Tuesday, November 30th, 2021

Beyoncé – Be Alive

In the absence of one of 1000 terrible tennis puns, here’s a song by Beyoncé.


[Video]
[6.62]

Anna Katrina Lockwood: It’s kind of incredible how depersonalized a vibe “Be Alive” achieves, given its significant starting advantages. The arrangement is really excellent, Beyonce’s vocal is of course unimpeachable, and it’s all round very nicely composed. There’s just a little too much of the vaguely motivational sports movie word salad lyrics for me to really connec t– you know, like, the road is paved with gold and look how far we’ve come, etc. Perhaps I’d have a better time with this if I’d actually seen the movie? 
[5]

Nortey Dowuona: GODDAMN. GODDAMN. GODDAMN. If the drums didn’t suck this would have stayed a 10.
[9]

Harlan Talib Ockey: The percussion sounds like both marching feet and the Williams sisters demolishing a 200km/h serve. The insistent, sizzling bass feels like it’s constantly on the verge of bursting into a joyful roar. Beyoncé’s vocals — well, it’s Beyoncé. This is how you do catharsis.
[8]

Claire Biddles: Always happy to hear that “Freedom” beat! A Generic Inspirational Soundtrack Beyoncé Song is still a Beyoncé song I guess! 
[6]

Andrew Karpan: A soundtrack loosie with a surprising amount of elasticity, the way Bey’s voice bounces around the beat is catchy in a way that I haven’t associated with the award-gathering singer in a while. She accomplishes this, I think, by picking a collaborator behind the boards who is technically adept, but usefully boring — from what I could gather, the somewhat recently-rebranded DIXSON is mostly notable for notching a load of credits on Chance the Rapper’s largely forgotten 2019 flop-rap album, The Big Day. But the fake Ratatat-type beats here gives her voice a lot more room to move around, to fill up space with urgency. This befits the canny collection of tweaked inspirationals that she goes on about, which run the gamut from “the path was never paved with gold” to “this is hustle personified,” the latter sung with particularly convincing zest. It’s smart that we can’t quite tell if she’s singing about the travails of the Williams tennis family, for which the song was made, or her own. Instead, she manages to extrapolate the whole deal onto some larger, collective experience; telling us everything without the tediousness of intimacy. 
[8]

Thomas Inskeep: A solid, march-tempo number clearly written for Oscar glory. (cf, uh, “Glory“) (If you don’t think Beyoncé is craven, you haven’t been paying attention.)
[5]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Everything Beyoncé has done since Lemonade has felt thoroughly tangential to the upkeep of pop stardom (even when it’s been great) and this does not break from that mood. Its inessential nature works in its favor, though — the song, co-produced with DIXSON, is nervy and skeletal in a way that sounds compelling in contrast to her voice, which has only become a more powerful instrument with time. It feels like a sketch or a demo, an exciting hint at whatever she’s got coming when she decides to get back to pop stardom.
[6]

Alfred Soto: She’s coasting even as she flexes a craft she was incapable of even a decade ago: the multitracked vocals, mosquito of a guitar line, the way she sneaks “personified” as a lyric. Slogans need more than craft though.
[6]

Friday, November 26th, 2021

Summer Walker with SZA – No Love

Ladies and gentlemen, the actual weekend…


[Video][Website]
[4.67]

Camille Nibungco: “No Love” is a masterclass in the universal feeling of making irrational choices under infatuation and feeling like a fool post-breakup heightened in throbbing basslines and light drum breaks. “No Love” is the wishful thinking of hedonistic self-destruction that would follow if she could redo the relationship. I’m obsessed with Summer Walker’s traditional R&B butter-like voice and SZA’s alternative pop vocal prowess that transition so smoothly and harmonize like Olympian level synchronized swimming.
[8]

Nortey Dowuona: The loping bass underneath Summer’s runs is a gorgeous contrast, but as soon as the light touched synths and scraped together percussion are painted on, the whole thing begins to fade on you. The kicks are appropriately bouncy, but Summer is too flat, and she looks unflattering in front of SZA’s rippling Simlish, which at turns is vulnerable, furious and ashamed. Summer just flatly states her disgust in such a dull tone you just listen closely for SZA’s rippling waves instead.
[5]

Claire Biddles: I’m in the minority of people for whom SZA does absolutely nothing, which extends to this kind of flat collaboration with Summer Walker. Something about the way Walker sings “take…drugggs” in the chorus is very teen-girl-showing-off, which is pretty funny.
[4]

Thomas Inskeep: Two of the women considered some of modern R&B’s leading lights team up and remind me exactly why I don’t care for most modern R&B: this is so inert, all attitude and no art, singing about their purported “designer pussy,” et al. I’m too old for this shit.
[2]

Michael Hong: SZA sells it well, confident about herself and detached enough to gold dig, but Walker’s voice is so thin that any semblance of control disappears as she needs its autotune just to get through that lazy little run.
[4]

Will Adams: I appreciate the novel suggestion of reordering of a hookup so it’s fuck, then get drunk, then take drugs, but there’s not much else of note here. The harmonies swirl appealingly, the beat approaches lushness, fine. It’s as if Summer’s and SZA’s emotional detachment from the man in question bled into the song itself.
[5]

Friday, November 26th, 2021

Silk Sonic – Smokin Out the Window

“Turkey” has multiple definitions…


[Video][Website]
[5.67]

Al Varela: Silk Sonic is three for three on singles. I loved the romantic suave of the first two, but there’s something so refreshing about the third being so petty and mean. Just as flashy and showy, but Anderson .Paak and especially Bruno spew so much cheery venom against a gold-digging ex that you can’t help but delight in their bitterness. It’s one of those songs where the verses are just as wonderful as the chorus, but the chorus has the upper hand by the end with Bruno’s passionate falsetto. He’s the MVP of the song of course, but Anderson .Paak deserves just as much credit for having more attitude in his delivery. Once again, Silk Sonic has proved to be one of the most inspired musical ideas in recent memory, and the songs have only gotten better and better.
[10]

Alfred Soto: A necrophiliac feels an attraction to corpses. These dudes pretend the corpses are alive.
[4]

Leah Isobel: There’s a chapter in Prostitute Laundry where Charlotte Shane talks about a client named Bill. Bill fell in love with a stripper named Melody and spent incredible amounts of money on her; his love for her is self-regarding, and Melody doesn’t reciprocate at all. But he justifies his generosity — correctly — by saying that everything he gives to her, he gives freely. “Smokin Out the Window” is Bill without his speck of self-awareness.
[4]

Claire Biddles: Pretty audacious that Bruno “take my wallet if you want it” Mars is now complaining that presumably the same bitch has got him payin’ her rent — if you’re going to lavishly offer a gal everything she wants then don’t come crying after she has taken you up on that very same offer, babe! Anyway I am an absolute sucker for Mars, Anderson .Paak and all those other pastiche boys, and this is as slick and well written as I’d expect. Sometimes it’s nice to just give your brain a three-minute break and enjoy something extremely familiar!
[7]

Thomas Inskeep: Their retro ’70s soul schtick, as enjoyable and well-crafted as it is, is starting to wear thin — and what’s with the insistence on referring to a woman as a “bitch”? I don’t need that in my life.
[3]

Tobi Tella: It’s a little juvenile, more than a little misogynistic, and sounds like something .Paak would reject and Bruno wouldn’t make a single. At the same time, I have a heart and a slight nicotine fixation, and I can’t say the song doesn’t cultivate a specific vibe. Like a lot of Silk Sonic songs, it lives and dies on the charisma of its performers — give it to someone less likable and it ends up as completely mid lazy pastiche. At least now it can exist as pretty fun lazy pastiche!
[7]

Jessica Doyle: I liked “Not to be dramatic, but I wanna die,” but that’s the only element you can’t get from, say, SomaFM’s Seven Inch Soul channel. (Also: gentlemen, I am glad you value your lungs, but if you’re not going to smoke them or hold them convincingly, maybe consign yourselves to the purely metaphorical. It’s not like there’s a window in the video!)
[5]

Nortey Dowuona: Bruno sounds tender yet rigid, while Anderson sounds tender yet rubbery, both tangled in the anguish they feel while the loping bass and slippery drums swing swiftly below them. They settle only when they’re the most uncertain and anguished, leaving Anderson to hold up all the humor while Bruno cannot break from his rigid idea of his supposedly benevolent chump, no matter how much misogyny ripples beneath it.
[6]

Ian Mathers: The sonic vibes are immaculate, the lyrical vibes… less so. Still, I can’t remember the last time an unsatisfying single made me go “maybe I should just listen to the Delfonics for a while”, so there’s that. If we get lucky it might spur more throwbacks in this style that are, uh, better.
[5]

Thursday, November 25th, 2021

Rosalía ft. The Weeknd – LA FAMA

Still Thanksgiving, so here, have a second helping of The Weeknd…


[Video]
[6.62]

Mark Sinker: Not fair to get strict about imagery in a language I don’t speak maybe, but the better songs about how terrible fame can be are probably the ones that get super-specific, not the ones that get poetically metaphorical (my reaction to the Bowie model was always more or less “please to scarf more coke and STFU dude I mean duke”). That aside this is super-pretty thanks to how the tremble in Rosalía’s voice is offset by that little laughing gnome of a synth kazoo, like the Infanta and the dwarf in a renaissance painting. I’m not sure who the Weeknd would be in such a painting, but not being sure who he is is pretty much how I always feel about him.
[6]

Ian Mathers: Manages to straddle the line right between pleasingly low key and…. bafflingly low key. Rosalía and The Weeknd have more compatible duet voices than I would have expected, and there’s a slinkiness to the production and delivery that’s very welcome. But then we hit the end and, although I know there’s a chorus, I’m still kind of waiting for the chorus, you know?
[6]

Leah Isobel: Those choppy “mm”s are a neat little trick: they approximate the way fame slices your being into pieces. Rosalía and The Weeknd glide above that with — approximately — the right combination of anguish and desire.
[7]

Alfred Soto: As aural experience “LA FAMA” is a delight, enthusiastically dismissing the complaints that Rosalia and The Weeknd take as seriously as necessary to make cool noises with their voices. The percussion overdubs are so winning that Mike Pence could sing over them.
[7]

Nortey Dowuona: Rosalía sounds fragile yet careful over the silt-made woodwind groove, while the Weeknd fills it, the tumbling guitar tapping in the edges of the groove as it deepens, Rosalía tunneling beneath him. It’s almost as if Rosalía knows she has no place keeping around, so she drops him, and the wilting synths carry the Weeknd away to his own pedestal, while Rosalía has disappeared into the bridge. So when she resurges onto the massive woodwind, she sounds just a little bit stronger.
[8]

Harlan Talib Ockey: First of all, that main synth line is not a horn, it’s something strange doing a slightly off impression of a horn, with the underlying threat that at any moment it might blink back into its true form and eviscerate you. El Fin de Semana’s voice is warped beyond recognition by the Auto-Tune. The lyrics begin as a standard tale about the impact of ambition on a relationship before careening off the rails into a feast of blood and gore. Rosalía’s delivery is so conversational, so understated; essentially, a complete stranger leans over at the bar and quietly says “by the way, I have five Grammy awards and I killed my husband.” Every element of “La Fama” drives it deeper into the uncanny valley. Rosalía’s repeatedly referenced Tarkovsky and Almodóvar as inspirations for this record, and the music video plainly owes a debt to From Dusk Till Dawn, but perhaps what this really sounds like is The Thing.
[9]

Thomas Inskeep: The bachata rhythm bewitches, and both Rosalía and Abel sound good — though I don’t love the processing on her voice, I much prefer his sweet vocals when he’s singing in Spanish.
[6]

Jessica Doyle: This plays to neither performer’s strengths (updating older genres, for her; synth-laced self-pity, for him) and what energy there is comes from Danny Trejo in the video. Have y’all read Danny Trejo’s autobiography, by the way? You should. The man has lived, and has both an abundance of stories and an admirable sense of self he can use to prioritize said stories, so that an exceptionally unfortunate fellow inmate he met in the mid-1960s gets more time than, say, Robert de Niro. It may be that Rosalía deliberately played it safe with this one to give older listeners a sense of comfort, give them something they could play at their restaurants or after their mixtapes. In which case I have to respect her priorities as well, and throw a couple points back.
[4]

Thursday, November 25th, 2021

Post Malone & The Weeknd – One Right Now

For your holiday, have some Weeknd…


[Video]
[3.43]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: These lyrics are so juvenile and posturing that it seriously feels like someone at The Onion wrote them. Post Malone and The Weeknd are capable of great work individually, but boy does this fall so unceremoniously on its face. 
[2]

Nortey Dowuona: The Weeknd clearly cannot miss a goddamn thing. Everything I’ve heard from him since After Hours has been fantastic. The loping, circling bass and smooth disco drums make this just another fantastic Weeknd pop jam. But then again, Post Malone does need someone to make him pop, so here comes the Weeknd to do him a favor. But the Weeknd does have Rosalía coming over and Swedish House Mafia right now, so he don’t care.
[7]

Thomas Inskeep: There aren’t many popstars who seem to hate women as much as these two, as evidenced in neon by this piece of shit record. If you take any of this as biography, Posty and Abel are some really loathsome creeps. (And no, I can’t ignore the lyrics — nor should I.)
[0]

Harlan Talib Ockey: How am I supposed to parse this? “One Right Now” seems to exist in this bizarre tonally ambivalent space where although the verses do sound like a genuinely unbothered kiss-off, the choruses are clearly barely repressed seething. On an intellectual level, it’s fascinating, but I’m more inclined to study it like a bug than sing along. Post and Tesfaye are a great match texturally, and the harmonies are delightfully crunchy; however, they’re either singing as the same narrator or two dudes in remarkably similar situations, so it never quite feels like they’re actually interacting. I can’t condemn this as just empty #crosspromotion #marketing, because those harmonies really are effective, but it’s slightly too sterile, a missed opportunity. The production… I don’t know, man. There’s this late ’80s Yamaha synth preset. It gets loud when it’s supposed to. It gets quiet when it’s supposed to. The strangest thing about it — great, we’re back here again — is why it sounds so damn happy. The main synth riff is blatantly reliant on the major scale, there’s a hint of shouted group vocals in the second chorus… it feels like this is intended as an airy, good-vibes arena shaker. Which is neither of the moods emanating from the lyrics. This is a song I would enjoy ranting about on a long car ride, and I certainly don’t think any of the elements in it are bad, and yet I’m not convinced they should exist in the same song together.
[4]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: If you’re two titans of pop industry with the capacity to reshape the charts in your image etc etc why would you use this power to do something so boring? At least Drake gets really tacky sometimes. This is just empty space.
[3]

Edward Okulicz: Having realised that, used appropriately, The Weeknd’s voice and general thing is like a sound effect I’ve got used to, I’ve also realised that Post Malone is just like something I’m never going to like the taste of. I don’t ever do “points off for the video” but on this occasion I want to.
[4]

Michael Hong: You and Post Malone are in the bathroom at a party while a club track by the Weeknd plays.
[4]

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2021

Carly Pearce & Ashley McBryde – Never Wanted To Be That Girl

It’s time you had the talk…


[Video]
[7.12]

Nortey Dowuona: The slightly off kilter lean of the guitars tells you you’re in the company of outsider Nashvillle: folks who have been trying and caring, which is now anathema to most country. And Ashley and Carly, both at the opposite sides of being betrayed by the man they lie next to each night, care and are trying, and it hurts them both to try, and you can feel that anguish in the low-key, soft edged bridge, where we hear Ashley’s ragged voice and Carly’s smooth one both wilt and tremble, almost as if they are about to crack — but don’t. 
[8]

Tim de Reuse: Powerful for its remarkable focus: a sparse arrangement (compared to most country music these days, anyway), matter-of-fact statements of feeling, and, most surprisingly, barely mentioning the villain of the story at all. I was surprised when the narrative stopped after a tiny, four-line second verse; there’s no shortage of songs in this genre that talk about revenge on unfaithful partners, either literal or fantasized or just moral, and most songwriters would have jumped at the opportunity to tie this little story up at the bridge, but here we just stew in the limbo these women are trapped in. It’s frustrating, and for what this song’s trying to do, that’s a good thing. I don’t think a line as direct as “God, this feels like hell” would’ve worked alongside any kind of catharsis.
[7]

Thomas Inskeep: A brilliant twist on the “two women getting cheated on” country song. As opposed to the genre’s gold standard, the titanic Reba McEntire/Linda Davis duet “Does He Love You,” in which the two women are rivals, or Carrie Underwood’s “Two Black Cadillacs,” in which the protagonists carry out revenge against the man lying to them both, in “Never Wanted to Be That Girl,” the women voiced by Pearce and McBryde are just sad. McBryde’s character never wanted to be the other woman; Pearce’s never wanted to be the woman getting cheated on. Their vocals, unsurprisingly, are incredible, and the lyrics, which are of course the key here, are spot-on (the song was co-written by Pearce and McBryde with Nashville songwriting king Shane McAnally). This is everything I could want in a contemporary country record in 2021.
[10]

Alex Clifton: You never plan on being the other woman — it’s something that arises from the blue when you suddenly discover you’ve been duped, that you’ve been handing your heart out to someone who then takes his home to someone else. It’s raw, dirty, and rotten, and leaves you unable to reconcile who you thought you were with who you’ve become. I love how plaintive and pretty this song is; it comes across as the cold realization you have while in the shower, thinking it all over. Since the re-release of Red I’ve been listening to a lot of breakup music and reliving some of the deep heartbreak of my college years. There’s a time and a place for melodrama and screaming “you call me up again just to break me like a promise,” but this subtly captures the quieter moments of heartbreak and self-hatred.
[8]

Michael Hong: Pearce and McBryde offer solid performances, but “Never Wanted to Be That Girl” spends too long making the unknowing other girl sound like a fault of themselves, a country trope that the pair knows is too old-fashioned if the standstill of the chorus tells us anything.
[5]

Samson Savill de Jong: The story is earnestly told with enough detail to feel authentic rather than generic, but I can’t say that “Never Wanted To Be That Girl” ever provokes a particularly strong emotional emotional reaction in me. It feels harsh even as I’m writing it because I don’t dislike the song, but it comes off to me more like people singing the words that were written rather than conveying something they really experienced.
[6]

Andy Hutchins: I am not a believer in American exceptionalism as a rule, but one exception I will make is for songwriting, especially really good country songwriting. “I thought this kind of lonely/Only happens to somebody else/And being the other one/When there’s another one?” is about as sharp as pen game gets on a bar-by-bar basis. Two good verses crashing into that chorus from opposite ends of the tunnel over some lush and forgiving Big Machine production gives “Never Wanted” momentum that is squandered on a too-simple bridge, however, and Pearce and McBryde have voices just slightly too similar to make this the sort of study in contrasts that was possible and probably a bit more compelling than pure lament. I’d buy a ticket for the sequel.
[5]

Alfred Soto: Duet partner Ashley McBryde scored a triumph with last year’s Never Will: rueful, taking no shit, aggressive about anti-nostalgia. Carly Pearce doesn’t go that far. But on an album tracing the disintegration of a marriage, I find “Never Wanted to Be That Girl” the equivalent of meeting a buddy you often find obnoxious at the bar for the sake of getting out of the house and loving the shit out of the experience. Thanks to aggressive bubbly guitars and the way McBryde’s thin sandy voice complements Pearce’s plummier one, this is a night out with no regrets.
[8]

Monday, November 22nd, 2021

Avril Lavigne – Bite Me

Let’s talk this over…


[Video][Website]
[5.90]

Leah Isobel: These lyrics take every opportunity to slip into a sort of vague juvenile angst, but it’s nice that she doesn’t have to work so hard to justify doing this kind of music in the current zeitgeist. Her relief is audible; she sounds incredible.
[6]

Ian Mathers: It actually feels weirdly rare for someone like Lavigne to be making what at least feels like the pretty exact same kind of thing they did at the peak of their prominence — like, you’d expect some kind of drop-off or something, but instead it just feels like Lavigne is still doing that thing everyone loved but we don’t love that thing anymore. Not sure why — it’s fine! Is it just that various others have integrated that pop punk roar and whoosh into their sound without making it their whole genre so now this feels like a throwback. Anyway you could tell me this was an album track from Under My Skin or something and I wouldn’t feel super confident disputing that.
[6]

Iain Mew: Hearing “Sk8er Boi” go off at a school disco was one of the earlier moments of cracking my personal rockism. Any notion of authenticity (and sexist and skewed judgments thereof) felt like an utter irrelevance. Listening to “Bite Me,” all of that feels quaint as the gap between her and adjacent pop-punk vanishes not just into the distance of time but into the shadow of all its hard shiny hooks.
[7]

Tim de Reuse: One of those returns-to-form that makes no stylistic acknowledgment of the passage of time. If this were released in 2004, that’d be one thing, but we as an audience are not a 2004 audience, and we primarily appreciate this through the lens of nostalgia. Well, we’re supposed to, anyway, but the double-stuffed, overcompressed mix reads much more late-2010s than early-aughts, and doesn’t fit the scratchy vibe of the source material at all. Do they think modern listeners will get bored if the snare drum wasn’t flattened by a steamroller, Looney Tunes-style? It’s like a historical re-enactment you’d catch on the history channel, dramatized so as to desperately compete with the much flashier ghost-hunting shows that bookend it.
[5]

Aaron Bergstrom: TIRED: The original Avril has been replaced by a body double named “Melissa.” WIRED: The original Avril has been replaced by what sounds like a bratty teenage robot. It is inconceivable to me that even one real, live human being could have played a part in creating a pop-punk simulacrum this shiny and metallic-sounding.
[4]

Edward Okulicz: Snotty, which is necessary for Avril to be great, but unfortunately lacking in sufficient killer melodic hooks. As far as how Avril herself sounds, if anything she sounds younger than she did on Let Go and the cognitive dissonance when considering that is more interesting than “Bite Me,” which really could have been the end result of feeding her first two albums into an AI and asking it to produce very quickly. As far as charisma goes, she’s still got it, though.
[5]

Andrew Karpan: Okay, I’m actually here for the Travis Barker revolution in pop music? A real nice the-old-man-still-has-it story, but one that hasn’t quite paid yet, give or take a memorable Willow or Machine Gun Kelly record. “Bite Me,” however, has it in spades: sharp, bratty pop culture that moves, and you can hear on the tip of her tongue, the tip of her tongue, daring us to bite.
[9]

Thomas Inskeep: This song is utterly idiotic, and I by-and-large loathe pop-punk (emphasis on the “pop”), but good lord, it’s catchy. I think I like it for its stupidity, instead of in spite of it?
[5]

Alfred Soto: Like a minor league Joan Jett, her devotion to pop punk compensates for the pop punk itself, and the purity of her devotion is its own reward. “Bite Me” doesn’t boast nifty melodic convolutions, unusual stresses, or lyrics worth the title, but it’s more taut than the competition.
[6]

Alex Clifton: I’m in a stable, loving relationship and this almost makes me wish that I weren’t so I could scream this at some terrible sleazebag as revenge for breaking my heart. However the word “wifey” brings me out of that daydream, mostly because it’s on my top-ten list of “worst words in the world” (other entrants: hubby, curdled, and damp). Still, it’s a fun return to Avril’s roots, and somehow does not feel like a single released nineteen(!) years on from Let Go.
[6]

Thursday, November 18th, 2021

Ewan McVicar – Tell Me Something Good

You might want to stop reading after the second blurb here, Ewan.


[Video]
[3.75]

Nortey Dowuona: This is the correct way to sample a well known classic. Rip it to shreds and build a new world with each ripped shard. Do better with the synths next time, Ewan.
[6]

Mark Sinker: The gap between King Oliver’s “Dippermouth Blues” (1923) and Ken Colyer’s remake is 33 years, and Colyer was just 28 in 1956. The gap between C-Bank’s (which is to say John Robie’s) “Get Wet” (1983) and “Tell Me Something Good” is 38 years. McVicar is 27. Trad is when you freeze the revolution at its most heightened moment and just have to circling back to that. “Wet” isn’t quite the same song as “Good”, I guess, but there’s a lot of Colyer’s fascinated steely rigour here, and that same identical refusal to let a wild and mind-blowing instant go.
[8]

Will Adams: “Ewan said last week it was ‘mad’ to see the tune picking up so much traction.” Same here, dude.
[3]

Leah Isobel: The orchestra hits are so plasticky they’re divine, like Stock Aitken Waterman levels of postmodern unreality. They do not feel in conversation with the sample at all.
[3]

Ian Mathers: If we’re going to have these kinds of staggeringly inessential dance mixes of amazing old songs, I guess at least they might sound vaguely like the Art of Noise, sure. The definition of “could be worse, I guess”, but maybe we should all go listen to Rufus instead?
[2]

Thomas Inskeep: Scottish DJ takes classic sample, doesn’t credit it (this time from the Rufus classic), cuts it up ever so slightly, puts an obnoxious, unimaginative cod-house beat behind it, tosses in a load of percussive hits, and gets his own hit out of it. Heaven knows why, because this is the musical epitome of empty, tasteless calories.
[1]

Edward Okulicz: The orchestra hits sound like they’re sampled from a particular Super NES game I remember from my youth. If you recognise it, please let me know, it’s driving me nuts not being able to place it. Everything else sounds like an attempt to squeeze Rufus into a line dance at double the speed. As I’m writing this, I realise that this sounds like quite a lot of fun, but these things turn out to be not very fun together.
[4]

Tim de Reuse: From every angle, it screams “dance remix of something that never asked to be remixed,” perhaps most egregiously by the way the bass line and the vocal snippets clash melodically in that subtle way that suggests an awkward mashup rather than a practiced coordination. What really irritates me about it, though, is the tinny little orchestra stab sound effects, because it’s just a whirlwind of a reference: a 2020s remix of a tune from the 70s that tries to get by on nostalgia for the clunkiest techno of the 90s. The message is muddled.
[3]

Thursday, November 18th, 2021

ArrDee – Flowers (Say My Name)

“If we wanted to right now, we could drop three albums… On my phone, I think — I don’t know the exact number — but it’s somewhere like 565 separate note files, and most of them are full songs.”


[Video]
[3.12]

Thomas Inskeep: Cocky like only a 19-year-old boy can be, both of the turn-of-the-century sample/interpolations here are wasted on ArrDee’s empty boasts.
[1]

Andy Hutchins: The germ of a significantly better song is here: Swap out the garage sample for Destiny’s Child and build the song out around that with more of an R&B tint and/or make a song with room for ArrDee to rap double-digit bars from his paramours’ perspectives into an actual duet that gives a woman agency. The brains behind “Flowers” thought “I don’t give girl flowers / I’ll give you good wood, though” was funny, though, so why give credit for the shape of the negative space?
[3]

Nortey Dowuona: The blooming synths over the wobbly drill drums sound absolutely beautiful, but ArrDee… you know that great Now post about how J. Cole makes the female perspective only a 2D representation? ArrDee kinda does that here. Second verse is pretty good tho.
[4]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: ArrDee fumbles the two different samples with equal disdain and clumsiness. To take an iconic Destiny’s Child cut and render it this feckless is criminal. 
[2]

Mark Sinker: He wants me to hate it and I want to hate it also, except that little naughty-pixie skip, so cheeky, so brazen, so unsurprising, is also why he knows he always gets away with it — and that’s the subject matter here and he lands on it so exactly. Of course you side with her, everyone sides with her, he knows that. Is he getting all the action he indicates? Not all, but also not none… 
[7]

Alfred Soto: The friction between the wide-grinned generosity of the Destiny’s Child sample and ArrDee’s meatheaded boasts fascinates me. He has nothing to say, thoughtless in the way only young (and old) men are, but he’s assured about it.
[5]

Ian Mathers: ArrDee’s not exactly the first dude to prosper by giving other young men the soundtrack to their fantasies of being able to treat other people like shit without repercussions. He is even harder to sit through than a lot of his ilk, though, because of his reliance on total dumbshit choruses packed-to-bursting with lines that you can just tell this little shithead thinks are “clever” and repeats often enough to bleed any worth out of them. There are songs and artists that leave you marvelling at just how seductive they can make being an asshole seem, but when you fuck up that very tricky balance you just wind up with detritus like this. There’s also far more good music out there about the kind of wreckage these pricks leave in their wake than they’ve made themselves over the years, even just on a sonic level. “Credit” to him for not doing a middle eight where he pretends he even vaguely cares about another human being, I guess.
[0]

Scott Mildenhall: Well don’t you get it Bart? Derivative ArrDee equals joyless iteration: ArrDee blah blah.
[3]

Wednesday, November 17th, 2021

Drake ft. 21 Savage & Project Pat – Knife Talk

Not a song about Drake et al. discussing ‘Silent Shout’, unfortunately…


[Video][Website]
[4.50]

Will Adams: Aw, that’s cute.
[4]

Alfred Soto: I mean, this is Fucking Drake. Anybody else rapping “Gang shit, that’s all I’m on” in the voice of a six-year-old boy imitating Marlon Brando would project the requisite creeps.
[3]

Nortey Dowuona: It’s looking real poppy outside for u – OH MY GAWD, IS THAT PROJECT PAT? I LOVE YOUR MUSIC!!!
[5]

Thomas Inskeep: Project Pat, who has one of the most purely listenable voices in hip hop, unfortunately is only here courtesy of a sample from Juicy J’s “Feed the Streets.” That’s a shame, because this would be better with more Pat. That said, Drake and 21 Savage sound alright here — maybe even a little better than alright — on a menacing Memphis-indebted track produced by Metro Boomin. Drake is often at his best when he’s dipping a toe in/paying tribute to regional scenes, and that’s the case here. Less pleasing everyone, more of this, please.
[7]

Ian Mathers: I don’t know any of these people (obviously), but the reality of their lives, personalities, criminal acts, etc. sometimes matters less than public perception, and the simple fact is that Drake doesn’t sound even remotely credible here. Which is too bad because the vibe of the track is pretty fucking effective, but if you just subbed in almost anyone else (or at least someone whose presence doesn’t make repeating “gang shit, that’s all I’m on” feel like kind of a joke) or even just gave 21 Savage and Project Pat more bars, it feels like an immediate upgrade. It almost doesn’t matter at this point whether his actual performance is fine or not, the Drakeness of Drake is mostly just a fucking distraction, if this is what he wants to do.
[5]

Mark Sinker: The Woman Whose CCTV Captured A Goblin Insists It’s Not Her Son Being Weird
[3]