Random Song Reviews – 2/8-2/14/2022


SWV – Weak

When we talk about 90s female R&B groups, the go-to is TLC, but I seem to remember SWV were also a pretty big deal. And so I looked it up, and I remembered correctly – they are one of the best-selling girl groups of all time, with over 25 million records sold. And nothing sold better than their #1 smash “Weak.”

Really SWV were just riding a wave – the early 90s were all about R&B, thanks to a subtle update in style from none other than Mariah Carey. The soulful balladry of Whitney Houston was out – the smoothed-out Philly soul and tinge of hip-hop and New Jack Swing was in. And so groups like Boyz II Men, Jodeci, Silk, En Vogue, and, yes, SWV were taking over MTV and your mom’s favorite radio station. The music was in fashion, but unlike its cousin hip-hop, it was relatively safe.

When SWV’s sound became more beat-focused (“You’re The One,” “I’m So Into You,” and the Michael Jackson-sampling “Right Here”), the results were superior, but at this particular moment, they were in the right place with a song like “Weak.” The single is typical of R&B of 1993, with a keyboard chime opener, finger-snapping, solid harmonies from all three members, and just a touch of necessary vamping at the end. The chorus is sticky, particularly the final pause and stanza (“I can’t explain why your love, it makes me weeeeeak”).

SWV had their moment, and they capitalized. The weakest (pardon the pun) of their most memorable singles is the one that got them to the top, but it’s still a decent jam.

Score: 7/10

UB40 – (I Can’t Help) Falling In Love With You

I’m not a big Elvis fan, overall. I appreciate the legacy, but more often than not I’ve found Presley’s voice to be more hiccuping and humorous than beautiful. “Can’t Help Falling In Love” is an exception. When I hear Presley’s version, I see my gorgeous wife walking down the aisle a little too quickly in her beautiful white dress. I was in tears. It’s a moment I will treasure forever.

UB40’s version is a different story. My wife is a giant Elvis fan, but I’ve never asked her what she thinks of the pop-reggae cover that is just as popular as the rendition the King released. She likely doesn’t like it as much. Not for the reasons I don’t; she probably just thinks Elvis does a better job and sings better. She would be correct.

Ok, UPDATE: I just texted my wife and her response is that it sounds like a “Sandals Resort commercial… it’s kitschy and just ew…” and the audio equivalent of a watered-down pina colada. I love this girl, I think she just wrote my review for me.

So never mind, I guess she abhors it for the same reasons I do, after all. UB40’s cover sounds commercial and cynical. It’s an opportunistic stab at an oldie for continued chart relevance; the canned drum machine and overdone horn stabs add to the stale presentation. It’s a reggae pastiche from a reggae cover band whose breakthrough hit was a stroke of pure luck, an unremarkable version of Neil Diamond’s “Red Red Wine” that gained traction after a rogue DJ started playing it on a whim. From that point, UB40’s whole schtick was breezy reggae covers of soul and oldies classics. Their second #1 hit is actually worse; it only gets points from me because it’s actually, in its purest form, a transcendent, romantic, almost dreamy song.

It’s admittedly hard to do an A+ Elvis song justice. But apparently it’s not hard to completely butcher the thing either. Ask my wifey, she knows what’s up.

Score: 3/10

Mariah Carey – Dreamlover

“Dreamlover” has all the makings of a touchstone Mariah Carey song. The hip-hop swagger, the superhuman falsettos (those show up about five seconds in), a sticky-like-glue “do-do-do” refrain, and a dreamy (pun intended) vocal delivery that confidently soars to the heavens. This was the beginning of the Carey we know and adore; while her first two albums conjured big hits, they were all either ballads or a light flirt into trendy house music. Carey’s legacy is that, with her superstar voice, she guided R&B into a hip-hop adjacent period of stratospheric success. “Dreamlover,” arguably, was the beginning of that.

It’s a shame that Music Box, the album that “Dreamlover” came from, doesn’t have more examples of this sound. Tommy Mottola and the record label machine that was controlling Carey’s career wanted her to stay in the lane of balladry, and the majority of her songs in this period go in that direction. Not that Carey couldn’t sing ballads; obviously she could, and can. But she absolutely shines in “Dreamlover,” and the simple fact that the song is a banger doesn’t hurt.

The sampled percussion hits hard on the track, and a Hammond organ adds a nice flavor to the celestial atmosphere; it’s a nice pairing to Carey’s carefree croon. The lyrics speak of a yearning for someone to take her away; it doesn’t really go into details about the person, but rather the focus is the feeling they can provide. The backup multi-tracked vocals on the chorus move the train along, allowing Carey to vamp all over the song in the foreground, which is what we all came for, anyway. The song isn’t the most obvious showcase for Carey’s voice, but she manages to get a few key moments in, regardless.

“Dreamlover” was a huge hit, which wasn’t a surprise. The most exciting thing about it is what it gradually revealed about Mariah Carey’s sound, and the sound of 90s R&B in general. As the decade progressed, this rap-flavored aesthetic would become the norm, and all those ballads would become side dishes, rather than the main course.

Score: 8/10


Hater – Something

A gorgeous, jangly, almost trip-hop track from this Swedish indie rock group I’ve never heard of before this week.

Score: 8/10

Petter Eldh + Koma Saxo – Koma Kaprifol

RateYourMusic describes both of these artists as avant-jazz, but this new track is guided by a very satisfying hip-hop cadence.

Score: 7/10

The Range – Bicameral

A rewarding, beatific new single from the Rhode Island-based producer, who we haven’t heard from in a long time.

Score: 8/10

Twen – Bore U

Twen return with a swaying, bouncy track featuring Jane Fitzsimmons’ drawling vocal delivery.

Score: 7/10

My Idea – Cry Mfer

This just feels like a spring day, windows rolled down, arms outstretched, fingers blowing through the wind. That last sentence is a bit broad and also a tinge dramatic, but just listen to the song, you’ll see what I mean.

Score: 8/10

Arlo Parks – Softly

After the acclaimed Collapsed In Sunbeams, the London artist returns with a blissful slice of indie pop.

Score: 8/10

Kamasi Washington – The Garden Path

The jazz fusion artist sends us to new planets with this brass-heavy, percussion-crazy new song.

Score: 7/10

Lucy Dacus – Kissing Lessons

Dacus’ storytelling is as vivid as ever on this new upbeat song.

Score: 7/10

illuminati hotties – Sandwich Sharer

The slow verses build gradually, repeatedly, to a bouncy, clever refrain typical of past releases from the group.

Score: 7/10

Flume w/ MAY-A – Say Nothing

A Latin rhythm provides the backbone to this nondescript track that contains none of the interesting flourishes from Flume’s older work.

Score: 6/10

Mallrat – Your Love

The Australian pop singer continues to get better and better. This song does so much with such a standard hook. The hip-hop outro on this seems like it would be out of place, but it only adds to the excellent vibe.

Score: 9/10

SASAMI – Call Me Home

A decidedly more low-key, pensive track from the upcoming album from SASAMI, whose previous singles have had a more foreboding, almost industrial sheen.

Score: 6/10

Koffee – Pull Up

What a stupid fun song from the dancehall artist, whose forthcoming project Gifted just jumped to the top of my most-anticipated albums for the year.

Score: 9/10

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Black Summer

Forever preserved in stale amber, the Chili Peppers may have their old guitarist back, but it does nothing to progress their sound, other than Anthony Kiedis’ unfortunate new Scottish-pirate inflection.

Score: 3/10

$NOT w/ A$AP Rocky – Doja

This song gets me hype, even though I know it’s not really that good. Chalk it up to the “fuck that! fuck you!” chants.

Score: 6/10

Megan Thee Stallion – Flamin’ Hottie

This product placement cash-in for the Super Bowl is as stale as old Cheetos. Would rather have had the real thing (i.e. Salt N Pepa).

Score: 3/10

King Von w/ 21 Savage – Don’t Play That

Production is mid, hook is too repetitive. Bars are unmemorable. 21’s verse saves the song from being merely mediocre.

Score: 6/10

Metz – Demolition Row

Slightly less noisy and propulsive, but just as eerie as their older stuff. This one has more a creep than an immediate bang.

Score: 6/10

Machine Gun Kelly w/ WILLOW – Emo Girl

A star-studded collab, but after the hype dies down, there really isn’t much to the song, unless you just want a Blink 182 outtake. The chorus is so bad it’s kind of funny, frankly.

Score: 5/10

Kavinsky – Zenith

An underwhelming new song from the French producer that contains none of the mystique of their best work, including the immortal “Night Call.”

Score: 5/10

Rosalia – SAOKO

Rosalia continues to re-invent her style, as on this new monster of a dance track.

Score: 9/10

Nicki Minaj w/ Lil Baby – Do We Have A Problem?

Nicki does her best to bring the usual tough aesthetics, and Baby’s verse is adequate, but over this beat, it all underwhelms.

Score: 4/10

Liam Gallagher – Everything’s Electric

Liam goes hard here, back on his late-era Oasis bullshit. I’m digging it.

Score: 7/10

Luna Li w/ beabadoobee – Silver Into Rain

A spacey new pop track that bears slight resemblance to something Melody’s Echo Chamber would conjure up with ease.

Score: 7/10

Tai’Aysha w/ Saweetie – One Night Ting

A catchy, casual sendup to hookups featuring a super-fun verse from Saweetie.

Score: 7/10

Yung Gravy w/ Dillon Francis & T-Pain – Hot Tub

This song is dumb as shit, as was predicted. But it’s also a lot of fun, which was also expected. And T-Pain makes everything better. You can actually drown in a hot tub, though. Be safe out there, kids.

Score: 6/10

Juice WRLD – Cigarettes

A posthumous track worthy of release, which is more than can be said for a lot of Juice’s peers’ output after dying young (XXXTentacion comes to mind).

Score: 6/10

Goth Babe – Running Around

Pure vibes. There isn’t anything special about this one, but it just puts me in a frame of mind I like to be in. Something about this hazy-synth, indie dance shit, I don’t get enough of it.

Score: 7/10

Arizona Zervas – BAND$

Admittedly I was intrigued by the band name puns idea (including a Green Day reference) but the gimmick wears thin pretty quick (and some of the shoutouts are pretty clumsy), and the hook isn’t strong enough to prop it up.

Score: 4/10

Kyle Dion w/ Tkay Maidza – HAZY

Maidza’s vocals sit pleasantly alongside acoustic guitar and a sturdy chorus. Dion, for his part, sounds great too, if a little grating with the over-enunciation.

Score: 7/10

4s4ki – Oh GOD!!

A nice, effervescent piece of J-hyperpop with a surprising key change near the end.

Score: 6/10

Musa – hey i’m in texas, do u wanna hang/talk?

I love it when people online are like, “hey I’m in texas too, we should hang!” when it’s like, dude, this state is 12 hours wide. If you’re in Houston and I’m in El Paso, we’re never gonna hang out. Anyway, this is a pretty standard hyperpop track, replicating the style of more accessible glaive tracks without a strong enough hook.

Score: 6/10

monty.pk – prism

This hyperpop track, however, is way more interesting, featuring impeccably layered elements around clipped, glitchy vocals and an instrumental break that brings out the most cathartic characteristics of the subgenre.

Score: 8/10

Charlotte Adigery – ceci n’est pas un cliche

A strutting bass line and finger snaps lead the track along to a simply satisfying dance break and Chic-esque “Cold as ice!” exclamation.

Score: 8/10

Andy Morin & backxwash – Dig Yourself a Grave

The industrial trap producer and the experimental rapper combine for a pairing that sounds better on paper, I guess, because this should have been a lot better.

Score: 6/10

Yung Kayo – who you gon call

As of this writing, I haven’t heard all of DFTK yet, but this melodic trap banger (and acclaim the album has received elsewhere) gives me high expectations.

Score: 8/10

yeule – Bites On My Neck

The best song on Glitch Princess is a celestial blend of noise and art with a hook that stands out more than anything on the otherwise banal album.

Score: 8/10

Saba – One Way Or Every N**** With a Budget

The opener to the great new album Few Good Things sets the tone with a smooth, memorable melody giving support to Saba’s contemplation on Black success.

Score: 8/10

Hikaru Utada – Somewhere Near Marseilles

Utada’s collab with Floating Points is 12 minutes of club-ready rapturous bliss.

Score: 8/10

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