We have another crop of tracks making their debuts in the top 40 over the last month and you’ll be able to pick up a bit of a theme this month: meh.
12. JP Saxe ft. Julia Michaels – If The World Was Ending
Is JP Saxe the second Pokemon evolution of Gnash? The first time I heard this song, I thought it was the follow up to “i hate u, i love u”, but it turns out these are two different guys. It took me a bit to form an opinion of this one because I fell asleep twice midway through the track. It’s just a piano and some synth strings way in the back. If there’s ever a drum or drum sample, it’s mixed too quietly to be picked up and pace the track. There’s a place in pop for the quiet, downbeat, highly emotional tracks. “Say Something” by A Great Big World was the first track that came to mind to compare it too, but unlike that song there is nothing here that makes you feel anything. The lyrics are supposed to convey hope that an old relationship can be rekindled in the face of earth-shattering events around them. But there’s no emotion in either of their voices. It comes off as the final “meh” in a life of “whatever I guess”, like they know they shouldn’t be together except under this one circumstance and even then, they’re probably the last choice on each other’s lists. “All my boyfriends from college are married? Well fine, I’ll hook up with toxic dude I met at the bad last December one more time before the meteor hits because, well, why not get it in my once more?” An empty emotional hit for an empty song.
11. Lil Mosey – Blueberry Faygo
It’s never a good sign when your opening instrumental is elevator music. It’s a pretty bland opening before a generic drumline drops in that’s almost all high hat and clap. So the production is formulaic. Then Lil Mosey jumps and this is the definition of paint-by-numbers rap that peaked in the early 2010’s and we all thought had been shoved to the wayside for more interesting beats and writers. But what does Mosey hit us with? Name your cliche. I got the big guns. I make big money. I fuck… well, anything that moves. I guess I can’t criticize that too much, you’ll have that when you’re writing at 18. In fact, it is blatantly obvious with this track that we’re dealing with an artist who is that young. Gucci Mane is allegedly on this track but he’s so hard to find, it’s questionable whether he even showed up. Blueberry Faygo is lean by the way, so it’s not a completely nonsense title, just mostly nonsense. But, like all of the Vine rappers before, is a hit because of TikTok. So when we drop that app because of the Chinese spying connections, this style will also hopefully end up in music’s recycling bin.
10. Da Baby ft. Roddy Ricch – ROCKSTAR
Another generic rap track. Cars, guns, money, bitches, haters, people out to kill me. The production is solid, but nothing that blows the doors off. Both Baby and Ricch tried to fit too many words into the verses but beyond that, yet another track this month where I can say it’s, it’s fine.
9. Diplo and Morgan Wallen ft. Julia Michaels – Heartless
So, Diplo made his way to country, and he brought Julia Michaels with him. If FGL and Bebe Rexha’s “Meant To Be” was a trap track, it would be this song. Michaels breathes into a mic for a verse, everybody comes in for a chorus but the high hat is the star, then Wallen gets to over-annunciate his accent for a verse, chorus, bridge, chorus out. I feel like I’m already repeating myself here but its just okay. The production is fine, it sets the right feel for the track. I’ve never really been a fan of Michaels’ voice but it’s not so offensive here that it damages the track. Wallen is fine for what he is. If “Meant To Be” was written to have no hope and instead jacked the chorus of Magic’s “Rude”, it would be “Heartless”.
8. Katy Perry – Daisies
What we’ve got here is Firework Part 2? Or is it Roar Part 2? It’s almost both as there are parts where Katy is speaking in generic enough terms that it could be an inspirational anthem to everyone. Then you get to the chorus and it’s almost Taylor Swift-esque in its self-inspiration. I’m gonna keep being my badass self until I drop. You know, til the roof comes off, til the lights go out, she’s gonna rip this shit til her bone collapse. There’s about four different songs coming out here. The production is lacking for an inspirational banger. There’s a lot of minimal backing tracks and it doesn’t feel full until the final chorus. Plus, Perry does a very Perry thing at the end of every chorus where she belts the last “daisies” at a note that sounds like it’s two and a half notes out of her range and her falsetto ain’t getting there. If this song came with any feeling of weight or impact, you could call it an “I’m back bitch” single. It’s not as hollow as “Fight Song”, but it’s no “Imagine”.
7. Harry Styles – Watermelon Sugar
Like it’s namesake fruit, this track is full of liquid but in the end isn’t very filling. Once again, the production is solid. It has that acoustic guitar opening, builds to the chorus by adding layers, then lays the track wide open after the first chorus. It’s fine, like many of this month’s entries. It’s on the upbeat side of things, which is always good for pop but especially for summer charters. But this is an extremely repetitive song, even for a simple pop song. The clumsy title phrase “watermelon sugar” is just under 25% of the song alone. There are really only like 3 lines that don’t repeat in some form at some point of the song, so beyond repetitive here. Another of this month’s songs that are here, they’re not awful but they’re not masterpieces by any stretch of the imagination.
6. Doja Cat ft. Gucci Mane – Like That
2020 is turning out to be the controversial Doja Cat’s year, huh? I haven’t had a chance yet to review her #1 smash from earlier this year “Say So”, so this is my first experience with her. Vocally, she comes off like a less intense Cardi B. She has her basic flow down but there’s no variance at all on this track. I actually like the beat here. There’s a simplicity but it doesn’t feel lacking. It fills the holes left in the track and sets the tone for the song. Since the song is seemingly about how she likes banging the well-dressed and classy dudes, the string hits evoke a jazzy-ish loungy-ish feel. Yet another track this month that has its positives and negatives but not enough weight to fully swing it into either realm.
5. Jonas Brothers ft. KAROL G – X
This is about half good. The positives all come in the verses, backed by a reggaeton beat that is a departure from the fake reggae beats of their previous singles from this album cycle. It’s nice and upbeat, which is ideal for a summer song. Then we get to the chorus and it’s just a sludge of ideas. The trademark Jonas over-falsetto is slopped up with some autotune and a weak excuse for a pop drop. Karol G’s feature is a paint by numbers verse with some accent singing in the back of the last chorus. It’s not enough to really even judge her on this track. The lyrics are an afterthought. A hot Jonas meets an equally hot woman, she’s immediately turned on and tells him to kiss her like his ex is watching. There’s nothing special here really at all. It’s upbeat and catchy, but not as catchy as Only Human. It’s fun, but not as fun as, say, Cake By The Ocean. It doesn’t do anything poorly but it doesn’t blow you away with anything. It’s extremely medium.
4. Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande – Rain On Me
An upbeat dance song about surviving everything life has to throw at you, which has been a running theme of Ariana’s recent work. It’s got a solid beat and standard, if not overly generic, pop lyrics on the subject. The only misstep comes in the chorus where it becomes very obvious that Gaga and Ariana’s voices do not mesh well. The line of harmony they have is musically correct. The notes are there but there’s something about Ariana’s soprano and Gaga’s alto that just does not mesh well. It kind of jars you out of the flow of the rest of the song. Yet another song this month that does the right stuff right without doing too much of the wrong stuff.
3. Jackson Wang – 100 Ways
A former member of Kpop group Got7, Wang is making his first solo appearance in the US chart with this simple bop. The backing track is good and works well, until it doesn’t in the chorus but I’ll get to that. Otherwise, it’s a good blend of pop sensibilities from American and Kpop standards. Wang has a solid voice on him and everything sounds smooth. My only issue is with the synth hits in the chorus, which sounds like they set them to the “dying tubular bells” preset. Beyond that one nitpick, this is a good, simple jam.
2. Bazzi – Young And Alive
I’d previously been a little harsh on Bazzi, referring to him as a more bland Zayn. But on the first single off his sophomore effort, he delivers a light, welcome note of nostalgia. We’re all more nostalgic for our younger lives during the summer, so this hits at the right time too. But in it’s look back the glory days of high school and young love, it doesn’t beat you over the head with memories like an auditory Buzzfeed list, nor does it get slide into a painful longing for the first “the one”. It’s a simple look back at a time that he felt was better than the current one, and I think we can almost all agree with that sentiment right now. It’s mid-tempo with a simple groove. Bazzi’s isn’t blowing the doors off with his voice, it’s a very simple vocal line, but it works well with the subject. In a song I was dreading listening to, I was pleasantly surprised with a fun, nostalgic jam.
- THE SCOTTS – THE SCOTTS
A short but heavy declaration song for THE SCOTTS, the duo of Travis Scott and Kid Cudi. With a plodding beat that bangs, THE SCOTTS is a great platform for the two to display their lyrical mastery. Travis’ verse is all about being held on the outside of the industry but forcing his way in with sheer talent. Cudi’s verse is a little more generic, centered around just dealing with the world but both perform with fire. The synth line sets the perfect mood, leaving the listener trying to decide whether they should fear this duo, or anticipating their next track. I for one, can’t wait for more.