Thursday, August 10th, 2017

Louis Tomlinson ft. Bebe Rexha & Digital Farm Animals – Back to You

No, not that DFA, guys.


Scott Mildenhall: It’s hard not to wonder if a certain someone only has an artist credit on this because of their links to Syco. But enough about Louis Tomlinson! (Sorry.) In fairness, while it takes him 65 seconds to pitch in on this track, that’s a briefer breather than a lot of his prior releases provided, so he’s adjusting. Once, the less laryngeally gifted boyband members were reduced to rapping famously mimed hits in the name of irony; now they have to take it seriously. Antony Costa clearly didn’t get such a budget, but then he wasn’t left with 26m Twitter followers when Blue disbanded. Hopefully Louis is pleased that he does have those numbers, but at the same it could be a gilded cage, locked for as long as One Direction can sustain five solo careers, because people probably won’t believe that he could power one under his own steam. Plinky-plonk songs like this would back that up, were there more to come. Bebe Rexha is as ever a strong utility player, and the real star of the  piece; the main man struggles to reach the emotion on the page.

Katie Gill: That first half of that chorus is AMAZING. Both Tomlinson and Rexha give it their all over that minimalist piano. It gets a little muddied when the beat machine comes, but I just can’t get over how amazing that chorus sounds. The lyrics are really nothing to write home about, that sort of “I keep coming back to you even though we’re terrible for each other” song that’s a dime a dozen in pop music. But that simple beat in the verses compared with the piano of the chorus is downright sublime.

Maxwell Cavaseno: Listening to Bebe Rexha’s vocal insistences is like a room where you’re locked in, and someone keeps filling a balloon up with helium that never pops. It just keeps building, building, taking up space and it’s becoming harder and harder to breathe both between the nauseating highs and the utter disregard for other living things as you get pinned down. Given Tomlinson is one of the weaker voiced 1D members and his rat prince persona has not necessarily translated straight to record, you’d hope he gets a chance on his proper singles to let himself not be overtaken. Unfortunately that’s not the case, because Digital Farm Animals production is a cool yet weird morass of instrumental flourishing to spruce up a comically dopey lullaby beat that distract and Rexha is in full steamroller form. Is it really a case of the kid choking on his first time taking center stage proper when he’s getting usurped, or is it a bad sign that maybe he can’t sustain solo interest? Who can say?

Ryo Miyauchi: Everyone but Louis seems to know what he should pursue for his post-1D career. The Steve Aoki collaboration? That suited him: the atomic chorus and its surging synths flattered a range higher than the rest of his boys. I get he might want to show off more personality like the rest of them, but this generic 2017 Radio Song #4 feat. Bebe Rexha is more Liam’s thing.

Alfred Soto: I support Bebe Rexha calling shit on her duet partner, but the rhythm’s electronic tip toeing put more pressure on their respective emotive abilities than they’re capable of. Also, the electronic tip toeing isn’t compelling.

Thomas Inskeep: Stop trying to make Bebe Rexha happen, people. She’s not going to happen. (At least, I hope not, because she’s a terrible vision of 2017 would-be popstar-dom, with a voice that’s simultaneously annoyingly specific and incredibly generic. And she’s yet to find a good song to sing.) Meanwhile, Tomlinson was apparently the one without a personality in 1D, just as DFA are the least interesting EDM-pop producers around.

Cassy Gress: Louis’s voice is getting completely blown out by Bebe’s here, and her usual vocal style seems too coy for a song about how he kills her and fucks her up. But I do like the E♭ major – C major progression under “Baaack tooo yooou”, showing up in the backing vocals in the second chorus and onward. It’s oddly throwback and cheerfully corny; it wouldn’t have been inappropriate at all to bring in a crowd to sing that part and let the song fade out that way.

Andy Hutchins: One usually assumes that the X ft. Y construct means X > Y; that’s not the case here, as the middlest One Directioner appears more than a minute into his own song, and after a typically melodramatic Bebe Rexha chorus that marks this as her tune for better or worse. Ms. Rexha and Camila Cabello may be having a secret competition to try to get the most mewling possible vocals onto a chart before year’s end — if so, we are all the losers, assuredly — but she does at least sound like she’s having fun dwelling in the gray, while Louis is just … there. Wish the understated bleep-and-snap production of the verses didn’t bloom into something so standard in the hooks, too. 

Stephen Eisermann: The lyrics are overly dramatic, the composition feels very Broadway meets Dance-Pop, and both Bebe and Louis push their voices too hard, but goddamn if this isn’t pop music gold. Something about the way the song is staged, with the music randomly dropping out to give way to the story being told, regardless of how melodramatic, works perfectly and both singers are definitely committed. The song is juvenile, yes, but the youthful energy is playful and nostalgic even if it is a tad immature. What’s interesting is that this song is the most similar to One Direction music of the singles released by the band’s former members, but it also manages to be the best, by far. Keep on coming back to this sound, Louis, it’s working.

Reader average: [8.66] (3 votes)

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