Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Seven Lions, Myon & Shane 54 ft. Tove Lo – Strangers

The most controversial we’ll ever get about EDM…


[Video][Website]
[4.44]

Iain Mew: Dubstep breakdowns: it turns out you can still do other things with them! This one’s fused seamlessly with a candy synth breakdown to create a stuttering pleasure ride into a sweet future. Which is just where the rest of “Strangers” goes too, in a more casual way. If Tove Lo’s presence rose above anonymous, it would be an incredible track.
[7]

Alfred Soto: Not a single interesting EDM trope despite the polysyllabic credits. 
[1]

Maxwell Cavaseno: *hears dull rehashes marching towards me on that same EDM surge* STRANGER DANGER! STRANGER DANGER!
[0]

David Sheffieck: Tove Lo sounds utterly overwhelmed here, the distinctive perspective of her voice quickly subsumed beneath overdriven production and a drop that sounded exciting back when Skrillex was first mashing up pop and dubstep. If there was a hook — vocal or otherwise — the song might be salvageable, but it can’t decide how to treat Lo’s voice, and settles for seemingly endless repetition of a dull synth line instead. 
[2]

Thomas Inskeep: Boilerplate EDM of the dullest build/drop/build/drop kind, complete with an empty female vocal courtesy of Tove Lo. There’s nothing to recommend this.
[1]

Crystal Leww: “Habits” had Tove Lo sounding like muted misery, but being fucked up to keep someone off your mind always ends up sounding like a better idea than it is. Musically, this is true, too; the production of “Habits” was always too cool to convey that sense of misery. “Strangers” is the embrace of that misery, the opposite of cool, the big and dumb and loud way of saying “I’m still in love with you.” Seven Lions and Myon & Shane 54 have gone for big, adding in not just dubstep drops but big stomping house sections to match her pleading. Subtlety is overrated anyway. I don’t know when I will stop feeling young and start feeling old but today is not that day.
[9]

Will Adams: Dance lyrics often get ignored and left by the wayside, either for being too dramatic, a product of poor translation, or perfunctory filler amidst the pounding beats. But on “Strangers,” the words matter, outlining the almost surreal relationships that can form in the heat of the moment. Nothing more than strangers, sung over the song’s quietest moment, becomes you’re the universe to me as the synths begin to swirl. Then, Seven Lions’ heaving dubstep barges in, severing Tove Lo’s voice into gasps for air, until Myon & Shane 54 bring in the trance, lifting the song into the stratosphere. By this point, the narrative is complete, and the once-strangers have ascended to a single entity. The music and lyrics go hand in hand, making “Strangers” several cuts above your average club track.
[8]

Josh Winters: At its best, EDM love songs illustrate the overwhelming immensity of feeling, blowing up the kind of newfound passion one first experiences in their youth to cosmic proportions. Tove Lo doesn’t sing “you” so much as whistle the word to grab the attention of someone from afar, her voice speckled with equal parts sweetness and sorrow. It’s only when she begins to yell that she harnesses the true power of her emotions, as if she were starting to reach Super Saiyan form. And like that transformation, the drops feel like nothing but explosive catharsis: earth-shattering in its scope and electrifying in its force.
[9]

Katherine St Asaph: Seven lambs. Actually, no, not that many.
[3]

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Tove Lo – Not On Drugs

We don’t care!…


[Video][Website]
[3.57]

Katherine St Asaph: Is this how she picks up guys at the playground? Would explain the flailing of that, and the lurch of this.
[3]

Cédric Le Merrer: Succeeds at sounding like someone not on drugs. Fails at sounding like someone in love.
[5]

Thomas Inskeep: Might be more interesting if you were.
[2]

Anthony Easton: Strip off the vocals and this sounds like it could be the theme for the new Jem and the Holograms movie. It would also prevent the slightly edgier, Lisa Frank nightmare lyrics. I would also like it better.
[3]

Maxwell Cavaseno: You know it’s a funny kind of record, when you’d prefer to learn how to never feel elation because a singer has managed to make it sound like the corniest thing in the world. Never mind the awful invocation of “Empire State Of Mind” as some actual concrete thing (what is that, anyway? The sound of self-obsession, puffed up banality and some dizzy mad-libbed lyrics that could’ve come out of a 13 year old’s notebook, but not in a good way). Nobody cares if you are or not on drugs, because it’s 2014; drugs are redundant and people need to just learn how to have mental epiphanies from a good sunset or a rainstorm. Likewise, this trenchant thrash is so stuck in the mud, I can’t care if she’s sober, because no amount of drugs could prevent Tove Lo from being so corny.
[2]

Alfred Soto: She’s queen of the clouds and kites, but the electroclash beats crash on shore. The titular metaphor is another story. It’s basic appellate law: don’t answer questions that weren’t asked.
[5]

Kat Stevens: She sings the words “blue” and “you” like she’s spitting out a mouthful of grog at a distant target. Like an angler fish!
[5]

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

David Guetta ft. Sam Martin – Lovers on the Sun

The Guettavolution continues! I’m sorry…


[Video][Website]
[3.50]

Crystal Leww: It’s not at all surprising to see that Avicii had a hand in this. His incorporation of country signifiers into EDM is the most dismaying thing to happen to EDM since Dim Mak. If we’re going to talk about the bro-ification of EDM, the need to add “real” (read: male) vocalists with “real” (read: not Auto-Tuned) voices is an important chapter of how men ruin all the fun. That Guetta is trend-chasing is also not surprising, but he was at one point one of the best at straight electrohouse. I could give a fuck less about the need to make everything authentic; I just came here to dance.
[1]

Maxwell Cavaseno: I don’t know if Guetta can be credited for the goofiness of this song, but I’m giving it points strictly because we KNOW this song has no use as a dance track. By this point, EDM is so caught up in the Avicii-inspired arms race of “What weird genre crossover can we pull off next!?!?” that we’re being treated to Spaghetti Western EDM with some MOR pop-rock vocalist talking about hot people in fiery love or whatever. Who cares. I’m just imagining Guetta and his eternal guffaw face finally fitting him as he unleashes something that, while pure gimmickry, is actually a really nice game being offered in a rigid playing field. Who knows, maybe someone will even figure out how to do this as a proper dance/pop record, and we’ll all be bored some more!? Never know!
[4]

Edward Okulicz: Forget the EDM-isation of radio pop, here’s another example of the preponderance of songs with absolutely no inherent dancefloor potential hoarding all EDM’s tropes as if they were its own. Ten second snatches of this are catchy in the same way a Guetta song often is but the vocal topline is boring (fittingly, the words exist in that undefinable space between “absolutely nothing” and “complete garbage”) and when it gets out of the way for bog-standard Aviciisms it’s kind of a relief. Words that describe this: meaningless, joyless, powerless, but ultimately harmless. I wouldn’t turn it off if it came on the radio, or run out of a supermarket if it was piped in, and it often is.
[5]

Anthony Easton: The acoustic guitar bit is surprisingly effective, as is some of the electronic detailing — minimal decoration, but pleasant to listen to nonetheless. As is the whistling, though it would be better if it was less robotic. When it grinds up, the whole thing falls apart, though. 
[4]

Dan MacRae: “Lovers on the Sun” sounds a bit like it’s been teleported from a world where that second Killers album was “a thing.” I can’t help but feel like it’s incomplete. Like, you get your standard build-up and POW! dynamic, but it’s nothing that grabs ahold of you. Instead, we’re stuck with this watery “western inspired” dance track (WHICH DOESN’T EVEN HAVE THE DECENCY TO BE THE NEW “COTTON EYED JOE”) that’ll likely be coming to a Kia TV spot near you.
[4]

Alfred Soto: With his naff lines about burning eyes and cold nights, his basso timbre, and emotional strain, Sam Martin idolized Brandon Flowers last decade. Then the Guettatized backing track shifts from 2004 to 2008. The strings do their best to keep things tense. 
[2]

Thomas Inskeep: When did David Guetta go from making dirty house tracks to faux-surf-guitar-laden Europop bullshit? I know, I know, it’s been a gradual de-evolution, but still. The spaghetti-western whistle particularly rankles. 
[2]

Will Adams: Guetta’s mixing is still wonky, the trend-chasing is so obvious I can almost hear gears turning in the track, and the disjointed nature, with black holes of silence separating the chorus and verse, is plain lazy. But sounding anonymous is better than sounding shit, so “Lovers On the Sun” could ostensibly be buried in a three-hour house mix, and few would notice.
[4]

Scott Mildenhall: The good, the bad and the drudgery of the David Guetta discography all hinted at in one. All of the bafflingly straight-faced spaghetti western bits are a complete waste of time; thankfully spaghetti is only straight until you heat it up. Knowingness is never clear with Guetta though, and even if he was going for bathos, between banging and boring there is still plenty boring. Drop this David, and bring back Chris Willis.
[5]

Katherine St Asaph: One-third of this is high kitsch, something that could seethe off a palpitating movie scene with the right imagination. One-third is the lyricist scuppering that by showing none. The last third is David Guetta.
[4]

Monday, September 1st, 2014

Elva Hsiao – Shut Up & Kiss Me

Shut up and don’t drive…


[Video][Website]
[4.83]

Katherine St Asaph: Not the Peiken/Shanks track that’s ping-ponged from Sweden to Canada to Spain to Germany to the UK to The Netherlands and possibly Asia too, but a track from Taiwan built from a Game Boy Camera siren and robot belches on the right side of annoying and a more melodically sung Circus cut. As usual, I end up wanting more of any one element, but it’s a fun stomp.
[6]

Alfred Soto: I love title commands, especially when set to music this protean. But the producers don’t assemble the wheezes and belches from what I assume are video games into results that are more than strange and impressive.
[5]

Anthony Easton: The grating, electronic, abstracted scales that begin, and ground the rest of this song, are so obnoxious, but so new — it’s artful, and pop-crafted, and gives me this strange bit of hope that maybe there are new sounds forever. 
[6]

Brad Shoup: Balancing on these garish sonics takes more than Elva’s pro forma talk-singing. Neither sung nor performed with any sense of propulsion, “Shut Up & Kiss Me” is bothersome on all levels, although the more I listened to this, the more Elva’s still-callow vocal style became a statement.
[3]

Thomas Inskeep: While I don’t quite get the appeal of handheld video game noises in pop songs — maybe it’s an age thing? or just an interest thing? — I’m moderately down with this until the chorus, when it goes into full-blown oontz-oontz EDM-pop mode of the most generic kind. Not bad, just aggressively average, like a Shellback production with an unknown singer, or a Katy Perry single without the personality.
[4]

Crystal Leww: “Shut Up & Kiss Me” is one of those anthems about loving whoever you like and how it’s really no one else’s business. That’s a message that could be timeless, even if it stopped being the trendy thing for pop stars to make songs about in 2010. Unfortunately, this sound is something that definitely should be left back in 2010. What a snooze for one of Taiwan’s divas.
[5]

Monday, September 1st, 2014

Betty Blue – Intr-o Secunda

Doin’ the do…


[Video][Website]
[5.83]

Iain Mew: Romanian reggae-pop is one of those trends that it’s difficult to get a handle on, with YouTube most-watched searches a route in that only gets so far. It isn’t all gold (the highest viewcount of recent months is for Alina Eremia’s drab “Cum Se Face”) but it’s generally a good thing that I never know quite what to expect, reggae aside. When it works, like Oana Radu and now Betty Blue, I really enjoy the effect of hearing familiar sounds in delightfully rearranged contexts. The reggae of “Intr-o Secunda” initially seems like a particularly odd fit, but it’s slight enough to work as the underlying liquid keeping the song flowing even as the synths and melody bite: the sensation of so much ice, delivered so smoothly, is a good and novel one.
[8]

Brad Shoup: The inclusion of what sounds like treated filmi music spaces out the song, adding a restful, patient dimension to some bog-standard reggaelectro. 
[6]

Katherine St Asaph: It’ll never catch on, but “Intr-o Secunda” suggests the existence of artpop-reggae; every listen, something new sparkles in the arrangement.
[6]

Patrick St. Michel: The strings give this a nice polish, but the overall product just sort of plods along. 
[5]

Alfred Soto: Charming melody but someone thought the reggae preset was a good idea. The munchkin background and quiet piano ripples would have been the elements to build on.
[4]

David Sheffieck: This is cheesy as anything I’ve heard recently, but there are plenty of pleasures in the margins of “Intr-o Secunda” — in the pitch-shifted chirp of the backing vocals, in the slurping snare loop, in the seemingly-random male voice that pops up to shout into the mix, in the Rihanna-esque “eh eh eh.” The song never quite takes off, but in those seconds it hints at something much more interesting.
[6]

Monday, September 1st, 2014

Duck Sauce – NRG

BOBBY NEWPORT


[Video][Website]
[5.80]

Dan MacRae: I’ve been head over heels for this since it came out. Duck Sauce have provided a swelling, surging invincibility power-up of a cut that gives my greedy lil’ heart all it could ask for. TASTEFUL CLIMBS! DECADENT GUITAR BUSINESS! BRIGHT COLOURS! JUMPING ON THE BED! SOMEONE ELSE TAKING YOUR RECYCLING BIN OUT FOR YOU! It’s a good tune is what I’m getting at.
[10]

Thomas Inskeep: Yes yes yes YES. I am by all means down with anything sampling a 1985 dud uptempo single by Melissa Manchester — let alone crafting it into a song that sounds like it could be the theme to a Jazzercise class, or a pantyhose commercial (just add the word “sheer”!). I’ve run really hot and cold on Duck Sauce’s output until now, which is odd in that I love both Armand van Helden and A-Trak individually, but this single brings the fucking house down. No drops, no sub-bass, just filter house till the breakadawn. This single is a pretty much perfect 3:15.  
[10]

Tara Hillegeist: Slap me on the side of a fishtank and call me a sucker, because I swear I watched this cartoon once when I was like, thirteen or fifteen about a bunch of blonde aliens with blue skin dancing to this song and getting kidnapped by UFOs but they weren’t really UFOs since they were controlled by humans or something? I don’t know, it was trippy; what was that from? Does anyone else know what I’m talking about? I could swear this was the song playing on the soundtrack.
[8]

Scott Mildenhall: A real melange of sounds — the ascending “doodladooda” bit stirs recollections of some pirate-themed seaside ride; the ultimate juddering halt surely the sound effect the BBC once used to match the videprinter on Final Score. And yet neither really feature, both having been swiped from one song. It’s what Duck Sauce do best — rip indelible hooks from wherever they see them and make them pastel-coloured. Kitsch, catchy, and even if you haven’t heard it before, you think you have.
[7]

Anthony Easton: It’s no “Barbra Streisand,” but how they manage to push a beat or even the idea of a beat past its own logical conclusion to something that becomes close to a platonic whole is a mark of great skill. I am not sure that skill without pleasure is enough, though. 
[6]

Brad Shoup: It’s a sketch in the middle of the record, when it should be a wink in the middle of a set. Imagine the Avalanches with writers’ block, setting a a hi-nrg sample to loop overnight, hoping that it will create its own context. The vocal begins in bold, and there’s nothing that pushes it bolder or draws it back: it’s there, and it’s enough.
[4]

Patrick St. Michel: So A-Trak is getting into the future-funk game, huh? How long until Diplo starts making vaporwave?
[5]

Katherine St Asaph: Like speeding at 70 mph in and out of the broadcast radius of your local Jack-FM station. It baffles me sometimes what people try to make cool.
[3]

Alfred Soto: If two festival circuit veterans set a catchphrase amid the most predictable electrostutters and crashes and let the dullest voice sing said catchphrase, this is the result. As Evelyn Thomas knew thirty years ago, don’t let the production dim your own enthusiasm.
[3]

Maxwell Cavaseno: This is some pretty decent Stock Aitken Waterman pulse-gone-modern-dance, and were it not for the amount of times that Armand Van Helden has blown my mind, I’d simply write it off as “Well, this exists to be a thing,” note A-Trak was involved, roll my eyes, and be done with it. But now I have to deal with the fact that one of my NYC dance floor icons, the man who created so many “guido techno” (a working term that existed in my brain as a teen and despite it’s repulsiveness, still manages to feel less provincial and essentialist than E.D.M.) bangers out of stuff like Tori Amos or Sneaker Pimps. I can applaud some late period success if it means a legend is getting money, because that’s what “Barbara Streisand” was! This is pedantic. It’s needy. It’s not pleasant to watch someone who can do so much better purposely avoid that.
[2]

Friday, August 29th, 2014

Rizzle Kicks – Tell Her

And what will she say?


[Video][Website]
[5.38]

Scott Mildenhall: Rizzle Kicks have near enough admitted the release of this was just to tide things over while they go off to do some acting, and it is appropriately flimsy. The basis is little more than a hint of “Best Of My Love” or “Got To Be Real”, and the only time the words burst from the page is a sole urgent “ask you if you’re cool”. The pre-chorus has its singalong charms (mostly because it needed to be easy enough for Jordan to undertake); they’re delicate, which might be the crux of the song.
[6]

Patrick St. Michel: Pure, dumb luck – that’s all you need sometimes. Doofy rap dudes Rizzle Kicks latched on to the disco revival with “Tell Her,” and somehow come up with a single with more kick to it than most of songs that kicked off this wave in the first place…all with a little help from Evian bottled water. Lyrically, it’s stupid, but in an awkward way that works way better than the lothario approach most took. Musically, it loads up on horns, rinky-dink keyboards and casino-ready guitar, pushed forward by an assertive beat. And Rizzle Kicks, forced to stop rapping, manage to sing just fine enough to not ruin the mood. 
[8]

Thomas Inskeep: Tell her yourself. 
[4]

Maxwell Cavaseno: The polish on this track, the neon brightness of it, could give someone a very difficult future with vision problems that results in the worst sort of operations being necessary, and in that regard, I hope this duo wore some stupid shades in the studio. They seem like the type to do something like that. But moving past the fact that these two and not Flirta D are considered the pride of Northwest London right now (which makes me feel some type of way) is flabbergasting, but in your day where SB.TV and BBC 1Xtra pushing Ed “Frog Face” Sheeran as the epitome of the urban… Why not this generic slab of yacht pop? I won’t deny that this is a super tight bit of ambitious professional earnest teen cheese that swings and grooves like any other. But it’s so characterless in it’s disco pop perfection, and reflecting of a troubling lack of storm from across the Atlantic.
[5]

Alfred Soto: “In 2014, Rizzle Kicks teamed up with Evian for the 2014 Wimbledon Championships and released a single entitled “Tell Her,” with a video featuring Maria Sharapova.” Which explains its scrubbed hortatory appeal: a Chuck Taylor commercial. The Brits need to explain why a Pharrell falsetto doing a Philip Bailey impression is beguiling. In exchange, I’ll them it’s closer to “Call Me” than “September.”
[4]

Ashley Ellerson: Not only does this duo resemble a British Chiddy Bang with their choice of samples, but the singer sounds a lot like Hoxton-native Esser! (Does anyone remember Esser?? The world wasn’t ready for him six years ago.) This song is catchy, adorable, and just what we shy folk need. Though “Tell Her” feels very high school in every way it should, I’d still swoon over the guy who plays this for me today (as long as he’s of age). End-of-summer/back-to-school jams are in this fall, and now I wish I were going back to school.
[9]

Brad Shoup: Pharrell interpolating “Got to Be Real” in a seaside hotel lounge. I don’t think there was ever a point in his career where that would have worked for me.
[4]

Iain Mew: Perhaps Rizzle Kicks noticed the issues with starting a song “Do you remember back in school” when you seem barely out of it. Ditching any personality in favour of boredom and sounding closer to Olly Murs is not the way to solve that problem, though.
[3]

Friday, August 29th, 2014

Jacob Latimore ft. T-Pain – Heartbreak Heard Around the World

if T-Pain falls in a studio, will anyone be around to hear him?


[Video][Website]
[4.70]

Leela Grace: Charming and dated: I’m in high school again listening to Jay Sean and Jason Derulo and thinking that for smooth talkers they have remarkably dumb excuses.  And Latimore isn’t any better.  “Had another lover but she just won’t do it”?  Swoon, I guess? 
[4]

Crystal Leww: Anyone who still doesn’t “get” autotune and T-Pain only needs to listen to his feature here. The way that he sings “Even with this auto-tuned you got me singing like ooohhhhhhh” is an aesthetic choice, a deeply affecting aesthetic choice. “Heartbreak Heard Around the World” feels expansive and great in the way that only teen romances can feel. I know why Jacob Latimore isn’t as famous or popular as Justin Bieber, but it’s bullshit. This kid should be a huge deal.
[9]

Maxwell Cavaseno: This song is composed of the ghosts of the plastic cage in the boxes that toy dolls are shipped in. It’s not fair to talk about the hollow qualities of the performers or the production — you could probably watch it crumble if you hit it at the right angle. But one point goes for T-Pain for embarrassing himself and everyone around with his rapping.
[1]

Thomas Inskeep: No, this won’t be the “heartbreak heard around the world” because not that many people are gonna hear this limp late-’00s R&B track. And here’s a tip, would-be teen dreams: in 2014, T-Pain is not the way to make your single sound super-current. Seven years ago, this would’ve been a huge 106th & Park smash.
[3]

David Sheffieck: T-Pain single-handedly almost manages to redeem this waste of a great emo title, his delivery of “And even with this autotune you got me singing like ooh” giving meaning to a line that’d already seemed overused. But this is a song where Latimore’s “Thinking like I’m losing my mind” is treated like profundity, and even a late-game injection of genuine emotion can only do so much to save it.
[6]

Alfred Soto: With acoustics, clip-clap percussion, and a keening melody, it evokes a Stargate production from 2006; with T-Pain’s name on the credits, it’s even easier to imagine. His bit sounds like a salvage job though. It’s pretty without justifying its existence.
[6]

Patrick St. Michel: This guy is so heartbroken he can’t even drive a car. Talk about an emo revival.
[4]

Katherine St Asaph: How about a little Jaysean Derulaz for old times’ sake?
[3]

Will Adams: “Heartbreak Heard Around the World” sounds timeless, not just because of its mid-aughts guitar-nB groove, but its exquisite pop songwriting:a hook-filled verse; accelerating beats for the chorus’ B-section to bolster the new musical information; the bridge that ramps up the drama by switching up the harmony; and a coda that half-quotes “Always Be My Baby,” all clocking in at a neat three minutes. The talent is there too: Jacob Latimore is a winsome vocalist, and T-Pain’s refined presence is a more than welcome surprise.
[9]

Brad Shoup: “Even with this Auto Tune, you got me singin’ like [melismatic run, the contours and angles of which can only be achieved by Auto Tune]“. T-Pain’s entertainability takes another step back with this anodyne relationship hostage note. I like how the bass negotiates its way to the chorus alongside Latimore, but it’s just about the only flourish here that doesn’t involve vocal processing. Latimore just can’t yet swear to God and make it sound threatening or pathetic. Hope it’ll come.
[2]

Friday, August 29th, 2014

T.I. ft. Iggy Azalea – No Mediocre

Sez you.


[Video][Website]
[3.00]

Elisabeth Sanders: Yes mediocre. 
[4]

Thomas Inskeep: I know it’s an easy thing to say, but this isn’t even mediocre – it’s just bad. Remember when T.I. made exciting records, like, 10 years ago? When Iggy Azalea, who is not exactly known for being a great or even particularly good rapper, out-raps you on your own single, you should recognize that there’s a problem. 
[2]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Oh Clifford… This Mustard beat resembles the steel pans of the Atlanta he once reigned over, sliding into the sea before dissolving into Alex Mack-like glorious texture. Yet the Kang is providing a rather half-hearted bit of player romp, overclustering his hook in a rare ratchet beat that lacks the space for his worming. And this was already before the arrival of the dreaded iguana reared her ugly head, bestowing on us another collage of the noises you make when you fight off sneezes. Oh I’m sorry, Grand Hustle representatives have told me that’s how she sounds when she raps. My mistake.
[2]

Crystal Leww: T.I.’s never been the rap lyricist’s favorite rapper, but he’s gotten away with it because of his personality and plenty of charm. What’s central to T.I.’s personality and charm is how it shines through his Southern drawl. For example, T.I., while describing his ideal chick: “I solemnly sweah!” with the rhyme scheme continuing into “fat aeh!” Figuring out what’s great about T.I. makes it makes it painfully apparent why Iggy Azalea is ill-suited to be “Grand Hustle’s first lady.” When your accent’s fake and when your personality’s fake, your raps come off as charmless. The other day I heard an edit of “No Mediocre” without Iggy Azalea and segued right into “Single Ladies,” and I decided that, yeah, this song isn’t actually all that bad without “Iggy Iggy” and her middle school flows.
[6]

Will Adams: In the future, everyone will get three and a half minutes to specify their sexual preferences right down to the detail of pubic hair. And an Iggy Azalea verse.
[4]

Patrick St. Michel: I respect T.I.’s devotion to the title here, because the beat and the featured guest are definitely not mediocre. 
[3]

Alfred Soto: The title a classic non-denial denial, the steel drum a menace, Iggy a nullity, “No Mediocre” sounds like a top ten sure shot.
[2]

Katherine St Asaph: You want mediocre? Here’s some: “‘For me I think it was something to uplift women,’ T.I. told MTV News today, just hours ahead of the premiere.” As if the tired steel drum, endless demands and presence of Iggy Azalea weren’t enough to accomplish the opposite, now women get the post-”Blurred Lines” press tour of bullshit.
[2]

Brad Shoup: I totally missed Iggy’s verse the first go-round, and that’s only partially attributable to all the texts my dad and I were sending about A&M stomping South Carolina. So I missed the “six inches of space” line, which is killer; that and T.I.’s Jaguar prank almost compensate for some classic pubic nonsense. He and Mustard are in a Caribbean state of mind… I can’t imagine how you get head while riding a scooter, but I bet you could fuck in a steel pan. The melody works, the track doesn’t loom, so it’s kind of a waste.
[5]

Tara Hillegeist: Rap game Taylor Swift and a washup chasing trap rhythms like a lawyer looking for his ambulance with no slickness or skill to reward my ears for enduring it? “No” is word enough. 
[0]

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Stevie Nicks – The Dealer

We’re getting older, too…


[Video][Website]
[6.12]

Thomas Inskeep: Whether or not you like the new Stevie Nicks single will depend upon how much you like prime-era Nicks: “The Dealer” was apparently written and originally demoed in ’79 during the Tusk sessions, and her longtime sideman Waddy Wachtel co-produced this (with Dave Stewart). To my ears it’s got a much more classic sheen than Nicks’s recent work; add a little Jimmy Iovine polish to this and I can easily imagine it on The Wild Heart. Her voice is in fine form, Waddy’s lead guitar is in fine form, and flatteringly produced. Meaning, it soars like a white-winged dove.
[9]

Dorian Sinclair: It wasn’t until doing research into the history behind this song that I realized how old it actually is — the first demo apparently dates back to the late 70s, circa Tusk. Despite its age, it feels remarkably timely for the Stevie Nicks today, someone with more than four decades of public life behind her. The song is deftly written from a lyrical standpoint (I’m a huge fan of its use of tenses — “I see the sun now” being the only present tense line makes it hit all the harder), and is sung with feeling, but I do find the arrangement a little static — which prevents it from getting a higher score here.
[7]

Alfred Soto: This widely circulated bootleg given an aural sprucing sounds like a Bella Donna outtake — check out the intro organ and chord progression. The worn poker metaphors aside, Nicks still knows how to lean into a syllable, how to time her pirouettes to those precise bursts of guitar. But time has sanded that voice.
[6]

Anthony Easton: What convinced me of Stevie Nicks’ vocal genius was a live TV performance with Chris Isaak. It was mostly technical skill, but it did more for me than, say, “Landslide.” It might also say something that I like “Red River Valley” as a song than any of the SoCal ennui of Fleetwood Mac. This reminds me of “Red River Valley,” and how she sounds so fucked up and ragged. I await, with mild curiosity, her Tuskegee. 
[4]

Maxwell Cavaseno: The band itself borders on lounge music, and the lyrics don’t necessarily gel. It’s a scattershot affair, and we can’t say if it always works to our favor. In Stevie’s case, time has stretched her voice to hit sour, tart notes. Were it anyone else, this could make listening to the legendary singer something like watching metal start to take an ugly yellow tint. But in her bluesy sweeps, Nicks gains something more. Enough times you listen to her sell the gambling mystique and you wonder if it’s more of an idea she chased than an idea she bore. At least she has that voice, that has emerged from the streams of time. Recognizable, but promising something new with each passing year.
[6]

Patrick St. Michel: Feels like Stevie Nicks trying out card-based metaphors for seven minutes. But somehow it finishes under five.
[3]

Brad Shoup: This isn’t a critical response, but: Prince would be a fantastic other voice on here. He and Nicks are both a little pinched, but he’s always been able to take the long view on seeing it all. Those two-note cappers after the chorus are soothing, a nice settling of the soul after these reminders of Nicks’ constant restlessness. This does remind me of a soundcheck, but that’s a place I’d like to be.
[7]

Rebecca A. Gowns: This is a nice idea to muse about: realizing the agency that you had, and wondering what you could have done with it if you had fully owned it. Stevie claims very little agency for the present, almost as if she has opened up her vault of Free Will and found only a few meager coins left on the floor. Oh, if she had known then what she knew now, she could have done anything; as she is now, with all of the knowledge and little of the power, she’s content to be “the dancer,” to let him “almost stay here” so she can “almost hold” him. It’s a curious mix of feelings: soft wistfulness and craving for action; being content and also feeling a restlessness in your soul. The tune itself starts out a bit generic, the sort of thing you might hear in a bar on a Wednesday night, but it really unfolds when she hits that (very Stevie Nicks) sentiment in the chorus — “I was the mistress of my fate!” — and the harmonies billow around her. At that moment, the paltry stage lights flicker on, and the beer bottles shimmer in the scattered front row. It’s a brief illumination, but as long as it lasts, it’s lovely.
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