Random Song Reviews – 2/22/-2/28/2022


Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart & Sting – All For Love

What a giant, corporate nothing of a song. Bryan Adams, riding on a comeback wave in the early 90s, recruited fellow raspy, middle-of-the-road white dude legacy pop stars Sting and Rod Stewart for this promotional vehicle for The Three Musketeers movie. What they came up with (alongside Mutt Lange) is a dreadful, plodding 5-minute ballad with a phoned in guitar solo and an unmemorable chorus. The whole thing feels and sounds like a car commercial, a product that doesn’t even bother to pretend otherwise. The song, much like the film it’s from, evaporates like an odorous fart: it’s there, it stinks, and you’ve forgotten about it immediately after it’s over. The only remaining memory, if there is one, is that it was unpleasant.

Score: 1/10

Céline Dion – The Power of Love

Céline Dion was a different type of singer. She still is, actually. She doesn’t have the melismatic acrobatics of Mariah Carey. She doesn’t have the gospel training of Whitney Houston. What Dion brought to the table in the 90s was more theatrical, more vulnerable. She crashed through her songs with sheer force, making her presence known. And it was her first #1 hit, “The Power of Love,” that made Dion a global sensation.

The most interesting thing about “The Power of Love” (which is a Jennifer Rush cover, not a Huey Lewis cover, btw) is the production. Sure, Dion delivers a powerhouse performance, but compared to what we would hear from her later in the decade, this one actually sounds more subdued. To my ears, this track is buoyed by what must have seemed like pretty dated decisions in 1994: the booming gated reverb on the drums, the sustained guitars, the tasteful synths. Compared to previous chart-topping ballads like “All For Love” and Carey’s “Hero,” both of which contain syrupy, standard early 90s arrangements, Dion’s “The Power of Love” has a pleasantly retro approach.

The Phil Collins-like drum hits work better for Dion’s vocals than a weak piano line and keyboard chimes; the song’s emotion meets her halfway. She was just getting started in the States, as we all likely know, but “The Power of Love” was a powerful introduction.

Score: 6/10

Ace of Base – The Sign

Swedish pop music is truly its own thing. Once a novel, occasional occurrence, it is now a mainstay of the American pop charts, mostly thanks to super producer Max Martin. Before a wave of Swedish monster hits, the States had flings with ABBA and Roxette, two groups that took what was hot at the time and made it sound bigger and glossier. They also had their way with the English language, putting aside writing sensible lyrics in service of a greater cause: the hook. Ace of Base, however briefly, continued that tradition, and scored a handful of huge hits in the early 90s with their club-ready blend of pop reggae beats and sticky melodies.

The biggest of these hits in the US was “The Sign,” a song about an epiphany in a romantic relationship. The track coasts like an ocean liner, effortless, weightless, luxurious. The opening flute synth line is somewhat foreboding before giving way to floating female vocals from sisters Linn and Jenny Berggren. “The Sign” is loaded with percussion, featuring kick drum sounds, hand claps, 808 hits and rhythmic keyboard plunks. Much like their other signature tune “All That She Wants” (which I would also rate a 9/10, btw), the song glides along thanks to a swaying reggae cadence and steady keyboard chords, not unlike what chart toppers UB40 and Snow were doing at the time.

I suppose I rate “The Sign” so highly for a number of reasons. I’ve heard the song incessantly since my childhood, and the hook is immortal and undeniable. It’s one of those hits that an entire generation will attest to enjoying immensely. It’s a song that stops conversations at parties and karaoke bars, a track that everyone will dance and sing along to as soon as that synth line drops and that vocal ad lib is uttered. Culturally, its influence cannot be ignored. It’s a sampling of what was to be the future of pop. With the success of “The Sign” the Swedish hit factory was open for business; Ace of Base, in a brief window, ushered in an entire generation of stars and music masterminds from their homeland, forever changing the landscape of popular music.

Score: 9/10


Foo Fighters – Love Dies Young

While other modern rock mainstays from the 90s (Green Day, Red Hot Chili Peppers) have hampered their longevity with a few creative missteps, Dave Grohl and Co. have simply been making the same song over and over for the past two decades to diminishing effect. They are nothing if not consistent – you could place any Foo Fighters single on anyone of their albums since There Is Nothing Left To Lose and it wouldn’t sound a bit out of place. This newest radio hit from their most recent album Medicine At Midnight is more of the same. So really, the listener’s opinion of the song will be based solely on how they feel about the Foo Fighters – their sound, their style, their approach. Because nothing has changed. Personally, I’ve grown pretty tired of it.

Score: 4/10

The Rare Occasions – Notion

Rhode Island indie rockers The Rare Occasions have finally scored a hit after years of workmanlike songwriting. The track in question, “Notion,” is a catchy, bouncy one, jangling along like a post-punk track from aughts darlings the Kaiser Chiefs. The drum fills here are energetic and satisfying, while the lyrics give a matter-of-fact, atheistic view of the afterlife. After a decade-plus of samey electronic-focused acts in the mainstream alternative arena (Glass Animals, Joywave, Twenty One Pilots), the song is a refreshing, oddly retro bit of fun, even if there’s nothing remotely innovative about it.

Score: 6/10

Destroyer – Eat the Wine, Drink the Bread

A fun post-disco beat is hampered by another round of inane lyrics from the eternally pompous-sounding Dan Bejar.

Score: 4/10


A solid standalone single, but it’s not nearly as earworm-y or cleverly gratuitous as any of the highlights from last year’s Dedicated 2 Disrespect.

Score: 6/10

Dehd – Bad Love

An exultant lead single from the Chicago band’s forthcoming album Blue Skies, featuring a shimmy-worthy chorus.

Score: 8/10

THICK – Love You Forever

The all-female Brooklyn band is back with a wayward rocker, an excellent follow-up to the sly “Mansplain” from 2020.

Score: 7/10

Tinashe – Naturally

Tinashe continues to make ridiculously enjoyable bangers; this one follows last year’s 333 with a loping beat and the vocalist’s usual swagger.

Score: 8/10

Vince Staples – MAGIC (feat. Mustard)

Last year’s criminally overlooked self-titled effort saw Staples getting more personal over increasingly minimal production, so this laid-back collab with the less-is-more Mustard makes sense.

Score: 7/10

Silk Sonic – Love’s Train

It seems like an eternity since the debut album (it’s only been a few months) so this surprise Valentine’s gift from Bruno and Anderson, a Con Funk Shun cover, is a welcome return, even if it’s just more of the same sexy 70s pastiche.

Score: 7/10

Death Cab For Cutie – Waiting For the Sunrise

Taken from the forthcoming Yoko Ono tribute album, “Waiting For the Sunrise” finds Death Cab melding soaring harmonies with quirky rhythms.

Score: 7/10

vein.fm – Wavery

“Wavery” is a dread-inducing sample from the band’s upcoming album, akin to a pristine Deftones deep cut.

Score: 7/10

Kurt Vile – Like Exploding Stones

The indie folk journeyman returns with 7 minutes of more of the same lackadaisical, half-sung psych. We’ve heard this before, and so the mind will drift away from the song after a while. Vile himself sounds bored, and that’s saying something.

Score: 6/10

Pink Mountaintops – Lights Of the City

Stephen McBean’s evolving project returns after 8 years with a new forthcoming album and this lead single, a glam-psych hybrid with a guitar line predestined for action movie montage greatness.

Score: 7/10

Doss – Jumpin’

A throbbing, relentless return single from Doss, who wowed me last year with “Look” and “Strawberry.” This one’s designed for peak euphoria in the nightclub.

Score: 7/10

Guerilla Toss – Famously Alive

The Boston dance punks continue their album rollout with a short but sweet, Auto-Tune soaked headbanger.

Score: 7/10

Flock of Dimes – Pure Love

With this new track Flock of Dimes have finally hit all the right spots in their unique approach to indie pop.

Score: 7/10

Troye Sivan & Jay Som – Trouble

With help from the underrated Jay Som, Sivan returns to his melodic glory days, delivering a song as good as anything on the compelling Bloom.

Score: 7/10

4s4ki, gu^2 – Punish

Japanese hyperpop artist 4s4ki reveals multiple layers of their approach on this song, featuring a drum’n’bass breakdown that follows a sweet, crooning verse.

Score: 6/10

Tame Impala – The Boat I Row

A new one-off track from the recently dropped The Slow Rush B-sides compilation, a by-the-numbers Tame Impala arrangement that Kevin Parker could write in his sleep.

Score: 5/10

Kid Cudi – Want It Bad (feat. Nigo)

Cudi’s latest drop is pretty mid, not gonna lie; an incessant beat guides the rapper along toward a typical play at the Top 40 with an unmemorable chorus.

Score: 5/10

Jack Harlow – Nail Tech

Harlow’s cocky flow has always been appealing, but the hook here just isn’t as strong as previous singles.

Score: 6/10

SEBii – stfu… ur done

A playful hyperpop kiss-off with a fun mix of gibberish and pulsating, fist-pumping percussion.

Score: 6/10

Shenseea w/ 21 Savage – R U That

Fresh off her collab with Megan Thee Stallion, Shenseea drops another bop. Bonus points for throwing the best ad-libber doing it right now, 21 Savage, on the track. This shit goes hard.

Score: 8/10

Nilufer Yanya – anotherlife

Another enticing sample from the art pop artist’s new album Painless, “anotherlife” shimmers with an oscillating beat and ethereal production.

Score: 7/10

Fontaines D.C. – I Love You

“I Love You” is an overlong, moody endeavor from the Irish post-punk rockers that isn’t nearly as interesting as the band clearly thinks it is. If this serves as the centerpiece for their new album, that spells trouble.

Score: 5/10

93FEETOFSMOKE – FUCKED OVER (feat. phem & Tosh the Drummer)

This was a standout when I was perusing the latest wave of pop-punk revival tracks a few days ago, but over time the sweet-as-candy hook and trap beat drops started giving me a toothache.

Score: 5/10

gabby start – rock music

The first track from Chicago artist gabby start’s new EP luca is an accessible, emotive, glitchy journey into where an Extremely Online subgenre like hyperpop could be headed for increased exposure.

Score: 7/10

Caroline Polacheck & Oneohtrix Point Never – Long Road Home

Polachek and Daniel Lopatin join forces for this gorgeous left-field arrangement that undulates in all the right moments.

Score: 8/10

Bad Boy Chiller Crew – Stick Around

A highlight from Disrespectful finds the Crew dropping the 90s club and hip house aesthetics for piano-heavy, trap pop, and it works ridiculously well.

Score: 8/10

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