And a new leader emerges…
Nina Lea Oishi: “I am the thesis of her prayers,” Chance sings in one of this song’s many fantastic lines. If “Sunday Candy” had a “thesis,” it would obviously allude to religion in the way that music has so often connected earthly love and faith. Yet not the tortured, guilt-tinged Leonard Cohen-esque marriage of the sacred and the profane, but about Baptist-church brand of rejoicing, lifting palms and hallelujahs, jubilance and communion. Chance raps about his grandmother while Jamila sings about romance, but the two seemingly disparate facets of love make sense in the context. After all, like other Social Experiment songs, “Sunday Candy” is a chorus, multi-voiced in the most beautiful sense. And “Sunday Candy,” more than anything else I’ve heard in a while, is a song about the sum of the parts being greater than the whole. There’s a total joy permeating the images that Chance rattles off like poetry: his grandma who is “handmade, panfried, sundried, Southside,” hugs that “smell like light, gas, water, electricity, rent,” love expressed “with her eyes, with her smile, with her belt, with her money.” This is the thesis, this is love, embedded in the collection of singular moments that together make up a life. And maybe, “Sunday Candy” suggests, that’s where we find faith too — in the “pieces of the layers,” the chorus of voices, the images and parts.
Ramzi Awn: “Sunday Candy” is an invitation like no other. From the honky-tonk piano to the drum machine, the bells and whistles do not disappoint. Chance and Jamila Woods deliver a riff that flutters like gold leaf, and the first bridge thumps like they used to, back in the day when Bjork and Timbaland led the way. When Woods tells you to “come on in this house,” you listen.
Thomas Inskeep: Chance the Rapper is the “star” here, but this isn’t a Chance the Rapper track: he’s a member of the Social Experiment, a Chi-town collective somewhat akin to the Soulquarians. Also important: this ain’t hip-hop; roughly classified, you could say it’s neo-soul or R&B, with a healthy dose of rapping, but just as much singing. And the music! The music on “Sunday Candy” is all over the place yet completely unified, with skittering drum ‘n’ bass beats married to New Orleans-style brass lines, while its lyrics are both a tribute to Chance’s grandmother and a bit of a sexy come-on. Trust me, it works.
Alfred Soto: Chance the Rapper’s band goes from post-jungle skitter and lounge soul to full on gospel. What sound arch at first becomes winning as the parts interlock. As for Chance, whether he’s noting the holes in his stockings holding her pockets in place or observing that his grandmother smells like light, gas, water, electricity and rent, his rhymes are an example of being surprised by joy.
Maxwell Cavaseno: Chance loves to stretch rap music until it sounds like what Greg Tate described as “Broadway gospel.” As a rapper, Chance is a remarkable technician and lyricist but clings to his theatrics and his stomping and parading as his greatest attribute. He puts on a show boy, and he needs to. While Jamila Woods is a fine supporter, the production is just a tad TOO glitzy for my taste, those attempt at footwork drums too spazzy and light in the ass. I just want Chance to do much more than entertain.
Crystal Leww: I would not have expected that Chance the Rapper would be the artist that has consistently moved me to tears with his music the last couple of years, but here we are and I still get a lump in my throat during several moments in Acid Rap and “Sunday Candy.” The song, like Chance himself, radiates a kind of positive, sincere, genuine energy. It’s corny if you’re a cynic, but it feels good to fall for Chance’s charm. How he describes his grandmother — unquestionably loving and eternally grateful — is the way that all boys should describe their grandmothers, as he coos “You smell like light, gas, electricity, rent.” Jamila Woods’ voice is the perfect vessel for his grandmother’s voice, sweet and kind and full of unbelievable joy. “Sunday Candy” is only one song off the incredible Surf, but it’s the emotional core for me.
Will Adams: Predictable chord progression aside, “Sunday Candy” percolates with sunshine, the kind I remember when I had when I would leave church in late May. My dark blazer would make me begin to sweat, but I still was filled with the good word, and a sense of unflappable optimism. Jamila Woods beams, Chance is as endearing as ever, and the supporting band sounds like a chorus of thousands.
Alex Ostroff: I don’t remember how many weeks ago “Sunday Candy” first appeared on Chance’s Soundcloud. Honestly, I can’t imagine a time before it; I don’t want to (iTunes metadata informs me that time was late November). The various members of the Social Experiment gracefully dance around each other, sliding from rap to gospel to juke to horn solos and back again as smoothly and (seemingly) effortlessly as they maneuver sets and bodies in its music video. There’s no other word for this but joy. Chance nimbly raps an ode to the importance and devotion and faith and support of grandmothers. Jamila Woods sings a chorus that somehow makes a Communion wafer sound like a come-on. The sum total is so transcendent that for 28 consecutive Sundays, I’ve been reduced to a puddle of feelings over this song without growing immune to its charming sentimentality, and only occasionally noticing that I’m a Jew tearing up over a song about family Church outings. I don’t ever see that changing.
Brad Shoup: A lyrical triumph and a musical toothache. Chance gets things up to ecstasy, then he suddenly cedes to Jamila Woods’ ultimately self-sacrificing refrain. I can’t see many grandmas saying that without reading a prank-show script. So she must be special. The part after the chorus is a torrent of vocals and drum’n’bass patterns and steel pan: it bogs the track down. But only for a minute at a time, if that.
Edward Okulicz: It’s really striking to hear a song that tackles the physical being of a loved one (down to their smells) that isn’t romantic or sexual. But part of our fondness for our parents and grandparents are memories of senses that code as comfort and warmth, and “Sunday Candy” captures that fondness perfectly. None of my grandparents are left, but this is a celebration of someone else’s that you can dance to, easy.
Josh Winters: I never had a close relationship with either of my grandmothers — my mom’s mom passed away when she was very young and my dad’s mom lived way up the coast in Washington state — but I can’t help but see the parallels in the relationship Chance has with his grandma when it comes to mine with my mom. Any song having to do with the love one has for any type of beloved maternal figure makes me cry as many memories flood in like a tidal wave. I listen to the effortlessly gleeful instrumentation with Donnie Trumpet’s sunny horn arrangements and I think about my mother’s strength and warm heart. I think about all the lessons we’ve had to teach each other throughout our life together. I think about when she first told me to never give up on my dreams and how she hasn’t stopped telling me since. From fry pans and belts to churches and peppermint candies, Chance sketches his grandma out from memory as a fully-dimensioned woman with so much devotion and vivid precision, it’s almost as if a film strip of old home movie clips from childhood is rolling right before your eyes. Now that’s he a grown man, “Sunday Candy” is the gift Chance is able to give his grandma after everything she has given to him. I love my mom so much, and I love this song.
Megan Harrington: For years, the music I considered most important made me feel in some way conflicted. If someone told me it was good but I wasn’t sure, or if I liked the sound but hated the message, or if it was so inaccessible that I almost never wanted to listen to it — that was the hallmark of a record that endured. That was complicated art. It’s a relief to hear a song like “Sunday Candy” and be awash in its beauty and positivity. I have no ambivalence where Chance the Rapper is concerned: he makes me happy to be alive, happy to have a family that loves me, happy for the traditions and rituals that made “Sunday Candy” possible.