New year, new me: Artists who reinvented themselves
As 2018 opens, we are greeted with the ubiquitous phrase “new year, new me.” New Year’s is a convenient, if not entirely arbitrary, time to reinvent yourself and the same can be said for various artists and bands. 2017 saw a variety of established artists going in new directions, as well as some new artists taking risks.
One of the artists to most impressively reinvent themselves in 2017 was Nnamdi Ogbonnaya. Ogbonnaya is a multi-instrumentalist from Chicago and is one of the best known artists in the Chicago DIY scene, specifically within the realm of math rock. Known for being prolific and always on the move, Ogbonnaya is a member of dozens of bands and has released several solo albums. Last year in early March, he released “Drool,” another solo album, but one quite different from his earlier work.
“Drool” is a math rock/hip-hop fusion album that perfectly blends core elements from the two genres. Ogbonnaya’s use of changing time signatures and complex rhythms is something straight out of math rock and he uses those rhythms and beats to shape his flow and the overall feel of the album. Some things that you hear on “Drool” you don’t hear anywhere else, and Ogbonnaya’s own personality and experiences play deeply into that fact.
From “Drool,” you get a good picture of Ogbonnaya’s personality quirks and how he interacts with the world around him. His music is deeply personal, but in a way that much of it can still be taken lightly. That being said, some of the songs on the album cover deep, intense issues such as police brutality and racial justice. Those songs are balanced out by songs about his life and past relationships, which tend to be on the lighter side.
“Drool” is a masterfully crafted album that creates a unique sound. 2017 gave Ogbonnaya the opportunity to reinvent his music style while not departing from his math rock roots. The album made appearances on many of Chicago’s top albums of 2017 lists.
Coming out of a successful suit against her one-time producer Dr. Luke, Kesha spent 2017 making music that celebrated her freedom from his abuse. With the release of “Rainbow,” Kesha’s music style shifted from a “party pop” vibe to one of self-empowerment.
“Rainbow” is not just a new direction for Kesha in terms of message, but also in terms of sound. Unlike “Animal” and “Warrior,” Kesha’s new music is less club-oriented and more personal. It’s a story of her struggles and of her regaining control of her life. “Rainbow,” as a result, is a more passionate album than her earlier work and one that you can tell means a lot to her as an artist.
Kesha’s personal transformation made “Rainbow” what it is and its messages of empowerment come from her own experience of breaking free. Sonically, the album may be more somber and serious than her previous work, but it feels just as hopeful at its core. Kesha uses her music to send a message more so than in her previous works. 2017 represented a year of wins for the artist. She used these victories to redefine her sound and her image, resulting in a comeback.
The hip-hop collective/all-American boy band BROCKHAMPTON came out of the year very strong. The group, which released their first album, “ALL-AMERICAN TRASH,” in 2015, came back in the summer of 2017 to release their sophomore album “SATURATION.” But “SATURATION” was not a stand-alone album; it was the first installation of a trilogy.
“SATURATION,” “SATURATION II,” and “SATURATION III” were released throughout the second half of the year and represented a reinvention of BROCKHAMPTON. The boy band moved into a house in Los Angeles together to begin working on the trilogy and “SATURATION” represents their collective new direction. The music in the trilogy expands on a lot of topics including race, sexuality, members’ pasts and falling in love. While “ALL-AMERICAN TRASH” was a solid album, the “SATURATION” trilogy feels a lot smoother and more refined.
The trilogy launched the band in terms of popularity, with all three albums being well-received by fans and, for the most part, by critics as well. “SATURATION” represents BROCKHAMPTON’s new direction and attempts to grow as a collective. The trilogy set the group on a new direction: one that promises more albums, and those albums are bound to be anticipated by a dedicated fan base.
As 2018 starts, it’s difficult to avoid falling into the “new year, new me” trope. I can’t help but look forward to new music from these evolving artists. I’m even more excited to see which other musicians will reinvent themselves this year.