The 5 Best Songs Of The Week

The coolest thing about the four-headed Nirvana proxy that performed at last night’s Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony was the demographic disparity of the women involved. No, in every real sense, it’s not like Joan Jett, Kim Gordon, Annie Clark, and Lorde represent anything more than a tiny sliver of the global community, but in the little corner that is rock & roll, they’re a pretty diverse group: the old-school rocker; the iconic noise-punk; the baroque poet; the precocious pop/goth/other superstar. Those women are links in a sort of evolutionary chain, but none of them really resembles the others in any artistic capacity. The other coolest thing about the Rock Hall’s big night was Questlove inducting Hall & Oates: one of hip-hop’s great transformative figures celebrating the career of one of history’s finest pop and soul groups. Gene Simmons wouldn’t have liked it, but Gene Simmons is an idiot. What could be more idiotic than trying to reduce the possibilities of music? This week’s 5 Best Songs showcase plenty of those possibilities, from Future and Young Thug to Nicki Minaj and Pharmakon. In fact if the Rock Hall wanted to extend the running time of their already absurdly long ceremony by enlisting another couple of revolutionary women to sing old Kurt Cobain songs, they would have done well to call up both Ms. Minaj and Pharmakon’s Margaret Chardiet. No worries, though. They’ll get their chance.

5. Future – “I Won” (Feat. Kanye West)

The first time you listen to “I Won,” it sounds like someone took out Future and Kanye’s teeth, like they’re all gums. Especially following the aggressive slant of early singles “Move That Dope” and “Covered N Money” and, of course, the all-out sonic assault of Yeezus, it’s off-putting to hear both rappers so nakedly sentimental. But they’re both in love with beautiful women, the kind of head-over-heels love that’s embarrassing to everyone except those involved. Ye is especially smitten with the whole Kardashian clan, shouting out all four women in a verse that only took him a day to write. Questionable gender politics aside, these two turn possession into something romantic — who wouldn’t want to hear, “I just want to take you out and show you off/ You already know that you the perfect one” cooed to them over a mushy beat? This kind of squicky romanticism is rarely seen in rap outside of Drake and, after you get past the secondhand embarrassment, it’s endearing to hear how in love these guys are. Who knows if either relationship will last (chances are at least one of them won’t) but let’s give them their moment to be madly, blindly in love. –James

4. Landlady – “The Globe”

Adam Schatz & co. come pounding into Landlady’s epic “The Globe” sounding like a chamber-pop TV On The Radio only to come out six minutes later with massive gospel singalong about black holes. The dynamic journey from A to B is the even greater pleasure. Listen to any section carefully enough and you’ll find the tiniest details recorded so as not to be obvious, but audible for someone dedicated to giving it a close listen; an emotive guitar riff concealed under an organ melody, a multidimensional flickering of choral vocals, the way it gets quiet when you think it’ll get loud, and the way it gets loud when you think it’ll get quiet. But despite the obvious musical talents of Landlady, the song never feels like an act of showing off, as each section cumulatively builds in feeling. There are so many moving parts on “The Globe,” but they come together to make one big, beautiful whole. –Miles

3. Nicki Minaj – “Chi-Raq” (Feat. Lil Herb)

We should probably talk about that title. Nicki doesn’t really have a thing to do with Chicago, beyond having hordes of fans there, and maybe it’s tacky for her to adapt its kids’ nickname for their war-torn hometown as a song title for no reason. But if this is just Nicki’s way of signaling to us that she means business, that she’s ready to rap apocalyptically hard, then fair enough. Because that’s what she does here: Bringing the under-the-breath double-time, seething with animosity, casting aspersions in every direction and then calling out her Chinese takeout order just because, all over a beat (jointly produced by Boi-1da, Vinylz, and Allen Ritter) that sounds like a music box that’s been possessed by the spirit of Chuckie. And then Lil Herb, the teenage Chicago rap phenom, shows up sounding grizzled and intent, bringing that same unstable intensity and showing that he belongs with the heavyweights. No chorus because who the fuck needs one. –Tom

2. Pharmakon – “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)”

“Bang Bang” has been covered countless times, and with every iteration, the song gets closer to its dark core — Cher’s original shied away from the grim undertones, opting instead for a folksy cautionary tale; Nancy Sinatra pushed a step further but played it off with a sense of the coy innocence of a victim of circumstance. Noise-music prodigy Pharmakon carries the song to its logical conclusion: Haunting wisps of noise threaten to break down into chaos but Margaret Chardiet strings you along, finding power in restraint. It would be easy to devolve into the terrifying, unrelenting intensity of Abandon but there’s no need — the darkness is all surface. –James

1. Young Thug – “Treasure” (Feat. Zuse)

The Atlanta rap underground is bursting with batshit personalities right now, and it’s a blast to watch them all careen off each other, forming temporary alliances as all of them attempt to take over the outside universe. If Atlanta rap is Arkham Asylum, then Young Thug is, right now, its Joker, a mad genius crackling with malevolent energy, blasting poison gas down your throat and rapping about it. The Jamaican import Zuse might be Killer Croc — a brawny, sinewy beast who can do serious damage when he’s properly directed. Together on Dun Deal’s sproingy, buzzing track, the two of them make a hell of a tandem. I’m not sure who Batman is in this goofy-as-hell extended analogy, but he’s got problems. –Tom

Comments (13)
  1. Who is “James”? I missed his debut.

      • Definitely missed your debut, so I will write one for you for the benefit of the rest of the readers.

        James currently holds the title of “intern” at Stereogum and has also written for Billboard in the past alongside working at WTSR 91.3 FM out in Ewing, New Jersey, which — for those who are geographically-interested — is just a hop, skip and jump away from Trenton. Some of the music currently making his earbud rotation are that from the upper east coast DIY indie / noise / post-punk scene (Exploding In Sound Records’ roster, Ricky Eat Acid, Priests) but has also flexed an appreciation for pop and hip-hop as well. He drinks liquids from a straw through his paper bag mouth.

        Welcome, James.

        • I think he technically holds the title of “junior staff writer” or something, as he has since graduated from intern to paid contributor. I can’t vouch for the “drinking thru straws” thing. He’s also a great guy! Welcome indeed!

          • …And on the topic of writers moving on up in the world and while I have your attention, I quit writing about music this week, so you can no longer lay claims to me being “a pretty established blogger himself.” You must have worked your black metal magic to jinx me when you said that, because this week was terrible in terms of a mass and unfair exodus of people who I thought were supporters but were in actuality just people using me for coverage alongside drama galore from scary Internet strangers with more friends than me attacking me on Twitter, so I just said, “Screw this.” I actually hate music a lot now alongside the people involved in making it or working within the biz, and can’t keep putting myself under such unhealthy stress for something I thought was a hobby. Nobody appreciated what I did. It was a waste of time.

            Don’t let my story discourage you youngens, though…

          • That’s a shame michael_. You will forever be responsible for me discovering Joyce Manor, so you can rest assured you’ve had a positive impact on at least one person with your writing.

          • Thanks, Simon! Joyce Manor goes way back, so you’re an old school supporter!

  2. Trap Them!

    And those two Antemasque songs were better than anyone had any right to expect.

  3. My personal jury is still out on whether or not Treasure or Chiraq is better. Zuse has the best verse on either songs though.

  4. Love the Batman analogy, I totally understand what you mean, and I would like to nominate RIff Raff as the Riddler for no reason other than he looks a little like Jim Carrey.

  5. That “Atlanta as the Arkham Asylum” analogy is straight on point. Someone should extend it further

  6. Outkast. Outkast is batman.

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