Random Song Reviews – 1/11-1/17/2022


Kris Kross – Jump

At age 5, I wasn’t exactly following current trends and hearing the hottest new Top 40 hits in 1992; it would be a few years before I started searching for new sounds beyond my mom’s favorite country radio station. By then, the gangsta rap movement had peaked, and also-rans like Coolio were having their moments in the sun.

So I can only imagine what it must have been like to see Kris Kross on TV for the first time, mean mugging on In Living Color, spitting instantly iconic bars about how these two adolescent kids were gonna make you jump jump. Mac Daddy and Daddy Mac had the right sound at just the right time, crafting a perfect capital-R Rap song that echoed the current, exciting vibe of hip-hop at the time. The duo (and producer Jermaine Dupri, then just a teen himself) were knowingly nodding to more grown-up contemporaries like Ice Cube and EPMD and giving their tougher style a kid-friendly sheen.

No one was more in tune with the changing landscape of hip-hop than kids (something that is still true), and “Jump” was directly targeted to that precise demo. There was no way it would fail. But unlike other major rap hits before it, “Jump” wasn’t a melody-heavy pop/rap hybrid and it wasn’t delivered by a handsome white guy. Certainly Kris Kross were only a flash in the pan, but in terms of pop crossover, their biggest hit opened a lot of doors.

When “Jump” finally hopped on my radar, it was a nostalgic gem for people slightly older than me. I knew nothing about the specifics of Jermaine Dupri’s sample-heavy beat, the hilarious fashion fad the duo inspired, or the true meaning of those opening lines, which are a diss against the rival kid-rap crew Another Bad Creation. All I knew was that the song fucking SLAPPED. Hip-hop has changed quite a bit in 30 years, but “Jump” has a youthful quality to it that has aged very well. To my ears, it sounds timeless.

Score: 10/10

Mariah Carey w/ Trey Lorenz – I’ll Be There (Jackson 5 Cover)

I was today years old when I found out that, of all of Mariah Carey’s 19 (!) chart toppers, this is the only one she didn’t help write. Released as a single to promote her MTV Unplugged special and subsequent EP, Carey’s version of the Jackson 5 classic is… well, it’s Mariah Carey singing “I’ll Be There.” Backup singer Trey Lorenz holds his own here, taking the Jermaine parts, but he never upstages Carey’s melismatic, commanding vocals. By this time, the public knew what Mariah was capable of, but she mostly maintains a bit of restraint here (especially compared to her other hits, where she was doing somersaults with her voice). At times, she even sounds almost identical to a young Michael. I would like to say that Carey, who rarely dabbled in covers, made “I’ll Be There” her own, or that her Unplugged backup band gave the song a fresh approach, but this is just a by-the-numbers rendition of a beautiful, enduring song. No more, no less.

Score: 7/10


Let’s Eat Grandma – Happy New Year

UK synthpop duo Let’s Eat Grandma have hit gold here, with an audibly optimistic ode to the new year, fireworks and all.

Score: 8/10

Widowspeak – Everything Is Simple

This new track from the Brooklyn indie rockers is incredibly contemplative and extremely pleasant.

Score: 8/10

Father John Misty – Funny Girl

Josh Tillman’s long-awaited return kicks off with this new single, an ode to an unnamed comedian FJM is infatuated with. Sonically, there’s nothing new here from Tillman, who continues his lifelong quest to add to the Great American Songbook by sounding exactly like music from it.

Score: 7/10

Vein.fm – The Killing Womb

So it’s come to this. Blisteringly loud and horrific nu-metalcore. Absolutely brutal. This isn’t usually something that appeals to me, but I couldn’t resist this one. The 2020s will be a fun decade for people who like loud music.

Score: 9/10

alt-J – Hard Drive Gold

This new one will make you shimmy or tap your toe, as its definitely more in the vein of “Left Hand Free” than the noodly “Breezeblocks.” That’s a good thing, overall, even if the song is a bit try-hard for alternative radio play.

Score: 6/10

Young Guv – It’s Only Dancin’

I mostly have enjoyed Young Guv’s jangly approach to power pop, even if the results are more derivative than interesting. This new upbeat track continues that trend.

Score: 6/10

Sondre Lerche – Cut

Norwegian art pop craftsman Sondre Lerche has built a memorable melody here, with a clever usage of the title in the lyrics as a deadpan direction to the music behind him.

Score: 6/10


With a militant beat to carry the verses, and a hummable hook throughout, SASAMI continues to weave digicore elements into her undeniably infectious indie pop.

Score: 8/10

The Smile – You Will Never Work In Television Again

This supergroup featuring Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood (and Sons of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner) have dropped their first single, and it’s the most energetic Radiohead song since “The National Anthem.”

Score: 8/10

Gang of Youths – In the Wake Of Your Leave

So far, this new batch of songs from the new album has me very, very pleased. David Le’aupepe’s vocals, in particular, sound increasingly purposeful and anthemic. Gang of Youths don’t switch things up here much, but as usual, the overall result is very pretty and worthy of adding to your commute playlist.

Score: 8/10

2 Chainz – Million Dollars Worth of Game (feat. 42 Dugg)

2 Chainz’s typically muscular delivery pairs well with Dugg’s raspy, casual approach, and alongside a memorable high-pitched hook, they bounce off each other charismatically.

Score: 7/10

Gupi & Jenova – supernova

Hyperpop has gone in many interesting directions in the past several months, but one tangent I’ve especially enjoyed is the progression of manic instrumentals that borrow from club music and artists like Slushii. Gupi has been at the forefront of this sound, especially with his excellent track from last year “what’s known now”, and he continues that momentum here.

Score: 7/10

Sage the Gemini – Numero Uno

There’s nothing special about what Sage does, from his basic flows to his standard trap beats. Especially in 2022, this sound is played out. But there’s something about this one. I think the hook is strong, and Sage’s baritone coasts well over the bass thumps. For whatever reason, “Numero Uno” is his strongest single since “Red Nose,” which is still a bop.

Score: 7/10

Royal & The Serpent – PHUCKBOI REJECTS

As an older millennial, the whole pop-punk revival has been equal parts exciting and underwhelming. I’ve certainly enjoyed the mix of familiar sounds of my youth with contemporary pop and trap elements. But maybe it’s because of age, or whatever, but obviously the lyrics this time around don’t really appeal to me.

Score: 5/10


The “Thot!” rapper (and now TikTok star) hops around stuttering hi-hats and a violin-based melody hook and fills the three-and-a-half minutes with unrelenting energy. So why, halfway thru, do I get so tired of it?

Score: 5/10

Rezz – Menace

Rezz is a new discovery for me (I recently enjoyed their song with Metric, “Paper Walls”). The deep melodic bass hits on this one are deeply satisfying, if detrimental to my eardums. I just wish the rest of the song didn’t sound as meandering.

Score: 7/10

Leikeli47 – Chitty Bang

A very fun new one from this Brooklyn rapper, featuring an aggressive beat, a chopped up vocal sample, and some braggadocious bars and trilling “r”s throughout.

Score: 8/10

Waxahatchee – Up In the Sky

This one from Katie Crutchfield is featured on the new Apple+ series El Deafo, and frankly it feels like an afterthought.

Score: 4/10

rouri404 & Vaeo – ed hardy

*Stefon voice* rouri404’s new song has everything – AutoTune, in the red beats, random screamo ad-libs, rhyming “bodybag” with “Prada bag.” Ok but seriously, when the beat drops, this one goes from exciting to pure chaos in about half a second. And that slowed down outro? Marvelous. I love the mess that is hyperpop.

Score: 9/10

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Black Hot Soup (DJ Shadow “My Own Reality” Re-Write)

Adding trance-like passages and turntable scratches, the ever-impressive DJ Shadow transforms a track from psych lords King Gizzard into something resembling a cross between peak Chemical Brothers and one of those instrumentals on early Linkin Park albums. I approve.

Score: 8/10

torr – selfdestruct

Definitely leaning into the “pop” side of hyperpop, and certainly more accessible than some of the other stuff on the genre’s Spotify playlist. This is the type of approach that will push the sound forward into Billboard and ad placement territory this year.

Score: 8/10

Top Ten of the Week


The Cast of Encanto – We Don’t Talk About Bruno

I’m going into this one completely blind, having never seen the new acclaimed film Encanto and not having any background of the character “Bruno” or how this song plays into the storyline. What I do know is that the song has the distinction of being only the fifth from a Disney animated feature to land in the Top 5 of the Billboard Hot 100 (after “A Whole New World,” “Can You Feel The Love Tonight,” “Colors Of The Wind,” and “Let It Go”). The track, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, is a sold piece of catchy Latin pop, reminiscent of Y2K era hits like Marc Anthony’s “I Need To Know.” Understandably, in an audio-only context it seems a bit all over the place (and the vocals are, of course, theatrical) but taken for what it is, it makes sense this would tally up streaming numbers from families who have recently enjoyed the movie together over the holidays.

Score: 6/10

Dua Lipa w/ Elton John – Cold Heart (PNAU Remix)

It only makes sense Dua Lipa would enlist Elton John on a song that lifts the chorus from “Rocketman” for its primary hook. For his part, John steals the show – his vocal delivery has aged gracefully, while Lipa plays second fiddle here. Of all the versions of this track, the PNAU remix is easily the most radio-friendly, with a tamer presentation and a slower BPM than previous incarnations, and one more suitable for a chill day at the beach than a night of raging at the club. The production might initially render it a big nothing of a song, but repeat listens are pretty rewarding, and the track grew on me quite a bit.

Score: 7/10

Kodak Black – Super Gremlin

A standout track from Sniper Gang’s recent Halloween-themed mixtape; Kodak Black returns to virality with a very strong melodic hook sung by a chorus of children that is equal parts contemplative and creepy. Black has been in and out of legal trouble for a few years now, so “Super Gremlin” is actually his first big hit in quite a while, at least by standards for high-profile rappers. Black’s verses discuss a strained friendship and sound semi-autobiographical, but his flow is unremarkable until the chorus kicks back in. The song evokes an eerie vibe, and the accompanying music video is appropriately macabre, but it doesn’t pack enough of a punch to put Kodak back on top.

Score: 5/10

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