Singles Club: We all woke up in a fucked-up America

FACT Singles Club features a panel of writers rating and slating the biggest new tracks of the last seven days.

When we chose to include legendary African American artist Lonnie Holley’s new single, ‘I Woke Up in a Fucked-Up America’, we had no idea how resonant it would become as the week plodded on. Holley’s pained words took on new resonance as the country’s president committed treason live on stage. It was a perfect dystopian moment, notable mostly for its absolute dreariness.

It’s “the closest thing to a modern-day American folk song I’ve ever heard,” says Michelle Lhooq. We couldn’t agree more.



Clara! y Maoupa – ‘El Ratón’

Caroline Whiteley: Clara! of Reggaetoneras fame comes through with a slow-burning belter. Just as artists like the Equiknoxx collective have taken dancehall to new levels, Clara! is doing the same to her genre of choice: Reggaeton. (7)

Jesse Bernard: There are so many elements and layers to ‘El Raton’ that make this such an infectious listen. If it’s not the bass line then it’s the synths and if it’s not those it’s the vocals. Together it’s fucking brilliant. (9)

Cameron Cook: Maybe it’s just a reflection of the times (as I sit here watching Tr*mp commit treason on live TV) but there seems to be a dark streak slashing through a lot of niche genre music right now. This is like reggaeton meets industrial, and the vocal sounds like Miss Kittin if she spent the summer in Puerto Rico sipping piña coladas. It’s not reinventing the wheel, but it’s fresh enough to make a real impact. (7)

Michelle Lhooq: Clara!’s laid-back flow slithers between Belgian producer Maoupa Mazzocchetti’s bouncy, industrial-electro bassline — a warped reggaeton slow-burner that blows up the formula. (8)

7.8



Lonnie Holley – ‘I Woke Up in a Fucked-Up America’

Jesse Bernard: It’s dark and ominous sounding but after the reading the name of the song and hearing the lyrics, it all comes together beautifully. The dystopian tone of the video couldn’t be more timely and it goes without saying that it’s in stark contrast to Childish Gambino’s ‘This Is America’. (8)

Michelle Lhooq: The pleading bitterness in Holley’s haunted wail, so ragged as if covered in scars, sounds like an ancient cry throbbing with the pain engulfing this tortured country’s streets. The closest thing to a modern-day American folk song I’ve ever heard. Can you hear the people sing? (10)

Cameron Cook: First of all, this video is absolutely breathtaking. Coincidentally, I’ve been saying that the morning of November 9, 2016 was like waking up in a trash heap, and that’s literally what is going on here. Big, big mood. The chipped lawn jockeys, the caged bald eagles, Lonnie lying naked and exhausted—it really drives home the fact that, unless you’re white and wealthy, America has never been great. Lonnie’s vocals sound like Louis Armstrong with an added dose of pain and kerosene, and every lyric is haunting. Totally gut-punching. (9)

Caroline Whiteley: When Trump was elected, I found the whole “at least the protest songs will be great” argument abhorrent, but this feels timely as hell. It’s a rough song to listen to – but one that’s more important to hear than ever. (7)

8.5



Kingdom (ft. Zalma Bour) – ‘GETAWAY KIND’

Michelle Lhooq: Sorry but I fell asleep on this one until near the end, when the air is sucked out of Bour’s breathy vocals, and the track twists into a synthetic, stripped-down shadow of its first-half. It’s almost as if Kingdom was thinking about making a sugary grime-R&B banger in the vein of MssingNo, before changing his mind and letting it peter out underwhelmingly instead. (4)

Jesse Bernard: It took me 15 seconds to add this track to my regular, daily listening playlist. ‘Getaway Kind’ to me is the perfect culmination of modern electronic production with traditional R&B melodies and harmonies that you’d expect post-Kelela. Zalma Bour’s textured harmonies – sung in various keys with the flute sound – make it one of those repeat listens. (9)

Cameron Cook: Well, Kingdom always delivers, doesn’t he? I feel like the Night Slugs crew in general don’t get enough credit for really popularizing and refining the experimental R&B/electro scene over the past 10 years. This track is smooth and glitchy all at the same time, and while this sound isn’t quite as fresh as when Kingdom first came on the scene, it’s a reminder that he’s still on top of his game. (7)

Caroline Whiteley: From the deliciously seductive drum patterns, highly digitalised imitations of analog sounds like guitars, flutes and chorals, this is – chef’s kiss – perfection. (9)

7.3



Marquis Hawkes (ft. Jamie Lidell) – ‘We Should Be’

Cameron Cook: Is this history’s first blue-eyed house song? My friends and I spent all of 2005 obsessed with Jamie Lidell’s album Multiply, like on a pathological level. BBQs, pool parties, picnics, it was our only soundtrack. Jamie’s always had hella soul and this is probably the best thing I’ve heard him do in a really long time. I mean, yes I know this is a Marquis Hawkes track but Lidell’s star shines too bright to talk about anything else. OK fine, I have a huge crush on Jamie Lidell, are you happy? (8.5)

Michelle Lhooq: There’s a thin line between paying tribute to classic Chicago house vs. creating a pale replica of the past. Despite Lidell’s valiant attempt to inject soulful attitude, this track is indistinguishable from the thousands of others that sound exactly like it. Still, I’m sure the UK bros pumping fists in Croatia will loooove it. (3)

Caroline Whiteley: I’m easily won over by vocal-heavy straight up house music anthems and Marquis Hawkes already delivered one of the dance music tracks of the year with ‘Don’t U’, from the same LP. Sure, this doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but as far as I’m concerned there can never be a shortage of club slammers. (8)

Jesse Bernard: The long intro with echoing vocals sets this up to be a great dance record and the soulful addition of the vocals is everything you’d expect of a staple house record. (8)

6.9



Tinashe – ‘Like I Used To’

Jesse Bernard: For whatever reason, Tinashe’s career just isn’t hitting in the way many of us expected. After various stop-starts and album delays – plus a long-passed breakout moment – the only thing left is a killer hit that’ll would give her some chart-topping relevance. ‘Like I Used To’ is a very good song but it does lack the punchiness and nostalgic magic of a ‘Boo’d Up’ or ‘Nice For What’ and with it sitting on 247k views after four days, it’s largely going to go unnoticed. (6)

Michelle Lhooq: There’s a certain type of generic R&B track that comes on the radio every time I’m in an Uber in LA that I’ve started to call it “UbeRnB”. This is the genre’s sine qua non. (4)

Caroline Whiteley: Anybody need a sentimental summertime break up banger that you can get down to? Because this delivers just that. (6)

Cameron Cook: Tinashe is this generation’s pop star that is just caught bubbling under the surface of relevance for reasons that no one quite understands. The ’00s had Ciara, the ’10s have Tinashe (and also Ciara, to be honest, but that’s a story for another column). This isn’t bad, but that trap hi-hat has been carrying MOR R&B for way too long, and if Tinashe really wants her due, she needs to start thinking outside the box. That being said, #JusticeForFlame because that track is a stone cold banger. (6)

5.5


Final scores:
Lonnie Holley – ‘I Woke Up in a Fucked-Up America’ (8.5)

Clara! y Maoupa – ‘El Ratón’ (7.8)
Kingdom (ft. Zalma Bour) – ‘GETAWAY KIND’ (7.3)
Marquis Hawkes (ft. Jamie Lidell) – ‘We Should Be’ (6.9)
Tinashe – ‘Like I Used To’ (5.5)


Cameron Cook is an American culture journalist currently residing in Berlin, Germany. He would go to the ends of the Earth for Kate Bush. (@iamacameron)

Caroline Whiteley is freelance writer based in Berlin. (@carowhiteley)

Jesse Bernard is freelance music and culture journalist based in Brooklyn and London, still hotsteppin’ in a Nike Air sneaker. (@MarvinsCorridor)

Michelle Lhooq is an LA-based journalist writing about music and weed. Find her on Twitter.

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