Title meet score…
Thomas Inskeep: KING make cool, distinctive R&B with a Sade edge, whose influences span decades. They look like an updated version of SWV, around-the-way girls who knows what’s up, but their sound has more in common with ’80s Brit-cool soul like Loose Ends. “The Greatest” celebrates Muhammad Ali, and its accompanying video celebrates (with cheeky, clever Atari-esque graphics) black athletes of all stripes: if this feels like the most chilled-out anthem of empowerment you’ve ever heard, it’s probably because it is. The first great single of 2016.
Alfred Soto: A shimmering hologram, “The Greatest” has the beauty of a Swain-Jolley production: think Imagination or early Bananarama. The women don’t press further than they need; lines “Riddle and rhyme/the bravest thing is living in my prime” get no more emphasis than “I’m taking home the gold.” It’s unusual for a vocal group to take its cues from the synths and sequencers.
Cassy Gress: There are so many little crackly bits and sparkles and clicks and echoes and aural flutters in both channels of this song that it’s sort of messing with my head. The toms have a great reverb and bassiness to them, I’m always tickled to hear chords unexpectedly resolving into the major key, and this gets a great groove going. My only real quibble is that “who wants a run with the number one?” seems to be lifted out of a different song, one that doesn’t sound like a Lisa Frank sunset. I was disappointed when I realized the song was fading out.
Iain Mew: Afloat on the serene cloud of harmonies, I barely noticed that they were singing “flashing faster than the speed of light”, but the synth line somehow conveys the action without disrupting the reverie. “The Greatest” is like the winning moment taking part in something competitive when the world seems to slow down as everything goes exactly right. Except that never lasts long enough to give three minutes of blissful certainty.
Leonel Manzanares: I love it when a track is in the right spot between laid-back and busy. The Nintendo sounds and the aquatic synths recall this brilliant wave of Soundcloud producers creating the next musical revolution from their bedrooms, but unlike most of those digital native kids, their sonic punches aim for pop timelessness, and they manage to connect that hook. Quite appropriate for an Ali tribute.
Maxwell Cavaseno: If you wanted to know what MKS was supposed to sound like had they not been buried by the ineptitude of Dev Hynes and perhaps with some of the smirking wisdom of Kid Creole, well look no further.
Will Adams: “Who wants a run with the number one?” goes the hook, flipping the song into competitive mode. It gives edge to the ultra-smooth production, which is so sumptuous on its own that it would’ve earned my high score.
Jonathan Bogart: The lyrical conceit of romantic sex as athletic competition is not generally one taken up by women (and you’d have to delete “romantic” to get more than trace amounts from men). But by injecting just the right amount of humor in both delivery and production, muffling and processing their voices until it sounds like they’re gasping for air without breaking a sweat, KING makes “The Greatest” sound not ruthless but cooperative, in the sweetest two-become-one sense possible.
Brad Shoup: If Green Gartside had been into boxing and humidity, this’d be your result.
Megan Harrington: Pleading ignorance of boxing in its entirety, when I listen to “The Greatest,” I hear Los Angeles. Today’s cinematic depictions of the city are so lush and commanding that they might be what 80s dreamers thought Mars would look like this decade. KING are traveling backwards, coating their work with a sticky layer of hairspray and packing it into a silver cruiser. “The Greatest” radiates an arid heat that only existed at the dawn of smog and in this murky past it almost boogies.
David Sheffieck: Like sliding into a hot tub after a long day, champagne glass in hand, and feeling the tension and stress drift up from your toes, through your back and shoulders, until it floats away on the nearest breeze.