Sunday, April 13th, 2014

Five years of The Singles Jukebox

We’re not usually big on self-aggrandisement or mythologising. More or less, we just do one thing — we rate pop songs out of ten — but we love it and we do it well. We don’t pay attention to the consensus around us; we build our own (sometimes, but we often disagree). And we’ve now been doing it for five years.

Of course the story of the Jukebox goes back further than that. We started as a pair of columns on Stylus, one for UK singles and one for US singles, which ran until the site closed in 2007. A chance meeting between two writers in a pub led to a few emails going across the globe, and all of a sudden the band was back together, just like we’d never split up.  Sure, our friends at Pitchfork began to focus on individual tracks in earnest a month earlier, stealing our thunder somewhat, but we’ll always have the extra decimal place.

In the last five years, there have been nearly 3400 songs covered from over 60 countries, with about 30,000 individual paragraph-long reviews from us adding up to about 2,000,000 (two million) words. It’d take you a week solid to read the site from front to back. We don’t recommend you do that, so here are some highlights from our first five years. Feel free to share your own in the comments!

Here’s to another five just like these.
(more…)

Friday, April 11th, 2014

TeeFLii ft. 2 Chainz – 24 Hours

Yo. How ’bout some Hostess cupcakes?


[Video][Website]
[5.25]
Anthony Easton: I just bought discount Hostess cupcakes at the Ben Soir, while talking to a friend about math education. I will do some Jukebox work, and then read for class tomorrow. Then I will go to sleep around 4 a.m. I have a less interesting 24 hours than these two, although I don’t make bad Wafflehouse references (though I do follow them on Twitter)
[5]

Alfred Soto: Way too serious-dumb until 2 Chainz and his Waffle House refs, at which point the song turns fun-dumb.
[5]

Patrick St. Michel: It is a credit to how great 2 Chainz has gotten that the first thing I did when hearing this song was jump to his part to see if he delivered. Sort of — a great Waffle House intro, but tough getting over the record-scratch that is “womb service.” DJ Mustard’s beat, though, was a lovely bit of intimidating plinky-plonk.
[6]

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: TeeFlii came to cult prominence last year with “This D”, a song that essentially sums up his entire oeuvre: one-dimensional, rattling, horndogged beyond all comprehension. He has a squeaky voice, an inflection indebted to Michael Jackson (“Annie!”), and a tiny moustache that makes him look like Steve Albini. He won’t be a star, but the all-important DJ Mustard cosign could help him along – remember thinking that YG was boring before Mustard guided him through the excellent My Krazy Life? “24 Hours” is a song both TeeFlii and DJ Mustard have done multiple times over, epitomised by the qualities detailed above, but it remains a brutally effective formula. The only upgrade evident is 2 Chainz replacing ride-along rookies like YeaDat and Big Scrap, and with puns about “womb service” (I laughed), he certainly isn’t operating far outside his host’s comfort zone.
[6]

Megan Harrington: Not enough 2 Chainz! Never enough 2 Chainz! The vast majority of “24 Hours” (all but about 30 combined seconds, let’s say) is swallowed piecemeal by DJ Mustard’s beat — TeeFLii’s verses do not equal its enormity. Until 2 Chainz shows up, the song is 3,000 pounds of sleek German engineering sitting in the driveway, key in ignition, pinging its reminder to get out or get moving. 2 Chainz is the engine revving, vrooming out cute puns like “I ask them who is it, they said ‘room service!’/Gimme one minute she getting her womb service.” He acts, he cooks, he jumps TeeFLii’s dead battery.
[7]

Crystal Leww: If YG is the ideal rapper for a DJ Mustard beat, TeeFLii is the platonic ideal of a DJ Mustard pop R&B singer. Like YG, TeeFLii is no bandwagon artist jumping on the DJ Mustard train; DJ Mustard produced a few songs on his mid-2013 tape AnnieRUO’TAY 2, and TeeFLii had a co-writing credit on the terribly catchy DJ Mustard-produced Kid Ink single “Show Me” with what sounds like his part going to the just terrible Chris Brown. TeeFLii is basically the same mold of R&B rascal that Chris Brown is, delivering compliments through a smirk with lines like “you should be the type to profile that pussy” and falling in line with current Bay Area boy obsession with bad girls. 2 Chainz continues to be a twisted uncle rapper, with terrible dad-level puns like “off white like eggnog” and telling dirty jokes “your nigga ain’t hard; he erectile!” delivered with such enthusiasm and panache. All this is grounded by a Pop Mustard beat, my favorite version of DJ Mustard. He brings back that synth line, the elastic pinging that brings some much needed dynamism to his usual bass/snap beat combo. If this is how DJ Mustard decides to cross over into the pop fray rather than stuff like this, we might be seeing the return of the hip hop crossover producer.
[9]

Brad Shoup: Great timbre on the arcade-cabinet hook, but I wish the melody dropped at the end. The “heys” are like a Getty Images watermark at this point; they can’t crowd out TeeFLii, so what’s the point? Like any great working comic, 2 Chainz got to me eventually, though.
[4]

Mallory O’Donnell: Spoiler alert: it’s not a Joy Division cover, just a song that covers your joy with a thick blanket of anemic beats and stale sexist banter. But if I bet you like getting smothered, you were probably asking for it.
[0]

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Jay-Z ft. Beyoncé – Part II (On the Run)

Jay, we made the same face when we learned this was the next single!


[Video][Website]
[4.50]
Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Before anything else, click THIS – yeah, THIS. You back? The artist Raymond Pettibon is most famed for two iconic images: the Black Flag bars and the cover to Sonic Youth’s 1990 album Goo. That album’s hand-drawn cover presents a couple coolly driving away from a vicious crime. A citation rests at the image’s side, a macabre micro-story of sex and murder now worn on the shirts of a million hipsters: “IT WAS ALL WHIRLWIND, HEAT, AND FLASH. WITHIN A WEEK WE KILLED MY PARENTS AND HIT THE ROAD.” Click back on that T-shirt linked above, which places Jayoncé in the getaway car and turns that citation into the “’03 Bonnie & Clyde” hook. The great “Part II” acts as a sequel to that 2003 mega-middler, but there’s a lot more going on inside of Timbaland’s sleek, alien two-stepper. Beyoncé plays gangster’s moll, wizened enough to know the misdeeds her relationship causes but left starry-eyed by the rush; Jay is all fire and brimstone, manically aligning himself with hotheads like ‘Pac and Juvie in the name of protecting his beloved. It ends in blood, flames and a promise to skip Heaven and Hell in the afterlife. This is pure theatre – Jayoncé aren’t really #outchea, obviously. But the concerns are immortally fascinating: romance, adventure, violence. It’s fatalism, but scrubbed up and gleaming until it’s irresistible, like one of those paintings Blue Ivy’s allowed to desecrate. It’s all whirlwind, heat and flash, flash, flash.
[8]

David Sheffieck: How many more favors does Beyoncé have to throw Jay before he stops insisting on ruining her songs? It’s admittedly endearing to a point, but even before taking Jay’s contributions into account, this is no “Drunk in Love.”
[2]

Anthony Easton: Beyonce’s sections are pleasant and a little anonymous, like Lindsay Buckingham’s last solo album, which didn’t sound as interesting as it sounded expensive. Sadly, Jay-Z’s self aggrandizing bad-guy conversations shred the care that Beyonce is working out here, with too little tension to be really interesting.
[4]

Alfred Soto: My students know acknowledging cliches does not exonerate a writer. Marriage to a rapper in decline doesn’t awaken him from creative paralysis either. Serving as the best part of this and “Drunk in Love” doesn’t exonerate Beyonce either.
[3]

Crystal Leww: Can you believe this goes on for five minutes?
[3]

Brad Shoup: The outlaws in autumn. Bey picks up a gun after putting down the wineglass; Jay slips into something a little more comfortable, like a Juvenile record. The track unwinds with all the sophistication and smoothness of a car elevator bearing its owner to the penthouse.
[5]

Scott Mildenhall: Wikipedia says this is “a smooth slow-tempo electro-R&B love ballad which is equipped with a steamy, retro and retro-futuristic groove that creates an acute level of moody texture.” Which sounds amazing. Garbled, but amazing. It sounds like “Climax”. That was a good song. This does not sound like “Climax”. It is not a good song. It’s got an atmosphere, and it maintains that atmosphere for about a decade, with Jay-Z careful not to upset it by actually appearing on it to any worthwhile degree, but if it’s atmosphere you want you go to Russ Abbot. Listen to “Drunk In Love” instead.
[4]

Andy Hutchins: Jay is here, barely; he has three verses, one four bars, one 16, one 12. The Timbo beat is also here, barely, orchestral swooning and bleeping electronic squibbles that wrap themselves around the star. But the star is HERE, and no one but Bey could pull all this off. “Part II,” which feels far more like a song from Beyoncé than the late-breaking final single from Magna Carta Holy Zzzzz, survives on Bey’s woozy, intoxicated love; here, she is Bonnie to a largely disinterested Clyde, and the femme fatale could convince anyone of anything. No one else working in pop music has the charisma that drips from Mrs. Knowles-Carter’s melisma on a single “ta-a-a-a-a-aaaa-a-aaaaaaaake.” Long live the queen.
[7]

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Sevyn Streeter ft. Kid Ink – Next

She won’t stop collaborating with dudes beneath her.


[Video][Website]
[6.00]

Anthony Easton: Often lovely, but the point the references (what is with the prickly electronics, why does this sound like Adele doing Bond doing Beyonce — is this song about her or about him?) disrupts the process. I am not sure that this is a good move. 
[6]

Alfred Soto: One of last year’s loveliest moments, “It Won’t Stop” even endured the presence of Chris Brown. This isn’t at that level, but “It Won’t Stop” took its time too. Injecting considerable yearning and rue into the line “why is my ex boyfriend my next boyfriend,” Streeter makes a deal she knows she’ll lose, Kid Ink’s avowals notwithstanding.
[7]

Crystal Leww: Sevyn Streeter has had two songs now that were really great with just her and dudes were added that did absolutely nothing of value. While “It Won’t Stop” added Chris Fucking Brown, nEXt adds his co-conspirator Kid Ink, who adds an intro, some flat and slightly out of tune harmonies, and a guest verse that literally does nothing for anyone. Meanwhile, Sevyn Streeter continues to straddle the line between old-fashioned and trend-chasing particularly well. The tempo is slow and the harmonies are present, but they neither overwhelms the rest of the track. She doesn’t shy away from emoting either even if she’s not quite the belter that the Braxton sisters or K. Michelle are. This could have been great without the addition, but still, it’s mostly very good.
[6]

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: DJ Mustard’s rise to pop glory has come with plenty of anonymous artists savvy enough to pay for a hit: Tyga, B.O.B., Kid Ink. Ink is a listless performer, emblematic of an artistic shift towards cadence and cult signifiers, rather than… y’know, good strong songwriting. He’s Diet Tyga, if you can imagine such a thing, and he appears on “Next” as a gust of air on a hundred degree day – briefly noticeable but unnoticeable. Sevyn, as always, has a great name but boring songs. In the middle of it all, a bluesy guitar curdles out of a melody, the dissonance bringing something briefly interesting to the track.
[4]

Megan Harrington: Riddle me this: if you’ve got the good sense to give Sevyn Streeter a minimalist R&B beat and she’s got the good sense to keep her lyrics similarly sparse, what math justifies the inclusion of Kid Ink? He is just dreadful, though I suppose that’s his role in the song’s narrative. His bookending verse juxtaposes “might say tonight was the last straw/but in the morning I’ll be sipping from your glass jaw” with “never been a pimp or a backhander.” Sure, he won’t hit you, but he knows if he did your face would shatter. If that’s your ex-boyfriend, I don’t know, try Tinder. 
[6]

Juana Giaimo: I don’t consider myself too demanding about lyrics, but as if the chorus wasn’t silly enough, hearing lines like “but he loves my face with no make-up” and “never been a pimp or a backhander” — as if those were exceptional and unique manners of his personality– hurt my ears.
[4]

Brad Shoup: I thought no more songwriting juice could be squeezed out of crazy love. Turns out you can drill a hole with guitar and organ. After Streeter wrings the musing of the chorus for all it’s worth and Kid Ink makes his modest appeal, the instruments unstem over and over, giving our kids plenty of time to curl up against the sunset, putting everything out of mind.
[9]

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

The Black Keys – Fever

Not a Peggy Lee cover…


[Video][Website]
[5.17]

Megan Harrington: “Fever” is both adequate and slightly over-produced. The Black Keys are slicker with each release, so this retro hallucination is expected. They’re catchy and sturdy, the time-keeping is tenuous and the keyboards are mashed. Your parents came around to “Let My Love Open the Door,” and you’ll find “Fever” worthy of deep cut status in a couple decades. Weighing the counterbalance, Danger Mouse is completely groan-worthy here. Why is there a vocal echo? Why are the bass levels distorted? These are such distracting choices. My score nods towards forgiveness; there’s solid songwriting here. 
[7]

Patrick St. Michel: In which The Black Keys go to a garage sale, by some rinky-dink organ you’d expect to hear on Nuggets, and come up with a song that still just sounds like The Black Keys.
[4]

Alfred Soto: You boys sure love your organ! As usual, they make mirror movies before an audience ready to applaud them for embracing verities no band did in 1983, 1976, or 1965.
[3]

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: The drum jabs that open the track are easily the most interesting thing to listen to – the rest is overpriced barroom backing noise. And I like overpriced barrooms as much as the next guy! But those drums — and that creepy funfair riff — sound like a far more entertaining dive bar.
[5]

Iain Mew: Featurelessness doesn’t seem like the most obvious of things to compliment about a song, but in The Black Keys’ case sanding off their edges to become a Broken Bells with nominal blues trappings is a step up. I’ve never been so unannoyed by their vocals, and the way the song tilts on its axis and pours into the coda is lovely.
[7]

Brad Shoup: Maybe the “Abracadabra” synths help take away from his wheedle. The rumbly bass and general rock statis ensures this will stay on rock radio for weeks purely by default.
[5]

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Taking Back Sunday – Flicker, Fade

Forget flickering and fading; Megan goes straight in for the kill.


[Video][Website]
[4.50]

Jonathan Bradley: If there are second acts for American bands, “Flicker, Fade” is Taking Back Sunday’s, and it’s fitting that it’s so focused on self-destruction. The band exists as one half of a Long Island punk diptych completed by a group led by a founding TBS member — Jesse Lacey’s Brand New threw shots at his old band when he made Brand New’s first album, and the old members answered in kind on theirs. Then John Nolan and Shaun Cooper left. Then Fred Mascherino left and Nolan and Cooper rejoined. The ensuing tour, of a band reunited in a form that had only existed for one, beloved album, seemed both an effort an effort in magic and monetizing nostalgia. Could it be possible that the Tell All Your Friends crew was back? And could a group known for one (wonderful) album really trade on past glories? “Flicker, Fade” knits the gestures at opulence of Nolan’s old band Straylight Run with Adam Lazzara’s endless predilection for drama to create operatic throwback emocore that’s opulent even by the standards of a band that did much to create this aesthetic. The band that paved the way for Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance has finally grown out of its twenties and found an old age afterlife to its thirty perfect 2002 minutes. That it negs Kings of Leon is just a bonus.
[8]

Patrick St. Michel: So this guy likes that one Kings of Leon song, but he told someone he likes he hates it because…even he doesn’t know? And he needed to make a fuzz ballad about it?
[4]

Alfred Soto: More like “Snicker, Made.”
[4]

Edward Okulicz: You know, this song about something that flickers and fades… its verses aren’t that different from Cheap Trick’s “The Flame.” Except with a big, muscular EMO SHOUTING CHORUS. “Destroy what you create!” is silly but pretty satisfying — it’s not an improvement, but it doesn’t hurt.
[6]

Will Adams: A triple meter at this tempo typically sounds more lively. Fair enough; the chorus alone provides enough heft to carry the rest of this standard torch ballad. The word “flicker” is flung twice with the same rhythm, like a lightbulb pulsing its last beams. The “fade” is held on the same pitch as the first syllable of “flicker,” providing the same image of that light as it finally dies. It’s a wonderful example of text painting that retains melodic value. Shame that there’s not much more to recommend this.
[6]

Scott Mildenhall: This lives and dies by its chorus’ yellability. “Flicker, flicker fade” is a letdown — not enough syllables, four fifths of them quickfire repetition of a sound that doesn’t flow. “Destroy what you create” fares better, but it’s a little bit one-level. And “you wonder why it always ends the same” — like the song, too long. Kings of Leon actually understood all of this better.
[5]

Megan Harrington: This is a symbolic zero awarded on behalf of everyone who was ever told they didn’t know the first thing about good music. For me, that person called Taking Back Sunday their favorite band. It’s been a slow road to vengeance, but I knew I’d claim it someday and I was right. Personal vendetta aside, I also hate their fake Evan Dando lead singer and kitchen-sink mentality to anthems. Quiet/loud dynamics, string section, full band sing-along chorus — pick one, all three and you’re desperate to reconnect with an audience that would rather play Candy Crush Saga than listen to your song. 
[0]

Brad Shoup: A movie where the guy breaks up a wedding with a speech about how much he tolerates the bride’s love of “Sex on Fire” sounds like the worst thing tho.
[3]

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Future Islands – Seasons (Waiting on You)

The Singles Jukebox: Covering songs before they become memes since 2011…


[Video][Website]
[5.38]

Katherine St Asaph: Seasons change, instrumental palettes change, but bad indie rock vocalists still stay exactly the same. When you start going Kroeger, that shouldn’t be an improvement.
[4]

David Sheffieck: I kinda dig the production and hook here, but the affected Elton John-isms are too distracting to even begin to see past. Future Islands have been around for a while; if the rest of the band really care, why haven’t they had an intervention to tell the vocalist he’s embarrassing himself?
[4]

Alfred Soto: A couple weeks after Samuel T. Herring’s quasi-triumph on “Late Night with David Letterman” reminded everyone of the drunk queen at gay karaoke doing “Mr. Brightside,” we get the studio version — as passionate and silly as I expected, with Herring assuming vocal contortions I haven’t heard since the days of Roland Gift. The melody and arrangement are 1978 Barry Manilow.
[7]

Patrick St. Michel: Taps foot along to opening beat, hears opening lines and moves head a bit, pounds chest with closed left fist come the chorus as if to say “this is good, this is good!” “People change/but you know some people never do,” hits chest harder, makes scrunched up face like tears are about to flow. Keeps nodding to song, but also glances at watch, as Future Islands are just kind of repeating themselves without any pay off at this point. Clicks related-link to David Letterman performance on side, and makes shocked, over-the-top face at it, shocked at how much stronger it seems to be fine. Still musters a vigorous head nod, though, dramatically points hand at song. This, this song will do.
[7]

Cédric Le Merrer: No, Future Islands singers, the changing of seasons is not a good metaphor for your passive agressive assholery. Seasons have no choice in what happens to them. They have no regret, either. What they have, however, is blundering incompetents butchering them and then calling it the New Normal because like you, they won’t take responsability for their destiny. I kinda like how the band tries for epic without ever letting go enough to really get there. It really illustrates well the clunkiness of the metaphor. Unfortunately, I don’t think Future Islands are self conscious enough to be acknowledging their own douchebaggery.
[3]

Brad Shoup: He’s got a great morning-after voice, an Eltonian kind of imparted wisdom. I thought the synths were doing the work, but they flash after he inflects. If our grown men have abdicated this kind of synthrock, this will work as a substitute.
[7]

Megan Harrington: I like this song fine, but this whole Springsteen with synthesizers thing — it’s not blowing my mind anymore. I like the Killers’ approach much better (because their scale is so grand), and Springsteen himself used synthesizers. I also vehemently disagree with this description used as praise because the implication is that synthpop is still illegitimate and it’s only in a rock context that the synthesizer is an authentic instrument. None of this is Future Islands’ fault, and nothing says dramatic, hopeless love like a few well-placed synth notes. Add a few dadly dance moves and you’ve wandered backwards into a meme. Good for them. 
[7]

Mallory O’Donnell: Future Islands or Archipelagos of the Past? You decide.
[4]

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Mr Little Jeans – Good Mistake

Norway-via-LA is Scandopop in spirit…


[Video][Website]
[6.90]

Katherine St Asaph: Mr Little Jeans is another vaguely-indie vaguely-Scando brightly-pop artist who’s gotten songs on blogs for approximately infinity years; as it often turns out, they’ve all been pretty good! And writing a Heartthrob track down a Kate Boy grotto is another way to be pretty good. Next step: for the love of FKA Twigs, change the stage name.
[7]

Brad Shoup: Tegan & Sara are great, why not multiples, right? “Good Mistake” is concerned with horizontal progress, but the banjo garble implies pop smarts, or at least smartassness. (There’s also a chance she sampled “I Love It” at half-speed.) Major credits for finding the longest rhymes possible.
[7]

Anthony Easton: I like how scuffed-up and worn-out the sound at 2:39 is — almost literally, like rough heels on rougher concrete. Everything sounds so deliberate, so the scuffing is like the rips and spills on a Comme jacket: it makes the cheap seem that much more expensive.  
[9]

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: “Good Mistake” appears to shunt off strong songwriting in favour of intriguing textures, what with the rumbling baselines and hazy backing lyrics. And yet, the track sticks in the mind, offering glimmers of an unsteady heart with repeated plays. The lyric that most audibly stands out is “your secret’s safe with me”, and the song feels like a secret pledge, with phrases popping up to suggest an underplayed bloodthirst: “your secret’s safe with the garden gnome”, “a pocket knife”, “you can“. You’re left unsure as to what any of that means, but it’s worth another listen to try and solve.
[8]

Alfred Soto: Ace (of base) bass, enough to sustain the vocal underplaying.
[5]

Megan Harrington: It’s a serious challenge for me to find a reason to dislike a song with a heavy synth bassline, but Mr Little Jeans also end “Good Mistake” with vocal rounds and use it to choreograph an expertly Lynchian music video. This might be keyboards and drum machines signifying nothing, but with all the trappings of a spooky night on the town it’s a short hop from shallow to resonant. 
[7]

Juana Giaimo: While I find her dark hushed vocals and the twisted pop essence fascinating, in the chorus she suddenly turns into a new Lorde, but with a less interesting voice. 
[7]

Mallory O’Donnell: I wish more were happening here. There’s a nice atmosphere, some good buildup, but nothing really gets off the ground. Was it meant to get off the ground? I don’t know. Shouldn’t the people who made this have cared more? I feel like I care more, listening to it, then they did, making it. So… [6]? It is actually good… aw hell, now I’m all confused.
[6]

John Seroff: There’s so little pop it-factor here; the edifice is so sheer that even after a dozen listenings I can’t get enough purchase to recommend this for much more than able mixtape filler for your favorite coffee shop’s brunch rush. Maybe it sounds better in the club, but otherwise what’s the opposite of “epic”? Pastoral?
[5]

David Lee: Like wandering through a haunted house: a floorboard creaks here, a kickdrum heartbeat pounds from behind the wall, and somewhere upstairs (or is it the hall closet?) a wispy voice carries through the dusty, dim light. And then suddenly a trapdoor springs open, illuminating the room with the promise of a cavern filled with sparkling, synth treasure. When you finally peer down, the voice abruptly grows loud and, startled, you lose your footing. “Your secret’s safe with me!” The trapdoor slams shut.
[8]

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Beatrice Eli – Girls

I kissed a girl and I liked it better than Kid Cudi, Santigold and Girls


[Video][Website]
[7.00]

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Eli’s provocation begins early in life, like a scene out of Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac: “been thinking of my sixth grade teacher… it always gets me aroused.” And POW, Eli has your attention, dryly flicking through textbook desires with little interest as to how shocked you may be. Between the artist’s eye-rolling delivery and abrasive, yet simple gunshot percussion, “Girls” is a lot of fun. On her Twitter, Eli gleefully says that more blush-forming anthems are on their way: “Hahaha some of you thought “Girls” was explicit you just wait…” She also tweeted “PARTY IN MY PANTS” — let’s hope that’s not a direct tease.
[7]

Brad Shoup: I dunno about y’all, but I am un. raveling.
[10]

Iain Mew: The impatient first verse starts off with implications of insomnia before the sharp turn to “hoping you would come” and then the thoughts of a sixth grade teacher “getting me aroused”, the second played expertly for humour as much as shock. The twist isn’t just narrative, with the music spiraling out into dream territory alongside Eli’s frank words. She’s always in control, but the sense of scale that the booming drums provide is both familiar (these girls call like “Dominos”) and just the thing for some life-changing fantasies.
[8]

Megan Harrington: How much cooler is Beatrice Eli than Vince Neil? I am going to be very disappointed if this is later revealed as a publicity ploy. 
[9]

Katherine St Asaph: A few synths, a few strobes, and bluntly in the gap, its premise. Look, so: this is a musical environment in which t.A.T.u. thrived, and Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” thrived, both of which became their respective artists’ breakout hits because of lezsploitation, if not so much actual lesbians, and we all know this, and “Girls” is a totally different song if it’s cynical than if it’s sincere; but there’s no real evidence to think it’s not sincere, and everyone who’s heard this is looking for that and she knows it, and there isn’t enough song here for a thinkpiece besides.
[5]

Scott Mildenhall: Beatrice Eli claims to have little interest in the Macklemoreian aspect of the bizarre “congratulations, gay!”/”LOL GAY”/”ooh lesbian” paradox, but whether she likes it or not, she is placing herself firmly in the third bracket of that wretched Katy Perritory. It’d be disingenuous to claim otherwise — part of “Girls” centres around telling a boyfriend that, shock! she likes girls. That “shock” casts a shadow over the whole song; a brilliant one on pure sonics, but tainted by what feels like a thorough fetishisation of her feelings. Maybe she feels some kind of othering is inevitable in a heterosexist society, but is it? Does it have to be, in her song? In pop?
[7]

John Seroff: The social lib in me would like to give “Girls” credit for button and border pushing, but hoooo boy is this ever bad: bloodless, inelegant, flimsy electromope production with a clunky rhyme scheme, disaffected delivery and 30H!3-caliber lyricism. This is possibly the first song I’ve heard focused on eating pussy that makes the act sound boring.
[2]

Alfred Soto: Let me start with what it gets wrong: the martial beats enforce an unbecoming didacticism, as if loving the same sex qualified you to march in a parade line; the singsong melody doesn’t help the line about Eli seeing pictures of herself between her legs (she’s shoving the rest of us in with her). But the electronics, thick and uncluttered, undergird Eli’s frankness.
[6]

Jer Fairall: She deadpans a little too cooly for me, placing ironic quotation marks around her text that ought not to be there, but “Girls” is saved by Eli’s forthrightness: her masturbatory fantasies are as defiant (to us) and revelatory (to her) as they are frustrated.
[7]

Anthony Easton: No matter how predatory this is — and it is, terribly so — I find it profoundly erotic and isolating. The rawness of women’s sexual power is still viewed as scary in our culture, and one cannot escape from the culture one lives in. All of that said, it might be threatening from the prelude and the coda. The percussive kick and spit, introducing a spoken voice, magpie inherited from PJ circa Rid of Me, or Frankie Goes to Hollywood circa “Relax,” or Cohen around “Jazz Police,” or Courtney around Celebrity Skin — wise, knowing, and precise.
[9]

Edward Okulicz: A perfectly OK song about (admittedly LOOK AT ME-ish) lesbian desire, slightly ruined by the awkward “coming out” in the second verse, which is a bit statement-y for my taste. Some stories are best left with the silences left in.
[6]

Mallory O’Donnell: Hovering around tremulous questions of gender, identity or sexuality here is to be resolutely avoided. All songs devoted to the thrust of young love should be so primal, innocent, shameless and shameful. Look, we’ve all seen those pictures in our heads. We just need a helping hand to show us how we can instagram them without feeling bad about it.
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Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Ace Wilder – Busy Doin’ Nothin’

It’s Scandopop Wednesday! And who better to start off with than a Melodifestivalen runner-up…


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Abby Waysdorf: I’m massively fascinated by the Eurovision Song Contest, but I don’t tend to follow national competitions because inevitably, something really good doesn’t qualify, and then I’m pissed off at what did qualify and can’t bring myself to even give it a chance. That probably would have been the case with Sweden’s entrant if I’d been properly following Melodifestivalen, which I wasn’t. So we don’t get this fun Avicii meets Bow Wow Wow song onstage in Copenhagen, but we can listen to it here. It’s got all the makings of a summer hit, as the days get long in northern Europe and everyone wants to shake off the winter and get hedonistic. I’ve heard “Wake Me Up” a few too many times for the country-EDM of the verses to make me do anything but roll my eyes, but the update (both in subject matter and tone) of “W.O.R.K.” in the choruses is great fun. All electro bleeps, stomp, and laconic charm, it brings the timeless sentiment of “hey, work goddamn sucks” into the 21st century party.
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Megan Harrington: Ace Wilder is on her second and a half life, keeping the Skrillex drops of “Bitches Like Fridays” but only as a form of mild electrocution after letting her new countrified delivery slow to a sleepy lull. I hope she keeps this one; “Busy Doin’ Nothin’” is one of the better country crossover hits of the year, a rebel anthem for a misunderstood generation. 
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Edward Okulicz: This is effectively a Swedish Ke$ha doing a take on “Wham Rap.” Ace Wilder’s ode to indolence makes Avril Lavigne sound like a focused young lady with her head screwed on straight, but while she doesn’t want to work, she does — the rhythm is more of a quick march than an effortless bosh, and there are two choruses, the second of which is enormous, bratty and irresistible. Both rest on tripled words — “busy, busy, busy” and “work, work, work” — twin, easily-shouted anthems of rebellion, financial irresponsibility and not thinking of the future while you stay there and rot.
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John Seroff: The depressing intersection of Avicii, Train, Icona Pop and a “THANKS OBAMA!” GIF.
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Alfred Soto: Long ago Mick Jagger released a single about what he’s learned as a member of the aristocracy. No one listened. Now Ace Wilder uses the sugar rush of a chorus to shout ”don’t wanna work work work” while using the acoustic guitars anchoring the chorus to delineate the manifesto. She’s stressin’ over nuthin’, she says, and with a performance this convincing I believe her.
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Anthony Easton: The irony of a song working so hard to talk about not wanting to work is a familiar trope, but this is an excellent example. It’s bratty, kind of ugly, and it has a perfect, historically minded chorus, somewhere between Grace Jones without the sangfroid and Avril just grown up, coke-addled and English. 
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David Sheffieck: The acoustic-driven verses are some of the weakest production I’ve heard in a while, like some unholy gene-spliced combination of “Wake Me Up” and “Counting Stars,” but the chorus finds Wilder displaying the kind of spark-plug power she exhibited earlier on “Do It.” But while that debut track was direct and simple, this sounds frustratingly at war with itself.
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Iain Mew: I usually love the move of having one song explode out of another one, and the chorus of “Busy Doin’ Nothin’” is a fine example, a powerfully direct blast of “I Love It” id. Still, the greater achievement is the rest of it, because to set up the maximum contrast it’s played in a smooth “One Day”/“Counting Stars” mode, and making such a fun pop song out of that material can’t be easy.
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Brad Shoup: Lyrically, it’s built for the summer. But that plunging picking is strictly fall. Which means this fucker’s gonna be in all those service industry bars you like to haunt. Let’s hope it doesn’t get a karaoke version, or the poignance might combust the room.
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Katherine St Asaph: All Hail Ace Wilder, Patron Saint of the Underemployed Freelancer Burnouts, She Who Sees My Empty Plastic Cup, Forever and Ever and Ever Until The Bank Runs Dry, God Help Us, Amen.
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David Lee: It’s advantageous for dance music writers to craft songs as vaguely as possible. Doing so invites a wide range of people to map their emotional projections onto the same thump and grind. Sometimes, though, this vacuum of generality — so often a welcome dumping ground for inhibition, anxiety, and exhaustion — backfires. As is the case with “Busy Doin’ Nothing.” Who, exactly, is the narrator here? Is it a rich youngster lording her laziness over generational cohorts who get chided en masse for their membership in a made-up demographic? Or is she really just one of us, dreaming of a world where she commutes the work ethic demanded of her in the office into the work bitch ethic demanded of her on the dance floor? Plenty of Top 40 EDM tunes present this double-sided coin of fantasy and reality — are you downing shots because you want to get somewhere or because you want to get away from somewhere? — but they deftly shroud the duality with blaring abandon, rendering any tensions irrelevant. And the same applies here: if the deliciously bratty REM cycle of a chorus were fleshed out and the minor-key “Wake Me Up” rework cut out, I would likely be capable of shutting off my dumb, fussy intellect and letting the music subsume me. But I can’t and I blame it on the ha-a-a-acky songwriting. Consider this adulterated fun.
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