- Jim Vaughey
Old(er) White Guy Listens to New Music
Updated: Mar 22
I am going to try to listen to all the albums that were nominated for the Best Album (Grammy) in 2023. Then rank them as I like them. As a person that leans into Singer/Songwriter and (non-Country) Americana, I am sure I will enjoy this as much as you will reading it. Which is to say maybe there will be something that surprises both of us? Because if there is one thing this world is in short supply of, it is the opinion of a middle-aged, straight, white guy? right? (ha)(oooph)
Italics means I have not listened to it yet.
Album of the Year
RENAISSANCE — Beyoncé
Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers — Kendrick Lamar
In These Silent Days — Brandi Carlile
Good Morning Gorgeous (Deluxe) — Mary J. Blige
30 — Adele
Special — Lizzo
Un Verano Sin Ti — Bad Bunny
Harry's House — Harry Styles — Winner
Voyage — ABBA
Music of the Spheres — Coldplay
Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers is much more interesting than Harry's House. There is a lot of language in Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers. A lot. Harry's House, in comparison was a little too vanilla for me. Normally, I love vanilla. And Harry Styles clearly has a lot of talent. But the songs in Harry's House just did not speak to me. Neither did the ones in Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, but I was more entertained by Kendrick Lamar's album
In These Silent Days by Brandi Carlile was next. More more in my comfort zone. I am battling many biases now. Things I like to listen to versus something outside my normal interests. I don't want to penalize Brandi Carlile for a genre I like and give extra credit to Kendrick Lamar out of fear that I am knocking it for being something I would not get at a record store. I still might give Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers a slight edge for its edginess. But I would probably buy Brandi Carlile's album in that imaginary record store if I had to choose. This boas question is going to get real tough when it gets to Coldplay.
30 by Adele. Adele can sing. There are some songs here that I enjoyed listening to. Maybe I am too old school in my thinking. There was a lot of talking in this album. More than I would like. Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers also had talking, but it felt like those were mini songs. I did not love it there either. When I think about these, I am listening to music but also how the songs go from one to the next and how much I like that grouping. I should note at this point, I did not hate the Harry Styles album. Just hat I have liked these first few better.
And then we crack open Voyage by ABBA. It sounds like vintage mellow ABBA. But then there seems to be Christmas music tucked in there. And one song where wonders if she is drunk? Is it fine? Of course, can you be nominated for junk? Probably not? But I can't see myself enjoying this mid-summer listening to songs that are mostly relevant in December. I think if you are an avid ABBA fan, this will be too low. For me, there wasn't anything to cling on to. Other than remembering that time I went to the ABBA museum gift shop. That is a good museum gift shop.
Special by Lizzo started off as a conversation with some funky music. So I was not too hopeful about where this was going. But then it got away from that. Or at least enough so that I did not notice it. My knowledge of Lizzo's life comes from this album. But whatever that relationship was that ended before this album as made ended poorly. I'll put this above Mr. Styles because there were some songs in there that felt like songs to me. The second half felt like an album. Oh, special message at the end, that brings back some good memories. Remember when cassette tapes had the surprise songs? That was awesome.
Good Morning Gorgeous (Deluxe) as performed by Mary J. Blige. This whole talking narrative thing, in an album, is really a thing these days. Maybe it has been for a long time, but not in the music I listen to. I have this under Brandi Carlile only because I think I would listen to that album more. Good Morning Gorgeous has been one of the few so far that has felt like an album. I enjoyed that. Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers is still at the top of my list though. It is still the most interesting of the bunch that stays within reach of what I think of as an album. Your definition may (ok, will) differ. If I were having a party, though, and I had to choose between Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar; I would choose Mary J. Blige 8 times out of 10. But that is not a main category in my listening to all these albums.
Unfortunately, for Un Verano Sin Ti by Bad Bunny, I took French in High School. And that was a long time ago, so my French is down to the point where I can only ask people where the library is. Or the pool. So if I visit France, I will be reading a lot while in a large unicorn pool float. This is all to say, I tried listening to this album, but did not get far because I did not understand what was being said. I enjoyed the music that I did hear.
Well, OK, I did not see that coming. I think I like RENAISSANCE by Beyoncé the best, so far. And seeing who is left, that is most likely not going to change. What was most enjoyable to me was the music in the background. If I were to talk about lyrics, I would remind you that I am a middle-aged white guy, so, they weren't things I could relate to. I think this was a more fun version of Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers. Kendrick Lamar took more risks, which I appreciated. Maybe what I am seeing now is that I liked Beyoncé's not as risk-taking approach. There were things I could still latch on to. I am sure she is going to be excited to read this. Hold on, I need to go get some aspirin. I gave myself a headache with the eyeroll I gave myself.
I tried to go into this last one with an open mind. I am aware that I am in the minority with not enjoying the music of Coldplay. Music of the Spheres did not change that. There were moments, then I realized it was because it reminded of other songs from the 70s. I am not a fan of the writing. I put this below Bad Bunny because I do enjoy the music of the Bad Bunny music. I just have no idea of what is being said. As opposed to the fact that I could understand the lyrics of Coldplay, and that made it worse for me. If you like or love Coldplay, I won't tell you that you are wrong. Just that I do not get it. Now that I am listening to Bad Bunny again, in a different mood, I might bump them up a little. I do think I like it better than Harry's House.
This exercise did remind me that my tastes in things are quite different from the popular opinions out there.