Monthly Report: April 2016 Singles
1. MNEK & Zara Larsson - "Never Forget You"
I heard this on pop radio for a while before I had any idea what it was or googled enough lyrics to see who it was by. I was actually kind of relieved that the male voice on the song wasn't Sam Smith, I didn't want to like something by him as much as I like this. As someone who always thinks songs could stand to be a few more BPMs faster than they are, I like that this basically sounds like a slightly sped up version of the pop hits that usually sound like this. Zara Larsson's other single "Lush Life" that's already big in Europe is good, too, hopefully that one gets a U.S. push. Here's the 2016 singles playlist I add songs to every month.
2. The 1975 - "The Sound"
The 1975 have made one of my favorite albums of the year, and it's selling well and they're playing huge festivals and have more or less broken through in America in a way that their debut didn't. But since the lead single "Love Me" was terrible and predictably stiffed at radio, I'm wondering if they'll ever actually become the kind of radio-friendly singles band they seem so well-suited to being. I love the current single, "The Sound," but so far it's just bubbled outside the top 20 on the Alternative charts, and pop radio hasn't picked it up much at all. There are a lot of potential singles on that record, though, hopefully they keep pushing more songs.
3. Ro James - "Permission"
Willie Hutch's "Brother's Gonna Work It Out" has been sampled memorably on everything from Dr. Dre's The Chronic and Chance The Rapper's Acid Rap to, inevitably, mutlipe tracks produced by Hutch aficionados DJ Paul and Juicy J. I think "Permission" is the first time it's popped up on a hit single. Apparently Ro James is the brother of Luke James, who's a pretty well known R&B singer (Grammy nominated, opened for Beyonce) but has never had a radio hit as big as "Permission."
4. Fantasia - "No Time For It"
Her last album Side Effects Of You was a minor classic so I'm ready for another Fantasia record. This one really hits her sweet spot of being kind of polished and adult contempo but also having a little bit of a bump to it.
5. Ariana Grande - "Dangerous Woman"
I loved Ariana Grande's first album, had mixed feelings about the very successful second album, and thought that the first advance single for her third album, "Focus," was a disaster. But after that song quickly tumbled down the charts, she went and kind of rebooted the album promotion with a very different track, "Dangerous Woman," that feels like a suitable course correction, and the other songs previewed from the new record are pretty promising. Plus she was a surprisingly great SNL host, so I'm really kinda rooting for her again.
6. Ellie Goulding - "Something In The Way You Move"
I don't think of myself as a big Ellie Goulding fan, but her last album was pretty strong, and I always seem to find myself really digging the half of her singles that don't go over really big on U.S. radio. This one just sounds massive, like it should've been even bigger than "On My Mind," but for whatever reason it wasn't. The verses always sound to me like there should be background vocals echoing each line, so I invariably end up singing them myself.
7. Kevin Gates - "2 Phones"
We're almost 1/3 of the way through 2016 already, and Islah is surprisingly the top-selling rap album of the year so far (mainly because Kanye wasn't initially selling his album and because Drake won't immediately take the title until the end of April, but still). I'm still rooting for "Really Really" to blow up, and it's now being set up as the follow-up to "2 Phones," but for the time being "2 Phones" has been the one really driving the album's success. Initially I didn't like how saccharine the beat is, but the hook is undeniable and the verses are easily some of the best rapping on the radio right now, I love that he hasn't simplified his flow at all for radio singles.
8. James Bay - "Let It Go"
James Bay is one of those young white guys in an old man hat singing in a silly "soulful" voice, the kind of thing that's perpetually on adult contempo radio and usually sucks. But man, this song really has just grown on me big time, it just works for me. And he deserves some respect for managing to have a hit called "Let It Go" so soon after Frozen.
9. Puff Daddy & The Family f/ Ty Dolla $ign and Gizzle - "You Could Be My Lover"
I really dug MMM and thought it didn't get enough credit, so I'm glad that Puff has continued to make videos and work this song to radio, the sumptuous Last Train To Paris-style R&B jams are really up my alley. When I first heard the song I thought that Gizzle was a dude spitting game at a woman, and didn't realize Gizzle was a woman until they released the video, which was kind of cool to see, it'd be nice if both this and The Internet's "Girl" got into heavy rotation on R&B radio talking about same sex relationships.
10. Bear Hands - "2AM"
Bear Hands is one of those bands who makes me cringe with their lyrics (their first alt-rock radio hit "Giants" had an ODB reference) but still makes pretty hooky songs. The chorus of "2AM" is based around a phrase coined in an episode of "How I Met Your Mother" (called "Nothing Good Happens After 2A.M.") and also paraphrases the Velvet Underground's "I'm Waiting For My Man," which sounds stupid on paper, but I like it.
The Worst Single of the Month: Disturbed - "The Sound Of Silence"
I've always enjoyed ridiculous Disturbed singles like "Down With The Sickness," and really regard their cover of Genesis's "Land Of Confusion" as a classic. But this song just sounds hilarious, in a bad way, with David Draiman bleating it out over a string section, because there's no hard rock in the arrangement, only the vocal. But this song has had a funny little cultural resurgence lately between this cover on the charts and the Sad Affleck meme.