Singles Club I by I 14.02.17

Singles Club: Katy Perry’s ‘Chained To The Rhythm’ is a reggae disco disaster

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, Katy Perry disco-dances her way back into view with ‘Chained To The Rhythm’, rising UK star Avelino manages to pair Skepta and Stormzy for the first time and Desiigner seeks to prove he’s more than a one-hit wonder with ‘Outlet’.

Elsewere, there’s new offerings from ‘Classic Man’ Jidenna, back with new album lead single ‘The Let Out’, plus another fierce collaboration with Danny Brown from producer Paul White. Here’s what we made of those tracks and more.

Katy Perry – ‘Chained to the Rhythm’

Haley Potiker: Teenage Dream (its title track in particular) was brilliant because Katy Perry wasn’t a teen, and she knew it, and she knew you knew it. Instead of making fun of young love, exuberance and heartbreak, instead of draping her music in irony, it seemed to prod adults who thought it was improper to feel those things. ‘Chained to the Rhythm,’ like lots of her later work, is kind of the opposite – all gestures at How Pop Should Sound, with none of the feel or swing or verve that made her so exciting to begin with. (6)

Chris Kelly: After roaring through 2016, Katy Perry returns with a slow-motion dance song that even white folk can two-step to. Rather than her usual bubblegum formula, this one borrows the filtered disco-funk of Random Access Memories. Lyrically, it speaks directly to the ennui of the suburban audience that will make this a hit even if it’s Max Martin’s weakest offering in years. As for the featured guest, Marley offspring are like the Kennedys or UK royalty in terms of diminishing returns. (3)

April Clare Welsh: I have to salute Katy Perry for her prosthetic Hillary Clinton getups but other than that, nothing she’s ever done has interested me much. Who and what is she, really? I’m not convinced she’s more one-dimensional than a straight line but I am also willing to give her new ‘wokeness’ a chance because, you know, strength in numbers. This song, however, is a long, weak streak-of-disco-piss that’s about as appealing as a low-fat yoghurt – although Skip Marley’s verse is a welcome distraction. (4)

Tayyab Amin: This sounds like it needed to call a taxi and leave the club about two hours ago. It’s so lost in the sauce that it comes full circle from being co-written by Sia to feeling as if it’s some sort of crap mimicry of a track Sia would make. It’s apparently a political statement, and I for one know that when our post-apocalyptic descendents learn of what we did to stop the atrocities and damage tearing our world apart, they’ll be completely satisfied with Katy Perry’s latter day Daft Punk pastiche-y reggae efforts. (3)

Jibril Yassin: Someone needs to please teach Katy Perry about concepts such as tempo because this does not feel chained to the rhythm, it’s actually plodding to the rhythm. Teenage Dream now feels like a century ago. Is this actually disco? Is this vaporwave? If it’s the latter, then a profound R.I.P. because it could have had a far better way to go out then strapped to a boring Katy Perry single. (2)


Avelino feat. Stormzy and Skepta – ‘Energy’

Haley Potiker: Getting Stormzy and Skepta on your single is a coup, but Avelino gets audacious and raps “don’t be a sheep when you could be the goat” – kind of a grime response to Canibus borrowing the mic from LL’s arm on ‘4, 3, 2, 1.’ (7)

Chris Kelly: Having three of the best grime MCs on the same track reminds me of the collaborations of the Run the Road compilations that were my introduction to the genre. The three note loop builds tension but the pneumatic, soul-sampling hook actually lets the air out of the balloon. Still, you get lines like “man get views but I Ray Charles/’Cause I can’t see my enemies” and “she wants a fella with felonies” that come off with the right balance of charm and punch. (7)

April Clare Welsh: Avelino’s FYO EP didn’t do much for me but throw in Stormzy and Skepta and you’ve got a track that burns. Hard. If two of the scene’s biggest stars decide to link up on a track for the the first time it has to to be something something Big and Special and Momentous and they’ve certainly pulled that out of the bag. This is high-octane, blockbuster grime that explodes into life – even if it does sound a bit like a Lucozade advert. (8)

Tayyab Amin: On the one hand it’s good for Avelino that he isn’t outshined on his own joint but on the other hand, Stormzy and Skepta should really be carrying the weight we know they can and that’s what holds the track back. And this is all bearing in mind that Av really said “I like all types of girls, melanins and Melanies” and “why be a sheep when you could be the GOAT?” It’s festival sort of bait, something I wouldn’t have been surprised if Tinie Tempah had once made – not mad, but not mad about it either. (6)

Jibril Yassin: Avelino absolutely holds his own on ‘Energy,’ partly because his voice is such a perfect fit for producer Raf Riley’s pyrotechnics. Also it’s important to note that “don’t be a sheep when you can be the GOAT” is a great line, especially when it dovetails straight into Avelino’s menacing hook. (7.2)


Sega Bodega feat. Shygirl – ‘CC’

Haley Potiker: The hook is built around an incessant cough, which seems like it could come from the sort of warehouse where this would work best, which is kind of grim and Upton Sinclair-ish, but it is what it is and it goes. (8)

Chris Kelly: Remember PC Music? It’s back, in Crazylegs form! Seriously though, turning the weird-pop tropes – sampled coughs and gasps, casual bursts of spoken word – of PC Music into a queasy, hypnotic banger on which Shygirl winks at the listener checks a lot of boxes for me. (8)

April Clare Welsh: I absolutely love this! Not only does it contain the word “fuck,” but it makes me think of delicious bodega sandwiches, while throwing up an ice-cold wall of sound that smacks harder than a cherry slushie. Oh, and who knew coughing could sound so edgy? (9)

Tayyab Amin: If Tirzah and Micachu did a Night Slugs on ‘Ghetto Kraviz’, this is pretty much where we’d end up. I can’t think of a more musically ideal situation. The processed coughs are so sick, and the way the track constantly shifts weight as it lurches forward belching all that bass is enthralling. (7)

Jibril Yassin: Shygirl’s deadpan vocals make this grim tune feel much like a set of funhouse mirrors peering back at you – a lot of that credit goes to Sega Bodega for crafting such an effective backdrop. But after listening to this several times (that’s a lot of coughs to hear), I’m not looking to be placed in a situation where I’m reading the Wikipedia entry for the 2011 film Contagion again. (9)


Desiigner – ‘Outlet’

Haley Potiker: This doesn’t need to exist, or at least we don’t need to be writing about it. Desiigner isn’t ready to be a huge solo artist; ‘Panda’ was good, but his mixtape was a lot of drill-lite karaoke. There’s just not much there. This is a sloppy, cacophonous mess (but I do appreciate an artist named Desiigner calling his song ‘Outlet’). (3)

Chris Kelly: Despite the ‘Timmy Turner’ freestyle, I never thought Desiigner would be much more than a Future clone, and his output since then has done nothing to dissuade me. As with the Mike Dean-produced version of that freestyle, this one has too many ideas executed poorly, cribbing from ‘All The Way Turnt Up’ and ‘All of the Lights’ to make a clattering trapstravaganza. I do like how he layers his voice into a chorus of ad-libs and growls, but trying to prove that he can “actually rap” with an acapella verse was misguided. (4)

April Clare Welsh: Wait, this isn’t an ode to T.K. Maxx? (6)

Tayyab Amin: It’s as if Desiigner truly has a free pass to go wherever he wants with his music and I’m so here for how half-here, half-there it all is. There’s the Desiigner that runs through what we’re used to: blunt bars, torn melodies and anthemic beats. Then there’s the Desiigner that takes everything to ridiculously exaggerated extents – just look at how concentrated and visceral his ad-libs are, how singular his intro and outro is, and how often he pauses the beat for autotunes, ad-libs and acapellas in that final verse. Where is Future? (7)


*Desiigner ad-lib translator = ‘what the fuck is this madness?’ (7)


Paul White feat. Danny Brown – ‘Accelerator’

Haley Potiker: This song (and the video, where an overweight man has a Tom & Jerry thing with a floating alien/spine something) is the most fun I’ve ever had at any point in my life. White and Brown ditch the gloomier, psychedelic bent of the latter’s Atrocity Exhibition and opt for a totally unhinged perpetual motion machine. (9)

Chris Kelly: I can see the brief now: “let’s throw ’Lust For Life’ down the stairs and make Danny Brown rap over it.” Like previous Paul White-Danny Brown collaborations, I think White’s beat is too busy, too cluttered, as if he’s trying to outdo Brown rather than complement his unique brand of verbal kamikaze. Enjoyed the chorus, left before the psych-jam bridge. (6)

April Clare Welsh: BIG KETH FROM THE OFFICE IS CHASING A GIANT BRAIN WHILE DANNY BROWN ABSOLUTELY LOSES HIS SHIT. Come on, what is there not to like about this? (9)

Tayyab Amin: ‘Accelerator’ lives its own premise, propelling Danny Brown to Looney Tunes-level high octane hijinks. Paul White continues to show off as one of the most versatile producers around, and these two running away with the game off in their own league is a mere side effect of them keeping up with each other. (8)

Jibril Yassin: Another glorious addition to the Paul White-Danny Brown canon. Danny Brown has a supernatural ability of finding the pocket buried in the cacophony, his voice sucking up all the energy in the room like a black hole. White’s production holds its own, however, maintaining the stark bleakness found in Atrocity Exhibition and then some. (8)


Jidenna feat. Quavo – ‘The Let Out’

Haley Potiker: I love this song a whole lot. It is hard to imagine Jidenna shooting a video for this one without at least loosening his tie. Whenever Jidenna raps, I feel like he wants me to meet with a financial planner and start learning a foreign language, but like, in a good way. (10)

Chris Kelly: After ’Long Live the Chief’ served as the noisy highlight of the Luke Cage soundtrack, I was forced to reassess the ‘Classic Man’. Jidenna is defined by his swagger, which he has plenty of on this bass-heavy rumbler. Even when his imagery is unfortunate (“shorties swinging purses and niggas swinging testicles”), he manages to stay on-brand (“he a Roger Moore nigga, I’m Sean Connery”). Quavo gets in one zinger (“Throwin’ cash off stage, supportin’ the minimum wage”) but the audio processing doesn’t disguise that the feature was literally phoned in. (7)

Tayyab Amin: Jidenna’s powers are potent and mysterious. He’s consistent with the quality, and this is no different – even when he’s sounding creepy, referencing Sean Connery and coining phrases like “swinging testicles”. Quavo season continues, proceeding with quotables like “Throwin’ cash offstage, supporting the minimum wage.” Jidenna’s pile of certified, non-‘Classic Man’ bops grows and it’s about 73% thanks to his key change in the chorus. (8)

Jibril Yassin: Jidenna was supposed to be corny. Instead the man has survived and thrived and his long-gestating debut album now resembling a coming out party (Shout out to #JidennaHive) Anyway, this is not the Jidenna from ‘Classic Man’ or ‘Long Live The Chief.’ Rather, he tries to strike a balance between the two. ‘The Let Out’ doesn’t reach the highs found in either but does make a case for his versatility and homie managed to make a Quavo verse feel inessential, so there’s that. (7)


Final scores:

Katy Perry – ‘Chained to the Rhythm’ (3.6)
Avelino feat. Stormzy and Skepta – ‘Energy’ (7.2)
Sega Bodega feat. Shygirl – ‘CC’ (8.2)
Desiigner – ‘Outlet’ (5.4)
Paul White feat. Danny Brown – ‘Accelerator’ (8)
Jidenna feat. Quavo – ‘The Let Out’ (8)



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