Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

The Head and the Heart – Missed Connection

I think you featured me on your music review site? You didn’t seem to like me that much, but, uh, I’d be interested in getting a coffee if you’re down…


[Video]
[3.71]

Edward Okulicz: This recent alt-rock chart-topper sounds flown in from the mid-00s, which is to say it has an annoying na-na-na hook, is marginally tuneful and completely forgettable. Is that a recorder after the chorus? Does it matter? No, it does not.
[5]

Alfred Soto: I for one have long welcomed the missed connection between head and heart.
[1]

Vikram Joseph: It’s hard to believe that anyone in the studio listened to that “la-la-la-la” hook and thought it sounded anything other than obnoxiously grating. But even leaving that aside, this is very much what mid-2000s British music journalists coined the term landfill indie for — meat-and-potatoes rock music, rhythmically staid, melodically predictable and tonally grayscale. Someone call an exorcist; the turgid ghost of Razorlight still haunts this place.
[3]

Joshua Copperman: First things first: the only indie landfill band from this decade to pull off la-la gang vocals is Saint Motel. (It certainly isn’t Judah & The Lion.) Second things second: How did a Keane one-off from 2010 become the most influential song of the decade? The rest of “Missed Connection” after that horrible intro is closer to, of all things, Keane’s “Stop For A Minute,” though there isn’t much here nearly as baffling as “sometimes I wonder why I was ever born…” Instead, there are just unremarkable lyrics and a handful of hooks that probably make this a fixture on clothing stores (and consequently, Shazam chart), if not quite the Hot 100. The complexity of an early, if equally derivative, song like “Ghosts” is missed. 
[5]

Joshua Lu: Living Mirage is stuffed with songs like “Missed Connection,” summery little things that breeze by without concern. Here, though, this frictionless feeling feels at odds with the lyrical themes of loss and interpersonal confusion. The song is in search of answers, constantly questioning and second-guessing itself, but everything else chugs along too weightlessly to really believe it.
[5]

Ian Mathers: It’s kind of surprising to look these guys up (the name seemed vaguely familiar, but actually I think I was thinking of Cage the Elephant?) and discover at some point someone called them “indie folk”; this is such a fine, low-key puree of genre non-signifiers and unoffensive songwriting that I’d be hard pressed to call it anything in particular. But unlike most of its chalky, oddly synthetic feeling peers it doesn’t go for a bombastic chorus and that actually works in its favour.
[4]

Michael Hong: It feels like almost every popular indie-folk act has moved away from their simpler sound towards something overblown, something too overproduced. Where Mumford & Sons moved away from their indie-folk sound towards something with a little bit more of a rock edge, The Head and the Heart move towards something sleeker, with the added bonus of hip hop drums. While “Missed Connection” may deal with the serendipity of a chance encounter leading to new romance and the band’s formation, it sounds more like how its title would read: empty echoes over skittering drums. The glossy sheen further emphasizes the anonymity and emptiness of “Missed Connection,” which sounds worlds away from whatever made The Head and the Heart unique in the first place.
[3]

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

Mon Laferte – Canción De Mierda

And yet the score is anything but…


[Video]
[8.14]

Alfred Soto: A Latin pop attempt at Lana Del Rey languor, but funnier, schlockier, and faster. Mon Laferte understands how to hold the audience’s attention, and she can pout and wink at the same time. Por favor manténgase alejado de las puertas.
[8]

Julian Axelrod: It’s an age-old pop conundrum: Did Los Espookys spark my insatiable desire for moody Spanish rock, or does this sax-soaked Chilean new wave track make me wanna catch up on Los Espookys? Either way, this song is the moodiest of all moods, and I need to see Julio Torres perform an exorcism to it immediately.
[8]

Edward Okulicz: From the title (“Shit Song”) down, this pastiche of film music tropes works because it presents personal drama to the scale where the fate of the world sounds in the balance, dancing on the borderline between completely serious and ridiculous. Throwing in a sax break doesn’t resolve which it is, nor does Mon Laferte’s chorus which alternately plunges, soars, triumphs and wallows. I can’t even begin to imagine the film this might make sense as a theme for, but I bet it’s exhausting to watch. Better to get all the good bits in three and a half minutes, always.
[9]

Vikram Joseph: This is so cinematic; from the playfully ominous spaghetti-western guitars to the storms-sweeping-across-the-plains Eurovision-pitch melodrama of the chorus, “Cancion de Mierda” sounds born to soundtrack a scene of ironically-detached noirish violence in a Tarantino film or a new episode of Killing Eve. My entry-level Spanish is nowhere near good enough to parse much from the lyrics, but even so, Mon Laferte creates a vivid atmosphere off the back of the music alone.
[7]

Iain Mew: The ’60s torch vibe is a well-worn enough path that this initially makes me think of the last few decades of takes on it as much as the originals (Anna Calvi and Arctic Monkeys both come to find). The lightness of touch of all the pretty detail of the verses is enjoyable timeless, anyway. Then there’s the chorus. Laferte and the melody turn up the intensity to a level nothing indicated even the possibility of before, and suddenly unmoored from the familiar, the song takes on a thrilling new sweep.
[9]

Will Adams: A master class in expertly timed crescendos — from the chorus’s soar to the saxophone-led bridge launching the song into a new key — “Cancion De Mierda” shows it’s possible to elevate noir pastiche to something truly exciting.
[7]

Katherine St Asaph: A song that is many things: A) Sumptuous, moody, immense drama that instantly leapfrogs even Susanne Sundfør in the dreamcast Bond theme standings; B) The sequel to Cathy Davey’s The Nameless that I knew I’d missed, but not till now this fervently; C) A song with a sense of humor, which comes of being called “Shit Song”; D) A song with a sense of bravery, which comes of the same.
[9]

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

Maggie Lindemann ft. Travis Barker – Friends Go

Friends go… Jukebox scores are forever…


[Video]
[5.38]

Julian Axelrod: Me @ Travis Barker
[6]

Ian Mathers: I was going to question all of this focus once again on Travis Barker (a perfectly fine drummer, but how often do guest drummers get “ft.” credits?), but then I listened to the Barker-less version (which is almost vaguely ska-pop), and you know what? This slightly scuffed-up pop-punk version is absolutely the superior one. And yeah, the drumming is a significant part of it. It’s only with the contrast that I appreciate how much I appreciate the energy of this “Friends Go.”
[7]

Alfred Soto: The light skank is about all she can handle, but don’t giver much credit for getting away with “Underneath It All”-era Gwen Stefani.
[3]

Kayla Beardslee: Good news: this remix is not any worse than the original. Bad news: the original was never that good in the first place. Both versions have a prominent musical element — blaring horns or Barker’s crashing drums — that transform the chorus into an exhausting wall of sound, and both also bury Lindemann’s vocals at the back of the mix, even though she should be front and center on this song that aspires to be confessional. At least on this remix, however, the raw lyrics are less at odds with the production and don’t come off quite as hollow and gimmicky. I had assumed, based on the “why did all my friends go?” hook, that “Friends Go” was about social relationships, but reading through the lyrics, it’s actually about… dissociative identity disorder/multiple personalities? I have no idea what to do with that, but since the loud production overshadows everything else, the track’s specific meaning doesn’t matter much anyway.
[3]

Katherine St Asaph: I liked this a lot better when I thought it was an earnest pop-punk song about losing your friends, rather than the Melanie Martinez-y take on cartoonized mental illness, complete with straitjacket, that it actually is. I also liked it better when I thought it started out as a pop-punk song, rather than being the Shania Twain pink-and-black-CD version of the original. But it’s still a great argument for a rebooted, Lindemann-fronted Blink-182.
[6]

Vikram Joseph: “Friends Go” sits directly in the middle of an all-Canadian Venn diagram involving “Sk8er Boi,” Carly Rae Jepsen’s breathless, heart-sore synth-pop, and Art Angels-era Grimes, and it is exactly as much fun as that sounds. (The vintage No Doubt vibes of the original, Travis Barker-free version are also a lot of fun, albeit of a very different sort.) It’s subtle like a Boeing 747, and the central conceit is essentially an off-patent re-imagining of “Just Like A Pill” (just replace medication with an imaginary friend as a metaphor for your toxic, intense relationship!), but this is an absolute rocket.
[8]

Joshua Lu: A lovely Art Angels pastiche, undone by the sound of Travis Barker treating his drum set like a toddler throwing dinner plates on the kitchen floor.
[5]

Will Adams: A definite upgrade from the ska-leaning original — the almost-but-not-quite “No Woman No Cry” quote becomes far more interesting and less derivative against a driving pop-punk arrangement. Travis Barker’s added sheen makes “Friends Go” a solid test case for a new direction for Maggie Lindemann, which is why I’m gonna score this aTHERE’S SO MUCH REVERB OH MY GOD WHY. IT SOUNDS LIKE I’M LISTENING TO THE SONG BLASTING FROM OUTSIDE A STADIUM OR PERHAPS THE BOTTOM OF THE GRAND CANYON. WHO DID THIS. I KNOW REVERB IS NOT A TANGIBLE, FINITE RESOURCE BUT I’M PRETTY SURE THERE’S NONE LEFT NOW BECAUSE YOU USED IT ALL HERE. THE SONG IS RUINED. AHHHH.
[5]

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

Young T & Bugsey ft. Aitch – Strike a Pose

Don’t just stand there; let’s get to it…


[Video]
[6.33]

Alfred Soto: “Strike a pose” is correct — a demonstration of agility. 
[6]

Scott Mildenhall: Between Young T & Bugsey’s pass-the-parcelling, Toddla T’s once-more perky production and the endearing myopia of Aitch’s amusement at the thought of being considered a youngling, “Strike a Pose” is pleasingly goofy. These guys are not impressive in the sense of the pose they’re trying to strike, and that’s part of the appeal, but musically they have something.
[7]

Julian Axelrod: A sickeningly skeevy bit of frat rap so impressed with its own mediocrity that Aitch really follows up the line “I got some white chocolate, I promise you’ll like the taste of it” with an awestruck “crazy…” Not the ad-lib I would have used, but go off I guess.
[4]

Iain Mew: Young T and Bugsey trade lines with the loose cool they’re trying to evoke and inspire, but it wouldn’t be half as charming without the intermission of Aitch failing to do the same. A teenager flailing in the presence of hot grownups, his verse recasts the whole thing in a new light. 
[7]

Edward Okulicz: Against my resistance to the chorus having a touch of negging about it (as if to say “you’d be so much cuter if you weren’t so uptight”), “Strike a Pose” wins the benefit of the doubt with the amusing and amiable back-and-forth between T and Bugsey. The waving, oscillating bass gives “Strike a Pose” a triumphant strut for the song’s object(s). Aitch’s bit would actually be less gross if he didn’t use the euphemisms, though.
[7]

Joshua Lu: Bugsey’s titular hook, entreating someone to “Strike me a pose,” already looks rather skeezy when just written out like that, and it’s to the song’s benefit that the line sounds even more sinister in the actual song. “Strike a Pose” is standard braggadocious rap pap, with the requisite girls, cash, and drinks, but it’s made believably dubious with that slinking instrumental, perfect for both the club and the dark alley behind it.
[7]

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

Niska – Du lundi au lundi

This is going up a little late for Monday, but it counts anyway…


[Video]
[6.17]

Julian Axelrod: I should be sick and tired of flute loops by now, but Niska’s bendable posable falsetto gives the trope a new sheen. Meryl and Pyroman’s beat is impressive on its own, but Niska’s nimble flow practically arm-wrestles the loop into submission. And don’t flutes just sound better with a French guy rapping over them anyway?
[7]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: French is such a fun language to listen to rap in because it’s linguistically so quirky. First, in comparison to English or other tonal languages like Chinese, French is relatively monotone. Second, there are no stresses on syllables, so you can get away with saying words in really bizarre ways. Third, there’s a distinct kind of French slang called verlan, where the syllable order in words can be rearranged while preserving the meaning. “Du Lundi au Lundi” is a showcase for Niska to play with these traits: relatively flat verses contrasting with “Du LUNdi au LunDI” sung on the hook like a seesaw going up and down; “L’enfant est te-RI-ble” stressed oddly on the hook, and “billets” stretched into “illets-bi” just because he can. It all makes for a monster of a hook, the catchiest in French rap since Niska’s own “Réseaux.”
[7]

Iain Mew: The style is familiar enough and language unfamiliar enough that I’m mostly going on the flow for how much I enjoy this. Both the oiled glide of the hook and the rapid sequences of syllables snapped out in between work well, and go together even better.
[7]

Jessica Doyle: Niska is cute, and the uninflated lifejacket is a clever touch (at least at video’s length), and his voice gets more interesting once the smoothing of the chorus drops out. All that having been said, I’m not finding anything particularly new or compelling here. This sounds like the just-past-initial-success, first-victory-lap song, which is not the best song to start with when learning about an artist. But as it is, I’m not surprised the women in the background — who all, undoubtedly, know more about French and West African diaspora hip-hop than I do — look unimpressed.
[4]

Kylo Nocom: Infectious fun if you’re feeling Niska’s charisma on the mic; annoying and cartoonish as fuck if you aren’t. I’ve swapped between the two all day.
[6]

Ian Mathers: The best part is definitely the chorus, which approximates the effect of the song circling the listener, throwing jabs from odd angles. When he drops his voice and tries to get in close for a body blow on the verses, it doesn’t really land as strongly.
[6]

Monday, August 19th, 2019

Brockhampton – I Been Born Again

Incredibly, only their second appearance round these parts…


[Video]
[5.00]

Rebecca A. Gowns: I like the beat and they seem to be having a good time. You know, I’m gonna be honest with you. I’m a big fan of Brockhampton. Not a stan — no, I don’t follow any of their exploits, I don’t know all of their personal backstories, I can’t rattle off their songs off the top of my head. They just make me happy. Now that I’m a 30-something parent, I can’t help but feel an endearing sense of warmth towards them, like, oh good, so glad to see the youths playing together, making music together, making friends. They seem to have a large following and have made (looks up from glasses) 5 studio albums thus far??? Good for them!
[8]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: At their best, Brockhampton’s music works through the magic of a dozen competing creative influences coming together in synthesis — the jarring mix of styles and textures works because you can see the unity of purpose.  But I can’t figure out what the purpose of “I Been Born Again” is — it’s all clutter and excess, and no core thesis to hang them on.
[4]

Alfred Soto: A mix of the excellent (Joba’s distorted monologue, Kevin Abstract’s half-year reminder to the audience that he’s queer) and the dull (Merlyn’s Dennis Rodman bit): the usual Brockhampton experience. 
[6]

Kylo Nocom: Why is the most sensitive member of Brockhampton trying to act hard in the intro? Why is Kevin so bored? Why do the two most interesting members of the group get two short verses right next to each other? Why is Joba’s voice pitched down and why does he get half of the song to himself when he’s literally the worst rapper in the group? Somehow, they have managed to make a song that contains pretty much everything I hate about the band. “You oughta be ashamed of yourselves” indeed.
[2]

Joshua Lu: “I Been Born Again” feels oddly flat for America’s biggest boyband, and its attempt at grit rings instead as detachment. The instrumental provides tension and intrigue, but only the bridge (whoever’s yelling there really deserves a credit, Adele Givens style) and Matt Champion’s outro manage to bring the energy it demands.
[4]

Tim de Reuse: “Low-energy” is not really a term I’d associate with most of Brockhampton’s finest output. I’m certain these guys are capable of proving me wrong — but this feels like a cut off of their Saturation trilogy recorded while everyone was falling asleep.
[4]

Nortey Dowuona: Bearface gently whispers to introduce us to Kevin still being the normal one as Merlyn careens in, hyped up. Dom glides past and Joba slams down on the listing bass, dribbling drum loops, and crunchy piano lunges while Matt closes the trap around your head.
[7]

Saturday, August 17th, 2019

Bonus Tracks for Week Ending August 17, 2019

Didn’t get enough new pieces by our writers last week? Here are a few more:

 

Saturday, August 17th, 2019

Jessica Mauboy – Little Things

Sorry for reminding you of that One Direction song…


[Video][Website]
[5.17]

Nortey Dowuona: Loping, protective piano chords wrap softly around Jessica Mauboy’s honeyed crooning as soft, wavering bass cellos and drifting drums hover behind then wash away as a chorus of Jessica supports her through the last steps. She closes the chapter quietly, a troubled look on her face.
[8]

Michael Hong: It must be a cliche at this point to set an emotive piece to piano and have maudlin strings entering right after the first chorus in some effort to pull a tearjerker. But Jessica Mauboy’s found a way to make it work, and when she sings “the little things mean so much more,” it feels reflective of how she blows so much emotion into this minimalist ballad. “Little Things” is a deeply pretty track and a wonderful showcase for Mauboy’s soulful and emotive voice. I just wish that the whole thing didn’t remind me of a Dove commercial from the moment she sings “you don’t think I’m pretty.”
[6]

Jessica Doyle: This is actually a pretty decent portrait of what it’s like to be fed up with doing all the emotional labor in the relationship, but I wish it weren’t a piano ballad, I wish it weren’t so trudgingly paced, and speaking of labor, I wish Jessica Mauboy could have the kind of contract that would give her two weeks’ paid leave just for having to put up with those eyelashes.
[4]

Edward Okulicz: “Little Things” certainly has a great and sympathetic performance pulling it, willing it to connect on the grand scale that is clearly the intention. But it has a reek of mawkishness that means I can’t warm to it, and when I watch the video the whole package seems like overacting, and I fear my moderately positive overall impression is just because I like Mauboy as a personality, even as I know that showing that the song means something is necessary but not sufficient for making it mean something to everyone.
[6]

Will Adams: At least Leona Lewis had the benefit of an active rhythm section. Jessica tries and tries, but there’s only so much one can achieve when handed a damp ballad that’s all gesture, no impact.
[4]

Vikram Joseph: Jessica Mauboy’s vocal reach is fantastic on the last chorus, but that’s about as nice a thing as I can find to say about this plaintive, unimaginative piano ballad. Being critical about something this startlingly earnest feels a bit like berating a puppy, so I’ll leave it there.
[3]

Friday, August 16th, 2019

Trisha Yearwood – Every Girl in This Town

Rejected Rihanna titles…


[Video][Website]
[4.33]

Katie Gill: At least this blatant attempt at repackaging small town America to be #relatable to people who’ve never had to drive the next town over to go the Wal-Mart doesn’t lean too hard on cliches. Instead, Trisha Yearwood gives us a slightly uneven mixture of her best-known 1990s country sound with the sound of the fifth single off a Carrie Underwood album.
[6]

Jessica Doyle: Like a mosquito bite, a sink full of dirty dishes, or the check-tire-pressure light in my car, it’s that omnipresent irritant: bland country lyrics! These at least have the unintended virtue of being so completely disconnected from any actual human activity that they end up collapsing in on themselves. The titular town doesn’t matter enough to even make it into the second verse, and since when does being baptized make you stronger? Isn’t it supposed to leave you weaker, as in temporarily stripped of all your inadequate human defenses and newly vulnerable to Christ’s glory? This is such dreck I’m way past being nostalgic for the sharper “She’s in Love with the Boy.” Y’all, I’m nostalgic for Florida Georgia Line.
[2]

Alfred Soto: She’s worked on her undistinguished music like she’s worked on her Food Network show: few standouts, but the ingredients are fresh and convincing in their received hand-me-down pleasures. Imagine if Natalie Hemby had written her a song that calls upon Trisha’s power to evoke the glee with which an ordinary person accepts the accoutrements of success. 
[5]

Michael Hong: Thank you to Trisha Yearwood for making a big women empowerment anthem, something that doesn’t have to be set to generic piano balladry or a basic coffee shop acoustic guitar. She certainly sells the hell out of a line like “you got this baby” and both her voice and guitar give the track a nice edge even if it sounds like something you might have heard before, but when is country going to learn that you can empower women without having to define them as “someone’s daughter?”
[4]

Katherine St Asaph: I would assume there is at least one girl in that town who is A) lesbian; B) a late bloomer; C) even just too afraid of heights to go on the Ferris wheel (that one would be me); D) not much of a dancer, or a laugher; E) darkly alienated by Yearwood suggesting she compare the people traumatizing her to baptizers (a metaphor that is both sacrilegious and sometimes a little too apt). Which is all a very literal interpretation, but nevertheless if you’re a girl listening to a song called “Every Girl in This Town,” and get to a line that blatantly doesn’t apply to you, it’s jarring, maybe stings a bit, and takes you forever out of the song, because you know that it and its offered comfort are not for you, and if there’s anything every girl does know it’s the unspoken implications and expectations behind songs like this. And if that moral argument means nothing to you, there’s a commercial corollary: this limits your audience. Which is a shame, because it’s otherwise a brawny Martina-ish country ballad of the kind they don’t make much anymore, that a lot of girls in town definitely imprinted on. (But, y’know, not all of them.)
[4]

Joshua Lu: Is this sis-country?
[5]

Friday, August 16th, 2019

Hayley Kiyoko – I Wish

Hayley… Skee-Loko?


[Video][Website]
[5.30]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: I wish, I wish, I wish it didn’t sound like she was singing against the beat, and I wish, I wish, I wish her voice wasn’t mixed like she was singing through a funnel. 
[3]

Tim de Reuse: Kiyoko’s delivery is crisp, and her lyrics are uncomplicated (there’s something satisfying about the directness of “you shut down when I tell you all the shit I want”). But all the interesting details get lost between a bunch of sonic elements that compete for attention: the rhythm section so aggressively off-kilter, the hook so syrupy-sweet, the mix sunk in a swamp of lush reverb.
[5]

Alex Clifton: The maddening thing about Hayley Kiyoko’s music is that her choruses are consistently fabulous but her verses awkwardly written. “Curious” had one of my favourite moments in pop last year–if you let, if you let, if you let him touchyatouchyatouchyatouchyatouchya as the beginning of a breathless chorus — but its opening line was comparatively weak (“I need a drink, whiskey ain’t my thing, but shit is all good” — come on, Hayley, you can do better). The verses of “I Wish” sound decent but are awkwardly phrased: “it’s a storm in my iris ’cause you lied” makes sense on a feelings-level but is nonetheless convoluted. It’s such a shame because the chorus here is another winner. “I wish, I wish, I wish” keeps building through the song, really amping up the desire to find love and the enormous disappointment of not having found it yet. I just wish I liked this more.
[5]

Vikram Joseph: I really like how coolly restrained this sounds; that moody, minor-key low-end synth pulsing through the verses, Kiyoko’s vocals falling over the beat on “you’re selfish with your affection”, the way that the chorus refuses to take off in the way that convention would demand. I just wish that, at 28 years old, she could find some more nuanced, adult ways to express things — “You don’t like that I do what I want, like, all the time,” would be embarrassing coming from Ava Max, and the chorus (“I wish, I wish, I wish I found love”) feels like a reductive afterthought. The production’s great though, especially on the bridge where her words coalesce into an impressionistic blur — for the best, maybe.
[6]

Alfred Soto: Except for a couple of demotic emphases in the verses, I hear little of Hayley Kiyoko’s confidence on this mid tempo number reliant on bass noise and mixing board manipulations. I wish indeed.
[4]

Ian Mathers: The verses continue to be Kiyoko’s weak point (she just isn’t that compelling a singer in the register/phrasing she uses there), but the chorus here really lifts off and makes at least part of “I Wish” worth revisiting.
[6]

Will Rivitz: Moodiness has always suited Kiyoko best. Her music consistently reaches its highest peaks when she’s jealous or disappointed; it’s a shame that she’s best known for songs of triumph and ecstasy. “I Wish” captures that moodiness not just lyrically but sonically — the latter of which she hasn’t always been able to do even at her cattiest delivery — and ends up one of her best singles to date. Who said Soulection was boring?
[7]

Michael Hong: Hayley Kiyoko’s most interesting work has some sort of bite to it. It’s aggressive, it’s in your face, it’s an over-stuffed taunt, but most importantly, it puts Kiyoko as an active individual. What it’s not is this passive dirge, where Kiyoko sings verses that seem to be awkwardly strung together over a beat that limply staggers along. It’s a pity, because she at least nails the despair needed to convey the phrase “I wish” over the chorus of the track.
[3]

Kayla Beardslee: Flattening the dynamics on a pop song is a risky move: when you’re working in a genre that lives and dies by the chorus, making your chorus so low-key that it’s barely distinguishable from the verses is an unusual, interesting choice. It marks a departure from Kiyoko’s past work and perhaps hints at an artistic evolution in–yeah, no, I don’t like it. Sax blurts do not a chorus make. Kiyoko and her two producers are credited as writers, but the instrumental and vocals don’t seem to understand that the melancholy lyrics need actual musical support to be believable. There’s little of note in the production: some drums, a sax, a few plain background synths, and… that’s it? For the most part, the music just coasts by blandly, never exploding into a cathartic chorus (the final one gets the closest) or invoking any emotional response at all (the bridge tries by getting louder, but the slurred lyrics are a big misstep). Kiyoko’s casual singing style is consistent with her other songs (ex. “Feelings“), but on this track, it just sounds like the producers stopped recording after her first take. She’s singing about heartbreak and loneliness, yet she doesn’t seem serious about it. “We butt heads,” “So I wild out too, motherfucker, what’s up?”: these lines in particular stand out as clunky, uninspired, and distractingly cavalier, and they’re not helped by the offbeat nature of her delivery. To be fair, I did misspeak when I said the production only had three major elements, since there’s also an echoey filter on Kiyoko’s voice in the chorus and bridge. If you can’t wring emotion out of her performance, I suppose you might as well try to fake it.
[4]

Nortey Dowuona: One of the most popular tropes in pop music is love, especially the desiring of it, especially after years of never having it at all. Since I was 13, I’ve never been in love with anyone. I’ve never been in a position where I believed there was a chance for me to find it. Apathy can silence wishes quicker than outright thwarting. So when I finished listening to “I Wish”, I expected to have another of those false breakthroughs I had listening to music in the past. Instead I closed the video and started typing this. I can’t even hope for a wish anymore.
[10]