This week, two women warriors top two wearying rap battlers, and I try to find something nice to say about Chris Martin.
“Kill V. Maim”
Claire Boucher is an artisanal cyborg hacking into 21st century pop’s fantasies of bulletproof female power without surrendering autonomy or idiosyncrasy or emotional nuance to the machinery of capital, her infinitely mutable, defiantly cute vocals proof that a lively post-human self can thrive amid the tech she controls. Art Angels just keeps sounding better, and “Kill V. Maim” is a conceptual high point, cheerleader taunt as genderfucked battle cry, its male drag an excuse to parody testosterone rage and a license to appropriate its potency.
At First Avenue, maybe six hours after the “Formation” video dropped, the same crowd that would go bananas when Sophia Eris closed her DJ set with “Run the World (Girls)” seemed notably unslain by what had to have been their first exposure to this song in a club. Still, I don’t want to read too much into that anecdote — “Formation” is a tricky track, a time bomb that’s deliberately all countdown and no kablooey, a showcase for a seething vocal performance, with lyrics that split the difference between slogan, meme, and aphorism. And it’s foremost the soundtrack to the “Formation” video — a video, incidentally, that will neither ignite the revolution nor prolong capitalist hegemony, but that presents the persistence of a rich cultural heritage as a political struggle in itself.
Young Thug feat. Quavo
The way Thugger inflects the uncensored title, that mantra of helpless rage sounds half like a question, half like a shaky effort to speak a foreign language. Then he leans back into MIke Will Made It’s groove like an Olympic luge medalist, subtly accentuating its melodic hints until Quavo leaps in off the ropes.
Meek Mill feat. Omelly
The quagmire thickens. Drake preens with unruffled smugness, Meek barks with graceless belligerence and to mark your scorecard for skills or beats or factual accuracy is just to sink into the muck yourself. Remember how your parents used to say “I don’t care who started it. I’m ending it”? Nicki should send both of them to their rooms.
“Hymn to the Weekend”
Recorded evidence that no matter what your Coldplay a-hatin’ Twitter pullquote snark pretends, Beyoncé still likes Chris Martin better than she likes you. A quick listen to the first album of theirs I’ve checked out in full since (I think) Mylo Xyloto confirms what the singles have suggested: Coldplay have adapted zero-grav U2 anthemry to the swell and crest of radio-friendly EDM with truly stupefying ease, and if Martin would stylishly mumble lines like “Oh, angel sent from up above/ You know you make my world light up” instead of laying each word out like Pete Seeger trying to teach a crowd “We Shall Overcome,” this wouldn’t sound much dumber than a lot of much cooler music that gets over on sheer sensation and professional texturing.