Happy Friday, folks. As we musical intellectuals know, Friday means new music. And I have listened. Here are my educated takes on what you should and shouldn’t listen to while sifting through the shitstorm that was this week’s New Music Friday.
Album of the Week:
Man of the Woods – Justin Timberlake
Never a stranger to musical experimentation, Justin Timberlake returns with some wild new tracks to promote his upcoming Super Bowl Halftime Show performance. Interestingly, several of the 16-track album’s songs deviate from mainstream pop’s current definition of a “hit” song. The album’s variety is new for Timberlake, who uses qualities of funk in “Sauce,” R&B in “Higher Higher,” tropical vibes in “Wave,” and even folk music in “Flannel.” But with each sub-genre, Timberlake introduces elements that identify each song as uniquely belonging to him. The album is a tour de force which, in my opinion, reinforces Timberlake’s iconic status, if we weren’t already convinced of it. Rating: 8.5/10.
Highlights: “Say Something,” “The Hard Stuff,” “Sauce,” and “Morning Light”
“Pray For Me” ft. Kendrick Lamar – The Weeknd
It’s been awhile since we’ve received a good song from The Weeknd, but he’s back with the newest track on the Black Panther soundtrack, “Pray For Me.” The Weeknd thrives at delivering raw, stylized emotion over techno-house beats (as proven on Starboy), and this is possibly the most emotionally raw song he’s released: “If I’m gon’ die for you, if I’m gon’ kill for you, then I’ll spill this blood for you.” Coupled with a profound verse from Kendrick Lamar, this song is fantastic. The melancholic hook and intense beat attribute to the song a cinematic quality which has me absolutely pumped to see Black Panther. Further, I think the song’s biblical and wartime references create a supernatural sensation that underlies some unknown conflict. The soundtrack—which was produced by Kendrick—promises to be one of the better albums of the year, and also a decent, if not great, film. Rating: 8/10
“Attention” ft. Offset – Rich Brian
First of all, Indonesian rapper Rich Brian learned both the English language and how to rap from YouTube, and that’s quite impressive. In “Attention,” Rich’s intense flow and lack of filter proves that he’s a force to be reckoned with in the American rap game. In his chorus, he brags about the newly-discovered luxurious lifestyle that comes with making a killing: “Mass appeal – everybody show up cause they know I’m here.” Rich also maintains the comedic aspects of his previous work, “Dat $tick,” by poking fun at references to his Indonesian heritage: “I got hella sauce like soy” (soy because he’s Asian). A solid, braggadocious verse by Offset (the third-best Migo) only adds to the song and guarantees Rich Brian some exposure in the weeks to come. Rating: 7.5/10
“There X2” ft. Marshmello – Slushii
A dream team of EDM superstars drop“There X2,” a song with a tantalizing, feel-good beat that provokes feelings of longing. The song lacks originality—it’s a carbon copy of tons of other EDM tracks. But if you like that kind of repetitive nonsense, this one’s for you. In any case, it’s not a baaad song… It’s just not great. Rating: 6/10
“Sex, Love, and Water” -Armin van Buuren ft. Conrad Sewell
Since Calvin Harris’ stylistic game-changer, Funk Waves Vol. 2, the electro-funk genre has grown in popularity and has been well received by intellectual music consumers, like yourself and me. In “Sex, Love, and Water,” DJ Armin van Buuren produces a combination of funk guitar, trumpets, and synthetic beats to complement the smooth, gravelly vocals of Conrad Sewell. In a song about a passionate night, Sewell explains what makes for a good time: “Sex, Love, and Water.” While the song is reminiscent of some of Daft Punk’s earlier work, its traditional vocal format gives it a certain crispness (my word) that the genre has generally lacked. Would recommend. Rating: 7/10
“Savior” – Iggy Azalea and Quavo
When I saw Quavo’s name, I was hopeful, but this song only reminded me that Iggy Azalea is really, really bad. Her voice is so blatantly auto-tuned that it feels like a conscious stylistic choice. Other than his 30-second verse, Quavo serves only to sprinkle phrases throughout the track that somewhat distract from Azalea’s nauseating voice and lyrics. The one redeeming factor of the song is that the beat is pretty okay. Because of the beat, a Quavo appearance, and Iggy’s name recognition, the track may find some success. Hopefully it does not. Rating: 5/10