Ariana Grande’s ‘thank u, next’: what the people are saying

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the couple years, Ariana Grande is on top of the world and it looks like she isn’t slowing down anytime soon. The superstar pop singer has just released her latest album Thank U, Next, which follows up her 4th studio album Sweetener by 6 months.

According to Ariana, the album was inspired by a variety of events that have occured in her personal life including the passing of ex-boyfriend Mac Miller and breaking up with her ex-fiance Pete Davidson.

Before the album was released, Grande dropped the titular single “Thank U, Next” as well as “7 Rings”. Both of these tracks debuted at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 with huge numbers on streaming services. Grande then released the full album on February 8th, 2019 to the delight of fans and critics alike.

What the critics are saying

As is tradition when any big artist releases a new album, the Internet and the many music websites out there go absolutely crazy for it. Ariana Grande’s new album is no exception to this point.

USA Today had very high praise for the album, saying “thank u, next is markedly darker and sexier – leaning fully into Grande’s penchant for R&B, as she sings 12 of her most confessional songs yet”. They also described the project as her best and most confessional album yet. They gave huge praise to tracks including “ghostin”, “NASA”, and “in my head”, so be sure to check those out.

Another news outlet, The Guardian, had similar praise for the album, calling it “a break-up album of wit and wonder”. They also said that Grande has finally found her voice as an artist and has started showing people more of who she really is. The Guardian summed the project up beautifully, saying “As with Rihanna’s Anti, this feels like the work of a pop star previously happy to act as conduit for other people, finally working out who they are and what they want to say. Here, Grande finds her voice”.

What the fans are saying

To be completely honest, Ariana Grande’s fans are some of the most hardcore and supportive in all of music. They ride for her like no other. It’s obvious that she’s going to receive a huge amount of love from them. One fan on Twitter even went far enough as to say that the project had no skippable songs. Each was amazing in its own right.

Another user had more positive feedback on the album. They said that the growth that Grande showed on the project is incredible. Possibly the most noteworthy tweet about the album said “thank u next is the album we’ve always wanted from her”.

Other fans didn’t have such positive praise for the album. One fan even ranked Thank U, Next as Ariana’s second worst album. There wasn’t an explanation why, but it’s an interesting take given all of the other praise out there.  

Want to see more fan feedback on the album? You can search “thank u next” on Twitter or Instagram and be absolutely flooded with results. That’s how polarizing Grande is as an artist.  

Should you listen?

If it isn’t completely obvious yet, you should give this album a listen. Even if you aren’t necessarily into pop music, this is a piece of work that you absolutely should give the time of day to. It is stunningly emotional, deep, and revealing. This is an artist that put her personal business and thoughts out there in a beautiful way. If you do listen to the album, hit me up with your thoughts in the comment section.

The Plight of LeBron James

Another NBA trade deadline has come and gone. It featured no shortage of trades by title-hopefuls looking to solidify their spots as legitimate contenders. A flurry of activity saw Tobias Harris sent to Philadelphia, Marc Gasol shipped across the border up north to Toronto, and Nikola Mirotic land in Milwaukee. While many other trades took place, these could perhaps be argued as the most influential on playoff outcomes come this April. Yet, the biggest trade most everyone was following this past week failed to materialize past initial negotiations. Anthony Davis remains rooted in New Orleans, and the Lakers ended up with only Mike Muscala to show for all the drama.

This latest development in Lakerland highlights an eerily similar story arc for LeBron James as of late. During his final two seasons on the Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron lobbied hard for his front office to try and land stars such as Eric Bledsoe, Kemba Walker, and Paul George. Unable to complete any of LeBron’s desired trades, the Cavaliers were left with a disgruntled team of misfits who only made the NBA Finals riding the coattails of LeBron’s greatness. 

What about this time?

Now, once again, LeBron James finds himself on a team full of young players. They know their fearless leader and team management eagerly anticipated trading them for a preferred superstar but failed to find the right deal. This clear awkwardness has ascended to the point of rival fans raining Lakers players with chants of “LeBron’s gonna trade you!” I’m no expert, but my guess is this negatively impacts team chemistry. Pair this with rumors of LeBron James’ displeasure with head coach Luke Walton, and the James could be poised to miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2004-05 season. 

This latest saga of LeBron’s bungled attempt to build himself a better team highlights another fascinating aspect to the problem. Despite LeBron’s status as a mega-millionaire with influence that spans the globe and many powerful friends, he still sits (for now, at least) a tier beneath billionaire NBA franchise owners. And these billionaires are neither too familiar nor comfortable with being told what to do. When Pelicans ownership and management is informed their supposed franchise cornerstone wants out through a series of smokescreens, leaked lists, and demands, it’s not surprising they decide to play hardball and deny LeBron’s and Anthony Davis’s wishes.

The future

This leaves us at an interesting spot in the later stages of LeBron James’s career. If he learned anything from his time trying to play general manager in the free agent market in years past, it should be to stay away from it. As LeBron’s career begins to wind down and he desires to win more championships, attempting to finagle the trade market will not lead to success. It remains to be seen whether or not Anthony Davis will eventually suit up in a Lakers uniform, but this much is for sure: LeBron James has failed on another trade deadline. And if he doesn’t learn fast, he might not get the chance to win in June ever again.

Artist Spotlight: CJSleeves

Here at K-UTE, we make it a point to support our local artists of all genres. We believe that each and every one of these artists has something to bring to the table and has a chance at success. One such artist that is particularly talented is Provo, Utah’s CJSleeves. The young rapper has a lot of potential and definitely deserves to be listened to by a large audience.  

Background  

If you are unfamiliar with CJSleeves, you won’t be for long. According to the man himself, he got his rap name by using his initials of CJ and adding “sleeves” after a teammate on his high school basketball team referred to the sleeves that would show under his jersey during games. Sleeves also likes to say that the latter part of his name refers to the fact that he is very honest in his music and “wears his heart on his sleeves”.

CJSleeves first started writing music in 7th grade, but didn’t really take it as serious until his high school years. One of the biggest things that he thought of when starting to make music was that he wanted to have the effect on others that his favorite artists left on him while he was growing up. Some of his biggest artistic influences include Machine Gun Kelly, Chance The Rapper, J. Cole, and Childish Gambino. If he could collaborate with one artist right now, he would choose Lukas Graham. He also cited the late Mac Miller as a dream collaboration (RIP Mac).

He has made over 100 songs in 5 years but has only released about 30 of them. His debut mixtape Junior Varsity was released on Soundcloud during his senior year of high school. He plans on dropping a few projects this year as well because he’s enjoying making music more now than he ever has before.          

Why you should give him a chance

If you can’t tell by now, CJSleeves is an artist that genuinely cares about the music he puts out. He doesn’t release everything he records, but that isn’t a bad thing at all. This is an artist that truly gives the music he creates his all. All of the hard work will pay off for him once he is able to help others through music and have a positive impact on others lives.

In regards to his rapping ability, this kid has skills. If you’d prefer to check him out for yourself rather than hear my opinion, check out the section below to see where you can find his tunes.    

Where you can hear his music

CJSleeves has quite a few tracks available on Soundcloud, including his brand new self-produced single “Paean (Alright)”. On the track (which is accompanied by a music video), Sleeves gets into some real-life struggles that are very relatable to young people. Sleeves said of the track “It speaks on the pressures of being in your early 20’s and having all kinds of decisions to make, but how even through that, I’m happy”. This one has been in constant rotation for me, and I’m sure the same will be true for you.

Check out his project Junior Varsity on Soundcloud for more of that real spill courtesy of a fresh Utah artist. Stay tuned for more new music coming soon.

What’s next?

This should be quite obvious, but CJSleeves isn’t going to quit pursuing his dreams. Right now he’s making more music than ever and is ready to drop some new projects and make a splash in 2019. If you enjoyed his music, follow him on Instagram @cjsleeves and show him some love.

Vampire Weekend Should’ve Stayed Quiet

For the past couple years, Vampire Weekend has been pretty quiet. In May 2013 they released their 3rd studio album Modern Vampires Of The City. The album did particularly well and left the New York City based band at the top of the Indie Rock world. MVOTC debuted at #1 on the Billboard chart and won the Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album in 2014. As a fan, I particularly enjoyed this album and thought it was a step in the right direction for Vampire Weekend. I still vibe to “Diane Young”, “Unbelievers”, and countless others from the album.

The Departure of Rostam

In 2016, Vampire Weekend saw their first stage of turmoil when Rostam Batmanglij announced that he would be leaving the band. Although they insisted that they would continue to collaborate on future projects, I knew this was the end of Vampire Weekend as we knew them. As a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, Rostam was a huge part of Vampire Weekend’s sound and they lost a tremendous talent with his departure.

Rostam Batmanglij
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

As the years passed, I mostly forgot about Vampire Weekend. In my mind, they were a band that came together, released 3 spectacular albums and then broke up. For me, that was enough. Bands can’t stay together forever. Artists need new projects and to move in new creative directions. I would rather that a band completely dissolve than start releasing music that would taint my perception of them. Unfortunately, Vampire Weekend did exactly what I feared.

Harmony Hall/2021

On January 24, 2019, Vampire Weekend broke their 6 year silence with the release of “Harmony Hall” and “2021”. These two singles will be featured on upcoming album Father Of The Bride that will be released later this year. “Harmony Hall” starts off with a quick moving acoustic guitar riff. At 40 seconds the vibe completely changes into an ultra poppy dance groove. The whole feel of the song just seems forced. It’s almost too uplifting. Too flowery. It lacks authenticity. It doesn’t seem like the Vampire Weekend I fell in love with. While they were never a really hard band, they seem to have lost any sense of rock they previously had. The song could fit in any generic Disney movie during a montage scene. There is a cute reference to their song “Finger Back” with the lyric “I don’t wanna live like this but I don’t want to die”. Aside from that there is nothing captivating about the track.

Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend
Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images

“2021” is a short song, only 1:38, and features a sampled voice as a rhythmic element. It’s like they heard Bon Iver and James Blake using samples and thought it would be a good idea to throw it in. However, they don’t do anything innovative or even interesting. At least the song ends before the boredom consumes me.

How much for a ticket?

If you are wondering, Vampire Weekend is making a stop in Salt Lake City for their Father of the Bride tour. They are playing at the Complex on Oct. 6th and are charging $60 a ticket before fees. That’s right, $60! Well I probably won’t see you at the show. I’ll be at home wishing Vampire Weekend would’ve just stayed quiet.

Logic announces release date for debut novel

On January 10th, rising hip hop star Logic announced the release date of his debut novel titled “Supermarket”. The novel will be the rapper’s first entry as a published author. It is expected to arrive at retailers on March 26th, but pre-orders are available online now.

According to the official “Supermarket” website, the novel tells the story of Flynn, a recently single supermarket employee that finds himself in a world of trouble at his place of work. The book is billed as a psychological thriller that is also darkly funny.

Even though this is Logic’s first novel release, he has often mentioned in his music and interviews that he’s been interested in writing books and movies. It is clear to see that he’s trying to expand his reach in the pop culture world outside of his highly successful and still growing musical career. Aside from being behind the scenes, Logic also mentioned in the past that he’d love to get into more acting roles after having a part in an episode of Rick and Morty.

Storytelling ability

Storytelling is nothing new to Logic, as the majority of his studio albums have consistent stories being told throughout them. If you are interested in hearing a story told by Logic rather than reading one, I’d recommend listening to his studio albums Under Pressure, The Incredible True Story, and Everybody. Each one is different and unique in their own way, but still somehow hold together an interesting story. Logic has also claimed that his “last” studio album, tentatively titled Ultra 85, would end the story being told in his previous work.  

If you’d like to pre-order a copy of “Supermarket”, check out supermarketbook.com. The novel will be available at stores including Barnes & Noble, Google Play, Amazon, iTunes, and many more on March 26th. The novel will also be accompanied by a soundtrack, but not much is known about that yet. Only time will tell what Bobby Tarantino has in store for us in that regard. But if his previous work is any indication, this project will be both dope and innovative.   

“Assume Form” Album Review

James Blake has a way of going beyond the senses, creating not just a soundscape, but a pathos that is astoundingly hard to put into words. He floats between what can be heard and what can be felt in a way that very few musicians can. His newest offering, Assume Form, does just as it says. This album is not privy to the emotional impulses of James’s consciousness. It was not written purely of his expression or to meet his fans in the sea of emotion that is so hard to articulate and navigate. It is written for someone to understand and to begin a conversation. He wrote a love letter instead of his normal journal entry and it comes across as his most accessible and clear cut work to date.

Blake’s Past Work

For ten years, James Blake has been at the forefront of experimental pop music, blending an amalgamation of genres that would take too long to list. His musical thoughts and textures are incredibly unique. He has found a trademark sound defined by sparse, yet rich instrumentation that he continually pushes boundaries with. On his last full length release, The Colour in Anything, his approach was more fragmented and yearning. He seemed to be calling out for help, or attention, or to feel heard. In the back half of the tracklisting, he finds what he is looking for. So what does an artist do when he finally captures what he’s been chasing?

As opposed to an ending, his achievement starts him on a new journey. This is evident on “Meet You in the Maze”, the final cut of The Colour in Anything. James delves into discovering happiness in himself, finding solace in the maze of his mind and its intersections with reality. There is nothing more comforting than finding someone to take that journey of self discovery with you and we watch that process of exploration and teamwork unfold on Assume Form.

A New Journey

On the title track, he makes his intentions explicit: “I will assume form, I’ll be out of my head this time/I will be touchable by her, I will be reachable.” This is an audacious goal for someone often lost in clouds. I think he succeeds in this regard. His characteristically sparse and glitchy production is as strong as it’s ever been on Assume Form. But everything about this LP, from the song structure, to the lyrics, to the passion behind his words, seems decrypted. Hitting that target of accessibility is never easy but in doing so, did James give up some of the uniqueness in his sound?

Personally, I think he did. This album is very solid all the way through and he does have some tracks that push sonic and topical boundaries, e.g., “Tell Them”, “Barefoot in the Park”, “Can’t Believe the Way We Flow”, “Where’s the Catch?”, and “Don’t Miss It”. His features, other than Travis Scott, all lived up to their potential; Rosalía‘s performance on “Barefoot in the Park” is particularly memorable. But for the most part, Assume Form does not give as much to sink one’s teeth into relative to his previous releases. I have found a lot of replay-ability in the track, “Are You in Love?”, and “I’ll Come Too” but not the same complexity I am used to in his music.

I am curious to see if this idea changes for me over time but as it stands, this is Mr. Blake’s most consistent project and also his safest. Unfortunately, he set the bar quite high for himself with his previous work. I do not see Assume Form as a misstep by any means, with some amazing songs mixed in the tracklist. But with that said, I hope to see a return to more abstract thoughts and sounds in his next effort.

7.8/10