PRINT December 2018


Vivien Goldman

1 LUDWIG GÖRANSONN FEAT. BAABA MAAL, “WAKANDA” (Marvel) It is ironic that it took a film (Black Panther) about a fictional country to make much of America embrace the idea of Africa. Nonetheless, Maal’s sustained griot vibrato summons and enthralls on Göransonn’s theme song “Wakanda.” All bow to the handy magic of the imagination.

Still from Neneh Cherry’s 2018 video Kong, directed by Jenn Nkiru.

CARDI B, BAD BUNNY, AND J BALVIN, “I LIKE IT” (Atlantic) The surge in rich-world collaborations with Afrobeat and reggaeton artists de-exoticizes the squirmy tag “world music.” Are Brits and Yanks really out of this world? Debates aside, it’s joyous when phenom Cardi and two reggaeton dons revisit Pete Rodriguez’s ’60s boogaloo. 

Cover of Lily Allen’s My Thoughts Exactly (Blink Publishing, 2018).

FATOUMATA DIAWARA, FENFO (Shanachie) The long-anticipated second album by this Malian Afrofuturist singer and activist positions her as a bold experimenter assured of her roots. Diawara’s gem of a voice glimmers. The production is both delicate and bold, framing her shine with a filigree of jazzy bass, country-rock guitar, and violin.

Still from Cardi B, Bad Bunny, and J Balvin’s 2018 video I Like It, directed by Eif Rivera.

GAIKA, BASIC VOLUME (Warp) A Brixton youth from a pan-Caribbean family, GAIKA has a confrontational, doom-drenched sound that matches his relentless vision. GAIKA is an ominous audio trickster, and his unique take on revolving dance modes like grime and trap hovers uneasily over turbulent political and social terrains.

HOLLIE COOK, VESSEL OF LOVE (Merge) Cook, daughter of Sex Pistols drummer Paul and Culture Club backup singer Jeni, is impeccably herself as today’s standard-bearer for one of my favorite sounds: the lush, girlie harmony and silken emotion of lovers-rock reggae. How audacious to cut such seductive, melodic reggae jams, when so many youths don’t even know what it is to slow-dance. Cook pulls us closer.

Still from Fatoumata Diawara’s 2018 video Nterini, directed by Aïda Muluneh.

NENEH CHERRY, BROKEN POLITICS (Smalltown Supersound) Cherry’s artist family—mother, stepfather, and father (Moki and Don Cherry and Ahmadu Jah, RIP)—fueled her ever-flowing talent. Here, Cherry exposes veins of creative ore, the more precious for being buried so deep.

MABEL FEAT. KOJO FUNDS, “FINDERS KEEPERS” (Polydor) What is it with the dynasties? Like her mother, Neneh, when she began, Mabel has plugged into the finest pop zeitgeist: she partners here with Afrobeats innovator Kojo Funds. She also shares her mother’s wit, composure, and command, even when vulnerable.

LYKKE LI, SO SAD SO SEXY (RCA) Divert that Swedish water to us, please! After ABBA, there was Neneh, followed by Robyn, whose new record, Honey, is ripe for stirring. Li designs her songs as a sort of audio massage, pressing our vulnerable points to bring release.

MATANGI/MAYA/M.I.A. (directed by Stephen Loveridge) M.I.A.’s dramatic saga emerges from a patchwork of footage, much of it her own, that shakes with visual textures. Through her persistent activism around the abuse of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka, she matches the warrior stance of her revolutionary father. But does she have his head for military strategy? Watch as she learns.

Still from GAIKA’s 2018 video Crown & Key, directed by Paco Raterta.

10 LILY ALLEN, MY THOUGHTS EXACTLY (Blink) Allen’s signature saucy frankness makes her recent memoir, My Thoughts Exactly, a riot. She is at once pragmatic and delusional: Hit with touring blues, she hires a girl hooker, rationalizing that it’s not really cheating on her ultimately doomed hetero marriage. No one is swifter than Allen to pop her own balloon. (Her new No Shame LP is a scorcher, too.)

Vivien Goldman is a London-born, New York-based writer, educator, and post-punk musician. Her book Revenge of the She-Punks: A Feminist Music History from Poly Styrene to Pussy Riot is forthcoming in 2019 from University of Texas Press.