Monthly Report: May 2015 Singles
1. Tove Lo - "Talking Body"
I didn't care much for Tove Lo's breakthrough single, "Habits," which sounded like a person whose first language is Swedish doing this weird on-the-nose song about drug-addled heartbreak and depression. And the first half of the chorus of "Talking Body" has a similar vibe, spoiling the mood set by the song's evocative title with the horribly clumsy line "if we're talking body, you got a perfect one so put it on me." But the second half of the chorus, "if you love me right, we fuck for life, on and on and on" contains a big undeniable vocal hook, and Tove Lo's odd heavy-handed way with words manages to stumble on something that resonates with me. Pop music is often about sex and often about loving someone forever, but it rarely puts the two ideas together in any way that might suggest a monogamous long-term relationship with good sex. And as an old married dude, I dunno, that's nice to hear. Here's my running Spotify playlist of favorite 2015 singles.
2. Kendrick Lamar - "King Kunta"
Last year, when everyone was eager to hear Kendrick Lamar's next album and had little info to go on, there was a mild media feeding frenzy when Pharrell and the music supervisor from Entourage, of all people, both mentioned the song title "King Kunta" and whipped up anticipation about this track nobody else had heard. By the time the song finally emerged, a few days before the rest of the album was released, it sounded kind of underwhelming and not ready to live up to all the hype. But it sounds great in the context of To Pimp A Butterfly, and it also sounds surprisingly great on the radio, where "Uptown Funk" weirdly may have cleared a path for it. They still really need to release "Alright" as a single, though.
3. Miguel - "Coffee"
I accurately predicted a few months ago that the incomplete snippet of "Coffee" on the 3-song EP that Miguel released in December would eventually be fleshed for a radio single, just like "Adorn" was. What I didn't predict is how much would be added to the outro, and that there'd be a version with a Wale verse, an awful verse where he compares his dick to a scone, and an explicit version that removes all the subtlety from the "coffee in the morning" chorus and makes it "fucking in the morning." Thankfully, there is a clean version with no Wale, and I'm gonna pretend that's the only version there is and hope that radio doesn't choose the Wale one. Also coffee is just a really big part of my daily life, so I like hearing songs about coffee.
4. Kacey Musgraves - "Biscuits"
I don't like biscuits as much as coffee, but still, hey, they go together pretty well. Some people seem kind of underwhelmed by this song because of the chorus's similarity to "Follow Your Arrow," but I never quite cottoned to "Follow Your Arrow" like others did because its opening lines felt like a retread of her true masterpiece, "Merry Go 'Round." But this song is fun, can't wait for the album.
5. Trey Songz - "Slow Motion"
Trey has been putting in overtime lately -- this song dropped so soon after Trigga that at first I thought that it must be a cut from that album that I'd forgotten about. But it's actually a lead single from a new album (unwisely called Trigga Reloaded so people will think it's a re-release of his last album and buy it less, like Nicki Minaj's Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded), and he just released a couple EPs that basically make up a whole album. This has really started to seem like one of his best songs ever, though. So many different, seemingly incompatible production styles get layered together, from the light jazzy guitar line to the DJ Mustard-style 'ay' vocal chant and claps to the trap music-style splatter of hi-hats to the '80s R&B vocoder on the chorus, it shouldn't work but it totally does. The fact that Charlie Puth, of "See You Again" fame, co-produced this song has really compromised by hardline anti-Puth stance.
6. Meek Mill - "Monster"
This song had just come out when I did my little Complex list of all the songs with "Monster" in the title in the last few years, and I stupidly didn't include it -- Meek had been dropping a lot of freestyles at the time and I kind of assumed he just rapped over the Future record. Meek remains maybe my favorite rapper of the last 5 years and is usually at his most potent with Jahlil Beats, this is not a 5 star "I'm A Boss" level classic but it's good, hope Dreams Worth More Than Money comes soon, it's been way too long.
7. Kevin Gates f/ August Alsina - "I Don't Get Tired"
I'm glad Kevin Gates finally has a song bigger than "Posed To Be In Love," or even just anything to be more famous for than various social media stunts and controversies. It is a little weird that "I don't get tired" was his Instagram catchphrase before it was a song, but I'm glad the song is good. I've been an absurd workaholic most of my adult life, in college I had two jobs while I was a fulltime student, a few years ago I juggled two jobs with freelancing, and my current job sometimes gives me 50 or 60 hours a week, so it's good to have an anthem for that lifestyle. Even now, being home from work most of the time with a newborn, I get tired a lot but it feels good to tell myself that I don't get tired.
8. The Pretty Reckless - "Follow Me Down"
Taylor Momsen's band becoming a legit rock radio staple is a surprising development, but this is their third big hit and probably their best yet. In the reliable soft/loud world of mainstream rock, having a quiet chorus in a big barnstorming anthem is a nice curveball.
9. Zac Brown Band f/ Chris Cornell - "Heavy Is The Head"
I wouldn't go so far as to say this song is better than the singles from Soundgarden's last album, but in a way Zac Brown has succeeded in writing something that sounds more like a crowdpleasing Soundgarden comeback song than the ones they actually put out. The chorus even has a little 7/8 time signature action.
10. Kid Ink f/ Dej Loaf - "Be Real"
It's so frustrating that Kid Ink gets handed all these great tracks that he had no idea what to do with. The most memorable line here is when he managed to even boast blandly ("lot of people tryin' to tell me I'm the next guy" -- the next guy, really?). But a DeJ Loaf hook over the best DJ Mustard track in recent memory, that's gold, really should've been her song.
Worst Single of the Month: T-Wayne - "Nasty Freestyle"
When the heretofore unknown Bobby Shmurda took a mixtape freestyle over a borrowed beat with no chorus and became a viral sensation and then an actual radio hit, it was spontaneous and strange and exciting, and the song sounded surprisingly good on the radio. But as with my recent Jordin Sparks/JoJo rant, last year's unlikely sleeper hit is this year's annoying copycat phenomenon. And this T-Wayne guy, running around using the name of the never-released Lil Wayne/T-Pain collaboration project, made a completely unremarkable freestyle that somehow lucked into huge chart numbers off of, I guess, Kylie Jenner's Instagram page or something? At least the original "Nasty," which features a dope Young Dro verse, is charting too.