New Music Friday Review, Week of 2/9

I’ve finally found the time to throw together my thoughts on what has proven to be a phenomenal week for music across the board.  Seriously, last week, we were given the best New Music Friday in a long time.  Though I loved a ton of these songs, read to find out which ones you should give particular focus.

Album of the Week: Black Panther the Album

Kendrick Lamar has proven time and time again that he’s one of the best in the game, and also the wokest.  The Black Panther Soundtrack (produced by Kendrick) is truly a powerhouse of rap and R&B tracks which create a cinematically powerful message. Unlike most movie soundtracks, the Black Panther soundtrack has very, very few chinks in its armor. Enlisting the help of such rappers as SZA, Khalid, Swae Lee, Future, and The Weeknd, Kendrick delivers slow, gripping songs (“I Am,” “Seasons,” and “Redemption Interlude”), radio-friendly music that we can expect to see on top charts (“All of the Stars,” “The Ways,” and “Pray for Me”), and absolute bangers (“King’s Dead,” “X,” “Big Shot,” and “Paramedic!”). The unrelenting force of black artists on this album highlights the blackness of what the Black Panther movie intends to represent. I’ll be listening to this album for weeks to come. Rating: 9/10

Top Songs:

“For You (Fifty Shades Freed)” ft. Rita Ora – Liam Payne

The One Direction guy, Liam Payne, has amazing chemistry with British pop star Rita Ora on the title track of the Fifty Shades Freed soundtrack. I think the song is a nice conclusion to the series, tackling issues of overcoming relationships while owning the heat of passion that comes along with relationships: “I’m diving in deep and I’m riding with no brakes, and I’m bleeding in love, you’re swimming in my veins,” Ora sings. The beat paints a picture which Payne and Rita Ora seamlessly dance to. It’s a really nice song, and I’d color it likely to see radio success.  Rating: 8/10

“Mine” – Bazzi

I honestly had no idea who this guy was before I heard it, but now I think this song is sure to find its way onto countless Valentine’s day playlists. Though Bazzi sings and raps (with ease) over a tropical beat, the track is, at its core, a love song. Its downfall is that it’s just too short, at only a little over two minutes. But at its core, the track’s about making your girl know how special she is, “You’re so fucking precious when you smile. Hit it from the back and drive you wild,” he sings. Well done. Rating: 7.5/10

“Overdose” – grandson

Here’s one of the more angsty songs of the week. Talk-singing over an intense beat with a guitar instrumental reminiscent of Nirvana, grandson presents a quality tune about how his drugs just aren’t cutting it for him anymore. “All fun and games till I hit the floor comatose,” he sings.  It’s alright. Rating: 7.5/10

“Happy” – Area 21

I really didn’t want to like this song. And I was immediately turned off by the song’s opening lines, which repeat the words, “I’m so happy,” and, “Good Vibes.”  But overall, I’d say the good vibes actually prevail. This track is expertly- produced with subtle talk-singing and rapping alike.  It actually made me happier. Rating: 6.5/10

“2 Da Moon” – Towkio

This is one of those songs on which an average rapper decides to sample an average house party beat. The real kick of the song comes from the male and female vocals. If the rapping wasn’t so disjointed from the rest of the song, it would be far better.  Not to mention some of the lyrics: “Aliens, atmosphere, we seein’ stars.” Seriously? But overall, I think it all kind of works.  Rating: 6.5/10

“Big Bucks” – Smokepurpp

This is one of the most distorted basses I’ve ever heard in a rap song, and that’s saying something in the trap rap universe we now find ourselves in.  It’s interesting that these really short rap songs with weird beats are gaining popularity. Smokepurpp’s rhythms are pretty inventive, and his lyrics are relatively okay. I like this one. Rating: 7/10

“Friends ft. Anne-Marie” – Marshmello

One of my favorites this week. This is about a girl getting pissed at a guy who can’t take a damn hint. She’s upset that he’s so persistent because she genuinely wants to be just friends. “You can’t be reasoned with. I’m done being polite,” she sings over a dope beat produced by Marshmello, who’s been producing songs of just about all genres as of late. The chorus samples an acoustic guitar and a pretty heavy trap beat, which actually blend together pretty nicely. The song will probably get fairly popular. Rating: 8.5/10

“Look Alive” ft. Drake – BlocBoy JB

Drake just hops onto this song to challenge his haters (of which he has more than Icy Schemes), who seem to be thinking that he hasn’t been producing enough music. Over a fire beat, Drake aggressively tells all the losers out there to “look alive,” because he’s not backing down.  He completely upstages BlocBoy JB (whoever that is), who really isn’t that bad, himself.  It’s a definite comeback song for Drake—not that he needed one. Rating: 8/10

“Proud” – 2 Chainz

As has become his brand, 2 Chainz proudly discusses some of his early life struggles with a particular focus on his mother: “Mama didn’t raise no hoe,” he raps over the chorus. With assists from YG and Offset, this song is quite consistent and motivational! The song excels because each rapper brings a different flow, adding to the song’s variety. Rating: 8.5/10

“We Are… ft. MØ” – Noah Cyrus

Danish synth-pop singer MØ and Miley Cyrus’ younger sister blend some unique styles to proclaim, “We are fucked!” The two have such distinguishing voices, and they blend beautifully over the synth beat. They reflect on the many issues generally facing the millennial generation, but with a fairly upbeat rhythm creating a dynamic juxtaposition that contradicts the sharp declaration that the two all but chant throughout the song. It’s pretty cool. Rating: 8.5/10

-Gruntito (@GrantMarkwell), New Music Friday Specialist

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