Music Showcase Intern Nomuhle Mlalazi shares the albums that kept her positive throughout the last year…
2020 has been a rough year for everyone. It’s been hard to keep up with all the crazy things that have happened and knocked us right out our comfort zones whether it’s been for better or worse. But one thing that has helped many of us stay afloat has been music.
I’m a bit of a music junkie and love a range of genres. Whether it’s through my speakers, my headphones or I’m on my own belting out tunes, music plays a massive part in each day. It’s been no different since the pandemic affected our way of life but since I’ve had more free time it’s meant I’ve had more time to really listen to music and go through albums without any distractions and personalise my music library even more. I’ve come to enjoy already saved albums all over again as well as enjoy and save new ones. So here are 9 of my top albums that got me through 2020 and that I’m taking with me through 2021.
Cuz I Love You – Lizzo
What better way to boost your mood than with some Lizzo? She’s my personal cheerleader and this pop album is a great pick me up. Every tune is vibrant, catchy and fun. Couple them with her powerhouse vocals, bold lyrics, and skilful flute playing, you have a refreshing take on self-love. This album is an absolute blast and has the ability to get you feeling good about the day and about yourself. My personal favourite songs in the album are ‘Like A Girl’, ‘Better In Colour’ and ‘Heaven Help Me’. Lizzo has entered the pop music world with a bang and I’m looking forward to seeing what she brings next!
Emotional Education – IDER
This electro-pop duo’s debut album really stuck out to me when I first listened to it in 2019 and it’s one I always come back to. Their sound is really distinctive, it’s ambient and rhythmic and my favourite feature is the blending of their voices and harmonies. Not to mention, this album is a commentary on the generation of millennials, exploring themes such as mental health, the pressures of adulting and navigating romance. ‘Mirror’, ‘Wu Baby’ and ‘Slide’ are my personal favourites.
Light & Gold – Eric Whitacre
Having sung several of his works, Whitacre is one of my absolute favourite choral composers and his unique sound of modern elements composed with elements of the past is a major source of inspiration for my own compositions. It’s very therapeutic to listen to, with ‘Sleep’ as my ultimate go to, followed by his suite of ‘Five Hebrew Love Songs’. If you’re into it, I also recommend listening to choral works by Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo like ‘Northern Lights’ and ‘Tundra’.
The Sound Experiment – Samm Henshaw
This EP is gritty and raw, wrapped up in the retro-soul sound that is the identity of Henshaw’s music. Even though The Sound Experiment was released way back in 2015, I didn’t get round to listening to it fully until last year and had listened to his brilliant later singles which I also highly recommend; ‘Church’, ‘Broke’ and ‘How Does It Feel’.
Heathers the Musical – Kevin Murphy & Laurence O’Keefe
This musical theatre adaption of the dark comedy 1989 film, Heathers, is a lot of fun to listen to. It’s upbeat, 80s rock style score is used to tell the story of a growing body count at Westerburg’s High School as well as the difficulties of adolescence. The fantastic rock vocals from Barret Wilbert Weed, who plays Veronica, are undeniable in ‘Dead Girl Walking’ and grand ballad duet ‘Seventeen’. Another favourite of mine from this album is ‘Meant To Be Yours’, sung by Ryan McCartan, who plays JD in this album or listen to the Original West End’s Jamie Muscato’s take on it.
Blue Bird – Jasmine Cephas Jones
Jones is best known for her role as Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds in Tony Award-winning musical Hamilton. Tapping into her roots in jazz, she says Blue Bird `…came from a blue place that I was feeling… The point is to be able to understand that it’s okay to feel these things in the moment…there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.’ I think we can all relate to this – especially after the year we have had. Her impassioned vocals stand out and will leave you feeling soothed and empowered at the same time. Her single ‘Little Bird’ is simply beautiful and an all-time personal favourite.
Honey Suckle & Lightning – Blanco Brown
I love it when genres are intertwined and merged to create a whole new sound. That’s exactly what drew me to this album. When I first heard Blanco Brown’s hybrid of what he calls ‘trailer trap’ – a blend of hip-hop, R&B and country music – in his song ‘Georgia Power’ I had to hear more and found a whole treasure chest of it in this album. It’s full of ideas of his sound in playful to melancholy situations as he talks about heartbreak and nostalgia like ‘HeadNod’ and ‘Don’t Love Her’. I can’t wait to see him continue to hone in on his ‘trailer trap’.
The Musical Zodiac – Debbie Wiseman
I love the concept of personifying the star signs through music, and film & TV composer Debbie Wiseman brings it to life, reflecting on each of their characteristics. There’s lots of room for the listener to interpret the stories themselves and delve into the fantasy world Wiseman has created with the National Symphony Orchestra. My personal favourites are ‘Virgo’, ‘Pisces’ (I may be a bit biased with that one since it’s my star sign!) and ‘Aquarius’. When things seemed overwhelming, sometimes we need a bit of escapism to the land of imagination and this album was my go-to.
Hadestown – Anais Mitchell
This soundtrack has become my latest obsession in the world of musical theatre. A blend of folk, blues and jazz are the tools used at such a deep level of detail to tell the story of the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Originally a concept album in 2010, Anais Mitchell’s score has only evolved over time to become a theatrical show performed on Broadway and eventually winning 8 Tony Awards in 2019. Look out for my personal favourites, ‘Chant’, ‘Epic III’ and ‘Wait For Me Reprise’.
A few extra favourites: