by Kieran Cannon
Chronic indecisiveness strikes again. It’s no lie to say I spent hours messing about with the contents of this playlist, but I managed to arrive at something that (just about) represents all the tunes I’ve enjoyed over the past few weeks. Needless to say I’ll change my mind again by the time this goes live…
Anyway, hope you enjoy listening! I’ve also included a few words about my favourite tracks:
Bill Withers – Use Me
What else could I say about the late, great Bill Withers that hasn’t already been said? A true pioneer of soul music, he was essentially an ordinary man with an extraordinary ability to create poetry that resonated with millions on a visceral level. His musical career began in earnest at the age of 33, meaning he had a wealth of life experience to draw upon. An incredibly humble man, his lyrics spoke of the trials and tribulations of life – love, loss and friendship – with beautiful vulnerability, reminding people that it’s okay to not be okay.
Whilst hits like Lean on Me and Ain’t No Sunshine are rightly celebrated, one of my personal favourites is Use Me. It’s the story of an exploitative relationship and the masochistic thrills it gives the protagonist, while also touching on wider issues such as love across the class divide. He switches seamlessly between relaxed storytelling cadence and agonised yells, capturing both the pleasure and pain of his mistreatment. Some have suggested its themes of dependency are a metaphor for drug addiction but that feels like a stretch. I think it’s far more basic than that.
The impression he left on popular music is difficult to overstate. He will be sorely missed, as a singer and as a person. RIP big fella.
Queen Latifah – Ladies First
Ladies First was the breakthrough single for New Jersey rapper Queen Latifah – and what a breakthrough it was. While in many ways hip-hop saw unprecedented innovation and musical diversity throughout the golden era, it was still an overwhelmingly male-dominated genre. Trailblazers like Queen Latifah and Salt-N-Pepa fought back against the odds to establish themselves in mainstream hip-hop, inspiring future generations of female MCs to jump on the mic.
As one of her signature tracks, Ladies First sets the blueprint for Queen’s trademark powerful delivery and raw lyricism. She spits fire about the way female rappers are stereotyped, ruthlessly dismantling the idea that they’re somehow less capable than their male counterparts. Monie Love is no slouch either – her rapid flow and clever wordplay results in one of the best rap duets I’ve heard. A quintessential piece of late 80s hip-hop.
Echo & the Bunnymen – Ripeness
A deep cut from the Bunnymen’s third album, a challenging but ultimately rewarding listen that bridges the gap between the sparse minimalism of Heaven Up Here and the lush orchestration of Ocean Rain. Ripeness sadly tends to get overlooked when people discuss the merits of Porcupine, but I feel it’s one of the best tracks on the album and among the finest songs in their entire discography.
Will Sergeant is criminally underappreciated and fully deserves a place in the post-punk pantheon alongside the likes of Johnny Marr and John McGeoch. Some of his guitar work here is electrifying, particularly the instrumental breaks. Mac’s voice, too, is soaring – arguably at its zenith during the Porcupine era. Coupled with the formidable rhythm section of Les and Pete, it’s a slice of new wave heaven. I have absolutely no idea what the song is about, but does it really matter?