Highlights of 2016: Anderson .Paak’s music
At the beginning of the year, I got on Facebook and recommended a musical artist named Anderson .Paak to all my friends. Whoever predicted Donald Trump would be President is more likely to be Nostradamus than I, but my little prediction was damn sure a more delightful crowd pleaser for most.
The . in his name is intended to represent detail, and I think it’s clear — based on what happened in 2016 — that not only does Anderson have detail, but he also has plenty of talent, work ethic, energy and range to go around.
Without a doubt, Anderson .Paak had a bigger year in music in 2016 than any other new artist. If I could, I’d vote for him in the Best New Artist category in the Grammys for a few clear reasons:
1. He earned it on the road. Whether it was NPR’s All Things Considered, late night shows, a dozen shows during South by Southwest 2016 (watch this now) or playing something like a hundred shows in Europe and the U.S. throughout the year, Anderson .Paak confirmed what everyone who bought his 2016 album, Malibu, already suspected: the dude is a star. As a live act, there’s no new artist more worthy of your hard-earned money than Anderson .Paak. Artist that back up quality music with great live shows are the best kind of artists to get behind; anyone in Austin knows that.
2. He earned it with quality music. For a lot of artists, they have major guest features to introduce them to the world or major exclusive support from Apple or Spotify to blast their voices and their hits from the mountaintops. With Anderson .Paak, I see something more akin to what Kendrick Lamar did with “good kid, M.A.A.D. City” in 2012 which is to put out a first-rate, undeniably addictive, infectious album that didn’t need a Billboard charttopper to carry its weight. Solange’s “A Seat at the Table” was my favorite album of 2016, but Malibu was the album I purchased two dozen copies of to give to friends as gifts all year long. It’s that good, and I’m not the only one who thinks so.
NPR, Fader, Pitchfork (ranked the 13th best album of 2016), Time Out, NME, The Guardian, The New York Times, Paste Magazine, LA Times, and countless others didn’t just include Anderson .Paak’s album in their “Best Albums” or “Best Songs” list in 2016, many of them had him in the top 25 or 30. That kind of consensus for a new artist is quite exceptional given he’s not singing pop ballads like Adele and Sam Smith or featured on a Kanye or Taylor Swift track.
3. Lastly, he earned it with his contributions to three other amazing albums in 2016: NxWorries’s “Yes Lawd!” (ranked 28th on the year by Pitchfork), Kaytranada’s 99.9%, easily the best dance album of 2016 (and #25 on Pitchfork’s “best of 2016” list), and, most recently, A Tribe Called Quest’s “We got it from Here…Thank you 4 Your service” (which Pitchfork ranked as the #7th best album of the year). I can’t remember the last time an artist contributed to four albums that made the top 30 in a “Best of the Year” Pitchfork list, but their names are probably Beyonce, Jack White, Pharrell, Kanye or Jay Z if it happened in the last decade.
Note: I am using Pitchfork as the standard bearer here because they are more consistent with quality music reviews than just about any publication (at least since Britney Spears grazed the cover of Rolling Stone in 1999.)
This post is partially to gloat about being a huge fan of Anderson .Paak’s, true, but it’s mostly to remind you all that while 2016 was a year filled with plenty of shock and worry, fear and disappointment, loss and hatred, it was also a year filled with exceptional music from Solange’s masterpiece and A Tribe Called Quest’s return after nearly two decades away to David Bowie’s “Blackstar” released just two days before his death. If you exit 2016 planning to see with one artist in 2017, make sure it’s Anderson .Paak.
I’m already gearing up to see him for the 7th time this year!