By: Sarah Finley, Max James Hill, Courtney Miller, and Jessica Whitesel
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“All in My Head (Flex)” – Fifth Harmony feat. Fetty Wap
Jessica Whitesel: I can understand the mass appeal for Fifth Harmony, but I personally just don’t get it. What are they flexing? Or is the sexual partner supposed to be flexing? Also the overall feel of the song fits with Fetty Wap’s style, which is pretty one note, but what can you do?
Sarah Finley: The combination of Fifth Harmony and Fetty Wap isn’t something I ever would’ve imagined, and this track is definitely more Fetty Wap’s sound than Fifth Harmony’s. It’s the sort of catchy that will have me singing it while driving when it inevitably comes on the radio, but not the kind that I would show off to my friends.
Max James Hill: I actually totally dig this! Fetty is in fine form here, and it seems like he’s trying a different flow here rather than just remaking “Trap Queen” for the 10th time. And Fifth Harmony is no Destiny’s Child or Haim, but I appreciate the simplicity of the hook and how the song’s clearly not trying to pretend it’s any deeper than it is. Totally acceptable beach party song.
Courtney Miller: Fetty Wap seems to be reaching to get his notes and lyrics across which is a stalwart contradiction to Fifth Harmony’s seamless, precise notes. Other than that, it’s a decent R&B track that has a splash of island life in it.
“The Getaway” – Red Hot Chili Peppers
JW: This is more the sound that I am expecting from the Chili Peppers in 2016. It is a throwback to some of their non-singles on some of their early releases, which have always been relatively consistent in terms of sound — except for Stadium Arcadium. It is them, but grown up. Anthony Kiedis could be doing more vocally, but that is more of a nitpick than anything.
SF: Unpopular opinion: can the Red Hot Chili Peppers just stop making music already? After so many band member changes, it’s just time to call it quits. This track follows their signature sound — slow vocals and hi-hat heavy percussion. If you like RHCP, you’ll love this because it’s exactly the same as everything else they’ve created.
MJH: Listening to “The Getaway” is like getting sprayed in the face with Axe and being force-fed a pound of beef jerky. It reminds me of being in grade eight and not remotely in a good way. I’m with Sarah — the Chili Peppers need to throw in the towel.
CM: Fully approved as a Peppers song. Signature vocal melodies, up-tempo instruments, and that Peppers-spacy quality.
“It’s You” – BØRNS
JW: This song is slow, sad, kinda jazzy, but also feels electronic. I don’t know how to feel about it other than it confirmed that I really don’t like “ooooo-ing.” So because of that I would probably skip this song if it came up again.
SF: BØRNS is in my list of top favourite artists, but while he’s usually more electro-pop, this track features slow piano chords and wistfulwishful vocals that are anything but.
MJH: I unapologetically love most Sad White Boy Music™ and this is no exception. Sounds to me like a more radio-friendly Radiohead, which I can get behind. Probably not something I’d ever download, but I definitely enjoyed this listen.
CM: Emotional, powerful vocals backed by soft piano. “I won’t cover my scars, I’ll let it bleed.” You go BØRNS, own that pain, friend.
“Animal Style” – Biffy Clyro
JW: This song is just weirdly angsty. But it is like a gross preteen kind of angst. This is like pop-punk but without the pop or the punk. It’s also like the non-alcohol light beer of songs, so like gross but drinkable tap water — if you are thirsty enough.
SF: This sounds like the kind of track you would overhear blaring from the emo kid’s earbuds next to you on public transit. This song is 60 percent electric guitar, 30 percent snare-heavy percussion, and 10 percent aggressive lyrics angrily yelled at the audience.
MJH: This is the kind of song a 12-year-old blasts after his mom tells him to clean his room one too many times. It reminds me of a more toothless Queens of the Stone Age. I honestly didn’t even think this kind of music still had an audience. Hard pass.
CM: If you miss your pop/punk/rock circa 2005 reminiscent of Fall Out Boy — but not FOB, more like the bands that tried to be FOB — then give this a shot. It’s a fairly general song of that era and good for headbanging.
“On Fire” – Raleigh Ritchie feat. Chris Loco
JW: I really liked Raleigh Ritchie’s album You’re a Man Now, Boy. I am hoping that this was a reject from that album or him doing a solid for Chris Loco. Like, for fuck sakes Raleigh Ritchie keeps saying he is on fire, have you never heard of stop, drop, and roll? Or is this Chris Loco dude actually as much of a dick as his name makes him sound, and wants Ritchie to burn to death?
SF: Beginning with slow and gentle piano chords, a string section, and soft vocals, this track does an impressive 180 about a minute in with a bass drop, transitioning into synthesizers and irregular drumming. Difficult to pull off, Raleigh Ritchie and Chris Loco manage it with no problem.
MHJ: Why would anyone put the time and energy into making this song? Whom does it serve? Why are we here? What’s the meaning of life? Are we destined just to waste our time with meaningless distractions until we leave this mortal plane, no wiser for the experience? These are all questions I posed myself to distract from listening to this pile of trash.
CM: Poignant piano notes with well-executed lyrics make this a slower jam that’s worth a listen. It’s not anything new — we’d be hard-pressed to find genuinely new stuff — but it’s well-crafted and doesn’t stay in one place for too long.
“Unforgettable” – Sia
JW: This is a forgettable song. So thank God for small miracles. It is like this weird bastard child of jazz and classical music, was watered down and then stuck in the early-1950s Disney washing machine, and then the dirty laundry water was packaged. Sia can do better and is better than this disaster.
SF: Sia’s unique voice reminds me slightly of Amy Winehouse here with long drawls and a powerfully wide range of notes. Backed up by the classic Disney Pixar instrumental sound (harps, violins, cellos, flutes, and a subtle horn section in the background that crescendos for dramatics), I can perfectly imagine Dory swimming along in the sea to this track.
MHJ: Before checking the Spotify playlist I thought to myself, “Weird. This sounds like a Disney song or some shit.” Then I checked and, turns out, it is a Disney song or some shit. Still, it doesn’t really take advantage of Sia’s incredible vocal range or ability to sell complicated emotions — compared to something like “Breathe Me” or “Chandelier,” it’s pretty tepid, and got me about as excited as the thought of a Finding Nemo sequel.
CM: I wonder how many people won’t realize that this is a cover of Nat King Cole. . . regardless, Sia does it justice and adds her own spin. It’s good if you want something with an older pop/R&B feel instead of what you usually get these days.
“Pull Up” – Wiz Khalifa feat. Lil Uzi Vert
JW: I wonder how rappers pick their names. Like Lil Uzi Vert, what does that mean? Literally it is “small machine gun green” — or “vertical,” depending on how you feel about using French names for colours. What does it mean?? Also this song is like T-Pain-light so YIKES.
SF: You know how sometimes rappers disappear for a while and you think you’ve seen the last of them, but then they pop up out of nowhere just to disappoint you all over again? That’s Wiz Khalifa. Peaking at “Work Hard Play Hard,” he should’ve just stopped while he was only a li’l behind, and this track proves it.
MHJ: Wiz Khalifa doing a half rate Young Thug impression while Lil Uzi Vert offers one of the most lazy, half-baked guest verses in recent memory? Yeah, no thanks.
CM: Auto-tuned rap? Nope. If you’re going to rap, then spit your lyrics rhythmically — you don’t need bloody auto-tune. Further, they sound like they’re dying a little and I can’t get behind a song that is this bad.
“Sunday Love” – Bat for Lashes
JW: This song is a super fun, middle of the road, not too sad, not too happy song. Also her voice is amazing! I will have to find other songs by Bat for Lashes because this is some of the best music I have heard in a long time.
SF: Light and quick percussion leads the track, quickly introducing feminine head-voice vocals and electronic instrumentals. Nothing particularly stands out in this track and it’s a bit. . . dull.
MHJ: Love Bat for Lashes. This isn’t my favourite of hers — I tend to like her either a lot sadder (see “Laura”) or more menacing (see “What’s a Girl to Do”), but this is definitely good stuff and I’m glad to see her putting out new music after the four-year wait following The Haunted Man. I’m all about this.
CM: Definitely pop-py, but it’s not the same stuff recycled over and over again. The vocals get a little ethereal during the chorus, which is interesting, but mostly due to the echoey effect. I could take it or leave it.
“Fick Feeling” – Samir & Viktor
JW: This song is just so fucking happy-sounding! It also has that special brand of I don’t listen to this sober, but when you are in a club this has the dance pop vibe to really get you into the night. Sober this is too much, but drunk in a club, yeah, I would listen to it and enjoy the hell out of it.
SF: Although I admittedly do not speak Swedish, I can tell that essentially the only lyrics to this jam are “fick fick feeling.” That being sad, this song, being upbeat and electronic-y, is both cute and worthy of drunken dancing in a club.
MHJ: Sounds like Spanish Justin Bieber so that’s cool I guess. But for real, was this a song that really needed a drop? Can we just get over our obsession with drops in pop songs already?
CM: I know I have heard this song before. In English. Please, branch out a little, otherwise it’s fine but it’s not great.
“Heatwave” – Robin Schulz feat. Akon
JW: No mas is right. No more. No more, Akon; no more songs about love and weather being the same time; no more vaguely tropo-Caribbean rainforest pop-songs; no more sing-rapping. NO MORE. NO MAS. NO ME GUSTA.
SF: Comparing love to heat — what an original idea that’s definitely never been done before. Acoustic guitar, shakers, and drums that sound like bongos (??) make this love song ridden with sappy similes more tolerable than most.
MHJ: I’m sorry, I just can’t take Akon seriously. It just sounds like he’s trying to sing in a really romantic, loving voice but he’s also got a head cold and can’t really breathe through one of his nostrils. I guess the beat is okay? Kind of reminds me of a tropical rainforest, for whatever reason.
CM: A fun yet laid-back tune about love being a heatwave. It was chill to listen to and would be good for studying those things that get you growly.
“Bitter Salt” – Jake Bugg
JW: You’re right, Jake. It is getting old. I might be on but it is fucking old. Lyrically you have the creativity of a tired five-year-old told to write a poem. But that same five year old doesn’t know what a poem even is because they haven’t been taught about them yet. So yeah, it’s on.
SF: Nasally vocals singing “it’s on, it’s on, it’s on” over and over again do not impress me. This track is exactly what the name describes: bitter saltiness. I don’t know who screwed over Jake Bugg this much, but if there’s one thing you can be sure of, it’s on.
MHJ: Apparently it’s on, or so Jake Bugg wants us to know. This song is pretty inoffensive and I like the nasally guitar sound in the post-chorus, but otherwise this is pretty paint-by-numbers. Like, middle of the road pop rock. Untoasted white bread and butter.
CM: His voice is almost shrill? I kept waiting for that to mellow out, but I was left hanging. That being said, it doesn’t make the song bad. It’s actually a pretty good higher-tempo track that actually kind of works with the shrill-factor.
“Why You Always Hatin? – YG feat. Drake and Kamaiyah
JW: Other than the fact that the “please tell me why you always hatin’” makes me want to Dougie, this is a pretty solid song. It’s catchy, and has that special brand of danceable chill rap that always reminds me of Biggie.
SF: Although Kamaiyah has released a few tracks before, this collab with rappers like YG (who’s easily the best part of this track) and Drake would’ve been sure to cinch her career — had she had a noticeable part at all. YG is easily the best part of this track, but I could go for less Drake and more Kamaiyah.
MHJ: YG is criminally underrated, and this song offers the same effortless appeal that’s made his recent work (especially My Krazy Life) so appealing. Newcomer Kamaiyah is instantly appealing, and Drake’s monotone delivery is actually a really good fit here. I like.
CM: Add it to the list of rap songs that are absolutely nothing special. Someone’s getting these guys down, so they make a repetitive track with questionable vocal ability about it. Next.