Monthly Report: November 2015 Singles
1. Colonel Loud f/ T.I., Young Dolph, and Ricco Barrino - "California"
One of my least favorite songs on the radio the last few months was Vivian Green's "Get Right Back To My Baby," which pasted a mediocre new R&B song over a sample of a perfect one, "Before I Let Go" by Frankie Beverly and Maze. So it was refreshing to start hearing another song that made much better use of another one of the old Maze hits I hear constantly on the grown folks R&B stations, "We Are One." Colonel Loud is a guy from North Carolina who got a bunch of other southerners to appear on his tribute to the west coast (which makes the use of Maze all the more appropriate, as an east coast group that didn't get successful until they relocated to San Francisco). There are so many guests, in fact, that Colonel Loud pushes himself out of the spotlight. On the original version, which didn't have T.I. on it, Colonel Loud's verse starts 2 minutes into the song, and with T.I. added to the front you don't hear the song's main artist until 2:31. And he's not bad, at all, he just takes a backseat to the beat, the great hook sung by Fantasia's brother, and even Dolph, who sounds so effortless on here that this song may do more for his career than Colonel Loud's. Here's the favorite 2015 singles playlist I add songs to every month.
2. Future - "March Madness"
When Future's retail album DS2 was released in July, he made the savvy move to include 3 tracks from his 3 recent mixtapes as bonus tracks, with "Trap N****s" as the representative from 56 Nights. But another fan favorite from that tape, "March Madness," only seemed to get more popular after that, and Epic put the song on iTunes as a single about 6 weeks after the release of DS2, almost like an admission that they fucked up by not putting it on the album. As many popular songs as Future has had this year, though, there's only room for one song to get promoted to radio at a time, and the Drake collaborations "Where Ya At" and "Jumpman" seem to have crowded "March Madness" out of any chance of getting a lot of airplay, which is a shame since it's easily one of his best recent songs and pretty much everybody knows it.
3. BJ The Chicago Kid f/ Chance The Rapper - "Church"
After he gave ScHoolboy Q the hook for a #1 radio hit, BJ The Chicago Kid has been overdue to get his own push as a solo artist. And while I liked the single "That Girl" that he had a few months ago, it was really dragged down by a lame verse by OG Maco. So it's nice to see him out with an even stronger single with a much better guest rapper. Earlier this year I talked about what a joy it was to hear Chance The Rapper's voice on the radio for the first time when Action Bronson's single, and while his appearance here isn't as scene-stealing, he still first really perfectly into the song, which humorously toys with Christianity and decidedly secular themes over a church organ beat to great effect much like Meek Mill's "Amen" or Young Dolph's "Preach."
4. Babyface - "We've Got Love"
After last year's great Toni Braxton collaboration album Love, Marriage & Divorce, it's great to hear Babyface back with a solo record and singing a much happier song.
5. Robin Thicke f/ Nicki Minaj - "Back Together"
The Blurred Lines album had a couple pop-leaning follow-up singles that tried to capitalize on Robin Thicke's sudden massive crossover success and never really went anywhere, and then there was the whole unfortunate Paula record that tried to cater to his core R&B radio following and even flopped on that level. So it's interesting to hear Thicke go in the studio with Max Martin and try to make another run at Top 40. It didn't really work, but I think it has more to do with Thicke's terrible public image right now and the fluke-like success of "Blurred Lines," because "Back Together" is pretty great.
6. Fetty Wap - "Again"
People are always trying to count Fetty Wap out -- each of his three massive hits this year was accompanied by a lot of predictions that we'd never hear from him after that. So far his 4th single, "Again," is lurking around the middle of the charts and doesn't seem the momentum to get huge like its predecessors, but I'm in no rush to say he's over. The album still has potential hits like "RGF Island" and we'll probably get several major label rappers who can't write hooks putting out singles featuring Fetty next year. I like "Again" a lot, though, I hate to see it get lost in the shuffle. The amount of lyrics repeated from "Trap Queen" kind of make it feel deliberately minor, more like a remix or coda than a song totally of its own.
7. Rae Sremmurd - "Come Get Her"
While Fetty's working on that 4th hit, Rae Sremmurd are improbably on their 5th hit from SremmLife, a rare accomplishment for rap albums by these days, even among superstars, let alone a debut record that's only moved about 150k. They're supposedly about to put out the lead single from SremmLife 2, but I kinda wish they'd just keep milking the first album for singles, I'd love to hear "Safe Sex Pay Checks" on the radio. "Come Get Her" is far from my favorite song on the album -- it's weird how they make "she's dancing like a stripper" sound like it's a bad thing on the same album that features "Throw Sum Mo." But man that's a great beat, and it's insane how Swae Lee comes up with so many hooky lines that he can just throw out that "Somebody come to the floor, it feels like we've met before" bit at the beginning and never repeat it.
8. Weezer - "Thank God For Girls"
I was only 12 when Weezer's first album came out, but they were the first band my friends liked that I really sneered at like I was too old for that shit. I mean, sure, they have some good songs, but they've just never been my bag, and I've watched over the last couple decades with amusement as Weezer fans gnash their teeth about the band's supposed fall from grace. I've heard enough '90s Weezer to last a lifetime, but I've actually enjoyed a fair amount of their later singles, including this one, which was greeted with even more howls of protest than usual. And hey, Rivers appreciates Swae Lee's ear for hooks.
9. Hailee Steinfeld - "Love Myself"
This got treated like a huge important song as soon as it was released a few months ago, and it is really well produced and kind of refreshing for its pro-masturbation (and self love in a broader sense) message, but it always felt like it was missing something to be really great. So now that it's started to slide off the charts without ever getting really big, I dunno, I have more affection for its modest charms.
10. Kelly Clarkson - "Invincible"
"Heartbeat Song" was such a weak lead single, and I'm even more annoyed that it was the first thing Kelly Clarkson released from Piece By Peace because that killed the momentum so much that any follow-up single had an uphill climb. And "Invincible" is one of those big shameless Sia-penned power ballads that Clarkson sounds amazing singing, it really could've been something if she hadn't released it in the middle of a sharp commercial decline.
Worst Single of the Month: Elle King - "Ex's & Oh's"
So now we have a 2nd Meaghan Trainor who's the daughter or Rob Schneider, I guess? I was happy with Walk The Moon's "Shut Up And Dance" being the sole big song to crossover from alt-rock radio to the pop charts this year, but I guess something else was bound to follow and it was bound to be terrible.