‘Best Songs Ever’ features various contributors to The Spinoff Music assessing recent songs and singles.
SONG OF THE WEEK
Stefflon Don – ‘Real Ting’
Having first come to international attention after guesting on Jeremih’s Late Nights: Europe track ‘London’, the Dutch-raised British rapper has been blowing up recently. This, the title track of her debut mixtape, finds a sweet spot between dancehall queen slackness and the icy braggadocio of Lil’ Kim. Producer Rymez provides her with ominous swagger, DJ Khaled pops his head in for a cameo, and she makes shopworn tropes fresh – “We ain’t even fucked, all he did was ate the box / Nothing ain’t changed but the diamonds in the watch / And the marbles on my foot got me dancing in my socks.” – Stevie Kaye
Ariel Pink & Weyes Blood – ‘Tears on Fire’
Lo-fi pop legend Ariel Pink teams up with vocalist Weyes Blood for a 6/8 ballad that veers quite violently into full-blown prog rock (not unknown territory for genre-hopper Ariel – check out ‘Netherlands’ from the ultra-grainy House Arrest album.) Production-wise this is in that ambiguous “mid-fi” space of his most recent project, pom pom – it’s quite a few notches above his bedroom (bathroom?) recorded stuff, but still a far cry from what we’d expect from even an indie rock album. Weyes Blood provides some angelic harmonies (we need more boy/girl harmonies in this world) particularly on the bridge which switches up time signatures for maximum impact– goddamn is this a good bridge. Looks like this is just the teaser to an album-length project, so mark me down as excited; if Weyes Blood can reign in Ariel’s kookiness and balance him out, it could be a pop highlight of the year. – Mitchell Houlbrooke
Vybz Kartel – ‘Pretty Little House’
As he enters the fifth of what is supposed to be a 35-year sentence for the 2011 murder of Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams, Vybz Kartel remains as prolific and potent as ever. While denying in a recent interview that he’s recording in prison – he claims to be slowly burning through a giant cache of tracks from prior to his arrest – the thin, dusty vocal sound of ‘Pretty Little House’ certainly sounds like it was laid down in a sub-optimal booth. But melodically it’s a monster, taking a simple harpsichord rhythm and spinning a joyously off-brand story of a Kartel finally ready to settle down in the titular pretty little house. It shows, yet again, that despite his entering his forties and being in one of the world’s most challenging artistic environments, Kartel remains as ferociously talented a figure as exists in global pop music. – Duncan Greive
Dua Lipa – ‘Thinking ‘Bout You’
With its simple guitar riff, sparse finger clicks, and fairly well-trod lyrics about smoking weed ‘cos you’re sad, there isn’t too much new going on here. But Dua Lipa’s desperate vocals, paired with the tremendously eerie production that sneaks into the mix for the chorus, give this a haunting, addictive quality. The perfect soundtrack for smoking some weed ‘cos you’re sad. – Joseph Moore
Yasutaka Nakata – ‘Crazy Crazy (ft. Charli XCX and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu)’
As the producer behind Capsule, Perfume, and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, Yasutaka Nakata may be the single biggest contributor to what the world knows as J-pop since Yellow Magic Orchestra’s Ryuichi Sakamoto. This characteristically manic single pairs up the disturbingly doll-like Kyary Pamyu Pamyu with British vocalist Charli XCX (who is less tied to commercial pop than what you might think – her EP with PC Music’s Sophie didn’t get much radio play last year, for very good reason). Those trademark dense electric piano chords are all over the place here, leading to an effervescent chorus that blends the two voices in just the right way. Still, Nakata’s songwriting and production in recent years has become increasingly formulaic, and this song doesn’t really stray from that trend. But if you’re not overly-familiar with J-pop, and you can stomach the diabetes-levels of sugar here, you may just love this song to bits. – MH
Trina – ‘Damn (feat Tory Lanez)’
‘Damn’ has strings and horns which flow in that same layered, buttery style those early Kanye productions did, only with harder drums. It’s a very different context for Trina, but she really suits it, bringing out a softer, more romantic side to her which recalls her excellent ‘Single Again’ from 2008. Like that song, ‘Damn’ is sung-rapped, only this time it’s a duet with the excellent and surging Toronto singer Tory Lanez. Both of them are in awe of Trina’s ass: ‘what the fuck you got up in them jeans girl… jumping up and down just to fit it in your jeans girl’ it goes, and that’s basically the whole song right there. And sometimes, like this time, that’s more than enough. – DG
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The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.