Monthly Report: August 2013 Singles

1. Yo Gotti f/ Young Jeezy and YG - "Act Right"
Yo Gotti has been a steady C-lister on the trap star circuit for so long without any real undeniable talent or even the kind of star quality that keeps guys like Jeezy or 2 Chainz out there, so it surprises me when he comes up with something pretty good, and especially something as great as "Act Right." Even here, a lot of the credit belongs to HBK P-Lo, who gave it just fantastic hi-hat programming and ridiculous bass, but Gotti sounds great on this like he rarely has before, and Jeezy continues his run of adapting strangely well to DJ Mustard-style post-hyphy tracks (for the longest time I thought Mustard produced this, but I was wrong). I wish this song was bigger, it deserves to at least on the same level as "R.I.P." All these songs are in my Spotify playlist of favorite 2013 singles, by the way.

2. Zedd f/ Foxes - "Clarity"
This song has been creeping up on me, and the American public in general, for a good long while, but it really hit me a few weeks ago when I was driving to an early job at like 6am all bleary-eyed and it just sounded tremendous. Whoever this Foxes person is, I really liked her spot on the Fall Out Boy album earlier this year too, this is definitely a runner up to "Sweet Nothing" as my favorite dance producer/guest singer EDM pop crossover joint of the year.

3. Ariana Grande - "Baby I"
"The Way" is obviously one of the best pop jams of the year in a way that even Mac Miller couldn't fuck up, but it's good to finally have another single from Ariana Grande that's also great but with no guest rappers or anything getting in the way. It doesn't jack any familiar sample, but keeps the overall '90s vibe going with a writing credit from Babyface himself. This one's a little more feathery and fluttery and I feel like it might not take off big, but I just love the drums and the rapid vocal melodies.

4. Doe B f/ T.I. and Juicy J - "Let Me Find Out (Remix)"
For a while this song kinda blended into the background to me, because Doe B is such a nondescript dude (eyepatch aside) and there are a billion records out right now with Tip and/or Juicy on them, but man that beat just sounds so great and evil, and everyone's verse suits it perfectly in its own way.

5. 2 Chainz f/ Pharrell - "Feds Watching"
When this song dropped a while back, it immediately felt like the fluke success of "Blurred Lines" had suddenly set us back into that zone 6-8 years ago where rappers where just blindly buying tracks from Pharrell that nobody should ever rap on trying to land a hit. And while this song has definitely not blown up like all the singles from the first 2 Chainz album and could very well get his release date pushed back, it has gotten bigger than I expected, and sounds pretty dope on the radio. The beat's a little slight but the chorus is catchy as hell and it's one of those rare times when 2 Chainz manages a whole song by himself without his flow or his lyrics just falling apart into a puddle of bad ideas at least once.

6. Chrisette Michele - "A Couple of Forevers"
I've never been big on Michele's music, something about her delivery sounds a little cloying and contrived to me, but this song knocked me out the first time I heard it on the radio earlier in the summer. I gave the album a chance and it didn't do much for me otherwise, but this is still a jam.

7. Toby Keith - "Drinks After Work"
I've been fond of noting over the last year or so that Toby Keith has been on a streak of alcohol-themed singles, and this is his 5th in a row now. I can't complain because I like all of them and probably love 3 of them, including this one. Keith has written the overwhelming majority of his hits, but now and again he buys one, and this is from the same songwriting team that did Little Big Town's "Pontoon." I could easily picture someone else singing this song, but it works for Keith really well, just a great little slice of life kind of song with a huge string hook that kinda reminds me, weirdly, of "Come On Eileen."

8. Wale f/ Sam Dew - "LoveHate Thing"
I can talk shit about Wale and his album as much as anyone, but the fact is I really do like the live band Go-Go/R&B vibe he occasionally brings to the radio on songs like "Pretty Girls," and this song is really just beautifully produced (in part by the guy from Mint Condition!), great drums, great vibe. And for once Wale doesn't sound like he's straining to be the rapper he thinks he needs to be for his career, even if the guy he seems to truly be is kind of whiny and obsessed with his career and status and 'haters,' which works here because it's kind of a thoroughly examined song about those topics that constantly peek through in his lyrics.

9. John Legend - "Made To Love"
I think John Legend's always made more interesting music than he gets credit for, although one can certainly be forgiven for that since his only album in the past 5 years was that covers thing with the Roots, and the recent singles with Ludacris and Rick Ross weren't very inspired. But this song really grabbed me and got me curious about the new album, very cool and surprisingly texture to the percussion on this song, and just the way the guitar and the vocal are mixed are kind of subtly on some other shit.

10. Taylor Swift - "Red"
I'm forever ambivalent towards Taylor Swift as neither a force for good nor evil in popular music, going back and forth based on whether I like or dislike her latest song, but generally I tend to like her singles the most when they're basically power pop anthems, like "The Story of Us" and "You Belong With Me," and now this. It hit the top 10 almost a year ago just off downloads, but now it's her country radio single, at the end of a long album cycle which has been almost entirely geared away from country radio, and it sounds pretty damn good after all those goofy Max Martin songs.

Worst Single of the Month: Rocko f/ Rick Ross and Future - "UOENO"
Obviously the main reason this song is divisive is that line on the Rick Ross verse, which Rocko says he took off the song and replaced with remix verses by Wiz or 2 Chainz or whoever, but the fact is now that this is an estimable radio it it sure as hell seems like most stations are playing that loathsome Ross verse anyway. But I gotta say I just hate this song period, it's a lethargic useless beat and one of Future's worst hooks (which is weird because I like his derivative new single "Honest" a lot more than this), just kinda hate the whole thing even besides the disgusting date rape lyric.
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