Monthly Report: March 2016 Singles
1. Young Greatness - "Moolah"
Jazze Pha's productions were briefly inescapable a decade ago, and were probably better than he gets credit for. So it's kinda nice to see him come out of nowhere with a really great track launching a new artist. He always excelled at R&B and made unremarkable rap records, which is probably why Jody Breeze's solo career never popped, but this has such a bright, melodic, strangely wistful vibe, really my favorite thing to hear on the radio right now. Here's my running Spotify playlist of favorite 2016 singles.
2. Beyonce - "Formation"
"Formation" kinda feels like it accomplishes what Beyonce wanted to do with "Run The World (Girls)" or "Bow Down/I Been On," in terms of kicking off an album cycle with a really bold statement. The video helped a lot with that, but hearing the song on the radio the last few weeks has really cemented my opinion that it's also just a great song. The second time the horns come in and the drums drop out, and then that kick drum comes booming back in, is one of my favorite musical moments of 2016 so far.
3. Foals - "Mountain At My Gates"
I don't know much about this band, I've heard their name for years but hadn't really heard them until they got their first big American rock radio hit recently, it's pretty great.
4. Kelly Clarkson - "Piece By Piece"
Piece By Piece was released a year ago, and I assumed that it would go down as Kelly Clarkson's first (non-Christmas) album to not feature a top 10 single. But then she went on "American Idol" one last time, and performed a stripped-down version of the title track, and the song rocketed into the top 10. Thematically, the song is similar to one of her biggest hits, "Because Of You," and it makes a kind of sense to turn it into a similar piano ballad for the post-Idol re-recording. But I really prefer the more uptempo album version produced by Greg Kurstin, which is what I've been hearing on the radio since the song stormed the charts. The first word in this song is "and," which is a songwriting flourish I always kind of enjoy.
5. David Guetta f/ Sia and Fetty Wap - "Bang My Head"
This is one of those songs where the combination of artists looks totally ridiculous on paper, but in practice it really works, Fetty falls into this kind of goofy EDM pop song surprisingly well.
6. AWOLNATION - "Woman Woman"
AWOLNATION's last single, "I Am," was the first one they'd ever had that I didn't really like at all. So I'm glad that the follow-up is one of my favorites from the album. Their sound really shouldn't work as well as it does but there's so many inventive things going on with the programming and the song structure.
7. Monica - "Alone In Your Heart"
Monica's latest album really should've gone over better than it did, the second single produced by Pop & Oak is great and it just kinda came and went without getting many spins.
8. Maddie & Tae - "Shut Up And Fish"
Obviously this isn't as good as "Girl In A Country Song," but it's a pretty enjoyable little comedy number. In a weird way, though, the song does bring to mind things like this article, just the idea that women can't go about their business without men trying to turn it into a romantic situation.
9. X-Ambassadors - "Unsteady"
I hated X-Ambassadors off the bat because of "Renegades," but I'm pleasantly surprised by the follow-up single, turns out the guy has a pretty nice voice for ballads.
10. Foo Fighters - "St. Cecilia"
After Foo Fighters recorded 8 songs in 8 different studios for an 8-hour documentary and wound up with Sonic Highways, possibly their worst album, it's kind of refreshing that they were able to toss off an EP of songs recorded on tour in buses and hotel rooms. The sound is a little less polished, but then it's kind of nice to get back a little of the fuzzed-out lo-fi vibe of the first Foo Fighters album. Incidentally, this song started getting played on the radio right around the time my old car Cecilia finally broke down for good.
Worst Single of the Month: The Weeknd - "In The Night"
I liked "Can't Feel My Face" enough that when the NYT profile of The Weeknd noted that his upcoming album had a song that his publisher likened to "Billie Jean," I was intrigued. But wow, this song is just awful, mainly because the swing rhythm of the backing track sounds really awkward against The Weeknd's extremely straight-laced phrasing.