That’s right, it’s a supersized Songs of the Month this month. On the one hand, it’s a little late. On the other, you’re getting 1.25x as many tunes, so I’d say it evens out. Either way, I had a bit of trouble narrowing this one down. Maybe I’ve lost my touch in these strenuous end-of-the-semester times. In the eleventh hour I was able to narrow it down from 30 to 25, taking out the songs I didn’t have all that much to say about, but the results are a bit male-dominated. Still, there’s plenty of rockin’ tunes to add to your playlist or whatever, so let’s kick it.
25) GRAVEDIGGER’S CHANT – Zeal & Ardor
Zeal & Ardor is an avant-garde metal project that combines the sounds of black metal and Negro spirituals, creating some of the most intriguing, exciting metal out on the market today. As someone who’s not really a metal person, I love Zeal & Ardor. Their new single “Gravedigger’s Chant” is a deceptively simple, powerful single that will leave you feeling some type of way whether you like it or not. It’s just kind of a beautiful piece of music.
24) OVER MY HEAD – Echosmith
Get ready to have this one stuck in your head for a few weeks. You may know Echosmith from their bizarrely-popular “Pumped Up Kicks” clone, 2014’s “Cool Kids.” What you may not know is that they’re a really solid indie pop band with a new album on the way and this new single, “Over My Head,” which may be the catchiest song they’ve ever released. Critics have called the song an emblem of the band’s maturing, and it certainly feels significantly more grown-up than “Cool Kids.” I hadn’t been tuned into Echosmith much before now, but this track has me looking forward to that forthcoming album.
23) ONCE IN MY LIFE – The Decemberists
Here’s a baroque, deceptively-simple track off the Decemberists’ new record I’ll Be Your Girl. In terms of content, “Could just something go right for once in my life?” is pretty much the only lyric in the song. The song’s complexity is in its instrumentation, which transitions beautifully from jangly tambourine to stadium rock synth in exquisite form. It conveys the lyrics’ sense of inescapable despair in a way that’s oddly engaging and certainly powerful.
22) MY NAME IS MARS – Capital Cities
Capital Cities had their one-hit wonder moment in 2013 with “Safe and Sound,” an infectious, simple dance-pop number with a killer horn section. Since then, they’ve been putting out ridiculous, great pop music not unlike “Safe and Sound,” though more experimental in terms of subject matter. Their latest is a funky space-age tune about Mars, the Roman god of war. It’s goofy, it’s catchy, and it’s great to dance to. If you ever wanted a banger about Roman mythology, today’s your lucky day.
21) MEDICINE FOR MELANCHOLY – Rivers Cuomo
Here’s another one to get stuck in your head for an uncomfortably long time. Rivers Cuomo, the idiosyncratic lead singer of Weezer, flexes his solo muscles with “Medicine for Melancholy,” an electrifying power pop anthem named after a Barry Jenkins movie. The handclaps, the epic drumline over the infectious “dum dee-dee-dee-dee” hook, everything’s fine-tuned to be mystifying.
20) PREACHER MAN – The Driver Era
Is there anything Ross Lynch can’t do? After delivering one of the most magnetic performances of 2017 as a young Jeffrey Dahmer in the film My Friend Dahmer, the former Disney star joined brother Rocky for an electric new single, “Preacher Man.” “Preacher Man” feels like the type of song a long-underground indie rock band would release that would earn them a surprising run on the Hot 100, and it’s the Driver Era’s first single. If it turns out to be a summer hit, which is far from impossible given it’s infectious pop hook and Southern gospel touches, maybe more people would recognize the all-around tour de force that is Austin from Disney’s Austin and Ally.
19) BOMB THROWN – CZARFACE & MF Doom
In case you missed it last month, legendary rapper MF Doom joined forces with Wu-Tang member Inspectah Deck and underground rapper-producer duo 7L & Esoteric for the album Czarface Meets Metal Face, Doom’s first album since his 2014 collaboration with Bishop Nehru. The album is chock-full of quality old-school hip hop, with Esoteric dropping legendary one-liners, Deck spitting intricate bars, and Doom providing that unmistakable concoction of experimental flows, goofy off-the-wall humor, and stoic, accented delivery that makes him one of the best to ever do it. “Bomb Thrown” is the album’s only single thus far, and a perfect example of the record’s charms.
18) TIL IT’S OVER – Anderson .Paak
Dr. Dre signee and contender for “coolest person alive” Anderson .Paak returned this month with “Til It’s Over,” a dreamy electro-soul track that made its debut in an incredible Apple commercial (above) directed by Spike Jonze and starring FKA twigs. The commercial makes three things clear: 1) Spike Jonze needs to direct a musical. 2) FKA twigs is delightful and should definitely be the biggest star in the world. 3) Anderson .Paak isn’t resting on his Malibu laurels, moving forward as one of the most exciting voices in music today.
17) BETTER WITH YOU – Jesse McCartney
Mid-’00s teen heartthrob Jesse McCartney is back and… well, pretty much the same. “Better With You” is a bit of an updated version of McCartney’s sound, with a modern electropop drop and mandatory toothless lyric about today’s political climate, but if you were a fan of the honest, soulful pop style of his heyday, as I was, you’ll probably appreciate this song too. It’s a simple, earnest love song that stands out in an era where every other song on the radio is by a disgruntled former Disney star trying to branch out. We do live in tumultuous times, as the song is quick to point out, but Jesse McCartney is still Jesse McCartney, so maybe some things are still sacred.
16) DONE FOR ME – Charlie Puth feat. Kehlani
With a single song (“Attention”), Charlie Puth transformed from dweeby altar boy to Shawn Mendes’ funky bad-boy counterpart. Puth’s latest, “Done for Me,” carries a familiar groove for those who enjoyed his last quasi-hit, “How Long,” but incorporates a cool vintage R&B sound that adds yet another layer to Charlie’s long-running transition into legitimately cool pop artist. It also features a great guest appearance by Kehlani (another “coolest person alive” contender), whose chemistry with Puth is surprisingly effective. For comparison, he was working with Meghan Trainor on his last album.
15) BOBLO BOAT – Royce da 5’9″ feat. J. Cole
Royce da 5’9″ and J. Cole have a lot in common. First of all, they both have really annoying fans, who insist they’re respectively the best to ever do it and demand you bring them into every hip hop conversation. Second, they’re both actually really good. On this song, over a beat chill enough to put you to sleep, the two reminisce about their most developmental ages, and the fond memories they have of their teen years in spite of their less desirable elements, using Bob-Lo Island as a metaphor for something flawed, grimy, misshapen, but still remembered fondly. Pretty neat, in my opinion.
14) FALLING INTO ME – Let’s Eat Grandma
I was introduced to Let’s Eat Grandma last month when they made the previous list with “Hot Pink,” an experimental pop banger bolstered by soul-shaking production from SOPHIE. This song doesn’t feature SOPHIE’s charms, but it proves my appreciation for the pop group goes deeper than their producer. It experiments with the beats and rhythms of pop, creating an expansive sound that feels retro yet completely new. It’s got some pretty powerful lyrics, too, and affectingly unique vocals by the band’s two members. If there’s such a thing as prog pop, this is it.
13) TONGUE – MNEK
English dance-pop singer MNEK got his start as a songwriter, working with the likes of Little Mix, Kylie Minogue, and Madonna. If you’ve heard one of his songs, it’s probably Beyonce’s “Hold Up” (though to be fair, that song’s credited songwriters also include Diplo, Ezra Koenig, and Father John Misty). Or maybe you know “Never Forget You,” the song he did with Zara Larsson that was met with surprising international success in 2015. Anyway, he’s an unapologetically gay pop artist with a great new song called “Tongue” and you should definitely check it out, especially since it’s an absolute banger. A lot of queer artists came out with new music this month, including Keiynan Lonsdale, Alyson Stoner, and Hayley Kiyoko, but MNEK pushed ahead of them all to make the list (and all those songs are solid, for the record).
12) VIZINE – Lil Wayne
Lil Wayne has been in his best form in at least a decade lately, having just dropped Dedication 6 and Dedication 6: Reloaded, two of the best mixtapes of his career, in the span of a single month. Now, he’s back with “Vizine,” a hard-hitting track that’s got killer bars, solid flows, and a surprising amount of introspection. It’s also got plenty of classic Wayne quotables, like “No one man should have all that power if he can’t afford to pay the light bill,” or “Bedroom got revolving doors / Bitches in and out smiling more / Than children smiling at a carnival.” If you find yourself wondering why the song is called “Vizine,” don’t worry. It all comes together in the end.
11) WHAT KIND OF LOVE – TOMI
This is some real ’80s Belinda Carlisle shit right here. TOMI is an up-and-coming artist with a sound that recalls a rock-‘n’-roll Marina and the Diamonds. Her new single, “What Kind of Love,” brings that energy full-force. You will come out of this song feeling like you can do anything and hating men. Sometimes, that’s just what you need.
10) BE CAREFUL – Cardi B
After a handful of successful trap singles, Cardi B shows her pop side on “Be Careful,” the third single off her instant-hit debut album Invasion of Privacy. The song is magnetic from its opening moments, featuring a simplistic beat reminiscent of “Fake Love” Drake and some devastating lyrics about Cardi’s feelings towards a cheating fiancee. She’s been adamant that the song isn’t about Offset, but like, come on. It’s real, it’s enjoyable, it’s perhaps Cardi’s wittiest song to date, and it’s just a taste of what her album has to offer.
9) RAINING GLITTER – Kylie Minogue
Kylie Minogue has long since proven to be perhaps the most dynamic, resilient voices in pop music. In over 30 years of stardom, she’s channeled everyone from Kraftwerk to ABBA, and now she’s back with “Raining Glitter,” the latest single off her recently-released country album Golden. Despite her legendary longevity, Kylie sounds as fresh as ever, incorporating reminiscent country guitars into her classic Australian dance-pop sound to prove that one of the greatest pop singers in history isn’t done just yet.
8) FEEL IT STILL (“WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC REMIX) – Portugal. The Man and “Weird Al” Yankovic
I don’t normally put remixes on this list, particularly not for songs as popular and long-lived as “Feel It Still,” but when the legendary Weird Al is involved, I have to make an exception. This isn’t a parody. It’s not an especially silly revamp. It’s just a fairly earnest polka remix of a monster hit song, and that’s something special in and of itself. It helps that Al’s nimble hands are on the wheel, making the song at times even more captivating than the wildly successful original. When he builds up that “Is it coming back?” bridge, you’ll believe a polka song can make its way onto your playlist in the year of our lord 2018.
7) OKRA – Tyler, the Creator
Tyler, the Creator dropped a loosie out of nowhere this month with “OKRA,” a blistering two-and-a-half minutes of some of the finest lyrical content we’ve heard from him to date. The bars are a mile-a-minute, the beat serves the bass on a silver platter, and if you were hoping to hear a version of Tyler that carried his Flower Boy emotional progression over a beat reminiscent of his older days, “OKRA”‘s got you covered.
6) HIGH HORSE – Kacey Musgraves
Between polka, metal, and country, this might be the most off-the-wall of these lists I’ve put out to date. To be fair, Kylie Minogue’s song is more country than this one, even though Kacey Musgraves is certifiably a country artist (and one of the best doing it right now at that). “High Horse” is a song not easily categorized by genre, but the best I could do is to say it’s a vintage disco track with country sensibilities. Its success in these disparate fields, as well as as a pop anthem, potential club banger, and epic takedown of some douchebag, prove just how proficient at her craft Musgraves is already. If she keeps it up, she could easily be a legend in a few more years. If you want proof she’s all that, listen to this and then her other single this month, “Slow Burn.”
5) SAY AMEN (SATURDAY NIGHT) – Panic! at the Disco
In the mid-’00s, Panic! at the Disco worked to elevate “emo” from whiny white boys to theatrical, weird, off-the-wall anthems. Since then, they’ve lost all but one member, branched their sound out every which way, and now we have “Say Amen (Saturday Night),” a song that’s got everything we’ve come to love about the now-one-man band. It features an electrically theatrical electro-pop-rock beat, an absolutely irresistible hook, some surprisingly poignant lyrics about a man’s grapples with the religion he was raised under, and one of Brendon Urie’s best vocal performances to date (which is really saying something). If you’re a fan of Panic!, this track’s another one for the books.
4) GO TO TOWN – Doja Cat
Doja Cat is an up-and-coming rapper and singer who embodies brazen sexuality with an infectious voice. “Go to Town” is a song about her vagina, but more importantly, it’s a show of sheer personality, with the rapper exhibiting her unique sound, lyrical prowess, and ear for big hooks over an absolutely irresistible beat. I don’t want to say she’s the next big thing, but there’s an undeniable je ne sais quoi to this song, a manic energy that proves she has a voice worth hearing in the game.
3) OVER AND OVER AND OVER – Jack White
20 years into his career, Jack White remains one of the most volatile, exciting voices in rock music today. His new album Boarding House Reach may be one of the best of 2018 so far, and “Over and Over and Over” has all the baroque, unpredictable ridiculousness we’ve come to expect from him. In spite of its gonzo lyrics, bizarre background vocals, and lightning instrumentation, there’s an odd pop synergy to this track. White has distilled his music down to a certain chaos pattern: you can feel the symmetry, but it’s too complex to pick apart. I don’t know if you can tell, but I’ve been getting into Jack White lately.
2) LOST IN JAPAN – Shawn Mendes
Here’s a real Cinderella story. Who would’ve suspected that a guy like Shawn Mendes would one day be making lavish R&B and topping my Songs of the Month lists? Certainly not I. Shawn Mendes has always had enough personality to carry a career. The issue for him has been his music taking the form of Bieber-lite acoustic guitar shlock for the first couple years there. Now that he’s expanded his sound, it’s clear why he got so famous to begin with. “Lost in Japan” is an enviably lush song, a lounge track with funk extensions about flying to Japan to see his loved one. “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back” got me aboard the Shawn Mendes train. “Lost in Japan” made me a fan.
1) GET THE FUCK OFF MY DICK – Vince Staples
Topping the list is a song that actually came out fairly early in the month. In the first week of March, Vince Staples launched the #GTFOMD campaign, a GoFundMe page announcing that he’d completely retire from music and celebrity for the price of $2 million. At the end of the campaign, the money having not been raised, Staples dropped “Get the Fuck Off My Dick.” In my opinion, it’s actually one of the stronger singles Vince has released so far. It takes his brazen attitude to new heights with some of his wittiest lyrics to date, a killer beat, and easily his best hook. This song was launched via viral marketing campaign, but it could just as easily have led to the “Try not to absent-mindedly say ‘get the fuck off my dick’ in public after getting this song stuck in your head” challenge. That’s real money.