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New Album Review

“Remember Your North Star” by Yaya Bey Won’t Be Forgotten

Hadaiyah (Yaya) Bey is a splendid R&B artist that resides in New York. Their new album, “Remember Your North Star”, is an unforgettable excursion into the effects of misogyny and failed love.

Bey’s magnetic voice attracts ears like no other. Many tracks are like whispers into the soul, and when they picks up the rhythm I get lost in their encapsulating storytelling 

Yaya Bey’s previous work can be found on their Bandcamp and Spotify. They have released a few other albums and EPs over the past couple of years, but this release is getting much deserved love from many music journalists. 

Bey is also an art curator and physical art creator. As stated on the album’s Bandcamp page, “[i]n 2019, her work was featured in the District of Columbia Arts Center’s “Reparations Realized” exhibit and Brooklyn’s Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA)’s “Let the Circle Be Unbroken” exhibit”. 

Smooth Tracks

I thought it would be harder to pick out some of my favorite tracks on this album, but the way Bey is able to set up certain tracks for emphasis makes the choices more straightforward. 

Wow. “keisha” blew me away with its elegance in storytelling and vocals. Bey conveys so many emotions in the short span of 2 minutes and 55 seconds. The warm instrumentals slyly slip us into a fight for love and attempt at understanding the lack of mutual warmth in a relationship. 

The music video for this track is super cool. Bey has gorgeous style and there are a few clips that make the song more emotionally impactful too. Also, this song is explicit:

Video from YouTube. Uploaded by Yaya Bey.

In “street fighter blues”, the opening lyrics, “Love/ Love is a waste of time/ I’m spinning out of my mind”, set us up for an epic exploration of personal grief about love. Finding that beautiful soul after years of iffy and horrible relationships feels impossible. This song is that feeling. It exudes the smothering of hope in finding someone truly wonderful to share your life with. 

As “reprise” is the longest track by almost 1 minute and 30 seconds, the instruments and beats that make up the background of the track have the most depth out of any track on the album. The syrupy flow that the horn pushes allows for the hard cutting lyrics and vocal flow of Bey’s voice to slice the air into the perfect bars. The bars are bite-sized and delicious, just like this whole track. 

There are so few faults in this album that it doesn’t leave much to be desired. The only thing I could think of is a bit more instrumental depth in a few tracks like “mama loves her son”, but really the simplicity of the beats brings out the beauty of Bey’s voice. 

Conclusion

If you’re not listening to this album by the time you get to this point in the article, then you didn’t read the words I have written down. Sure, the emotional and personal focus of this album is hard hitting, but the artistic beauty and perspective that Bey lends the world is more important than a few tears you might shed. 

I cannot wait to see where Yaya Bey’s work will lead them. Their voice in the music industry is vital to the future depths that artists will be able to explore in the future. Dancing around diverse genres of art gives artists an appreciation of how much their own sound can develop through the billions of perspectives the world offers, and I think Bey’s “Remember Your North Star” does just that. 

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New Album Review

“Deus Arrakis”, Klaus Schulze’s Final Trip into Space

Klaus Schulze is a famous name in the synth genre. He basically built the genre’s foundations and roots. Starting in 1971, Schulze started his solo career, and in the span of 4 years he released 5 full length albums, most notably “Timewind” and “Irrlicht” are among his first 5 releases. 

Schulze died this year, 2022, on the 26 of April, and “Deus Arrakis” was released July 1 this year. This album is a continuation of his “Dune” album, which draws inspiration from the Frank Herbert science fiction classic that shares the same name. 

The most notable bands that were either inspired by or founded with Schulze are Tangerine Dream, Ash Ra Tempel and Popol Vuh. Klaus Schulze also produced many LPs by notable bands and artists over his long, illustrious career, and Schulze has worked on many movie soundtracks.

“Deus Arrakis”

Getting into this long winded music can be intimidating, but thankfully Schulze has broken up the three tracks that comprise the album into reasonably listenable lengths. As a huge “Dune” geek, I will be making constant references to the books, so if you can’t quite follow along, then go read “Dune”. 

The desert sands of Arrakis swirl with the deep red spice, mélange in the opening track “Osiris – Pt. 1”. In this song, Schulze composes a slow opening that wakes us into the dreamy nights in Sietch Tabr. Nights are full of breathtaking stars and trade guild ships zipping to and from spice repositories. “Osiris – Pt. 1” offers up a calm Arrakis night, and makes the world feel like home. 

In “Seth Pt. 5”, the cello takes the center stage. Slow movements bring floods of warmth and glitzy dreams in  another atmospheric song. One thing I have noticed about this album is how it creates a mood and emotional presence more than a concrete objective thought. This track is able to pull from the flow of water and meld your stream of consciousness into its own. 

The final song of the album, “Der Hauch des Lebens – Pt. 5” feels like the patter of raindrops hitting the newly terraformed world of Arrakis. It’s a release of pure relief and contentment that moves through your body and makes you wonder what it would feel like to be exposed to rain for the first time. 

Final Wishes

I heavily enjoy atmospheric music, but I can only listen to so much of it in one sitting. This album did not allow me to listen through all in one go. I had to split up the tracks and parts to listen to the entirety of it, which isn’t inherently a negative quality of any album, yet I forgot how some tracks blend together or play off each other. I lost the ability to differentiate tracks and movements from each other. 

Schulze’s final studio album (that we know of) is great. I will always enjoy listening to this science fiction music because it’s so peaceful. “Deus Arrakis” may not be one of his greatest achievements in music, but will be loved and adored appropriately for what it is. 

I hope all those people and bands that Klaus Schulze supported here on Earth continue to pay tribute to his legacy and open minded nature by creating beautiful music and art for our simple Earthling minds to drool over and inhale.

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New Album Review

“My Second Debut Album” – Abbie from Mars

ALBUM: “My Second Debut Album” by Abbie from Mars

RELEASE YEAR: 2022

LABEL: None

RATING: From Another Planet / 10

BEST TRACKS: “Following Your Lead”, “Fog It Up”, “Participation”

FCC: Some tracks have explicit content

Abbie from Mars is a techno alien from the future who has graced us with beautiful new ways to experience sounds and music (she’s also a self proclaimed “ursonist”, which is a combination of arsonist and ursonate). Hyperpop artists like SOPHIE and Bjork cleared the landing pad to help welcome Abbie to Earth, and thankfully she’s stuck around this planet long enough to let us experience her perspective through her art. 

Abbie from Mars (AfM) currently resides in New York City working at a local radio station, playing gigs throughout the city, and supporting a nonprofit that helps local kids get access to music education. Her radio show is from 3 a.m. until 6 a.m., and it sounds like an intergalactic experience. 

My Second Debut Album” is exactly that. AfM’s sophomore album is a wacky ride through space and time. The album is like an electric current that courses through your body, electrifying you and opening your eyes to how different the world can be perceived through sound waves. 

Out of This World Tracks:

I feel my muscles spasm every time “Following Your Lead” starts off, and then it lets me flow through the rest of the album without a hitch. The jolt from this opening track allows me to prepare for the rest of the album, which I truly appreciate. I think AfM’s electro beats and sounds on this track are a fun intro to the rest of the album and it has the most “singability” factored into it too. 

Fog It Up” has the synth waves and radioactive dance beats that one might expect from an otherworldly being. I really enjoy the way AfM blends her vocals with the instruments in this track. The hazier vocals leave me in a state of confusion as the whole world disappears from view until I wipe the condensation from my glasses. 

In “Participation”, I found that AfM created a similar chill sound like “Fog It Up”, but more ethereal like a Grimes track or a Bjork instrumental bit. Again, it is the blending of multiple vocals, instruments and mutilated sounds that bring me to appreciate this track more than the rest. 

Unrealized Potential:

The insanity that is “I Think I Broke My Finger” kind of leaves you reeling from shock. It is hard to listen to as Abbie screams and hurls odd sounds into your eardrums, but it’s the explosive nature of the sounds that makes it tolerable. AfM has a neat talent to create rhythms with funky sounds, which is what a lot of hyperpop artists have in common. 

My only issue with “What Good Is a Weekend” is that it isn’t long enough. I want so much more of this song so I can enjoy more than the minute long bliss that bumps out of the speakers in this track.

Conclusions:

In short, Abbie from Mars is still brand new on the music scene and the planet. She has potential to grow and the freedom to move around and make some experimentally influential music that can affect new artists. I cannot wait to see how she continues her career and time on Earth.

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New Album Review

“Ugly Season” by Perfume Genius Album Review

ALBUM: “Ugly Season” by Perfume Genius

RELEASE YEAR: 2022

LABEL: Matador Records

RATING: 5/10

BEST TRACKS: “Hellbent”, “Photograph”, “Pop Song”

FCC: None

Experimental artists like Perfume Genius are always creating new sound combinations for our ears to devour, but sometimes their music doesn’t quite land. At least that’s how I feel about “Ugly Season”. 

Perfume Genius (Mike Haderas) constantly revises and adds to his unique sounds, and usually I cannot stop listening to his releases. For me, “Set My Heart on Fire Immediately” was an instant success. The lyrics and slow nature of the songs were my favorite parts, but I didn’t find that comfort in “Ugly Season”.

Best Bits:

I did end up enjoying a few tracks on this album, but they really don’t compare to the joy I get from listening to any of Perfume Genius’ earlier works. 

Pop Song”, even though it has a boring name, is one of the most upbeat songs on the album. The glitzy electro beats that introduce the song promise electric dance beats to ensue. The discordant instruments on this track are another reason I like this song. They flash in your ears and call you to listen a bit closer to the chaos.

In “Photograph” there is a deep dark undertone throughout the track. Haderas also uses a deeper, more somber voice to increase this dark presence. Also, I am not sure why but this track reminds me of the Radiohead song “Paranoid Android”. “Photograph” does what I wish the entire album could do, and that is use Haderas’ lovely voice with the heavy, melancholic sounds that permeate the album. 

I think “Hellbent” is my overall favorite track from the album. The warbling reverb beat and eerie noises create a fun creepy atmosphere that I would not mind sinking myself into. Perfume Genius’ voice left me feeling like I was in a car that was constantly breaking so quickly my head would snap back and forth between the headrest and dashboard. There is so much fun chaos on this track compared to the monotony of the rest of the album. 

The Rest of the Album:

Honestly, the rest of the album is so similar to itself that it makes it difficult for me to pick what I didn’t like the most. 

The last half of the album is stronger than the front end. Maybe if “Just a Room” wasn’t the introductory song I would have been able to “click” with the sounds more. I can’t invest myself into an album if it doesn’t strike out and grab my attention immediately. 

A lot of the tracks felt like they went on too long. Don’t get me wrong, I love extremely long songs (like Klaus Schulze’s “Dune” album). In “Ugly Season” I didn’t want to listen to anything over 5 minutes long (except “Hellbent”). 

Conclusions:

I wish I enjoyed this album more. Perfume Genius makes amazing music and all of Haderas’ early works are easily revisitable, but I don’t think “Ugly Season” will be one of those albums for me. 

There are definitely a lot of appealing sounds and decisions made in this album that  many people besides myself could enjoy. Some sections of “Ugly Season” were too quiet or too discordant, and I love Death Grips but their discord has rhythm. “Ugly Season” fails to add meaning behind the sounds for me.

I am excited to see where this album will lead Perfume Genius’ music in the future because it holds so many possibilities to branch off of.

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New Album Review

MJ Lenderman “Boat Songs” Album Review

In my last blog post about local music I would be listening to this summer, I briefly mentioned that I was listening to MJ Lenderman’s new album “Boat Songs.” In the two weeks that have passed, I have been listening to the album more and more. It’s the perfect melancholic summer time album that I desperately needed, and I couldn’t stop myself from constantly listening to it. I am a huge fan of his self-titled album from 2019 and his work in and with Wednesday as their lead guitar player. 

Through Wednesday’s rise in popularity, MJ Lenderman has been able to get recognition for his writing and his solo projects. The album is atmospheric, cathartic and an interesting blend of 90s indie rock, 60s and 70s Americana, and modern shoegaze. Through consistent lyrical themes of loss, anxiety and destruction, Lenderman continues to refine and polish his writing. The album feels like an emotional release for Lenderman as he sings about memories from his childhood and the joy and sadness he feels in his present life. 

Lenderman plays with contrast a lot on the record; it starts off with the punchy tune “Hangover Game” followed by the groovy song “You Have Bought Yourself a Boat.” The next two songs that immediately follow the fun introduction, “TLC Cagematch” and “Toontown,” are the saddest on the record.  

“TLC Cagematch” is a cleaner re-recorded version of the song from his more lo-fi 2021 EP “Knockin’.” Lenderman sings about pro wrestling and his discomfort watching the participants get thrown around over gorgeous steel guitar melodies and sweet back-up vocals from Karly Hartzman, the lead singer of Wednesday. 

The next song, “Toontown,” is a more slowcore-influenced track that allows Lenderman to expand on the album’s theme about trying and failing to achieve happiness, while thrilling bursts of noise in the latter half bring the already intense song to another level. The last verse ends by Lenderman singing, “Just some watered-down romeo clown / With his pants pulled down” followed by an emotional build up of swirling guitars and cymbal crashes. 

What I love about this record—and Lenderman’s writing on it—is its ability to capture the mundanity of life and the emotions that we might consider to be small, but actually end up consuming us. His writing is painfully honest and relatable, and he has a way of making casual events and images feel like devastation. Sounding defeated on “Under Control,” he sings “I had it under control, and then it snow balled, and rolled and rolled and rolled, and I don’t have control anymore.” These are very simple lyrics and something that many of us have felt before, but Lenderman does not hide from the fact that something this small can make you feel like your world is crashing down on you. 

The atmosphere of the record is really interesting, and—at times—it feels comforting, like Lenderman is talking to you like an old friend he’s updating on his life. Other times, the record sounds so lonely and distant. Lenderman celebrates his insecurities throughout the record. On the last song “Six Flags,” he eerily sings, “I’m not counting, no one’s counting, your mistakes” as the album draws to a close.

– Eilee

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New Album Review

New Album Review: “Behold! I Make All Things New” by Jozef van Wissem

ALBUM: “Behold! I Make All Things New” by Jozef van Wissem

RELEASE YEAR: 2022

LABEL: Incunabulum

RATING: 7/10

BEST TRACKS: “What Hearts Must Bleed, What Tears Must Fall”, “The Adornment”,  “A New Earth”

FCC: None

Jozef van Wissem, I have found, is an interesting character. He composes soundtracks for films, collaborates with directors, and he makes beautiful lute tunes, all while looking like a thrasher pilgrim. 

Behold! I Make All Things New” has a play time of 51 minutes and 41 seconds, and every single moment of it is delicious. 

In the past van Wissem has worked with film director, Jim Jarmusch to create a few soundtracks and album projects. This album, however, is a solo project filled with the plucks, strums, and chimes that could only be made by van Wissem’s delicate fingers.

To start out, the opening of this album is a little darker than it ends, which I love. A transition from dark to light, especially in instrumental albums, allows me to “take shotgun” on the musical journey with the artist. 

The jump from the first track into my favorite track of the album, “What Hearts Must Bleed, What Tears Must Fall”, creates that feeling of transitioning from dark to light. The slow opening of the album creeps and eventually pounces into strong, high notes filled with positivity and light. I know this track is lengthy (13 minutes and 41 seconds), but the gaps of silence between some of the sections give my ears a moment to reflect and soak in the entirety of the song.

More instruments create more layers as the album crawls onward. Unfortunately, I found the middle section of the album to be my least favorite section. The third and fifth tracks slip by and are forgettable, but with “A New Earth” van Wissem regains my attention with faster strikes against his instrument. This track elevates itself from the rest of the album with how short, fast and upbeat it is. 

A lot of what I appreciate about this album is how well everything fits together. I know I lose myself in the middle section, but I can put this album on and completely immerse myself in everything that is happening. 

Another piece of this album that I enjoy is the background drone sounds in “Your Flesh Will Rise In Glory On The Day Of The Future Resurrection”. The whirring of the continuous reverb in the background of this track sits me down at such a strange place. I can’t really place myself in the world when I listen to this track. I do wish he utilized that background noise throughout more of the album in different styles, because I think it helped bring out the power of his normal plucking. 

Through the strengths and weaknesses of “Behold! I Make All Things New”, I gained access to a new appreciation for instrumental artists and some good songs to sit and think to. This album also helps me to know where solo instrumentalists can exist in the music industry today. They have their niche carved out for them, but more artists like van Wissem need to reach out and grab the attention of their genre listeners.

Keep eatin’

-DJ chef

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New Album Review

Hojean “Bluffin” Song Review

“Bluffin”, like all of Hojean’s releases, is an R&B/soul single. 

The song grabs you in from the start with an acoustic guitar intro with Hojean’s voice joining in shortly. I may be biased as a Hojean fan, but something about this song pulls you into the melody immediately and makes you start tapping the rhythm with your feet. The song is simple and is purely written for the vibes. 

With the repetitive chorus and lyrics that quickly get stuck in your head, it’s not difficult to enjoy the song. 

A particular verse of the song that felt memorable was “Girl you’re good at bluffin’ | You know we’re onto something the way | I got you blushing tonight | Feelin like we’re running | So why not get to stoppin’ | I feel like we been doin’ alright.”

The premise is traditional – Hojean is singing to a girl telling her that she’s been on his mind and wants to make her his girl. Essentially, he knows they both have something and wants her to stop pretending it’s not there. He wants her quite literally to stop bluffing.

With Hojean’s distinct style, he adds his own twist on the typical. The song is easy to enjoy regardless of whether you focus on the lyrics or the melody of the guitar.

If you’re looking for a new song to add to your summer playlist this might be one to look out for. It’s the perfect song for listening to while laying out in a hammock under the sun or while you’re sitting by the lake with your friends watching the sunset. 

Make sure to check out the lyrics video of “Bluffin.”

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New Album Review

“CRASH” by Charli XCX – ALBUM REVIEW

Although I typically write reviews for R&B and hip-hop releases, I figured I’d step outside of my comfort zone and talk about an album that’s been on constant repeat for me. 

Before I begin my review, I have a couple of embarrassing confessions to make. First of all, the only reason I even listened to “CRASH” was that a lot of the creators on TikTok that I follow were talking about it, with mostly positive things to say. I was even more intrigued because internet personality, music critic, and YouTuber Anthony Fantano gave it a 5/10, and in my experience, I tend to really enjoy albums that he rates poorly.

My second confession is that I had never really listened to Charli XCX before this album. I was pretty unfamiliar with her work aside from her hit song “Boom Clap” and her feature on Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy.”

“CRASH” comes at an awkward moment in Charli XCX’s career, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s the final album of her record label deal. Because of this, the album was made with a lot of intent of showing the culmination of her music career (she discusses this in her interview with Zane Lowe).

Secondly, the rollout of “CRASH” was met with lots of criticism and mixed reactions due to fans being disappointed with Charli’s change in sound. Charli XCX has always been at the forefront of experimental and avant-garde pop (this could honestly be its own blog post), and the singles she released in preparation for “CRASH” showed her shifting to a more mainstream, accessible sound. And well, let’s just say that Charli didn’t take her fans’ criticism very well. 

However, despite the mixed reactions from its rollout, “CRASH” proves to be a thoroughly enjoyable listen, and another impressive addition to Charli XCX’s discography. Though sonically different from her past releases, Charli XCX uses this new direction to showcase that her talent isn’t limited to avant-garde or experimental music; she’s already transformed pop music and left a significant impact on its landscape, so it’s only natural that her version of “experimenting” is simply making mainstream, accessible pop.  Her execution and performances negate any need for further experimentation.

I have a difficult time critiquing this record, not because it’s flawless, but because Charli XCX’s ability to make such colorful and infectious music outweighs any valuable criticism I can provide. That being said, there are certain tracks that didn’t speak to me as much as the other tracks, such as “Every Rule” and “Move Me.” Some tracks I didn’t initially enjoy, but have since grown on me, such as “Lightning” and “New Rules (feat. Christine and the Queens and Caroline Polachek).” Other tracks, such as “Twice” and “Yuck” are just incredible. They show a mastery of pop music from Charli XCX, and make for such a nice addition to her catalogue.

Although “CRASH” represents a sharp turn from Charli XCX’s PC Music days, it also shows a culmination of her talent, as well as what she’s capable of. She’s shown that she has nothing left to prove as an artist and that her talent and creativity aren’t limited to her reputation. “CRASH” not only represents Charli’s growth throughout her music career, but her impact on pop music, and I highly recommend you give this album a listen.

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New Album Review

“Turning Red” Soundtrack

I recently had the pleasure of watching “Turning Red,” the new Pixar film. I went into the movie pretty blind and thus had no idea what to expect other than the one song I had seen going around TikTok. The plot of the film is that a young Chinese-Canadian teenager discovers a secret her family is hiding and has to find the balance between pleasing her family and having her own personality. A big safe haven for the main character, Meilin Lee, is her friends and their collective love for the boy band 4*Town. The sound I heard going around TikTok was the main song that 4*Town sings in “Turning Red,” “Nobody Like U.”

Sibling duo Finneas O’Connell and Billie Eilish wrote the three songs that 4*Town sings throughout the film: “Nobody Like U,” “1 True Love” and “U Know What’s Up.” They struck pop music gold on “Nobody Like U.” You know that scene in “Easy A” where Emma Stone’s character can’t stop singing “Pocketful of Sunshine” by Natasha Bedingfield all weekend after she got that birthday card? That’s been me with “Nobody Like U” since I watched the movie. 

The highly talented Ludwig Göransson was responsible for the film’s score and he did an excellent job at making a Pixar film score (which are always top notch).

The film and its soundtrack really brought me back to my tweenhood of being obsessed with One Direction and feeling like my whole world was ending all of the time (which for Meilin, was somewhat true but that’s neither here nor there).

If you’re looking to reminisce on middle school in a more positive light or if you just want a cute movie to watch, I highly recommend “Turning Red.” Or at the very least let the earworm that is “Nobody Like U” grace your ears.

Until next time,

Caitlin

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New Album Review

Jazmine Sullivan “Heax Tales, Meux Tales,” Album Review

The name of this album is actually “Heaux Tales, Mo’ Tales,” but I couldn’t resist the opportunity. The album is a deluxe edition of the most recent Jazmine Sullivan album “Heux Tales,” which came out at the very beginning of 2021. In a year where a lot of albums just ran right through me, “Heaux Tales” was one of the few that grew on me across 2021. Led by the R&B hit “Pick Up of Your Feelings” and built around a compelling concept, the album was killer. The concept is executed effortlessly without sacrificing the quality of a single song. I was pleasantly surprised to see it topping more than one publication’s top albums of the year, and even more pleasantly surprised to see it get such strong radio play for a independent release.

Around a year later, Sullivan has come out with a deluxe edition. So-called “Deluxe Editions” published incredibly soon after an album’s publications for streaming optimization are a trend that has worn thin incredibly fast. Lil Uzi Vert, who started the trend, did alright by effectively releasing a double album, but since then I’ve started instinctually tuning these out. I’m glad I broke that rule for Sullivan, because “Mo’ Tales” is an excellent exception to the rule.

The main album is built off of interwoven songs with testimonials from various women talking frankly about their sex lives. The extended edition is more rigid, with each new track having exactly one spoken section that reflects the topic of the song quite directly. This makes a direct front to back listen a little tiring since around a third of the new runtime is spoken word, which is presumably part of why the tracks were cut. The new songs are worth it though, each one feels like it was cut from the full album not because of its quality, but because it would interrupt the flow of the album. Seeing the incredible restraint Jazmine Sullivan used when building the track list really does inspire a new appreciation for the strength of the main album, which is an incredible thing for a deluxe edition to do.

Some songs were clearly cut for thematic clarity. While the song is a nice counterpoint in the extended edition, including “A Breux’s Tale” (I did not change that one, that’s the actual name of the song) and the intentionally callous song from Sullivan that accompanies it on the main album would have distracted from the overall progression. Anderson Paak’s brief feature was all the counterpoint needed on the original album. Same goes for songs like “Tragic,” which while fine in this context, wouldn’t have worked out as well on the main album.

 If you listened to “Heaux Tales” and haven’t really returned to it, this deluxe edition is an excellent excuse to give it another listen. And if you’re entirely unfamiliar with Jazmine Sullivan, give the main album a shot, it’s an album that really appeals to everyone.