Jon Caramanica’s lexicon of sound

February 10, 2016
Illustration: AP

Jon Caramanica has an ear for physicality. The New York Times pop music critic is known for his inventiveness when describing the texture of vocals and instrumentals in many genres, and that’s best exhibited when he reviews hip-hop and R&B. To give a sense of that sensibility, below are 77 descriptors that Caramanica has used since the start of last year. They give richness to his writing, though one can imagine the puzzled look on a music student’s face when told, “You sound too pulpy!”


acerbic  (Metz, II)

airless (Drake and Future, What a Time To Be Alive)

angular (Beyonce, “Formation”)

aquatic (The Internet, Ego Death)

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bleating (Mac Miller, “Brand Name”)

breezy (Ty Dolla Sign, Free TC)

brittle (Lana Del Rey, “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”)

bubbly (Rich Homie Quan, “Flex”)

bulbous (Duran Duran, “Paper Gods”)

chirpy (Sicko Mobb, Super Saiyan Vol. 2)

clangorous (Drake, “Company”)

cloudy (ASAP Rocky, “Peso”)

creamy (Future Brown, “Wanna Party”)

crunchy (D’Angelo, “Chicken Grease”)

damp (D’Angelo, “Untitled”)

dusty (Bully, “Trash”)

earthy (Juggaknots, Baby Pictures)

ethereal (Cathedrals, Cathedrals)

foggy (Rihanna, “Same Ol’ Mistakes”)

fluttery (Shlohmo, “No More”)

frizzy (Carly Rae Jepsen, Emotion)

gooey (Rixton, “Me and My Broken Heart”)

glassy (Lana Del Rey, Honeymoon)

greasy (Rich Homie Quan, “Flex”)

heaving (Disclosure, “Magnets”)

icy (Drake, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late)

industrial (Kanye West, Yeezus)

jangly (Fetty Wap, “Trap Queen”)

jaunty (Adam Lambert, “Rumors”)

limp (Disclosure, “Omen”)

liquid (Nef the Pharaoh, Nef the Pharaoh)

lumpy (Rihanna, “Desperado”)

meaty (Zac Brown Band, Jekyll + Hyde)

melting (Ashley Monroe, “If the Devil Don’t Want Me”)

metallic (Chvrches, “The Bones of What You Believe”)

moist (Jodeci, “Checkin for You”)

moping (Kanye West, “See You in My Nightmares”)

muddy (Wiki, “Lil Me”)

murky (The Weeknd)

nuzzling (The Internet, Ego Death)

oozy (Cathedrals, Cathedrals)

pulpy (Rihanna, “Needed Me”)

punchy (Bosco)

rubbery (Disciples, “They Don’t Know”)        

saccharine (Kid Ink, Full Speed)

saucy (Post Malone)

scratchy (Rihanna, “Higher”)

shambolic (Dilly Dally)

shimmery (Dej Loaf, #AndSeeThatsTheThing)

shivery (Mourn, “Your Brain Is Made of Candy”)

shuddering (Chicago’s drill music in general)

sickly (Carly Rae Jepsen, “Warm Blood”)

sinewy (Beyonce, “Formation”)

sinuous (Ty Dolla Sign, “Only Right”)

skittish (Disclosure and Sam Smith, Latch)

sleepy (Shlohmo, “Bad Vibes”)

slouchy (Earl Sweatshirt, I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside)

slinky (Tinashe, Aquarius)

slithery (Anderson .Paak, Malibu)

sparkly (ASAP Rocky, “F**kin’ Problems”)

sprightly (Jidenna, “Classic Man”)

springlike (Alessia Cara, “Here”)

stretchy (Dej Loaf, #AndSeeThatsTheThing)

swampy (ASAP Rocky, “LSD”)

sweaty (Toby Keith, “Beautiful Stranger”)

taffy (Lana Del Rey, Honeymoon)

tart (Rich Homie Quan, “Flex”)

throbbing (Rihanna, “Needed Me”)

thrusting (Beyonce, “Formation”)

thumping (Janelle Monae, “Yoga”)

viscous (Carly Rae Jepsen, “Warm Blood”)

wavy (Post Malone)

wheezy (The Jacka, “Highway Robbery”)

wooden (Meek Mill, “All Eyes on You”)

woozy (Mac Miller, “Times Flies”)

zippy (Young Thug, “Best Friend”)

Danny Funt is a senior editor at The Week and a former CJR Delacorte Fellow. Follow him on Twitter at @dannyfunt