Features I by I 04.04.17

Singles Club: Does Calvin Harris’ Young Thug collab bring the heat or burn up on entry?

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, Calvin Harris continues to reinvent himself, disco-dancing away from his reputation for EDM bombast with funky pop earworm ‘Heatstroke’. Elsewhere, there’s even more new Kendrick Lamar following ‘The Heart Part 4’ last week, opting for dark piano keys and brutish beats on new album lead single ‘Humble’.

That’s not all – also rated and slated by our crack team of reviewers are new tracks by former Dirty Projector Amber Coffman, Mary J. Blige featuring Kanye, Wizkid featuring Drake and, with a typically nuanced new song delicately titled ‘You’re In Love With A Psycho’, British lad-rockers Kasabian. Here’s what our team made of them.

Calvin Harris featuring Pharrell, Young Thug and Ariana Grande – ‘Heatstroke’

Jibril Yassin: I’m not completely convinced Calvin Harris is deserving of another career renaissance now that he’s convinced he’s the Quincy Jones of EDM. ‘Heatstroke’ isn’t the earworm ‘Slide’ is; it veers closer to yacht pop than Harris’ ideal of pop. But the guests deliver! Part of the joy of ‘Heatstroke’ isn’t hearing Ariana Grande or Pharrell, both seasoned talents, do their thing but hearing goddamn Jeffery Williams steal the spotlight when he yelps “YELLOW DIAMONDS ON YOU LIKE A GLASS OF LEMONADE.” From the very beginning, this was clearly Thugger’s song to lose. (8)

Tayyab Amin: You gotta have a special talent to team up with the most exciting rapper around and the greatest of pop’s newer generation of divas and somehow manage to release music as bland, sterile and beige as the colour computers used to be in the ‘90s. This track makes everyone sound like the stock image version of themselves. Still, I’m happy Thugger and Ariana are getting that Calvin Harris money and at this point I consider Pharrell’s career to be in its happy retirement phase, which goes towards explaining his on-holiday, wish-you-were-here postcard of a presence on the song. (5)

Chal Ravens: Young Thug rocks up to the party in pink blazer and boat shoes just daring you to say something, but what is there to say, anyway? If you’d been skirting the mainstream for that long you’d sign up for the Calvin Harris treatment eventually, of course you would. Commercial radio playlists await you, mind the gap between the jetty and the yacht. (6)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: So they found the way to get websites like this lovely one to cover Calvin Harris – fancy collaborations and sub-Pablo artwork. It’ll do, though, because at least more people buy into Harris’ starry return to his best mode as a disco revivalist. Nice of Pharrell and Grande to pop up as seasoning to an effortless Thugger flambé. (6)

Carl Anka: There’s so much to like here – Young Thug in superior “feat. Young Thug” mode, Pharrell and Ariana Grande combining for some peak summer Instagram montage music, and so on and so forth. So why can’t I shake the feeling ‘Heatstroke’ should be a lot better than it is? Something’s just off. Maybe it’s Thugger not getting the remit to cuss too much, maybe it’s Pharrell sounding like he parachuted his part in a week after everyone else. In the end, it sounds like a soufflé that was taken out the oven too quickly – it doesn’t quite sit right. (6)


Kendrick Lamar – ‘Humble’

Jibril Yassin: Between ‘Humble’ and ‘The Heart Part IV,’ we have been witness to an energized and incredibly petty Kendrick and I am here for it because this means we get to hear more fun bars, more Grey Poupon references, more shots at Drake or Big Sean or what have you. On ‘Humble’, Kendrick abandons the savior-of-rap-gravitas and showcases what he’s adept at: rapping over dope beats. Can this album come out already? (9)

Chal Ravens: There’s a lot to unpack so I’m going to look away from the video, hard as it is. First of all we have some prime dumbass riffery on Mike Will’s beat, which is as simple as a few stubby-fingered piano chords and a spraying of EDM FX and all the better for it. Kendrick underlines that basic canvas with an almost monotone, monorhythmic flow that flags up exactly which Kendrick we’re getting here: the Eiffel Tower dick Kendrick, the important like the Pope Kendrick, the every other motherfucker sit your ass down Kendrick. I appreciate that it’s his many different facets that make him such an exceptional album artist, but actually I’ll always take this Kendrick over the Are You There God? It’s Me, Kendrick-Kendrick. (8)

Tayyab Amin: ‘Humble’ finds Kendrick looking like a musty rap beatnik, riding a beat caught in an identity crisis between Big Sean music and A$AP-inspired Konnichiwa offcuts, appearing a light year behind the rappers he fires shots at in terms of flow. I do appreciate his attempt to invoke his “TED talk” as a banger, the subliminal shots in the video and his last supper scene. Overall though it’s simply one of the more condescending joints in a minute – be my guest if you wanna go play with J. Cole but I’m gonna tune out. (5)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: This is good and Kendrick makes solid two-minute rap songs whenever he can be bothered to just shake his shoulders off and do anything other than straight barz. At this point, we’re waiting to see where this slots into the new LP, probably extended into an underwater jazz suite. (7)

Carl Anka: Writer Bolu Babalola called Kendrick Lamar “the black man’s Beyoncé” and with ‘Humble’ we have his ‘Formation’ (the video certainly goes similarly ham on iconic-shot-after-iconic-shot artistry). Featuring a killer hook, amazing visuals and a call to arms that will have the opposition running for the hills, the track sees him fire so many subliminals here that it’s hard to know if Kendrick has beef with Big Sean, Drake, Twitter stans, or all of the above. Kendrick’s coming for his own crown. Get excited for Hypebeasts rocking Papal robes this summer. (9)


Wizkid featuring Drake – ‘Come Closer’

Jibril Yassin: This not making it onto the tracklist for More Life is a shame. I remember when this initially leaked feeling ‘Come Closer’ was a lot stronger than what made it onto Views, especially ‘One Dance.’ The difference here is the focus is set upon Wizkid; he sounds more at home crooning over a more organic production that retains the bounce of their previous work. Even Drizzy doesn’t sound too out of place here! (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: First off, Drake claiming he’s not messy *insert The Rock rolling eyes gif* Second of all, now you can vibe to this at home, just like Pogba! And lastly, let’s be happy that Wizkid kept those receipts from ‘One Dance’ – which he didn’t get enough from in my opinion bar tasty streaming cheques – because he’s been able to bounce back with this sweet summer-ready jam. But still, this isn’t as good as ‘Daddy Yo’, go stream ‘Daddy Yo’ a hundred times, daddy yo. Mama yo. (7)

Chal Ravens: We’re well used to this silky-smooth dancehall-Afrobeat crossover style now but another soft-touch heater to add to the arsenal won’t hurt. It’s no ‘One Dance’, though, and drifts off as gently as it came in. Drake’s verse is lazy but at this point we mustn’t take a single line seriously, so “your hair smell like the tropics, your body look nice” barely registers on the “Ew, Aubrey” scale. (5)

Tayyab Amin: This song is like a cool breeze, in that there’s no need to say anything – just close your eyes and feel yourself smiling as it caresses you while it passes through. (8)

Carl Anka: How the hell do we have space for more Drake after his seven hour long playlist please? Anyway, listen to this long enough and you start dancing like African diaspora Drake. All crouched down moving your knees. Which is always a good thing. (7)


Amber Coffman – ‘No Coffee’

Jibril Yassin: When is this showing up in Flaked? (3)

Tayyab Amin: Seems to be some sort of Uncle Kracker B2B Corinne Bailey Rae remix of ‘Man in the Mirror’ but OK. I’m really glad Amber Coffman looks to be in good spirits, but listening to this feels like being tagged with thirty other people in some oversharing status update on Facebook. (5)

Chal Ravens: When you’re the recognisable voice of a band it’s never going to be easy to walk away and start again, so props to Coffman for forging ahead – but that’s about all the encouragement we should offer here. Perhaps the moodboard showed “classic singer-songwriter” in the ivory-tinkling ’70s mold, but I’m thinking Corinne Bailey Rae and the fast lane to adult radio. Her colossal vocal gifts are obscured – even a bit strained – in this configuration, and I can’t think why she’s retreated to melodic safety so soon. (4)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Coffman’s long had the perfect voice for this type of coffee table jam, so a more pronounced pop-ready move is something I’m happy to hear. Note: ‘Get Free’ was the precursor to Coffman becoming our latest goddess of the lazy Sunday playlist. (7)

Carl Anka: Coming through like a breezy iPod advert from 2007. Give it to your younger sibling, or much, much older sibling and expect them to play it in their car a lot. (6)


Kasabian – ‘You’re In Love With A Psycho’

Jibril Yassin: They’ve really lost the plot haven’t they? (1)

Tayyab Amin: Everything about this is dreadful. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is a wonderful film with a stunning emotional range, and here this walking, talking polo shirt of a band pays tribute in a display that holds the nuanced intelligence of an alleyway piss. Definitely amongst the more limp, nothing Kasabian singles. (3)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: I was done after the Beverley Hills Cop joke and the moment the chorus turned into misjudged multitracking, negating the admittedly solid Kasabian-ness of the whole enterprise. Give me a couple of rums and coke though and I’m more into this than I’m letting on. Sober score: (5)

Chal Ravens: Kasabian are actually a pretty straightforward psychedelic band with an ill-fittingly lairy singer, so to hear them turning into a Flaming Lips for the terraces on a song called ‘You’re In Love With A Psycho’ makes some sense in this senseless world. It’s total bobbins and I can’t hate them for having a good old laff, these bandy-legged cockroach kings of the New Rock Revolution, resplendent in their indestructibility. Million-quid festival headline slot, here we come! (5)

Carl Anka: There’s a guy I went to school with who loves Kasabian. LOVES THEM. Calls their gig in the King Power Stadium last year one of the best moments of his life. Will reel off Serge’s goals at Soccer Aid and on Soccer AM like it’s any casual thing. He’s also one of the happiest, most carefree people I’ve ever known and I wonder if letting Kasabian’s milquetoast music wash over you is the key to that. This track aspires to be a crap Talking Head B-side and fails at that endeavour. The video is stigmatising bollocks and all, but it’ll probably play on every sports package this summer. My old school mate will pay a wedge to watch ‘em again this year. I don’t get it. (4)


Mary J. Blige featuring Kanye West – ‘Love Yourself’

Jibril Yassin: Mary J. Blige somehow got Kanye on a track about self-love that sounds like something he could have produced a decade ago. This fiery soul salvo is all the more fitting given Mary J. Blige’s recent marital problems and Kanye’s last-quarter 2016. The result’s a self-empowerment anthem that pulls no punches. (8)

Tayyab Amin: Mary J. Blige is speaking nothing but truths in this song but sometimes the truth is hard to hear. This one feels too muted to become the personal theme tune it aspires to be. (6)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: I mean, this blares but doesn’t bang. Kanye continues to lay post-Pablo eggs. (4)

Chal Ravens: Sepia-tinted orchestral bluster is Mary J’s comfort zone so it’s a pleasant to hear her bouncing back with a number that plays to her strengths, even if we’ve definitely been here before. The guest verse feels like tacked-on studio scraps, but if you liked the old Kanye better you’ll at least appreciate hearing him buffered by vintage horn samples once more. Forgettable. (5)

Carl Anka: Mary got sick of Twitter turning her into a meme and is getting Missy, Quavo, and Kanye to help her set pace with the new album. This track is a warning shot. Mary ain’t messing around no more. (8)


Final scores:

Kendrick Lamar – ‘Humble’ (7.6)
Wizkid featuring Drake – ‘Come Closer’ (7)
Mary J. Blige featuring Kanye West – ‘Love Yourself’ (6.5)
Calvin Harris featuring Pharrell, Young Thug and Ariana Grande – ‘Heatstroke’ (6.2)
Amber Coffman – ‘No Coffee’ (5)
Kasabian – ‘You’re In Love With A Psycho’ (3.6)

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