Music Discoveries: Peter Gabriel, Real World Records era


In previous posts I’ve examined Peter Gabriel’s origins with the band Genesis, and is increasingly successful output as a solo artist. Never one to follow trends, Gabriel followed up his hit album So by creating a new label called Real World Records, which would release his remaining albums to date as well as the work of non-Western musical artists, helping popularize World Music.  Gabriel’s output has been slight over the past 30 years compared with his earlier career, but there’s still a lot that I missed out on.

Title: Passion
Released: June 5, 1989
Label: Real World

Three years after achieving rock stardom with So, Gabriel returns with a collection of instrumental tunes drawing on Middle Eastern and African influences as a soundtrack to the controversial Martin Scorsese film The Last Temptation of Christ.  Not at all your typical career move.  I remember not liking the movie all that much, not because it was offensive but because it was weird.  Nevertheless I did play parts of Passion on my college World Music radio show.  I don’t think I appreciated the soundtrack album all that well, though, because listening to it now I find it far more entrancing and engaging.  Perhaps it was ahead of its time?

Rating: ****


Title: Us
Released: September 29, 1992
Label: Real World

After a six year wait, Gabriel returned with an album of new songs and it was a big deal.  I remember listening to this on repeat when it came out my sophomore year of college but not at all since then.  I found it worth revisiting, although ironically, two of the singles from the album are the weakest tracks: “Steam” is derivative of “Sledgehammer while “Kiss That Frog” is a puerile request for a blowjob.  The other hit from this album, “Digging in the Dirt,” is an excellent reflection of relationships which also doubled as my theme song for all the archaeological fieldwork I was doing at the time.  “Washing of the Water” is a song I didn’t recall but really liked upon revisiting.

Rating: ***1/2


Title: Secret World Live
Released: September 13, 1994
Label: Real World

I’m entering into uncharted territory here, as I’m not familiar with really any of Gabriel’s post-Us catalog, albeit it is mostly live albums and soundtracks. This album features live performances of songs from Us plus as smattering of earlier hits. In a very 90s moment, Paula Cole lends her lovely voice as a substitute for Kate Bush on “Don’t Give Up.”

Rating: ***1/2


Title: OVO
Released: June 12, 2000
Label: Real World

The soundtrack to the Millenium Dome Show features guest performances by Neneh Cherry, Rasco, Richie Havens, Elizabeth Fraser, and Paul Buchanan, although I can’t find a source that credits which tracks they each appear on.  The songs tell a story of some sort and are a mix of genres.  The opening track features a rap which works surprisingly well with Gabriel’s grooves.  Other tracks have a Celtic sound reminiscent of the Afro-Celt Sound System (who are Real World artists, so maybe not a coincidence).  There are some good moments and some meh moments but nothing stands out as really amazing or terrible.  I am curious to what this show was like, though.

Rating: ***


Title: Long Walk Home: Music from the Rabbit-Proof Fence
Released: April 16, 2002
Label: Real World

Another soundtrack from Peter Gabriel with instrumental, atmospheric, World Music-y, tunes.  It’s fine and good, but I’m realizing that even though I’m listening to these over a few days, Peter Gabriel’s essential sound has remained unchanged for a decade now.  I do need to this movie.

Rating: ***


Title: Up
Released: September 24, 2002
Label: Real World

After a ten year absence, Peter Gabriel returns with a new studio album of original songs (which is also his most recent to date!).  I remember hearing “The Barry Williams Show” when it first came out, felt puzzled about why Gabriel was satirizing the Jerry Springer show a decade after it was trendy, and pretty much shrugged it off.  I may have been too hasty as there are some worthwhile tracks on this album.  He apparently spent the 90s listening to industrial music which is evident in tracks like “Darkness” and “Growing Up.” Ultimately, though, this album seems disappointing after the long wait.

Rating: **1/2


Title: Big Blue Ball
Released: June 24, 2008
Label: Real World, Rykodisc

This is less of a Peter Gabriel album than a collaborative project.  Gabriel is joined by artists from around the world including Wendy Melvoin of Wendy & Lisa, Sinéad O’Connor, Karl Wallinger (of World Party), Natacha Atlas, and Papa Wemba.  Recorded over several sessions in the 1990s, it has that enjoyable, if a bit dated, sound of World Beat fusion, something I’d have enjoyed on an album released by Ellipsis Arts, or Real World Records. I enjoy “Habibe,” “Shadow,” “Forest,” and “Jijy” most.

Rating: ****


Title: Scratch My Back
Released: February 12, 2010
Label: Real World

Maybe Peter Gabriel has had writer’s block for decades, because after another eight-year absence, he released an album entirely of cover songs.  The songs are from Gabriel’s contemporaries like David Bowie, Paul Simon, and Lou Reed as well as newer artists who were influenced by Gabriel such as Bon Iver, Arcade Fire, and Radiohead.  Unfortunately, every single interpretation is slow and maudlin, adding no value to original versions of these songs.  A disappointment piled upon disappointments.

Rating: **


 

Title: New Blood
Released: October 10, 2011
Label: Real World

Gabriel returns again, this time with orchestral arrangements of his previous work.  It’s kind of like a greatest hits with symphonic accompaniment.  Appropriately the music has a cinematic sound which fits in with all of Gabriel’s soundtrack work. Some tracks profit from the arrangement like “Rhythm of the Heat” and “Red Rain.”  Others, like “In Your Eyes,” lake the urgency of the original recordings and end up sounding dirge-like.  It’s a nice experiment but does make one wonder about Gabriel’s lack of new material.

Rating: ***


 

Title: Growing Up Live
Released: February 8, 2019
Label: Real World

Peter Gabriel’s most recent album release is a live concert recording that’s not all that recent (it was recorded and released as a concert film in 2003).  It is an excellent concert with guest vocals by The Blind Boys of Alabama.  I’d like to attend a Peter Gabriel concert if the opportunity presents itself in the future (and we’re allowed to go to concerts).

Rating: ***1/2

And so concludes my investigation of five decades of the musical creations of Peter Gabriel. Let’s hope he has some more music to add to his catalog before too long!

Music Discoveries: Peter Gabriel, 70s and 80s Solo Career


After leaving Genesis, Peter Gabriel embarked on a solo career where he ventured into music unlike he created with the band.  His music was both experimental and political.  And yet, within 10 years, he would find himself at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, ironically usurping his former bandmates from their first #1 hit.

Title: Peter Gabriel (Car)
Released: February 25, 1977
Label: Charisma

Peter Gabriel makes his solo debut with the first of four eponymously-titled albums, much to the irritation of his record company. The album is a grab-bag of pop music genres, with a definite harder rock sound that Genesis on many of them, but also dabbling in the Blue and music hall. The standout track, of course, is “Solsbury Hill,” a folk rock tune that sounds nothing like Gabriel’s Genesis work. It’s clearly an all-time great song that somehow manages to get airplay on classic rock radio while also being a proto-alternative music favorite.

Rating: ***


Title: Peter Gabriel (Scratch)
Released: June 3, 1978
Label: Charisma

It’s kind of boring.  This album has a prog rock pedigree with hints New Wave/prog rock to come.  Something about the music sounds like a weird Peter Gabriel attempt pastiche of stars of the late 70s like Elton John, David Bowie, Queen, Bruce Springsteen, and maybe even Billy Joel. None of it really works or holds together well.

Rating:  **


Title: Peter Gabriel (Melt)
Released: May 30, 1980
Label: Charisma

Definitely a bolder and more confident album from Gabriel.  And with radio staples like “Games With Frontiers” and “Biko,” it’s more familiar as well. I also like “I Don’t Remember” quite a bit.  This album really puts Gabriel on track to blending art music with rock in a weird but accessible way. It’s also interesting to hear Phil Collins and his “gated drums” on several tracks. “Biko” includes Gabriel’s first efforts to incorporate “World Beat” sounds into his music.

Rating: ****


Title: Peter Gabriel (Security)
Released: September 8, 1982
Label: Charisma

I would not become familiar with Peter Gabriel’s music until he released So, but retrospectively this album was the source of a lot of Gabriel’s best-recognized 1980s material, including like “Shock the Monkey” and “I Have the Touch.”  I also like “Rhythm of the Heat” and “Kiss of Life” a lot.  Gabriel’s pop/art rock crossover sound is fully developed here with further exploration into African, Latin American, and Native American sounds.

Rating: ****


Title: Plays Live
Released: June 9, 1983
Label: Charisma

Peter Gabriel’s greatest solo tunes get punched up with live performance energy.  I particularly like “The Rhythm of the Heat.”  But have you ever noticed that “D.I.Y.” kind of sounds like an 80s sitcom theme?

Rating: ****


Title: Birdy
Released: March 18, 1985
Label: Charisma

Gabriel’s first movie score is a collection of atmospheric, instrumental pieces heavy on synthesizers and percussion.  Some of the tracks derive from Gabriel’s earlier work like “Rhythm of the Heat” and “San Jacinto.”  I really liked this a lot more than I expected.

Rating: ****


Title: So
Released: May 19, 1986
Label: Charisma

This is where I came in.  The bombastic horns of “Sledgehammer” were my introduction to Peter Gabriel.  And while So is Gabriel’s most pop and accessible recording of his career, it was still experimental enough to be a revelation to 12-year-old me, especially on tracks like “We Do What We’re Told” and “This is the Picture.”  The hit songs still sound fresh, “Don’t Give Up” still makes me cry, and I may be colored by nostalgia, but I can’t find anything objectively wrong with this album.

Rating: *****

Next week, Peter Gabriel launches a new record label for himself and for the world. This final post will bring us up to the present day.

Music Discoveries: Peter Gabriel, The Genesis Years


When I was a child in the mid-1980s the radio was full of hit songs by bands like Genesis and Mike and the Mechanics, and artists like Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins. I was surprised to learn that all these artists came from the same band, Genesis, and while Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford (of Mike and the Mechanics) still recorded and toured with Genesis, Peter Gabriel had left the band in 1975 (which seemed like eons ago to young me). I liked Genesis well enough, but was really drawn to Peter Gabriel’s work especially due to his art rock, proto-alternative music, and world beat sounds.

It really struck me as unbelievable that irresistible cheezy pop music of 1980s Genesis and its 1980s spinoffs could have anything in common with the music of Peter Gabriel’s work. Yet all these years later I’ve still never listened to Genesis’ early work when Gabriel was the lead vocalist and songwriter for the band. So I’ve decided to do one of my Music Discoveries deep listens where I’m going to listen to all of the recorded output of Peter Gabriel’s career. This week I’ll focus on his time with Genesis from 1969 to 1975.


Title: From Genesis to Revelation
Released: March 7, 1969
Label: Decca

A very late-60s collection of Baroque pop. It starts strong with “Where the Sour Turns Sweet” and “In the Beginning,” but peters out after that. Peter Gabriel’s voice is so boyish it’s hard to recognize

Rating: **


Title: Trespass
Released: October 23, 1970
Label: Charisma

The music sounds more confident and energetic than on the previous album.  The sound is similar to Blind Faith with a bit of proto-prog rock thrown in.  Peter Gabriel has developed the familiar gravely timbre in his voice. Once again the album starts off strong with the first two tracks, “Looking for Someone” and “White Mountain,” being the best on the album. “The Knife” is supposed to be the favored single from this album but I don’t really hear anything than self-indulgent solos.

Rating: ***


Title: Nursery Cryme
Released: November 12, 1971
Label: Charisma

Phil Collins makes his Genesis debut! He even sings lead vocals on the short second track “For Absent Friends.” The album is mostly guitar solos, noodly jams, and so. much. Mellotron.  It’s kind of boring.  But you’ve got to admit that the drumming is good.

Rating: **


Title: Foxtrot
Released: October 6, 1972
Label: Charisma

The thing I’ve never been able to get into about progressive rock (and a lot of rock music from the 1970s) is the excess.  The inordinately long songs (23 minutes!), the extensive soloing, the epic! dramatic! concepts!  This album has all that in spades.  I will admit thought that there is virtuosity in the performance on the instruments.  I find myself spacing out on the epic! sci-fi! story songs and just soaking in the musicality, which is fine.

Rating: ***


Title: Selling England by the Pound
Released: October 13, 1972
Label: Charisma

I think this is the best Genesis album to date. They’ve toned down the proggy excess and added some English folk music influences with some nice arrangements.  Once again, the first two tracks – “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight”  and “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)” – are the strongest on the album.

Rating: ***1/2


Title: Genesis Live
Released: August 3, 1973
Label: Charisma

This recording takes advantage of winnowing down the Genesis catalog and the energy of a live performance to create a solid album. Amazingly, the album has only five tracks, although they are all at least eight minutes long.  Despite the fact that I’ve been listening to Genesis all months, the tunes didn’t sound familiar for the most part.  I guess early Genesis was not as ear-wormy as 1980s Genesis.

Rating: ***1/2


Title: The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
Released: November 18, 1974
Label: Charisma

Peter Gabriel’s final album with Genesis is a sprawling concept album about a fantastical journey of discovery by Rael, a young Puerto Rican from New York.  Because no one can tell a Nuyorican story like a guy from Surrey, I guess. Jokes aside, this is ambitious storytelling through song.  I particularly like the song titles and that many of the songs are much shorter than typical Genesis fare, lending the album some variety. The style of music is less proggy and more similar to Gabriel’s solo work.  While I can appreciate the effort, I don’t find it all too interesting.

Rating: ***

Ultimately, the music on these albums offers very little hint of what Genesis and it’s various spinoff projects would sound like in the 1980s. There is a bit a more of an indication of what Peter Gabriel would do, although I think at this period I believe the songs are too wordy and indulgent in instrumental solos, where as Gabriel would pare things back in a solo career (at least I think he does, I’ll found out next week). The music of early Genesis is not bad but it’s definitely not for me.

Monthly Mixtape – April 2020


I spent April focused on the A to Z Challenge, but I made a little time whip together a quick mix for your listening pleasure. Let me know in the comments if there are any great new songs I missed out on.

Ana Tijoux :: Antifa Dance

Steve Earle & The Dukes :: Devil Put the Coal in the Ground

Balkan Taksim :: Zalina

Dua Saleh :: umbrellar

Hazel English :: Off My Mind

Pert Near Sandstone :: Castles In The Air

Sunny Jain :: Immigrant Warrior


Previous Mixtapes:

Monthly Mixtape – March 2020


Self-isolation is a good time to listen to new music.  Here are some recent releases worth checking out.

Coriky :: Clean Kill

Dirty Projectors :: Overlord

Mia Doi Todd :: Take What You Can Carry

Tony Allen and Hugh Masekela :: We’ve Landed

Broken Up :: Long, Long, Long

Cable Ties :: Sandcastles

FLOHIO :: WAY2

Kelsey Waldon :: Kentucky, 1988

Monthly Mixtape – February 2020


February was a short month with a bumper crop of good new tunes.  What are you listening to these days?  Let me know in the comments.

Black Market Brass :: “The Thick”

Coriky :: “Clean Kill”

Destroyer :: “Crimson Tide”

Down Time :: “Not a Complicated Person”

Jaimie Branch: “Simple Silver Surfer”

MGMT :: “In the Afternoon”

Smokey Brights :: “Flash Your Lights (Rudy Willingham Remix)”

Wednesday :: “Fate Is…”


Previous Mixtapes:

Monthly Mixtape – January 2020


Welcome to a new year, and a new decade, of new music.

Alexandra Savior :: Send Her Back

Dream pop from Portland, Oregon.

Midwife :: Anyone Can Play Guitar

Fuzzy guitar-based atmospheric rock described as “Heaven Metal” by Madeline Johnston, creator of the project.

Atmosphere :: Dearly Beloved (Feat. Musab and Muja Messiah)

A hip hop duo from Minneapolis, Minnesota.

 

Previous Mixtapes:

Monthly Mixtape – December 2019


Better late than never!  Here are some good new songs from the last month of last year.

Madame Gandhi :: Top Knot Turn Up

Madame Gandhi, the former drummer for M.I.A and a runner of the London Marathon, s an electronic music artist and activist based in Los Angeles.

Antibalas :: Fight Am Finish

My favorite Afrobeat band from Brooklyn (with ties to Daptone records) returns!

beabadoobee :: Are You Sure

Beatrice Kristi Laus is a youthful Filipino-British indie singer-songwriter.

MaLLy :: Black Moses

The latest from a Minneapolis rapper. Read more at The Current.


Previous Mixtapes:

Best of the Decade: Favorite Songs of the 2010s


And now, with no explanation and no apology, here are my 100 favorite songs from 2010 to 2019.

Title Artist Album
92nd Street Kris Delmhorst Blood Test
Americans Janelle Monáe Dirty Computer
Archie, Marry Me Alvvays Allvays
BALTIMORE Prince HITNRUN
Because I’m Me The Avalanches Wild Flowers
Beneath the Brine The Family Crest Beneath the Brine
Big Bad Good My bubba Big Bad Good
Black Willow Loma Loma
Bloodbuzz Ohio The National High Violet
Bright Whites Kishi Bashi 151a
Call Me Maybe Carly Rae Jepsen Kiss
Changes Charles Bradley, The Budos Band Changes
Chinatown Girlpool Before the World Was Big
Cold War Janelle Monáe The ArchAndroid
Colonizer tUnE-YaRdS i can feel you creep into my private life
Comeback Kid Sharon Van Etten Remind Me Tomorrow
Crazy, Classic, Life Janelle Monáe Dirty Computer
Cruel St. Vincent Strange Mercy
Cryin’ in the Streets Zeshan B Cryin’ in the Streets
Dancing on My Own Robyn Body Talk Pt. 1
Delicate Cycle The Uncluded Hokey Fright
Digital Witness St. Vincent St. Vincent
Dirty Money Antibalas Antibalas
Discourse My New Romance Shinedoe, Karin Dreijer Illogical Directions
Divisionary (Do the Right Thing) Ages and Ages Divisionary
Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself Alex Lahey The Best of Luck Club
Don’t Wait Mapei Hey Hey
Don’t Wanna Lose Ex Hex Rips
Down By the Water Decemberists The King is Dead
Dynamite Taio Cruz Rokstarr
Every Day’s the Weekend Alex Lahey I Love You Like a Brother
Everybody Wants to Be Famous Superorganism Superorganism
Fam Jam (Fe Sum Immigrins) Shad Flying Colours
Familiar Agnes Obel Citizen of Glass
Feel this Moment Pitbull, Christina Aguilera Global Warming
Follow Your Arrow Kacey Musgraves Same Trailer Different Park
FREEDOM Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar LEMONADE
FUNKNROLL Prince ART OFFICIAL AGE
Future Politics Austra Future Politics
Gangnam Style Psy Gangnam Style
GMF John Grant Festival
Good as Hell Lizzo Coconut Oil
Good Mistake Mr Little Jeans Pocketknife
Hell You Talmbout Janelle Monáe, Deep Cotton, St. Beauty, Jidenna, Roman GianArthur, and George 2.0 Hell You Talmbout
Helplessness Blues Fleet Foxes Helplessness Blues
Hold On You Get Love and Let Go When Give It Stars The North
HOLD UP Beyoncé LEMONADE
Home Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros Up from Below
Hot to Trot Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas Hot to Trot
I Give You Power Arcade Fire, Mavis Staples I Give You Power
I Love It Icona Pop, Charli XCX I Love It
Juice Lizzo Cuz I Love You
Lifted Up Passion Pit Kindred
Look at This A Tribe Called Red A Tribe Called Red
Loud Places Jame xx, Romy In Colour
LOW Young Fathers DEAD
Make Me Feel Janelle Monáe Dirty Computer
MCs Can Kiss Uffie Sex Dreams and Denim Jeans
Memories are Now Jesca Hoop Memories are Now
Mighty Caravan Palace Wonderland – EP
Mourning in America The Milk Carton Kids All the Things that I Did and All the Things That I Didn’t Do
Nameless, Faceless Courtney Barnett Tell Me How You Really Feel
No Banker Left Behind Ry Cooder Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down
No Going Back Yuno Moodie
Oblivion Grimes Visions
Old Town Road Lil Nas X 7
Once in a Lifetime Angelique Kidjo Remain in Light
Pedestrian at Best Courtney Barnett Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Quiet Milck This is Not the End
Quiet Erik Blood, Irene Barber Lost in Slow Motion
Right Hand Man Christopher Jackson, Lin-Manuel Miranda Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Rill Rill Sleigh Bells Treats
Rolling in the Deep Adele 21
Romance Wild Flag Wild Flag
Same Love Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Mary Lambert The Heist
Santa Fe Beiruit The Rip Tide
Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) Arcade Fire The Suburbs
Starships Nicki Minaj Pink Friday
Step Vampire Weekend Modern Vampires of the City
Stranger Things Kyle Dixon, Michael Stein Stranger Things, Vol. 1
The Cave Mumford & Sons Sigh No More
The Fox Ylvis The Fox
The Scene Between The Go! Team The Scene Between
The Sweetest Thing JJ Grey, Mofro Blues Music
The Underside of Power Algiers The Underside of Power
This Girl Kungs, Cookin’ on 3 Burners Layers
Tightrope Janelle Monáe, Big Boi The ArchAndroid
Tremelo Young Fathers Cocoa Sugar
True Trans Soul Rebel Against Me! Transgender Dysphoria Blues
Uptown Funk Mark Ronson, Bruno Mars Uptown Special
Venus Fly Grimes, Janelle Monáe Art Angels
Violet Clementine Lady Lamb the Beekeeper After
Wave of History Downtown Boys Full Communism
We are Young fun., Janelle Monáe Some Nights
We Found Love Rihanna, Calvin Harris Talk That talk
White Foxes Susanne Sundfør The Silicone Veil
Witness Benjamin Book, Mavis Staples Witness
Work Charlotte Day Wilson CDW
You Want It Darker Leonard Cohen You Want It Darker
Your Best American Girl Mitski Puberty 2

2019 Year in Review: Favorite Albums


Here are five albums from 2019 that I really loved. Check out my lists of favorite albums from 20142016, 2017 and 2018 as well.

The New Normal by STL GLD

The Boston hip hop act STL GLD is well-regarded as one of the best groups in the area by local media. Boston isn’t a notable location on the hip hop map compared with other cities, but The New Normal should draw attention to our city. Moe Pope, Christopher Talken, and Jonathan Ulman perform songs that speak to the present moment of the Trump era, and all the political and personal turmoil that entails, but also offering a positive alternative vision. And STL GLD is not shy about getting their message out, including holding a listening party for the album’s premier in the unlikely setting of the Museum of Fine Arts. I admit that I don’t know enough about hip hop to write a thorough review, but I know what I like, and The New Normal, lyrically and musically, is worth listening to.

It’s Real by Ex Hex

This is the second album (following 2014’s Rips) from the Washington, DC based trio of Mary Timony on guitar, bassist Betsy Wright and drummer Laura Harris.  It’s got a mix of 80s punk and hardrock with touches of power pop and 60s girl groups thrown in.  There’s nothing quite original here, but it is a well-crafted collection of raging guitar solos and sweet harmonies.

The Best of Luck Club by Alex Lahey

Do you like 1980s power pop, but want to hear it from a young, contemporary artist? Australia’s Alex Lahey fits the bill on this album that just totally rocks.  She even rips out a sax solo on “Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself.” A year ago this week, I reviewed an album by Lahey’s fellow Australian Courtney Barnett, which I completely loved, and I feel just as strongly for The Best of Luck Club.  Lahey is maybe a bit less edgy musically than Barnett, but her lyrics are empowering and uplifting.  And even on the ballads the pair of ballads that close out the album – “Black RMs” and “I Want to Live With You” – Lahey express the contended domesticity of a loving relationship while still being a rock & roller.

Cut & Stitch by Petrol Girls

I have a soft spot for punk rock that features women’s voices shouting over shredding guitars.  The Petrol Girls website bears the tagline “Raging Feminist Post Hardcore from the UK and Austria” which about sums it up.  And while the shouted lyrics may not always be easy to understand, I appreciate that they’re saying important things, the emotion behind them is clear.

Cuz I Love You by Lizzo

Lizzo is one of those artists that excels in making music that fits into multiple genres – pop, hip hop, soul, funk, & R&B – so much so that her music is kind of it’s own Lizzo genre.  I was going to compare the music on Cuz I Love You to the work of Prince, and that was before I learned that Lizzo is from Minneapolis (in fact she appeared on the Prince and 3rdeyegirl album Plectrumelectrum).  The other obvious comparison is Janelle Monáe, and again there’s a direct connection as the pair performed together at Coachella last week and Lizzo interviewed Monáe for them. magazine.  What sets Lizzo apart is her joyful exuberance.  A large, black woman gets discriminated at from every angle, but Lizzo has embraced self-love, and much of the theme of this album is sharing the message of empowerment.  And she sounds she’s having so much fun while doing it.