I’m thinking of making this a monthly series wherein I look back at the month in music and choose my 10 favorite singles. First up is the latest month in an exceptional year for music: July. I wound up with upwards of 20 songs to choose from for this list, but after making some sacrifices (I had to choose one Drake song, can you imagine?), I was able to cut it down to a top ten. Keep in mind, all these songs are singles (I’m pretty sure). So I couldn’t just choose any old song from an album that came out this month. Anyway, let’s begin.
10. COOL FOR THE SUMMER – Demi Lovato
We kick off our list with the latest single from former Disney Channel star Demi Lovato. On the surface, it seems like a typical Demi Lovato song, which is to say it sounds like any female-driven pop ballad to come out in the past twenty years, but this isn’t your grandmother’s Demi Lovato song. This time, it’s lesbians. That’s… about it, but it’s something I suppose. I should clarify that it’s also above average for a Lovato song. While the chorus is a bit too reminiscent of “Domino” by Jessie J, it works on a much deeper level than, say, “Give Your Heart a Break”. It’s fun, it’s slightly bolder than a typical pop song, and it’s unique enough to work.
9. FINNA GET LOOSE – Puff Daddy and the Family
That’s right, hip hop icon Puff Daddy/P. Diddy/Diddy/Diddy Dirty Money/$wag/Diddy/Puff Daddy is back, and as the title suggests, he’s finna get loose. But as with most Puff Daddy songs, its strengths have nothing to do with Puff Daddy. The highlight of this track in particular is a masterful beat by Pharrell Williams, who also provides the chorus. Puffy’s “family” (Cassie, Janelle Monae, Machine Gun Kelly, and French Montana) don’t show up very much on this track, but it would certainly be interesting to see Puff spit his asinine raps over more classic Pharrell beats.
8. DRAG ME DOWN – One Direction
There was a lot of speculation around whether or not One Direction would be able to survive in this cruel post-Zayn hellscape, and we finally got our answer when they released a surprise single, “Drag Me Down”, in the twilight days of July 2015. While the song is a creative step backward relative to 1D’s last album, it’s still a surprisingly good pop song. It’s a lot more satisfying to listen to than, say, “Story of My Life”, and the production is a lot more polished. Not the best 1D song, but far from the worst.
7. FREEDOM! – Pharrell Williams
It’s been a big year for Pharrell. In addition to being awarded a Fashion Icon Award, appearing on high-profile records from Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, Puff Daddy, Tyler the Creator, and Jamie Foxx, doing the soundtrack for Spongebob 2, and signing to Apple Music, Williams has an epic new single that’s slowly working its way up the charts: the bouncy, inspirational “Freedom!”. It carries a similar vibe to his work on the Despicable Me movies, as well as his last album GIRL, but I wouldn’t say that’s a bad thing. It’s a really fun song; it puts you in a good mood. Is it this year’s answer to “Happy”? God, I hope not.
6. YESTERDAY – Black Eyed Peas
The Black Eyed Peas are one of the most maligned groups in the history of music. After years of churning out repetitive garbage just because they could, they finally called it quits in 2012. Or so we thought. It turns out, the Peas have gotten back together (sans Fergie), and have partnered with Apple Music to work on an exclusive 20th anniversary album titled “Origins”. The first single from said album, “Yesterday” dropped this past month, and as much as it pains me to say it, it’s pretty good. It’s not revolutionary or anything, but it’s much better than what we’re used to from these guys. Maybe Fergie was the problem. Maybe they’re lulling us into a false sense of security. Maybe I just want to think it’s good and it actually sucks. Whatever.
5. MEOWRLY – Run the Jewels
Last year, El-P promised that if someone bought a $40,000 deluxe edition of his and Killer Mike’s acclaimed album Run the Jewels 2, he would recreate the whole album using cat noises. One successful Kickstarter campaign later, here we are. Not only is it a great song and a great meme, it’s actually super impressive that El-P and BOOTS were able to follow through and put this together. Don’t you just love the internet?
4. CHARGED UP – Drake
I’m sure you’ve all heard about this by now, but I’ve got a paragraph to fill, so: Meek Mill put out a series of tweets in which he claimed that Quentin Miller and several other artists were ghostwriting Drake’s lyrics. While these accusations are probably true, Drake retaliated with not one, but two diss tracks, in addition to some new singles that blow Meek’s whole album out of the water. Back to Back was a gutsy move, but this first diss was ultimately the better of the two. Drake has unprecedented class through this whole thing, systematically destroying Meek’s career while maintaining a level of composure that commands respect. You lose, Meek.
3. B.O.B – Macy Gray
Macy Gray was a huge star in the early 2000’s, but recently she’s had a bit of a struggle to stay relevant (her last three albums failed to appear on any major international chart except Italy, Croatia, and Belgium respectively). As a result, I actually haven’t listened to her in a long time. But if this new single is any indication, she’s doing just fine. The title refers not to the rapper B.o.B. (HE SHOULD DO THE REMIX), but rather Gray’s vibrator: “B is for Battery, O – Operated, B is for Better ’cause he’s not complicated”. It’s hilarious and actually kind of cute, with a “Dumb Ways to Die”-style video that’s quickly proving Gray still has the ability to make a hit.
2. STARE – Prince
Legendary tiny sex god Prince is back with this inescapable throwback track. I actually don’t have a lot to say about it, honestly. There’s no backstory, not much significance to it. It’s just a really good song. I mean, it’s right there. Listen to it.
A few honorable mentions that just missed out on the top ten:
ROBIN WILLIAMS – Cee Lo Green
SHE’S KINDA HOT – 5 Seconds of Summer
SCARFACE – Jaden Smith
HOTLINE BLING – Drake
and my favorite song of the month is:
1. FOR FREE? – Kendrick Lamar
This. Dick. Ain’t. FreeeEEEEeEEEeeeeE. This has been a long-standing forerunner for my favorite song of the year, and just when I thought this list was done for, Kendrick dropped the video for it… on July 31st. Techically, I could put it on next month’s list, too. But I’ll try to refrain from that. Anyway, this is one of the best songs I’ve ever heard. It’s lightning-fast with surprisingly deep lyrics and an eclectic beat and flow that demand your attention. I listened to the song about 20 times before the video dropped, and I’ve watched the video at least five times.
So those are my favorite songs of the month. I might make this a monthly feature if y’all are into it. I’m floating around some ideas for articles. I’ll have Paper Towns, Fantastic Four, and some other reviews out in the coming weeks. I’m also working on a list of the best songs Fall Out Boy have ever made. Interpret that any way you will. See you then.