A great year in music continues as I look back at some of the best singles from the month of August. You may notice that two of the songs on this list are actually remixes of previously released songs. Whether or not this is cheating is for you to decide. Anyway, here’s the list.
10. CLASSIC – The Knocks feat. Fetty Wap and POWERS
The initial version of this song was released eleven months ago by relative unknowns The Knocks and POWERS. The original version is pretty hype, but nothing particularly worthwhile about it. That’s where Fetty Wap comes in. America’s sweetheart WIllie “Fetty Wap” Maxwell has been swiftly climbing in popularity since the release of his monster hit “Trap Queen”. But his previous singles, four of which are in the Billboard Top 40 right now, all had a certain element of sameness. He sing-raps about a girl and he’s super sweet and he throws in some gangsta cliches for good measure. This track combines that sappy style we know and love with a really cool EDM beat. It comes together to create what could have been a song of the summer if it was sold right.
9. 28 THOUSAND DAYS – Alicia Keys
Alicia Keys is an artist who’s usually at her best when she deviates from her typical soulful style, which is part of why this song works. It has an interesting riff reminiscent of ’90s hip hop, and Keys delivers an interesting message about living life to the fullest and viewing it as a collection of 28,000 days (76.7 years). The horns at the end are especially enticing, but the whole song has a cool old school R&B vibe that’s just different enough to work.
8. BACK AND FORTH – B.o.B
Bobby Ray is back with a left-field funk album called Psycadelik Thoughtz. It’s fitting that as the mainstream hip hop scene rejected B.o.B, he went back to his rock roots with this record. The lead and so far only single from this surprise album was the groovy, lighthearted jam “Back and Forth”. It’s reminiscent of Daft Punk’s 2013 monster hit “Get Lucky”, and in my book, that’s a good thing. B.o.B has never exactly been known for dense metaphors, so he keeps things simple on this track by talking about dancing (read: “fucking”). ‘Snice.
7. MARVIN GAYE (Remix) – Charlie Puth feat. Wale
Honestly, I don’t really care for Charlie Puth’s voice. It just sort of irritates me; I don’t really have a good reason why. So, it’s taken a good few songs for him to grow on me. While I don’t mind the original version of this song with Meghan Trainor, That being said, when you boil it down to Meghan Trainor and Wale, there’s really no contest. Wale delivers a short and sweet verse that sounds less jarring than one might expect from an MMG rapper doing a verse over a remix to a ’50s throwback track about Marvin Gaye. I’d like to see Wale breaking into the mainstream more in the future.
6. HELL YOU TALMBOUT – Wondaland Records
This powerful protest song consists of Janelle Monae and her Wonaland crew passionately remembering those we’ve lost to police brutality. It’s a perfect marching song and its raw emotion makes it especially touching. Where a hip-hop protest song could have been overly wordy (cough cough, Lupe Fiasco), this song goes the simple route by simply listing black police brutality victims, telling the audience to say their names, and adding in a brief, simplistic chorus to tie it all together.
5. PROFESSIONAL RAPPER – Lil Dicky feat. Snoop Dogg
Lil Dicky is the latest Goofy Jewish Rapper™ to take the world by storm. In this song, he applies for a job at Rap Game, Inc. through an interview with legendary MC Snoop Dogg. The song is a pretty good display of everything Lil Dicky has to offer, which includes some pretty insane flows and genuinely funny lyrics. And when you get past all that pomp and circumstance, along with the conversations dispersed throughout and the animated video, it actually has a really cool beat, too. I didn’t listen to Lil Dicky’s album, but this is a pretty solid first impression.
4. TIRING GAME – John Newman feat. Charlie Wilson
John Newman is an up-and-coming British songster best known stateside for his song “Blame” with Calvin Harris. This latest single of his is a lot better. However, its strengths have little to do with John Newman and more to do with its awesome gospel-inspired beat and epic chorus by one of the best voices in the business, Charlie Wilson (“Bound 2”, “There Goes My Baby”). I can never help myself from dancing when I listen to it. It’s just so good.
3. JFKPSA – Kid Cudi
This one’s a bit more experimental than the other songs on this list. It’s apparently off Kid Cudi’s upcoming album, Speedin’ Bullet to Heaven, and it features a speech by John F. Kennedy with a cool bass solo by Kid Cudi in the background. It’s weird, even for Cudi, but I consider myself pro-weird. The message of the speech is a bit lost in the psychedelia of it all, but from what I can tell it’s unabashedly pro-artistry, which is sort of what Kid Cudi’s all about. While his other single this month, “Confused”, was a bit lackluster, this has me much more excited for what’s to come.
2. ISRAEL (SPARRING) – Chance the Rapper and Noname Gypsy
This mellow, lyrical track by Chano and his friend Noname explores the trappings of the rap game through a series of biblical metaphors. It’s pretty chill.
Before I get to my #1 pick, here’s some honorable mentions:
“Grinder” – Gary Clark, Jr.
“Milions” – Rene Brown
“All That Shines” – Vic Mensa
“Back to Earth” – Steve Aoki feat. Fall Out Boy
1. DOWNTOWN – Macklemore and Ryan Lewis feat. Eric Nally, Melle Mel, Cool Moe Dee, and Grandmaster Caz
At the start of the month, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis released a surprise single. It was called “Growing Up”, it featured Ed Sheeran, and it was kinda dull. Then, just as the month was winding down and I had most of my list already picked out, they dropped this bombshell on us. Holy shit. The chorus. The horns. The piano. The mopeds. This is like five different amazing songs all wrapped up in one. It’s just the right mix of charmingly bad and shockingly good. You see, while Macklemore isn’t a particularly good rapper, Ryan Lewis is an excellent song maker, and this is the perfect example of that. Whenever I hear a new song produced by him, I say it’s one of his best. He’s one of the most consistent producers in the game. And that’s where this song succeeds: by focusing more on the beat and the supporting cast than on Macklemore himself. Even accounting for Macklemore’s verses, which are admittedly pretty solid, this is one of the best songs I’ve heard all year.
So, those are my favorite songs of the month. I’m working on a list of the best Drake features, and I’ll probably have a few more movie reviews out pretty soon. Until then, like this post if you like it, follow my blog if you like it like it, comment if you’ve got something to say, you can also follow me on Twitter @BreakingPOORLY, and I’ll see ya ’round.