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Let’s Talk About Rihanna And Azealia Banks

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There’s a bizarro connection between these two girls. Two young ladies who consistently thrill me in an ever-evolving pop landscape where hip-hop meets fierce young woman, yes, but also artistically. It’s not easy to keep fans on their toes and push the genre or the aesthetic and sell millions of records. Because, let’s face it, Rihanna’s sold millions of records and, at 24, is about to release her seventh full-length and if it’s not a massive success, that’d be weird. But Azealia’s seen a level of success that’s quite unlike Robyn Fenty’s. As in, she’s been wildly played, listened to and bumped without a major label record of any kind. An EP and a mixtape do not make a proper debut album. She probably isn’t making a ton of money on millions of YouTube views and free downloads. And I never really thought of it, but it hit me like a ton of bricks when the first few psychedelic seconds of “Atlantis” flashed across the screen – THESE TWO ARE SOUL SISTERS.

This past weekend, Rihanna was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live. Anne Hathaway hosted. She did “Diamonds,” which is starting to pick up momentum and is clearly going to dominate your headspace the way “We Found Love” did. But what was really extra was her green screen tricks. Surreal screensaver times mesmerized while she chill marched in an oversized camo jacket and matching camo slip. Dolphins turned into waves, which turned into ionic columns with sort of weed-looking palm trees, which turned into heart monitor waves and so forth. You watch and you really do kind of think ‘Wait, am I on drugs? This is happening?’ IT’S SO WEIRD. But great. It’s so not boring. Her seventh record comes out a week from tomorrow. No lie – it totally crept up on us. November 19th and we get Unapologetic, and in the meantime, we can think about buying a ticket to her Wells Fargo Center spring date on March 14th.

Then A Banks hit us with a video for “Atlantis.” Just as weird. In fact, stylistically almost of the same family as Rihanna’s SNL stunts. It’s as if this is going to be a thing the way that fashion designers are channeling some kind of avant garde style trend that’s about to be the thing to have and wear. So soon, you’re going to be bombarded with basic, retro-looking screensaver effects with Paul Frank colors and headtrippy objects flying at you with kaleidoscopic realness. Banks is slated to deliver Broke With Expensive Taste in February and has zero foreseeable tour dates booked on this continent. But she’s 21 and could be a more powerful force in pop music than anyone’s realized.

So have they just been smoking the same good shit?


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