Friday, June 24th, 2016

Kaytranada ft. Anderson .Paak – Glowed Up

Why so glum, Andy? You’re at a 7!


[Video][Website]
[7.12]

Will Rivitz: I’m a little biased on this one, since I’ve listened to “Glowed Up” approximately fifty times since it came out in April, but this is pretty much everything I want out of a hip-hop record in 2016. Kaytranada’s one of the most exciting new-ish producers out there, and Anderson .Paak is one of the most exciting new-ish rappers out there, and a dream team of a collaboration like this was never not going to work. I dig .Paak’s off-beat flow, I dig that warped bassline, I dig those deep house chords in the chorus. I kind of wish the production took a few more risks – given the excellent rest of 99.9%, Kay’s clearly able to make weirder shit – but I’m confident we’ll see that kind of thing when the new NxWorries record hits shelves.
[8]

Ryo Miyauchi: A hook with such promise, Anderson .Paak’s “I’m glowed up” lands rather modestly and less vocal than I had hoped. I get Kaytranada’s 99.9% isn’t about ego, and .Paak is no exception to the rule, but “Glowed Up” may have been an instance where the producer actually could’ve rolled up his sleeves to flex. His joyous boom bap instead flattens where it could’ve used some puffing up.
[5]

Alfred Soto: This Canadian producer’s clean, sparse production — a two-note synth line, hip-hop break, snaps — at first sounds no match for Paak’s overacting. Then a rhythm change forces Paak to accompany the melody. The result is a chill out track with sinew. 
[7]

Taylor Alatorre: Since mid-2015, Anderson .Paak has been blessed with the ability to turn every one of his guest appearances into required listens. Part of it has to do with that unmistakable vocal style, but this would be a mere curiosity without his talent for stringing together sinuous, head-spinning lyrical turns. Not sure what’s up with his chowder obsession, but I do know that Daddy Warbucks doesn’t get evoked enough as a wealth signifier. Well-aware of his guest’s versatility, Kaytranada builds him an elaborate sonic playground to muck around in. The beat switch establishes this as a tale of two headspaces: one drunken and defiant, the other wide-eyed and vulnerable. I prefer the latter for its warm tones and skittering drumbeats, though both are essential in allowing .Paak to document the conflicting emotions that come with ascendant fame. 
[8]

Tim de Reuse: A tentative, scratchy, lazy rap delivered twenty yards behind a beat that’s so compressed it’s fighting with itself. The high twinkly synths feel are tickling the roof of my mouth in a way I can’t totally get behind, but hey, at least it commits whole-heartedly to being off-kilter instead of briefly invoking FlyLo and breaking for lunch. It pulls together in the last section, when all the song’s elements actually get a chance to interact with one another, but before that it’s not much more than pretty.
[6]

Claire Biddles: The obvious comparison is Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar’s “Never Catch Me” because of the indefinable, almost supernatural connection between its two halves, and the relationship between rapper and producer. Kaytranada and Anderson .Paak seem to have a subconscious understanding of how to complement and make each other stranger. 
[8]

Jonathan Bogart: Hazy, self-absorbed jubilation where the rhythms slip ever so slightly out of sync; as a fan of professionalism given an amateurish sheen, I couldn’t not rejoice in this.
[7]

Thomas Inskeep: Anderson .Paak reads to me as nearly equal parts Kendrick Lamar and Frank Ocean, but may be a little more interesting than both. You can hear the joy in his musical adventurism, and he’s so nimble, singing and rapping and flitting around from one style to the next. Kaytranada, meanwhile, sounds to my ears like one of the most purely exciting producers/record makers in the game right now, balancing R&B and electronic sounds and blending them in ways that sound new. His work has the electricity of early UK garage but is entirely its own thing. (Check out “At All,” which is even better than “Glowed Up,” if you need some convincing.) 
[8]

Friday, June 24th, 2016

Mike Will Made-It x Rihanna – Nothing is Promised

“A reading from the book of Rihcclesiastes…”


[Video][Website]
[4.62]

Josh Langhoff: A reading from the book of Rihcclesiastes and/or Steve Forbert: “They tell me this great life can always… END.” Here ends the reading. Ri’s (sometimes literally) one-note performance conveys the sentiment with zero quiet exhilaration but all of its weary cruddiness.
[2]

Joshua Copperman: A recent tweet from YouTube critic Todd in the Shadows complained how long it’s been since there’s been an actual song hitting number one. And while it may sound like yelling-at-cloud ranting, he does in fact, have a point – a lot of major music so far this year has felt curiously undercooked whether it’s Kanye, Drake, or Desiigner. As if every celebrity that isn’t Beyonce decided to give up at the exact same moment. And this, which sounded like a Future outtake even before I read the writing credits, is something Todd would likely cite as a prime example. The hook could become yet another iconic phrase for Rihanna, and there’s some meme-able lines here and there, but an “absolute banger” this isn’t. Unless I’m falling out of touch too.
[3]

Katie Gill: Wow, this is a waste of Rihanna. I mean, you get RIHANNA to be on your song and you shove out this half-assed beat? Literally anybody could have been on this song, that’s how generic that vocal line sounds. Rihanna must have owed Mike Will Made It a favor or something because I’m still baffled as to why she’s on this track.
[3]

Ryo Miyauchi: Was this a saved draft Mike Will and Rihanna meant to return to later? There’s a point here Rihanna’s trying to hit — whatever it is. But she can’t quite put her finger on it no matter how many times she repeats the title that perhaps inspired her to start an entry in the first place. For more inspiration, she reaches for Paris, a go-to end point of a rag-to-riches hip-hop story. Again, it’s just there waiting to become something more.
[5]

Taylor Alatorre: It’s hard for me to hear this as anything other than Future karaoke, but it’s the best Future karaoke on the market right now.
[7]

Alfred Soto: Maybe there’s a meme worth tweeting in this nullity. 
[2]

Moses Kim: On any other day, the braggadocio of the track — Rihanna boasting about shopping sprees and vacations in France over a sparse jump-rope trick of a beat — would have registered as silly posturing. On this particular morning, it couldn’t be more timely: the UK has just announced its break from the European Union, and of course we can’t ignore how the underlying rhetoric has been centered on the reinforcement of boundaries, as if a nation responsible for colonizing half of the world and displacing millions of human subjects were ever at risk of losing its sovereignty. The resonance, I guess, is that if even the meager space we carve out for ourselves in this world is constantly threatening to cave in, what’s the power of a little joy? What’s extravagance in a home at whose doorstep violence in all its forms is constantly knocking? Rihanna has been doing songs like this for years now: here her voice sounds as nimble as it does exhausted, grappling for a foothold on the face of a world where nothing is promised.
[7]

Lilly Gray: Rihanna provides the soundtrack to another dusky hold up or murder-minded dame turning away from a man tied to a chair in a burning building. If riri only released Songs To Kill To from here on out, I would be down. 
[8]

Friday, June 24th, 2016

Amine Aminux – #Makayen_Ma

NOT Anime Animals.


[Video][Website]
[6.17]
Alfred Soto: This Moroccan singer has got the moves, baby, and some of the motion, thanks to a yummy falsetto and a production that features popping bubbles. Most of the rest, though, is festival electronica.
[5]

Anthony Easton: I am no longer in a position to connect to the global Francophonie, but this slice of global dance aesthetics layered over traditional Moroccan singing, manages to have a smart, contemporary, and almost lush pleasure. We have moved a long way from “world music” chill out mixes.
[8]

Katie Gill: Aside from autotune so thick that T-Pain goes “damn”, this is really good. It’s a banging dance song with a kickass backing beat, a skillfully put together summer jam. Still, #nomorehashtags
[7]

Patrick St. Michel: Feel almost guilty that the part of this song that leaves me tired is Amine Aminux’s actual voice. But when you surround yourself around all sorts of digital fireworks and manipulated touches, you can’t sound that uninteresting.
[5]

Brad Shoup: Instead of just pitching the vocal up or down in the standard EDM-pop way, they’ve kneaded it into something that could fit in a mizmar. It’s a great effect for a singer who comes off very callow, but also pauses for pops and breaks off some nice rhythms.
[7]

Edward Okulicz: Pop’s vast landscapes are open to all to experiment in, but this feels like a melange of sounds that had their moment in the sun about ten to fifteen years ago pieced together in a fairly uninteresting way. The backing vocals, which may or may not be going “hey,” make me feel like someone’s throwing up in the mix somewhere. Nothing about this is unpleasant but I’m fatigued on the sounds as much as I am of reliving summer right now. I’ll give it an extra point because it’s not cold and overcast everywhere and this is probably an invigorating cocktail for half the population.
[5]

Friday, June 24th, 2016

Martin Solveig ft. Tkay Maidza – Do It Right

Cowbell!


[Video][Website]
[6.43]

Crystal Leww: Martin Solveig did a One Mix for Apple Music’s Beats 1 offering earlier this year and it was…honestly kind of boring. Honestly, being a world class DJ over an extended period of time seems like tough work; the genre thrives on innovation and freshness, that it can’t be easy for the Solveig’s of the world with 15 years of experience to not settle into a sort of complacency. Solveig’s One Mix was full of songs that didn’t sound like his signature sound (a plus!) but it also sounded like a set by any DJ with access to Soundcloud and Twitter. “Do It Right,” thankfully, has made Solveig relevant again, mostly due to a phenomenal collaboration with the always excellent Tkay Maidza, who continues to sound fresh. “Do It Right” borrows some elements of the breezy tropical house and combines them with some big drums, some cowbell, and an insatiable vocal from Maidza. 
[7]

Katie Gill: A: I know David Guetta doesn’t have copyright on that style of plonky opening beat but, wow, did that sound like “Turn Me On” shoved through the beach mode setting on your keyboard. B: Lyrics like “Show me yours I’ll show you mine” have gone the way of B*Witched: please don’t put them in your song, it’s just tacky. C: All that aside, I still don’t know if I hate this song. I know I hate the break because it’s the most basic level of “minimalist beat while everybody dances” that we’ve seen before time and time again but I absolutely adore Tkay Maidza’s voice. She’s the highlight of this song, taking some mediocre EDM piece to new heights.
[6]

Alfred Soto: Keep tapping that cowbell and switching to a falsetto you can be sure you’re doing right, and after a year of indie world buzz Tkay Maidza needs to make some of that Meghan Trainor dough.
[8]

Patrick St. Michel: Overall, this is certainly not the best backdrop for Tkay Maidza…and yet she still turns in a pleasant enough performance that glides well with Martin Solveig’s jittery trop-house, while also allowing the less chill elements of the song to stand out.
[6]

Cassy Gress: It’s a more aggressive and ominous tropical house riff than I’m used to, particularly when Tkay and someone male (Martin?) take turns commanding “Do it right.” My only real concern is that I have no idea what Tkay is doing here; her singing voice is fine, but didn’t Martin listen to anything past the first 30 seconds or so of a Tkay song?
[6]

Taylor Alatorre: At first I wanted to give this a low score based on the obvious rip of Guetta and Nicki’s “Turn Me On.” Then I realized that “Turn Me On” is actually kinda bad, and this is actually kinda good. Maidza limits herself to the standard dance lyrical clichés — “show me yours, I’ll show you mine” is the most egregious example — but she sells the hell out of them, never straining her upper register as Nicki does. Solveig’s production is so sterile that it rolls back around to playful, making the cowbells feel like natural extensions of the vibe rather than tacked-on oddities. If anything feels tacked-on, it’s the build-up and release in the middle, which only serves to confirm that, yes, Mr. Solveig has released on Spinnin’ Records before.
[6]

Will Adams: A pared-down version of last year’s excellent “Intoxicated,” with a majority of the horn blasts substituted with steel drums bought from Calvin Harris’ garage sale.
[6]

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

Joey Montana ft. Akon & Mohombi – Picky (Remix)

Fuck, marry, kill, go!


[Video][Website]
[4.50]

Alfred Soto: It’s like Joey is directing the chorus at me.
[1]

Taylor Alatorre: The repetition of “picky” still sounds ridiculous as a hook, but by surrounding himself on the remix with more light-hearted personae, Joey makes it easier to believe that he’s in on the joke, or that there even is one. Letting Akon cut to the front is crucial in resetting the tone — his girl may have high standards, but she’s settled on none other than him, so it’s all good! Also, it’s Akon, whose voice is the lingua franca of harmless summer fun. Mohombi doesn’t veer from the script as drastically, but he too focuses more on his feelings of devotion than any laments about rejection. This could be the theme song to a transnational buddy comedy about three dudes on the prowl, trying out their different approaches on the ladies to varying results. 
[7]

Cassy Gress: You think she doesn’t want to bailar contigo just because she’s picky? Maybe she has standards. I do! They say that a pop song must have more than two chords, or else it must have a very interesting vocal line.
[2]

Brad Shoup: “Picky picky” > “shaky shaky”. Love the microscopic horns: a dollar-store anthemic touch. Akon’s at home in the brightness, which is impressive, since he’s on a reggaeton song as imagined by Jason Derulo.
[7]

Leonel Manzanares: The sole virtue of the original track — its “back to the roots” approach, honoring a long tradition of Panamanian dembow — gets dulled by the inclusion of a well-intentioned but lackluster Mohombi, and a completely lost Akon. It did make me go back and listen to El General, but remember: The only way to make a good reggaeton remix is to really play with the beat.
[4]

Edward Okulicz: No doubt Montana’s kind of gross, but I live for that picky picky picky picky picky hook. In fact, I resent the fact that the majority of the song isn’t just picky picky picky picky picky over and over again, a mindless repetition of a hook over a track that seems absolutely tailor-made for such a thing. I mean, three different vocalists, this thing might actually have too much variety for its own good, and it doesn’t even have much!
[6]

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

Exo – Monster

We’ll call you whatever you want, Chen…


[Video][Website]
[5.70]

Madeleine Lee: If SM Entertainment’s new Pantone-and-impeccable house beats aesthetic is getting too samey for your liking — or too tasteful — here comes zombie “Overdose” to save the day, a broody gnarl of electro-trap-R&B limbs. It trips in and out of a minor key, knocks over some drums and slips on a string section, but always lands on its feet for the chorus (which is, as expected, pristine). I appreciate the effort to Keep K-Pop Weird, but this is too funereal to be fun, and it somehow sounds both empty and overthought. I’ll admit that it sounds better the more I hear it, but still, I’ll take the one with the impeccable beat over this.
[5]

Crystal Leww: So much EDM-pop that leans more pop than EDM sounds so goofy these days, but “Monster” perhaps shows that it just needs the right production team and performers to pull it off. I love that this is so committed to the maximalism of it all; Exo are committed to the idea of being called monster all the way throughout and everything is at full throttle, despite the lurching quality of the production. 
[6]

Thomas Inskeep: The verses and bridges give me a “Formation” vibe, while the chorus is pure, slickly-choreographed menace — but no less effective for that. Shiny-sounding, dark-feeling K-pop on a hip-hop tip.
[6]

Edward Okulicz: The method, if not the ingredients are exactly the same as “Monster,” so I listened to them in a quick A-B comparison. This one’s more successful at evoking the idea of pure, creeping menace than “Overdose” was of imminent danger, and it has a better chorus, so it gets more points.
[7]

Patrick St. Michel: For all the clanging and tension-rich build, “Monster” is a K-pop boy band cut at its heart, and the chorus offers a something that feels apt for just that. Nothing incredible but solid, a nice reminder the new age of K-pop can hit on all the good stuff as the groups that came before them. And deliver raps that I can’t decide are good or goofy.
[6]

Cassy Gress: This song is “Treat You Better”‘s Persona. There’s bits and pieces of things I’d like here (the block chord harmonies in the chorus, the surprise switch into F major for a beat or two), but they get stomped out by Exo referring to themselves as a monster, and apparently equating being controlling and abusive with attractive and sexy.
[4]

Brad Shoup: The throwback tonalities of the chorus are remarkable: Exo puts on an existential shrug. The synth chimes like mourning bells. As much as they invoke monsterdom, they’re not promising menace.
[6]

Adaora Ede: “Monster” falls into the same realm of EXO’s other edgy, bass heavy tracks: industrial drum beats, harmonic belted out choruses, alphabetic rap verses. I don’t like or dislike this more than 2013’s “Overdose” or 2012’s “Mama” because this sounds like exactly how SM Entertainment has always created all of their ‘dark’ concept tracks for EXO: to be a slightly more trendy version of whatever they did last time, just current enough. “Monster” integrates a trap-inflected intro verse (she’s got.me.goin.crazy whoooo!) to change it up this time, but it’s not enough to captivate. The effect of the mysterious bad boy concept remains stagnant.
[4]

Taylor Alatorre: Nice chorus you got there. Be a shame if someone were to weigh it down with some haltingly percussive verses, a hilariously overwrought bridge, and a two-note car alarm that never… goes… away. Oh wait, you guys already did all that to yourselves. Well, that’s what you get for inhabiting the jerkass role with such gleeful abandon. The brazenness of the villainy is sort of refreshing, but a rudimentary sense of shame might’ve prevented lines like “I’m sorry you make me so crazy” from making it past the recording booth.
[5]

Anjy Ou: On about my 5th listen to this song, I picked up on the Dawn Richard influence – the vocal uptick and the production are straight from “Bombs“. Watching EXO dance to this song a third time, I noticed the Aaliyah-influenced choreo (RIP, still the queen of dancing to downtempo tracks). And THEN I discovered that it was co-written by Rodnae “Chikk” Bell. Black girls and women continue to shape the culture, even years after the fact, even when they don’t get credit for it. I was going to like this anyway: it’s EXO’s typical frownyfaced R&B pop with better rapping (bless you, Deepflow), fantastic drums in the bridges, and lots of Chen and Kai vocals. But seeing girls like me actively shaping the music I love that doesn’t always love me back? Hits me right there.
[8]

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

Sylwia Grzeszczak – Tamta Dziewczyna

Finally, a Polish singer and… previous winner of best ringtone at the VIVA Comet Awards!


[Video][Website]
[5.57]
Anjy Ou: Sylwia Grzeszczak is a fantastic vocalist and pianist, but this composition feels a little disjointed. While the song and video use contrast as their primary device — the softness of the bridge versus the forceful choruses and verses, the soft boho look versus the mohawked punk rocker — the horns still feel out of place. They indicate an Eastern European folk music influence, which makes for an intriguing listen, but I would have traded them for more aggressive drums — more suitable for doing wheelies in your ex-boyfriend’s car holding burning torches.
[6]

Cassy Gress: If I’m reading this right, this is about the powerful, fearless girl she used to be, and the man she is singing to is the reason she’s no longer that way? If so, thumbs up for the message, but the construction of the song feels strange: C minor verse, E minor chorus? She has an almost diva-esque quality to her voice in the choruses, but she sounds dampened and a bit uncomfortable on those “aaaaah”s immediately after. The brass hits later, in the quieter parts of the song, sound jarring more than empowering — this needs a downtempo remix.
[5]

Edward Okulicz: Slavic consonant blends are frequently orgasmic, but the middle section with the pizzicatto strings, music box bells and fingernail taps makes me think that she should have taken one thing off the track before she left the studio. I’d be raving like a maniac if this sort of all-over-the-shop mishmash had been done by Shakira (and it so easily could be), but it sounds laboured rather than effortless.
[6]

Iain Mew: It wouldn’t be much without the elaborate arrangement, but that’s a needless hypothetical — the brass blasts and the way the song tiptoes to stillness and back are here and Grzeszczak is happy to let them be the most enjoyable bits, carefully avoiding her singing upstaging them.
[6]

Ryo Miyauchi: Her voice tip-toeing on various parts are a nice touch. but Grzaeszczak’s attempts for flair doesn’t quite mesh with her grey, dramatic pop. Horns and string pluck land as camp, which might be up someone else’s alley for fun, but I’m not convinced it’s what Grzaeszczak’s looking for.
[4]

Crystal Leww: “Tamta Dziewczyna” reminds me of the music from Broadway musicals: Grzeszczak is trying so hard to make me feel something, to evoke emotion and dramatics, but this goes too hard over the top that I can’t help but laugh. Trumpets? That little bit that goes soft and then loud again? The cadence of her singing? God, I feel like Lin-Manuel Miranda’s gonna bust out at any moment and talk to me about the separation of church and state.
[5]

Madeleine Lee: “Tamta Dziewczyna” is a song with only two things to say, but it says them with bombast and with brevity. I’m still not sure what to make of putting the modulation in front of the first chorus instead of towards the end, but in a way I’m glad for that placement, because it means the rest of the song can roll out its glorious parade uninterrupted.
[7]

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

Shawn Mendes – Treat You Better

Shots fired against: nice guys, Canada, tropical house…


[Video][Website]
[2.08]

A.J. Cohn: In her essay “But Now I’m Gonna Move,” Ellen Willis proposed a rule of thumb for measuring how sexist a song is: “Take a song written by a man about a woman and reverse the sexes.” She selects Cat Stevens’ supposedly sweet and gentle “Wild World” for special opprobrium, pointing out that such a patronizing song would never be addressed to a man. Similarly, Mendes’s “Treat You Better” ought to be called out for its display of condescension, under a veneer of care, towards its female subject.
[0]

Cassy Gress: Noooo, it’s Nice Guy: The Song. “I’m always there for you while you date douches! When are you going to date me instead? I walked three miles in the snow to bring you a printer! Guess I’ll just wait and wait until I inevitably decide you’re a whore.” Give her some agency, dude; even if she’s not happy with her relationship, why does that mean she should date you? Why are he and you the only two options; why does she have to date at all? How do you even know she’s unhappy, besides “I can just tell”? What makes you a gentleman other than saying you are one? And while we’re at it, why does this sound exactly like your last song?
[2]

Joshua Copperman: Previous singles “Stitches” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer” aren’t great songs, but the interlocking guitars and percussion in both are just interesting enough to make them listenable. That arrangement meets its limits when “Treat You Better” is basically electrified “Stitches” on twice the scale, with added distortion for some reason so Mendes sounds like Tyler Joseph. With that scale comes the introduction of electric guitars and atmospherics, giving the song a dramatic weight it doesn’t deserve. Like, really doesn’t. When I hear “You Belong With Me”, I still get caught up in Taylor Swift’s frustration, even though that song is now six years in the past and Taylor’s long since moved on. When I hear “Treat You Better”, it’s just impossible to relate; Mendes sounds selfish and insincere, giving no actual reason why she needs to be with him other than “that other dude’s shitty” and “uh… I’ll stop time for you?” 
[5]

Katie Gill: Now that I know this exists, I regret giving “Like I Would” such a low score. It’s the same damn song! The only difference is that Zayn didn’t blatantly half-ass it the way Shawn Mendes does.
[2]

Brad Shoup: 2016 and we’re still getting lines like “any girl like you deserves a gentleman,” huh. The track bops like “Stitches” and thumps harder — the approach is almost as pizzicato as “Burn the Witch” — but his gripe is rancid.
[2]

Will Adams: There is a fine line between unrequited love and gross entitlement; no amount of charity could ignore a lyric like “you deserve a gentleman.” “Treat You Better” taps into a previous version of myself I’ve come to loathe: the nice guy complaining to no one in particular about how the girls he likes seem to always go for the “bad” boys. I was that way in middle school and through high school, always grumbling to myself that the problem was with them, never me. I would later gain some perspective, and hearing Mendes dredge up those feelings — and the shame I had from having those feelings — borders on painful.
[1]

Taylor Alatorre: This is teen pop in the most literal sense, so a bit of adolescent silliness is to be expected and maybe even encouraged, whether as a necessary outlet for distraught youth or a respite from the demands of adulthood. But the specific type of teen boy cosmology which deems the “gentleman” to be the paragon of virtue deserves no such encouragement. Mendes seems to be on a mission to out-Sheeran Sheeran, splicing the wound-up theatrics of “I’m a Mess” and the accusatory tone of “Don’t” into an ostensible love song. I’d been wondering when the emo revival would start filtering into the mainstream, but this isn’t what I had in mind.
[2]

Thomas Inskeep: Bargain-basement Bieber in every sense.
[2]

Anthony Easton: Canadians aren’t nice, they are passive aggressive. Attach this to some nice guy white knighting, and some light toasting by a white dude, and you hit the Reddit trifecta of cringe. 
[1]

Will Rivitz: I feel kind of obligated to like this, since I’m apparently the only person in this desolate corner of the internet who genuinely enjoyed “Stitches,” but this one’s beyond even my pale. Instrumentally, it’s everything wrong with Imagine Dragons’ arena-schlock, and I imagine Mendes tipping an imaginary fedora as he penned the chorus. One Charlie Puth is enough.
[2]

Katherine St Asaph: Let’s call “gentleman” ambitious for now. What girls deserve is someone who doesn’t mistake grating falsetto for sensitivity or sex appeal. And what pop deserves is almost anything but this desexed, denatured tropical trilbycore.
[1]

Edward Okulicz: I’ll admit that I find the “BETTER THAN HE CAN!” at the end of each chorus to be incredibly compelling listening, because I cannot accept that it has come from a human voice. Much like I can’t accept that this song isn’t a parody of “nice” “guys” who know what a woman wants better than they do!
[3]

Alfred Soto: Mendes comes through clearly — his only talent as a singer. But he’s going to be burrowing milquetoast electronic-inflected acoustic earworms into the hapless ears of teen girls for years until they’re old enough to blast “Love Yourself” in response.
[4]

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

Kiss Daniel – Mama

Wednesday begins with a Nigerian artist and imperative name…


[Video][Website]
[6.29]

Anjy Ou: This song is a great example of the blending of Western and Nigerian influences in modern afropop. You’ve got a that bright peppy string section in the opening right out of a CRJ track. Before you realize that it only features four notes, it gives way to afropop guitar. And the rhythm section features traditional Yoruba akuba or conga drums in addition to a kick drum and snares. This well-crafted blend of influences makes this song the wedding dancefloor filler I expect it to be.
[7]

Alfred Soto: The rhythm and guitar licks are scrumptious, but this Nigerian performer’s singing is too laidback.
[4]

Katie Gill: Now sing it again but with your outside voice.
[3]

Joshua Copperman: Wow, this is pretty. From the string sample that opens the song to the multitracked, echoing vocal effects, “Mama” is a series of gorgeous sounds piled on top of each other, mostly staying on the right side of overcrowded throughout. Daniel’s performance is also worthy of note, that subtle but ear-catching pause before “baby” in the chorus contrasting with the otherwise rapid-fire delivery. Not everything works — that shooting verse, accompanied with the gun sound effect, is groan-worthy and distracts from the beauty of everything else — but for the most part, this is eminently listenable.
[7]

Taylor Alatorre: A charming slice of sweet-tempered devotion, though too self-effacing to be especially memorable. The gunshot sound threatens to upset the all-pervading air of domesticity, but like everything else is soon swept under the galloping bassline and doo-wop chord progression. It’s easiest to enjoy if you pretend it’s actually about his mother.
[6]

Brad Shoup: Was hoping he was singing “I stan for you,” but I guess he’s not. It’s a stirring update of, well… “Stand By Me” for starters, only with a promise to shoot to wound. The real good songs of declaration tend to get high on their own supply, and so it is here.
[8]

Anthony Easton: The density of this is remarkable. The vocals have a lightness, and the message is simple to the point of being cliche, but every element of the production, both traditionally Nigerian and new studio magic, is folded over, doubled down, pushed forward and looped back. There is a tiny bit of room to breathe around 2:50 or so, but the density doesn’t feel claustrophobic. I keep getting excited about what is happening in Lagos, because it sounds like what pop should be, and Kiss Daniel is part of that. 
[9]

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Blak – Nede Mette

#1 in Denmark…


[Video][Website]
[4.67]

Crystal Leww: “Nede Mette” lands somewhere between WSTRN and Kygo. I have tropical house fatigue, though, especially when it comes to dude vocalists with very little personality. 
[4]

Juana Giaimo: “Nede Mette” is a tricky pop song. The kind of song that on your first shallow listen you think it sounds quite good: a danceable beat, a slightly catchy chorus and “hey!”s as backing vocals. Nothing could be wrong with that. But now that I have to write about it, I can only think that I can barely tolerate the vocals — the useless rapped second verse and the awful AutoTune in the bridge doesn’t help. 
[5]

Will Adams: Doubling the vocals at the octave was a bad choice; it only emphasizes Blak’s limitations. “Nede Mette” offers a brief flash of promise in the middle eight, when AutoTune takes hold of a winding melody that suits the curvy production. The rest is chatter over a dull trop-house template.
[4]

Will Rivitz: I want to not like this, since it’s kind of just following pace-for-pace in Kygo’s footsteps and (from what I can tell via translations) the lyrics are a vaguely gross telling-off of a girl who gets around. But the synth tone is so clean, and the slight AutoTuning feels so right, and things just kind of fall into line instead of the standard careening all over the place that happens in too many house songs on the radio. Probably not something I’d listen to on my own volition, but I could bump to this on the dancefloor.
[6]

Adaora Ede: How this song impacted me might have been either affected by the fact that Blak is the most faceless singer-songwriter to exist AND/OR the fact that it took more than two minutes to find translated lyrics of it, but “Nede Mette” does not leave that much of an impression at initial listen. I feel like some of the contemporary pop that we hear should be classified as the modern day format of beautiful music because of songs like this. It’s affable and easy-going as any tropo-synth with an urban flare could be, yet similarly forgettable. Which is probably why someone would need to make this
[4]

Brad Shoup: If I squint, it’s a tropical house song about nu-metal.
[5]