Wednesday, June 20th, 2018

Jaden Smith ft. Nicky Jam – Icon (Remix)

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


[Video][Website]
[4.33]

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 20th, 2018

=LOVE – Teokure Caution

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


[Video][Website]
[6.17]

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 20th, 2018

The Internet – Roll (Burbank Funk)

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


[Video]
[6.50]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

LOONA/yyxy ft. Grimes – Love4eva

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


[Video][Website]
[6.50]

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

Kanye West – All Mine

Want more Ye takes? We’ve got the scoop-di-dee-whoop right here!


[Video][Website]
[3.67]

Juan F. Carruyo: The first meaningless Kanye single, and thank God. 
[2]

Will Rivitz: Kanye the lyricist is dead and gone (“I love your titties ’cause they prove I can focus on two things at once”), but Kanye the producer and sonic overseer is at least still with us. Others will likely (and rightfully) excoriate the content of what he’s saying, but as of the past two album cycles Kanye’s remained excellent pretty much exclusively because of his instrumentals: here, the elasticity of the bass’s minimalism careens around untethered until the massively distorted claps of the second verse grind it to a halt. No matter how glorious his previous maximalism, nobody strips it down quite like Kanye.
[6]

Stephen Eisermann: As if his ridiculous politics weren’t bad enough, he follows up his ludicrous statements with… this? Between the weird Kardashian drama in here coupled with terrible lines like, “none of us would be here without cum,” I’m just not sure what to make of Kanye anymore. The production is interesting and makes me long for College Dropout Kanye, but I’m starting to believe maybe that was more of a one-off and everything after seemed better by association — because this, this is not good.
[3]

Katherine St Asaph: Ye, if nothing else, is proof that no amount of genius or creativity can make a polished masterpiece of a rush job. But to those concerned about the decline of Kanye’s lyrics and/or quality control, allow me to remind you of the existence of “Drunk and Hot Girls,” or his verse on “Knock You Down,” or — actually, if he can release an unedited brainstorm, I don’t need to finish either.
[3]

Alfred Soto: From bits on Beyonce and The-Dream songs to his own meisterworks, Kanye’s been stupid about women for years. Using staccato Trevor Horn-inspired shrieks with the help of Francis and the Lights, he conjures a private hell — his own VIP room in which he encourages no one to appear, not even his sexual fantasies. Too vaporous to make an impression — it’s received smut.
[4]

Jonathan Bradley: In 2005, Kanye thought he needed a Nia Long. In 2010, it was “some light-skinned girls and some Kelly Rowlands.” Now it’s Kerry Washington, Naomi Campbell, and — dear me, I nearly fell asleep writing this out — Stormy Daniels. In 2004, he was trawling through Black Planet; this year it’s Christian Mingle. My issue isn’t with West repeating himself — even if Ye gives the uncomfortable impression that its author’s once restless creativity can be resolved to a selection of tabloid quips and abrupt production punch-ins — but with the way he abandons any attempt at situating his pop-culture nods within a wider thematic or narrative context. It’s rap as listed trending topics: a refusal to allow us to consider that Kanye West might still be more than his Twitter account. From “On Sight” to Extremely Online in five short years.
[4]

Tim de Reuse: “Bound 2,” released almost exactly five years ego, was a fever dream collapsing, wherein Kanye wrestled with his own monogamous urges like a failed organ transplant; the lines “Maybe we could still make it to the church steps / But first, you gon’ remember how to forget” had an immediate, satisfying narrative finality, the kind of line that you hear right before the credits roll. Then, take this paper-thin single that sees the fever dream back up and running, like nothing ever happened — no deeper theme beyond Ant Clemons talking about his dick, no actual content beyond a few jokes that might have been worth a chuckle were the whole thing not so depressingly empty — a no-calorie cable TV spinoff held fast at an indeterminate moment of non-time, status quo tortuously maintained. If there’s actually something more interesting to talk about here, it’s buried under layers and layers of twitterverse context. You could spend your time digging through them if you wanted to, but you could also spend your time listening to literally anything else.
[1]

Leonel Manzanares de la Rosa: “All Mine,” like the rest of Ye, is the work of a genius. I’m not saying it’s really that good — it’s weak lyrically and very inconsistent, but Ye‘s brilliance shines through every nook and cranny (this record, along with DaytonaKids See Ghosts and Nasir are proof that he’s still in the top five of the best rap producers ever). True genius does not care about clean and perfect; there’s always something broken, raw, real. Some people hate Kanye being called a genius, but almost no one in modern music fits that label as him. I compare Mr. West to Salvador Dalí (particularly on his obsession with money/celebrity and his problematic romance with ultra-conservative ideas) and, like him, his body of work is quite spotty. But also like the painter, there’s an insatiable search for transcendence, and one can recognize an innate ability to create something powerful and iconic in each of Ye‘s strokes. Like Kanye, Dalí had a weird, dark dystopian period (Yeezus), an ultra-religious phase (Pablo) and a time where he favored austerity (Ye). These all happened after he “peaked,” way after he actively tried to make something perfect (MBDTF). But genius doesn’t peak, it just evolves and travels wildly wherever it wishes to go. Kanye is rightfully criticised about a lot of things (like the Trump love or the slavery comments), but to “cancel” him would be to shut down a conversation that should remain open. This song is kind of a portrait on where he is in his life right now. Many call it a “dad/old man record,” and yes, that’s what he is too. Is it as good as others in his discography? Does it really matter? Are we really gonna shit on him for not trying to make a second MBDTF? Dalí unveiled his perceived masterpiece “The Persistence of Memory” in 1931. Then, his work ranged from dreamscapes, to historical and religious scenes. But sometimes he just wanted to paint his sister next to a window or his wife with a swan. That’s what “All Mine” is at heart.
[6]

Nicholas Donohoue: Nihilism, misogyny, crassness, and misery. Effective in making the listener sullen, and that’s most certainly the point. The organ dropping out, the debasement of sexuality to body parts and celebrity, a clunking beat mixed with horror movie stock sounds. I wish this were easy to brush off, but the production details work too well technically and the outside context of Kanye West and what he used to mean has me curling my fists. I guess I care despite it all. 
[4]

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

Selena Gomez – Back to You

Back to 2013…


[Video][Website]
[5.09]

Alex Clifton: If “It Ain’t Me” and the folk-pop moment of 2013 had a musical child, it would be “Back to You.” Selena gives us her most delicate vocal here for a  song tinged with regret and hurt. I hate to call it “mature” because that word usually implies “sexy and/or equipped to handle taxes,” and this song doesn’t evoke either mood. But it’s an emotional look at a broken relationship and the willingness to try again, to make those same mistakes in a way that feels true to young adulthood. It’s not as good as “Bad Liar” (although, really, what is) but is also a sight better than “Wolves,” so I’ll take this and wait impatiently until we get that double album we’ve been promised.
[6]

Dorian Sinclair: The first verse of ‘Back to You’ is an incredibly strong opener — I love the spare accompaniment and quiet, half-dropped delivery Gomez uses in laying out the beginnings of the story she’s telling. It feels like the listener is being invited to lean in closer to hear what happens next. Unfortunately, that ends up being a chorus with production that feels…pretty uninspired. The second verse does its best to recapture the spark, but can’t quite bring it back to me.
[6]

Alfred Soto: The melodies in this Latin-electronic hybrid sound familiar, but Selena Gomez slows down, almost standing apart from the song until the chorus’ stop-start dynamic. 
[7]

Abdullah Siddiqui: Recently, there was a slight but palpable shift in Selena Gomez’s musical sensibilities. 2015’s Revival appeared on a few year-end lists, and it signaled artistic growth. Then, last year, came “Bad Liar,” a track that had an unexpectedly less-than-glossy mix, minimalistic production, a Talking Heads interpolation and lyrics that contained a historical reference and a few ten-dollar words. Soon after, her next single (“Fetish”) came with a music video that bordered on avant-garde. For a very brief, glimmering moment in time, Selena Gomez seemed discontent with the clichés of popular music, and there was hope for an equally adventurous full-length release. But with “Back to You,” that moment may have just come to a tragic end. The song does have some things going for it: the crowd-pleasing electronic textures, the nuanced vocal performance, the pumping rhythmicity. But it does not dare to tread an inch of the unexplored. In other words, it is a capable effort, but indistinguishable, bland and ultimately forgettable.
[4]

Stephen Eisermann: Selena Gomez was releasing some pretty interesting material last year with “Bad Liar” and “Fetish,” so it’s supremely disappointing to see her revert back to boring guitar heavy dance-pop like this song. I get that the former material didn’t garner the same success, but when you’re an artist as successful as Selena, sometimes suffering on the charts is worth the risk; otherwise, you end up with a catalog full of MOR stuff like, well, this.
[4]

Josh Love: The occasional aberration like last year’s great post-punk rip “Bad Liar” or the wine-dark striptease “Good for You” aside, it seems like Gomez’s wheelhouse at least for now is politely melancholic EDM, which hasn’t proven too musically robust but does seem like a strong complement to her equally sultry and sad-eyed vocal persona. Much like “It Ain’t Me,” “Back to You” is underwhelmingly constructed yet still manages to be memorable. Plenty of songs released this year with more impressive tricks won’t stick with me as long as Gomez declaring “I want to hold you when I’m not supposed to.”
[6]

Juan F. Carruyo: Finest mall music single of the year. A steady, rolling beat anchors Selena’s fine voice, deep in the captivating verses as it rises to a middling chorus. She should go yacht next time. 
[6]

Scott Mildenhall: The market leader in intermittent wonky melodies succeeds once more with her unpredictable undulations, successfully distracting from the thought that this is a bit of a “Save Tonight”/”Wake Me Up” knock-off. In a way, it’s as if the contemporary predilection for funny noises and wobbly drops that has perhaps diminished the role of choruses has now spread into the pre-choruses that serve as a substitute. The next Selena Gomez single will feature no vocal, only the sound of her waving her hands around as if to suggest words in a sort-of Skrillex charades, and still her sadness will be engaging.
[7]

Nicholas Donohoue: 13 Reasons Why is a difficult show to parse out praise and criticism to, so Selena Gomez was kind enough to make the lead single for the album accompanying the second season not be about any of the show’s main themes or specific plot. This is an EDM Selena Gomez song more than anything, a more mellow “Wolves” or “It Ain’t Me” with one less credited artist. However, if you take out the contentious elements that is the framing of the song and then make it in the form of prior hits from the same artist, what much do you have? Apparently another song where people speculate how this song is about Selena’s prior relationships, a fate both her and the world deserve better than.
[5]

Katherine St Asaph: Everything about this song — the canned acoustica, the uncanny-valley filtering on a supposedly conversational vocal, even the structure, continually late to the beat — is just so leaden and sagging. “Song of the summer” isn’t supposed to mean “lethargic like 90-degree heat.”
[2]

Will Rivitz: I mean, “Wake Me Up” wasn’t good in 2013 either.
[3]

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

5 Seconds of Summer – Youngblood

It pains me that this did not score low enough to make some vampire-related “sucks” joke…


[Video]
[4.86]

Scott Mildenhall: McFly must be listening to this while surrounded by unsold copies of Above the Noise/counting their YouTube money, thinking “if only.” Yes, “Shine A Light” is a classic, but “Youngblood” is a much fuller realisation of their attempts at dark-but-not-dark electropop-rock, if not quite as full a realisation as “Kidz” by Take That. If anything, it’s the latter direction that sounds most promising. Forget being owned by One Direction, or having songs written with McFly, Busted, or Good Charlotte — what 5SOS need is to conjure up a ballad to match “Eight Letters” and a new, non-singing member for a solo that matches “Flowerbed.”
[7]

Katherine St Asaph: Somewhere en route to turning into Fall Out Boy and turning into Peter Thiel, 5 Seconds of Summer decided to turn into “Some Girls” for a chorus. Maybe if they injected more it’d be the whole song.
[6]

Alfred Soto: Not from this performance.
[4]

Jonathan Bradley: It sounds like music made by young men who spent too much time in clubs, and believed that inserting feelings into a dance beat is the same thing as making a dance song about feelings. 5SOS doesn’t wear its maturation well; “Youngblood” quivers but doesn’t ache. As fiercely as it tends to its portent, it can’t find the abyss in it, the point where all that feeling takes a life of its own, nor that point where the beat does too.
[4]

Anna Suiter: 5 Seconds of Summer are at their best and at their most endearing when they’re clever. “Youngblood” is not exactly endearing, but it is clever, at least in the way the chorus modifies itself from the first to the second part. From being “a dead man walking” to a “dead man crawling tonight,” it creates a full story just within the chorus itself. It’s too bad that makes the rest of the song feel a little superfluous.
[5]

Iain Mew: The throb and snap of the chorus and all the references to being a dead man point to melodrama, but it keeps crashing into a contrary urge towards slickness. Matching exaggerated blowouts and cool sounds should certainly be possible, but emo this politely restrained is self-negating.
[4]

Jonathan Bogart: Is there anybody left on earth who experiences those high-pitched, low-mixed fluttery whoos in the chorus as a thrilling or novel sound, or is it just meant to be a chronological marker: this was made in 2018?
[4]

Monday, June 18th, 2018

Hayley Kiyoko ft. Kehlani – What I Need

They’re good, and they’re good together…


[Video][Website]
[6.50]

Alex Clifton: Hayley Kiyoko’s always been hit-or-miss for me. When she’s on, she writes some of the most glorious pop music I’ve ever heard; in other modes, it just doesn’t click with me. Expectations overall was a little uneven, but “What I Need” is by far the best song off the album. Kehlani and Hayley are beautifully matched and I love the way they trade off with one another — it’s less of a “feature” (i.e. one verse and done) and more of a duet. The chorus is so vibrant and pulses with desire — “what I need, what I need, what I need” comes out as a rush after a fairly high-octane start and it only gets better from there. I’m so glad we’re getting more music from queer women, and I only hope this song stays in rotation all summer long.
[8]

Alfred Soto: This can’t help but code queer, thanks to Kehlani’s preternatural avidity and Hayley Kiyoko’s insouciance. The hand claps and synth bass incarnate the way “What I Need” goes from yin to yang: where it stops no one knows.
[8]

Will Rivitz: Like literally every other Hayley Kiyoko single released after This Side of Paradise, this song is extremely adept at just kinda being there. For an artist whose cultural clout is undeniable (not many can claim the moniker “Lesbian Jesus” before they’ve dropped a full album), her music never ceases to be a bit disappointing — Citrine and Expectations are good but forgettable — and “What I Need” is more of the same. It’s the best forgettable music I’ve heard, to be sure, but that only gets you so far. 
[6]

Will Adams: Like “Curious,” a welcome instance of representation in bubblegum pop. Unlike “Curious,” a hookless exercise that’s been swallowed by reverb.
[5]

Josh Love: Kehlani steals this song entirely before Kiyoko even has a chance to open her mouth, and the nominal lead artist’s sluggish, slurry verses only leach momentum from the bright chorus bouncing along on springing synths.
[5]

Nortey Dowuona: Pulpy, lurching bass and rising, racing synths lift Kehlani. She effortlessly coasts over it and Hayley stands at the wave machine, carefully switching knobs and cranking the water lever as the wave stays steady, slowly but steadily rising, until Kehlani is silhouetted by the sun.
[7]

Monday, June 18th, 2018

Cardi B ft. Bad Bunny & J Balvin – I Like It

If you’re looking for the sidebar, Cardi, it’s in the other direction…


[Video][Website]
[8.12]

Stephen Eisermann: A song that feels like that family party at your tios house, with those cousins who are fucking locos, but you only see once every couple of years so you’re willing to look past their problematic practices. It’s like, yeah, they say some wild stuff that you totally disagree with, but they’re your primos and there’s tequila, y nos quedamos festejando hasta las seis de la mañana, bailando y chismeando todo el tiempo. And then the night is over and you’re in line waiting to cross back at the border, shaking your head at all of the ridiculous shit that was said and done over the weekend, but you can’t help but smile because this kind of Latino magic is just so uncommon in your day to day and it’s good to remember your roots; but, most of all, it’s fucking fun.
[8]

Leonel Manzanares de la Rosa: Cardi B’s “I Like It” is perhaps the Latin urban single of the year so far, not only on the grounds of being a banger but on how important it is. It’s important in the sense that Ms. Almanzar is taking over American pop culture and claiming her Dominican heritage while trojan-horsing Latin trap and reggaeton into the hip-hop consciousness. The very sample this track is based around is Pete Rodriguez’s 1967 boogaloo classic,“I Like It Like That,” one of the very first examples of Latin music sneaking its way into mainstream America. Cardi’s boss mannerisms and sheer charisma could easily sell the whole track, but both Boricua Trapster Bad Bunny and Colombian don J Balvin get equal space to shine, the former even referencing the legendary sample’s bassline (Bobby Valentín really was the absolute chingón). This is really one for the culture.
[8]

Julian Axelrod: On paper, this feels like a craven bid for Song of the Summer: from the infectious boogaloo sample to the inclusion of Latin trap luminaries Bunny and Balvin, there’s a wary sense of risk management that “Bodak Yellow,” its unassuming, world-conquering predecessor, lacked. But when I listen to the song, it feels fun and spunky and alive. If this was subjected to focus group meetings, they probably took place at a block party instead of a boardroom. The track is a series of relentless attacks on your pleasure centers, from the bubbling beat to J Balvin’s goofy Gaga line to Cardi’s nearly radioactive levels of charm. One of my best musical memories of the year is hearing “I Like It” in a packed club the day after Invasion of Privacy came out. Somehow everyone already knew every word, and we proceeded to shout it at the top of our lungs. At the end of the day, isn’t that all we want out of a summer banger? Say what you will about the music industry machine, but sometimes their calculations pay off.
[8]

Will Adams: It’s one of those concepts that seems blindingly obvious in retrospect — boogaloo sampled in a thwacking trap song — but everyone involved acts like they’ve just struck gold. And justifiably so; if “Despacito” got the ball rolling on multi-lingual, world-conquering pop, “I Like It” is the flag planted at the summit.
[9]

Nortey Dowuona: A clanging sample of Pete Rodriguez’s “I Like it Like That” swings right into the tingling synths and pumping drums while Cardi strides through it; Bad Bunny hops, backflips and slides over it; and J Balvin creeps in under it.
[7]

Josh Love: Thanks to teeth-rattling bass and Cardi’s endless supply of #winning catchphrases (“I run this shit like cardio” jumps out most forcefully here, though perusing the lyrics opened up my world to the tremendous “Eating halal, driving the Lam'”), “I Like It” somehow manages the seemingly impossible task of salvaging a song that heretofore existed in the popular American consciousness almost exclusively thanks to a fucking Burger King commercial. And it’s only like maybe the fifth or sixth best song on Invasion of Privacy!
[7]

Jonathan Bradley: I was introduced to Cardi through “Red Barz,” and even more than the “bloody moves” of “Bodak Yellow” did, that terse street single’s gang aesthetic rooted her in my consciousness as a tough-minded brawler, steely and ruthless. She is multi-dimensional, however — one of the joys of the “Finesse” remix was the opportunity it offered her to be playful — and “I Like It” accentuates another aspect of her Bronx-hewed personality: her Dominican heritage. Her guests on the track are Puerto Rican and Colombian, and the beat draws from Cuban rhythms, creating a pan-Latinx outlook untied to any specific national tradition — other than an American one, that is. For much of her verse, Cardi’s flow isn’t much removed from her “Bodak” one, but even as a retread, she asserts an easy authority, a preternatural focal point. J Balvin, whose sly insinuations I often enjoy on his own music, struggles to match her; Bad Bunny, however, does just fine. This is a song of elements strengthened through proximity to others that are alternately complementary and conflicting; yes, Cardi is at her best when she’s at her most New York.
[8]

Jonathan Bogart: When, not long after I entered my thirties, I was swimming around in radio pop like I had discovered it for the first time, a song that got spun a couple times on a Phoenix pop station, and maybe the Latin pop station too, sank its hooks into me. It was with distance a fairly silly song, a past-their-prime Cypress Hill plus a not-yet-entirely-worldwide Pitbull, with token respectable performer Marc Anthony belting a hook derived from an old Crosby, Stills, and Nash tune, but I was still a fresh enough listener to all popular music that I had residual affection for “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” and was naïve enough to be charmed rather than irritated by the naked obviousness of the flip. When, a year later, I catalogued my favorite songs of 2010, it was still #2, behind only “TiK ToK.” (And I had totally forgotten I Amnestyed it.) It’s in that spirit that, eight years on, I still thrill to the naked obviousness of a beaten-into-the-ground 1960s sample source when Cardi B flips this most standard of boogaloo standards into Latin trap and has two of the biggest and so most demographically advantageous performers of urban Caribbean music jump on it with her. In a year when the fever-swamps of poisonous discourse and xenophobic hatred are way past critical levels, this celebration of a few of three Latinx stars’ favorite things stands out all the more for its full-throated self-regarding glee. Dominican-American Cardi B’s rubbery Bronx vowels rattling off conspicuous consumption, Puerto Rican Bad Bunny throatily moaning the nationalities of ladies he’s into, Colombian J Balvin mumble-bragging that a year later “Mi Gente” remains inescapable — and Pete Rodriguez’s 1966 horn section unspooling curlicues throughout — all add up to possibly the only decent party song yet this year for anyone who knows anything. (Abolish ICE.)
[10]

Friday, June 15th, 2018

Ramz – Family Tree

English rapper puts in a slight song…


[Video][Website]
[5.14]

Claire Biddles: With its gentle electronics, lyrical appreciation of hugging, and Ramz’s brags of keeping his friends “from primary right through secondary”, “Family Tree” manages to be cute without verging into saccharine. Like previous hit “Barking” there’s not too much going on here, but its sing-song sweetness sustains it for three minutes.
[6]

Iain Mew: Ramz has capitalised on the big potential for positivity in the Afro Bashment sound again — tracing a big family out of everyone he’s close to from primary school onwards and radiating love. Four successive lines with “company” isn’t up with the pleasure in words of “Barking,” but the mood is such it’s not too big a loss.
[7]

Thomas Inskeep: Ramz is a decent (though uninspiring) rapper, but “Family Tree,” his upbeat, looking-back single, is too cute by half, and doesn’t remotely grab me. Or you, probably.
[3]

Jonathan Bogart: Sentimental, neighborhood-repping songs where the subtext is how wonderful it is that you’re a mid-level recording artist when you used to be a non-famous child always strike me as self-indulgent fans-only material, whether the genre is country, hip-hop, or sludge metal. (On second thought, I’d definitely listen to the sludge metal version of that song.) This is quite pretty and well-constructed, and I can’t doubt Ramz’ sincerity, but since this is my first introduction to him I have no investment in his glow up.
[5]

Alfred Soto: Steel drums increasingly set my teeth on edge, and it’s possible I would’ve endorsed the more charming bits of Ramz’ meditations on family without them, but there ain’t much going on. 
[4]

Will Adams: With the proliferation of marimbas in pop music, I’d thought we’d have more soundalikes for the Rugrats theme, but no, it’s just “Work From Home” and now this. It’s a good fit for a song dedicated to the family and friends Ramz grew up with, and if ever it falls into a lull, his charm picks up the slack.
[6]

Edward Okulicz: “Family Tree” is sweet and fond and genuine, but very much on the underwritten side. Unless it was intentional that the chorus sounds like something written by a six-year-old. Or that it might have been inspired by that “I love you, you love me” song Barney the Dinosaur used to sing. The aw-shucks nice-boy sweetness Ramz adopts here means he almost gets away with it.
[5]