Singles Club: Fergie’s comeback splits the jury and Rihanna phones it in

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, Rihanna boldly goes wrong, Fergie’s comeback splits the Club in two and Prefuse 73 teams up with Michael Christmas, plus new tracks from Blood Orange, Angel Olsen and The Bug & D Double E.

Rihanna – ‘Sledgehammer’

Son Raw: *Please be a Peter Gabriel cover, please be a Peter Gabriel cover… shit.* This middle of the road EDM blandness is our fault for not recognizing that Anti is a classic. We don’t deserve Riri at her finest. (3)

Chris Kelly: Rihanna and Sia have hit a wall, creatively: this one’s a soulless crossbreeding of ‘Chandelier’ and ‘Wrecking Ball’, but I’m sure it will sound good over the credits of the new Star Trek movie. (4)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: There are barely two verses in this quickie dispatch from Rihanna and her latest dip into Sia’s treasure trove of IMAX Audio Metaphors. Interesting when considered alongside Rih’s post-Anti output in 2016; a quick reminder than Rih Industries is still fulfilling its quota of Calvin Harris and Sia tie-ins so it can construct top-of-the-line SZA collabos without hurting the company line. (6)

Tayyab Amin: It’s so dead hearing phoned-in-pop-ballad-Rihanna after such a creatively liberating album – it makes this generally forgettable tune sound worse than it is. But can we talk about the instrumental? It’s like the brief instructed something “vaguely futuristic” for Star Trek, so these people went ahead and threw in some 2010 UKF/dubstep drums into the track? Uninspiring. (4)


Angel Olsen – ‘Shut Up Kiss Me’

Chris Kelly: These days, the only guitar-wielding singer-songwriters I have time for are women, and Angel Olsen is near the top of the list. ‘Shut Up Kiss Me’ has the right amount of nostalgia without becoming a Lana Del Rey-esque art project (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and a sneering hook (“Shut up, kiss me, hold me tight”) that would sound weird coming from an indie rock bro. (7)

Tayyab Amin: Until now I’ve only heard Angel Olsen’s music through the osmosis of friends’ listening habits. I don’t think I’d have even needed this first proper active listen to fall into this song, though, it’s so catchy! Sharp riffs, a charming bassline, Angel Olsen yelping her voicebox out – this is the festival highlight to sing along to. (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Olsen’s vocals are yowled just enough to insinuate this wham-bam romantic nudge’s possibilities: feral futures or a throttling. That’s romance, an uncertain force that can’t be held in place by three minutes of stomp-along rock – and thank goodness Olsen doesn’t try to tame it. (7)

Son Raw: You can’t go wrong with shades of The Breeders. I had the video for ‘Cannonball’ on loop during one of my more less glamorous summer jobs thanks to some ‘best of Spike Jonze’ DVD. Only thing is, a variation on this tune could have dropped in ‘92, or even ‘62. (5)


The Bug feat. D Double E – ‘The Box’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Last time Kevin Martin was reviewed in Singles Club, him and Miss Red were sucking all the fun out of dancehall. Thank fuck he’s stayed out of the way of D Double E, a battering ram crashing through a wall disguised as a charisma volcano, because this is so much fun. (7)

Son Raw: This is unexpectedly fleet-footed. At this point we’re used to Kevin Martin assaulting us with sub-frequencies, but this is downright funky, twisting hardware gurgles and feedback without beating you over the head with bass. D Double E sounds like Eek-A-Mouse’s long-lost nephew on the bars, and it’s always refreshing to hear him ride a riddim as bizarre as his vocal inflections. In a world of pop dancehall, score 1 for the atonal weirdos making gunman threats. (8)

Tayyab Amin: D Double is the MC’s MC, the true OG, so whatever he says goes. So if he’s cussing out Lacoste, I don’t wanna see any of you trying to make that happen. Just embrace the struggle brands with some transparency and wear Everlast if you need to. Imagine actually having money and then choosing to spend it on Ben Sherman as well? D Double disapproves; you’re only allowed it if it’s gifted from one of your out-of-touch uncles. I had to google Patrick Cox still. (7)

Chris Kelly: ‘The Box’ portions out its menace with a slower, more deliberate approach than most grime tracks. That allows for more attention to be paid to detail, but with D Double E involved, I’d like less nuance and more ‘Bluku Bluku’. (6)


Fergie – ‘MILF$’

Chris Kelly: Fergie returns from the wilderness with an aborted Frankenstein of a pop track. Polow da Don and company borrow appendages from ‘Dance (Ass)’ and ‘Milkshake’, fuse them to dated slang (American Pie – the film that popularized “MILF” – was from 1999, guys) and try to make their own, I dunno, Iggy Azalea? Memory I’d Like to Forget. (1)

Tayyab Amin: This is a masterclass in playing to your strengths. It’s got all the flaunting it should have to meet the high bar Fergie’s set for herself, the bassy beat is a dream, and it has the theme to stick. Shout out to all mothers, it’s great to see these ones out here really doing it. The choir harmonising sticks out like a sore thumb and I can’t remember any of the verses, but there’s no way you won’t bat for Team Fergie after seeing her accessorise using a whole celeb ensemble. (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: This is what happens when you place catchphrases over songwriting. Bless Fergie Ferg for all her brio but even she couldn’t make this work (work work, make it work). (3)

Son Raw: Isn’t there a law stating this sort of comeback has to be awful? Against all odds, this has everything I’m feeling right now: uptempo distorted 808s straight out the Dizzee Rascal playbook, fast raps, and SANGING on that bridge. Sure, it feels like a Nicki Minaj outtake, but in a post-Iggy Azalea popscape, ain’t nothing wrong with that. How in the world did Fergie’s comeback single trump Missy’s? (8)


Blood Orange – ‘Augustine’

Tayyab Amin: This is one of those uncanny tunes that feels tangibly whole – everything about it is crucial. It goes beyond the video, the lyrics, the melodies; even the choice of percussion and whispered ad libs relate as part of the cross-generational, intercultural conversation Hynes is holding. I love the storm of emotions – it’s like the warmth of forging a new bond while tearing up to lament a history apart. (9)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: The giggle that Ava Raiin lets loose at the song’s close is emblematic of why I can’t devote my attention to Dev Hynes’ work: it’s a moment intended as levity that instead suggests the artist is playing pretend-pop-star over some carefully engineered sounds. But what carefully engineered sounds they are! (5)

Chris Kelly: Dev Hynes is a one-trick pony [surely you’ve not forgotten Test Icicles? Or Lightspeed Champion?! – ‘00s Ed.] – ‘80s pop nostalgia writ large, with melodies so airy and diffused that they threaten to float away. Even though it’s a pleasant trick, it’s starting to show some signs of age. The lyrics on ‘Augustine’ – which connect Hynes’ own immigrant story to a centuries-long story of Christianity in Africa and a more contemporary black political movement – are touching, but you’ll likely know how you feel about this when the drum machine kicks in. (6)

Son Raw: Freetown Sound is almost too perfectly timed for 2016 and it occasionally feels like the R&B equivalent of being told to eat your veggies, but let’s be real: ‘Augustine’ is going to be the song of the summer and there ain’t a damned thing corporate radio can do about it. (10)


Fudge (Prefuse 73 & Michael Christmas) – ‘In My Shoes’ feat. Alex Mali

Chris Kelly: Considerably different from what I expected a Prefuse 73 and Michael Christmas collaboration to sound like, in a good way: less wonky, less “lyrical” and more soulful, due in large part to Alex Mali’s lush hook. (6)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: There’s rappity-rap for its own sake, but fiddly rappity -rap for its own sake is twice as impressive and redundant. (5)

Son Raw: Prefuse 73’s Achilles heel has always been his choice of MCs (or lack thereof) so this is promisingly breezy – I was convinced Michael Christmas was Californian until I checked the SoundCloud. Take note Shadow: the way forward for backpack beats is post-Low End Theory, post-Odd Future chill. (7)

Tayyab Amin: This one plays like a free download – and that’s the moment I realise how overly entitled we are to music now (still, sometimes you have to ask for more from music.) This is one of those tracks that provides such a transient, unresolved listening experience. The beat comforts like a hot drink to go, the flow is breezy and the tune will flow in and out of your open window as quick as the British summer. (6)


Final scores:

Blood Orange – ‘Augustine’ (7.5)
The Bug feat. D Double E – ‘The Box’ (7)
Angel Olsen – ‘Shut Up Kiss Me’ (6.75)
Fudge (Prefuse 73 & Michael Christmas) – ‘In My Shoes’ feat. Alex Mali (6)
Fergie – ‘MILF$’ (5)
Rihanna – ‘Sledgehammer’ (4.25)



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