Friday, June 22nd, 2018

The Carters – Apeshit

Fun TSJ stat: This is the middlest score, and the highest controversy, we have ever given a song with both Bey and Jay on it.


[Video][Website]
[5.78]

Alfred Soto: When two years ago she released her pop masterpiece, Beyoncé Knowles used public awareness of her indescribable wealth as Ozymandias might have his implacability. On “APESHIT,” she and Mr. Knowles return to the nullity of “’03 Bonnie & Clyde,” celebrating a celebrity as content-free as a Givenchy ad on a Seventh Avenue window front. She can’t get away with “Can’t believe we made it” in 2018, no matter how springy Pharrell’s beat — not when her career to this point has incarnated “We made it.” 
[5]

Tim de Reuse: I don’t mind a power couple victory lap on principle, as long as everyone involved actually brings their A-game; and, yeah, they did. Mostly. It’s a great reminder of how good these two can be when they’re not just talking about how good they can be.
[7]

Jonathan Bogart: Genre conventions be damned, minor keys and midtempo beats are now as unutterably dull to me as whatever the kids believe was so suffocating and corny before trap came to save them from it. Jay tells dad jokes, Bey makes dumbass flexes in as baroque a fashion as possible. They’re both better than this, which I understand is entirely the point.
[4]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: I understand that celebrities have an important platform that they can use to inspire and empower people around the world. Both Beyoncé and Jay-Z have done that, yes. But at the same time, the glamour of perfectly manicured PR campaigns and artfully done music videos have led to a celebrity worship-informed delusion that declares a song like “APESHIT” as something far greater than it actually is: second-rate Migos album filler in 2018 (which is to say, extremely middling and painfully dated). People will readily admit this is the case–some already have–yet will happily continue listening. A sign of good music, or good marketing?
[0]

Crystal Leww: It annoys me so much that I like this as much as I do. This is just Beyoncé and Jay Z doing a Migos song, right? Yes, it is. And Everything is Love is just The Carters doing a full album of production that doesn’t differentiate from the hip-hop airplay charts, right? Yes, it is. And yet, this is still better. Yes, having access to the best producers and writers plus a (surely) huge budget help, but the level of quality control that Beyoncé exerts over her output is a cut above. We’ve seen a number of olds put out high profile releases in the last three weeks. They all sound like no one is willing to them that their shit sucks. Thank god for Beyoncé.
[9]

Thomas Inskeep: Pharrell crafts a bouncy trap beat for Bey to rap over like the BAWSE she is, with the Migos chiming in behind her. Jay-Z wisely drops in for a cameo verse but otherwise leaves the heavy lifting to his wife, who ain’t takin’ shit from you nor anyone else. She sounds fierce with a capital “F,” and your 2018 summer jam has arrived. 
[9]

Katherine St Asaph: More functional than song: Watch the Throne II, swapping out Jay’s estranged-due-to-MAGA buddy, or the third-act epilogue to Lemonade, which already had its own finale. But the bar for functional here is obviously pretty high.
[6]

Will Rivitz: Pitchfork describes Beyoncé’s performance on “APESHIT” as that of “your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper,” high praise for a woman who’s been outrapped by three other women in the past two weeks alone. I’m all for this song and the album it’s on conceptually, as Bey and Jay flaunting their wealth is always fun (THEY RENTED OUT THE GODDAMN LOUVRE! WITHOUT ANYBODY ELSE KNOWING! HOW?!?), but the fact of the matter is that the beat sounds like it was made in twenty minutes, Quavo sounds like he recorded his ad-libs in ten, Jay sounds like he both wrote and recorded his verse in five, and Bey, while solid, is punching well below her weight. Each Carter’s previous solo release saw the artist in question pushing 95 on the freeway; “APESHIT” (and EVERYTHING IS LOVE in general) is them going 45 in the passing lane.
[4]

Andy Hutchins: I called the Carters’ last collaboration “compellingly weird” and docked it points for Future bleating aimlessly. Here, there is no Future but the future as soundtracked by a Pharrell-smithed car alarm for UFOs, and both are less weird and more wired, red-dotting targets specific and general — for Shawn Corey, Trump, the NFL, and The Recording Academy; for Beyoncé Giselle, haters far and wide — and sniping with precision. Jay sounds as committed to ripping into a track as he has in years, but he’s out of pocket enough to make what his better half does, in making Migos-style (and likely Migos-penned) double-time sound rich rather than rushed, as much an upstaging as an outrageous display of talent. Beyoncé is certainly among the more versatile and powerful singers of her generation, but her flow here suggests she could probably be one of the better rappers of her generation, too, if she had wanted that as more than an avocation, and that she is currently a better rapper and flexer than her husband, widely considered one of the greatest to rhyme bars ever and perhaps a better braggart. Yet my takeaway from all this fantastic flexing is the sincerity of it: Jay and Kanye went gorillas on “Niggas in Paris,” but that “married Kate and Ashley!” groaner certainly didn’t move Big Brother to praise his wannabe protégé; here, Jay declares “She went crazy!” in astonishment after the Secretariat-speed third verse, and it sounds as true and loving as anything he’s ever said.
[8]

Friday, June 22nd, 2018

Da Pump – U.S.A.

U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!


[Video][Website]
[5.29]

Iain Mew: Hearing this original and deciding that what it needed was to be 50% less cool is a stroke of genius. 
[7]

Will Rivitz: The fact that this song is good is absolutely inconceivable. It is nothing short of ludicrous that a washed-up version of Da Pump could mix the worst of ’80s guitar muscle, ’90s camp, and early-aughts neon and somehow end up with something that is genuinely better than passable. “U.S.A.” is like if Chris Kirkpatrick, Vitas, and the guitarist of any interchangeable ’80s hair metal band got together, snorted so much coke that none of them remembered the next three days, woke up on the other end with a half-mastered recording of “What Hurts The Most,” and said fuck it and posted it to SoundCloud. Whatever once passed as good music is now dead, and I couldn’t be happier. 
[7]

Andy Hutchins: I am very much unsure who the joke is really on here, because while a zombified Japanese boy band of dudes pushing 40 and singing a (semi-)facetiously pro-America song and doing every viral rap dance of the last five years and the Hammer Dance in the video is a pretty decent joke about America in 2018, it is also a boy band of dudes pushing 40 and making a hit by stealing fucking BlocBoy JB’s shine, which is a) laughable on its face and b) basically what Drake did with “Look Alive,” only with a decidedly non-Drake capacity for joy and sincerity in equal measure at the same time.
[4]

Alfred Soto: I love secondhand takes on most things, and Da Pump’s re-imagining of the Land of Trump as one in which synths that wouldn’t be out of place on a Stacey Q song sit beside stun guitar, stutter vocal, and a beat that would wind Lance Armstrong.
[7]

Tim de Reuse: There’s some charm to watching of someone in another hemisphere get sincerely enthusiastic about a version of your home country that was only ever depicted in the least contemplative of its cultural exports. Unfortunately, no amount of context could make this mess sound fun; its mix is heavily lopsided towards the vocals, the kick performs a grotesque pinch on the instrumentation around it, and the sound design makes far too much sincere use of the shrill, rough synthesizer tones that are more conventionally reserved for parodying the flimsiest dance music of the 90’s. The thing is — I don’t really detect any kind of ironic distance from the source material but if this were trying to act as parody, or make some kind of point beyond nostalgia — it’d still sound atrocious.
[1]

Anna Suiter: To be honest my knowledge of Japanese male pop groups has always been tenuous. Many of their labels have only recently and reluctantly started to publish music and videos in a way that’s more accessible to international audiences. Because of this, I don’t have a lot of context for Da Pump’s career. But U.S.A is inexplicably charming that it doesn’t even need that context. It’s so”meme-y”, for the lack of a better term, that it’s hard to believe that some of that wasn’t on purpose. But it feels sincere, at least as much as that’s possible. Maybe it ends up feeling like your uncle trying to be cool and failing, but you can’t stop yourself from doing the shoot dance with him anyways, or even just singing along.
[6]

Ryo Miyauchi: Suburban shopping malls in Japan gave me a light rush of culture shock when I visited my family a couple months ago. Every other menswear vendor stocked what looked like a foreigner’s interpretation of middlebrow American street fashion: Thrashers, Supreme, and the like admired from a far distance. This secondhand view of American cultural fixtures definitely informs the viral music video of “U.S.A.” though it’s also not entirely lost on the Eurobeat record, sourced from a Joe Yellow song. Not only are disco balls and convertible sports cars admired with nostalgic fascination, the group’s ISSA peppers in katakana phrases solely to borrow its Western cool. By the end of it, the imports feel so hollow as substance, only leaving their pure surface quality of how catchy it feels to recite them. The flattening and bizarre appropriation behind “U.S.A.” are a prime example of Weird Japan, sure, but this surreal thing is only a byproduct of incessantly consuming Weird America.
[5]

Friday, June 22nd, 2018

Kesha – Hymn

#freekesha


[Video][Website]
[6.88]

Stephen Eisermann: Kesha’s earned this: subdued, muted, but still pulsing, this track manages to embody one of my favorite things — earned exhaustion. This song makes me feel the same way that watching the Avengers eat shawarma at the end of their first movie did. Kesha hasn’t been through hell and back this era and it’s recently been announced that a judge denied her request to be removed from her Dr Luke contract. Basically, Kesha is back in the same spot, contractually, that she was at the start of this era, but she seems more seasoned now. I know this song was (clearly) created prior to this judgment, but it still fits. “Hymn” finds Kesha singing to all of the misfits and coming together with them to make her own little family and although the song is more understated than her prior singles, it feels so correct for where she stands. Kesha may still be in a bad place contractually, but now she seems more ready than ever to fight back.
[7]

Ian Mathers: Based on the text here I’d expect “Hymn” to sound more joyous but, well, maybe I’ve just spent too long tonight reading the news. Certainly while Kesha’s voice itself has all the power and resilience you’d want, there’s a melancholy undertow here. Basically right this second it feels like both sides of this to me, and I may not get that chorus out of my head for a week.
[8]

Tim de Reuse: A singalong prayer for the heavily disaffected: how incredibly 2018 of you, Kesha! The only thing that lets it down is the absolute non-specificity of its struggle. Sure, universality isn’t a bad thing to shoot for, but it feels like she’s pulling her punches when the only phrase she comes up with that has an ounce of genuine poignancy is “even though I’m fucked up;” nothing else raises any real stakes or describes any situation that you might need a healthy dose of self-affirmation to get through.
[6]

Abdullah Siddiqui: There is a kind of maturity in Kesha’s contentment with who she is, and that sense of self-assurance translates in her vocal performance, which is skillful and powerful. The production is wonderfully restrained. It all strikes a nice balance, and makes for an anthem that is reassuring, and warmly conveys Kesha’s newfound peace in herself.
[8]

Will Adams: Unlike Rainbow‘s more outwardly empowered singles like “Praying” or “Woman,” “Hymn” is more reflective than outwardly empowered singles like “Prayertone,” but still makes just as much of a statement. The spacious, pared down beat creates a calm environment for Kesha to breathe, calling out to the perfectly fucked up. If the spirituality feels vague, it’s only justified. In the swirling uncertainty of today, even fleeting moments of feeling safe seem preferable to the promise of heaven.
[7]

Dorian Sinclair: When I was first listening to Rainbow last summer, “Hymn” was not an immediate standout, but in the time since I’ve really come to appreciate it. Kesha is not a name one typically associates with minimalism, but there’s something really appealing about the pinprick synths and fingersnaps as primary accompaniment, and her vocal delivery complements them well — particularly the last time through the chorus, when the effects and harmonies drop away and we’re left with a single simple voice to pair with a single simple message: I know that I’m perfect, even though I’m fucked up.
[7]

Alex Clifton: “Hymn” is a cousin to “We R Who We R,” Kesha’s ultra-brash hit back when she was still Ke$ha and all her music were party anthems. Both are self-empowerment songs, but “Hymn” is quiet and twinkly where the former was screams and synths piled on top of one another. It’s unfortunately repetitive–the chorus runs overlong, especially when sung back-to-back–but the lyrics are pure Kesha. “Sorry if you’re starstruck, blame it on the stardust / I know that I’m perfect even though I’m fucked up” is a couplet that sums up Kesha’s music on Rainbow perfectly: acknowledging trauma and loving yourself, revelling in the magic of being alive. I know hymns aren’t meant to be catchy, but given Kesha’s ear for hooks (especially when her one other self-empowerment anthem is loaded with them) I was disappointed.
[5]

Alfred Soto: The sadness drifts across the track like mist on a pond, and when Kesha shatters the placidity with a sudden shriek it’s like a stone tossed in that pond. There isn’t much we’d stand up for these days. As ballads go, I can imagine Pink taking this into the American top ten in 2013 but we weren’t kind to ballads sung by women in 2018, not when it should be “Elegy” instead of “Hymn.”
[7]

Thursday, June 21st, 2018

Mr Black – El Matrimonio

It’s a nice day for a Black wedding…


[Video][Website]
[6.50]

Juan F. Carruyo: This is pure craft. The song undergoes at least 3 gear changes, adding a nice proggy structure to the proceedings and the lyrics are a vivid if literal, distillation of what love can make you experience. I can’t help but feel touched at how fearlessly Mr Black is willing to bare his emotions. He’s also savvy enough to kill to birds with one stone, shooting the promotional video at his real-life wedding. 
[8]

Crystal Leww: While reggaeton and Latin trap are getting all the press buzz from Anglo media outlets, the success of Mr Black’s “El Matrimonio” is a reminder that Latin American pop is a vast and varied landscape. This isn’t particularly exciting and is probably not going to make the club pop off, but this is so sweet! I’m hoping that at least one granny busts out the dance moves at her grandchild’s wedding somewhere to this song. 
[6]

Julian Axelrod: To this day, I still remember watching the Kimye wedding episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians with my then-roommate and being furious when, after an hour of buildup, we didn’t even get to see the damn ceremony. I felt a weird sense of betrayal, not only because this intensely public couple wouldn’t let us see their wedding but because the buildup was so boring. Mr Black may not be as big as Kim or Kanye, but the Colombian champeta superstar deserves credit for turning his highly publicized wedding into a hit single in a way that feels joyous rather than craven. The song shifts from a wedding vows ballad to a reception-ready banger that values stateliness over schmaltz. Meanwhile, Mr Black presides over the proceedings with the elegance and charm of a best man. It’s an impressive display of modern celebrity: a shameless celebration of the self that’s generous enough to let us inside.
[7]

Alfred Soto: With a guitar figure recalling high life, “El Matrimonio” pushes Mr Black into convincing shows of emotion. I suppose I’ll get used to the rhythm change. 
[6]

Iain Mew: Gliding smoothly from ceremony to reception to party, its all-in-one approach to wedding as a theme is the biggest strength and weakness. It keeps the new ideas flowing, but they come with a bit of a feeling of checking boxes.
[5]

Adaora Ede: The Nigerian in me would confuse this with literally any and every 1970s Highlife song that would play at some distant cousin’s graduation party. And it makes sense: according to my research, Mr. Black is the leader of Champeta, a heavily Afro-Colombian genre that is a creole of west and Central African genres and cumbia. In “El Matrimonio,” Señor Negro modernizes the folk tune, slant rapping over jazzy guitarras, spitting out couplets, triplets about the beauty of matrimony. A cross-linguistic, intra-diaspora marriage bop if I’ve ever heard one. Sidenote: Mr Black bears an uncanny resemblance to one of my mom’s favorite Nigerian musicians, Flavour N’abania and imma need someone to drop the English version so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
[7]

Thursday, June 21st, 2018

AOA – Bingle Bangle

Sorry Jessica, our bad :(((


[Video][Website]
[4.86]

Jessica Doyle: Now we’re reviewing AOA?
[4]

Adaora Ede: As a longtime K-pop fan, I’ve always censured the criticisms flung at Korean girl groups for immature and vapid music. On the other hand, this literally sounds like a song out of a Disney production, and not from the well-crafted Disney Original Musicals that graced my childhood in the late 2000s, but a theme song from a throwaway Disney Junior program. Anything with repetitive onomatopoeia is a general red flag for me, but last year’s “Bing Bing” proved itself, brass loop and all. The whistling and the jangle guitar sound promising at first, but it sharply swerves from possible popabilly into the lane of reckless TV show pirate music. Ugh, those wasted Max Martin piano beats from the beginning! Disregarding Jimin’s solo verse and the horrible whooping riff, the verses — I particularly liked the pre-chorus — and the bridge are somewhat auspicious in that they are unadulterated skippy fun. Although I strongly dislike many, many parts of this, I can’t hate on the whole.
[5]

Leonel Manzanares de la Rosa: I was a bit skeptical about a ChoA-less AOA comeback, but this tune is here to prove two important things: 1. That the group is just as strong, and it’s still full of talented performers, and 2. That they’re still the ineffable queens of the K-Pop Summer Jam. “Bingle Bangle,” with its disco-indebted bassline, its acoustic guitar breakdowns, and that über-catchy whistled melody, is a shoo-in for millions of beach-party playlists across the globe. 
[7]

Crystal Leww: Floats by like any spring afternoon, but not like one that you’d remember for beyond the weekend.
[4]

Alex Clifton: AOA have been known for their extremely sexy singles, which is what made “Bingle Bangle” a surprise; it’s peppier than their older material. I mean, for god’s sake, it’s in a major key! It’s also their first single since the departure of ChoA, whose voice would have added some depth here. It’s blissfully devoid of Jimin’s signature “Hey!” hook but also seems devoid of some of their usual (excellent) drama, probably because they’ve forgone that route for an upbeat song. For the first time in ages, it sounds like they’re having fun being themselves and not trying to do a ~sexy~ dance for anyone, which is a nice change and part of what makes this so infectious. I’m just bummed we never got any of these chirpy tracks while ChoA was still with the group.
[7]

Katherine St Asaph: It’s not AOA’s fault that their single reminds me distinctly of Karmin, but it does.
[4]

Ramzi Awn: AOA’s forgettable whistle overproduces a basic AF soccer montage and turns it into the perfect teen vampire show. Unnecessary.   
[3]

Thursday, June 21st, 2018

Maroon 5 ft. Cardi B – Girls Like You

Proving that we won’t in fact like any old tat as long as Cardi B’s name is on it…


[Video][Website]
[3.29]

Tobi Tella: Maroon 5 are so inescapably dull that they’ve managed to make Cardi B, someone who thrives on personality, boring too. From the cliched “cute” lyrics, to Adam Levine sounding bad even when out of his chest voice, to the caucasian “Nice For What” video, I hate almost everything about this.
[2]

Alfred Soto: Sensing the waning of the American public’s interest in their latest material, Adam & the Levines, ampersand trademarked, have recruited female artists whose charisma and delight in wordplay exceed the name above the credits. “Girls Like You” is another one of those condescending valentines in which dudes like Levine specialize: after he’s fucked around, maybe with her friends, he’s going to settle on a girl like her, etc. The zealotry with which the guitar plucks are mixed is supposed to adduce its humanity. Meanwhile Cardi gets to make like Jean Harlow and Mae West, reminding him that if he keeps pretending to play that guitar she’ll return to playing with herself. Too human a gesture for a space this blank. The song too.  
[4]

Alex Clifton: I’ve listened to this song three times and I can’t tell you much about the actual track itself, other than Adam Levine sounds as uninspired as he has for the past ten years and that Cardi’s verse is the most interesting thing in a fairly slow-moving song. Yet the video has made me tear up each time. I hate admitting that I’ve cried to something accompanying a Maroon 5 song of all things; somehow that’s one of the more embarrassing things I can cop to in my life. But the video takes the song from being bland and lifeless to something almost joyous. It’s a wonder seeing so many women on screen dancing around, having fun, singing to you: I need a girl like you, something that feels oddly empowering. I have no idea what Maroon 5 is going for here or if they’ve hit the mark they were hoping for, but something about this does it for me against my better judgment. Is it good? I’m not actually sure. But I know that it’s surely made me feel a little fonder every time I hear this on the radio.
[5]

Vikram Joseph: The little palm-muted guitar figure that leads in “Girls Like You” is the only thing that doesn’t sound entirely generic here. This sort of autopilot, chart-oriented R&B doesn’t make much of a case for the continued existence of Maroon 5 in 2018; neither does drafting in the pop phenomenon du jour to phone in a dreary cameo.
[3]

Ian Mathers: In terms of bros I guess we have to put up with in pop culture, Adam Levine and John Mayer have always seemed like pretty balanced opposites, so it makes sense this feels a bit like the anti-“New Light”. But while I suspect that of the two I’ve liked more songs Levine has sung, in this case he comes up the worse of the two in pretty much every respect, with both production and lyrics feeling so generically mawkish it’s hard to feel much of anything about them. Hell, Cardi (likeable but not much more here) would probably even find the Mayer more conducive to rapping over.
[3]

Stephen Eisermann: Someone needs to remind A&R reps that sprinkling something good on something bad doesn’t suddenly make the bad good. Look, I get it. As a Mexican, I grew up drowning my friends’ parents’ food in cholula, tapatio, and limón, but it never made their food taste good. It only made whatever bland, spice-less white/brown rice concoction was sitting in front of me tolerable. The same applies to this song and Cardi knows it. “I’m sure them other girls were nice enough, but now you need someone to spice it up,” Cardi raps over a trodding, mundane beat. Still, while Cardi’s verse manages to make the song digestible, it’s still not an enjoyable listen.
[3]

Katherine St Asaph: Adam Levine and the industry, long since merged into one entity, noticed how good Cardi B was on a ’90s throwback and thought surely she’d also be good on a ’10s throwback, i.e. a song sitting around since 2012.
[3]

Wednesday, June 20th, 2018

Jaden Smith ft. Nicky Jam – Icon (Remix)

OK, so it’s only two-thirds Ungoogleable Wednesday…


[Video][Website]
[4.33]

Julian Axelrod: I’ve always liked Jaden Smith, despite having no tangible evidence to explain why. He’s a fascinating figure whose public antics are far more memorable than his entire film and music career. Luckily, the Fresher Prince has delivered a banger to validate my years of Jaden standom. To be fair, most of the highlights come from his collaborators: The beat is a thing of beauty, turning a Cab Calloway wail into a squealing siren haunting street corner ciphers. And Nicky Jam’s rapid-fire energy is the perfect compliment to Jaden’s studied malaise. But our host more than holds his own, executing an effective trap flow with just enough of his weirdo edge. (Is there a more Jaden Smith line than “Owe it all to Cudi and to Tycho”?) Even if he never drops another song this good, at least we’ll always have his tweets.
[7]

Alfred Soto: Yeah, that’s what we need: the child of Hollywood scions boasting about his icon livin’ using a tone recognizable to anyone who’s dealt with a miffed movie theater employee.
[3]

Ian Mathers: Not sure whether Jaden and his dad both showing up around Nicky Jam is sublimated competition, #branding synergy, or something else, but it’d be better just by virtue of letting Jam go off a bit, the younger Smith currently having a marginally less clunky delivery, and a competently wielded hook/loop.
[5]

Ramzi Awn: The perfect example of why Nicki Minaj is so good at what she does. “Lookin Ass” without the bite. Or beat.  
[3]

Juan F. Carruyo: Nicky leans too hard on the good-ol’ envy tropes Latino rappers love to play, but at least he carries some flow. Jaden, try as he might, only has flop sweat to show up for his effort. I will admit that he does a credible moonwalk, though. 
[3]

Jonathan Bogart: Jaden’s now older than his father was when he made Rock the House, and although he doesn’t have a tenth of the charm or skill that the kid from West Philly did in ’87, he has something more valuable for #branding purposes: money, and the cultivated sense of taste money endows. Unfortunately, that leaves him chasing fads rather than starting them the way people whose taste is born of necessity do. Nicky Jam sleepwalks through verses he could have left on anyone’s song, while Jaden acts as his own hypeman, desperate for everyone to love him as much as he does.
[5]

Wednesday, June 20th, 2018

=LOVE – Teokure Caution

To be fair, the ungoogleability here is partially due to Beyonce and Jay Z just releasing an album (yes, we’re covering it) with “love” in the title…


[Video][Website]
[6.17]

Ryo Miyauchi: =LOVE is yet another pack of idols turning to the stark, string-driven intensity of Keyakizaka to give a shock to its rather traditional image. But while producer and HKT48 member Rino Sashihara answers to the high-stakes drama by writing about love with gravity to match, the note-for-note performance skims over some of the more visceral imagery. The draw of “Teokure Caution,” then, is that climactic key change: standard, but reliable as far as tricks go.
[6]

Dorian Sinclair: I can’t really explain or justify my love for bombastic strings in a pop song, but it’s very real. Pair that with the harpsichord (!!) and that frantic synth stab under the chorus, and it almost doesn’t matter what’s above them — but fortunately, both melody and performance are more than able to match the energy of the production.
[8]

Alfred Soto: However much I appreciate the speed of J-pop, the fizz goes out of this soda by the 90-second mark despite those attractive piano runs (and I do mean runs). 
[5]

Vikram Joseph: We told you this was melodrama. “Teokure Caution” is a constant high-wire act, quite exhausting to listen to, where every choice of chord progression is the most theatrical one available. At the risk of misappropriating Western pop influences to a J-Pop song, I can hear a lot of ABBA fandom in here, and also plenty of Muse’s space-age-baroque histrionics. The English translation I read suggests that the lyrics aren’t any less overwrought, either.
[4]

Katherine St Asaph: Bach bosh! This isn’t good, and every part of the arrangement sounds like a Windows 95 MIDI, but it is entirely my brand of melodrama.
[6]

Iain Mew: Japanese idol pop vocals with a focus on intensity above all else can pair excellently with styles of music bringing equal force and supporting it with greater intricacy, be it metal, shoegaze, or this baroque’n’roll thriller. =LOVE’s intensity keeps them charging forwards past viciously revving synths, and carrying off finely balanced stop-start manoeuvres, culminating in a bravura key change that deserves a standing ovation.
[8]

Wednesday, June 20th, 2018

The Internet – Roll (Burbank Funk)

It’s Ungoogleable Names Wednesday! Also “The Internet have been around since 2011, do you feel old” Wednesday…


[Video]
[6.50]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: A case study in how far a truly perfect bassline can get you, given a set of performers who know not to let themselves get in the way.
[8]

Julian Axelrod: How often do solo ventures make a band sound more unified? After a year where The Internet’s members followed their individual muses down the R&B rabbit hole, a nervous fan could expect some discord upon their return. Luckily, “Roll” is a joyous funk free-for-all and a seamless blend of their sensibilities. After three albums with Syd at the forefront, Steve Lacy steps into the spotlight. But calling him the lead vocalist is misleading, since Syd’s silky harmonies and Christopher Smith’s clattering drums are just as prominent in the mix. At times the sound is smooth to a fault; I love Steve, but his voice is so unassuming it can fade into the background. Then again, The Internet is nothing if not a testament to one grand, unifying sound.
[7]

Alfred Soto: A nice jam with thump and thwock: interstitial material in search of an album sequence.
[5]

Vikram Joseph: Far from their soulful, explorative best, “Roll” feels flimsy and insubstantial, neither much of a song nor much of a mood. The component parts are certainly handy — fluttering, suggestive bass; wonky synth jabs — but the drifting, ambivalent vocals don’t provide any grip, leaving that bassline rolling around in search of a coherent song.
[4]

Katherine St Asaph: A project with an ephemeral name and, once, ephemeral-sounding music. Less so lately, and particularly on “Roll,” with a preternaturally assured bassline one imagines could keep spooling out forever, until it spans the whole equator.
[7]

Nortey Dowuona: A smooth, lilting bass slides in over open hand-sliced drums, then is joined by squishy, ethereal synths as Steve slides atop it, off-key and dully mumbling. Syd sweeps him back into the saddle with soft, airy hums and whoops.
[6]

Juan F. Carruyo: I don’t own a car, but if I did, I’d be blasting this rolling down the streets. 
[7]

Rebecca A. Gowns: I live right around the corner from Burbank, and this really captures the vibe. Studios and film sets, areas of creation and concentrated money, shielded by fortresses of mysterious office buildings. If you’re working there, you step outside after hours, and all the activity has stopped — it’s dark and still. If you stay the night there, you might wake up with this groove running in your head, and you’re suddenly compelled to drive to a Mexican/American diner to pick up a breakfast burrito stuffed with avocado and crispy french fries. You could try to cook it at home with all the same ingredients, but it just wouldn’t taste the same. Burbank is like that — totally commonplace, humdrum, suburban, but oozing with secret sexy Hollywood magic around the edges. This song is like that too.
[8]

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

LOONA/yyxy ft. Grimes – Love4eva

The Singles Jukebox is proud to announce that we will no longer be posting reviews on this site but instead delivering them via an underground hyperspeed transportation system…


[Video][Website]
[6.50]

Katherine St Asaph: Breathless, concentrated joy; I take back a good two-thirds of my Elon Musk and Grimes jokes.
[8]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Blockberry Creative realizing that a ton of LOONA fans love Grimes after Odd Eye Circle’s “Loonatic” has resulted in a collaboration that is little more than a shameless attempt at generating buzz in the international sphere. That aside, “Love4eva” is a paltry “Very Very Very” imitation whose driving beat does little to inject the song with the energy it sorely needs. The titular fairy tale hook is the beginning and end of the song’s attempts at doe-eyed infatuation, and it’s a shame considering E-Tribe have been able to sell this bubblegum premise so successfully on songs like “Gee” and “Bling Bling.” Like the post-“Very Very Very” track “Likey,” “Love4eva” aims for a multi-pronged kitchen sink approach to songwriting, but the pre-chorus and wonky breakdown here reveal that there’s little consideration for how these individual parts are meant to cohere, musically and otherwise. If “Girl Front” was a beautiful assemblage of the Odd Eye Circle girls’ tracks and sensibilities, “Love4eva” is the opposite: a flattening of the personalities that were able to shine on tracks like “Heart Attack” and “Egoist.”
[4]

Iain Mew: It doesn’t have quite the same wow factor as “Gee” — the second, third, fourth love story doesn’t have the same giddy thrill as the first, whoever is doing that introduction. Doesn’t mean it can’t still be sweet as anything, though.
[8]

Alfred Soto: Pure sucrose in the veins, and so well syncopated that it makes the competition look emptily garish.
[7]

Jessica Doyle: Anyone else creeped out by this video? It’s not just the early-20th-century lesbian tropes — though I do wonder what came first, the video concept or the choice of “Olivia” as a stage name — but the combination of schoolgirl outfits and knee socks with waist-high shots, petal-biting slo-mo, and very red lipstick. (For the curious: Yves is 21, Chuu 18, Go Won 17, and Olivia Hye 16.) Which gets to the disconnect I feel between what I see in LOONA and what LOONA’s fiercest advocates see in the group. A lot of us, when we latch onto groups, want to say that the system is awful but this group is different: so BTS isn’t K-pop, and Twice is actually engaging in subtle critique, and yours truly spent years hoping that Infinite was going to be able to inject something more personal and meaningful into their songs. Which they actually did, with “Begin Again,” but there I go, none of y’all want or need to hear that argument. And on to LOONA: I get that the girls are sweethearts, and that Blockberry Creative has been able to take the money laundered lavished upon the project and emerge with interesting and skilled and compelling songs, and that “Love4eva” takes the “Gee” formula and complicates it just enough with chirps and statics and slight tempo changes to make for a fun listen. But I don’t get magical. I don’t get different.
[5]

Juan F. Carruyo: The “forbidden affairs of the heart” literary genre is classic song fodder and if the closed captions generated by YouTube are even remotely close to the real thing; then the lyrics are pretty good, containing this awesome line: “Even my kidney is pounding.” A fast, cheap beat carries the tune, but the youthful exuberance exhibited by LOONA/yyxy is the clincher.
[7]