Monthly Report: October 2014 Singles

1. Charli XCX - "Boom Clap"
I hated "I Love It" with a passion and thought that the braying hook on "Fancy" was the annoying part of the song, not Iggy. So I was a little mystified about what so many critics seemed to love about Charli XCX, and they even seemed kind of nonplussed about this song, which has really grown on me. Initially I just felt pedantic about the fact that "Boom Clap" has a much more prominent snare drum sound than a handclap, so it's really more 'boom bap,' but whatever, this is definitely one of the best things on pop radio the last few months, glad it blew up and she's getting a shot as a solo artist outside of "Fancy." Have been catching up on her previous stuff a bit more and I like it but very little of it hooks as hard as this song. You can listen to this and all my other Monthly Report lists for this year on my favorite 2014 singles Spotify playlist.

2, DJ Khaled f/ Chris Brown, August Alsina, Future and Jeremih - "Hold You Down"
Khaled's softer R&B-tinged singles have typically been his worst, and the occasional cuts on his previous albums that put a bunch of R&B singers into his posse cut formula have been a mess, so this song is a pretty shocking and decisive success. Just a great use of everyone's voices, mixing them all into one melody in a way that makes sense and gives each of them some nice moments. And the moments where Khaled screams random phrases like "ANOTHER ONE!" and "REAL LIFE!" somehow fit perfectly within the fabric of the song.

3. Maddie & Tae - "Girl In A Country Song"
A hilarious, perfect feminist response to bro country written by a couple of teenage girls. It's actually glossier than the stuff it's lampooning, which in a way makes it better, that it's not a smug alt-country thing but a pop country song by people who remember when pop country artists wrote about women with more emotion, respect and nuance.

4. Kendrick Lamar - "i"
Over a year after "Control" and on the heels of a lot of much less impressive guest verses, Kendrick really set himself up to deal with even more loaded expectations for a new single than he already would've had following up Good Kid. But it's almost kind of hilarious how unexpected this song was, and how confounded a lot of people are by it. I think most of the hate it's getting is misplaced, though, for reasons that were summed up pretty well by this Fader piece. Not that it's a perfect song -- Kendrick is a great rapper, but sometimes he says things like "how many times my potential was anonymous?" in a weird serpent voice and you just wonder how this guy became a universally respected superstar. But the song sounds better on the radio than I expected when I first heard it, and it's been racing up the airplay charts. If anything the tactical mistake was that he's like "I'd like to release the album this year," when he shoulda just dropped the single with a release date in a month and just let the chips fall, treat this like a power move.

5. Fergie - "L.A. Love (La La)"
Part of the reason I can chill out and enjoy the Kendrick song for what it is is that I was probably anticipating the return of Fergie more. It's been 7 years since The Dutchess (and 4 years since the last BEP album), and her run of solo singles was so good, and pretty much anticipated this whole era of sketchy white girl pop rap, that I've really wanted to see what she'd do now. And jumping on a Mustard track is almost too predictable, but it works. Those cool triplet accents on the drums in the prechorus and chorus sound like something new for Mustard, but it's also got the first "Rack City"-style bassline he's used in forever, interesting combination of sounds.

6. Kim Cesarion - "Undressed"
I'm amazed this guy is from Sweden and this song has already been a pop hit in a dozen different companies before I even heard it on the radio once here in the states. Really just a fantastic funky pop soul thing that fits in perfectly with what's going on on American pop radio right now, hope it blows up soon.

7. Nick Jonas - "Jealous"
I've always rooted for Nick Jonas -- he was the clear talent in Jonas Brothers from the beginning, and also wrote song great songs for Demi Lovato's first album. I even liked the flop single from that first solo album he did backed with a bunch of New Power Generation guys. After the JoBros reboot imploded, though (how does a family band break up, that shit is depressing), his decision to do a sexy synth pop thing seems vaguely desperate, but it's working, people love this song. I don't think his voice is completely suited for this kind of thing, and it's full of really awful lyrics ("I turn my cheek, music up" and "it's my right to be hellish" are IN THE CHORUS). But it's still a pretty great-sounding track, hits the same spot as the Kim Cesarion song.

8. Eric Church - "Cold One"
Eric Church's The Outsiders was, for about half of the year, the highest selling album released in 2014 (until the Coldplay album caught up to it a couple weeks ago). That's not remarkable because Church is a country singer, or even because he's one that's not really a household name. It's remarkable because the album hasn't had remotely as much radio success as his previous album -- four singles have been released so far, and only one of them ("Give Me Back My Hometown") has been a major radio hit on the scale of all five singles from his previous albums. And maybe that's because songs like this and "The Outsiders" have tempo changes and all sorts of weird instrumental textures that you don't usually hear on country radio. This one is light and funny, too, shoulda been bigger.

9. Juicy J f/ Nicki Minaj, Lil Bibby and Young Thug - "Low"
One of my favorite things about 2014 has been Juicy J's infiltration into the upper echelons of pop. It's given us the Juiceman on a chart-topping Katy Perry single, and now we've got Young Thug on a Dr. Luke track. The weird thing is that Thugger is only on the hook, and he talks about the price of his guest verses on that hook, would've been nice to have a verse from him in place of Lil Bibby, who's talented but kind of dull. Still, a great track, wish it had done better on radio. I really like the other new Juicy J songs ("You Don't Know" and "Ice"), hopefully he gets to push another album out.

10. Trey Songz - "What's Best For You"
After Trigga's second single, the hilariously stupid "Smartphones," became the least successful single from a Trey Songz album since he became a big star, there's been kind of a weird scramble to restore the album's momentum with multiple singles hitting the radio around the same time. "Foreign" got airplay for a minute and disappeared, right now "Touchin', Lovin'" is getting bigger, but my favorite is "What's Best For You," a bonus track from the deluxe version that's one of the best traditional R&B songs he's ever done.

Worst Single of the Month: iLoveMakonnen f/ Drake - "Tuesday (Remix)"
I feel like Drake has been building an OVO roster comprised entirely of acts who will only ever be moderately famous for having a song with Drake. Which might be respectable in the sense that he's interested in using his profile to boost niche artists and Toronto guys, but it also seems like an insecure Drake thing where he'd never sign anyone who could be as big as him the way Lil Wayne did with him and Nicki. But this iLoveMakonnen guy, yikes, what the hell is with his voice? And why did all these great producers work with him even before he started to get legitimately famous? I don't understand. This song is a nightmare.
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