The 5 Best Songs Of The Week

The 5 Best Songs Of The Week

Yo! Collin Robinson here. I am ecstatic to introduce myself to you all as the newest addition to the Stereogum staff. My time at Stereogum began this past spring, when I was an intern for the site, and I continued to contribute here after my internship ended, with pieces including this one on the use of the word thug in rap, this one about NBA Rappers, and reviews of Straight Outta Compton and DOPE. I’m looking forward to discoursing with you all! Be as harsh as you wish. I am not faint of heart. In the meantime, here are the 5 best songs from my first week! –Collin Robinson

5. Katy B x Four Tet x Floating Points – “Calm Down”

I’ve been trying to figure out what it is about Katy B that makes her so overlooked as a viable first-tier pop star, at least here in the States, and the one thing I keep coming back to is how understated everything she puts out is. Her M.O. is synthesizing modern electronic music trends into something tangible, and that methodology just doesn’t typically lend itself to nailing the huge hook or the big fireworks moments. Instead, she deals in tiny, constant sparks — “Calm Down” exemplifies this. It’s a collaboration with Four Tet and Floating Points, both of whom released forward-looking works this year, neither of which are as streamlined or immediate as their touch here. Tet provides the base, the glistening ice rink that Katy glides right over, and Floating Points adds his Elaenia-style operatics, tense strings and chimes slicing in and out. It’s calm, cool, and collected, and this shit groooves. It’s reminiscent of her strongest, most incisive work to date, the four-track Danger EP, which also saw her collaborating with a joyously eclectic group of people. If the upcoming Honey is anything like that, we’re in for a treat. –James

4. YG – “I Wanna Benz” (Feat. 50 Cent & Nipsey Hussle)

Not that long ago, at least in the geological sense, 50 Cent was the biggest pop star in the world. But his career over the past decade has been such a series of desperate, craven moves and all-out disasters that it’s a minor shock to hear him sliding onto this song, sounding like something other than a cautionary tale. Instead, 50 is firmly in a supporting-player role here. He’s the uncredited Robert De Niro, showing up near the end of American Hustle to steal a scene or two. And he’s completely submitting himself to someone else’s aesthetic. In this case, that someone is YG, who’s left behind the DJ Mustard handclaps and synth-bloops of his debut, instead calling back to the easy, melodic G-funk that he explicitly recalls when he samples Menace II Society on the track’s intro. The beat comes from London On Da Track, the Atlanta master, but it sounds like something Above The Law would’ve rapped on once up on a time. And while the lyrics are all money-talk, YG make sure to lay the subtext out plainly: “African American / They never wanted us to have bands / Do you hear what I’m saying? / This was not in they plan.” –Tom

3. Half Waif – “Nest”

When I write about music, I have a tendency to lean into a song’s lyrics, because context and content usually hits me harder than melody. It’s not that I don’t care about production, but once I start to listen to what someone is trying to convey with words, instrumentation sometimes falls to the background. I can’t help it, I’m a writer and I think words are fun. But every so often, a song comes along that completely knocks the wind out of me because it just sounds really cool. Half Waif’s “Nest” is one of those songs; it initiates with this slow, plodding beat, a single, crystalline voice. That sound continues to grow and multiply, until it becomes an orchestral, beat-inflicted but synth-driven song that’s atmospheric without fading into the background. There’s a universe inside of “Nest,” one that’s crafted out of small sounds made to look huge when they’re all pieced together. It’s the kind of single that I can listen to ten times over before I even think about its lyrics, the kind of song that makes me want to watch Half Waif’s creative process in action. –Gabriela

2. David Bowie – “Lazarus”

In the Bible, Lazarus is a beloved friend who Jesus raises from the dead shortly after claiming, “I am the resurrection and the life.” (In case you were wondering where the Stone Roses got that.) Artistically, David Bowie has pulled off this trick too many times to count. Just when you think he’s tapped out, he returns with a fresh burst of inspiration that adds new layers to a persona and discography that already seemed infinitely rich. With 2013’s stunning The Next Day, his first album in a decade, Bowie even bounced back from rumors of his imminent literal death. And judging by what we’ve seen so far, with ? he’s found yet another unique musical life to inhabit. The project’s dark, amorphous krautrock-jazz sound must have Thom Yorke kicking himself. “Lazarus” in particular floats along ominously, untethered from solid ground and easy reference points. Still, there’s a deep uneasiness about it: perhaps the knowledge that what goes up must come down, even (especially) The Man Who Fell To Earth. –Chris

1. Chance The Rapper – “Somewhere In Paradise”

Chance The Rapper is so unapologetically joyous in his music that it’s incredibly difficult not to have your mood lifted when listening. But there’s also a seriousness in his devotion to craft that manifests in his inventive wordplay, unorthodox signature cadence, and address of grave issues plaguing his city (in and out of the booth) simultaneously. “Somewhere In Paradise” puts this duality front and center. Lines like, “I’m a wascally wabbit, I know that tricks are for addicts” are all-encompassing. There is no other rapper that could spit over synthesized church organs, huge horns, and flittered claps without coming off corny, but Chano pulls it off on the regular. Who else could sing-song rap proper over production from Purity Ring’s Corin Roddick, pull in an R&B crooner in Jeremih, an R&B legend in R. Kelly, and genuinely act like it isn’t a big deal while knowing the moment will be special? I may be assigning too much credit to the man, but however all of this came together, the result is spectacular. My only complaint is that we didn’t get one signature Chance “aaahhh!” Top 5 ad-libs ever, I need that. –Collin