Frank Ocean, the Weeknd, Miguel: Who Will Be the Token Black Guy on Year-End Best of Lists?

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There's an intense race going on right now. A race not a lot of you may know about. A race that even the people involved may not know they're a part of. But it's a race, and it's happening: the race to see which r & b singer will end up on most critics' top-ten lists at the end of the year.

It's a big deal. Because, usually, at the end of the year, r & b is all but excluded on year-end lists. Which is what makes this year so exciting. Three artists are on the lips and minds and fingertips of critics, all of whom have a shot at Top Ten album honors just before the planet explodes like the Mayans predicted.

Those three artists: Frank Ocean, the Weeknd, and Miguel.

See Also:
- Live: Miguel Takes Control At Joe's Pub
- Live: Bon Iver and Frank Ocean Are Trying to Break Your Heart


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Underwhelmed and Overstimulated, Part Nine: Working For The Weeknd

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Drake and the Weeknd... enjoying themselves?
‚ÄčSound of the City's year-end roundtable, with contributions from Tom Ewing, Eric Harvey, Maura Johnston, Nick Murray, and Katherine St. Asaph, continues. Follow along here.

Fellow roundtablers,

As we turn down the home stretch, I have to say this has all been awesome, and I'm a little sad that we'll soon have to wrap this up. That being said, I'm going to take advantage of that fact that neither Maura, Katherine, nor Tom will be able to respond to anything I say and talk a little about the Weeknd. In the words of Abel Tesfaye, you'll wanna be high for this.


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Underwhelmed And Overstimulated, Part Seven: The Sorrows (And Fantastic Sound System) Of Young Drake

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Shhh... He's thinking.
Sound of the City's year-end roundtable, with contributions from Tom Ewing, Eric Harvey, Maura Johnston, Nick Murray, and Katherine St. Asaph, continues. Follow along here.

Look, it's what I've been dreading talking about all year! Anyway. For the past hour, Maura, I've tried to think of one—only one—perfect antidote track, or line even, by a woman to the pickup whines by Drake and those who'd love to be him. I haven't even come close. Nicki Minaj has little interest in this, which is absolutely her right but rules out the most obvious candidate. A few Rihanna shame-changers, like "Watch 'N' Learn"'s "don't ask me if you were the first to sleep here/ 'cause if he did, you wouldn't even be here," might work, but they're lost amid album filler, raunch and career churn. Laura Marling's "Sophia" would work if it had any genre relation whatsoever and if the point of the song wasn't "how and with whom I've moved on is none of your business"—the only safe response when being candid as a female writer almost automatically means people call you oversharing (imagine if Drake was a woman), but no good for countering. And more plausible answer songs like "212" have reaches, as Eric said, currently confined to music blogs and whatever came of Banks' day out with Kanye. JoJo's "Marvin's Room" remake doesn't even pinprick Drake's original hit if you go by audience—even discounting the implications of wanting a white pop singer like JoJo to dethrone a black R&B singer like Drake, which shouldn't be discounted.

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Underwhelmed And Overstimulated, Part The Sixth: Was 2011 The Best Year For Women In Music Ever?

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Sound of the City's year-end roundtable, with contributions from Tom Ewing, Eric Harvey, Maura Johnston, Nick Murray, and Katherine St. Asaph, continues. Follow along here.

Hi again everyone,

Sure, there was lots of great music put out by women this year—my Pazz and Jop top tens will be stuffed with them. But does that make 2011 a Year of the Woman by any stretch? I'd argue no, and I suspect the guy who I overheard on the subway the other day, who was complaining that while he liked Lady Gaga going to a concert of hers would make him feel like less of a man, would agree with me; those people horrified by "Super Bass"'s showing on the Pitchfork singles list might as well. If anything what bothered me about the Year of the Bro (yes, I'm calling it this now) was the way that gender roles became more circumscribed, the way that people who called bullshit on misogyny and homophobia (OK, I'm mostly talking about Tyler here) were mocked in ways that Nick rightly pointed out were absolutely conservative, and the end result was little more than a lot of empty laughter and "objective" music-blog reports that implied an overtightened sphincter on one side.

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The Weeknd Postpones Next Thursday's Show; Drake Actually Not That Into Cardigans


Just yesterday, we informed you that Toronto PBR&B kingpin The Weeknd would be making its United States debut at Vice's Upfront Extravaganza. Alas, he's no longer on the bill, although the event will still go down at Skylight One Hanson next week and feature, among others, Tanlines, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Nick Zinner (of Yeah Yeah Yeahs), A-Trak, and Black Lips.

Drake—who stopped by the Spaceghostpurrp/ASAP Rocky show last night—broke the news in an interview with The New York Observer's Nate Freeman:


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The Weeknd Will Come On Down To New York Next Thursday


UPDATE: Psych! Although the party's still happening with the rest of the bill.

Details are sketchy on how exactly to get in, but yes, the Toronto-based downer R&B outfit known as The Weeknd will make its US live debut on September 15—that's a week from tonight—at Skylight One Hanson, the schmancy Downtown Brooklyn venue that earlier this year hosted a super-exclusive Kanye West gig.


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I Miss You: Aaliyah's Indelible Influence On A Generation Of Male Artists

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For a generation, the unexpected death of Aaliyah Dana Haughton 10 years ago today remains as significant as the deaths of Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac. This especially rings true for millennial men, who were just realizing girls really didn't have cooties when Aaliyah released her debut, Age Ain't Nothin' But A Number, in 1994. In the years since the plane carrying her and her entourage crashed shortly after taking off, killing everyone on board, the fanboy-like appreciation for Aaliyah has only grown.


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The Weeknd Put Out A Mixtape Called Thursday Last Night

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Late last night the Canadian R&B outfit The Weeknd (a.k.a. Drake pal Abel Tesfaye) released its second mixtape. Called Thursday, its release is clogging the official site's servers, although Google can help you find the back door. The basic facts: It's nine tracks, there's a Drake collab (called "The Zone," it has Aubrey showing off his skill for wrapping words around his tongue in a way that made me sit up and take notice at 1 a.m.), and if you run in the sorts of circles that appreciate music that splits the difference between R&B and sorta-wanky "atmospheric" stuff you'll probably hear it a lot around and about this weekend, as storms usher out summer for good. A couple of two-listen impressions below.


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Can We Please Declare A Moratorium On Covering Famous Kids' Rap "Careers" Until They Actually Drop A Decent Record?

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Today The Observer has a piece on—wait, no, I'm not going to name him, if you want to find out who it is you can just click the link, but suffice it to say that it's another later-generation famous name who fancies himself a potential hip-hop star, like that actor's son who jumped on the "Black And Yellow" beat earlier this year to much giggling from the general population, or the rapping grandson of that rock and roll bard. Would the burgeoning careers of these rappers be worthy of hundreds-of-words profiles if not for the famous names attached? Perhaps; the Observer profilee has a co-sign from the much-blogged about Torontonian Abel "The Weeknd" Tesfaye, who apparently has amassed enough Cobain-like influence over next-big-thing-crazed A&R guys to get his pal signed to Warner. But would Tesfaye know who this young man is if he'd had a father not known for hawking polo shirts and cologne? Oh, the burning questions of our time!

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Listen To The Weeknd's Spare, Pleading "Rolling Stone"

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Last night the secrecy-shrouded singer who releases music as The Weeknd uploaded "Rolling Stone," a barely there lament about romantic alienation that's nudged along by a loop of a picked guitar and the occasional rumble of drums. His wide-stance wail transforms the song into a pretty arresting track. (That's him in the picture above, by the way; he goes by the name Abel Tesfaye.) Stream below.

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