Thursday, September 15, 2016

Loosies Of The Week, September 9-15

Welcome to yet another Loosies Of The Week, a wrap-up of this weeks singles, throwaways, leaks, and any other loose tracks I find. Can't go a week without some more Bubblegum Trap, especially relevant since it marks the week D.R.A.M. gets his first #1 Rap hit with 'Broccoli.' Also got some old ElectroPop heads returning to some mediocrity. 

D.R.A.M. - Cash Machine

While Lil Yachty is stirring up controversy left and right, gathering all the attention, with his brand of terrible, yet incredibly self-aware Bubblegum Trap, D.R.A.M. has been slowly churning away hit after hit under the same subgenre. The two worked together on 'Broccoli,' which given enough time could easily turn into thee Bubblegum Trap track, at least the first one so obvious in its description to be labeled as such. Before that, on his two EP's and work with The Social Experiment, D.R.A.M. started blending Pop and Trap together in an awkward, but deliriously fun manner that arguably bordered on children's music.

'Cash Machine' is more of the same, take it or leave it. If anything, his style has become more refined as he's finally found his niche. I'm not even going to try and act as if I know what the main sound holding 'Cash Machine' together is, but it's wonderful how close it sounds to an old, but lively ballroom sample. A janky, antique piano glides the vibe as D.R.A.M. spits over it, with added layers, including another piano and some cash swipes (think M.I.A's 'Paper Planes'), joining in the chorus. Unfortunately, I do feel that hook is a bit of a letdown, mainly because it doesn't have that defining moment, and the piece as a whole is quite messy. You'd expect, with this subgenre of Hip-Hop, for the verses to be a garbled collage of subpar rappers simply wasting time till they can get back to the hook, but on 'Cash Machine' it's the other way around, just not as extreme.

Justice - Randy

Is French House still cool in 2016? I can't possibly think so, with how far Electronic music has come since the Big Beat heyday around the turn of the century. Hell, Justice's debut, , released in 2007, far removed from the genre's peak. And yet, with infectious singles ripe with boastful personalities, the group was able to make a name for themselves in the wake of Daft Punk's absence. There was little competition at the time, and that still holds true. I suppose then, that that makes French House uncool, considering no one has taken the reigns since. Justice has the genre to themselves, and their newest LP Woman, set to release in November, aims to continue that. Lead single 'Safe And Sound' took what made them best to extreme levels, with thumping production and soaring vocals.

The next single, 'Randy,' aspires to do the same but unfortunately doesn't invoke such measures. It's a solid song, for sure, with wild electronics pulsing through the background, ala Chemical Brothers at their most chaotic, but the vocals presented by Morgan Phalen are dry and, in some ways, quite irritating. His falsetto isn't anything new, of course, but the clarity in which he songs actually deters the track overall, with the dark monolithic production scaling behind him feeling quite inferior because of his domination. He doesn't fit, and does far more harm than good. It's unfortunate that you can't really escape him either, the bulk of the six-minutes are covered by him, making for an exhaustive listen that really tests the limits of how much overexposure one can take.

TM88, Lil Yachty, Young Thug - Been Through A Lot

For Atlanta, this is a massive collaboration. And we know how important collaborations are in Trap's day and age. A huge unknown figure to many hit songs from Future, Gucci Mane, and the like, TM88 has never really put his name first and foremost. That changes here, as both Young Thug and Lil Yachty, arguably Atlanta's two most talked about artists as of right now, get feature credit, handing the lead role off to the producer. First off, good job with that. Second off, 'Been Thru A Lot,' while okay, isn't exactly a hit single like bringing these three together should've caused. Ironically enough, it's too complex, with too much going on, to have any single moment define it as a banger.

For starters, it's ridiculous to say in this day and age, but the beat is trying too hard. We've reached the point, whether a high point or low, who knows, where artists have perfected the craft of a catchy, infectious pop song. They're capable of removing unessential elements, even if that means instruments, certain vocal performances, or coherent lyrics. Surprisingly, 'Been Thru A Lot' has all three of these things, as TM88's beat comes equip with a subtle, but noticeable female vocal sample that adds some atmosphere, while both Yachty entertains a rather serious notion of his coming of age story, while Thugger performs one of his more subdued performances yet. Fans of these three do not want that stuff from them, so unfortunately, even for me, 'Been Thru A Lot' will be relatively forgotten. Still an okay song though.

Francis & The Lights - See Her Out

Francis & The Lights have received considerable attention of late when everyone realized he manned the styles of James Blake and the Yeezus side of Justin Vernon before any of them gained significant notoriety. Years later and he's just now receiving some, although not for his older work, but rather his work on Chance The Rapper's Coloring Book and the single 'Friends.' It's the reworked original of Chance's 'Summer Friends,' with help from Bon Iver and Kanye West, who both essentially did nothing but show support and dance around an empty room. Regardless, he's finally gotten the lights he's been seeking, and the first single post-fame, 'See Her Out,' sees Francis further extend his Art Pop to the forefront.

Ignoring the big names on 'Friends,' that track is still superior to what we hear here. Not that 'See Her Out' is bad, it just lacks that addictive identity. The melodies are harsher, production more jarring, structure forever in a standstill. Plus, while 'Friends' could easily see comparisons to Blake, Vernon, and Yeezy's work, 'See Her Out' actually feels more similar to the minimalist/maximalist approach Son Lux works in, the synth-laden but textureless production of Hudson Mohawke, and, oddly enough, Phil Collins' 'In The Air Tonight.' Who'd you rather have as common counterparts? Those three or the three giants listed above? We shall see what Farwell, Starlite! brings us in terms of appeal, after working in Art Pop for close to a decade now with no recognition, I'd be expecting something big.

Mac Miller - My Favorite Part

'My Favorite Part' has a time and place. Sitting on my laptop judging tracks based on their worth in a critical sense does not fit that mold. The Divine Feminine's third single features Ariana Grande, famous Pop singer and current girlfriend of Mac Miller's. If it's not already clear, the gooey sing-a-long duet is not my cup of tea. Grande's bland, unspecial brand of Disney Pop music seemed to have rubbed off on Miller, forcing him to sing the entirety of 'My Favorite Part,' which is almost never a good look for emcees, especially the bulk who gain notoriety purely from a rapping standpoint. Miller has attempted to pull heartstrings before, crooning on tracks like 'Wedding' and 'ROS.'

Not coincidentally, Miller's at his worst when he sings. And considering his rapping appeal isn't all that great to begin with, that means the singing side falls even lower. 'My Favorite Part' is his most extreme R&B endeavor yet, falling flat in its instrumental simplicity, unoriginal landscape, and downright elementary lyrics. The latter comes from both Miller and Grande, which is not a surprise, but man, there's only so much I can take of sappy love songs. In some ways, I admire those who can endure them, because they sure as hell run rampant in the music industry. But then again, I question just how fans are able to condone such cliche rituals over and over and over again.

Röyksopp - Never Ever

Taking cues from any number of Hip-Hop artists, Röyksopp has emerged from a superfluous, preannounced retirement to release...this. 'Never Ever,' in many ways, bears similarities to the worst of Junior, aka the super ElectroPop moments where everything goes off the rails, and not in a good way. Röyksopp brings Susanne Sundfør back for another go around, and I suppose if you're comparing this to absurd, over-the-top SynthPop, it's okay. It feels like I'm having an aneurysm, and apparently the rave crowd aspires to feel that? There is zero nuance to speak of, with absolutely everything hitting 10 and doing its best to surpass that. When the song ends I'm hit with a huge wave of "ahhhhh," as I'm finally back in pleasant territory where my ears aren't being attacked.

It's a shame to see how far Röyksopp has fallen, doing everything in their power to stay relevant. Do I blame them? Maybe not so much, considering the primary fans that will pay their bills are the ones who are all about the chaotic rave scene. 'Never Ever' panders to that crowd in much the same way Fatboy Slim's recent music has. The problem with these older artists doing it, as opposed to the newer ones, is that they've set a precedent of solid music in the past. We know they're capable of more. Your no-name DJ who's somehow incredibly popular among that scene hasn't shown me, or anyone, why he deserves to be remembered. Röyksopp has made classics. 'Röyksopp Forever' is still my favorite song of all-time, and that is an incredibly lofty statement to make. And 'Eple,' and the bulk of Melody A.M., is amazing Downtempo. So hearing the generic-as-can-get ElectroPop fodder that is 'Never Ever' is disappointing, to say the least.

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