Monthly Report: August 2016 Singles
1. Kungs Vs. Cookin' On 3 Burners - "This Girl"
The artist credit on this song reflects the weird EDM pop era Frankenstein backstory of the track. The Australian retro soul group Cookin' On 3 Burners formed in 1997 and released the original "This Girl" in 2009, which French producer Kungs gave the hip tropical house treatment in 2016 with chart success all over the world. It's only just now really climbing the charts in America, I kinda wish it'd been on the radio all summer. Here's the Spotify playlist of my favorite 2016 singles that I update every month.
2. Zara Larsson - "Lush Life"
Another extremely summery song that even has the word "summer" in the chorus that's only just now getting U.S. radio traction despite having been big across Europe for months. I guess Zara Larsson's label wanted her first American hit, the great "Never Forget You," to run its course, but back when that song was blowing up I checked out "Lush Life" and had been patiently waiting for it to get a push here.
3. Maren Morris - "80's Mercedes"
One of the first things I did after I heard Maren Morris's great breakthrough radio hit "Church" earlier this year was check out her 2015 self-titled EP and fall in love with "80's Mercedes," so I was pretty overjoyed when the song was included on her album Hero and confirmed as its second single. It's just a perfect song, those thundering piano chords and big sweeping slide guitar lines and that singalong chorus, it may end up being my most listened to song this year.
4. DJ Khaled f/ Drake - "For Free"
One of the things that I find notable about the huge success of Views is that it's the first time a Drake album hasn't really contained any hit rap songs -- the 4 biggest tracks from the album so far are all ones where he sings, and the biggest rappity rap song, "Pop Style," is not remotely a radio hit on the level of songs from previous albums like "Headlines" and "The Language." So in that context, "For Free" is the big Drake rap song of the year, and it's really one of my favorite things he's done in a while, partly because he takes himself so much more lightly here than he does on Views -- it's just a silly little 2-minute Drake song that's padded out to 3 minutes with DJ Khaled talking shit while the beat rides out. It's about as obnoxious as any recent Drake song, "stomach on flat flat" and all, and after he finishes a song about his dick with "it's the real thing, can you feel the force yet?" I feel like dude thinks he's some kind of Fuck Jedi with a lightsaber between his legs. But the production is a real breath of fresh air, it's a fun song. It also reminds me of the time that my brother and I listened to our aunt's satellite radio as teenagers and heard Akinyele's "Fuck Me For Free" and thought it was the most hilarious song we'd ever heard.
5. Young M.A. - "OOOUUU"
Young M.A. seems kind of like Bobby Shmurda's successor right now, using the same flow on a song that's insanely catchy despite not featuring a proper chorus, for a rare breakout hit from a young New York rapper. It's also just interesting to hear a queer rap hit on the radio, even if there's kind of some weird novelty value to a woman saying stuff like "I ride for my guys, that's the bro code" and "she make me weak when she deep throat." But Young M.A. is a star, I'm rooting for her, and I'm already mad that French Montana is trying to ride this song's wave.
6. Rihanna - "Sex With Me"
This song would be funny no matter who did it, but it's especially surreal to hear sung by one of the era's most prominent sex symbols. At one point she says "sex with me is amazing, with her it'll feel alright," like she's half-heartedly consoling everyone who has to settle for sex with people who aren't Rihanna, it's kind of messed up and hilarious. Great catchy song, though, this tweet kind of sums up its appeal well. I'm glad it got promoted to radio despite just being a bonus track on Anti.
7. Ariana Grande - "Into You"
I like how the chorus of this song is very nearly the title of Fall Out Boy's "A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More 'Touch Me.'" The skronky distorted basslines on this and the Justin Timberlake single are really my favorite new wrinkle in the Max Martin sound.
8. Usher - "Crash"
When R&B and pop radio started heading in opposite directions at the turn of the decade, Usher was one of the first artists to successfully adapt to it and release different singles for different radio formats. But I feel like that practice started to strain a couple years ago, when he had a couple songs that were huge on R&B radio, but he tried to cater to pop radio with a "Blurred Lines" knockoff with Pharrell, and when that didn't work Usher just shelved the album and started over from scratch. So the second attempt at Usher's 8th album, Flawed, has two singles out now, and once again the R&B radio single, "No Limit," is doing much better than the pop single, "Crash." They're both good, but "Crash" has really grown on me lately, just a lovely melody with a light touch that doesn't beat you over the head with the hook, might really just be too subtle for Top 40.
9. DNCE - "Toothbrush"
The best song called "Toothbrush," which also uses a toothbrush at a partner's place as a signifier of increased intimacy, is a Brad Paisley deep cut, but this one is pretty good too. I never thought I'd be rooting for Joe above other Jonases, but these DNCE singles are really fun and Nick's last album was a total drag.
10. Silversun Pickups - "Circadian Rhythm (Last Dance)"
I have mixed feelings about Silversun Pickups, they're kind of the most tastefully '90s indie-sounding band on rock radio the last decade or so, but they don't really have much in the way of great songs or any real distinctive identity. They occasionally make a song I dig, though, this is one of their best. And I was amused recently to get up early to drive to work at 5am and was listening to the local alt-rock station DC101, and they messed up and played two songs at the same time, so Hoobastank's "Crawling In The Dark" and this song were just playing over each other in total chaos for 3 minutes.
Worst Single of the Month: Beck - "Wow"
Beck's single last year that never ended up being followed by an album, "Dreams," was really good, and did a good job of reuniting him with former backing band member Greg Kurstin after Kurstin had become a huge top 40 producer. But this song is like the flipside of that, the worst possible combination of Beck's voice and Kurstin's production, just incredibly annoying.