#91 - It Is What It Is 🌞

BRAT review, Halsey reveals health struggles, hip-hop summer albums, Jamie xx returns, Spotify raises prices, Rachel Chinouriri.

Sunlighter Header

Happy Sunlighter Sunday! We’re kicking off today’s edition with two unrelated images we found informative: Flavor Flav single-handedly attempting to save Red Lobster and the Wall Street Journal showing a breakdown of how ticket sales revenue gets distributed to various parties in the music industry. Also, lawsuits seem to be a weekly occurrence - Kanye West’s previous assistant claims sexual harassment, while hip-hop songwriter, The-Dream, was accused of rape and physical assault. Lots of updates this week, but first, Charli.

Rating Rationale: Chris here 👋🏼 If you know me, I’ve been singing Charli xcx’s (and A.G. Cook’s) praises as one of the most underrated artists for almost seven years, with Pop 2 being a true pièce de résistance. This week, Charli released her sixth studio album, BRAT, conveyed in purposeful low-resolution, presumably as an allegorical nod to a “Rewind” back to her Pop 2 days (interestingly, Charli admits that BRAT shares the closest resemblance to Pop 2). Charli continues her partnership with A.G., and as a duo, they maintain their status at the frontier of sonic innovation, particularly as notable trailblazers of hyperpop. BRAT is an impressive culmination of all things Charli - part club icon/party girl, part vulnerable, confused girl - while being thematically existential. Charli continues to pay homage to late hyperpop pioneer and friend, SOPHIE (all of CRASH was dedicated to her), as well as to simpler times that didn’t involve her unnerving self-doubts. This album certainly has moments of experimentalism (expanding her collaborations with current partner, The 1975’s George Daniel, and Gesaffelstein) and is a refreshing change of pace from the normative releases currently in the music industry. We feel “360” to “365” (brilliant sister songs), “Sympathy is a knife,” “Talk talk,” and “So I” provide the necessary balance to the glitchy club bangers “Club classics,” “Von dutch” and ”B2b.”

Pop

Halsey details health struggles in upcoming album, Sabrina Carpenter announces Short N’ Sweet, Cyndi Lauper bids farewell, J-Lo cancels her tour

Halsey announced this week that she is “lucky to be alive” after experiencing several autoimmune disorders across eight years, including Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Sjögren’s syndrome, Mast Cell Activation syndrome, and Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. Her plan with the album? To reclaim her optimism during her 30s.

Sabrina Carpenter, who has been working late–because she’s a singer, announced her upcoming album, Short N’ Sweet. If you didn’t know that she was Maya Hart from Girl Meets World, you should know that she’s actually short (4’ 11’’) but not sweet (because she’s your espresso).

Finally, the girls get to have fun one last time with Cyndi Lauper as she announced the details of her farewell tour. Separately, Kesha performed for the first time as an independent artist, while J-Lo canceled her summer tour due to poor ticket sales.

Several hip-hop albums will debut this summer, Kendrick Lamar is “popping out” for Juneteenth, hip-hop mourns Brother Marquis

We’ve got a lot of hip-hop summer album announcements this week: the “Princess Diana of rap,” Ice Spice, will release her debut album, Y2K on July 26th. Megan Thee Stallion is releasing her upcoming album, MEGAN, on June 28th. DJ Mustard took to X with a biblical reference and a hype trailer for upcoming album, FAITH OF A MUSTARD SEED. Denzel Curry is featuring numerous hip-hop features on his album, King of the Mischievous South Vol. 2. Finally, James Blake & Lil Yachty’s collaborative album, Bad Cameo, finally gets a concrete release date of June 28th.

Kendrick Lamar surprised fans by scheduling a special Juneteenth show at The Forum in Los Angeles titled, The Pop Out: Ken & Friends, presented by pgLang (Kendrick’s creative agency) and Free Lunch. Unsurprisingly, due to the show being K.Dot’s first performance since his weeks-long feud with Drake, ticket prices have skyrocketed, primarily caused by targeted bot-buying and reselling. Don’t worry. If you can’t attend, you can catch a live stream on Amazon Prime and Twitch.

Finally, in sad news, Miami hip-hop group, 2 Live Crew, lost Brother Marquis this week due to a massive heart attack.

Electronic

Jamie xx and LSZEE (LSDREAM and CloZee) announce highly-anticipated albums, Lost Lands improves festival experience

Jamie xx is set to release his sophomore album (his first being We’re New Here, a collaboration with Gil Scott-Heron), titled In Waves. Surprisingly, this is Jamie’s first LP since his debut solo album, In Colour, released nine years ago. LSZEE, a collaborative bass-focused EDM project by LSDREAM and CloZee, announced their self-titled debut album. Both EDM albums will arrive in September.

Shortly after releasing their 2024 lineup and DJ Snake announcing his bass music-only set at LL24, Lost Lands Festival followed up with a commitment to improve the accessibility of its festival by kicking off a tunnel project that will better connect the campgrounds with the main festival area.

Country & Folk

Sturgill Simpson is now “Johnny Blue Skies,” Luke Combs is releasing a new album next Friday

Similar to his outlaw contemporaries Zach Bryan and Tyler Childers, alternative country artist, Sturgill Simpson, will embrace his iconoclast personality with his next album, Passage du Desir, by taking on a completely different appellation (ironically pronounced Appalachian), known as “Johnny Blue Skies.”

Luke Combs is releasing his next LP next Friday, titled Fathers & Sons, as a reflection on his experience becoming a father of two sons, so expect some emotionally vulnerable songwriting.

Primer: From a drunk Instagram DM asking Lewis Capaldi to be an opening act on his tour, to an on-stage co-sign from Adele, Rachel Chinouriri is assembling the building blocks for staying power in the music industry through her fearless, vulnerable persona. As the youngest of five siblings, Rachel’s childhood experience was split between the Croydon neighborhood of South London and her parent’s native country of Zimbabwe. Growing up, her parents were strict about their family’s music consumption, only allowing Christian or Zimbabwean music. Once the family moved back to Croydon, Rachel would steal any moment to search secular music on YouTube, particularly artists like Coldplay and Daughters, who gave her a sense of peace during difficult times of being bullied for her race in a predominantly white school. At the age of 17, Rachel began writing and publishing her songs, one of which – “So My Darling” – caught the ears of Parlophone Records, who signed her in 2018. After four years, that same track resurfaced on TikTok, and according to our friends over at Chartmetric, that drove a spike in her social media following (TikTok by 57% and Spotify by 106%), garnering her more mainstream attention than before.

We describe Rachel’s music as alternative/indie, but you can easily hear influences of punk-rock and pop throughout her discography. Sharing the same hometown as Stormzy, Rachel strives to replicate his openness during the creative process and become another success story as a rising artist pushing the boundaries of genres.

What’s Next: Rachel recently dropped her debut album, What A Devastating Turn Of Events, just in time for a series of shows and festivals across Europe this summer. This fall, she’ll take on the US while supporting Remi Wolf on The Big Ideas Tour, with a brief stop at our hometown festival, Austin City Limits.

Spotify raises subscription prices again, Merlin releases program to improve music licensing while Twitch strikes music licensing partnerships, Stability AI releases text-to-audio model

💲 Another Price Hike: Don’t worry, we’re experiencing the déjà vu, too. On Monday, Spotify announced they would be adjusting their Premium subscription prices in the United States again, bumping individual prices from $10.99 to $11.99 starting in July. This comes after significant backlash against their new policy for royalty payouts. This feels like the right time for disruption, though for the world’s music library, it still feels like a small price to pay.

🧙🏼‍♂️ A Music Wizard: Merlin, a digital rights licensing platform for independent record labels, debuted its “Merlin Connect” program, allowing select technology platforms to access pre-cleared, licensed music. Per Merlin, the value proposition for these partnered companies is decreasing the time and effort of experimenting with licensing quality music. Separately, Merlin, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, and Sony Music have an agreement in principle with Twitch to allow DJs to legally livestream their sets.

🌄 The AI Greenfield: On Wednesday, Stability AI announced Stable Audio Open, a new generative text-to-audio AI model “optimized for generating short audio samples, sound effects, and production elements using text prompts.” Separately, there is speculation that Google is preparing an imminent rollout of its first external extension for Spotify. Finally, ActiveFence, an online community health monitoring platform, has reported a general uptrend in users generating harmful songs targeting minority groups via platforms like Udio and Suno (lawmakers, wya?)

🌐 Web3 Updates: Spinamp, a public library of web3 artists and music collections, released “Spinamp Channels,” allowing mobile users to quickly swipe through curated artists cards to discover new artists. Cooper Turley of Coop Records is organizing an on-chain concert series that can also be experienced IRL at the Midnight Diner in LA’s Koreatown - more info can be found here.

Anti Social Camp comes to NYC, Sony Music expands South Asian footprint, Canadian regulatory commission imposes 5% tax on streaming services

👩🏻‍🎓 Music Academics: It’s New York Music Month, and Anti Social Camp is headed to New York City next week to host music industry-focused events for artists, songwriters, and producers. Separately, Tomorrowland and Afrojack are partnering to release a new program dubbed, “WALL Pro Academy,” in which Afrojack will serve as a personal coach and instructor on production, mixing, mastering, and marketing lessons.

🌏 South Asian Expansion: There continues to be a keen interest in the growth of music in South Asian countries, particularly within the Indian and Pakistani markets. Sony Music Entertainment continues to validate this trend by signing a JV deal this week with Los Angeles-based label D36. MIDiA Research also corroborates this notion with its recent global music forecast, highlighting the Global South (South America, South Asia, Africa, etc.) as a primary driver for new subscribers into the next decade.

🇨🇦 Online Streaming Act: The CRTC, a Canadian regulatory commission that presides over Canadian broadcasting and telecommunications, is requiring online streaming services, including music streaming platforms, to contribute 5% of their Canadian revenues to support the Canadian broadcasting system.

🎮 Video Game Soundtracks: There’s a new music trend that has been covertly strengthening the intersection of gaming and music - the physical collection of video game soundtracks.

💰 Securing the Bag: Tencent Music, the preeminent music streaming company in China, is acquiring a 10% stake in Thai-based music and entertainment platform, GMM Music.

Twenty One Pilots debuts at #3, RM doubles Sexyy Red’s album sales in Rap Charts

📈 Twenty One Pilots’ Clancy debuted this week at #3 on the albums chart, below Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish, even after selling ~113,400 units.* For hip-hop genre debuts, RM released his sophomore solo album the same week as Sexyy Red, selling 54,000 units*, outperforming In Sexyy We Trust by double the equivalent units*. What does that say about the state of hip-hop 🤔

*What does “unit” mean? There are multiple equivalents of a “unit”:

  • Pure Album Sales: One album sale

  • Track Equivalent Albums: 10 individual tracks sold from an album

  • Streaming Equivalent Albums: 3,750 ad-supported audio and video streams OR 1,250 paid/subscription on-demand audio and video streams generated by songs from the album

Don Toliver, $uicideboy$, SG Lewis, and Channel Tres will release albums this week

📅 For upcoming albums, tours, and festivals access our comprehensive music calendar here.

📣 Album Announcements: Electronic musician, Ben Böhmer, will drop Bloom, his first album in three years, this fall. The Offspring announced their upcoming album, Supercharged, will arrive this fall, and fans have the leading single, “Make It All Right,” to enjoy until then. Thomas Rhett will drop his seventh studio album, About A Woman, in August.

⏩ Here are album releases to look out for this week: 

  1. Luke Combs, Fathers & Sons

  2. Don Toliver, Hardstone Psycho

  3. $uicideboy$, NEW WORLD DEPRESSION

  4. SG Lewis, Heat

  5. Channel Tres, Headrush

  6. NxWorries, WHY LAWD?

  7. Moneybagg Yo, SPEAK NOW

  8. David Bowie, Rock ‘n’ Roll Star!

  9. Wings, One Hand Clapping

  10. Raveena, Where The Butterflies Go in the Rain

  11. The Decemberists, As It Ever Was, So It Will Be Again

  12. Lindsey Stirling, Duality

  13. Moby, Always Centered At Night

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See ya next Sunday 😎

Donya and Chris

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