Let’s not be sentimental about it, yes, I’m doing new music Friday again, yes for real this time.You know how it goes. I write, I feel some type of way about it, I stop, I try to start again, I break my promises to be consistent, I disappear, I come back half-heartedly, I disappear again… We been knew! I have been like that since the mid-00s and I am done trying to change it. This is who I am! Love me or leave me alone.
Anyway, yesterday I read all my end of years lists back to myself and like… I am my own favourite music writer. I’m sorry but I just am. And also I’m not even sorry. Until I found myself lost without a map trying to navigate the deep, deep depths of a Friday stacked to the ceiling with new releases from names I’d never heard and no indication of genre or mood before clicking play, just title or band name based guesswork, I did not realise what a service I provided. A genuinely good service! Entertaining and also enlightening. I looked high and low for any online platform doing what I did, in a predominantly pop space, and there was not a one. And well, if what I need is a nudge in the right direction of good songs to listen to and if I feel like I am the only person to nudge responsibly… so be it! I am no stranger to being what I need for myself, since other people are so infinitely disappointing and unreliable, and if you lot get anything out of it too, what a bonus.
I have actually been musing on a comeback for a few weeks now and I am so buoyed up by the return of my boys, the lads, my dear beloved sons Brockhampton, that today felt like the right time. We have both been born again! It’s almost too perfect?
Kicking off with the big releases which I’m gonna talk about no matter the “quality”, the twist is that I’ll be back on Wednesday with a supplement – hidden gems that I don’t have the time to root out on a Friday morning. A double dose of this shit? I know, I spoil you. I just fucking love music, you guys. *Kanye voice* Feels good to be home, baby! Feels good to be hooooooome!
RAYE – ‘LOVE ME AGAIN’
Behold! The power of Beyoncé! Raye was sort of out in the wilderness, the weakest of the Polydor light-skins spread bet in terms of commercial performance, the whole thing starting to smell a little bit Ella Eyre-stale… But one writing credit on Beyoncé’s Lion King album later and here she is topping off the NMF playlist above Mabel on Mabel’s own album release day! ‘Love Me Again’ doesn’t move me all that much if I’m honest, though I certainly don’t dislike it. I’ve really learned lately to be comfortable with apathy, rather than enraged by it. Sure, it’s harder to stay calm when the artist involved is someone I am invested in, but I’m definitely not going to lose it over acts I wouldn’t miss if I never heard from them again, and while Raye isn’t quite that, she isn’t a fave either, so to this song I say “good luck and god bless”. I’m mostly just thrilled by the 180. I can’t believe this blog returning is only the second best comeback of the morning!
MABEL – ‘OK (ANXIETY ANTHEM)’
Mabel, as mentioned, dropped her High Expectations album today after a short delay from the original release date. I shall listen to it at some point, though when I think about it, the only Mabel song I love is ‘Bedroom’, and maybe ‘Finders Keepers’ if the mood is right. It will be an interest listen, not an anticipated one. I’m maybe fatigued by “overwhelm” as a genre, especially something as on the nose as being literally called an “anxiety anthem” – and excuse me, I’ll be the judge of that – and especially especially this sort of Jessie J-esque nothingburger lyric. In a post-Ariana, post-Paramore, hell, even a post-Shawn Mendes era “it’s okay not to be okay” feels about as profound as a “LIVE LAUGH LOVE” decal. I mean, we’re living in Lizzo’s world now! But also like… this song is perfectly serviceable. People will probably like it. Just not particularly this people. Good luck and god bless!
ARIANA GRANDE – ‘BOYFRIEND’ w/ SOCIAL HOUSE
“I’m a motherfuckin’ trainwreck…” is certainly one way to open a song effectively in this attention economy. Ariana, or more specifically her wellbeing, is an ongoing source of concern for me, but there’s no denying her musical output has been consistently excellent in this tumultuous period of time. ‘boyfriend’ tells a tale as old as time – a tale I found myself at the centre of a few years ago and I’m feeling pretty triggered rn – of the weird emotional space where boundaries and expectations are undefined. Social House are part of the musical gang that drive the Ariana machine, so though the duet seems unnecessary to me, I understand the motivation for an assist in boosting their artist project, and that’s fine, it doesn’t diminish the track, it just doesn’t elevate it. I’m sure the gay pop twitter hive mind is going to complain that this smooth R&B groove isn’t ‘Into You’ part 2, but honestly please just STFU and go listen to ‘Into You’ if that’s what flicks your switch, it still sounds fresh af, it’s not like another version of it is even necessary.
LAUV – ‘FUCK I’M LONELY’ w/ ANNE-MARIE
A “missing you” song, aka my crack. It’s all a bit bedroom-production lo-fi tweeness, which I guess is kind of Lauv’s whole thing, and that’s fine, though I prefer this kind of angst-pop to be less cutesy personally. Anne-Marie steps up with an ever reliable featured vocal, and as with Ari x SH, it’s kind of “for what?”, but we are in a collaboration era now, that’s the business model, so whatever. I like this! There’s nothing more to say.
HAIM – ‘SUMMER GIRL’
HAIM have been gone for a couple of years and no they still haven’t learned how to write a chorus, which… okay let’s just accept at this point that they’re never going to. This is a really nice song though, very meandering and soft, sun-soaked lazy. I can’t quite decide if I’m going to play it again, because something about it gives me the vibe of an SNL parody and I’m not sure why, but I can’t fault it objectively. It’s a refreshing change of pace in a musical space saturated with sameness if nothing else.
AVA MAX – ‘FREAKING ME OUT’
So… if we’re not gonna talk about the fact that ‘Misfit’ completely jacked the opening melody to Anastasia’s ‘Left Outside Alone’ in a week where Katy Perry is being, frankly, robbed by some Christian rap (…I– ??) chancer, when will we talk about it? And if we’re not gonna talk about the fact Alice Chater does everything this girl does but like… well, with decent vocals, better material and some charisma, can we please book some time in?
GRYFFIN – ‘OMG’ w/ CARLY RAE JEPSEN
Carly Rae’s sugar sweet vocal is the perfect complement to this mellow synth-pop love song. Don’t get me wrong, it’s as by-the-numbers as they come, but in the right hands, even the most formulaic pop can be lifted into something that genuinely settles in your chest.
TOVE LO – ‘BAD AS THE BOYS’ ft. ALMA
Is it just me, or does this sound like ‘Sweet But Psycho’? I’m not sure what I think of the latest Tove Lo direction. I wasn’t keen on the lead single, and I’m not overly enamoured of this either. Part of Tove’s appeal to me is that she had a sonic identity – ‘disco tits’ for example, whomst else could release that song? maybe Christine & The Queens and that is it – but both ‘Bad As The Boys’ and ‘Glad He’s Gone’ have sounded very anonymous. I am a fan of her though, so I’m very much looking forward to the album. I hope these releases are just stream-chasing misdirects.
BROCKHAMPTON – ‘I BEEN BORN AGAIN’
Opening with some ASMR from bearface, ‘I BEEN BORN AGAIN’ is typically eclectic BROCKHAMPTON over a beat that feels fat while still being minimalist and unobtrusive. Beginning with skitty drum patterns and old-school scratches it evolves into an eerie sort of whine, punctuated by piano stabs, as each performing member of the ever-expanding boyband contribute a characteristic verse closing on Matt Champion’s hooky outro. It’s probably the least “instant” BROCKHAMPTON single – I’m thinking now of ‘BOOGIE’ and the 97/98/99 singles in the run up to what became iridescence – but I’m probably more obsessed with it than I was any of those tracks (except ‘BOOGIE’ which I played on repeat for approx 4 hours from the moment I heard it) and I am so! fucking! excited! for the album!
PITBULL – ‘3 TO TANGO’
Pitbull is a treasure. He really is. He doesn’t always hit – he frequently misses, in fact – but I will always give him the time of day. “Mathematically this doesn’t make sense, but in this scenario, 1+1=3” says the intro. Of course it’s about threesomes. Yes, it’s mechanically sleazy. And fine, I admit, I’m not mad about it. Look, I’m not perfect, okay! Anyway, I better see someone dancing to this on Strictly Come Dancing this year. I hate how much I love it!
TORI KELLY – ‘2 PLACES’
“This sounds a little Ariana Grande” I thought. The way the vocals are produced are certainly very Sweetener-era to my ears. And a little investigation reveals that there are indeed Ariana collaborators credited as writers on this song, and the fact that Tori and Ari share management… well it’s not a reach to think this may have been written with Ari in mind. Which is not a bad thing, I like this song in a pleasant, track 9 on an album way, but I cannot shake my vision of Tori as the new Stacie Orrico and until she serves me up the sharply observant, potently catchy, emotionally overwrought Christian-tinged pop rock I know she would be great at, I’m ultimately always going to be unsatisfied.
TEYANA TAYLOR – ‘HOW YOU WANT IT?’ ft. KING COMBS
Teyana Taylor teams up with Diddy’s son for a throwback R&B jam that makes me remember the golden era of the 90s. There’s something very cozy about the production on this track, I feel like I’m gonna be bumping it a lot come October time, but it’s a little out of step for this muggy swelter weather we’re in right now. Let’s circle back to it in a few months.
CASSIE – ‘TEACH ME’
From Diddy’s son to Diddy’s ex, Cassie has been dropping tracks every Friday for a minute, and no one told me? The problem with marketing in 2019 is that no one fucking does any, so unless I follow every single artist under the sun on social media, I only hear about what 1% of them are up to. I’m sick of it! I cannot possibly consume like that, it’s not sustainable. And now I’m extremely late to about six brand new Cassie bops. Which okay, is not such a hardship, on the plus side I now have six brand new Cassie bops to get through. Today’s “Free Friday” is a refix of Musiq Soulchild’s song of the same name and shares that similar cozy vibe I mentioned before. These are cuffing season songs and we’re not quite there yet. Hold tight, hot girl summer.