Ranking The Songs On DJ Khaled’s Latest Celebrity Dogpile
DJ Khaled’s brand is excess, opulence, and over-the-top enthusiasm. For the better part of two decades, the man born Khaled Khaled has been rounding up as many famous rappers, singers, and producers as he can, piling them onto XXXL pop-rap songs laser-targeted at radio, and shouting various catchphrases on top of them at maximum volume. This sometimes results in pump-you-up classics like “We Takin’ Over” and “I’m On One” and “All I Do Is Win,” modern-day jock jams guaranteed to send your average millennial’s adrenaline surging. In recent years the formula has led to a bloated pantomime of triumphant lavish living — songs that sound the way overpriced liquor bottles in the VIP section probably taste (which I hear is underwhelming, though I can’t speak from experience). Khaled is a blockbuster franchise unto himself: one that keeps roping in more and more impressive names, and one that can’t really descend into self-parody because this man has always been a living caricature.
It goes without saying that Khaled is not an album artist. His full-length releases are always stuffed with superstars, but they play like movie soundtracks — not stylishly curated movie soundtracks, but movie soundtracks that sound like somebody was given a lot of money to throw around without the ideas to justify it. A DJ Khaled album is less a creative statement than a launchpad for prospective hits. Given that Khaled has recruited one of the most eye-popping guest lists of his career, the new Khaled Khaled can’t help but feel like an event. Some of the songs will probably pop off because when you throw this many famous names together, how can some of them not? But it’s a largely vacuous exercise that feels much longer than its 54-minute runtime. To save you the trouble of listening through the whole thing, here’s a breakdown of the album’s songs, from THEY (LEGITIMATELY) DON’T WANT YOU TO LISTEN TO THE NEW DJ KHALED SINGLE to ACTUALLY, THIS ONE IS QUITE GOOD.
14. “Sorry Not Sorry”
Featured artists: Nas, Jay-Z, James Fauntleroy, “Harmonies By The Hive”
I have nothing but respect for Queen Bey, and I hate to shit on a song featuring James Fauntleroy. However…
13. “Just Be”
Featured artist: Justin Timberlake
Perhaps owing to the joy the Trolls soundtracks bring to my children, I am not as anti-JT as many have become. But a boilerplate Justin Timberlake inspirational ballad featuring the lyric “How do I get my flowers if I don’t stand strong and watch my flowers grow?” is the kind of thing that will send me scrambling for Branch’s survivalist bunker.
12. “We Going Crazy”
Featured artists: H.E.R., Migos
Appealing directly to nostalgia via big obvious samples has been a key strategy in big-budget rap for decades, and it’s deployed several times on Khaled Khaled. In this case the Mandrill sample from Shawty Lo’s “Dey Know,” which leads to a brassy production that echoes both “Dey Know” and the Cardi B/J Balvin/Bad Bunny smash “I Like It.” The risk you run with this trick is people just end up wishing they were listening to that other song your song reminds them of. That’s what happens to me here. The bombast feels forced; rather than going crazy, H.E.R. and Migos sound like they’re punching the clock.
11. “I Did It”
Featured artists: Post Malone, Megan Thee Stallion, Lil Baby, DaBaby
In theory, an all-star posse cut with Post Malone singing over the “Layla” guitar riff should be a slam dunk. But the hulking, sputtering beat takes all the drama out of Duane Allman’s classic riff, and the verses land like formalities. Worst of all, Posty is basically unrecognizable and unmemorable. I kept waiting for him to show up, and then the anonymous hook-slinger started to trill his voice at the end and I realized it was Post Malone all along. This is Post Malone on a “Layla” sample! He should sound like he’s having fun!
10. “This Is My Year”
Featured artists: A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Big Sean, Rick Ross, Puff Daddy
This song basically exists so Sean Combs can shout angrily over music from Biggie’s 2Pac diss “Long Kiss Goodnight.” All of the rest of the rappers manage to get off some bars — I appreciate the layers with Rozay’s line “All eyes on me, you n****s livin’ in a box/ Got the haters leavin’ comments while I’m really sendin’ shots” — but yeah, mainly it’s a vehicle for Puffy to do “Hate Me Now”-style grandstanding at the end. It’s OK.
Featured artist: Drake
Between the hard greyscale production and the likably bizarre vocal affectation Drake adopts on the hook, “POPSTAR” is more memorable than most of the songs on the album. But we have to dock it significant points for Drake’s extra-inane bars, none worse than the song’s central line: “I’m a popstar, not a doctor.”
8. “Body In Motion”
Featured artists: Bryson Tiller, Lil Baby, Roddy Ricch
Bryson Tiller shows up twice on Khaled Khaled to do radio-friendly R&B hooks, and both times his voice hits like fresh air. Lil Baby and Roddy Ricch are thriving in their comfort zones. It’s all extremely generic but also more consistently catchy than most of the songs here. I probably wouldn’t change the radio station if this came on — and it seems likely that it will.
7. “Let It Go”
Featured artists: Justin Bieber, 21 Savage
This is basically a remake of “Intentions,” Bieber’s duet with Quavo from his matrimony-obsessed R&B album Changes, with 21 Savage swapped in. Changes was an overly repetitive miasmic blur, but “Intentions” was one of its most likable tracks, letting Bieber’s lithe vocals glow against punchy computerized synth sounds. This one is a bit less memorable musically speaking, but the lyrical gimmick is less hokey, and 21 Savage is sneakily great at rapping on pop songs, so on balance it works. (It’s certainly better than the nightmare scenario of Bieber covering Queen Elsa’s Frozen anthem of the same name, a flavor combination I dare not imagine.)
6. “I Can Have It All”
Featured artists: Bryson Tiller, H.E.R., Meek Mill
Bryson Tiller and H.E.R. are back for this one, which heavily incorporates Beanie Sigel’s “Feel It In The Air.” Both singers charge their melodies with compelling emotion here, and Meek Mill was basically born to go nuts on turned-up inspirational radio bait like this.
5. “Where You Come From”
Featured artists: Buju Banton, Capleton, Bounty Killer
Dancehall legends enthusing over an old Barrington Levy loop: It works!
Featured artist: Drake
Here we get another pleasingly weird Drake voice experiment, this time without the clunky lyrical concept. I hope the new Drake album has some more R&B songs on it.
Featured artists: Lil Wayne, Jeremih
This song has a lot going for it. The spacious guitar-powered arrangement — sampled from Bobby Bland’s “Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City” — manages to be maximalist and minimalist at the same time. Any song that keeps Jeremih working is good with me, especially after his COVID scare. Ditto any song that puts Lil Wayne in a fascinating new context two decades into his career. It’s not what I expected from the first song on a DJ Khaled album, but more than most of the songs here, it communicates that victorious euphoria he’s always reaching for. DJ Khaled should try to surprise us more often.
2. “Every Chance I Get”
Featured artists: Lil Baby, Lil Durk
Sometimes it’s as easy as throwing two of the most reliably compelling sing-rap stars in the game over a thundering Tay Keith production. Don’t overthink it.
1. “Big Paper”
Featured artist: Cardi B
If Baby and Durk rapping on a Tay Keith beat is guaranteed gold, I guess that makes “Big Paper” straight platinum. Cardi B going in over booming 808s will always be maniacally fun. And her particular blend of mega-celebrity, unrestrained personality, and ferocious microphone technique is ideal for the DJ Khaled experience. I mean: “I son bitches, movе Kulture out the car seat/ Got these hoes nervous, I can spit it to their heartbeat.” Come on. It’s not even fair.
After lingering near the top of Billboard‘s Hot 100 singles chart for months, the Weeknd’s “Save Your Tears” has finally reached #1 thanks to a boost from the new remix featuring Ariana Grande. “Save Your Tears” is the Weeknd’s sixth #1 hit and third from After Hours. Grande is also credited with a #1 hit because the new remix drew the majority of the song’s tracking activity last week; it becomes her sixth #1 hit as well. According to Billboard, “Save Your Tears” is also the 24th #1 for Max Martin as a writer and 22nd as a producer, totals that put him behind only the Beatles braintrust: John Lennon (32) and Paul McCartney (26) have written more chart-toppers, and George Martin (23) has produced more.
After Hours is the first album of the 2020s to yield three #1 hits and the first since Drake’s Scorpion in 2018. Six albums achieved that feat in the 2010s: Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream (which actually yielded a record-tying five #1s), Rihanna’s Loud, Adele’s 21, Taylor Swift’s 1989, Justin Bieber’s Purpose, and Drake’s aforementioned Scorpion. After Hours pulled off something even rarer than that: three #1 hits in three separate years, with “Heartless” in 2019, “Blinding Lights” in 2020, and now “Save Your Tears” in 2021. Only Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 has done it before, spinning off four #1 hits from 1989-1991. (Look out for those to start appearing in our Number Ones column very soon.)
Three more former #1 singles are next: Silk Sonic’s “Leave The Door Open” at #2, Justin Bieber/Giveon/Daniel Caesar’s “Peaches” at #3, and Polo G’s “Rapstar” at #4. After Dua Lipa and DaBaby’s “Levitating” at #5 comes Doja Cat and SZA’s “Kiss Me More” at a new #6 peak — this makes it the highest charting single of SZA’s career. The rest of the top 10: Lil Nas X’s “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” at #7, Masked Wolf’s “Astronaut In The Ocean” at #8, Cardi B’s “Up” at #9, and Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers License” at #10.
On the Billboard 200 albums chart, Moneybagg Yo (pictured) scores his first #1 album with A Gangsta’s Pain. Billboard reports that the album posted 110,000 equivalent album units, almost entirely via streaming; actual sales figures totaled about 4,000. After Young Thug’s YSL Records comp Slime Language 2 at #2 and Morgan Wallen at #3 comes a #4 debut for Eric Church’s Soul, the last in his multi-part album Heart & Soul. Of Soul‘s 53,000 units, 42,000 were actual sales, making it the bestselling album of the week. Church is the first artist to debut albums in the top 10 in consecutive weeks since Future in 2017. The rest of the top 10: Justin Bieber, Rod Wave, the Weeknd, Dua Lipa, Taylor Swift, and Pop Smoke.
Billie Eilish – “Your Power”
I’m here for the Feist-ification of mainstream pop! Also:
Hayley Kiyoko – “Found My Friends”
Am I crazy or are we already circling back to the early 2010s with that synth part? Not that I’m complaining.
The Kid Laroi & Miley Cyrus – “Without You”
We are definitely circling back to the early 2010s with this Gen Z “Love The Way You Lie” vibe. Can’t abide Laroi but Miley singing “Can’t make a wife out of a ho” over some acoustic strums is certainly memorable!
Bebe Rexha – “Die For A Man” (Feat. Lil Uzi Vert)
Sad hip-hop beats built around guitar riffs (or, in the case of “RAPSTAR,” ukulele riffs) are really having a moment, huh? This one is going along well enough until Uzi shows up to knock it off balance, for better and worse.
Machine Gun Kelly – “love race” (Feat. Kellin Quinn)
Would I feel differently about this if it was just some pop-punk duet instead of a continuing pivot to pop-punk by a former dirtbag rapper? Perhaps! But knowing what I know about the old MGK, I remain entranced by the new him.
NEWS IN BRIEF
- Billie Eilish discussed her new era in a British Vogue cover story. [Vogue]
- Lorde is back to reviewing onion rings on her formerly secret Instagram for onion rings reviews. [Instagram]
- Ellie Goulding had a baby. [EW]
- Olivia Rodrigo and Joshua Bassett released “Even When/The Best Part,” a duet from the new season of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series (which, yes, Rodrigo is still on even though her pop-star career has gone inferno). [YouTube]
- Maroon 5’s new album Jordi (named after their late manager) is out 6/11. [Page Six]
- Here’s the first images of Machine Gun Kelly and girlfriend Megan Fox in the upcoming Bruce Willis thriller Midnight In The Switchgrass. [People]
- J. Cole teased the release of his new project The Off-Season. [Twitter]
- Justin Bieber, the Roots, and Jimmy Fallon did “Peaches” with classroom instruments. [YouTube]
- BENEE released a video for “Happen To Me.” [YouTube]
- Miley Cyrus confirmed she will perform with the Kid LAROI on the Elon Musk-hosted SNL. [Twitter]
- Nick Jonas will host the 2021 Billboard Music Awards on 5/23. [Billboard]