Singles Club: Iggy Azalea bombs while Kendrick Lamar blows away the competition

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, Iggy Azalea returns with ‘Mo Bounce’, Zayn Malik shows off his summery side on a collab with PARTYNEXTDOOR and Gorillaz drop four new songs (but there’s only room for one, ‘Ascension’, in our review of the biggest releases of the last seven days. Soz Damon).

That’s not all – there are also fresh offerings from Perfume Genius from his new album No Shape, Blondie (co-written by Dev Hynes no less) and a new release-teasing Kendrick Lamar, all waiting to be rated and slated by our crack team of reviewers. Let’s dig in, shall we?


ZAYN feat. PARTYNEXTDOOR – ‘Still Got Time’

Al Horner: ZAYN and PARTYNEXTDOOR, fresh from presumably meeting at some kind of annual convention for artists who INSIST ON STYLISING THEIR NAME IN ALL CAPS, must have timed this track especially for the clocks going forward and summer finally lumbering into view, ‘cos there’s a sun-kissed, Calippos-in-the-park, can-of-Lilt-from-the-corner-shop sizzle to this first single from the former One Directioner’s second album. With any luck, the entire album will be like this: less chrome Autre Ne Veut R&B moodiness, more fun. Must have been something in the punch at that convention, huh. (8)

Tayyab Amin: More Life is billed as a playlist, which I’m taking as a green light to chop and change it tailored to my own tastes. So I’m throwing this track right in there in the shisha section near ‘Passionfruit’, an absolute Al-Fakher of a tune. “I know I’m workin’ my magic,” sings PND, who was instrumental in Drake and Rihanna’s 2016 highlights. His fingerprints are all over this one too, and he makes things work with ZAYN so brilliantly. I wish this was anywhere near enough to take down ‘Shape of You’, but things are looking up for these two. (9)

Chal Ravens: The UK’s favorite superstar manchild finds a sweet spot on this one, which isn’t quite catchy enough to make a dent – “speak up, lad,” says yer da – but grabs points for the quite lovely highlife guitar loop muffled in the background. You wouldn’t be surprised to find out this was really written for America’s favorite superstar manchild Justin Bieber, but Zayn copes well enough within this limited range. And can we take a moment for this line, please: “I know you’re digging my fabric, I’m boyfriend material”. (6)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Highlife guitars, sounding as if warped from years of dampened cassettes, meet PND, a man who appropriately sings like a water-damaged lothario. Zayn is a singer who was the vocal highlight in most One Direction songs, but has since become one of the most unintrusive performers in the R&B sphere. PND says he’s “boyfriend material”, and as a member of #KehlaniHive I strenuously object. Despite all these factors, the aforementioned warped guitars keep this on the rails, working magic on two non-presences. (6)

7.25


Iggy Azalea – ‘Mo Bounce’

Al Horner: In 2014, the worst crisis facing the western world was an Australian rapper in urgent need of introduction to the phrase “cultural appropriation.” Then the universe was all like “lol hold my coat” and now, a couple of elections and referendums later, rap game Rachel Dolezal Iggy returns in 2017 needing to really pull something out of the bag on new single ‘Mo Bounce’ to register on the new-found Richter scale of terribleness we’ve since attained. The reality is, this is just kind of… dull. (4)

Chal Ravens: This would have sounded so sick about 10 years ago and by anyone who wasn’t Iggy Azalea. Can’t lie, there are many things my born-in-the-’80s brain likes about this, like the completely durrr-stupid rapping and the colossally durrr-stupid electro wobble beat. The production literally sounds like something Crookers pulled out from down the back of the sofa and sold to Iggy for beer money. If it wasn’t for her being a terrible human being I could get behind this, because the DGAF force is strong. Sadly, she is the most upsettingly durrr-stupid thing about it. (5)

Tayyab Amin: “But you ain’t gotta worry, we ain’t dangerous.” Don’t worry, Iggy Azalea – we know. This tune’s release is about six years too late. I don’t know who decided we needed to hear her try to do a ‘212’ flow over brostep and it’s not time for the revival at all. We off that now. (At this point my computer genuinely blue-screened, which tells you all you need to know.) (3)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: I won’t lie – this appeals greatly to the university student that played vast amounts of chunky, graceless electronic music inspired by the twin beacons of Ed Banger and regional hip-hop, meaning that I definitely tried to enjoy Uffie and bumped Tigarah (more baile influenced, but shout out Tigarah!). And Iggy is a better rapper than either of those women were, so this should be fine, although its clanging pales in comparison to the pop nous of last year’s ‘Team’. (5)

4.25


Gorillaz feat. Vince Staples – ‘Ascension’

Al Horner: I’m happy, feeling glad. (7)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: With the new influence of creative mind Twilite Tone, the new Gorillaz material knocks in a way it never has before – listening to ‘Ascension’ with its off-centre skipping swirl of keys and choirs, there sounds like a further understanding of hip-hop dynamics, filtered through Damon Albarn’s vision of challenging pop music. It’s a fine song, and a nervy introduction to the next stage of the ongoing Gorillaz project. (7)

Chal Ravens: It’s going pretty well until Damon Albarn’s misery-milker 2D voice comes in on his bloody tannoy, moaning about “times of sedition” and sounding like a stray dog nudging a can up the road. But Gorillaz have always staked out that near-apocalyptic mood as a grim flipside to the cartoon fun, so I’m quite into seeing their young and innocent fans singing along to a line like “The sky’s falling baby, drop that ass ‘fore it crash”. Vince Staples suits this kind of experimentation; he’s got enough ideas to make it through unscathed. (6)

Tayyab Amin: I don’t wanna hear Damon Albarn rap right after Vince Staples. I do wanna hear Staples take on some footwork, though. His bars are so incisive and his delivery so clean, his personality developed well enough that he can be the party guy who’ll drop a line like “Where you can live your dreams [as] long as you don’t look like me.” There’s something Kanye about this track, beyond the gospel and the screams. It’s the eclectic instrumental choices and those burst-through-clouds moments that allow Vince to do Vince and make this one to remember. (8)

7.25


Blondie feat. Dev Hynes – ‘Long Time’

Al Horner: Debbie and Dev do disco pop. What’s not to like? Nothing, but there’s not a whole lot to truly love here either. (6)

Tayyab Amin: When does the DFA indie disco train roll through town? Please, I need to know. I need to sit in the corner openly crying in euphoria to “I can give you a heartbeat, I can give you a friend.” (8)

Chal Ravens: Obviously Dev Hynes would come up with a Blondie pastiche for Blondie, because all his music is essentially pastiche, isn’t it – not necessarily bad pastiche, sure, just really familiar already. ‘Long Time’ has a lot of the right sounds but it’s missing that Blondie hook, the hummable bit, the sparkly guitar riff or killer line. The verse is the catchiest part and then we move into a gentle cruise for the chorus, and the lyrics get duller and duller and then we’re ending. Debbie Harry is sounding tamer than I’d like, too, but she is literally 71 years old so I think we can cope with the soft edges and double-tracking. I’m going to suggest this will sound fine in the context of the whole album. (6)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Blood Orange and Blondie is so #onbrand that I’m amazed I never considered it. This is perfectly fine late-career comeback material, hipper than ‘Maria’ but also… not as anthemic and wedding party as ‘Maria’, is it? (6)

6.5


Perfume Genius – ‘Slip Away’

Al Horner: Seattle’s Mike Hadreas is one of those rare artists who just keeps on giving. Which is to say his Twitter game – spanning incredible tweets about everything from goblin hordes to Bonnie Raitt motorcycle dreams – is almost as good as (if quite a contrast to) the powerful piano intensity of his actual songs. ‘Slip Away’ reaffirms his position as an important LGBTQ voice and an expert architect of dazzling melodies, nuclear-charging the sense of adventure and ambition that made 2014 album Too Bright so breathtaking. Its video is perfect too. (9)

Tayyab Amin: I’ve been sleeping on Perfume Genius thus far and I’m not seeing a strong case for waking up quite yet. This one moved from catchy twee to tumultuous, directionless cacophony real quick. Its textures over-inflated, its structure resistant. There’s a lot to appreciate about its ambition, though this isn’t the ride for me to be along for. (5)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Anthemic! This is masterfully produced by indie craftsman du jour Blake Mills, three minutes where a cathartic trailer-ready blockbuster moment rolls out, swiftly followed by another. I just wish I liked the song as much as it’s pushing me to love it. (5)

Chal Ravens: I love the Arthur Russell-goes-Arcade Fire massiveness of this. So much small weirdness adds up to this vast, hulking pop beast that Hadreas barely has control over, and that’s really the glory of all his best moments – the feeling that everything could spill over at any minute, that he’s created something bigger than himself. Also if you’ve never seen PG live, please rectify. Real deal. (8)

6.75


Kendrick Lamar – ‘The Heart Part 4’

Al Horner: Brb, placing myself in Cartman-like cryogenic freeze till April 7 as every moment waiting for this next record is brute agony! (8)

Tayyab Amin: Kendrick actually raps like he’s the greatest rapper of all time, and that’s great because it means he can get away with musty bars about “pi = 3.14” or whatever. His voice always feels so genuine and true to himself, which allows him to hit that much harder when he goes in. Narrative-driven Kendrick is so much more interesting to listen to than victory lap Kendrick, but then warning shots are all about immediate impact and this is loud enough. (7)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Bars! Beat changes! A warning to rappers in an endlessly competitive genre! The passive-aggressive nature of Lamar dropping this the same week as Drake’s latest is amazing, and perhaps a red herring – it’s perhaps too easy to contribute the flurry here to just one artist, the way that the infamous ‘Control’ verse elbowed the ribs of multiple artists. It’s simply Kendrick at his most freewheeling and intense, jumping from sighed Trump ponderings to frenetic L.A. legend-building to cheeky fourth-wall breaking Nas tributes in a ‘Book of Rhymes’-inspired foiled rhyme sequence. Which is to say it’s very good for a non-album loosie, Kendrick’s chosen medium for Working It Out before dropping a heavily-focused project. April 7 can’t come fast enough. (8)

Chal Ravens: I’m here for anything Kenny wants to give us and if that involves slapping Drake down till he pleads for mercy then I’ll take my ringside seat gladly. The switch-up to the “paranormal vibe” after he announces “1-2-3-4-5, I am the greatest rapper alive” is funny, clever, catchy, all of that – but also alarming proof of the kind of creative flow he’s found himself in for the past few years, where switch-ups and U-turns are a constant part of the action. Basically, Kendrick Lamar is Prog Rap, y’all. (8)

7.75


Final scores:

Kendrick Lamar – ‘The Heart Part 4’ (7.75)
ZAYN feat. PARTYNEXTDOOR – ‘Still Got Time’ (7.25)
Gorillaz feat. Vince Staples – ‘Ascension’ (7)
Perfume Genius – ‘Slip Away’ (6.75)
Blondie feat. Dev Hynes – ‘Long Time’ (6.5)
Iggy Azalea – ‘Mo Bounce’ (4.25)