By: Tegan Gallilee-Lang, Courtney Miller, and Jessica Whitesel
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“Fake Love” – Drake
Jessica Whitesel: The beat is 🔥 but Drake is lukewarm. While he has found something that works for him, 30 should be an opportunity to try something new and call it a midlife crisis if it doesn’t work. Instead he released something that sounds like it was cut from Views. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Courtney Miller: I really can’t deal with these vocals (if I can even call them that) this early in the morning. I don’t want to take your place, Drake, I just don’t want to listen to you anymore. The track minus the vocals isn’t bad — it’s actually pretty chill and mellow — but these vocals are just such crap. I can’t.
Tegan Gallilee-Lang: You know you’ve made it when you start writing songs about the hardships of fame. Listen, I’m not really a fan of Drake’s new Sims-background-music-esque direction in sound, but I’m glad that Canadian kid is living his dream.
“After the Afterparty” – Charli XCX feat. Lil Yachty
JW: Oh man, these lyrics hit close to home. So 10/10 for relatability, but the beat is old AF. It sounds so familiar, also Lil Yachty’s auto-tune feels out of place. But I’m not going to lie, I’d still probably listen to it for the mems.
CM: This is a perfectly fine track and I could see it being a good alarm song because it starts chill and then gets raucous. It’s pretty generic though in that I’d be hard-pressed to tell this song specifically apart from the hundreds of others that sound like. But it’s a good listen.
TGL: Ugh, the thought of even attending an afterparty is daunting enough, what kind of lunatic parties after the afterparty?? Go to bed, you weirdo. This is an average tune. Could see it getting airtime but it’s nothing really special.
“Holy War” – Alicia Keys
JW: I loved that the buildup actually went somewhere! Overall this is a pretty solid track. It highlights the strength of Keys’ voice in the pared down parts, and in the part where the percussion comes back her ability to have raw emotion while maintaining musicality. 👌
CM: Aw yeah, I’m liking this guitar and soft bass drum thing going on. Keys’ vocals glide over the music, tying it all together. I’m calling it now: playlist fave. “Maybe we should love somebody instead of polishing the bombs of holy war” is a pretty impactful lyric, and the song is full of them.
TGL: As soon as the bass drum kicked in I was like YUP. I’M ALL IN. I am ready to be slayed by you, Alicia Keys. But as soon as she started singing the lacklustre lyrics and forced social justice message, it detached me from the song completely and I was left disappointed at this total waste of potential.
“Längesen” – Petter feat. Eva Dahlgren
JW: Holy juxtaposition. The backing track is a beautiful mix of strings and piano, then comes in this Swedish rap that sounds super serious and emotional done in a deeper male voice (Petter), and then this female voice (Dahlgren) sings. And holy crap I want to learn Swedish just so I know it’s as emotional as it sounds and not — as cynical as this is going to sound — about fucking bitches and getting money.
CM: It’s a mournful tune with breaks of hopeful piano. Petter and Dahlgren both match the music in different contrasting ways. Petter has his rap vocal style which really works, especially with the conviction you can hear in his voice, and Dahlgren has the smooth and melodic vocal style. Kinda sad, but worth listening to (and learning Swedish!).
TGL: This song was a lot of me waiting for the dude to finish rapping so I could hear the lullaby-like chorus. I appreciated the strings, but I wouldn’t listen to this song again. I just can’t get anything out of the spoken-word stuff if I don’t know what is being said, ya know?
“You Remain” – Kungs feat. RITUAL
JW: I don’t know how to feel about this song. It feels new, but it also feels like it’s been done multiple times before. It’s like a mashup of Calvin Harris’ beats, Drake’s lyrics, and the vocal stylings of James Bay.
CM: The horns and percussion in this really carry the vocal-less parts of the song, and the vocals work really well with the picked guitar notes. It starts off really slow and ballad-like, and then it gets a little dance-y as you progress through the song. I listened to this a few times, so I think I liked it.
TGL: I really like the intimacy in the vocals of this song. It feels like he’s singing it to you right in front of you. Also, big shout-out to the trumpet bit which totally makes the song.
“Time After Time” – Iron and Wine
JW: It’s the season of “Time After Time” covers — this is about the third or fourth I’ve heard — but it’s the best one. This song was made for Iron and Wine, and even though I usually like originals better, this version beats out Lauper’s for me hands down.
CM: Is covering Cyndi Lauper a 2016 thing now? First Anna Kendrick and J.T., now Iron & Wine. It wasn’t bad, but I feel like it was unnecessary. It was also really easy to ignore because I hit play and then tuned back in for like the last 15 seconds and had to replay it. They did it well, it just didn’t have to be done at all.
TGL: OK, so this is an acceptable cover for, like, an impromptu radio performance maybe, but I feel like if you’re gonna actually sell it you have to do a little more with it or change it up a little so that I’m not left sitting here just missing Cyndi Lauper.
“Let Me Explain” – Bryson Tiller
JW: Pleading and acting like an ass isn’t a good look on anyone, and wrapping it up in an R&B track doesn’t help. He’s not even directing this song at me and I want to yell, “Explain what?” But the beat is OK, not that that makes up for him singing, “Don’t be afraid to break up with me,” followed shortly after with, “Then I grab your waist and act like nothing’s changed.” Not cool. 🙅
CM: This sounds like a thousand other songs and at least 20 others we’ve seen doing these playlists. I can’t find anything redeeming enough in here to make me ever want to listen to it or one of its clones ever again. He sounds like an ass in this, lyric-wise, and I’m unimpressed.
TGL: Oh hey there, slow jam, you tool of seduction. All I can really picture while this song is playing is a robe-wearing Bryson Tiller hip-rolling towards me with low eyebrows and a creepy smile.
“Swim Against the Tide” – The Japanese House
JW: I like this. I wish there was a little less fuzz and distortion in the backing track, but it still works. It reminds me a bit of Bon Iver, but less Bon Iver-y. Like a Bon Iver for the people. It’s def going on one of my driving/studying playlists.
CM: The intro was long and the track sounds like older, more laid-back and lazy Owl City. But it also sounds like a boring video game. I’d pass just because of how easy it is to ignore this song. It’s bland.
TGL: This song was mellow and pleasant during my SkyTrain ride, but I definitely won’t remember it beyond this sentence.
“Before” – Empire of the Sun
JW: I get why people should like this. It’s a nice laid-back indie track, with some pop notes thrown in. But it reminds me a little too much of the music scene in the earlier parts of the 2010s for me to fully get behind it — especially the fade out.
CM: I like how optimistic this is right off the bat, musically. Then the vocals come in and I feel like this would be a good one for all the people who like their notes high. The singing is pretty trancey and incidental.
TGL: I feel like over a couple of listens I could really like this song. I mean on my first listen I was already head-bobbing along, so we’re off to a good start, I suppose.
“How Far I’ll Go” – Alessia Cara
JW: I’m happy that Spotify told us this was from Moana, not because it’s a bad song — it’s pretty great for modern Disney — but because it seems like a lyrical departure for Cara. Which makes sense since Lin-Manuel Miranda penned it, as opposed to Cara who writes most of her own music. If the rest of the Moana soundtrack follows in the vein of this song it’s going to be one of the best Disney soundtracks.
CM: I take it back — this is my fave off this playlist. The music grows with the vocal melody and it all compliments each other really well. There’s the millennial “whoa-oh-oh” happening and everything. Miranda’s penmanship and Cara’s voice are an A+ combo.
TGL: I will inevitably like this song, by virtue of the fact that it will be in a Disney movie. I appreciate the Hawaiian feel and positive message. Très excited for this movie.
“home” – gnash feat. Johnny Yukon
JW: This is a super touching song about family, which is refreshing. It’s a mix of rapping and vocals but neither is particularly strong or stands out. It’s the lyrics themselves that make this song as strong as it is. So come for a song and stick around for the storytelling.
CM: I appreciate the fact that I can understand what he’s saying. The vocal effects do not improve the song at all. It was very decent in that I wouldn’t mind if someone else put it on, but there is certainly no need to listen to this again. I do agree with Jessica, though, the lyrics are the best part.
TGL: Cut the cheese, please. Though the sentiment is sweet and the melody hopeful, we don’t really need to be told that “home is where you are” another time.
“Playground” – Møme
JW: I’ve listened to a lot of EDM and this one has some of the best musical presence. It’s not a rollercoaster of bass drops and overdone plinking sounds, but it does capture the feeling of being on a playground, including leaving the playground when you’re sad that you’re leaving the playground.
CM: The absence of vocals is oddly relaxing after this playlist. This was a good one to end on because it chills you out. It’s actually pretty fun and I could see it being a good dancing song at a club. I mean, I don’t go to clubs, but if club music was more like this, maybe I would. OK, that’s a lie. Still like this though.
TGL: I might use this song when I’m studying! It has no vocals, so my brain won’t be confused by the words on my page and the words in the song. Also it’s focused and energizing.