A spot in our top fifteen, that’s what.
Tim de Reuse: This is one of those instances where a song gains emotional impact from sheer straightforwardness because the approach fits the subject; after all, a song about feeling nervous and unworthy wouldn’t pack as much impact if it made every effort to be clever. The verse, with its charming, pathetic refrain of “Let me down, let me down slow” makes a better chorus than the actual chorus does, and captures very succinctly the self-defeatist head space of an unrequited crush. When the song tries to get more energetic, though, it throws these weather-channel synth strings everywhere, in an attempt at a big climax that sounds more like something I’d expect to hear when on hold with an insurance company.
Alfred Soto: The clipped, worried “I’m On Fire” guitars and transparent shimmer of the voices conjure a summer of anxiety, of wondering who’s checking out whom.
Lilly Gray: The plucky demand in the chorus and the sweet request in case of rejection pull you along as if someone’s got your hand and is swinging it, half-dragging, half-close. There is a painful sliver of risk hidden in rush of crushin’ hard, but the emotional turbulence is part of the fun–hence the bounciness here, a cheerful take on like-liking someone that offers an out for all parties involved. The song just glances the surface of the downsweep after infatuation dissipates; this is all bubbles rising, yet to pop.
Peter Ryan: I have a spotty track record with this artist — worse when she does numbed out R&B impressions, better when she’s gliding over something springy. In spite of the fact that this is a Shura-Greg Kurstin-Joel Pott co-production, and in spite of Kurstin’s knack for complementing the artist, it feels more like she’s gotten assimilated into Kurstin’s sound rather than the other way around. The beat’s more straight-ahead than hers typically are and the synths shimmer a little too brightly; as a whole it’s near-indistinguishable from what he’s been doing with Tegan & Sara for two entire albums now. Nondescript though it may be, the backing partially resolves Shura’s tendency to let a devastating lyric get politely smothered by languid production. The track’s pep brings her mixed-up nervy pining to the forefront, amplifies the terrifying frankness of lines like “I don’t wanna make it out like it’s no big deal,” and pushes her to convert desire into action. I’ve been partial to this sound for probably too long and my tolerance for it is finally waning, but this is as strong an argument for its sustained utility as we’ll get.
Ryo Miyauchi: While her tour mates Tegan & Sara tackled a similar issue with “Boyfriend,” I’m moved more by Shura’s take on “What’s It Gonna Be?” The Quins are who I wish to be; Shura is more who I am — passionate but too shy to show it. It takes guts to admit to things like “I don’t want to let you love anyone else but me” out loud to someone you don’t want to lose. Sara made the process seem easy or at least adult. This song is just awkward anxiety from thinking about the risks. It’s more how it would unfold for me, all the way to how she ultimately lets the other have the last word. No matter how much confidence she and I can muster, and perform urgency the best we can, we both can’t quite break our own habit of politeness. Assertiveness — that’s what we can hope to learn from Tegan & Sara.
Thomas Inskeep: This sweeps you up in the headiness of teenage romance, dance/pop with an ’80s kick reminiscent of Betty Who’s first album. Dreamy stuff, and the video is perfection.
Will Rivitz: Even without its adorable video (I’m trying and failing to wipe a stupid grin off my face as I type this), “What’s It Gonna Be?” is still a perfect summer song. Not just in sound – it’s excellently executed synthpop through and through, tapping the same nerves as The Pains of Being Pure At Heart’s less ferociously distorted side — but gut reaction too. It’s music that makes you want to take long walks with your crush, it’s music that makes you want to sprawl on a towel in the grass, it’s music that makes you feel blissfully alive. If we’re still keeping tabs on The Official Song Of The Summer: 2016 Edition, this is the strongest contender I’ve heard.
Will Adams: That feeling when someone links you a song saying, “I KNOW you’ll LOVE this it’s SO up your alley” and you listen to it and listen again to make sure and then a third time just in case and you respond “yeah it’s fine :/”.