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Alright (Kendrick Lamar song)

"Alright" is a song by American rapper Kendrick Lamar, taken from his third album To Pimp a Butterfly (2015).[1] Lyrically a festive song about hope, it features uncredited vocals from the song's co-producer Pharrell Williams during the chorus. "Alright" was released to radio stations as the album's fourth single on June 30, 2015.[2] Most music publications considered it among the best songs and videos of the year, highlighting their message in the social context of the time. "Alright" received four nominations at the 58th Grammy Awards: Song of the Year, Best Music Video, Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song, winning the latter two.

"Alright"
Single by Kendrick Lamar
from the album To Pimp a Butterfly
Released June 30, 2015
Format Digital download
Recorded 2014–15
Genre Jazz rap
Length 3:39
Label
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
  • Pharrell Williams
  • Sounwave
  • Michael Kuhle
Kendrick Lamar singles chronology
"Bad Blood"
(2015)
"Alright"
(2015)
"These Walls"
(2015)
"Bad Blood"
(2015)
"Alright"
(2015)
"These Walls"
(2015)
Music video
"Alright" on YouTube

The song was associated with Black Lives Matter after several youth lead protests were heard chanting the chorus, with some publications calling "Alright" the "unifying soundtrack" of the movement.[3]

Contents

Inspiration and compositionEdit

Originally, Pharrell Williams created the beat and only six months later, Williams came up with a hook that inspired Lamar to find the right lyrics. The hook, "We gon' be alright!" allowed Lamar to use the symbolism inherent to spur the rest of the song's lyrics that eventually resonated with an entire movement.[4] In an interview with MTV News, Lamar said it was inspired by his trip to South Africa, witnessing other people's problems in the country: "their struggle was ten times harder."[5] The track opens with lines from Alice Walker's The Color Purple, "Alls my life, I had to fight". Lamar introduced the character "Lucy", who plays an essential role in the remainder of the album.[6] According to the lyrics, as Lamar gets bigger so does Lucy: "ain't a profit big enough to feed you". At the end of the track, Lamar talks about his suicidal thoughts once in a hotel room "I didn't wanna self-destruct... The evils of Lucy was all around me."[7] For music critics a "celebration of being alive",[8] Lamar described "Alright" as message of hope.[9] The song begins as a spoken-word treatise before exploding into a shapeshifting portrait of America that brings in jazz horns, skittering drum beats and Lamar's mellifluous rapping as he struggles with troubles and temptations. Musically, it features marching band propulsion and a jazz band's breezy reeds.[10] For his sole production credit, Pharrell Williams, who made the track with Digi+Phonics' member Sounwave, sings the hook.[11]

Critical receptionEdit

Ranked number one on Pitchfork's "The 100 Best Tracks of 2015", an editor praised the chorus "We gon be alright," and described it as "an ebulliently simple five-syllable refrain, a future-tense assertion of delivery to a better, more peaceful place. In more than one instance, the song's chorus was chanted at Black Lives Matter protests. It has soundtracked a movement. That's largely due to its holistic sentiment as a siren against innumerable injustices, but it has just as much to do with the fact that it's a great hook on a ferociously catchy song."[10] Consequence of Sound also ranked the song number one on its "Top 50 Songs of 2015" list, the magazine's editors described the song as "buoyant, festive, serious, personal, and all-encompassing. Only a song so brilliant in so many ways could earn the honor of becoming a protest song ... 'Alright' isn't about determination; it's about forgetting cold, harsh reality and hoping for something brighter and better if only for three minutes and 39 seconds."[12]

For The New York Times, writer Nate Chinen placed the song atop his "The Best Songs of 2015" list, adding "the verses harbor a (more) internal struggle  – and some of Kendrick Lamar's most inspired showboating as a rapper."[13] Billboard ranked "Alright" at number eight on its year-end list of 2015: "Lamar made the struggle his message on the soul-stirring To Pimp a Butterfly cut "Alright." ... The fight-the-power anthem became the nation's rallying cry in 2015, especially for the Black Lives Matter movement. The plight of police brutality victims can be heard in every breath Lamar takes on "Alright" as he tackles society's ills with resilience: "Homie you fucked up/But if God got us then we gon' be alright."[14] In a second list for the year's best hip-hop songs, Billboard placed "Alright" at number three.[15] Village Voice named "Alright" the fourth-best single released in 2015 on their annual year-end critics' poll, Pazz & Jop.[16] Newsday's editor Glenn Gamboa also ranked it as the best song of the year.[17]

Music videoEdit

 
The video for "Alright" was partially filmed in Los Angeles.

Release and synopsisEdit

"I wanted to have this m.A.A.d. city concept in there first. It basically shows the state of everything that's going on in the world right now. It's also showing how one man can basically spread positivity through all of the madness that's going on and how everything is gonna be alright [...] The video starts off so dark and it just progresses and gets lighter and lighter as it goes."
 — Director Colin Tilley talking about the music video concept in an interview with MTV.[18]

Lamar was spotted filming the song's music video on Treasure Island in San Francisco, California[19] and atop a traffic light pole in Los Angeles, California.[20] It was released on Lamar's Vevo page on June 30, 2015.[21] The seven-minute-long clip, directed by Colin Tilley and The Little Homies, was filmed entirely in black-and-white.

The music video starts by showing shots of life in a neighborhood. A young African-American man is seen lying on the ground and Lamar begins speaking. Police and destruction flood the scene as the music starts, and Lamar begins rapping a new verse alongside his Black Hippy cohorts (ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul and Jay Rock), in a car carried by four police officers (this section of the video is very similar to the intro of Busta Rhymes' music video for "Woo-Hah! Got You All In Check.")[22] During the video, Lamar flies through California, while his crew is throwing out money to everybody and dancers perform in the streets. At the end of the music video, Lamar stands on a lamppost and a policeman shoots him down. The rapper falls to the ground finishing his monologue from the beginning of the video, but ends the clip with a smile.[21]

ReceptionEdit

Pitchfork ranked it as the best music video of 2015, highlighting "Lamar's own flight above the streets of L.A., his inner-city Icarus providing one of the most arresting – and liberating – images of the year."[23] Consequence of Sound listed the video at number one on its "Top 5 Music Videos of 2015", concluding "The video works as a microcosm of the sad and wretched state of many cities: crooked cops, burning cars, abandoned buildings, and bleak backdrops of an urban sprawl. It's powerful, harrowing, bleak, and hopeful all at once."[24] Spin also listed the clip atop its "The 25 Best Music Videos of 2015".[25]

Eric Ducker for Rolling Stone wrote "Lamar emerges as a charismatic but vulnerable superhero, flying through the city and doing donuts in a parking lot as a kid gleefully sits shotgun," and also commended the director Colin Tilley's work, "he creates a starker experience befitting one of the most ambitious albums by a major artist in recent history. Tilley rises to the challenge of matching Lamar's beautifully complex and conflicted vision." The editor listed it at number six on his best music videos of 2015 article.[26] Slant Magazine staff named it the 4th best video of the year.[27] The music video received four nominations at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards, including Video of the Year, Best Male Video and Best Direction,[28] ultimately winning the latter. Furthermore, it received a nomination for Grammy Award for Best Music Video.

Live performances and controversyEdit

Lamar performed the song for the first time at the 15th BET Awards on June 28, 2015. The performance featured Lamar standing on a graffiti-embossed police car flanked by a gigantic battered American flag.[29] Geraldo Rivera of Fox News called the performance "disgusting", and criticized Lamar, stating that "Hip Hop has done more damage to African Americans than racism in recent years".[30] Lamar, later, responded to the comments with a short video questioning Rivera's claim, stating "How can you take a message of hope and turn it into hate?"[9] Lamar later used audio of Rivera's comments in his song "DNA.".[31]

"Alright" was featured on the Kunta's Groove Sessions tour.[32] Lamar and Pharrell Williams performed the song together at LA radio station Power 106's annual Cali Christmas concert.[33]

Lamar performed a medley of "The Blacker the Berry" and "Alright" at the 58th Grammy Awards.[34] It was ranked by Rolling Stone and Billboard as the best performance and best moment of the night,[35][36] with the latter writing "It was easily one of the best live TV performances in history."[37]

Lamar has performed "Alright" at every show on the Damn tour.[38]

ImpactEdit

In 2015, several youth lead protests against police brutality across the country were heard chanting the chorus to "Alright".[39][40] Writing for Rolling Stone's editor Grate Tate commented "Lamar's "Alright" has been touted by many a comrade in today's student activist cadre as their "We Shall Overcome"".[41] Additionally, several contemporary progressive news outlets, including BET, raised the idea of "Alright" being the modern Black National Anthem.[42][43][44] Lamar was featured on Ebony Power 100, annual list that recognizes many leaders of the African-American community, emphasizing "how the chorus of his song "Alright" became a chant for Black Lives Matter protestors".[45] Producer Sounwave stated "I didn't expect "Alright" to be the protest song but I did know it was going to do something because the time we're living in made it the perfect song."[46] Protestors at a Chicago rally for Donald Trump chanted the chorus of the song in March 2016.[47]

Usage in mediaEdit

Kendrick Lamar made a cameo in a promo ad for ABC sitcom Black-ish. A minute-long clip was released featuring Lamar's song in a music video the show's Johnson kids create to become an "overnight viral sensation." The remainder of the promo ad moves into a music video setting where the Black-ish casts raps along to "Alright" while Lamar himself sits on the family couch munching on snacks.[48] On January 25, 2016, the Grammys released a promotional video where Compton residents rap along to "Alright" before Lamar joins them at the end.[49]

AccoladesEdit

Year Organization Award Result Ref.
2015 MTV Video Music Awards Video of the Year Nominated [28]
Best Male Video
Best Hip-Hop Video
Best Direction Won
MTV Europe Music Awards Best Video Nominated [50]
BET Hip Hop Awards Best Hip Hop Video Won [51]
Impact Track
Soul Train Music Awards Video of the Year Nominated [52]
Best Hip Hop Song of the Year Won
2016 Grammy Awards Song of the Year Nominated [53]
[54]
Best Rap Performance Won
Best Rap Song
Best Music Video Nominated

ChartsEdit

Chart (2015) Peak
position
Belgium (Ultratip Flanders)[55] 27
Belgium Urban (Ultratop Flanders)[56] 44
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[57] 109
UK R&B (Official Charts Company)[58] 20
US Billboard Hot 100[59] 81
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)[60] 14

CertificationsEdit

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
United States (RIAA)[61] Platinum 1,000,000 

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
 sales+streaming figures based on certification alone

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Jeffries, David (March 16, 2015). "To Pimp a Butterfly - Kendrick Lamar". AllMusic. Retrieved March 28, 2015. 
  2. ^ "Kendrick Lamar Picks Fourth Single from "To Pimp a Butterfly"". 24Urban.com. 2015-06-11. Retrieved 2015-06-11. 
  3. ^ Coscarelli, Joe (December 29, 2015). "Kendrick Lamar on the Grammys, Black Lives Matter and His Big 2015". The New York Times. Retrieved January 11, 2016. 
  4. ^ Gilbert, Ben (2016-10-25). "Kendrick Lamar's civil rights anthem 'Alright' almost didn't happen". Business Insider. Retrieved 2017-02-07. 
  5. ^ "Best Songs Of 2015". MTV News. Retrieved December 9, 2015. 
  6. ^ "A Track-By-Track Guide To Kendrick Lamar's "To Pimp A Butterfly"". Hotnewhiphop. Mar 16, 2015. Retrieved October 8, 2015. 
  7. ^ Lockett, Dee (March 16, 2015). "Some Snap Judgments on Kendrick Lamar's How to Pimp a Butterfly". Vulture. New York Media LLC. Retrieved October 8, 2015. 
  8. ^ "40 Best Rap Albums of 2015". Rolling Stone. December 23, 2015. Retrieved December 23, 2015. 
  9. ^ a b Williams, Brennan (July 6, 2015). "Kendrick Lamar To Geraldo Rivera: 'How Can You Take A Song That's About Hope And Turn It Into Hatred?'". The Huffington Post. Retrieved September 18, 2015. 
  10. ^ a b "The 100 Best Tracks of 2015". Pitchfork. December 14, 2015. Retrieved December 14, 2015. 
  11. ^ "Kendrick Lamar's 'To Pimp a Butterfly': A Track-by-Track Guide". Rolling Stone. March 16, 2015. Retrieved October 8, 2015. 
  12. ^ COS Staff (December 1, 2015). "Top 50 Songs of 2015". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved December 1, 2015. 
  13. ^ Chinen, Nate (December 15, 2015). "The Best Songs of 2015". The New York Times. Retrieved December 15, 2015. 
  14. ^ "Billboard 25 Best Songs of 2015: Critics' Picks". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. 
  15. ^ "Billboard.com's 10 Best Hip-Hop Songs of 2015: Critics' Picks". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. December 21, 2015. Retrieved December 22, 2015. 
  16. ^ "Pazz & Jop Statistics". The Village Voice. Retrieved January 13, 2016. 
  17. ^ Gamboa, Glenn (December 31, 2015). "Kendrick Lamar, Rihanna songs among the best of 2015". Newsday. Retrieved January 28, 2016. 
  18. ^ "Exclusive: We Got All The Answers About Kendrick Lamar's 'Alright' Video". MTV. June 30, 2015. Retrieved October 8, 2015. 
  19. ^ "Kendrick Lamar Shoots the Video for "Alright"". 24Urban.com. 2015-05-25. Retrieved 2015-06-11. 
  20. ^ "Kendrick Lamar Raps Atop Traffic Light Pole in "Alright" Video". 24Urban.com. 2015-05-29. Retrieved 2015-06-11. 
  21. ^ a b "Kendrick Lamar Sees the World in Black-and-White in 'Alright' Video: Watch". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. June 30, 2015. Retrieved June 30, 2015. 
  22. ^ "VIDEO: Kendrick Lamar – 'Alright'". Rap-Up. June 30, 2015. Retrieved June 30, 2015. 
  23. ^ "The Best Music Videos of 2015". Pitchfork Media. December 7, 2015. Retrieved December 7, 2015. 
  24. ^ "Top 5 Music Videos of 2015". Consequence of Sound. December 8, 2015. Retrieved December 14, 2015. 
  25. ^ "The 25 Best Music Videos of 2015". Spin. December 10, 2015. Retrieved December 14, 2015. 
  26. ^ Ducker, Eric (December 22, 2015). "10 Best Music Videos of 2015". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 23, 2015. 
  27. ^ Staff (30 January 2016). "The 25 Best Music Videos of 2015". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 30 January 2016. 
  28. ^ a b "2015 MTV Video Music Awards Nominees Revealed: Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar, Ed Sheeran & More". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved July 21, 2015. 
  29. ^ "Kendrick Lamar Performs 'Alright' at BET Awards 2015". Rap-Up. Devin Lazerine. June 28, 2015. Retrieved June 29, 2015. 
  30. ^ "Geraldo Rivera on Fox News: Kendrick Lamar's BET Awards Performance Sends 'Exactly the Wrong Message'". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. June 30, 2015. Retrieved September 18, 2015. 
  31. ^ "watch the fox news clip kendrick lamar sampled on Damn.". XXL (magazine). Retrieved April 16, 2017. 
  32. ^ "Kendrick Lamar Brings Spiritual Healing to 'Kunta's Groove Sessions' In New York: Live Review". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. November 3, 2015. Retrieved December 6, 2015. 
  33. ^ "Kendrick Lamar And Pharrell Sang 'Alright' Together And All Was, Indeed, Right In The World". MTV News. December 5, 2015. Retrieved December 6, 2015. 
  34. ^ Platon, Adelle (February 15, 2016). "Kendrick Lamar Performs 'The Blacker The Berry' In Chains & Lights Up Stage with 'Alright' at the 2016 Grammys". Billboard. Retrieved February 15, 2016. 
  35. ^ Rolling Stone staff (February 16, 2016). "Grammys 2016: 20 Best and Worst Moments". Rolling Stone. Retrieved February 17, 2016. 
  36. ^ Payne, Chris (February 16, 2016). "The Best & Worst Moments of the 2016 Grammys". Billboard. Retrieved February 16, 2016. 
  37. ^ Lynch, Joe (February 16, 2016). "2016 Grammys Performances Ranked From Worst to Best". Billboard. Retrieved February 16, 2016. 
  38. ^ Masley, Ed (July 13, 2017). "Kendrick Lamar launches DAMN. Tour in Glendale with triumphant one-man show of force". AZ Central. Retrieved October 30, 2017. 
  39. ^ Henry, Dusty (July 28, 2015). "Cleveland State University conference attendees chant Kendrick Lamar's "Alright" in protest against police". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved July 28, 2015. 
  40. ^ Hendicott, James (October 11, 2015). "Kendrick Lamar's 'Alright' chanted at Million Man March for racial equality". NME. Retrieved October 29, 2015. 
  41. ^ Tate, Grate (December 23, 2015). "How #BlackLivesMatter Changed Hip-Hop and R&B in 2015". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 23, 2015. 
  42. ^ Hernandez, Victoria. "Kendrick Lamar's "Alright" Dubbed The New "We Shall Overcome" By Chicago Rapper Ric Wilson". Hiphopdx. 
  43. ^ Harris, Aisha. "Has Kendrick Lamar Recorded the New Black National Anthem?". Slate. 
  44. ^ Kennedy, John (2015-03-31). "Kendrick Lamar's 'Alright' Should Be The New Black National Anthem". B.E.T. 
  45. ^ "Ebony Power 100 - 2015 Honorees". Ebony. Retrieved December 2, 2015. 
  46. ^ Andres Hale (February 9, 2016). "The Oral History of Kendrick Lamar's "To Pimp a Butterfly"". Cuepoint. The Grammys. Retrieved February 11, 2016. 
  47. ^ Matthew Strauss (March 11, 2016). "Kendrick Lamar's "Alright" Chanted at Donald Trump Rally". Pitchfork. Retrieved March 14, 2016. 
  48. ^ "Kendrick Lamar Makes Cameo in 'Black-ish' Promo: Watch". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. January 10, 2016. Retrieved January 11, 2016. 
  49. ^ "Kendrick Lamar Raps "Alright" in Compton for Grammys Promo". Pitchfork Media. January 25, 2016. Retrieved January 25, 2016. 
  50. ^ Szalai, Georg. "MTV EMAs: Taylor Swift Leads With 9 Nominations". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 16, 2015. 
  51. ^ "BET Hip Hop Awards Winners 2015 List: Kendrick Lamar & Big Sean Win Big". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. October 14, 2015. Retrieved October 14, 2015. 
  52. ^ "Soul Train Music Awards 2015 Nominees". BET. October 17, 2015. Retrieved October 17, 2015. 
  53. ^ "Grammy Nominations 2016: See the Full List of Nominees". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. December 7, 2015. Retrieved December 7, 2015. 
  54. ^ "Grammys 2016: The Complete Winners List". Rolling Stone. February 16, 2016. Retrieved February 16, 2016. 
  55. ^ "Ultratop.be – Kendrick Lamar – Alright" (in Dutch). Ultratip.
  56. ^ "Ultratop.be – Kendrick Lamar – song=Alright" (in Dutch). Ultratop Urban.
  57. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
  58. ^ "Official R&B Singles Chart Top 40". Official Charts Company. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
  59. ^ "Kendrick Lamar – Chart history" Billboard Hot 100 for Kendrick Lamar. Retrieved March 26, 2015.
  60. ^ "Kendrick Lamar – Chart history" Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs for Kendrick Lamar. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
  61. ^ "American single certifications – Kendrick Lamar – Alright". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH

External linksEdit