This week SUCKED. Do you like beer? Grab a frosty one and dig into the five best songs of the week!
5. Young Thug – “High” (Feat. Elton John)
Elton John always brings out the best in Young Thug. “Kanye West,” which was originally titled “Elton John” and then “Pop Man” — probably should’ve stuck with the original name, huh? — was one of the highlights on Thugger’s 2016 album Jeffery, a fizzily vaporous pop construction that showcased his ear for unconventional yet transcendent melody. And “High,” the long-awaited conclusion to a three-year bromance that began when Elton John discussed his appreciation of Young Thug in a 2015 interview, does the exact same thing. It’s great.
Ever since we first saw those photos of Elton John and Young Thug together, the world has been waiting for a collaboration. And although John’s presence on “High” is really just a sample of “Rocket Man,” one of his most iconic songs, it doesn’t disappoint. Thug takes the instant nostalgia-bomb effect of John’s vocals and feeds off of it — elongating the word “high,” building his own curlicues of Auto-Tuned melody on top and then dissolving them into the space between producer Stelios Phili’s wistful piano chords. Remixes or samples of classic songs always run the risk of messing with perfection, but with “High,” John and Thug ascend skyward together. –Peter
4. Robyn – “Honey”
Could any song live up to the buildup? Probably not. “Honey” first found its way into our ears via the end credits of a Girls episode, a year and a half ago. The song wasn’t even done when Robyn sent it to Lena Dunham. She’s been meticulously toying with it, keeping it away from her people ot the extent that #releasehoneydamnit became a hashtag. That’s a whole lot of buildup for an expansive, murmuring club-pop song.
“Honey” doesn’t explode with romantic catharsis, the way that so many of Robyn’s best songs do. Instead, it’s an understated thump, one lost in its own beat and in the fuzzy vagueness of love. Robyn does her best to translate pre-verbal longings into actual words, and things get weird: “At the heart of some kind of flower / Stuck in glitter, strands of saliva.” But the swooning vulnerability of Robyn’s voice, and the endlessly sharp craft of the melody, make “Honey” stand out anyway. Is it worth the wait? Who cares? Divorced from its context, “Honey” is a lovely club weeper, and we will always need more of those. –Tom
3. Westerman – “Albatross”
On one level, Westerman makes elevator music. It’s all so soft and shiny, department-store silk and satin rendered as the easy listening audio playing on the PA while you shop. On the other hand, to hear his songs is to instantly recognize a lineage of creative sophisticates like Peter Gabriel, the Blue Nile, and Arthur Russell. So it’s ’80s art music and ’80s soft-rock rolled into an addictive modern artifact — almost like New Age voyagers Emeralds rebooted with Sting or Richard Marx on the mic.
“Albatross” is his prettiest song yet: metronomic and angelic, breezy yet saddled with unspeakable sadness. The melody is gorgeously fluid, the pulse subtly emphatic. Westerman says the song is “set on a lake in my mind where I go to escape the worries of day to day existence,” and it takes you there right along with him. –Chris
2. Yaeji – “One More”
Yaeji has the Cool Girl archetype on lock. The biggest songs on her breakout EP2, “raingurl” and “drink i’m sippin’ on,” succeeded because they were so understated, driven by churning house production that made you want to move without overdoing it. The hooks on those songs are total earworms, though, as is the case with “One More.”
On this new track, Yaeji sounds mellowed-out as she flips between Korean and English, but her lyrics are full of resentment. “So I can fall and hurt and learn, but you don’t need to change a thing/ That’s how it is,” she sings those words like she’s exhaling a long, fed-up sigh. With Yaeji you can party and feel sad at the same time. –Gabriela
1. Brockhampton – “San Marcos”
Brockhampton’s latest album Iridescence is a glorious fusion of influences, and nowhere does that swirling meld hit harder or work better than on “San Marcos,” a song that plays against itself like an indelible mashup. The spindly electric guitar grounds itself against Auto-Tune and feels like a natural evolution of kids growing up listening to everything that’s available at their fingertips.
It sounds sort of like a throwaway Backstreet Boys-style end-of-album ballad, but instead of some sticky-sweet nothings about love, Brockhampton sing about where they came from. It’s named after some of the boys’ old stomping ground, and the London Community Gospel Choir lends their voices to its effervescent hook: “I want more out of life than this.” It’s hopefully wistful, encapsulated in Joba’s gut-punch of a line: “Maybe I’m broken, either way I’m clinging on closely.”
It’s a perfect song about getting out of your hometown, seeing the glitzy glamor of life outside of it and becoming nostalgic for a time when things were much simpler, while still being thankful for the opportunities you have. Brockhampton have certainly made the leap, but they’re not abandoning the world they grew up in. –James