Apr. 14th, 2017

cahn: (Default)
4/5. So I listened to clipping's Splendor and Misery experimental-hip-hop-space-opera album, which I had not heard of (because I live under a rock) before it was nominated for the Hugo.

TL;DR: It is awesome and you should listen to it (I listened to it on Spotify, but if you don't have spotify you can listen to it on YouTube, either the full album or tracks — 1-15 are the actual tracks, 16 is the full album, and 17 is a fanvid) and totally vote for it for the Hugo!

IT IS AWESOME. I mean, it's basically a Daveed Diggs tour-de-force showing him off in about twenty different ways (you know how fast he raps in "Guns and Ships" in Hamilton? I think he raps even faster here!), but also it's a space opera! and has all sorts of references to SF! and digs into questions about slavery and freedom and solitude and rhythm… It says something that the first thing I did after listening to it was… go back to the beginning and listen to it again.

From Sub Pop (clipping's label):

Splendor & Misery is an Afrofuturist, dystopian concept album that follows the sole survivor of a slave uprising on an interstellar cargo ship, and the onboard computer that falls in love with him. Thinking he is alone and lost in space, the character discovers music in the ship’s shuddering hull and chirping instrument panels. William and Jonathan’s tracks draw an imaginary sonic map of the ship’s decks, hallways, and quarters, while Daveed’s lyrics ride the rhythms produced by its engines and machinery. In a reversal of H.P. Lovecraft’s concept of cosmic insignificance, the character finds relief in learning that humanity is of no consequence to the vast, uncaring universe. It turns out, pulling the rug out from under anthropocentrism is only horrifying to those who thought they were the center of everything to begin with. Ultimately, the character decides to pilot his ship into the unknown—and possibly into oblivion—instead of continuing on to worlds whose systems of governance and economy have violently oppressed him.


It is elliptic and somewhat abstract and it's hard to piece together exactly what's going on (which may be a turnoff to some people, of course; for me it's kind of a draw). I have a couple of thoughts on this below.

Thoughts on the plot and specific tracks; spoilers, I guess )

I don't love it as much as Hamilton. Some of the reasons are my own proclivities: I really love the Broadway/hip-hop fusion of Hamilton and the way LMM plays with musical convention. The other thing is that there's a certain amount of emotional depth and range to Hamilton that is necessarily not present in S&M, given that there are only two characters, one of which is a computer. Diggs does a great job in infusing the computer with emotion over the course of the album (contrast "Baby Don't Sleep" with "The Breach") but it's still true that the range is basically [no-emotion anger], and that's pretty much it.

But! it is amazing and it totally, totally should get a Hugo.

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