Song of the Week
Tyler, the Creator, "OKRA"
Sometimes Tyler's early-career antics overshadowed his songwriting and performing talent. Last year's stellar LP "Flower Boy" was the ultimate showcase of his abilities, an excellent collection of tracks that hummed with emotional resonance. That same raw ability is highlighted on "OKRA," an unmastered throwaway track that, while rough around the edges, is still better than any other hip-hop release this week. Tyler's competition better watch out -- he's beating them without even trying.
Amen Dunes, "Blue Rose"
This group is classified as a psych-folk-rock outfit. While a confusing and somewhat contradictory description, it's also quite fitting. "Blue Rose,", the first meaty track on their newest LP, "Freedom," is simultaneously ethereal and earthly, combining droning keys with vocalist Damon McMahon's folksy delivery. It feels like a classic rock song, but also has an indefinable, timeless feel.
Jamie Isaac, "Wings"
Check out this stellar cut from this indie artist. It's gentle and melodic, and the piano-soaked instrumentation is a gorgeous jazz-R&B fusion. From the first second, the track is airy and peaceful, and comparisons to Frank Ocean and James Blake hopefully signal Isaac's status as an up-and-comer in the industry.
Mike WiLL Made-It, "Aries (YuGo) Part 2" feat. Rae Sremmurd, Big Sean, Quavo & Pharrell Williams
This is yet another all-star posse cut from one of the biggest producers in music right now. Mike WiLL is behind some of the most monumental trap hits in recent memory, and this track highlights his appeal. The vocal guests all do their part to make the song catchy, but the luxurious beat is the real star.
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Cardi B, "Be Careful"
Rap's newest leading lady preps for the release of her debut with "Be Careful." The track ditches the party-trap beats that dominate "Bodak Yellow" and "Bartier Cardi," but brings her most fiery storytelling yet. The song criticizes an unnamed, adulterous partner (who may or may not be hip-hop artist, and her fiance, Offset). Criticizing the acts' selfishness and the self-doubt it can cause for women who are cheated on, Cardi gets emotional without sacrificing her no-nonsense, strong presence.
Lord Huron, "When the Night is Over"
While they aren't the most progressive or exciting band, Lord Huron has built a reputation as a very consistent group with cozy, folk-influenced melodies. "When the Night is Over" incorporates a classic doo-wop rhythm section with some sonic motifs that have defined their sound over two albums. It won't be the most groundbreaking thing you've ever heard, but there's something pleasant in the way Lord Huron presents their songs.
The Weeknd, "Wasted Times"
You know you're a superstar when you can announce a project the day of its release and easily trump the popularity of every other new release. Abel Tesfaye did that with his new six-track EP "My Dear Melancholy," which is being described by critics and longtime fans as a return to sound of the Weeknd's "House of Balloons" era material. The release is kind of a mixed bag; there's some great production by high-profile songwriters, but Tesfaye's vocal performances and melodies seem rather uninspired. There isn't a standout track, but "Wasted Times" perhaps best displays this dynamic.
A$AP Rocky, "Bad Company" feat. BlocBoy JB
For the past few months, Rocky has been releasing several teaser tracks that are apparently heralding a new project called "Testing." Given his major label status and star caliber, it's doubtful that this will be his long-awaited third major LP. If it is, then "Bad Company" is a bad omen. The track is dull and languid, with subpar performances from both rappers. It lacks both the bombastic pop-rap production that made Rocky famous and the raw, minimalist energy that he seems to be shooting for.
Bhad Bhabie, "Gucci Flip Flops" feat. Lil Yachty
The "Cash Me Ousside" girl has officially surpassed her meme status, signing a million-dollar contract with a major label. Now she's recruiting big names like Lil Yachty for her new track. It's a good thing she had enough Internet awareness to get signed, because she's just not good. And while I've never been completely enthralled by the music of Lil Boat, I did have a bit of respect for him, which makes this hurt even more.
Thirty Seconds to Mars, "Rescue Me"
This latest single from the Jared Leto-fronted group sounds like the band Daughtry decided to get production from the people who wrote songs for Big Time Rush. There's an obnoxious performance from Leto and an instrumental break that sounds so generic I had to check and make sure I wasn't accidentally listening to the "NOW That's What I Call Music" from five years ago.