Monthly Report: July Singles
1. Kendrick Lamar - "Alright"
Back in April, after Baltimore was unjustly locked down with a 10pm citywide curfew and National Guard occupation for 5 nights, the curfew was lifted on a Sunday, and I went out to a few clubs to celebrate and see how the moment was being observed. And my favorite moment of the night was when DJ K-Meta dropped "Alright" into his set at the Windup Space. To Pump A Butterfly had been out for a month at that point and we all already knew that it was a standout song on an amazing album, but hearing it out in the wild, in that charged moment, was incredible. Kendrick making a video for the song that fits so perfectly into the context of how I heard it that night is a bonus. Here's the Spotify playlist of favorite 2015 singles that I update every month.
2. BØRNS - "Electric Love"
BØRNS is a guy whose voice really sounded like a woman at first, and he's from Michigan but the name really made me expect someone from Sweden or something. But none of that matters, this is just one of those perfect explosive little indie pop jams that is far too enjoyable for me to care that I heard it in an ad before I heard it on the radio.
3. Rae Sremmurd - "This Could Be Us"
A few years ago I wrote a Village Voice column about the rarity of rap albums that notch 4 or more radio hits. And if anything it's even more rare now for that to happen, which makes it all the more remarkable that SremmLife is one of the few rap albums in the last couple years with 4 rap radio hits (along with the less surprising The Pink Print and Nothing Was The Same), since most album campaigns kinda tap out and move on after 2 or 3 hits. And I'm glad this got the nod for the 4th single, was always such a standout to me with that bouncy piano riff, even piggybacking off of a Twitter meme in that kind of desperate way a lot of rap songs do these days doesn't diminish its appeal. Also it's fun to hear a pretty good Project Pat impression from a kid who was like 6 years old when "Chickenhead" came out.
4. The Weeknd - "Can't Feel My Face"
I never thought much of The Weeknd's hip mixtapes that made him such a big deal, so I'm surprised that I enjoy this and Ariana Grande's "Love Me Harder" as much as I do. Usually it's weird and uncomfortable when someone who came up with some idiosyncratic underground records decides to get in the studio with someone like Max Martin and streamline their sound, but in this case I totally approve of The Weeknd selling out for that crossover money. He's gotta do a remix with Wayne and Juelz though.
5. Mumford & Sons - "The Wolf"
Mumford & Sons are another act I never thought would make a song I enjoy this much. Who knew that all they had to do was plug in and make a generic alt-rock churner?
Who knew that all Mumford & Sons had to do to make an enjoyable song was plug in the electric guitars and do a generic alt-rock churner?
6. Wolf Alice - "Moaning Lisa Smile"
It took 10 years, but the word "wolf" is now showing up multiple times on the mainstream alt-rock radio charts like it used to on indie rock mixtapes. This is so Veruca Salt that I don't feel like I even need to listen to the actual new Veruca Salt album.
7. Monica f/ Lil Wayne - "Just Right For Me"
Hearing someone sing the word "baby," over and over, toying with the word and all its expressive possibilities and stretching and twisting it into different shapes, is one of the simple joys of popular music that I never get tired of, and this song delivers it in Monica's still fantastic voice. Back in 2006, 2007, 2008, an R&B jam with a Polow Da Don beat and a Lil Wayne verse would've been pretty much guaranteed to be great, and this actually reminds me of the kind of shit those guys were doing in that peak period.
8. Young Dro - "We In Da City"
A lot of Atlanta rappers just refuse to stop grinding after their brief moment in the national spotlight, which is how we end up with the resilience of guys like Gucci Mane and 2 Chainz. And Young Dro was just too brilliant an MC to be discarded as quickly as he was after "Shoulder Lean," so it's been heartening to see him stage a moderate comeback on the radio, first with "F.D.B." a couple years ago and now this. This song is just incredibly goofy, and I love hollering along with the chorus and the first verse, but then Dro just comes out of nowhere with a much more intricate second verse that reminds you how talented he is.
9. Fifth Harmony f/ Kid Ink - "Worth It"
Kid Ink is still one of the dullest Manchurian Candidates the music industry has ever forced onto the radio with the help of more talented people, and I resent Dej Loaf and Fifth Harmony for influencing me to not change the station when I hear multiple Kid Ink songs on the radio now.
10. David Guetta f/ Nicki Minaj, Bebe Rexha and Afrojack - "Hey Mama"
Bebe Rexha's voice is a strange, charming instrument that I've been enamored of ever since Cash Cash's "Take Me Home," and she's clear star of "Hey Mama" for me, even over the Nicki verses and the oddly effective Alan Lomax sample dropped over a big obnoxious EDM banger. So it was really annoying that she didn't get a guest credit on the song when it was first released a few months ago, even when Afrojack got one. But a couple months ago it looks like the label smartened up and added Rexha's name to the single artwork and the iTunes credits and Billboard entry and whatnot. Annoying that she's not in the video at all, though.
Worst Single of the Month: Halsey - "New Americana"
The other day I turned on the radio and heard this horrifying song with the chorus "We are the new Americana/ High on legal marijuana/ Raised on Biggie and Nirvana" and was reminded of hearing Lorde's "Royals" for the first time and knowing instantly that that moronic song would soon be everywhere. I don't know if my premonition of this song's popularity will come true, but I hope I'm wrong.