It’s definitely an exciting time in music. Big management shifts, tons of great up-and-coming artists, and the recent innovation of the surprise album, which means we never know what’s coming next. But the singles this month, admittedly, weren’t all I was hoping for. These are all good songs, but I’m not as wowed by any of them as I’ve been by previous months’ top picks. Here we go, but first, some honorable mentions.
Hand in the Fire – Mr. Oizo feat. Charli XCX
I don’t know who Mr. Oizo is, but I like Charli XCX, and this song is really catchy.
Bounce – Flatbush Zombies
Flatbush Zombies have their debut album coming out soon, and this grimy, eccentric track bodes well for it.
Pep Rally – Missy Elliott
Not as solid as last year’s “WTF,” but by no means a bad single.
Danger – Vic Mensa
I first heard this song at Kanye’s Life of Pablo listening party. It’s standard for Vic Mensa, but that’s not a bad thing.
Work This Body – Walk the Moon
Another groovy pop-rock throwback from Walk the Moon, but I can’t imagine it getting as big as “Shut Up and Dance.”
Mindful – K. Michelle
Not really long enough to qualify as a song. Two minutes of solid bars.
Hate – Mannie Freah feat. Juvenile, Lil Wayne, and Birdman
This one grew on me. It’s just a fun late-90s rap track. And it’s a significant chapter in Wayne and Birdman’s bizarre relationship.
Alright. Here’s the actual list.
10. MAKE ME LIKE YOU – Gwen Stefani
After 20 years of success with No Doubt and a decently successful solo career, you could say Gwen Stefani is a bit of a legend. At the same time, she hasn’t had an honest-to-God hit since 2007. Could this song bring her back into the limelight? Probably not, but it’s good. It reminds me compositionally of her 2007 hit “Sweet Escape,” which could be intentional, but is more likely just indicative of her style of pop music. It’s really catchy and upbeat while still being unmistakably Gwen Stefani.
9. WE GOT TRICKED – Scotty ATL and B.o.B
B.o.B is a bit of a touchy subject right now. And it doesn’t help that most of his music this past year has been nothing but the conspiracy theorist ravings that made him a national joke. But I’ll do what I can. Atlanta up-and-comer Scotty ATL just put out a mixtape with Atlanta down-and-goer B.o.B. I didn’t listen to it yet. But I did listen to this one song, and it’s really impressive. The production, courtesy of B.o.B himself, is really fun and ear-catching, while Scotty and Bobby deliver pretty solid verses. Yeah, B.o.B’s preachiness is annoying, but it’s still a decent verse, I think.
8. OLIVE OIL – Dave B
You probably never heard of Dave B. In fact, neither have I. All I can tell you about him is that he’s a newcomer from Seattle who released a pretty sweet song about olive oil. I’ll be sure to check him out.
7. TIME – K. Michelle
Here’s another artist you might not have heard of. Despite some commercial success for her past two albums, Memphis R&B songstress K. Michelle has yet to have a hit single. And this probably won’t be the one, but it’s still super impressive. It’s a beautiful Motown love throwback that I get engrossed in every time I listen to, even if it’s not exactly my type.
6. HAPPY DAYS – Brooke Candy
Contrary to what you might think, this is not a song about ‘70s ‘50s-nostalgia nostalgia. It’s actually a really cool pop song about pill addiction. It’s lyrically simplistic, but definitely a great concept, well-executed, and a reason to be on the lookout for ol’ Brooke Candy.
5. BUCKSHOT – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. KRS-One and DJ Premier
KRS-One is considered by many to be among the first “real” rappers, even though he didn’t achieve mainstream success until the early ‘90s. So, Macklemore put him on this new single, as a display of support for hip hop as a genre, because Macklemore really wants you to like him, guys. And with a killer old school beat by DJ Premier, this song pulls out all the stops. Macklemore’s singles have been pretty shaky this year (“Kevin” is lame, “White Privilege II” is disjointed, “Spoons” is garbage), but this is just a really good song. One of the best of Mack’s new album.
4. L.A. GIRLZ – Weezer
In case you missed it, Weezer is good again. After their 2014 comeback album Everything Will Be Alright in the End, they’ve continued with a string of really solid singles leading up to their forthcoming White Album. And this raw, anthemic piece might just be the best one yet. It’s full of classic Weezer angst, and features a spine-tingling guitar solo towards the end.
3. KILL AT WILL (THE SEQUEL) – Joell Ortiz feat. Snow tha Product and Token
Joell Ortiz is perhaps the least-talked-about member of Slaughterhouse, but his skills have always been there. On this track, for instance, he goes in for a lightning-fast minute and a half before handing the mic off to fellow Latino MC Snow tha Product. She’s great, as always. The weakest verse on the track probably goes to 17-year-old Eminem wannabe Token, but he does an admirable job as well. The beat is great and the bars are untouchable.
2. FORMATION – Beyonce
Beyonce surprise dropped this new track just in time for the Super Bowl. But this isn’t your grandmother’s Beyonce. The song is incisive, celebrating black pride and calling out injustice, particularly with regards to police brutality and Hurricane Katrina. It’s also a really good song, further pulling Beyonce in this experimental prog-rap-pop direction she’s been headed in since her 2013 masterpiece Beyonce. Bey has always stood out from the pack, but her art is just getting more and more impressive.
1 . OFFICIALLY YOURS – T-Pain
I think T-Pain made a masterpiece while none of us were looking. When he performed a version of this song on Tiny Desk Concert a year and a half ago, it was a big deal. But not because of the song itself. Rather, people made the performance viral simply because they were surprised T-Pain could sing. Personally, I think the inklings were always there. His voice was still mesmerizing, even under heavy Autotune. But the single version of this song is brand-new, and it’s something special. On the one hand, it’s a really cheesy wedding song, and it still has some clear vocal modifications despite its buzz being around the fact that it was his real voice. On the other, it’s an immensely powerful, upbeat, emotional song, simultaneously artful and genuine, with a beat so creative that it feels perfectly natural and unprecedented at the same time. This might be a shitty song. I may look back at its placement here and laugh. But right here, right now, I love it to pieces.