Songs of the Week
Janelle Monae, "I Like That" & "PYNK"
Several artists delivered more than one teaser song this week, but there wasn't a one-two punch like these killer cuts from Monae. "PYNK," co-written by Grimes, is a sugary synth-pop cut so empowering and embracing of the female body that it could serve as a soundtrack to the "Vagina Monologues." Then, the ArchAndroid casually dropped "I Like That," a gorgeous and warm R&B track. Her upcoming album "Dirty Computer" is easily shaping to be the best of the year so far.
Florence & The Machine, "Sky Full of Song"
Florence Welch has a voice that begs to be placed over massive, bombastic hooks and instrumentation. That's what her band has done for several albums now, but she's also proven very capable of making delicate, somber ballads. "Sky Full of Song," a single coming out for this year's "Record Store Day," manages to sound epic but also remains one of their most tender tracks in a while.
Nicki Minaj, "Barbie Tingz"
There's an unfortunate concept that there can only be one "Queen of Rap." Since Cardi B has been making waves, people have said Nicki's time on that throne is over. But, of course, there will always be excellent female rappers existing simultaneously. Minaj returns to prove that: "I'm in my prime; Optimus," she says to begin "Barbie Tingz." She doesn't sound threatened, and her casual confidence is enthralling. Over a beat that plays with hip hop's history without sounding outdated, this is a stellar single.
Kamasi Washington, "Fists of Fury"
Nobody does jazz quite like Kamasi Washington. He might be a saxophonist, but his music typically contains the traditional bebop band, multiple percussionists, a string orchestra and a full choir, if he's feeling especially indulgent. At best, Washington's tracks are impressively long but undoubtedly masterful. "Fists of Fury" easily classifies.
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Nicki Minaj, "Chun-Li"
While this second single, which finds Minaj tackling the idea of her as a rap villain head-on, doesn't match the intriguing production of "Barbie Tingz," it's certainly a solid track that, coupled with the aforementioned track, significantly ups my expectations for whatever project Minaj is working on. Will her next LP follow the interesting sounds these singles are exploring or find her chasing something more trendy? Hopefully, it's the former.
Twin Shadow, "When You're Wrong"
This is the grooviest teaser that Twin Shadow has dropped from his imminent LP release. The pulsing bassline and Prince-esque synth jabs toward the end add to the funky aesthetic and make for an enjoyable song, even if some of his other singles have proven more intriguing.
Four singles into the Scottish synth-pop outfit's new album, their new pop-centric songwriting style is already growing stale. The shout-y chorus just doesn't fit their aesthetic, and the core melody is a far cry from their fantastic "The Mother We Share" early days. With each subsequent single, my hopes for the record plummet further.
ZAYN, "Let Me"
This song was so forgettable that it escaped my mind immediately after ending. I think I remember some sad attempts to capture 1980s nostalgia, but I really, honestly forget. I will not be listening to it again.