Friday, January 20th, 2017

Rae Sremmurd ft. Kodak Black – Real Chill

Real chill, I’m searching for a real chill.


[Video][Website]
[6.00]
Jonathan Bradley: The beat is old news and the hook just whatever, but all the fun of “Real Chill” is in its punchlines. Kodak Black does little with his guest spot, though I do like his circuitous explanation for why he disregards his mom’s requests not to thieve (“I don’t listen to her cause I still steal.”) Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi, however, show why they’re the Black Beatles even on an off-day: the latter has pockets fat (“Uncle Phil”), while the former steals the show in eight lines. Or maybe he does it with just two: “I can’t even cruise because I got a spoiler/Hit the store, buy the store; let’s not loiter.” He buys the store!
[6]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Mike Will’s “sound” was always bordering on generic filler beats. When he emerged, I always questioned how rap bloggers would fawn over the Lex Luger For Dummies of “Tupac Back” while bemoaning Lil’ Lody’s attempts at reworking the style. Likewise, Rae Sremmurd for all their best moments, have always felt like the cleanest sort of modern frat rap in non-pop mode; given their proximity to the dull as fuck Two-9 crew (also affiliated with Mike Will) I shouldn’t be surprised. So it’s wild to hear after a pretty acceptable Slim Jxmmi verse, an eye-rolly Makonnen biting hook from Swae, how GOOD it feels to hear as good a rapper as Kodak Black. Some people try to make what sounds like good songs; some people are just good.
[5]

Thomas Inskeep: It’s impossible for this not to be a couple notches below the world-conquering “Black Beatles,” so I’m trying not to hold that against this. Mike WiLL Made-It’s the MVP here, constructing an eerily woozy late-night party cut for the Sremmurd guys and Kodak to ride. This is absolutely their #aesthetic.
[6]

Jibril Yassin: Save for “Black Beatles,” SremmLife 2 was largely a low-output affair all about the right atmosphere. Sadly, this is one of the few times where you can’t really count on Swae Lee to carry the song; his hook and verse are far too grating and creepy to complement Mike WiLL Made-It’s eerie production. Rather it’s Slim Jxmmi and Kodak who save the day, the latter’s usual sandpaper delivery sweetened to something sounding almost melodic. Meanwhile, it’s the former’s understated MVP performance of a first verse that keeps this from flatlining completely.
[5]

Ryo Miyauchi: Mike Will makes being “real chill” sound not at all like a fun time. It’s definitely the opposite mode that the Sremmurds have thrived in, but here the chill hangs more sinister, like the panicked numbness that creeps on when you binged a few too many. Slim Jxmmi barks as if to resist. Swae Lee feels around just to be sure he still has his senses intact.
[6]

Josh Langhoff: Rhythmically, Swae Lee’s verse here is the least of the three. I’m sure the American Association of Store Proprietors (“the AASP”) breathed a collective sigh of relief upon hearing his “Let’s not loiter” slogan, possibly even commissioning some READ-style posters for their front windows, but his real glory comes on the hook, where he out-eeries the horror movie accompaniment by changing timbres and registers and smoking some kill like Schoolly D. It makes a nice counterpoint to Slim Jxmmi’s Kool Herc shoutout. Speaking of old school: between “Let’s not loiter,” the “for whatever reason” that pops up in “Black Beatles,” and the entire chorus and concept of “By Chance,” Swae’s exaggerated sense of propriety has become his greatest charm. Who’d be surprised to see him in an actual READ poster, holding a copy of What Do You Say, Dear?
[7]

Alfred Soto: Like “Bad and Boujee,” a triumph of space and punctuative profanity. I’m not sure what I can write: it’s catchy, funny (I crack up when Swae Lee unleashes his awful falsetto), and rather stupid. Not stupid: Kodak Black.
[7]

Friday, January 20th, 2017

Miranda! – 743

If The Weeknd’s not sexy enough for you, maybe Miranda! is.


[Video][Website]
[6.00]

Juana Giaimo: I remember how surprised I was when I listened again to “El profe” after a decade and realized that my innocence as a child didn’t let me hear how naughty the lyrics were. When I listen to “743”, I’m reminded of that playful filthyness of the old singles of Miranda! It is present in the exaggerated “ah” that gives an end to the chorus and in the way Juliana Gattas’ sighing voice in the prechorus complements Ale Sergi’s precise delivery. And of course, “743” also has the falsely poetic lyrics with a dose of wit — my favorite being: “I still have an ace up my sleeve/ close your eyes/ let me move your thong”. 
[8]

Katie Gill: 2017 has gifted us with one of the year’s first sexy songs that actually sounds sexy. That throwback funky beat and guitar work flits beautiful over the silky smooth vocals and pitch-perfect harmonies, giving us a finished product that’s perfectly polished, wonderfully mixed, and danceable as hell.
[8]

Alfred Soto: Slinkier than Phoenix. Craftier than Maroon 5. Moves-ier than Jagger. 
[6]

Claire Biddles: This sounds vaguely dated but not tied enough to any particular era to make it notable — I kept waiting for those squelchy synths to go full 70s disco or full early 00s electroclash but it doesn’t really go anywhere. Credit to any group with the audacity to include an exclamation point in their name, though.
[4]

Thomas Inskeep: Adorably amateur-sounding synth-pop circa ’85, yet it could only have been made now. Like Animotion without their thrust and production values — almost like if Animotion went lo-fi. I’d say “imagine that,” but thanks to Miranda!, you no longer have to. 
[6]

Jonathan Bradley: Miranda!’s electro-pop is playful and sassy and includes enough funk to be worth a shake of the hips or two. A touch twee, it belongs too much to the playroom to be a proper dancefloor sizzler, but that’s part of its charm. The shapes it pulls are drawn in the bold lines of a cartoon.
[7]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Guys, guys… The point of “Frank Sinatra” was not to BECOME lounge lizards.
[3]

Friday, January 20th, 2017

The Weeknd ft. Daft Punk – I Feel It Coming

If this is a Michael Jackson pastiche how come the title just makes me think of Phil Collins?


[Video][Website]
[5.62]

Tim de Reuse: A structural cousin to “Get Lucky,” because why change what works, I guess? Daft Punk’s low-energy vocoder sleaze is nice, but it hasn’t got a single surprise up its sleeve; they sound like an incredibly convincing imitation of themselves, staying neck-deep in their comfort zone. Meanwhile, Abel does a thoroughly mediocre job of being sexy and doesn’t seem to get which syllable you’re supposed to put the accent on in the word “coming,” leaving us with a refrain that’s too short and too awkward to possibly stick in your head — which is itself a twisted accomplishment. Even the most phoned-in Daft Punk tunes usually make decent earworms, but he won’t even leave us with that!
[4]

Anthony Easton: Creepy without being sleazy, leaves the slime trail of bad bar pick ups, and a waste of a good Daft Punk environmental soft funk space. 
[5]

Maxwell Cavaseno: You know, it never sprung to mind that a possible influence for the OVOXO style of “music that feels like it’s been tuned into” would’ve been Daft Punk’s Discovery, but the way Abel sounds entirely at home here suggests maybe the link is stronger than a fascination with that usage of music from the nostalgic past to provide an emotional tone. Drained of his cliched perversions, The Weeknd sounds fine albeit a bit sanitized, as if now he can only wallow in lame excessive ghoulishness or anodyne pop. Frustrating considering there could easily be a way to bridge the two, but this kid’s too middling these days to commit to any real sense of identity. His pals from France cut a respectably tasteful lounge disco production, very leisure suit slick, and it does better than his worst efforts but also feels a pretty hollow “high point” to accept.
[5]

Alfred Soto: Clapping beat aside, “I Feel It Coming” might have been recorded by Michael Jackson backed by Toto. Better, the self-pitying cipher singing this track sounds as winsome as he wanted to. What Daft Punk offers beyond a few bars of vocoder-ized slime I’m not sure — maybe they snatched Abel Tesfaye’s mirror. I can’t deny how beguiling its surface; it’s all surface.
[7]

Katherine St Asaph: Proficient in an Easton Ellis-esque vapid slickness I am tiring of. Not for the first time today, I plead: please end this dredging-up of the ’80s. Or at least end the interminable amount of time during which the Weeknd “feels it coming.” For her sake.
[5]

Thomas Inskeep: Listen to that bass pop like a Greg Phillinganes cameo, the light touch on the production, the ease with which the Weeknd sings it. This could be an unreleased track off of Thriller, based purely on its sound. And sure, Cirkut and Doc McKinney are involved here, just as they were on “Starboy,” but I choose to give the bulk of the credit for this to its credited Frenchmen, because no one but no one worships the sound of Thriller and its ilk more than the guys who made Random Access Memories. The relaxed groove of “I Feel It Coming” makes it even more perfectly MJ than “Can’t Feel My Face” — bottom line, this is utterly lovely. I firmly expect it to be a bigger international hit than in the U.S.
[9]

Joshua Copperman: Not as effective an MJ rip as “In The Night” or “Can’t Feel My Face”, but the vocoder effects are lovely. Too bad “Starboy” and “False Alarm” were flukes, though, because I could definitely listen to the Weeknd’s experiments. This will do, and when it inevitably comes on in a drug store alongside “The Way You Make Me Feel” and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”, I won’t mind at all. 
[6]

Elisabeth Sanders: this song is fine but i will bet u one hundred (100) american dollars that the weeknd is bad at sex lol
[4]

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

Chris Brown ft. Gucci Mane & Usher – Party

Not right now, guys.


[Video][Website]
[3.43]
Katherine St Asaph: I thought the point of the Weeknd’s pop career was so we wouldn’t need Chris Brown anymore.
[2]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Not for nothing, I didn’t expect that vid of Chris Brown doing a backflip to “March Madness” to inform the rest of his musical direction but it oddly works! Look, as I’ve spent the last two years making my own voice ache over, Breezy’s voice is shot up like a firing range and straightforward R&B is a dead-end for that nasal dragging. It makes sense he’s going back to mid-tempo clubby sounds, it’s a perfect playpen for him to mirror the hot rap flow of a while back and sort of just make grinning goblin goads about how much ‘fun’ he has. Meanwhile you have Usher, someone who HASN’T burnt themselves out and can not only toy with whatever’s going on but be a little less corny/sanctimonious while dumbing-out. Not to mention Gucci slinking in, doing a 2.8/5 performance for him (more The Return of Mr. Zone 6 than Brrrprint) to everyone’s pleasure. Perfectly serviceable to be fair, probably the best you can get out of Chris Brown in this day and age.
[6]

Katie Gill: When the verse starts off with the phrase “bitches dancing naked in my living room,” you know you’re in for the same sort of awful sexist drivel that inevitably gets into the Top 40 on multiple genre charts. This song sits comfortably at the bottom of the barrel and never even attempts to be halfway decent in subject matter, lyrics, or that oldass sounding beat.
[2]

Alfred Soto: Knowing how to party has been the least of Brown and Gucci’s problems. Whenever Brown remembers he sold millions a decade ago offering slobber like this he makes it easier for me to dismiss.
[2]

Crystal Leww: New male R&B stars like Tory Lanez and Bryson Tiller have emerged over the last couple of years to displace Chris Brown’s dominance at the top of the genre. It’s been odd to see Chris Brown team up with Usher for songs like “New Flame” and this because at some point, Chris Brown was the hot young rising star coming for Usher’s crown. Thankfully, “Party” is hot after all, proving that the old dudes can still make fun party bops as effectively as the new kids, including a celebratory verse from fellow Older Dude Gucci Mane. I want to go out to a club and hear this, so not a bad turn from the now old guard.
[7]

Ramzi Awn: Party boy lyrics are about as fresh as the hook on this disenchanted single that leaves you wondering how three big names could get so lost in three little minutes.
[1]

Thomas Inskeep: I’d prefer to think that there aren’t “bitches dancing naked in [Brown’s] living room,” but I fear I’d be wrong. I’m also not the biggest fan of him calling his clique “retarded”: really, Chris? Sure, it’s a dance track, and the kings of R&B dance are Brown and Usher, so it makes sense for Mr. Raymond to be here, but this is seriously beneath him. He’s phoning it in, as is Gucci, which is frankly all the effort Brown deserves. Once a creep, I guess.
[4]

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

Tom Zanetti ft. Sadie Ama – You Want Me

We’ll take you. There is a distinction.


[Video][Website]
[4.12]

Maxwell Cavaseno: 1/6/2017, 9:11 AM EST: The subject in question, Maxwell Cavaseno, was reportedly 1 minute and 7 seconds into a generic jackin record that attempted to sample Sadie Ama’s “Fallin'” (itself a re-write of Tinie Tempah’s “Wifey”), when the bad Essex-Rap came in. Maxwell then reported the sensation of ‘going temporarily blind’ with rage, claiming he was prompted by “this wretched spoilt milk residue of a man” sinisterly chopping up what was once a tragic song into some sort of weird anthem of smug egotism. While screaming and breaking an end-table at Zanetti’s bastardized version of Sharkie P’s style, Cavaseno spurted something about the vocalist in question seeming like the type of man to call martial artist Conor McGregor “his spirit animal” and groaned about “this dullard’s shittly little theremin lick.” Eventually, the subject in question was made to listen to several natural Sadie Ama performances, and proceeded to calm whilst repeating the mantra “goddamned Essex.”
[0]

Mo Kim: If you’ve ever wondered what Pitbull would sound like on the US Dance Dance Revolution port, this is a respectable answer.
[5]

Alfred Soto: No. I don’t.
[2]

David Sheffieck: The bass reminds me of someone teaching themselves scales for the first time, plunking out a rhythm on the dusty Yamaha keyboard at the neighbor’s house. And Zanetti’s perpetually out-of-breath flow doesn’t do it any favors, either. Ultimately the song is able to click a little – but only just — on the sense of loss and longing conveyed by Ama’s vocal. When the song’s just her and the beat, it nearly works.
[3]

Iain Mew: The UK charts have got so predictable and slow (the slowest ever, if you go by turnover of #1s) that it’s a pleasant thing just to hear something different in there, even if it’s not much more than a deep beat and a well chosen sample. The enthusiastically amateur rapping is almost a throwback novelty too far, though.
[6]

Ramzi Awn: I have a soft spot for basic echoes. While it’s nothing to write home about, the throwback hook on “You Want Me” reels you in and drags you out onto the dance floor.   
[6]

Scott Mildenhall: It’s a superficially democratised era in the music industry, where you can make a mint by popping one song on Spotify, but more likely lose ten times as much on a record deal advance that fails to be covered by the crumbs from their streaming table. It is thus a pleasure to see the belated chart success of this: a song that has been knocking around for at least four years by some bloke from Leeds who built his local celebrity with the assistance of Bluetoothed MP3s and tinny mobile speakers. His rapping abilities don’t seem to have improved much since then, but he comes from a strand of British music that doesn’t get acknowledged by outsiders unless they’re VICE, so it’s great to hear him played on Radio 1 with the same pofaced implication that he’s to be taken seriously that Disclosure would get. And would he receive such respect if it were donk? Maybe all you have to do is get some ghost producers in to produce something ghostly, and you can be Steve Strange.
[5]

Katherine St Asaph: Which is more of a tell that this track is super-old: the “Like a G6” reference, or the presence of Sadie Ama? But maybe it’s for the best; tolerate the parts that evoke questionable Christmas raps and this is just different enough from the glut of landfill EDM to be welcome. And at least they credited her this time.
[6]

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

Starley – Call on Me (Ryan Riback remix)

Tropical house fatigue overwhelms us. Should have got our vaccinations…


[Video][Website]
[3.78]

Thomas Inskeep: So now “twee trop-house” is apparently a thing.
[2]

Joshua Copperman: The original is actually a refreshing take on guitar-driven tropical house, especially after “Shape Of You” earlier this week. For some reason, I was expecting the remix to be a mess, and it isn’t! It takes the ‘house’ element from the original and expands it, the post-chorus section avoiding the lack-of-explosion pop drop that never stopped annoying me the entirety of last year. It’s not exactly stunning the way last summer’s tropical remix “I Took A Pill In Ibiza” was, but if this becomes the Cheerleader of 2017, inexplicably topping the charts for weeks, it could certainly be worse. 
[6]

Alfred Soto: I hope the Trump administration cracks down on noise terrorists like this.
[0]

Ryo Miyauchi: The remix isn’t necessarily better, just different than the original when it comes to offering help. Starley lightly taps on the shoulder to remind she’s there whenever one might need her; Ryan Riback cuts to the chase to go ahead and pull them out of their misery. Though, Riback’s dance-floor-minded take understands more of the fast life where it’s not exactly easy to make time to wind down and connect with the stillness of an acoustic guitar recording.
[6]

Iain Mew: This seemed like an overpoweringly sugary mess, so I went back to the original to see how much of that was Ryan Riback ruining it. There was a brief moment early on when Starley’s voice sounds human that offered something different, but for the most part it turns out that the remix was just revealing the song’s true destiny. At least drowning it in candy and cream synths slightly masks the bad underlying ingredients.
[3]

Ramzi Awn: Songs of struggle are hard to sell. Starley almost pulls it off. But somewhere in between gospel and pitch-shifting, “Call on Me” loses its focus and winds up in the 90s.  
[3]

Peter Ryan: It’s a dancefloor-destined aural hug dressed up in Ribeck’s crisp competence — his remix preserves the original’s sense of space, wisely doesn’t dial the tempo up too much, stays focused on furnishing a vehicle to get Starley to the club, where her lyric takes on a new poignance. She’s skirting both naiveté and pessimism; “if this is fate then we’ll find a way to cheat” is a staggeringly perfect sentiment for the moment, laden with exhaustion and resolve and resourcefulness. She validates the sad, knows that help isn’t on the way, but doesn’t diminish the power of small comforts.
[8]

Katherine St Asaph: The original was tropical house cliche, but with a certain sweetness and lightness of touch. This is tropical house cliche, overproduced to claustrophobia.
[4]

Maxwell Cavaseno: When Even Autotune Can’t Cover Up A Bad Vocal: A Presentation by Ryan Riback
[2]

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

Miss Ko – Till Next Time

And thus ends what I guess is Increasingly Biographical Wednesday…


[Video][Website]
[5.83]

Ryo Miyauchi: For a eulogy of her best friend, Miss Ko turns to rap — a style historically full of them. Some of the private specifics open up the song for others to feel, like her update of her friendship circle. But understandably, it’s not a conversation for me to get anything from — I can only admire it from a certain distance.
[5]

Jessica Doyle: Inviting an audience into private mourning is damned hard. There’s a reason why every culture has its own funeral rituals: so that even those who didn’t know the diseased know what role to play. But even those can feel, to those who know specifically what they lost, a little empty. How can you say, This is what we lost, the quotidian and therefore unrecoverable? How do you sum up a person’s essence? You can’t. So Miss Ko creates the act of public mourning in song, but addresses not the public audience (who cannot possibly grasp how special her friend was) but the friend himself, in a tone of simultaneous sorrow and strength. It’s textured and hopeful, acknowledging the magnitude of the loss without letting it stop her. It’s inadequate, which is an unsolvable problem; she does the next best thing, by giving us an idea of how inadequate it is.
[6]

Iain Mew: The “See You Again” template benefits not just from the lack of Charlie Puth but also from an all round scaling down. The austere modesty of “Till Next Time,” in Miss Ko’s rapping and singing alike as much as everything else, at least feels about right for a certain kind of mourning.
[6]

Adaora Ede: “Till Next Time” falls into that category of Neither Good or Particularly Listenable but an Admirable Attempt. Inspo hop’s undeniable attraction to passé adult contemporary instrumentals, while still trying to maintain a visage of swag, is probably the second worst thing to come out of the 2010s. The worst thing is definitely the gauche lyrics. I want to hate on the stock uplifting violin riffs, the Vanessa Carlton telephone voice echoes in the sung verses, and even the Biggie and Tupac references, yet I feel defeated. Ko is a rapper, and she does no justice to the subject of this song with her ramble, but by marginal means the sentiment flickers through her warbly hook.
[5]

Ramzi Awn: Miss Ko’s chorus smooths out her streetwise lyrics well on “Till Next Time.” The beat flows nicely and there’s something unimpeachably new to the sound, giving it an easy, breezy feel best suited for cars on the beach.    
[7]

Will Adams: “Till Next Time” has more interesting choices than your standard song-as-eulogy; the drum loop has some heft for once, the sparing use of the harp from “The Boy Is Mine” is effective, and Miss Ko handles both the rap and the hook, adding a more personal touch. But, as with many songs like this, the problem is mourning so specific that, despite having familiarity with the subject matter, it’s hard for me to fully connect with it.
[6]

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

Sam Hunt – Drinkin’ Too Much

What’ve we got here? Why, it’s a CONTROVERSYBOMB!


[Video][Website]
[5.33]

Ramzi Awn: A bold experiment with a few good ideas, “Drinkin’ Too Much” employs dark moments of candor to highlight a muddled mix.
[5]

Olivia Rafferty: The heart and soul of country music is storytelling, which is why this track works so well. “Drinkin’ Too Much” shifts the typical country subject of alcohol abuse to the context of sad man R&B, aka Drake’s genre. The spoken verses contain a rawness that could only be conveyed with that style of delivery, and the lyrics themselves are so vivid. Lay this over a subtle blend of 808s and slide guitars, and you have a solid attempt to influence the direction of country music. Let the genre-mashing begin.
[8]

Anthony Easton: John Prine, in a recent Rolling Stone cover story, spoke about how Dylan’s Nashville Skyline broke apart country music for him (he was a folkie at the time): “Man, there’s something there where their two paths crossed. My stuff belongs right in the middle.” This is also in the middle: between soul and hip-hop, between the drinking and heartbreak of Nashville and the fame-wasted ennui of Kanye and Drake. But it’s also at the bottom: the bottomed-out production, how Hunt trips over details, how he extends stories, how he never quite brags about his money, how his self-loathing bubbles up like swamp gas. It’s the opposite of all those party songs, the opposite of Moore and Eldredge and Gilbert. It has a singular voice — a songwriting voice, but also how he sings, a gravelly push that reinforces his production choices. It is the smartest thing he has done, and maybe the most heartfelt.
[10]

Alfred Soto: I’m no country corn pone. I like electronic whooshes and the kind of manipulation of space more common on Drake or “Climax”-era Usher, but Sam Hunt can’t even talk-sing without his sockless boat shoes tripping on his ill-lettered cadences. He comes off like a lunkier Chainsmoker, in the market for any hook that’ll get him on the radio and laid — two of his more admirable virtues. Find better songs, dude, and don’t try so damn hard.
[4]

Thomas Inskeep: This non-single posted on SoundCloud is the audio equivalent of a viral video, and like many viral videos, it’s also essentially a journal entry set to music. Frankly, it’s not up to snuff: this is him doing his rhyming couplets (he loves rhyming couplets) with a woozy rhythm track from Pro Tools or whatever. It also sounds a lot like a demo for Justin Bieber. Most of all, this is slightly creepy oversharing; I want a Silkwood shower after listening to it.
[0]

Elisabeth Sanders: Everything about this is deeply embarrassing, and that’s why I love it. While I can’t pretend I like this as much as anything off Montevallo, it makes up for it with “I wish you’d let me pay your student loans,” and I’d like to submit this as a great entry into a music category I’d like to call “voice-memo pathetic-wave.” (The other artist in this genre is Mike Posner with his great, deeply pathetic album At Night, Alone.) The song approximates, sonically and with almost nauseating accuracy, the feeling of being just too drunk enough that the room is spinning a little, being very sad about something that might be your fault in a crowded place at 2 in the morning. BEEN THERE, SAM.
[7]

Jonathan Bradley: In which Sam Hunt pens a letter to Montevallo‘s Courtney From Hooters On Peachtree and proves himself to not be country music’s Drake, but rather its Mike Skinner. The hook is the weakest part; it doesn’t resolve Hunt’s thoughts but elides them. (The austere “8pm” take works better and is worth a point or two more.) There is frisson in a lyric that pushes too far past the fourth wall, threatening to combust as it reaches the event horizon — for the non-country, non-rap examples to which “Drinkin’ Too Much” draws nearest, look to emo acts like Cursive’s The Ugly Organ or Say Anything’s “Every Man Has a Molly.” “Hope you know I’m still in love,” Hunt closes, except it’s a correspondence that is only intimate the way a performance is, and so his words are combustible as well as heartfelt. The sour sense that this song bears too much truth is its most compelling point but also its most repellent; Hunt is too casual in his exhibitionism.
[5]

Will Adams: It feels right; we’ve reached the level of bleakness in our pop music that songs can now just be actual shitposts with first draft choruses tucked in.
[3]

Katherine St Asaph: Did we need another country “Marvin’s Room”? In every country review I keep harping on artists telling the same generic story addressed to the same imaginary sorority girl, but here’s a lyric and addressee that are certainly not generic or imaginary, and I’m not sure what to think. If Sam Hunt’s byline didn’t scare off the traditionalists, the first vocoded note is almost deliberately scheduled to shoo away the rest (none of the subsequent vocal is so blatant), leaving a smaller audience of fans and an explicit audience of one specific, named girl. There’s something inescapably creepy — voyeuristically creepy for the listener, manipulatively creepy for the artist — about this, this couple chords and a tirade. Most of his target demographic will hear this as romantic, but for those unfortunate enough to have been stalked, the details are so familiar as to be textbook: presenting her with his un-rebuttable imagination of her life, in which she stages the Everytime video every time she wants to cry, in which there’s nowhere else in Georgia she can buy peaches, in which everything reminds her of him, or at least does now; reminding her of her debt while holding Montevallo money over her head; apologizing for boosting her profile while writing her name into a huge triumphant chorus; pondering “whether it’s OK to lie” while careful to mention none of the indiscretions that got him there — merely their consequences, which now seem unreasonable. Better to address this as fiction, then — like most “autobiographical” songs by celebrities, somewhere between songwriting exercise and publicity stunt, because you don’t cross over into pop and stay without some dating drama. What’s left is slapdash: accurate-sounding candor spewed over a couple identikit country choruses, each piece well-crafted but only assemblable by a real-life happy ending. Which is the point, and the problem.
[5]

Megan Harrington: Too much of my instant dislike of “Drinkin’ Too Much” hinged on the preposterous way Sam Hunt apologized for (more or less) doxing his then ex-girlfriend, now fiancé Hannah Lee Fowler on his debut album Montevallo, only to turn around and close the song by singing her name. In case there were any straggler fans out there who hadn’t quite put her identity together, I guess. It was incongruous in a way that grated on me until I realized that it was the perfect synecdoche for the song, one that indulges overwrought production as 40 as it was country and several different singing styles, including plain old talking. It’s right there in the way he names her his first fan and then cheats on her, the way he dismisses her sisters as “matchmakers” but hopes her dad still prays for him. Real life is messy and filled with leaps forward followed by half-steps back, relationships are chaotic and confusing, and Hunt captures all of it, ending hopefully with a (sort of, he hopes) romantic pledge to win her back. And it (sort of, I think) worked? 
[7]

Crystal Leww: The first time I heard “Drinkin’ Too Much,” I did not like it. I did not like the 40-esque production, the sad sap lyrics, the way that Hunt called out his ex-girlfriend. Then I listened to the 8pm version, stripped of the production flourishes, and figured that it was just the production that was bugging me. The lyrics were sad, but they were so specific: peaches in Pelham, a hotel room in Arizona, and that devastating, heartbreaking “hope your dad still prays for me,” a reminder that breakups are the deaths of families, too. I’ve never liked the comparisons to Drake — Drake is someone who has clearly never been in an adult relationship with a real woman rather than a built-up image of a woman, but Montevallo and “Drinkin’ Too Much” feel like they’re about real adults who have genuinely loved each other and created lives together. I still like the 8pm version more, but I’ve come around on the full version. It’s dramatic, but I appreciate the attempt to appeal to a broader audience, and it highlights that Hunt’s lyricism shines through anything, even snaps and strings.
[7]

Josh Langhoff: A prof used to tell us, “People who are sorry weep bitter tears.” I don’t buy Sam Hunt’s sorrow. Nor do I buy that this song has a melody or a beat, that it has any connection to country or R&B, that this is the same Sam Hunt who did “House Party,” or that picking peaches is anything but the pits. More schnapps!
[3]

Katie Gill: Look, I’m sorry, I can’t hate this. With the exception of that “I hope your dad still prays for me” bit, the verses are awful, not singing but the Sam Hunt Spoken Word Poetry Hour. They swing between endearingly hokey and the awful Nice Guy sort of patronizing that was the entirety of “Take Your Time.” But the chorus is AMAZING. It’s so silky and smooth, perfectly mixed, and Hunt shows that he has a halfway decent R&B(ish) voice. But the two never really meet. The transition between verse and chorus is awkward every time, as the buttery-smooth chorus butts up against the not very smooth speaking voice of Sam Hunt. 
[6]

Joshua Copperman: I keep singing this title to the tune of Twenty One Pilots’ “Ride”, attempting to remember what little melody this song has (“I’ve been drinking too much, help me…”). Until the bridge — which would make a better chorus — nothing is worth remembering: not the strings, not the drum machine, and especially not the single strum of guitar to signify that it’s still country. What made “Marvin’s Room” work was the honesty and subtextual self-loathing that Drake would spend the rest of his career distilling. This seems less stream-of-consciousness and more trying to write stream-of-consciousness, which rarely works as well and results in lines like “I wish you’d let me pay off your student loans.” The dramatic piano ending makes clear Sam Hunt’s lack of shame in copying Aubrey, but that just makes him sound even less authentic, even though the backstory contains more than enough drama for something genuine.
[3]

Edward Okulicz: The first time I misheard the line as as “I’m sorry for making the album Montevallo,” but this sketch wouldn’t be a repudiation even if he were sorry for that. And it’s really not that much more than a series of lyrical fragments and a chorus, but I find myself nodding along at some parts, and being frustrated at the lack of detail in others, and going to the “Personal life” details of his Wikipedia article to see the resolution. So that means it’s fairly compelling for its limitations.
[7]

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

Brett Eldredge – Wanna Be That Song

JUKEBOX TRIVIA TIME: The first nu-Jukebox mention of He Who I Still Can’t Bring Myself to Name was this horrifying image from 2010


[Video][Website]
[4.30]

Thomas Inskeep: A grand, “inspiring” love song made of generic lyrics and music, sung equally as generically. Eldredge has yet to particularly distinguish himself from the current slew of country men, and this does nothing in that regard. 
[3]

Juana Giaimo: Someone should tell him that this generic song can’t be the one that “gets you high, makes you dance, makes you fall.”
[5]

Crystal Leww: The verses feel like filler until we get to that swell of a chorus, which isn’t even all that good. Eldredge’s voice is warm and inviting enough but doesn’t quite get to his peers’ swoonworthy quality, which is necessary for songs like this.
[4]

Megan Harrington: Eldredge, who is very publicly and inconspicuously campaigning for his place among the Bill Murrays and Eddie Vedders in celebrity Cubs fan legend, de-personifies himself here in a way that is nothing short of mystifying. He could aspire to be someone’s partner, their confidant, their shoulder to cry on, or the love of their life. Instead he aims lower — favorite song. Does he mean he wants to make that song? There’s nothing here to suggest that’s a question worth puzzling over. Good luck, man, hope you get a seventh inning stretch. 
[3]

Katherine St Asaph: What this gains in applicability — holy shit, a girl in a country song who’s not explicitly blonde! Nix the sundress and the blithering barefoot “carefree”-ness, and you’re almost describing a real woman! — it inevitably loses in distinctiveness. It’s the country-songwriting version of a cover letter: read the formula, replicated the formula, insists anyway with anodyne assurance that it’s the one.
[4]

Josh Langhoff: As nakedly careerist manifestos go, not bad! It’s like Barry Manilow’s “I Write the Songs” without the nobility, or Sherwin Williams’ “Cover the Earth” without the environmental impact statements. Kind of surprising that this song has reached people who aren’t the singer’s dependents; but then, so did Donald Trump’s “I Alone Can Fix It.”
[4]

Alfred Soto: The frog in Eldredge’s larynx croaks ever louder, and the guitars got prettier, but his yearning doesn’t stray from the pro forma. Does Eldredge himself wanna be that song?
[4]

David Sheffieck: This could stand to borrow some of Bob Seger’s grit, if not in Eldredge’s vocal then at least in the overly tasteful production. But in the lyric, the universal specificity of the scenarios Eldredge details — the bar window booths and the whispered conversations in church pews — he manages to make this work. Maybe he can’t yet be that song, but I absolutely believe that he wants to.
[7]

Ramzi Awn: Eldredge wields the fundamentals of country with skill, and his lo-fi take on a vision in a sundress will break your heart. The hook is a leap, but it doesn’t do too much damage.
[6]

Anthony Easton: Dull and static, like most other ballads we have heard a dozen times before. Eldredge is always better than his material, but this is a nadir. 
[3]

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

Yelle – Ici & Maintenant (Here & Now)

Comme ci (comme ça)


[Video][Website]
[5.14]

Iain Mew: Cool, calming, recognisable especially when it slows down, but it’s like “Bouquet Finale” with the edges sanded off, pleasurable but newly disposable.
[6]

Maxwell Cavaseno: The problem with being an electronic act that attracts attention when one deliberately goes backwards is, when you inevitably want the career to keep going and maintain success, you then move forward and chase after everything that’s already happened. Everything here production-wise is the kind of tricks that’ve been done to death in the last decade and now just feel like someone desperately out of step, hurrying to catch up to things most of the world have already left behind.
[3]

Alfred Soto: Its precision impressed me, its callback to Adamski’s “Killer” pleasant. The vocal is innocuously coy. More like hier et puis.
[4]

Ryo Miyauchi: The glassy synth is a very tactile one, delightfully prickly as it pokes the wonkier sound. It refuses to explore a grander path — something I initially wanted from what I think could’ve been more showy — but maintaining shape seems to be the point. Focus is key here as Yelle reminds herself again and again to cut the noise and stop thinking ahead. Stillness is harder to achieve than it looks these days.
[6]

Anthony Easton: Buoyant enough to remind me of the best summers in Montreal, with a nice break away chorus near the end, but could do with a bit more energy. 
[6]

Ramzi Awn: There’s nothing wrong with cutesy, but in this case, a little editing could have turned less into much more.  
[4]

Will Adams: A recurring theme in Yelle’s work is the passage of time — specifically, its end — and while “Ici et Maintenant” doesn’t have the gravitas of “S’éteint le soleil” or “Dire qu’on va tous mourir,” it makes sense given its desire to be in the moment. Where their last album went for shiny, Dr. Luke pop, “Ici et Maintenant” revives the playfulness of sound from Safari Disco Club. Most effective is how, amidst all the cute Fisher Price synths, the song itself takes the time to slow down and take in the present, as if knowing it won’t last forever.
[7]