I’d like to think the way in which I connect to music is somewhat analogous to the way smell and taste work at a micro level – a lock and key mechanism. From what little facts I’ve obliquely retained from high school biology, if the form and shape of a molecule are complementary matches, it can then bind to a neuron whose surface is commensurately shaped. And then that’s it; activation occurs. Not to sound cloying, but a person’s emotional landscape holds similar formal attributes when seeking and encountering meaningful “connections”. E.g., the emotional/molecular landscape of teens are riddled with craters of disaffection and angst, which is why very little music ever experientially resonates with me as much today as a pathetic cadre of hack emo buzzbands and backpack MTV rappers did when I was in middle school (although to be completely honest, I do still love some of that music – just never quite in the same way). In terms of artists who still move and bind to me today in that same rawly inveterate way, there have been few and far between – they do so only at the tiny ripped edges, the abstrusely tucked away places that I have tried but failed to smooth over.
The one record that stuck with me that way this year was Future’s Pluto. Sonically, the album’s conceptual audacity and musical cohesion have been covered by critic far better than I can. But my love of Pluto is inextricable with personal circumstance and experience. The album entered my life at a point in time during which I was taking on way too much, partly in an attempt to sublimate (illnesses within my family quickly became not just background noise, but main attractions). It’s kind of funny how beseeching I was, in 2012, to react to sentimental commercials, bad saccharine dramas, good French foreign films, and particularly moving Lil B tweets. I thought about family, love, and death constantly. So, into that weird mental constellation came Future with his eerily beautiful concept album about love, loss, outer space, and “wearing Gucci, wearing Prada at the same damn time” (i.e. conspicuous consumption).
Supported by Mike Will’s haunting, unforgettable production, “Turn on the Lights” turned out to be my most-played track of the year. To be frank, it is simply one of the rawest, most devastating songs I’ve ever heard. Augmented and universalized by auto-tune, Future’s lamentations of his personal agonies – the loss of his friends and uncle – in light of his success were, to me, devastatingly primal and painfully resonant.
Where there’s pain, though, there’s also pleasure. In 2012, I had never been happier, being more frequently moved to tears by my family and friends and the sheer thrill of being alive. Joy can buffet you with the same velocity as pain can. To this end, on songs like “Straight Up” and “Same Damn Time”, Future’s resiliency and buoyant exultations come across powerfully and unequivocally. “Fuck the World” isn’t nihilistic – it’s a ballad of triumph (giving yourself things that the world won’t; rising above opposition). The song that does this best, in my opinion, is “You Deserve It”, a song whose message is so catholic and whose production is so gorgeous that it’s effectually become a rallying cry/mantra among my friends (a couple of times this year I’ve had the unmatched pleasure of screaming “You Deserve It” in a room with people I love and it honestly brought water to my eyes, which, in a year where “thirsty” seemed like the oft-most used pejorative, was comically appropriate).
I feel blessed that Future dropped Pluto in 2012, a year that I direly needed it. But then again, I deserve it and so do you.