Monthly Report: September 2016 Singles
1. Kehlani - "CRZY"
Kehlani has been kind of a semi-famous critical darling for a minute and was even nominated for a Grammy, but never really got to the point of having any songs on the radio until recently. In fact, there was an ugly little moment where R&B stations that had never played her music were suddenly dedicating gossip segments to discussion of her relationship status and reported suicide attempt, which really made me feel bad for someone whose music I didn't really know well. She has a song on the Suicide Squad soundtrack that's doing well on the charts now, "Gangsta," but I'm a lot more impressed with "CRZY," which seems to kind of grab ahold of this odd unpleasant moment in the spotlight and turn it into a bold, catchy, life-affirming song. I add my 10 favorite songs every month to my running favorite 2016 singles Spotify playlist.
2. Bastille - "Good Grief"
I had a kneejerk negative reaction to Bastille's big breakthrough hit "Pompeii" and the way the vocals sounded to me like Prince Valiant with some Gregorian chanting monks singing backup. But I warmed up to the follow up single "Bad Blood" and now I outright love their current single. The intro and bridge of the song sample Kelly Le Brock's voice in Weird Science, which is one of the most arousing sounds I've ever heard, so maybe I'm being swayed by that somewhat, but I really love the bassline.
3. Chance The Rapper f/ 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne - "No Problem"
It's been fascinating and exciting to watch Chance The Rapper's rise over the past 3-4 years as he's managed to become seriously successful while circumventing a lot of the traditional paths to stardom and metrics of success. Aside from the no label stuff and the free streaming record and all that, he just got really far without courting radio outside Chicago at all, which makes sense, because he's out of step with radio rap enough that he kinda needed the right song, and as much as I love, say, "Sunday Candy," that was never gonna be what crossed him over. His first collaboration with Lil Wayne, Dedication 5's "You Song," was one of the first tracks that made that crossover sound tangible, although the first time I actually heard Chance on the radio, on Action Bronson's "Baby Blue," felt like an event in and of itself. But now "No Problem" is Chance's first real legit radio hit, and even with 2 Chainz and Wayne making it sound more commercial, it really retains the right amount of Chance's sound and kinda shows how he can integrate that buoyant gospel rap vibe into the existing mainstream.
4. 5 Seconds Of Summer - "Girls Talk Boys"
Last year the second 5 Seconds Of Summer arrived with magazine covers and first week sales that seemed to promise that they were ready to become a really huge U.S. phenomenon, but then none of the singles hit and the album just kinda vanished from view so much quicker than their first. I don't know if this song from the Ghostbusters soundtrack will actually change their trajectory at all, but it's about ten times better than any previous 5SOS song I've heard, so I'm rooting for it. And it's written by Teddy "Love Monkey" Geiger, who's recently transitioned from fleeting mid-'00s teen idol success to working on hits by current teen idols like Shawn Mendes.
5. Khalid - "Location"
I just heard this on the radio recently and don't know anything about the artist and don't even know if I really like his voice, but the song just felt immediately like a hit, would be surprised if it doesn't blow up.
6. Hailee Steinfeld and Grey f/ Zedd - "Starving"
"Love Myself" was a pretty unique song for Hailee Steinfeld to kick off her pop career with, but "Starving manages to retain the same odd vibe of being sweet and earnest but also horny. "Don't need no butterflies when you give me the whole damn zoo" is an absolutely awful lyric, but otherwise it's a pretty catchy little song, kind of beats the Chainsmokers at their own game.
7. Sevyn Streeter f/ Gucci Mane - "Prolly"
Sevyn Streeter is perhaps my favorite of the many undervalued female R&B singers kicking around the major labels right now, she's had a few hits and written some for other artists but just keeps getting stuck in that gear of releasing singles and EPs with no album release in sight. This song has potential, though, it kinda sounds like she wrote it for someone else or kind of emulating a popular style she doesn't usually do, but she pulls it off well, and it has one of Gucci's best recent guest verses.
8. Tinashe - "Superlove"
It's only been 2 years since Tinashe's first album and the success of "2 On" but she's been kind of stalling with her recent singles too, it's a shame. The-Dream and Tricky Stewart channeling the sound of "My Boo" so soon after its viral revival seemed like a recipe for a hit, but this song hasn't done too well either, feels like it'll get left behind like that other "Superlove" that was abandoned in between Charli XCX's first and second albums.
9. French Montana f/ Kodak Black - "Lockjaw"
This song seemed to be poised to be huge, but then Kodak Black got locked up without any indication of when he'll be free again, and French Montana's album was both delayed and accidentally leaked in such a disastrous fashion that I actually felt sorry for one of my least favorite rappers.
10. Snoop Dogg f/ Lil Duval - "Kill 'Em Wit The Shoulders"
I like the idea that Lil Duval, a C-list comedian who's always popping up in rap videos, came up with a goofy dance move and then convinced one of the world's most famous rappers to make a theme song for it. But what actually makes "Kill 'Em Wit The Shoulders" an enjoyable song is how low rent it is, like some amateur producer threw together a placeholder track for Snoop to rap over and they just ran with it, and it ended up capturing the right dorky uncle vibe that the entire thing called for.
Worst Single of the Month: Lady Gaga - "Perfect Illusion"
As someone who thought Lady Gaga retained a fair share of her peak greatness on Born This Way and even Artpop, I was rooting for her to actually justify her long break from proper pop stardom and come back with something amazing. And I'm still holding out hope that Joanne will be a good album, but man, after a couple listens of "Perfect Illusion" I just never want to hear it again. I usually like her classic rock vibes, but here it just all sounds wrong.