A Soundtrack For The Grown & Sexy & Soulful
Mistakes are made in your 20s. They never really stop, nor does the act of figuring life out. You just get better at handling it. If you’re 30 and up, you’re obviously still cool enough for Tyler, The Creator, 23, (Wolf was a great album). And no one’s putting an age limit on blasting Uncle Charlie Wilson. There’s always cross-pollination. But in the same breath, you may have told yourself: “This Young Thug song (he’s 21) makes me feel old.” Nas’ post-divorce, post-prime triumph, Life Is Good probably appeals to you more than, say, Miley Cyrus’ Bangerz.
As a new member to the 30s club (and even as a former oldies kid), I’m finding greater appreciation for
wine music that mirrors adult reality, which lies somewhere between enlightenment, confusion and being comfortable in your skin. R&B singers in particular fall into the trap of regressing and chasing trends (R. Kelly, Mariah Carey), so when an artist really settles into their wisdom, that’s when the music sounds just right.
Omarion, who turns 30 this year, drops Sex Playlist this June, for all the lovers. And the criminally under-appreciated Teedra Moses is working on an EP called Cognac & Conversation , two things I love. So there’s more grown and sexy to come. For now, sonically and thematically, these recent albums are the perfect soundtrack for 30-somethings aged to imperfection. —Clover Hope (@clovito)
1. Beyoncé (32) – Beyoncé (2013)
Adults Say: “I’m in the penthouse half-naked/I cooked this meal for you naked/So where the hell you at?”
Beyoncé really ripped open her robe and let us peek into her bedroom. She’s wearing hair rollers, still looking perfect. But she’s far less concerned with purity, instead singing about backseat fellatio, marital issues and her post-baby sex drive. This sexual liberation gave us her best and most personal project, which one-ups the maturity of 4 by adding a more carefree layer.
2. John Legend (35) – Love In The Future (2013)
Adults Say: “We’ve got a lot of nerve, girl/We walk around here like we own this place.”
A new husband, John Legend reinvented himself as a committed cuffer with a handful of wedding ballads like “All of Me” and “Made to Love.” There’s plenty here for those on long-term lockdown, and newlyweds should have this album on loop. It makes you want to fall or stay in love.
3. Pharrell (40) – G I R L (2014)
Adults Say: “You gotta go inward/to experience the outer space that was built for you.”
K, that’s something only Pharrell says. But G I R L is moons away from the bling of the Neptunes era. It’s adult contemporary, disco, soul, that features lines you might tell a 20-year-old. There are boyish regressions (he gets off on saying “gush”), because adults sometimes have lapses in maturity. But it’s easy to see why Pharrell’s dance-heavy Songs for Women have professional big kids responsibly twerking.
4. Toni Braxton (46) & Babyface (54) – Love, Marriage & Divorce (2014)
Adults Say: “I put the papers on your doorstep/The keys under the mat/Although the lawyer said to mail you/I’m still not over it”
This album could’ve been titled Shit Happens. Its target listener has been married at least once, so it’s better if you’re familiar with terms of pre-nuptials and maybe cried once to Usher’s “Papers.” It’s mostly downbeat, but Toni and Babyface transform tracks like “Where Did We Go Wrong” and “Hurt You” into classy relationship postmortems.
5. Mack Wilds (24) – NY: A Love Story (2013)
Adults Say: “I was hoping tomorrow morning we wake up together/Just tell me what side is your side”
If you want to understand why Mack Wilds (The Wire alum) deserved his Grammy nod this year, start with this dreamy mid-album sequence: “A NY Love Story” (where he’s seeking “a Stevie Wonder kind of love”), “Don’t Turn Me Down” and “The Sober Up.” Then listen to his cover of “Remember the Time.” Then replay the whole album. It’s a moody, old-soul project that pays homage to throwback New York rap, with appreciation rather than mimicry. There’s a discussion of love throughout “Art of Fallin'” that channels The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, and he sings about seeing his parents fall out of it.