Each week on the FACT Singles Club, a selection of our writers work their way through the new music of the week gone by.

This week, The Weeknd reveals his next collaboration with Daft Punk, Britney invites Tinashe to her ‘Slumber Party’ for memories of That Madonna Kiss, and we meet the other Cyrus sister.

Belgian dance institution Soulwax are back with their first single in a decade, while Jhené Aiko starts up her freak mode and Sevdaliza splits the crowd with her upfront alt-pop.


Britney Spears – ‘Slumber Party’ feat. Tinashe

Chris Kelly: Considering the last Britney single we reviewed featured G-fucking-Eazy, anything with Tinashe is an improvement, even if I barely noticed her on first listen. It seems she’s included here to stir below-the-waist memories of Britney’s infamous lipstick lesbian kiss with Madonna (which happened in 2003, when Tinashe was 10). The song – brought to you by two of the pop machine’s best duos, Mattman & Robin and Julia Michaels/Justin Tranter – fits in with the rest of all the vaguely dancehall-inspired pop that’s having a moment. But I doubt we’ll remember it when the moment passes. (6)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Almost every week in Singles Club, I find myself writing about Tinashe [Yeah, sorry about that – Singles Club Selections Ed.] so I think I need to let go of my handwringing for her – she’s just dropped Nightride, she’s hanging out with Britney, she’s obviously doing fine, everything’s going to be okay. But this is at the lower register of her 2016 work, well above the Far East Movement feature but just below this underrated KDA collabo. You want Tinashe to add something to a song, but despite her interesting voice and aesthetic, she doesn’t do much with her incarnation of the Holy Spearitt’s trop-pop jam. It feels like they have good chemistry together, even if they most likely never recorded together, so that’s something. As for Britney: what bro in your management team thought that G-Eazy dud was the ideal first single and not this? DUMP_HIM.jpg (7)

Tayyab Amin: Everything I thought Skins was going to be after seeing the TV ad is this video. The song is like season three of that show – I’m not too hot on it, but if the kids are into it then let ‘em cook. I’m really glad to see this from Britney after that (unfairly programmed) VMAs performance, even if it takes a few too many cues from ‘Hotline Bling’. Reviewing ‘Make Me’ for Singles Club back in July, I joked that she should have jumped on Tinashe’s wave. A collaboration is definitely a much stronger look. (6)

Son Raw: This one’s a winner from the opening chords on, with Tinashe bringing her idol into her own woozy, funhouse mirror version of the millennial girl pop she innovated. Considering Britney was seen doing that face-meltingly bad Iggy collab not so long ago, this is nothing short of miraculous, and further proves that Tinashe can do no wrong. If only her label thought the same. (8)

6.75


The Weeknd – ‘I Feel It Coming’ feat. Daft Punk

Tayyab Amin: The Weeknd comes back from the constellations to drop a Miami beach, OutRun, wish-you-were-here type of joint in November to hold down the Oceania crew. I learned to get with the whole Michael Jackson thing after ‘Can’t Feel My Face’ but this is more of a glorified karaoke tribute for the last dance of the night. It’s entirely limp. Somebody get these Daft Punk guys out of here, we humored them enough in 2013. (5)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Daft Punk’s God Status is well past its sell-by date (yeah, I saw the Human After All tour too, let’s put it to rest guys), but their skill at putting together glossy cocaine blues remains strong. ‘Starboy’ has been a grower, even though it’s totally redundant, and you can see this becoming a pleasant earworm for the next few months. Wait for Abel Tesfaye’s weird attempt at non-debaucherous human emotion to be squandered by a needlessly violent or nihilistic video any day now! (6)

Chris Kelly: The pendulum swings back from the coke-under-blacklight groove of ‘Starboy’ in a direction that both The Weeknd and Daft Punk can appreciate: gentle disco-funk with a Michael Jackson vocal. This is essentially a distillation and dilution of ‘Can’t Feel My Face’ and ‘Get Lucky’, removing the subversive edge of the former and the playful joy of the latter. If I never hear Abel sing “the heat between your legs” again, it’ll be too soon. (5)

Son Raw: For all the invective shot Drake’s way this year, at least ‘One Dance’ was a great UK funky flip. Meanwhile, The Weeknd has essentially devolved into an MJ karaoke act for office hold lines. (4)

5


Noah Cyrus & Labrinth – ‘Make Me Cry’

Chris Kelly: Miley’s lil’ sis skips her countrified pop-rock phase and goes straight to weirdo electro-pop, bringing together wrecking ball vocals, a left-of-center palette and a semi-anonymous collaborator on her debut ballad. Mostly forgettable but an interesting barometer of the State of Pop. Is it just me, or do the aquatic FX emojis evoke the toilet more than a teardrop? (6)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: I didn’t even know that there was another Cyrus child with a country drawl shoe-horned into modern pop jams (what up, Trace), but that’s what we have here, with Labrinth supplying an off-brand ‘Beneath Your Beautiful’. It’s listenable, with a trap bridge that skims the concept of spikiness without ever disrupting anything, but the cartoon water drop FX – intended to communicate real tears – does it in almost immediately, turning attempts at emotional depth into the musical equivalent of a sad emoji. (4)

Tayyab Amin: This sounds like someone got too gassed off the water droplet sample and rushed into making a whole track happen. How can they go from a Springsteen snare into off-brand TNGHT horns without breaking kayfabe? Then there’s the random blaring, and the lyrics barely even make sense: “You’ll be the death of me / Sage advice”. Hello? Yes, get me Bono on the line, we need to get this nonsensical anthem to stadium audiences, double-time. (4)

Son Raw: We’re all kind of hoping for an Ashlee Simpson train-wreck down the line, right? That’s the only acceptable reason for any of us to acknowledge that a track this boring exists. This is the first song your mates send you in college after forming a band and you struggle to find something to say that wouldn’t severely compromise the friendship. (3)

4.25


Soulwax – ‘Transient Program for Drums and Machinery’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Time to pull out your slow-motion robot angular arm dances, Soulwax are back with patient build-your-own technological slammers! This doesn’t seem particularly out of the ordinary for such an admired band, but to be honest that hard robotic aesthetic isn’t ever over. Shout out to Westworld. (7)

Tayyab Amin: This sounds more like a tutorial demonstration than it does a single. The train doesn’t begin to chug until the four-minute mark and I could see it as a great way to kick off a performance, but live gigs can’t tempt you with the skip button. They’re teeing themselves up as festival fodder, which is fair enough really. (5)

Chris Kelly: It’s been so long since Soulwax have released original music that I almost forgot that’s how they started. Even though “it took a long time,” this impossibly slow burner eventually crescendos. Unfortunately for them, I used those extra moments to reconsider Soulwax and ended up even less sympathetic to the indie dance wave that they set off with Nite Versions. (4)

Son Raw: It took a long time for this song to go anywhere, but taken as campy, Kraftwerkian pastiche, this is worth a chuckle or two. I kind of feel bad for anyone who takes this in earnest though – they probably sport ponytails and spend their nights talking about how technology will free us all. [No idea what you’re talking about – Blog House Ed.] (5)

5.25


Sevdaliza – ‘Human’

Chris Kelly: YES. Sevdaliza makes haunting dirges that exemplify the best that post-genre pop can be, stirring electronica, R&B and hip-hop into her cauldron while casting spells both personal and political. Here, she fights back against those that would deny anyone made of flesh, bones, skin, soul, sweat, flaws, veins and scars of their personhood. And if the back-masking and digital decay doesn’t tingle your spine, the centaur striptease video will. (9)

Son Raw: Trip-hop back, yo. These lyrics aren’t exactly breaking new ground but as far as stoned, reverb-heavy crawlers go, this is a good one. Also, how mad is it that Long Live A$AP’s art + screw formula is now an indie pop touchstone? (6)

Tayyab Amin: I’m really into how this track has the same entrancing quality as something like Portishead while keeping us at a distance. There are some striking sounds – uncanny melodies and the ringing of cold air – buried in the mix, rarely revisited. The more I listen, the more I feel the need to listen. (7)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: This is part of the growing (perhaps overcrowded?) gathering of somnambulant mood music where R&B and trip-hop merge into a druggy fog. That’s not a bad thing, but Sevdaliza’s rough sketch of a song never lasts long enough to stand out from the overwhelming mass of like-minded artists. (6)

7


Jhené Aiko – ‘Maniac’

Son Raw: This trades on mood and freakiness rather than fully formed songwriting, but with vocals this breezy and production that ping-pongs all over the audio spectrum, Jhené Aiko can talk dirty to us for as long as she likes. (7)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: “I’m a low-key freak,” Aiko says in her best Cassie Rap Voice, and she always seems more freaky when she slips out of her hippie child comfort zone and into her femme fatale persona. Sometimes this sultriness wields magic, like on last year’s incredible ‘Living Room Flow’; sometimes she can sound one-dimensional, especially if her upfront sexuality isn’t supported by an interesting foil (see this year’s Twenty88 album). On ‘Maniac’, her voice on the verses is distorted slightly, as if to hint at abrasive qualities, giving her claims of mania a pulse of anxiety; at the same time, she’s as clear as ever on the choruses. Aiko need not worry about one-dimensionality here – goddammit, sexuality isn’t cut and dried either. Mania’s healthy, the song says. It is. (8)

Tayyab Amin: What’s an entire Mills & Boon publishing house to a glorious romp like this? Sometimes you just gotta let people know how you like to get down. I mean, sure, no one asked, but we’re not un-asking either. (8)

Chris Kelly: Finally, a full song from Jhené “Eat The Booty Like Groceries” Aiko! Too often she makes music for daydreams and catnaps, leaving her underrated sister to make songs for and about actual sex. All I could think about while listening to this is how quaint Beyoncé’s ‘Ego’ seems these days… is it getting hot in here? (8)

7.75


Final scores:

Jhené Aiko – ‘Maniac’ (7.75)
Sevdaliza – ‘Human’ (7)
Britney Spears – ‘Slumber Party’ feat. Tinashe (6.75)
Soulwax – ‘Transient Program for Drums and Machinery’ (5.25)
The Weeknd – ‘I Feel It Coming’ (5)
Noah Cyrus – ‘Make Me (Cry)’ feat. Labrinth (4.25)

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