Friday, April 24th, 2015

Janelle Monáe ft. Jidenna – Yoga

A state of emergency is where this track doesn’t want to be.


[Video][Website]
[4.75]
Juana Giaimo: To me Janelle Monáe eithers makes a rather bland song or a genius one that makes you feel empowered, like “Yoga.” Although writers are pointing out the sensuality in it, to me this is that song to listen to with your friends, doing silly dance moves that match the rather absurd lyrics. You are suddenly in control of your own body, not having to worry about being judged, simply feeling that you’re the coolest while you’re just having so much fun.
[9]

Katherine St Asaph: The first and last time I attempted yoga, I failed to stretch for a few minutes, fell lurchingly onto my back, then sat out the remainder. This track sounds about as pained.
[3]

Anthony Easton: Lululemon’s IPO was the oak stake in the body of yoga as a spiritual practice, and this track is the refusal of Janelle Monae’s more optimistic Afro-futurism in favor of a completely embodied pleasure. But if George Clinton has taught us anything, the body and the spirit are unified, and you can introduce someone to the world for how it “bends over.” All of this collapses into the singularity of poperatic insincerity–around the time she melismas the fuck out of that areola line.
[7]

Maxwell Cavaseno: As Janelle Monae makes a strange attempt into rather dignified EDM-trap-pop from her longstanding tendency of over-conceptual Andrew Lloyd Webber Afrofuturism. However, the alarming discovery is that as a modern artist attempting…well, Beyonce or Rihanna could easily sell this. But without a goofy sci-fi structure for her to play in, Monae sounds like a dad using hip terminology they read on Wikipedia. I half expect her to say “swag” and do it wrong. And Jidenna… Look, I like “Classic Man” as a bizarre bougie responder to Young Thug but this guy isn’t just a ham, he’s the whole entirety of the Boar’s Head Emporium. Stop him now before he gives us congestive heart failure.
[2]

Alfred Soto: Cyborg soul meets aerobics, and Monáe on first listen sounds like the ideal choice for a track with the hook “Let your booty do the yoga.” But with exceptions she expends too much passion when the material demands distance or keeps that distance when she needs to yell at clouds. It isn’t the case with “Yoga” — the song is too flimsy. (now if she’d covered Bjork’s “Joga…”). A member of the audiene at the EMP Pop Conference alluded to her — “why is someone with such a strong ‘brand’ not better known or sold more records?” Her self-written songs aren’t as good as Britney’s, a critic in front of me suggested, not aloud.
[5]

Cédric Le Merrer: I’m more used to be the one defending Janelle against the theater kid label, but to be as badass as it hopes to, a song like “Yoga” would need a singer less afraid of not sticking to the melody. Monae is out of her element here — she didn’t even risk a Yoda rhyme. And Jidenna seems like a guy who wants you to pull your pants up and tip your fedora at the same time.
[6]

Iain Mew: In “Yoga,” Janelle Monáe is obviously recognizable and obviously out of her element. That didn’t have to be a bad thing, and I could easily imagine a song which made something of the tension and strangeness, but this is too unimaginative and safe a take on the booty song with dance drops for that. She still does better than the Jidenna verse, where it briefly becomes a really boring version of “Dark Horse”.
[4]

Will Adams: I could tolerate the blatant “Dark Horse” rehashing or how out of place Janelle sounds, but it’s the central metaphor — stupid in and of itself but not taken to its ridiculous extreme — that takes this from bad to embarrassing.
[2]

Friday, April 24th, 2015

Tinashe – All Hands on Deck

All hands on deck to discuss pan flutes.


[Video][Website]
[7.90]

Crystal Leww: I applauded “2 On” in early 2014 for being one of DJ Mustard’s more dynamic beats, moving in ways that no Mustard beat had before. “All Hands on Deck” is maybe less of a straightforward thrill than “2 On,” but it moves in ways that “2 On” does, tries things that “2 On” never did. I’ve been screaming about ratchet pan flutes for half a year now, ever since “All Hands on Deck” appeared on Aquarius, but it’s wild that Cashmere Cat and Stargate took this sound, one that is basically a template that depends on the charm of its performer, and added such a lovely flair. It doesn’t feel forced, either; Tinashe’s the girl who has a song called “Indigo Girl” on that same album, and she is every bit as moody and mysterious and sexy on this as ratchet pan flutes call for.
[8]

Alfred Soto: She could have meant the title for her collaborators, whose key changes cause nary a stumble. Although I didn’t understand Aquarius at first, it’s become one of my essential R&B albums: supple, glistening, finding aural correlatives for Tinashe’s quiet virtuosity. “All Hands on Deck” was one of the sleepers. Excellent hook, sure, but the song’s too modest, unobtrusive, a natural single with the mien of an album track.
[7]

Madeleine Lee: Pan flutes > guest rappers.
[10]

Katherine St Asaph: Bebe Rexha is quickly becoming pop’s premier purveyor of teenage-girl angst and dead-eyed steeliness (“looking for a boy to fill this empty void”), Cashmere Cat its premier purveyor of pop-rnbass, and Tinashe its premier purveyor of a superconfident, indelible delivery. With Stargate also on deck you’d think “All Hands” would become unwieldy, but it’s not; it’s piecework songwriting as musical quick-panning, confident snappy facade to inner turmoil and back. Not even the odd lack of enunciation (the second verse does not go “death to wussy porn”) can keep the track from near-perfection. The remix, with an Igloo where its heart used to be, probably could; but the tragedy of the rapper couldn’t be better-timed to ensure that doesn’t happen.
[9]

Will Adams: I’m certain there’ll be a summer party I go to where this is playing that will prove me wrong, but for now, “All Hands on Deck” tells what “2 On” showed. The pan flutes are an interesting production choice, probably the best aspect to distract me from the just-okay bump of the rest.
[5]

Ramzi Awn: Exacting and expertly produced, Tinashe’s voice accentuates each beat like it’s her last. Flawlessly featured synths make for a mathematician’s dream in a swirl of snaps, textures, and woodwinds. And the gated vocals on “All Hands on Deck” suit Tinashe’s voice to a T. This is new music.
[10]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Look, Crystal is going to tell you about ratchet pan flutes. I’m here to be Johnny Raincloud. I’m here to remind you that as an album, Aquarius is full of meandering esoteric gems where Tinashe ennobles R&B and lives in a dream-pop world that unpopular nerds Cocteau Twins will never get into because they’re lames. And that this and other Stargate entry “Feels Like Vegas” are the most obvious “FOLLOW UP TO 2 ON” tracks on the album, the concessions to Epic for letting her get away with an adventurous journey by throwing out floaties for babies (heck, Roscoe Dash even sounds like an overgrown baby). We shouldn’t be entertaining this clunky “You break my heart, now I’m a baddie >:3″ bit when she can do so much better, and especially with those godawful synths on the chorus.
[4]

Anthony Easton: It never slows down or speeds up but recedes and expands. In those moments where the song unfolds, Tinashe’s crystalline voice exceeds the production, but when it works within the context, it becomes really intriguing. So much of this is how it sounds, unified but overstuffed — even a list would not give it its due, but: that sound like water on a hot stone, those revs of an engine, the handclaps and girl group oooh oohs. That it is so overstuffed, and that she suggests a filling of emptiness, is a perfect formal twinning — it is smarter than the other work that Cashmere Cat has done for people like Lana Del Rey, and it suggests a genuinely superstar move from mix tapes to superstar leads. Stargate was involved in this, so there is some mark of the Eurosleaze, and I could imagine a bit of Bey here, but it does seem closer to Cashmere than Stargate.
[10]

Iain Mew: The verses scavenge good bits from “R.I.P.” and “Dominoes”, or at least seize on good ideas which are familiar but not overused. The amazing pan flutes, aside, much the same goes for the whole song, from its bass under bass under ice to the semi-plea chorus. It’s like the inverse of “Don’t Look Down” yesterday: no magic in assembly, but an impeccable selection of parts.
[7]

Jonathan Bradley: Every superhero needs her theme music, and this is a great origin story for Tinashe, as phoenix of the darkest timeline: “Kiss the old me goodbye; she’s dead and gone.” Sinuous and entrancing, and that’s before the call-to-arms hook muscles in.
[9]

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

Martin Garrix ft. Usher – Don’t Look Down

Ah, that’s more like it…


[Video][Website]
[4.86]

Alfred Soto: “I Don’t Mind” gave Usher his first pop hit in a few years; now he returns for the clubland garbage that didn’t set anyone’s world aflame a few years ago.
[3]

Katherine St Asaph: After “OMG” and the filler on Looking 4 Myself, just about any EDM producer would be a step up, especially one who lets Usher actually sing — his value over replacement guest — and keeps Ursh on the global charts so his album might come out someday. Listen to “Good Kisser” again and remember that this is funding it.
[5]

Iain Mew: Sometimes you get a song which feels constructed to checklist but just works, its elements combining unexpectedly or the link material excelling. It feels like an obvious attempt to merge David Guetta and Usher’s “Without You” with Ariana Grande’s Zedd-produced “Break Free”, but Usher goes so much better with this kind of escapism, and “don’t look down” is a fine choice of words for it. Martin Garrix adds nothing more distinctive than the ticking clocks from “Animals,” but even that adds a grounding urgency.
[8]

Scott Mildenhall: No Martin, no. You were having actual hit singles that get played on the radio despite a flagrant disregard for the form that made them thrilling. Why switch to the sound of Usher grasping at straws? Not even clutching them: grasping at them, bidding for something – anything – that may be in the vicinity. And what is there? Afrojack’s thematically similar “Ten Feet Tall”; the theme being ineffable mediocrity. To discover upon checking that the two songs don’t actually sound that alike isn’t even down to poor memory, honest. It’s just an indictment of their memorability.
[5]

Brad Shoup: The guitar figure has me wondering what an Usher post-punk song would sound like (initial thought: distressingly disengaged, but more entertaining than the Pop Group). Usher’s performance makes me ponder how bright the afternoon sun was, after he spent 30 minutes working over inane lyrics for an EDM track by some nice kid 2,000 miles away.
[4]

Abby Waysdorf: Why get Usher to be on your song if you’re going to make him sound like Generic Male EDM Voice? He’s got enough of an identity that putting him in the role of the vaguely country-sounding guy performing the melody of a summery EDM song (compare the vocal here to “Don’t You Worry Child,” “This Is What It Feels Like,” “Dare You,” and of course, “Wake Me Up,” which really started this) seems completely bizarre. You’ve got Usher! Do something with him! Having said that, it’s a credible bit of dance-pop, with some of the little touches in instrumentation that Garrix does that sets him just slightly apart from the crowd – that little bubbly keyboard riff that circles in and out almost makes me stop wishing this could be just a little more of an effort. Mostly, though, I keep thinking how could have been more, a chance to bridge their different styles and takes on mainstream pop, experiment a bit with genre. Instead it’s just another soda commercial. 
[5]

David Sheffieck: Kudos to Garrix for crediting this anonymous-sounding vocalist, who aside from a few very brief moments could’ve been one of Kelli-Leigh’s less-skilled co-workers (#freekellileigh), but points off for sticking him on the politest EDM track I’ve heard all year, one that aims for nothing less than complete predictability and succeeds magnificently at that goal.
[4]

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

Nero – The Thrill

High scoring EDM? How… thrilling!


[Video][Website]
[7.25]

Iain Mew: I still fondly remember the first time we covered Nero on the Jukebox, and ice hockey players crashing into each other and J-Pop and MONSTER FISTS all come back to me on listening to “The Thrill” (too bad they missed Sochi again). It’s a formula, but it’s a strong one.
[7]

Scott Mildenhall: Last year, Nero made one of the largest and most Nero-like singles in a while: “Satisfy”, steam-powered galvanic electrolysis paying no regard to what those words actually mean, because they just sound so cool. By their standards, then, this one doesn’t really sound that much like the inside of a pinball machine brought to life. It’s more a persistent slog through adversity toward an ineluctable goal, every low growl a tide to be swum against and a punch swung and evaded; like a blitz through a particularly dystopian Tekken. Come the end, Alana wins! But with everyone else left dead in her wake, it’s rather lonely.
[8]

Maxwell Cavaseno: It’s weird how one can regret making choices on dubstep. Look, it’s lame, but I really spent many a year preferring the stoicism of Mala or the gloom of Loefah. At the toughest, I’d do maybe Starkey’s spastic ravey shudders or the harsh bad-boy steppers of Vex’d. But BROSTEP was the enemy, ’cause like, duh! Of course, now so much of post-dubstep has become awful Brits playing with the music of urban America and sounding so unfunky, vomit-inducing house mediocrity, or worse… albums with hired guns from Cuba for “connoisseurs.” So now I can’t help but appreciate the harder forms in all its glories. You guys were right, you won! I’mma go jump into my coffin now, ’cause this kills.
[8]

Alfred Soto: Jessie Ware hurtin’ and emotin’ on too typical build and release dance mania.
[4]

Katherine St Asaph: I’ve never quite been able to justify my love of Nero above their more sugary, more emotive, less broverstuffed, more defensible peers, so their sudden adoption by tastemakers is delicious vindication. The synth intro suggests Johnny Jewel aspirations, Alana’s frost-crystal verse suggest Nicola Hitchcock aspirations, both of which would be for Nero — gasp — a new direction. Happily, the chorus respects the First Law of Nerobotics: one shall never mention one’s feelings without immediately following it up with a world-crushing riff to illustrate. There’s an idea that brostep is for boys and poppy EDM is for girls, which is bull; feelings are beefy and unsubtle and will pummel your whole life, and they sound a lot like this.
[7]

Will Adams: A giant riff matched with a giant vocal presence that’s on the verge of tearing herself apart. A clattering drum loop. A chorus that comes in a measure early to slam you on the ground. There’s no title more appropriate.
[8]

Brad Shoup: The Skrillex co-remix of “Promises” was the best dubstep-as-pop song I’d ever heard. It was stark; it cut through the bone. That was Alana Watson’s doing: she set devastating heights that her band were forced to tunnel through. This time, the theme is abandon to love, but a smidge over the relieved side of the border. So the synths quack out their approval after the Link to the Past synth melody sets the tone; Watson dives into a riptide only to be spat out onto the shore. This must be love.
[8]

Megan Harrington: I live in an extremely tiny studio apartment. It’s miniature even by studio standards, unable to contain anything described as “full sized.” As a consequence, I’m perpetually scanning blogs for ideas about how to keep the place functional. I know I’m not alone because fully one fifth of Apartment Therapy’s daily posts are devoted to the beauty of small spaces. If people aren’t actually doing more with less, they’re certainly inspired by seeing it rendered visually. Often, despite knowing there’s not enough room in the living area (calling this eye-catching furniture situation a room seems like a stretch) to comfortably host a guest of non-feline persuasion, I’m seduced by the gimmick of clutter reduction. In reality my apartment is beyond cluttered, I moved a box labeled “ill fitting clothes” in four years ago and still haven’t parted ways, but I like the idea of minimalism. “The Thrill” is a few chords and a scrambled vocal but it sounds so powerful, almost spelled out with stars. This is minimalism writ large. 
[8]

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

Kygo ft. Conrad Sewell – Firestone

It’s festival season so it’s time for another EDM theme day!


[Video][Website]
[4.30]

Will Adams: Kygo gave Fire Stone to Generic Downtempo Ballad. What? Generic Downtempo Ballad is evolving! …Congratulations! Your Generic Downtempo Ballad evolved into Generic Uplifting House Track!
[4]

Scott Mildenhall: Conrad Sewell is no John Martin. John Martin, like every man trading on his act, is an everyman with everyman feelings, bellowing them like a man, at everyone. Often, it works. But Conrad Sewell is an emblem of a different path. The clue is again in the name: one that wouldn’t be out of place in Tatler, or a list of high-profile tax evaders. There’s the same profession of refinement to it as there is his and the song’s style, the suggestion being that neither producer or vocalist belong to some House Mafia, rather a House Gentry. Thing is, the truth is blatant. Barely concealed — “we light up the woooorrrld!” — are the same supermassive sentiments of the planet’s John Martins. And that will do just fine.
[6]

Dan MacRae: As heard on Now That’s What I Call Something I Will Passively Keep On While Doing The Dishes! Vol. 17.
[5]

Katherine St Asaph: There’s a big difference between uplifting big-tent nonsense and uplifting big-tent nonsense involving a term most commonly associated with car tires. There’s also a big difference between Conrad Sewell and good vocals.
[3]

Iain Mew: The vocals sound curiously distant, like even his heart isn’t in the dull material. I’d rather just listen to the instrumental, which is a nice balance between calming and invigorating.
[5]

Patrick St. Michel: Is this what the slow-dance song at an EDM prom sounds like?
[2]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Popcorn synths and the 4×4 kick to give this shitty ballad some “interesting” qualities.
[3]

Alfred Soto: Gumballs bouncing on the black keys. A vocalist listening to Ne-Yo records in the dark with a glass of wine and much leisure time. Step out of the way so I can listen to this thing, will you please?
[6]

Megan Harrington: On his own, Conrad Sewell sings all the one night stand songs that Sam Smith can’t stomach. He’s a tender, sensitive, soul cad and his delivery on “Firestone” doesn’t veer too far from that identity, except in its simple lyrics. Listening to Sewell try to find depth in a Kygo track I realized I would prefer this song at least 20% more if it was sung by Ellie Goulding or Foxes. Not only does their solo material hew closer to what Kygo’s attempting, they’re capable of being fun and dramatic at the same time. Instead we’re saddled with a line like “we light up the world” sung as if Sewell believes we really do. 
[6]

Brad Shoup: I want to reward something so… languid’s not quite the wrong word. The singer’s slow, but he’s pushing against the tempo. The track keeps falling on him like a georgette net: tambourines crinkling, pianos creasing. If he weren’t emoting so hard I could fall asleep to this.
[3]

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

Exo – Call Me Baby

And all the other boy bands…


[Video][Website]
[5.82]

Madeleine Lee: A lot of the EXO fans I know got really excited about the teasers leading up to this release. They were cinematic and cryptic and crammed with clues and subtext, from the return to the group’s debut-era superpowers concept to visual subtweets at the two EXO-M members who’d just left the group. Then “Call Me Baby” dropped, and it was… not what had been promised, visually or otherwise. (Every time I rewatch the video, a new terrible outfit reveals itself to me. And why is everyone’s hair wet?) All this is to illustrate that EXO’s specialty is in the tease. The mandatory SM formal weirdness is inserted every so often, and at first it sticks out among otherwise decently executed classical boy band moves, like a bad dancer trying to catch up to the music. Then it becomes a moment of anticipation: to return to that chorus, the chord progression and the totally obvious, totally satisfying lead-up to the “call me baby” refrain, which all the overstuffed production in the world can’t ruin. And that’s the other fan complaint about EXO: no matter how much you try to resist, they always get you in the end.
[7]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Is anyone surprised that Exo devolved into B2K-level mediocrity? The electro-augmented New Jack Swing arrangements are too blunted and lack any sense of real swinging, while the guys sell ideas with a burnt-charcoal crust and a partially frozen core.
[3]

Brad Shoup: I don’t care, I’m still happy that South Korea’s still taking these New Jack swings. Balancing 10 voices is tough, though: Teddy Riley & company end up shorting Sehun for one, who mostly gets a handful of tag. But everyone makes hay with his bit. The quarter-note synth stabs keep thinking they’re the focus, but another Exo shows up and blows up their spot.
[7]

Alfred Soto: The harmonies are insane, machine-tooled like ‘N Sync in 2000, coming at the listener from all sides, with accompanying synth horn blasts. They almost compensate for a fusty production.
[7]

David Sheffieck: The brass isn’t nearly bright or distinctive enough to cut through the production, tragically blending into the synth beats and pulses. But the plucked guitar provides some tension to make up for it, and the way the vocal’s chopped on the hook is borderline inspired — the closest thing to actual energy in a song so packed almost everything else blends into a monolithic gray plateau.
[5]

Will Adams: The squelchy accents tucked in the background add some interesting depth, but with such disregard for even basic dynamic contrast, getting through “Call Me Baby” in one sitting is exhausting.
[3]

Ramzi Awn: Slick like a two-step with a fierce vocal to boot, “Call Me Baby” is pure, NSYNC-17 fun.
[6]

Katherine St Asaph: More like “Case of the Exo,” huh? If you miss 2000, its synth stabs and bass squirts and boy-band excess, this track will suffice.
[6]

Dan MacRae: There’s a level of burst to “Call Me Baby” where you can picture every nuance of the stage choreography without even knowing who Exo are. Bring on the theatrically sexual crotch grabs!
[7]

Iain Mew: There’s something a bit arrogant in addressing how much the girl has changed their life at length and then saying “time’s wasting, girl” and “don’t wait too long.” There’s a little bit about what they’ll do for her, but there doesn’t seem much room for doubt that she is going to call. That suits the mode they’re in — showy vocals all on point, song relentlessly pushing forward and filling every space going — but it makes things a little straightforward. 
[6]

Patrick St. Michel: This is tightly put together and catchy enough, the sort of quality K-Pop single that made everyone excited (or interested enough to write a guide to Korean pop) three years ago. It’s good! But also a step below flawless.
[7]

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

Solo 45 – Feed Em to the Lions

Lower than Bjork, higher than Pulled Apart by Horses


[Video][Website]
[5.43]

Alfred Soto: A monstrous garage bass lines in search of worthwhile prey, not the impala called Solo 45.
[4]

Maxwell Cavaseno: More a testimony to the genius dancefloor rudeness of Preditah’s playful grime/garage/bassline hybrid than any of Solo 45’s bars. Solo remains out of all the Meridian family (who’ve split into the respective Bloodline & Boy Better Know camps) one of the least dexterous and creative MCs, and his hook is too lifeless outside of the rave context where his hook is meant to shine. Real shame, as I can think of a few non-friends of Skepta who’d love to have a beat that propulsive.
[3]

Scott Mildenhall: At four minutes this is a bit of a stretch, but the main concept of Solo 45 shouting “FEED EM TO THE LIONS” is a thoroughly enjoyable one. Whether it’s Arthur Brown going “I AM THE GOD OF HELLFIRE” or Big Narstie exclaiming “BATISTUTA! (Bicycle kick!)”, when pulled off, there is always room for this kind of semi-straightfaced comedy aggression.
[6]

Megan Harrington: They say, “Don’t write about drugs you’ve never done.” And I’ve never done any MDMA or derivative substance, but the wubby bass on “Feed ‘Em to the Lions” sounds just like I hope my pupils would look like swelling from a hit of ecstasy. 
[7]

Brad Shoup: Dinging the hook for not roaring is just the sort of thing I’d pull, but I’m actually focused on that one line about his swole arms. Like, you’ve got a Vengaboys/”Day ‘n’ Nite” synth melody thing going on, so just give me your whole Christians-in-the-arena workout plan. How many Carpocratians can you bench, brah?
[5]

Ramzi Awn: I’m pretty sure I put this beat together on my Samsung Galaxy the other night. But I definitely didn’t lay down these vocals. Why do I all of a sudden feel the urge to leave a high school party in a Hummer?
[5]

Iain Mew: This is all about the power of the bass wobble + the title line, which only gets better with repetition. The rest of the track is expertly constructed as a series of run-ups for that, and it needs little else.
[8]

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

Bomba Estéreo – Fiesta

Or: The Jukebox Describes The Parties They Go To…


[Video][Website]
[6.38]
Juana Giaimo: “Fuego” became a hit a long time ago — there is even a new generation that probably has never heard of it. But Bomba Estéreo has the potential of being more than a one hit wonder — the fact that they signed to Sony to release their third album shows it clearly. Not only a new generation has forgotten about “Fuego”, but also their fans, as many listened to “Fiesta” for the first time and called it a sellout. We’ll never know the intentions of the band, but we can’t deny that they are following the latest trends in electronic music and combining them with the folkloric Colombian genre, cumbia. But haven’t they always been experts at that? “Fiesta” is the update that dance clubs should be waiting for: a great beat inherited from their roots, strong passionate vocals (and female, which are an exception in Spanish-speaking clubs’ music) and delicate guitar lines for the verses. And the hook offers something completely different! The best part is when both sides combine in the end. Everything is chaos, everything is blurred, and it’s dark, the lights are blinding and the loudness overwhelms me. I’m not sure where I’m standing and who I am with, if there is a roof or a sky above me, but I know that I’m dancing and that my body merges with others and everything is as simple as a party.
[8]

Alfred Soto: The sort of fiesta interrupted by a scratched mp3.
[3]

Megan Harrington: I’m intrigued by the fusion of cumbia and EDM, but here it’s often clumsy. “Fiesta” is a manual transmission, its gear shifts are sudden jolts between their organic and ancient Columbian roots and the relatively recent and robotic rave music that drives them forward.
[5]

David Sheffieck: Like controlled chaos, the clattering percussion and various background details — occasional handclaps, a dog barking(?) — really make this a delight. The weak point’s the beginning of the hook, which serves largely to highlight how infectious and packed with energy the rest of the track is.
[6]

Patrick St. Michel: If you’re going to go EDM, might as well embrace the party ethos fully. Bonus point for that guitar.
[6]

Iain Mew: Of course rolls of “Waves”-wave guitar and the kind of metallic dubstep-pop last heard from f(x) needed to go together! Why did no one think of this earlier? Maybe because they didn’t have a vocalist as needling and abrasive as Liliana Saumet to finish it off perfectly?
[8]

Will Adams: Unlike most x genre+EDM hybrids of its ilk, “Fiesta” maintains a consistent danceability throughout and is all the better for it. The drop seems to come out of nowhere, but once it’s established, it provides a unique counterpoint to its lighter cumbia verses. And then there’s the title hook, genius for how it can be understood across languages. The message is clear: the party is here to stay.
[9]

Brad Shoup: “Fiesta” depicts a favorite rare state of mine, where you’re at a friend’s party, zoned out on a comfortable couch. No one’s demanding you do a shot, the conversations are more than ambient but less than obtrusive, and an of-the-moment pop song gives you something idle to mull while the drunk settles in. The guitar figure is lovely, sure, but the dubstep part is even lovelier for providing stasis, not contrast.
[6]

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

Wisin + Carlos Vives ft. Daddy Yankee – Nota de Amor

And now, a song for all of us who are wearing yellow underwear.


[Video][Website]
[6.00]
Juana Giaimo: I recently saw on the news that an aggrupation in Colombia made a campaign against the extremely violent lyrics against women in reggaeton. Given that Daddy Yankee and Wisin are two of the most relevant and iconic figures of the scene, “Nota de Amor” kind of seems a defense from these criticisms. The lyrics are exactly the opposite of the themes that reggaeton often covers. The most sexual images are “I bet you don’t dare to do with me all the things that you say you shouldn’t do” (in which actually sex is just implicit and makes the woman look like a saint) and Wisin mentioning that the underwear of his beloved is yellow. But the rest of the lyrics could fit any melodramatic love ballad of the type so famous and stereotypical of Latin American culture. But they truly show that they aren’t experts in honest love songs; if they were, they would have noticed how pathetic a line like “cook the paella/open the bottle” sounds. And as a woman, I can only answer to him: Why don’t you do it yourself?
[4]

Iain Mew: It has chords and a framework that I was fed up with a decade ago, but Wisin and Daddy Yankee bring such energy to it that it just about works. One top decision is stuffing in the namechecks for whoever’s coming next into vanishingly small bits of space, giving a fun tag team carousel effect.
[6]

Thomas Inskeep: Wisin can rapid-fire spit lyrics, or sing them, with the same ease. Carlos Vives is a superb singer whose voice is full of joy. And, well, you should certainly know by now that Daddy Yankee essentially started this reggaeton game (or at least popularized it on a wide scale), and is a damned fine rapper. “Nota de Amor” gives them each something (or in Wisin’s case, things) to do in service of a great song that they wrote jointly. Vives, in particular, sounds like he’s having so much fun here, singing a chorus so drenched in emotion: “I live in the moon for you, I fly without wings for you/there is no one who can take this note [of love] away from me.” Who doesn’t want someone who sings that, in his/her life? One of my favorite singles of 2015. [In the interest of full disclosure, it’s what my boyfriend and I refer to as “our song,” so I’m admittedly a little biased.]
[9]

Jonathan Bogart: Loverman cliches mean a lot less when they’re delivered in what a hectoring tone; if you can’t rap without bellowing, maybe don’t rap a ballad? I was all set to be charmed by the cumbia scratch until the reggaeton came in and drowned it out.
[5]

Katherine St Asaph: The sort of unabashed romanticism I imagine people hear in “Trap Queen”; the sort of chords that are just unabashed.
[6]

Will Adams: By the song’s end, when it’s just honking like hot wind, it’s very easy to forget where it started: light percussion and reflective piano octaves. “Nota de Amor” doesn’t really reconcile its desire to be a soft ballad and an upbeat anthem simultaneously.
[5]

Scott Mildenhall: There’s a particularly subtle employment of Pachelbel’s Canon Or Something That Sounds Like It in here, and it’s apt of a song too serene to say or do anything new. A reminder that unrequited love isn’t all pain, all of the time.
[7]

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

Louane – Avenir

The recent French #1 single, not the typeface…


[Video][Website]
[5.83]

Iain Mew: Louane reached success through the long route of The Voice and a film where she played a character entering a singing contest. That makes it more of a pleasant surprise that “Avenir” flows so effortlessly, barely leaving a mark in its wake.
[7]

Edward Okulicz: I really appreciate the way the beat is mixed up throughout various parts of the song — drum hits and clicks or claps chasing each other around the rhythm track. And Louane’s vocal is fine. But that piano just has a numbing effect; its one good trick is the slow-down at the end.
[6]

Alfred Soto: At first it comes off like a ye-ye cover of “Crazy in Love,” and the vocal’s soporific poise a good decision, but it drags.
[4]

Will Adams: I rail against that whole sub-genre of quasi-country deep house, but I must say I prefer that rendering of “Avenir” in its radio remix. There, the bumped-up tempo tempers the original’s natural sluggishness, and its leaden piano line gets somewhat buried.
[3]

Jessica Doyle: It didn’t work for me on first listen: too petulant to be triumphant. The radio edit speeds things up, turning her “J’espère que tu vas souffrir” into more of a playground chant: the content, her inability to strike back properly at the lover who not only abandoned but negated her, becomes less important than the energy of the chanting, and then she’s propelled properly forward.
[6]

Danilo Bortoli: This song comes at a an interesting time for me. I’m currently struggling with French, a language that is ultimately tricky for the non-initiated but also inherently beautiful. “Avenir”, at least for me, benefits a bit from this rare, seductive kind of unknownness that comes from the unexpected and unexplored. It comes off as a revenge song, a goodbye anthem, but its greatness is not located in anger. Its angelic mood and pudency, set by Louane’s singing, are the two things that make “Avenir” sound a lot like a victory lap for Louane. Not a complete one, though: there is a lot of pain to be heard in those spontaneous whoas and rather sharp verses. There’s a sense of relief, too, though, the relief you get out of learning that the unexpected is at least a bit more reassuring than it was before. The relief that can be felt when you’re sure tomorrow is going to come no matter what happens. In Louane’s case, she means it literally.
[9]