One Direction, “History”
My fave cut on the loopy pasticherie Made in the A.M. is “Olivia,” which lets Willy Wonka lead the Magical Mystery Tour, but the c’mon-baby-we-got-a-good-thing-goin’ strum ‘n’ hum “History” is first runner-up, and its forced-casual camaraderie sounds even livelier up against the forced-intense heavy-breathing of the-1D-who-got-away. Though dropping a single that promises fans “We can live for-e-ver” just as your group calls it quits is a dick move.
Selena Gomez, “Hands to Myself”
Selena roused herself from the docile stupor of “Good for You” only to stagger into “Same Old Love,” which was as much fun as a barrage of texts from your roommate about how that’s it, she’s fucking deleting her Tinder account. But this frisky little frolic about copping a feel is her sexiest cut since “Do It” (a best-of bonus track that I dig, nobody else cares about, and everyone on YouTube thinks sounds like a Christmas song). She doesn’t exactly sound like her own woman, but she doesn’t sound like somebody else’s either.
Rihanna feat. Drake, “Work”
workworkworkworkwork You and me both, Rih. workworkworkworkwork Whatever concrete meaning the rest of the lyric might seek to convey crumbles as Rihanna’s articulation erodes into the patois equivalent of a Peanuts schoolteacher. workworkworkworkwork The strain of having every public moment of joy commodified for us drones who have to workworkworkworkwork seems finally to have gotten to our IDGAF avatar. Then Drake pops by to suggest that enduring his boastful Eeyore routine is an effective relaxation technique. The struggle is real.
Erykah Badu, “Trill Friends”
Kanye West feat. Ty Dolla $ign, “Real Friends”
Inviting Drake onto your mixtape so he can watch you steal “Hotline Bling” away from him is just cold-blooded, and my only complaint about the rest of But You Caint Use My Phone is that Badu should have found a way to segue from Rundgren into Adele’s “Hello.” I’m sure some sensual masterwork of apocalyptic sci-fi Afro-mysticism will burble up from her cauldron eventually, but I hope she spends as much time as she can spare side-eyeing pop from the wings, radiating the unreadable mix of chill and passion that makes her distillation of Kanye’s word-bloated “Real Friends” such a coolly minimalist riff/riposte. Do Bieber next.
Macklemore, “White Privilege II”
This elephantine exercise in consciousness-raising is a mix of good intentions and self-aggrandizement, like every celebrity political stance in recorded history, and I wish the big dope all the luck in the world as long as I don’t have to listen to again myself. An actual hook might have helped get the message across to more young fans, true, but it might have also given voting members of the National Academy of the Recording Arts and Sciences an excuse to rip Kendrick off again. Thing is, the hair-shirted austerity limits its political insight. A 45-year-old document of unrepentant barbarism, “Brown Sugar” is still smarter about racial plunder because it revels in all the ugliness and pleasure that privilege entails.