Singles round-up: Not even past

Pop music isn’t solely about misremembering yesterday, but that’s a big part of what it does right. And wrong, Sturgill. And wrong.


Taylor Swift
“New Romantics”

Tay plays jaded the way she once spun fairy tales, relishing the feigned cynicism that cushions heartbreak the way she once thrilled to the fluctuating pulse rate of infatuation. She’s always had a cunning craftswoman’s sense that formal convention shapes desire as surely as biology, but she’s moved on from giving Romeo & Juliet a happy ending to giving As You Like It a sad (but still celebratory) one.


Pet Shop Boys
“The Pop Kids”

Nostalgia as victory lap. Neil Tennant gloats fondly about an age when you could still be smug about liking songs without guitars, then stretches “here” into a syllable and a half with a longing that erases a quarter-century.


Ariana Grande
“Dangerous Woman”

Lock up your donuts — Mariahna squanders her annual allotment of consonants, rhymes “permission” with “decision” like Britney taught her, and vamps as though she thinks the motto is you only live twice. Less empowering than a shelf of Curvy Barbies on clearance, but still fun fun fun till Carole King’s lawyers take a song credit away.


The 1975
“The Sound”

I know, I know, the simplistic chorus is meant to offset the verbosity of the verses  — that’s Matt Healy’s performative way of making a maybe a certain and pretending you can’t spell synthesizer without “thesis.” But every time I try to decide whether he’s a smart Brit playing cute or vice versa I get distracted by the guitar solo morphing uncannily into Steve Winwood’s Prophet-5.


Sturgill Simpson
“In Bloom”

A victory from beyond the grave. Evading Sturgill’s turgid determination to sing Kurt’s pretty song like he knows just what it means, the lyric loiters coolly past the edge of coherence, like a rabbit that knows the exact length of a dog’s leash.

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