Friday, August 5th, 2016

Major Lazer ft. Justin Bieber & MØ – Cold Water

As in, “splashing cold water on our Bieberology.”


Katie Gill: Live in his house, he’ll be your shelter, sail on silver girl, we’ve heard this song time and time again. Most versions don’t have an obnoxiously loud bridge or Justin Bieber trying to sound like he actually cares about people (or barely any MØ at all, what the heck), so go listen to one of them.

Alfred Soto: Last summer we were suckers for Justin Bieber’s sudden ease with dance pop, and while nothing distinguishes Major Lazer’s production beyond a gleaming guitar lick I want to point out that when Bieber says the line about jumping in the cold, cold water for “you” I can easily imagine him singing “you can go and save yourself” instead.

Iain Mew: I remember dissatisfied commentary a couple of years ago when it seemed like the top UK chart positions were making their way round and round different dance-pop configurations of an ever smaller number of artists — DJ Fresh/Calvin Harris/Rudimental ft. Rita Ora/John Newman/Ella Eyre, and so on. Diplo and friends have taken the principle further and gone international with it. “Cold Water” is the safest of safe bets and seems terrified to take any risks, watered down musically and lyrically compared to Bieber’s own songs, never mind “Where Are Ü Now.” It’s too light to even hate, but does leave me pondering on its calculations, chiefly on what MØ’s minimal presence adds beyond a callback to “Lean On” and another way to boost Spotify stats.

A.J. Cohn: For me, it’s hard not to hear, in the opening lines of “Cold Water” — “Everybody gets high sometimes, you know/What else can we do when we’re feeling low” — an echo of another text that uses coldness as a metaphor for difficult times, namely Bernadette Mayer’s poem “The Way to Keep Going in Antarctica,” which concludes with the question: “If I suffered what else could I do.” This is a deep question — what can one do about despair — and it’s a striking way to begin a song. The track offers the suggestion of a meaningful answer — human companionship — but Bieber’s positing of himself as some sort of savior spoils it. This is almost worse than its obvious predecessor, “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

Will Adams: I wasn’t as taken with Justin Bieber’s trio of redemptive dance singles as many others were, but “Cold Water” makes me yearn for it to be 2015 again. The interesting sound worlds of then take a back seat to safer fare today: guitar noodles, stale rave synth and even more unconvincing promises from Bieber delivered in steady sighs. MØ’s bare-minimum inclusion just adds to the cynicism.

Adaora Ede: Is there a specific term for the phenomena of vocalists adopting the singing style of the composer ESPECIALLY when the singer’s original style does not resemble that of the composer at all? Or is that just the veil of laziness draped justly over this Diplo x Ed Sheeran track? I’m glad that I’ve been spared of Ed Sheeran’s further attempts to jump on soul music/EDM/dance/anything that is not his rightful place of gauche acoustic guitar music on pop radio, but somehow the Biebs’ sentiment on this track offers the same indignity to what is meant to be a dancehall-inspired song. Diplo brings my girl MØ onto the track for nothing more than a few jilted rhymes, but the sultry aura of the few verses that she’s given redeems the insipidness of the art electropop song that could have been.

Brad Shoup: The sheet-metal synth hook is dumb but still deserves more of a spotlight. Justin’s done with simpering: with no hook to speak of, he opts for the cheery stasis of that guitar lick. MØ has real power until she’s buffeted by dancehall drums and the flotsam of Bieber’s chorus.

Thomas Inskeep: More self-help blather voiced by Biebs — blame songwriter Ed Fucking Sheeran (also responsible for the atrocity of “Love Yourself,” but at least this is cod-encouraging rather than nasty). The production, like most Major Lazer, isn’t anything special, and here it’s actually a bit stoned-sluggish. At least MØ pops up for the bridge.

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