Random Song Reviews – 1/3 – 1/9/2022


George Michael & Elton John – Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me (Live)

Anytime George Michael collaborated, the other party was left in the dust (the only exception being Aretha), so it’s actually invigorating to see him elevate his partner here. I’m not always a fan of Elton John’s piano-powered schmaltz, especially when the tempo is this slow, but “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me” sticks the landing, containing subdued verses and, by contrast, a chorus that grows more effective with each go-around. John, by this time an elder statesman of pop and a longtime mentor to Michael, holds his own on a song he made timeless, but of course the star here is George, who lets his adoration for this number known plainly by setting the stage ablaze. Naturally, those who were in attendance lost their minds.

Score: 8/10

Right Said Fred – I’m Too Sexy

Owing its propulsive beat to UK house (and, by extension, disco, though the song’s protagonist would scoff at that suggestion), this novelty #1 is still a lot of dumb fun decades after its peak. Previous chart-toppers from Madonna (“Vogue”) and EMF (“Unbelievable”) cleared the way, but the brothers Fairbrass took the sound to its cheeky extremes, initiating a deathless send-up of fashion culture and the catwalk. Anyone who dismisses “I’m Too Sexy” outright because of its lyrics is missing the point. The song is a joyful and funny exploration of narcissism that grows more ridiculous with each passing noun that the narrator is too sexy for. There are many songs of the era that embody the finest moments of house music’s explosion into the American mainstream (“Gonna Make You Sweat” immediately comes to mind) and there are many that go the opposite direction ( C+C Music Factory songs that are not “Gonna Make You Sweat”). “I’m Too Sexy” falls somewhere in the middle. Sure, the one-note joke was overused, and of course it was all destined for parody (or perhaps worse, an interpolation from Drake). But the single is a misunderstood example of the escape the genre provided, and still does, to the often-marginalized communities that enjoy and embody it the most.

Score: 8/10

Mr. Big – To Be With You

In the waning days of hair metal’s MTV dominance, the most notable songs were the ones that didn’t really sound like what we had come to expect from these teased-up glam rockers. “To Be With You” marks a last gasp of a group of bands that were on their way out in early 1992, as Seattle, grunge, and a movement called “alternative rock” took over the zeitgeist. This #1 hit is an acoustic-based, handclap-heavy campfire singalong that bears little resemblance to the biggest hits of Poison and their ilk. It’s definitely not “Cherry Pie” and you can’t really call it a power ballad, either. Probably the reason “To Be With You” went all the way to the top, other than the strong chorus (and, for my money, that not-entirely-earned-but-still-fun key change), is the simple fact that it didn’t sound like it came from 1989. In another part of the decade, “To Be With You” easily could have passed as a single from Blessid Union of Souls, or even a Backstreet Boys deep cut. Personally, the track isn’t sticky enough for me to leave a strong impression; though, anyone who was an avid radio listener in the early 90s likely either finds it grating or a go-to karaoke jam.

Score: 5/10

Vanessa Williams – Save the Best For Last

Vanessa Williams went all the way to #1 with this hit in the spring of 1992, which more or less erased her public image as a disgraced Miss America. In fact, because of my age I didn’t even know that story until researching her career for this review! She rebounded nicely with a successful pop and acting career, and her signature song is a generally pleasant one that has stood the test of time because of its simple, sturdy melody. Williams delivers an understated performance here (she wasn’t doing vocal somersaults like her peer Mariah), but it works for the song; the lyrics are sweet and evoke contentment rather than passion. Perhaps overall the result is a bit treacly, and the slow ballad production template of the early 90s does this number no favors, especially to my ears. There isn’t anything to give the track that extra push, like subtle flourishes in the bass line or string synths, and if Vanessa Williams wasn’t already a household name, I’m not certain this would have reached the top of the Hot 100. The song is carried by that melody, and not much else, but it’s an earworm for sure, for better or worse.

Score: 6/10


Alesso w/ Katy Perry – When I’m Gone

This is Katy Perry in her correct lane, and that lane is dance pop that packs dance floors. A decade removed from Teenage Dream, consistency is key for the veteran pop queen, so I look forward to seeing if Perry doesn’t swerve too hard from this sound.

Score: 6/10

Miranda Lambert – Y’all Means All

Lambert’s idealistic Queer Eye promo single imagines a world where the LGBTQ community is welcome in rural Texas. Those of us who have lived there know just how realistic that thought actually is, but placing my sour grapes aside, the song is nevertheless upbeat and uplifting. We can hope that one day it might be irrelevant.

Score: 8/10

Kid Ink w/ ISM – Go Mode

Kid Ink’s flow is so tired and overdone at this point I thought I was listening to a track from 2014.

Score: 5/10

Anna of the North – Shotgun

Anna Lotterud evokes a teenage memory atop a layer of wistful production that will get you feeling some type of way, whether you’re in your 30s or still have a learner’s permit.

Score: 8/10

Link+Up w/ Kamaiyah – Talkin Out

When taken as a Kamaiyah track, which it basically is, this one is enjoyable (like nearly everything she does) but nothing special.

Score: 6/10

BandoPop w/ Lil Baby – Flights

Solid hook, solid flow from Lil Baby, but it’s unremarkable otherwise

Score: 6/10

J Balvin w/ Skrillex – In Da Ghetto (TSHA Remix)

TSHA splices the vocal hook and raises the aggression in the drop from the original Skrillex production, delivering a nice update to a catchy collaboration.

Score: 6/10

Flo Rida – Wait

Like Jason Derulo without the recent hits, Flo Rida is grasping at anything to go viral. This mediocre ode horniness, sampling Please Mr. Postman and featuring some corny AF lyrics, is a slog to listen to, even with such a short run time.

Score: 4/10

SLANDER w/ if found & Danni Carra – Getting Late

This EDM single has a pretty bland chorus, so the biggest moment is the drop, which shines on first impression but eventually wears thin after a few repeats.

Score: 5/10

Joey Valence & Brae – Double Jump

I’m a sucker for beats that emulate House of Pain, B-boys that trade stanzas like Beastie Boys, and bars that rely heavily on silly similes and Super Mario references. And given the light crop of new tunes this week, the current competition doesn’t hurt either.

Score: 8/10

YUNG NATION w/ Erica Banks – Bad AF

The hook on this features vocals that sound like they’re teetering on the edge, which adds to the urgency to get hype, or violent, or whatever, the lyrics kind of washed over me.

Score: 7/10

Kamrin Houser – DIAMONDS

Semi-forgettable trap pop, but the hook is strong enough to be sticky.

Score: 6/10


Featuring heavy hyperpop production, this new track is reminiscent of the glitchier moments of glaive singles, but the chorus isn’t nearly as strong as other notable standouts from the emerging subgenre.

Score: 6/10


Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – Survivor

Rateliff and his bunch are a big draw in markets like my former home of Austin, Texas, conveying just the right blend of Southern rock / post-Black Keys chops and AAA radio-ready hooks. This type of music bores the hell out of me, frankly. The whole “rock revival” thing fell out of favor about a decade ago when The White Stripes officially called it quits, and its quality of output, primarily from white guys who wear wide brim hats and try to sound like decades-old R&B, has considerably waned since. As far as the single in question, well, it’s more of the same, with a loping midtempo beat, some white soul yelps servicing as the hook, some predictably-placed horns, and a 4-minute runtime that drags on and on.

Score: 4/10

Jaymes Young – Infinity

Seattle-based singer Jaymes Young has been slowly gaining traction within the industry; he’s toured and worked with the right people and his promo tracks have been placed in the right spots. But post-pandemic, it’s almost as if Atlantic was giving up on scoring a major hit with this guy. It looked like the marginal hype for his debut album had died down, but whether planted by his label or not, “Infinity” has been given a second life thanks to TikTok, as is the case with a lot of out-of-nowhere hits these days. Unfortunately, this now-viral track from 2017 just sounds like a more electronic, less abrasive Imagine Dragons number, a synth-based MOR vibe that merely washes over the listener and registers as immediately forgotten. Not even the uninspired “love you for infinity” chorus repeated ad nauseam can make this a pleasing earworm. Perhaps it would have sounded slightly less dated had it gained traction when it was first released, but it would have felt no less generic.

Score: 3/10

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