Friday, October 23rd, 2020

Shawn Mendes – Wonder

I heard his next single is in fact called “Please Take Me Seriously.”


[Video][Website]
[4.11]

Juana Giaimo: “Wonder” seems to scream “Please, take me seriously,” with lyrics that are about finding it difficult to express himself, toxic masculinity, the fear of losing friends, what it’s like to be loved and also how the world is a hard place to live in (yes, all that in one song). For some reason, he thought he wasn’t being melodramatic enough so he also added a backing choir. 
[4]

Scott Mildenhall: Almost wonderful, but that bit too incohesive for a smooth ascent to the heights it desires. The lyrics are as on-the-nose as could be expected, but that doesn’t come at the cost of craft: the “hands”/”man” couplet shows that the broadest of brushes can still stroke with elegance. Bold, quasi-spiritual ballads can be fun, and so can the kilter-shake of uncomplicated pop. “Wonder” grapples for both, and for the most part they’re in hand.
[7]

Michael Hong: The problem is that we’ve sat through enough horny collaborations, tabloid drama, and even an album titled Romance, that second-guessing Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello’s relationship isn’t really possible. The chorus swallows everything up and every other question is drowned out by its main one. Sure, most of those were generic in their relatability, while others are built on false premises, but at least they were worth trying to answer.
[3]

Thomas Inskeep: He used to be John Mayer for teenage girls: annoying, easy to ignore. But now he’s moved into bombastic Jim Steinman territory, but without good songs.
[1]

William John: I’m not sure arena rock suits Shawn Mendes best; I prefer “Lost In Japan” and its airy, Phoenix-like shuffle, or even something with the manic urgency of “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back.”  He’s bogged down by a drab chorus here, and his words seem like they’re plagiarised from any given 2012 Tumblr post, stylised in a typewriter font.
[4]

Tim de Reuse: You’re conditioned to feel less like a man when you cry into your hands, huh? A calculated, lukewarm sentiment, barely connected to the rest of the song, surrounded by self-congratulatory bombast. How obnoxious it is to celebrate the act of wonder in the abstract, especially when your canvas is another quiet-loud-quiet-loud Imagine Dragons situation — come back when you can string your delicate profundities into a coherent throughline.
[3]

Jackie Powell: Lyrically there’s a lot going on in “Wonder.” Is this a song where Shawn Mendes reflects on the life he’s created for himself, assessing its costs and convolutions, or is this a love letter to Camila Cabello? I guess it’s both, but the story arc is less fluid in it’s transition from theme one (the verses) to theme two (the choruses). He took a similar approach with “In My Blood,” the lead single of his previous self-titled record. But “Wonder” feels a little bit scattered and less connected. Even in the overwhelmingly cinematic music video treatment for this track where Mendes hops from a Harry Potter inspired train to the middle of a forest and then on top of a cliff adjacent to a geyser, this feels forced and disjointed. I understand what he’s going for here: another vulnerable stadium anthem power ballad that soars in a Coldplay or Kings of Leon-ish way. Teddy Geiger co-wrote a better song with Mendes that had the same exact goal. In his half of a decade career, Mendes has proved how he differs from his peers who began on the internet. But, I just don’t know if the composition and final product of “Wonder” advances his development. Do we learn anything new here besides a tiny bit more about his love for Cabello? It doesn’t show us evolution, but maybe his Netflix documentary will? But that too doesn’t seem as focused as it could be. Although, I’ll give Mendes and Scott Harris this: I appreciate the melody of the lyrics “right before I close my eyes/The only thing that’s on my mind/Been dreaming that you feel it too” is sung in thirds. It creates an apogee on the track, but I walk away still wondering if I’ve indeed heard this too.
[6]

Alfred Soto: With the conviction of a showbiz hoofer who knows about life through other songs, Shawn Mendes creaks like a worn floorboard from the effort of convincing listeners that crying makes him less a man.
[2]

Brad Shoup: In 2020, a soaring piano ballad the begins and ends with stirring choral arrangements gets out in under three minutes. That’s a mid-oughts Sufjan move. I half expected Kanye to wander in for eight bars of profundity, right before a Westward lurch: the drummer leans into it; a scream echoes from the Negative Zone. One or six more minutes would do the trick. 
[7]

Thursday, October 22nd, 2020

Bruce Springsteen – Letter to You

Return to sender…


[Video][Website]
[5.57]

Edward Okulicz: Springsteen taking something private or introspective and making it sound huge is a feature, not a bug, and the more salient question rather than “is he good?” is “have you had enough of this already?”. Probably I have. But the plainness of “Letter to You” as a lyrical text interests me, because I hear something very old fashioned and courtly in the lyrics, almost like something from the ’50s, the melody kind of reminds me of something by Foreigner I can’t place, and then it’s given that perfect stadium-felling treatment replete with organ. All of these things should be anachronistic in 2020 — stadium rock, writing letters, corn, but they’re given meaning from the animation in Springsteen’s voice. I might have given this about a [5] in 2010 or 2030, but in 2020, I am slightly heartwarmed.
[7]

William John: About as much as can be asked of a Bruce Springsteen song in 2020; rollicking, familiar, and of comfort to my mother, as big a #BruceBud as you’re ever likely to encounter.
[6]

Alfred Soto: He doesn’t bluster, and he and his producers wisely mix his impeccable guitar front and center. Aware he will convert no one but playing as if he can, Bruce Springsteen still believes in the communicative power of private letters meant to be read through arena PA systems. For twenty years his dedication has come across palsied; here, the concision of his verse — suspicious of poetry when, after all, Charles Giordano’s there to offer some with his organ fills — acknowledges how well he can still put his weaknesses to work.
[7]

Thomas Inskeep: I love the way the E Street Band sounds here, proud and triumphant, but what’s with the way Springsteen is singing? On the choruses, he flirts with an almost operatic tone that is not flattering. As for the song itself, it’s just kinda there.
[5]

Brad Shoup: I don’t know anything about crowds of mongrel trees — Bruce, woof — but as someone who fills up one entire half of a birthday card every year, I get the sentiment. But I’m spewing my fears and doubts at her frequently enough to want to keep them out of print. Musically he’s going on that transcendent stroll, but I dunno if we really needed a solo recapitulating the verse melody twice! The whole deal was recorded live in one take, but it’s as crammed as anything he’s offered this century. Which I guess is a tribute to his crew, but let someone risk spilling something messy.
[5]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: I listened to this ten times in a row, and the straight-ahead nature of “Letter to You” is its definite downfall. The lyrics aren’t more potent in their directness, the music is all a bit too tidy, and the song overstays its welcome. Sometimes a message of gratitude is better when it doesn’t sound so rehearsed.
[4]

Tobi Tella: As a life-long New Jerseyan, maybe not the song my dad deserves, but definitely the one he wants.
[5]

Wednesday, October 21st, 2020

SZA ft. Ty Dolla $ign – Hit Different

Wait, which key is Different?


[Video][Website]
[6.22]

Tobi Tella: Following up a project as massive and confessional as CTRL was always going to be a difficult task, and I have no problem with SZA dropping something light and smooth on us. A strong motif in the lyric is the always blurry line between how cool she’s posturing as versus how cool she actually is, which makes me want to like this even more. But Ty Dolla $ign gives a Rent-A-Chorus, and while the vibe is nice, ultimately I can’t get over the feeling that there’s not that much here.
[5]

William John: A title like “Hit Different” immediately raises expectations for something earth-shattering. SZA’s track isn’t quite that: more a reinforcement of her aesthetic and cultural heft than any kind of reinvention. With hook duties mostly delegated to Ty Dolla $ign, “Hit Different” is about as low-key a comeback as could be imagined, but there are ear-catching moments here and there, perhaps the most mesmerising being the section where she begins hooting harmonics right before the final pre-chorus. The Neptunes coat it all in a languid, untheatrical haze, recognising that SZA’s storytelling requires minimal embellishment.
[7]

Michael Hong: SZA doesn’t get the spotlight until after the track has finished. The beat softens, twinkling trills and background coos adorn her, and she sings more assuredly than she had during its main event. But the bulk of “Hit Different” is spent on a beat that overtakes rather than pushes, and is overshadowed by one of the strongest uses of Ty Dolla $ign as a hook in recent memory.
[5]

Alfred Soto: Whether with Kehlani or SZA, Ty Dolla works well with female duettists, and the languid if not lethargic “Hit Different” gives him and SZA the space to sort out the levels of attraction. A minute shorter and it’d be a keeper. 
[7]

Thomas Inskeep: I love the languid vibe the Neptunes have created here, along with SZA’s thoroughly contemporary take on R&B in 2020 — I actually prefer this to anything on CTRL. Even Ty is utilized well! This song is a vibe, one that nicely provides some summery energy as autumn (in the northern hemisphere) moves into full effect.
[8]

Juana Giaimo: While I’m writing this, one of the first hot days of the year is ending, and the sunset is coming through my window. The song becomes part of this Sunday scenario. SZA’s voice slides with comfort, creating unexpected melody changes as she always does. But I’m surprised and kind of disappointed by the sad lyrics, and I wish Ty Dolla $ign offered more than just a monotonous chorus.
[6]

Katherine St Asaph: It seems like there should be more SZA in the SZA comeback, even if that comeback is just “The Weekend” part 2.
[5]

Brad Shoup: Six months of tweets about bad cereal and shitty fast food hitting different, and this came along, where the thing that hits is a sort of suspension, negotiated in advance. The Neptunes shelve their modernist clip and pull out some serviceable bump. As usual, SZA has verses better for studying than remembering, but that drawn-out pre-chorus really, uh, lands a certain way. 
[7]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Those Durutti Column guitars are a cool mist. It’s the sun cresting the horizon, shimmering rays bringing warmth after a night of unfounded angst; it’s the glimpses of joy I hold onto when speaking with friends; it’s the comfort in remaining close with my quarantine crush after breaking up. Without Dolla center stage, SZA sounds richer, every curling melody easier to trace. As her voice is gilded by the softest touch of a snare, I hear her croon, “Heavy on my empty mind shit.” That line lingers, reminding me of a much-needed truth: it’s okay to just vibe.
[6]

Friday, October 16th, 2020

Headie One ft. AJ Tracey & Stormzy – Ain’t It Different

Yes, a great many things are different nowadays…


[Video][Website]
[6.50]

Thomas Inskeep: Headie, AJ, and Stormzy all hit hard most of the time anyway, and this dark, somewhat sinister-sounding track hits especially hard. All three rappers keep it straightforward and serious, befitting the track’s downbeat mood. And UK rap’s love affair with UKG continues: The vocal sample here, twisted so nicely, is from “Bump ‘n Grind,” by M Dubs feat. Lady Saw. Why aren’t US rappers making tracks like this?
[8]

Edward Okulicz: When people ask me what my favourite song by Red Hot Chili Peppers is, which is definitely a thing that has happened, I usually say that it’s “Butterfly” by Crazy Town. I’d love to say that this song, which uses the same sample from “Pretty Little Ditty” is my second favourite, but the sample isn’t quite as effective second time around. Stormzy’s verse is terrific just on his enthusiastic earnestness (though: “I don’t do threats/I’m cordial!” — bless him, I laughed). The sampled chorus does hurt my ears.
[6]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: Who mixed the chorus? The warped vocal effect is so horrendously done, it’s practically unlistenable. It’s a real shame, because what Headie One, AJ Tracey & Stormzy contribute in the verses is solid.
[6]

Juana Giaimo: “Ain’t It Different” would benefit from a more flexible structure. Rather than a collaboration, this seems to be three rappers waiting in line for their turns. 
[4]

Alfred Soto: Pleasure in performance — in the raps, the flaunting of timbre, the synthesis of two distinct and complementary artists.  On first listen AJ Tracey’s steel sounds like bravado in the same way confidence disturbs many people.
[8]

Katherine St Asaph: At least two of these points are from the sample and at least two more are for Lady Saw (they don’t make overdriven vocal hooks like that anymore). But Headie, AJ, and Stormzy boost this, not detract.
[7]

Tuesday, October 13th, 2020

Bruno Martini ft. IZA and Timbaland – Bend the Knee

But will we?


[Video][Website]
[5.89]

Juana Giaimo: I’d even listen to IZA collaborating with Major Lazer before this empty track that sucks out and erases all of her charisma.
[4]

Alfred Soto: The Brazilian producer assembles a serviceable pop dance track for IZA’s vocals and Timbaland’s Auto-Tuned interjections. No one involved gets unduly bothered.
[5]

Katherine St Asaph: Never kicks out of medium gear, nor quite lives up to Iza’s branding as “the Brazilian Beyoncé,” but manages a solid medium-gear groove, or maybe a Brazilian Sasha Fierce album track.
[7]

Thomas Inskeep: Martini is apparently a Brazilian Mark Ronson (ca. 2009), who makes pop potluck records; this one features vocalist IZA belting out a quasi-disco banger, with Timbaland, inexplicably, tossing in interjections like an Auto-Tuned DJ Khaled. It all adds up to… not a lot. It doesn’t bang, but kinda grooves, stand-still, while IZA longs for a better song and Timbo cashes a check.
[5]

Leonel Manzanares de la Rosa: A tight, spacious — and spacey — groove, taken to the next level by IZA’s uncanny sense of rhythm and sultry tone. It might have needed a little less Timbaland ad-libbing. 
[7]

Edward Okulicz: Kept hearing the chorus as “better than the knee.” Kept correcting myself. Kept listening and enjoying it. Timbaland’s bits need to go, mind you, but otherwise this is standard VORP DJ pop-lite with a slightly-above-VORP performance from IZA.
[7]

Scott Mildenhall: The beginning of the “Bend the Knee” video, with Timbaland smirkingly visualising his gibberish intro, is its clear highlight: a moment of surrealist fun unmatched by anything that follows. The verse lyrics are impressively pointed for a production that nevertheless seems to have had “fun” as its guiding principle, but the whimper of a chorus shows that up as amounting to no more than glitter glued to cardboard, leaving it all sounding like the theme to an awkwardly titled gameshow.
[5]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Perfectly generic disco-revival-revival lifted by IZA’s soulful, evocative vocal performance and Timbaland’s welcome cameo and diminished by the fact that the hook can’t help but remind me of the weird parts of Game of Thrones.
[7]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: Despite a lack of alignment on IZA and Timbaland’s vibes, a soft disco song with strong hooks never hurt anybody. 
[6]

Monday, October 12th, 2020

Clean Bandit and Mabel ft. 24kGoldn – Tick Tock

Time goes by so slowly…


[Video][Website]
[2.75]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: The titular “tick tock” hook feels gimmicky and stilted, like the parties involved sat around a table trying to brainstorm what would connect well with “the youth.” The rest is a mess: the electronic and orchestral aspects of Clean Bandit’s production have never sounded so disjointed, Mabel suffers from her usual lack of charisma, and 24KGoldn’s sounds like it was slapped on in the right before the song’s release. 
[3]

Scott Mildenhall: Clean Bandit have a lot to teach Mabel in terms of iterating a recognisable sound while maintaining personality. 24kGoldn, meanwhile, demonstrates preternatural expertise in turning up, taking his money and leaving almost no impression at all. Altogether, it works. The pleasure of “Tick Tock” is route-one Clean Bandit: not their most ambitious, but a bright and sprightly trifle nevertheless.
[7]

Juana Giaimo: There is something very empty about this song. The violins are completely out of place; they have a folk vibe, which sounds comical, especially when the lyrics are supposed to be sensual. Then there is Mabel, who has a nice voice but still has a hard time transmitting anything — and the cold production behind her doesn’t help. Finally there is 24KGoldn, who delivers some loud and slightly annoying verses, plus backing vocals in the last chorus, which are barely audible. Each element is completely detached from the rest of the song, but even on their own they don’t have much to offer.
[4]

Will Adams: If you’re seeking a trop-house song that successfully addresses the feeling of a crush taking over every waking and dreaming minute of your thoughts, try Zedd and Katy Perry’s overlooked “365.” But if you’re more in the mood for a song that makes you feel like music isn’t really that great after all, try this.
[2]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: My beloved partner of five years hates pop music. That’s fine by me — we don’t have to agree on 100 percent of our musical taste, and it’d be boring if we did. He thinks that contemporary pop is a fundamentally annoying genre, a collection of pop-up-ad-style hooks and abrasive personalities barely held together by mediocre arrangements. I tend to disagree — I wouldn’t spend as much time as I do writing or thinking about pop if I was annoyed by it all the time. If all pop songs sounded like this, though, I’d have one fewer thing to fight about.
[1]

Alfred Soto: Nostalgia for trop house in 2020 is like an eighties comp in 1992: I’m not sure this music’s been gone enough to get wistful about it. This wouldn’t matter if “Tick Tock” offered other goods besides the vague Middle Eastern lilt to the chorus.
[3]

Thomas Inskeep: I thought trop-house ended a couple years ago? Or maybe I just hoped. Mabel sounds more anonymous than ever here (she ain’t her mother, that’s for sure), and 24kGoldn’s Auto-Tuned nothing rap continues to be worthless. I guess because Clean Bandit include strings we’re supposed to be impressed, but I’m not; this is trash.
[0]

Edward Okulicz: I’m fully aware that 2020 has lasted for ten years, and the three months since I last wrote a review feels like about half of that, but it’s too soon for a retrospective of the glory days of trop house that takes in all of its variants. And while there’s very little new under the lyrical sun, this one is especially banal. While not offensive to listen to, it’s nothing but a bunch of musical tropes that became passe arrival expertly welded to some of the most meaningless-from-repetition lyrical cliches like “24/7,” “need your body,” “tick tock.” It really takes a lot of gumption to put that out as a single.
[2]

Friday, October 9th, 2020

Justin Bieber ft. Chance the Rapper – Holy

Lowly…


[Video][Website]
[3.57]

Katherine St Asaph: The transformation of Justin Bieber into some jaunty Travie McCoy/Jason Mraz/”The Lazy Song” voltron continues. The attempted transformation, that is; Bieber’s buzzy tenor, still teenpop well past his teens, sounds contemporary but not quite adult. What did Florida Georgia Line say this stood for again? High On Loving Yummy?
[3]

Will Adams: If Bieber’s going to continue his transformation into a Wife Guy, I’d rather him approach it from a spiritual angle than a gustatory one. Still, if the result is emulating Bruno Mars before he got interesting (or manifesting a Shitty A&R Guy tweet), what’s the point? 
[4]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: This is basically a Coloring Book-era Chance the Rapper song, only Kidz Bop-ified. It’s not quite satisfying, but the floor is high when the source material is so strong.
[5]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: I’m too much of a yid to understand the youth group courtship rituals at work here, but going full devotional works in both artists’ favor. Their corniness becomes something higher, with Chance trying his hardest to transfer the joys of “Sunday Candy” into a new body. As for Bieber, he seems comfortable to just serve as a pretty-voiced canvas for Chance’s stylistic quirks. It doesn’t all work — the lyrics feel a bit microwaved, and the blankly gospel-tinged arrangement doesn’t help anyone out — but for the first time in a while these guys seem to be enjoying themselves.
[5]

Alfred Soto: Begrudging Justin Bieber for grappling for a comfort drugs, sex, and celebrity no longer provide is cruel, and if all he knows about God is from other songs that conflate Him with her, then he’s no more deluded than thousands of young men. Chance on the other hand has been at this a while, and from him I expect rhythmic finesse when the lyrical one abandons him.
[5]

Tobi Tella: Sex=God is just not a novel concept anymore, and unsurprisingly Biebs does nothing with it. The catastrophic failure of “Yummy” seems to have set him on the path of never making a distinct song again, which seems like sideways motion. Chance is… trying, clearly, but it’s the same old, and after that last album, bars about Vespas are just asking to get clowned on.
[2]

Thomas Inskeep: Can’t these two just go to Hillsong together and leave the rest of us out of it, for Christ’s sake?
[1]

Thursday, October 8th, 2020

Chris Stapleton – Starting Over

At some point we should start writing Chris and Morgane Stapleton, based on how our blurbs keep reading…


[Video][Website]
[5.57]

Alfred Soto: Oh, dear: (1) an acoustic song (2) by Chris Stapleton (3) about the road. There’s your parental advisory.
[4]

Thomas Inskeep: Boy, it didn’t take long for Stapleton’s formula to calcify, did it? It’s another “deep” song, played on acoustic guitar, with backup vocals from his wife Morgane. Your enjoyment of it will largely depend on how much you enjoyed his last 10 such songs.
[4]

Katherine St Asaph: I much prefer Chris Stapleton doing feel-good Johnny and June duets than yarling realcore.
[6]

Michael Hong: Chris Stapleton has always felt as “outlaw country” as Holes: blazing on the rare occasion, but mostly just the feeling of dry heat and lonesome tumbleweeds. Instead, the draw of “Starting Over” is its warmth, and much of the credit goes to his wife Morgane Stapleton, whose voice is a nice counter to Chris Stapleton’s gruff rasp. That’s what makes “Starting Over” sound like the sunrise — the bleakest ending is ignored as a possibility. Still, it could use a bit more heft.
[6]

Juana Giaimo: Although the lyrics are about new adventures, “Starting Over” is far from having an epic tone. I’m glad it opts instead for an intimate production where the beat and the bass are soft and the guitar strumming shines. 
[6]

Alex Clifton: A warm hug of a song filled with everything I seek out in comfort music: acoustic guitar, gentle harmonies, and recognition that while life isn’t always easy, it can be worth it. I’ve heard songs like this hundreds of times, but that doesn’t detract from Stapleton’s lovely take.
[7]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: The hook is nice– Stapleton walks up and down his limited range like he’s taking a stroll in a big backyard. The rest is just as pleasant, a sparse arrangement with a few nice flourishes (the hints of organ, the harmonies) that bring joy. Yet nothing on “Starting Over” rises above the level of adequate rootsiness– it neither has the ambition nor the craft to really shine.
[6]

Wednesday, October 7th, 2020

Lady Gaga – 911

It’s popping an emergency…


[Video][Website]
[5.86]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: The strongest and most cinematic Gaga music video in years, the most personal and vulnerable Gaga single in recent memory, the best a TSJ blurb has ever aged, the best transition between two songs since Kanye’s “All of the Lights,” and easily the most iconic and jaw-dropping moment in 2020 pop. I’m not naive enough to think that Gaga isn’t past her prime hit-making days, but when she makes music as daring as this, it makes me hopeful that her second imperial dynasty might yet still be upon us. 
[8]

Thomas Inskeep: Yeah, I’m not dialing this number, which just connects to a more-flash-than-heat pop record that Gaga’s better than. (And in the event of a an actual musical emergency, I’ll call this one instead.)
[2]

Alex Clifton: My first thought hearing this (without knowing the artist) was, “Oh sweet, Marina’s back with more robo-anthems about hating oneself, just in time for 2020!” But it’s not Marina, it’s Lady Gaga. Which is fine! “911” isn’t Gaga’s best work ever, but it fits into the specific sub-category of “songs that make me dance while confronting my mental health.” Although she’s an innovative, pioneering pop force, this doesn’t feel like a Gaga (TM) number but more generic. I truly cannot tell if that’s actually the case, or if I’ve just been listening to a lot of Sad Bangers recently.
[5]

Alfred Soto: The anonymity of the fat-bottomed dance pop with which she charmed a generation suits her, dialectically, for Gaga doesn’t sound like anyone else, nor would “anyone else” have written “My biggest enemy is me/pop a 911” for a chorus hook. 
[7]

Juana Giaimo: In the last couple of years, the music industry has used mental health to sell so many artists. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s very important that we’re talking about mental health, but many artists seem to do it just because it’s part of the current agenda. They write an encouraging, empty message, and that’s all. But “911” captures how it feels to be mentally exhausted. Here, Lady Gaga’s voice is far from the strong, powerful vocals we know her for. Her artificial high pitch, along with the industrial production, sounds like a broken record (in the music video, people also move as if they were machines) about to explode. It’s like those times when you just can’t believe you’re still feeling like this, but you don’t know how to change it. What else can you do except dance?
[8]

Katherine St Asaph: You’ve got to hand it to Gaga: After a spate of songs about “anxiety” that wouldn’t trouble a guidance counselor, she goes and makes one about Zyprexa, which as meds go is non-trivial stuff — and fast-acting, hence the “911.” And she makes one less about the pain itself than the act of repressing it. “911” reminds me a bit of Scanners’ “When They Put Me Back Together They Forgot to Turn Me On“: swooping, pained vocals and jagged arrangement giving way to forced calm. Beneath the harsh “Do What U Want” throb — “Stupid Love” wasn’t the only Chromatica track to rehabilitate that song — and narcotized “Funkytown” affect lies real pain: lost friendships, life rubble, and the resulting however many decades left to grieve them. The chorus, with its singsong melody, bouncy “Poker Face” rhythm, and chirpy la-di-da “meeeee”s, sounds artificial and unresolved because it is; “911” is a song in which “biological stasis” is the happiest ending you get. Pop another one.
[6]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: “911” is impressive in its ambition, trying to meld together both the breakdown and the anti-psychotic calm that follows in a crisp 2:50. It’s more successful in doing the latter– Gaga’s spoken word hooks have always been her strength, and here she provides the exact metallic chill that the song needs to convey. Everything else feels a little more like a sketch than a fully articulated song, a memory of the dancefloor rather than something you’d actually hear there.
[5]

Sunday, October 4th, 2020

Bonus Tracks for Week Ending October 4, 2020