RaeLynn – For a Boy

http://www.thesinglesjukebox.com/?p=16815

Giraud will note that all our writers continue to have survived our “God Made Girls” entry…


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[6.56]
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Josh Langhoff: This thing is all mixed up. The sound and structure mash together “Kiss Me” with “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” along with a punched-in banjo tackling the role of added-note synth ostinatos, along with an actual synth — the final seconds of droney fade sound like Tangerine Dream. (But no, the Punch Brothers are genre-bending innovators!) The heart of the boy in question is a transparent freight train, making him both Casey Jones and Wonder Woman. This boy, RaeLynn’s ex, has brought RaeLynn to a bar to make up or something, and RaeLynn has adopted a stance of boyish impassivity, and she is watching boy squirm, and this apology sure is taking him a while because now it’s last call and if they don’t get back together right now they never will! Beneath her Cool Girl facade RaeLynn is a lovesick fool. We know this not because she tells us, although she does, but because her song lays bare her stream of consciousness in the last crucial moment before boy either fishes or cuts bait. Also because this scenario could be the penultimate scene in a romantic comedy, following 20 minutes of mounting frustration with characters who insist on acting the way they think people are supposed to act. Unlike that synth chord, RaeLynn’s story doesn’t resolve.
[6]

Cédric Le Merrer: Innocence writ large in sturdy, earnest songcraft, avoiding any temptation to subvert or be clever via easy wordplay. Which also means it’s a bit boring.
[5]

Alfred Soto: She’s so young and her voice so uninterestingly nice that the way in which her songs want to reject gender constrictions by accepting those constrictions as a starting point has no frisson, no tension — she’s a singer and sometime songwriter who believes in gimmicks first. 
[4]

Moses Kim: RaeLynn is a master of both the coy backhanded compliment and the guts-spilling-over confessional: she measures her words on the verses like she’s poking at conventions she’s been told by her parents not to break, but on the chorus she is all giddy head-over-heels want, transforming female vulnerability into agency. She’s well-matched by the instrumental, gentle syncopated snaps and strums that bloom along with her.
[8]

Iain Mew: The melody occasionally resembles Taylor Swift’s “Holy Ground”, but as a singer RaeLynn reminds me more of Ellie Goulding. The way she rips into singing “what you don’t know”, squashing and stretching odd bits of it, makes for a similar rush to something like “Starry Eyed”, and the song works better the more it’s centred on that and the less on overly pushy country-pop sheen.
[6]

Anthony Easton: This is weirdly manipulative, but it does suggest a move forward, where she is claiming a power above her previous hit. Excellent use of the voice, too. 
[9]

Katherine St Asaph: “For a Boy,” particularly the shimmering, heroic titular melody, suits the crackling and sweet qualities of RaeLynn’s voice well; the switch in the chorus to “what a girl like me would do for a boy” is such a deft trick it makes up for the verse songwriting being amateurland. But something’s off; there’s plenty of pluck: not enough swoon. After “God Made Girls” I hate to make RaeLynn a gender case study again, but I wonder if the same forces that keep women off country radio in general keep them shunt them toward Southern rock that isn’t always the best stylistic fit. Imagine “For a Boy” produced more like “All That.”
[6]

Thomas Inskeep: If Nashville‘s Scarlett O’Connor actively wanted to be a star, she’d be RaeLynn, armed with an awesomely twangy voice, smart commercial instincts, and a collection of good songs. This is a sunny, sweet love song that I absolutely buy; it doesn’t take RaeLynn’s vocal to get it over, but it certainly helps. 
[7]

Edward Okulicz: A [10] if this were to be sung in Nashville by Scarlett when she inevitably and stupidly gets back together with Gunnar. As it is, RaeLynn’s vowels when she runs a lot of words together make her sound a little uncomfortable, and make me feel it too. I actually thought at one point she was saying “for a ghoul.” She’s not quite making me believe it on the verses, but that’s one big chorus.
[8]

Tamia – Sandwich and a Soda

http://www.thesinglesjukebox.com/?p=16814

Let’s Pret a Manger and get it on…


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[6.50]
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Nina Lea Oishi: Miguel promises us coffee in the morning, but Tamia has him topped with her pledge of a sandwich and a soda, which, when you think about it, is basically lunch. “Sandwich and a Soda” is the ballad of the supremely confident fantasy woman, one who’s knows she’s gorgeous but isn’t too uptight to pop open a Coke over the Egyptian cotton sheets. Tamia purrs, she struts (my God, the way she lingers on the Vs in “Chevy Nova”) until even the corniest lines (“I dig you hard like a metal shovel”), while still corny, ooze sensuality. She’s selling the Ultimate Guy’s Girl here, the babe who’s willing to give you a back rub while you watch the big game. And yet, I have to wonder if it’s not all completely fantasy. Ignore the Dream Girl aspect of the song and you’ll see: just like Miguel’s coffee is shorthand for the person with whom you’re willing to spend the morning after, “Sandwich and a Soda” is about that level of sweet comfort when it’s 3 p.m. on a Sunday and you’re both still wearing your pajamas, eating hoagies on the couch. It’s no Italian espresso, but there is something still wonderful about that.
[9]

Crystal Leww: Tamia, girl, you did eternal R&B jam “So Into You.” You don’t need this wet noodle song that interpolates “Country Grammar.” YOU DON’T NEED THIS.
[3]

Alex Ostroff: My brain automatically associates Tamia with 2003’s ethereal infatuation of “So Into You” / ethereal heartbreak of “Officially Missing You.” So “Sandwich and a Soda” — firmly in the flesh, on the ground and in her lower register — feels like an introduction to an entirely new singer. The Midi Mafia Mix of Missing You was loose but never this slinky. The metaphors occasionally approach levels of corny not seen since Miguel’s “Sure Thing” but, like Miguel, Tamia mostly sells the lyrics through the ludicrous.
[7]

Thomas Inskeep: Tamia goes the Tamar Braxton grown-and-sexy route with “Sandwich and a Soda,” to middling results, largely because it’s not sexy enough. And then there are the lines like “I dig you hard like a metal shovel,” which are actively unsexy. The groove is nice and simple, but the sum of these parts is like diet soda, empty calories.
[4]

Hazel Robinson: This isn’t earth-shattering or hooky enough to last in my memory particularly well, but it is absolutely pure, languid pleasure with enough of a sweet realism to the “sandwich and a soda” aesthetic that it never becomes overpoweringly cloying seduction. Like a nice spritz of JLo’s Glow when you were expecting Dior Poison.
[7]

Alfred Soto: Redolent of the last decade this production might be, I have time for staccato two-note rhythm beats and the Ashanti way of doing things.
[7]

Brad Shoup: It’s practically one giant chorus, and her reading of the title’s worth a ton of goodwill on its own. Who’s the bassist? I owe them a Royal Crown.
[9]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Pop & Oak’s groove is rubbery and humid as hell, making you want to shut your eyes and collapse while Tamia is having plenty of fun being seductive and coy. I just wish “bring you a sandwich and a soda” sounded as rewarding in my mind as she was selling it.
[7]

Katherine St Asaph: It’s the title. You couldn’t make a non-silly extended metaphor of it, nor would it do to get more specific (avocado panini, two-liter seltzer, my heart is yours.) A little toss-off at the end of a sumptuous chorus is ideal — but it’s got the rest of the lyric to register against, the Chevy placement and metal shovels and “Down Down Baby.” It’s too many images to sexify, and the result is silly, not seductive. Which is a shame, because the track otherwise smolders.
[6]

Madeleine Lee: This song is so timeless-sounding that it can make a Chevy Nova seem contemporary, and Tamia is so charming that she can make a clunker like “I dig you hard like a metal shovel” as light as air. But when it comes to convincing me that some stuff between some bread could ever be as satisfying as people say it is, you’ll have to work harder than this.
[6]

Charlie Puth ft. Meghan Trainor – Marvin Gaye

http://www.thesinglesjukebox.com/?p=16813

ARE YOU FAMILIAR WITH ALL MUSIC GUIDE’S STATEMENT THAT YOU HAVE A, QUOTE, PERPETUAL MARVIN FIXATION, END QUOTE?


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[2.93]
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Patrick St. Michel: The idea of mixing up puritanical 1950s imagery with sex is nothing new but has never been done as clunky as this. “Let’s Marvin Gaye and get it on” flops about as foreplay before “Kama Sutra show-and-tell” zaps the barely there libido into nothingness.
[1]

Thomas Inskeep: Not only is this cut from faux doo-wop cloth identical to that of all Meghan Trainor’s hits (if she doesn’t show some versatility within six months, her career’s gonna be over), but then it throws in the most ill-advised faux-dubstep breakdown for its bridge. Puth shows even less personality than on “See You Again” — his high school yearbook must’ve said “wants to be Adam Levine.” The lyrics are repulsive: stringing references to Marvin Gaye song titles and lyrics is lazy enough, but the chorus of “let’s Marvin Gaye and get it on,” reducing Gaye to a synonym for fucking, is actually offensive. No redeeming qualities.
[0]

Scott Mildenhall: Verbing weirds language, and so it should, but don’t expect your conversion to cut the mustard when it in no way symbolises the action you are intending it to. Furthermore don’t compound that by introducing it as part of a quote, verbatim or otherwise, that is also wholly inaccurate. It just sounds stupid. In fact, nothing about this is “just like they say it in the song”. To its credit, it’s saccharine, and the restraint of the lightheaded Fauxtown production almost makes up for the uncomfortable semiotic mangling of “it’s Kama Sutra, show and tell”.
[5]

Iain Mew: It’s retro-formulaic to the point of taking the same bassline as “Dear Future Husband”, but it’s nothing like as polished and its jumpy uncertainty gives its own odd appeal. Sam Smith’s turn on “La La La” is the previous high water mark for the kind of wounded emoting Charlie Puth employs, and this doesn’t reach that level, but there’s a similar childlike vulnerability. Charlie sounds like he’s terrified and stalling for time, his “Kama Sutra show and tell” not even fooling himself, screaming mercy before he grimly follows his role as assigned by decades of pop culture. When it gets to Meghan Trainor’s verse and its skittering mechanics fall into place, the sense of anxiety becomes even more obvious and compelling. Let’s Marvin Gaye and get it over with.
[6]

Katherine St Asaph: I keep defending Meghan Trainor as no more regressive than half the country, and now she and Buddy-boy have turned “guys want sex, girls want love” into a song. And I keep fighting against the idea of pop music as music meant for kids, but what is this but the questionably necessary high school boyfriend pressuring you into sex anthem of the year? Charlie Puth, whose name and voice don’t recall Marvin so much as a Norn learning to talk, does his best jock who’s fumbling enough to sound ridiculous to adults (never mind the Kama Sutra, he probably got “till the dawn” from a song) but crafty enough to bait girls with bullshit like the “subtle” “loving” in her eyes — so subtle she probably didn’t even know it was there, right? Trainor’s verse is so plaintive, so minor-key lonesome and self-abnegating, that I can’t imagine any right-minded person rooting for these two to #marvingaye. I guess it’s good that the songwriters know more than two Marvin Gaye songs, though it’s also plausible that they threw “Got to Give It Up” in at the last second just to cover their ass. Points awarded solely for staying the hell away from “What’s Going On.”
[2]

Cédric Le Merrer: Listen guys, I know I should feel insulted that when legal warned you against the Gaye estate you decided to make this sound like Ben E. King, expecting that listeners wouldn’t know any better. But do you know some of those old songs are still owned by the mob? As awful as it sounds, you’re gonna wish you were Robin Thicke.
[3]

Alfred Soto: The past is there to be used and even exploited, so I don’t view this track as a desecration. But the way it swallows whole the ancient myths disturbs me. From the coyness with which she sheathes conventional ideas about love and sex in Motown sounds, Meghan Trainor is the most reactionary pop figure of our time. Never mind what fools say about bro country: know the real enemy. And, listen, you two, this song evokes “Cry to Me,” as in Solomon Burke, not Marvin Gaye.
[2]

Nina Lea Oishi: I’m sure someone else is writing about what a weird Back to the Future-esque time-period amalgam this song is, using a style that peaked in the early ’60s to reference songs from over a decade later (“Got to Give it Up” released in 1973, “Sexual Healing” in 1982). There’s also something to be said about the curious cross-section of sexual attitudes and musical styles that comes along with that amalgam. In the famously repressive ’50s and ’60s, doo-wop was only able to reference sexuality with euphemisms and subtleties layered over the most wholesome of harmonies, whereas the aforementioned Marvin Gaye songs oozed unabashed sensuality and desire. As for the song itself, it’s charming in the way that Trainor’s pseudo-rapping or nasal drawl will never be. There’s a reason doo-wop is such an enduring genre, and finally Trainor et. al. have touched on the genre’s better traits — the sweetness of the harmonies, the pleading, longing nature, the nods to something naughty — while minimizing previous numbers’ most annoying aspects. In other words, they’ve minimized the amount of Meghan Trainor. Puth is fine, and he could pass as perhaps the forgotten fourth member of some ’50s boy group (Dion & The Belmonts, maybe? Discuss). This recent doo-wop resurrection might feel like a bit of an overdone schtick, but it’s better crafted than other endeavors. More than that, it’s actually enjoyable.
[8]

Brad Shoup: I don’t want to jeer this because there’s some Legacy that needs to be treated right: time narrows signifiers even further, until you get maybe one thing. Gaye’s first single was released 54 years ago; he’s been dead for 31. That’s quite a span in between, and if the malt-shop pop on display misses the truth, the evocation’s as true for younger listeners, surely, as the languid lust the man’s name implies here. Yeah, the song’s ass, but isn’t it always fascinating to see what nostalgia looks like for other people?
[4]

Josh Winters: Listening to old doo-wop recordings in 2015 feels like digging up a lost but cherished artifact. You can still discover songs like “I Only Have Eyes for You” or “Angel Baby” and find yourself enchanted by their ageless magic and mystery. It’s a sound that illustrates the fading beauty of a time long ago, and because of that, it should almost never be recreated in modern-day hi-fi, as most top-40 pop homages fail to translate its subtleties (an exception to the rule is Ariana Grande’s debut album). But here we are, with a dude who comes off as having the sense of humor and sexual experience of that kid in middle school who’d brag about how many chicks they’ve banged and a girl who finds his flaccid double entendres cute and charming. Some couples are truly meant for each other.
[2]

Maxwell Cavaseno: There’s a website for people who want to sleep with everything, right? Charlie Puth is a goldmine waiting to happen because he’s great. For nose fetishists. Why else would he stuff every note of this song in his nose? Meghan loves it, and you know deep down you do too. So get yourself dressed up in every inadequate Hallmark version of the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s when “real things happened” by wearing, spritzing, driving and buying a polystyrene imitation of everything in history. Bring ‘em down to the sock hop, get yourselves an ice-cream sodee. And then when you arrive at lover’s lane, eyes on that giant, sleek nose you’ve been eyeing shyly since the beginning of this atrocity, let ‘em know what you want.
[0]

Anthony Easton: One of the great things about “Blurred Lines” is that the history of Marvin Gaye was hinted at and extended. I’m not in favour of authenticity, but the disadvantage of the kind of direct quoting here is that no one sings like Marvin Gaye, and there is no pop cleverness to make up for the blanched hollowness of Puth and Trainor. 
[3]

Moses Kim: “When I was making my record,” said Puth in an interview with Billboard, “I just wanted to make this soulful sound. When Marvin Gaye made his music, he evoked this feeling that would reach everybody.” Several thoughts: 1) this is often how the contributions of black musicians to the American canon are defined, an uncritical emphasis put on the soulfulness of the music without ever so much as a glance at the context of racist violence that black musicians had to (and still have to) grapple with. 2) The idea of a universal feeling has the effect of erasing differences within an audience. Many believe in music as a way to unite across lines of identity, but usually it’s privileged viewpoints like Puth’s (who explains “Marvin Gaye” as a way for him to approach girls without actually approaching girls) that are given voice. 3) Another consequence of the myth of music as a universal force is that musicians like Marvin Gaye or Stevie Wonder get Martin Luther King’d as figures of non-violence and love that all oppressed people must aspire to if they ever want to be treated as human beings. Even today, it’s unsettling to me to witness the revival of retro pop on one hand and the continued violence perpetuated against black Americans on the other: it sometimes feels as if America is all too happy to listen with one ear and stick a finger in the other. To be fair, this isn’t an unpleasant song. The instrumental sparkles like a glass slipper, and Trainor has never sounded as good as she does here. But it’s hard to buy into the polished prom night nostalgia “Marvin Gaye” paints knowing what’s happening just outside its doors.
[4]

Madeleine Lee: This is what “All About That Bass” sounds like to people who hate “All About That Bass,” isn’t it — corny, creepy, and suffocatingly smug.
[1]

Jidenna ft. Roman GianArthur – Classic Man

http://www.thesinglesjukebox.com/?p=16803

Time for some fancy maths…


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[4.45]
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Moses Kim: “Fancy” – (Igloo + Charli XCX) = “Fancy” – 0 = “Fancy” =
[6]

Natasha Genet Avery: Buying a car and listening to rush hour radio has made me more attuned to Bay Area music than the internet ever did. Hearing rotations evolve has made me a more competent hit speculator, and I’m inclined to believe that “Classic Man” accidentally climbed the charts due to listeners’ apathy. No one ever phones in requesting “Classic Man.” And yet I’ve never changed the station upon hearing it; Jidenna’s breakout is inoffensive and pleasant enough that it barely registers. It wouldn’t even make sense to blare this with the windows down–it’s thin, all mids and treble, with a sparse bass drum and the snaps mixed too high. “Heys” that should bounce ebulliently on the offbeats instead come off as weak and muted. I’m not sure if these choices are Roman GianArthur’s conscious rejection of the type of dirty, sexualized sub-bass permeating rap and hip-hop in favor of a sanitized Classic Man© sound, and I don’t know if that intention would make this better or worse. +1 because “you pull out rubber bands/ I pull out an envelope” deserves a soft, polite chuckle. 
[5]

Thomas Inskeep: “I’m so fancy, you already know…” Oh, wait, this is another song? Yeah, maybe ripping off that already-iconic synth-bassline isn’t the best idea. Also, Jidenna, based on the lyrics here, is less a classic man and more just another scrub, hangin’ out the side of his best friend Roman GianArthur’s ride.
[2]

Alfred Soto: Fitting that this wannabe metrosexual keeps clean over a variant on the “Fancy” bass line, afloat on substandard preening. I won’t let him know.
[5]

Crystal Leww: “Classic Man” is subdued rnbass in the vein of Ty Dolla $ign but with very little of the uncomfortably compelling charm that Ty brings to the table when he does this faux sexy grown man routine. Lyrically, this is similar to “Fancy” (yes, that one), but obviously with less obnoxious do-dats and a lot more quiet smirking. Jidenna finally turns it up around the bridge, and I can finally see what Monae finds special about Jidenna, but by then it’s a little bit too late. It’s not the worst attempt at a rap radio bop, but I’d rather hear the boss’s “Yoga” instead.
[5]

Josh Winters: It’s more of an honor to be seen as “classic” rather than “fancy,” but that recognition of value and quality is one that needs to be earned over time. Jidenna brings his silly swank and charm to the table, but it doesn’t make up for GianArthur’s stale, Iggy-indebted production, and because of that, I don’t see this one entering the RNBass canon anytime soon.
[5]

Iain Mew: The space where “Mustard on the beat” would go makes as much impression as Jidenna.
[3]

Maxwell Cavaseno: “Classic Man” is unavoidably tied into Jidenna’s concept. In 2015, we have a young African-American man who is arguing that in order for his fellow young black men people to respect themselves, they should take up early 20th century fashions, including, much to my own personal horror, a conk. Problematic themes aside, this is a brilliant take on the ideology of the Atlanta “Black Boy White Boy” aesthetic, where kids like Yung LA, Travis Porter and Roscoe Dash would frequently brag about their ‘white boy tags’ and shopping at preppy stores like American Eagle and H&M to be ahead of the game. This act of assimilation served less as a gesture of aspirational compromising for mainstream acceptance and more of an effort to redefine themselves through warping mainstream culture to suit their needs; a typical move of the ‘hip-hop’ generations. In that regard, Jidenna’s grasping of the dullard beard culture frequently manifesting in hipster circles to mean something more IS far more noble than your average leftover Ringling Brother Ringmaster. Likewise, the song is built out of the Futuristic era sing-song rap more than the pseudo-Mustard ratchet stylings of his production; if anything “Classic Man” and its austerity seems derivative of rappers like Rich Homie Quan and Young Thug while becoming embattled against their ‘loosey-goosey’ approaches to black masculinity, both defiant and debaucherous. Ultimately as a rap song it fails to really overpower his peers, but as a conceptual statement, I truly admire the craftsmanship involved (whille not being the intended audience). Should Jidenna find a way to challenge expectations and improve his songwriting, he could very well become a star. But I pray to him, PLEASE LOSE THE FUCKING CONK.
[5]

Brad Shoup: I love that he titled his EP The Eephus, but I’m not seeing a lot of the off-off-speed stuff here. Maybe when he sings “if when she go away/I’m a classic man” — then it becomes a psych-up session in the mirror. The fingersnaps are great, especially when they’re clustered into castanets. The hook’s got a chance at virality, but otherwise it’s a pretty rigid tune.
[5]

Katherine St Asaph: The supply and demand for marketable authenticity show no signs of decline; the examples just get more on-the-nose. Shawn Mendes’ album is called Handwritten, Tori Kelly’s is Handmade Songs, a good fourth of pop lyrics are references to golden oldies, and now Jidenna’s introducing himself to radio as a classic man. (Somebody consult David Kibbe!) The RnBass genre is inherently too vibrant even in this desiccated form for “Classic Man” to be totally fedorable, but much like “Yoga,” the hooks are dull as a bad suit.
[5]

Cédric Le Merrer: The only thing missing from this is the address to register for Jidenna’s PUA bootcamp.
[3]

Luke Bryan – Kick the Dust Up

http://www.thesinglesjukebox.com/?p=16799

Going up, up, up…


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[4.40]
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Scott Mildenhall: Luke Bryan sounds very silly here. It’s the apparent attempt at rabble-rousing that seals it, especially when it leads to the seemingly endless rhyming of “up” with “up”, delivered each time with a different kind of relish, but mostly ham. The guitar gives occasional edge to the atmosphere, but mostly this is daft, in a corn field all of its own making.
[5]

Edward Okulicz: For sounding like a Shania Twain Up blue version of itself, but working well anyway, this is more or less irresistible.
[7]

Katherine St Asaph: Compelling for the few listens where I couldn’t figure out what (besides the last few years of bro-country) it was ripping off — and then I figured it out, and all was lost. We will mildly trouble you.
[4]

Alfred Soto: I can’t take this guy seriously. He named his most romantic song “Buzzkill” because he knows. “Turning a cornfield into a party” makes sense — he sings like he gargles Mazola oil after a breakfast smoothie. The “modern” production touches paint lipstick on a cob.
[4]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Someone who understands how to swipe cadences and elements from other genres, thereby giving country some nice titanium bone replacements for when it needs some added flex, but unfortunately has a voice that borders on Kermitish. Luke Bryan, folks.
[2]

Anthony Easton: The synth grids, stripped down and completely devoid of connections to anything like country, are flirting where the genre ends. The isntrumentation here, and even how he sings it (not the words, but the inflection) might as well come from the Pet Shop Boys. It’s beautiful — does it even have guitars? 
[7]

Brad Shoup: Have you punched a radio consultant today? This is some soggy lettuce for sure: the cod-bhangra guitar hook is different, but it’s brittle. The refrain’s a little better, indebted to 20-year-old R&B diva moves, but when he slips back into the rippity rap it’s a shallower take on the wonderfully shallow “Boys Round Here”.
[5]

Patrick St. Michel: I’ve been back in America for the past week, and that means spending far more time spent in cars. Country music works best while driving down the highway (or being caught in traffic), and “Kick the Dust Up” has popped up a lot…and it sounds good in this context. Don’t think it does much to make me seek it out when I’m sitting in a Starbucks, but it has already made the trip into the city a bit more fun. 
[5]

Thomas Inskeep: Bryan’s singles tend to run hot and cold, and this is as cold as it gets. Every bro-country cliché you can imagine is present and accounted for: “girl,” “back it on up,” “fill your cup up,” “barn,” “tractor,” “six-pack,” and even “we turn this cornfield into a party” (almost magnificent in its awfulness). Here’s the banjo, here’s the guitar solo, and it’s all like a Madlibs “hot country” generator. 
[1]

Moses Kim: I’m just going to leave this here.
[4]

Titica – Você Manda Fogo

http://www.thesinglesjukebox.com/?p=16798

Checking in on a 2013 Amnesty Week favourite


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[6.83]
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Jonathan Bogart: Things have changed a lot since 2011, when Titica’s first kuduro bangers started making waves in Luanda dancehalls; not only has kuduro undergone several waves of popularity and transformation, but her visibility as a trans woman feels more urgent and necessary than ever. “Você Manda Fogo” is her clearest pop move yet, a sexy kizomba (Afro-Luso r&b) stomper that brings to mind such Stateside grooves as “I’m a Slave 4 U” or “Promiscuous” (or maybe that’s just the video triggering slick-bodied associations). The title translates as “you bring fire,” but the repeated chorus, “você me manda,” is, literally, “you send me”. Going strictly off YouTube views, it’s not been nearly as big a hit as any of her kuduro singles, which suggests that maybe the broader pop audience isn’t as willing to accept a trans woman as a focal point for romantic reverie as the dance audience is to accept her as a focal point for shaking ass. Which isn’t particularly surprising, no matter how utopian I’d like to believe pop can be — visibility does not mean acceptance.
[9]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Funny to hear a song meant to be romantic with such a sour bassline and a shoulder-check of a slump in it.
[7]

Brad Shoup: The video version is pure erotic thrall (and that’s even discounting the behunk’d visuals). On the record, she’s more of a party director, stitching the bars to the major-key backing vocals. The synths buzz like a minor headache and there’s some chickenscratch sequencing, but mostly it’s Titica and the drums, both dancing lightly.
[7]

Alfred Soto: The spare beat and honking synth pushes the Angolan singer into ever more becoming insinuations until she’s riding the beat.
[7]

Will Adams: The hulking beat serves a strong foundation, and Titica gives a raucous performance, but that chorus falls flat. Too much reliance on multi-tracked vocals and not enough on a compelling hook.
[5]

Jessica Doyle: One of the things I love about Titica’s singles is how tactile they are. “Don’t Touch Me” had a cool glide to it, the feel of early evening air, and “Motema Nangay” is a bubble bath rendered in sound. This, while a little more limited than those two, feels like the beginning of a bout of rough sex, mutually enthusiastically entered into.
[6]

BTS – I Need U

http://www.thesinglesjukebox.com/?p=16785

Who apparently also go by the fantastic name Bulletproof Boy Scouts…


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[7.00]

Madeleine Lee: BTS has spent most of their 2-year career resisting the boy band label, either by redefining it or by running away from it. Even once their singles started being about relationships instead of social issues, they still brattily asserted their difference with distorted guitar squalls and shouty, tuneless hooks. “I Need U” is their first single to be a proper boy band song: a song that’s passive about love instead of aggressive, vulnerable, and angry about it. Perhaps because of this, it’s their first single that goes down smoothly. The angry grunts and yells are kept to the background, the falsetto bits swoop with the song instead of trying to punch a hole through it, and a whole break is given to the lush soundscape of trilling snares and synth chords and whistles. It explodes with a firework’s timing, and its brilliance.
[8]

Alfred Soto: The intro storm cloud of synths rumbles with conviction, complimenting the angst in the voices and the desperation of the percussion’s faint jungle skitter. The boys can’t contain themselves. A beautiful track.
[7]

Edward Okulicz: “I Need U” mashes the sounds and (most importantly) the spirits of a bunch of golden-age pop noises without leaning on them as crutches or using them as sound effects. It’s like this is some kind of window into a hypothetical 1980s in which K-pop invented the slow jam and then submerged it so the breakdown has this gorgeous aqueous sound to it. There’s actual need in the voices, too.
[9]

Thomas Inskeep: Rap Monster gets a lot of lead time here, which makes me awfully happy as I’ve yet to hear an album this year I love more than his R.M. The reference point for me for BTS, though, is ‘NSync, because at their best they made great pop singles that surpassed the boy band ghetto for flat-out pop brilliance. This is on par with ‘NSync’s “Pop”: not quite as aggressively uptempo, but just as stylistically diverse throughout its three-and-a-half minutes, with dubsteppy drops, sweet-as-cake harmonies, and great rapping. This is what boy bands should sound like in 2015.
[8]

Jessica Doyle: With the caveat that I am reviewing this improperly (i.e. without having seen the video): what I have found most charming about BTS so far — their ability to get political or personal, and in either case fairly detailed — isn’t in evidence here. The execution is fine, but “I Need U” feels generic, and by “generic” I mean a lot like EXO’s “Black Pearl.”
[5]

Ramzi Awn: You can’t argue with that chorus, but the verses could have been cleaned up a little. The breakdown is pure Janet.
[6]

Maxwell Cavaseno: An off-putting slow sink, like treading forward into a lake of pipe organ and whistles that totally belie the self-pitying and impotency of BTS here, but only to go into a chorus that just doesn’t seem suitable for how badly it wants to drive its point across. However intended this disconnect might be between the boys downward spiral and the track’s fanfare, it takes a few go rounds to really sink in, specifically for how badly the second verse can sound like those raps are intended to beat someone, or oneself, up.
[5]

Brad Shoup: It does sound like a daze; even the frontingest members have to deal with a squelchy, meandering backing track. Things get a bit more frantic in the refrain, with trap walls hemming everyone in. But when it’s done, everyone’s still holding his head.
[6]

Moses Kim: One of the things Korean pop does very, very well is mashing twenty different sounds together, but the maximalist approach works best when used to hint at emotional nuance. “I Need U” sounds like it’s barely holding together: it has scratchy talk-rapping, full-throated gang chants, seductive R&B crooning, and an explosive electronic reprise only restrained by taut pockets of trap percussion. Reflective rap passages build towards conclusions only to fall back into tumult every time the chorus hits, that declaration of need circumscribed with lingering questions. (“Why do I need you even when I know I’ll get hurt?”) Together, they paint a portrait of a relationship spinning out of control, and the devastation is something to behold.
[9]

Saad Lamjarred – LM3ALLEM

http://www.thesinglesjukebox.com/?p=16782

Back to Morocco


[Video][Website]
[7.00]

Patrick St. Michel: I’m not going to pretend to know much about Moroccan Chaabi music (this video of French Montana throwing bills around to it being a highlight), but “LM3ALLEM” sounds like the style absorbing EDM/trap ideas, and not the other way around. It isn’t about authenticity, but about how much more interesting this sounds as it lurches forward, how Lamjarred’s voice goes cyborg at various points and the song zips off in all sorts of directions. It’s fun how unpredictable this is, compared to other producers out their basically reduce sounds like this to an “exotic” sticker to slap on their dippy festival bait. 
[8]

Katherine St Asaph: I’m sure purists somewhere mind, but those trappish interludes are not only some of the most exhilarating seconds of music you’ll hear this year, they fold seamlessly into the call and response. Though I could listen to the rest on loop without it.
[8]

Iain Mew: A direct route to a great time, Lamjarred rides its flexible groove straight through a bunch of banging electro set pieces with suave confidence. Also, I want the half-polka-dot-half-check jacket that is the pick of a bunch of strong looks in the video.
[8]

Anthony Easton: Classically educated, his father a renowned Chaabi singer: the power has not skipped a generation. The interesting thing about Chaabi is how it combines traditional vocals with a taste for the novel. It continually renews within its historical context. Though this is not Chaabi — it moves too close to a kind of pan-Euro disco/house — it does not completely forget its Arabic roots, which suggests a kind of doubling-down of memory and cultural identity. 
[8]

Maxwell Cavaseno: The first thing anyone should notice is the jarring sensation of this heavy-handed “trap”-style production, stuttered and jarred into epilepsy by such an oddly plodding tempo. For the most part it sounds like the producer can’t tell the difference between the beat and the drop when he listens to the EDM records he’s trying to make a hit based on, but I don’t know, maybe Morocco is really feeling this sort of pulse. This is one of those discomforts that’s going to linger in my bones, but the song just can’t find solid ground in my ears.
[3]

Ramzi Awn: Radio-ready with a kick to boot, “LM3ALLEM”‘s broken beat is almost a nod to Emerson, Lake, and Palmer or Ciara’s “Sweat.” There’s something sincere about Lamjarred’s voice.
[6]

Brad Shoup: The way you end a song isn’t vital, but Lamjarred’s triumphant “mallem” before jumping down a wall is a nice close. Everything else is an entreating trudge, EDM kept live even at half the speed and a step thrown in every bar.
[8]

The Chemical Brothers ft. Q-Tip – Go

http://www.thesinglesjukebox.com/?p=16776

Yes, but where?


[Video][Website]
[4.90]

Patrick St. Michel: This sounds exactly what a Chemical Brothers and Q-Tip collaboration would have sounded like in the late ’90s, when this might have been charming. Alas, in 2015 this sounds like a very corny mash-up.
[3]

Alfred Soto: An idea whose time had come in 1998. Nothing wrong with the bass and Latin percussion, and Q-Tip’s syncopation is as natural as the Bros’ penchant for vulgar noises. 
[4]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Q-Tip does his inane “Vivrant Thing” nonsense remaining eternally unfunky, while The Chems play their best 8 years too late electro-house. Sure to be a hit with advertising firms who love nothing more than good old sell-out fluff.
[3]

Thomas Inskeep: I doubt this’ll make it into a Budweiser commercial. 
[6]

Iain Mew: It’s a rickety assemblage of a bunch of half-finished old ideas, but it did already make it to Match of the Day 2‘s end of season montage, so it’s a full success on some level.
[3]

Moses Kim: Flash Flash Revolution is an online version of Dance Dance Revolution, where players hit arrows in time to music. The game relies heavily on free-source content (although its organizers have snagged an impressively long list of fair-use permits over the last decade), and since it’s played on the keyboard instead of a dancepad, it tends to be extremely fast-paced and high-energy. I’ve played since I was seven, but I haven’t touched it in a while; even so, I imagine “Go” would play quite well. It has a great build-up of tension over its three minute run, an endearingly corny rapping section (this is the most important thing) and a super-catchy reprise with a bit of a baroque flavor. It reminds me of spending lazy June afternoons after summer school on a rickety Windows XP computer, waiting for the next song to load.
[7]

Katherine St Asaph: Pure corn, just genetically modified futurecorn, by artists whom everyone involved somehow forgot stopped being edgy 15 years ago. That’s one of my favorite genres.
[6]

Brad Shoup: Maybe Q couldn’t have been the link between hip-hop and EDM; ATCQ hunkered into jazz-rap so well it looked like entrenchment. He did his thing in the interim; now he’s here with the Chems, who’ve put some hype house into their big beat. He sounds like a man half his age, twitchy and eager to get the party over. The bass has his back. But the brothers still let in their controlled chaos — sour hits and a klaxon’s sense of hookiness. Which means that he’s stuck as the earworm, and the thirty-second bass notes disappear when it counts.
[5]

Ramzi Awn: I always had a thing for the Chemical Brothers. I don’t know if it was just the name, the time, or the fact that my older cousin and his friends listened to them, but we had a time. “Go” is pretty straightforward: an ode to opulence. It may not be as effective as a “Take Me Back To Your House” by Basement Jaxx or “Like a G6,” but the riffs are pretty good, and the production is dated enough to satisfy.
[6]

Ashley Ellerson: I highly doubt this will be a strong commercial success or a Grammy winner, but it’s nice to hear the duo and Q-Tip reuniting ten years later with something new. Both “Galvanize” and “Go” want listeners to take action in some form (the titles are interchangeable to a degree, and I’m thinking this was intentional), but the latter lacks the same level of motivation and push that the former incited in all of our bones in 2005. Then the guys enlisted Michel Gondry (director of my favorite film) to make a surprisingly lackluster video, resulting in an overall subpar package from all parties involved. “We’re only here to make you go,” Q-Tip reminds us, and now it’s time to go listen to every other Chem Bros single and think of this as a minor setback in their 20+ year career.
[6]

Cheat Codes ft. Evan Gartner – Adventure

http://www.thesinglesjukebox.com/?p=16755

Video game sounds perfect for the beach?


[Video][Website]
[4.25]
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Josh Langhoff: “Now that Owl City’s on tour, the market for closing credits songs in animated movies WILL BE OURS!!!!”
[3]

Nina Lea Oishi: Evan Gartner’s delivery is too mild and snoozy to suggest any real yearning for adventure; even the yelp at the end of the word “pretending” loses its novelty the second time around. But the rest of the production is a decent dose of Super Mario-fun, each weird-cute beep and boink conjuring up pixelated gold coins and romps around a cotton-candy digital world.
[4]

Iain Mew: The elongated bloops sound more obviously like Anamanaguchi than actual video games. Either way, they’re easily the freshest element enlivening some indie-pop that’s harmless, but wimpy enough to conjure thoughts of Owl City.
[5]

Alfred Soto: “All I want is an adventure,” he sings, defined as distorted chipmunk voices and knob twiddling.
[2]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Yeah, this was an adventure like a trip to a mall is an exciting change for a family.
[2]

Brad Shoup: Like bobbing in a wave pool in the thirty seconds before the solenoid’s activated. Only it’s a poorly calibrated solenoid, and you’re jammed with rays in calm waters, as children babble around you and some high-school sophomore murmurs sweet asininity to his summer crush.
[4]

Katherine St Asaph: >KILL IT What?! With this song? >YES Your idea of “adventure” is climbing a hill and you sound like American Authors. Come now.
[4]

Jessica Doyle: Who is this for? Because from the first note I cast it in that line of songs that play in the background in that life I wanted to have and felt too cowardly to have, something far more urban and artificial, dramatic and discomfiting, taxing and beautiful. Like when I was thirteen, hugging myself in an upstairs bedroom watching Stephen Spinella win a Tony and thank “the husband of my heart”; or a few years later, wanting desperately to fit in with the English majors who played Future Bible Heroes on our college radio and comforted each other during midnight milkshake runs at a diner down the Blue Route; and then actually in New York, only somehow whatever it was remained just out of reach, and I was too conventional and too depressed to actually find it. But surely that particular reaction has more to do with me (and with how the intersection of “queerness” and music got filtered to 1980s Top-40 radio and suburban-safe girl ears) than with anything actually going on. So: who is this for? Who is this for? I’m too stuck in my own story; I need to hear someone else’s.
[7]

Scott Mildenhall: If Unicorn Kid had received the success this cruel, unready world neglectfully failed to bestow upon him, then a) he might still be Unicorn Kid, who knows, and b) this song would have been created to piggyback on his success, probably by Owl City. Evidently it has been made anyway, and not by Owl City, but like his best songs it is almost unnervingly sincere in its simplicity of sentiment, and most readily describable as “pleasant”.
[6]

Moses Kim: The midway point between Owl City and Madeon, with warm, sweeping sounds filtered through glitchy electro-house textures. Evan Gartner’s an amiable if slight presence: his cry for adventure is less a demand than a coax, a proposal to leave the house to make an ice cream run. 
[6]

Will Adams: A bit of poor timing to release a harmless song that shares a title with an album that achieves this type of bright dancepop so much better. I wouldn’t mind hearing it at a beach party.
[5]

Thomas Inskeep: Synth-pop with electro touches that you’ve heard hundreds of times before.
[3]