You know how in several months in the past when the FKA has gotten together to do our monthly wrap-ups and the album guys are like “this month was a lot of meh” and I have been able to come back with “well actually, the charts gave us a lot of interesting stuff”? Yeah, that’s not how March went. There was some great stuff to hold it up, but the Hot 100 spent most of the month in the morass of mediocrity.
1 – Silk Sonic – Leave the Door Open
Silk is right, good gawd. This song is a love letter to 70’s soul and R&B in all of the best ways, without any of the notes that are best left in the 70’s (see: The Floaters, Float On). Musically it is just tight. You will sit and listen and pick out the artists that influenced each bit of the track. The backing vocals just envelope you in sound, drawing you into the strings, drums and lead vocals. If this is the lead single, I cannot wait to hear the full record.
2 – Drake ft. Rick Ross – Lemon Pepper Freestyle
Is there another pair in the game that guarantee a sick track when they get together? Gold Roses, Money in the Grave, Free Spirit and now Lemon Pepper Freestyle. I’ve seen many fans say this is Drake’s best verse ever and it’s definitely up there. The sample grew on me fast and went from annoying to ethereal over just two spins.
3- LOONA – Star
This probably has the catchiest beat of anything I’ve heard this month. There’s something here that evokes early Madonna in all the best ways. It is just a seriously well crafted pop song and you cannot help but fall into the beat.
4 – Dua Lipa – We’re Good
A departure from the themes of the rest of the singles off Future Nostalgia, We’re Good doesn’t put audio nostalgia at the forefront of the track. It’s a more “traditional” pop song about a less than traditional pop song trope: a relationship that ends and it’s fine. Instead of electro-pop and retro synths, we get a lighter beat that almost evokes a reggae feeling. I know I’m biased and have a predisposition to like anything she released, but I quite enjoyed the different feel of this track from all her other hits.
5 – Drake ft. Lil Baby – Wants and Needs
Lil Baby continues to change my mind on him with every new single. His verse is rapid fire, intense and flips the feel of the track. Drake is chill, continuing with some of the themes in What’s Next but over a heavier beat. But Lil Baby brings the fire.
6 – Justin Bieber – Hold On
The first time I heard this, I thought Bette Davis Eyes was trying to start. This is actually a pleasantly 80’s-sounding pop track, which is hopefully where the entire new record is heading. It’s upbeat, it hits the right tones and Bieber’s vocals feel cleaner than everything off of Changes. At a time when we could all use a positive tune or two, this isn’t a bad effort at all. It’s like Charlie Puth’s One Call Away, except not whiny, and far more listenable, and less audibly punchable. Jesus, that song sucked.
7 – Giveon – Heartbreak Anniversary
Giveon takes a subject that could quickly become tiresome and weaves some golden R&B threads through it to produce something wholly beautiful. The subject is pretty obvious: reminiscing on a past relationship on the anniversary that it ended. Thinking about an ex and how things went wrong is a common songwriting trope but here it feels less like a wail of pain and more of a memory book through rose-colored glasses.
8 – Drake – What’s Next
This whole track is a flex. Drake is all over the success he’s had and trying to figure out what else he could possibly do. Some would say he should finish his next record, but Drake is in no hurry. Drake is Drake here, he’s on point with his beat, a rather simple one and his verses are tight. It’s a little unassuming but a solid track nonetheless.
9 – Masked Wolf – Astronaut in the Ocean
This is like a good demo reel. It’s a tight two-minute package that wraps up the best of what Wolf can do. Tight beat, good lyrics, and honest to god good bass drop. Plus, I like this guy’s voice.
10 – Kali Uchis – telepatia
This track is just chill af. It is light and airy and just has a feeling of floating. I really just enjoyed vibing to this song.
11 – Zara Larsson ft. Young Thug – Talk About Love
A pleasant pop song with a strong chorus. Like the first time I listened, I was kinda dismissive and thought all I was gonna talk about were the synth strings. But that hook just locks in and sticks with you. The first two lines are just slightly off rhythm to the rest of the song and it makes them stand out and it just works. It’s just a good pop song about wanting to stay in the moment of a relationship. It’s not asking for more than that and there’s no reason to give it more than its moment.
12 – Rod Wave – Street Runner
Let’s get the nitpick that everyone seems to have and I do as well out the way: the length. The song is a little longer than four minutes and it really doesn’t need to be. I mean, Rod doesn’t even come in until after the minute mark. But beyond that, I like this song. I had a very chill groove that you find yourself just slipping into. It’s a solid song, but it doesn’t quite feel like a single.
13 – Glass Animals – Heat Wave
I clearly don’t see what the rest of the musical criticism world sees, calling this the perfect pop song for now. I don’t hate it. It’s a very well put together track. The production kinda reminds me of watered down trip hop and that’s not a bad thing. The vocals are very well done, they sound great. But feels like a track for the chill lounge and not the pop station. But I could also just be behind all the times.
14 – Lil Baby ft. EST Gee – Real As It Gets
There’s something ironic about a song called Real As It Gets that is so auto-tuned that you lose every third word. Lil Baby’s vocals are everything that he had been getting knocked for a year or two ago. You cannot deny his flow here. He’s machine-gun intense and you cannot deny his energy. It is palpable. EST Gee’s verse kinda feels like the track slows down for him before coming back to life when Baby takes back over. I think I’m right in the middle on this one.
15 – Neko Moon – GOOD TIME
It’s a country party song with some John Mayer-feeling guitars in the background. It’s alright. It wouldn’t make it into a country party playlist for me because it’s mid-tempo and not fun unless you’ve had all the apple pie moonshine (which I would like to add is delightful when made correctly).
16 – Tiesto – The Business
It’s a dance track. There’s nothing really special about it, nothing sticks out about it. It’s a dance track and it’s not that interesting.
17 – SpotemGottem ft. Pooh Shiesty – Beat Box 2
Remember a few years ago when we had a series of tracks that were popular only because of Vine and the challenges attached to them? Meet Beat Box 2, continuing the tradition from TikTok. Beyond the #JuneBugchallenge, this track is right down the middle. There’s no glaring errors here, but there’s not much that sticks out either. You like mumblerap, you’ll probably enjoy SpotemGottem here. I just didn’t feel much of anything from this one.
18 – Gabby Barnett – The Good Ones
It’s probably not a great sign when the first thought I have when the verse starts is “It sounds like ‘Closer’”, and not Nine Inch Nails. I think the best way to describe this is middling. The production is simple and formulaic, with all the parts you expect to be in a ballad. The writing is alright. You can tell there’s an attempt there to write heartfelt lyrics, but again, there’s nothing here that stands out from a million other songs with the same tone and tenor.
19 – Luke Bryan – Down to One
Have you heard Luke Bryan do a love ballad? Cool, you’ve heard this song.
20 – Coi Leray ft. Lil Durk – No More Parties
I’ve read multiple descriptions of Leray’s style and most use the word “quirky” in there somewhere, which is an understatement. Lil Durk shows up with a tight verse that’s the strength of the track. The beat is kinda stop start, like there’s some ideas and pieces I quite enjoyed but then it gets cut off to allow a beat of silence and then it’s on to something else. Turns out, I’m not a big fan of Leray’s flow, especially later in the song when the auto-tune goes over board and it sounds like I’m being rapped at my Max Headroom after someone throat punched him.
21 – Sabrina Carpenter – Skin
I was hoping we were past the minimalist pop trend but not so much as the production here is scant which allows the lyrics to come to the forefront. Which it turns out are all about an increasingly public feud over some dude that she got from Olivia Rodrigo and I almost fell asleep typing that. Just like I did while listening to the track, twice.
22 – Maroon 5 ft. Megan thee Stallion – Beautiful Mistakes
It’s a Maroon 5 single. You know the formula. But! This time Adam puts a little country in his voice. It doesn’t work. And in another Maroon 5 trope, the featured artist loses all most all of their unique personality and are drug down to Levine’s bland level. I never thought I’d use the word “bland” in a review about a Megan Thee Stallion song, but Levine has managed the feat. And I am angered.
23 – Nelly and Florida Georgia Line – Lil Bit
They try to recreate the smash hit of Cruise and fail miserably. It’s a party song for the party no one threw. Talking about the track, Nelly said that it merges his hip hop style with FGL’s country style once again. But if so, it all came together in the blender and emerged a monotone mess. Despite the track’s hook, there’s nothing here to motivate one to have fun. Cruise had a hook that sounded big, one that demanded to drunken yelled out at the frat party. Lil Bit’s sequencer-backed hook feels destined to fade into the background of whatever room it’s playing in. The song never feels like it gets out of first gear and instead just putters around the neighborhood, not wanting to risk taking it over 25 mph.
24 – Thomas Rhett – What’s Your Country Song?
HE GOT A GODDAMNED TRACTOR IN THE FIRST FUCKING LINE!
My country song is not this. This is a lazy attempt to get every modern country trope into a tweet. He references many classic country songs. You know, good songs. Songs this bro will never come close to making. I said this a few months ago. If he’s not gonna bother to write an original song, i’m not gonna bother to write an original review.