Tuesday Music Review: Janet Jackson

There are plenty of new songs to talk about, from up-tempo pop rock to throwback slow jams. 

Girl Crush – New Politics

This song bursts out of your ear-buds with the same energy as the will-be-classic summer jam “Everybody Talks” by the Neon Trees. In fact, the songs are similar in more ways than tone – the fuzzy guitars, radio box vocal effects, and pumping drums are spot on. I don’t bring up this comparison in disparagement. Rather, I’m getting the kind of buzz that only a grade-A pop song can do. This one stands out too, bringing clap-heavy breakdowns (a personal favorite) and vaguely surf-tuned guitar hooks. Best of all? At under 3 minutes you can listen to it over and over again. 

What Went Down – Foals

Foals delivers the kind of hard-edged, bombastic rock that Coldplay might write if they took too much cocaine and listened to Queens of the Stone Age’s entire discography. Their songs have a tendency to build to explosive choruses and this is no exception. While the thumping Strokes-esque drumming is a large part of the formula, this song has one of the better bass parts that I’ve heard them produce. I wouldn’t use ‘catchy’ to describe the effect, but there is a dark magnetism to its energy which I can’t deny. Another solid track from a solid band. 

No Sleeep – Janet Jackson

Wow. I did not expect to like this song so much. When I think of Janet Jackson, I think of over-produced drivel, but this slow jam is an exercise in restraint. Jackson blends her voice back, allowing the emotions and lyrics to take center over any vocal gymnastics or special effects. The occasional organ licks keep things interesting, while the drum beat stays endlessly in a groove. It’s a brilliant piece of 90s RnB that manages to go beyond it’s influences. It’s not just a throwback. It’s a jam. 

Another One – Mac Demarco

My recent introduction to Mac Demarco come from his 2014 album Salad Days. “Chill” might be overused, but his work is truly relaxing. He knows how to use spacey vocals and laid back vocals to capture the introspective moments between moments. This song is about the start of a relationship going bad, when things are still brewing but no one is mad yet. The plunky synths seems to soothe the worrisome subject matter, which makes the effect of the lyrics all the more meaningful. Great work. 

No Drama Queen – Grouplove

This song was written for the movie Paper Towns (based on a John Green novel), which means that millions of teenagers might be buying it in a short while. Grouplove, mostly known for their hit pop single “Tongue Tied,” delivers a nice, traditional summer rock song. If I didn’t know it was written in 2015, I would have guessed it came from the 90s. It’s not particularly memorable though the sweeping REM vocals make it a good addition for a car mix-tape. Who doesn’t want to sing along at the top of their lungs?

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