The 5 Best Songs Of The Week

The 5 Best Songs Of The Week

We lost a god this week. It was truly — truly — shocking and sad, but somewhere in that deep, dark pit was a huddled mass producing warmth and even light. We spent the week thinking about David Bowie, talking about David Bowie, reading about David Bowie, writing about David Bowie, and listening to David Bowie. We did that together: as a community, a country, a planet. Bowie’s parting gift to us wasn’t his beautiful final album; it came three days later, when the whole world gathered as one, stunned and searching, to mourn loss, celebrate life, and play those records loud enough that Bowie himself had to hear them, wherever he is. That’s what he gave to us. And even though there will never be another like him, we’ve all taken something from him, and that something is so deep inside us that, in a way, we’re all like him. That’s what he gave to us.

5. Big Ups – “National Parks”

There’s a sobering moment that occurs during young adulthood when you start to understand how much your parents (or whoever raised you) were forced to sacrifice in order for you to be in the position you are today. Joe Galarraga wrote “National Parks” as an observation of what his single mother had to give up in order to raise two kids, and the song sparks with the bitterness of having to see someone you love have their hopes and dreams deferred. It’s a failure of society that these two things cannot be balanced, that a mother must often sacrifice her own freedom to ensure a better life for her children. The first two verses of the song alternate between examining the myopic day-to-day (“no such thing as leisure”) and a condemnation of an economic system that offers no other recourse (“we left her alone”), while the third offers an aerial view of a country that provided no assistance. “I think I hear her say to herself, ‘This is everything I’ve missed,'” Galarraga recounts. The national parks represent something — unadulterated beauty, exceptionalism, the American spirit of independence and manifest destiny — and their placement in the song just reiterates how much none of that opportunity really exists. The last lines are an offer to help, a payback for a lifetime of sacrifice: “I’ll be the one cutting bricks of clay with twine/ And building the bridge to share in her happiness.” –James

4. Anderson .Paak – “Come Down”

Anderson .Paak has earned a lot of comparisons to Kendrick Lamar this week. His new album, Malibu, is a jazz-inflected, funky odyssey that spans genres as readily as did To Pimp A Butterfly, and both are massive statement pieces. Brandon Paak Anderson is known as a soul singer, but as Tom pointed out in this week’s Status Ain’t Hood, he can string words in patterns that sound-off to K Dot, too. “Come Down” is I guess what you can call one of the most “rap-oriented” tracks on the album, and it starts out with a bass line that sounds like it was yanked out of a ’90s sitcom. Or maybe even an episode of Sesame Street. I mean that in the best way, because Hi-Tek’s production on this thing is so damn playful. From the opening choral line (“YOU drank up all my liquor”), “Come Down” steams like hot asphalt, and its lyrics stick to you like dank, humid air. The songwriting is catchy and clean, and it’s a total earworm despite the dozens of different flourishes that spill out of it, from the chattering voices in the background to that astral, trumpeting “da-da-da” that floats in and out of the production. Listening to “Come Down” and picking out all of the parts that make it such a joyous first listen is kind of like searching for constellations in a wide-open sky filled with trillions of tiny, twinkling stars. –Gabriela

3. Amber Arcades – “Turning Light”

All music is transportive — that’s kind of the whole point, right? But in some cases, that sense of movement feels less metaphorical and more real. “Turning Light” was born out of two early mornings spent in the fuzzy, liminal realm between waking and dreaming, and that quality absolutely makes its way into the song. But it’s not “dreamy” in the usual sense of gentle melodic drift, the kind of thing that seems in danger of floating off into the ether at any second. No, if “Turning Light” is taking you into a dream-world, it’s letting you feel the actual physical momentum carrying you there, every chug of its crisp motoric groove pulling you deeper into an airy swirl of synth-burbles shaped by Annelotte de Graaf’s soothingly unaffected vocals. It subtly ebbs and flows, arcing like the gracefully sloping ribbons of relaxed brain waves, gliding along until its inevitable end. If my dream were this lovely, I’d have no problem letting go and surrendering to sleep. –Peter

2. Kendrick Lamar – “Untitled 2″

Who does this? Who comes up with a layered, considered, intense new song — the sort of song that would mark a career-best moment for most rappers — and then throws it away on a late-night performance? The last time Kendrick did an untitled song on a late-night TV show — one of the last episodes of The Colbert Report, in that case — he never ended up releasing the song. Maybe he’ll finally find a home for “Untitled 2″ someday, but don’t count on it. If last Friday on The Tonight Show was the only time Kendrick ever lets us hear “Untitled 2,” it’ll still add to his legend. The song is dense and tangled, a reflection on success and poverty and opportunity, and it leads up to a raging, cathartic conclusion. (“Might tell Obama to be more like Punch,” he says of his TDE CEO.) And by the time it’s ending, and he’s screaming that we don’t have to tell him he is the one, we know we’re watching something truly special — maybe for the last time. –Tom

1. Kanye West – “Real Friends” (Feat. Ty Dolla $ign)

Yeeeee! G.O.O.D.Fridays are back! Well, sort of. Most people will be glad to discount “Facts” from Ye’s renewed weekly takeover, as it technically came out on a Thursday, so “Real Friends” was the first installment, and it was faith affirming (so many hands-up celebration emojis). But to me, not initially. It first registered as a rich-person/celebrity-problems confessional, but seeing as I still haven’t procured a card for mom dukes’ birthday on Monday, it is highly relatable. I may not have as many people “talk dirt on my name” as Kanye does, but I can guarantee people do. Ye is able to relay his feelings of consuming self-importance and question his friendships without being overly preachy or whiny. He has shady cousins like everyone else, and you can tell he’s truly in his feelings because he doesn’t even bother to rhyme or keep from spilling over bars in a few spots. That genuineness, reminiscent of 808s Ye, and with shades of the utterly exquisite and catchy song construction of Graduation Yeezy, make this song a pretty dope kickoff to G.O.O.D. Fridays The Sequel. Swish upgraded from a brick quickfast. –Collin