Album Review: Miley Cyrus – Bangerz

This is the second post from our contributor Dan. Check out his previous post here. Thanks for reading!

What a year 2013 was for Miley Cyrus.  She went from almost falling off the face of the planet through sheer irrelevance to becoming the biggest pop culture phenomenon of the year.  Following all her ridiculous/attention-getting antics at the VMAs, Miley released her first album in 3 years.  Bangerz is exactly what it wants to be – an over the top pop album with synth-beats on almost every track and some big names in the Rap game (Big Sean, Future, etc).

One of the four album covers for Bangerz. The rest can be found here.

One of the four album covers for Bangerz. The rest can be found here.

I will be giving my overall grade (on a scale of 1 – 10; 10 being the best) of the album at the end, but instead of reordering the songs into ‘best to worst’ order I will be using colors to visually demonstrate which songs I like the most, least, and the songs I am apathetic about.

If a song is green – I like it more than others; if a song is blue – It’s listenable; if a song is red – I don’t really like it. I will be adding purple to the list as well; purple will be for my favorite song on the album.

I have written a short review of every song and highlighted it based upon the scale above.

Track List

1. Adore You
2. We Can’t Stop
3. SMS (Bangerz) feat. Britney Spears
4. 4×4 feat. Nelly
5. My Darlin’ feat. Future
6. Wrecking Ball
7. Love, Money, Party feat. Big Sean
8. Get it Right
9. Drive
10. FU feat. French Montana
11. Do My Thang
12. Maybe You’re Right
13. Someone Else

Cyrus performing on December 2013. (Source)

Cyrus performing on December 2013. (Source)

Track reviews

 1. Adore You

This was the opening song on the album, and it quickly bored me.  Not a great way to start an album, but lucky for Miley she was able to pull the rest of this album out of the rubble.

2. We Can’t Stop

Not a bad song.  Initially I did not like this song when I heard over the summer because it was not Party in the USA but it has eventually grown on me.  It’s green because as hard as you try to avoid this song, hearing it is inevitable.  Very catchy, very Miley.  This was the first everyone saw of Nu-Miley.

3. SMS (Bangerz) feat. Britney Spears

The first really cool sounding song on the album.  Very cool feature of Brittney Spears.  Still pretty repetitive.  First time I’ve listened to a Miley Cyrus song that she said a swear word. She is no longer Hannah Montana and that’s okay.

4. 4×4 feat. Nelly

There is a very interesting instrumental track for this song.  Almost sounds a bit country at times, which makes the Nelly feature make so much sense.  You really get to hear the Southern roots of Miley in her vocals for this track.  Nelly continues to do Nelly things, makes me miss ‘Country Grammar.’

5. My Darlin’ feat. Future

There is a lot of emotion put into the first lines Miley has in the song, but then Future comes in and ruins it.  Honestly, any other feature would make this an okay song.  The lyrics shift from pretty emotional and heart broken at the start, to “we gon’ make a movie, its gon’ be in 3d.”  This song had potential, but it just couldn’t keep me interested.

6. Wrecking Ball

Everybody and their mother knows this song and video.  There really isn’t anything I can say about this song that hasn’t already been said.  Pretty good lyrically, pretty catchy.

7. Love, Money, Party feat. Big Sean

Miley is channeling her inner Ke$ha on this song.  The words “Love”, “Money”, and ”Party” are repeated over and over and over.  Kind of gives me a headache.  If it wasn’t for Big Sean’s verse on this song I think this would have been a red song.

8. #GETITRIGHT

This song reminds me of a Robin Thicke song, with Miley playing the role of Thicke.  When you think of the song like that it is pretty interesting. The similarities to this song and ‘Blurred Lines’ are apparent.

9. Drive

Miley opens this song showing off her impressive vocal range. I am a big fan of the instrumental track used.  It made me want to freestyle at times, which is always a good thing.  Lyrics follow the heartbreak of most of the album.

After listening to the whole album, I have decided that this song is my favorite.  This song is good summary for the album.  It is very catchy at times, but it’s coming from a place of pain.  Miley is weak, confused, and scared.  To me, this song shows that.

10. FU feat. French Montana

This is another pretty cool song.  French Montana is another poor feature, but he doesn’t do a whole lot, so it doesn’t affect the track a whole lot.  The vocals are grandiose over a very dub-by instrumental – which sounds like a weird combination – but it ends up working for the song.  The lyrics are slightly goofy at times and don’t really go with her vocals, but it still ends up working.

11. Do My Thang

Stop trying to rap on trap beats Miley; I don’t think it works for you as much as you think.  A lot of “bitch rhymes with bitch” rhyme patterns… Weak.

12. Maybe You’re Right

Meh.  The whole ‘every song is about Thor’s Brother’ thing is getting a little boring at this point in the album.

13. Someone Else

I enjoyed this song.  I couldn’t tell you what I really enjoyed about it, but I know that I liked it.

The bracelet on Cyrus's knuckles reads 'NICK.'

The bracelet on Cyrus’s knuckles reads ‘NICK.’

Overall:

2013 was Miley Cyrus’ year as far as popularity goes, but it also has been a year full of heartbreak and self-destruction for the young pop star.  She dealt with the end of a marriage proposal, which is never an easy thing for anyone to do.  She came back from all that to release an album that was nothing like anything she had done before.

Personally, I enjoyed a chunk of the album.  Miley has amazing talent when it comes to singing.  There are times when I see her have the vocal range of someone like Christina Aguilera, which is amazing, but there are also times where she feels that she would rather rap.  I was not a fan of the latter.  The album was filled with “Bangerz” that you would typically hear at a college party or a club, but if that is not your scene then this album is not for you.

 Final Grade : 7/10

Too much of the CD was boring, or repetitive, to the point where I couldn’t see myself giving a much higher rating, but overall the CD was not terrible.  Miley is still young, so I can see her making many more albums following this; lets just hope the next one isn’t all about Thor’s Brother.

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The Most Boring Album of the Year, Saved (Partially) by Two of the Most Interesting Rappers Alive

This is the first blog post from contributor Keith. Please welcome him with open arms! He’s great and this piece illustrates that! This piece was completed in December 2013.

Earlier today I was standing in line at Chipotle (my intestines hate me, and for good reason) and, as usual, I was staring at my phone, searching whatever came to mind. At the particular moment in question, my mind was on Chance the Rapper. Since it came out I have listened to Acid Rap almost once a day (if not more) as well as #10day. The guy is amazing. No, this is not a review of either of those mixtapes, because honestly, that review would be so laden with praise I would hear schoolyard bullies the whole time, “If you love him so much why don’t you marry him?” Easier said than done, bullies.

But no, I didn’t want my first album review to be something that I have obsessed over, instead something I hadn’t heard yet. So, I began Googling. The first article I came across was from SPIN, an outrageously glitchy site (at least on my iPhone) that was filled with pop-up advertisements (I can’t afford a Tonka truck, don’t try to sell me a Camry), and I fought through the issues to reach the article, titled Chance the Rapper Lends (More) Genius to James Blake’s ‘Life Round Here’Immediately, I turned to my brother and asked him who James Blake was; his response was a ten minute rant on ‘how pissed he was that people were talking about this guy instead of the tennis player’ – my brother cares way too much about sports. I could see he was going to be no help and trudged on with the article. Apparently, Chance did an alternate version of the song and killed it, as expected. I figured, why not listen to James Blake’s new album (Overgrown) for my first review. Done.

First thing’s first, find out something about James Blake, so I hit up Wikipedia, and learned that people love him. Cool. Next, get ahold of the album. Done. Then it came time to listen to it. I formed an opinion almost immediately, but I’ll leave that for later.

For this review I am going to use Brad’s method for grading (for example), green, blue, and red categories for the songs, (great, good, bad; respectively) each group then gets an explanation; then purple for my favorite of the album. I decided to add a brown song for my least favorite. Why brown? You do the math. I will give an overall grade for the album on a ten point scale. After I finish, I am going to add one more part, and that is a review of Chance’s version of the “Life Round Here”. I am not going to listen to that song until I write the initial review because I know that it would cause bias, and I want to approach this as objectively as possible.

As always, this is purely my opinion, and while I certainly believe that my opinion is correct (I haven’t spent several years and thousands of dollars on college for nothing) you, dear reader, are entitled to your opinion. Remember, you chose to read this, I’m not forcing you.

Without further ado, the track listing:

  1. Overgrown
  2. I Am Sold
  3. Life Round Here
  4. Take a Fall for Me (feat. RZA)
  5. Retrograde
  6. DLM
  7. Digital Lion
  8. Voyeur
  9. To the Last
  10. Our Love Comes Back
  11. Every Day I Ran (Bonus Track)
The album cover.

The album cover.

The track listing in order with their colorized grades:

  1. Overgrown
  2. I Am Sold
  3. Life Round Here
  4. Take a Fall for Me (feat. RZA)
  5. Retrograde
  6. DLM
  7. Digital Lion
  8. Voyeur
  9. To The Last
  10. Our Love Comes Back
  11. Every Day I Ran (Bonus Track)

Purple Level Song:

4. Take a Fall for Me (feat. RZA)

Explanation:

By far the best song on the album. Mr. Blake needs to thank Bobby Digital for adding the only real substance to the lyrics of this album. RZA’s spoken word poetry is without a doubt the coolest thing about this album, and it reaches the deepest level of art and emotion that Overgrown has to offer. There is also some cool distortion employed onto Bobby’s voice, making for a very interesting listen.

Green Level Songs:

5. Retrograde
6. DLM

Explanation:

These two work well. They follow up the track with RZA well, and they sufficiently kept my attention all the way through them. “Retrograde” changed enough throughout the song to keep it interesting, and “DLM,” though a short song, uses a cool, asynchronous piano melody, it backs off on the over-the-top vocals, and it has more lyrical content than most of the rest of the album.

Blue Level Songs:

3. Life Round Here
7. Digital Lion

Explanation:

These two songs are blue because they didn’t hold me through the entire track, but they were interesting enough to get my attention. “Life Round Here,” being the song that drew me to this album in the first place, was a relief, as it was the first on the album that was actually bearable, which gave me hope for the version with Chance (which I have still yet to listen to). “Digital Lion” also came with some cool beats at points, but like so many songs on the album, fell into a repetitive lull by the end. Both of these songs are interesting enough to listen to, but they are kept out of the green level because they get lost in a vortex of repetition and make the eyelids heavy.

Red Level Songs:

1. Overgrown
2. I Am Sold
9. To the Last
10. Our Love Comes Back
11. Every Day I Ran (Bonus Track)

Explanation:

Boring. Boring. Boring.

I can’t say it enough. These five songs are aggressively unremarkable. Blake warbles on and on, articulating so little lyrical content that I wonder why anyone bothered writing lyrics. He could have achieved the same effect with just the non-verbal sounds that dominate most of these songs. I looked up the lyrics to all of them just to make sure that I wasn’t missing something and my stomach turned when I saw all of the lines cut and pasted over and over and over yet again. I would have to imagine that he got bored singing the same words in the same way so many times, because I certainly got bored listening to them. About halfway through each of these songs, I found myself wishing that it would end, and despairing at the small amount of time that had elapsed.

No change was in sight. None of these songs are long either. I would understand if it was like Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 where the songs actually do go on forever, but these ones just felt like they did. This section is especially bad because it includes the first two songs on the album. Before the first song ended (also the title track of the album!) I wanted to turn it off, but I had committed to it, so I powered through, and saw it to the end.

Brown Level Song:

8. Voyeur

Explanation:

Utter garbage. The lyrics are (according to metrolyrics.com)

“I don’t mind, it was all me/’Cause I am flawed/When I am through those doors/’Cause I am flawed/Times unsure/I should do whatever will make you feel secure/I don’t mind, it was all me.”

What am I supposed to get from that? Clocking in at 4:18, this is the fourth longest song on the album, and should have been – How long did it take you to read those lyrics? – Let’s go with your answer to that question. This song is terrible for all of the reasons that those in the red level have, but it is far worse for one major reason: this song thinks (personification for the song, I suppose I should say that James Blake thinks) that it does change and stay interesting, but this belief is a farce. The man repeats the same few words over and over, adding layers like a madman, but keeping the same boring gait. The vocals and sounds distort, discombobulate, and annoy the listener. It makes me think of the soundtrack that I imagine the CIA would have played over a brainwashing video in the sixties. If I have to hear “I don’t mind, it was all me” again, I may lose it.

Overall Grade: 2/10

I realize that this kind of music is in right now (for some reason), and though I just heard about it today, I understand that people love this album; but for the life of me I cannot figure out why. The vocal style is mind numbing and gets played out before the first song is even over, but continues for 43 minutes. The instrumentals are repetitive, only deviating to add unnecessary layers, there is virtually no lyrical content on the entire work (save for RZA’s shining verses), and it goes on for entirely too long. The only true bright spot on the album is RZA reciting a very cool poem, but that is not enough to redeem it. Yeah, a couple of songs are bearable, and a couple I would listen to again, but I would never put myself through the misery of this entire album again, and I wouldn’t suggest that anyone else do it.

Unless of course this album is your cup of tea. If you dig this style, cool, enjoy your nap, I’ll be listening to something with a purpose.

Extra Bit:

As I mentioned before, I will now be reviewing the version of “Life Round Here” with Chance the Rapper. I wrote the whole review of the album before listening to the song so that I wouldn’t know how great it could have been while reviewing what was actually on the album. I’ll be back in four minutes.

Chance The Rapper

Chance The Rapper

Alright, I lied. I listened to it a couple times, and read the lyrics along with Chance after the first listen. I wish I could take James Blake out of this song. As usual, Chance kills it, and ignoring Blake’s vocals the instrumental is really nice and compliments Chance well. Basically, for this song to reach the stratosphere of some of Chances other features (“LSD” by ProbCause, “Bout a Dolla” by the O’My’s, or “Tweakin” by Vic Mensa) he would probably need to get another verse and not have to compete with Blake for time and sound. I’m pretty much asking for James Blake to take his voice and name off the song (he’d still be the producer) and just let Chance do what he does best; kill it every time.

References:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/d/de/James_Blake_-_Overgrown_album_cover.png

http://www.spin.com/articles/chance-the-rapper-james-blake-life-round-here-remix/

https://chwomp.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/album-review-taking-back-sundays-tayf10-acoustic-album/

http://www.metrolyrics.com/james-blake-lyrics.html

http://www.metrolyrics.com/voyeur-lyrics-james-blake.html

Editors Note: Thanks for reading! Please leave any comments or concerns you have below.

 It’d be great if you followed the blog on Twitter and Facebook, and if you became a follower on WordPress. It’d be wonderful if you told your friends about us too!

Album Review: Childish Gambino – Because The Internet

This is the first post by contributor Dan. Please welcome him with open arms and read his wonderful review.

I first heard Childish Gambino in early 2011, when the song “Be Alone” was released and EP was first announced. The only reason I initially listened to that song was to see if Donald Glover (the dude from Derrick Comedy and Community in my eyes at this time, nothing more) could actually make bearable music.  Not only was this music bearable, it was pretty amazing!  Every song filled with pop culture reference after pop culture reference, that I actually understood.  It was way different from the Wiz Khalifa that all my friends we’re listening to at that time, but way better.

CG

Fast Forward to 2013. After getting such rocky reviews for Camp and Royalty, Gambino prepares to release his fourth album (Culdesac predates two previously mentioned). This one however is a little different than the others; this is more than an original album.  This is a piece of art, complete with its own e-screenplay.  This e-screenplay has all the media built right in, from a player to play each track when necessary, to videos to go along with the listening/reading/watching experience.   In my opinion, this is the most complete album of the year.  As a stand alone, the CD is still great, but it doesn’t really make too much sense for Donald/Childish to be rapping about some topics that he does.  When linked with the screenplay, the whole album makes so much more sense because you are getting perspective that you were not just getting with the lyrics.

The only track I was not fully invested into this album was “Urn”; however after reading the section in the screenplay, I see the song’s purpose. It is an important part in the story even if it is a bland part of the album.

Childish Gambino put himself on the album cover for Because The Internet

Childish Gambino put himself on the album cover for Because The Internet

This album is also split into sub sections, which really work for the album.  These sections differentiate in setting of the story, that give the reader/listener a better understanding to what CG or “the boy” is feeling at this point in the story.  My favorite section of the album is track 10-12, or as I refer to it as, “The Party Chapters.” Track 10 is just Donald playing some piano chords (which occurs in the screenplay as well), followed by (in my opinion) the coolest song on the album “the Party” which features a flawless verse and then quickly dies out into the next track.  Track 12, “No Exit” is one of the most haunting songs on the album, and it works so well for the section it is.

As a whole thing, Because the Internet is easily one of the best pieces of art to come out this year.  I would strongly recommend that you read the screenplay through at least once (can easily be done in one sitting.)  Below is the tracklist, normally I would recommend certain tracks to pull out and listen to separately, but I feel that this album works best as a whole, because it is split into all these subsections.:

  1. ‘The Library (Intro)’
  2. I. ‘The Crawl’
  3. II. ‘Worldstar’
  4. ‘Dial Up’
  5. I. ‘The Worst Guys’ (Featuring Chance The Rapper)
  6. II. ‘Shadows’
  7. III. ‘Telegraph’ (“Oakland” by Lloyd)
  8. IV. ‘Sweatpants’
  9. V. ’3005′
  10. ‘Playing Around Before The Party Starts’
  11. I. ‘The Party’
  12. II. ‘No Exit’
  13. ‘Death By Numbers’
  14. I. ‘Flight of The Navigator’
  15. II. ‘Zealots of Stockholm’ (Free Information)
  16. III. ‘Urn’
  17. I. ‘Pink Toes’ (Featuring Jhene Aiko)
  18. II. ‘Earth: The Oldest Computer (The Last Night)’ [Featuring Azealia Banks]
  19. III. ‘Life: The Biggest Troll’ (Andrew Auernheimer)

Here is also a link to the screenplay.

Track List For Childish Gambino’s ‘Because The Internet’ Revealed

I apologize for making two separate posts concerning Childish Gambino, but the video player used for that song would only let me post the video of Childish Gambino performing ‘Shadows.’

Thanks to this Alternative Press article, I now know the names of all the tracks on Childish Gambino’s upcoming album Because The Internet. 

1. “The Library (Intro)
2. “I. The Crawl”
3. “II. Worldstar”
4. “Dial Up”
5. “I. The Worst Guys” (feat. Chance the Rapper)
6. “II. Shadows”
7. “III. Telegraph” (feat. Lloyd)
8. “IV. Sweatpants”
9. “V. 3005”
10. “Playing Around Before the Party Starts”
11. “I. The Party”
12. “II. No Exit”
13. “Death by Numbers”
14. “I. Flight of the Navigator”
15. “II. Zealots of the Navigator”
16. “III. Umm”
17. “I. Pink Toes,” feat. Jhene Aiko
18. “II. Earth: The Oldest Computer (The Last Night)” (feat. Azealia Banks)
19. “III. Life: The Biggest Troll (Andrew Auernheimer)”

I am most excited about track 18 featuring Azealia Banks and track 5 which features Chance The Rapper. This is shaping up to be a stupendous album, I now just have to hear it – but I’ll be waiting until December 10th before I can buy it.

Infographic: Grammy Winners For Album Of The Year By Genre

Below is a nifty infographic that I made using this website. I believe it is worth a look-see at the different genres that have won Album of the Year; granted the Grammy Awards normally neglect ‘good’ music (which is a very subjective term when describing anything) for more mainstream music, but there are several ‘good’ albums that have won Album of the year before. Click here to see the list of winners in it’s entirety.

This is a 'stacked' bar graph illustrating the Grammy winners of Album of the Year by their genres. The 1950s only has one winner because 1959 was the first year of the Grammy Awards; the 2010s only have four winners because it is only 2013.

This is a ‘stacked’ bar graph illustrating the Grammy winners of Album of the Year by their genres. The 1950s only has one winner because 1959 was the first year of the Grammy Awards; the 2010s only have four winners because it is only 2013. (Source for data)

I never would have guessed that Comedy of all genres would win an Album of the Year award, let alone two of them! I had a hard time deciding whether to conjoin Hip-hop/Rap, but I decided again it because each genre has separate qualities to it. It is also interesting to note the shift of music from the 1960s to now, as well as the  growing variety of genres for each decade of winners. If you have any questions about this infographic please let me know!

Note: Rap, Folk, and Rock have nearly the same identifying color in the above infographic, but Rap has won a total of 0 Album of the Year Award. I just placed Rap in this graph to show the breadth of music genres (and the above aren’t even all of them).

Note 2: In the 2010s, I selected the Taylor Swift album Fearless as being ‘Pop’ instead of ‘Country’; it could be argued that the album deserves one genre over the other, I apologize for not making that clearer in the original post.

Band of the Week: OutKast

Here are the previous ‘Band of the Week’ recipients.

Right away, I want to state that OutKast isn’t necessarily a band, per se, but I think their music is of high quality and warrants ‘Band of the Week’ honors. We can argue the semantics of ‘band’ later on, but for now OutKast is staying put as ‘Band of the Week.’ Comment below if you feel otherwise.

Big Boi and Andre 3000 in a picture titled "Grillin'." (Source)

Big Boi and André 3000 in a picture titled “Grillin’.” (Source)

The group now known as ‘OutKast’ was formed in 1992 in Atlanta, Georgia by André Benjamin (André 3000) and Antwan Patton (Big Boi). The original name of the hip-hop group was Two Shades Deep, but quickly became named as OutKast. The group is known as a hip-hop duo, but the pair use many different genres in their music, including:  blues, electronic, funk, jazz rock, spoken word poetry, and soul. Not quite a hip-hop duo at all, but that’s what makes OutKast great – the inability to pin them down onto one genre.

The duo have created six total albums, but first struck mainstream gold with Stankonia (2000); specifically with songs ‘Ms. Jackson’ and ‘B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad). (The peculiar thing about B.O.B. is that the song was written before America had dropped bombs on Baghdad.) Three years later OutKast released Speakerboxxx/The Love Below – which I believe to be the best Hip-Hop album of the 21st century (I know it’s only been thirteen years into this century, but this album still holds up and will hold up).

This album was released in September 2003. (Source)

This album was released in September 2003. (Source)

Speakerboxxx/The Love Below  became Outkast’s most successful album to date (sold over 5 million albums and was the #1 album on the Billboard Top 200 for several), but that may be in part because of how the album was formulated. The album is actually a double album where Big Boi and André 3000 created several songs of their own without the other – the album includes 31 songs (including an ‘intro’ and an interlude). Other than Stadium Arcadium I can’t think of another recent album with this type of song volume. This strategy paid off because along with the commercial success, the group won the 2004 Grammy for ‘Album of the Year.’

The duo then created music for the musical film Idlewild in 2005/06. Idlewild set in the depression era of the United States in Georgia; the film was distributed by Universal Pictures and HBO Films. The group created the entire soundtrack for Idlewild and would be the last full album the duo did together. Since 2007 the two have gone on their separate ways with solo work (including acting as well as music), but neither has officially closed the book on OutKast so there’s still a sliver of hope that the group reconnects in the future for some more stupendous music.

Here’s one of my favorite songs by OutKast (though it’s André 3000’s song) in ‘Hey Ya.’ But please read after the video why ‘Hey Ya’ is actually a very sad song, and not the upbeat hit that you may believe it to be. I cannot embed the actual video from OutKast because of Vevo being very limited with where their videos can be posted, so here’s a lyric video. I hope it suffices.

Here is an excerpt from a 2012 Cracked.com piece on why ‘Hey Ya’ is a sound song:

At its core, “Hey Ya” is an incredibly sad song. The lyrics are basically an indictment of the entire idea of being in a relationship. Not just getting married, but being in a relationship at all. The “hero” of the song has found himself tied down to a woman that he no longer loves, and to make matters worse, it’s pretty clear she’s lost that feeling for him also. And that’s how, in the midst of one of the most deceivingly happy-sounding songs ever, a line like this found its way in:

“So why oh, why oh/Why oh, why oh, why oh/Why are we so in denial/When we know we’re not happy heeeerrreeee?”

If you’re not reading that and feeling bummed out, congrats on the contentment you feel about your current relationship or your belief that your current state of soul-crushing loneliness will someday come to an end.

Thanks for reading this weeks ‘Band of the Week’ piece. If you have any suggestions for a band that should be ‘Band of the Week’ next week, please comment below.

One Of My Favorite J. Cole Songs

J. Cole has been making it big time with Born Sinner and previously Cole World: Sideline Story, but one of his older songs is what really drew me into his music.  It’s a very dark song about how quickly we (humans) become infatuated with someone based solely on looks (we are superficial creatures anymore), and the devastating aftermath of actually putting yourself out there and being shut down.  Enjoy the song – it’s called ‘Dreams.’

What’s your favorite J. Cole song?