Monthly Report: October 2015 Singles
1. Tory Lanez - "Say It"
I am not someone to gripe about current R&B's failure to resemble old R&B, but one thing I do miss is the complete disappearance of vocal groups. So while Tory Lanez is a Toronto dude who seems to fit into that whole sleazy whispy Toronto thing, sample-friendly R&B geniuses Pop & Oak fill the chorus with glorious harmonies from '90s girl group Brownstone that automatically help the song stand out from current R&B radio on just a simple textural level. A lot of the melody and charm of the track also comes from the Brownstone sample, but Tory Lanez puts enough of his stamp on the song that I like it as an original (also can I go ahead and admit that I'm weirded out by how similar this guy's stage name is to that of porn star Tory Lane? Just me? OK, nevermind). Here's the favorite 2015 singles Spotify playlist I add to every month.
2. Ellie Goulding - "On My Mind"
I liked this song, and how it was more of a bombastic Max Martin pop thing than the ethereal dance pop sound she's had before, right off the bat. Then I heard about the whole thing about how this is supposedly a response to Ed Sheeran's awful hit "Don't" being supposedly about her, and having that kind of context to the song, I dunno, it doesn't really add anything for me, if anything I'm just sick of every other song on Top 40 radio being a passive aggressive shot at another pop star. But the song works without any of that baggage, so I dig it.
3. One Direction - "Perfect"
Another tabloid Top 40 song that winks at another major star the act has been linked to, except in this case the chorus even seems a little similar to Taylor Swift's "Style," the song supposedly about Harry Styles that this is a supposed response to. Again, all this meta stuff gives me a headache --- I really don't care much at all about these people's lives, even though One Direction's last album is one of my favorite records in recent memory. But hey, this song is pretty great, even as derivative of "Style" as it feels.
4. Kendrick Lamar f/ Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat - "These Walls"
It was amazing to see Kendrick's Kennedy Center show last week, and I enjoyed kinda reconnecting with one of my favorite albums of the year in anticipation of the show, and this is one song that started to stick out more that hadn't before. And then I heard it on the radio the day of the show, not even knowing it was the next single, and then it sounded great live. When To Pimp A Butterfly dropped, "You Ain't Gotta Lie" jumped out at me as the midtempo R&B-ish song that I thought should be a single, but "These Walls" really just has a ton of hooks going on in it, good pick. Kendrick has always sounded kind of awkward and clinical rapping about sex or love, and this song almost takes that to a ridiculous extreme, but it's still good.
5. E-40 - "Choices (Yup)"
He's operated in such a weird parallel universe from the rest of the rap world for 20 years now, making double albums every year for a small cult audience, that it's always a pleasant surprise when E-40 sneaks into the mainstream at all. A few years ago "Function" kinda predicted the way radio was about to sound and helped introduce YG, IamSu! and Problem to the country all on one track, more recently Big Sean gave him his biggest feature ever, and now this song has really grown into a sleeper hit over last 10 months. I remember David Drake talking about how this song was gonna be big when the album came out, and I totally didn't believe him, so hat tip for that.
6. Nelly f/ Jeremih - "The Fix"
This song is hilarious, it's almost like they saw how offended people were by "Blurred Lines" and said well, let's just have Nelly yell "come and get this dick" over "Sexual Healing." Jeremih is undefeated, even though a lot of his features aren't especially good songs, he just sounds fantastic on everything. Between this and "Don't Tell 'Em," you could really do a whole volume of just Jeremih and DJ Mustard interpolating 20th century classics, that would be a fun novelty record if Jeremih was ever capable of releasing an album.
7. August Alsina f/ Lil Wayne - "Why I Do It"
I don't know why this song hasn't done better yet, it's great, especially compared to some of August Alsina's songs that have been hits. Lil Wayne and August Alsina are both on Curren$y's new single that's also really good.
8. Foo Fighters - "Outside"
When Foo Fighters only played 3 songs from their latest album, the first 2 singles and this, at the 20th anniversary show, that was really my first clue that it was gonna be a single, and the song sounded pretty amazing in the stadium that night even between all the familiar old hits.
9. Walk The Moon - "Different Colors"
Now that "Shut Up And Dance" has gone down as the big alt-rock hit to cross over in 2015, Walk The Moon get to go through the inevitable motions of all their future singles getting decent rock radio play and zero pop chart action. It's a good song, though, obviously lacks the big bold qualities that made "Shut Up" blow up, but they're consistent with hooks.
10. Calvin Harris & Disciples and Ina Wroldsen - "How Deep Is Your Love"
I'm amazed people keep releasing singles called "How Deep Is Your Love," considering that the Bee Gees really own that title forever. But the Dru Hill song was great, and I enjoy this one a bit too. A couple months ago I wrote about how obnoxious it was when Bebe Rexha sang the chorus on a huge hit by David Guetta but she wasn't in the video and initially didn't even get an official feature credit on the song. And this is the same shit, really, a songwriter named Ina Wroldsen sang this entire song but it's only credited to Calvin Harris and another dance act, Disciples, for no other reason than that Wroldsen isn't famous enough that they need to credit her. Plus the video stars a model, who doesn't lip sync who's basically the only person you see in the video and the first time I saw it I really just assumed it was the singer, which shows you how insidious and shitty this whole thing is.
Worst Single of the Month: Drake - "Hotline Bling"
I don't care much about the 'controversy' about this song vaguely resembling D.R.A.M.'s "Cha Cha," because the beat and the sample and the melody are all pretty different, and really they're both terrible songs. I don't even really care about how totally abhorrent the lyric is and how it completely epitomizes Drake's creepy "good girl" nonsense. I've just always hated Drake's all-singing pop tracks (aside from "Take Care," which is really a Rihanna record anyway), and this is just the bottom of the barrel, it's even worse when he sings in that deep "Started From The Bottom" voice, the whole thing just sounds like garbage, I don't know why anybody likes it, I'm disgusted that this is probably going to #1.