A playlist to celebrate Black History Month.
DIANA ROSS AND THE SUPREMES – “You Can’t Hurry Love” – as described by carlos valladares
It’s easy to underrate the subtle brilliance of a Motown/Supremes song. The crisp arrangements (James Jamerson’s fat bass exists in a league of its own), Lady Di’s vocal assurance, and the universal lyrics all combine to create bite-sized masterpieces of 2-minute-pop. But for sheer emotional punch, nothing beats “You Can’t Hurry Love,” about the frustrations one girl faces when she can’t find that special someone. The other day, when it came up on my Spotify Shuffle, it was like I was really understanding it for the first time. And I cried. And it was wonderful.
NINA SIMONE – “I Shall Be Released” – as described by elisabeth dee
Nina Simone might be known for her hit “Feeling Good,” but she is arguably one of the most important artists and activists in the 20th century. With songs such as “Mississippi Goddamn” (written in response to the murder of Medgar Evans), “Backlash Blues”, “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free”, “To Be Young, Gifted, And Black”, and her album “Old Jim Crow”, she challenged the status quo though her music. She sang “Mississippi Goddamn” for 40,000 people at the end of the Selma to Montgomery marches. Her voice is sorrow and hope and resilience.
TIMOTHY BLOOM – ” ‘Til The End Of Time ft. V” — zane hellmann
Beautiful voices. Beautiful bodies. Beautiful week for both.
MADISEN WARD AND THE MAMA BEAR — “Silent Movies” — as described by sebastian le bras
There’s something undeniably charming about this mother-son folk duo. They sound like pecan pie on a lazy Sunday; seeping warm fuzzies into your being.
STEVIE WONDER — “Sir Duke” — as described by samantha bloom
Stevie Wonder is always good—but “Sir Duke” is particularly great because it is a tribute to prominent Jazz legends. The jazziness is reflected in the sound but also in the intricate lyrics. You can feel it all over.
DEQN SUE – “Magenta” – as described by sasha perigo
DeQn Sue fittingly describes herself as a “Southern-Angeleno belle.” The musician and songwriter splits her time between Los Angeles and Alabama, and claims that despite her alternative R&B sound, she was first trained musically in church. “Magenta” is her most popular track, an upbeat song about complexity of emotion that’s guaranteed to make you smile. Sue has gained recognition recently after being featured on NPR’s tiny desk in late 2015, and is definitely an artist to watch in 2016.
CHILDISH GAMBINO – “Sunrise” – as described by lila thulin
I love this song for its quick-witted lyrics (and because its beat is insistently cheerful enough to get me through homework-loaded Sunday nights). “Always workin’, no vacation/They couldn’t feel me, no vocation/Murder verses the only motive was motivation” are such slick lines. The slew of alliteration and rhyme! The pun about painkillers! This song is a poetry lesson.
WHITNEY HOUSTON – “The Star Spangled Banner” – as described by madelyne xiao
My tribute to the fiftieth anniversary of a certain sporting event. Gaga tried, but there’s no outdoing Whitney and that voice…
OUTKAST – “Ms. Jackson” – as described by auden ehringer
I don’t know if you have ever listened to this song and rapped it, but I dare you to try. You’ll probably have to listen to it forever, forever ever, forever ever, if you want to get it just right.
D’ANGELO – “The Charade” – as described by anthony milki
Like many others from Black Messiah, the sonics on this track definitely didn’t gratify right off the bat. But waits are often worth it, and this is the most representative cut off of a pretty momentous musical achievement.
A TRIBE CALLED QUEST – “Luck of Lucien” – as described by katie nesser
A Tribe Called Quest pay tribute to French MC and fellow Zulu Nation member Lucien Revolucien, but mostly just end up joking about him being French. It’s playful, danceable, and really funny if you still think the idea of eating snails is laughable (I do).
SAMPHA — “Too Much” — as described by sophia laurenzi
Same song title and featured artist as the Drake song, but better. Sampha holds notes and rests so expertly that every moment of “Too Much” is one of connection and anticipation. You don’t need anything but keys and vocals when both are clean, raw, and beautiful.
JANELLE MONÁE feat. ERYKAH BADU — “Q.U.E.E.N.” — as described by alejandra salazar
With the blessing of Miss Erykah Badu and a funky bassline driving the beat, Janelle goes in. She’s unapologetic about her politics, thrives in her black womanhood — “March to the streets ‘cause I’m willing and able; categorize me and I defy every label,” she declares in her magnificent closing verse — and if your feminism isn’t intersectional, the queen’s got no time for you.
BILLIE HOLIDAY – “What a Little Moonlight Can Do” – as described by bojan srb
Lady Day famously created new ways of using phrasing and tempo–innovations that made up for her limited range and lack of vocal education. Talk about a metaphor for the savoir-faire of the oppressed.
Image from here.