Friday, October 17th, 2014

Netsky ft. Beth Ditto – Running Low

Opinions high.


[Video][Website]
[5.20]

Abby Waysdorf: Beth Ditto in full House Diva mode is a glorious thing. She delivers completely here, emotional in the verses, over-the-top in the choruses, showcasing what she can bring to the genre. It’s a shame the rest of the song is generic Low Countries whatever-EDM, the sort of stuff I hear in the background of cellphone commercials here. I’m waiting for the remix that gives the vocal track a song worthy of it.
[7]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Beth Ditto doing her thing over some rocky Drudge & Blah beat. Sure to be a big hit with the Zane Lowe crowd.
[2]

Thomas Inskeep: When I heard Beth Ditto was fronting a Belgian dance single, I mistakenly assumed it would be something a bit H&LA-esque – certainly not a d’n’b stormer. That’s what I get for assuming. Let’s party like it’s 1998, because this track expertly pairs big nasty beats and a big diva vocal and is the epitome of a firestarter. 
[7]

Anthony Easton: I love Ditto’s voice and her skillful manipulation of it: how she pushes formal limits back, how she is an old fashioned, often brilliant belter, a belt that comes very close to a shout. I am not convinced that Netsky’s work here does all that it could to position Ditto in ways that reward repeated listening.
[5]

Ashley Ellerson: Either my dollar store headphones are messing with the sound quality, or the music is drowning Beth’s vocals in the chorus. Like, how do you utilize freakin’ Beth Ditto, owner of a killer voice, and sandwich her between (not above) noise we’ve heard time and time again? The buildup led me to believe that a disco hit was about to drop, but buildups are deceiving. I’m sure the club kids will love it.
[5]

Patrick St. Michel: Yet it just keeps going.
[3]

Alfred Soto: When Eurodance was overrun by the Calvin Harris Army, this single sounded mildly diverting. Now she says screw it — the invasion wasn’t so bad. She sounds like a commercial for a Time-Life compilation of the history of Eurodance. With beats so thin you can spread Brie on them and an overstatement big enough to fill a rave in a factory.
[5]

Scott Mildenhall: Beth Ditto’s voice has flourished in all kinds of settings. On Gossip tracks, her own, Blondie’s, it’s been one of rage, portent and affirmation, but here isn’t making as much sense. Somehow she feels apart from a production midway between 2008 Laser Quest era Pendulum and bought-a-guitar 2009 Chase & Status. That part sounds ideal, but she sounds tacked-on, and Beth Ditto should never sound tacked-on.
[6]

Brad Shoup: This is the flattest drum ‘n’ bass song I’ve ever heard. Ditto and the portentous synth chase each other around, and this faint figure half-heartedly tries to compensate for strings. There’s no room for that kind of elegance: this is an angry track, a whole mess of dark ocean waves.
[5]

Jonathan Bogart: I don’t think I’ve ever heard a tune that more accurately embodied EDM as house-meets-stadium-rock. This isn’t a bad thing; both house and stadium rock have their massive crowdpleasing appeal because they conjure very broad and universal emotions in extremely unsubtle ways. House is traditionally about collective transcendence; stadium rock is traditionally about how cool the guys on stage are; but both of them are sneakily, and reliably beloved because of it, about heartbreak.
[7]

Friday, October 17th, 2014

The Juan Maclean – A Simple Design

Not a simple consensus.


[Video][Website]
[6.12]

Will Adams: I never tire of hearing Nancy Whang’s harsh, double-tracked vocals against gorgeous electro-disco. It’s a juxtaposition that always intrigues rather than jars, and “A Simple Design” is no different. True to its name, it’s a pop song at its core, but Juan Maclean is too smart to keep his gorgeous shimmer synths under wraps.
[8]

Anthony Easton: You can’t sing, and so you speak, and slide the production to Amanda Lear, 70’s style. But Lear could both talk and sing. Besides, you aren’t that louche. Aesthetic choices born out of failure should be more interesting than this mess. Minus a point for the literal-ism of the “down” in joke.
[2]

Ashley Ellerson: It’s not too loud, it doesn’t have an unnecessary buildup, it’s perfect for light moving and grooving, and Nancy Whang sings lyrics that are relevant over carefree. Disco, house, and light dance punk were mixed in a nice dance stew for “A Simple Design”, and I want to eat this stew everyday. 
[8]

Alfred Soto: Or: title fulfillment. If I have to listen to Nancy Whang for more than a couple tracks at a time I get nostalgic for Martha Wash. On 2008’s “Happy House”  she kept up with the thundering keyboards, creating the impression that  she was another woman lost in music, caught in a trance; the “you” who  is “so excellent” could be Juan MacLean himself, creator of one of the new  century’s most exuberant singles. Although “A Simple Design” need no defense, just sweat, nothing feels at stake; it  doesn’t even bother flirting with transgression, a decision embodied in  Whang and MacLean’s self-containment. To summon the past for listeners  born too late for house is defensible, but set beside Hercules &  Love Affair’s The Feast of the Broken Heart this Juan MacLean album honors its title. Still. Still.
[8]

Thomas Inskeep: For having such a distinctive voice, Nancy Whang sure is a personality-less singer. Which kinda makes her a perfect fit for the Juan Maclean, because as opposed to, say, Hercules & Love Affair, the Juan Maclean’s records are, while fine, fairly sterile: music for “hip” optometrist’s offices. Also, this sounds like K-Klass.
[5]

Jonathan Bogart: Some days it’s nice to remember that disco never changes.
[7]

Maxwell Cavaseno: THIS CLUB IS SO BORING! OH SHIT Y’ALL, IT’S MORE ELECTRO FROM DFA! I TOTALLY HAVEN’T HEARD THIS LABEL TURN OUT THE SAME SINGLE FOR A DECADE AND A HALF! DON’T YOU GUYS MISS LCD SOUNDSYSTEM!? DO YOU WANT TO GO TO MY LOFT!? I THINK CARLOS D IS THERE, PLUS I HAVE COCAINE AND I JUST FOUND MY OLD MISS KITTIN ALBUM. WHAT DO YOU MEAN, IT’S NOT 2003!?!?
[4]

Brad Shoup: Whang’s declamations go down well; they contain the possibility of being wrong. The track shuffles along with grace — opaque like so much else on DFA, but gauzier, more nakedly nostalgic. But the vocals remind me of… Ace of Base, I think. Steely, omniscient, a little judgmental.
[7]

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Raquel Sofía – La Ecuación

Backup singer for Shakira and Juanes takes the lead mic…


[Video][Website]
[6.33]

Brad Shoup: Latin America had thriving New Wave and rock scenes in the ’80s, too. “La Ecuación” is pitched between the two, with a playful bassline and a vocal performance to match. She’s so brash in the bridge, it’s practically K-pop.
[6]

Patrick St. Michel: A pleasant bop-along… until that breakdown, which is a nice shake-ya-up interruption, enough to give this one extra point. 
[6]

Alfred Soto: I wish the writers had toughened the conceit. “I don’t care what others say,” she snaps, and well, why should she? It’s math, according to her. You wouldn’t say 2+2 = 5 unless you were Ted Cruz explaining stuff to midterm election voters. An extra point for the tempo change.
[5]

Jonathan Bogart: I had to start this one over about five times because the various streams on my mobile devices kept crapping out on me (I guess I need to set my new router up differently), with the result that I became intimately familiar with the first half of the song… so that when I finally got the full song and the cheerleader chant came in during the back half it was even more of a pleasant surprise. The cheerful venom of the verses is so great that the lovelorn chorus feels oddly deflating, but that closing patter helps to paper over the joins.
[8]

Edward Okulicz: I’m utterly entranced by the pre-chorus here, coiled like a spring that launches the chorus. Add that delightful breakdown and the frisky beat and you’ve got something pitched halfway between Cyndi and Gwen. I pity everyone trying to hear this in the northern hemisphere where it isn’t spring right now.
[8]

Thomas Inskeep: Perky Latin pop like Shakira made pre-English language stardom. Entirely entertaining, and I won’t remember it five minutes from now. 
[5]

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Kira Isabella – Gone Enough

Our second-highest scorer follows up, fumbles slightly?


[Video][Website]
[6.83]
Alfred Soto: I expected these brawny guitars on Big & Rich’s comeback, not here. Of course “Gone Enough” isn’t the revelation that “Quarterback” remains, but if that song was a dispatch, this one is a report from the front lines, where she has no intention of being any guy with a truck’s plan B. If she keeps this up the Pistol Annies might need to be a foursome.
[7]

Anthony Easton: The guitar work here — somewhere north of Top 40 rock and south of rockabilly — matches the spitting lyrics. It is of a certain type, but Isabella has amazing story telling skills and a chameleon tendency to know where nu-country is and where it’s going. I think she might be the Canuck who breaks through Nashville’s parochial fear of non-Americans.
[8]

Edward Okulicz: Nothing more than a low-wattage Band Perry.
[5]

Brad Shoup: She’s got electrified twang to fill a room, and a fiddle that enters like a stock sitcom character. It’s “God Blessed Texas” with a sentiment that other people can relate to, I suppose.
[6]

Will Adams: I wished those chugging sixteenths on the pre- and post-chorus would stick around more. It’s the place where Kira Isabella’s fire rages the most powerfully.
[6]

Thomas Inskeep: In all the right ways this screams of a next-gen Carrie Underwood, from its uptempo ass-kickin’-ness, to her voice (definitely reminiscent of Underwood’s, especially when she sings the word “enough”) to its lyrical content (not takin’ shit from a cheater). Isabella’s no copycat though; she’s got her own personality, full of sass for days. One of the year’s best country singles.
[9]

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Magalie – First Kiss

How will we know if she’s really the next [FILL IN THE BLANK]?


[Video][Website]
[6.10]

Katherine St Asaph: The pop music press is broken in many ways; one trivial example: it is not currently laboring to find and champion the next “Call Me Maybe.” Luckily, the industry seems to be doing so — albeit, in this case, getting there by way of finding the next Rita Ora — and Magalie’s debut single adds to the mix a rubbery Robyn synth, thwacking percussion and a generous portion of “How Will I Know.” The chorus takes a while to find its rhythm, and a few notes are overly breathless, but the song’s called “First Kiss”; no one expects perfection the first go-round.
[7]

Brad Shoup: I’m not really enjoying this new age of Carly Rae Jepsen only getting mentioned in the context of telling people that Carly Rae Jepsen’s album was underrated, y’all. “First Kiss” shimmers over a pneumatic drum machine; Magalie navigates it like a suggested route. “The boy next door” is a porn character, then he’s an angel, then he’s just a boy.
[9]

Patrick St. Michel: Does something that sounds so squiggly and bright but indebted to all sorts of artists from the (in some cases, not-so-distant) past really need to exist in 2014? Magalie’s first single overflows with synth buzzs and a follow-the-bouncing-ball beat, and she’s great at making her voice reflect the implied rush the titular action has on her. It is a totally serviceable pop song… but one that sounds like all sorts of other numbers already in existent. It’s nice, but it also sorta just makes me want to listen to Whitney Houston. 
[5]

Anthony Easton: More Katy Perry than ye-ye, it makes one wonder if the homogenizing quality of the American empire has reached the aesthetics of innocent but seeking experience pop songs, which used to have an individual, separate national character. 
[7]

Alfred Soto: When it keeps threatening to turn into “How Will I Know” the synth gurgles rein it in, which is a pity.
[5]

Thomas Inskeep: Like Robyn covering Whitney in a post-Miley world. 
[6]

David Sheffieck: The subject matter is well suited for a Radio Disney hit, but the production kneecaps Magalie here: as “First Kiss” progresses, it seems to become weighed down just when it should be achieving escape velocity. This is all lower-register, claustrophobic synth pulses, the kind that compete with Magalie’s voice rather than complementing it. It’s a bizarre and unfortunate misstep for a song that could be much stronger if given a treatment that better suited its themes and hooks.
[4]

Scott Mildenhall: There’s nothing wrong with repetition, but to put things one way, Magalie is no Paul Johnson. The more central you make a title line, the more its scansion and delivery matter. In this instance the words jab repeatedly like a poke in a side, with Magalie’s accents in the worst places – “gave me MY FIRST kiss” – to make the timing as unpredictable as possible, even as she keeps doing it. It’s the bit of the egg the curate would smuggle into the bin.
[4]

Will Adams: My first kiss was at fourteen, a little after 8pm, outside her dormitory. I quickly walked back to mine and couldn’t stop smiling. There was also a nervous energy coursing through my body. We chatted over Facebook later that night, and I asked her if I was an okay kisser, because I knew that she had kissed guys before, and I needed validation. I held my breath waiting for her response, beginning to shiver at the notion of how weird it was for me to be asking her such a thing. Magalie’s “First Kiss” feels a lot like mine; the drums punch through with power while the ethereal pad seems beamed in from heaven. But it also has that awkwardness, that second-guessing, the way she flits in between voices and gives the spotlight to “the boy next door,” a hook that adds extra lyrical baggage. The difficult intersection of nostalgia and embarrassment has rarely been so accurately portrayed.
[7]

Megan Harrington: It’s Cuffing Season! The phenomenon dreamed up by teens looking to lock down their Homecoming dates is settling in for the big chill. This year’s anthem? “First Kiss” — chaste enough to keep your parents placid but dirty enough to catch that cutie’s attention if you tweet the lyrics during pre-calc. 
[7]

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Five Finger Death Punch – Wrong Side of Heaven

FOR SO LOO-OO-OOONG…


[Video][Website]
[3.75]

Anthony Easton: Someone needs a hug and a reminder that God loves him. Also, maybe some honey throat lozenges for all that Cookie Monstering. 
[4]

Megan Harrington: What if Jesse Lacey only had the verbal skills of Dishwalla? You’d have “Wrong Side of Heaven,” a Jesus Christ pose without any delicacy. Five Finger Death Punch match their plodding ballad to a message encouraging listeners to support veterans; I’m empathetic, but it’s easy enough to separate song and video and their Support The Troops campaign only distracts from the song’s blatant awfulness. This is the most rudimentary and dangerous understanding of Christianity, the kind that encourages self-identifying as righteous and saved. It’s unsurprising that the band slugs through it, screaming to force emotional highs where there aren’t any. “Wrong Side of Heaven” is more alienating than comforting. 
[2]

Patrick St. Michel: Plodding plodding shouty music — tie it to whatever well-meaning-but-unrelated music video you want and it still is a slog.
[3]

Thomas Inskeep: Well, in the hard-crunchy-yet-melodic-rock sweepstakes, it’s certainly better than the new Nickelback single. Lead singer Ivan Moody has a richer, more resonant voice than is normally associated with this genre, especially when not going all aggro-hernia-esque. But overall there’s not so much to differentiate this from countless other Rockstar Mayhem Festival bands.
[4]

Maxwell Cavaseno: As far as nu-metal bands go, Five Finger Death Punch exist in the more traddy, Disturbed world of making pop-metal jams for radio rock. It’s a mookish field of dudes with shaved heads, righteous fists of indignation, big choruses and lyrics that mean absolutely nothing, and FFDP haven’t broken from this trend. Big riffs of no value, thunderous drama, and a hollow body, this band has been a Trojan Horse from jump and nothing has changed. The insidious fact is that as bands from more progressive and ambitious fields — NWOAHM, nu-metal, metalcore, you name it — fall by the wayside, these pedantic bands never go away.
[1]

Iain Mew: There are some words that sound particularly proper delivered in TOTAL SERIOUSNESS amidst clouds of fake smoke. “Righteous” is one of them, even before you bring heaven and hell in. Beyond that joy, I particularly like the way that Five Finger Death Punch growl right in the background to give their melodies just a bit more edge, and make the couple of times the growl is forefronted that bit more dramatic.
[7]

Brad Shoup: All those e-brake flips into bellowing and all the darkness/light contrasts are so camp, but so is that delightful bridge, which channels A Perfect Circle more than I would ever have expected from these dudes.
[5]

Jonathan Bogart: I wish I could believe anything was so dramatic as this music wants to be. Certainly the operations of an individual soul are not.
[4]

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

The Veronicas – You Ruin Me

The Veronicas: Grouse


[Video][Website]
[3.20]

Maxwell Cavaseno: About a perfect midway point between Christina Perri’s “Jar Of Hearts” sense of grandeur and Rihanna’s “Take A Bow” in theme, The Veronicas go for the ballad and just kind of make it happen. The verses are awkward and ungainly, and the bridge falters before returning to the hook that I’m just not riding for in any sense. Pretty weak overall, and not inspiring trust to invest in their grasps for maturity.
[3]

Scott Mildenhall: Songs that have genuinely just been removed from the depthless, near-deathless Heart playlist: “Counting Stars”, “Just Give Me A Reason”, “Locked Out Of Heaven”. A song just added: this. So with a degree of implausibility, it has a shot at ubiquity. Australian hits tend not to have a pathway to the UK — it can take “4ever” for one to appear, 4years late — but perhaps there’ll always be a chance for something so firmly into Christina Perritory. Caught somewhere between the unravelling derangement of “Jar Of Hearts” and overall rangelessness of “A Thousand Years” though, it’s found something of a no-man’s land: all unease, but no punch.
[5]

Brad Shoup: Finally, Australia finds a way to thank Pink for all the memories.
[4]

Alfred Soto: At first it sounded like a ponderous ode to her guitar, but if the Veronicas think instruments and hence music deserve praise then they need to write better material than Linda Perry on Xanax. 
[4]

Thomas Inskeep: This sub-P!nk piano-and-strings ballad is limper than a piece of wet spaghetti. 
[1]

Jer Fairall: The vocal suggests someone who has spent the time they should have been listening to Tori Amos absorbing the schlocky lessons of Christina Perri and Lana Del Rey and Demi Lovato’s “Skyscraper” instead. Even the genuinely rueful note struck, ever so briefly, by “In the end, I hope she was worth it” is diminished by a string section and backing ahhhs that reveal someone’s failure of confidence in the whole thing.
[4]

Katherine St Asaph: I am generally pro-The Veronicas. The Veronicas make it difficult to sustain this position.
[3]

Patrick St. Michel: I think I’m ruined, because all I can think of is “this is so boring.”
[1]

Will Adams: A miserable mess of confused metaphor and maudlin arrangement. If this is some attempt to display artistic growth, they’ve got it really, really wrong.
[2]

Jonathan Bogart: The sentiment is general enough that it could easily be latched onto by a horde of done-wrong-by listeners. That’s the problem. It excerpts too well: the same two-note plod (expertly timed and orchestrated, of course) throughout, with no change in dynamics or ideas, means it’s always only going to be an accessory to an emotion, and never a center of emotion itself.
[5]

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

The Pretty Reckless – Fucked Up World

It’s Rock Day! And sometime while people cared piss-all about rock Taylor Momsen became No. 1…


[Video][Website]
[5.92]

Josh Langhoff: Taylor Momsen’s vague about which transgressions are sending her to hell. From parsing her band’s very good second album, I’m pretty sure she gave head to Evil Incarnate out in the woods, and then maybe killed a dude. She might be proud of this, but it doesn’t make her feel good. Going to Hell reeks of Catholic guilt like no other album this year, and though Catholics aren’t the only sinners who protest too much (remember when Sufjan thought he was John Wayne Gacy?), they’re the most thorough and physical about it, as though guilt — not matter, energy, chi, or money — constitutes the fabric of the world. That’s why “Fucked Up World” comes as such a release at album’s end: Momsen finally transcends the guilt fabric, not by jamming Jesus down her throat (now there’s a Catholic image!) but by seeing the world clearly and refusing to care. Drummer Jamie Perkins is right there with her, playing the tension — terse snare on every beat like the beginning of “Lump” — that loosens into joyful cascades on the choruses. They sound more earthbound and less cynical than all those scary beardos stalking the Real Rock Radio trash heap. They may or may not light cigarettes with guns.
[7]

Megan Harrington: When you think about it, Taylor Momsen and Drake have quite a bit in common. 
[7]

Thomas Inskeep: “Sex and love and guns, light a cigarette”: yeah, that pretty much sums it up. If Joan Jett circa 1980 appeared today, she’d be fronting this band, playing hard rock that says “You don’t wanna fuck with me, buddy,” while the incessant tambourine roots it in the ’60s, in a good way, an “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.” way. Taylor Momsen snarls her way through the song and kicks out the jams on the chorus. This is precisely, absolutely what I want from a rock record in 2014 — or any year, frankly.
[10]

Jer Fairall: Gossip Girl star does a surprisingly plausible Joan Jett impersonation. Colour me impressed, though the elder Runaway would have brought this in at a more concise running time.
[6]

Alfred Soto: Taylor Momsen’s snarls will get the kudos, rightly, but the organ and rhythms are pretty fucked up too.
[7]

Iain Mew: Some of the sloganeering The Pretty Reckless throw at the wall is great fun: “they want to know who did it but the answer’s really us!” “You ain’t getting what you want unless you’re getting it for free!” It’s also worth sticking around for the emphatic thrust back into the song after the instrumental bridge. There are a couple of big problems. First, the production and mixing sounds terrible, right through scuzzy and into muffled. Second, the start of the chorus sounds so much like Garbage’s “Cherry Lips” that it just highlights the waste in not giving this the pop-with-bells-on treatment it’s crying out for.
[5]

Anthony Easton: Taylor Momsen wants to be a rock star, but the anthemic quality of this, and how it speeds up after that break around 2:35, is more B-52s and less Joan Jett. It doesn’t get close to the genius of the B-52s being fronted by Joan Jett, but we all can’t hope for miracles. 
[8]

Jonathan Bogart: The sturdy mechanics of glam as processed through the postgrunge sheen of mid-90s radio rock are generally going to have a baseline appeal to me. This channels any number of post-Hole also-rans, and while I appreciate the attitude I can’t help wondering whether slackerface is really the appropriate model of protest for 2014.
[7]

Brad Shoup: I’m pretty sure the definition of glam is “hard rock that neither the performer nor audience takes seriously”, and this judgy little number definitely qualifies. Momsen helms a bone-dry production, punchy and cynical as prime Hole. The clatter in the bridge isn’t weird enough to compensate for a good ol’ solo, though.
[6]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Guitars. They have a great thing going for them in the fact that they’re portable and can be used both percussive and melodically. You can’t really carry around pianos, you can’t sing along to your trumpet or flute, and drums are just noise to some people no matter how hard you try. A guitar is kind of like bread. Everybody eats bread, right? Bread is the universal language, more so than the Coca-Cola bottle. Everyone hears a guitar and thinks, “Oh yes, it’s a GUITAR.” They know what that’s supposed to mean. There’s no song here, there’s no meal. It’s just bread. You asked for it, you got it, it’ll do. Bread.
[1]

David Sheffieck: The lyrics are dumb as anything — you would literally have to plant a bunch of peppers in the yard to have a more garden-variety form of rebellion. But man, that breakdown just works for me: just unexpected enough, and longer than I would’ve expected, it’s enough to give the song some weight and enough to make me buy in by the time the chorus comes crashing back.
[6]

Danilo Bortoli: Writing about “Fucked Up World” means also writing about a favorite subject of mine, something most people call “institutionalised confusion.” When people get confused, or even when an entire society gets confused, words lose their true, unique meaning, leaving people vulnerable to blind relativism. So when I listen to Taylor Momsen talking about (long lost) symbols like “sex and love”, “guns” and lighting cigarettes under a nice, clean guitar riff, figuring out what she’s talking about can be a tricky job. Sex and love have lost both their meanings in the eyes of an eternal revolution. Guns? Well, you know the story. Cigarettes need no further explanation. This whole regression would be unnecessary if “Fucked Up World” could at least transcend its symbols, its center narrative, like great pop music usually does. This leads to the dead song “Fucked Up World” turns out to be: an ode for the misfits and a bunch of lost symbols, when a greater question to be asked would be how we got so messed up. An even greater decision would be to forget about dumb rebellion and revolt (not rebel) anyway.
[1]

Katherine St Asaph: The chorus is a shrug because the sentiment is a shrug. Of course it’s a fucked-up world, in a banal way that saps the rebellion out of you. Read the news. (Read the news, at that link, at any point in time; it’ll work.) It is a routine now: I wake up at 7 a.m. to the same then-nu-alt-rock song, not dissimilar to this, then let the fuckery of the first hour of the morning in like pallid sunbeams; take in a news cycle and watch my part of the world react with burnt-out despair to the rest of the world’s innovations in fuckifying itself it worse; after a day of this my energy’s so exhausted it’s a wonder I can even listen to a rocker, let alone be galvanized by it. As such, the Pretty Reckless are best when you let the words shrug off their syntax — “sex ain’t love, and guns light a cigarette,” what’s the diff? — and refuse to hear anything more than glossy, crunchy altpoprock nostalgia that’d be radio-ready 20 years ago. We remember the ’90s because we want to escape back into them.
[6]

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Netta Brielle – 3xKrazy

The Bay on her back…


[Video][Website]
[6.00]

Maxwell Cavaseno: For anyone who’s been paying attention this year, a lot of the promotion for the patchy collection of songs via DJ Mustard’s 10 Summers and Iamsu!’s slumper of a cure for insomnia Sincerely Yours involved a “beef” over the origins of DJ Mustard’s innovations belonging to the Bay, and his supposed “failing’ to pay ‘proper’ homage” (Iamsu! was ON Mustard’s album though, so was this just a way to attract attention to two really terrible albums? Probably). So, the territoriality of Netta Brielle announcing — over the intro to a song produced by Iamsu! affiliate P-Lo and hyphy survivor Traxamillion, named and crafted after a single by Bay star Keak da Sneak’s old crew – that she’s “really from here tho” is a statement in itself. It’s an obvious reply to “2 On”, but she forgoes the more restrained vocal qualities of Tinashe for a slow-burn of vocal heat fueled by the turbulence of the beat. I doubt it’ll have the impact of its progenitor, but it’s more than a song — it’s a challenge to the false divide between Mustard and the rest of the scene that brought him to such heights. Also, this, and every song on the planet, but this specifically, demands a Sage The Gemini verse STAT.
[7]

Anthony Easton: This isn’t even 3xKrazy, unless she meant how many times she Xeroxed Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” to make something this anemic. 
[3]

Alfred Soto: “Sweating your persona / You think you wanna” is the awkward rhyme of the year, honoring the awkward title. The rest is early ’00s R&B, down to the bleh LL Cool J interpolation.
[4]

Thomas Inskeep: I like the references here — the lyrics lifted from Mary Jane Girls’ “All Night Long” and the general mid-’90s R&B vibe — but I wish there were more here here, y’know what I mean? “3xKrazy” is alright, but very unexceptional. And that’s an awful title.
[5]

Crystal Leww: Netta Brielle kind of seems like the type of girl I’d want to get cosmos with at 7pm and gossip about every ex-boyfriend who ever called us crazy. She’s just so full of vibrant, manic, and colorful personality that I’m sure we’d get a little drunk and talk a little bit too much, you know?
[8]

Brad Shoup: The track’s immersive, with that medium-sized bassline blending well with the sequencing and the dissolute bells. When Brielle breaks off melismas, it’s not so great, but she can hold notes with some grain; nothing’s really crazy (at least, not in the grand tradition of the Bay), but it’ll get you home at night.
[6]

Jonathan Bogart: I detect g-funk somewhere in the DNA of this beat, which no doubt makes me more broadly sympathetic to it than I otherwise might be, because I am old like that. Or maybe I just haven’t been listening to enough great R&B. Either way its midtempo lope and skittering treble have me thoroughly charmed.
[7]

Katherine St Asaph: I know how unimaginative and/or imperceptive and/or gross the statement is, but after years of trendspotting this finally is another golden age of R&B, isn’t it?
[8]

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

August Alsina ft. Nicki Minaj – No Love (Remix)

She’s also available for wedding remixes, Bar Mitzvah remixes…


[Video][Website]
[5.75]

Megan Harrington: Unfortunately, this is August Alsina’s song. And he is boring. Nicki gives him better than he deserves, a verse that simmers with despair. She maintains the song’s plaintive heartbreak, but given that the theme is such a non-starter in Alsina’s hands, I’d prefer a verse in character as the girl who broke his heart. 
[5]

Brad Shoup: Bold choice for Minaj to hold out for more — a deviation from Alsina’s theme, but she packs more feeling in her few sung lines than his entire Auto-Tuned shrug of a performance. He’s gotta know it, too: why else leave in her laughter and helicopter noises?
[5]

Anthony Easton: What will it take to have a Nicki Minaj album of torch song standards? The rapping here is tight and adroit as it always is, but the hints of heartbreaking singing make me want to hear her do 90 minutes of historically minded heartbreak.
[5]

Thomas Inskeep: The best single yet from August Alsina, who’s got the voice of an angel and the loins of the devil, apparently. And what’s wrong with that? This isn’t particularly trap&B and certainly isn’t EDM&B but, refreshingly, straight-up, modern, young R&B, which there isn’t enough of these days. I mean, I’m too old to “party till I can’t,” but if I was 20 years younger, sure. And Nicki chimes in with a few bars up to her standards (that I wish went on longer).
[6]

Crystal Leww: Alsina’s underrated and overlooked Testimony is an earnest R&B album that goes much deeper than drugs, women, and the turn-up, so it’s ironic that its singles so far have leaned so heavily on that side of Alsina’s discography, from the wavy “Ghetto” to the boomin’ “Numb” to “No Love”. The production for “No Love” is luxuriously smooth like the rest of the album, no doubt thanks to the consistency that The Exclusives lend. Alsina plays a dude who seriously ain’t shit, but god, he sounds great, exactly like the ain’t shit dude who could ruin your life but still keep calling to hang out late at night. Surprisingly, Minaj lets herself play the girl who keeps falling for it, showing a little bit of vulnerability in the sung bits before flipping to a hard exterior in rap bits. It’s a simple appearance from her, but it works well with the song.
[7]

David Sheffieck: The concept of having Nicki drop a response verse — or more, a rejoinder — into August’s song is great. The execution is sadly lacking: Nicki’s isolated by being slotted so close to the song’s end, and it’s easy to check out between her trilling laughter at the start and when she actually starts singing. Aside from her appearance, though, this is smooth to the point of being forgettable.
[6]

Jonathan Bogart: Sure, I’m a sucker for self-loathing romantic music, lush electro-R&B, and, well, Nicki Minaj. I don’t know if this kid has it in him to be a Ne-Yo or even a Trey Songz, but on the strength of this I’m extending him the benefit of the doubt.
[8]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Drumma Boy is arguably one of my favorite producers in modern music, and here you can hear his amazing instincts for unusual orchestration and synth washes that always made a crude button-masher like Mike Will seem idiotic in comparison. And here in such a dense cavernous environment of romance and light bouncing off of water, Nicki is inspired to bounce stylistically both in her singing and her rapping. It’s a shame it’s wasted on this hunchback. Alsina remains a void of charisma, talent, and reasons to exist in the industry. But thanks to the Sassiest Boy in America not named Ian Svenonius, we have this remix, so I guess even a crude clay amalgamation of the scraps of actual R&B stars from the last decade gets SOME things right.
[4]