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song reviews

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 »

February 21, 2014

Nicki Minaj

"Lookin' Ass"

7

The first taste of Minaj’s album The Pink Print is like if TLC had punctuated "No Scrubs" with a few dozen rounds of machine-gun fire. The beat is all sumptuous minimalism, the lyrics are all vicious hate: "Bunch of non-mogul-ass niggas frontin' like they got a plan/Boost Mobile ass nigga," she blazes, and the Boost Mobile men of the world pack up their little dicks and skulk back to Mom’s basement.    | More »

Bruce Springsteen

"Highway to Hell"

8

In which Bruce and crew run through an AC/DC stone classic with revelatory results. New blood Tom Morello, veteran Nils Lofgren and Springsteen himself all take quick solos, and the Australian audience loses its mind. Never let it be said that Springsteen can't get any crowd anywhere in the world on his side within one perfect riff. | More »

Conor Oberst

"Hundreds of Ways"

7

Mr. Bright Eyes drops country signifiers all over this tune from his first record in three years: Sun Studios slap-back rhythm guitar, lap steel, allusions to Carolina rhinestones and Bakersfield cash. But he isn't aiming for outlaw mystique so much as homey Grateful Dead-like equanimity that's rooted in foggy wisdom and sidelong advice. | More »

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Song Stories

“Nightshift”

The Commodores | 1984

The year after soul legends Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson died, songwriter Dennis Lambert asked members of the Commodores to give him a tape of ideas. "And the one from Walter Orange has this wonderful bass line," said co-writer Franne Golde. "Plus the lyric, 'Marvin, he was a friend of mine' ... Within 10 minutes, we had decided it should be something like a modern R&B version of 'Rock 'n' Roll Heaven,' and I just said, 'Nightshift.'" This tribute to the recently deceased musicians was the band's only hit without Lionel Richie, who had left for a solo career.

More Song Stories entries »
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