Azealia Banks' new album, Broke With Expensive Taste, which I have not purchased, is not listed on her Billboard.com chart history (eta: is now at № 30) and currently stands № 39 on Amazon.com, ahead of 'Miranda Lambert' and behind 'Metallica'. It deserves to be higher on this list, although not at № 1, even thought at the moment it is № 1 in my heart.
If you don't know by now, and you could not be expected to in light of commercial underperformance, Azealia Banks is a woman-rapper of 23 (they get younger every year!) from New York City, whose image is retro, bisexual, libidinous and sharp.
I don't really want to get into a discussion of what Azealia Banks is, or what her music is about, because when I think about it, much of what she raps is unintelligible to me, incomprehensible not just in meaning but in diction without Rap Genius marginalia. Her tongue is very fluid and fast, in terms of skill as inaccessible with respect to rapping as the 'Queen of the Night' aria is to singing. Her relegation of words to a substrate for melody results in a 'Finnegans Wake'-like libretto that carries little story, only mood.
Most music reviews do not serve the uninformed consumer like me very well. They have too much backstory on which I'd prefer to remain ignorant, presuppose a lot of experience with listening to music and current trends (I've only heard ∼4 new albums this year, perhaps ∼5 rap albums in my life) and use numerically-specific but opaque rating schemes. These ratings fail to take into account performer-driven music being like a commodity, but one whose widgets are not interchangeable. Standard-driven music can be improved incrementally, every advance in recording fidelity or virtuoso skill precipitating a new cycle of Beethoven's Symphonies or the 'Great American Songbook'.
Of course every review must have a biased PERSPECTIVE because the reviewer is not GAIA or TRANSCENDENTAL ONENESS but a human being whose tastes have been shaped force and free will and availability (e.g. I cannot be a 1989 fan until 1989 is available on Spotify #Free1989). I am a very picky and sparse listener when it comes to music, unlike my approach to food, I am perfectly content listening to the same album 100 times in a row if nothing better has come along. Listening to Broke With Expensive Taste I was coming off 'LP1', which was more reliant on electronic samples, but also sparse, irregular and analytical. Broke With Expensive Taste has several high-octane moments, especially the syrupy choruses, but it is never quiet and never comes to a full stop.
To rate the album functionally I propose dismissing comparative judgments of Azealia Banks' rapping, singing or musical skill and focus on the pure enjoyment of the album. In terms of seriousness some portions faltered because of Banks insistence on using a 'hard', charismatic register of her voice unlike that of 1991, still her crowning achievement. From that I had to dismiss the track 'BBD' out of hand, and discount 'Ice Princess' and 'Yung Rapunxel' (a favorite of mine which nonetheless requires…acclimation). 'Nude Beach A Go-Go', a cover from the upcoming 'pom pom' by Ariel Pink, is too deviant from the norm for inclusion.
So, the total running length of the album works out to 60:11, which is excellent and meaty. Subtracting the remainders 'Nude Beach' and 'BBD', and applying a 50% discount to 'Ice Princess' and 'Yung Rapunxel', two tracks sonically packaged together, as well as the whimsical 'Miss Camaraderie', we are left with a functional length of 2,887 seconds, which divided by the total gives us 80%. The pricing of pop music is irregular but the functional seconds per dollar should be taken into consideration when purchasing an album. Music being art, I don't think a treatment of the most productive usage of your listening time would be apropos.
Broke With Expensive Taste is an amalgam of previously-released work, the 'old set' of the album (Luxury, Heavy Metal, Yung Rapunxel, 212, Chasing Time), the 'deprecated set' (BBD, Nude Beach, Ice Princess, Miss Camaradarie) and the remaining 'new set', which deserves to be isolated in your playlist so you can let yourself go in the half-hour wave of chillness from the land before time. Here is my ordering. The essential listening includes Soda, Miss Amor, Gimme A Chance, Idle Delilah and JFK, in order of importance.
Pitchfork, whose review model I ragged on earlier, awarded this album the same score I did. Image credit: The 405.