My Week – My Music – Remembering Kenny Rogers

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AWOPBAMBOOM, Volume 109 – Music News and Notes for Fellow Travelers

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Hello weekly denizens and nomads of the internet; and, welcome to this week’s AWOPBAMBOOM. This week, we review new albums from The Weeknd and Childish Gambino’s new albums, and we remember a man who played his hand well, Kenny Rogers.

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ACES

The Weeknd released the deluxe version of his After Hours album; this features “Blinding Lights,” “Save Your Tears,” “Heartless,” and “After Hours” remixes with Chromatics, Lil Uzi Vert, and more. The deluxe version of the album also includes the Weeknd’s live SNL performance of Scared to Live.

The entire album reverberates with post-breakup isolation—solipsistic is too easy a word to use. The album, thematically, is tragically narcissistic; as bright as it shines, it blinds itself. The album is filled with mourning the loss of being loved, post-breakup angst, and defensive self-inflation: songs like the I-was-wrong “Too Late” and the callous and grandiose “Hardest to Love” show the vast chasm of emotion the album painfully explores.

Beats, synth, and the Weeknd’s vocals dominate the album — those aren’t the only instrumentals however; electronic keyboard, saxophone, and autotune all make sparse but flavorful contributions. The solitude of his vocals — in front of the instrumentals — incline the audience to listen to him as If he’s just musing to himself, speaking to someone he knows isn’t there, or listening to himself talk.

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DIAMONDS

Childish Gambino’s latest album 3.15.20 is a playful shapeshifting spirit, eager to experiment with many forms and genres of music: from the synth beats and autotune of funk, R&B, and hip-hop to more orchestral elements like flute, choirs, and acoustic guitar. The album is emotionally eclectic and absolutely electric with passion: from doom to happy days, Donald Glover invokes it all.

“Algorhythm”

The dark demented introductory drumbeats herald Glover’s warped vocals—he sings like a prophet of the apocalypse: manic and muddled with moments of calm, sharp clarity. The song is full of biblical references as it looks back at “the bite of the apple” and asks how did we get here?

“Time” is stuck in its skepticism:

“Maybe all the stars in the night are really dreams/Maybe the whole work ain’t exactly what it seems/ Maybe the sky’ll fall down tomorrow”

Spacey dissonant beats make golden-sun harmony with an acoustic guitar. Both Glover and Ariana Grande share the hymn-like verses of the song—cutting into the instrumentals with pride—and eventually a chorus jubilantly uplifts Glover’s autotune.

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KNOWING WHAT THE CARDS WERE…

“The Gambler he broke even…”

Famous country singer and songwriter, Kenny Rogers passed away in hospice care on March 20th. Rogers was a huge influence and part of the music industry: he sang duets with Dolly Parton and song-wrote with Lionel Richie. His most famous song, “The Gambler” won him a Grammy in 1980.

The song is about much more than just a card game; it’s a metaphor for life. Kenny Rogers left us a lot of wisdom in his lyrics, and much more than that in his contributions to country music. He will be missed.

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ABOUT GUY JAMES

Guy James is the pen name of Guy DeMarco, a young writer on the rise. He can be reached with music ideas and story suggestions at guy@newswhistle.com.

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PHOTO CREDIT

Lead-In Image (Kenny Rogers) – mark reinstein / Shutterstock.com – “Washington, DC. USA, 21nd March, 1992 Kenny Rogers performs live during the 50th anniversary show from the studios’ of Voice of America.”

kenny rogers - 1992 - photo by mark reinstein - Shutterstock - embed