Monday, August 3rd, 2015

R-chord ft. Diana – Love Doesn’t Need to Pretend

Let’s take a trip to the early 2000s, shall we…


[Video][Website]
[4.50]

Iain Mew: Nu-metal is apparently alive and well in Taiwan, at least in highlights reel form. Crunchy guitar, verses teased out like Linkin Park, chorus which pulls off the contrasting groan and soar of “Bring Me to Life” without ripping it off too directly. If only the same condensing applied to the song structure as well, since it runs on past the point of any return.
[6]

Alfred Soto: Nu-metal of no distinction. Why couldn’t the boy have sung the sweet parts and the girl the harsh ones?
[3]

Thomas Inskeep: “Bring Me to Life” for the EDM generation, and that ain’t a compliment.
[2]

Moses Kim: Good posturing and emoting from R-chord (whose deft maneuvering between his rapping and singing voices suggests a sort of professionalism, an awareness of what his job is within the song and a full willingness to do it); good snatches of melodic dissonance (those deliciously demented strings in the verses are a highlight, and props to the chorus’ off-kilter chord progression for resisting the temptation to go explosive); good Evanescence-lite performance from Diana; good culmination of all of these elements in a strong final chorus. I gave up on Chinese in my junior year of high school, so the lyrics are out of my scope, but this is a great example of how good song construction can be just as effective and evocative as any powerful couplet might be: language barrier aside, this doesn’t need to pretend.
[8]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Nah man, I survived the rap-rock with pop aspirations era. I still rate the Mr. Hahn interludes on the first two Linkin Park LPs, I still consider Evanescence’s Fallen a Carpenters level mastery of craft, I am waiting for Machine Gun Kelly to get his shit together and coerce Hayley Williams into doing the stupid rap-ballad she deserves (and not with corny ass Bobby Ray). This does not meet the standard set decades ago. R-chord is just far too diminutive a vocal presence and Diana here is just too eager to sweep away her host. On a scale of Coal Chamber to Deftones, this song comes in at the Powerman 5000 level. Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta go hit up Mistress Juliya so we can interview In Flames for FUSE.
[1]

Crystal Leww: “Love Doesn’t Need to Pretend” is a Chinese Linkin Park/Evanescence right down to the heavy-handed lyrical content. Diana Wang’s chorus, in particular, is so dramatic, describing herself as “so cute but so bad” and declaring “If you don’t love it, then say goodbye!” It’s fitting; her voice certainly sounds more girly than Amy Lee’s but she still fits in pretty well with this sound. Nu-metal may have fallen out of fashion here in the US, and maybe “Love Doesn’t Need to Pretend” is a blip, but Wang is so laughably good at this that I hope she produces a whole album of this.
[7]

Patrick St. Michel: It’s an Evanescence song with the drama turned down just a little bit, but not too low as this song still sells its central melodrama loud and clear. Still, this feels way longer than it actually is.
[5]

Josh Langhoff: But Evanescence may need to litigate. Look, we’ve all been in that headspace where coffee cups fall in slow motion and the black goo on the walls threatens to overtake us (the frathouse shower? anyone?), and the cause is always obsession, and the cause of the obsession is usually love, and this pair offers a refreshingly unsentimental solution: “if the tone’s not right then just split up,” reads one translation. Very well.
[4]

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

Ciara – Dance Like We’re Making Love

Do they teach that in ballroom dancing?


[Video][Website]
[7.20]

Josh Langhoff: Good idea! Let me just grab my lederhosen.
[5]

Katherine St Asaph: Success is equal parts luck and politics; else Ciara, who’s now released two albums of sparkling pop singles, would be a star. “Dance Like We’re Making Love” is certainly positioned for it, simultaneously timely and catch-up: Dr. Luke (fuck) and Cirkut doing their best Max Martin and Ali Payami with slinky melancholy. The verses introduce Ciara’s sly delivery to a roomful of mood, and the latter prevails. The chorus is perfect pop that won’t be called perfect pop by those who deploy the phrase: vocals like synths like starlight, making dirty dancing sound like the most sacred of rituals. “Making love” does some of that work, but more of it’s how everything in the song recedes around chorus; the effect’s akin to the room falling away, everything suddenly serious.
[9]

Anthony Easton: Instead of a thick, bump and grind track, it becomes a masterpiece of negotiation — putting her cards on the table, warning of the consequences of his actions, seeking active consent — the proposal, with the disco beat, the encyclopedia of vocal effects, the finger snaps, even the phrase “making love” which I usually find risible, are both profoundly erotic and very smart.  
[9]

Alfred Soto: Boasting some of her sultriest tracks, Jackie feels like it should’ve been bigger, and if R&B mattered on the pop chart it would’ve been. The staccato chorus of “Dance Like We’re Making Love” complements the splashes of synth-produced color and Ciara’s quiet writhing in the verses.
[8]

Thomas Inskeep: Few people have been making as consistent an R&B catalog over the past decade as Ciara, and “Dance” helps continue that run. Dr. Luke and Cirkut provide a suitably spare arrangement (lots of finger snaps) for Ciara’s breathy vocals, while lyrically this flips the script: instead of making love like dancing, it’s the opposite, and much more effective this way. “Once I’m turned on, you can’t turn me off,” she reminds you, so come prepared. A notch below the masterpieces “Promise” and “Body Party,” but only just.
[9]

Nina Lea Oishi: Ciara’s always had the pipes, the smokiness, the seduction down. But the lyrics are too clunky: “I can feel your nature rising while I wind on you,” “I be the time of your life.” “Dance Like We’re Making Love” is enjoyable enough; the song’s real sin is that it wants for personality, reaching for a climax it never really achieves.
[6]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Narcolepsy-inducing production that leans way too heavily to pop in a way that’s not suitable for someone who’s struggled to remain relevant in R&B (let’s be honest, no this has nothing to do with #FutureHive and everything to do with the fact that she’s just never had a zenith moment, just occasional good singles and its only continued to “almost kinda work” for maybe a decade or so now?). “Dance” is indicative of why Jackie is ultimately a bust of someone’s continued need to insist on a victory they’ve never achieved.
[3]

Edward Okulicz: Parts of the verse  — something in that melody, can’t put my finger on it — put me in the mind that Frank Ocean had written it, and then I find out it’s Luke and Cirkut; what, how, why? Then the empty chorus came in and it made a bit more sense.
[5]

Ramzi Awn: I wrote a review for this song on my friend’s veranda last evening. I knew I was ready. It was excellent. Then today I realized that what I wrote was actually a review for another Ciara track on the same album. But if we’re talking “Dance Like We’re Making Love,” we’re talking Michael, and we’re talking Janet. Ciara’s falsetto is pure, and the static on the track is honest and raw. Ciara, as a performer, is not one to ignore; and this includes, vividly, her vocal performance. Not all singers perform. The way she hits notes is precise like throwing darts, yet vulnerable. The beat is so minimal that in ways, it comes off as uncaring; in fact, the song is at odds with itself, claiming to make love, but also making as little fuss as possible. The combination is confusing, like love itself — but also impressive, beautiful, and disappointing, too. As an artist with a reputation for picking debatable singles, Ciara does not misstep on this one.
[10]

Josh Winters: As the opening synth shines on her like a diamond illuminated by a single spotlight, Ciara captivates and commands your attention from the get-go with laser-like focus. She controls the state between fiery tension and wild liberation, and riding along with her to see how this suspense resolves itself is what makes “Dance Like We’re Making Love” such a transfixing thrill.
[8]

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

Calvin Harris & Disciples – How Deep is Your Love

Deep enough to sustain a theme across a whole day…


[Video][Website]
[5.30]

Moses Kim: About as deep as the selection of plaid shirts at your nearest H&M store.
[5]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Calvin Harris getting into the deep haus game of dullness is no surprise, and in all fairness he has no reason to do well here. This is less a slight upon Calvin’s career himself (which honestly I’ve never cared for), and more just on how UK house feels like the most toxic muck and mire of retreads, the kind of stuff that lines sewer reservoirs in Neptune, New Jersey comprised of 40 year old chemicals and baseball cards discarded the wrong way. The vocoder part certainly sounds as mutated, with some stupid accent being thrown in to make it sound cool, and the main vocal could’ve been much better performance wise. But he’s got a weird edge here that’s a lot more Audio Rehab than “Oh hey, I have to compete with Disclosure and Route 94.” So give the boy a pat on the back.
[7]

Will Adams: It’s such a stylistic departure for Harris that I’m suspect about whether his name functions less as a collaborator’s credit and more as a springboard for Disciples. In either case, the star is the uncredited Ina Wroldsen, whose trembling, anxious performance contrasts wonderfully with the tubular bass and modulated vocal samples.
[7]

David Sheffieck: This is a solid vocal showcase for Ina Wroldsen, who’s written for Jess Glynne and Leona Lewis previously. There’s a quaver in her voice that sells the song better than anything either Harris or Disciples manage, and demonstrates a lot more character than heard on her solo single last year. Shame that it’s on a track that’s otherwise anonymous, and shame that the track can’t find space to credit her for it.
[3]

Thomas Inskeep: A better-than-average Calvin Harris track, a) because it’s more house-y than EDM, and b) because of its very subtle callback to Blaze’s song of the same title. That said, Blaze is a 10, this is a 5.
[5]

Alfred Soto: Neither a Bee Gees nor Rapture cover but recherché Tony Moran.
[4]

Josh Langhoff: A nice piece of housecraft by singer Ina Wroldsen and the Disciples, transformed through whatever subtle alchemy and/or Machiavellian machinations Calvin Harris uses to turn nice pieces of housecraft into CHART GOLD. I get the feeling Harris sees himself as Rumpelstiltskin, when in fact he’s closer to the gold-hungry king. Regardless of who contributed what, it works. I will now amuse myself by imagining Jesus singing it to me and me singing it to Jesus simultaneously.
[6]

Crystal Leww: American pop music has gotten so good at cribbing from the UK in the last couple of years that I’m not at all surprised to hear that UK pop house is the latest in the long line of trends that we’ve jumped on. Yes, I know that Harris is from the UK, but no one can deny that he’s spent the last few years of his career playing to a more American or at least international crowd. His turn at the pop house thing works out extremely well — “How Deep is Your Love” grooves with the energy of Duke Dumont’s best. An extremely dismaying fact about this whole ordeal? Harris has also decided to borrow Dumont’s penchant for not crediting vocalists, too. Ina Wroldsen puts in the work, too; her voice lacks the power of Yolanda Quartey or Karen Harding, but it doesn’t feel thin at all, instead choosing quiet pleading when necessary and simply straightforward elsewhere. It’s too bad her co-writers couldn’t give her the credit she deserves.
[6]

Scott Mildenhall: Utterly bland, with very little to distinguish it from various prefab house tracks breaching the lower parts of the top 40 recently, like that one by Disciples (which was actually quite good and had a foghorn in it). Not only does it not sound too much like a Calvin Harris track, with that nondescriptness, it doesn’t seem like one either. From the start there’s nearly always been things about his music to set it apart, but this is pure glossy homogeny. It’ll sound fine while being hammered into the ground by radio stations, but it won’t exactly leave a lasting impression; not like an Ina Wroldsen solo single could.
[5]

Patrick St. Michel: It’s easy to make fun of Calvin Harris (and a lot of EDM in general) because of how predictable his music can be. Yet as lame as the build-up-to-big-release formula can get, it also has potential to be great, such as “Outside” or “We Found Love.” “How Deep is Your Love” is the sound of safety, a house song that feels more like Harris proving that he can write a house song than anything else. It’s fine — though a lot of what makes it solid comes via the vocals — but that’s all it really strives for. 
[5]

Friday, July 31st, 2015

Girl’s Day – Ring My Bell

Anita Ward got nuthin’ on this.


[Video][Website]
[5.50]

Patrick St. Michel: For all the clunky product placement and extremely dumb controversies, K-Pop still shines because a song moving this fast can become a chart success. The actual music on “Ring My Bell” is dizzying, though count me as somebody who thinks the instrumental by itself is far more dazzling, as the actual singing often blocks out nutty this is.   
[6]

Moses Kim: A flaring highway wreck of a pop song. I can’t resist peeking, but stare at it from the wrong angle and you risk having your corneas burnt out. The excess is what sells it, down to the guitar squealing over that last chorus like wheels on concrete.
[7]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Power-pop explosive synths, rushed hi-hats, hoedown intros, big band brass, all to hysterics. Unfortunately it all ends up sounding less like a pop music Wrestlemania and more of a royal rumble in a three-star Vegas casino.
[4]

Thomas Inskeep: Manic K-pop that keeps threatening to careen over a cliff but never does; this ship always rights itself, just. The verses almost have a ’40s swing feel to them, and then the chorus takes the BPM through the roof. And naturally, the bridge is hip-hop-slowed-down, until it smashes back into another chorus. The sum effect is, somehow, off-kiltered-ly entirely charming.
[7]

Alfred Soto: Closer to “The Lovecats” honestly and almost as much fun.
[6]

Jessica Doyle: Not since Rainbow’s “Black Swan” has a song been so ill-served by its video: “Ring My Bell” is not nearly so much a kitchen-sink mess (complete with crotch shots!) as it looks at first sight. But even the song by itself feels incoherent. The summery beat undercuts the story of focused lust, and the repetitions of “ring my bell” undercut everything. (At least for a native English speaker, it’s jarring to hear “ring ring ring my bell” in the chorus and then “ring ring ma bell” immediately afterwards. I get the impression that Korean is a little more flexible with regards to syllabic emphasis. So, grain of salt.) Factoring in, fairly or not, that this promotion cycle was terrible for Girl’s Day — not only are they now perceived to have “lost” the girl group “war”, they also received a torrent of criticism for not being smiley enough on a talk show — and it’s hard to find “Ring My Bell” worth a lot.
[3]

Brad Shoup: I’ve never had a good hook evicted from my head this fast.
[6]

Iain Mew: After the nightmare intro, the way that it moves fast-faster-fastest reminds me of Nana Mizuki with the prog elements replaced by less suitable jazz-pop. What it lacks in coherence and listenability it will presumably gain in popularity once someone makes a K-Pop edition of Dance Dance Revolution.
[5]

Friday, July 31st, 2015

Chvrches – Leave a Trace

Retvrn.


[Video][Website]
[6.62]

Iain Mew: Is that a bit of “Sogyeokdong” I hear in the synth pattern? It’s a good one, but it’s a less critical part of “Leave a Trace” compared to previous Chvrches songs. This one’s more about where it falls apart, “there are tiny cracks of light underneath me” dropping clues before the thrilling chorus where Lauren Mayberry decides to just punch through to the light in advance, whatever the consequences. The floor sliding immediately back in for the second verse like nothing happened is a neat trick, too.
[8]

Katherine St Asaph: The coffeeshop I work out of plays, in a hilarious confirmation of stereotype, Lisa Loeb’s “Stay” at least twice a day; it’s a little disappointing how something that’s, in my experience, a remarkably veritas monologue’s been relegated to ’90s bland and karaoke kitsch. So while I still prefer Chvrches of “Science/Visions” to each successive sugary incarnation, the keen to Mayberry’s vocal and lines like “I’m as sane as I ever was” and “anything you ever did was strictly by design, but you got it wrong” suggests I might want to hear Chvrches more like that.
[6]

Thomas Inskeep: Pretty sure this should’ve soundtracked a cutting-room-floor scene in Just One of the Guys in which Terry dances around her room to this song on the radio, happy/sad, as she comes to fully understand the depth of her feelings for Rick.
[6]

Alfred Soto: After a charming and surprising Pitchfork Festival performance two weeks ago, I waited for more goodies. It’s closer to pop than a phantom indie underground: Lauren Mayberry, singing at the top of her range, almost sells that chorus like Taylor Swift almost sold hers last year. The production glistens; the drum program and synths hit as hard as Mayberry’s lyrics. No reason why this couldn’t take up residence in the American top ten.
[6]

Maxwell Cavaseno: It’s cool to be reminded that you can give nervous hysteria a danceable beat.
[7]

Patrick St. Michel: It’s a slow-burner that’s less concerned with reaching any sort of resolution, because that line has already been crossed, the whole song one big declaration of freedom from a doomed relationship. “Leave a Trace” isn’t a particularly dazzling song, but it does show how Chvrches can turn a straightforward idea into something far more vivid. 
[6]

Sonia Yang: CHVRCHES have always been achingly beautiful but in a cold way, with Mayberry’s voice a small beam of light barely shining through the precise clockwork. “Leave a Trace” feels warmer as a whole. Despite, or perhaps because of the accusing and sometimes distraught nature of the lyrics, Mayberry comes across as more of a flesh and blood being before us than the wistful voice in the back of our heads. The vocal variety on this is fantastic: from the contemplative verses to the pleading “I know I need to feel relief” to the decisive, cutting “take care…”. The arrangement is less remarkable than a lot of their other songs but it serves its purpose well here; it’s the unrelenting heartbeat pulling everything together. “Leave a Trace” also doesn’t resolve neatly, its echoes tapering and lingering.
[8]

Brad Shoup: There’s a little country in the way Mayberry handles the meter; she’s called this the meanest song on the record, and for Nashville this is pretty harsh. The harshness extends to the trebly rendering: there’s no triumph here, just a bunch of mincing.
[6]

Friday, July 31st, 2015

Petite Meller – Baby Love

Sax solos…


[Video][Website]
[3.57]

Rebecca A. Gowns: It’s a shame that Petite Meller has invested so much in her image and brand, because the music could have stood on its own. It’s just fun, simple indie pop. Then she adds all these other elements — the labored outfits, a signature font and color scheme, the music video that’s a colonial wet dream — that just confuse the issue. She even completes this video with a dedication: “Pour les filles de l’Afrique.” What the hell does that even mean?! How is your single “for the girls of Africa”?! Are you campaigning the French government for reparations towards the countries damaged by French colonial rule, or are you just using a handful of Kenyans as accessories for a few hours??? I’ll take my fun indie pop without all the messy shit, thanks.
[2]

Thomas Inskeep: A pop weirdo from the Lady Gaga school, playing with text and subtext and willfully throwing her juxtapositions in your face, only with a jazzier je ne sais quoi behind her ultra-buoyant pop. 
[6]

Iain Mew: I suspect the BBC have already produced the definitive commentary on this release, if been a little on the generous side. I’ll add that the flimsy dance doesn’t do nearly enough to set up the sax solo, which should come with some kind of dire warning.
[3]

Alfred Soto: From the Supremes to Regina, a never-fail title. This one isn’t bad either, even the sax squiggle in the last third. A touch of J-pop too in the harmonies. The choir and house piano sound like they wish the Moby of 1995 could remix them.
[4]

Scott Mildenhall: Joyful dancing on the whims of an annoyingly magnetic ne’er-do-well. The lyrics are almost unintelligible free association, but that seems about the size of it, and the emphasis is on the joyful; irrepressible piano and broadening saxophone. It’s almost as if in creating it Meller undertook, as she has suggested, a Rimbaudesque derangement of the senses, compressing it into accessibility. That or just wrote a jaunty pop song anyway.
[7]

Katherine St Asaph: Like a less charming Catherine Ferroyer-Blanchard single, in bad house remix form. Except those already exist, so this is doubly pointless.
[3]

Maxwell Cavaseno: If the celebration of love is supposed to sound like someone who can’t sing over the worst house cliches as a mix of Red Bull backwash and plaque, with a corny-ass Springsteen-style sax solo, then I intend to live in a realm of despair for the rest of my days. Because I love myself more than that.
[0]

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

Nekfeu – Martin Eden

Enchanté?


[Video][Website]
[4.67]

Cédric Le Merrer: Nekfeu is the latest poster boy for French hip hop gentrification anxieties. He’s praised all around, he’s the run-out star of his crew, he’s technical, he name drops great white male literature. And he’s self conscious enough to address being a babtou. Yes, things may have been easier for him. He still can turn a better rhyme than most. His real sin on his album Feu is not the heavy handed respectability attempts, though, or the blandness of what he has to say. It’s the beats, which let him shine okay, but wouldn’t keep your yuppie neighbour bothered enough to call the cops on your house party.
[6]

Thomas Inskeep: A head-nodder: very mid-’90s NYC beat, with a soupçon more bass. Nekfeu is a decent rapper, but nothing exceptional. Same with the song.
[5]

Brad Shoup: He’s got a name like Redditor martial arts. Shame Maxwell already trademarked “Drakk,” because it would attach real well to the distracted, laconic piano melody and his twerpy/serious delivery.
[6]

Will Adams: Nekfeu maintains enough energy throughout, but that awful piano preset threatens to derail the whole proceedings.
[4]

Alfred Soto: The beat’s not bad and Nekfeu in moments sounds like RZA at his stentorian best.
[5]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Drake Retreads in any language, framed around any sort of novel, will still end up being generic Drake Retreads. What’s crazy is the only person who has improved on this formula is Tyga, and that will go unheard for many a good reason.
[2]

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

Puff Daddy & The Family ft. Pharrell Williams – Finna Get Loose

We’re up all night to get loose…


[Video][Website]
[5.17]

Alfred Soto: Returning to the moniker with which he scored his early success, Puff Daddy returns to leading an R&B and hip-hop family/Family through a terrain that looks much like the one he created in the late nineties and reunited with new members and greater finesse on 2010’s Last Night in Paris. On this track he waves his baton and they fall in step on a track as jittery as Pharrell’s early Jay Z productions. It’s not great because Puff isn’t great when he’s leading, but he’s got urgency. Maybe his great, wracked performance on Meek Mill’s “Cold Hearted” was a one-off after all.
[6]

Anthony Easton: That Bad Boy tag at the end is a kind of desperate attempt to remind the world that Puff Daddy is relevant, and considering how rough shod he rides over Pharell’s featuring, a stunting one. 
[5]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Sean “Puffy” Combs has been one of the most fascinating men in rap for a long time. As far as actual talents that muso-types respect, the only thing he can do truly is dance. But abstractly, he is a master visionary who paved the way for Kanye West’s struggles to turn hip-hop into pop art, who to this day haunts Andre Young’s yardsticks despite the both of them having long since been discarded as figures of expectation. In an interesting twist, the only person I can compare this song to definitively is the one man who’s incredibly close to Puffy in role and presence on records: Kirk Franklin. And make no mistake, Puffy is a religious man, so much so he took a bat to Steve “Culture Vulture” Stoute for disrespecting Jesus. The Dirty Money project, his last true album, was centered around his thoughts on martyrdom that’ve radiated through the stars he served and his own musings. That’s why he casually insists “this god’s work”, and that “he wants you to be happy, he wants you to be free!” over shivers of nega-funk gospel crafted by Pharrell while the duo play Chuck & Flav (AKA Bobby & James). Its a subdued sequel to the rambling hysterics of last decade’s Dark Magus-sampling “Get Off” that feels so slight, and surprisingly devoid of fleshed out work, but is all the more noted for the gaudiness ornamenting the bits of exoskeleton he’s still put on display. We’re promised the last musical chapter in the career of a rare breed of artist… A man not defined by his talent and skills, but the visions that have seized him.
[6]

Thomas Inskeep: Maybe an ersatz “Hot In Herre” beat isn’t quite the way to make a comeback in 2015, Puff. Just maybe. Also, you should be slapped for referencing Public Enemy again.
[1]

Will Adams: Pharrell’s chromatic-stepping backbone sets a good foundation for the first minute, but then… nothing really happens. There’s some sound like tapping a microphone in spots, which adds some interest, but apart from that Puff Daddy isn’t engaging enough to keep me investeed.
[5]

Brad Shoup: These fortysomethings do not give a shit. Not about a bass tone that’s like a dental drill tapping your skull, not about making the world’s grouchiest go-go song. The Combs renaissance continues.
[8]

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

Bugzy Malone – M.E.N

Men… are not controversial?


[Video][Website]
[5.83]

Thomas Inskeep: Good new rapper from Manchester makes a good biographical track. He’s got a good flow and a good producer, so let’s see where he goes from here. 
[6]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Rappity rapper doing a lot of soul searching, darting around without learning to land on a beat in a proper flow, but never actually connecting all of these pseudo-poignant observations to anything cohesive. Not to mention this beat sounds like it got made on Game Boy Camera. Oh, and grime is not English hip-hop, you speng.
[4]

Alfred Soto: His flow is okay, and the production squonks in typical grime fashion, but the wealth of biographical details don’t achieve poignancy.
[5]

Iain Mew: It largely sounds like Bugzy’s talking things through with himself while the car stereo burbles away, and it’s compelling with it. The calm openness sounds naturalistic in a way that can’t be as easy to achieve as he makes it sound, and he’s interesting as well as reflective. The only thing holding it back is that the narrative drive centres around the time he attacked someone, and that section shatters the reflectiveness to start an outside argument that he’s never going to win — maybe the point, but if so the picture his words paint isn’t clear enough to show it.
[6]

Scott Mildenhall: Ambitions of “put[ting] Manny on the map” seem sightly belated — Martin Platt’s got a cheese stall there! — but in rap terms they are undeniably justified, Joe Hart’s efforts withstanding. Malone isn’t misguided in his mission; he’s a skilled storyteller, peppering half a book’s worth of autobiography with outlines of Moss Side history, and Mr SnoWman’s production is a great match for it: moderately grim, with quiet stress. What comes next, with the imminent and eminent possibility of a top 10 album released independently — potentially outdoing Krept & Konan and JME’s feats — will be interesting.
[7]

Katherine St Asaph: Not triumphant so much as hard-won, not hard-won so much as still getting there: a track that creates tension by being unassuming.
[7]

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

Monica ft. Lil Wayne – Just Right for Me

We ARE still capable of scoring songs outside the 6 range…


[Video][Website]
[6.67]

Thomas Inskeep: Polow da Don is still making magic. Here he opens with an ace sample from Smokey Robinson & the Miracles’ 1968 deep cut “Much Better Off” before Lil Wayne drops in and drops one of his more committed verses in some time (I’m especially fond of “Droppin’ her off then toppin’ it off with a muah on the jaw and a smack on the ass and a ‘call me tomorrow…'”), in and out in 30 seconds. Then Polow drops the track out for a couple seconds, only to drop back in with a monstrous, rubbery bassline – and then loops Smokey back in. This is a master class in R&B production, and I’ve not even mentioned the song’s star yet. Monica is a grown-ass woman and lets you know it – “so you know what a wife like me gon’ do” – while praising her man as she pledges to stick with him through it all. Her vocal is big and strong without being overblown; Monica is a singer in complete control of her instrument, and it’s only gotten richer over time.
[10]

Maxwell Cavaseno: That soul sample and this Wayne verse took me back to ’07, but then the time-warp production snatched me right back to the present while my shoes ended up getting flung off into the far-off tomorrow (see ya guys!) Monica is doing more energy than songcraft, but perhaps it’s necessary to balance out Polow Da Don’s overkill radiating around in the track, with 808 bass melody lines and transforming filtered orchestration threatening to swamp and drown a lesser performer.
[7]

W.B. Swygart: Monica’s voice is built for this kind of undulating grind, and the strings embroider things nicely. Doesn’t exactly qucken the pulse, though.
[6]

Katherine St Asaph: Monica provides the sort of vocal heft, that gravitas everyone strives for, that’s timeless. Lil Wayne is also timeless, in that his presence suggests a 2008 mentality but his verse quality suggests 2015 Wayne.
[6]

Brad Shoup: The beat doesn’t bang and it doesn’t cohere with the Miracles sample — it’s more like a straining dam. Monica latches onto that title and doesn’t let go. Wayne offers the chance to ponder an inverse relationship between bar quality and the number of times he flicks his Bic.
[5]

Alfred Soto: A victory of performance over songcraft, and thanks to Wayne’s verse and Polow da Don’s production, boy, does it sound like a victory of throwback over contemporaneity too. I prefer “Everything to Me,” though, and so should you.
[6]