Monthly Report: November 2016 Singles

1. Mary J. Blige - "Thick Of It"
Mary J. has had so many signature songs that are either about her personal heartbreaks or the triumphant moments when she overcomes the drama that I've wondered if people have developed an unhealthy attitude about, like, celebrating her misfortune. And that seemed to be confirmed recently by the extremely creepy way many reacted to the news of her divorce, and how much that seemed to drum up interest around her new single. But it is her best single in a while, with DJ Camper bringing a bit of the regal sound of his biggest hit, Tamar Braxton's "Love And War," to a cathartic Jazmine Sullivan lyric. Here's the playlist of favorite 2016 singles that I add to every month.

2. OneRepublic - "Kids"
I have begrudging respect for Ryan Tedder, I tend to think of him as an adult contempo hack, but he's written a fair number of songs I really enjoy, including a few OneRepublic hits. I kinda wish he'd given this song to someone better, but it works with his voice.

3. Zara Larsson - "Ain't My Fault"
Zara Larsson of Sweden has released nothing but bangers this year, I don't even know how much I like her voice but I can't knock her track record. This song is produced by MNEK, her British duet partner from her breakthrough "Never Forget You," but it feels a little more in step with U.S. pop, almost like it could be a Rihject.

4. Fifth Harmony - "That's My Girl"
I'm glad this got picked as a single, that stupid watered down Mad Cobra interpolation was a lousy choice for the last single. Like most Fifth Harmony songs, it feels somehow behind the times, but it makes a good use of one of those once-trendy horn loops that helped propel "Worth It" up the charts.

5. Maxwell - "1990x"
I'm still kinda coming to grips with just how much I like blackSUMMERS'night but this song has grown on me a lot, he's really mining an interesting mix of 'live' elements and synths, the drums just sound fantastic.

6. Young Thug - "Digits"
I almost always prefer Young Thug when he's produced by London On Da Track, and so I was gratified that this Slime Season 3 track started to get some radio spins after the release of the London--free JEFFERY.

7. Niall Horan - "This Town"
One Direction has kind of split into these factions of the obvious solo stars (Zayn and Harry) and the capable songwriters who seem to be maneuvering more into a behind-the-scenes role (Liam and Louis), and I wasn't sure where Niall would fall into that. So I was pleasantly surprised that he released a solo single, which captures a lot of the charm of downtempo folky One Direction, even if he's really not one of my favorite voices and I miss the harmonies the group would've brought to this.

8. The Struts - "Put Your Money On Me"
British rock is so proudly stagnant that I almost kind of respect how shameless bands like The Struts are, who seem to pick up right where Australia's Jet left off in making lazy but catchy glammy riff rock.

9. Pitbull f/ Flo Rida and Lunchmoney Lewis - "Greenlight"
For nearly a decade, Pitbull and Flo Rida have been these kind of parallel Florida titans of pop rap blockbusters, but the first time they released a single together, 2013's "Can't Believe It," it surprisingly flopped, and this second time together doesn't seem to be doing much better. I like this one, though, it has a nice bassline.

10. Colbie Caillat - "Goldmine"
A couple weeks ago, I heard two new songs called "Goldmine" in the same day, and really liked both of them. One was by Jeezy, one was by Colbie Caillat.

Worst Single of the Month: Judah & The Lion - "Take It All Back"
I twisted up my face in skepticism the first time I heard this song, which opens with banjos and mandolins over a drum machine. And then I got to the second verse, where the guy actually sings "The people, they're dancin' along, they're dancin' along to the mando and some sort of hip hop beat" and it became legendarily awful.
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