on the scene, and not a minute before. This album is unlike anything I’ve ever heard before, and deserves a listen, regardless of what music you’re into. 

Harry Styles’s “Harry’s House,” is a pop rock inspired album with easy acoustic lows and riotous electric highs. It’s an album that everyone can get on board with, with supportive and soothing lyrics that, in his words, are what a day inside his home would feel like. Style’s pulls influence from bands like The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and Pink Floyd, with a balance of more sober and introspective lyricism we haven’t seen from him in the past. If you’re into pop, I would give this album a try.

Lizzo’s album “Special” walks deeper into the realm of pop-funk, but maintains its Missy Elliot Lauryn Hill Beyonce roots and influence. With songs like “About Damn Time,” and “2 Be Loved,” Lizzo maintains her ability to make hugely popular danceable music, while emphasizing a message that’s important to her. The tempo and sound of the album feel very similar to songs like “Juice,” with welcome new instrumentals and orchestral solos. With this album, Lizzo once again chooses not to take the easy route, and extends beyond her realm of comfort. Lizzo stands at the intersection of sorock, funk, R&B, disco, rap, or anything really, you should give her a listen. many genres that it’s hard to categorize her; but if you like pop, rock, funk, R&B, disco, rap, or anything really, you should give her a listen.

Denzel Curry experiments with clashing themes, beats, and lyrics in his new album “Melt Your Eyez.” His album plays like a SoundCloud mixtape, with varied tones and expressions, but a cohesive and well rounded theme. If Outkast and Slowthai were brothers, Curry would be the middle child. This album exists somewhere between rap, R&B, jazz, and electronica. I can imagine angry screaming or happy screaming these lyrics, and that is the dynamic nature of Mr. Curry. If you like alternative rap, you should listen to “Melt your Eyez.”

The number of singles that were released this summer could make up a few albums of their own, with songs from Rosalia, Normani, Kali Uchis, Joji, Pharell, Gorrillaz and hundreds more. Much like the albums of the summer, these songs are brilliant, well rounded and great additions to any playlist. Songs like “NO HAY LEY,” “Cash In Cash Out,” “DESPECHÁ” and “New to You” are fast paced, easy listens that everyone should take a moment to hear. Regardless of genre preference, the albums and singles released this summer provided something for every audience, and I hope you will listen to and enjoy some of these albums as much as I do.