The Big Issue : Edition 573
MUSIC 38 THEBIGISSUE.ORG.AU 19 OCT–1 NOV 2018 Announcing Kamikaze in a surprise tweet, Eminem went for effortful nonchalance: “Tried not 2 overthink this 1...enjoy.” In other words, don’t expect a repeat of 2017’s popstar-heav y, critically panned Revival. On his 10th album, Em trades syrupy hooks for verbal score-settling, with equally mixed results. As he ages, the rapper’s technical skill is losing its sting. Kamikaze targets everyone from mumble rappers to album reviewers with wordplay that’s both dazzling and hollow. The production, overseen by Em and Dr Dre, gives free rein to the raps, which swing jarringly between sincere and juvenile. Even when the punches don’t land, the former upstart is most alive sparring with perceived enemies on ‘The Ringer’ and ‘Greatest’, while the real-talk personal dramas of ‘Normal’ and ‘Stepping Stone’ fall flat. Fittingly for an album intent on relitigating the past, Kamikaze ends in the most 90s way possible: with a tie-in single for the new Marvel movie, Venom. Ten albums in, Em’s venom only gets him so far. JACK TREGONING KAMIKAZE EMINEM Master of Australian stories and songs, Paul Kelly is on to studio album 24 and, as with past releases, Nature is full of beauty and life. Though many poems feature throughout, it’s Dylan Thomas’ ‘And Death Shall Have No Dominion’ that opens. It’s a rejection of death, and the beginning of an exploration of life. Poets like Walt Whitman and Sylvia Plath also feature, with Kelly adding his own stories, too. In ‘Seagulls of Seattle’, for example, Kelly paints a scene of birds circling and waves crashing to buoy a fond memory from abroad. Though diverse in origin, the 12 tracks are bound by nature – a recognition of both its expansive beauty and the tiny part humans hold in it. Nature is a poetic reminder of the sustained decimation of our environment – celebratory and tragic at once. It wouldn’t be a Kelly album without his long-time collaborators Vika and Linda Bull, and on this one his daughters Madeleine and Memphis also sing throughout. Musically, Kelly can do no wrong. Nature is exquisite. IZZY TOLHURST NATURE PAUL KELLY ELTON JOHN HAS long been a fan of Atlanta rapper Young Thug. Not long after expressing his love for Thug in an interview with Noisey a few years ago, John and the rapper were spotted hanging out together. From there, rumours spread that the two were planning a collab. It seemed a strange pairing to some, but John is a savvy collaborator – having worked previously with everyone from Eminem and Kanye to Queens of the Stone Age. He is also a voracious listener, uncovering music he loves on a weekly radio show for Apple Beats. In August an unmixed Thug track titled ‘High’, which sampled John’s ‘Rocket Man’, leaked online, whetting fans’ appetites. A few weeks on and we finally have the real deal. Featured on Thugger’s new EP On the Rvn, ‘High (feat Elton John)’ is a contender for song of the year. Thug has always kind of lingered just on the fringe of pop stardom. A technically playful and experimental rapper, he has often impressed but rarely sat atop the charts. ‘High’ changes all of this. Featuring Thug both rapping and singing, it juxtaposes his – here, often autotuned – acrobatics against Elton’s ghostly refrain: “And I’m going to be hiiiiighhhh/I’m a Rocket Man.” The result is a giddy, fizzy pop song that somehow sounds both nostalgic and ambitious. Young Thug transforms ‘High’ from what could have merely been a quirky “Elton John feat” to it’s very own extraordinary pop artefact. SARAH SMITH > Music Editor The 2015 debut for electro-pop act Empress Of – LA-born, NY-based Lorely Rodriguez – was called Me. The title referred to both its recording (Rodriguez writing and producing it all) and its lyrical focus on identity. Three years on, and the second EO LP is called Us. This, again, echoes its making (there are collaborations with DJDS and Blood Orange) and theme (every song addresses a “you”). Where Me was a youthful expression of self, Us finds the artist – now 28, that classic Saturn- returning age – out to define the self within a relationship; defiance gives way to insecurity. The hook on standout ‘Love For Me’ is Rodriguez saying, endlessly, “I wanna know if you’ve got love for me”. ‘Trust Me Baby’ and ‘When I’m With Him’ slip between English and Spanish, Rodriguez turning to the latter when sentiments are “too personal” for the former. It’s an interesting definition, given Empress Of is, clearly, an intensely personal project. ANTHONY CAREW US EMPRESS OF CD DOWNLOAD VINYL YOUNG THUG: ELTON JOHN IS A FAN.