Monthly Report: April 2012 Singles
1. Coldplay f/ Rihanna - "Princess of China"
Between this and the "Birthday Cake" remix, Rihanna has a knack lately for duets that I enjoy that seem to annoy a lot of people more for the presence of a guy named Chris than the actual sound of the song. I'm kind of a fan of embarrassingly ambitious post-Eno Coldplay anyway, but I was surprised how much I like this, especially after that drab Grammys performance, but man this is awesome, especially that big distorted synth line and the turn Rihanna's verse takes in the second half.
2. Zac Brown Band - "Keep Me In Mind"
I have vague memories of seeing these guys on award shows and being tasteful and boring, but damn, does this song sound great every time I hear it on the radio. I guess it topped the country chart already a few months ago, but I just pretty recently realized how much I like it and who it's by.
3. Elle Varner - "Refill"
Varner's first moderately successful single, last year's "Only Wanna Give It To You," was one of the most obnoxiously sung R&B songs in recent memory in addition to being a bland puddle of retro sample rehashing with a J. Cole guest verse. So it's a pleasant surprise that her more downtempo follow-up is just gorgeously produced, with Varner's scenery-chewing vocal style working with the song rather than against it. That fiddle loop somehow manages to be both attention-grabbing and kind of sneakily understated as all these other layers get dappled over it.
4. Grouplove - "Tongue Tied"
Sunny synthy crossover indie pop is really not my scene, and I broke out in hives every time I saw the iPod commercial this song blew up off of, but fuck it, it's growing on me now that it's all over the radio.
5. Trey Songz - "Heart Attack"
After "Sex Ain't Better Than Love" proved that urban radio loves Trey so much that he can score a pretty big hit even with a fairly low key song off a stopgap EP, I heard this song and assumed it was another EP track and not the single from his next full-length. It's definitely better, one of the first midtempo tracks of his I've liked in a while, since they're usually oversung into oblivion, but it's a lot more straightforward and unassuming than I would've expected from a Benny Blanco-produced album-launching single.
6. Ca$h Out - "Cashin' Out"
Atlanta probably ebbed the lowest it's ever been in the last decade or so in terms of hip hop radio presence a while back around 2010, when "No Hands" was seemingly the only really big breakout song and a lot of the biggest stars were locked up or on hiatus. Now it feels like ATL is hitting hard with the ascendance of 2 Chainz and Future and Travis Porter and the return of Tip and Jeezy, and in that context "Cashin' Out" feels even more generic and unnecessary than it probably would otherwise, but it's still pretty damn catchy.
7. Halestorm - "Love Bites (So Do I)"
You guys should have been at Gasworks on Friday. There was this band Crucial Taunt, they had this megababe for a lead singer. Unreal!
8. Demi Lovato - "Give Your Heart A Break"
Unbroken was a pretty disappointing, underwhelming album after Demi's first two, but it wasn't terrible, just kind of misguided and scattershot. I'm glad that months and months after "Skyscraper" peaked they finally released a second single, though, and that it's one of the better tracks that maintains the appeal of her earlier stuff without being as guitar-driven.
9. Flo Rida f/ Sia - "Wild Ones"
I only know Sia from her incredibly awful album covers that make her look like some sort of twee mental patient, so I'm surprised both to hear her on a Flo Rida single and to hear that her voice is pretty sexy. She seems suitably embarrassed about singing a bunch of sketchy "saddle me up" metaphors on a Flo Rida song and didn't appear in the video, though. Apparently there's a charting dance mix of the track that just uses the Sia vocals, none of the Flo Rida stuff, haven't heard it but I'm sure it's an improvement.
10. 2 Chainz - "Riot"
I never thought of this song as a standout on T.R.U. REALigion and it seemed like an odd single choice to me when it started getting play, but it's grown on me over the last few months, especially now that 2 Chainz has a 'real' lead single out and it's some Drake bullshit. The rise of 2 Chainz has been kind of strange since nobody seems to enthusiastic about him and acts like his stardom is this grim inevitability, but I still think he's got more personality than almost any of the other 'new' rappers coming up right now and a bit of so far underexposed versatility that he'll hopefully be able to show on his album without trying too hard to be everything to everyone. Mostly I think I just identify with this dorky-looking, tall 30-something dude with a penchant for cheesy dad jokes that has somehow become one of the most ubiquitous rappers of 2012.