Can you believe that just last Friday, we were living in a pre-Lemonade, pre-Views world? We still had so much to look forward to! And now we have NOTHING. Oh well, we had a good run. But before we call it quits, we should probably talk about the week’s best songs, right? Just to clarify, Drake’s new LP arrived too late for any of its previously unheard tracks to be eligible for today’s list, so we’ve got a week to sort through those 500-or-so songs for the next installment of 5 Best Songs. Which means we’ve got something to look forward to after all! For now, though, we’re looking backward. And these are the #VIEWS from here.
The death of a parent is a situation that’s both deeply intimate and maddeningly universal. “[‘Plum’] needed to convey the sinking feeling of seeing the plums my dad bought for my mom still sitting on the kitchen counter after we returned home from her funeral,” Pity Sex’s Britty Drake explained to Bandcamp. “I wanted to translate that hyperspecific moment into a broadly understood feeling.” Drake chooses one specificity to remember her mother by — her love of mid-season plums — and uses it to stand in for the absence as a whole. Unlike the largely atmospheric nature of the band’s new album, “Plum” nudges its narrative to the forefront: Drake uses her voice as a mournful salve, the track building to a powerful rush of strength before settling back down into icy resolve. “I should have buried those plums,” she regrets. “So he wouldn’t have to watch them wilt too.” It’s hard enough sorting through that sort of loss on your own; to watch the ones you love begin the same process only adds to the pain, and “Plum” is a powerful reminder of the selflessness that can be found in grief and the loneliness that results from anguish. –James
The Brooklyn producer Kingdom has been making intimate, twitchy, spaced-out future-R&B with Kelela for years, so he’s got the right resume to team up with Dawn Richard, the new queen of impervious-to-genre-boundaries ether-pop. And on “Honest,” the two of them make a vicious combination. In a cool and controlled alto, Richard picks apart the question of what the fuck she’s even doing in a relationship, of how she can feel completely drained and depleted by somebody while at the same time being helplessly in love. And Kingdom surrounds her with fluttery clusters of synth and tiny explosions of drums, jacking up the fractal urgency as Richard’s confusion rises. –Tom
In a 2014 interview with RBMA Radio, D’Angelo claimed that he learned how to play Prince’s entire self-titled album “note for note” at 5 years old. I don’t know about all that, but I do know that D’Angelo’s three-album discography would not exist if purple rain didn’t nourish the soil from which it grew. The Soulquarians knew that. D’Angelo does, too. So it’s not at all shocking that he channeled the Purple One so well, complete with faux-fur vest, wide-brim hat, and wig, during his cover of “Sometimes It Snows In April.” But the genuine adoration and emotion that enabled him to uncannily reincarnate Prince also caused him to break down and take a brief moment to collect himself. That’s what separates his cover from the many that have surfaced and those yet to come. The palpability of Prince’s aura and D’Angelo’s sincere veneration coalescing over bare, beautiful piano on stage made me tear up for the first time since the initial news. When Tom wrote up the song, he asked if anyone has done more with Prince’s inspiration than D’Angelo. Great question. If we’re using covers to judge, the answer is a definitive no. Prince didn’t like having his songs covered, but I like to think he wouldn’t mind this one at all. -Collin
“Below” would be a great song based on its musical thrill factor alone, but its genius is in the way it sets up medium and message to reflect each other on infinite loop. Speaking of mirrors: White Lung are the last group you’d expect to release, in Mish Barber-Way’s own words, “a song about the preservation of glamour and beauty.” Like most of the world’s best punk bands, they are built on ferocity. Although they don’t actively court ugliness, they’ve never been afraid to be ugly in the name of raw power and unflinching conviction. Plus they emerged from a culture that has historically viewed beauty with the utmost suspicion. So it’s wild to see White Lung inspired by an old Camille Paglia quote about “feminism’s failure to acknowledge that beauty is a value in itself.” It’s even wilder to witness their snarling racket undergo a thematically appropriate extreme makeover and come out the other side smoothed, brightened, and completely awe-inspiring. The beauty may be transient, but it’s so bright, so bright. –Chris
Beyoncé’s new album is a great because its themes are so specific but it’s still hook-heavy and filled with bangers. Lemonade confronts race, femininity, infidelity, heartbreak, fame, family, and so much more. It’s a statement; it’s Beyoncé’s most personal album to date. But it’s also A Beyoncé Album, meaning that whether or not you can lay claim to any of its themes, these songs are going to be bumping out of car windows all summer, especially “Hold Up.” You’ll know all of the words to it even if you don’t want to. (Though really, why the hell wouldn’t you?)
Lemonade traverses the spectrum of emotion you hurtle through when a romance reaches an unsettling turning point. “Hold Up,” “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” and “Sorry” are the album’s kiss-off tracks, and any woman scorned will adopt them as mantras. I already know that “Middle fingers up/ Tell that boy bye” (the tag line in “Sorry”) is going to be a meme, just like Bey breaking windows throughout the video for “Hold Up” is already the internet’s preferred gif this week. I know this because I already texted a dude “Boy, bye” this week, OK? Trust me.
“Hold Up” is the track that brought me there. It’s kind of appropriate that the thing is credited to a bunch of dudes, because this song re-appropriates all of the exceedingly negative verbiage men bestow upon the women in their lives when shit’s not going so well. Or when they’re fucking up royally. Being a female lands you a lot of labels. You can be a “good girl” (shoutout to Drake for earnestly upholding that one) or a “bad girl, a “crazy ex-girlfriend” or a “jealous bitch,” etc. So when Bey labels herself as such, she counters that neurosis with a reason: “Jealous or crazy?/ All like being walked all over lately/ I’d rather be crazy.” This is the revelatory track, the moment in Lemonade’s narrative when the record scratches and Bey’s just like: “Hold up. What the fuck did I ever do to deserve being disrespected this way?” It’s a fun, summery song delivered with the humility of someone who knows that they’re “not too perfect to ever feel this worthless.” “Hold Up” is going to spark revelations in a lot of us. You go right on ahead and tell that boy: “Bye.” –Gabriela
We can’t embed “Hold Up” here, but you can stream all of Lemonade on Tidal.