Monthly Report: February 2014 Singles

1. Paramore - "Ain't It Fun"
Sometimes you get an album, and you have an instant favorite song that you know should be a single, know will be a single, and get all anxious for that to happen and wait for months and months. It's actually happened to me with pretty much every Paramore album, previously with "That's What You Get" and "The Only Exception." And "Ain't It Fun" was an immediate standout on my #1 album of 2013, but it took forever to come out because the previous single had such a long lifespan of digital sales finally fueling pop radio airplay and "Still Into You" finally becoming a hit. So we just got the "Ain't It Fun" video, nearly 10 months after the "Still Into You" video, and to be honest the video and the single edit, which slices a full minute off the song, are a little anti-climactic. But man I'm excited at the prospect of hearing this song on the radio even though for nearly a year now I've been playing the album in my car over and over and screaming "don't crying to your mama/ 'cause you're on your own in the real world." On a musical level it's a monumental jam but it also just feels like a rallying cry for me, given all the real world shit I've been struggling with. Here's my favorite 2014 singles Spotify playlist that I update every month, by the way.

2. BeyoncĂ© - "XO"
Dropping that album right out of the sky was exciting in and of itself, but one thing that's been really interesting to watch with this whole BeyoncĂ© project is which songs become hits and how the singles campaign flows. "Crazy In Love" aside, she's always had kind of back luck with first singles, they never seem to become the most popular songs from the albums, and I suspect that was a big part of why they delayed the album all year and eventually had the idea to release it with no advance single, just to sidestep that headache. Initially, "Drunk In Love" was the urban radio single and "Blow" was the pop radio single, and the former was an instant smash while the latter was quickly switched to "XO" -- but already, "Partition" has taken off as the next urban radio single, while "XO" has had kind of a cool reception. That bums me out, because I adore "XO" -- watching the video, I kind of marvel that I can enjoy something produced by Ryan Tedder and directed by Terry Richardson this much. The whole carpe diem, love in the face of mortality vibe of the song, it hits me very deeply, it's such a gorgeous song with so many interesting wrinkles in the vocal performances and the subtly harsh production. 

3. Young Thug - "Stoner"
Young Thug has always been a divisive figure, and early on I was not a fan, putting 1017 Thug in my "worst album of the month" spotlight a year ago. Now the battle lines are really being drawn as his buzz escalates, and I haven't really been too interested in taking sides again one way or the other, especially since I didn't really hear the appeal of "Danny Glover" or  "2 Cups Stuffed." This song really snuck up on me, though, I'd hear DJs drop the beat and instantly love it, then it would take me a second to realize who was rapping, and by that point I was like oh shit, this is great. There's so many individual sections strung together that are all individually catchy as hell, "I feel like Fabo" is practically a hook by itself, and it's crazy to hear gratuitous shoutouts to Fabo on a hit song in 2014.

4. YG f/ Drake - "Who Do You Love"
Doing the 20 best DJ Mustard tracks list recently was fun, partly because I'm not really that into most of the R&B-flavored Mustard tracks on the radio at the moment and it was good to kind of dig in and remind myself about the tracks I really love. These 'monthly report' posts are a Drake-free zone most of the time, but sometimes I make an exception, usually on songs where he's just a guest with a decent second verse and doesn't take over the whole song, like Meek Mill's "Amen." I'm pretty curious how the YG album turns out, he's got a lot of jams at this point and having so many Mustard beats on one album kinda gives him a huge head start.

5. Yo Gotti f/ Rich Homie Quan - "I Know"
This was an immediate standout on I Am, and I'm glad it's finally getting play as a single, after that damn song with J. Cole had its little moment. Having Rich Homie Quan sing over the "I Got 5 On It" beat is some sacrilegious shit, but it sounds so great, especially with the sample slowed down from its original tempo to this dark eerie crawl.

6. J. Roddy Walston & The Business - "Heavy Bells"
Ever since they moved to Baltimore from Tennessee a decade ago, J. Roddy Walston & The Business have been really beloved around here, and now that they've gone mainstream they're probably the first local-ish band to be in heavy rotation on both 98 Rock and WHFS since, I dunno, SR-71? Jimmie's Chicken Shack? I guess that doesn't sound very impressive. But it is great to see these guys succeed, they're an amazing live band and Essential Tremors is solid album. "Heavy Bells" isn't even my favorite song on the album by a long shot, but it's grown on me, and it being on Billboard's Alternative Songs chart for the last 19 weeks means it's definitely gonna have follow-up singles.

7. Shakira f/ Rihanna - "Can't Remember To Forget You"
I like how even when she makes her most overt plays for U.S. radio, there's still something about Shakira that is not just fundamentally foreign but also fundamentally herself. Even something seemingly destined for crossover success like a Rihanna collaboration feels kind of quirky and not quite meant for American radio, in a good way. The song is kind of slight, but in a charming way, and they both seem to really enjoy digging into that melody. Also the video is amazing, obviously.

8. Brad Paisley - "The Mona Lisa"
I'm kind of amazed that when I did my Brad Paisley deep cuts playlist right after Wheelhouse came out, I totally slept on "The Mona Lisa," it's such a great goofy little power pop song. Songs where Paisley is in awe of his wife always come off really charming and sincere, but it helps if there's a funny lyrical conceit to back up the sentiment.

9. Bruno Mars - "Young Girls"
Unorthodox Jukebox is full of great pop songs, so I'm glad they're still spinning off singles, especially now the opening track. Don't know why he didn't try to push it harder by at least playing it for a minute during the Super Bowl halftime show, but I guess it wasn't uptempo enough for what he was going for.

10. Pitbull f/ Ke$ha - "Timber"
This song seemed to arrive custom made to offend people, and at first I bought into that. But the whole fun of Pitbull nowadays is how utterly shameless he is, and this might actually be the best Ke$ha has ever sounded, it's just a great hook, so I've given in, I'm not even mad that this was #1.

Worst Single of the Month: Aloe Blacc - "The Man"
"Wake Me Up" was already one of the worst pop hits in recent memory, a Swedish EDM producer teaming up with a former Stones Throw rapper and the guitarist from Incubus for some kind of terrible country song. Now Aloe Blacc is back with his boring monotone soul man voice and has made a song even dumber and more melodically drab than "I Need A Dollar." This fucking guy.

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