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song reviews

Frank Ocean, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Diplo

"Hero"

7

The cross-generational collaboration – part of a Converse ad campaign – throws Clash vets Simonon and Jones together with omnidirectional beatmaker Diplo and R&B rebel Ocean. It's every bit the punky hip-hop party you'd expect, with spacey dub energy and a children's choir adding uplift. How about an EP, guys? | More »

Big Boi

"Mother of Dragons"

4

Big Boi goes full Game of Thrones fanboy on the HBO-helmed Catch the Throne mixtape, with references to Khaleesi, White Walkers and the Lannisters in 22 bars. There's some dragon-size bass, but Sir Luscious Left Foot's wordplay feels more like live-action role-playing in a 25-minute ad. | More »

Tame Impala

"Stranger in Moscow"

4

 You might expect these Aussie acidheads to turn a Michael Jackson cover into a trippy rock fantasia. Instead, it's an oddly faithful rendition of MJ's chill trip-hop groove – the kind of pleasant karaoke jam you forget by the next morning. | More »

Boots

"Howl"

Producer Jordy Asher (a.k.a. Boots) got the divine stamp of approval with his work on Beyoncé. The beat on this solo release – a symphony of wobbling synths, layered moans and crosscutting rhythm crack – is another fly résumé-builder. Asher, a recovering indie-pop singer, doesn't quite have the vocal thrust it demands. But that's what gods are for.   | More »

Lily Allen

"Our Time"

6

The handful of tracks that Allen has released off her upcoming Sheezus so far have set online comment sections ablaze with accusations of racism, sexism and general tastelessness. This swaying girls-night anthem should take some of the heat off: There's no cheeky social commentary, just sweet, hooky synth pop.   | More »

March 7, 2014

Coldplay

"Magic"

6

Coldplay's new single skates close to the wintry post-dubstep soulfulness coursing through much of U.K. pop these days: A skeletal beat carries the weight before the guitars kick in and Chris Martin goes from mushmouth croon to cathartic woowoo. They've released another song, "Midnight," where they go all-in with the Eeyore EDM, and their new album (due out in May) is called Ghost Stories. Sadplay, anyone? | More »

Pitbull feat. G.R.L.

"Wild Wild Love"

5

This Dr. Luke-produced cut continues Pitbull's chart-domination campaign, complete with hooks sung by a girl group newer than some of the food in your freezer. When the Miami MC shouts 'em out at the end ("G.R.L./What better than five beautiful women?"), even he doesn't sound entirely sure who they are. | More »

Ray LaMontagne

"Supernova"

7

Nice-guy singer-songwriter LaMontagne cut his new LP with the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, who laces this prim folk-pop come-on with psych-bubblegum guitars and Morse-code keyboard bleats. Auerbach's production turns an upbeat tune into something surprisingly rich without getting in the way of LaMontagne's easeful voice. | More »

Kendrick Lamar

"M.A.A.D City (James Blake Harmonimix)"

7

Electro-mope maestro Blake tacks a Madchester keyboard melody onto Kendrick's tense 2012 cut and folds stuttering drums in and out; suddenly lyrics such as "seem like the whole city go against me" sound like the kind of paranoia you get after too much molly. | More »

Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj and Tyga

"Senile"

8

This track from Young Money compilation Rise of an Empire is imperious indeed – Minaj brags, "All these rappers is my sons, and I'm always nine months," and Weezy tells us he can "make a lion say, 'Meow.'" Yet it's D.A. Doman's slippery, spooky beat that steals the show, running up your spine with a hot weirdness that can even make Tyga's placeholder rhymes seem like a loopy revelation. | More »

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Song Stories

“Road to Nowhere”

Talking Heads | 1985

A cappella harmonies give way to an a fuller arrangement blending pop and electro-disco on "Road to Nowhere," but the theme remains constant: We're on an eternal journey to an undefined destination. The song vaulted back into the news a quarter century after it was a hit when Gov. Charlie Crist used it in his unsuccessful 2010 campaign for the U.S. Senate in Florida. "It's this little ditty about how there's no order and no plan and no scheme to life and death and it doesn't mean anything, but it's all right," Byrne said with a chuckle.

More Song Stories entries »
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