Monthly Report: April 2017 Singles
1. Lil Uzi Vert - "XO TOUR Llif3"
I've been slow to warm up to Lil Uzi Vert, and remain resistant to his "Bad & Boujee" verse. But his brand of Hot Topic trap has grown on me lately, in no small part because of the creepy "all my friends are dead" refrain of his biggest solo hit and his affection for Marilyn Manson (who is the only person Uzi follows on Instagram, and whose likeness is emblazoned in diamonds in Uzi's new chain). I'm not wild about the minor vocal changes on the final retail version of "XO TOUR Llif3" that distinguish it from the original that got millions of plays on Soundcloud, but it's still pretty great. Here's the favorite 2017 singles playlist I add to every month.
2. Zedd f/ Alessia Cara - "Stay"
Push me to the edge. All my friends are Zedd. Push me to the edge.
3. Lorde - "Green Light"
A 16-year-old girl from New Zealand basically came out of nowhere with a worldwide #1 hit and a platinum debut album, and then waited over 3 years to come back with a followup, and I really had no idea whether Lorde really wanted to play the pop star game or was going to kind of run from it. And this song kind of tries to have its cake and eat it too with an ecstatic chorus that it takes almost a full brooding minute to work its way up to. I think maybe that first minute is the reason that U.S. pop radio, with its increasing focus on immediate gratification, is to blame for this song's underwhelming chart reception, but I don't really like the song that much until the chorus hits, so I get it. Still, I'm glad she tried something so different from the skeletal midtempo sound of Pure Heroine.
4. Yuna "Best Love"
Yuna's "Crush" with Usher was one of last year's best R&B radio sleeper hits, and the solo follow up did even better. This has such a smooth, plush groove with a gorgeous string arrangement, pretty interesting to see Verve Records help a Malaysian pop star break American R&B radio.
5. Fat Joe & Remy Ma f/ Ty Dolla $ign - "Money Showers"
I've never been big on Ty Dolla $ign as a solo artist, but he knows his way around a hook well enough that I kinda had a feeling he'd always be good for features, and this is really one of his best to date. The other day I had this song on the car while it was raining and I started going "WHOLE LOTTA WATER SHOWERS." I feel like they held back on the verses, though, why have Remy on a song and only give her 12 bars.
6. Future "Mask Off"
One of the things that happens when a big artist releases an album with no advance single is that the artist and label have a lot less control on what song becomes the hit, because they didn't spend weeks or months only offering up one song for people to focus on. And so when Epic tried to push "Draco" as the official single off of FUTURE, they didn't have much choice when the public basically chose "Mask Off" and it went viral. And I think that the fact that the flute sample on "Mask Off" sounds so different from the usual Future beat is both why people gravitated to it and why the label didn't initially see the potential. Also, a song where the catchiest parts are "fuck it" and "Percocet, Molly, Percocet" definitely loses a little appeal in the radio edit.
7. Harry Styles "Sign Of The Times"
I'm not as blown away by the song as a lot of people are, mostly because those people don't realize how many great songs One Direction had. But it's a good confident first step for Harry's solo career, and one that's a lot closer to the band's sound than Zayn's iffy foray into R&B. I'm interested to see how hard they push this slow six-minute track or if they have a more radio-friendly followup planned, though.
8. The Band Perry "Stay In The Dark"
The Band Perry had a gang of country radio hits on their first two albums, and I feel like if they kept that momentum going they probably could've followed a Taylor Swift model of transitioning gradually to a more crossover pop sound. But instead they tried to go pop all at once last year with the RedOne-produced "Live Forever," and it flopped hard, as did the woefully titled next single "Comeback Kid." I like this song a lot more than either of those, but it kinda feels like they're lowering their goals gradually to being a mid tier adult contemporary act when they probably would've been better off just putting more mandolins in the mix and pushing this to country radio.
9. Jeremih f/ Chris Brown and Big Sean - "I Think Of You"
I'm glad Jeremih is getting the ball rolling on a new album quickly, since the last one took so long to come out, and this has a fun, bubbly disco sound he's never really done before. Jeremih and Chris Brown both sing kind of terribly on this song, but it's still pretty fun. I like the beat slows down for the Big Sean verse and then it just ends there without going back to the uptempo chorus one more time, it reminds me a bit of the structure of Sean's own "IDFWU."
10. Highly Suspect - "My Name Is Human"
Highly Suspect sticks out as a sore thumb as one of the only non-hip hop acts on the roster, I was amused a while back when I saw Kevin Liles speak and he referred to the as "my band." They have some good songs, though, and I kind of wonder if there's a subtle rap influence there, the verses on this song are almost in a Migos flow.
Worst Single of the Month: Sam Hunt - "Body Like A Back Road"
Country Drake is so awful that he makes me appreciate City Drake a little more. This is actually one of his less overtly Drakey songs, but it still makes me feel embarrassed with the little faux DJ Mustard "hey" vocals. This is already in the top ten of the Hot 100, which is increasingly rare for country acts, so I'm pretty worried about how huge Sam Hunt is about to be.