Friday, April 20th, 2018

Mondo Grosso – False Sympathy

We’ll be getting to the new BiSH soon, btw…


[Video]
[6.83]

Maxwell Cavaseno: *before playing the song* Oh lovely, Aina the End away from the excessive stressers of the WACK family. I wonder what her and Mondo Grosso are going to come up with together. Like I know it’ll be lush and housey, but is it going to maybe actually result in a pleasant listening experience? Something that isn’t going to make my skin crawl? Ha-ha-ha. Well, we’ll see! *after playing the song* ………. I hate her.
[7]

Ryo Miyauchi: For some reason, Aina the End has been a minor favorite for electronic producers. Her husky voice likes to crack without notice, and the amateurism behind it seems more fit for punk-ish jams of her home idol group BiSH than the more polished R&B textures of Mondo Grosso. That said, the roughness of its edges sets “False Sympathy” apart. Had a more trained singer tackled this ’00s-nostalgic J-pop, a labored quality that usually weighs down Avex Trax singles would be more evident.
[6]

Alfred Soto: The backing track could have served Katy B well in 2010, and Aina the End’s staccato approach to the material creates a sense that he’s performing his detachment.
[7]

Will Adams: “False Sympathy” begins with lounge-house that iiO would have pulled off better before moving into a chorus that stalls out with its repeated note hook. It’s overall a disappointment compared to the buoyant “Labyrinth,” but Mondo Grosso’s sparkly touches are still easy enough to get lost in.
[6]

Katherine St Asaph: Remember the olde days of record reviewing, where any pop album could be glibly dismissed as “shopping-mall dance music?” Did Amazon kill that too? Because I haven’t heard a track in some time that so accurately captures the sensory overload, the over-packedness with people and polyester, of a weekend H&M.
[5]

Thomas Inskeep: More gorgeous deep house from Mondo Grosso, mixing in a touch of Timbaland ca. ’98 on the verses (which remind me of some of his most spatial work for Aaliyah). Aina the End, out of her comfort zone, sounds perfect against Mondo Grosso’s textures. Everything about this rings true.
[10]

Friday, April 20th, 2018

Carrie Underwood – Cry Pretty

:,)


[Video]
[7.43]

Stephen Eisermann: I’ve always identified closely with Carrie Underwood because of the way she’s maintained her public persona. Always choosing privacy and shadows over public openness has served her well, as she has largely remained controversy-free throughout her career, but some things are inevitable. This fall, Carrie reportedly took a gnarly fall that left her with some serious facial injuries that has left the country fashion icon with next to no confidence. She detailed how it was difficult for her to walk in front of mirrors back in December and asked her fans and the world to be gentle when she returned to the spotlight. Recent photos of her show some differences in her face, but the biggest change in Carrie’s person is seen with this song. Co-written with the Love Junkies (McKenna, Lindsey, and Rose), this song finds Carrie finally singing her story, not those of her scorned, battered, heartbroken counterparts. The first verse, with its sparse arrangement, feels like you’re sitting on the floor, legs crossed, facing your friend who is finally opening up to you after a serious event. “I’m just a girl, not usually the kind to show my heart to the world,” Carrie begins, immediately calling to attention what much of the public has said about her: reserved, cold even. Then she doubles down on the description by adding, “I keep my composure, for worse or for better.” Again, Carrie is agreeing with the public’s view on her and during my first listen, I felt my imaginary walls slowly falling as well. The song then swells into glam-rock with Carrie wailing about how it’s impossible to mask true emotion and during my first listen my heart sunk. Just as Carrie had allowed her true feelings and self to be recorded and let out, I gave myself permission to cry — and boy did I cry. I cried for every relative I still lied to about my queerness. I cried over every lost friend who said they were cool with it, but weren’t. I cried over my insecurity about where I’m at in my career and life. It all came out. Just like Carrie says, it wasn’t pretty; but with everything that’s happening and that has happened, it felt so needed. Vulnerability isn’t pretty no matter how often we call it “beautiful,” but it is necessary. Even the perfect, just-add-water pop star Carrie Underwood has finally realized that, and I look forward to what lies next for a star who just recorded the sound of her broken heart and shattered self-image. The wailing, the guitar licks, the lyrics, all of it hurts and is messy and is tragic and, above all, is real. And, flaws and all, it’s perfect.
[10]

Thomas Inskeep: Everybody knows that Carrie Underwood sings big, but she really kinda outdoes herself here. This is a stellar slice of Nashville feminism penned by Underwood herself with three of the town’s greatest songwriters, Hillary Lindsey, Liz Rose and Lori McKenna (talk about a murderer’s row), also co-produced by Underwood, and it balances tenderness with just the right touch of bombast. This is a declaration of intent from the biggest woman in contemporary country music; she’s not fucking around. Neither is this song. 
[9]

Edward Okulicz: Look at that line-up of writers: Carrie Underwood, Hillary Lindsey, Liz Rose, Lori McKenna. Listen to that overwhelming wave of a chorus and the guitar solo and Carrie belting that bridge out of the park like she’s not sure if it’s an all-time rock ballad or a spiritual. If I didn’t like Carrie Underwood’s voice and didn’t find her personality likeable, I’d call it calculated. And it probably is; everyone involved has a point to make and teary-eyed singalongs to soundtrack. Manipulation of the heart-strings is manipulation even if there’s a back story, which of course there is. But god do I love it in a corny way, and the fact that Underwood gives every big emotional moment everything she’s got, as if she needs to convince God himself as well as her audience. Her commitment turns treacle into mana.
[8]

Nortey Dowuona: The flickering guitar strums, racing past slide guitar and air-soft drums, sit around Carrie’s rough, strong voice like furniture. She soars as the guitar solo kicks in, only to be topped by Carrie swinging for the fences and knocking the ball over every stand and into the scoreboard.
[10]

Alfred Soto: I like how “Cry Pretty” turns into Guns ‘N Roses’ “Don’t Cry” by the time the guitar solo appears and Carrie Underwood outsings it as if she were Axl. Thick, assured, and impressively hysterical, “Cry Pretty” feels like the power ballad to which Underwood’s career has been building. On which chart it finds a home will be a fascinating question to answer.
[7]

Katherine St Asaph: Not sure why the full biographical-criticism authenticity spiel is being trotted out uncontested for this generic power ballad that’d be shrugged off if sang by Kelsea Ballerini or Cassadee Pope or really anyone but maybe Maren Morris. This is Carrie Underwood’s element and she’s rehearsed it to the millisecond, with cues for exactly where to ease or tighten the vocal processing. Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna and Liz Rose have subtler work — most recently their award-winning “Girl Crush” — but here they’re less Pistol Annies than Randy, Paula and Simon, assigning a scene of nonspecific crying. Pity the hapless American Idol finalists given this song for its power-balladitude, not realizing it makes the most sense as the song you sing once voted off.
[4]

Will Adams: The gang’s all here: sweeping gesture as the spotlight comes on, I-really-mean-it guitar solo, lyrical conceit that raises eyebrows upon further inspection, and vague universality. I thought the point of American Idol was becoming so successful that you don’t need coronation ballads anymore.
[4]

Friday, April 20th, 2018

Calvin Harris & Dua Lipa – One Kiss

10/10 perfect Photoshop…


[Video]
[6.50]

Alfred Soto: Amazingly, Calvin Harris has laid down a decent house track, worthy of Dua Lipa’s restraint. 
[7]

Alex Clifton: ’90s Eurodance came back and nobody told me! Dua Lipa sounds like she’s phoning it in a little, but she works well with dancey music, so I’m not too mad about it. I’ve always liked Calvin Harris’s work when it’s sounded its most effortless rather than trying too hard to sound hip and in the moment, and he’s hit on something decent here. 
[6]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Given the ’80s yacht vibes of his last album, my expectation (little and far between as they are) for Calvin Harris was not to go ahead and make a speed garage pastiche. Nevertheless he did, with a track that wanders between homages to “Sincere,” “Gabrielle” and vintage Todd Edwards with surprising ease and features a tastefully functional Dua Lipa vocal performance. Overwhelmingly professional in the aftermath of the comparatively amateur quality of Jorja’s “On My Mind,” if Calvin is deciding he’s going to make a novelty UK garage album to free us from England’s obsession with terrible early ’90s house plodding, than I will gladly pledge fealty for another year.
[9]

Ryo Miyauchi: Calvin Harris’s take on UK garage flows with way more feeling than his backyard-BBQ funk of last year. Meanwhile, Dua Lipa sounds free in her relative anonymity here. Maybe the track could’ve used more peaks and valleys, though it shows a new potential in a new genre for both.
[6]

Katherine St Asaph: It takes someone like Dua Lipa, the most competent nonentity working, to make Calvin Harris the most vibrant, imaginative and memorable part of a track. If only industry politics could rearrange themselves so Azealia Banks could be on this instead.
[5]

Will Adams: Dua Lipa is inert as usual, and Calvin Harris’s sudden pivot from the funk-pop that defined 2017 is pre-emptive (though probably wise). The groove is decent, but I’d rather turn to someone like Moon Boots to provide the lushness “One Kiss” aims for.
[5]

Julian Axelrod: I still resent Calvin Harris for finally perfecting his sound on Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1, then abandoning it like a rich kid with a shiny new toy. Sure, this is sturdy, well-executed dance pop, and the trop-house horns give the hook a funhouse mirror warp. But it feels so anonymous for two stars of this stature. It’s one of those rare songs that’s constantly stuck in my head, but I can never remember how it goes. Maybe it’s on me for expecting every Calvin Harris single to be “Slide”; maybe this is just what Calvin Harris songs sound like now.
[6]

Crystal Leww: Calvin Harris’s production reminds me so much of something that Craig David would hop on, and Dua Lipa yet again turns out a sublime vocal that is doing just enough. “One Kiss” and “Nice For What” coming out the week before that blessedly nice day in Brooklyn was just a sign that summer is starting, and the bangers are starting to slap. I’m ready to put on those sparkly shorts, bust out the crop top with no jacket over it, and show the fuck out.
[8]

Thursday, April 19th, 2018

Eleanor Friedberger – Make Me a Song

But out of what, Eleanor?


[Video][Website]
[5.00]
Alfred Soto: It has an impressive tentativeness, as if Eleanor Friedberger were thinking out her performance and song at the microphone — and this was before I glanced at the title. The wobbly electronics add to the sense of dislocation; so do the opening guitar strums sketching the vaguest evocations of 1964. Then in a voice buoyant in its calm Friedberger sings the hook over swelling keyboards (“There’s a B-flat where a wave every year,” she reminds listeners). By the time it ends “Make Me a Song” has summoned sixty years of pop history to its side and kept its secrets close.
[8]

Julian Axelrod: For a guy who’s writing a Singles Jukebox blurb at this very moment, sometimes I have no idea how to talk about music. How do you articulate the ineffable highs and singular memories associated with your favorite songs, much less assign it a numerical score? Beneath its gentle guitar shimmers and easygoing springtime lope, “Make Me a Song” grapples with these kinds of big questions. Eleanor Friedberger sings with such warmth and affection for the simple act of sharing a song with someone special. Her words are tender and piercing, yet opaque; sometimes that connection is too deep for either of you to explain. It’s a song of devotion — to a loved one, to a higher power, to the self — from a woman who, fifteen years after her first song, is still searching for the kind of answers only music can provide.
[8]

Katherine St Asaph: Why are the only female singer-songwriters allowed press coverage the ones who are so damn boring? This is like five minutes of a Tanita Tikaram song, except some of Tanita’s songs are actually engaging.
[3]

Stephen Eisermann: This is going to sound really good playing against a montage of a white girl in her mid twenties visiting coffee shops, stapling some papers, and looking out windows longingly in some no-name rom-com later this year; however, that’s the only place I’ll ever want to hear it again.
[2]

Will Adams: Songs about songs need not be so soporific; just ask Natasha Bedingfield. The LFO synths at the outset are nice, but by the second minute the jingle-jangle has worn thin, and there’s nothing left to save you from the reverb haze that clouds Friedberger’s vision.
[4]

Edward Okulicz: Having held a long-standing and probably irrational hatred of The Fiery Furnaces and all things associated with them, it’s progress that I listen to this pleasantly burbling trifle and feel no reaction whatsoever other than that it should have been half its length.
[4]

Rebecca A. Gowns: The song is so slight, a small humming kind of ditty, that the title of it seems less like an invitation to woo and more like a self-deprecating comment. It’s good for what it is, though — something in the vein of Christine McVie, complete with alto vocals and simple yearning phrases.
[6]

Thursday, April 19th, 2018

Flo Rida – Sweet Sensation

Flo Rida on time! Ri-ri-rida on time!!!


[Video]
[4.14]

Edward Okulicz: “Love Sensation” and its various mutations over the years have such a strong foundation that they almost by design have to be good. The original’s a prime disco screamer, Marky Mark’s take is hilarious, and Black Box’s is arguably the peak of Western civilisation. Given that the verses of Flo Rida’s completely superfluous entry are a pretty sprightly, harmless club bop, I’d really have preferred it if the snippets of “Love Sensation” had been sped and pitched up rather than inattentively Daft Punk-ized. Flo Rida should be silly and fun, and that would have helped a lot.
[5]

Will Adams: I really really really hope that a) radio pop’s recent synthfunk trend leads us back into complextro being a thing, and b) Flo Rida is the one to do it.
[6]

Alfred Soto: Like Mark Wahlberg, née Marky Mark, Flo loves Loleatta Holloway (who wouldn’t?), and unlike many lazy interpolations this one might have worked with less “Love Sensation.”
[5]

Katherine St Asaph: Radio says speed it up, Flo Rida… slows “Love Sensation” back to its pre-Marky Mark tempo. That’s kind of cool, though also grounds for untold pop hopefuls to send programmers Musgraves-esque “perceived tempo” complaints. It’s also kind of cool — if not resultant in good songs — that a decade on, Flo Rida singles are not only still a thing, but still the same kind of thing. I look forward to his 2060 sample of the fire VR-step smash by Tiffany Trump Jr. and Logan Paul’s grandson Slayer.
[4]

Julian Axelrod: I’m no Marky Mark purist, but there’s something perverse about trying to make a dance banger by slowing down “Good Vibrations.” That said, this is so silly and clunky it’s impossible to hate.
[5]

Nortey Dowuona: Thin, flat synths scream out over the beginning then scatter over the flattening bass and awkward drums as Flo-Rida drifts like a forgotten piece of paper over it.
[2]

Andy Hutchins: Presumably, Loleatta Holloway and/or the estate of Dan Hartman get some small share of this, which is nice. It will probably be a share of a small sum, unless I’m misreading the 2018 market for a song trying to trade on early ’90s nostalgia by, uh, completely misunderstanding house music, slowing the BPM down, and reworking an actual chorus into a hook and bridge that sound like a bad Gorillaz song vomited on itself.
[2]

Thursday, April 19th, 2018

Drake – Nice For What

We’re asking the same question, Aubrey.


[Video][Website]
[7.50]

Crystal Leww: I’M ACTIN OUT. 
[9]

William John: An irresistible loop in search of a drop, or at least one with more fortitude than the frenzied drum, vocal and siren goulash it is afforded here. Drake is more than capable of mountain-cresting epics — “Lord Knows” being the best evidence — but his approach here is faint and minimalist, a coasting effort when assiduousness was warranted. As for its politics, it is curious to see someone who consistently saw fit to condescend to the “good girl” now tread the path of obsequiousness, but I suppose spring is as good a season as any to turn over a new leaf. Several bonus points for the video’s inclusion of a smiling Tracee Ellis Ross, a genre of content to which I am extremely partial.
[6]

Ryo Miyauchi: Boi-1da took Drake back to the Take Care days with “God’s Plan,” and now Murda Beatz and Blaqnmild rewind it even further to Thank Me Later or even the mixtape era with that sped-up Lauryn Hill sample. Drake cheerleading his favorite women also loosely recalls “Best I Ever Had,” except he trades his no-make-up-on corniness for IRL/URL cheesiness.
[6]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Canadian Gentrification Dream Team! Murda Beatz and The Drakk East India Company have docked their boats to purse New Orleans Bounce for a moment (which not for nothing, could’ve used a fucking Wayne or Juvi verse but imagine Aubrey sharing the spotlight for a minute). It’s a simplistically light bob and weave of a bop, but doesn’t feel like the true harbinger of any new onslaught of Drakkonian terror. Which leads me to wonder, if Drakk is dropping all these singles with no real album in sight, what sort of scheme is he planning?
[6]

Nortey Dowuona: Murda Beats should’ve used something other than Lauryn Hill. Otherwise these bouncy, vibrant drums are perfect. Drake is completely useless here. He doesn’t add anything other than that sample, which could have been replaced with anything else and seemed superb over these drums. The drums and Big Freedia samples get the 5. Everything else gets nothing.
[5]

Julian Axelrod: Drake is ubiquitous. He is an institution. He is the air we breathe, he is the sun as it sets and rises, he is a collection of ones and zeroes and million-watt superstar charisma. He has remade pop in his own image, supplanting himself at the top of the charts like most of us change our socks every morning. And lo, just as the flowers start to bloom and the sun awakens from its slumber, our benevolent 6 God has bestowed upon us yet another banger. A nonbeliever may look upon the bounce beat, the Big Freedia drops, the Lauryn Hill sample that quivers and dissipates like mist upon the lake, and cry appropriation. But true disciples know Drake as a voracious, omnipotent force of nature, subsuming everything in his orbit to create a globe-spanning pop utopia. He commands us to get our motherfuckin’ roll on, and we comply. He commends the girls working overtime for their one night out, and they caption their selfies in tribute. Years from now, Drake will stand before the adoring masses, on the final night of his ten-month farewell Vegas residency. And one last time, with tears in our eyes and wonder in our hearts, we will watch the breakdown.
[9]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: IYRTITL retroactively made Drake’s previous albums significantly worse, revealing how much better his music and rapping could have been if he had just hired more (or better) ghostwriters. “Nice For What” is the first time since then that I’m reconsidering; perhaps all Drake should do now in order to succeed is write songs that make his shortcomings irrelevant. At this point, his personality is so firmly established that the little he offers here — lackluster rapping and familiar lyrics — is all we really need. He’s simply a peripheral but recognizable hypeman for the listener here, offering his supportive nice guy shtick in a way that can be comfortably ignored with an eye roll. Because if anything, the actual empowerment of women here comes from how easily they can recognize his presence as superfluous. It turns out that Drake is at his most benevolent when he stands outside the frame, allowing the rest of the song to become a space for people to “hit them motherfucking angles.”
[8]

Andy Hutchins: Fucking Drake. Nearly a decade removed from “Best I Ever Had,” he’s still trading on decent dude credentials while writing and singing lyrics that imply that the exact sort of empowered woman “Nice For What” is for and about should or even might care about Drake’s permission or blessing to take fire selfies or dress up or be hot. (Imagine Rihanna’s reaction to any man at all condoning any “showing off” she does with “But it’s all right / This is your life.”) That aside, this is a masterful master of ceremonies in party-starter mode, gliding (“roll on” and “slow song” should not rhyme so well) over an utterly unstoppable Murda Beatz-made gumbo with just the right light touch of “Triggerman” and an airy flip of “Ex-Factor.” It is a jam and a bop and a half — one that, unlike “Hotline Bling” and “One Dance” before it, features its chameleonic creator straining only to let the influences he’s synthesizing shine in their own right. Ask Drake if he’s singing songs like this to get with women, and he’ll say yeah. But he’s been making these all along, and while some of them have also been the No. 1 songs in America, not all of them have let Big Freedia be an indomitable (if lamentably uncredited and unseen) force, or been creative triumphs so profound it’s worth putting aside cynicism. Again: Fucking Drake.
[10]

Joshua Copperman: And this is what happens when Drake gets some new friends! “God’s Plan” remains a slog despite the endearingly silly music video, but Drake sounds genuinely happy on “Nice For What” in a way that I don’t think he’s ever sounded in the near-decade he’s been rapping. Much has already been said about the samples of Lauryn Hill and Big Freedia, as well as the surprisingly empowering lyrics from the man who wrote “Hotline Bling.” But some additional praise should go to the moment at 2:30 where Drake’s voice is chopped-up courtesy of BlaqNmilD, the first time in years where a Drake song actually builds up to something instead of just meandering for four minutes and fading out. “Nice For What” feels like an event single in the way “God’s Plan” didn’t. The only thing really holding this back from the highest tier of Drake is the awful mixing – tinny hi-hats obscure the Lauryn Hill sample, ironic in the one song where Drake puts women first. 
[7]

Stephen Eisermann: The “Ex-Factor” sample here works exceptionally well, but it’s only one piece of an extraordinarily good song. Drake, who’s rested heavily on his laurels as of late, finally breaks out of the self-aggrandizing mold and opts instead to dedicate this track to women everywhere. Here, Drake presents the tale of an every-woman and speaks to all of the things she achieves, overcomes, and copes with, but he does so with such energy that he keeps up with the bounce music style and never lets the song come across as corny. Instead, it’s empowering, high energy, and a ton of fun. This is Drake at his best and it’s a welcome return to form from a star rapper who’s been coasting for far too long.
[9]

Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

Derez De’Shon – Hardaway

Atlanta rapper last seen on Rich Gang’s “Pull Up,” which we possibly should have gotten to…


[Video]
[6.50]

Ryo Miyauchi: I hear Baton Rouge in this piece of Atlanta rap, particularly Kevin Gates, NBA Youngboy and the pained melodies in their work; London on da Track laces De’Shon with a lavish yet still maudlin piano beat that the other two would sing well on. There’s also some slight humor and vocal play in his boasts that loosely channels fellow local Young Dolph. But while “Hardaway” echoes other rappers more than it establishes a sense of self for De’Shon, he’s at least pulling off these styles.
[6]

Alfred Soto: Although he can’t help but summon comparisons to Kevin Gates thanks to his baritone and the commitment to writing about how the consequences of the game affect his kid, Derez De’Shon sounds even more pained, especially when he rushes through a verse as if fleeing horrors he knows too well. 
[7]

Will Adams: Derez De’Shon sounds confident yet weathered, which forms the basis of the “harder way” and “heart away” wordplay. It also results in some impactful moments, like around 2:30 when he spits “FUCK THAT” before his voice curls up into near-crying. The lingering sadness keeps “Hardaway” from sounding truly liberated, but it rings truer.
[6]

Nortey Dowuona: Smooth, glittering piano, lumbering bass and glittering drums buoy Derez’s nasal, raspy voice as he barrels over it with surprising agility.
[8]

Katherine St Asaph: An oddly understated track compared to De’Shon, but that’s probably better than the other way around.
[6]

Julian Axelrod: Deshon’s conversational flow sells the verses, even if they feel too casual to stick with you. But the moments where he spazzes out and wails on the hook (especially the ad-libs, where he sounds like a vengeful ghost) are the heart of the song, his years of struggle and hard work laid bare.
[6]

Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

Azealia Banks – Anna Wintour

Meanwhile, Anna is supposedly retiring for about the third time..


[Website][Video]
[6.56]
Katherine St Asaph: God knows how long it’ll be standard for every Azealia Banks blurb to begin with a line something like: Azealia Banks’ music was never bad, just sidelined. “Anna Wintour” is also not bad, though also not especially new-sounding; if it sounds made for a ~2013 mix alongside George FitzGerald, that’s because it basically was. Junior Sanchez, who’s kicked around for decades with credits including post-“Finally” Cece Peniston and Katy Perry’s worst song — he isn’t bad, honest — was brought in to remix “Ice Princess,” which has a kernel of house in it and an Anna Wintour namedrop. The Anna-containing sample doesn’t make it to the final cut, and nor do Scary Spice or Nicki Minaj, the floated guests: “If you listen to ‘Anna Wintour,’ the parts that kinda you can tell where I was going with the idea of the song,” Banks said. “This is the part I wrote for Scary Spice and the rap verse and stuff. It’s just like a ghost collab, kinda.” That might explain the trace of an empty-room feeling in this track that might otherwise bang — but it’s just a trace.
[7]

Alfred Soto: Using enough contortions in the first verse to wonder if her larynx does yoga too, Azealia Banks shows she doesn’t need Melanie B and treats Robin S’ “Show Me Love” as palimpsest. Ah, Anna Wintour, infamous for her polite hauteur — does this sound like our Azealia? She’s too reckless to insist on the anonymity of pop house, and her flow these days is at best solid. Maybe Betty Rubble’s a better model.
[5]

Will Adams: Banks is less invested in chasing traditional pop structure and more in creating an intricate universe where her songs live. Self-quotation is nearly a given, whether she’s plucking flows from “212” for the end of “Yung Rapunxel” or tapping the whispered hook from “Luxury” for “Miss Camaraderie.” “Anna Wintour” is a direct sequel to “Ice Princess” from this standpoint — hear the “princessprincessprincess” before the first chorus; the “let me out!” cry — but also from a narrative one. It melts its predecessor’s too-conventional-for-Banks’s-own-good template (frosted radio-trap complete with sampled EDM chorus) in favor of something with less form but more identifiably her. Now, she’s found love, awaking from the meandering first verse in which she lounges in a bed of diamonds and snapping her eyes to the center. She’s alluded to that love coming from a higher power, but if the crisp house, screaming bridge and tight rap verse are any indication, that higher power is music.
[8]

Leah Isobel: “Anna Wintour” is the glossiest an Azealia Banks song has sounded in some time, and her pop instincts remain as sharp as ever. The moves between the sung first verse and chorus into the megaphone-on-mic bridge into the rap verse are so smooth and so natural that the shifts barely even register as such. As much as Azealia’s public image is tied to controversy, her actual art has always been animated in part by joy — joy for what her voice can do, joy for music, joy for life. She sounds full of that joy here, and it’s wonderful to listen to.
[8]

Ryo Miyauchi: I take it the pumping house beat remains muffled to give Azealia Banks’s voices the attention they deserve. And her voice is indeed plural: while it splinters into megaphone screams and crisscrossed raps come the second verse, it’s the main diva-vocal mode that takes this one home.
[6]

Nortey Dowuona: Shiny, runway synths slide across the bumpy, rubbery house drums as Azealia glides with the brassy bass then skydives through the beat, piercing it with stunning accuracy.
[10]

Thomas Inskeep: The groove is a bit too four-on-the-floor, never deviating, and the verse and chorus make “Anna Wintour” sound even more like this early ’90s pop-house classic. Except that Robin S was a better singer, and was singing a better song. Banks feels too often like she’s trying to cram too many syllables into each phrase, for maximum — something. And Banks’s mid-song rap sounds spliced in from another song.
[4]

Julian Axelrod: There’s some cosmic harmony to Azealia Banks hijacking Disclosure’s Settle sound for a boring comeback single five years after beefing with them, especially since this song easily could have come out that very same week.
[5]

Stephen Eisermann: ’90s house with an interesting vocal turn by Azealia, but I just struggle to separate the artist from her art. This doesn’t reach the heights of “212,” but Azealia still goes hard in the second verse while explaining this self-realization she’s achieved; I’m sure many a gay will feel the same on the dance floor this summer.
[6]

Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

John Legend ft. Bloodpop – A Good Night

At least we like this more than Chrissy Teigen likes pocket Animal Crossing


[Video]
[4.44]

Katherine St Asaph: John Legend, ever career-minded, goes directly from playing Jesus to the wedding-maestro perch just vacated by Bruno Mars: “I think I just met my wife (yeah, I said it).” The job’s done perfectly to spec: no come-ons so explicit as to make the dance with the bride’s mom awkward, will receive royalties until and past the apocalypse. Bloodpop makes a fine wedding DJ, though he gets bored two-thirds through.
[5]

William John: There’s something altogether too calculated about “A Good Night.” It seems to have been drawn up in a boardroom designed to infiltrate wedding Pinterest boards, and John Legend, a mostly unobjectionable R&B vocalist, isn’t earnest enough to overcome the sterile saplessness. Shawn Mendes’ recent single “Lost In Japan” uses similar ingredients, but while Mendes’ song evokes giddiness through its insistence on understatement, Legend’s hamfisted approach makes having a good night seem laborious. 
[4]

Alfred Soto: The proficient bloodless crooner gets an injection of Bloodpop and — presto! His bass lines and kick drums improve. When he suggests he might flash a nipple, he evokes Jeffrey Osborne; when he pledges his troth he could be doing “I Gotta Feeling,” politely, bloodlessly.
[6]

Julian Axelrod: The way this abruptly pivots from sleek I Fuck Now disco to lovestruck Crying in the Greeting Card Aisle When “All of Me” Plays in CVS balladry almost feels like parody, like an SNL sketch John Legend would appear in if he had any self-awareness. Bloodpop supplies a rubbery approximation of human fun, while Legend’s vocals are warm and rich as ever, especially on the bridge. But everything good about this song only throws its dweebiness into starker contrast. This is a prom anthem for guys who married their high school sweetheart because she kinda looks like their mom.
[5]

Thomas Inskeep: Heaven knows John Legend can sing anything and make it sound lovely, but this Bloodpop track is such generic, danceable-R&B(E)DM that even Legend’s vocals can’t save it. Doesn’t help that the lyrics are a bland collection of cliches, either.
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Katie Gill: A not-so-scientific way to judge a singer’s celebrity status is to see which EDM artist they collaborate with. You’d think John Legend would be a bit closer to Calvin Harris levels of collaboration than Bloodpop levels. Still, considering that the video description gives the impression that the sole purpose of this song is to show off the capabilities of the Google Pixel 2, I don’t think things like “artistic talent” or “making a bona fide radio hit” were the main motives here. Enjoy that Google money, Mr. Legend.
[5]

Ryo Miyauchi: It’s Bloodpop who lets John Legend down, not the other way around: Evolver has better synth-funk that takes the singer out of his adult-contemporary shell. “I think I found my wife” is where he bets it all, trying his best to cash in on his corny-uncle brand. If it had a beat also ready to go all in on cheesiness, maybe it would’ve been worth it.
[5]

Stephen Eisermann: Turns out that not even John Legend’s rich, warm voice and Bloodpop’s slick production can make elevator music good — it just goes from boring to danceable boring.
[4]

Will Adams: Between Bloodpop’s bloodless funk-pop and Legend sounding like he’s yawning mid-take, “A Good Night” is the sound of a wedding band at the end of the reception, when they’re petered out but still have a half hour left. The song perks up at the end, when the uncredited female harmonies take center stage, but I don’t know, guys; my sister is getting married in two months, and I’m much more likely to suggest “Summer Nights” before this.
[4]

Tuesday, April 17th, 2018

Genie High – Katame De Ijyou Ni Koishiteru

Members of previous Jukebox faves create J-rock supergroup, become slightly less of a fave…


[Video]
[6.67]

Juana Giaimo: This is a true supergroup: you can really listen to the math-rock style of Tricot while you can also hear the paradise-like harmonies of Gesu no Kiwami Otome along with some jazzy vibes. Genie High knows really how to paint  a pleasing landscape in sounds. 
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Ryo Miyauchi: Out of all of Enon Kawatani’s twitchy jazz-rock projects, Genie High so far seems the most sincere by good measure. Tricot singer Ikkyu Nakajima harbors a crush she can’t physically contain, and she mends it by confessing it into a song. Hearing the chorus that resorts to a countdown cliche, or her breaking the fourth wall mid song, you don’t need to know the bitter moods surrounding the other projects to know “Katame De” is a rather innocent take on adult love by Kawatani.
[6]

Will Adams: The studied energy is nice, as is the highly rhythmic arrangement — like a hundred little threads woven together — until the band indulges in a jazzy interlude that gets tangled in itself.
[6]

Nortey Dowuona: Sharp, rattling piano and smooth, plucking drums buoy a shimmering guitar, and the low-key, nearly invisible bass sets up the bridge for Ikkiyu Nakajima, who flips in and out of the song as the piano, bass, guitar and drums spring forward and prowl in front of their cage, before Nakajima returns to pry the bars open and let the song free.
[10]

Katherine St Asaph: Straightforward, bass-heavy rock that gives way periodically — and on the bridge — extendedly — to a froth of piano, percussion and voice. I prefer the latter, perhaps because I’ve been saturated the past few years with disco bass.
[6]

Thomas Inskeep: I like the way this is mostly driven by piano, and how the drums go a bit disco-y in the chorus, but apart from those elements this is fairly bland pop-rock, kinda like if Ben Folds Five had a female vocalist. There’s some good stuff here, just not enough of it.
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