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How a New Year’s resolution expanded one Arizonan’s music taste

Lots of people make New Year’s resolutions — and lots of them are kind of the same: things like going to the gym more, eating healthier and being more adventurous. As we start 2024, we wanted to hear from Valley residents who made more unique resolutions, and actually stuck to them throughout the year.

Scott Daniels is a student at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School and spends a lot of his spare time in music journalism. His resolution for 2023? Listen to 100 new albums that were released over the course of the year. He did it, and says he actually plans to do the same in 2024.

Full interview

SCOTT DANIELS: So I wanted to kind of just keep up with music and how it's progressing overall in 2023 because I mean, every year the industry is going to be drastically different from the last year. And this isn't the first year that I tried this resolution, but this is the first year that I fulfilled it.

So last year (2022), it was listen to an album every single day of the year. That was impossible. That fell through like a month in.

It seems like a lot.

DANIELS: Yeah, like 360. No, absolutely not.

So, you settled on 100.

DANIELS: I settled on 100 a nice even number and I was able to keep track of it. So I use this website called Topsters, which is basically just like a grid that you can put in all the album covers and like, look up what you've listened to. And so that way, I can not only know what I've listened to, I can also rank them. So like I have a 10 by 10 grid. So I am constantly shuffling around like, what is my number one and all that.

All right. So what was your number one?

DANIELS: My number one album was this futuristic R&B release by an artist named Kelela, the project's called "Raven." And it's themed around the ocean figuratively, the deeper you get into the ocean, the more you kind of see into yourself. And so when you come out, you're just a whole new person. The project's called "Raven" because ravens represent rebirth in that sense.

How did you find all of this new music?

DANIELS: There's multiple different ways. First and foremost, so like the first way that's kind of closest to my heart, is through organizations at Arizona State University. Blaze Radio being one and that's, you know, heavy music there. And then album club at ASU is one that I found earlier last year that also like, got me into so much new music as well.

Were any of the artists people that you knew before, like, you knew their music or you were fans of their music or maybe even that you knew of them and, and didn't like them?

DANIELS: Yeah. So, I mean, like Kelela, I listened to her past couple albums before. So like her, I've been a fan of for a while, but I also check out music journalism websites, not necessarily like following the review "t" to t"" but just checking out based on this album cover looks cool or I haven't gotten into this genre that much and I just check it out and I find new stuff that I like.

So, were you judging albums by their covers.

DANIELS: Occasionally, yeah, yeah.

All right. So were there different types of music, like different genres that you maybe hadn't listened to before that you listened to and experienced and, and either particularly liked or, or didn't that maybe surprised you over the course of the year?

DANIELS: The biggest surprise to me was country.

Really?

DANIELS: Yeah.

Like you hadn't listened to it much before.

DANIELS: I hadn't listened to it as much before. I mean, I think before this resolution because this has expanded my taste so much before the resolution, I think I was mainly just electronic and rap and that was it. But now since then I'd say I'm pretty well versed in basically every genre.

But country really stood out to me this year because of how many quality releases came out. Zach Bryan; Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit; Morgan Wallen. I could go on from there.

Does it surprise you that it turns out you like country music?

DANIELS: It kind of did. I thought that maybe it would be a bit too slow for me. Maybe it was my, so I'm from Indiana technically, but maybe it was my Indiana roots taking over like, OK. Yeah, this is more my speed. But yeah, it was, it was definitely a welcome surprise for sure.

Anything else that, that it turns out that you like that maybe you weren't expecting or that you didn't know about before?

DANIELS: Yeah, this is actually even bigger of a surprise. K-pop. Kind of just getting to know how that scene operates and like the sounds and styles that they incorporate into their music. I think a part of what I like about all the music that I listen to is just knowing about the music.

In terms of like knowing who the artists are to the stories behind the, the songs, that kind of thing?

DANIELS: Yeah. There was one, K-pop artist who kind of went solo, and I kind of read her background about why she went solo and it was to kind of live a more comfortable, less paparazzi-infused lifestyle. And so now she's making more comfortable albums instead of like in your face K-pop. And I think it's really cool to find out the backgrounds as to why artwork exists.

That is interesting. So, was there any music that you listen to that, it was kind of a struggle to get through the whole album? You're like, I really do not like this.

DANIELS: Absolutely. So, I mean, with the resolution, it is a commitment, and sometimes there will be an album that is just a slog. For me, I think it was the latest, this came out about a month ago. The latest Drake album.

It was tough. It was over an hour long. Most of the tracks either sounded the same or Drake was trying to play every card at once doing R&B, rap. The singing wasn't great. It was just a bit of a struggle to get through. A couple of good features on there though.

Did you have an opinion of Drake before you listened to this album?

DANIELS: I did, and I think the opinion got worse because of this album. Many critics of Drake, I think have been like, he's been putting out the same record for the past 6 to 7 years, and I wasn't on that train until this album dropped. So this definitely changed my perspective.

Any genres that you listen to and you just couldn't, couldn't see yourself listening to again, actually.

DANIELS: No.

Really?

DANIELS: Really.

That's really interesting. Like, so you opened your eyes and saw a, a bunch more, learned about a bunch more and didn't really dislike any of it.

DANIELS: No. And I think part of that is just like going into the background. And I also, so like, I also collect records and when I listen to that record of music, I also like, read on the back of the record, the, the facets behind every song and all that, and kind of knowing that context I think is just like, what makes me appreciate it so much.

So, do you think that you learned anything about yourself by doing this other than maybe different kinds of music that you didn't know that you liked?

DANIELS: I think that I learned, I am a lot more artistically open-minded than I thought it was.

And like, what, what does that mean for you? I mean, going into, you know, going into some kind of maybe music journalism down the road that seems like it would probably be helpful.

DANIELS: It would be. It's definitely like a great hobby to have. And I would actually, at this point because of the resolution, consider listening to music, a hobby, whether that be through buying records or through doing these analyses on the singles or songs that come out every week. I pay attention to the chart data, to what's popular. So it's definitely helped me out a lot there.

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Mark Brodie is a co-host of The Show, KJZZ’s locally produced news magazine. Since starting at KJZZ in 2002, Brodie has been a host, reporter and producer, including several years covering the Arizona Legislature, based at the Capitol.