Let us remember 10/21/2016 as the day Lady Gaga released Joanne, or rather, The Day Lady Gaga Stans Clogged Our Mentions Once We Shared Our Opinions On The Album. The little monsters are really out to play this week! Tom wrote a killer Premature Evaluation on Joanne, and Chris dedicated the Week In Pop to the album, so if you haven’t read either, it’s time to get to it! James is just happy that Gaga’s happy, and Scott’s thrilled he got to meet Mom and watch her perform at one of her old haunts, the Bitter End, in the Village last night. Peter, Collin, Michael, and Gabriela reserve the right to remain silent on the matter. Patrick Carney and the Chainsmokers are off smirking somewhere, but in all honesty: who cares what they think? Anyway, here are the five best songs of the week.
Building a utopia is characteristically viewed as a collective endeavor, one in which society works together in hopes of achieving an unattainable best-possible world. But what if it were more solitary than that? If it required you to first and foremost fulfill your own needs, not sublimate yourself to the desire of others? Austra’s new single argues for that sort of autonomy: “I can picture a place where everybody feels it too,” Katie Stelmanis sings, talking of a personal utopia that must be obtained before any unified goals can be attempted. “It might be fiction, but I see it ahead/ There’s nothing I wouldn’t do.” Stelmanis’ personal satisfaction derives from artistic validation (“My work is valid/ I can’t prove it, but I know”) and having a voice (“A woman screams/ She’s looking for meaning behind a man who made her cry her whole damn life”), and with “Utopia,” she’s found both in the form of a steely cold and cascading swirl of a track. One that’s anthemic, too, in a way that encourages you to find your own resolve, as well.–James
Two of Chicago’s brightest young rap talents take a long, hard look at the city around them, taking in all the desolation and depression in it. Saba: “I can’t relate to half of my relatives / My genetics is felony, buying low and reselling it.” Noname: “They kept the melting pot inside the slave pot, watch / They gentrified your neighborhood, no need for cops, watch.” Saba again: “Kids that I hoop with all in county / Counting black bodies, hunt ‘em all down like bounty.” But their voices aren’t desolate. They’re bright, sprightly, warm, flowing effortlessly over a dazed Fender Rhodes glimmer of a beat. And so “Church/Liquor Store” stands as a work of righteous anger that sounds like a reverie. –Tom
The genius of Joy, Departed was Sorority Noise’s ability to conjure up all the internal turmoil swirling inside Cameron Boucher and blast it outward in a triumphant blaze, as if he was purging the depression from his body by converting it to (extremely loud) positive energy. “Leaf Ellis” returns to that tremendously successful formula. It begins quietly with Boucher lamenting, from the bottom of his range and the depths of his soul, “Another night spent in my bed, wishing for the moon to consume me instead.” From there the song progresses through a familiar daily list of longings and neuroses, building from near-shapeless keyboard riffing to loose, staggering rock ‘n’ roll drums and bass to a tense buildup of drums and gleaming guitars. When the band finally erupts into brassy celebration, their moment of glory is earned, if fleeting: Moments later, Boucher is back to battling his demons in near-silence and the cycle starts anew. –Chris
The Blow soundtracked a significant part of my life, and it’s always nice when a band you loved growing up resurfaces with a song that’s not just good, but great. “Think About Me” mourns a terminated relationship, and it does so in the most straightforward way possible. The Blow’s Khaela Maricich declaims a long-winded, extended subtweet about the ex-partner with the same tongue-tied melodies that made the Blow a Thing to begin with. “I don’t care, I’m gonna walk onto your stage and I’ll be as out of place as a second sun burning in your sky,” she sings. “And I will hang there and everyone will ask you who I am. Maybe I’ll crawl down from up high. ‘I’m just someone who didn’t appreciate your love when it was mine.'” The Blow’s production follows Maricich’s words like a spectral echo at the beginning of the song; dissonance disregarded so she can push her declarations out and into the open as quickly as they come. But as Maricich continues and her confidence grows, those lyrics and their surrounding production start to fall into step with one another. That’s when Maricich starts doling out sick burns, like: “Now picture me with all the ghosts of your ex-lovers, we’re standing on the corner sharing notes on your performance.” It’s is melancholic and salty and wholly relatable. –Gabriela
There’s no other rapper I’d want to hear get their Luther Vandross on more than D.R.A.M. Actually, there probably isn’t another rapper that could. That’s what makes D.R.A.M. special. He’s not trying to be some kind of sex symbol, but he has the versatility to approach it while smoothly crooning alongside Erykah Badu on “WiFi” and then go back to being unabashedly, infectiously joyous, cheeky, and corny for most of Big Baby D.R.A.M.. And after I questioned his ability to come with another “Cha Cha”-level banger when I saw him at SXSW earlier this year, he shoved “Broccoli” (and crow) in my mouth to shut me up. On top of all the aforementioned qualities D.R.A.M. possesses, his lyrics aren’t completely devoid of ingenuity. Most of the new school wave of rappers have one, maybe two of these things in their corner, but none have this kind of repertoire. “WiFi” is the best duet with Badu since “Hello” with André 3000 last year (yes, I remember “This Bitter Land”), and it’s easily a top five Badu + rapper contender. I welcome all @s. –Collin